NATIONAL CHAMBER ENSEMBLE: HOLIDAY CHEER!
“Chamber music is about intimacy of communication with the other musicians but also with the audience. We are excited to make music live,” reads a recent statement from this Arlington-based group announcing the live, in-person return of its annual holiday program. (A streaming video option will be made available next week for those unable to join at the venue.) The concert’s focus is on a handful of the most popular holiday-themed classical pieces, from waltzes by Strauss to dances from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, and from the multi-song arrangement “Hanukkah Festival” to Leroy Anderson’s bright and light “Sleigh Ride.”
The concert’s guest soloists include Viet Dao, the NCE’s 2021 Outstanding Young Artist Competition winner, a 15-year-old piano-playing high schooler from Richmond, set to perform Grieg’s popular Piano Concerto; and soprano Sharon Christman, a Catholic University voice professor who has performed with the Metropolitan Opera as well as at the White House and the National Gallery of Art, who joins to sing “Rejoice” from Handel’s Messiah, Caccini’s Ave Maria, and assorted other holiday carols. Other featured artists at the concert include the ensemble’s artistic director and violinist Leo Sushansky, pianist Natasha Dukan, violinist Jorge Orozco, viola player Uri Wassertzug, and cellist Vasily Popov. The program concludes with a festive and participatory “Carols Sing-Along.” Saturday, Dec. 18, at 7:30 p.m. Unitarian Universalist Church, 4444 Arlington Blvd. Tickets are $18 to $36. Call 703-685-7590 or visit www.NationalChamberEnsemble.org.
BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL
Depending on the source, it ranks either at No. 27 or No. 28 on the list of Broadway’s longest-running shows, and No. 2 on the list of longest-running jukebox musicals, second only to Mamma Mia! Now, seven years after its Broadway debut, this bio-musical about the most successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century — as the author or co-author of a whopping 118 pop hits — becomes one of the first staged productions presented at the Kennedy Center since the pandemic and its fall reopening.
The story centers on a spunky, passionate, and prodigiously talented Brooklyn girl born Carol Klein, who by the time she turned 20 was making a name for herself as Carole King, one-half of a hit songwriting duo with then-husband Gery Goffin. Douglas McGrath wrote the musical’s Tony-nominated book around a selection of hits penned by the couple for other artists — “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “The Locomotion,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” among them — as well others King wrote post-divorce that helped fuel her rise to solo stardom, including “You’ve Got a Friend,” “I Feel the Earth Move,” and the show’s title number. Sara Sheperd stars as King in the revived national touring production directed by Marc Bruni that also features James D. Gish as Goffin. To Jan. 2. Eisenhower Theater. Tickets are $49 to $159. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
AIN’T TOO PROUD
This jukebox musical, featuring roughly two dozen hits from the groundbreaking Motown outfit heralded as “the greatest R&B group of all time” by Billboard in 2017, returns to the Kennedy Center three years after its sold-out, pre-Broadway run in the venue. Derived from the published memoir of the Temptations’ last surviving founding member, 80-year-old Otis Williams, the show’s book was written by acclaimed playwright Dominique Morisseau. “Hailing from Motown herself, Morisseau’s dialogue sparkles with authenticity and wit,” wrote Metro Weekly‘s André Hereford in his 2018 review that also praised Director Des McAnuff for his “breathtaking job of demonstrating exactly why the group’s ‘Classic 5’ lineup [was] so magical together.”
In 2019, Choreographer Sergio Trujillo garnered the show’s only Tony Award (out of a whopping 12 nominations) for work that, according to Hereford, “infused the sharp synchronization of the original Temptations choreography with a sexy and elegant contemporary edge.” In the new national touring production, Elijah Ahmad Lewis portrays the combustible lead David Ruffin opposite Classic 5 cohorts including James T. Lane as soulful Paul, Jalen Harris as cocky tenor Eddie, Harrell Holmes Jr. as smooth bass Melvin, and Marcus Paul James as Otis. Opening postponed to Tuesday, Dec. 28, due to breakthrough COVID-19 cases among the touring company. To Jan. 16. Opera House. Tickets are $45 to $185. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
BE A BROADWAY STAR!
