Murray Hill — Photo courtesy of Murray Hill
A MURRAY LITTLE CHRISTMAS: MURRAY HILL & FRIENDS
The New York drag king and transgender comedian Murray Hill — aka Mr. Showbiz — throws a holiday cocktail party live on a stage in Baltimore. Joining Hill, who regularly comes to the Birchmere to host Burlesque-A-Pades, are Angie “International Queen of Burlesque” Pontani, LGBTQ burlesque artist The Maine Attraction, and singer Julia Rose. They’ll offer wacky skits, Hot Toddy burlesque, and “a sleigh full of cheesy holiday songs.” All that, plus the winner of an Ugly Sweater Contest among audience members will get to sit on Santa’s lap and pick a gift from his grab bag. Saturday, Dec. 15, at 7 and 10 p.m. Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave. Baltimore. Tickets are $22 to $25, or $50 with a ticket to the 10 p.m. show plus a pre-show “Tuxedos, Sequins & Champagne” party offering bubbly, a gin punch, and snacks, all as a fundraiser for Creative Alliance. Call 410-276-1651 or visit creativealliance.org.
AFI HOLIDAY CLASSICS
Over the next several weeks, the American Film Institute offers 16 Christmas films, from the classics (A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street) to curiosities (Die Hard, Trading Places). This week brings a 25th anniversary screening of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas on Saturday, Dec. 15, and Sunday, Dec. 16, at 11:15 a.m., and Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 9:30 p.m.; the James Stewart-led Frank Capra classic It’s a Wonderful Life, screening in a new 4K restoration, on Monday, Dec. 17, through Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 2:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 20, at 1:30 and 6:45 p.m., and Friday, Dec. 21, at 1:50 and 6:45 p.m.; The Muppet Christmas Carol, Jim Henson’s animated spin on Dickens with Michael Caine the voice of Ebenezer Scrooge, screening Monday, Dec. 17, through Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 5:15 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 20, 11:30 a.m., and Friday, Dec. 21, at 12 p.m.; and arguably most notable of all Dial Code Santa Claus, René Manzor’s 1989 horror drama, in French with English subtitles, that has almost the same plot as Home Alone but is far more stylized and much, much bloodier and was previously only available on VHS bootlegs, screening Monday, Dec. 17, at 9:30 p.m., and Friday, Dec. 21, at 10 p.m. AFI Silver Theatre, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. Tickets are $13. Call 301-495-6720 or visit afi.com/Silver for schedule and details.
AN IRISH CAROL
Keegan Theatre presents Matthew Keenan’s annual homage to Dickens, with biting Irish humor and incisive candor. Mark A. Rhea directs a cast featuring Kevin Adams, Josh Sticklin, Timothy Lynch, Caroline Dubberly, Josh Adams, Mick Tinder, and Jon Townson. After the Saturday, Dec. 22, evening performance comes a “Keegan’s Greetings” concert over cocktails by the Harry Bells, a D.C.-based horn-and-percussion tribute to the music of Harry Belafonte. Opens Thursday, Dec. 13. Runs to Dec. 31. 1742 Church St. NW. Tickets are $36 to $46. Call 202-265-3767 or visit keegantheatre.com.
ANNAPOLIS PRIDE’S HOLIDAY DRAG BRUNCH
Baltimore’s “Queen of Comedy” Shawnna Alexander and the southern Maryland “Insult Queen” Victoria Bohmore co-host a holiday-inspired variety show. Patrons can eat and drink from Ram’s Head On Stage’s standard menu plus a few select brunch specials, all while taking in skits and performances featuring Paris Satellite, Krystal Nova, and Jalah Nicole, plus special guests Miss Gay Maryland America 2002 Ashley Bannks, Miss Nation’s Capital Girl at Large 2018 Victoria Blair, and Miss Gay Maryland America 2018 Nicole James. A portion of the proceeds benefit Annapolis Pride. Saturday, Dec. 22. Doors at 11:30 a.m. Ram’s Head On Stage, 33 West St., Annapolis. Tickets are $20 for admission only. Call 410-268-4545 or visit ramsheadonstage.com.
BALTIMORE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: HOLIDAY POPS
Andy Einhorn, the conductor and musical director for such celebrated recent Broadway revivals as Hello, Dolly! and Carousel, conducts the BSO and the Baltimore Choral Arts Society in a new holiday BSO Pops show featuring festive favorites, tap-dancing, an audience sing-along, and a few musical surprises. All that, plus pre-concert performances, holiday cookies, and ornaments for sale as the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall becomes a winter wonderland. Saturday, Dec. 22, at 3 and 8 p.m. 1212 Cathedral St., Baltimore. Tickets are $12.50 to $80. Call 410-783-8000 or visit bsomusic.org.
Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC: The Holiday Show
GAY MEN’S CHORUS OF WASHINGTON: THE HOLIDAY SHOW
Artistic Director Thea Kano leads an all-new show featuring tap dancers, silver bears, holiday drag, falling snowflakes, soaring vocals, and a special visit from Santa Claus. In other words, the kind of all-out eclectic extravaganza patrons come to expect from the Gay Men’s Chorus this time of year. The setlist includes “Jingle Bells,” “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “Puttin’ On The Holiday Drag.” Remaining performances are Saturday, Dec. 15, at 3 and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 16, at 3 p.m. Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW. Tickets are $25 to $65. Call 877-435-9849 or visit thelincolndc.com.
