We want the holidays to be about connecting with our families, but holiday-related stress can appear as an unwelcome visitor. Fortunately, our region’s amazing holiday shows, from fun-filled sing-alongs to plays that celebrate the joy of giving, are a wonderful antidote.
Our suggestion: Park the shopping list and the devices and make a family plan for a joy-filled outing. See an elegant ballet, listen to enchanting music, ponder the message of A Christmas Carol or laugh yourself silly at a holiday romp. Here is a list of more than 40 joyous shows to choose from.
Note: Shows with regular adult ticket prices of $15 or less are marked bargain.
Musicals, plays and holiday classics
Warm up in a tropical sea as brave young mermaid Ariel ventures out to explore a new life on land, battling an evil sea witch and ultimately finding her destiny. The show features award-winning songs such as “Kiss the Girl” and dazzling scenery and visual effects. Nov. 23–Dec 31. $36–$180. Ages 4 and older; no babes in arms. The 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle.
Based on the film, this holiday classic spotlights a man in despair who, thanks to an enlightening visit from his guardian angel, realizes his importance to his family and community. Nov. 25–Dec. 18. $19–$25. Ages 6 and older. Lakewood Playhouse, Lakewood.
ACT’s annual production of Dickens’ classic holiday tale traces the Christmastime redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge. Note: This includes somewhat scary characters; consider the age and sensitivity of kids you take to this show. Nov. 25–Dec. 28. $22–$110. Ages 5 and older; no babes in arms. ACT —A Contemporary Theatre, Seattle.
A baby fruit bat flits into a sea of holiday-themed shows to highlight friendship, the joy of trying new things and the importance of being yourself. This Seattle Children Theatre’s production is based on the popular picture book, features delightful music, dance and puppetry. Dec. 1–Jan. 15; sensory-friendly performance Dec. 18. $22–$40. Ages 3 and older. Seattle Children’s Theatre, Seattle.
Bargain: Based on the classic television cartoon special, this story finds Peanuts character Charlie Brown feeling blue about the commercialization of Christmas. Taking on an important job, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang rediscover the true spirit of the season. Dec. 2–22. $10. Ages 5–12 with families (Sunday shows are all ages). SecondStory Repertory, Redmond.
Bargain: Heavier Than Air Family Theatre presents the beloved musical that follows the life of a Jewish family in a Ukrainian village in 1905, featuring popular songs such as “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset.” Dec. 9–17. $10–$12. Ages 6 and older; no babes in arms. Green River College, Auburn.
Bargain: Tacoma Musical Playhouse does its own production of the play based on the classic 1965 television special. Dec. 17–24. $10. All ages. Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Tacoma.
Comic romps and family fun
Bargain: It’s holiday time, and the big guy in the red suit needs some serious help. Can a ragtag group of penguins help get Santa out of a jam? Bellevue Youth Theatre’s (BYT) show stars talented kids and is performed in BYT’s new Crossroads theater. Nov. 25–Dec. 4. $8–$15. All ages. Bellevue Youth Theatre – Crossroads, Bellevue.
In a beloved annual tradition, Centerstage turns a well-known fairy tale on its head, English panto style, with hilarious twists, corny songs and a few surprises. Nov. 26–Dec. 22. $15–$35. Ages 5 and older. Centerstage Theatre, Federal Way.
When the wild Herdman kids show up at church and are cast in the Christmas play, chaos ensues in this show featuring a multigenerational cast and favorite carols. Nov. 25–Dec. 18; pay-what-you-can performance Dec. 2. $13–$19. All ages. Olympia Family Theater, Olympia.
Belly laughs are in order as the classic Christmas Eve poem is spun to comical new heights — with surprise twists every year — as the Big family awaits the arrival of St. Nick. Nov. 26–Dec. 18. $19. Ages 4 and older. Studio East Mainstage Theater, Kirkland.
In its annual holiday show, StoryBook Theater presents the heartwarming holiday tale of two generous elves who help out a desperate toymaker and his wife, just in the nick of time. Nov. 27–Dec. 20. $18. Ages 3–10 with families. Venues in Renton, Seattle and Kirkland.
Bargain: The popular kids’ band Eric Herman and the Thunder Puppies (“The Elephant Song”) plays interactive, hilarious holiday tunes. Dec. 3, 6:30 p.m. $8. All ages. Auburn Avenue Theater, Auburn.
