From the traditional to the irreverent, D.C.-area performers are offering a wide variety of ways to celebrate the holiday season this year. Here’s a sampling.
On Sunday, Nov. 26, Murray and Peter will present “A Drag Queen Christmas — the Naughty Tour” at Lincoln Theatre (thelincolndc.com). Hosted by Roxxxy Andrews, the extravaganza features contestants from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” in an evening of holiday songs and outstanding drag performances.
Also onstage at the Lincoln Theatre is “The Holiday Show with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington.” The annual holiday extravaganza features festive new songs and traditional favorites and includes the GenOUT Chorus, all of the GMCW ensembles, tap dancers, leather reindeer and an over-the-top version of “The Nutcracker.” Performances are on Dec. 9, 16 and 17 (gmcw.org). The Chorus will again be collecting toys for Community Family Life Services.
Septime Weber’s celebrated version of “The Nutcracker” is a perennial highlight of the D.C. holiday season. The Washington Ballet’s production is set in historic Old Georgetown and includes George Washington, King George III and other historical characters. The shows runs at the Warner Theatre from Nov. 30-Dec. 24. Tickets start at $30 and can be found at washingtonballet.org.
From Dec. 1-23, Arlington’s Synetic Theatre (synetictheater.org) presents its innovative take on the classic fairy tale “Hansel & Gretel.” This intimate wordless Family Theatre production features only three performers and highlights the company’s award-winning movement techniques.
Wolf Trap (wolftrap.org/tickets) will kick off its holiday season on Dec. 2 with its popular Holiday Sing-A-Long. This musical celebration hosts a performance by the United States Marine Band and a sing-a-long of Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs with local choirs and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area.
Wolf Trap will be participating in Toys for Tots by collecting new, unwrapped toys at the entrance to the Filene Center before the Sing-A-Long. Admission is free and no tickets are necessary. Parking is free but limited. Audience members are also encouraged to bring a candle to join in the tradition of exiting the Filene Center with a candlelight processional during the last verse of “Silent Night.”
Handel’s epic masterpiece “The Messiah” is of course everywhere this holiday season. The Kennedy Center (kennedy-center.org) alone will be presenting three different versions of the holiday classic. From Dec. 14-17, maestro Jeanette Sorrell will conduct four acclaimed soloists performing with the University of Maryland Concert Choir. There will be a 25th anniversary concert celebration of “Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration” on Dec. 20. And on Dec. 23, the “Messiah Sing Along” will take place in the Concert Hall. Free tickets for the annual community tradition will be distributed starting at 4:30 p.m.
Other performances of the Handel holiday classic are offered by Washington National Cathedral Choir & Baroque Orchestra from Dec. 1-3 (cathedral.org); the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Dec. 9-10) with Edward Polochick conducting from the harpsichord (bsomusic.org); and the National Philharmonic at the Strathmore on Dec. 16-17 (strathmore.org).
In addition to “Messiah,” the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will offer a full slate of holiday fare, including “A Christmas Carol” with the annual Family Luncheon (Dec. 9); Home for the Holidays (Dec. 16-17) and the amazing Cirque de la Symphonie Holiday Spectacular (Dec. 22-23).
Some of Strathmore’s other holiday offerings include the Canadian Brass Christmas (Dec. 8), The Hip Hop Nutcracker (Dec. 12-13); A Candlelight Christmas (Dec. 15); Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker (Dec. 22-23); and the Salute to Vienna New Year’s Concert (Dec. 30).
Other holiday events at the Kennedy Center include “A Holiday Pops” featuring Megan Hilty (“Smash”) performing with the NSO Pops under the direction of conductor Stephen Reineke (Dec. 8-9); The Second City’s “Twist Your Dickens,” an irreverent improvisational take on the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge by the legendary comedy troupe (Dec. 5-31); “A Jazz New Year’s Eve” with Dee Dee Bridgewater (Dec. 31); and daily free offerings on the Millennium Stage.
Mark your calendars for the D.C. Different Drummers’ (dcdd.org) annual holiday concert and food drive on Dec 10. This free celebration of the beautiful music of the holiday season will benefit Food & Friends (foodandfriends.org), a D.C.-based non-profit that cares for individuals with life-challenging illnesses by delivering specialized meals and groceries and providing nutrition counseling. Please bring a non-perishable food item.
The legendary Birchmere (birchmere.com) in Alexandria offers an eclectic variety of holiday treats, including the Luther Re-Lives seventh annual holiday concert with William “Smooth” Wardlaw (Dec. 10); “An Acoustic Christmas” with Over the Rhine (Dec. 13); Norman Brown’s “Joyous Christmas” with Bobby Caldwell and Marion Meadows (Dec. 17); A John Waters Christmas (Dec. 21) and “A Murray Little Christmas” with Murray Hill and friends (Dec. 22).
The National Gallery of Art (nga.gov) continues its long-standing tradition of community caroling in the West Building Rotunda. Caroling commences at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. Featured guests include the National Presbyterian School Chorus (Dec. 9), the United States Army Chorus (Dec. 10), the Centennial High School Madrigals (Dec. 16) and the National United Methodist Church Singers and Ringers (Dec. 17). Singing along is encouraged.
For those who like “A Christmas Carol” with all the trimmings, Ford’s Theatre’s (fords.org) annual production runs Nov. 16-Dec. 31. Starring Craig Wallace as the infamous miser and featuring Rick Hammerly as the jovial Mr. Fezziwig, this version includes music, dance and fine performances from the Young Company.
Maryland’s Olney Theatre (olneytheatre.org) offers a different take on the classic tale in “A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas.” This one-man version features audience favorite Paul Morella who brings all of the characters to vivid theatrical life.
Gospel singers Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith are joined by “The Voice” champ Jordan Smith for the second year in a row. They play EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Va., on Saturday, Dec. 16. Tickets at ticketmaster.com.
The Washington Revels’ flagship production “The Christmas Revels” is an annual festive celebration of the winter solstice and the return of sun and light after the “shortest day.” Through music, dance and drama, it draws on traditions and rituals from many lands, peoples and eras.
For the 35th annual production, the company presents an energetic Québécois winter celebration that includes carols, wild dancing and foot-stomping instrumentals and blends old French traditions with New World ingenuity. Be prepared for a deal with the devil and a ride in a flying canoe. Performances run from Dec. 9-17 at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium. Tickets begin at $12 and are available at revelsdc.org.
The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum will offer a variety of events celebrating Kwanzaa. On Dec. 26, Nana Malaya Rucker, known as “The Dancing Diplomat” will use her extensive skills as a singer, dancer and storyteller to introduce audiences to the history of the holiday. The celebration continues on Dec. 27 with a performance by the Melvin Deal African Heritage Dancers and Drummers. Finally, on Dec. 28, the celebration concludes with an all-days arts & crafts session. All events are free and more information can be found on the Museum’s website at anacostia.si.edu.