NSO POPS: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS WITH ASHLEY BROWN
Brown, who originated the role of Mary Poppins on Broadway, makes her NSO Pops debut. Brown will lead a program of holiday favorites and Christmas sing-alongs that comes in collaboration with the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore and presented in honor of all service members and their families. Steven Reineke conducts. Also featuring the Washington Chorus. Friday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 15, at 2 and 8 p.m. Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $24 to $99. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
WASHINGTON IMPROV THEATER: SEASONAL DISORDER
Artistic Director Mark Chalfant describes WIT’s decade-old Seasonal Disorder as “a huge smorgasbord of different comedy shows, all of which have some sort-of angle or theme related to the holidays.” No two programs are alike, as each pivots off of a suggestion or theme from the audience. From there, the WIT players concoct characters, story, theme — whether to create an original, off-the-cuff show via the iMusical team, an improvised rock concert from Heavy Rotation, a Latino variety show a la Sabado Picante, or “Huggy Smalls: The Notorious H.U.G.” Weekends to Dec. 30. Source, 1835 14th St. NW. Tickets are $15 in advance, or $18 at the door. Call 202-204-7770 or visit witdc.org. Weekends to Dec. 28. Source Theater, 1835 14th St. NW. Tickets are $12 online in advance, or $15 at the door. Call 202-204-7770 or visit washingtonimprovtheater.com.
WASHINGTON NATIONAL OPERA: THE LION, THE UNICORN, AND ME
This year’s WNO Holiday Family Opera presentation is the heartwarming adaptation of the famous children’s book, retelling the Nativity story from the perspective of a donkey. Artistic Director Francesca Zambello worked with Tony-winning composer Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home) and librettist J.D. McClatchy in developing the adaptation, which sees a revival after its sold-out world premiere run in 2013. The cast includes members of WNO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and the WNO Children’s Chorus, with the orchestra conducted by James Lowe. Friday, Dec. 14, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, and Sunday, Dec. 16, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Tickets are $49 to $79. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
GARRY WINOGRAND: ALL THINGS ARE PHOTOGRAPHABLE
One of the foremost photographers of the 20th century is the subject of an intimate documentary by Sasha Waters Freyer and constructed using Winogrand’s own words and images — including the more than 10,000 rolls of exposed film left behind when he died suddenly at age 56 in 1984. The National Gallery of Art presents a screening of Freyer’s documentary, billed as the first focused on the life and work of this celebrated photographer, known from his captures of street life in New York and goings-on in postwar America. Sunday, Dec. 23, and Dec. 30. Doors approximately 1:30 p.m. East Building Auditorium, 3rd Street at Constitution Avenue NW. Free, but seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. Call 202-737-4215 or visit nga.gov.
MIRACLE ON 8TH STREET: SCREENINGS OF CHRISTMAS CLASSICS
For a second year in a row the recently renovated Miracle Theatre in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill screens several holiday-themed favorites on the weekends leading up to Christmas. This year’s lineup includes: the James Stewart signature It’s A Wonderful Life on Friday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16, at 3:30 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 22, at 8 p.m.; Robert Zemeckis’ animated The Polar Express starring Tom Hanks on Saturday Dec. 15 at 11 a.m., and Friday, Dec. 21, at 3:30 p.m.; Macaulay Culkin as an boy stranded in Home Alone, screening Friday, Dec. 21, at 6 p.m.; Miracle on 34th Street, the classic Christmas drama from 1947 that put Santa Claus, or really the poser Kris Kringle, on trial, on Friday, Dec. 21, at 8:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 23, at 6 p.m.; and Will Ferrell’s 15-year-old Elf on Sunday, Dec. 23, at 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 to $8. 535 8th St. SE. Call 202-400-3210 or visit themiracletheatre.com.
Fords Theatre: A Christmas Carol
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Craig Wallace returns for his third year as the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge in Ford’s Theatre’s cherished annual production of Dickens’ Yuletide classic. It really wouldn’t be Christmas in Washington without this music-infused adaptation, conceived by Michael Wilson and directed by Michael Baron. To Dec. 30. Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW. Tickets are $24 to $107. Call 800-982-2787 or visit fordstheatre.org.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL IN WASHINGTON
Celebrating its 70th anniversary, Maryland’s community stage Port Tobacco Players presents local author Kim Bessler’s retelling of the Dickens classic, set in the region during the Great Depression. Mike Gahan directs the non-professional world-premiere production. Weekends to Dec. 16. 508 Charles St., La Plata, Md. Tickets are $15 to $18. Call 301-932-6819 or visit ptplayers.com.
AN INSPECTOR CALLS
A festive evening at the home of a well-heeled British family is suddenly punctured by a visit from a grim inspector investigating the death of a young woman that proceeds to upend their comfortable lives. Acclaimed stage and film director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot) returns to J.B. Priestley’s chilling drama, which he first helmed in 1992 at London’s National Theatre, for a Shakespeare Theatre Company production starring Liam Brennan as Inspector Goole and Christine Kavanagh, Jeff Harmer, Lianne Harvey, and Hamish Riddle as the Birling family. To Dec. 23. Lansburgh Theatre, 450 7th St. NW. Call 202-547-1122 or visit shakespearetheatre.org.
Molly Smith puts her stamp on Cole Porter’s most famous show by enlisting two right-hand-men for staging musical classics in the round — choreographer Parker Esse (Oklahoma!) and music director Paul Sportelli (Carousel). Soara-Joye Ross, last seen in D.C. via the national tour of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, makes her Arena debut as showboat sensation Reno Sweeney who sings several American Songbook standards, including “Anything Goes,” “I Get A Kick Out of You,” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” Ross leads a cruise ship-sized cast also including Corbin Bleu as Billy Crocker, Lisa Helmi Johanson as Hope Harcourt, Jimmy Ray Bennett as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, Lisa Tejero as Evangeline Harcourt, and Maria Rizzo as the vampy Erma. To Dec. 23. Fichandler Stage, 1101 6th St. SW. Call 202-488-3300 or visit arenastage.org.
