Metro Weekly

Hot Picks of the Week: A Christmas Carol, Be SteadWell, and a Wolf Trap Sing-A-Long!

The best of European LGBTQ cinema, CityCenterDC's holiday attractions, Jeni's Splendid holiday ice creams and more this week.

Great Freedom
Great Freedom

AFI EUROPEAN UNION FILM SHOWCASE

A total of 53 films from all 27 European Union member states screen in-person at this year’s 34th annual showcase, featuring some of the best new films and most promising new filmmakers from the continent, including the latest from legendary gay Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, whose Parallel Mothers closes out the showcase on Friday, Dec. 17.

Other titles of LGBTQ interest include Great Freedom, a searing drama from Austrian filmmaker Sebastian Meise chronicling the real-life travails of Hans Hoffmann, a Holocaust survivor who continued to be persecuted and imprisoned by German authorities after the war simply for the “crime” of being gay (12/4 at 1:45 p.m. and 12/8 at 9:45 p.m); The Man with the Answers, both a warmhearted, sunny roadtrip through Europe and a tender queer romance from Cypriot director Stelios Kammitsis (12/13, 9:20 p.m.; 12/15, 9 p.m.); Benedetta, a profile of the real-life early-17th century Catholic mystic and lesbian Italian nun from cinematic provocateur Paul Verhoeven (multiple screenings per day through 12/9); and two from lesbian French filmmaker Céline Sciamma, including her latest, Petite Maman, a followup to Portrait of a Lady on Fire also focused on exploring notions of feminine connection and bonding (12/12, 1:20 p.m.; 12/14, 4:40 p.m.), as well as Paris, 13th District, a film that Sciamma helped director Jacques Audiard adapt for the screen from a series of graphic novels by New Yorker illustrator Adrian Tomine (12/3, 7 p.m.; 12/9, 7 p.m.).

The showcase runs to Dec. 19. AFI Silver Theatre, 8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. Tickets are $13 to $15 per film, or $250 for an all-access Passport to every film and special event. Call 301-495-6700 or visit afisilver.afi.com.

Dorrance Dance -- Photo: Stephanie Berger
Dorrance Dance — Photo: Stephanie Berger

DORRANCE DANCE

Acclaimed choreographer and MacArthur Fellow Michelle Dorrance brings her innovative and boundary-breaking troupe to the Kennedy Center for two performances showcasing tap dance and live music. A clear highlight of the program is the D.C. premiere of Basses Loaded, featuring choreography for four bassists and four dancers. Also on tap is the Bessie Award-winning Three to One, danced to experimental pop artists Aphex Twin and Thom Yorke of Radiohead, as well as SOUNDspace, a critically acclaimed celebration of what makes tap dance special, before closing with the world premiere of a holiday themed-jazz suite in which Dorrance Dance vocalist Aaron Marcellus will cover some of Ella Fitzgerald’s holiday classics as the company’s dancers get to swingin’ alongside him. Friday, Dec. 3, and Saturday, Dec. 4, at 8 p.m. Eisenhower Theater. Tickets are $29 to $99. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.

A Strange Loop -- Photo: Teresa Castracane
A Strange Loop — Photo: Teresa Castracane

A STRANGE LOOP

A Strange Loop has already achieved some astounding feats — chiefly, becoming only the 10th musical ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the first to do so before even making it to Broadway. That 2020 win, honoring the original Off-Broadway production at Playwrights Horizon, was also the first for a musical written by a Black playwright.

Now lighting up the stage at Woolly Mammoth, Michael R. Jackson’s musical is touted as a “blistering, mind-blowing” metafictional work about a Black queer writer working a menial job by day and writing an original musical by night. Jaquel Spivey takes on the lead role of Usher with backing from a six-person ensemble voicing the character’s inner thoughts. Stephen Brackett directs the show in its pre-Broadway engagement, presented in association with Playwrights Horizon and Page 73 Productions, and featuring choreography by Raja Feather Kelly.

