November 14, 2019 at 10:05 am EST | by Brian T. Carney
‘Messiah,’ ‘Nutcracker’ and gay fare among D.C.-area’s 2019 holiday shows
holiday shows, gay news, Washington Blade
Paul Morella in the one-man show ‘A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas.’ (Photo courtesy Olney) 

From a giant Christmas maze at Nationals Park to appearances from the Nutcracker and Ebenezer Scrooge, from klezmer concerts to lively Kwanzaa celebrations, it’s going to be a spectacular holiday season in the D.C. region.

It kicks off at the Warner Theatre with “A Magical Cirque Christmas” (Nov. 22) and “A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour” (Nov. 23).

From Nov. 30-Dec. 29, the Warner Theatre will again host the Washington Ballet’s beloved production of “The Nutcracker.” Featuring a cast of over 100 and classic choreography by Septime Webre, this historic production is set in Georgetown and stars George Washington as the heroic nutcracker and includes appearances by King George III, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, John Paul Jones and other historical figures. Tickets and information on special events like performances at THEARC and the Nutcracker Tea Party are at washingtonballet.org.

Through Jan. 5, Arlington’s Signature Theatre is offering a special seasonal treat for musical theater fans: a fresh look at the ground-breaking Broadway musical “A Chorus Line.” The theatre will also present “A Motown Christmas” Dec. 3-21.

The cast of ‘A Chorus Line at Signature Theatre.’ (Photo by Christopher Mueller)

On Dec. 7, Wolf Trap hosts the Annual Holiday Sing-A-Long. Attendees are invited to bring a new, unwrapped toy for “Toys for Tots” and a candle to participate in the traditional candlelit recessional. Admission is free and details can be found at wolftrap.org/tickets.

Other holiday programming at Wolf Trap includes Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes with “The Best Christmas Party Ever” (Dec. 5-6) and virtuoso fiddler Eileen Ivers with “A Joyful Christmas” (Dec. 7).

The championship magic continues at National Park as “Enchant D.C.” transforms the baseball field into a world of Christmas wonder. The attractions include the World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze, a Holiday Market with about 60 local and international vendors, an Ice Skating Trail and the Enchant Cinema. Children of all ages can visit with Santa Claus at Santa’s Landing and Ms. Claus will host a story time in her special reading nook. 

Nationals Park is transformed into a Winter Wonderland. (Photo courtesy Enchanted 2019)

Enchant D.C. will also include live entertainment as well as venues for casual treats and fine dining. The magic runs Nov. 22-Dec. 29. Tickets and more information are available at enchantchristmas.com.

D.C. Different Drummers (dcdd.org) will hold their annual holiday concert on Sunday, Dec. 15 at the Church ohf the Reformation near Union Station.

From free shows on the Millennium Stage to a diverse array of concerts and shows in several theaters, every corner of the Kennedy Center will be filled with holiday cheer this season. This year’s schedule includes “Love, Factually,” the Second City’s farcical take on the beloved holiday film Dec. 3-29 and the NSO’s “A Holiday Pops!” with special guest Leslie Odom, Jr. (“Hamilton” and “Harriet”) Dec. 13-14.

From Nov. 23-Jan. 5, the Kennedy Center will present the world premiere of “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!),” based on the popular children’s book by Mo Willems. From Dec. 19-22, the National Symphony Orchestra will present the perennial audience favorite Handel’s “Messiah.” The popular “Sing-Along Messiah” will take place on Dec. 23. Free general admission tickets will be distributed starting at 4:30 p.m. on the day of the event.

From Dec. 13-18, the Folger Consort (folger.edu/folger-consort), the early music ensemble of the Folger Shakespeare Library, will present “Gloria!,” a baroque Italian Christmas with music by Vivaldi, Scarlatti and Corelli.

The Folger Shakespeare Library (folger.edu) will also celebrate the season with the annual Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute. On Monday, Dec. 9, there will be a discussion of Dickinson’s poetry followed by a wine reception featuring slices of Dickinson’s famous black cake. 

As always, the Strathmore in North Bethesda is a center for holiday cheer. Events at the Mansion will include performances by Bridget Kibbey, known as the Yo-Yo Ma of the harp (Dec. 5) and a concert by cellist Alicia Ward and percussionist Joey Antico as part of the “Inspired Pairing” series (Dec. 12).

The rich holiday programming at the Music Center at Strathmore include the 30th anniversary tour of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones (Dec. 2), the annual Christmas Tour by smooth jazz saxophonist Dave Koz & Friends (Dec. 9), a family-friendly evening of storytelling by comedian and actor Sinbad (Dec. 13) and the return of an audience favorite, “The Hip-Hop Nutcracker” (Dec. 17-19). There will also be special holiday performances by the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra (Dec. 7) and the Strathmore Children’s Chorus (Dec. 8).

Powered by Strathmore, AMP will offer a lively mix of holiday programming at the Pike & Rose on Rockville Pike. Shows include the Kids Pajama Jam Party hosted by Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats (Dec. 1), country rock singer Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers (Dec. 3), classical crossover quartet the Sons of Serendip (Dec. 5) and D.C.-based smooth jazz musician Anthony Walker (Dec. 6). 