Matthew Gardiner helms Signature Theatre’s take on the moving musical from writer/lyricist Lee Hall and composer Elton John about an 11-year-old boy who just wants to dance. The production features two Billys and two young ensembles performing in rotation, along with an adult crew featuring Nancy Anderson as Mrs. Wilkinson, Chris Genebach as Billy’s father, Crystal Mosser as his mother, Sean Watkinson as brother Tony, and Catherine Flye as Grandma. Pride Night is Friday, Dec. 14. To Jan. 6. The Ark, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. Call 703-820-9771 or visit sigtheatre.org.
CHRISTMAS AT THE OLD BULL AND BUSH
Catherine Flye’s cheery holiday tale centers on patrons at a pub telling corny jokes and singing British music hall songs and Christmas carols. Originally presented at the turn of the millennium by Arena Stage, some of the original cast members return for another holiday run at Alexandria’s MetroStage including sing-alongs and an abbreviated reenactment of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, plus a few surprises along the way. To Dec. 30. MetroStage, 1201 North Royal St., Alexandria. Call 703-548-9044 or visit metrostage.org.
CRY IT OUT
Studio Theatre presents Molly Smith Metzler’s candid comedy about the tinderbox of parenthood and class in today’s culture. Emjoy Gavino plays Jesse, a corporate lawyer, who befriends her working class neighbor Lina (Dina Thomas) while both are marooned at home on maternity leave. A wealthy couple from the neighborhood, played by Paolo Andino and Tessa Klein, intrudes on a naptime coffee date between the new mothers, pushing Cry It Out toward a dramatic climax. Directed by Joanie Schultz. To Dec. 16. Milton Theatre, 14th & P Streets NW. Call 202-332-3300 or visit studiotheatre.org.
ELF THE MUSICAL
An orphan leaves the North Pole to find his true identity in this musical based on the 2003 Will Ferrell movie and featuring songs by the team of composer Matthew Sklar and lyricist Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer) and a book by Thomas Meehan (Annie) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone). Olney Theatre presents a holiday treat of a production with a powerhouse cast including Patricia Hurley, Kevin McAllister, Nova Y. Payton, and Bobby Smith, plus David Schumpf in the Ferrell role of Buddy. Directed by Michael J. Bobbitt and choreographed by Tara Jeanne Vallee. To Jan. 6. Mainstage, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, Md. Call 301-924-3400 or visit olneytheatre.org.
FANCY NANCY’S SPLENDIFEROUS CHRISTMAS
Nancy has enough money to buy a brand-new sparkly tree topper, but when things don’t turn out as she planned, will Christmas still be splendiferous? Adventure Theatre MTC presents a musical geared toward younger audiences. Stevie Zimmerman directs. To Jan. 6. 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo Park. Call 301-634-2270 or visit adventuretheatre-mtc.org.
GEM OF THE OCEAN
The “American Century” dawns in Aunt Ester’s kitchen, where Citizen Barlow arrives to have his soul cleansed by the venerable, 285-year-old soothsayer. Round House Theatre presents the first chapter in the late August Wilson’s monumental decade-by-decade play series set in Pittsburgh’s African-American Hill District. Timothy Douglas directs a cast featuring Stephanie Berry as Ester, Justin Weaks as Barlow, Alfred Wilson as Solly Two Kings, and KenYatta Rogers as the constable Caesar. To Dec. 23. Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda. Call 240-644-1100 or visit roundhousetheatre.org.
HOW TO CATCH A STAR
The Kennedy Center commissioned this stage adaptation of author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers’ beloved children’s book about chasing one’s dreams. Created and directed by Jared Mezzocchi, this work of theater for young audiences is a whimsical tale of discovery, friendship, and delightful surprises, enriched with music by Zak Engel, projections by Olivia Sebesky, and choreography by the Orange Grove Dance Company. Jonathan Hsu, Dallas Tolentino, Raven Wilkes, and Elan Zafir star. Remaining performances are Saturday, 15, at 11 a.m., 1:30, and 5 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 16, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Family Theater. Tickets are $20. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
HOW TO KEEP AN ALIEN
Solas Nua, the nation’s only organization exclusively dedicated to contemporary Irish arts, presents the regional premiere of a romantic comedy with a global perspective on immigration. An audience favorite from the D.C.-based company’s play reading series last season, How to Keep An Alien explores the real-life travails of Irish playwright Sonya Kelly in securing a visa for her Australian-born partner Kate by proving their love to the Irish government. With Tonya Beckman as Sonya. Directed by Tom Story. To Dec. 16. Dance Loft on 14 Theater, 4618 14th St. NW 2nd Floor. Tickets are $35 to $45. Call 202-621-3670 or visit solasnua.org.
Indecent — Photo: C. Stanley Photography
Paula Vogel’s latest work tells the story of a group of artists who risked their careers to perform Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance on Broadway in 1923, a work deemed “indecent” for tackling taboo themes of censorship, immigration, and anti-Semitism — but especially for depicting romance blooming between two women. Eric Rosen directs a cast that includes Ben Cherry, Susan Lynskey, John Milosich, and Max Wolkowitz. To Dec. 30. Kreeger Theater in the Mead Center for American Theater, 1101 6th St. SW. Call 202-488-3300 or visit arenastage.org.
