Sam Mendes (Skyfall, American Beauty) wrote and directed this film, set during the Great War and based on a story told by his grandfather. Two young soldiers, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), are given a near-impossible task: save a battalion of 1,600 men from marching into a trap by delivering a message through the battlefields of the war. And the cruel twist? One of those 1,600 men is Blake’s brother. Mendes’ film, which is shot as though one single, long continuous take, doesn’t shy from showing the horror and brutality of trench warfare — and the toll it took on the men who bravely fought, and died, for their countries. Opens Wednesday, Dec. 25. Area theaters. Visit www.fandango.com. (Rhuaridh Marr)
A HIDDEN LIFE
Franz Jägerstätter was a farmer and devout Catholic who refused to take the Hitler oath to fight for the Nazis during World War II — an act of rebellion in a regime that brutally punished any form of dissent. Terrence Malick brings Jägerstätter’s story to the screen, and in its review Variety noted that his tale of “demagogues, and the way certain evangelicals have once again sold out their core values for political advantage, feels stunningly relevant.” Opens Friday, Dec. 20. Area theaters. Visit www.fandango.com. (RM)
AFI HOLIDAY CLASSICS
Between now and Christmas Eve, the American Film Institute screens 14 seasonal films, ranging from classics to curiosities. The remaining films in the series are: It’s A Wonderful Life, screening on Friday, Dec. 20, at 10:45 a.m. and 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21, at 1:15 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 22, at 1:45 p.m., and Monday, Dec. 23, and Tuesday, Dec. 24, at 10:45 a.m., 1:50, and 6:45 p.m.; The Muppet Christmas Carol on Friday, Dec. 20, and Saturday, Dec. 21, at 11 a.m., Sunday, Dec. 22, at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and Monday, Dec. 23, and Tuesday, Dec. 24, at noon; A Christmas Story, Friday, Dec. 20, at 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21, at 11:15 a.m.; Die Hard on Friday, Dec. 20, at 9:45 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21, at 9:15 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 22, at 9:30 p.m., and Monday, Dec. 23, and Tuesday, Dec. 24, at 9:20 p.m.; National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, on Sunday, Dec. 22, at 4:30 p.m.; and The Holly and the Ivy on Sunday, Dec. 22, at 7 p.m., and Monday, Dec. 23, and Tuesday, Dec. 24, at 4:30 p.m. AFI Silver Theatre, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. Ticket prices vary. Call 301-495-6720 or visit www.afi.com/Silver.
MIRACLE ON 8TH STREET: CHRISTMAS CLASSICS
From now until the last Sunday before Christmas, the Miracle Theatre in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill concludes its run of holiday-themed movies this weekend with screenings on Friday, Dec. 20, including: The Polar Express at 4 p.m., It’s a Wonderful Life at 6:30 p.m., and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at 9:20 p.m. On Saturday, Dec. 21, at 8 p.m., comes the early classic White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney. And the series wraps up Sunday, Dec. 22, with Elf at 2 p.m., A Christmas Story at 4:15 p.m., and It’s a Wonderful Life at 6:35 p.m. Tickets are $6 to $8. 535 8th St. SE. Call 202-400-3210 or visit www.themiracletheatre.com.
The Warner Bros. Theater in the National Museum of American History screens holiday-themed films, mostly classics but a few oddities, such as the two comedies that close out the series: 2013’s The Best Man Holiday starring Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, and Terrence Howard, which screens Saturday, Dec. 28, at 3:20 p.m.; and 1983’s Trading Places featuring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy, screening Sunday, Dec. 29, at 3:30 p.m. Before those, however, come several omnipresent seasonal titles, from Elf on Saturday, Dec. 21, at 3:50 p.m., to A Christmas Story on Sunday, Dec. 22, at 3:50 p.m., to White Christmas on Monday, Dec. 23, at 3:30 p.m., to It’s a Wonderful Life on Tuesday, Dec. 24, at 3:15 p.m. 1300 Constitution Ave. NW. Tickets are $10 plus $3.50 in fees. Call 202-633-1000 or visit www.si.edu/theaters.