Bargain: Performing with Japanese bunraku-style puppetry, Thistle Theatre presents the story of a gingerbread boy who goes on a sweet holiday adventure. Dec. 3–18. $10. Ages 3 and older. Venues in Bellevue and Seattle.
Bargain: Based on the beloved 1980s movie, this musical follows the hilarious misadventures of a boy named Ralphie, his quirky family and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun. Dec. 9–18. $13–$15. Ages 5 and older. Auburn Avenue Theater, Auburn.
Bargain: Young actors star in this parody of tried-and-true fairy tales, a comic show based on the Caldecott Honor book. Dec. 9–18. $13–$15. Ages 5 and older. Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Mercer Island.
The staid traditional Christmas pageant at the local church gets an injection of new “talent,” and comic mayhem is the result, in a production performed by youth actors alongside adult professionals. Dec. 10–24. $5–$34. All ages. Seattle Public Theater, Bathhouse Theater at Green Lake, Seattle.
Bargain: The Fremont Players and Fremont Philharmonic return with their annual panto production, full of outrageous characters, original songs and jokes aimed at young and old. Expect audience participation, Rapunzel locked in a tower, a donkey called Butterbibb and more fairy-tale wackiness. Dec. 10–Jan. 15. $7–$15. All ages. Hale’s Palladium, Seattle.
Leapin’ ‘Nutcrackers’ and more dance
Pacific Northwest Ballet leaps into its second year of staging the Russian dancer and choreographer’s version of The Nutcracker, based on his childhood memories of dancing. Ian Falconer, creator of the kids’ book character Olivia the pig, designed the fanciful sets. Nov. 25–Dec. 28. $22–$170. McCaw Hall, Seattle.
A period production of the classic ballet features magical sets and costumes. Select one-hour shows for young children take place at each venue. Dec. 2–18. $16–$34. Venues in Bellevue, Auburn and Renton.
The North Sound ballet company presents a full-length performance featuring a former principal dancer from the Alabama Ballet and accompanied live by the Rainier Symphony Ballet Orchestra. Dec. 3–11. $20–$38. Northshore Performing Arts Center, Bothell.
Bargain: Kaleidoscope Dance Company presents its family-friendly holiday performance featuring dancers ages 7–16 who helped choreograph this showcase of imaginative modern dance, this year with live music. Dec. 4, 3 p.m. $6–$10. Shorewood Performing Arts Center, Shoreline.
Amid a passel of Nutcrackers, the Khambatta Dance Company and guest performers take audiences on a global tour of dance with a program that includes works inspired by Korean folktales, performances by the Sergei Burlak’s Art Modern Line Dance Theater Company from Russia and more. Dec. 9–10. $18–$22. Broadway Performance Hall, Seattle.
This popular, one-hour Nutcracker by ARC Dance caters to young audiences, and showcases the talents of student dancers, alongside youth and professional company dancers. It always sells out, so get tickets soon. Dec. 9–17. $12–$39. Venues in Seattle and Shoreline.
Tacoma City Ballet’s annual production includes the seldom-told Nutcracker backstory, the story of the magical Krakatuk Nut; accompanied live by the Tacoma City Ballet Orchestra. Note: 2016 is this show’s last year at the historic Pantages Theater. Dec. 9–18. $25–$100. Pantages Theater, Tacoma.
Olympic Ballet Theatre presents its annual, full-length performance of the holiday favorite, this year featuring a sparkling new backdrop. Special group matinee performances, for 20 or more, are affordable and one hour long. Dec. 9–18. $25–$38.50. Venues in Everett and Edmonds.
The beloved ballet is performed in traditional Russian style with elaborate sets and costumes from Ukraine, plus Arabian dancers and a fierce battle scene. Dec. 10–22. $25–$50. Theatre at Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue.
Beautiful music and sing-alongs
The Northwest Boychoir Apprentices and Seattle Symphony musicians join talents to present delightful musical accompaniment to the holiday classic The Polar Express. Dec. 3, 11 a.m. $15–$20. Ages 12 and younger with families. Benaroya Hall, Seattle.
Dynamic Tacoma Symphony Orchestra music director Sarah Ioannides leads the Tacoma Youth Chorus alongside the symphony orchestra in a varied holiday program, which includes a sing-along. Dec. 4, 2:30 p.m. $19–$80. Pantages Theater, Tacoma.