The adventures of a brave and resourceful precocious Parisian who takes her bed-ridden friends on an unforgettable Christmas journey via magic carpet ride. Virginia’s Creative Cauldron has had a hit with two previous iterations of this musical adaptation by writer/lyricist Jennifer Kirkeby and composer Shirley Mier and based on the book by author/illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans. Matt Conner directs. To Dec. 23. ArtSpace Falls Church, 410 South Maple Ave. in Falls Church. Tickets are $20 to $26, or $30 for opening night. Call 703-436-9948 or visit creativecauldron.org.
MY FATHER’S DRAGON
As part of its Family Theater series, Synetic Theater produces a wordless adaptation of Ruth Stiles Gannett’s book starring Synetic’s Ryan Sellers and directed and choreographed by the company’s Tori Bertocci. My Father’s Dragon focuses on the attempts of Elmer Elevator to rescue a captive baby dragon on Wild Island. To Jan. 6. Theater at Crystal City, 1800 South Bell St., Arlington. Tickets are $20. Call 800-811-4111 or visit synetictheater.org.
A psychotherapist gets a visit from a new and desperate patient — God — in a witty and touching work by Anat Gov, billed as the “Wendy Wasserstein of Israel.” Kimberly Schraf is the therapist who must talk the divine one (Mitchell Hébert) off the ledge of despair over the state of humanity in Mosaic Theater’s winter holiday production directed by Michael Bloom that launches the 18th season of the annual Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival. As part of the festival, select performances will be followed by free post-show discussions exploring resonant themes in the work with experts in religion, psychotherapy, and comedy — including, Sunday, Dec. 16, at 4:30 p.m., between Mosaic founder Ari Roth and the Edlavitch DCJCC’s Carole Zawatsky. To Jan. 13. Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets are $20 to $65. Call 202-399-7993 or visit mosaictheater.org.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
This tour-de-farce is arguably Oscar Wilde’s greatest play, as courtships, class, and convention square off with handbags, puns, and perambulators. For the Everyman Theatre production, director Joseph Ritsch of Rep Stage has restored the original script to include the politics and double entendres that were stripped out and censored after Wilde was imprisoned due to his homosexuality. “Baltimore’s master of comedy” Bruce Randolph Nelson dons drag to play Lady Bracknell, with Danny Gavigan as Algernon and Jaysen Wright as Jack. Daniel Ettinger’s set and David Burdick’s costumes are a modern mash-up, inspired by Roy Lichtenstein and the Pop Art movement. To Jan. 6. 315 West Fayette St. Baltimore. Tickets are $10 to $65. Call 410-752-2208 or visit everymantheatre.org.
THE THEATRE LAB HONORS ACTING CONSERVATORY SHOWCASE
The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts presents final project presentations by its 2018 honors acting students. The performances are at the school’s Woodward Hall, a block north of the Old Patent Office Building. The conservatory is a one-year professional training program with courses taught by some of Washington’s leading theater professionals. The Final Showcase is Monday, Dec. 17, at 7:30 p.m. 733 8th St. NW. Free. Call 202-824-0449 or visit theatrelab.org.
Subtitled “The story Dr. Seuss didn’t want you to see,” Matthew Lombardo’s raucous, raunchy comedy is an unofficial sequel to the childhood favorite How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The story revolves around a very grown-up Cindy Lou Who recounting, from her cramped quarters on Mount Crumpit, the infamous night she met the mean, green one as well as tales from the wild life she’s led since. Dexter Ramey directs Kimberly Jones Clark in what is billed as a “trailer park Christmas Eve party.” Featuring a post-show cabaret led by pianist Joshua Wortham accompanying either Georgia Rogers Farmer or Shannon Gibson Brown. Weekends to Dec. 15. Richmond Triangle Players, The Robert B. Moss Theatre, 1300 Altamont Ave. Richmond. Tickets are $30 to $35. Call 804-346-8113 or visit rtriangle.org.
Chris Pureka at Jammin Java
BALTIMORE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: CIRQUE NUTCRACKER
Acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, strongmen, and high-flying aerialists join the musicians of the BSO for a holiday-themed show merging the aerial arts and contemporary theater with classical dance and music. Nicholas Hersh conducts the BSO performing from Tchaikovsky’s famous score while Aloysia Gavre leads Troupe Vertigo, the movement-focused organization the Cirque du Soleil veteran co-founded a decade ago. Thursday, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m. Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. Also Friday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, and Sunday, Dec. 16, at 3 p.m. Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St., Baltimore. Tickets are $12.50 to $90. Call 410-783-8000 or visit bsomusic.org.
Featuring a cast of over 100, The Washington Revels performs their annual holiday tribute, this year a “Welcome Yule” journey to Renaissance England and the winter world of Queen Elizabeth I and Will Kemp, Shakespeare’s favorite Fool. A show blending music and dance and featuring children’s songs and games, seasonal sing-alongs, even a few lines from the Bard. Runs To Dec. 16. GW Lisner, The George Washington University, 730 21st St. NW. Tickets are $12 to $60. Call 301-587-3835 or visit revelsdc.org.
A gender-queer singer-songwriter whose fraught-folk style reflects slightly, subtly, on her background in science: Pureka was a research microbiologist at Smith College before she became a full time musician more than a decade ago. The Portland-based artist returns for a show at Virginia’s Jammin Java with an opening set by Crys Matthews, the impressive Herndon-based, lesbian soul/folk singer. Thursday, Dec. 20. Doors at 6 p.m. 227 Maple Ave. E. Vienna. Tickets are $18 to $25. Call 703-255-3747 or visit jamminjava.com.