Filmmaking brothers Josh and Benny Safdie have managed something so incredible, so unbelievable, that it may tear apart the very fabric of our reality: they have crafted a film that could put Adam Sandler in the running for an Oscar. Sandler stars as a charismatic New York City jeweler who makes a series of high-stakes bets in pursuit of the windfall of a lifetime, all while balancing his business, family, and encroaching adversaries. Critics are raving about Sandler, with the Guardian calling it a “towering performance from the often tiresome actor.” If that’s not a backhanded compliment, we don’t know what is. Opens Wednesday, Dec. 25. Area theaters. Visit www.fandango.com. (RM)
Eureka Day — Photo: Christopher Banks
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Craig Wallace returns for his fourth year as the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge in Ford’s Theatre’s cherished annual production of the 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. Also featured in the production are Stephen F. Schmidt as Jacob Marley, Rayanne Gonzales as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Justine “Icy” Moral as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Gregory Maheu as Bob Cratchit, and Yesenia Iglesias as Mrs. Cratchit. To Jan. 1. 511 10th St. NW. Call 800-982-2787 or visit www.fordstheatre.org.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL: A GHOST STORY OF CHRISTMAS
Olney presents the 10th anniversary run of the one-man portrayal of the Dickens classic by Paul Morella, who bases his adaptation on Dickens’ original novella and reading tour. To Dec. 29. The Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, Md. Call 301-924-3400 or visit www.olneytheatre.org.
Billie Krishawn stars as Nina, who discovers there’s more to air guitar than playing pretend when she enters an air guitar competition. Christina A. Coakley directs the D.C. premiere of Chelsea Marcantel’s comedy also featuring Dani Stoller, Drew Kopas, Harrison Smith, Chris Stezin, Gary L. Perkins III, and Forrest A. Hainline IV. The show is a co-production between Keegan Theatre and Virginia’s 1st Stage, where it runs through Dec. 29. 1524 Spring Hill Rd., Tysons. Tickets are $42. Call 703-854-1856 or visit www.1ststagetysons.org.
Genius and jealousy collide in 18th-century Vienna as the mediocre Antonio Salieri does everything in his power to destroy his musical rival, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Folger Theatre offers a production of Peter Shaffer’s Tony Award-winning play directed by Richard Clifford and featuring a 13-person cast led by Ian Merrill Peakes as Salieri and Samuel Adams as Mozart. To Dec. 22. 201 East Capitol St. SE. Tickets are $27 to $85. Call 202-544-7077 or visit www.folger.edu.
AN IRISH CAROL
For the ninth year in a row, Keegan Theatre offers company member Matthew Keenan’s homage to Dickens, albeit with biting Irish humor and incisive candor. Mark A. Rhea directs a cast featuring Kevin Adams, Josh Adams, Dave Jourdan, Timothy Hayes Lynch, Mike Kozemchak, Jon Townson, Josh Sticklin, Jessie Power, and Mick Tinder. To Dec. 31. 1742 Church St. NW. Tickets are $41 to $65. Call 202-265-3767 or visit www.keegantheatre.com.
A band of underdogs become unlikely heroes when they stand up to the most powerful men in New York in this musical featuring a score by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, and based on a 1992 film that initially bombed at the box office. Molly Smith puts her stamp on the show in a production at Arena Stage. To Jan. 12. Fichandler Stage in the Mead Center for American Theater, 1101 6th St. SW. Call 202-488-3300 or visit www.arenastage.org.
“How do you find consensus when you can’t agree on the facts? A comedy for our moment,” is how Mosaic Theater Company bills Jonathan Spector’s new play, set in a California private school whose progressive-minded, vaccine-flexible values are put to the test by a mumps outbreak. Serge Seiden directs Regina Aquino, Lise Bruneau, Erica Chamblee, Sam Lunay, and Elan Zafir. To Jan. 5. Lang Theatre in the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets are $20 to $65. Call 202-399-7993 or visit www.atlasarts.org.
JAMES JOYCE’S THE DEAD
SCENA Theatre presents Richard Nelson and Shaun Davey’s Tony-winning musical adaptation of the classic short story by James Joyce that wrestles with themes of lost love and the search for meaning in life. Robert McNamara directs a production full of “drama, dance, and song,” and featuring a 13-member cast including Danielle Davy, Andrea Hatfield, Buck O’Leary, and Rosemary Reagan. To Jan. 12. Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets are $15 to $50. Call 202-399-7993 or visit www.atlasarts.org.
One of the most successful jukebox musicals in history won four Tonys in 2006, including Best Musical, and is a perennial favorite on tour, particularly over the holidays. And D.C.’s National Theatre once again overs a holiday run of a show that is as crowd-pleasing as they come. Although far more style than substance, and stronger in song than in story, Jersey Boys offers a parade of ’60s-era hits popularized by Franki Valli and the Four Seasons — including “Sherry,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” and “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night).” To Jan. 5. 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Tickets are $54 to $114, plus fees. Call 202-628-6161 or visit www.thenationaldc.org.
