Featured NYC events in December 2018
If you are growing tired of more-is-more Christmas spectaculars, Cynthia King's 16-minute version of The Nutcracker might be just your size. Featuring dancers of all ages and abilities—the youngest is 3 years old!—the show takes a modern crack at the old holiday story, with an eye toward the dangers of consumerism.
Storytelling phenom Danny Artese gathers an all-star lineup of queer performers to talk about coming out, evolving their identities and celebrating Pride (even on its half birthday). He's joined by Elana Lancaster, David Lawson, Julie Threlkeld, Miko Cho and Rebecca Marquardt.
New York's surging queer comedy scene gets its due at this epic showcase. Grab a drink at the spectacular queer bar 3 Dollar Bill, all while witnessing some of the city's fiercest drag and comedy performers go at it. The second edition boasts founder Ryan McLendon, along with Samantha Ruddy, Mini Horrorwitz, David Goldberg, Dylan Adler, Jon Wan, Veronica Garza, Elsa Waithe and Chris Murphy.
Choreographed by longtime Jesuit pastor Robert VerEecke, this liturgical dance piece is aimed at those who want a little más Christ in their Christmas shows. Steven Cornwall and Maresa D'Amore Morrison play Joseph and Mary, joined by members of the Chevalier Ballet Company, 10 Hairy Legs and other groups. A Boston holiday tradition for decades, the show is only now making its New York debut.
Choreographer David Parker and his Bang Group reprise their neovaudevillian version of The Nutcracker, a comedic deconstruction of the holiday classic that mixes tap, ballet, contemporary dance and disco. The cast includes teen dancers from the Dalton School and the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.
Chris Calogero and Courtney Maginnis welcome comedians to show off their best sets, then join them at the hot seat for a delightfully-off talk show. And the Holiday X-travaganza promises to be a legendary banger, with sets from Kate Willett, Josh Gondelman, Casey James Salengo, Emily Winter, Carmen Lagala, Sam Evans, Max Wittert, Ethan Simmons Patterson, Ayo Edibiri, Joe Rumrill, Julia Shiplett and Sam Taggart.
Poet and comedic maverick Arti Gollapudi takes aim at societal norms and body standards at her riotous monthly show. The December edition boasts Sydnee Washington, Pooja Reddy, Jeena Bloom, Alex Song, Karolena Theresa, Mary Kate Heggety and Amanda Justice.
Tchaikovsky's ballet gets a facelift as rap icon Kurtis Blow MCs a ferocious contemporary reimagining with hip-hop dancers, digital projection and a beat-driven score.
The dashing Steven Markow brings his vast skill set—directing, podcasting, sound design, stand-up, characters and photography, to name a few—to this eclectic showcase night. Join the renaissance man as he directs a crew of performers in a live reading of a hilarious radio play.
The garden lights up with its collection of trains that chug along a nearly half-mile track by 150 miniature NYC landmarks like the Empire State Building and Radio City Music Hall, all made of natural materials such as leaves, twigs, bark and berries.
Selling Fast in December 2018
Tom and Betsy Salamon’s unique adventure—part interactive theater, part scavenger hunt, part walking tour—draws participants into an amusing web of puzzles and intrigue. You can choose between the three-hour New York tour, which takes participants through various neighborhoods of lower Manhattan, or the two-hour Village tour, which travels through quirky Greenwich Village. Groups of as many as 11 are booked every half hour.
Sit back in the Hayden Planetarium and let rock-star astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s voice lull you into a tranquil state of wonder as cosmic mysteries of the universe unfold above and around you. Learn about dark matter, dark energy and more, as moons, galaxies and supernovas flash by from the beginning of the universe to present time.
For some three decades, the Pennsylvanian institution helmed by Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo, a.k.a. Gene and Dean Ween, has maintained its ability to project its virtuosic talent onto virtually any genre and goofily make it its own. The band hits the Capitol Theatre for a pair of holiday dates, though, truth be told, for Ween's sizable fan base, every concert is a holy event.
NYTB presents a family-friendly, hour-long Art Nouveau version of the holiday ballet, complete with clockwork elves and an owl that flies over the audience.The set design is by Gillian Bradshaw-Smith and the costumes by Sylvia Taalsohn Nolan.
Part cabaret, part piano bar and part social set, Cast Party offers a chance to hear rising and established talents step up to the microphone (backed by the slap and tickle of Steve Doyle on bass and Billy Stritch at the ivories, plus the bang of Daniel Glass on drums). The waggish Caruso presides as host.
