MAIN EVENT: VISIONS OF SUGAR PLUMS
Since its premiere in St. Petersburg in 1892, The Nutcracker—scored by Tchaikovsky—has become something of a holiday staple. Despite its darker themes (murderous mice, slightly racist food-based representations of foreigners), audiences remain captivated by young Clara and her treasured nutcracker—or, more accurately, by the ballet’s stunning score and the artistry of its performers. And nowhere is the show more beloved than North America, which, according to some statistics, accounts for about 40 percent of the average company’s ticket sales. Baltimore is no exception: Admirers of the Sugar Plum Fairy will have multiple opportunities to see the production—first, at the Lyric, performed by the Ballet Theatre of Maryland and a live orchestra featuring the Concert Artists of Baltimore, and, later, by the renowned Moscow Ballet at the Hippodrome. See it Dec. 3-4 at the Lyric and Dec. 16-17 at the Hippodrome. Ticket prices vary by time and date. The Lyric: 410-900-1150, lyricbaltimore.com. The Hippodrome: 410-837-7400, france-merrickpac.com —KIMBERLY USLIN
Fourteen years before “The Nutcracker” came to life, Tchaikovsky finished his Fourth Symphony, dominated by the theme of fate. After a rough divorce, the workaholic composer threw his emotions into this piece. The Columbia Orchestra, now in its 39th season, presents the Fourth, but also on the bill: Golijov’s “Azul”—on which cellist Rachel Young accompanies—and Vivaldi’s “Concerto for Two Oboes.” Dec. 3 at the Jim Rouse Theatre. Tickets: $10-$28. 410-465-8777, columbiaorchestra .org —JULIETH MEDINA-CICI
VERGE OF REMEMBRANCE
Celebrated as the creator of science fiction and detective stories, master of macabre horror tales and crafter of mesmeric poetry, Edgar Allan Poe also successfully cranked out literary criticism and newspaper puzzles, edited a literature/fine arts magazine and explored handwriting analysis and cryptography. Experience this tireless autodidact’s various manifestations—plus, somewhat sensationally, see a lock of his hair, the engagement ring he gave to his teenage paramour and a sliver of his coffin—in The Enigmatic Edgar A. Poe in Baltimore & Beyond, drawn from the vast Susan Jaffe Tane Collection of Poe materials. At the George Peabody Library through Feb. 5. 410-234-4943, guides.library.jhu.edu —MICHAEL YOCKEL
NAME THAT TUNE
Ever dreamed about a personally curated live chamber concert? Well, your dream is about to turn into reality. SHUFFLE, a young group composed of accomplished chamber musicians from New York, is waltzing into the Gordon Center and giving you the opportunity to conjure the evening’s program on the fly. Actively participate in the selection of songs to be performed (choose from classical, baroque, jazz, pop, Broadway, solos, duos… you name it) and lose yourself in the resulting musical gumbo. Dec. 3 at Gordon Center. Tickets: $15-$30. 410-356-7469, jcc.org —MICAH CASTELO
TRIPPING THE LIGHT
Considered the unofficial official launch of the city’s holiday season, the annual Monument Lighting features the ooooohh-aaaahhing simultaneous illumination of 16,000 LEDs strung from the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon. In the quartet of parks surrounding the statue, you’ll find food vendors, a beer garden and a Kids Corner. Also: live music and, after our nation’s first President gets his glow on, a fireworks display. Dec. 1 in Mount Vernon Place. Free. 410-244-1030, GoDowntown Baltimore.com —M.Y.
HO, HO, HO
Prepare to enter naughty-list territory as “Queen of Burlesque” Trixie Little and her merry band of exotic elves present T’its a Wonderful Life!, a bawdy take on traditional holiday tales. Trixie herself leads the charge as Trixel, a well-meaning elf whose life takes a turn for the worse when Santa skips town. But all hope isn’t lost: With the help of Kinky Krampus, Sister Solstice and Roofie the Reindeer, Santa’s little strippers just might be able to bring back that Christmas magic. Sound a little too salacious for your taste? Don’t get your tinsel in a twist—it’s all in good fun. Dec. 8-10 and 15-17 at the Creative Alliance. Tickets: $25. 410-276-1651, creativealliance.org —K.U.
In STYLE’s recent arts issue, we wrote about the difficulty of maintaining classical music’s relevance to younger audiences. This proves no challenge to The Piano Guys, a quartet known for its clever orchestral arrangements of both classical and contemporary music. (Take “Beethoven’s Five Secrets,” for example, a swelling tune that seamlessly melds Ludwig’s famous “Fifth” with chart-topper “Secrets” by OneRepublic.) The four-piece and their guest performers have since become known for their lively YouTube videos—each receiving tens of millions of views—and visually compelling performances, featuring everything from “lightsaber cello bows” to five men playing one piano. Dec. 7 at the Lyric. Tickets: $45-$170. 410-900-1150, lyricbaltimore.com —K.U.
