THE WASHINGTON BALLET: SWAN LAKE
Julie Kent and Victor Barbee have been preparing for years to unveil a new production of Swan Lake. The married duo at the helm of the Washington Ballet — Kent as artistic director and Barbee as associate artistic director — had long planned for the quintessential classical ballet to follow, as Kent has put it, as “the logical next step in building the repertoire for the company,” following Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, and other kindred 19th-century romantic ballets in prior seasons.
“Victor and I will curate and tailor the production to our company — drawing on our years of experience, the detailed [choreographic] notations, and various research — to present a wonderful marriage of dramatic theatricality and technical proficiency,” to quote Kent.
Now, a full two years after its intended debut, postponed because of the pandemic, the company is ready to share the tragic love story set to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s powerful score and featuring the iconic choreography of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov — enhanced with additional staging and some refined movement by Kent and Barbee.
The company’s dancers, including Adelaide Clauss as Princess Odette and Gian Carlo Perez as Prince Sigfried, will be aided by exquisite costumes and scenic design by Peter Cazalet and accompanied by a live orchestra conducted by Charles Barker to conjure senses of magic, intrigue, melancholy, and suspense — all in service to the Washington Ballet’s triumphant return to the Kennedy Center and specifically the Eisenhower Theater.
Last year, composer/lyricist Cinco Paul gifted the world Schmigadoon!, the Apple TV+ musical comedy series that lovingly, and hilariously, spoofs old-fashioned musicals. Now the scribe, also known for Despicable Me, has gone even further back in time for an “inspiring and delightfully witty” new stage comedy that, to quote an official description, “follows Mary Magdalene’s quest to impress the boy next door, Jesus. In the process, she fends off a trio of 1st-century Mean Girls and a bunch of Beastie Boys-inspired wiseguys from the Sanhedrin.”
Working with fellow screenwriter/playwright Bekah Brunstetter (This Is Us), Paul has created an original show riffing on the Bible with a score riffing on ’90s-era R&B, pop, and hip-hop. Broadway’s Stephen Brackett, responsible for Be More Chill and A Strange Loop, has also signed on as the director for the world-premiere production of A.D. 16 at Olney Theatre.
“Once in a very great while, a new musical comes along that promises to heal a fractured world,” Olney’s Jason Loewith says in the show’s press materials. “No matter your religious background, no matter your experience of musical theater, this show will delight the most intellectual brain and melt the most cynical heart.”
Phoenix Best (Dear Evan Hansen) stars as Mary opposite Ben Fankhauser (Disney’s Newsies) as Jesus, leading a cast also featuring young local standouts Jade Jones, Christian Montgomery, Chani Wereley, Sylvern Groomes, and Chris Urquiaga.
Complementing the run are two in-person “Behind-the-Scenes Events,” including a conversation with Paul and Brunstetter led by Loewith on Thursday, Feb. 10, at 5 p.m., and a panel of Biblical scholars discussing “Who Were the Women of the Gospels?” on Saturday, Feb. 19, at 5 p.m.
Previews begin Friday, Feb. 4. Runs to March 6. 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, Md. Tickets are $42 to $85. Call 301-924-3400 or visit www.olneytheatre.org.
SIGNATURE’S SONDHEIM GALA HONORING CAROL BURNETT
“Carol Burnett is a multitude of talents. I congratulate all of them,” to quote Stephen Sondheim. Specifically, the musical theater legend set about congratulating Burnett by making her the 2022 recipient of an award bearing his name.
Signature Theatre will honor Burnett with the 2022 Stephen Sondheim Award during a black-tie gala benefit in May, just a few weeks after her 89th birthday. Signature launched the annual fundraiser for its artistic, educational, and community programming over a decade ago when it also established the award — one that recognizes Sondheim’s importance to the American theater in general, and to his outsized influence on the Tony-winning regional theater in particular.
In fact, the Virginia company has staged more of Sondheim’s works than any other American institution — producing one show per season since 1989, up to 31 and counting.