Lerner & Lowe’s
My Fair Lady:
— Photo: Joan Marcus
MY FAIR LADY
The classic musical about a young Cockney lass who becomes a “proper lady” for an older, well-to-do man comes to new life in a Lincoln Center Theater production helmed by Bartlett Sher. Lerner & Loewe’s My Fair Lady features several gems that have become American Songbook standards, including “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “The Rain in Spain,” and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly.” Now to Jan. 19. Kennedy Center Opera House. Tickets are $39 to $159. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
SINGING IN THE RAIN
The greatest movie musical of all time comes to life on stage, rain and all, in an Olney Theatre production directed by Marcos Santana and choreographed by Grady McLeod Bowman. To Jan. 5. Mainstage at 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, Md. Call 301-924-3400 or visit www.olneytheatre.org.
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME
What begins as an investigation into the grisly death of a neighbor’s dog results in a remarkable coming-of-age journey for a 15-year-old. Ryan Rilette and Jared Mezzochi direct a Round House Theatre production of this recent Broadway hit. Closes Sunday, Dec. 22. 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda. Tickets are $50 to $60. Call 240-644-1100 or visit www.roundhousetheatre.org.
THE INFINITE TALES
The ambitious, adventurous Maryland-based 4615 Theatre Company continues its third season with a world-premiere production weaving together tales of Irish mythology as adapted by Gregory Keng Strasser, a local gay theater artist as well as the company’s new producing director. The Infinite Tales is a thrilling fantasy about four children struggling through a curse that has removed them from their homeland and transformed them into swans. Also an exploration of national identity, this adaptation, which features live music, shadow puppetry, and ensemble movement work, was inspired by Strasser’s upbringing as a Chinese/Irish-American who has lived on both sides of the world. Company members Melissa Carter and Seth Rosenke are featured in a nine-person cast, while the company’s founding artistic director Jordan Friend serves as sound designer and composer. Closes Sunday, Dec. 29. The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh St. in Bethesda. Tickets are $16.50 to $20. Call 301-928-2738 or visit www.4615theatre.com.
THE SNOW QUEEN
Virginia’s Synetic Theater offers a whimsical, movement-driven adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s beloved fairy tale, directed by Ryan Sellers and adapted by Emily Whitworth. Extended to Jan. 5. 1800 South Bell St., Arlington. Call 800-494-8497 or visit www.synetictheater.org.
TIMES SQUARE ANGEL
Billed as a “hard-boiled Christmas fantasy,” the LGBTQ-focused Richmond Triangle Players offers a parody of Frank Capra Christmas classics — everything from A Christmas Carol to It’s A Wonderful Life — by the drag parodist playwright extraordinaire, Charles Busch (Die Mommie Die, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife). Closes Saturday, Dec. 21. The Robert B. Moss Theatre, 1300 Altamont Ave. Richmond. Call 804-346-8113 or visit www.rtriangle.org.
ALL-STAR CHRISTMAS DAY JAZZ JAM
Among the many jazzy jingle balls on offer this season, it’d be hard to beat this free Christmas Day treat at the Kennedy Center. The 21st annual event features host/vibraphonist Chuck Redd, drummer Lenny Robinson, trumpeters Robert Redd and Tom Williams, bassist James King, and vocalist Delores King Williams. Wednesday, Dec. 25, at 6 p.m. Millennium Stage. Free tickets, two per person, distributed in the Hall of Nations starting at 4:30 p.m. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
AMERICAN POPS ORCHESTRA: A TRIBUTE TO ARETHA FRANKLIN
Luke Frazier will lead the APO in another tribute show full of star singers, this time in honor of the late Queen of Soul and as a signature New Year’s Eve event at the Kennedy Center. The illustrious lineup of artists includes everyone from Dionne Warwick to Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, Broadway’s Morgan James to D.C.’s Nova Payton, and D.C.-based Rayshun LaMarr, a recent semi-finalist on The Voice, to jazz trumpeter and singer Bria Skonberg. Tuesday Dec. 31, at 8:30 p.m. Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $59 to $139, which includes entrance to the Grand Foyer Party after the concert. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
CHORAL ARTS SOCIETY OF WASHINGTON: A FAMILY CHRISTMAS, SONGS OF THE SEASON
Scott Tucker leads the local vocal ensemble in two Kennedy Center shows taking place on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, Dec. 24. First up, at 11 a.m., comes A Family Christmas, a one-hour concert intended for youth and featuring songs of classic Christmas characters, from Santa to Frosty to Rudolph. That’s followed at 2 p.m. with the 90-minute program Songs of the Season: Christmas with Choral Arts, featuring the Choral Arts Chorus and Youth Choir, conducted by Tucker and Brandon Straub, with soloist Kristina Lewis, mezzo-soprano, joining to perform holiday carols and seasonal classics. Concert Hall. Tickets are $20 to $72. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
CYRUS CHESTNUT TRIO
“The best jazz pianist of his generation,” Time music critic Josh Tyrangiel proclaimed in 2017 about Baltimore’s versatile virtuoso Cyrus Chestnut, who two decades ago portrayed a Count Basie-inspired pianist in Robert Altman’s film Kansas City. He returns to D.C.’s leading jazz venue for another week-long run of shows, culminating in New Year’s Eve performances, both offering a three-course meal — with a midnight glass of champagne at second seating — and featuring the Cyrus Chestnut Trio along with the vocalist-led Integriti Reeves Band. Performances are Thursday, Dec. 26, through Monday, Dec. 30, at 8 and 10 p.m., and Tuesday, Dec. 31, at 6:30 and 10 p.m. Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Tickets are $36 to $41 with fee, or $116 to $166 for NYE dinner/show packages, plus $12 minimum purchase per person. Call 202-337-4141 or visit www.bluesalley.com.
