Edited by Carly Carioli
Despite what it says a few millimeters north, some of you will be picking up this paper on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and on the off chance you're looking to sit in a dark room and watch movies instead of sitting in a dark room and watching football, we thought we'd remind you of what's opening this holiday weekend. Those attracted to the idea of a drunken Kris Kringle pissing in his pants and cracking safes will enjoy Bad Santa; Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, John Ritter (in his final film), and Lauren Graham star and Terry Zwigoff (Ghost World) directs. Those who favor less raunchy humor might check out The Haunted Mansion, in which workaholic real-estate agent Eddie Murphy and his family get stranded in the title property and learn a lesson about togetherness from the resident spooks. Terence Stamp and Jennifer Tilly also star; Rob Minkoff directs. Family values and gunslinging are featured in Ron Howard's The Missing, a Western about a father and daughter who bond to rescue the latter's daughter from a kidnapper. Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett star. Family values and tear ducts are the focus of Jim Sheridan's In America, the tale of an Irishman who emigrates with his family to New York; Samantha Morton and Paddy Considine star. If you're still in a crying mood, take in 21 Grams. Alejandro González Iñárritu's first English-language film intertwines the lives of a college professor needing a heart transplant, a recovering drug addict, and a born-again ex-con; Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and Benicio Del Toro star. And after you've unraveled that narrative, you'll find the physics in Timeline a piece of cake as an archæological team travel back in time to the 14th century to rescue their professor. Paul Walker and Gerard Butler star; Richard Donner (Conspiracy Theory) directs.
[back to top]
What with all the hubbub about the Wang Center's giving the boot to our beloved Boston Ballet production of The Nutcracker in favor of the Rockettes, we're surprised no one's considered combining the two. Who wouldn't want to see a line-up of Sugar Plum Fairies kicking up their heels? (See "Performance," on page 6, for our first annual Nutcracker quiz.) As it happens, Boston Ballet's isn't the only nomadic Nutcracker in town: José Mateo's Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker is in its 16th season, but a few years ago it moved from the Emerson Majestic (now the Cutler Majestic) to the Old Cambridge Baptist Church's Sanctuary Theatre (400 Harvard Street in Harvard Square). And it won't be moving anytime soon, having recently signed a 40-year lease on the space and begun renovations. This year there'll be 28 performances, beginning tonight at 7:30 and running through December 28. Tickets are $15 to $35; call (617) 354-7467.
Among the sites that've been floated for the post-Wang Boston Ballet Nutcracker is the soon-to-be-reopened Opera House - a venue that is not without its own holiday tradition. In the 1980s, the Opera House was the home of the National Center for Afro-American Artists' production of Langston Hughes's gospel "song play" Black Nativity - a retelling of the gospels of Matthew and Luke through scripture, poetry, song, and dance. The production moved to Tremont Temple when the Opera House closed, and it's remained there ever since. The work, which premiered at Lincoln Center in 1961, has become a Boston tradition thanks to musical director John Andre Ross, whose father was Hughes's college roommate and who has seen the all-volunteer Boston production through from a one-off performance at a board meeting to a beloved community-wide celebration. Now in its 34th year, with a cast of 160, Black Nativity makes its annual appearance beginning tonight at 8 and continuing Friday through Sunday through December 21. Tremont Temple is at 88 Tremont Street downtown, and tickets are $17.50 to $37.50; call (617) 423-NEXT or visit www.blacknativity.org
Leonard Bernstein's career as a composer always left him poised uncomfortably between "serious music" and Broadway. Few of his works illustrate this dilemma better than Candide, which outdoes almost every other Broadway show in musical sophistication, Lenny's other works in the medium included. We'll get another chance to revisit one of America's most distinguished music dramas, and perhaps Bernstein's best-written score, when Opera Boston (formerly Boston Academy of Music) makes its regular-season debut under its new name, with James Schaffner in the title role and Sanford Sylvan singing Pangloss. Opera Boston music director Gil Rose conducts three performances at the Cutler Majestic Theatre (just in case you were wondering what the joint was doing in lieu of José), 219 Tremont Street in the Theater District: November 28 and 29 at 7:30 p.m. and November 30 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $24 to $85; call (617) 451-3388.
