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In the spirit

Region offers array of holiday entertainment

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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 gmcw.org.

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 groovetickets.com.

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 blackrockcenter.org.

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 mccdc.com 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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Photos

PHOTOS: DCGFFL 25th Anniversary Party

Gay flag football league marks milestone at Penn Social

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The D.C. Gay Flag Football league held a party celebrating their 25th season at Penn Social on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Gay Flag Football League (DCGFFL) held a 25th season anniversary party at Penn Social on Saturday, Sept. 23. Proceeds from the event benefited the LGBTQ youth services organization SMYAL as well as the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Books

New book goes behind the scenes of ‘A League of Their Own’

‘No Crying in Baseball’ offers tears, laughs, and more

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(Book cover image courtesy of Hachette Books)

‘No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of ‘A League of Their Own’
By Erin Carlson
c.2023, Hachette Books
$29/320 pages

You don’t usually think of Madonna as complaining of being “dirty all day” from playing baseball. But that’s what the legendary diva did during the shooting of “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 movie, beloved by queers.

“No Crying in Baseball,” the fascinating story behind “A League of Their Own,” has arrived in time for the World Series. Nothing could be more welcome after Amazon has cancelled season 2 of its reboot (with the same name) of this classic film.

In this era, people don’t agree on much. Yet, “A League of Their Own” is loved by everyone from eight-year-old kids to 80-year-old grandparents.

The movie has strikes, home runs and outs for sports fans; period ambience for history buffs; and tears, laughs and a washed-up, drunk, but lovable coach for dramady fans.

The same is true for “No Crying in Baseball.” This “making of” story will appeal to history, sports and Hollywood aficionados. Like “All About Eve” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “A League of Their Own” is Holy queer Writ.

Carlson, a culture and entertainment journalist who lives in San Francisco, is skilled at distilling Hollywood history into an informative, compelling narrative. As with her previous books, “I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy” and “Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep,” “No Crying in Baseball,” isn’t too “educational.” It’s filled with gossip to enliven coffee dates and cocktail parties.

“A League of Their Own” is based on the true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). From 1943 to 1954, more than 600 women played in the league in the Midwest. The league’s players were all white because the racism of the time prohibited Black women from playing. In the film, the characters are fictional. But the team the main characters play for – the Rockford Peaches – was real.

While many male Major and Minor League Baseball players were fighting in World War II, chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, who owned the Chicago Cubs, founded the league. He started the AAGPBL, “To keep spectators in the bleachers,” Carlson reports, “and a storied American sport–more important: his business afloat.” 

In 1943, the Office of War Information warned that the baseball season could be “scrapped” “due to a lack of men,” Carlson adds.

“A League of Their Own” was an ensemble of women’s performances (including Rosie O’Donnell as Doris, Megan Cavanagh as Marla, Madonna as Mae, Lori Petty as Kit and Geena Davis as Dottie) that would become legendary.

Girls and women  still dress up as Rockford Peaches on Halloween.

Tom Hanks’s indelible portrayal of coach Jimmy Dugan, Gary Marshall’s depiction of (fictional) league owner Walter Harvey and Jon Lovitz’s portrayal of Ernie have also become part of film history.

Filming “A League of Their Own,” Carlson vividly makes clear, was a gargantuan effort.  There were “actresses who can’t play baseball” and “baseball players who can’t act,” Penny Marshall said.

The stadium in Evansville, Ind., was rebuilt to look like it was in the 1940s “when the players and extras were in costume,” Carlson writes, “it was easy to lose track of what year it was.”

“No Crying in Baseball” isn’t written for a queer audience. But, Carlson doesn’t pull any punches. 

Many of the real-life AAGPBL players who O’Donnell met had same-sex partners, O’Donnell told Carlson.

“When Penny, angling for a broad box-office hit chose to ignore the AAGPGL’s queer history,” Carlson writes, “she perpetuated a cycle of silence that muzzled athletes and actresses alike from coming out on the wider stage.”

“It was, as they say, a different time,” she adds.

Fortunately, Carlson’s book isn’t preachy. Marshall nicknames O’Donnell and Madonna (who become buddies) “Ro” and “Mo.” Kodak is so grateful for the one million feet of film that Marshall shot that it brings in a high school marching band. Along with a lobster lunch. One day, an assistant director “streaked the set to lighten the mood,” Carlson writes.

“No Crying in Baseball,” is slow-going at first. Marshall, who died in 2018, became famous as Laverne in “Laverne & Shirley.” It’s interesting to read about her. But Carlson devotes so much time to Marshall’s bio that you wonder when she’ll get to “A League of Their Own.”

Thankfully, after a couple of innings, the intriguing story of one of the best movies ever is told.

You’ll turn the pages of “No Crying in Baseball” even if you don’t know a center fielder from a short stop.

