‘Black Nativity,’ Disney on Ice, ‘Elf’ in concert, and ‘One-Man Nutcracker’ in this week’s ‘Things To Do’

Dec. 21 - 24 : Samara Joy in Philly, Motown Holiday tribute in N.J., and WinterQueen concert in Delaware are among the weekend’s highlights.

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Shadows behind a sheet show a person creeping foward, a tiny figure of a person, and a tiny figure of a tree

Chris Davis, writer and star of 'One-Man Nutcracker,' uses shadows to create the mice. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

It’s Christmas weekend, so there’s still time to finish your holiday shopping before St. Nick shimmies down the chimney. There’s also time to bask in the numerous festive celebrations around town, including a musical version of “A Christmas Carol” and the “One-Man Nutcracker.” Funnyman Will Ferrell’s holiday classic “Elf” gets the Philadelphia Orchestra treatment, and in New Jersey, the sounds of Motown are featured in “Shadows of the 60s.” But this week’s top musical choices are TJ McGlinchey’s annual holiday tribute to Muppets creator Jim Henson — and ascendant jazz vocalist Samara Joy and her musical family’s Joyful Holiday concert. The 2023 Grammy winner for Best New Artist is at the Miller Theater for two shows on Friday.

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New Jersey

Shadows of the 60s: A Holiday Tribute to Motown

The Supremes, from left, Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson and Diana Ross, perform during a reception for them in a hotel, in London.
FILE – In this Oct. 8, 1964 file photo, The Supremes, from left, Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson and Diana Ross, perform during a reception for them in a hotel, in London. Wilson, the longest-reigning original Supreme, has died at 76 years old. Publicist Jay Schwartz says Wilson died Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, at her home in Las Vegas and that the cause was not immediately clear. (AP Photo/Bob Dear, File)

The timeless Motown sound is the highlight of a concert focused on the ‘60s. Shadows of the 60s: A Holiday Tribute to Motown centers on the Christmas music of the legendary label as made by The Supremes, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, the Marvelettes, and more. For reference, click here. 


WinterQueen w/ Knotty G’s and Friends

Tribute bands and performances continue to dominate the local music scene. WinterQueen is for fans of music played at Winterland Ballroom, the famed San Francisco skating rink/music venue that hosted shows promoted by Bill Graham. Artists who performed there include Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, The Allman Brothers, The Band, and The Grateful Dead, among many more. House band the Knotty G’s are accompanied by an array of local artists recreating performances that actually happened at Winterland.

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Special Events

Fill Your Cup: A Holiday Sip and Shop

There’s still time to complete your holiday shopping, whether it’s for Christmas, Kwanzaa, or just because! Manzanita and The Wine Down PHL is hosting Fill Your Cup: A Holiday Sip and Shop, where you can select from a curated gift selection of vintage and new items in a relaxed and festive atmosphere.

Black Nativity

John Graves III is not the originator of “Black Nativity” — that credit goes to Langston Hughes. But the writer/performer/ producer/entrepreneur and educator puts his stamp on an adaptation of the family-friendly musical, which plays through Christmas Eve.

A Dickens Of A Murder

  • Where: Red Rum Theater, 601 Walnut St. 
  • When: Saturday, Dec. 23, Saturday, Dec. 30, 6 p.m.
  • How much: $35 

The plot thickens in A Dickens of a Murder. That’s the easiest way to describe this murder mystery as both a performance and an interactive event. What it’s not, though, is a dinner show, but desserts and drinks are available for purchase. In this incarnation of Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge dies at a Christmas party, and party guest Sherlock Holmes must investigate. It sounds like a mashup of genres (and eras), but who cares? It’s all in good fun.

 2023 Philadelphia Christmas Lights Tour

Holiday lights at 13th and Tasker Streets
13th and Tasker Streets. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

‘Tis the season for holiday lights. If you’re unsure how to find them all, let the Seek. Explore. Wander folks be your guide. They’re offering a walking tour of the best Christmas lights around the city. The tour is approximately 2.5 hours, so grab your comfy shoes and your Santa — or Mrs. Claus — hat and join the group. An added perk: (non-alcoholic) hot toddies are available for purchase.

 Elf in Concert

Will Ferrell is funny in just about everything he does. But the premise of “Elf” is already full of comic potential: A man raised by elves heads to New York City to find his real dad. As the late James Caan plays the dad, it’s not hard to figure he’s on Santa’s naughty list, and comic hijinks ensue. The Philadelphia Orchestra will lend its talents to two film screenings by playing the score live and syncing to the movie.

One-Man Nutcracker

You’ve got to give it to Chris Davis — he’s not without ambition. He took on “The Nutcracker” and its myriad roles and decided he could do the marathon production as a one-man show. Looks like it’s worked out for him, as he’s back with “One-Man Nutcracker” again this year. If you’re wondering what his take on the classical ballet is, think quirky, humorous, and interactive.