“It’s not just a board game. It’s a Broadway board game!” That’s the tagline for what is billed as “the perfect holiday gift for Broadway fans of all ages.” The brainchild of Tony Award-winning producer Ken Davenport (Once On This Island, Godspell), Be A Broadway Star! is a multiplayer game in which up to six friends act and compete as budding stars on the Great White Way, working to build their resumes and portfolios, hire agents and publicists, go to auditions, get cast in shows, earn Equity cards, and maybe even win a Tony — as well as pick cards challenging them to sing, dance, or act out lines from hit shows. The goal is to amass as many fans as possible, as the true Broadway Star, and thus, win the game, entering the Broadway Hall of Fame with the most fans. The game isn’t actually new, having debuted way back in 2011 when The Book of Mormon was all the rage and years before the emergence of Hamilton, Kinky Boots, Dear Evan Hansen, and Newsies. A decade later, they’ve issued a new updated edition — or rather, a new “Expansion Pack,” a free, 30-page digital supplement with new holiday show questions and challenges inspired by recent Broadway hits including Hadestown, Six, Beetlejuice, Moulin Rouge, American Utopia and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. The price is $39.99 on Amazon.com. Visit www.beabroadwaystar.com.
At a time when very little is ordinary or follows the usual script, Studio Theatre has kicked off its new season with a production as unordinary and unusual, and as perfectly suited to the times, as they come. Originally commissioned by the Edinburgh International Festival, Flight comes from the innovative Scottish theater company Vox Motus and its directors Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison, the latter of whom created the magic effects and illusions for the blockbuster show Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Flight is a hybrid theater/installation work featuring no live actors, playing out instead in miniature, across 230 handcrafted, intricately detailed dioramas that have been programmed to move in sync with pre-recorded audio — in what Studio characterizes as a kind of theatricalized mash-up of a 3D graphic novel and a radio play. This intimate, immersive experience is for only 25 theatergoers per performance, seated in private booths around the dioramas on a carousel and wearing headphones to hear the audio as an epic tale of hope and survival unfolds. The focus is on a pair of orphaned Afghan brothers, ages 8 and 15, who have embarked on a dangerous cross-continental quest for a new, safe home. Adapted by Oliver Emanuel from Caroline Brothers’ novel Hinterland, Flight bears witness to today’s global refugee crisis and the hundreds of thousands of displaced children who attempt such perilous, international passage unaccompanied every year. To March 6, 2022. Stage 4, 14th & P Streets NW. Tickets are $42 to $52. Call 202-332-3300 or visit www.studiotheatre.org.
BEE-LICIOUS: TASTE HONEY LIKE A SOMMELIER
Fancy becoming a honey connoisseur — or a real honey nut, if you prefer? Naturally, Atlas Obscura can help guide you in such a pursuit. As part of its “Gastro Obscura” programming series focused on “the world’s culinary curiosities,” the company offers a three-part online seminar for developing “a deeper understanding of what is a good-quality honey.” More specifically, “honey sensory expert” C. Marina Marchese, a beekeeper and co-author of The Honey Connoisseur and Honey for Dummies, among other books, will teach participants about the various factors affecting the taste and other sensory characteristics of honey as well as the proper terminology used to describe and evaluate honey.
The seminar culminates in a tasting of single-origin honeys — included in a Honey Tasting Kit to be shipped in advance to all participants — that will also touch on honey’s health benefits and offer culinary pairing suggestions. Offered over three consecutive weeknights, two-hour Zoom sessions each night, either Tuesday, Jan. 11, through Thursday, Jan. 13, from 7 to 9 p.m., or Tuesday, Feb. 15, through Thursday, Feb. 17, from 7 to 9 p.m. Registration is required two weeks in advance, or no later than Tuesday, Dec. 28, for the January seminar, Tuesday, Feb. 1, for the February edition. Tickets are $220 per person, plus $50 for the Honey Tasting Kit. Visit www.atlasobscura.com.
