No city is lit up and festive quite like sparkling Montreal during the holiday season, not even New York City. Here are some Montreal holiday-themed highlights for arts and culture fans, families, indoors and outdoors, many of them free.
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s famed production of The Nutcracker returns to Salle Wilfred-Pelletier for the 53rd year in a row. This two-act ballet based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale is set to the music of Tchaikovsky and brings together more than 100 dancers, plus the Orchestre des Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal under the baton of Allan Lewis and Florian Ziemen. All these years later, Les Grands Ballets’ timeless adaptation of The Nutcracker by legendary Quebec choreographer Fernand Nault still enchants the inner child. If you have never seen it, this production is a must. The Nutcracker runs Dec. 10 to 30. To purchase tickets, visit grandsballets.com.
The world-renowned Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir presents their 34th annual Gospel Celebration Christmas Show at Théâtre Maisonneuve on Dec. 4. To purchase tickets, visit www.placedesarts.com.
Meanwhile, Montreal’s powerhouse JIREH Gospel Choir will share the stage for a Christmas concert with the 80-voice Montreal Gospel Choir—both under the direction of Carol Bernard—at St. James United Church (463 Ste-Catherine St. W.) on Dec. 10 and 11. Expect authentic foot-stomping gospel. To purchase tickets, visit www.montrealgospel.com.
Another Christmas concert of note is the annual Candlelight Christmas by The Lyric Theatre Singers, conducted by musical director Bob Bachelor, at Concordia’s beautiful Loyola Chapel from Dec. 1 to 3. To purchase tickets, visit www.lyrictheatrecompany.com.
Over at the Corona Theatre (2490 Notre-Dame St. W.), Montreal music legend Andy Kim brings his highly-entertaining Andy Kim Christmas Show to Montreal for the third year in a row, with such guests as Bobby Bazini, Ron Sexsmith and Roch Voisine. And they will sing Sugar Sugar. Showtime: 8 p.m. Admission: $27. For tickets, visit www.evenko.ca.
If you are a fan of Handel’s Messiah, see it performed by Les Violons du Roy at the Maison symphonique de Montréal on Dec. 10. For info, visit www.violonsduroy.com. Handel’s Messiah will also be performed by the McGill Chamber Orchestra on Dec. 13 at the St-Andrew and St-Paul Church (3415 Redpath) with star conductor Boris Brott and guest classical singers Chantal Dionne (soprano), Marjorie Maltais (mezzo-soprano) Keonwoo Kim (tenor) and Christopher Dunham (baritone). For more info, visit ocm-mco.org.
Following their hilarious “tribute” to Celine Dion last summer, stand-up comics Tranna Wintour and Thomas Leblanc are back, roasting none other than Mariah Carey in Sweet Mariah: A Carey Christmas, featuring performances by Montreal’s greatest and brightest indie stars from the worlds of theatre, comedy, music, and dance, on Dec. 15 and 16 at The Wiggle Room (3874 St-Laurent). For tickets, visit sweetmariah.brownpapertickets.ca.
The popular Santas Are Taking Over the Stewart Museum exhibition returns to the Stewart Museum until Jan. 8, 2017, and features gorgeous Santa figurines handmade by American artists Beth Cameron, Lynn West and Lynn Haney, as well as Quebec artist Carole Landreville. The Stewart Museum (20 Chemin du Tour de l’Isle) has also created many holiday-themed activities for children. The Stewart Museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and closed on Jan. 1. Santa will also visit the Museum on Dec. 4 and 18 from 1 p.m to 3 p.m to collect the children wish gifts and take pictures. Admission: Free for the entire duration of the exhibition. Details: 514-861-6701 or visit www.stewart-museum.org.
Geordie Productions presents three live theatre performances of the beloved holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life, written for the stage by Philip Grecian, based on the film by Frank Capra, and directed by Mike Payette featuring a large ensemble cast at the gorgeous DB Clarke Theatre (1455 Blvd. de Maisonneuve West), Dec. 9 and 10. Ticket prices for the benefit production run from $25 to $250. All tickets include après-show cocktail and canapés reception, silent auction and a charitable tax receipt. For tickets, visit geordie.ca.
Le Festival Noël dans le Parc is an outdoor festival which celebrates the spirit of Christmas in Parc Emilie-Gamelin (located outside Berri Metro station), featuring free daily activities and concerts from Dec. 1 to 25, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. For a detailed schedule of outdoor performances, visit noeldansleparc.com.
Meanwhile, if you missed Montreal’s downtown Santa Claus Parade on Nov. 19, do not fret: This year’s Plaza St-Hubert Christmas Parade on Dec. 2 is called Défilé des rêves (“Parade of Dreams”) and features plenty of floats, circus artists, plus Santa and his elves. This year’s theme is “The Magic of Christmas.” The parade kicks off at 7 p.m. at the corner of Bellechasse St. and runs north on St-Hubert St. to Jean-Talon Blvd. where the party winds down at 9 p.m. For information, visit maplaza.ca.
Here are other must-see theatre and film highlights in Montreal this season:
Filmmaker Barry Jenkins’ pretty intense drama Moonlight about a young kid who comes of age in Miami during the “War on Drugs” era—and whose own mother is a crack addict—runs at Cinema du Parc in La Cité from Dec. 2 to 8. The kid also struggles with his burgeoning gay sexual orientation and is beautifully played by Alex Hibbert as child Chiron, Ashton Sanders as teen Chiron and Trevante Rhodes as adult Chiron. This film deserves a ton of Oscar nominations, especially Ashton Sanders as teen Chiron. For tickets and info, visit www.cinemaduparc.com.
There are also two musical theatre productions in Montreal worth your hard-earned cash, which would also make for terrific holiday gifts:
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! The splendid French-language production of Mary Poppins—which sold out its run at Theatre St-Denis last summer—returns to Theatre St-Denis from Dec. 8 to Jan. 7, 2017. This big-budget crowd-pleasing production is worthy of Broadway. To purchase tickets, visit theatrestdenis.com.
Finally, the English-language Broadway touring production of the Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots headlines Salle Wilfred-Pelletier from Jan. 3 to 8, 2017. After winning Best Original Score for Kinky Boots at the 2013 Tony Awards, Cyndi Lauper told me, “I didn’t stop to think I was the first woman to win that award [solo because] there were a lot of men involved, people who understood me, like [playwright] Harvey Fierstein.” To purchase tickets, visit www.evenko.ca.