Three generations of the Boulding family and guests gather to present enchanting Celtic music, Irish dancing, a guitarist from Dublin, storytelling and more for the 38th year. Dec. 4–16. $12–$28. Venues in Kent, Bellevue, Tacoma, Seattle and beyond.
This Northwest trio of sisters sings, performs Celtic fiddle tunes and displays dancing talents to entertain families during the holidays. Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m. $10–$22. Edmonds Center for the Arts, Edmonds.
Bargain: Singing twin sisters Lisa and Linda invite the youngest of concertgoers to experience delightful holiday tunes in an interactive sing-along — and move-along — performance. Dec. 9–10. $12. Ages 0–5 with families. Benaroya Hall, Seattle.
The Seattle Symphony, along with its chorale and talented soloists, presents this traditional holiday choral work that includes the magnificent “Hallelujah” chorus. Dec. 16–18. $26–$89. Benaroya Hall, Seattle.
The full roster of Northwest Girlchoir members, ages 6–18, performs a family-friendly program that features international carols, spirituals, pop-music tunes, a sing-along and more. Dec. 17, 3 p.m. $10–$23. Meany Hall for the Performing Arts, Seattle.
Celebrate Hanukkah with this “Jewish roots band” whose songs link traditional Eastern European Jewish music to modern klezmer and Yiddish culture. Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m. $25–$30. Stroum Jewish Community Center, Mercer Island.
Bargain: Dance and sing to welcome the new year with husband-and-wife duo The Harmonica Pocket, playing its upbeat, whimsical songs at a morning concert. Dec. 31, 10:30 a.m. $15/family of four. All ages. Mount Baker Community Club, Seattle.
Bargain: Head to the SIFF Film Center for an aromatic, candy-tastic screening of the legendary 1971 film, starring Gene Wilder and accompanied by goody bags (prepared by Oompa Loompas) to enhance the viewing. Nov. 25–Jan. 2. $14–$15. SIFF Film Center, Seattle.
Bargain: Revel in the holiday spirit while watching and listening to dozens of caroling teams outsing each other on downtown Seattle street corners. Dec. 2, 6–8:30 p.m. FREE; donations for the Pike Market Senior Center and Food Bank accepted. Westlake Center, Seattle.
Bargain: St. Nick leads families in singing a selection of heartwarming holiday faves with live musical accompaniment. Santa also reads a story and poses for photos. Dec. 3, 10 a.m. $10. Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Tacoma.
Bargain: Seattle Radio Theatre performs a live radio production of the classic holiday story, complete with sound effects. Be there to watch (audience tune-up starts at 7:45 p.m. sharp) or listen at home on KIRO-FM, huddled around the radio like in bygone days. Dec. 9, 8 p.m. $5–$15. Ages 6 and older. Town Hall, Seattle.
This family-friendly show stars Cirque Musica’s acrobats and circus artists performing breathtaking feats, choreographed to beloved holiday music that’s played live by an orchestra. Dec. 18, 6 p.m. $32–$78. All ages. Xfinity Arena, Everett.
Get ready to belt out “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Tradition” with the inimitable Topol while watching this beloved 1971 film. A Chinese food buffet and live klezmer music beforehand, included in ticket price, are part of what is now a SIFF tradition. Dec. 25, 11 a.m. $25. SIFF Cinema Uptown, Seattle.
Holiday cheer on the cheap
The wonderful thing about December is that you can find live holiday performances (often for free) while you’re out and about for other reasons.
Winterfest: Seattle Center’s winter celebration features numerous free performances in the Armory, including Northwest Boychoir apprentices, klezmer musicans and youth circus artists.
Pacific Place: After you’ve marveled at Sheraton Seattle’s Gingerbread Village and taken a spin on the Westlake Carousel, stop by Pacific Place for shopping, snow flurries (nightly through Dec. 24) and free holiday performances.
Christmas Ship Festival: Bundle up, gather your crew and spend an evening listening to ethereal choral music broadcast from one of the Argosy Christmas Ship’s many stops on the Sound or Lake Washington.
Molbak’s: Pick a perfect poinsettia or two, admire the amazing holiday greenery, nosh on a kringle and listen to live holiday music on weekends in December.
Snowflake Lane: Exhilarate the kids with a visit to see the lavish music and light show — complete with live toy soldiers — that takes place on the sidewalks around the Bellevue Collection nightly from Nov. 25 through Dec. 24.