Holiday Performance Preview
In Washington, we already have a year-round treasure trove of performance venues and offerings.
But you ain’t seen nothing yet. The Christmas holidays prove it, as the D.C. area performance atmosphere becomes downright intense, it’s a true trove of riches.
The holidays are a time for Washington performing arts venues—from the large-scale Kennedy Center or Music Center at Strathmore, to theaters, to smaller arts centers like the Atlas and H Street Playhouse, as well as cultural centers, embassies and churches – to concentrate on serving up Christmas-themed music, plays, songs and dances. We will be up to our mistletoes in Nutcrackers, Scrooges, sugarplum fairies, Christmas carols, Christmas music, Santas and reindeers.
But the holidays are also a time for many area arts venues to serve up something festive and family oriented, big and splashy and entertaining, which may have very little to do with Christmas per se, except for the simple fact that during the holidays, people like to be entertained, lavishly and simply, with heart and feeling.
And even in the holidays, there will always be performances for the cerebral, the agnostic, and perhaps a simmering Scrooge or two among us. Those also will be served by our theaters, as they do the year round.
Herewith, an eclectic preview of what to watch for, relish, anticipate and take a chance on during these holiday days and nights.
‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’
This year, the American Ballet Theater and Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie bring their own version of “The Nutcracker” to the Kennedy Center’s Opera House, with new choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, with sets by Richard Hudson of “The Lion King” fame, a cast of 100 dancers and a live orchestra. Dec. 8 through 11.
Septime Webre will stage his and the Washington Ballet’s version of “The Nutcracker” at the Warner Theater. This production will also have the Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker Orchestra. Dec. 1 through 24. Previews at the THEARC Theater in Southeast D.C. Nov. 25 through 27.
There’s no cast of hundreds in the Puppet Company Playhouse production of “The Nutcracker” but there’s plenty of imagination. Nov. 25 through Dec. 31. Check the Puppet Company’s website for more information at ThePuppetcop.org.
The Ford Theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol” is an adaptation by Michael Wilson and is directed by Michael Baron. Edward Gero, one of the great mainstays in the firmament of Washington stage stars returns as Scrooge. For more information, go to Fordstheatre.org/event/2011-christmas-carol. Nov. 18 through Dec. 13.
A most welcome event is the Theater Alliance’s production of Stephawn Stephens and Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity,” a re-telling of the Nativity from an African American perspective, which features gospel music, griot-style storytelling and dance at the H Street Playhouse. Dec. 3 through 31.
‘’Twas the Night before Christmas’
Adventure Theater, on its 60th anniversary, is presenting the world premiere of Ken Ludwig’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” “Night” is directed by former Round House Artistic Director Jerry Whiddon and stars Gary Sloan. The artistic director of Adventure Theater is Michal Bobbitt. Located at Glen Echo Park. Nov. 18 through Jan. 2.
‘The Santaland Diaries’
The Shop at Fort Fringe, headquarters for the Fringe Festival turns very Christmasy with the staging of “The Santaland Diaries” by David Sedaris, adapted by Joe Mantello, performed by Joe Brack and directed by Matty Griffiths. It’s the tale of Christmas that’s elf-centered and it’s considered a cult classic. Dec. 1 through 24.
FA LA LA LA LA: THE BEST OF THE HOLIDAY MUSIC EVENTS
The Kennedy Center
The National Symphony Orchestra enters the holiday with a classic classical program under the baton of NSO conductor Christoph Eschenbach, with Midori on violin playing Britten’s Violin Concerto at the Concert Hall. Dec. 1 through 3. There’s also the traditional NSO’s performance of Handel’s Messiah. Dec. 15. The annual Messiah Sing Along, which is free and held in front of the Concert Hall takes place Dec. 23. The line begins at 6 p.m. Singing begins at 8 p.m.
Performances at the Millennium Stage include the 36th Annual Merry Tuba Christmas Dec. 7; a performance of Christmas music by local stars Last Train Home Dec. 20; Holiday Vaudeville Dec. 29 and 30; and the All-Star Christmas Day Jazz Jam.
The NSO Pops Orchestra accompanied by the Canadian Tenors in “A Perfect Gift.” Dec. 8 through 11.
CHRISTMAS ALL OVER THE D.C.
The Music Center at Strathmore features a number of Christmas musical events. Skaggs Family Christmas on Dec. 1 features country and bluegrass performer Ricky Skaggs and his extended family. The 5 Browns Holiday Show featuring the renowned piano group will be featured Dec. 2.
The Embassy Series gets a Christmas feel for its second “A Luxembourg Christmas” at the Embassy of Luxembourg in a gala night of music performed by the Quattro Corde String Quartet. Call 202-625-2361 for information or tickets. Dec. 1 through 3.
The Dumbarton Concerts series celebrates the season with “A Celtic Christmas” with The Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton Celtic Consort. Readings by Robert Aubry Davis Dec. 3 and 4 at 4 pm, Dec. 10 at 4 and 8 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 4 p.m. at Dumbarton Church.
The Folger Consort celebrates the holidays at the Folger Elizabethan Theatre with performances of “O Magnum Mysterium,”* which features Christmas music from 16th Century Spain. Dec. 9 through 18.**
The Christmas Revels, one of Washington’s most popular annual holiday events, will present “Andalusion Treasures,” a brave performance celebration of the fountainhead of tolerance that existed in Andalusia in Spain 1,000 years ago. Guest artists Trio Sefardi and Layali El Andalus will celebrate Arab-Andalusian and Sephardic music. “Andalusian Treasures” will be performed with a cast of 75 Dec. 3 through 4 and 9 through 11 at the George Washington University Auditorium.
The Washington Bach Consort will perform “Christmas in Leipzig” at the National Presbyterian Church Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. Included is a Bach Orchestral Suite and Cantata, and works by Kuhnau and Telemann.