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In the spirit

Region offers array of holiday entertainment



A dancer from Washington Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker.’ (Photo by Steve Vaccariello; courtesy Washington Ballet)

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington presents “Winter Nights,” Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at the Lisner Auditorium, (730 21st Street NW), featuring a pageant of glittering winter “Rockettes,” a Bollywood number and even a visit from Mrs. Claus with the song “Santa Won’t You Please Come Back.” Tickets range from $13 to $35 and can be purchased at

Wolf Trap (1645 Trap Rd.) in Vienna presents its free annual holiday sing-a-long on Dec. 1, featuring Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs by choir and vocal groups and the United States Marine Band.

The Kennedy Center (2700 F St., N.W.) has several holiday performances and events coming up in December. First, Utah’s preeminent ballet company, Ballet West, brings America’ oldest complete “Nutcracker” to the center from Dec. 5-9. The beloved ballet features the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and National Cathedral School Lower School Singers. Tickets range from $45-$150.

The Kennedy Center teams with National Public Radio for the annual “A Jazz Piano Christmas” on Dec. 8, featuring top jazz pianists such as Master Ellis Marsalis, Jason Moran, Geri Allen and Taylor Eigsti performing their favorite holiday songs. Tickets are $65.

Also at the Kennedy Center, the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Rolf Beck, will be performing Handel’s “Messiah” Dec. 20-23. Featured singers will be soprano Katherine Whyte, countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, tenor Sunnyboy Vincent Diadia and bass-baritone Panajotis Iconmou. Tickets range from $10 to $85.

The National Philharmonic will perform the “Messiah” on Dec. 8 and Dec. 22-23 with Stan Engebretson conducting at the Music Center at Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Lane) in North Bethesda. Tickets range from $30 to $85.

Washington Symphonic Brass (Photo courtesy the company)

On Dec. 18, the National Philharmonic’s associate Conductor Victoria Gau will lead the Washington Symphonic Brass and National Philharmonic Chorale in a holiday concert at the Music Center. The critically acclaimed 17-member brass and percussion ensemble will ring in the holidays with arrangements of holiday favorites, including a medley by WSB Director Phil Snedecor called “Christmas Memories,” an arrangement by Tony DiLorenzo of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and an exuberant version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” with the National Philharmonic Chorale. Tickets range from $28 to $48.

The National Philharmonic Singers, under the direction of conductors Stan Engebretson and Victoria Gau, will present a free holiday concert on Dec. 15 at Christ Episcopal Church (107 South Washington St.) in Rockville. The concert will feature famous carols, including the “Hallelujah Chorus,” Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols” with harp and “The Blessed Son of God from Hodie” by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Other highlights include music from various periods, with a special audience sing along.

Washington Ballet welcomes the holiday season by presenting “The Nutcracker” Nov. 30 through Dec. 23 at the historic Warner Theatre (3515 Wisconsin Ave, NW). Septime Webre’s critically acclaimed ballet transports audiences back in time to historic Washington in a one-of-a-kind production set in 1882 Georgetown and starring George Washington as the heroic Nutcracker, King George III as the villainous Rat King, Anacostia Indians, frontiersmen and many other all-American delights. Tickets range from $34-$99.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs its “Holiday Pops Celebration” from Dec. 12-16 at the Music Center at Strathmore under the baton of Robert Bernhardt. Daniel Narducci serves as host and guest vocalist. Tickets range from $25-$85.

For those looking for some non-traditional entertainment, they won’t be disappointed.

Town (2009 8th St. NW) will present “A Nightmare Before Xmas” with Sharon Needles, a drag queen famous for winning “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” on Dec. 15. The club will also feature DJ Summer Camp (aka Shea Van Horn in a fabulously slutty dress).  The night begins at 10 p.m., but a private meet-and-greet cocktail party is available with Needles for $50. A limited amount of tickets are available at

Coyaba Dance Theater (3225 8th St NE) welcomes the young performers of the Coyaba Dance Academy and special guests Soul in Motion and Cheick Hamala Diabaté for its annual multi-generational Kwanzaa Celebration Dec. 14-16. The performance includes traditional dance and drumming. Tickets begin at $22.

