Metro Weekly

Hot Picks of the Week: Wunder Garten’s Winterfest, GMCW’s Holiday Show, and 9:30 Club’s Raffle

Story District's best bits, Jingle Ball 2021, Astro Doughnuts' holiday specials, and more!

WinterFest
Wunder Garten WinterFest

WUNDER GARTEN’S WINTERFEST

Next Thursday, Dec. 16, Wunder Garten will host its second LGBTQ-themed party this month. Starting at 8 p.m. and running until midnight, “A Christmas Kiki” will feature the musical spins of DJ Tezrah, choreographed routines from Pelonkey, and beaucoup decor right out of “a holiday junkie’s dream,” from a festive Pride rainbow of Christmas colors, to lighted Christmas trees, to a decked-out marquee tent.

The evening, proceeds of which benefit the Capital Pride Alliance, comes as part of the 5th Annual Winterfest at the sprawling, gay-owned-and-operated beer garden in NoMa.

Other attractions in the Winterfest 2021 lineup include an Ugly Sweater Dance Party this Saturday, Dec. 11, a Night of 1000 Santa’s Dance Party on Saturday, Dec. 18, recurring events such as Sunday afternoon “Yappy Hours” with Santa, multiple Christmas-themed trivia and movie night offerings, and Saturday afternoon concerts featuring local music acts, among them Driven to Charity (DTC) on Dec. 11 and Noah Pierre on Dec 18.

A special menu of “Spiked Hot Cocktails” has been developed for this year’s Winterfest, with traditional choices — a Hot Toddy, Mulled Wine — outnumbered by more creative concoctions, including a Fireball-fueled Cinnamon Apple Cider, served warm, as well as three bold twists on Hot Chocolate, each wilder than the last: starting with a pronounced Peppermint fueled by Rumple Minze, then a Vanilla and Butterscotch resulting from the inspired blend of Stoli Vanilla Vodka with Butterscotch Schnapps, and finally, the go-for-broke flavor of Peanut Butter, courtesy of Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey.

This year’s Winterfest also sees the notable return of Wunder Garten’s annual Giving Tree Project, a tree lot where fresh-cut Fraser Firs, Douglas Firs, White Pine, and other varieties are available in a range of sizes, with proceeds of every sale going to support the local homelessness-fighting organization h3 Project. Winterfest is free and runs through Dec. 23. Wunder Garten is located at 1101 1st St. NE. Visit www.wundergartendc.com.

Story District at Lincoln Theatre
Story District at Lincoln Theatre

STORY DISTRICT’S TOP SHELF

Molly Kelly shared the excitement she felt when she came out — as well as the obstacle that almost got in her way. Mark Mensh related his experience with a lesbian couple who asked him to help them conceive “the old fashioned way.” Those are just two stories out of eight that will be featured at the next Story District showcase.

All eight stories have already been shared at previous Story District events, but were deemed worthy of retelling by the nominating team for Top Shelf, a tribute to the best stories from the past 18 months. The lineup also includes stories from noted local Chef Ashish Alfred (Duck Duck Goose), Diana Veiga, Erica Jackson, Jason Pangilinan, Robert Washington, and Willette Oden. Saturday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m. At the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW. Tickets are $25 to $35. Call 202-328-6000 or visit www.storydistrict.org.

Gay Men's Chorus of Washington DC: The Holiday Show
Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC: The Holiday Show

GMCW’S THE HOLIDAY SHOW

Last year Thea Kano, artistic director of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, had to give herself a crash course in video editing in order for the group to continue its tradition of producing an annual holiday show, albeit a strictly virtual affair.

Fortunately, COVID-19 vaccines have made it possible for the chorus to return en masse to the Lincoln Theatre to perform a live, in-person run of its enormously popular “Holiday Show.” Expect tap-dancing elves and sparkly snow and an overall vibe that’s festive, frequently flamboyant, and outlandishly entertaining — and no doubt more heartwarming and heartfelt than ever, after all we’ve been through since the last celebration.

The program will feature the full chorus and soloists as well as its ensemble offshoots, the Rock Creek Singers and Potomac Fever, and the GenOUT Youth Chorus. Saturday, Dec. 11, at 3 and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 12, at 3 p.m. Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW. Tickets are $25 to $65. Call 877-435-9849 or visit www.gmcw.org.

Creative Cauldron: The Christmas Angel
Creative Cauldron: The Christmas Angel

THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL

In 2016, the musical-making duo of composer Matt Conner and lyricist Stephen Gregory Smith premiered Silver Belles, a diva-driven holiday show with a strong “Golden Girls meets Sordid Lives” vibe that was created with playwright Allyson Currin for Signature Theatre.

