In December, stress can loom large, even amid all the supposed joy. Here’s a surefire recipe for rediscovering the spirit of the season: Park your shopping list and gather your family and friends to hear soaring music, see a fanciful ballet, cry at a touching holiday classic or laugh until the tears flow at a holiday romp. Dress up a little (or a lot, if you like) and take in some holiday wonder at one of these 70-plus joyful shows and concerts.
Note: This list is organized by region, then by the shows’ start dates. Some happen only once or twice, some a handful of times, and some have multiweek runs. Shows that appear at different venues in different regions are listed under the region where they occur first. Shows with adult ticket prices of $15 or less are marked as “cheap" with a "*".
Seattle holiday shows for families
The Sound of Music
This beloved musical of stage and screen — chronicling the Austrian World War II story of an unusual governess who helps a father reconnect with his children and form a family — will be many a family’s holiday splurge. With a sensational, all-local cast and favorite songs such as “Do-Re-Mi” and “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” you can’t go wrong. Through Jan. 3. $29 and up. Ages 5 and older; no babes in arms. The 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle.
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
Pacific Northwest Ballet debuts its much-anticipated staging of the famed Russian dancer and choreographer’s version of the The Nutcracker, based on Balanchine’s childhood memories of dancing in the ballet in Russia. Sets are designed by renowned children’s author/illustrator Ian Falconer (Olivia the Pig). Through Dec. 28. $32–$156. McCaw Hall, Seattle.
A Christmas Carol
ACT’s annual production of Dickens’ classic holiday tale traces the Christmastime redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge. Caveat: Includes scary ghosts and zombie-ish children — consider age and sensitivity of kids you take to this show. Through Dec. 30. $37–$90. Ages 5 and older; no babes in arms. ACT – A Contemporary Theatre, Seattle.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Charlie Brown is feeling blue until the gang reminds him of the true meaning of Christmas in this popular Peanuts tale, with the fantastic jazz score by Vince Guaraldi. Dec. 3–26; sensory-friendly, all-ages show Dec. 5. $25. Ages 6 and older. Taproot Theatre, Seattle.
Christmastown: A Holiday Noir
In its second year, this thriller by local playwright Wayne Rawley features hard-boiled detective Nick Holiday and promises Christmas chills, cheers and chuckles. Dec. 4–24. $17–$34. Ages 12 and older. Bathhouse Theater at Green Lake, Seattle.
Once Upon a December
The advanced choirs of Northwest Girlchoir —Amabile, Vivace, Amore and Ensemble — present a reflective holiday program that includes Caldwell and Ivory’s “Hope for Resolution” and the classic “Carol of the Bells.” Dec. 4. $13–$25; ages 5 and younger free. First Free Methodist Church, Seattle.
*Miracle on 34th Street
Seattle Radio Theatre performs a live radio production of the holiday classic story of the “real” Santa Claus and his impact on the people he encounters. Show will be broadcast live on KIRO-FM radio. Dec. 4. $5–$15. Ages 6 and older. Town Hall, Seattle.
Seattle Symphony and the Seattle Opera Youth Chorus accompany this delightful animated movie about the adventures of a boy and his snowman pal. Dec. 5. $15–$20. Ages 6–11 with families. Benaroya Hall, Seattle.
Northwest Boychoir Apprentices and Preparatory Choirs, made up of singers ages 7–11, present their selection of songs for the holidays. Dec. 5. $10–$12. Ages 5 and older. Our Lady of the Lake Church, Seattle.
Three Orchestras Concert
Seattle Youth Symphony’s Symphonette, Debut and Junior Symphony orchestras play their winter recital for the enjoyment of all. Dec. 6. $15–$23. Meany Hall, Seattle.
*Merry Chris Mouse
Using Japanese bunraku-style puppetry, Thistle Theatre presents the original, musical story of a mouse family faced with helping a fellow creature at Christmastime. Dec. 5–20. $10. Ages 3 and older. Thistle Theatre Studio and Sunset Hill Community Club, Seattle; Bellevue Youth Theatre.
Beauty and the Beast
This lavish touring production of the beloved Broadway musical tells the tale of misleading appearances, loyalty and true love, and plays just five shows in Seattle. Dec. 11–13. $35–$110. Ages 6 and older. The Paramount Theatre, Seattle.