Gay filmmaker John Waters will offer his take on the holiday season with his show “A John Waters Christmas” playing the Birchmere (3701 Mount Vernon Ave.) in Alexandria on Dec. 10. Delving into his passion for lunatic exploitation Christmas movies and the unhealthy urge to remake all his own films into seasonal children’s classics, “The Pope of Trash” will give you a Joyeaux Noel like no other. Tickets are $49.50.

Also at the Birchmere, The Four Bitchin Babes, combining humor with music, will be presenting its “Jingle Babes” celebration Dec.14-15. The four women play their own guitars, bass, piano, Irish Bodhran, mandolin and ukulele as they entertain for the holidays. Tickets are $35.

Looking for a little theater this holiday season? There are plenty of offerings to whet any theatrical appetite.

‘White Christmas.’ (Photo courtesy the Kennedy Center)

The Kennedy Center will stage Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” based on the popular movie, in its Opera House from Dec. 11 to Jan. 6. Tickets start at $25.

The National Theatre (1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW) stages Cameron Mackintosh’s new 25th anniversary production of “Les Misérables” from Dec. 13-30. The new production features glorious new staging and spectacular reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. Ticket prices start at $40.

The Olney Theater (2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd.) in Olney is bringing back storyteller Paul Morella in a one-man performance of “A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas.” Tickets for all shows at Olney start at $26 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 301-924-3400.

Olney will also stage Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical “Cinderella” from now until Dec. 30. The musical includes memorable songs such as “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible” and “Ten Minutes Ago.” Tickets are $26-$54.

The BlackRock Center for the Arts (12901 Town Commons Drive) in Germantown is getting into the holiday spirit with a theatrical performance of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on Dec. 8 and “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Dec. 15. Tickets range from $15-$29.

BlackRock also hosts “A Ceremony of Carols,” with the National Philharmonic Singers and harpist Rebecca Smith on Dec. 16. Tickets are $23-$25 and can be purchased at

Signature Theatre (4200 Campbell Ave.) in Arlington will present “Holiday Guys,” a two-man cabaret starring three-time Tony Award nominee and Signature favorite Marc Kudisch and Astaire Award nominee Jeffry Denman. The non-traditional holiday show is complete with song, dance and silliness and will play Dec. 11-16.

Back by popular demand to Signature is the festive series “Holiday Follies,” featuring a wonderful wintry line-up of special guest performers, along with a host of Signature’s closest friends and artists. Performances are scheduled from Dec. 18-23. Tickets for both Signature shows are $41.

Whether a fan of jazz, pop or classical, music lovers can get their fix all holiday season.

The Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra (2001 Eleventh Street NW) performs its holiday concert, “A Bohemian Christmas,” featuring holiday classics from the libraries of Claude Thornhill, Count Basie, Stan Kenton and the entire Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn adaptation of “The Nutcracker Suite” on Dec. 10. Tickets are $10.

On Dec.8, Saxophonist Tim Warfield returns to Bohemian Caverns to host his annual Jazzy Christmas Show. Tickets are $25.

Saxophone extraordinaire Dave Koz, who’s openly gay, is celebrating his 15th annual “Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Concert” at the Music Center at Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Lane) in North Bethesda on Dec. 3. Special guests include David Benoit, Javier Colon and Sheila E. The concert begins at 8 p.m. and tickets range from $38 to $72.

The Christ Church Episcopal (118 N. Washington St.) in Alexandria is presenting “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” on Dec. 2 at 5 p.m. The Christ Church Choir, the Canterbury Choir, the Cherub Choir, guest organist Daniel Aune and a brass quintet will join to offer music for the Advent season. A wine-and-cheese reception will follow the free performance.

