Top Picks: Act Now on Seattle’s Very Special, Very Short-Run Christmas Shows

If you’re like me, you know that Christmas does not start in late November, and planning is still a couple of weeks away (at best). Unfortunately, some things require getting it together now — but they’re worth the advance effort.

Here are the one-chance shows coming up soon that you’d be sad to miss.


Seattle Symphony: The Nightmare Before Christmas 

The beloved Halloween-Christmas movie, as you’ve never heard it
Performs 12/1-4 only. At Benaroya Hall (Downtown Seattle).

I was a late arrival to Tim Burton’s enduring, endearing film, but it’s grabbed hold plenty firmly now.

Jack Skellington’s ill-fated takeover of Christmas, Sally’s mischievous twinkle and daring escapes, and the townsfolk’s impish tactics, in the name of well-intentioned curiosity, are a lovely way to take the edge off the “dark-at-4:30” months. And while it’s long been a Halloween stage favorite — the Can Can does a very fun annual take on it with This Is Halloween (see NWT’s review here) — the film’s multi-holiday flavor makes it just as apt to ring in some Christmas cheer.

This week, the Symphony performs the film’s epic score (by accomplished composer Danny Elfman) live, while the movie plays … Mind blown!

That’s my kind of fancy show. Yes, I’ll start Christmas early for that.

Note: Performs Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday only; no Friday (12/2) performance. Show info and tickets ($40-$105) here. 

Those with younger children — or just doubly-festive grown-ups — might also like the Snowman scored film and sing-along on Saturday morning (12/3), presented with open captions; see info here


Seattle Theatre Group  

Kiki & Herb: Do You Hear What We Hear?
12/8 only. At the Moore Theatre (Downtown Seattle).

Jonathan Van Ness: Imaginary Living Room Olympian
12/9 only. At the Paramount Theatre (Downtown Seattle).

Nothing says glistening Christmas package like the one-two glitter punch that is Kiki & Herb (on December 8) and Jonathan Van Ness (on December 9).

Queer cabaret act Kiki & Herb debuted in the late ’80s, created and performed by Justin Vivian Bond (as an invented now-80-something lounge singer Kiki DuRane) and Kenny Mellman (as her piano accompanist, Herb). The duo toured extensively and brought a Tony-nominated show to Broadway, but this year’s six-city Christmas tour — “slinging enough cheer to choke down this holiday season” — marks the first time they’ve performed together outside of New York in 25 years.

Read their interview in the New York Times in advance of last year’s holiday show, here; and an entertaining older review delving into their origin story in the New Yorker, here

When the two reunited for their first Christmas show in decades, Mellman observed (in the NYT interview), “It seemed like a gift to an audience that wouldn’t necessarily be going home for Christmas, wouldn’t necessarily have the best relationship with their family.” Fittingly, Kiki and Herb’s is a much different sort of Christmas concert than a typical saccharine, carols-filled affair; and more like, as Bond put it in that same interview, “a big, old chosen family reunion.”

Meanwhile, newer queer icon Jonathan Van Ness, of Queer Eye fame, also breezes his gorgeous locks through Seattle next week. While not bringing an overt “hit you over the head with the holidays” show, Van Ness is nonetheless a Christmastime necessity. Van Ness’ just-released second book, Love That Story: Observations From a Gorgeously Queer Life, makes a great gift for Fab Five lovers; but if you want to take it up a notch with a special night-to-remember treat, get your loved one tickets to the live show to go along with it. Or as a gift to yourself: Van Ness has a special blend of been-there sensibility, commitment to self-care (“Beauty is an inside job as much as it’s an outside job”), and joyful fabulousness that you particularly need and deserve this time of year.

Kiki & Herb: info and tickets ($56+) here. Jonathan Van Ness: info and tickets ($63+) here

And further out: STG also presents The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Show (12/21-24 at the Moore); info and tickets here.  


14/48 Projects: Theater Anonymous – It’s a Wonderful Life  

The Seattle theatre community’s essential holiday tradition
12/10 only. At Cornish Playhouse (Seattle Center – Mercer side).

If you don’t know what this is, it’d be all too easy to overlook this show. It’s a Wonderful Life, huh? Been there, seen that. A mystery cast? Sounds like a gimmick for gimmick’s sake, right?

Theater Anonymous will reveal its mystery cast on December 10.

Here’s what it actually is. You go into a big festive setup and see that Santa has commandeered a well-known actor as his stand-in for the evening. You go make a mess decorating cookies and eating too many of them. You cozy up to a couple of overpriced drinks. You head into the auditorium, see that many people are dressed suspiciously like 1930s characters, cheer with everyone, and get on with the show. And as the night unfolds, you discover a bunch of your friends have been flat-out lying for a month. Rude.

Even if you don’t know many, or any, of the actors, it’s a fun evening of surprises, and occasional shrieking, as the cast members reveal their involvement only when they stand up to enter the scene at their appointed times, directly from the audience. My favorite-ever moment was the year both members of an actor couple were cast, but clearly only one of them knew that, as one shrieked when the other one stood up to go on. (There’s a requirement that you can only tell one person you’re in the show. The secret was apparently only shared one way in that household. Well played.)

Since they’ve never rehearsed together (only one-on-one with a director), sometimes things go a little wonky. But it’s a forgiving night, and a perfect way to put on a timeless story of sharing is caring.

After that’s all over, and everyone’s hearts are warm and happy, there’s a huge spread of food in the lobby — crockpot alley or whatever it’s called — to warm your bellies, too. It’s a really nice way to celebrate the season.

Note: Tickets are offered in multiple tiers, with some including drinks and other goodies. All include show admission and pre-show lobby and after-show festivities. Info and tickets ($30+) here. 

Want to make a weekend of it? Strawberry Theatre Workshop’s Christmas hit features the Juicy Gonzales Trio playing A Charlie Brown Christmas (and other festivities) on 12/11, also at the Cornish Playhouse. Info and tickets here


Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of NWTheatre.org.