The 2021 Christmas season: live on stage in Vancouver!
This story first appeared on Inside Vancouver in October 2021
Live shows are the best part of the festive season for many of us. From uplifting plays to sparkling pantos and from toe-tapping concerts to velvet-voiced choirs, in-person performances can add an extra layer of chestnut-warming fun to anyone’s holiday plans.
But while last year’s live events were mostly cancelled, the 2021 Christmas season is promising a tinsel-tastic return. When I started researching the new edition of my annual Vancouver Christmas Guide site––now in its fifth year––I found a full menu of Yuletide shows gearing up to hit our local stages.
Keen to add some live magic to your upcoming holiday calendar, while also offering much-needed support to regional venues and performers? Check out the productions below––plus all the others on our fully updated site (ticket giveaways included).
Be sure to book early, of course. And make sure you’re aware of the Covid safety measures in place at each venue, including the need to provide proof of vaccination. Then, once you have your tickets, pick out your favourite Christmas sweater and get ready for some holly, jolly on-stage fun!
If you need a good laugh this year (who doesn’t?), start with the quirky, family-friendly festive show O Christmas Tea. A whimsical fusion of panto and Monty Pythonesque humour, comic duo James & Jamesy must save the world––and their audience––from a rising flood of tea. The show plays at venues throughout the Lower Mainland from November 23 onwards.
Comedy is also on the cards with the return of the Cultch’s beloved East Van Panto at their York Theatre venue. A whip-smart combination of songs, kid-friendly giggles and satirical belly laughs for adults (including a cannabis connoisseur caterpillar), this year’s production is Alice in Wonderland. Alongside its in-person performances, online streaming will also be available for this show.
Treats for kids
Pantomimes are a holiday must-do for many families. And if you’d love to take the kids to a warm and welcoming show––complete with shiny heroes, boo-able baddies and hearty sing-a-longs––don’t miss the annual production at the charming Metro Theatre, a delightful tradition for more than 35 years. Their much-anticipated 2021 panto is Snow White.
Looking for more kid-friendly options? The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra is adding a live soundtrack accompaniment to screenings of two favourite festive movies this December. Both at the Orpheum Theatre, book your tickets for Home Alone and the enchanting British animation film The Snowman.
In fact, the VSO is pulling out all the stops this year with a full roster of shows throughout the region. Host Christopher Gaze transports you to the beguiling world of The Nutcracker, complete with live selections from Tchaikovsky’s masterwork. Jazz diva Dee Daniels is joined for some silky-smooth renditions of classic holiday tunes. And the VSO’s annual concert A Traditional Christmas returns with carols, songs and sing-a-longs at several Metro Vancouver venues.
Another festive must-see returning this year is Christmas with Chor Leoni. The celebrated male voice choir will transform downtown’s beautiful St. Andrew’s Wesley-United Church with a series of magical concerts jam-packed with Yuletide cheer. Expect soaring renditions and unique arrangements of classic songs and carols in a show that many locals regard as an essential part of their holiday celebrations.
Need more music? The Good Noise Vancouver Gospel Choir will have you swaying in your seat at their joyous Christ Church Cathedral concerts. And Early Music Vancouver is staging its classical Festive Cantatas recital at UBC’s Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.
But that’s not all. Winter Harp’s costumed performers will play their medieval-style instruments at a series of concerts filled with delightful traditional songs and carols. And Music on Main is bringing back its brilliant Music for the Winter Solstice show for two nights of candlelit tranquility at the city’s Heritage Hall.
The play’s the thing on Granville Island this festive season, where award-winning local company Mitch and Murray Productions stages the Canadian premier of Snowflake by the UK’s Mike Bartlett at the Redgate Revue Stage. The Christmas-set show––a hit in London in 2019––is a thought-provoking yet deeply touching exploration of intergenerational confusion.
A few blocks away on Granville Street, the Stanley Theatre will host the Arts Club Theatre Company’s hotly-anticipated 2021 holiday extravaganza. Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol fuses the Dickens’ classic with Parton’s original songs to create a heartwarming, toe-tapping show set in 1930s Tennessee. It’s likely to be one of the most sought-after tickets of the season.
But it’s not the only local production where music is a big feature. Vancouver’s intimate Pacific Theatre is back with Christmas Presence, a two-week run of songs and stories. And Richmond’s Gateway Theatre also returns to the stage with A Broadway Holiday, a show stuffed with beloved songs from Meet Me in St. Louis to Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas––which is exactly the sentiment every Vancouver-area stage show will be aiming to impart this year.
For more information on Metro Vancouver’s festive shows, events and attractions, visit the Vancouver Christmas Guide. Created by Lonely Planet travel writer John Lee, it’s the best online guide to the area’s 2021 holiday happenings. The annual site was co-created with Max the cat, who writes its gift reviews and often appears on its @MyVanChristmas Twitter feed.