Yes, Virginia, there are holiday alternatives to A Christmas Carol, and two of the nuttier of them open tonight. Boston Theatre Works unveils a new comedy by the Boston-based writer/actor John Kuntz called My Life with the Kringle Kult in which Kuntz plays Karl Kringle, right-hand man to a Wizard of Oz-like unseen Santa and head of the toy-manufacturing operation Kringletown. Rick Park, in drag, is the mysterious Baroness Tinsel von Shatzdoodle, who wants to donate her considerable assets to Kringletown, but only if she gets to meet Herr Klaus. "Fatal Attraction meets Santa's workshop" is the come-on, and the collision is at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street in the South End, through December 13. Tickets are $25, $20 for seniors and students; call (617) 426-2787. A few blocks away, the Lyric Stage Company of Boston introduces the latest entry in the Nunsense franchise, Meshuggah-Nuns!, which sounds as if it had been dreamed up by creator Dan Goggin on a combination of chopped liver and acid. The Nunsense nuns take a cruise on which every cast member of the ship's production of Fiddler on the Roof except Tevye gets seasick and the Little Sisters of Hoboken have to step in to save the entertainment, which includes numbers like "If I Were a Catholic" and "Matzoh Man." The "ecumenical Nunsense" continues through December 27 at the Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon Street, and tickets are $22 to $41; call (617) 437-7172.
Not all celebrity butlers are like Princess Di's, burning the candle in the wind at both exploitive ends. Before there was Paul Burrell, hot-fingering the keepsakes and spilling the secrets, there was more-dignified memoirist Alonzo Fields, Chief Butler at the White House under four presidents. Fields, who in 1931 took a break from his studies at New England Conservatory of Music to work for Herbert Hoover on Pennsylvania Avenue, wound up serving into the Truman Administration. Tonight Merrimack Repertory Theatre introduces the region to James Still's one-man play about Fields, Looking over the President's Shoulder. Keith Randolph Smith, who has appeared on Broadway in King Hedley II, The Piano Lesson, and Salome as well as in the Spike Lee films Girl Six and Malcolm X, plays Fields. The show continues through December 21 at Merrimack Rep, 50 East Merrimack Street in Lowell, and tickets are $23 to $39; call (978) 454-3926.
The dialogue in Ernst Lubitsch classics like Trouble in Paradise sparkles with wit, and so do the images in his early silent masterpieces. "The (Silent) Lubitsch Touch" at the Harvard Film Archive showcases four of these early gems, starting with his adaptation of the Oscar Wilde comedy Lady Windermere's Fan (1925), in which the formidable dame of the title finds her dinner-party decorum threatened by a pushy suitor and a widow with a questionable reputation. With Ronald Colman and Irene Rich, it screens at 7 p.m. It will be followed at 9 by The Marriage Circle (1924), Lubitsch's delightful look at interlinking marriages in a gay and effervescent Vienna. The HFA is in the Carpenter Center, 24 Quincy Street in Harvard Square; call (617) 495-4700.
Kendrick Oliver and the New Life Jazz Orchestra have become a local star attraction, especially with their program "Swingin' the Blues: Basie and Beyond." They bring it to the Regattabar once again with cool guest vocalists Monica Lynk and Kevin Mahogany. That's in the Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett Street in Harvard Square, tonight and tomorrow; call (617) 876-7777.
The MBTA is cracking down on subway buskers, and perhaps no one has more to lose than Mary Lou Lord, the only Red Line star ever to put out a record on Kill Rock Stars. She returned to her subterranean roots for last year's Live City Sounds (Rubric), which was recorded direct to tape in Park Street station, and she's readying a new studio album for which she'll reteam with long-time songwriting collaborator (and Bevis Frond leader) Nick Saloman. Tonight she's above ground, with a band, upstairs at the Middle East, 472 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square; call (617) 864-EAST.
