Metro Weekly

Hot Picks of the Week: Celebrate 50 Years of Broadway at the Kennedy Center

Plus, Criterion Collection's Black History Month highlights and a Valentine's Concert from the National Chamber Ensemble

Andrea McArdle — Photos: Grace Rainer Long (l), and Richard Braaten (r)

50 YEARS OF BROADWAY AT THE KENNEDY CENTER

As part of its Golden Anniversary season, the Kennedy Center is taking time out to reflect on and celebrate its role as one of the nation’s leading presenters of the arts. And in few areas or genres is that more true than the theater.

A major, frequent stop on national tours of Broadway blockbusters from Wicked to Hamilton, the Kennedy Center has also served as a pre-Broadway tryout for iconic shows like PippinAnnie, and Les Misérables, and also stepped up as a producer on recent hit revivals of Ragtime and Follies. All those shows and a few dozen more are sure to factor into 50 Years of Broadway at the Kennedy Center, a revue planned for only two live, in-person performances the weekend before Valentine’s Day, and hosted by Tony-winning actor James Monroe Iglehart (Aladdin).

James Monroe Iglehart, Vanessa Williams -- Photos courtesy of (l) James Monroe Inglehart, (c) Norm Lewis, and (r) Peter Hurley -- Photo: Kate Best
James Monroe Iglehart, Vanessa Williams — Photos courtesy of (l) James Monroe Inglehart, (c) Norm Lewis, and (r) Peter Hurley — Photo: Kate Best

The star-studded lineup includes Andrea McArdle, the original Annie, Betsy Wolfe (How to Succeed in Business…), Stephanie J. Block (The Cher Show), Gavin Creel (Hello, Dolly!Hair), Christopher Jackson (Hamilton), LaChanze (The Color Purple), Beth Leavel (The Prom), Norm Lewis (Porgy and BessThe Music Man), Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon), and Vanessa Williams (Into the Woods). Marc Bruni (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) directs the show, which also features an on-stage 40-piece orchestra led by Rob Berman.

Friday, Feb. 11, and Saturday, Feb. 12, at 7:30 p.m. Opera House. Tickets are $59 to $249. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.

NATIONAL CHAMBER ENSEMBLE: A VALENTINE’S CONCERT

The upcoming February concert from this Arlington-based group is as romantic as it gets, a program of string-driven works by two of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. Violinist Leonid Sushansky, the ensemble’s founding artistic director, and pianist Carlos Cesar Rodriguez team up to play three classic 19th century sonatas for violin and piano: two moving and passionate examples from Johannes Brahms, and the riveting and virtuosic Sonata in A Minor by Robert Schumann, a mentor and friend to Brahms.

Touted as “a perfect program to bring a loved one, or your love for the great romantics,” the “Beguiling Brahms and Schumann: A Valentine’s Concert” also comes with a surprise or two up its sleeve: “A Valentine’s program is never complete without some exciting encores and surprises,” as the press release puts it. In addition to requiring proof of full vaccination and wearing of masks for all patrons, the concert will take place in a half-empty room, allowing for better social distancing. And for those who can’t make it in person, The National Chamber Ensemble will record the performance and release it as “an exclusively produced concert video” one week later. Saturday, Feb. 12, at 7:30 p.m. Theater 1 in Gunston Arts Center, 2700 South Lang St., Arlington. Tickets are $18 to $36. Call 703-276-6701 or visit www.nationalchamberensemble.org.

SOULDATE DC

If you’re looking for a new love, even if only of the platonic kind — say, a new wingman or confidant — your search should include SoulDate, a monthly event billed as “a new social experiment” and an alternative to “the hookup scene and apps” for men seeking men. Planned for the second Wednesday of the month each gathering will feature libations and live entertainment. But the focus is on making a variety of direct, personal connections — that is, to quote the official description, organizers will help curate and facilitate “interactive 1:1 experiences to connect good souls for a variety of different types of relationships,” whether “future friend or future hubby.”

Tickets are now on sale for the first SoulDate in D.C., planned for a March debut at Tokyo Pearl, the Japanese-themed lounge located just south of Dupont Circle in the space that once housed the gay-owned men’s boutique Avenue Jack. Drag queen CAKE will serve as the host for the evening, which includes a complimentary cocktail or mocktail per guest upon entry and the chance to win over $500 in prizes, plus discounted premium cocktails and $10 specialty sushi rolls. In addition to being single and ready to mingle, participants should “come with an open-mind, a smile, positive vibes, and good energy,” as the event’s ad puts it. Wednesday, March 9, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. 1301 Connecticut Ave. NW. Advance tickets are $25 and are on sale now until the event sells out. Visit www.souldate.com.