And since 2010, Signature has honored artists known for their work in interpreting, supporting, or collaborating on works by Sondheim, among other career contributions. Past recipients of the Stephen Sondheim Award include Angela Lansbury, Audra McDonald, James Lapine, Hal Prince, and Sir Cameron Mackintosh.
Sondheim helped Signature select all of them, and also worked with the company to tap Burnett as the 11th recipient prior to his death late last year.
“She is the final honoree to be chosen personally by Mr. Sondheim before his passing,” says the company’s Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner. “He greatly admired how she has brought the arts to millions of people through her comedy and artistry.”
The comedian did that every week throughout much of the 1970s with her eponymous hit CBS variety show, one of the most honored shows in TV history. By the time The Carol Burnett Show launched in 1967, the Texas native had already made her Broadway debut and garnered her first Tony nomination for her starring turn in Once Upon a Mattress.
Other notable credits in a long and illustrious career include playing Miss Hannigan in the 1982 film version of Annie and Carlotta Campion in a concert performance of Sondheim’s Follies in 1985, featuring in the Sondheim revue Putting It Together on Broadway in 1999, and co-writing the 2002 play Hollywood Arms with her late daughter Carrie Hamilton.
Burnett will be the guest of honor at the 2022 Sondheim Award Black Tie Gala on Monday, May 16. Individual tickets, inclusive of cocktails, dinner, and special performances, are $1,200, with table sponsorships offering more perks ranging from $12,000 to $100,000. Call 571-527-1828 or visit www.sigtheatre.org/Support/SondheimGala.
MGM NATIONAL HARBOR: YEAR OF THE TIGER
Are you feeling lucky? Or hopeful about the year ahead? Even if you’re not the gambling kind, now seems as good a time as any to take an excursion to MGM National Harbor, the resort south of D.C. proper across a wide stretch of the Potomac River from Old Town.
A month after Christmas, the complex’s Grand Conservatory has once again been decked out for the holiday — only this time for the Lunar New Year.
The new Year of the Tiger, starting on Tuesday, Feb. 1, is being celebrated in grand and vibrant fashion, with the display of a 30-foot-tall gold-leaf bamboo forest, a 22-foot-tall flickering Chinese lantern plus eight 8-foot-wide hand-painted lanterns, 10 large fans with hand-painted scenery, two large bonsai trees, a large wooden bridge, multiple ponds, a 10-foot-tall sequin-adorned animatronic tiger, and yet more gold bling — from 25-foot-long gold-leaf chains to a money tree decorated with 260 oversized gold coins.
All that gold leaf may seem ostentatious, but it’s intended “to wish prosperity and luck to all who visit,” according to the designers with SolarLife Technologies, who also enlisted a Feng Shui master to help ensure “the positive flow of energy throughout the Conservatory.” On display through March 12.
Additional Lunar New Year promotions at the resort include a special menu — only available until Feb. 1 — at MGM’s pan-Asian restaurant Ginger, with standout offerings including Crispy Fried Crab Claws, Golden Prawns, and sweet and sticky Rice Balls; a Lucky Money Kiosk Game, in which every play is guaranteed to win $88 in FREEPLAY®, on Wednesday, Feb. 2; a Money Tree Celebration Kiosk Game offering a chance to pull from the tree, with the top prize of $8,888 in cash, on Sunday, Feb. 6; a traditional good-luck Lion Dance at the Casino Valet on Sunday, Feb. 20; and special treats available at Bellagio Patisserie in the Atrium, such as a Milk Chocolate Bar served in a Red Envelope, and Lychee Mousse with Mochi and an Almond Cookie. 7100 Harborview Ave., Oxon Hill, Md. Call 844-346-4664 or visit www.mgmnationalharbor.com.
LA TI DO: 10TH ANNIVERSARY EVENT
A decade ago, Don Michael Mendoza and Regie Cabico were almost at their wits’ end, seeing little hope for their prospects in the theater. “There are no parts for gay Filipino guys,” Cabico recalled thinking at the time. So the two effectively created the parts for themselves with LA TI DO, a hybrid cabaret/karaoke/spoken-word event that became a popular draw among both theatergoers and performers, many dropping by on their night off to indulge in a little impromptu, or semi-impromptu, riffing. “LA TI DO led to places, venues, and people I only imagined working at and with as a young college graduate,” says a now 33-year-old Mendoza. “We reinvigorated D.C. cabaret culture.”
