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Music & Concerts

Concerts: Strike up the band!

From gay-helmed S.F. orchestra to trans rockers and hip-hoppers, region ripe with queer music energy

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Chely Wright, Catie Curtis, gay news, Washington Blade
Chely Wright, Catie Curtis, gay news, Washington Blade

Lesbian singer/songwriters Chely Wright and Catie Curtis (left) are both expected to return to the region this spring. Curtis is at Wolf Trap. Wright plays a special show in Rehoboth Beach. (Photo courtesy Wolf Trap and Vanguard Records)

From hip-hop to Broadway, this season of performers brings such a diverse set of music that there’s room for all kinds of audience members.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington puts on a all-male version of “Xanadu” at Lisner Auditorium (730 21st St., NW) on March 15-16 at 8 p.m. with a matinee performance March 17 at 3 p.m. The show is based on the 1980 romantic film starring Olivia Newton-John. The main character Kira, a Greek muse, is sent to California with a mission: to inspire men. She inspires the creative genius of the film to create the world’s first roller disco! Tickets are $20-$55. For more information, visit gmcw.org.

The Washington Women in Jazz Festival kicks off on March 20 with Kimberly Thompson performing at 8 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center (1333 H St., NE). Tickets for this specific event are $25. The following evening on March 21 at 5:30 p.m. is the vocal showcase with Christie Dashiell and Jessica Boykin-Settles at Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington). This event is free. The festival continues until March 27, including events such as the Young Arts Contest and Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra. The festival concludes with jazz legend Geri Allen on the piano at 8 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center (1333 H St., NE). Tickets are $35 for the finale. For a full a schedule and ticket prices for specific events, visit washingtonwomeninjazz.com.

Transgender performer Mykki Blanco comes to Comet Ping Pong (5037 Connecticut Ave., NW) along with Dope Body on March 27 at 9 p.m. This outgoing alter-ego to Michael David Quattlebaum Jr., is a New York-based poet and hip-hop musician. Dope Body is a noise rock band from Baltimore that formed in 2008. Their most recent album “Natural History” saw a change in sound with more big melodic hooks. Tickets are $12. For more information, visit cometpingpong.com.

Singer and lesbian activist Catie Curtis comes to The Barns at Wolf Trap (1645 Trap Rd., Vienna) on March 28 at 8 p.m. Curtis brings her stories about tackling personal and social justice themes that any audience member can relate to. Tickets are $22. For more information, visit wolftrap.org.

Country singer Chely Wright is the headliner for Rehoboth’s “Women’s Fest 2013” on April 12 at 8:45 p.m. at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center (229 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del.). Wright became the first major country singer to come out as gay in May 2010, citing her concerns about bullying of gays as well as being true to herself. Tickets are $25. There are a limited amount of front table seats that are $100. For more information, visit camprehoboth.com.

Several big-name pop and rock acts are slated to play the region. Look for Pink at the Verizon Center on March 14, “Wonder Woman” Lynda Carter at the Kennedy Center on March 23, Fleetwood Mac (which has a large gay following thanks to singer Stevie Nicks) at the Verizon Center on April 9, gay popster Mika at the Sixth and I Synagogue April 10, Motown/soul diva Gladys Knight at the Strathmore April 25-26, comedian/filmmaker and John Waters at the Howard on May 15.

In classical music, look for bi organist Cameron Carpenter at the Strathmore on April 12. He’s expected to bring a predictably unpredictable set and has been playing self-composed programmatic suites in recent shows. And under the gay leadership of Michael Tilson Thomas, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra plays Mahler’s 9th Symphony at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on March 23.

The Rock Creek Singers and Potomac Fever, the Gay Men’s Chorus’ two vocal ensembles, perform together on April 20 at 5 and 8 p.m. at Church of the Epiphany (1317 G St., NW). The evening includes a dazzling performance from these two groups sharing the stage singing in a cappella and tight harmonies, spanning music styles from Broadway, pop and classical. Tickets are $35. For more information, visit gmcw.org.

The same evening, gay singer, pianist and music revivalist Michael Feinstein performs at the Music Center at the Strathmore (5301 Tuckerman Lane, Bethesda). Tickets are $40 -$105. For more information, visit Strathmore.org.

The Cliks, with transgender lead singer Lucas Silveira, come to DC9 (1940 9th St., NW) on May 5, after their new album “Black Tie Elevator” is released. According to their website, the time of the event will be announced and it is a 21 or older event. For more information, visi thecliks.com.

Special Agent Galatica has monthly and twice-monthly engagements at a host of local venues — Black Fox Lounge, Nellie’s and Freddie’s. All details are at pinkhairedone.com.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnm0F3tldkU

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Music & Concerts

BETTY holiday show rocks D.C.

Queer band returns home

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BETTY (Photo by Gene Reed, 2021)

D.C. native band BETTY kicked off its “Holly Jollypocalypse” tour with a show at City Winery on Dec. 5. 