To Jan. 2 at Woolly Mammoth, 641 D St. NW. Tickets range from $32 to $72.50, or $20 for those under 30 years of age, with other discounts and select Pay-What-You-Will options available. Call 202-393-3939 or visit www.woollymammoth.net.

Be Steadwell

BE STEADWELL

Two days before Christmas last year, when the pandemic was at its worst, Be Steadwell took it upon herself to try to spread some queer holiday cheer over Zoom with “a hastily composed queer choir” as well as a virtual “holiday song open mic” with a few festively inspired participants.

This year, “Queer Caroling with Be Steadwell” moves to the Black Cat for a live, in-person gathering. The concert’s core focus remains on holiday songs by queer musicians, but it wouldn’t be a Steadwell show without a dip into her sturdy “queer pop” repertoire of original songs.

Certainly you should consider it a must-see kind of show, particularly if you haven’t managed to catch one of the reliably riveting shows from the live-looping ace, a former Strathmore Artist-in-Residence who sings, raps, and beatboxes in catchy songs merging influences from soul, pop, folk, hip-hop, and jazz. Friday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m. Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. Tickets are $15 to $18, plus fees. Call 202-667-4490 or visit www.blackcatdc.com.

Ford's Theatre: Craig Wallace as Scrooge -- Photo: Carol Rosegg
A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre — Photo: Carol Rosegg

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Last year, Ford’s Theatre produced a pandemic-appropriate audio version of its annual take on Charles Dickens’ Yuletide classic. That hour-long radio play is available for free, streaming this year through Dec. 27. However, the big news in 2021 is the return of a full stage production, a tradition for 40 years, although now presented in a newly reimagined staging by José Carrasquillo, Ford’s new artistic programming director.

The heart of the show remains unchanged: It’s still based on Michael Wilson’s music-filled adaptation of Dickens, and it still features traditional caroling, a London-inspired set, and familiar faces serving as the Ghosts of Jacob Marley (Stephen F. Schmidt), Christmas Present (Rayanne Gonzales), and Christmas Past (Justine “Icy” Moral).

Returning as Ebenezer Scrooge for his sixth year (including the 2020 radio adaptation) is Craig Wallace. One key pandemic-inspired change to the 2021 production is the absence of children in the cast.

In-person performances continue to Dec. 27. Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW. Tickets are $32 to $124. Call 202-347-4833 or visit www.fords.org.

Ice Maze in the City Center
Ice Maze in the City Center

CITYCENTERDC’S HOLIDAY ATTRACTIONS

There’s nothing subtle about the towering 75-foot tree or, for that matter, its surroundings in the downtown D.C. area known as CityCenterDC. The massive tannenbaum, one of the city’s largest, is adorned with more than 150,000 lights and 4,500 ornaments, serving as the central attraction in the neighborhood. Yet the tree, located in The Park at CityCenterDC (1098 New York Ave. NW), is far from the only reason to visit if you’re looking for a little holiday cheer or inspiring decor. There’s also two signature 25-foot prancing reindeer on display as well as a Palmer Alley “Dream Closet” art installation created by Maggie O’Neill.

And then there’s what will surely be the most impressive installation of them all while it lasts: an Ice Maze sculpture planned for the second weekend in December. A team of 10 heralded international sculptors will spend three days carving twists and turns out of a 130,000-pound clear ice block, decked out in multi-colored lights to illuminate the experience for all to see.

The Ice Maze, located in The Plaza (934 Palmer Alley NW), is open Friday, Dec. 10, from 4 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 11, and Sunday, Dec. 12, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call 202-289-9000 or visit www.citycenterdc.com.

