Holidays on Stage: Festive Theater Performances for All Ages

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Theaters across the Bay Area are welcoming back their audiences with the return of live entertainment this holiday season. Take the kids to The Nutcracker, a Tony Award-winning adaptation of A Christmas Carol or a magical Cirque production. If you’re not ready for in-person events, cozy up at home for the Dog Man musical. There’s something for everyone, so check out our guide and enjoy the show!

photo: SFGMC

San Francisco

Note: All indoor events in San Francisco are currently subject to the city’s COVID-19 safety rules. All patrons over the age of 12 must produce proof of vaccination status and a matching photo ID. Children under 12 must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 48 hours of the start time of the performance. A PCR or rapid antigen test is acceptable. Everyone will need to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus Holigays are Here…Again

Back on stage for this holiday tradition for the first time since 2019, the world-famous San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus will be belting out favourites including “Little Drummer Boy” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain”. Dec 24, tickets start from $35.

Castro Theater
429 Castro St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: cityboxoffice.com

San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker

Celebrate the magic of the season with the triumphant return of The San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker, back for performances throughout December. Set at a Christmas Eve party right here in the city, the two-hour show is the perfect excuse to get dressed up and enjoy a festive family night out. Runtime: two hours including 20 minute intermission. Tickets start from $19. Dec. 12, 14-19, 21-24, 26-30.

 The War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness Ave. (at Grove)
San Francisco, CA
Online: sfballet.org

ODC Dance’s The Velveteen Rabbit

Based on the classic children’s tale, The Velveteen Rabbit is back on stage for its 35th anniversary. Families can attend in-person or on-demand—all in-person tickets include on-demand access. Beautiful storytelling, whimsical costumes and genuine holiday cheer—all bring the story of a well-worn nursery rabbit to life. Runtime: 90 minutes with intermission. Tickets: $25-100. Dec. 4-5 and 11-12

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater
700 Howard St. (at Third)
San Francisco, CA
Online: odcdance.org

Smuin's The Christmas Ballet

Set to songs of the season, everyone will be dancing to Smuin’s playful performance with vignettes ranging from ballet and tap to swing and jazz, inspired by holiday celebrations around the world. Runtime: two hours. $36 and up. Nov. 19-20, Walnut Creek. Dec. 2-5, Mountain View. Dec. 10-11Carmel-by-the-Sea. Dec. 16-26, San Francisco.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
700 Howard St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: smuinballet.org

Mark Foehringer's Nutcracker Sweets

For those with a short attention span, Foehringer's Dance Project|SF performs a Nutcracker choreographed with the kids in mind. It's just 50 minutes and recommended for anyone over age two. Live music and a few deviations from the classic will keep the whole family entertained. Weekends, Dec. 4-19. Tickets: $22.50-$44.50.

Cowell Theater
Fort Mason Center
San Francisco, CA
Online: nutcrackersweets.org

A Christmas Carol

The classic Christmas tale gets the Broadway treatment in this multi-Tony Award winning show. Featuring 12 traditional Christmas carols and dazzling performances, this play is ideal for a multi-generation outing. Under fives are not allowed. Runtime: two hours, 15 minutes, including one intermission. Nov. 26-Dec. 26, tickets from $76.

1 Taylor St.
San Francisco, CA
Online: broadwaysf.com

The Magic Lamp 

An all-star team of theater icons is bringing panto to San Francisco this holiday season. Fun for the whole family, The Magic Lamp turns the classic children’s tale of Aladdin on its head with magnificent costumes, musical parodies, dance, magic, and over-the-top silliness. Select dates Dec. 1-31, tickets from $10.

Presidio Theater
99 Moraga Ave, San Francisco, CA 
Online: pesidiotheatre.org

photo: John Hefti

East Bay

Oakland Ballet Company’s The Nutcracker

COVID-19 note: The organizer is requiring proof of vaccination for this event.

One girl’s enchanted evening comes to life in contemporary choreographer Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker. Runtime: approximately two hours including intermission.  Dec. 18-19. $24 and up. 

Paramount Theatre
2025 Broadway
Oakland, CA
Onlineoaklandballet.org

Christmas in My Hometown

Back for its 16th year running, Vacaville Performing Arts Theater invites you to bring the whole family to their variety show, full of holiday cheer and tradition. The show puts a spotlight on Vacaville talent and is a great way to kick off the holiday season. Nov. 27, $18

Vacaville Performing Arts Theatre
Vacaville, CA
Online: vpat.com

Diablo Ballet's The Nutcracker Suite

Celebrate our return to the Lesher Center for the Arts this November with an expanded version of Julia Adam’s smash holiday hit, The Nutcracker Suite! All ticket holders are invited to a complimentary coffee reception with the Artistic team and dancers at Massimo Ristorante immediately following the Friday and Saturday evening performances. Proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 is required for all guests age 12 and over, and face coverings are required to be worn by all guests age two and over when visiting the Lesher Center for the Arts. Nov. 12 -13

Lesher Center for the Arts
601 Civic Dr, Walnut Creek
Online: diabloballet.org

Valley Dance Theater's Nutcracker
Experience the magic of the Nutcracker—this annual Tri-Valley holiday event continues to enchant audiences of all ages, bringing Tchaikovsky’s well-known music and ballet to life with all of its elegance and beauty. Thrill to a stage filled with one magical Nutcracker, a swirl of lovely snowflakes, adorable mice, dancing soldiers and a glittering sugar plum fairy.
Dec. 11-2, 17-19

Bankhead Theater
2400 First Street, Livermore

Online: livermorearts.org

photo: Matt Bishop

Peninsula

A Magical Cirque Christmas

COVID-19 note: Proof of vaccination required for attendees 12 and up. All audience members over the age of two must wear a mask.

