Here’s my favorite quotes from our 5-star reviews of our ‘Best Shows’ for December 14-21. Here we go!
(1) Christmas Gift! at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.
Audrey Thornton: “Christmas Gift! celebrates African American culture, spirituality and music. The music in and of itself was a gift, wherein one can enjoy and draw appreciation from a variety of selections ranging from time-honored spirituals and gospels to jazz and R&B. Add to that the introduction, for some, to such venerable artists as Shelton Becton “Have You Heard About the Baby?” and the works of luminaries as W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, and Margaret T. Applegarth, one’s spiritual palette was satisfied.”
(2) A Christmas Chaos at Elden Street Players Theatre for Young Audiences
Kim Moeller: “As the show opens, the audience is informed that they will not be seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company doing A Christmas Carol as expected, but rather the Elden Street troupe who have pulled together their own production of the Dickens’ classic in less than seven hours. Chaos, mayhem, and shenanigans ensue. Thankfully, we are watching a talented group of actors who do a superb job at portraying the unprofessional and slapdash cast and crew.”
(3) Nnenna Freelon at The KC Jazz Club at The Kennedy Center
Francine Schwartz: “Encouraging the audience to imagine yourself at the “Cotton Club”, the performance started out with a tribute to Lena Horne, including some of her popular works which reminder her of Lena’s beauty, both inside and outside. Apparently Ms. Freelon remembers her as an icon of feminine beauty from her youth, despite having been chastised, “You’re no Lena Horne.” It’s obvious she is over that insinuation as she performed a ‘hip’ rendition of “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story. (You can hear that rendition here).’
(4) An Irish Carol at The Keegan Theatre.
Jessica Vaughan: “The Keegan Theatre’s An Irish Carol is destined to become one of the not-to-be missed DC holiday institutions that everyone sees whenever Keegan deigns to put it on. This production, the second annual, is a smashing success… The Keegan Theatre’s An Irish Carol is a funny, unapologetic, and an utterly transforming night of theatre.”
(5) The Washington Chorus’ Candlelight Christmas at The Kennedy Center.
Flora Scott: “Engaging with the Christmas Spirit on 12/15/12, just one day after the massacre in Connecticut, in which 26 were killed – the least of which were 20 children for whom the holiday is truly intended – was haunting. The Parents. Knight Kiplinger, who introduced the show, eloquently captured and addressed the pangs of cognizance we all felt. “Music has magical powers,” he said, “the ability to dispel darkness.“ And “the joining of voices together can heal.” It brought the entire room’s collective consciousness together and gave to devoting all of our voices in heart felt song to the families. I believe it was the truest gift we could ever offer. I was grateful and honored to be involved.”
(6) The Moscow Ballet’s The Great Russian Nutcracker at The Music Center at Strathmore.
Jessica Vaughan: “The snowflakes at the end of act one were the youngest artists on the stage, hardly more than four or five years old and they dashed around with as much energy as the snowflakes they were representing. Minutes later, star Olga Kifyak took the stage as “Masha” the main character of the ballet. You could imagine that not so many years ago, she was one of those tiny bright lights just discovering dance.”
(7) MARTYRS at Young Artists of America.
Peter Grimm: “The program began with the rousing overture from Les Miserables, under the energetic direction of Music Director Kristofer Sanz. These young instrumentalists were sensational – sounding more like a professional orchestra. I have attended all of YAA performances and I am in awe of the talent of these fine musicians.”
(8) A (Comic) Christmas Carol at Greenbelt Arts Center.
Amanda Gunther: “Davis is a splendid performer. He narrates Dickens’ tale with a lively approach, adding pop culture references, jokes and other little moments of entertainment to keep it fresh. And his audience involvement knows no bounds! In the performance I attended — I was called to the stage as none other than Bob Cratchit — or in this case, Babette Cratchit. We even had a Fredericka for Scrooge’s niece and the ghost of lady Jacky Marley. This made for an uproarious good time as far as the audience was concerned.”
(9) Por cada lágrima/For Every Tear, at GALA Hispanic Theatre.