Meanwhile, downstairs at the Middle East, one of the hottest MCs in Boston's underground hip-hop scene, Akrobatik, throws his own post-Turkey-day "AKSgiving" celebration with tunes from his CMJ-charting solo debut, Balance (Coup d'État); mid-'90s Brooklyn sensation J-Live is among the guests. And around the corner at T.T. the Bear's Place, the Daptone label - heir to the Desco Records throne as the premier replicators of vintage super-super-heavy funk - brings to town the hard-working greasy-R&B testifier Lee Fields, whose ability to mimic the gritty screams of James Brown is such that they oughta call him Soul Brother No. 2. He's backed by Daptone's ace house band, the Sugarman 3. That's at 10 Brookline Street in Central Square; call (617) 492-BEAR.
[back to top]
East meets West in the American Repertory Theatre's Snow in June, an attempt at updating Beijing musical theater with contemporary American flair. Chinese director Chen Shi-Zheng's adaptation of ART fave Charles L. Mee's text draws on a 13th-century Yuan drama in its story of a young girl who in life was forced into an arranged marriage and who after her death returns to take her revenge. Beijing Opera vet Qian Yi leads a cast of ART company members and a chorus from the ART Institute for Advanced Theatre Training; the music, by California composer Paul Dresher, is an Americana mix of bluegrass, Tex-Mex, Cajun, and Delta blues. The production (you can read more about it in Iris Fanger's preview, in the theater section of Arts) runs through December 28 at the Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street in Harvard Square, and tickets are $35 to $69; call (617) 547-8300.
The Boston hardcore label Bridge 9 remembers when punk rock was heavy, ugly, and mean - hell, the label is even putting out Slapshot records, for which we'll always be in its debt. Bridge is hosting an evening of no-frills, old-schooled hardcore: the record-release party for Some Kind of Hate's new Undisputed, with help from SKH's newly acquired labelmates Outbreak (from Maine) and the Distance (from Connecticut). That's at 5 p.m. at the ICC Church, 557 Cambridge Street in Allston. It's all-ages, and admission is $8; call (617) 782-8120.
Around the corner, former Lifetime/Kid Dynamite guitarist Dan Yemin's back-to-basics roots-hardcore outfit Paint It Black throw down with the only other band on Jade Tree who can keep up: Oregon's From Ashes Rise, whose new Nightmares (produced by Matt Bayles, the former Pearl Jam engineer who has produced everyone from Isis to Murder City Devils) pushes the boundaries of raw-throated, maximum-aggression thrash. It's an 8 p.m. show at the West End House Boys and Girls Club, 105 Allston Street in - yep - Allston; call (617) 782-6041.
A night of first-rate psych-pop is on offer at the Paradise with Texas's the Secret Machines, whose Ace-Fu debut five-song EP, September 000, displayed an adventurous, widescreen approach to '70s-style rock in the manner of post-Syd Pink Floyd stretched out into hazy drugstore-cowboy vistas somewhere between a spaghetti western and whatever planet Wayne Coyne is on these days. It was enough to land them a deal with Sire and a spot on this bill at the Paradise, alongside the debut of local indie-rockers On Fire - previously known in these parts as the Burning Paris, with a couple members of the Alienist Outfit thrown in - and a set from regional art-pop faves the Mobius Band. That's at 967 Commonwealth Avenue; call (617) 423-NEXT.
There was a time when "lively" and "colorful" were not words you'd associate with downtown Lowell, but the old mill town has made a comeback, in part as a revitalized artists' refuge for those looking to escape Boston's steep rents, restrictive zoning laws, and shrinking studio space. And that's reflected in the annual City of Lights Parade, which brightens the downtown district with 100,000 lights and a zany array of floats, musical ensembles, and costumed characters. Some 30,000 people are expected to watch the 13th annual shindig, which kicks off at the corner of Jackson and Central Streets at 4:30 p.m. and culminates at Lowell City Hall at 6 with the lighting of a tree decorated by local artists and artisans. Santa and the Missus will be taking orders thereafter, and there's free parking in city lots; call (978) 387-4358.