The trio, including ally Alyson Palmer and queer sisters Elizabeth and Amy Ziff, debuted several new songs at the show like “Snow,” “Choose You” and “Mistletoe.” 

“Half this set is brand new for you people. You know why? Because we knew we were coming home,” Palmer said at the show. 

The group also played long-loved songs by their fans, like “Xmas Ain’t Coming This Year” and “Miracles Can Happen.” After many requests from the audience, the band played one of their most famous songs —  the theme song from the show “The L Word” — as an encore number. 

Throughout the show, the group expressed their gratitude to be able to perform live again, and recognized the loss so many have experienced over the past two years due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

“This really has been an unbelievably challenging time, so challenging that we can’t even really wrap our brains around the PTSD,” Palmer told the audience. “A lot of us have lost a lot. In the past two years, we’ve lost all kinds of things. We’ve lost a lot of people. And that’s a horrible, horrible thing. But hopefully those people are somehow still connected to us.”

There was a familial feel to the night — Amy brought her daughter onstage throughout the show and the band performed the song “Saylor,” which is about her daughter. 

“She’s pretty lucky to see a couple of great goddess moms,” Amy told the audience. 

The band also welcomed local queer artist Be Steadwell to perform a mashup of a an original blues tune and “Silent Night.” Steadwell will be performing her show Drummer Bois: Queer Caroling with Be Steadwell at the Black Cat this Friday. To learn more, visit besteadwell.com. 

The members of BETTY, who proudly label themselves as “rule breakers” and “equality rockers” have been touring, writing, and advocating for social change through their music since 1986. 

“We’ve been together for 35 years as independent artists, which is pretty miraculous when you consider that with a capitalist system and how hard it is to exist as independent musicians and artists,” Elizabeth said in an interview. “We’re really grateful to our audiences, in particular to our queer community, that has really supported us forever and still does.”

BETTY’s first show was at the 9:30 club, and the band was excited to return to their home, the trio said in an interview. 

“D.C. was a great place to be to come together as feminists and as queer people and as political allies,” Amy said. 

Coming back and seeing the same work done by the same people in LGBTQ and feminist spaces in the District is “wonderful,” Palmer said.

“We’ve been politically engaged for so long and socially active for so long,” Palmer said.  “We grew up playing for protests and playing for those huge Gay Pride marches and pro-choice marches. I mean, that kind of thing just stays with you forever.”

The band has been featured in shows like “Encyclopedia,” and created their own off-Broadway show “BETTY RULES.” The group also launched a podcast in 2019 where they discuss how their band came to be, LGBTQ life and current events. BETTY is slated to release a  new album in spring 2022 in honor of the band’s 36th anniversary. 

Next, the band will travel to New York City, Cincinnati, Ohio, and New Hope, Pa. for the tour. Getting back in the swing of touring has been “incredible” but a physical marathon. 

“You forget that it’s very physical kind of show … so it’s really been funny getting back into shape in that way as well.”

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Music & Concerts

Forget streaming, the holiday classics return to area stages

Bring your proof of vaccination and check out a local production this season

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A scene from a previous Gay Men's Chorus of Washington Holiday Show. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

A year ago, the holiday season was streamed. But now, thanks to various protocols including masks and proof of vaccination, DMV theatergoers can come together and experience – live and in-person — both beloved classics and some promising new works. Here’s a smattering of what’s out there.

At Olney Theatre, Paul Morello is thrilled to bring back “A Christmas Carol 2021” (through Dec. 26), his solo adaptation of Dickens’ ghost story. Concerning returning to a live audience, Morello says, “While this is technically a one-person show, it’s really about the connection and collaboration with an audience, being in the same room, breathing in unison. I can’t do this without an audience and for a story that thrives on redemption, mortality, isolation, the need for community and connection, and the things that matter most, the timing couldn’t be better.”

Olney also presents “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” through Jan. 2. This musical “tale as old as time” stars out actor Jade Jones as Belle and Evan Ruggiero plays the Beast. olneytheatre.org

For the holidays, Synetic Theater at Crystal City is reworking “Cinderella” (Nov. 27-Dec. 26). Led by an all-female team of creators, this festive take on the classic fairytale is inspired by Afro-Latino music and dance. Directed and adapted by Maria Simpkins who also plays the title role. synetictheater.org

Last year, because of COVID-19, Ford’s Theatre presented “A Christmas Carol” as a radio broadcast, but now the fully produced play returns to the venue’s historic stage through Dec. 27. A popular Washington tradition for more than 30 years, the thoroughly enjoyable and topnotch take on the Dickens’ classic features Craig Wallace reprising the part of Scrooge, the miser who after a night of ghostly visits, rediscovers Christmas joy. fords.org

Another D.C. tradition guaranteed to put audiences in a holiday mood is the Washington Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” playing at the Warner Theatre through Dec. 26. Set to Tchaikovsky’s enchanted score, this charming and superbly executed offering takes place in Georgetown circa 1882 and features a retinue of historic figures along with children, rats, fairies and a mysterious godfather. Choreography is by Septime Webre. washingtonballet.org

