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STAYCATION: Music in the air

Region abundant with free concert series all summer

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U.S. Navy Musician 3rd Class Sarah Williams performs with the Navy Ceremonial Band. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

U.S. Navy Musician 3rd Class Sarah Williams performs with the Navy Ceremonial Band. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

There are lots of great opportunities in the region to hear live music free. Here are a few:

Free concerts from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force bands are a Washington tradition. They perform on alternating days throughout the summer. Concerts are free and no tickets are required. The U.S. Navy Band plays on Mondays at 8 p.m. on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Building. Look for them any Monday evening through Aug. 25. They also play some Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. at the Navy Memorial. Look for them there July 22 and 29 and Aug. 12 and 19. They can also be heard on Tuesdays at the Sylvan Theatre in front of the Washington Monument at 8 p.m. July 22 and every Tuesday in August. More information is at navyband.navy.mil.

The U.S. Air Force Band performs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Building every Tuesday in July and August.and every Wednesday at the Sylvan Theatre in front of the Washington Monument every Wednesday in July and August. They also perform Fridays at 8 p.m. at the Air Force Memorial all remaining weeks in July and every Friday in August. More information is at usafband.af.mil.

The U.S. Marine Band plays Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the West Front of the Capitol Building all remaining Wednesdays in July and every Wednesday in August.

Twilight Tattoo, the Army Band’s outdoor ceremonial concert is an hour-long military pageant that features the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the U.S. Army Drill Team, the U.S. Army Blues and members of the U.S. Army Band Downrange. These performances are also free and open to the public. They’ll perform every Wednesday through Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. at Fort Myer in Arlington. Visit twilight.mdw.army.mil for details.

The National Gallery of Art offers free jazz performances in the garden of its outdoor cafe every Friday evening during summer. They run every Friday through Aug. 29 from 5-8:30 p.m. but may be canceled due to excessive heat or inclement weather. They’re at the Pavilion Cafe at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden (6th and Constitution Ave., N.W.). Food and drinks available or picnics are allowed (alcoholic beverages must be purchased there). Upcoming performers include the Rick Whitehead Trio (tonight), Tom Williams (July 18) and Incendio (July 25). Visit nga.gov for remaining schedule and more information.

* Hill Country’s Backyard Barbecues are held various dates through Aug. 30 at the National Building Museum (401 F St., N.W.) and offer Texas-style barbecue, drinks and live music. Upcoming performers include Sour Bridges (tonight), the Bellfuries (July 17), the Giving Tree Band (July 18), Joe Firstman (July 19) Mustered Courage (July 31) and more in August.

Hill Country Barbecue is a D.C. restaurant and performance venue that features live country music. It’s at 410 7th St., N.W. Details at hillcountrywdc.com.

Music on the Mall is an annual free concert series that brings local and regional musicians out for lunchtime concerts. The performances are sponsored by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. They’re held at 7th and Jefferson Drive, N.W.between the National Air and Space Museum and the Hirshhorn. Upcoming performers are Hari Vasan (July 15), Kendall Isadore (July 22), Jonathan Tucker (July 29), Cecily Bumbray (Aug. 5) and more. Visit dcarts.dc.gov for more information.

• The plaza at Washington Harbour along the waterfront in Georgetown also has a free concert series that runs into September. Performances are held on Wednesday evenings from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and include a wide variety of styles. Upcoming performers are Julia Fanning( July 16), Josh Burgess (July 23), Ken Fischer (July 30), Hand Painted Swinger (Aug. 6) and more. Visit thewashingtonharbour.com for details.

The Capitol Riverfront will host free outdoor concerts at Yards Park throughout the summer at Yards Park (355 Water St., N.W.). They run on Fridays through Sept. 12 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Upcoming performers include Scott’s New Band (tonight), Framewerk (July 18), Jah Works (july 25), White Ford Bronco (Aug. 1) and more. Visit capitolriverfront.org for more information.

 

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Out & About

Forget Santa Claus – Ginger Minj is comin’ to town

‘Drag Race’ alum’s Winter Wonderland Tour stops in D.C. Nov. 29 and 30

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Ginger Minj will perform her holiday spectacular Winter Wonderland Tour at Miracle Theatre.

Ginger Minj is a busy little elf.

From her new country album “Double Wide Diva” to sporadic stints in TV and movies to her upcoming book, “Southern Fried Sass” (which reportedly scored her a six-figure deal), the “Drag Race” diva is everywhere these days, including a venue near you. On Nov. 29 and 30, the new queen of Christmas will perform her holiday spectacular Winter Wonderland Tour at Miracle Theatre.

We recently caught up with the multitalented actress/comedian/singer to discuss her continued success, including making friends with Jennifer Aniston while filming Netflix’s “Dumplin,’” her take on the latest Dave Chappelle backlash, the best Christmas gift she’s ever received, and what exactly makes her the “nicest bitch” this side of the North Pole – but first, let’s take a sleigh ride back to the beginning.