Two years ago, this New York-based international gypsy/punk group helped ring in the new year at the just-opened Anthem along with local stars Thievery Corporation and Trouble Funk. Now, the boisterous and large live act, led by flamboyant singer Eugene Hütz and featuring members from at least six different countries, from the Ukraine to Ethiopia to Ecuador, headlines the 9:30 Club for a two-night run to ring in 2020. Dub Trio opens. Monday, Dec. 30, and Tuesday, Dec. 31. Doors at 7 p.m. 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. Tickets are $35 and including a complementary midnight champagne toast on New Year’s Eve. Call 202-265-0930 or visit www.930.com.
Two of the area’s great orchestras take on George Frideric Handel’s monumental Messiah a few days before Christmas. Sir Andre Davis leads the National Symphony Orchestra in his arrangement of the masterpiece along with the Washington Chorus and soloists Andriana Chuchman, soprano, Daniela Mack, mezzo-soprano, Alek Shrader, tenor, and Sidney Outlaw, bass. Thursday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20, and Saturday, Dec. 21, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 22, at 1 p.m. Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $15 to $119. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org. Meanwhile, Stan Engebretson conducts the National Philharmonic and its Chorale in what is being billed as the area’s “largest presentation” of the work. Soloists Esther Heideman, soprano, Magdalena Wór, mezzo-soprano, Matthew Smith, tenor, and Hunter Enoch, baritone, will join the orchestra’s principal trumpeter Chris Gekker, plus several high school choral scholars from across Montgomery County. Saturday, Dec. 21, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 22, at 3 p.m. Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. Tickets are $29 to $69. Call 301-581-5100 or visit www.strathmore.org.
HANK WILLIAMS ANNUAL TRIBUTE
The Birchmere offers a tribute to one of the most heralded and influential country singers of all time. This year’s 23rd annual show includes performances by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, Pete and Maura Kennedy, the Bumper Jacksons Duo, Patrick McAvinue, and Mark Schatz. Sunday, Dec. 29, at 7:30 p.m. 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. Tickets are $29.50. Call 703-549-7500 or visit www.birchmere.com.
It takes some smooth crooning to come close to the vocal greatness that was Grammy-winning R&B legend Luther Vandross. But William “Smooth” Wardlaw comes close enough to live up to his billing as the featured voice of the concert experience he’s fronted for nearly a decade. “We try not to say tribute or impersonation,” Wardlaw told Metro Weekly. “That’s why we’re called ‘Luther Re-Lives,’ because we want people to relive those moments when Luther was onstage.” The Alexandria native relives his own love for Luther’s music and vocal prowess by performing the artist’s songs, accompanied by two backup singers and a five-piece band. He returns to his hometown for an annual holiday show that, as is true any time of year, is a full, Vegas-style performance that Wardlaw says aims to recapture not just the sublime musical effect of Luther live, but also “the flamboyance, the lighting, the wardrobe.” Sunday, Dec. 22, at 7:30 p.m. The Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Tickets are $45. Call 703-549-7500 or visit www.birchmere.com. (André Hereford)
Flutist Saïs Kamalidiin and guitarist Rick Peralta comprise one of the few regularly performing flute-and-guitar chamber duos around. MIN~ returns to Alexandria’s historic Greek Revival temple, the Athenaeum, for a varied program of music, from the Baroque era to modern-day Broadway, the blues to bossa nova. In addition, this special holiday performance will also feature mezzo-soprano Ekep Nkwelle joining to perform several holiday classics. Sunday, Dec. 22, at 2 p.m. The Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria. Free. Call 703-548-0035 or visit www.nvfaa.org.