Very Sad Lab: Transformer
Very Sad Lab: Transformer

VERY SAD LAB: THE INCUBATOR

The latest installation at Transformer is even quirkier and more original than the standard cutting-edge fare at the boutique art gallery in Logan Circle. Very Sad Lab: The Incubator is a living, growing art project, an exhibition displaying works of art that are potted rather than the more typical framed. Yes, we’re talking houseplants, and the plant-rescue and rehabilitation league known as Very Sad Lab, started by artists and amateur botanists Valerie Wiseman and Naoko Wowsugi.

They’ve installed a nursery inside Transformer and will spend the next five weeks caring for the plants on display there while also leading online discussions and workshops and creating resource guides about proper plant care. And at the exhibition’s close, all displayed plants will be available for adoption by “new plant parents throughout D.C.” Opens Saturday, Feb. 5 and runs through March 19. 1404 P St. NW. Call 202-483-1102 or visit www.transformerdc.org.

National Philharmonic and Music Director Piotr Gajewski -- Photo: Elman Studio
National Philharmonic and Music Director Piotr Gajewski — Photo: Elman Studio

NATIONAL PHILHARMONIC: HOLST’S THE PLANETS

It would have been a stellar, and undoubtedly popular, program had it featured nothing more than a performance of two celebrated science- and nature-inspired classical works from a century ago — leaving it as a celebration of art, letting the music speak for itself. Instead, the National Philharmonic, with conductor Piotr Gajewski, reached for the stars, so to speak, when it first launched a multimedia collaboration with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Four years later, the organization reprises that collaborative, science-informed program for two new concerts. Then as now, everything revolves around Gustav Holst’s The Planets, a transcendent trip through seven different planets of the solar system, along with an exploration of Claude Debussy’s La Mer, a symphonic ode to the sea.

Images from space — capturing a fiery red Mars as well as the serene sights of Venus among them — will be projected onstage during the performance as a complement to the music, and the program will also feature narrations by NASA Scientists Gina DiBraccio and Geronimo L. Villanueva.

Additionally, there will be science-informed, on-site activities planned around the concerts, ranging from NOAA’s Science on a Sphere, a giant globe displaying planetary data such as atmospheric storms, climate change, and ocean temperature, to a pre-performance lecture for kids with a NASA astronaut. Sunday, Feb. 6, at 3 p.m. Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. Also Sunday, Feb. 13, at 3 p.m. Capital One Hall, 7750 Capital One Tower Road, Tysons. Tickets are $45 to $99. Call 301-493-9283 or visit www.nationalphilharmonic.org.

Behold, A Negress: Hannah Kelly and Jessica Natalie Smith -- Photo: Teresa Castracane
Behold, A Negress: Hannah Kelly and Jessica Natalie Smith — Photo: Teresa Castracane

BEHOLD, A NEGRESS

French artist Marie-Guillemine Benoist’s Portrait d’une négresse is a painting from 1800 depicting a formerly enslaved black woman whose real name was Madeleine. That served as a jumping-off point for playwright Jacqueline E. Lawton to develop a provocative new work set in Paris at the beginning of Napoleon’s reign.

In Behold, A Negress, Lawton imagines Madeleine as not only Marie’s muse but also her lover, setting up an exploration of interracial same-sex love, intersectional feminism, and the role of art in times of social and political unrest.

Hannah Kelly is Marie and Jessica Natalie Smith is Madeleine in the new world-premiere production of the drama at Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre. Tatyana-Marie Carlo directs. Live performances now to Feb. 27. Video on Demand streaming access begins Friday, Feb. 18 and is available until March 13. Everyman Theatre is at 315 West Fayette St. in Baltimore. Tickets are $29 to $69. Call 410-752-2208 or visit www.everymantheatre.org.

Coyaba Dance
Coyaba Dance

COYABA DANCE THEATER

A rare woman leader in the West African dance world, Sylvia Soumah founded Coyaba in 1997 with a focus on the energetic and ethnically diverse styles of dance and music from West Africa, specifically emanating from the countries of the Mali Empire (Mali, Guinea, and Senegal).

A longtime resident company at Dance Place, Coyaba Dance Theater returns to the Brookland venue the second weekend in February for a celebratory program offering a mix of traditional and contemporary dance and music, including live drumming and theatrical performance. Saturday, Feb. 12, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 13, at 4 p.m. Cafritz Theater, 3225 8th St. NE. Tickets are offered in pay-what-you-can options up to $100. Call 202-269-1600 or visit www.danceplace.org.

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