The Folger Consort, the superb early music ensemble in residence at the Folger, will be performing seven concerts of “A Medieval Christmas” (Dec. 10-18) at St. Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill. A streaming version of the concert will also be available to view on-demand. folger.edu

At Lincoln Theatre, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. presents “The Holiday Show” (Dec. 4, 11, and 12) replete with tap-dancing elves, a dancing Christmas tree, snow, and a lot more. The fun and festive program’s song list includes “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”, “The 12 Rockin’ Days of Christmas,” and “Boogie Woogie Frosty.” Featured performances range from the full Chorus, soloists, all GMCW ensembles, and the GenOUT Youth Chorus. gmcw.org

Arena Stage is marking the season with August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” (through Dec. 26), a drama about a small group of friends who gather following the untimely death of their friend, a blues guitarist on the edge of stardom. Directed by Tazewell Thompson, the production features an exciting cast that includes local actors Dane Figueroa Edidi and Roz White. arenastage.org

Creative Cauldron is serving up some holiday magic with “The Christmas Angel” (Dec. 9-19). Based on a little-known 1910 novel by Abbey Farwell Brown, it’s the story of a lonely and bitter spinster who returns to happiness through a box of old toys. The commissioned new holiday musical is a collaboration of longtime musical collaborators and married couple Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith (lyrics and book). creativecauldron.org

In keeping with the Yuletide spirit, the National Theatre presents two feel-good national tour musicals. First, it’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” (through Dec. 5), a musical take on Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday tale featuring the hit songs “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas.”

Next up is “Tootsie” (Dec. 7-12), the hit musical based on the 1982 gender-bending film starring Dustin Hoffman as an out-of-work actor who disguises himself as a woman to land a role on a popular soap opera. The show boasts a Tony-winning book by Robert Horn and a score by Tony winner David Yazbek (The Band’s Visit). thenationaldc.com

Keegan Theatre presents its annual holiday offering, “An Irish Carol” (Dec. 10-31). Set in a modern Dublin pub, the funny yet poignant original work (a nod to Dickens) tracks the changes in the life of a rich but miserable publican over the course of one Christmas Eve. keegantheatre.org

At Theater J, it’s the Kinsey Sicks’ “Oy Vey in a Manger” (Dec. 17-25). Blending drag, four-part harmony, and political humor, the “dragapella beautyshop quartet” brings its own hilariously irreverent view on the holidays. theaterj.org

And through Jan. 2, Signature Theatre continues to brighten the season with its production of Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” directed by the company’s out artistic director Matthew Gardiner and featuring out actor David Merino as Angel, a preternaturally energetic drag queen and percussionist. sigtheare.org

The Music Center at Strathmore, also in Bethesda, is presenting a wide range of musical holiday offerings including “Manheim Steamroller Christmas” (Dec. 3 and 4), a multimedia holiday tradition; Sarah Brightman in “A Christmas Symphony” (Dec. 6 and 7); “A Celtic Christmas with Séan Heely Celtic Band” (Dec. 11); Washington Bach Consort’s “Bach’s Epic Christmas Oratorio” (Dec. 11); the beloved “The Washington Chorus: A Candlelight Christmas” (Dec. 16 and 17); and last but not least “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” (Dec. 20), Tchaikovsky’s classic reimagined with MC Kurtis Blow (“White Lines”). strathmore.org

And finally, something strictly for the kids: Imagination Stage presents “Corduroy” (Dec. 11-Jan. 24). Based on the beloved children’s books by Don Freeman, it’s the heartwarming story of a girl and her perfectly imperfect Teddy Bear. Best for ages 3-9. imaginationstage.org

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Music & Concerts

BETTY returns to DC

Queer band to perform at City Winery Dec. 5

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BETTY (Photo by Gene Reed, 2021)

Pop-rock band BETTY is returning to their District homeland for a holiday show at City Winery on Dec. 5.  

Fronted by Alyson Palmer and sisters Elizabeth and Amy Ziff, the band who are “rule breakers” and “equality rockers” have been touring, writing, and advocating for social change through their music since 1986. The band has been featured in shows like “The L Word” and “Encyclopedia,” and created their own off-Broadway show “BETTY RULES.”

The D.C. show will kick off a tour that will bring the band to New York City, Cincinnati, and New Hope, Pa. Elizabeth, who identifies as lesbian, said it’s been “incredible” to be in rehearsals for shows again after the pandemic put a hold on live music.  

“We’ve been together for so long. We are a family and we hang out and we’re friends and we play music together,” she said. “It’s our life.”

Amy, who is queer, said she’s excited to perform in the District where the band originally formed. 

“It’s so emotional because it’s where we grew up,” she said. “Not just musically, but it’s where we came out.”

Proof of vaccination is required at all shows. To purchase tickets, visit citywinery.com.

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