OH HE DEAD
The amusing name — which also has a cool origin story — captures the playfully wry and passionate sensibility of this band on the rise, self-billed as a “D.C.-based indie soul band with haunting harmonies and a penchant for MURDER.” Distinguished by the vocal harmonies of founding members Cynthia “C.J.” Johnson and guitarist Andrew Valenti, Oh He Dead started out a few years ago as a country/folk act on the bluegrass and folk festival circuit, but their sound has expanded as they became a five-piece “rock ‘n’ soul band.” Also featuring lead guitarist Alex Salser, bassist John Daise, and drummer Adam Ashforth, Oh He Dead will help ring in 2020 at Pearl Street Warehouse with a show also featuring the D.C. synth-rock band Color Palette. Tuesday, Dec. 31. Doors at 8 p.m. 33 Pearl St. SW. Tickets are $30 to $35 Call 202-380-9620 or visit www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com.
START MAKING SENSE
Jon Braun leads this New York-based seven-piece band that pays tribute to David Byrne by faithfully recreating the music of Talking Heads including the hits “Once In A Lifetime,” “Burning Down the House,” and “Psycho Killer,” as well as other songs the band never performed live — and of course never will, given the “bad blood” between Byrne and the others. Opening the show will be singer/multi-instrumentalist Ruby Dear, who is also a member of Start Making Sense. Sunday, Dec. 29, at 7:30 p.m. The Hamilton, 600 14th St. NW. Tickets are $18 to $25. Call 202-787-1000 or visit www.thehamiltondc.com.
What the Philadelphia hip-hop ensemble The Roots lacks in mainstream popular recognition they more than make up for in influence. Combining jazz and soul elements, their live shows are frequently touted as among the best in the business — and they’re also the house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. They return to D.C. the week after Christmas, this year with a concert at the most august venue in town. Sunday, Dec. 29, at 8 p.m. Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $49 to $149. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
THE SELDOM SCENE
Formed 50 years ago in Bethesda, the progressive bluegrass band remains especially popular in its hometown region. The group returns to Alexandria’s seated show palace for the last in a string of shows this year and to ring in 2020 with a bang. For this New Year’s Eve show, the Seldom Scene will be joined by Old Town Flood and Circa Blue. Tuesday, Dec. 31, at 8 p.m. The Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Tickets are $45. Call 703-549-7500 or visit www.birchmere.com.
THE STRAUSS SYMPHONY OF AMERICA’S NEW YEAR’S CONCERT
Alastair Willis conducts the Strauss orchestra with soloists soprano Peggy Steiner and tenor Michael Heim, plus dancers from Kiev Aniko Ballet of Ukraine and the International Champion Ballroom Dancers in the annual “Salute to Vienna,” inspired by the Austrian capital’s famed Neujahrskonzert and offering Strauss waltzes, polkas, and operetta excerpts. Attila Glatz Concerts presents the 19th annual concert. Sunday, Dec. 29, at 3 p.m. Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. Tickets are $49 to $130. Call 301-581-5100 or visit www.strathmore.org.
THE WASHINGTON CHORUS: A CANDLELIGHT CHRISTMAS
Artistic Director Christopher Bell directs the annual “A Candlelight Christmas,” featuring the 130-voice chorus singing familiar carols and holiday songs accompanied by the National Capital Brass ensemble plus organ, plus audience sing-alongs, and a candlelight processional. Sunday, Dec. 22, at 8 p.m. Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $19 to $82. Call 202-342-6221 or visit www.thewashingtonchorus.org.
Step Afrika! — Photo: Edward C. Jones
FAIRFAX BALLET WITH THE FAIRFAX SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic is performed by the Fairfax Symphony under Christopher Zimmerman and the Fairfax Ballet, led by Andrea Cook, and featuring Elina Miettinen and Sean Stewart, alumni of New York’s prestigious American Ballet Theatre. Saturday, Dec. 21, and Sunday, Dec. 22, at 4 p.m. GMU Center for the Arts, 4373 Mason Pond Drive, Fairfax. Tickets are $54 to $94. Call 888-945-2468 or visit www.cfa.gmu.edu.
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. Closes Sunday, Dec. 22. The Sprenger Theatre, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets are $25 to $45. Call 202-399-7993 or visit www.atlasarts.org.
THE WASHINGTON BALLET: THE NUTCRACKER
The Washington Ballet’s former artistic director Septime Webre first staged his twist on the family favorite 14 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. To Dec. 29. Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW. Call 202-889-5901 or visit www.thewashingtonballet.org.