JENI’S SPLENDID HOLIDAY FLAVORS

Usually, sweet treats over the holidays come in the form of cake or cookies, preferably warm and gooey and fresh out of the oven. But if you happen to find yourself someplace cozy and warm, you could treat yourself instead to something cold and creamy — and perfectly blended with pieces of cake or swirls of booze. That’s the key appeal of the Splendid Holiday Collection ($58) from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, which in 2021 includes the new flavor Cognac with Gingerbread, a mix of warming cognac ice cream with dark caramel sauce and heavily spiced gingerbread cake pieces. This year’s core collection also includes White Chocolate Peppermint, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Pistachio Macaron, and Sugar Plum. Unfortunately, only the Cognac and Peppermint flavors remain in stock for online ordering and nationwide delivery.

The good news, however, is that you can find the other holiday flavors — and a whopping 43 total — by selecting pickup or delivery from one of the six D.C. area “scoop shops.” Of course, if that’s still not enough, you could scoop up the extended Holiday Party Collection ($98), a freezer-filling nine-pint set in your choice of flavors, including the intriguing cake-centric blends Gooey Butter Cake, Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, and Cream Puff. Jeni’s can be ordered online and also purchased at select grocery stores nationwide, in addition to branded scoop shops, including three in D.C.: Logan Circle (1925 14th St. NW), Barracks Row (526 8th St. SE), and Yards Park (1300 4th St. SE). Visit www.jenis.com.

Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long
Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long: United States Marine Band

WOLF TRAP HOLIDAY SING-A-LONG FROM HOME

After a Halloween weekend stop to perform two shows at the Barns at Wolf Trap, Tony-winning stage and screen star Laura Benanti returns to the performing arts complex as a featured guest in this year’s virtual holiday offering. Releasing in two separate, pre-recorded installments, the 2021 “Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long From Home” debuts Saturday, Dec. 4, at 4 p.m., with a program featuring special holiday performances by Benanti, local rockers in the Pat McGee Band, and classical musicians David Finckel & Wu Han. On Saturday, Dec. 18, at 4 p.m., comes a second program starring brassy, bisexual cabaret performer and Pink Martini standout Storm Large, Tony-winning singer John Lloyd Young (Jersey Boys), and country crooner Rodney Crowell.

Both programs will also feature members of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band accompanying performances of favorite sing-a-long numbers, also presented with on-screen “bouncing ball” captioning to encourage viewers to participate in an annual tradition dating back to 1968, when Wolf Trap founder Catherine Filene Shouse invited local choirs to sing carols and share good tidings. Upon release, both concerts will be available for free streaming at home throughout the holidays. Visit www.wolftrap.org.

NSO: A Holiday Pops, Ingrid Michaelson -- Photo: Courtesy of the Artist
NSO: A Holiday Pops, Ingrid Michaelson — Photo: Courtesy of the Artist

INGRID MICHAELSON WITH THE NSO

For this year’s Holiday Pops! feature from the National Symphony Orchestra, Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke trains the spotlight on Ingrid Michaelson. Known chiefly as an indie-pop singer-songwriter who has released eight full-length albums in a 16-year career, Michaelson in recent years has been spreading her wings into the theater realm, first as an actress in her Broadway debut in 2017 in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. She’s currently preparing to make her creative debut as the composer and lyricist for the forthcoming musical adaptation of The Notebook.

With the NSO, Michaelson will perform selections from her holiday album Ingrid Michaelson’s Songs for the Season, as well as give her take on a few classics including “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “Winter Wonderland.” She’ll also perform a smattering of her best-known pop songs, from “Be OK” to “You & I.” Additional guest artists include Allie Moss on guitar and vocals and Hannah Winkler on keyboard and vocals. Friday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 11, at 2 p.m. and 8 pm. Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $29 to $109. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.

Folger Consort — Photo: Brittany Diliberto

FOLGER CONSORT: A MEDIEVAL CHRISTMAS

The Folger Shakespeare Library’s renowned early music ensemble never disappoints with its annual holiday program, always offering a refreshing and enlightening twist that goes well beyond the typical fare of familiar carols and pop standards. And for its first in-person performances since the start of the pandemic, the Folger Consort is paying homage to its own past and one of its first recordings, A Medieval Christmas. Featuring some of the earliest-known holiday music, and moving from 11th century southern France to 14th century Italy and Spain to 15th century England, the diverse mix of genres and styles “works beautifully,” as an AllMusic.com review of the album puts it, noting that it veers “from an intensely earnest and passionate a cappella solo to boisterous carols accompanied by a wonderfully noisy instrumental consort.”

