A Theatre Lover's Guide to DC/Capital Area Theatres December 2010 Offerings
Happy Holidays everyone! Come visit our Nation's Capital during the holiday season. It's such a beautiful time of the year here, with so many lights shimmering on the monuments, The Mall, and on The White House. As we await the first snow flakes, DC area theatres are chocked full of productions for the whole family filled with elves, reindeers, Santas, and Scrooges.
December 2010 Holiday Events
(1) December 1st to 31st: Millennium Stage Free Concerts, at The Kennedy Center, in Washington, DC.
Every day during the month of December, The Kennedy Center is offering FREE Millennium Stage holiday concerts at 6 PM. It's the best deal in town, and tourists flock to these concerts. Come an hour early to ensure you will get a seat. If you click on the above link, you'll find many wonderful and talented artists performing during this festive month.
(2) December 7th to 12th: Cirque Dreams Holidaze, in The Opera House at The Kennedy Center, in Washington, DC.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze pays a visit to The Kennedy Center with a cast of over 30 artists from around the world. According to their site, "There will be gingerbread men flipping mid air, toy soldiers marching on thin wires, snowmen daringly balancing, icemen powerfully sculpting, penguins spinning, puppets caroling, and reindeer soaring high above a landscape of holiday wonderment. There are hundreds of spectacular costumes adorning a magical tree of dreams in a setting of gigantic gifts, colossal candy canes and 30-foot towering toy soldiers". This is a great opportunity to introduce the entire family to some of the world's most amazing performers. Another reason to go? You can enjoy the beautiful holiday decorations that adorn The Kennedy Center.
Watch a preview video of the show here.
December 2010 Holiday Must-Sees
Last month, I recommended these holiday productions: A Broadway Christmas Carol, The Happy Elf, Annie, and Snow White, Rose Red (and Fred). These are all wonderful holiday-filled shows to take the entire family to see. I was fortunate to record this interview with Harry Connick, Jr. before the Press performance of his new musical The Happy Elf.
(1) December 11th To January 16, 2011, The Nutcracker, at Synetic Family Theater, in Arlington, VA.
Synetic Family Theater opens its new holiday show in Synetic Theater's new Crystal City space, with a new take on the story of Marie and her Nutcracker. Director and Set Designer Lilia Slavova's original script is based on the book by E.T.A. Hoffmann, and tells the entire story of "Nutcracker and Mouse King". Lilia wants children in the audience to understand and experience the 'transformation' of the Nutcracker.
I am a big fan of Lilia Slavova's work and recently she directed a gorgeous production of The Little Prince at Ambassador Theater. In The Nutcracker, Lilia uses grand costume masks, intricate puppets, and innovative puppetry techniques developed by master puppet maker Vanya Vasileva, and magical choreography by Irakli Kavsadze. The musical score includes works by well-known classical composers including Tchaikovsky and Beethoven as well.
The talented cast who play multiple roles are :Mitch Irzinski (Dr. Stahlbaum, Toy Ensemble, Rat, and King), Austin Johnson (Fritz, Rat, and Toy Ensemble), Irina Kavsadze (Marie and Toy Ensemble), Kathryn Elizabeth Kelly (Mrs. Stahlbaum, Rat, Ensemble and Queen), Dallas Tolentino (Nutcracker Prince, Drosselmeier's Nephew, and Toy Ensemble), Ryan Tumulty (Drosselmeier (All of them), and King of Mice), Emily Whitworth (Louise Stahlbaum, and Toy Ensemble and Rat Pirlipat), and Jessica Wilson (The Nanny, Toy Ensemble, Rat, and Madam Mouserinks)
I'm so glad to see that m friend Seth Finkle is the Production Manager, and is joined by Costume designer Evgenia Luzhina-Salazar, Synetic Theater regular and star Ben Cunis, who provides the Fight Choreography. Daniel Mori is the Puppet Maker.
(2) From December 18th To January 2nd, Oy Vey in a Manger, at Theater J, in Washington, DC.