FOLGER CONSORT: CHRISTMAS MESSE
The Folger Shakespeare Library’s 1619 manuscript A Christmas Messe, which recounts a tussle between King Beef and King Brawn, offers lively accompaniment to a main course of beloved Yuletide music. Billed as a banquet of seasonal English music, ranging from the earliest carols to later arrangements of favorites like Greensleeves by Vaughan Williams, the music will be brought to life by strings, harp, organist Webb Wiggins, and an ensemble of voices, including soprano Crossley Hawn, alto P. Lucy McVeigh, and tenor Oliver Mercer. Before the performance on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 8 p.m., there will be a behind-the-scenes talk and look at related items from the Folger vault led by the organization’s Amanda Herbert in the Paster Reading Room. Performances begin Friday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m. Weekends to Dec. 23. Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. Tickets are $52, plus $15 for the Saturday, Dec. 15, pre-show talk and exhibition. Call 202-544-7077 or visit folger.edu.
GOOD FOR THE JEWS
Rob Tannenbaum insists his musical comedy rock band is good for the Jews — and not just in name. “What we’re trying to present is an evolved ideal, or an evolved representation of what Jews are about,” says Tannenbaum. Out are ancient Hebrew melodies and songs about dreidels. Instead, there’s original songs evocative of many of the 20th Century’s best folk and pop songs, all written by Jewish Americans, from Bob Dylan to Paul Simon to Irving Berlin. After a decade of performing annually at Virginia’s Jammin’ Java, Tannenbaum and bandmate David Fagin bring their popular annual show into D.C. this year at the Brindley Brothers’ one-year-old venue on the Wharf, where they’ll be sure to sing their new single “If You’re a Jew Who Voted for Donald Trump.” Sunday, Dec. 23, at 7 p.m. Union Stage, 740 Water St. SW. Tickets are $20. Call 877-987-6487 or visit unionstage.com.
Two of the area’s great orchestras take on Handel’s monumental Messiah a few days before Christmas. Nicholas McGegan conducts the National Symphony Orchestra version featuring the University of Maryland Concert Choir and soloists Yulia van Doren, Meg Bragle, Miles Mykkanen, and William Berger. Thursday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 21, and Saturday, Dec. 22, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 23, at 1 p.m. Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $15 to $89. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org. Meanwhile, Stan Engebretson conducts the National Philharmonic and its Chorale plus soloists Suzanne Karpov, Magdalena Wór, Matthew Smith, and Trevor Scheunemann. Saturday, Dec. 22, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 23, at 3 p.m. Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. Tickets are $34 to $84. Call 301-581-5100 or visit strathmore.org.
Born to a French father and a Cameroonian mother, Paris-born sisters Hélène and Célia Faussart helped shake up hip-hop at the turn of the millennium with their debut album, Princesses Nubiennes. They’re now one of the most successful French-language musical groups in the states. Saturday, Dec. 15. Doors at 6 p.m. The Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. Tickets are $22.50 to $65, plus $10 minimum per person for all tables. Call 202-588-5595 or visit thehowardtheatre.com.
Nearly 20 years since “I Try,” Gray is still recording and performing her signature blend of R&B, pop, funk, and jazz. The Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club brings the chanteuse “back by popular demand” only six months after her last visit over Black Pride Weekend when she and a full band offered a sneak peek at Ruby, her 10th full-length album, released in September. Now comes a command performance before a crowd of fans who will be able to sing along. Friday, Dec. 21, at 8 p.m. 7719 Wisconsin Ave. Tickets are $67 to $87, plus $20 minimum purchase per person. Call 240-330-4500 or visit bethesdabluesjazz.com.
Meshell Ndegeocello — Photo: Charlie Gross
In 2016, the bisexual iconoclastic singer-songwriter Ndegeocello debuted Can I Get A Witness: The Gospel of James Baldwin, a Harlem Stage commission through the WaterWorks initiative supported by Time Warner and the National Endowment for the Arts. Now the D.C. native returns to her roots with a program at the Kennedy Center held up as the next evolution in a series about the great gay Harlem Renaissance writer, titled No More Water|The Fire Next Time: The Gospel According to James Baldwin. This music-only concert version includes Ndegeocello’s Baldwin-inspired compositions in addition to selections from her prodigious and far-flung discography. Sunday, Dec. 16, at 8 p.m. Eisenhower Theater. Tickets are $49 to $89. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
MOTOWN: HITSVILLE U.S.A. CABARET
Jade Jones, Marc G. Meadows, and Ines Nassara perform songs popularized by the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5 and many more in a cabaret show directed by Kelly Crandall d’Amboise. This “Motown: The Reprise” cabaret is a sequel to the original sold-out Signature Theatre production. Now to Dec. 23. The Ark, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. Tickets are $38. Call 703-820-9771 or visit sigtheatre.org.
Founded two decades ago in Rockville, Of A Revolution continues to stir up audiences both at home and around the country. Singer/guitarist Marc Roberge, drummer Chris Culos, guitarist Richard On, bassist Benj Gershman, and saxophonist/guitarist Jerry DePizzo will perform from its great alt-rock repertoire in its second annual show right off the District Pier. Saturday, Dec. 15. Doors at 6:30 p.m. The Anthem, 901 Wharf St. SW. Tickets are $45 to $75. Call 202-888-0020 or visit theanthemdc.com.
