While the figurative snowfall of holiday shows might have began in November, Houston theaters continue to deliver a blizzard of new plays and musicals in December. And as gift-giving season approaches, may we suggest a ticket to an always-biodegradable, never-regifted night filled with live music, comedy, dance, and drama. You’ll find lots of family friendly shows on local stages, with a few naughtier entertainment presents for adults.
So check off your gift giving list with our very nice list of the best December shows.
The Nutcracker Ballet from Houston Ballet at the Wortham Center (now-December 29)
Yes, technically not a play or musical, but ballet doesn’t get much more theatrical than Stanton Welch’s glorious version of the season standard. All our favorites — the Nutcracker Prince, Sugarplum Fairy, Rat King, and the dancing international ambassadors — will take a turn at court. In Welch’s imagining, Clara becomes the hero of this magical story where the all the animals dance as well as the weather — in the form of the loveliest snowflakes in the HB company.
Miracle on 34th Street at A.D. Players (now-December 29)
While Stages began the holiday show season with a musical version of this sometimes literal old chestnut (after all it is a Christmas show), A.D Players goes for a more traditional retelling of the story of a Macy’s Santa who could be the real deal. Yet helmed by innovative director Philip Hays, the show might reveal real relevance for the 21st century.
“We all grapple with the worldly woes of commercialism, job security, and bitterness, sometimes most of all during the holiday season. Miracle offers the antidote,” says Hays of this revival. Perhaps the real miracle here is bringing together such a stellar cast with local favorites like Ruddy Cravens, Kedrick Brown, Courtney Lomelo, Luis Galindo, Alice Gatling, Marty Blair, and Patricia Duran.
El Milagro del Recuerdo/The Miracle of Remembering from Houston Grand Opera at Wortham Center (December 5-22)
In this prequel to the famed, first-ever mariachi opera Cruzar, El Milagro del Recuerdo, which HGO debuted 10 years ago, this new world premiere opera revisits some of Cruzar’s characters earlier in their lives. Cruzar’s famed librettist and director Leonard Foglia returns and partners with Mexican composer Javier Martínez continuing the legacy of mariachi opera established by his late father, José “Pepe” Martínez.
A Beatles Holiday Cabaret at Music Box Theater (December 6-28)
As the year-round place for cabaret style shows in Houston, Music Box Theater, started a unique holiday mashup tradition a few years ago mixing classic and contemporary holiday songs with Beatles standards. In a double (triple?) mixture, the Music Boxers, as fans call them, tend to intermingle these numbers with comedy routines and sketches, making for a fun holiday happening.
All Through the House from Firecracker Productions (December 6-14)
Holiday shows go immersive with this world premiere play/experience from local playwright Eric James. Staged in a Sawyer Heights Victorian Airbnb, the show splits the audience into two groups — with each getting a different perspective on this story of the Stanley-Fitzpatrick family’s wild night before Christmas. Look for “outlandish characters,” a visit from Santa and a real happy hour with music and light bites after each performance.
Elf-The Musical from Theatre Under the Stars at Hobby Center (December 7-22)
Based on the 2003 film about a baby human named Buddy raised by North Pole elves, the show takes adult Buddy on a crazy comic Christmas journey to meet his biological dad. Will nurture win out over natural human cynicism as Buddy attempts to spread elfish Christmas philosophy and Santa-belief to a jaded New York City? TUTS artistic director Dan Knechtges directs and choreographs what will likely be one of the biggest holiday productions this year with a huge cast that includes 27 students from the TUTS Humphreys School of Musical Theatre and The River.
Dixie's Never Wear A Tube Top While Riding A Mechanical Bull at Hobby Center (December 14-22)
Houston’s favorite Tupperware saleswoman, Dixie Longate, is back with tales of her honky tonk nights spent drinking and apparently, bull riding. What do a jeweled crown, a cardboard cutout of Julie Andrews, and a box of moon pies have in common? You’ll have to spend a riotous night with Dixie to find out. If you’re looking for an adults only, euphemism-laced break from the elves, Santas, and rated G nutcrackers, this could be the show for you. (We’re not ruling out R-rated nut references in this one.)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical presented by Society for the Performing Arts at Jones Hall (December 26-27, 2019)
Christmas goes on for a few more nights in this live stage adaption of the stop-motion animation classic that’s probably older than some of the younger grandparents in the audience. The show contains all the television special music, including the title song that recounts Rudolph’s superpower nose origin story.
The musical also stays faithful to the plot. After being being bullied in reindeer and elf and school, Rudolph and elf, Hermey, who dreams of becoming a dentist, run away together to the Island of Misfit Toys where they can be accepted for themselves. Really, now that we think about it, pretty much all high school misfit movies over the last 40 years have been loosely based on Rudolph’s saga. Here’s the chance to see the story live in its original and purist form.