Five years later, Conner and Smith have produced another original holiday show, one that strongly evokes the ultimate holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. Based on a 1910 novella by New Englander Abbie Farwell Brown, The Christmas Angel is a Dickensian fairy tale about a fallen and discarded tree-topper who anthropomorphically rises to the occasion to reclaim its perch by helping a jaded, older woman restore her faith in humanity and the spirit of the season.

Virginia’s Creative Cauldron presents the musical in a production directed by Conner and featuring Kanysha Williams, Carl Williams, and Ryan Sellers, as well as a 12-member ensemble of area middle- and high-schoolers who are participating in the arts organization’s Musical Theater Training Program. Opens Saturday, Dec. 11. Livestream performance is Saturday, Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m. Runs to Dec. 23. ArtSpace Falls Church, 410 South Maple Ave. Tickets are $20 to $35. Call 703-436-9948 or visit www.creativecauldron.org.

The Keegan Theatre: An Irish Carol
The Keegan Theatre: An Irish Carol

AN IRISH CAROL

After a virtual stint last year, Keegan Theatre returns this homage to Dickens, developed by company member Matthew J. Keenan, to its stage for another end-of-the-year run of live, in-person shows. A tradition since 2011, An Irish Carol relates the familiar story of friendship, compassion, and redemption, plus the addition of biting Irish humor and incisive candor.

A familiar cast includes returning regulars Kevin Adams, Dave Jourdan, Timothy H. Lynch, Mike Kozemchak, Jon Townson, and Josh Sticklin. Keenan, the playwright, is also featured in the cast, and does triple duty by serving as set designer. Mark Rhea directs. To Dec. 31. 1742 Church St. NW. Tickets are $50. Visit www.keegantheatre.com.

JOY OF CHRISTMAS

Credited as D.C.’s oldest symphonic chorus, the Cathedral Choral Society took root 80 years ago this month from one of the world’s most important places of worship, as well as one of the grandest edifices in the nation’s capital.

That anniversary milestone will be honored this weekend as part of a celebration that will be even more joyful since it also marks the first live, in-person appearances by the full 120-member group since before the pandemic nearly two years ago.

An annual tradition since 1976, this year’s Joy of Christmas presents a mixture of old and new texts and tunes, from classic, concert- and Christmas-signaling hymns “Once in Royal David’s City” and “Angels We Have Heard on High,” to the world premiere of a Society-commissioned carol, as well as a new treatment of “Joy To The World.”

The program also includes an excerpt from The Ballad of the Brown King by preeminent Black female composer Margaret Bonds based on a libretto by Langston Hughes, and a congregational sing-along to one of the only Christmas-themed spirituals, “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”

Music Director Steven Fox leads the full chorus as well as select soloists and groupings, with accompaniment and additional music by pianist Joy Schreier, organist Thomas Sheehan, the dynamic all-female ensemble Seraph Brass, and the cathedral’s carillonneur Edward M. Nassor.

Saturday, Dec. 11, at 2 and 6 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 12, at 4 p.m. Washington National Cathedral, Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues NW. Tickets are $35 to $88 in advance, with a limited number offered at pay-what-you-can prices at the door Saturday; Sunday’s concert is also available as a pay-what-you-wish livestream. Call 202-537-2228 or visit www.cathedralchoralsociety.org.

Nutcracker : M Shrayner & S. Chudin -- Photo: Damir Yusupov
Nutcracker : M Shrayner & S. Chudin — Photo: Damir Yusupov

BOLSHOI BALLET: THE NUTCRACKER

U.S. audiences first fell under The Nutcracker’s spell at their local movie theater — specifically with Fantasia, the Disney animated film that featured Tchaikovsky’s famous score upon its release in 1940. More than 80 years later, the ballet is every bit as popular and ubiquitous in America as it is in Russia.

If, as a result, The Nutcracker has lost some of its luster for you, consider hitting a local movie theater a few days before Christmas to view the legendary Bolshoi Ballet dancers. Part of the 2021-22 Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema series, The Nutcracker screening offers, as presenting company Fathom Events puts it, a chance to “experience this superb, fantastical fairytale on the big screen, through the eyes of Marie (Margarita Shrayner) and her Nutcracker Prince (Semyon Chudin) as they travel on a magical journey of their dreams.”

Sunday, Dec. 19, at 12:55 p.m., and Monday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. Area theaters including Regal venues in Gallery Place (701 7th St. NW), Ballston Quarter (671 N. Glebe Rd.), Rockville Center (199 E. Montgomery Ave.), and Bowie (15200 Major Lansdale Blvd.). Tickets are $21.20. Visit www.fathomevents.com.

