Everybody loves a trip to the theatre for Christmas. For many theatre-lovers, it’s a yearly tradition, and the holiday productions they attend are always wrapped in plenty of creative splendour – particularly, in designing their sets full of Christmas whimsy and spirit. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite festive set designs from theatres and productions across the world, so, take a look at our picks and let us know some of your favourites!
Elf the Musical
A Christmas star on the rise, ‘Elf the Musical’’s design elements are a sight to behold. Based on one of the most popular Christmas movies of all time, ‘Elf’, the stage show brings all the frivolity of the film to life, particularly in its depiction of the elves and their workshop. A lighted archway gives the stage a pop of whimsy and colour, and beneath it are stacks of toy blocks and an oversized clock counting down until Christmas, giving everything below a miniaturised appearance. The sheer fun of the set and the forced perspective it uses gives it a truely magical appearance, and we can’t wait for ‘Elf the Musical’ to find its way to Queensland some time soon.
(Image from Paramount Theatre, Boston Illinois 2017)
Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical
‘Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical’ is a childhood favourite for many and across generations, and has been produced as a live show in many forms and theatres – but we especially love the set of the Lowry Theatre production of Dr Seuss’ Christmas marvel. This show took the illustration style of the children’s book and turned it into set pieces, making it seem as though the book was on its feet, coming to life right before the audience’s eyes.
(Image from The Lowry Theatre, Manchester 2019)
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular
‘The Radio City Christmas Spectacular’, featuring the Rockettes, is a Christmas staple and an aspirational goal to experience for many performers and theatre-goers across the world, and it’s been rocking New York since 1933, so as one could imagine that the show has gone through some drastic change since then. One of these changes is in the set. The show now incorporates an intimidatingly large projection screen that brings many of the numbers to animated life. The screen displays scenes like Times Square, a grand Christmas tree and an old-fashioned sign in lights, spelling out the companies name in a very show business manner.
(Image from the 2016 production, Radio City, New York)
Billy Elliot: The Musical (Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher)
A quintessential British musical, ‘Billy Elliot: The Musical’ is maybe not the first musical that comes to mind when we think about Christmas productions, but one number from the show gives us a hilarious yet thought-provoking insight into what Christmas meant to the working class in the 1980s. The number ‘Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher’ features a giant caricature puppet of the fearsome and infamously divisive political figure, as the children a perform a song in a Christmas pageant about some of the less than popular policies of the Tory party during Thatcher’s stint as Prime Minister. This number is always a bit of fun, and every production undertakes the task of creating the puppet in different, creative ways.
(Image from Seacoast Repertory Theatre, Portsmouth, New Hampshire)
A Christmas Carol
Taking a sleigh ride back home, we can’t mention iconic Christmas theatre sets without giving a shoutout to the show that has made its home at QPAC year after year, Shake ’n’ Stir’s ‘A Christmas Carol’. Comprised of about five different moving set pieces, overseen by a giant clock placed above the stage, this set utilised elaborate design and choreography to create Victorian settings like a dusky town street, the bitter cold of Scrooge’s office, and a gothic graveyard. This set is a sight to behold, and you can read our review of the 2021 iteration of ‘A Christmas Carol’ here.
(Image from Shake ’n’ Stir Theatre co. 2018-2021)
Every year we are dazzled and amazed by the set designers working through the holiday season to make our productions just that extra bit special. Who is your favourite set designer? Is there a Christmas set you’ll never forget? Let us know in the comments.