Robert Eisenstein and Christopher Kendall, the ensemble’s founding co-artistic directors, reprise their roles from that recording in leading the playing of historical instruments along with esteemed medieval music specialists including multi-instrumentalists Dan Meyers (winds) and Mary Springfels (strings), plus the perfectly named soprano Emily Noël, who will sing carols in Latin and early English. A total of seven concerts will be performed in the spacious and atmospheric nave of St. Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill over the course of two weekends, starting Friday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m. A videotaped recording of the program will also be made available for on-demand streaming starting Friday, Dec. 17. Concert tickets are $50, or just $15 for Folger event newcomers; streaming tickets are in tiers ranging from $20 to $50. Call 202-544-7077 or visit www.folger.edu/consort.

Jane Franklin Dance In Place
Jane Franklin Dance In Place

JANE FRANKLIN DANCE: IN PLACE

The innovative and collaborative Arlington-based dance company returns to in-person performances at Theatre on the Run with a mixed-repertory program featuring new works by some of the area’s leading choreographers — which will also be recorded and subsequently made available for streaming. The company’s namesake will debut Rain or Shine, a dance piece inspired by a recent exhibition at Alexandria’s Athenaeum about art activism and environmental sustainability, and also present Barrier, a work touching on issues of flight, migration, and climate.

Meanwhile, local gay choreographer Robert J. Priore will debut Esta Vida, a work with unexpected movement and group partnership inspired by themes of family and set to music by Silvia Perez Cruz and Silvania Estrada. Also part of the program: 8H Aquarius Moon, an exploration of astrology and its relation to intimacy and validation by Company | E artist Horizon Miguel, and And She Did, a work by Lauren DeVera about overcoming obstacles and celebrating self-love as performed by the company’s Forty+ troupe. Saturday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 12, at 5 p.m. A videotaped recording of the performance plus live interviews with the dancers will stream on YouTube on Saturday, Dec. 18, at 5 p.m., with a “Video On Demand” option offering a 72-hour stream available starting Sunday, Dec. 19. Theatre on the Run, 3700 South Four Mile Run Dr. Arlington. Performance tickets are $20, while streaming tickets are donate-what-you-will. Call 703-933-1111 or visit www.janefranklin.com.

Pretty Woman, The Musical -- Photo: Morris Mac Matzen
Pretty Woman, The Musical — Photo: Morris Mac Matzen

TOOTSIE AND PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL

After nearly two years of dormancy, D.C.’s historic National Theatre has swung back into action to send off 2021 with a bang, presenting not one but two Broadway musicals — both stage adaptations of Hollywood blockbusters and making their D.C. debuts. Kicking off the 2021-2022 Broadway at the National Season next week is Tootsie, touted as a “laugh-out-loud love letter to the theater” with a Tony-winning book by Robert Horn and score by Tony-winner David Yazbek (The Band’s Visit), all based on Dustin Hoffman’s crossdressing comedy from nearly 40 years ago.

Two weeks later, Broadway veteran Adam Pascal will be swept off his feet by Olivia Valli in a retelling of Pretty Woman for the stage by a powerhouse creative team led by two-time Tony-winning director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell (Hairspray, Kinky Boots) and featuring an original score by ’80s pop star Bryan Adams with Jim Vallance. Tootsie opens Tuesday, Dec. 7. To Sunday, Dec. 12. Pretty Woman: The Musical opens Tuesday, Dec. 28. To Sunday, Jan. 2. 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Tickets are $50 to $110 for each show. Call 202-628-6161 or visit www.broadwayatthenational.com.

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