Charles Miller: “One of the most moving post-show comments came from a parent, who said that Paso Nuevo brings hope to her and other parents. This after-school youth program offers a positive emotional outlet. She said that almost every day we hear something negative about Latino kids. We hear about a Latino or African American kid getting killed or going to jail. But what motivated her to speak out was the thought that if that young person in Newtown, Connecticut, had had the opportunity to express his problems in a program like this one at Paso Nuevo, “Maybe what happened today wouldn’t have happened.”
(10) Jennifer Knapp and Margaret Becker’s The Hymns of Christmas at The Birchmere
Jennifer Perry: “The colors and textures in Becker’s voice are certainly unique and are fundamental reasons why this song works so well. With another voice, it might not be as interesting. Finally, one of Jennifer’s newest songs, “Dive In,” made a welcomed appearance. Her delivery was emotional while being technically on point.”
(11) Mannheim Steamroller Christmas at The Music Center at Strathmore.
Amanda Gunther: “But the man that truly stole the show was the Drummer, Tom Sharpe. He didn’t let the fact that he’s restricted to one very complex drum set as an instrument hold him back. Fully animated, this performer was astonishing to watch. From his stick twirls and rhythmic playing to the eager movement of his physicality, throwing his full body into the song, Sharpe grabbed my attention for each song. His most breath taking moment was of course “Little Drummer Boy” wherein he became the toy soldier, drumming away with military precision while mixing in elements of unique style and flare to make the experience that much more stunning.”
(12) Billy Elliott at Hippodrome Theatre.
Amanda Gunther: “Choreographer Kathryn Dunn may be the most important production designer on the team for this tour. As the show is based largely around dancing the routines become that much more important. Dunn delivers with sheer intensity in each and every routine, be it solo numbers performed by Billy or during the larger ensemble numbers; everything is marked with precision and perfect synchronization; showcasing a multitude of different styles, all wrangled together in unique hybrid fusions that combine some of the most stellar dance moves seen on the stage.”
(13) Holiday Follies at Signature Theatre.
Doug Poms: “If it is holiday cheer you seek this week, look no further than Signature Theatre’s Holiday Follies…The four singers are all top notch and are in excellent voice, both separately and together in various harmonies. The show’s style of presentation is very relaxed with a lot of audience participation so that the show has a nice homey feel to it.”
(14) Finishing the Hat: A Tribute to Stephen Sondheim at Signature Theatre.
Eric Denver: “James Gardiner has been immersed in Sondheim’s works, songs, and lyrics while performing in many of the composer’s shows here at Signature Theatre. His students are so fortunate to have James share his experiences, insights, and admiration for Stephen Sondheim’s work with them. It was thrilling to see the enthusiasm and admiration these young singers had not only for Mr. Sondheim, but also for James. As they sang these words together from “Our Time” from Merrily We Roll Along to end their performance – there was no doubt in my mind that these young performers will be singing Sondheim’s songs for generations to come because of James’ inspiration.
“We’re the movers and we’re the shapers.
We’re the names in tomorrow’s papers.
Up to us, man, to show ‘em
It’s our time, breathe it in:
Worlds to change and worlds to win.
Our turn coming through,
Me and you, man,
Me and you!”
(15) Million Dollar Quartet at The Kennedy Center.
Anne Tsang: “Kaye’s fingers on the piano keys are so fast and so agile that he is able to do things with the keyboard that hasn’t been seen since Jerry Lee Lewis himself. Slaughter has Elvis’ hip-swaying, and the swagger that hides the insecurities down to a ‘T.’ Elkins’ voice was so smooth and deep and so like Johnny Cash that it sent a chill down my spine. Lyons’ performance on the guitar would have made the “King of Rockabilly” (as Perkins was known) proud.”
(16) The Sound of Music at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore.
Amanda Gunther: “As for [Elizabeth] Rayca, her performance is nothing short of incredible. She embodies the lightheartedness and free-spirited nature of the postulant turned governess with ease. And her voice is sensational. She takes to the children like a duck takes to water, as if she’d always been a part of their lives, and when she sings with them, a harmonious symphony occurs. She gives one of the most captivating renditions of “My Favorite Things” (a duet shared with Lynn Sharp Spears) and is a bouncing ball of energy when it comes to “The Lonely Goatherd.” Rayca is sprightly and bubbly and never loses sight of the character’s faith in life, even as she doubts her current mission, and grows out of her simplistic naiveté and into the hearts of the von Trapp family.”
Read all our reviews of the past week.