PUDDLES PITY PARTY
In Puddles the Clown, Big Mike Geier has created a unique arts legend out of the proverbial box. Dressed in clown whiteface, and never speaking, Puddles, who is perpetually depressed, sings with a baritone luster that is as astonishing as it is surprising. No wonder he’s almost sold out the Eisenhower Theater for his Friday night performance. (A few orchestra seats remained as of press time.) His current pop-heavy set list reportedly includes R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion,” Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself,” Sia’s “Chandelier,” and, if we’re lucky, Lorde’s “Royals.” Friday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m. Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Tickets are $29-$55. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
THE WASHINGTON CHORUS: A CANDLELIGHT CHRISTMAS
Artistic Director Christopher Bell directs the annual “A Candlelight Christmas,” featuring the 200-voice chorus singing familiar carols and holiday songs accompanied by brass ensemble plus organ, plus audience sing-alongs and a candlelight processional. Joining the chorus this year is Virginia Bronze, the Alexandria community-based, auditioned handbell ensemble. Sunday, Dec. 16, at 4 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 22, at 2 p.m. Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Also Thursday, Dec. 20, at 8 p.m., and Friday, Dec. 21, at 8 p.m. Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. Tickets are $18 to $75. Call 202-342-6221 or visit thewashingtonchorus.org.
TOO MANY ZOOZ
A busking sensation in the subways of New York, this instrumental “brass house” trio has gotten a significant upgrade in recent years. First, Beyonce tapped them to accompany her on Lemonade songs “Formation” and “Daddy Issues,” then she invited them to perform “Daddy Issues” with her at the 2016 CMA Awards. And in the past year, they’ve gotten significant airplay in the U.K. with their song “Warriors,” as well as the sequel “So Real (Warriors)” featuring Jess Glynne. A blend of jazz, Afro-Cuban rhythms, funk, and electronic/dance elements, the brassy, sassy, manic music of Too Many Zooz can be a little, well, too much to merely listen to. Fortunately, they provide plenty to look at, from a very physical style of dancing, to the shock of hair sported by the tall baritone saxophonist Leo P. Too Many Zooz tours in support of new EP A Very Too Many Zooz Xmas, Vol. 1 on a double-bill with the six-piece rock/jam band Big Something, supporting its “post-apocalyptic peyote trip”-themed album The Otherside. All that, plus an opening set from Baltimore’s “future wave/space disco” instrumental quartet Electric Love Machine. Talk about a far out kind of night. Saturday, Dec. 22. Doors at 7 p.m. 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. Tickets are $20. Call 202-265-0930 or visit 930.com.
A little over a decade ago, a group of 10 female singers formed this unaffiliated offshoot of the 100-voice auditioned community chorus the Capitol Hill Chorale. Vox Pulchra sings an eclectic mix of traditional music from around the world and from across centuries, and next performs a Holiday Concert with music from the U.S., England, France, Russia, the Republic of Georgia, and Norway, as well as Sephardic songs from Spain and the Balkans. Accompaniment will come from instrumentalists Howard Bass and Tina Chancey. Sunday, Dec. 16, at 6 p.m. Corner Store Arts, 900 South Carolina Ave. SE. Tickets are $20 in advance, or $25 at the door. Call 202-544-5807 or visit cornerstorearts.org.
WASHINGTON BACH CONSORT
This year’s “Christmas with the Consort” focuses on motets for the Advent and Christmas written by Baroque masters, including Hieronymous Praetorius, Heinrich Schütz, and naturally two composers from the musically rich German family that inspired the organization’s name. The consort’s actual namesake is Johann Sebastian Bach, whose masterful work for double choir Komm, Jesu, Komm! is the program’s centerpiece. Dana Marsh leads the concert. Sunday, Dec. 16, at 3 p.m., with a pre-concert lecture an hour earlier by noted Bach scholar Dr. Michael Marissen, plus a post-concert reception. National Presbyterian Church, 4101 Nebraska Ave. NW. Tickets are $10 to $69. Call 202-429-2121 or visit bachconsort.org.
The Nutcracker — Photo: xmb Photography
STEP AFRIKA!: MAGICAL MUSICAL HOLIDAY STEP SHOW
The local percussive dance company dedicated to the tradition of stepping presents its annual holiday step show intended for audiences aged four years and up. The focus is on getting North Pole animals — polar bears, penguins — to step. And all to music by “Frosty the Snowman,” putting the needle on the record as special guest DJ. In addition to the show featuring friendly, furry characters, this holiday tradition at the Atlas Performing Arts Center includes pre-show instrument-making workshops, photo ops, and a dance party. Opens Friday, Dec. 14. Runs to Dec. 30. The Sprenger Theatre, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets are $25 to $45. Call 202-399-7993 or visit atlasarts.org.
THE WASHINGTON BALLET: THE NUTCRACKER
The Washington Ballet’s former artistic director Septime Webre first staged his twist on the family favorite 13 years ago, setting it in D.C.’s historic Georgetown neighborhood with George Washington as the titular figure and King George III as the Rat King. As always, the production sets up shop for nearly all of December at downtown’s Warner Theatre. To Dec. 24. 513 13th St. NW. Call 202-889-5901 or visit washingtonballet.org.
She the People — Photo: Teresa Castracane
BROADWAY SHOW WITH FRANQI FRENCH
In its black box space, D.C.’s Drafthouse Comedy presents this variety show offering stand-up comedy, music, and sketches by a diverse group of local female, minority, and LGBTQ performers — all hosted by a comedian who has shared the stage with DL Hughley, Todd Glass, Fortune Feimster, and Judy Gold, among others. Thursday, Dec. 20, at 8:45 p.m. 1100 13th St. NW. Tickets are $5 online, or $10 at the door. Call 202-750-6411 or visit drafthousecomedy.com.
