Review: The Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue (Second City)

The Second City presents a hilarious and mischievous holiday show in Toronto

It’s December in Toronto, which brings the annual return of three holiday traditions: skating accidents at Nathan Phillips Square; fistfights in the crowded aisles of the Eaton Centre; and massive queues to get into the latest show at The Second City. This year’s offering, The Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue, is all-new, all-live, and very, very funny.

The Revue starts off slowly: an opening number, a sketch about Canada Post, and some throwaway jokes about airport security. Hyuck hyuck, I’m here all week, try the veal.

But then, about five minutes deep, there’s a turn; the writing gets cleverer, more aggressive, more vulgar. You learn forward in your chair, afraid to miss a line. It’s good. When this show works—as it does continuously from the fifth minute onward—it is laugh-out-loud, whip-smart, respect-yourself-in-the-morning hilarious

These sketches have clearly been polished, worked, rehearsed and measured until they’re just right: nothing lingers too long, and nothing gets neglected. Even the improv portions (a highlight of the performance) are paced perfectly: thirty seconds longer would be too much; thirty seconds less would be disappointing. They nail it every time.

And those improv portions are where the company really shine: these aren’t just talented actors reading slickly-written jokes; these guys can really dish it out—and at the drop of a hat. I’m only disappointed that I have no clue who they are or who directed them. (A program is provided, but half the names in it had left the company a week earlier.) Would have been nice to know!

Still: it’s a damn good show. The humour is rapid-fire, delivered extremely well. The writing is intelligent, accessible and appropriately festive. The company is bright, cheerful, enthusiastic and mischievous in all the best ways. The first few skits may be unfortunate, but the rest more than make up for that early loss of momentum.

And if you’re lucky, they’ll run a free improv session after the show. (Stick around! Totally worth it.)


  • The Second City’s Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue plays through January 1st at 51 Mercer St.
  • Several matinees: December 21st, and every weekday from the 26th until the 31st. One final evening performance on January 1st. See calendar for details.
  • Tickets are $22. Group discounts available, call box office for information.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by calling 416-343-0011, or in-person at the box office.