Winter Arts Guide: Theater Events

A season of Dunces, Slutcrackers, Gold Dust Orphans, Beauties, Beasts, and Space Chupacabras.

By Vanessa Nason, with additional contributions by Shaula Clark and Olga Khvan

Who doesn’t love a little escapism during the winter? This season, sit back and let our theater companies transport you to locales as far-flung as mid-century NOLA and fantastical realms of enchanted beasts, as top-notch talent—from Nick Offerman to John Waters—graces Boston stages. Here’s what’s in store.

Isango Ensemble in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Isango Ensemble in A Midsummer Night’s Dream / Courtesy photo by John Page

Isango Ensemble

South Africa’s Isango Ensemble returns to ArtsEmerson with two reimagined classics: A Midsummer Night’s Dream fuses Benjamin Britten’s opera and South African music and dance, while uCarmen riffs on the operatic film U-Carmen eKhayelitsha and French composer Georges Bizet’s arias.

November 10-22, Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont St, Boston, 617-824-8000,

Confederacy of Dunces

Confederacy of Dunces / Still from YouTube

A Confederacy of Dunces

Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman heads to a basement apartment in the French Quarter for this adaptation of the beloved novel. For this Huntington Theatre world premiere, Offerman tackles the role of the arrogant, iconic Ignatius J. Reilly.

November 11-December 20, Huntington Theatre Company’s Avenue of the Arts / BU Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-266-0800,

A Taste of Honey

The Boston Center for American Performance (BCAP)’s A Taste of Honey brings to life the classic English kitchen sink drama about a working-class girl who, after getting pregnant with a black sailor, who ends up moving in with a gay art student.

November 11-22, BCA, 539 Tremont St, Boston, 617-426-5000,


Elf / Courtesy photo


The musical version of the popular 2003 movie with Will Ferrel is setting up a limited three-week residency at the Wang Theatre. Join Buddy the Elf, an orphan who grows up on the North Pole, as he journeys to New York City to find his father and adjust to life among humans.

November 17-December 6, Wang Theatre, 270 Tremont St., Boston,

Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker costumes

Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker costumes were originally designed for the 2012 revival of the production. / Photo by Olga Khvan

Boston Ballet: The Nutcracker

To prepare for the holiday season, Boston Ballet’s manager of costumes and wardrobe Charles Heightchew and his staff refurbish around 350 costumes for the company’s revival of The Nutcracker. Watch them sparkle on stage as if brand new when the annual tradition returns to the Boston Opera House.

November 27-December 31, Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston,

A Little Orphan Tranny Christmas

Dreaming of a drag Christmas? For their annual deranged holiday extravaganza, comedy troupe the Gold Dust Orphans bring you the tale of yet another orphan who roams the streets while dancing, singing and evading the evil Hermione P. Grinchley.

December 3-20, Machine Nightclub, 1254 Boylston St., Boston, 617-266-2986, Buy tickets.

The Slutcracker with John Waters

And for something completely different: The Slutcracker adds an eye-popping, pastie-twirling burlesque twist to the Tchaikovsky classic. Presiding over opening night is the ultimate Uncle Drosselmeyer of filth, John Waters himself.

December 4-31, Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville,

Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Based on 70 pages from War and Peace, this scandalous electropop opera is all about romance and glamour—and it’s definitely not the Tolstoy you remember from English class.

December 6-January 3, Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-547-8300,


Once /Courtesy photo


This fanciful Dublin romance combines the dual talents of its actor-musicians, telling the story of a guitarist who falls in love with a singer through their shared love of music.

December 8-27, Shubert Theatre, 270 Tremont St., Boston, 617-482-9393,

Henrik Ibsen’s Rosmersholm

Ibsen’s 1886 masterpiece Rosmersholm is the story of religious strife, political struggle, and all-consuming guilt, forming a love triangle between a former clergyman, his dead wife, and a woman who may have aided her suicide.

December 9-13, Boston University College of Fine Arts, 855 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 617-353-3350,

Poets’ Theatre Presents: Beowulf

Watch ancient Anglo-Saxon hero Beowulf fend off monsters (and their mothers) this December at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, which is transforming into “a modern Medieval mead hall” for this production.