One Man Stranger things — Photo: Diane Smithers
CHARLES ROSS: ONE-MAN STRANGER THINGS: A PARODY
Over the years this nerdy comedian has patented a brand of irreverent, succinct parodies of popular science fiction/fantasy franchises, everything from One-Man Star Wars Trilogy to One-Man Lord of the Rings to One-Man Dark Knight. These CliffsNotes-esque theatrical shows include plenty of pop culture references and side-jokes to broaden the appeal beyond their core fan bases. Ross returns to the Birchmere with his newest enterprise, a parody of the hit Netflix series Stranger Things. Sunday, Jan. 5, at 7:30 p.m. 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Tickets are $35. Call 703-549-7500 or visit www.birchmere.com.
A Comic to Watch according to Comedy Central in 2016, the lanky, gay white comedian has more recently been featured on HBO’s hilarious and queer-friendly 2 Dope Queens as well as one of two gay “Citizen Journalists” from Comedy Central’s The Opposition with Jordan Klepper. Also a long-standing featured member of New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade, Sharp comes down to D.C. for a weekend run of stand-up in the run-up to Christmas. Friday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 21, 7 and 9 p.m. Drafthouse Comedy, 1100 13th St. NW. Tickets are $20. Call 202-750-6411 or visit www.drafthousecomedy.com.
THE SECOND CITY: LOVE, FACTUALLY
The seasonal satire from the cleverly twisted minds of the legendary improv/comedy company returns to the Kennedy Center for another holiday run. The show, as you might surmise from the production’s title, is a parody of a certain nauseating yet popular movie. Expect original comedy, music, improv, and audience participation. To Dec. 29. Kennedy Center Theater Lab. Tickets are $49 to $79. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.
WASHINGTON IMPROV THEATER: SEASONAL DISORDER
Washington Improv Theater’s annual holiday extravaganza features shows based on audience suggestions, showing you the good, the bad and the ugly of the season — all laughs to get you through. Each show is different, but all offer a grab bag of spontaneous comedy and long-form improv, including The Heist, “an improvised bank robbery gone wrong” ensemble, the all-womxn Hellcat, the improvising playwrights of iMusical, and holiday horrorists from Die! Die! Die! This year’s run also features a special The Interview session with Gina Schaefer, co-founder and CEO of 11 area Ace Hardware stores, on Saturday, Dec. 21, followed the next day by a grouping of “Hanukkah Shows” with “acts to be announced.” To Dec. 29. Source Theater, 1835 14th St. NW. Tickets are $15 to $18. Call 202-204-7770 or visit www.witdc.org.
Rise Up exhibit at the Newseum
ART & EXHIBITS
6 @ 35: CELEBRATING WASHINGTON SCULPTORS GROUP’S 35TH ANNIVERSARY
The Zenith Gallery toasts the 35th anniversary of an organization that supports area sculptors by collaborating with other arts organizations, helping develop careers and exhibiting artwork. The latest exhibition in Zenith’s downtown Sculpture Space highlights six member artists of the Washington Sculptors Group, selected by a jury comprised of Sandy Bellamy, the official art curator for D.C.’s public buildings, art critic and curator Nancy Nesvet, and Zenith’s Margery Goldberg. The six artists with works on display are Luc Fiedler, Allen Linder, Mitra Lore, Vienne Rea, Gil Ugiansky, and Wilfredo Valladares. To Jan. 4. 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Call 202-783-2963 or visit www.zenithgallery.com.
A hand-picked group of roughly 100 regional and national artists have donated nearly 200 works for the fifth annual exhibition at Maryland’s Pyramid Atlantic Art Center. Every artwork is different, ranging in styles from prints to paintings to mixed-media, but all are the same size — 10 x 10 inches — and all are available at the same price: $50. The invitational is billed as a great opportunity for collectors of all levels to get interesting pieces by talented artists at a remarkable price, or at least serve as original holiday gifts. It’s also a constantly rotating stock, with new pieces put on display as works sell from the second floor gallery in Pyramid, the nonprofit contemporary art center located in the historic Arcade building in Hyattsville’s Gateway Arts District. Through Jan. 5. 4318 Gallatin Street. Call 301-608-9101 or visit www.pryamidatlanticartcenter.org.
A MONUMENT TO SHAKESPEARE
A temporary exhibition highlighting how Henry Clay Folger and his wife Emily Folger set out to create their shrine to the Bard as a gift, in 1932, to the American people — examining the Folger Shakespeare Library’s architecture and looking to its future. To Jan. 5. 201 East Capitol St. SE. Call 202-544-7077 or visit www.folger.edu.
