Best Christmas shows in London

It’s that time of year when London’s theatre marquees are aglow with starry names and seasonal standards. The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol are annual fixtures, while an array of musicals (composed by Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim et al.) prove particularly popular with theatregoers come Yuletide. There’s also an assortment of plays, some sticking to a strict Christmas brief, others not. Those topping our list this season: the West-End transfer of The Motive and The Cue, directed by Sam Mendes and written by Jack Thorne, and fringe outlier She Stoops to Conquer at the Orange Tree Theatre starring Tanya Reynolds.

Whether booking ahead for your annual family theatre trip or purchasing a gift for the thespian in your life, refer to these Christmastide listings for inspiration.

Jeremy Secomb and the Company of Old Friends | Danny Kaan

Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends

Into the Woods, Company, A Little Night Music… the list of hit musicals by composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim is robust. Devised and produced by Cameron Mackintosh, this concert celebration (which first ran in May 2022 as a one-night performance, receiving rave reviews) returns for a limited 16-week run over the festive season. Broadway greats Bernadette Peters and Lea Salonga headline the revue-style show, joined by a company including Clare Burt, Janie Dee, and Bradley Jaden. Directed by Matthew Bourne, together with Julia McKenzie, the show – which is narrative-free – presents Sondheim’s songbook anew through a combination of solos, duets, and company numbers supported by The Sondheim Orchestra.

Address: Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 6AR
Price: Tickets from £30
Dates: Booking until 6 January 2024

The Motive and the Cue at the National Theatre | Mark Douet

The Motive and The Cue

Following a sold-out run at the National Theatre, Johnny Flynn, Mark Gatiss, and Tuppence Middleton reprise their roles as Richard Burton, John Gielgud, and Elizabeth Taylor in this scintillating play about a play directed by Sam Mendes. Based on the making of Burton and Gielgud’s 1964 experimental Broadway production of Hamlet, Jack Thorne’s latest penning is inspired by Letters from an Actor by William Redfield and John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in Hamlet by Richard L. Stern. Examining rehearsal room tensions and debates around modernism versus classicism (which true-blue thesps will lap up), The Motive and The Cue is witty, fierce, and tender, making for a suitably dramatic night at the theatre.

Address: Noël Coward Theatre, 85-88 St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4AP
Price: Tickets from £20
Dates: 9 December 2023 – 23 March 2024

Sabrina Bartlett and Tanya Reynolds in rehearsal for She Stoops to Conquer | Marc Brenner

She Stoops to Conquer

First staged in London in 1773, Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer is cropping up at the Orange Tree Theatre this festive season. Directed by OTT AD Tom Littler, with Francesca Ellis, the 18th-century play promises playgoers an evening of amusing misunderstandings. ‘Relocated to a 1930s country house’, the drama plays out at Christmastime at Hardcastle Hall. Mr and Mrs Hardcastle (played by David Horovitch and Greta Scacchi, respectively) have conflicting ideas about what makes the perfect Christmas; meanwhile, their daughter Kate (played by Tanya Reynolds) is eagerly anticipating the arrival of her ‘intended fiancé’ Charles Marlow (Freddie Fox). Also in the mix: a useless butler and a perplexing plot to steal one’s own jewellery. What fun.

Address: Orange Tree Theatre, 1 Clarence Street, Richmond, TW9 2QE
Price: Tickets from £15
Dates: 18 November 2023 – 13 January 2024

A scene from The Nutcracker by The Royal Ballet | Tristram Kenton/ROH

The Nutcracker

Attending The Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker is a Christmastime tradition for many, meaning it’s predictably all but sold out. Still, a few tickets remain – and there’s also the option of catching a cinema screening of the festive production. In any event, Clara’s Christmas Eve party turned mini adventure continues to delight with its winning combination of choreography by Peter Wright, after Lev Ivanov, Julia Trevelyan Oman’s sensational ‘period designs’, and Tchaikovsky’s glistening score. A face-off with the Mouse King and a visit with the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Kingdom of Sweets keeps audiences on their proverbial (tippy) toes…

For further insight into this majestic production, the ROH also runs 75-minute backstage tours, The Making of the Nutcracker, at a charge of £54.

Address: Royal Opera House
Price: Tickets from £8
Dates: 6 December 2023 – 13 January 2024

Cast of Guys & Dolls at The Bridge Theatre | Manuel Harlan

Guys and Dolls

The Bridge’s immersive production of Guys and Dolls opened in March of this year to rapturous reviews. Now booking through August 2024, audiences can’t seem to get enough of this New York musical revival, and with good reason. Bunny Christie’s mesmerising mobile designs add a new dimension to this energised production, where promenade (read: standing) tickets are highly coveted, landing you right in the heart of the action. Daniel Mays plays the roguish Nathan Detroit, and the ever-impressive Marisha Wallace stars as his fiancé of 14 years, Miss Adelaide. The other half of this show’s central quartet comprises George Ioannides as high roller Sky Masterson and Celinde Schoenmaker, who plays Sister Sarah Brown. Audiences can expect a fun, wise-cracking route to the altar accompanied by Frank Loesser’s showstopping tunes (Luck Be a Lady, I’ve Never Been in Love Before and more).

Address: Bridge Theatre, 3 Potters Fields Park, London, SE1 2SG
Price: Tickets from £19.50
Dates: Booking until 31 August 2024

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