DC Swing!, with its new conductor, Matt Leonhardt, will perform a holiday benefit gala with live holiday music, hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar on Dec. 15th, at Nage Bistro (1600 Rhode Island Ave NW), from 7-10 p.m. The LGBT-friendly group is part of D.C. Different Drummers. Tickets start at $30.

Metropolitan Community Church of Washington (474 Ridge St. NW), D.C.’s largest mostly gay church, presents its annual Christmas concert “Christmas Miracles” Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at 7:30 both nights. The church will also offer a special Christmas concert and community dinner on Dec. 7 and a family Christmas concert on Dec. 8. Visit for more information.

The Philadelphia Brass Quintet will perform a world premier-commissioned work for Candlelight Concert Society’s 40th anniversary on Nov. 24 at the Horowitz Performing Arts Center, Smith Theatre, on the campus of Howard Community College (10901 Little Patuxent Parkway) in Columbia. The concert features an array of classical and contemporary music by Susato, Bach, Durufle, Ewazn, Weill, Elgar, Lichtenberger, Van Heusen and Duke Ellington. Tickets range from $12-$30.


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Out & About

Studio House, Visual AIDS partner for educational program

Day With(out) Art 2021 to be held at Lamont Plaza



One Tent Health, gay news, Washington Blade
World AIDS Day is next week.

Studio House and Visual AIDS will join forces for “Day With(out) Art 2021” on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. at Lamont Plaza. 

This event is a community outdoor screening of “Enduring Care,” a video program that highlights strategies of community care within the ongoing HIV epidemic followed by a discussion about the video.

There will be an open house in the neighborhood at the David Bethuel Jamieson (1963-1992) Studio House and Archives featuring newly commissioned work by Katherine Cheairs, Cristóbal Guerra, Danny Kilbride, Abdul-Aliy A. Muhammad and Uriah Bussey, Beto Pérez, Steed Taylor, and J Triangular and the Women’s Video Support Project.

For more information, visit Eventbrite

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‘Tick, tick… BOOM!’ explodes with the love of Broadway

A perfect film for fans of musical theater



Andrew Garfield shines in ‘Tick, Tick… BOOM!’ (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

If you are a person who love musical theater – or if you know someone who does – then you know there is something about this particular art form that inspires a strong and driving passion in those who enjoy it, often to the point of obsession. For this reason, perhaps it’s no surprise that those who work in musical theater – the creators, performers, and all the other people who make it happen – are often the biggest musical theater lovers of all.

Because of this, “tick, tick… BOOM!” (the new film directed by Lin-Manuel “Hamilton” Miranda and written by Steven “Dear Evan Hansen” Levenson) might be the most perfect movie ever made for such fans. Adapted from an autobiographical “rock monologue” by Jonathan Larson, it follows the future “Rent” composer (Andrew Garfield) for a week in the early 1990s, when he was still an unknown young Broadway hopeful waiting tables in a New York diner. He’s on the cusp of turning 30, a milestone that weighs on his mind as he prepares for a showcase of a musical that he hasn’t quite finished – even though he’s been writing it for eight years. With limited time left to compose the show’s most crucial number, his race against the clock is complicated by major changes in his personal life; his lifelong best friend Michael (Robin de Jesús) has quit acting in favor of a five-figure career in advertising, and his girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp) is moving away from the city to accept a teaching job and wants him to come with her. With reminders everywhere of the ongoing AIDS epidemic still raging in the community around him, and with his own youth ticking away, he is inevitably forced to wonder if it’s time to trade in his own Broadway dreams for a more secure future – before it’s too late.

