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Broadway for the Holidays: A Christmas Musical Playlist

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |


Let our seasonal playlist get you in the holiday spirit

The holiday season is here, and with it comes glad tidings, Saint Nick and lots of good cheer. What better way for the Broadway enthusiast to celebrate the Christmas season than to take a listen to the Broadway musicals that incorporate the 25th of December in their storytelling? Join us here at ShowTickets.com as we take a festive stroll looking back at the Broadway musicals that embraced the yuletide.

Songs from ‘Elf: The Broadway Musical’ are sure to put you in a holiday mood (Photo: Amy Boyle)

Songs from ‘Elf: The Broadway Musical’ are sure to put you in a holiday mood (Photo: Amy Boyle)

 

Here’s Love (1963)
If you have ever wondered if there is a musical version of the film Miracle on 34th Street, there is. But, you wouldn’t know it from the title, Here’s Love, which may have been why the stage adaptation didn’t run a full season. Regardless, Here’s Love does indeed tell that magical story of a mother and daughter who find their Christmas spirit when a man, who claims to be Santa Claus, comes into their life. The musical opened on Broadway in 1963. Written by Meredith Wilson, who had given us The Music Man and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Here’s Love closed after a lackluster 334 performances. 

 

 

Mame (1966)
In the 1966 musical Mame, the title character finds herself down on her luck after the infamous stock market crash of 1929. Unable to find steady work and her money running out, Mame decides that they are going to enjoy Christmas a little early in her home. With her nephew Patrick, his nanny Agnes, and the butler Ito, Mame launches into the chin-up inducing Jerry Herman ditty “We Need A Little Christmas” as they decorate and celebrate. Mame doesn’t languish for long as her newest suitor, Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, a wealthy southern aristocrat, shows up at her door and takes them all out for a holiday dinner.

 

 

Sherry! (1967)
George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart collaborated in 1939 to create one of Broadway’s greatest comedies The Man Who Came to Dinner. Loosely basing the character of Sheridan Whiteside on their friend, the temperamental, eccentric and completely self-absorbed Alexander Woolcott, the play imagined what it would be like to have a difficult person of fame convalesce in the home of a Midwestern family over the weeks leading to Christmas. Of course, his celebrity friends come and go and Whiteside chaotically upends their home and holiday. The Man Who Came to Dinner was turned into a Broadway musical in 1967 called Sherry!, but it only lasted 72 performances.

 

 

Promises, Promises (1968)
Christmas can be a lonely time for those who are single, and in the 1968 musical Promises, Promises, the character of Chuck Baxter leaves his office Christmas party, where everyone sings the celebratory “Turkey Lurkey Time,” and ends up at a bar alone. There he encounters the inebriated Marge MacDougall, who puts the moves on him with “A Fact Can Be a Beautiful Thing.” She asserts that Christmas is not a time to be alone and he takes her back to his apartment. The Burt Bacharach/Hal David/Neil Simon musical is based on the Academy Award-winning Billy Wilder film The Apartment.

 

Meet Me in St. Louis (1989)
It’s no secret that, where holiday films are concerned, MGM’s 1944 Meet Me in St. Louis ranks up there with It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas. The slice-of-Americana film, directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring his then-wife Judy Garland walks the audience through four seasons of a year in the life of the Smith Family in the early 1900s. Of course, the perennial holiday favorite “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was introduced in the film by Garland singing the heartbreaking ditty to a young Margaret O’Brien. Meet Me in St. Louis was given a Broadway stage adaptation in 1989, where the Smith Family Christmas, and its signature song sung by Donna Kane, unfolded before our eyes.

 

 

The Who’s Tommy (1993)
The 1993 rock musical The Who’s Tommy tells the compelling story of a little boy who witnesses his father kill his mother’s boyfriend. The event scars the child, prompting him to withdraw from the world, rendering him deaf, dumb, and blind. When the holidays come and Tommy’s family gathers to celebrate, they sing the song “Christmas” where they have to admit that the little boy doesn’t even know what day it is. The musical draws its inspiration from the popular album by the rock band The Who and the subsequent film.

 

 

Rent (1996)
Christmas Eve in Manhattan’s East Village is the setting for the iconic musical Rent. A group of artists and homeless folk (musicians, composers, filmmakers, performance artists, etc.) are squatters in a building with no heat or electricity, but they manage to celebrate the holidays with friendship and hope. They even manage to enjoy a Christmas Eve dinner at their favorite haunt, the Life Café, where they celebrate their bohemian lives with the song “La Vie Boheme.” The musical, by the late Jonathan Larson, is both tragic and inspiring, a true testament to the trials and tribulations of “Seasons of Love.”

 

 

White Christmas (2008)
One of the most endearing Christmas films of all time is White Christmas, a musical chocked-full of Irving Berlin standards including the oft-recorded title song. The story of two World War II vets who put on a show to save their favorite general’s failing ski lodge in Vermont, is a warm and wonderful holiday treat. It was inevitable that White Christmas would eventually find its way to Broadway, which it did in 2008. The stage musical features such season-inspired ditties as “Snow,” “Happy Holidays,” “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” and, of course, the title number, which is guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit.

 

 

Elf (2010)
Broadway musicals based on holiday films have become de rigueur in recent decades, and the 2003 film Elf was an ideal choice for the Broadway stage. The tale of Buddy, an oversized elf who learns that he is actually a human who crawled into Santa’s bag as baby and who decides to return to the world of humans in search of his father, was rife with stage musical possibility. The Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin score features a handful of songs that speak to the holidays, including “Christmastown,” “A Christmas Song,” “Nobody Cares About Santa” and “There Is a Santa Claus.”

 


A Christmas Story (2012)
For those who love the 1983 film A Christmas Story so much that they join in the 24-hour marathon on TBS every Christmas, be sure to check out the musical stage adaptation that originally played on Broadway in 2012. With a score by Pasek and Paul, the composing team behind Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman, A Christmas Story: The Musical is a pretty faithful adaptation of the (now) classic story of Ralphie, the little boy who desperately wants Santa to bring him a Red Ryder Carbine Action Range Model Air Rifle. The musical may have been a limited engagement on Broadway, but a live musical version was made for television and recorded, so you can catch it at your leisure
 

 

Holiday Inn (2016)
We return to Irving Berlin territory with the musical Holiday Inn, based on the classic 1942 film where the song “White Christmas” made its first cinematic appearance sung by Bing Crosby.  Thankfully, the song carried over to the stage version. The Broadway musical Holiday Inn takes us on a year-long journey through different holiday celebrations at a Connecticut inn. Since Christmas is a holiday, it probably makes sense that it one of those featured in Holiday Inn (along with Thanksgiving, New Years, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Independence Day).

 


 

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.

 

 

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