Shake off 2018 with two dance parties at Good Room. In the main space, the venerable DJ duo Soul Clap will be bringing their high-energy funk, while Justin Strauss and Billy Caldwell take over the smaller Bad Room with their popular resident party Love Tempo. When the clock strikes midnight enjoy a complimentary champagne toast and watch the balloons drop. Want to keep those feet moving way until the sun rises? Refuel at the bagel breakfast—this party goes until 8am.
Inspired by Marie-Hélène de Rothschild's outrageous 1972 ball that brought a masked Salvadore Dali and Audrey Hepburn to Paris, this smashing party attracts 1,000 of the most creatively-dressed revelers in the city to descend on the former Williamsburg Savings Bank for a night of magic, tantalizing occult rituals, dances, performances and enigmatic encounters.
This magical 1954 production, set to Tchaikovsky's incredible score, includes the full New York City Ballet company and two casts of School of American Ballet students, as well as an onstage blizzard and a Christmas tree that grows from 12 to 40 feet. In the end, however, Balanchine's choreography is what holds it all together. It's enchanting.
Broadway by the Year impresario Scott Siegel curates this monthly concert series, in which Broadway stars sing some of the Great White Way's best-loved tunes. Performers at the October edition include Emily Janes, John Easterlin, Joshua Israel, William Michals, Kelsey Lee Smith, Michael Winther and Time Out's own Adam Feldman.
Austin McCormick and his risqué neo-Baroque dance-theater group Company XIV present a lavish erotic reimagining of the classic holiday tale, complete with circus performers, operatic singers and partial nudity. The word nutcracker has customarily conjured innocent wonder; now be ready to add glitter pasties, stripper poles and comically large stuffed penises to the toys in wonderland. Definitely leave the kids at home.
Theater events in December 2018
Hamilton: Theater review by David Cote What is left to say? After Founding Father Alexander Hamilton’s prodigious quill scratched out 12 volumes of nation-building fiscal and military policy; after Lin-Manuel Miranda turned that titanic achievement (via Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography) into the greatest American musical in decades; after every critic in town (including me) praised the Public Theater world premiere to high heaven; and after seeing this language-drunk, rhyme-crazy dynamo a second time, I can only marvel: We've used up all the damn words. Wait, here are three stragglers, straight from the heart: I love Hamilton. I love it like I love New York, or Broadway when it gets it right. And this is so right. A sublime conjunction of radio-ready hip-hop (as well as R&B, Britpop and trad showstoppers), under-dramatized American history and Miranda’s uniquely personal focus as a first-generation Puerto Rican and inexhaustible wordsmith, Hamilton hits multilevel culture buttons, hard. No wonder the show was anointed a sensation before even opening. Assuming you don’t know the basics, Hamilton is a (mostly) rapped-through biomusical about an orphan immigrant from the Caribbean who came to New York, served as secretary to General Washington, fought against the redcoats, authored most of the Federalist Papers defending the Constitution, founded the Treasury and the New York Post and even made time for an extramarital affair that he damage-controlled in a scandal-stanching pamp
In this captivating original musical, Hello, Dolly! scene-stealer Taylor Trensch now plays the title role of a high school student thrust into social relevance after a classmate's suicide. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's score combines well-crafted lyrics with an exciting pop sound, and Steven Levenson’s book gives all the characters shaded motives. Read the full review.