THE SECOND CITY: LOVE, FACTUALLY
The latest seasonal satire from the cleverly twisted minds of the legendary improv/comedy company gets to the truth of life, love, and romance during the holidays — all through a parody, as you might surmise from the production’s title, of a certain nauseating yet popular movie that is low-hanging-parody fruit. Expect original comedy, music, improv, and audience participation. To Dec. 31. Kennedy Center Theater Lab. Tickets are $59 to $85. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
THE SECOND CITY: SHE THE PEOPLE
An all-female team roasts the patriarchy, modern politics and pop culture in the latest revue from Chicago’s sketch comedy troupe. Carly Heffernan directs a Second City ensemble featuring Atra Asdou, Carisa Barreca, Alex Bellisle, Katie Caussin, Kazi Jones, and Maggie Wilder. To Jan. 6. Woolly Mammoth, 641 D St. NW. Tickets range from $20 to $85. Call 202-393-3939 or visit woollymammoth.net.
Photo: Hasse Persson / Courtesy Embassy of Sweden
ART & EXHIBITS
The U.K.’s legendary 20th-century prime minister was a lifelong admirer of the 16th-Century Brit regarded as the greatest writer in the English language, and the Bard’s influence can be found in Churchill’s speeches and ideas. The Folger Shakespeare Library presents materials from its collection as well as those from Cambridge’s Churchill Archives Centre and Churchill’s home Chartwell, both of which collaborated on this special exhibition. To Jan. 6. 201 East Capitol St. SE. Call 202-544-4600 or visit folger.edu.
The late heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post has a renowned collection of pieces from the firm of Carl Fabergé, the legendary jeweler to the last court of Russia. A special exhibition at Post’s Hillwood Estate, nestled in a leafy section of Upper Northwest a few blocks from Van Ness, unveils new discoveries relating to the collection of about 90 Fabergé works, including two imperial Easter eggs. To Jan. 13. 4155 Linnean Ave. NW. Suggested donation is $18. Call 202-686-5807 or visit HillwoodMuseum.org.
The Phillips Collection offers a major survey spanning nearly 200 years and featuring works by 53 artists from Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, as well as the self-governing islands of Åland, Faroe, and Greenland. Without specifying what exactly constitutes a distinctively Nordic artistic approach aside from place of origin/geography, the art in the exhibition retains a certain mystique and focus on themes that hold a special place in Nordic culture: light and darkness, inner life and exterior space, the ties between nature and folklore, and women’s rights and social liberalism. Artists represented range from Golden Age/Romantic era painters Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Helene Schjerfbeck to today’s Eija-Liisa Ahtila and Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir. Now to Jan. 13. 1600 21st St. NW. Tickets are $10 to $12. Call 202-387-2151 x247 or visit phillipscollection.org.
ROOPKOTHA PHOTO EXHIBIT
Vibrant images captured by various photographers, along with historical artifacts and personal memorabilia, tell the story of Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, two Bangladeshi LGBTQ activists and artists who were savagely murdered in their home two years ago. The Center Arts Gallery in the DC Center for the LGBT Community has set up this powerful installation as part of an ongoing campaign to protest the inaction of the Bangladeshi government to investigate the murders. 2000 14th St. NW. Call 202-682-2245 or visit thedccenter.org.
SEASON’S GREETINGS: ALL ABOARD
This year’s annual holiday show at the U.S. Botanic Garden spotlights the country’s historic railroad stations, more than 30 of which are recreated in miniature versions made from plants and natural materials and spread out along the tracks of an elaborate model train show. A botanical replica of Washington’s Union Station, meanwhile, has been added to the garden court’s collection of plant-based D.C. landmarks. Also on view throughout the conservatory are thousands of blooms, including a showcase of heirloom and newly developed poinsettia varieties. All that, plus live holiday music on Tuesdays and Thursdays in December, when the conservatory, which normally closes at 5 p.m., will stay open until 8 p.m. Next up in the live music series, which kicks off each night at 6 p.m., is smooth jazz ensemble Tony Craddock Jr. & Cold Front, on Tuesday, Dec. 18, and versatile a cappella troupe the Capital Hearings, on Thursday, Dec. 20. Note: The website advises patrons that wait times, especially on weekends, may be longer than usual “due to the ongoing roof and facade project.” To Jan. 1. 100 Maryland Ave. SW. Call 202-225-8333 or visit usbg.gov.
STUDIO 54 FOREVER: PHOTOGRAPHY BY HASSE PERSSON
Right now, you can get a glimpse into the world’s most iconic disco by taking a stroll down to the Swedish Embassy on the Georgetown Waterfront. Inside the House of Sweden lies an exhibit featuring photos from inside Studio 54 captured by Swedish photographer Hasse Persson, who snapped images in the U.S. from 1967 to 1990, covering race relations, American presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and iconic figures such as Andy Warhol. Persson was one of a handful of photographers granted permission to photograph inside the world’s most celebrated nightclub. To Dec. 16. 2900 K St. NW. Free. Call 202-467-2600 or visit swedenabroad.com/washington.
TORPEDO: 100 YEARS
Construction on the original U.S. Naval Torpedo Station in Old Town Alexandria began the day after Armistice Day marked the end of World War I — Nov. 12, 1918 — and it remained a munitions plant through the end of World War II. In 1972, the building was converted into the Torpedo Factory Art Center, which houses what is reportedly the nation’s largest number of publicly accessible working artist studios under one roof — a whopping 82, plus seven galleries. Currently in Gallery 311, the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association presents art in a range of media related to torpedos, the Navy, the city of Alexandria, the factory itself. Lesley Clarke, Min Enghauser, Mary Beth Gaiarin, John Gosling, Hyun Jung Kim, Greg Knott, Mary Lynch, and Meg Talley are among the 18 participating artists. On display to Dec. 16. 105 North Union St. Alexandria. Call 703-838-4565 or visit torpedofactory.org.