Theater J in the DC Jewish Community Center in downtown DC plays host to 'America's favorite Dragapella Beauty-Shop Quartet' –The Kinsey Sicks - as they bring their gorgeous harmonies and 'irreverent' humor to Oy Vey in a Manger. Known for their outrageous parodies, the show features holiday favorites, including "I Had a Little Facial," "Harried Little Christmas," "Tis the Season to Drink Stoli", A Chanukah Medley: "Jews Better Watch Out" and "Hock Your Wages", and "A Lay in a Manger". Oy Vey!
(3) Through January 2nd, A Christmas Carol, at Toby's Dinner Theatre of Baltimore, in Baltimore, MD.
My favorite musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol is the one composed by Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast) and lyricist Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime). Toby's production is filled with gorgeous singing, eye-popping costumes (Lawrence B. Munsey and Sam Huffer), and joyous choreography (Laurie Newton).
The cast is perfection - lead by a wonderfully grouchy performance by David B. Reynolds as Scrooge, the heartwarming Chad W. Fornwalt, as chain-filled Jacob Marley, outrageously funny Ray Hatch as Ghost of Christmas Past, the powerhouse singer Kelli Blackwell as Ghost of Christmas Present, and the elegant dancer Debra Buonaccorsi as Ghost of Christmas Future. A special kudo to the high-energy and adorable Jace France, who stole my heart and the hearts of the audience as Tiny Tim. Brilliantly directed with loving care by Daniel McDonald, this is a production you don't want to miss!
(4) Through January 2nd, A Christmas Carol, at Ford's Theatre, in Washington, DC.
Director Michael Baron again directs his original staging of the Dickens classic. Multi-Helen Hayes Award-winning actor Edward Gero returns to play Scrooge and is joined by so many of my favorite local actors Christopher Bloch (Bob Cratchit), Felicia Curry (Ghost of Christmas Past). Erin Driscoll (Mrs. Fred), Jamie Eacker (Belle), Drew Eshelman (Jacob Marley), Rick Hammerly (Mr. Fezziwig ), Helen Hedman (Mrs. Fezziwig). Amy McWilliams (Mrs. Cratchit), Stephen F. Schmidt (Clock Vendor), Tom Story (Fred and Young Scrooge, and Bligh Voth (Mrs. Fred's Sister/Beggar Woman).
I am so happy that Tiny Tim will be played (in rotation with Stephen Scholl) by the very talented Nicholas Snipes, a student at The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts, in DC. At a recent cabaret/benefit for the Theatre Lab, Nicholas had the audience in stitches playing Captain Hook in a scene from Peter Pan from their Summer Acting Camp.
What could be more fun than watching this amazing cast - directed by one of my favorite young directors - in the historic Ford's Theatre?
(5) Through January 2nd, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, at Adventure Theatre, in Glen Echo, MD.
Artistic Director Michael J. Bobbitt has adapted the famous television holiday special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for the stage, and I can't wait to see Helen Hayes Award-winning actor Parker Drown (He won the award last year for his heart-warming performance as Angel in Keegan theatre's production of Rent) play Rudolph. This young actor has so much energy that I can only imagine him flying around the Adventure Theatre Stage. Joining him are some of my favorites: Branda Lock as Clarice, Christopher Mueller and Ayanna Hardy as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, Russell Sunday as Sam the Snowman, Doug Wilder as Head Elf and Cornelius, the very busy Sara Brunow as Mrs. Donner/Dolly/Elf Trio/Townsperson/and Bear, Mikey Cafarelli as Hermey/Fireball/Newspaper Boy, S. Lewis Feemster as Donner/Charlie-in-the-Box. Michael J. Bobbitt is the director, Wayne Chadwick is the Music Director, and Pauline Grossman choreographs the show.