Rev. TJ McGlinchey & Friends: Jim Henson Holiday Extravaganza

You don’t have to be a kid to appreciate the Muppets as long as you retain a child’s wonder. TJ McGlinchey and his merry band of singers, songwriters, and puppeteers join forces for Rev. TJ McGlinchey & Friends: Jim Henson Holiday Extravaganza, a night dedicated to all things Muppets, including songs from “The Muppets Show,” “Sesame Street,” and the Muppets movies.

Disney on Ice Presents Magic In The Stars

It’s Christmas, and it’s Disney. We don’t really need to describe this, do we? We’ll go ahead, though. It’s Disney on Ice Presents Magic in the Stars, which means a lot of Disney princes and princesses you and your kids already love on ice. Minnie and Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, and characters from “Aladdin,”  “Toy Story,” “Cars,” “Encanto, “Frozen 2,” and “Moana” all make appearances.

Arts & Culture

The Little Prince

“The Little Prince” is one of the most popular books of all time. The book can be found in more than 500 languages, making it the second most translated book ever, trailing only the Bible, though it’s only been around 75+ years. Author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry based it on his own experience surviving a plane crash in the Sahara. The stage adaptation put on by Quintessence Theatre includes music and what is described as an “imaginative” view of the original story.

A Christmas Carol

A folksy musical version of “A Christmas Carol?” Sure, when the vocals are as pristine as they are in the People’s Light version. Scrooge is still the star — or the anti-hero — of the show, which adds original music and traditional English carols in Zak Berkman’s adaptation of the Dickens tale.

Christmas Day Roundup

  • Where: Multiple venues
  • When: Monday, Dec. 25
  • How much: Various prices

Though many of us spend Christmas Day with family, some of us also spend it with sports stars. This year, the Eagles play at home on Christmas Day, and given their woes lately, a win would be the best present for their fans. The Sixers also play, but in Miami, which sounds like enough reason to catch a last-minute flight to us. The Weitzman’s annual celebration, “Being ____at Christmas,” is open to anyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas or any holiday at all. And you certainly have to applaud the reenactors willing to spend Christmas Day traversing the Delaware River as George Washington and his troops did before fighting the Battle of Trenton. And you can, as thousands do when they attend the ceremonial crossing.


Winter Solstice Bird Walk

\The Woodlands cemetery in West Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

You can find some peace in nature through a hectic holiday season by attending the Winter Solstice Holiday Walk at the Woodlands. The guided walk will include a quest for the birds inhabiting the cemetery grounds all year and the migratory avians who’ve shown up in force this year.


The Delco Dudes Ugly Christmas Sweater and Standup Comedy Spectacular

  • Where: Joe Hughes Memorial Hall, 1112 E. Eddy St., Eddystone, Pa.
  • When: Friday, Dec. 22, 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
  • How much: $20 

Delco bros in ugly Christmas sweaters. The comic potential is endless. That’s why they’re hosting the Ugly Christmas Sweater and Stand Up Comedy Spectacular. Local comedians including John Amendolia, Chris Nee, Rachel Peters, and more invite you to wear your ugliest, cheesiest sweater — and your sense of humor. There’s a post-show party and some proceeds from the event go to Toys for Tots. 


Adam Blackstone Presents: A Legacy Christmas

Adam Blackstone
Adam Blackstone arrives at the Black Music Collective on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at The Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Trenton, N.J. native Adam Blackstone’s music has taken him all over the globe as the music director for Rihanna, Maroon 5, Janet Jackson, and Justin Timberlake, among others. But the Grammy-winning musician has chosen to spend some of his holiday with us here in Philadelphia. He’s touring in support of his latest project, “A Legacy Christmas,” which came out last month. (Note: This show has sold out, but you can continue to check online or try the City Winery box office to see if there are tickets that may become available the day of.)

Samara Joy: A Joyful Holiday featuring the McClendon Family

Samara Joy performs
Samara Joy performs after President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden lit the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse, near the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Samara Joy, who won a Grammy this year for Best New Artist, brings her talented family and once-in-a-lifetime vocal prowess to the Miller Theater. A Joyful Holiday Featuring the McClendon Family is in store for us all if her prodigious talents are any indication of the family’s musical bloodline.

Norman Connors All-Star Tribute to Phyllis Hyman

Pop/Jazz/disco singer Phyllis Hyman, Arista records on Feb. 6, 1980. (AP Photo/Rene Perez)

The late Phyllis Hyman embodied a combination of genre-blending that we see today in vocalists like the above-mentioned Joy and Jazmine Sullivan. Like Sullivan, she and musician Norman Connors were born in Philadelphia, although Hyman grew up in Pittsburgh. Connors pays tribute to the late singer in his All-Star Tribute to Phyllis Hyman featuring Marva King, Suzanne Burgess, Theo Valentin, and the Starship Orchestra.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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