*Tiny Tots Holiday Hooray!
Lisa and Linda lead little ones in a snowy, interactive sing-along featuring holiday songs and a special musical guest. Dec. 11–12. $12. Ages newborn–5 with families. Benaroya Hall, Seattle.
Peace on Earth
Seattle Choral Company celebrates the peace of Christmastime in the soaring acoustics of Saint Mark’s, including a pre-concert sing-along. Dec. 11–12. $25; students free with identification. Saint Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle.
This popular, one-hour Nutcracker by ARC Dance caters to young audiences and their families. Warning: It sells out quickly. Dec. 11–13, 19. $10–$30. All ages. ARC Dance Space, Seattle (Dec. 11–13); Shorewood Performing Arts Center, Shoreline (Dec. 19).
A Festival of Lessons & Carols
A combined choir of Northwest Boychoir and Vocalpoint! Seattle sing, give readings and encourage the audience to sing along in a performance designed after a traditional Christmas Eve service at King’s College in Cambridge. Dec. 11–22 (Dec. 22 performance with Northwest Sinfonia at Benaroya Hall). $11–$80. Various Seattle-area venues.
A Gift of Song — Seattle Girls’ Choir Holiday Concert
All five levels of choirs come together to delight audiences with joyous holiday songs, both old favorites and new selections. Dec. 12. $15–$20. Town Hall, Seattle.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The wacky Herdman family brings new perspective to their church’s annual pageant, a hilarious holiday tradition at Seattle Public Theater. Dec. 12–24. $17–$34. All ages. Bathhouse Theater at Green Lake, Seattle.
*Hansel & Gretel and the Three Bears
The Fremont Players and the Fremont Philharmonic return with their annual panto, full of outrageous characters, catchy songs and audience participation. Bonus: Hale’s brews and snacks available for purchase. Dec.12–Jan. 10. $7–$13. All ages. Hale’s Palladium, Seattle.
Somewhere in My Memory
The full roster of Northwest Girlchoir members, ages 6–18, performs a charming program inspired by the holiday music memories of the community; sing-along included as well. Dec. 13. $8–$20; ages 5 and younger free. University Christian Church, Seattle.
*Carmina Angelorum: Songs for Harp & Treble Voices
Seattle Girls’ Choir’s Prime Voci and Cantamus ensembles perform elegant holiday music accompanied by harpist Juliet Stratton. Dec. 13, 19, 20. $8–$12. Chapel of St. Ignatius (Dec. 13); First United Methodist Church (Dec. 19); Holy Rosary Church (Dec. 20), Seattle.
The Nutcracker by Cornish Preparatory Dance Company
Cornish dancers, including dance program students ages 6–18, showcase their talents in this fun and fanciful version of the holiday ballet. Dec. 18–20. $16–$20. Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center, Seattle.
The Seattle Symphony, along with its chorale and select soloists, presents this beautiful choral work that includes the moving Hallelujah Chorus. Dec. 18–20. $25–$88. Benaroya Hall, Seattle.
Ellington’s Sacred Music
Earshot Jazz presents its annual holiday tribute to jazz legend Duke Ellington with Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, Northwest Chamber Chorus, guest vocalists and featured tap dancer Alex Dugdale. Dec. 26. $14–$38. Town Hall, Seattle.
Eastside holiday shows for families
*’Twas the Night . . .
This holiday tradition takes the classic Christmas Eve poem into comical, musical overdrive, with the Big family and its crew awaiting St. Nick. Through Dec. 20. $15. Ages 4 and older. Studio East Mainstage Theater, Kirkland.
*It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Drama
Youth Theatre Northwest actors perform a radio version of the beloved holiday story; look for a special dinner theater performance. Dec. 4–6. $13–$15; $45–$55 for dinner theater performance. Ages 10 and older. Emmanuel Episcopal Church; Mercer Island Beach Club for dinner theater.
An Elf’s Tale
In this fun, original musical, Santa’s list of naughty children is growing every year, and a creative elf feels compelled to address this problem. Dec. 4–13. $5–$12. All ages. Bellevue Youth Theatre–Crossroads.