THE WHITE HOUSE CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT
Every year, a different U.S. president is commemorated with the Official White House Christmas Ornament — and every year, close to one million ornaments are sold, with the proceeds going to support the White House Historical Association and any renovation or restoration project the current first lady may wish to pursue with the association. The association itself was the pet project of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who saw a need 60 years ago for an entity primarily devoted to maintaining the landmark’s history and preservation. Yet it was Nancy Reagan who signed off on Richard Rosvek’s idea of producing an official annual ornament, which has become the association’s lead source of revenue. Rosvek joined the association’s president Stewart McLaurin to discuss the ornament’s 40-year history in the December episode of The 1600 Sessions Podcast. At the end of episode, “The History and Making of the Official White House Christmas Ornaments,” McLaurin interviews Dave Marquis and Kim Fyfe of Beacon Design, the veteran-founded company, based in Rhode Island, that has been the exclusive manufacturer of the ornament since the program’s inception. Visit www.whitehousehistory.org.
COCKTAILS AT THE DOYLE BAR
Part of the dramatically renovated Dupont Circle Hotel, The Doyle Bar is a chic and vibrant hotspot offering a prime spot to people-watch from its sprawling outdoor terrace overlooking Dupont Circle. And now you can do so while enjoying the intriguing and truly wild seasonal additions to Doyle’s cocktail menu, with prices ranging from $16 to $21 each. The new lineup includes Celtic Roots, a blend of Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin, Suze, lemon juice, and carrot ginger syrup, garnished with dill leaf; Billie’s Holiday, a rum lovers’ punch of Ten to One Dark Rum, plum shrub, Warre’s Otima 10-year Port, and Fernet-Branca, plus a dash of Angostura Bitters, and garnished with a slice of plum flower; The Garden of Eden, a fancy, floral botanical blend of Rieger’s Mid-Western Dry Gin infused with pear and sage, Lairds Applejack, lemon juice, honey, and sage, and served with an ice sphere and garnished with an edible bloom; and Sweater Weather, featuring Rieger’s Kansas City Whiskey, maple pecan syrup, orange bitters, and expressed lemon with maple leaf and floral rose ice by Ice Queen.
The Beet It is a bold and unapologetic mix of Jameson Irish Whiskey, Cynar, and St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram liqueur, with Angostora Bitter, maple syrup, and lemon juice, and garnished with dehydrated beet, while Ice Cream Parlor is an indulgent mix of Jefferson’s Small Batch Bourbon, Café Amaro, and Baileys, served with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream, and topped with heavy cream garnished with chocolate spears. Open from 2 to 11 p.m. daily. 1500 New Hampshire Ave. NW. Call 202-448-4301 or visit doyle.bar.
IF THESE HALLS COULD TALK
When it reopened this fall for the first time since the pandemic, the Kennedy Center also kicked off a new season full of special 50th anniversary programming. And one major component of that is a free, sprawling, year-long exhibition, grouped into five distinct installments appearing across the Center’s campus. The goal of If These Halls Could Talk: Celebrating the Kennedy Center at 50 is to offer what the Center’s President Deborah F. Rutter describes as “a peek into the vibrant history of what has happened in these halls and theaters (and behind the scenes) to make the Center what it is today.” This exhibition also serves to publicly launch the Kennedy Center Archives, a new resource offering a range of dynamic content, in-person and online, from photos and iconic posters to oral histories.
The Hall of States and Hall of Nations play host to two aspects of the anniversary exhibit, with “My KC Stories,” a series of video interviews with staff members past and present as well as others from the broader artistic community sharing their memories of the Center; and “50…It’s in the Air,” giant displays, suspended from the ceiling, consisting of 630 iconic and original posters representing five decades of performances at the Center and arranged to read “50.”