As every musical theater fan knows, the young composer’s obsession with time (hence the title) is laced with bittersweet irony in the context of what eventually happened in his real life: the day before “Rent” opened on Broadway and became a smash hit that reshaped and expanded the boundaries of what musical theater could be, Larson died of an aortic aneurysm at the age of 35. He never lived to see the full fruition of all those years of hard work, and that tragic turn of events is precisely what makes “tick, tick… BOOM!” relevant and provides its considerable emotional power. In that light, it’s essentially a musical “memento mori,” a reminder that the clock eventually runs out for all of us.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s not also a celebration of life in the theater, and Miranda is probably better suited than anyone to make us see that side of the coin. Now unquestionably in the highest echelon of status as a Broadway icon, he came of age in the era of “Rent,” and he takes pains to make his depiction of Manhattan in the ‘90s as authentic as possible.

Capturing the era with touches like Keith Haring-inspired murals and the use of “Love Shack” as a party anthem, his movie keeps Larson’s story within the context of his time while drawing clear connections to our own. His reverence for Larson – whom he cites as a seminal inspiration for his own future work – manifests itself palpably throughout. Yet despite that (or perhaps because of it), so does an infectiously cheery tone. Yes, things get heavy; there are hardships and heartbreaks at every turn, because that’s what a life in the theater means. But at the same time, there’s just so much fun to be had. The camaraderie, the energy, and the joy of simply living in that world comes leaping off the screen (often thanks to the enthusiastic choreography of Ryan Heffington) with the kind of giddy, effortless ease that might almost make us jealous if it didn’t lift our spirits so much. No matter that the lead character spends most of the movie second-guessing his path; we never doubt for a moment that, for him, the rewards of following his passion outweigh the sacrifices a thousand times over.

That’s something Miranda also understands. His movie drives home the point that the joy of doing theater is its own reward, and he’s willing to prove it by turning up in a bit part just for the sake of being a part of the show. And he’s not the only one. The screen is littered with living legends; in one memorable sequence alone, a who’s-who of Broadway’s brightest stars – Chita Rivera, Bernadette Peters, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Andre DeShield, Bebe Neuwirth, Joel Grey, and at least a dozen more – serve as a high-profile backup chorus of extras for a song at the diner, but there are blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos in almost every scene. It almost feels like a gimmick, or an effort to turn the movie into a “spot the star” trivia game for hardcore fans – until you realize that these are the best and brightest people in their field, who have willingly chosen to show up and participate even though they did not have to. They are there purely for love, and you can see it in their faces.

Miranda scores big across the board as a director – this is his feature film directorial debut, which confirms the standing assumption the man can do anything. But “tick, tick… BOOM!” is a star turn for its leading player, and full credit must also go – and emphatically so – to Garfield, who surpasses expectations as Larson. The one-time “Spiderman” actor trained extensively to be able to master the demands of singing the role, and it shows; he comes off as a true musical theater trouper, worthy beyond doubt of sharing the screen with so many giants. Even better, he integrates that challenge into the whole of a flamboyantly joyful performance that makes Larson endearingly, compellingly three-dimensional. It’s a career-topping piece of work.

The rest of the principal cast – a refreshingly inclusive ensemble that reminds us that Larson was instrumental in making Broadway a much more diverse place – are equally fine. De Jesús gets a long-deserved chance to shine as Michael, and Shipp brings a quiet calm to the easily-could-have-been-overshadowed Susan that makes her the perfect balance to Garfield’s high-octane energy.

Joshua Henry and Vanessa Hudgens contribute much more than their stellar vocal talents to their pair of roles as Larson friends and collaborators, and there are delicious supporting turns by Judith Light and Bradley Whitford – who gives an affectionately amusing and dead-on accurate screen impersonation of Broadway legend-of-legends Stephen Sondheim, one of Larson’s (and Miranda’s) biggest influences and inspirations, who accordingly looms large in the story despite his relatively short amount of screen time.

It should be obvious by now that “tick, tick… BOOM!” is a delight for people who love musical theater. But what if you’re not one of those people? The good news is that there is so much to enjoy here, so much real enjoyment, so much talent, so much hard work on display that nobody will have any reason to be bored.

Even people who DON’T love musical theater.