[back to top]
There are worse things to happen to a promising, iconoclast underground-rock band than having their major-label debut stiff - like having a hit they never live down. Boston's Cave In avoided the one-hit-wonder curse by having no hits at all off their RCA debut, Antenna, sales of which failed to ignite despite a stint on Lollapalooza and appearances on the Euro festival circuit. Now that the band have completed their touring behind the disc, frontman Stephen Brodsky gets a chance to play a solo set upstairs at the Middle East, where we presume he'll draw on his two solo albums, both of which have much more in common with the rough-hewn, hook-strewn indie pop of the late Elliott Smith and Guided by Voices than with his band's bombastic art metal. He's on a bill opening for NYC garageniks the Witnesses. That's at 472 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square; call (617) 864-EAST.
Through the Keyhole Burlesque's Sunday-night residency continues at the Paradise Lounge, this time with the chameleon-like jazz combo Beat Science. Over the summer, Beat Science could be found at the Lizard Lounge with a residency that included visits from Roswell Rudd and Marc Ribot; here they're morphing into a fab carney-band outfit drawing on inspiration from the '20s and '30s for a trip through circus music, bawdy-house burlesque faves, and N'Awlins funeral dirges. That's at 969 Commonwealth Avenue; call (617) 562-8814.
Displaying more chutzpah than a Jews-for-Jesus rally, the esteemed local Hebrewists of Shirim once again hammer out the holiday season's zaniest and most beloved bout of interfaith irreverence with their award-winning The Golden Dreydl: A Klezmer Nutcracker. Now a certified annual tradition with text by NPR Sound and Spirit host Ellen Kushner, Shirim's version takes tuba, trombone, and accordion to Tchaikovsky on such rechristened tunes as "Dance of the Latke Queens" (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy), "Kozatsky 'til You Dropsky" (the Russian dance), and the "March of the Maccabees" (the Children's March). It's performed at 3 and 5:30 p.m. at the Regattabar, in the Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett Street in Harvard Square. Tickets are $16, $10 for kids under 12; call (617) 876-7777.
[back to top]
We're happy to report that observations of World AIDS Day span high and low culture. At the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum School student Brent Birnbaum's installation "Safe Sex" reminds us of the basics by placing condoms in 58 plastic jars lined on a shelf - we're not sure whether you'll be invited to help yourself. The MFA will also offer, at noon, a free screening of the video documentary "Condoms, Fish, and Circus Tricks: The AIDS Pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa." That's at 465 Huntington Avenue; call (617) 267-9300. Meanwhile, Guiding Light stars Stephen Martines and Marty West hook up with a couple of local media personalities at the MAC cosmetics dealership in the Atrium Mall, 300 Boylston Street in Chestnut Hill, where proceeds from the store's Viva Glam line go directly to global-health charities. Call (617) 244-9501.
Pats' offensive lineman Matt Light knows a thing or two about manhandling, and though he and a bunch of his teammates are showing up for "The Bash in Boston" to benefit the Matt Light Foundation (which supports cancer research at Children's Hospital), they'll be taking the hands-off approach. Light, Tom Brady, Joe Andruzzi, Antowain Smith, Kevin Faulk, and Mike Vrabel will be serving as cornermen in a series of wrestling matches between pros and B-level celebs that'll include one between a former Real World guy called the Miz and former Bruin Lyndon Byers. That's tonight at 8 at the Roxy, 279 Tremont Street in the Theater District. Tickets start at $25; call (617) 423-NEXT.
