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Skip the long lines at your local movie theater and catch one of these live shows instead.

The holidays mean family. And family, for better or worse, often means lots of togetherness in a childhood home that inevitably starts to feel too small, regardless of its square footage. Stave off a case of cabin fever by checking out one of these lighthearted shows.

Then send the kids to play outside while you pour yourself a large glass of mulled wine or Christmas ale. 

1) Hairspray

Nov. 16-Dec. 30
Cabot Theatre
Hairspray

Maisie Rose, Colin Schreier and Gilbert Domally, in rehearsal for Skylight Music Theatre’s production of “Hairspray.”

The musical numbers are as big and as bold as the hairstyles in this beloved, Marc Shaiman-penned musical. And the play’s themes, which touch on the importance of tolerance and the value of self-expression, resonate with audiences of all ages. 


2) The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical

Nov. 23-Dec. 26
The Todd Wehr Theater
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

First Stage’s production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” 2013; photo by Paul Ruffolo.

There are six kids in the Herdman clan, each more terrible than the last. So when Mrs. Bradley casts them in her church’s annual Christmas pageant, many of the other parishioners panic, but Mrs. Bradley isn’t worried. First Stage recommends this heartwarming musical for families with kids between 4 and 14.


3) Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley

Nov. 13-Dec. 16
Quadracci Powerhouse

If you’ve got older kids who are Jane Austen fans, you’ll want to hitch up your Regency-style skirt, or trousers, and hurry over to the Rep, where the the theater company is staging a “sequel” to Austen’s iconic Pride and Prejudice, set in the English countryside. 


4) A Christmas Carol

Nov. 27-Dec. 24
Pabst Theater

Photo via Visit Milwaukee

The Rep’s been putting on a version of this touching Christmas tale for more than forty years for a reason. Its story is timeless, its characters are universally beloved and its message resonates with young and old alike. 

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5) A Charlie Brown Christmas

Dec. 8
The Riverside Theater

This nationally touring live show, based on the 1965 television special of the same name, centers on everyone’s favorite cartoon blockhead. To get into the holiday spirit, Charlie Brown decides to direct his town’s Christmas play. Hilarity, and catchy song-and-dance numbers, ensue. There’ll be an afternoon and an evening show, so you and your little ones have two chances to see your favorite Peanuts characters.


6) Black Nativity

Dec. 8-Dec. 17
Marcus Center

Langston Hughes, one of America’s greatest poets and a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, penned this retelling of the nativity story. The family-friendly show includes a variety of gospel songs and a largely local cast. 


7) The Nutcracker

Dec. 8-Dec. 26
Marcus Center
The Nutcracker

Marize Fumero in “The Nutcracker” at the Milwaukee Ballet Company; photo by Mark Frohna

This classic ballet, with music by the inimitable Tchaikovsky, is a visual delight. It also features many young dancers in its cast – meaning that it could be a great source of inspiration for little ones who dream of one day playing the Sugar Plum Fairy or the Mouse King.  


8) Clara Takes Flight

Dec. 14-16, 21-22
John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Warped Dance Co.

Photo of Warped Dance Co. by Lauren Schmitt of Double Vision Films

Watch members of the Wisconsin-based Warped Dance Company re-imagine the 19th-century ballet The Nutcracker for a 21st-century crowd. How? By replacing the classic dance scenes with stunning aerial acrobatics.

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