Some of you still want to give the last minute gift of theater tickets. I know, because my voicemail and email box are filled with people asking: "What show would my [girlfriend/boyfriend/mother/aunt] like?" It is always hard to recommend theater for people you do not know, but this season I have some generic recommendations for all.
Holiday Shows: This is your last week to catch holiday fare. So, if you're in New York and looking to spend a fun Holiday-themed night in the next few days, this category of show may be perfect for your gift giving needs. I wish I could send you to Striking 12, my favorite Holiday-themed musical. Unfortunately it did not come to NYC this year. Out of the large-scale musicals that are in the Big Apple now, the best is A Christmas Story. I love Seuss, but The Grinch made me want to bang my head against something. I find Elf somewhat endearing, it's just A Christmas Story is better. Cleverly directed by John Rando, it showcases extremely talented children in an entertaining piece. Even many of the press had their heart melted by the charismatic kids. It's not the best musical ever, but it is completely enjoyable.
If you'd rather go to see something less mainstream, there is Jackie Hoffman's A Chanukah Carol at New World Stages Friday and Saturday. Hoffman is very funny in it and the audience eats up her very Jackie take on Dickens. Musical theater fans into zany cabarets may also want to see Marc Kudisch and Jeffry Denman in the sketch-filled The Holiday Guys in Happy Merry Hanu-Mas.
For more serious holiday fare, there is Paula Vogel's A Civil War Christmas at NYTW, which was popular with critics and has also earned high marks from audience members.
Upcoming Musicals: I am essentially only recommending Matilda. I think that is the safest bet for people of all ages. It is a hit in London, has an accessible story and is big. It is destined to be better than Billy Elliot and even if it only matches Billy Elliot's appeal, that still means it has a lot more going for it than the other spring musicals do on paper.
Part of me wishes I could recommend Motown, as I know people love that music, but sight unseen I can't in good conscious give it my seal of approval. They did give a great Broadway on Broadway performance, but I am sure Baby It's You! could have also. That and the remaining spring musicals I cannot recommend without seeing them. (If Cinderella is anywhere near as good as its art, I will be thrilled.)
Current Musicals: For families, Annie or Mary Poppins. For your boyfriend/girlfriend, Once. For people over the age of 60, Jersey Boys or, if they've seen that, Nice Work If You Can Get It.
Current Plays: For the person in your life with less razzle dazzle tastes, I am still promoting Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. It's so good. Lincoln Center Theatre's staging of Golden Boy is a great production of a play that is just good, not amazing. If you have an old-fashioned person you are getting tickets for, it may be a safe bet.
For the person in your life who loves plays, I'm recommending another LCT show: Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, running through January 20 at the Mitzi Newhouse. I continue to be surprised that I have not heard more buzz of a transfer for this show. It's witty and winning. It also has stars just about everyone in your life will recognize -- David Hyde Pierce and Sigourney Weaver.
Upcoming Plays: Nora Ephron's Lucky Guy starring Tom Hanks. It's Nora Ephron's final work and Hank's Broadway debut. It earned great buzz during its reading period. As Hanks will be joined onstage by Peter Scolari it also offers a Bosom Buddies reunion. End of story. I'm sold.