Gallery Underground, the visual arts space for the Arlington Artists Alliance and part of Crystal City’s Art Underground, features new seasonally themed works in multi-genres by Gallery members, plus refined traditional still life paintings by George Bowels. On display through Dec. 28. Crystal City Shops, 2100 Crystal Drive, Arlington. Call 571-483-0652 or visit galleryunderground.org.
Downtown Holiday Market — Photo: Rob Ives
ABOVE & BEYOND
DOWNTOWN HOLIDAY MARKET
Over 150 artisans rotate among sixty tents set up on two blocks in the heart of downtown. Now in its 14th year, the holiday market offers a vast, eclectic, and international assortment of gifts and souvenirs, collectibles and wearables — from prints and photographs, to pottery and glassware, to custom jewelry and accessories. Each day also brings free staged concerts by local musicians, and options for food and (non-alcoholic) drink. Open noon to 8 p.m. daily. To Dec. 23. F Street between 7th and 9th Streets NW. It’s open from noon to 8 p.m. Visit downtownholidaymarket.com.
GEORGETOWN GLOW 2018
Now in its fifth year, this light art exhibition presented by the Georgetown Business Improvement District features 10 displays by multidisciplinary artists. Billed as a way to “reimagine the season of light,” the commissioned works, curated by Deirdre Ehlen MacWilliams, offer a high-tech modern contrast with the surroundings of D.C.’s oldest neighborhood — which has been further illuminated by the stringing of white lights on street-facing buildings. The five-week event includes a Christmas Tree Farm every weekend at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown’s Yard and regular GLOW-inspired walking and food tours led by several local tour companies. GLOW runs every night from 5 to 10 p.m. through Jan. 6. Visit GeorgetownGlowDC.com for more information.
ICE! A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
Snoopy, Lucy, and other classic cartoon characters created by Charles M. Schulz will be holding court at National Harbor in colorful, larger-than-life sculptures carved from two million pounds of ice. The Peanuts gang’s storied holiday antics are the focus of this year’s Ice! Display, accented by four, two-story tall ice slides and a Nativity scene. And that’s just the main draw at the annual series organized by the Gaylord National Resort. A Christmas Carousel, an ice skating rink, a short Potomac Express holiday train ride, a Build-A-Bear Workshop, 30-minute Christmas storytelling events led by Mrs. Claus, and a Gingerbread Decorating Center are among more than a dozen other kid-friendly activities on tap. There’s also Seasons Dreamings, a free, 25-minute aerial Cirque Dreams Unwrapped show that takes place daily in the Gaylord’s Garden Atrium. Through Jan. 1. 201 Waterfront St. Oxon Hill, Md. Tickets to Ice! are $27 to $38. Call 301-965-4000 or visit christmasonthepotomac.com.
Two traveling light installations add a little seasonal, illuminating whimsy as part of this year’s fourth annual holiday celebration in the Navy Yard area of Southeast D.C. — also increasingly known as the Capitol Riverfront. The Pool by New York’s Jen Lewin Studio, developed six years ago but making its D.C. debut here, features 106 interactive circular pads of light that react as visitors move on and around them, creating a giant canvas of shifting and fading colors. Meanwhile, Angels of Freedom by Israel’s OGE Group is a social sculptural installation where visitors pose with five giant, neon-colored wings and white halos, intended as a way to signify that we’re all angels and that “everybody counts and deserves love.” On display from 6 to 10 p.m. every night until Jan. 4. The Yards Park Boardwalk, 355 Water St. SE. Call 202-465-7093 or visit theyardsdc.com.
OLD STONE HOUSE’S HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE
Closed for a year for fire suppression installation and structural rehabilitation, the Old Stone House and garden in Georgetown is slated to reopen with an all-ages afternoon event showcasing new exhibits, a new store, and featuring games, crafts, and more. Built in 1765 in the British colony of Maryland and a rare example of pre-Revolutionary architecture, the house was the site of a car dealership when the federal government purchased the property in 1953. It opened as a National Park Service facility in 1960. Saturday, Dec. 15, from 1 to 6 p.m. 3051 M St. NW. Call 202-895-6000 or visit nps.gov/rocr/index.htm.
THE MAGIC OF DC: CHRIS MICHAEL, TOMMY HALLADAY, BRADEN CARLISLE
Drafthouse Comedy club offers a late-afternoon show this weekend featuring three area performers: Chris Michael, a comedy magician who does everything from funny beat-boxing to death-defying stunts; Tommy Halladay, an Instagram-born talent who mixes magic with stunts and sideshow acts; and Braden Carlisle, a comedy magician known for his magic theory book Agree to Disagree and who serves as host of the weekly magic podcast Awesome People Talking. Saturday, Dec. 15, and Sunday, Dec. 16, at 4 p.m. 1100 13th St. NW. Tickets are $10. Call 202-750-6411 or visit drafthousecomedy.com.
More than 500,000 colorful Christmas lights illuminate life-sized animal silhouettes, dancing trees, buildings, and walkways, plus a light show set to music, during this annual holiday event at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. New at ZooLights this year is a Gingerbread Village, a magical land of frosted cookies and lollipops, giant gingerbread-people cutouts, and an Instagram-ready gingerbread throne, set in the Elephant Outpost among food and holiday vendors, plus a performance stage for local school groups. The second weekend in December ushers in the second annual Grump holiday market, a European-style outdoor fair featuring local artisans set up at the Zoo’s entrance. ZooLights runs nightly, except Dec. 24, 25, and 31, until Jan. 1. National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. Call 202-633-4800 or visit nationalzoo.si.edu.