Since 2012, they’ve produced over 300 LA TI DO shows, all curated with a mix of both emerging and established actors, spoken-word artists, comedians, and casts from national touring productions including The Sound of Music, The King and I, and The Band’s Visit.
In the years prior to the pandemic, they had also put down roots in New York and Los Angeles, where they plan to relaunch LA TI DO this spring and summer. But February ushers in the event’s grand reemergence in Pittsburgh, as well as in its home base of D.C. — the latter with a small, in-person gathering (available for virtual streaming later) at the organization’s new host venue, Union Stage, on the DC Wharf.
This 10th-anniversary event, set for Saturday, Feb. 5, at 6 p.m., will feature alumni performers as part of a celebration for all those who have helped make LA TI DO such a continued success.
The event will be bookended by a pre-show reception for VIP attendees, starting at 5 p.m., and an after-party with a special guest DJ. 740 Water St. SW. Tickets are $35, or $50 for VIP with reception, preferred seating, one drink and gift bag. Call 877-987-6487 or visit www.unionstage.com or www.latidoproductions.com.
A series of hand-drawn letters between father and son, both real and imagined, is at the heart of this energetic and deeply personal coming-of-age story from Psalmayene 24, the acclaimed D.C.-based multidisciplinary artist, born Gregory Morrison in Brooklyn, who is also Mosaic Theater’s playwright-in-residence.
Led by the inventive, tech-savvy director Natsu Onoda Power of Georgetown University, Dear Mapel is billed as a “solo show in poetry” featuring the dynamic Psalm accompanied by live video projection, inventive prop design, and original percussive music by Jabari Exum, known as the drummer and movement coach on Marvel’s Black Panther films.
Notably, the world-premiere production is available for either live, in-person performances or as a video-on-demand streaming option. “I’ve opted not to hide behind fiction in this work — this play is the unvarnished autobiographical truth,” Psalm says in the show’s press release. “This is a means for me to finally and creatively confront a haunting element of my origin story. My hope is that it will be a gateway of healing for the audience and myself — a transformation of the demons in my life into guardian angels.”
Opens and begins streaming Wednesday, Feb. 2. Runs through Feb. 13. Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets are $20 to $68 for in-person and $40 for a 72-hour stream. Call 202-399-7993 or visit www.mosaictheater.org.
LA CASA DE LA LAGUNA
As she works to write the histories of her family and the family of her husband, a Puerto Rican woman unveils family secrets — rooted in racial, gender, and class strife — that threaten the family patriarchy in this suspenseful saga written for GALA Hispanic Theatre by renowned playwright Caridad Svich.
Based on the 1995 novel by Rosario Ferré, a feminist daughter of a former elected governor of Puerto Rico and U.S. statehood advocate, La Casa de la Laguna (The House on the Lagoon) weaves together several generations of family history with a chronicle of the political history of the Caribbean island and unincorporated U.S. commonwealth that continues to unfold.
The late Ferré’s writing, with its layered time frames, wide scope, and vivid language, has been compared to that of Isabel Allende, and playwright Svich won acclaim a decade ago with her adaptation of Allende’s The House of the Spirits. Rebecca Aparicio directs this latest adaptation starring two of Puerto Rico’s leading actors, Ernesto Concepción and Yaiza Figueroa, along with fellow Puertorriqueños Evelyn Rosario Vega and María Coral, plus Luz Nicolás, Omar Cruz, and Juan Luis Acevedo. Previews begin Thursday, Feb. 3.
Opens with Noche de GALA on Saturday, Feb. 5. Runs through Feb. 27. GALA is at 3333 14th St. NW. Tickets are $25 to $48, or $55 for Noche de GALA. Call 202-234-7174 or visit www.galatheatre.org.
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