HOT 99.5’S JINGLE BALL 2021

The Jonas Brothers, Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, and the Black Eyed Peas are the top draws set to perform at the D.C. stop of the 2021 National iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour. Hosted by local iHeartMedia station Hot 99.5, this year’s concert, taking place Tuesday, Dec. 14, at 7:30 p.m., also features Saweetie, AJR, Tate McRae, Monsta X, Bazzi, Dixie D’Amelio, and Tai Verdes. Meanwhile, The CW Network will broadcast a two-hour nationwide TV special on Wednesday, Dec. 15, at 8 p.m. (with a rebroadcast on Saturday, Dec. 25, at 8 p.m.) featuring performances from Z100’s Jingle Ball in New York, where Jonas Brothers and Doja are joined by Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, and Lil Nas X as headliners. Capital One Arena, 601 F St. NW. Tickets are $61 to more than $500. Call 202-628-3200 or visit www.iHeartRadio.com/JingleBall.

The NSO: Gianandrea Noseda -- Photo: Scott Suchman
The NSO: Gianandrea Noseda — Photo: Scott Suchman

NSO’S HANDEL’S MESSIAH

It wouldn’t be Christmastime at the symphony without a little Handel. Or at least not the National Symphony Orchestra, which every year performs what the organization refers to as “the quintessential musical crown of the season: Part I of Handel’s Messiah.”

This year, rather than mixing it up with a different guest conductor, the NSO will herald the holiday with its celebrated Music Director Gianandrea Noseda making his organizational debut at the Handel helm. “Rejoice,” “For Unto Us A Child is Born,” and “Comfort Ye” are among the iconic Messiah songs to be featured, in a program pairing seasonal favorites from Handel with others from Magnificat, Johann Sebastian Bach’s celebratory canticle showpiece.

The University of Maryland Concert Chorus, under director Edward Maclary, will be featured along with vocal soloists from Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artists Program: Suzannah Waddington (soprano), Katerina Burton (soprano), Rehanna Thelwell (alto), Duke Kim (tenor), and William Meinert (bass).

Thursday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 17, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 19, at 1 p.m. Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $15 to $99. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.

Holiday Donuts -- Photo: Scott Suchman
Holiday Donuts — Photo: Scott Suchman

ASTRO DOUGHNUTS HOLIDAY FLAVORS

They’re not just doughnuts, they’re doughnuts with cookies on top. And doughnuts sprinkled with cake crumbs. With its holiday-themed, end-of-year specials, Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken has doubled down on dessert, offering a lineup of sweet treat two-fers.

For starters, there’s the Christmas Cookie Doughnut ($3.95), swathed in a vanilla glaze and royal icing, dusted with shortbread crumble, and topped with a vanilla sugar cookie with Christmas sprinkles. December’s decadent doughnut lineup also includes a Red Velvet cake variety ($3.85) decorated with cake crumbs, cream cheese glaze, and holiday sprinkles; a Jelly Doughnut ($3.95) with black cherry jam filling and powdered sugar coating; and S’mores ($3.85), a chocolate cake doughnut with bittersweet chocolate glaze, graham cracker crumble, and toasted marshmallow.

Also available, with 24-hour advance notice and store pickup, is a special edition Christmas Mini Box ($29), a dozen assortment including three Christmas Cookies, three Red Velvets, two Jellys, two Chocolate-Glazeds, and two of Astro’s signature Crème Brûlées. Available until Dec. 31.

Although the Jewish Festival of Lights has already come and gone, Astro will continue to offer a Hanukkah Cookie, similar to the Christmas one but with blue sprinkles ($3.95), as well as a Hanukkah Mini Box ($29) doughnut assortment also requiring advanced preorder and store pickup. The Hanukkah specials are expected to continue for another week.

Astro Doughnuts locations are in downtown D.C. (1308 G St. NW; 202-809-5565), Shaw (1819 7th St. NW; 202-674-5766), and Falls Church (7511 Leesburg Pike; 703-356-0800), plus the Astro Doughnuts food truck. Visit www.astrodoughnuts.com.

Tuna Cutting -- Photo courtesy of Mess Hall
Tuna Cutting — Photo courtesy of Mess Hall

MESS HALL’S WHOLE TUNA CUTTING

Are you, by chance, looking for “the most unique gift you can give someone special?” Yes, that someone can even be you — because “you’re special, too,” as a promotional announcement by Mess Hall put it. The food incubator in Northeast’s Edgewood neighborhood is generally on the cutting edge when it comes to its culinary events and experiences — which work like catnip to D.C.’s culinary cognoscenti and assorted other foodie types, who unfailingly snatch up tickets in a jiffy.

Case in point: “Some Disassembly Required,” a Whole Maguro Tuna Cutting Demonstration with dinner and beer that has become one of Mess Hall’s most popular and frequently offered experiences.

In each two-to-three-hour session, chefs Zach Ramos and Amy Phan (Ama Ami, Sushi Taro) cut into a massive tuna, weighing more than 125 pounds, breaking it down into traditional sushi blocks, sharing some sushi- and sashimi-making tips along the way, as well as demonstrating how to prepare three types of cuts (lean, medium-fatty, and fatty).