If theater is your religion and the Broadway musical your sect, you've been woefully faith-challenged of late. Venturesome, boundary-pushing works such as Spring Awakening, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Next to Normal closed too soon. American Idiot was shamefully ignored at the Tonys and will be gone in three weeks. Meanwhile, that airborne infection Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark dominates headlines and rakes in millions, without even opening. Celebrities and corporate brands sell poor material, innovation gets shown the door, and crap floats to the top. It's enough to turn you heretic, to sing along with The Book of Mormon's Ugandan villagers: "Fuck you God in the ass, mouth and cunt-a, fuck you in the eye." Such deeply penetrating lyrics offer a smidgen of the manifold scato-theological joys to be had at this viciously hilarious treat crafted by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of South Park fame, and composer-lyricist Robert Lopez, who cowrote Avenue Q. As you laugh your head off at perky Latter-day Saints tap-dancing while fiercely repressing gay tendencies deep in the African bush, you will be transported back ten years, when The Producers and Urinetown resurrected American musical comedy, imbuing time-tested conventions with metatheatrical irreverence and a healthy dose of bad-taste humor. Brimming with cheerful obscenity, sharp satire and catchy tunes, The Book of Mormon is a sick mystic revelation, the most exuberantly entertaining Broadway musical in years. The high
Theater review by Adam Feldman [NOTE: A new block of tickets for 2019 performances in June through September goes on sale at 11am on November 29, 2018. Join the Virtual Waiting Room between 10:30am and 11am for a crack at the best seats.] The world of Harry Potter has arrived on Broadway, Hogwarts and all, and it is a triumph of theatrical magic. Set two decades after the final chapters of J.K. Rowling’s world-shaking kid-lit heptalogy, the two-part epic Harry Potter and the Cursed Child combines grand storytelling with stagecraft on a scale heretofore unimagined. Richly elaborated by director John Tiffany, the show looks like a million bucks (or, in this case, a reported $68 million); the Lyric Theatre has been transfigured from top to bottom to immerse us in the narrative. It works: The experience is transporting. Jack Thorne’s play, based on a story he wrote with Rowling and Tiffany, extends the Potter narrative while remaining true to its core concerns. Love and friendship and kindness are its central values, but they don’t come easily: They are bound up in guilt, loneliness and fear. Harry (Jamie Parker) is weighted with trauma dating back to his childhood, which hinders his ability to communicate with his troubled middle son, Albus (Sam Clemmett); it doesn’t help that Albus’s only friend is the bookish outcast Scorpius Malfoy (the exceptional Anthony Boyle), son of Harry’s erstwhile enemy, Draco (Alex Price). Despite the best intentions of Harry’s solid wife, Ginny
Theater review by Adam Feldman Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman is a tremendously noisy play about silence and its price. Rob Howell’s expertly detailed set, festooned with memorabilia and kids’ drawings, depicts a farmhouse in Northern Ireland in 1981. More than 20 actors stream on and off the stage, including many children of various ages, plus a live baby and a goose; there is music, both traditional and contemporary, and a celebratory dance. The whole thrilling production seems alive, as few Broadway shows do, with the clutter and scope of reality. It is harvest day, and for Quinn Carney (Paddy Considine) it starts with a sweet early-morning flirtation with Caitlin (Laura Donnelly). They seem a happy couple, but we soon piece together that she is not Quinn’s wife and the mother of his seven children—that would be the sickly Mary (Genevieve O’Reilly)—but the presumed widow of his long-missing brother, Seamus. As we have learned in the play’s prologue, Seamus’s corpse has just been discovered in a local bog, and the quietly menacing local Irish Republican Army warlord, Muldoon (Stuart Graham), is intent on ensuring that no one talk too much about how the dead man got that way. Although it is more than three hours long, The Ferryman never drags, in part because Butterworth continually shifts and expands the play’s focus to what had seemed like side characters, such as the sometimes-lucid madwoman Aunt Maggie Far Away (Fionnula Flanagan), the slow-witted Tom Kettle (Justi
[Note: The review below is for a 2014 version of this show, which was then titled The Imbible. A revised version now plays at New World Stages. A different, brunch-theater edition, titled Day Drinking, plays on weekend matinees.] Remember Bill Nye the Science Guy? Great! Now imagine him as a bartender who is deeply interested in the history of ethanol alcohol, really likes wigs and costumes, and just joined a coed barbershop quartet. That description of Anthony Caporale’s The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking may sound far-out, but the show is both educational and entertaining. (It's also a fine showcase for a cappella classics arranged by Josh Ehrlich and performed by a gifted ensemble that includes the show's director, soprano Nicole DiMattei.) Mixing whimsy and information, Caporale makes the story of our relationship with alcohol remarkably compelling. And the show's lessons—on subjects like the drinks served at Prohibition-era speakeasies, the origin of the gin and tonic, and the difference between a cocktail and a mixed drink—can be washed down with complimentary, thematically appropriate beverages. As Caporale says, “Trust me, I get funnier with every sip.” That makes the show a must-see for anyone who enjoys free booze, which is probably nearly everyone.—Amelia Bienstock
Theater review by Helen Shaw When you walk into Say Something Bunny!, you enter another time. You might not notice that at first, because the brick office space where it takes place is so determinedly ordinary-looking. The small audience sits around a doughnut-shaped conference table, and as Alison S.M. Kobayashi begins her multimedia docuplay, some spectators are already paging through the scripts that have been placed in front of each chair. The text turns out to be the full transcript of a real, unlabeled 65-year-old recording that Kobayashi found hidden in an antique wire recorder: the audio relic of a teenage boy in Woodmere, Queens, enthusiastically taping two dozen family members and neighbors. Kobayashi has listened to the recording hundreds of times and has a seemingly boundless interest in the people whose voices it preserves, including amateur recordist David, mother Juliette and neighbor Bunny. She conducts us through a pair of after-dinner conversations, the first in 1952—she deduced the date from song lyrics mentioned on the wire—and the second in 1954. Aided by coauthor Christopher Allen, she pursues hints and half-heard jokes to determine who these people were and what befell them; she shows us the census records she used to find their old houses. The play unspools unhurriedly, leaving space for Kobayashi to make jokes, play short films and highlight points of historical interest. It takes a while for it to sink in that—of course—many of these vibrant people
This musical prequel to The Wizard of Oz addresses surprisingly complex themes, such as standards of beauty, morality and, believe it or not, fighting fascism. Thanks to Winnie Holzman’s witty book and Stephen Schwartz’s pop-inflected score, Wicked soars. The current cast includes Jackie Burns as Elphaba and Amanda Jane Cooper as Glinda.
