As Bostonians, we're completely spoiled during the holiday season. From late November through New Year's, there are world-class holiday concerts, plays, and dance performances every day of the week, from companies both local and national, with shows suiting a diverse range of audiences.
So, going with a "12 Days of Christmas" theme, here's a rundown of my picks for the top 12 arts and culture events in Boston this holiday season.
A Christmas Story: The Musical
The classic movie comes to the stage in the touring production of this Tony-nominated Broadway musical. Playing at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre from November 20 through December 8, A Christmas Story is a crowd-pleaser for all ages. Discounted student and senior rush tickets are available day-of performance, one hour before curtain.
Boston Ballet's Nutcracker
The Boston Opera House is the setting for Boston Ballet's Nutcracker, held from November 29 through December 29. This year's version follows up on the 2012 well-reviewed production, again featuring choreography by artistic director Mikko Nissenen. Tickets tend to sell out, so be sure to book early if you'd like to attend.
Handel & Haydn Society Messiah
The Handel & Haydn Society celebrates their 160th annual performance of Handel's Messiah this season. Three concerts will be held at Symphony Hall, November 29 through December 1, and will feature period instruments; artistic director Harry Christophers conducts this year's performances.
Boston Holiday Pops
It's a Boston tradition: Symphony Hall gets decked out for the annual Holiday Pops, held from December 4 through 24. If past years are any indication, each performance will feature few sing-along carols, a different local celebrity to read "The Night Before Christmas", and (of course) a visit from Santa Claus. Kid-friendly (read: shorter) matinee shows are also scheduled throughout the month.
Anthem Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol
From December 6 through 21, the Boston Center for the Arts hosts the Anthem Theatre Company's musical production of A Christmas Carol. Starring Kevin B. McGlynn as Ebenezer Scrooge, this production features traditional Victorian carols and hymns in addition to original arrangements.
When Tchaikovsky's classic Nutcracker score melds with Duke Ellington's jazz compositions, Anthony Williams's Urban Nutcracker is the result. Performed at John Hancock Hall December 6 through 22, the 13th season of this popular Boston holiday show features dance styles ranging from traditional ballet to flamenco, hip hop to swing.
Boston Boys' Choir Christmas Concerts
Held at St. Paul's Church in Harvard Square, the Boston Boys Choir's annual Christmas concerts are always delightful. This year's line-up features "A Celebration of Christmas" on December 8 and 15, a "Family Christmas Concert" on December 13, and Benjamin Britten's "Ceremony of Carols" on December 22.
Scripture, verse, music, dance, and the poetry of Langston Hughes take center stage in the "song-play" performance of Black Nativity, which returns to Northeastern University's Blackman Auditorium for the holiday season. The Boston-based National Center of Afro-American Artists produces the show annually; eight performances are scheduled between December 13 and 22.
Boston Baroque Messiah
New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall is again the setting for the annual Boston Baroque performance of Handel's Messiah on December 13 and 14. Conductor Martin Pearlman leads a period orchestra and four soloists making their Boston debuts in this always-intimate staging.
Alistair Moock's Holiday Extravaganza
Local folk artist Alistair Moock and the Fayerweather Street School Chorus host a family-friendly holiday concert at the Coolidge Corner Theatre on December 14. Sing-along holiday favorites are on the set list, and dancing is always encouraged!
Boston Gay Men's Chorus: Haul Out the Holly
It's safe to say that no other holiday show in Boston is going to feature "The Twelve Gays of Christmas" or a dance-party rendition of "The Little Drummer Boy". The annual holiday concerts from the always-entertaining Boston Gay Men Chorus are scheduled at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall December 15, and again December 20 through 22.
A Very Awesome Yo Gabba Gabba Holiday Show
If your kids don't want to sit through the Nutcracker, the Yo Gabba Gabba holiday show might be just the ticket. Live at the Orpheum on December 28, the show features DJ Lance and the Gabba Gang, "lots of singing, lots of dancing", and even a special appearance by Biz Markie.
To get a full listing of holiday performances in and around Boston this season, plus ticket discounts and other holiday-related events, check the Mayor's Holiday Spectacular website.