"Experience the timeless tale of Rudolph and friends- LIVE! The beloved stop-motion classic soars from the TV screen to the stage in this live-action world premiere. Featuring everyone's favorite characters: Hermey the Elf, Sam the Snowman, the Misfit Toys, the Abominable Snow Monster, Yukon Cornelius, Santa, and (of course) Rudolph! You won't want to miss this wonderful holiday tradition that speaks to the misfit in all of us".
Paul Morella is an intense actor and an annual tradition continues as Paul brings his solo version of A Christmas Carol to life this holiday season at The Olney Theatre Center. Morella transports you back to Victorian England and into the 'complete' novella. It's an amazing and entertaining and powerful performance by this great actor.
"I like to think there's a big enough piece of the mince pie for all of us. This is something that's intimate that goes back to the source. I'm not saying the other shows don't have their advantages. I'm sure they do. But this is a little different. It is kind of a ghost story. It's darker, but the text is that way. Dickens didn't change his style just for this one story. We all know what's going to happen. Scrooge really has to take this journey. He's terrified at times. These specters are forces to be reckoned with. Once you do reach the light, it's far more revelatory … "I would like [the audience] to have the experience of reacquainting themselves with this story and whole idea of redemption. "I think it's very resonant today with the hardships people are going through. I think it will not only be a moving, enjoyable holiday experience, but I would like it be something that has substance to it - more than just a Christmas tradition."
I've seen the show twice and Paul's performance is quite revelatory and very moving. Don't miss it!
(7) Through January 9th Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!, at Imagination Stage, in Bethesda, MD.
Adapted by Allison Gregory from the popular Junie B. Jones Series of books by Barbara Park, Imagination Stage has a funny show for the whole family!
'It's holiday time in Room One and that means drama! Tattletale May keeps picking on Junie B., and things get even worse when Junie B. draws May's name for Secret Santa. She hatches a plan to give May a lump of coal, while getting an awesome Squeeze-A-Burp for herself. Will Junie B. have a last-minute change of heart and show her true holiday spirit?'
The cast is filled with Imagination Stage regulars. Casie Platt plays Junie B., Rana Kay is May, Eric M. Messner is Mr. Scary, Rex Daugherty plays Herb and Grandpa Miller, Linden Tailor plays Jose and Mr. Toot, Jasmin Johnson plays Lucille and Elf Ellen, and my favorite Imagination star Chris Wilson plays Sheldon and Phillip Johnny Bob.
The show is Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer. The shows designers are Fran Labovitz (Costume Designer), Ethan Sinnott (Scenic Designer), and Musical Director Kierstie Whitehead, and Sound Designer Christopher Baine.
I urge all you Junie and Batman fans to fly over to Imagination Stage and spend some time with Junie B. and her friends and the Caped Crusader.
(8) Through January 23rd, Cinderella, at Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia, in Columbia, MD.
This week, I was listening to the glorious and hummable and toe-tapping score of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. It brought back wonderful memories of watching Julie Andrews and Leslie Ann Warren in those wonderful TV adaptations. I eagerly waited for a 'rerun' of these Cinderellas, because they were so beautifully done.
So I was so excited when I heard that Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia was mounting a production starring the perfect cast of great singers/actors: The beautiful and singer extraordinaire Jessica Ball as Cinderella, The charming Matthew Schleigh as Prince Christopher, the menacing Heather Beck as the Stepmother. In an interesting twist, Two-time Helen Hayes Award winner David James is playing Stepsister Grace, and lanky and funny Darren McDonnell is playing Stepsister Joy. Now, that should be tons of fun!
The high-stepping Tina DeSimone and regal Andrew Horn play Queen Constantina and King Maximillian. Spitfire and gorgeous Mary Searcy plays the Fairy Godmother, and adorable Dan Sonntag plays Lionel. There are lots of puppets for the kids to enjoy and they are manipulated by ensemble members David Gregory (Cat Puppeteer), Lance Hayes (Mouse Puppeteer), Lance Hayes (Mouse Puppeteer), David Jennings (Dove Puppeteer), Jennie Lutz (Mouse Puppeteer), Maria Rizzo (Mouse Puppeteer), and Jason Wiggins (Mouse Puppeteer). There are so many mice I should probably bring some cheese with me. Nick Lehan , Katie Harrington, Alan Wiggins, and Lara Zinn round out the talented ensemble.