With mere days remaining before she exits stage left, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake gives her benediction to the 43rd annual Mayor’s Christmas Parade, a delightfully Smalltimore tradition featuring scads of high-stepping marching bands, decorative floats, local TV and radio honchos, a gaggle of revved-to-11 motorcycles, an army of Shriners wearing fezzes while riding kooky kiddie vehicles, a steam-powered calliope, elected officials waving from convertibles and, naturally, Santa, all wending their way along a 2.5-mile route through Medfield and Hampden. Dec. 4 along Falls Rd./36th St. Free. mayorschristmasparade.com —M.Y.
Explosive action, bitter rivalries, gratuitous expletives … sometimes, it seems the holidays are no different from a Bruce Willis action flick. Add to that the growing (and perplexing) popularity of “Die Hard” as a Christmas movie, and you’ve got The Stoop’s latest: The Stoop Die Hard Holiday Show. The popular storytelling series promises a night filled with “stories about surviving the yuletide season,” as well as the usual pre-show cocktails and music…oh, and a screening of “Die Hard” following the main event. Yippie-ki-yay, merrymakers. Dec. 6 at the Senator Theatre. Tickets: $20. stoopstorytelling.com —K.U.
OFF HER DOT
The entire-family-comes-home-for-Christmas/hilarity-ensues motif has become something of a cliché in film and theater, but occasionally a production comes along that elevates the trope to something a bit more touching and true. Such is the case with Dot, a new work from playwright and actor Colman Domingo. (Domingo recently appeared in “Birth of a Nation” as Nat Turner’s friend Hark.) In this holiday dramedy, the titular character—also known, fittingly, as Dotty—struggles to accept her worsening Alzheimer’s, even as her adult children make arrangements for her care while home for Christmas. The result? A show the New York Times calls both “uproariously funny” and “deeply moving.” Dec. 7-Jan. 8 at Everyman Theatre. Tickets: $25 certain days, and $43-$49. 410-752-2208, everymantheatre .org —K.U.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT
Often reported as a problem afflicting Asian nations, the heinous practice of sex trafficking in children exists in the U.S., too. Commodities: Children’s Stories, conceived by the performance company The Oven, probes how an estimated 100,000 American kids are affected by predators who sell their young victims as sexual slaves. WYPR critic J. Wynn Rousuck calls the show “sensitive and theatrically arresting,” using “choral speech, movement and storytelling” to expose a “disturbing issue.” At the Theatre Project Dec. 8-18. Tickets: $13-$23. 410-752-8558, theatreproject.org —M.Y.
ART YOU CAN AFFORD
Do yourself, your friends and/or family members and, not incidentally, local and regional artists a favor by adding a painting, print, drawing or other piece of artwork to your holiday gift list when Maryland Art Place offers original works for Under $500 on a first-come/first-served basis. After you enjoy the evening browsing, chatting and, with luck, buying—amid curators, artists and other art lovers—you can take home anything you’ve purchased. Open wine and beer bar, along with holiday-influenced hors d’oeuvres. Dec. 9 at Maryland Art Place. Tickets: $25. 410-962-8565, mdartplace.org —J.M.C.
A DIVINE EVENING
Tired of all the wholesome, feel-good sentimentality surrounding the holidays? Get a shock to the seasonal system with A John Waters Christmas, a one-man show that’s anything but treacly. In this hilariously offensive evening, the “Pink Flamingos” mastermind shares his thoughts on all things merry and bright, from holiday traditions to Santa Claus to the not-so-savory gifts on his Christmas list—or, as he frames it, “putting the X in Xmas.” Dec. 21 at Baltimore Soundstage. Tickets: $44-$110. 410-244-0057, baltimore soundstage.org —K.U.
Iconic filmmaker Frank Capra’s 1932 American Madness, released at the apogee of the Depression, depicts the trials and tribs of bank president Tom Dixon (Walter Huston) as he attempts to maintain his ingrained humanist approach to business amid a funds-draining run on his Union National Bank (a scene playing out nationwide in real time upon the film’s release). Sound familiar? Well, yes, because Capra returned to the theme more famously 15 years later with his It’s a Wonderful Life, now a holiday cinematic evergreen. Happily, both films screen at the Central Branch of the Pratt on Dec. 10. Free. 410-396-5430, calendar.prattlibrary.org —M.Y.
