PLAYBILL PICKS: The Stage's Ten Greatest Christmas Scenes

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13 Dec 2012

Lilla Crawford in the current Broadway revival of <i>Annie</i>.
Lilla Crawford in the current Broadway revival of Annie.
Photo by Joan Marcus

From to Mame to Annie, from Ibsen to Thornton Wilder, our choices for the greatest Christmas scenes in modern stage history are a varied lot. (No, we didn't include medieval nativity plays). Phyllis Newman, Paula Vogel, Jeremy McCarter, Douglas Carter Beane and more comment on the array. What would you include?


Broadway is currently enjoying an onslaught of holiday cheer. Not only are the seasonal shows Elf and A Christmas Story, The Musical paying a visit, but Annie, which takes place during the weeks leading up to Christmas, is back on the boards. All this got us thinking: What are the most memorable yuletide scenes in stage history? Playwrights, librettists and composers have long leaned on the holiday season as a dramatic backdrop to their stories. Fraught with both cheer and anxiety as it is, Christmas effortlessly lends a certain amount of drama and moment to any scene. It also gives directors and designers an excuse to pull out all the stops, design-wise.

Here, then, are our Top Ten Christmas Stage Scenes. None, it must be noted, are from the plays of Shakespeare, who — for reasons that historians can only speculate at — wrote eloquently about almost every topic under the sun but Christmas. Also, A Christmas Carol is not on the list. Though this Dickens story is probably the most produced yuletide title of them all, there are countless adaptations out there, and none are so definitive that they could be singled out. So, we chose to leave it out. Those that did make the cut are listed in alphabetical order — really, how can you say one Christmas is better than another? 


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