Experience magic and extraordinary acrobatic performances set to toe-tapping holiday music at this fun performance. Recommended for children eight and older. Run time: two hours, with an intermission. Dec. 30, tickets from $67.

255 S. Almaden Blvd.
San Jose, CA
Online: broadwaysanjose.com

New Ballet’s The San Jose Nutcracker

COVID-19 note: Proof of vaccination required for attendees 12 and up. All audience members over the age of two must wear a mask.

New Ballet is performing the holiday classic with a twist, incorporating familiar Santa Clara landmarks into their version of the Nutcracker. Rising star Rebecca Nugent steps into the shoes of Clara for the first time this year. Rebecca’s story is remarkable—she spent her childhood in an Ethiopian orphanage, before being adopted and brought to the U.S., where she began ballet lessons at the relatively late age of eight. After being spotted at class by New Ballet’s artistic director, Rebecca was offered a position, and has quickly risen to become the star of the show! Dec. 18-22. $25 and up.

California Theatre
345 S. First St.
San Jose, CA
Online: newballet.com

New Ballet’s My Very First Nutcracker

COVID-19 note: Proof of vaccination required for attendees 12 and up. All audience members over the age of two must wear a mask.

My Very First Nutcracker is a special one-hour classical ballet presentation suitable for the youngest audiences that features the first act of The San Jose Nutcracker, including a festive holiday party hosted by young Clara, her brother Fritz and their family in San Jose at the turn of the last century. Dec. 18-22. $17 and up. 

California Theatre
345 S. First St.
San Jose, CA
Online: newballet.com

Bayer Ballet Company's Snow Queen 

COVID-19 note: Proof of vaccination required for attendees 12 and up. All audience members over the age of two must wear a mask.

When the Snow Queen's spell captures a young boy, his sister sets out on a quest to save him. A journey filled with whimsy and intrigue, friend and foe, this beautiful original youth ballet takes you on a magical journey where true love and enduring friendship overcome evil. No kids under age three allowed. Runtime: Approximately 2.5 hours with one 20-minute intermission. Dec. 18-19. $38 and up.

Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro St.
Mountain View, CA
Online: bayerballetacademy.com

Theatrework’s Silicon Valley’s It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

COVID-19 note: Proof of vaccination required for attendees 12 and up, non-vaccinated under 12s must present a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours. All audience members must wear a mask. Under fives are not permitted.

Enjoy the iconic tale of love, loss and redemption in small town America with this creative reimagining of the 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life as a 1940s radio play. Five actors take on all the roles, plus sound effects. It’s a heartwarming holiday favorite told in a fresh and imaginative way. Dec. 1-26. $30 and up.

Lucie Stern Theatre
1305 Middlefield Rd.
Palo Alto, CA
Online: theatreworks.org

Gingerbread Man
Presented by Palo Alto's Children Theater, this short and sweet (35 min long) story-teller show is ideal for the littlest of theater goers (suggested ages two to six). Getting up and dancing to get wiggles out is encouraged which makes it the perfect introduction to theater for littles. Dec. 18 & 19.

1305 Middlefield Rd
Palo Alto, CA
Event info 

photo: Luther Burbank Center

North Bay

Virtual Performance of Dog Man: The Musical

Watch this free performance of Dog Man: The Musical from the comfort of your own living room. Dav Pilkey’s beloved Dog Man is brought to the stage with this energetic and fun performance for the whole family. Just register for your ticket with the Luther Burbank Theater for the Performing Arts and enjoy the show. Nov. 21-22, free. Run time: one hour.

Online: lutherburbankcenter.org

Marin Ballet’s Nutcracker

The Marin Ballet’s huge cast of over 200 dancers electrifies the stage in this lavish performance of a classic holiday tale. Dec. 11-12. $25 youth/seniors, $45/adults.

Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium
10 Avenue of the Flags
San Rafael, CA
Online: marinballet.org

Broadway Holiday Spectacular

Experience an all-new holiday show in 2021 from Transcendence Theatre Company. This year, the Broadway Holiday Spectacular will be live on stage at Belos Cavalos, an enchanting equestrian estate in Kenwood. At this magnificent temperature-controlled location ‘under the big top,’ Broadway performers will fill the season with music, dancing, and holiday cheer in a show suitable for all ages. Dec. 3-12

Belos Cavalos
687 Campagna Ln
Kenwood, CA
Online: BroadwayHolidayShow.com

Georgiana and Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley

Austen (Or Bridgerton) fans will love the final installment of the Christmas at Pemberley Trilogy. The plays follow the younger sister of Mr. Darcy, the hero of Pride and Prejudice, as she navigates love under the watchful eye of her older brother. Nov. 18-Dec.19, tickets starting at $50.

Marin Theater Company
397 Miller Ave.
Mill Valley, CA
Online: marintheater.org

Cinderella and The Magic Flute at the Lark Theater
The Lark Theater presents two exciting performances from its Live from the Met in HD series: a recorded broadcast of magical children’s opera The Magic Flute and both live and recorded performances of the classic storybook, Cinderella. Both are holiday classics to treat your theater-loving family to! Dec. 11, 15; Jan. 1 & 5, $12-$30.

The Lark Theater
549 Magnolia Ave,
Larkspur, CA
More info for The Magic Flute and Cinderella

—Sarah McDonald, Kate Loweth, Mae Respicio & Erin Feher

featured photo by Keith Sutter

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