Cinderella is directed by Lawrence B. Munsey, who recently played Edna Turnblad in Toby's production of Hairspray. Larry also designed the colorful costumes. You can see some of Larry's creations here. Musical Direction is by Ross Rawlings, and I am thrilled that Two-time Helen Hayes Award-winner Ilona Kessell is back to choreograph this production. Lynn Joslin provides the Lighting Design, and David Hopkins and Drew Dedrick created the Set Design and Sound Design.
I sat in Cinderella on Press Night 'in my own little corner' and I cheered once again for that slipper to fit on Cinderella's foot.
Other December 2010 Must Sees
I'm ready to hear Florence Lacy say, "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up," as she plays the eccentric tragic silent film star Norma Desmond., directed by Eric Schaeffer at Signature Theatre. If anyone can belt and sell the Andrew Lloyd Webber /Don Black and Christopher Hampton score, including Norma's big numbers "With One Look," "As If We Never Said Goodbye" - it's Florence Lacy!
Joining Florence are Broadway vets D.B. Bonds (The Phantom of the Opera), who starred in Signature's production of The Visit - as Joe, Susan Derry (Wonderful Town) as Betty, and Ed Dixon (The Iceman Cometh) as Max von Mayerling, the role that won George Hearn his second Tony Award. Local Three time Helen Hayes Award winner J. Fred Shiffman is Sheldrake, and Helen Hayes Award winner and one of my favorite local actors Harry A. Winter is Cecil B. DeMille.
The talented ensemble is comprised of many of our talented actors and singers: Sandy Bainum, Matt Conner, William Diggle, Rebecca Fale Ghiu, Gia Mora, Jake Odmark, Kirsten Riegler, Sean Thompson, Matthew Wojtal, and Kara Tameika Watkins.
Music Director and conductor Jon Kalbflesich will lead a 20-member orchestra. The creative team that recently produced Signature's mega-hit production of Chess will also collaborate on Sunset Boulevard, including choreographer Karma Camp, Set Designer Daniel Conway, Lighting Designer Chris Lee), Costume Designer Kathleen Geldard, and Sound Designer Matt Rowe. Norma is in good hands!
I love Billy Wilder's classic film "Sunset Boulevard" and I saw the original Broadway production which starred Glen Close and swept the Tony Awards in 1995. (Watch Tony Award winner (for playing Norma Desmond) Glenn Close sing "With One Look" at the 1995 Tonys here).
Frankly, I felt the Broadway production was overproduced, and I spent most of my time looking at sets and costumes instead of focusing on the story. But this time it's not in a huge Broadway theatre but in the intimate 276-seat MAX Theatre, so I am looking forward to feeling the power of the story and performances and listening to the melodic score in this intimate space. With this cast and group of designers and group of fine musicians, I can't wait to give the show 'one more look'.
(10) From December 14th to January 16th, South Pacific, in The Opera House at The Kennedy Center, in Washington, DC.
This was the best revival of any classic musical I have ever seen, Period. Hands down! How lucky DC Theatregoers are that they have this opportunity to see the 7 time Tony Award-winning revival of South Pacific directed by Bartlett Sher (The Light in the Piazza) that wowed audiences at Lincoln Center. It took me over a year to snag a ticket to see it in NYC. Local audiences got a taste of this wonderful production when PBS broadcast one of the final Lincoln Center performances in August of this year.
