The holidays are a great time to get together with the family and watch some movies and musicals with the family. Since that time of the year is upon us, we thought it might be fun to look at some of the holiday musicals that have made their way into our hearts.
1. White Christmas
This classic musical doesn’t only have the fabulous foursome of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen, and Rosemary Clooney. The quartet takes us from Florida to Vermont to New York, and back while the scheme, sing and fall in love. Some of our favorite holiday numbers come from this seasonal favorite like “Snow,” “Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army,” and the unforgettable “White Christmas.”
In fact, we would bet that it is difficult to avoid that song from the end of November until January 31st – in certain parts of the world that is. Still, it’s the scenes of big Christmas trees and the sentiment of longing for snow that makes this musical the perfect viewing for anyone at any age.
2. Meet Me in St. Louis
Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is as iconic as any other Christmas song out there. The scene with her singing it to her little sister as they ponder life outside of St. Louis, their home that they love, is a cherished seasonal favorite. A musical was later based on the film and opened in 1989. It ran for less than a year.
The film, on the other hand, was an instant hit after it was released in 1944. It took in more than five million dollars, and it was praised for its use of Technicolor.
3. Elf: The Musical
The next one on our list of favorite holiday musicals is based on a hit comedy film starring SNL alumni Will Ferrell. Buddy is the main character who is raised to believe he is an elf but finds out that he is a human being. The story follows his journey to find his birth family.
With a score written by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin and a book that was adapted from the film by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan, this holiday musical, opened for a limited run on November 14, 2010, at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway.
It was a great success breaking multiple records at the theater box office. It was the third on the list of highest-grossing Broadway shows for the 2010 Thanksgiving weekend.
4. Maccabeat! The Hanukkah Musical
With the hopes of not dominating this post with only Christmas musicals, we wanted to highlight a Hanukkah theatrical celebration. Unfortunately, they are greatly outnumbered by the Christmas shows, but there is this a cappella group made of American-Jewish men.
This production was held at the Acorn Theatre in New York and followed Judah Maccabee, a young Hebrew man who is having trouble choosing between his faith and the temptations of contemporary society. The story follows him as he finds himself via Olympic auditions.
Chayim Ben Za’ev, Richard Jarboe, and Harvey Shield were the writers and composers who created this unique telling of the story of Hanukkah.
5. A Christmas Carol: The Musical
Alan Menken wrote the music; Lynn Ahrens wrote the lyrics and the book alongside Mike Ockrent for this adaptation of the famous Charles Dickens novel from 1843. Who doesn’t know the story about old Ebenezer Scrooge, who is a miser and barely has a heart for anyone? He is estranged from his family and alone on Christmas, which he refuses to recognize.
As luck would have it, Scrooge is visited by three spirits which teach him the true meaning of Christmas. This story set alongside some catchy tunes is a Dickens fan’s dream come true. It opened at the Paramount Theatre on December 1, 1994, and was reproduced every year, in December, for the next nine years.
6. Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Musical
This musical is also repeated annually for the season that originally started in Minneapolis in November of 1994 at the Children’s Theatre Company. The book and lyrics were written by Timothy Mason, with a score by Mel Marvin. John DeLuca choreographed this original performance, and it sold out quickly.
From there it moved to San Diego until it did make its way to the theater street of all theater streets, Broadway, debuting at the Foxwoods Theatre in November of 2006.
7. Holiday Inn
Bing Crosby makes his second appearance on our list of holiday musicals, but this is the first time Fred Astaire is mentioned. This 1942 movie musical has songs written by the highly renowned Irving Berlin. In fact, the song, “White Christmas,” was first featured in this movie before it made its appearance in this musical before becoming the title track in the 1954 film by the same name.
Holiday Inn was the eighth top-grossing movie the year it was released, and it was dubbed a “winner” by Variety.
8. The Sound of Music
With the recent addition of “My Favorite Things,” a song from this musical, added to the repertoire of songs played during the holidays, it’s a given that we should add this family favorite. The song does represent the giving and gifting aspect of the season but the general theme of the story, which is a love of family and music.
There is opposition out there on whether this musical is a “Christmas Musical” or not. Some say that its injection into the holiday movie collection is the fact that the networks continually show it during Christmas week. We are not sure if this is true and it doesn’t matter, it has made its way into the holiday scene, and we are content to let it stay there.
9. Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical
The norm for the holidays seems to be the art of taking a loved Christmas story and adapting it for stage and adding some songs. We find this tactic wonderful, being such great fans of holiday musicals. This version of the famed movie starring Maureen O’Hara and a youthful Natalie Wood has a score written by Meredith Wilson.
Some songs featured are “Pinecones and Hollyberries” and “My State, My Kansas.” The reviews were mixed with The New York Times saying it had “delightful moments and dull ones.”
10. It’s a Wonderful Life: The Musical
This list would not be complete if this loved holiday classic was not made into a musical, but it was so we can relax. Frank Capra was the director of the film starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Sheldon Harnick and Joe Raposo wrote the lyrics and music for this work, respectively.
A student production of this adaptation was in 1986 at the University of Michigan. Wagon Wheel Playhouse in Warsaw, Indiana was the location of the first professional performance of It’s a Wonderful Life: The Musical. Since then it has moved on to the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, and the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.
It made its Broadway debut at the Shubert Theatre on December 12, 2005, in a benefit for the Actors’ Fund of America.
Already in the holiday season mood? Well, check out our list of 5 Christmas operas.