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Theater

Rupert Murdoch’s powers on full display in ‘Ink’

Media baron helped pave the way for Brexit, Prime Minister Thatcher

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Cody Nickell (Larry Lamb) and Andrew Rein (Rupert Murdoch) in ‘Ink’ at Round House Theatre. (Photo by Margot Schulman Photography)

‘Ink’
Through Sept. 24
Round House Theatre
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814
$46-$94
Roundhousetheatre.org

Yes, Rupert Murdoch’s loathsome traits are many, but his skills to succeed are undeniably numerous. 

In the first scenes of John Graham’s West End and Broadway hit drama “Ink,” an exciting year-long detail from the life of a burgeoning media baron, Murdoch’s powers of persuasion are on full display.

It’s 1969 London. Over dinner with editor Larry Lamb, a young Murdoch shares his plan to buy the Sun and rebrand the dying broadsheet, replacing the Daily Mirror as Britain’s best-selling tabloid. What’s more, he wants to do it in just one year with Lamb at the helm. 

Initially reluctant, Lamb becomes seduced by the idea of running a paper, something that’s always eluded him throughout his career, and something Murdoch, the outsider Australian, understands. Murdoch taunts him, “Not you. Not Larry Lamb, the Yorkshire-born son of a blacksmith, not the guy who didn’t get a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, who didn’t get a degree from anywhere. Not you.”

Still, Lamb, played convincingly by Cody Nickell in Round House Theatre’s stellar season-opener, a co-production with Olney Theatre Center, remains unsure. But Murdoch (a delightfully brash Andrew Rein) is undeterred, and seals the deal with a generous salary. 

Superbly staged by director Jason Loweth, “Ink” is riveting. Its exchanges between Lamb and Murdoch are a strikingly intimate glimpse into ambition involving an ostensibly average editor and a striving money man who doesn’t like people.  

Once on board, Lamb is trolling Fleet Street in search of his launch team, played marvelously by some mostly familiar actors. He makes his most important hire — news editor Brian McConnell (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) — in a steam bath. The remainder of the Sun’s new masthead falls handily into place: Joyce Hopkirk (Kate Eastwood Norris) the women’s page editor whose forward thinking is marred by her casual racism; Zion Jang plays Beverley Goodway, an awkwardly amusing young photographer; persnickety deputy editor Bernard Shrimsley (Michael Glenn) who learns to love ugly things; and an old school sports editor who proves surprisingly versatile, played by Ryan Rillette, Round House’s artistic director. 

At Lamb’s suggestion, the team brainstorms about what interests Sun readers. They decide on celebrities, pets, sports, free stuff, and —rather revolutionarily for the time —TV.  Murdoch is happy to let readers’ taste dictate content and the “Why” of the sacred “five Ws” of journalism is out the window. 

Murdoch is portrayed as a not wholly unlikable misanthrope. He dislikes his editors and pressman alike. He particularly hates unions. His advice to Lamb is not to get too chummy with his subordinates. Regarding the competition, Murdoch doesn’t just want to outperform them, he wants to grind them to dust. 

Loewith leads an inspired design team. Scenic designer Tony Cisek’s imposing, inky grey edifice made from modular walls is ideally suited for Mike Tutaj’s projections of headlines, printed pages, and Rein’s outsized face as Murdoch. Sound designer and composer Matthew M. Nielson ably supplies bar noises and the nonstop, pre-digital newspaper clatter of presses, linotypes, and typewriters.

From a convenient second tiered balcony, the Daily Mirror’s establishment power trio Hugh Cudlipp (Craig Wallace), Chris Lee Howard (Chris Geneback) and Sir Percy (Walter Riddle) overlook all that lies below, discussing new tactics and (mostly failed) strategies to remain on top.   

Increasingly comfortable in the role of ruthless, sleazy editor, Lamb is unstoppable.

Obsessed with overtaking the Daily Mirror’s circulation, he opts for some sketchy reportage surrounding the kidnapping and presumed murder of Muriel McKay, the wife of Murdoch’s deputy Sir Alick (Todd Scofield). The kidnappers mistook Muriel for Murdoch’s then-wife Anna (Sophia Early). Next, in a move beyond the pale, Lamb introduces “Page 3,” a feature spotlighting a topless female model. Awesta Zarif plays Stephanie, a smart young model. She asks Lamb if he would run a semi-nude pic of his similarly aged daughter? His reaction is uncomfortable but undaunted. 

For Murdoch’s purposes, history proves he chose well in Lamb. By year’s end, the Sun is Britain’s most widely read tabloid. Together they give the people what they didn’t know they wanted, proving the pro-Labour Daily Mirror’s hold on the working class is baseless and paving the way for things like Brexit and a Prime Minister Thatcher. 

“Ink” at Round House closes soon. See it if you can.

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