December 10-20, Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second St., East Cambridge, , 617-577-1400,

Donkey Show

Donkey Show’s Tytania (Rebecca Whitehurst) and Cob Web (Cameron Oro) / Courtesy photo by Marcus Stern

Donkey Show New Year’s Eve 2016

One of the best dance parties around, The Donkey Show transports A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Studio 54, telling a tale awash in mirrored balls, feathers, roller skates, and ’70s hits. Naturally, they’re cranking up the disco fever dream for New Year’s Eve.

December 31, 9:30 p.m., Oberon, 2 Arrow St., Cambridge, 617-496-8004,

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast / Courtesy photo

Disney’s Beauty & the Beast

The classic Disney hit comes to the Boston Opera House, featuring all the original songs plus additional numbers composed by Alan Menken and Tim Rice. Be their guest!

January 6-10, Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston, 617-259-3400,

Nice Fish

Adapted from the acclaimed poems of Louis Jenkins, Nice Fish is the whimsical story of two men who use an ice-fishing trip as a way to seek the answers to life’s larger questions.

January 17-February 7, Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-547-8300,

Twelfth Night

Oliver Dimsdale and Poppy Miller in Filter Theatre Company’s Twelfth Night / Courtesy photo by Robert Day

Twelfth Night

ArtsEmerson gets in on the Shakespeare remix game, with Filter’s madcap, deconstructed take on the Bard’s classic.

January 20-30, ArtsEmerson, 559 Washington St., Boston, 617-824-8400,

Shen Yun Performing Arts

Visually stunning dance and emotionally charged music bring you to “The Middle Kingdom,” a lost land of emperors, heroes and dragons that mythically ruled where modern China stands. Join Shen Yun to “experience a divine culture.”

January 22-24, Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston, 617-259-3400,

An Octoroon

An Octoroon promotional material

An Octoroon

Our two favorite theater companies Company One and ArtsEmerson join forces for this updated antebellum melodrama—the “hottest play of 1859″—which chronicles a rich plantation owner who falls in love with a mixed-race girl.

January 29-February 27, ArtsEmerson, 10 Boylston Pl, Boston, 617-824-8000,

Milk Like Sugar

A tale of misplaced dreams ripped from the headlines, Milk Like Sugar follows the story of troubled teenager Annie as she carries out a pregnancy pact with her two best friends.

January 29-February 27, Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, 527 Tremont St., Boston, 617-933-8600,


Pippin / Courtesy photo


From Godspell creator Stephen Schwartz and directed by the American Repertory Theatre‘s Diane Paulus, this is a Pippin for the 21st century—the tale of a young prince in search of the meaning of life, told through a score of ’70s rock.

February 2-14, Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston, 617-259-3400,

Love Letters

Forty-five years ago, Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw shmooped their way to stardom as the lead characters of Harvard-set romance Love Story. Now they return in A. R. Gurney’s epistolary play, centering on two childhood friends and lovers as they correspond with each other over the years about their hardships, ambitions, and lives.

February 2-7, Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont St, Boston, 617-482-9393,


Simon Coates, Christopher Patrick Nolan, Hara Yannas, Sam Crane, Tim Dutton, Stephen Fewell, Mandi Symonds and Matthew Spencer in the West End run of 1984 / Courtesy photo by Manuel Harlan

George Orwell’s 1984

Winston Smith and the ever-present surveillance of Big Brother come to life on stage. Refuel your Orwellian nightmares with this award-winning adaptation.

February 14-March 6, Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-547-8300,

The Wong Kids

Sasha Diamond and Alton Alburo in The Wong Kids / Courtesy photo by Dan Norman

The Wong Kids in the Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go!

Join this superpower-equipped brother and sister duo on their galactic journey to thwart the evil Space Chupacabra before it destroys the universe.

February 19-March 6, ArtsEmerson, 559 Washington St., Boston, 617-824-8400, Buy tickets.

The Hothouse

In this Harold Pinter tragicomedy, watch as a complicated murder plot unfurls in the backdrop of a corrupt government mental institution.

February 19-21, Wimberly Theatre, 527 Tremont St., Boston, 617-933-8600,

Cosi Fan Tutte

Can people truly be faithful to their spouses? That’s the question that Mozart’s acclaimed operatic comedy seeks to answer. When two men try to prove to their friend that their fiances will remain faithful, love triangles and confusion erupt.

February 25-28, BU Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-266-7900,

Looking for more winter arts coverage? Check out:

Winter Concerts and Comedy

Winter Author Events

Winter Museum Openings