In the restored version, you get to see more of the guy carved up by a chainsaw in the shower stall. Having survived the ratings board's attempt to blacklist it with an "X" when it first came out, and having thus endured to become a touchstone of gangsta culture (see: every episode of MTV's Cribs), Brian De Palma's Scarface (1983) has gotten a new life on DVD - which includes not a few hip-hop testimonials - and it gets a new lease at the Brattle this week as well. Not bad for an overwrought, high-camp soap opera with a body count equaling the number of four-letter words. Al Pacino, of course, stars as Tony Montana, the criminal Cuban immigrant who rose to the top of the cocaine trade through murder, treachery, and egregious bad taste. With Steven Bauer and Michelle Pfeiffer, Scarface screens today and tomorrow at 5:15 and 8 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle Street in Harvard Square; call (617) 876-6837.
Deborah Warren won the New England Poetry Club's Sheila Motton Book Prize this year for her The Size of Happiness, and she'll read from it at 7 p.m. at the Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway; call (617) 349-4040.
Michael Dowling's "Medicine Wheel" installation, a sepulchral arrangement of the elements within a perimeter of 36 shrine-like pedestals, has become the hallmark of Boston's observance of World AIDS Day. The installation culminates with a 24-hour vigil including dance, song, ritual, and prayer beginning at midnight on December 1 and lasting until the following midnight; people come and go (a few have been known to stick it out for the duration), and the public is invited to leave an "offering" for "healing and remembrance." That's at the Boston Center for the Arts' Cyclorama, 539 Tremont Street in the South End, and it's free and open to the public; call (617) 268-6700. For more about World AIDS Day observances."
[back to top]
Manhattan, the hip-hop fashion boutique in Central Square and Downtown Crossing, brings in the LOX's Jadakiss and Sheek Louch with their protégé J-Hood for some ruff ryding at "The Gift," a fashion show and performance to benefit the Weber Foundation, an organization that sends inner-city kids to a leadership camp in Maine. That's tonight at 8 p.m. at the Roxy, 279 Tremont Street in the Theater District. Tickets are $25 to $100; call (617) 931-2000 for those or the store at (617) 876-9080 for information.
Farai Chideya's reportage and criticism has appeared everywhere from MTV to Newsweek; she's a syndicated columnist who's also been a network-television correspondent; her Web site popandpolitics.com sagely chronicles the title intersection; and her 1999 book The Color of Our Future (William Morrow) remains one of the most insightful looks at what lies ahead for race relations in this country. We were reminded of this again by Rolling Stone critic Anthony Bozza's Eminem biography Whatever You Say I Am, in which Chideya's comments on the "performative" nature of race in America ring true. Her next book is a compilation of essays, Trust: Rekindling Belief in American Politics (due next year on Soft Skull Press); this afternoon at Simmons College, she'll be screening a video about September 11 made by teenagers and talking "about the politics of difference as it relates to this difficult and dangerous time in US and world history." She adds in an e-mail, "It's basically a chance to discuss how America's diversity impacts our decision-making as a world power, and the personal power each of us has to shape history." The event is part of Simmons's ongoing lecture series "Who Is An American?", it'll take place at 3:30 p.m. in the third-floor conference center at 300 the Fenway, and it's free; call (617) 521-2171.
[back to top]
In the world of Wynton Marsalis - the trumpeter, bandleader, Lincoln Center Jazz artistic director, and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer - too much is never quite enough. So it is with All Rise, Wynton's 106-minute, 12-movement work for symphony orchestra, vocal soloists, chorus, and jazz big band. Premiered by Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic in 1999 (and eventually recorded with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and released by Sony in 2002), the work incorporates blues and all its cousins, which include, according to Wynton, "the didgeridoo, ancient Greek harmonies and modes, New Orleans brass bands, the fiddler's reel, clave, samba, the down-home church service, Chinese parade bands, the Italian aria, and plain ol' down-home ditties." Like much of Marsalis's longer work, All Rise has been criticized for being overblown; yet the effect of these combined disparate forces in live performance is said to be overwhelming. At the NY Phil premiere, orchestra members celebrated the New Orleans parade-rhythm finale by dancing on the stage. Masur conducts the piece again, with the BSO this time, plus the Tanglewood Festival Chorus under the direction of John Oliver, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, soprano NaGuanda Miller, mezzo-soprano Cynthia Hardy, tenor Brian Robinson, and baritone Robert Honeysucker. That's on Wednesday, and again on Thursday the 4th and Saturday the 6th, at 8 p.m. at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston; call (617) 638-9280.