Alabama-born and long-time D.C.-based artist William Christenberry has used diverse mediums—painting, sculpture, photography, found-object assemblage, drawing—to create work that The Washington Post described last year as “Southern in context, universal in nature, the main body of which speaks of life, aging, wearing away. It possesses the ability to haunt.” William A. Christenberry: Laying-by Time closely examines all facets of that oeuvre, notably his stunning “Klan Room,” a multi-piece/multi-media evocation of this nation’s problematic racial hatred. Dec. 9-Mar. 12 at MICA’s Decker Gallery. Free. 410-669-9200, mica.edu —M.Y.
Get educated by Walter Arthur Harris Gill, Ph.D.—aka the Urban Professor—during the latest installment of “Writers LIVE,” the Pratt Library’s academic program that brings together seasoned and emerging writers to present their work to a wider audience. Gill introduces Yesterday’s Tomorrow, his new book based on personal boyhood and youth experiences while growing up in Mississippi, Missouri and Baltimore. As the first African American to graduate from Baltimore City College High School, artist/actor/teacher Gill (also a Morgan State alum) explores issues pertaining to education and black lives. Dec. 14 at the Pratt. Free. 410-396-5430, prattlibrary.org —M.C.
WEST END MEN
Casual film fans know director Nicholas Ray’s 1955 Rebel Without a Cause, while cineastes understand that his output runs considerably deeper, including In a Lonely Place, Johnny Guitar and 1952’s The Lusty Men, wherein Ray delves into his favorite theme, combustible alienation, this time in the contemporary West of rodeo cowboys. Framed around a romantic triangle—aging rider Robert Mitchum, upstart cowpoke Arthur Kennedy and Susan Hayward as the latter’s wife—Ray creates beautifully bleak physical and emotional landscapes. At the Charles Theatre Dec. 17 and 19. Tickets: $9.50. 410-727-FILM, the charles.com —M.Y.
CHRISTMAS WITH A MISSION
Carols, twinkling lights, mulled cider and the music of Amy Grant. What else could it be if not the most joyful time of the year? The Christmas season has the power to awaken our inborn compassion, inspiring us to share with those in need. Contemporary Christian music powerhouses Grant and Michael W. Smith will be doing just that during their 2016 Christmas tour to benefit Operation Christmas Child, which distributes gifts to kids worldwide. With special guest Jordan Smith and the participation of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. Dec. 18 at Royal Farms Arena. Tickets: $36.50-$150. 410-347-2020, royalfarmsarena.com —J.M.C.
Drawn from photographs, prints and drawings in the Baltimore Museum of Art’s permanent collection, Shifting Views: People & Politics in Contemporary African Art uses recent works to offer what the museum terms “each artist’s pointedly political perspective on the lives of Africans and their diasporic descendants.” Many pieces, notably Julie Mehretu’s “Landscape Allegories” etchings, confront how colonialism forever has changed the continent emotionally and environmentally. Dec. 18-June 18 at the BMA. Free. 443-573-1700, artbma.org —M.Y.
Why are all the D’Ysquiths dying? Find out in this production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical. Follow Monty Navarro in his macabre quest of jumping the line of succession to inherit a family fortune and become the next Earl of Highhurst. Die with laughter from comedic execution—it’s simply out of this world. Dec. 27-Jan. 1 at the Hippodrome. Tickets: $20-$132. 800-982-2787, baltimore.broadway .com —M.C.
CHARM CITY OFFENSIVE
Pick a side: In a spirit antithetical to that of unity and cheer, the Army Black Knights and Navy Midshipmen return to Ravens stadium for their contentious yearly football matchup (simply called the Army-Navy Game). The rivalry is historic: The two faced off for the first time in 1890, and nearly annually since 1899 (with a few exceptions, including during World War I). Despite the game’s built-in intensity, in recent years there hasn’t been too much competition; though, Navy has won 60 games to Army’s 49 (with seven ties), the Middies haven’t lost since 2001. Dec. 10 at M&T Bank Stadium. Call for ticket prices. 410-261-7283, baltimoreravens.com —K.U.
ALL ABOUT EVE
To say 2016 has been tumultuous would be extreme understatement. A refresher: The year saw a takeover by the Oregon Militia, Brexit, numerous national tragedies, Zika, Pokémon Go, countless celebrity deaths and the most insane Presidential election campaign to date, plus some truly bizarre moments in pop culture (#Kanye2020?). Celebrate the end of it all with some good, clean fun at Baltimore’s New Year’s Eve Spectacular. Super Bueno will be performing party tunes in the hours leading up to the ’16-’17 switch, followed by fab fireworks over the harbor—and an auld lang sigh of relief. Dec. 31 at the Inner Harbor. Free. 410-752-8632, promotionandarts.org —K.U.