Primer: how to choose between Toronto’s big holiday shows

Primer: how to choose between Toronto’s big holiday shows

It’s time to suspend your cynicism and surrender to one of the city’s big, gooey, hurt-your-teeth-sweet holiday confections. But which one is right for you? We evaluate the options

(Images, from left: Damir Yusupov; courtesy of Tafelmusik; Getty Images; Bruce Zinger; courtesy of Soulpepper)

The Nutcracker
Four Seasons Centre,
Dec. 19 to Jan. 5

Holiday shows don’t get any classier—or more popular—than this. Since 1995, close to a million people have oohed and ahhed their way through the National Ballet’s version of the Hoffmann/Tchaikovsky classic. The sets are like something out of an old pop-up picture book, and the stage is filled with apple-cheeked kids—James Kudelka’s choreo­graphy calls for nearly 70 tykes in total.

Perfect for: Parents nostalgic for a time when kids were happy getting just the one toy.

Skip it if: You’re trying to cut down on your sugar­plum intake.

Tafelmusik Singalong Messiah
Massey Hall, Dec. 23

Tafelmusik’s conductor Ivars Taurins has been donning the frilly outfit and the powdered wig for more than a quarter-century to lead his period instrument orchestra through Handel’s Messiah, the granddaddy of all Christmas numbers. The music is always lush and lovely, but the big finish is the “Hallelujah” chorus, for which the 2,000-strong audience is divided into basses, tenors, sopranos and altos.

Perfect for: Shower divas, wig enthusiasts and people who volunteer for everything.

Skip it if: You think Jesus was just okay.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Copps Coliseum,
Hamilton, Nov. 21

Throughout the season, this enormous prog-metal group (actually two groups, split so they can cover more geographic ground) tours its way, way over the top Christmas-themed rock operas. Consistently one of the world’s top-earning rock acts, they occasionally rip into a power ballad version of Beethoven’s Requiem. Think Spinal Tap in Santa hats.

Perfect for: Those who feel traditional yuletide performances suffer from a dearth of lasers.

Skip it if: You’re allergic to hairspray and acid-wash denim.

Ross Petty Presents Snow White
Elgin Theatre,
Nov. 23 to Jan. 5

Ross Petty’s annual holiday panto follows certain immutable rules: 1) there will be star turns from minor celebrities (this year, it’s Melissa O’Neil, who recently appeared on Broadway in Stratford’s Jesus Christ Superstar); 2) there will be double entendres—lots of them; and 3) Petty himself will ham it up in drag. Rick Miller (MacHomer, Bigger Than Jesus) wrote this year’s groaner-heavy script.

Perfect for: Adam Sandler fans who think he’s gone a little too highbrow lately.

Skip it if: You believe bad puns should be an indic­table offence.

Soulpepper’s A Christmas Carol
Young Centre for the Performing Arts,
Dec. 4 to 29

For the past six years, Soulpepper has been alternating fluffier fare like Parfumerie with this earnest adaptation of the Charles Dickens tale about greed, ghosts and redemption. Joseph Ziegler, who recently reprised his Dora-winning role as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, gives both Alistair Sim and Bill Murray a run for their money in the category of Best Scrooge Ever.

Perfect for: Those who feel it just isn’t Christmas without a little First World guilt.

Skip it if: You like the cut of Romney’s jib.