Lizz Wright seems headed for stardom - she's got the looks, the buzz, and the chops to get it all across. Her commanding mix of jazz, R&B, and pop has evoked comparisons with Oleta Adams, Cassandra Wilson, and, gulp, Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln. What's more, her Verve debut, Salt, enlisted the help of jazz heavies Danilo Pérez (on whose latest album she reciprocated), Brian Blade, and Chris Potter, and the best track is the groove 'n' soul title number, a Wright original. So catch those club shows while you can - she's at Scullers in the DoubleTree Guest Suites Hotel, 400 Soldiers Field Road at the Mass Pike, tonight and tomorrow. Sets are at 8 and 10 p.m., and tickets are $16; call (617) 562-4111.
Phoenix senior staff writer and ace media reporter Dan Kennedy has been garnering raves from the likes of the Wall Street Journal for his book Little People: Learning To See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale Press), which chronicles how the author and his wife dealt with the challenge of a daughter (Rebecca, now 11) born with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. It merges perspectives both historical and contemporary, public and personal - including his report on the dating scene at the annual Little People of America conference, an early version of which appeared in these pages. He'll read from and discuss the book tonight at 7 at the Boston University Barnes & Noble, 660 Beacon Street in Kenmore Square; call (617) 267-8484.
The Museum of Fine Arts revisits the sumptuous décor of Chinese imperial life during the Qing Dynasty - which lasted from the mid 17th through the early 20th century - in its new "Draped in Dragons: Chinese Court Costume." The exhibit is built around the elaborately embroidered official robes worn by Qing functionaries in royal and civil life, highlighting both their beauty and their content: the color and even the cut were determined by strict social and bureaucratic protocols. Fleshed out with accessories, portraits, furniture, and textiles from the MFA collection and local loans, "Draped in Dragons" runs through May 2. The museum is at 465 Huntington Avenue; call (617) 267-9300.
Film may not have entirely replaced the novel as the great American art form, but more than ever the name of the game is adaptation. Where that formula leaves the novelist is one of the questions that'll be explored tonight during "Great American Option: Literature in the Age of the Screenplay," a wide-ranging discussion at the Coolidge Corner Theatre featuring novelists whose works have been adapted for film as well as directors who have adapted books. The panelists are Dennis Lehane, whose Mystic River has been heating up movie screens and critics' lists via Clint Eastwood's adaptation; Margot Livesey, the author of Criminals, and Maureen Foley, the director who adapted it; and director Jan Egelson. They'll also screen clips to put things in perspective, and a signing will follow across the street at Brookline Booksmith. The Coolidge is at 290 Harvard Street in Brookline, and "Great American Option" gets started at 7:30 p.m.; call (617) 734-2500.
[back to top]
The rapper 50 Cent has done wonders for the couture value of bulletproof vests, but we're happy to report that Kevlar chic has officially gone to the dogs. This weekend at the Bayside Expo Center, the Boston Police Department will be showing off its new K-9 bulletproof vests at the Bay Colony Cluster Dog Show, an attraction that should almost make up for the lack of an appearance by Robert Smigel's Triumph. In addition to the by-now familiar primping, posing, heeling, staying, and retrieving of some 12,000 pooches, the BCC - one of the country's largest sanctioned doggie events - offers a wealth of health and beauty aids, including a shopping pavilion stocked with doggie sweaters, doggie linens, and doggie exercise equipment. Note for those not in competition: no dogs allowed. The show runs Sunday at the Bayside, 200 Mount Vernon Street off the Southeast Expressway, and admission is $12, $7 for kids; call (508) 533-1153, or visit www.baycolonydogshow.com.
[back to top]
Back to the Events table of contents.