BLADE: Tell me a bit about how you got started in drag and the genesis of Ginger Minj. 

GINGER MINJ: Like most good show-tune-loving queers, I stumbled into drag through musical theater. I auditioned for a show that required either full-frontal nudity or drag, and I figured I would fare better in a wig and heels than nothing at all. I got the role and really took to it quickly. I felt more free and honest as a performer than I ever had before, and I realized I could make a livable income doing something that I was wholly responsible for creating. 

BLADE: How has your appearance on “Drag Race” helped your career, and what are your top takeaways from your time on the show?

GM: It’s an international platform that allows us to introduce ourselves to the entire world. It got me a seat at the table with people and places that refused to even open the door for me in the past. I think there was – and maybe still is sometimes – this initial assumption that drag artists are limited in their talents, but we have been able to show the world that we are just as talented and capable as any other entertainer. I don’t wear a wig as a gimmick. I wear it as an accessory, and it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be taken as seriously as any other actor, singer, etc. “Drag Race” is doing a great job of showing the world that – and I’ll forever be grateful.

BLADE: If folks didn’t catch you on “Drag Race,” they might recognize you from the 2018 Netflix movie “Dumplin’” starring Jennifer Aniston and Dove Cameron. What was your experience like on set, and do you have any other TV/film projects in the works?

GM: “Dumplin’” was the single best experience of my life! Jennifer Aniston brought me coffee every morning, and Kathy Najimy had my trailer moved next to hers so we could listen to Beyoncé and play with makeup. That entire cast and crew treated all of us queens with unbelievable respect. It really gave me a passion for filmmaking and, yes, I’m happy to say there are a few more projects – big screen and small – coming your way soon.

BLADE: What makes you the “nicest bitch you’ll ever meet?”

GM: It’s like those good ole’ southern church ladies who will give you the shirts off their backs but read you to filth for not bringing one of your own. The only thing bigger than my mouth is my heart and the “shady” things I say should never be taken seriously. 

BLADE: As a comedian yourself, what are your thoughts on the latest Dave Chappelle/Netflix controversy?

GM: I’ve always felt like comedy and drag go hand in hand: It’s an outrageous way to start a conversation and make people confront their own feelings about anything and everything. That being said, I think there’s a way to do that without disparaging and discrediting an entire group of human beings. I think it’s shameful that someone with that great of a platform would choose to punch down. 

BLADE: Your new single “Walk Tall” is about growing up gay in the South – and it’s a very good song. Radio worthy even, but a hard sell, given its content, to a country-music audience. How do you think that changes? Will LGBTQ+ country artists ever enjoy the kind of success their straight counterparts do?

GM: I think so. To be completely honest with you, I’ve gotten much more support for that album from the country community than I have from the drag world. The message is so universal, and we were very careful to do it in an authentic, simple way. When we stop focusing on our differences and start embracing our similarities, the world can change. I just do the things that make me happy and hope it finds the people who need to hear it. 

BLADE: Christmas is just around the corner – do you prefer giving or receiving? What’s your most prized Christmas present from the past?

GM: I’m definitely a giver! I drive myself crazy for months researching and planning and looking for the perfect gifts for everyone. It’s my way of showing the people I care most about that while I may be busy, I’m listening. I hear them, I see them, and I appreciate them. The best Christmas present I ever got was a cheap plastic pair of ruby slippers from my mama when I was a kid. I still have them. That moment changed my life forever. It’s what actually inspired “Walk Tall.”

BLADE: Like Santa Claus himself, the Ginger Minj Winter Wonderland Tour 2021 is coming to town. What do you have in store for audiences this holiday season?

GM: What don’t we have in store?! There are 20 costume changes, instructional videos gone terribly wrong, singing, dancing, magic tricks, fog machines, comedy, and it even snows over the audience! This is the biggest, prettiest, most ambitious show we have ever put together.

BLADE: Looking forward to 2022, what’s in the works? What are a few of your New Year’s resolutions?

GM: So many great things — more music, some movies, some TV, a stage production of “La Cage aux Folles” in Chicago, and my book “Southern Fried Sass” will hit the shelves. It’s a great time to be the “Glamour Toad,” and I am grateful every single day. 

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels.

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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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Bars & Parties

Disco Funk Brunch at Crazy Aunt Helen’s

Tara Hoot and DJ Phil Reese perform

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Tara Hoot and DJ Phil Reese (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Drag queen Tara Hoot and DJ Phil Reese perform at the biweekly Disco Funk Brunch at the LGBT-owned Crazy Aunt Helen’s on Sunday. For future showtimes, go to crazyaunthelens.com. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

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