Holiday Guide: Arts Picks

Off-Off-Broadway has trimmed the tree, stuffed the stockings, and boiled the plum pudding in anticipation of Christmas. Let's just hope it hasn't cooked too many turkeys. Little Lord's theater company brings Babes in Toyland to the stage at the Brick Theater, with grande dame Tina Shepard as Mother Goose. At the Theater at st. Clement's, Peccadillo Theater Company offers a revival of the Christmas-set Kaufman and Hart joy The Man Who Came to Dinner, which features a drama critic in the role of Scrooge. Over at the Canal Park Playhouse, meanwhile, Scrooge himself appears in Greg Oliver Bodine's A Christmas Carol, As Told by Charles Dickens (Himself). k,,

It's good that the Public Theater's production of Titus Andronicus opens just after Thanksgiving, because otherwise William Shakespeare's delirious tragedy of ancient intrigue, cookery, and cannibalism might be enough to put you off your cranberry sauce and stuffing. Certainly it will have you refusing pie. As part of a new initiative by the Public Lab to present energetic and accessible productions of the bard's plays, Michael Sexton will direct this tale of Titus Andronicus, a great Roman general (Jay O. Sanders) undone by rivals. Betrayed on all sides, he plans a distinctly culinary revenge. Should audiences cry "Bravo!" or instead just ask for seconds? k


Whether we New Yorkers are celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus, the staying power of lamp oil, the continued existence of Kwanzaa, various pagan earth rituals, or simply a day off work, let's not neglect to herald our city itself. To aid our festive rites, the Museum of the City of New York will host "The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811–2011," beginning December 6. This show celebrates the 200th anniversary of the design of Manhattan's grid system with an original map as well as photographs, manuscripts, prints, and other historic documents. And maybe—just maybe—it will finally explain the logic behind the layout of the West Village. k

Let it never be said that New York Jews lack for Yuletide tradition. We practice the holy rite of Christmas Day Chinese food and a movie so fervently you might think it appeared in Leviticus. But the Metropolitan Museum of Art wants to offer a somewhat more high-toned spin on Judeo-Christian cultural exchange. In a new part of the installation series "Medieval Jewish Art in Context," for the next eight weeks, the Met will display the lavishly illuminated Cervera Bible, a designated National Treasure from the National Library of Portugal in Lisbon. The medieval manuscript will appear alongside examples of contemporary Christian art. k


Come December, New York teems with mouse kings, sugar plum fairies, and many Nutcrackers. New York City Ballet offers George Balanchine's version of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet, featuring the Land of Sweets and a seven-headed mouse king. Meanwhile at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the American Ballet Theatre tours Alexei Ratmansky's version, including magical toy soldiers and sparkling snowflakes. Back across the East River, the Yorkville Nutcracker resets the action amid New York attractions Central Park and Gracie Mansion. Finally, while drag diva Jackie Beat rarely deigns to dance, her Nutcracker presents such songs as "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Syphilis" and "I Saw Daddy Doin' Santa Claus." k,,,

Did you ever expect that a nativity scene would be quite so leggy? The Radio City Christmas Spectacular returns for its 79th incarnation featuring 36 Rockettes—that's 72 vigorous ankles, 72 charming knees, 72 shapely ankles, and 360 twinkling toes. This year's extravaganza will use new 3-D technology (funny, we thought the shows were always in 3-D) and fresh special effects to help the Rockettes travel "to the castle of the evil Humbug King who has stolen toys from Santa's workshop." If that seems too innovative, the revue also offers some of the old-fangled favorites: the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and the Living Nativity, which includes sheep, donkeys, and camels. (For those in it for the animals, but not the ticket price: If you venture near Radio City in the early hours of the morning, you can see them out for a stroll.) k

"A sad tale's best for winter," Shakespeare said. So here's an especially poignant one for the dance world. Following Merce Cunningham's death in 2009, the choreographer's legacy plan decreed that the Merce Cunningham Dance Company would offer two further years of performances before disbanding. Those two years have now nearly reached their end. The company will enjoy a penultimate stint at the Brooklyn Academy of Music from December 7 to 10, drawing on 50 years of creations with collaborators such as John Cage, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. Then, from December 29 to 31, it will offer its six final performances at the Park Avenue Armory, performing a series of "Events" on three stages in the drill hall. k,


Yes, it's touristy, yes, it's tacky, and there's no denying that it's full of hot air, but it's no good pretending that the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade isn't splendid. Dangerous, too. Errant balloons have broken lampposts, interfered with airplanes, and sent parade watchers to the hospital. But don't let that stop you from crowding the avenue come November 24. This year's lineup includes the studio-sponsored likes of Kung Fu Panda, Pikachu, and Clumsy Smurf. Yet it also features a creepy kiddie gothic inflatable designed by director Tim Burton. And if you can bear to stand shoulder to shoulder with the vacationing masses, don't neglect the delights of the annual Christmas window displays or the slightly more suspect entertainment of the annual Rockefeller Center tree-lighting ceremony. k

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