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James Ivory on movies, beauty — and a love of penises

If you enjoy film and wit you’ll love ‘Solid Ivory’



(Book cover image courtesy of Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

‘Solid Ivory: Memoirs’
By James Ivory
C.2021, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
$30/399 pages

Few things have been more pleasurable to me during the pandemic than Merchant/Ivory films. COVID becomes a dim memory as I ogle the costumes, beautiful vistas from Italy to India, music and spot-on dialogue of “A Room with a View,” “Maurice,” “Remains of the Day” and other Merchant/Ivory movies.

For decades, fans from gay men to grandmas have enjoyed these films, directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant in partnership with the writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.

In “Solid Ivory,” Ivory, 93, gives us his memories of movie making, growing up gay, his decades-long romantic and professional partnership with Merchant and (you’re reading this correctly) the penises he has known.

If you believe that elders don’t enjoy sex, Ivory’s memoir will blow your ageism to smithereens.

From watching the movies he’s directed and knowing his age, you might think (as I did) that Ivory would be shy about talking of his sexuality. Wow, was I wrong!

Ivory appreciates penises as a sommelier savors fine wine.

Ivory knew that he liked boys early on. Ivory recalls playing at age seven with a boy named Eddy. He and Eddy were “putting our penises into each other’s mouths,” Ivory writes, “…I made it clear that Eddy’s dick must not touch my lips or tongue, nor the inside of my mouth. I had learned all about germs at school by then.”

Though Ivory and Merchant were devoted partners, they each had other lovers. Bruce Chatwin, the travel writer who died from AIDS, was Ivory’s friend, and sometimes, lover.

Chatwin’s penis was “Uncut, rosy, schoolboy-looking,” Ivory writes.

Ivory’s memoir isn’t prurient. His sexuality doesn’t overpower the narrative. It runs through “Solid Ivory” like a flavorful spice.

The book is more an impressionistic mosaic than a chronological memoir. Ivory, often, tells the stories of his life through letters he’s written and received (from lovers, friends and professional contacts) as well as from diary entries.

Many of the chapters in the memoir were previously published in other publications such as The New Yorker.

“Solid Ivory” was originally published in a limited edition by Shrinking Violet Press. The Press is a small press run by Peter Cameron, a novelist, and editor of “Solid Ivory.” Ivory grew up in Klamath Falls, Ore. He was originally named Richard Jerome Hazen. His parents changed his name when they adopted him.
Some of the most engaging moments of the memoir are when Ivory writes about what life was like for a child during the Depression.

Ivory’s father lost his savings when the stock market crashed, and his mother frequently gave food to “tramps” who came to the door.

His “eating tastes were definitely formed during the Depression,” Ivory writes.

Since that time, Ivory has lived everywhere from England to Italy. “But although I consider myself an advanced expert in the more sophisticated forms of cuisine,” Ivory writes, “My gastronomical roots remain dug deep in the impoverished soil of the American Depression.” Ivory became smitten with movies when he saw his first picture when he was five.

He and Merchant, a Muslim from India who died in 2005, fell in love when they met on the steps of the Indian consulate in New York in 1961. I wish Ivory had written more about the 30+ movies that he made (mostly with Merchant and Jhabvala, who died in 2013).

Yet, he provides tantalizing recollections of filmmaking, actors and celebs.

The chapters on “Difficult Women like Raquel Welch and Vanessa Redgrave” are fun to read.

Welch, a bombshell brat, doesn’t want to play a love scene in “The Wild Party.” During the filming of “The Bostonians,” Boston is captivated by the drama of Redgrave’s off-screen politics.

Ivory isn’t that impressed when in 2018, at age 89, he becomes the oldest Academy Award winner when he receives the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for “Call Me By Your Name.” “Its fame eclipses even Michelangelo’s David and the Statue of Liberty,” Ivory says, with irony, of the Oscar statue.

If you enjoy the movies, beauty and wit, you’ll love “Solid Ivory.”

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