Meanwhile, “In the Spotlight” blankets the immense space of the Grand Foyer, including the theater lobbies and entrance ramps, with more than 100 images captured at significant performances and events held in the Center. Another set of images are on display outside on the REACH campus, a series called “Archives on the Potomac” outlining the relationship between the Center, the land, and the river. Finally, the “JFK Creative Portraits” competition sought original, creative portraits reflective of President Kennedy’s legacy and ideals from young artists (ages 14 to 26) living in the United States. A national panel of professional visual artists picked 10 finalists out of all the submissions, which can be seen in a digital gallery on the Center’s website, but a team of Kennedy Center representatives selected two winners to be displayed in the Hall of States through June of next year: “Spotlight” by Jinglin Jingan from McLean, Va., and “Take Us to the Stars” by Mary McClure from Niwot, Colo. Interviews with Jingan and McClure will also run on video monitors in the Hall of States. All but “JFK Creative Portraits” are on display through Sept. 2022. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.
AMERICAN ARTISTS AND THE MAGIC OF MURANO
Venice became a destination for artists and art lovers, particularly those from the U.S., starting in the late 19th century, in no small part because of the revival of Venetian glass and glassmaking technique taking place during that era. The Smithsonian American Art Museum is helping to tease out the artistic connections and influences resulting from that cross-cultural exchange with the current exhibition Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano. A selection of ornate, colorful, hand-blown glassworks — many of them rarely seen — made by skilled artisans from the Venetian island of Murano are displayed next to paintings, watercolors, and prints by American artists who found inspiration in Venice. The exhibition features more than 140 objects in total, including rare etchings by James McNeill Whistler, major oil paintings by John Singer Sargent, and prints by artists including William Merritt Chase, Maurice Prendergast, Maxfield Parrish, and Ellen Day Hale. On display to May 8. The American Art Museum is at 8th and G Streets NW. Free. Call 202-633-1000 or visit www.americanart.si.edu.
DON CICCIO & FIGLI DISTILLERY
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a full decade since the first liqueur distillery popped up in D.C. In the intervening years, Francesco Amodeo’s Don Ciccio & Figli Distillery greatly expanded its offerings — it now produces a full range of 16 different Italian-inspired spirits, all crafted in the same way earlier generations of his family produced then on Italy’s Amalfi coast, plus a smaller line of pre-mixed canned and bottled cocktails. Having also moved from the Manor Park neighborhood adjacent to Takoma to a bigger space in the more centrally located Ivy City, guests can now properly sample the liqueurs while on-site, or even sit and stay awhile, savoring a few drinks from the bar patio or indoor lounge, both of which opened the summer of 2019. Try an Ambrosia Spritz or Fernet Hanky Panky — both featuring distillery-made liqueurs — from the Classic section of the Bar Sirenis menu, or the Peppino with Don Ciccio Limoncello, gin, lemon, and prosecco from the Craft options ($13-$14 each).
And just in time for the holidays, the distillery’s aperitivi range of liqueurs are sporting a new, modernized label. Speaking of the holidays, the distillery’s online bottle shop offers appealing gift set ideas, first and foremost the Discovery Kit featuring 50ml sample-sized bottles of all 16 flavors, from Ambrosia to Mandarinetto, Nocino to Karkadé ($50); the Amaro Gift Pack with three full-sized bottles (375ml each) of Amaro delle Sirene, Don Fernet, and Tonico Ferro Kinaa ($79.99); and Perla Cocktails: Variety Pack with four 200ml bottles of their pre-mixed offerings, including Cherry Manhattan and Walnut Old Fashioned, and two cans of Ambrosia Spritz blended with house-made vermouth and soda ($75). Open Saturdays from 1 to 8 p.m. 1907 Fairview Ave. NE. Reservations via Resy are required for the Tasting Room and recommended for Bar Sirenis. Call 202-957-7792 or visit www.donciccioefigli.com.
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