The class culminates in a live auction of the coveted delicacy that is the Maguro Tuna collar, which the chefs proceed to prepare to the highest bidder’s liking. Blocks of sashimi-grade tuna are also available for purchase.

As of press, the following dates were still available: Thursday, Jan. 27, Friday, Jan. 28, Thursday, Feb. 3, or Friday, Feb. 4, all from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Mess Hall, 703 Edgewood St. NE. Tickets are $130, and include sushi/sashimi along with beers from Kirin Ichiban. Visit www.messhalldc.com.

Avant Bard Theatre: August Wilson's How I Learned What I Learned -- Photo: Christopher Banks
Avant Bard Theatre: August Wilson’s How I Learned What I Learned — Photo: Christopher Banks

HOW I LEARNED WHAT I LEARNED

The late, legendary American playwright August Wilson (Fences, Jitney) developed and originally performed this autobiographical tour-de-force and heartfelt theatrical memoir himself. For the new Avant Bard production, William T. Newman, Jr. steps into Wilson’s shoes for a one-man show that explores the playwright’s salad days as a struggling young Black writer in Pittsburgh, documenting his encounters with racism, music, and love, and charting his “journey of self-discovery through adversity, and what it means to be a Black artist in America.” DeMone Seraphin directs.

Weekends to Dec. 19. Gunston Arts Center, Theater Two, 2700 South Lang St. Arlington. Tickets are $40. Call 703-548-3092 or visit www.avantbard.org.

Traveling While Black
Traveling While Black

TRAVELING WHILE BLACK: VIRTUAL REALITY EXPERIENCE

“‘Traveling while black’ is a term people use to illustrate that, in America, when you are black and you are going from point A to point B, you are always at risk,” says Oscar-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence, God Loves Uganda).

In his latest documentary, Traveling While Black, Williams makes use of virtual reality technologies, including 360-degree footage, to help viewers grasp the titular concept and also to immerse them in the past in unprecedented ways, drawing them into living history lessons, in part by weaving in significant Civil Rights milestones. The result is that some viewers of Traveling While Black have been moved to tears — Williams included.

“I think what they all are reacting to is this profound, empathetic place of pain and suffering,” Williams says in a statement. “And when a viewer is immersed in the experience, they’re moved to take action.”

Traveling While Black opens Wednesday, Dec. 15 and will remain on view through Feb. 12. McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Ave., Va. Free, with guests encouraged to sign up for hour-long appointments, which include a short introduction in using Oculus VR equipment. Call 703-790-0123 or visit www.mcleancenter.org.

9:30 CLUB’S 20TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY RAFFLE

Throughout the month of December, the 9:30 Club accepts canned goods and donations of clothing as well as monetary contributions as part of its annual holiday raffle, with the winner earning two tickets to every show at the club next year. In honor of the raffle’s platinum anniversary, the 2021 edition will end with not one, but two grand prize winners — one selected from among the physical donors, the other an online benefactor — and each of them getting two tickets to every show in 2022. Those donating products — whether non-perishable food items or new or gently worn articles of clothing — earn one entry per item, up to 10 entries per day.

Meanwhile, every $5 donated through the BetterWorld fundraising platform earns the donor one entry, and there’s no limit to the number of entries one can earn this way. Beneficiaries of the monetary donations are local charities Casa Ruby, DC Central Kitchen, Thrive DC, Martha’s Table, So Others Might Eat, Sasha Bruce House, and Capital Area Food Bank.

Each week, select raffle participants will earn prizes from partners including Anxo Dry Cider, Balance Gym, DC Brau, Haikan, Smash Records, and Songbyrd, while the two grand prize winners will be selected and notified on Monday, Jan. 3. Bring material donations to the 9:30 Club, located at 815 V St. NW. Monetary donations can be made through the club’s website through Dec. 31. Visit www.930.com.

Lapine and Stephen Sondheim
Lapine and Stephen Sondheim

AN ENCORE PRESENTATION: STEPHEN SONDHEIM & JAMES LAPINE

This past August, the Town Hall in New York culminated a year-long virtual season with “Putting It Together: An Evening with James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim.” The focus was on Lapine’s book Putting It Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created Sunday in the Park with George, and the discussion between the two theater titans and creative partners also responsible for Into the Woods and Passion, was moderated by Christine Baranski, who starred in the original Off Broadway production of Sunday in the Park with George.

The virtual discussion gets livelier as it goes, particularly once Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, the two leads from the original 1984 Broadway production, join in to share their memories and reflections as the event’s special guests.

In light of Sondheim’s death over Thanksgiving weekend and the heightened interest in all things Sondheim that has resulted, The Town Hall and Strand Book Store have teamed up for an Encore Presentation of the conversation, making it available for free online streaming through Dec. 31 (but requiring viewers to register by Dec. 24). Visit www.thetownhall.org.

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