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol
This Victorian mashup has Sherlock on the verge of retirement and then visited by three spirits who give him a peek into his future. Dec. 4–19. $17–$22. Ages 10 and older. Renton Civic Theatre.
The Nutcracker by Evergreen City Ballet
This beloved period production of the classic ballet features new sets and costumes and will be performed in three venues. One-hour shows for young children are in Bellevue and Auburn. Dec. 4–6, 12–13, 19–20. $16–$32. Theatre at Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue; Auburn Performing Arts Center; Ikea Performing Arts Center, Renton.
The Nutcracker by International Ballet Theatre
IBT performs the beloved ballet in traditional Russian style with elaborate sets and costumes from Ukraine, plus Arabian dancers and a fierce battle scene. Dec. 4–6, 11–23. $25–$50. Kirkland Performance Center; Theatre at Meydenbauer Center, Bellevue.
A Christmas Carol
SecondStory’s original adaption tells the classic holiday story of Scrooge in a colorful way that’s designed to please audiences of all ages. Dec. 4–23; pay-what-you-can preview Dec. 3. $22–$27. SecondStory Repertory, Redmond.
Noel by the Numbers
Bellevue Girlchoir and Bellevue Boychoir sing a program of traditional “countdown” carols, plus new works, favorites and a sing-along designed to ignite the holiday spirit. Dec. 5. $13–$18. Redmond Performing Arts Center.
Christmas in Sammamish
Sammamish Symphony Orchestra plays a selection of holiday favorites, accompanied by The Liberty Singers. Anticipate a couple of surprises. Dec. 5–6. $10–$20. Eastlake High School, Sammamish.
*The Elves & the Toymaker
StoryBook Theater presents the heartwarming tale of thoughtful elves who help out a desperate toymaker and his wife. Dec. 5, 12–20. $8–$15. Ages 3–10 with families. Auburn Avenue Theater; Kirkland Performance Center.
*Magic of Mistletoe
Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra, together with BYSO’s Philharmonia, Flute Orchestra and Flute Choir, presents its annual holiday concert. Other BYSO ensembles perform earlier the same day. Dec. 6. $12–$15. Bellevue High School Performing Arts Center.
*Christmas Carol Jr.
In this 50-minute adaptation of the well-known story, Mrs. Claus tells the tale of Scrooge to her zany elves, who pretend to be the ghosts, neutralizing any scare factor. Dec. 12–20. $5–$10. Ages 5 and older; all-ages shows on Sundays. SecondStory Repertory, Redmond.
Geoffrey Castle’s Celtic Christmas
Enjoy ancient Celtic melodies in songs from Castle’s new Christmas CD, plus appearances by the Seattle Irish Dance Company and the King County Firefighters Pipes & Drums band. Dec. 18–19. $15–$25. Kirkland Performance Center.
South Sound holiday shows for families
A Christmas Story
This hilarious holiday tale follows a boy and his dogged quest for the Christmas gift of his dreams, a Red Ryder BB gun. Through Dec. 20. $20–$24. Ages 6 and older. Tacoma Little Theatre, Tacoma.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
The commercialization of Christmas is getting Charlie Brown down, until he takes on an important job that helps bring to light the true spirit of Christmas. Through Dec. 20; pay-what-you-can performance Dec. 4. $13–$19. All ages. Olympia Family Theater.
A Christmas Story — The Musical
Based on the beloved ’80s movie, this musical follows the misadventures of young Ralphie, his family and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun. Through Dec. 19. $12–$22. Ages 8 and older. Sumner Performing Arts Center.
Centerstage continues its holiday tradition of presenting an English-style panto production, a hilarious twist on a fairy tale, full of fabulous songs, corny jokes and a surprise gag. Through Dec. 20. $10–$30. Ages 5 and older. Centerstage Theatre, Federal Way.
Seattle Men’s Chorus — Home for the Holidays
Always a holiday hit, Seattle Men’s Chorus’s festive program includes classic carols plus a lively sing-along. Dec. 3. $19–$69. Pantages Theater, Tacoma.