The National Tour of South Pacific is piling up critical raves all over the country and has an amazing cast: led by David Pittsinger (Emile de Becque) and Carmen Cusack (Nellie Forbush), with Anderson Davis (Lt. Cable), Timothy Gulan (Luther Billis), Jodi Kimura (Bloody Mary), Gerry Becker (Capt. Brackett), Peter Rini (Cmdr. Harbison), Sumie Maeda (Liat), Rusty Ross (Professor), original 2008 Broadway cast member Genson Blimline (Stewpot), Christina Carrera (Ngana) and CJ Palma (Jerome). The ensemble includes Christopher Carl, Christian Carter, Eric L. Christian, Jacqueline Colmer, Alexis G.B. Holt, Rashaan James Ii, Chad Jennings, Christopher Johnstone, Kristie Kerwin, Joe Langworth, Cathy Newman, Julia Osborne, Diane Phelan, John Pinto Jr., Bret Shuford, Kristen J. Smith, Matt Stokes, Gregory Williams, Victor J. Wisehart and Amos Wolff.
It will be many 'enchanted evenings' when theatergoers are greeted with that gorgeous overture and score that includes "Bali H'ai", "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair", "Younger Than Springtime", "There is Nothing Like a Dame", "A Cockeyed Optimist" and I'm in Love With a Wonderful Guy". That alone should make you run and buy tickets. This production will leave you in a 'Bali High'. Watch a preview video here:
When that amazing Candide overture by Leonard Bernstein fills Sidney Harman Hall, I will be in musical theatre heaven! Straight from The Goodman Theatre in Chicago where it received many wonderful reviews, The Shakespeare Theatre Company will be home to Tony Award-winning Director Mary Zimmerman's eye-popping adaptation of Leonard Bernstein's musical masterpiece based Voltaire's satire.
Bernstein's wrote 'The Best of All Possible Scores' filled with beautiful songs including "Make Our Garden Grow", "Glitter and Be Gay. It's the first musical ever produced in The Sidney Harman Hall, and has some of my favorite local actors/singers in the cast – Thomas Adrian Simpson (Innkeeper/Schoolteacher), Chris Sizemore (Orator/Grand Inquisitor), Tracy Lynn Olivera (Orator's Wife), and Margot Siebert, who plays Paquette.
Geoff Packard plays Candide and Lauren Molina plays Cunegonde. They both appeared in Rock of Ages on Broadway. Lauren blew me away in the John Doyle production of Sweeney Todd, where she played Johanna and the cello at the same time. I can't wait to hear her sing "Glitter and Be Gay".
Rounding out the cast are Hollis Resnik as the Old Lady (DC audiences saw Hollis last year as Margaret Johnson in The Light in the Piazza at Arena Stage), Tom Aulino (Baron/Martin), Spencer Curnutt (Sailor), Rebecca Finnegan (Baroness/Vanderdendur), Govind Kumar (Servant), Rob Lindley (Anabaptist/Captain), Erik Lochtefeld (Maximilian), Jesse J. Perez (Soldier/Cacambo), Emma Rosenthal (Bird), Joey Stone (Soldier/Senor), Tempe Thomas (Queen of El Dorado), Jonathan Weir (Soldier/Governor), and Larry Yandp (Pangloss).
I can't think of a better way to celebrate the holidays than to be surrounded by the visual genius of Mary Zimmerman and the musical genius of Leonard Bernstein. Now that's 'The Best of All Possible Worlds'.
A Special Event
One of my favorite musicals of this year's Capital Fringe Festival – When ET Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest: A Sci-Fi Rock Opera is mounting a new production directed by Anthony Londell Sanford at The George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium from December 10th through the 19th. It stars two of my 'Fringe Scene Stealers" Randall Holloway and Emily Webbe, and they are amazing singers! You can order tickets, meet 'the patients', and watch highlights of the Fringe Festival here.
"A Sci-Fi Rock Opera featuring therapy, redemption, phone calls and Visitors. In 1990s L.A., a rock star questions her sanity. In a nearby sanitarium a man suffering from amnesia wakes up screaming, a girl seems too scared to live. And on the dark side of the moon a ship powers up..."