BOBBI PRATTE: RESCUE ME
Run by the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association, the Athenaeum in Old Town presents an exhibition of works by a local painter reflecting on her personal sense of feeling a need to be rescued from our challenging times. Many of Pratte’s oil paintings capture daily scenes near her home in the Lake Barcroft area of Fairfax County. To Dec. 29. 201 Prince St., Alexandria. Call 703-548-0035 or visit www.nvfaa.org.
EXHIBITION OF FINE ARTS IN MINIATURE
Strathmore hosts the 86th annual show featuring more than 700 intricately detailed works of art, painstakingly produced in miniature. The exhibition, presented by the Miniature Painters, Sculptors, and Gravers Society of Washington, D.C., draws viewers into a concentrated universe that traces it roots to the 7th century. To Jan. 5. The Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda. Call 301-581-5100 or visit www.strathmore.org.
MANIFESTO: ART X AGENCY
More than 100 works of art and ephemera created over the past century are currently on display in this group exhibition at the Hirshhorn. The specific focus is on artist manifestos and their impact, exploring how artists have used these statements of principles or theories to engage with the political and social issues of their time, including the present day. Manifesto: Art X Agency is named after a multichannel film by German artist Julian Rosefeldt that features actress Cate Blanchett performing excerpts from some of the great manifestos of the past century. Dating to 2015, Rosefeldt’s film makes its Hirshhorn debut as part of the exhibition, which is mostly comprised of seminal works from the museum’s permanent collection made by Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Jackson Pollock, Guerrilla Girls, Adrian Piper, Nam June Paik, and Glenn Ligon. To Jan. 5. Independence Avenue and Seventh Street SW. Call 202-633-1000 or visit www.hirshhorn.si.edu.
RE/SEEN: PHOTOGRAPHY BY JASON HOROWITZ
Ballston’s Fred Schnider Gallery of Art presents a “then and now” look, showing how a local artist’s interests in abstraction and representation have continued yet evolved with changes in technology. The world has been deconstructed and re-imagined in Horowitz’s still-life and landscape photographs through the use of two innovative photographic techniques. In particular, his newer works are immersive abstract landscapes developed using the Photo Sphere/Street View app and his smartphone’s camera, thus subverting and manipulating the normal process for creating panoramas. To Dec. 21. 888 N. Quincy St., Ste. 102, Arlington. Call 703-841-9404 or visit www.fredschnidergalleryofart.com.
RIGHTFULLY HERS: AMERICAN WOMEN AND THE VOTE
The National Archives Museum highlights the hard-won victories that stemmed from the Women’s Suffrage movement, chief among these the passage 100 years ago of the 19th Amendment. The temporary exhibition also explores the story of the diversity of American women’s experiences and their impact on history. To Jan. 3. The Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery, Constitution Avenue and 9th Streets NW. Call 202-357-5000 or visit www.archivesfoundation.org.
SEASON’S GREENINGS: AMERICA’S GARDENS
This year’s annual holiday show at the U.S. Botanic Garden showcases iconic scenes from 24 of the nation’s botanic gardens, from Hawaii to Maine. Plant-based recreations bring to life everything from Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s vibrant red Japanese torii gate, to the flamingo topiaries of Franklin Park Conservatory in Ohio, to the NASA space nodes and rockets of the Rocket Garden in Alabama’s Huntsville Botanical Garden. In addition, the Garden Court features the traditional collection of plant-based D.C. landmarks, including a botanical replica of Washington’s Union Station, while the West Gallery features a decorated tree with its own model train. 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., with showtime at 6 p.m. The lineup includes rousing klezmer and Jewish folk ensemble Lox and Vodka on Thursday, Dec. 19, D.C.’s classic-style jazz vocalist Changemire on Tuesday, Dec. 24, local contemporary jazz sextet Dial 251 for Jazz on Thursday, Dec. 26, and local Russian folk act Samovar on Tuesday, Dec. 31. On display to Jan. 5. 100 Maryland Ave. SW. Call 202-225-8333 or visit www.usbg.gov.
SECTION 14: THE OTHER PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA
Before it became a gay desert mecca and a resort for the rich and famous, Palm Springs was a desert outpost — as well as home to the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. The National Museum of the American Indian shines a light on a land battle in Palm Springs, yet another in a long string of conflicts between western expansion and Indigenous peoples’ rights. The focus is on Section 14, a one-square-mile tract in downtown Palm Springs that forms the heart of the reservation. The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians created the exhibition, which was organized by the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum. On display through Jan. 2020. National Museum of the American Indian, Independence Avenue at 4th Street SW. Call 202-633-1000 or visit www.nmai.si.edu.
SHADES OF PASTEL
Artists from around the nation who work in pastels are represented in this biennial juried exhibition from the Maryland Pastel Society. Soft pastels have a high concentration of pigment, resulting in intense hues in an extensive range of colors, from earth tones to vibrant shades. To Jan. 5. The Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda. Call 301-581-5100 or visit www.strathmore.org.
