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Picking the twelve plays of Christmas

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Many motion pictures have revolved around a Christmas theme, but the repertoire of plays and other works of live performance that involve the Yuletide season are surprisingly meager. Below are twelve plays that best capture the spirit of Christmas:

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  • “Amahl and the Night Visitors”—Gian Carlo Menotti’s one-act opera about a boy encountering the Three Wise Men was the first opera commissioned for television.
  • “Babes in Toyland”—Inspired by the success of “The Wizard of Ox” musical, Victor Herbert’s operetta contains some iconic Christmas music including “March of the Toy Soldiers.”
  • "Bell, Book, and Candle”—This John Van Druten play about a witch casting a love spell over a publisher starred Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer in the original stage version.
  • “A Christmas Carol”—Originally a Charles Dickens novella, so many stage adaptations were performed just in the 19th century that actor, Seymour Hicks, was elevated to the peerage for his portrayal of Scrooge.
  • “The Eight: Reindeer Monologues”—Perhaps the best-known among a series of Christmas-themed plays by American playwright, Jeff Goode.
  • “Elf: The Musical”—One of the few stage adaptations successfully transferred from an original motion picture, in this case Will Ferrell as the boy raised as one of Santa’s elves.
  • “The Harty Boys Save Christmas”—This lampoon of “everything from the Guthrie Theater’s 900th version of Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’ to the political correctness of the denizens of Edina” by Twin Cities satirists Josh Scrimshaw and Levi Weinhagen was first performed in 2010.
  • “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas”—Another successful crossover originating from the 1954 musical film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and the world’s most famous carol.
  • “The Man Who Came to Dinner”—Moss Hart and George S. Kaufmann‘s comedy, based on Alexander Woolcott, relates how a megalomaniac radio personality ruins an Ohio family’s Christmas.
  • “The Nutcracker”—The original 1892 production was not a success, but Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s 20 minute suite has become a Christmas perennial for ballet companies everywhere.
  • “Silent Night”—The Minnesota Opera’s Pulitzer Prize winning opera about the World War I Christmas truce receives its first TV airing on PBS Friday night, December 13, 2013.
  • “Twelfth Night”—No list of plays could omit William Shakespeare’s tale of festive ritual, role reversal, and social disorder based on the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia.

Rather than exhaustive, this list encourages baby boomers and GenXers alike to attend a live performance this holiday season. Who knows? Perhaps “Miracle on Christmas Lake” or “I Saw Daddy Marry Santa Claus” might make next year’s Yuletide play list a baker's dozen.

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