*Sing-along with Santa
St. Nick leads families in singing a selection of heartwarming favorites with live musical accompaniment. Santa also reads a story and poses for photos; professional shots for purchase, or bring your camera. Dec. 5. $10. Tacoma Musical Playhouse. tmp.org
Mistletunes and Songflakes
Masterworks Choral Ensemble invites families for a program of favorite holiday songs, plus a sing-along and a possible visit from the big guy in the red suit. Dec. 5. $10–$22. Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Olympia. washingtoncenter.org
*Red, White and Blue Holiday Concert
The 133rd Army Band of the Washington National Guard welcomes the season with its annual concert for the community, featuring patriotic and holiday selections. Dec. 6. FREE; tickets required. Auburn Performing Arts Center.
The Federal Way Symphony plays Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and other holiday classics, together with soprano Rachel DeShon and a surprise guest soloist. Dec. 6. $28–$35; ages 18 and younger free. Saint Luke’s Lutheran Church, Federal Way.
Sounds of the Season
Sarah Ioannides conducts her first “Sounds of the Season,” as the Tacoma Youth Chorus joins the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra in this musical tribute to the holiday season. Dec. 6. $19–$79. Pantages Theater, Tacoma.
Magical Strings — A Celtic Yuletide
Three generations of the Boulding family and guests gather for festive Celtic music, Irish dancing, storytelling, juggling and more. Dec. 6–14. $12–$28. Venues in Kent, Tacoma, Seattle, Mount Vernon and Bellevue.
Christmas with the Gothard Sisters
This trio of Northwest-native sisters performs Celtic fiddle tunes and displays its dancing talents. Dec. 10, 13. $12–$23. Edmonds Center for the Arts; Auburn Avenue Theatre.
Heavier Than Air Family Theatre invites families to swallow a spoonful of sugar as a practically perfect nanny cooks up a little magic to help a troubled family in turn-of-the-century England. Dec. 11–19. $10–$12. Ages 6 and older. Green River College, Auburn.
The Nutcracker by Ballet Northwest
This Olympia dance company continues its holiday Nutcracker tradition, featuring 200 dancers as well as delightful costumes and sets. Dec. 11–20. $14–$33. Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Olympia.
The Nutcracker by Dance Theatre Northwest
Dancers from this Pierce County school present their lovely version of the classic holiday ballet. Dec. 12–13. $22–$26. Mount Tahoma High School auditorium, Tacoma.
The Nutcracker and The Tale of the Hard Nut
Tacoma City Ballet’s production includes the rarely told Nutcracker backstory, the story of the magical Krakatuk nut; accompanied by the Tacoma City Ballet Orchestra. Dec. 12–20. $15–$100. Pantages Theater, Tacoma.
The Tacoma Symphony Orchestra and Chorus together perform this beloved, triumphant work by Handel. Dec. 17, 18. $25–$45. Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, Gig Harbor; St. Charles Borromeo Church, Tacoma.
The Nutcracker by Studio West Dance Theatre
Studio West puts a fresh spin on the classic ballet, combining traditional dance with some delightful surprises. Dec. 17–20. $16–$25. South Puget Sound Community College, Olympia.
Ye Olde Merry Holiday (TV) Spectacular!
This variety show takes inspiration from classic holiday television specials and includes song, dance and humor. Show will be taped live with the audience. Dec. 18–20. $19–$49. Theatre on the Square, Tacoma.
The Christmas Revels
The Puget Sound Revels’ holiday song-and-dance variety show features a Nordic theme this year, with hardanger fiddle, trolls and a Finnish folktale. Dec. 19–23. $12–$34. Rialto Theater, Tacoma.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Charlie Brown gets over his holiday blues and remembers the true meaning of Christmas in this play based on the popular 1965 television special. Dec. 19–24. $10. All ages. Tacoma Musical Playhouse.
*The Science of Santa Claus
The geek-tastic Doktor Kaboom, aka David Epley, attempts to dissect all of Santa’s tricks, using physics to figure them out. Dec. 20. $10. All ages. Auburn Avenue Theater.
*Handel’s Messiah Sing-along
A who’s who of South Sound musicians invites everyone to sing this exultant work together with the community; listeners welcome, too. Dec. 21. FREE. Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Olympia.
North Sound holiday shows for families
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and Timmy Perlmutter’s Extraordinary Hanukkah
Edmonds Driftwood Players present a holiday double-header with two stories in which challenges turn into most memorable moments. Through Dec. 20. $22–$25. Ages 6 and older. Wade James Theatre, Edmonds.