In addition, the Sweetback Sisters will host a toe-tapping country Christmas (Dec. 8); 2019 Strathmore Artist-in-Residence Seán Heely will return with “A Celtic Christmas” (Dec. 13); Seth Kibel and his quartet will offer klezmer music, jazz and Hanukkah tunes (Dec. 18); and, The Soul Crackers will celebrate the holidays with the sounds of Memphis and Motown (Dec. 21).

Information on all of these events can be found at strathmore.org.

As usual, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington will be ringing in the holiday season with glitter and glamour. The all-new edition of “The Holiday Show” will be bigger and better than ever, featuring disco dancers, falling snowflakes, soaring vocals, muscle boys, candlelight processionals, a visit from Santa Claus, and a 7-foot Christmas tree. 

Performances are December 7, 14 and 15 at the Lincoln Theatre; the matinee performances on Dec. 14 and 15 will be ASL-interpreted. Tickets are available at gmcw.org.

The Holiday Show by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington. (Photo courtesy GMCW)

From Dec. 14-30, the Atlas Performing Arts Centre on H Street, NE (atlasarts.secure.force.com/ticket) will present Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show. This contemporary holiday tradition features percussive beats, friendly, furry characters, pre-show instrument-making workshops and a dance party hosted by DJ Frosty the Snowman.

Atlas will also present “A Bohemian Christmas” on Dec. 16 and the children’s show “Squeakers and Mr. Gumdrops” from Dec. 27-31.

Filthy film auteur John Waters brings his annual holiday show — this year dubbed “Filthier & Merrier: It’ll Stuff Your Turkey” to the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., on Wednesday, Dec. 18 and his beloved hometown Baltimore at Baltimore Soundstage the following night. Tickets available through the venue websites or via Ticketmaster. 

Pop diva Mariah Carey brings her “All I Want for Christmas Is You” show to MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., Dec. 9-10. Prices may ebb and flow based on demand, but as of this writing range from $110-500 via Ticketmaster. (Side note: Epic this month released a “deluxe 25th anniversary edition” of her classic release “Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas” featuring a generous bounty of bonus content including vintage live cuts recorded at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine.)

Mariah Carey plays MGM National Harbor Dec. 9-10. (Photo courtesy Live Nation)

With beautiful holiday decorations augmenting the legendary stained-glass windows, the Washington National Cathedral (cathedral.org) is a splendid place to celebrate the holiday season. From Dec. 6-8, the Cathedral Choir will sing Handel’s “Messiah,” and on Dec. 7 the chorus will present a special family edition of the masterwork, often performed this time of year. This shortened version of this iconic work focuses on the birth of Jesus and continues the story of his death and resurrection through selected arias and choruses, ending with the famous “Hallelujah Chorus.”

With a cast of about 100, Washington Revels (revelsdc.org) will present the 37th annual production of “The Christmas Revels” in eight performances from December 7-15 at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium.
Combining elements of a fully staged holiday play, a choral concert with sing-alongs and centuries-old winter traditions, The Christmas Revels offers a trademark blend of professional entertainment and community engagement. The Christmas Revels: “Celestial Fools” will transport audiences to a rustic European village nestled somewhere in the mists of time. As the winter days grow short, three wandering performers arrive from far-off lands, weaving music, dances and stories from their cultures into an enchanting and dramatic tale of the Winter Solstice.

Fans of Charles Dickens can enjoy his classic holiday tale in two very different versions. Ford’s Theatre (fords.org) offers “A Christmas Carol” with all the trimmings. Popular D.C. actor Craig Wallace (recently seen in “Death of a Salesman” and “Fences”) leads a large cast in a rollicking production filled with lively music and sumptuous sets and costumes.

The Olney Theatre Company just north of Washington, offers company member Paul Morella in a solo rendition “A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas.” Drawing from Dickens’ own lecture notes, Morella’s one-man show is a captivating theatrical tour de force.

Olney will also present “Singin’ In the Rain” this holiday season. Based on the beloved 1952 film, the show includes great singing and dancing and, of course, an onstage rain shower.

Another ghost story is haunting The Shakespeare Theatre this holiday season. A Christmas favorite with audiences in London’s West End, “The Woman in Black” will be scaring D.C. audiences from Dec. 4-22 at the Shakespeare’s Michael R. Klein Theatre. More traditional holiday fare will be onstage at the Shakespeare’s Sidney Harmon Hall: J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan and Wendy” in a new adaptation by Lauren Gunderson.

Dance Place in the Brookland neighborhood (danceplace.org) will hold a Kwanzaa Celebration on Dec. 14. Led by director Sylvia Soumah, the communal event will celebrate the seven principles of the holiday.

On Dec. 27, the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum (anacostia.si.edu) will host an interactive introduction to Kwanzaa with the Melvin Deal African Heritage Dancers and Drummers. The audience participatory program includes dancers, singers, music, colorful costumes and lively characters designed for young children and adults alike.

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