Director-designer Julie Taymor takes a reactionary Disney cartoon about the natural right of kings—in which the circle of life is putted against a queeny villain and his jive-talking ghetto pals—and transforms it into a gorgeous celebration of color and movement. The movie’s Elton John–Tim Rice score is expanded with African rhythm and music, and through elegant puppetry, Taymor populates the stage with an amazing menagerie of beasts; her audacious staging expands a simple cub into the pride of Broadway, not merely a fable of heredity but a celebration of heritage.—Adam Feldman Running time: 2hrs 40mins. One intermission.
After many years, the sassy and clever puppet musical doesn’t show its age. Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s deft Sesame Street–esque novelty tunes about porn and racism still earn their laughs. Avenue Q remains a sly and winning piece of metamusical tomfoolery. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.
Music events in December 2018
Mitski Miyawaki has a talent for swift transformation. Over the past several years, she's rocketed from self-releasing her first two albums and playing DIY gigs to selling out New York's biggest rock venues months in advance. Her latest collection, Be The Cowboy, continues that hunger for growth, veering from her recent penchant for dreamily yearning indie rock in favor of a multi-faceted synth pop that recalls her early-career experimental tendencies.
The tea spills, the cheekbones get sharper, the lightning guitar skills faster still: Fleetwood Mac icon Lindsey Buckingham returns with Solo Anthology, an outstanding "Best Of" album that includes cuts from some of the three-time Grammy winner's best solo records—Law and Order, Seeds We Sow, Out of the Cradle—and includes tracks from his recent collaboration with fellow Fleetwood Mac member Christine McVie.
This indie vet has always seemed inseparable from his trademark electric-guitar supernovas, so it's a pleasant surprise to hear Mascis sounding so comfy on his acoustic solo discs, such as 2011's Several Shades of Why and 2014's LP, Tied to a Star. It turns out that the Dino Jr. frontman's mumbly, achy emoting translates quite well in unplugged mode.
Brothers Max and Andrew Savage, along with their bandmates, are doing the once-a-generation job of stripping rock & roll back to something tight, primal and brilliant. The local outfit quickly sold out its tiny run of album-release shows this summer. This much-larger Manhattan gig offers another crack at hearing the invigorating postpunk bops of its latest, Wide Awake! The enduring, always-captivating space-jazz ensemble Sun Ra Arkestra opens.
David Crosby, co-founder of the Byrds as well as Crosby, Stills & Nash, is a national treasure. That's why you shouldn't miss the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer when he graces the stage of The Capitol Theatre backed by The Lighthouse Band (comprising Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis and Michael League) to reinterpret the legend’s best tracks as well as his latest LP Here If You Listen. Oh, and if you're not already following the musician on Twitter, you should be.
Though this atmospheric Canadian indie-rock combo started out making whispery drum machine ditties on its 2001 debut Nightsongs, the crew has since asserted increasingly grandiose aspirations. More than 15 years later, Stars is turning out celestial, big-room synth-pop, as heard on 2017's There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light. Expect to hear selections from both the album and the band's back catalogue at this south-of-the-border gig.
This American band, which is neither from Manchester nor an orchestra, plays swelling rock songs with dramatic shades of Built to Spill. The group hits Brooklyn behind the new A Black Mile to the Surface, which features a nearly total turnover of the group's original members aside from guitarist and singer Andy Hull.