*Christmas in Edmonds
Mosaic Arts Choir and Orchestra presents a program of holiday favorites in this benefit for the Puget Sound Christian Clinic, which offers free health care to the underserved. Dec. 5. $12. Edmonds Center for the Arts.
The Nutcracker by Emerald Ballet Theatre
This full-length performance of the Christmastime ballet features national guest artists and is accompanied live by the Rainier Symphony Ballet Orchestra. Dec. 5–13. $20–$35. Northshore Performing Arts Center, Bothell.
*The Gift of Dance
Kaleidoscope Dance Company presents its family-friendly holiday performance featuring dancers ages 7–16 who helped choreograph this show of imaginative modern dance. Dec. 6. $6–$10. Shorewood Performing Arts Center, Shoreline.
Under the Streetlamp
In a special appearance, an acclaimed vocal group, made up of former cast members of The Jersey Boys musical, sings holiday standards plus American radio classics. Dec. 9. $34–$44. Edmonds Center for the Arts.
The Nutcracker by Olympic Ballet Theatre.
OBT presents its annual, full-length performance of the holiday favorite, featuring a new backdrop and staging that debuted last year. OBT also offers a shorter performance designed for schools and groups. Dec. 11–13, 17–20. $25–$37.50; $8–$20 for group performances. Everett Performing Arts Center; Edmonds Center for the Arts.
Holiday Magic: Scrooge! Bah! Humbug!
Sno-King Community Chorale performs its annual holiday concert, this year magical version of an old classic. Dec. 12. $10–$20. Edmonds Center for the Arts.
*The Nutcracker by Washington School of Dance
This Bothell dance academy’s Nutcracker is narrated, one hour in length, and features more than 70 dancers ages 4–18. Dec. 12–13. $13. Snohomish High School.
The Steadfast Tin Soldier — A Story Ballet
Dance Fremont presents this charming, colorful ballet performed by more than 70 dance students and a special guest, former Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer Josh Spell. Dec. 13–14. $15–$20. Shorecrest Performing Arts Center, Shoreline.
Cascade Symphony Orchestra plays a selection of works including the march from Babes in Toyland and Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. Featuring Adam Frey on euphonium. Dec. 13–14. $10–$27. Edmonds Center for the Arts.
May the fun be with you
If silliness is as important to you as sparkle in your holiday shows, here are events to up the pure-fun factor this season.
Holiday treats plus construction plus Star Wars? You’re in, right? The theme of the Sheraton Seattle’s elaborate Gingerbread Village (gingerbread creations built by local architecture firms and the hotel’s culinary team) is, yes, Star Wars, and should draw big crowds, light sabers in hand. Through Jan. 3. Free to view, but donations to JDRF Northwest Chapter appreciated.
Sweet movie screenings
Every year, SIFF screens the legendary 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in Smell-O-Vision, meaning that the aroma of chocolate will waft through the theater during the movie; and viewers will also get “Wonkariffic goodie bags” to provide an even fuller sensory experience. Various show times at SIFF Film Center through Jan. 3; tickets are $14–$15.
Crazy-cool camel rides at Zoolights
As part of its spectacular Zoolights events, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium offers camel rides, weather permitting. Kids will love seeing a camel’s impressive eyelashes up close, sniffing its fur and sitting right on its hump. Ages 3 and older, during Zoolights hours, through Jan. 3. Rides cost $6 (Zoolights admission extra).
There is nothing quite like the annual Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition, the street-corner sing-off in downtown Seattle featuring 40-plus groups trying to out-carol each other on streets around Westlake Park (combine it with a spin on the carousel). This year, the night will kick off with a bit of The Sound of Music from The 5th Avenue Theatre. Friday, Dec. 4, 6–8:30 p.m.
Klezmer, ‘Fiddler’ and chopsticks, oh my!
Want to escape Christmas but nowhere to go? Head to SIFF Uptown for a non-Christmas extravaganza that includes a Fiddler on the Roof sing-along screening of the 1971 musical film (billed as “the best Jewish-themed musical”), a kosher Chinese food buffet and live Klezmer music. $24–$25.