Works by the D.C.-based abstract fine artist are next up to be featured at Art14, the seasonal art series at the Coldwell Banker Dupont/Logan office on 14th Street NW. Benedicto creates works that are unique, dynamic, multidisciplinary, and polymathic, combining traditional hand-made practices with automated systems and machine-rendered designs, all intended “to express the complex ideas of fetishism, transhumanism, and the design of self.” On display all season. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, 1617 14th St. NW. Call 202-387-6180 or visit www.facebook.com/CBRBDupont.
When the ball drops on 2019, it’ll also bring about the end of this permanent museum dedicated to the free press and the First Amendment. Although select exhibitions will be taken on the road for individual pop-up shows, the full Newseum collection of the Freedom Forum will be archived and moved as Johns Hopkins University takes over the property. So consider the next week your last chance to see, all in one place, standout exhibits including Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement, which spotlights, through artifacts, images, and historic print publications, the rise of the modern LGBTQ movement; Seriously Fun: From the Desk of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” which explores the impact of the satirical news program on American politics and the press through four presidential campaigns, two wars, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks; the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery, the most comprehensive collection of award-winning photographs ever assembled; Journalists Memorial, which honors reporters who have been threatened or died in the line of duty; and the Berlin Wall Gallery. The Newseum offers a daily, 60-minute guided First Amendment Highlights Tour. To Dec. 31. 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Tickets are $24.95 for general admission, plus $10 for the guided tour. Call 292-6100 or visit www.newseum.org.
VOTES FOR WOMEN: A PORTRAIT OF PERSISTENCE
The American suffragist movement’s most influential leaders — Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton among them — are, of course, prominently featured in this special exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Yet Votes for Women takes pains to shine a spotlight on the many lesser-known, or at least less-heralded, women and organizations — many of them African-American — who helped advance the voting cause in tandem with efforts to abolish slavery, fight racism, or promote civil rights. Such a list includes Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune, Lucy Stone of the American Woman Suffrage Association, and Mary Church Terrell, founder of the National Association of Colored Women. To Jan. 5. 8th and F Streets. NW. Call 202-633-8300 or visit www.npg.si.edu.
Cirque Dreams’ Holidaze — Photo: Ian Ibbetson
ABOVE AND BEYOND
CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE
A decade ago Neil Goldberg, creator of Broadway’s Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, launched this holiday extravaganza with over 30 artists pulling stunts, from gingerbread men flipping in mid-air to toy soldiers marching on thin wires to puppets caroling. It’s all performed to an original score plus some holiday favorites, and on a set that includes colossal candy canes and 30-foot towering toy soldiers. Friday, Dec. 20, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21, at 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 22, at 2 and 7:30 p.m., and Monday, Dec. 23, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Theater at MGM National Harbor, 7100 Harborview Ave., Oxon Hill, Md. Call 844-346-4664 or visit www.mgmnationalharbor.com.
DOWNTOWN HOLIDAY MARKET
Over 150 artisans rotate among sixty tents set up on two blocks in the heart of downtown. Now in its 15th 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. Daily from noon to 8 p.m. to Dec. 23. Located on F Street between 7th and 9th Streets NW. Visit www.downtownholidaymarket.com.
ENCHANT CHRISTMAS WASHINGTON, DC
The outfield of Nationals Park will be transformed into a twinkling maze of light displays, the infield will house an ice-skating trail adorned with lit archways, and all around on the concourse will be a Christmas Market stocked with more than 60 local food and artisan vendors. This season sees the D.C. debut of a multi-city offering touted as “the biggest and fastest-growing holiday event in North America,” further advertised as “the World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze and Market.” Runs from 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 or 11:30 p.m. daily to Dec. 29. 1500 South Capitol St. NE. Tickets, not including fees, are $19.99 to $33.99 for general admission, $78.99 for a multi-day Season Pass, or $89.99 for VIP entrance with free ice skate rentals and access to the PNC Diamond Club box with festive buffet. Visit www.enchantchristmas.com.
Zoo Lights — Photo: Hanart Culture, LLC
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 “Entre Les Rangs,” an art installation featuring dozens of large, glowing animal lanterns stationed throughout the park. The second weekend in December ushers in the Grump holiday market, a European-style outdoor fair featuring local artisans set up at the Zoo’s entrance. ZooLights runs nightly (except Dec. 24, Dec. 25, and Dec. 31) through Jan. 1 from 5 to 9 p.m. National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. Call 202-633-4800 or visit nationalzoo.si.edu.