Also Opening In December 2010
From December 1st to 26th, A Wrinkle in Time, at Round House Theatre, in Bethesda, MD.
From December 2nd to 18th, Wifeswappers, at Cherry Red, at The District of Columbia Arts Center ('DCAC'), in Washington, DC.
From December 3rd to 12th, Swingtime, at The In Series, at Atlas Performing Arts, in Washington, DC.
From December 3rd to 19th, The Christmas Cabin of Carnaween, at Creative Cauldron, in Fall Church, VA.
From December 8th to January 2nd, Black Nativity, at Theatre Alliance at H Street Playhouse, in Washington, DC.
From December 8th to January 9th, A Girl's Guide To Washington Politics, at The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, in Washington, DC.
From December 10th to January 8th, The Foreigner, at The Bay Theatre Company, Inc., in Annapolis, MD.
From December 10th to January 9th, The Mouse Trap, at 1st Stage, in Tyson's Corner, in McLean. VA.
From December 15th to 23rd, Merry, Happy… What?, at The Hub Theatre, in Fairfax, VA.
Already Open and Playing through December 2010 and January 2011
Through December 12th, The Master And Margarita, at Synetic Theater, at Lansburgh Theatre, in Washington, DC.
Through December 12th, The Seafarer, at Quotidian Theatre Company, at The Writer's Center, in Bethesda, MD.
Through December 18th, Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge, at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, in Alexandria, VA.
Through December 31st, The Nutcracker, at The Puppet Company, in Glen Echo, MD.
Through January 1st, Seasonal Disorder, at Washington Improv Theatre ('WIT'), at Source, in Washington, DC.
Through January 9th, Annie, at The Olney Theatre Center, in Olney, MD.
(1) The cast of Cirque Dreams Holidaze at The Kennedy Center. Photo by Cirque Productions.
(2) The cast of Synetic Family Theater's The Nutcracker. Back row-left to right: Kathryn Elizabeth Kelly, Mitch Irzinski, Ryan Tumulty, Dallas Tolentino, Assistant Director and Stage Manager Betsy Summers. Front row-left to right: Jessica Wilson, Emily Whitworth, Irina Kavsadze, and Austin Johnson. Photo by Dallas Tolentino.
(3) Artwork from Theater J's Oy Vey in A Manger by David Polonsky.
(4) Deborah Buonaccorsi (Ghost of Christmas Past) and David B. Reynolds (Scrooge) in A Christmas Carol at Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia. Photo by Kirsten Christiansen.
(6) Artwork from Adventure Theatre's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, by Eric Hill/Salspot Ltd.
(7) Paul Morella performs A Christmas Carol, In the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab, at Olney Theatre Center.
(8) The cast of Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, at Imagination Stage: Casie Platt, Christopher Wilson, Rana Kay, Jasmin Danielle Johnson, Linden Tailor, Eric M. Messner, Rex Daugherty. Photo by Scott Suchman.
(9) Jessica Ball as Cinderella and Matthew Schleigh as Prince Christopher in Cinderella, at Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia. Photo by Kirsten Christiansen.
(10) Florence Lacy as Norma Desmond at Signature Theatre's production of Sunset Boulevard. Photo by Chris Mueller.
(12) Rebecca Finnegan, Govind Kumar, Erik Lochtefeld, Margo Seibert, Geoff Packard and Lauren Molina in the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of Candide, directed by Mary Zimmerman. Photo by Liz Lauren.
(13) Emily Webbe in When ET Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. Photo by Paul Gillis.
-- Joel Markowitz writes about theatre in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and New York for DC Theatre Scene. Follow Joel's Theatre Schmooze column here and his podcast interviews here. Joel can also be heard on The Lunch and Judy Show radio program starring Judy Stadt on Positive World Radio Network and can be heard on WTBQ 1110 AM in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990. The group is in its 21st season. Joel also writes a monthly preview of what's about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. His work can also be seen in "COLUMNS" and "PODCAST" on BroadwayStars.