7 Christmas Musicals and Ballets


Christmas musicals and plays
L-R: Miguel Faustmann in REP's Scrooge, The Nutcracker by Philippine Ballet Theatre (photo by Erica Jacinto), Franco Laurel, Nico Dans, and Rissey Reyes in 9 Works Theatrical and Globe Live's A Christmas Carol (photo by Jan Mayo)

As we wind down the year and listen to our feel-good theater Christmas songs, it’s a good time to look back at some of the shows based around the holidays.

Here are seven Christmas shows that remind us what happens when the joy of the holiday season collides with the magic of live theater.

1. Elf The Musical

Elf The Musical  is based on the 2003 Will Ferrell movie of the same name. It tells the story of Buddy, a young boy who is accidentally transported to the North Pole and who, years later, comes back to New York City to search for his birth father. The musical adaptation opened on Broadway on November 14, 2010, and returned the next year for another run. Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan wrote the book, with music by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin. Wicked and Jersey Boys alum Sebastian Arcelus led the original Broadway cast.  Not exactly a critical smash, the musical was very popular, with several North American tours and even a West End production in 2015. The Broadway cast recording was also released in 2011.

Listen to the OBC on Spotify.

2. Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

This musical is based on the 1954 classic movie White Christmas, which starred Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. The book was written by David Ives and Paul Blake, with the music of legendary composer Irving Berlin. It’s about a pair of ex-Army buddies and show producers who travel to Vermont during the holidays and put on a show to help save the business of their former commanding officer. It had a limited run on Broadway in 2008 and returned in 2009, and received Tony nominations for Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations. And yes, the title of the musical is that famous song that we still hear today.

Listen to the OBC on Spotify.

3. Holiday Inn (The New Irving Berlin Musical)

A second Berlin musical was adapted to the Broadway  stage in 2016. Based on another Christmas film starring Bing Crosby, Holiday Inn tells the story of club performers Jim Hardy, Ted Hanover, and Lila Dixon. Hardy wants to retire from show business and run a farm with his fiancee Dixon, but she changes her mind and runs off with Hanover instead. Hardy continues his dream and converts the farm to the eponymous inn, open only on holidays. Irving Berlin is one of the most famous songwriters in American history, having penned such standards as “Easter Parade”, “Happy Holiday”, and the universally popular “White Christmas”. The song was actually first heard in the Holiday Inn movie released in 1942, and is of course included in the musical. Though it had a limited run, it was nominated for a Tony for Best Choreography.

Listen to the original motion picture soundtrack on Spotify.

4. A Christmas Story: The Musical

With music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, this is the musical adaptation of the 1983 movie. It’s the story of a young boy named Ralphie, who only wants a BB gun for Christmas. With a book by Joseph Robinette, it’s a nostalgic look at the innocence and joy of Christmas as seen through a child’s eyes. It garnered three Tony nominations: Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre. A live version starring Maya Rudolph, Matthew Broderick, and Jane Krakowski was shown on US television in December last year, with Pasek and Paul writing two new songs exclusively for the broadcast.

Listen to the OBC on Spotify.

5. The Nutcracker

Featuring a magical toy that comes to life (and who turns out to be a prince!), and with such characters as Harlequin Dolls, Snowflakes, the Dew Drop Fairy and Sugar Plum Fairy, is it any wonder that The Nutcracker has become a Christmas classic beloved by many generations? The original ballet was choreographed by the legendary Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, with music by the great Pyotr Tchaikovsky. It’s the story of a young girl named Clara, who is given a nutcracker doll by her godfather. During the night, the doll comes alive and  leads Clara on an adventure through the Land of Sweets. There have been several movie adaptations, with the most recent one, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, starring Keira Knightley and featuring American Ballet Theatre’s Principal Dancer Misty Copeland. It has become a staple of ballet companies all over the world, who perform it annually during the holiday season. In the local scene, Philippine Ballet Theatre wrapped up its own production just this November at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Listen to the original motion picture soundtrack of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms on Spotify.

6. A Christmas Carol: The Musical

It’s long been debated whether the author Charles Dickens “invented” Christmas, but one thing we know is that the story and characters in A Christmas Carol, his book that was first published in 1843, are now hardwired in our collective psyche. It has spawned numerous film and stage adaptations, with two of them included on our list. Ebenezer Scrooge is a greedy money-lender who thinks Christmas is a useless frivolity. He is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve: the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, who show him what his life will become if he continues with his miserly attitude. After this harrowing experience, Scrooge realizes the error of his ways, and turns into one of the most generous and caring men in the land. He becomes kinder to his clerk Bob Cratchit and helps Cratchit’s son, the beloved Tiny Tim, get help for his illness. It is this redemption that makes A Christmas Carol a timeless tale that perhaps encapsulates the spirit of Christmas. The 1994 Broadway production featured music by Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens. On the homefront, 9 Works Theatrical and Globe Live staged their own successful production of the musical two years in a row (2016 and 2017) with Miguel Faustmann taking on the role of Scrooge.

Listen to the OBC on Spotify.

7. Scrooge: The Musical

Another adaptation of Scrooge’s story is this 1992 stage musical, which is in turn based on the 1970 movie musical starring Albert Finney. The book and music were written by Leslie Bricusse, who received Academy Award nominations for Best Original Song and Best Original Song Score for his work on the film. The original production opened in London on November 9, 1992, with Anthony Newley in the starring role. The musical has been performed by Repertory Philippines several times, also with Faustman in the lead. The original London cast recording was released in 1997, and it’s definitely worth a listen. Fun fact: you may have heard some of Bricusse’s songs in the popular holiday album Christmas in our Hearts by Jose Mari Chan.

Listen to the music from the 1970 movie musical on Spotify.

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