Arts Fuse critics select the best in music, dance, and film that’s coming up this week and next.
By The Arts Fuse Staff
The Bolshoi Ballet in Spartacus
Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline, MA
“I’m Spartacus.” “I’m Spartacus.” Kirk Douglas isn’t in this version of a Roman’s slave’s fight for freedom, but the name Bolshoi doesn’t translate to “Big” for nothing. The famous Khachaturian score anchors this taped HD spectacle, with Mikhail Lobukhin as the more-than-macho title character and Svetlana Zakharova as the temptress Aegina.
Winter Wonder Dance Festival
Dance Complex, Cambridge, MA
Getting the new year off to an energizing start, a four day miniseries of master classes and performances at the Dance Complex includes a special track for teen dancers and their parents. Public events include an improvisation dance party January 2, 2014; David Parker’s The Bang Group and James Morrow performing on Jan 3; a showing of new works titled “Red, Hot and Cool” Jan 4; and a lightning round Jan 5 in which four choreographers—Adrienne Hawkins, Peter DiMuro, David Parker, and Nicole Pierce—present dances they have created over the previous four days. Buckle your seatbelts.
And if you’re (still!) in the mood for some holiday dance…
Boston Ballet Nutcracker
through December 29
Opera House, Boston, MA
The highest profile Nutcracker in Boston, Mikko Nissinen’s beautifully refurbished production with live orchestra makes both narrative and dance sense, and offers the company’s less familiar dancers a chance to show their talents. Decide beforehand if you’re going to splurge at the lobby gift shop or your kids may hold you hostage for a tiara.
Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre Nutcracker
The Strand Theatre, Dorchester, MA
Whether in the close-up setting of its Cambridge Sanctuary Theatre home and on a regional tour to Duxbury and the Strand in Dorchester, Mateo’s chamber-sized ballet makes a big impression. This is a traditional staging of the classic with a recorded version of Tchaikovsky’s memorable score. Mateo’s production is a strong, and less expensive, option for a first time Nutcracker experience or holiday themed date night.
through December 22
John Hancock Hall, Boston, MA
Tony Williams’ continually updated and always delightful reworking of the classic this season features Williams’ lively mix of classical ballet, modern, tap and jazz. This season’s show is headlined by So You Think You Can Dance krumping star Russell Ferguson and members of the 1950s doo wop group, the G-Clefs.
— Debra Cash
Brattle Theater, Cambridge, MA
This odd film could become a new Christmas cult classic. The plot follows a “shell-shocked real estate agent who grapples with personal tragedy while fumbling to let loose among strip clubs, department stores, and swinging new neighbors during one sad, strange December in suburban Virginia.” Filmmaker Magazine opines: “”It’s as if (Douglas) Sirk and John Waters had collaborated, with Fassbinder as an A.D. But make no mistake, it is Clark’s own vision, manifest in a Technicolor-like palette, some over-the-top props and costumes, perfectly timed editing, clever use of fades, fine acting, snappy dialogue, and some hilarious music.”
December 30, 7:30 p.m.
Arlington Regent Theater, Arlington, MA
The theater’s new Gathr Series continues with this Irish film, a fast-paced crime story that takes place on a New Year’s Eve. The daughter of a Derry crime boss is saved from a suicide attempt by a young man, but she discovering disturbing evidence that the city is not a safe place to be. With comparisons to Go, and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, we often see ends first, out of context, only to circle back around to discover how we arrived at a given point. This is also a Sneak Preview of a film that picked up three nominations at the Irish Television & Film Awards.
December 31, 7:30 p.m.
Emerson Majestic Theater, Boston, MA
This is an encore presentation for Boston First Night audiences. Presented in collaboration with ArtsEmerson: The World On Stage, the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra performs its new original musical score during a screening of the classic Harold Lloyd silent film comedy Safety Last! in Emerson’s Cutler Majestic Theater. The score is made possible through a commission from the Coolidge Corner Theater’s Sounds of Silents program.
Camille Claudel 1915
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Juliette Binoche is Camille Claudel, the gifted (and bedeviled) turn-of-the-century sculptress and the mistress of Rodin. Director Bruno Dumont immerses his audiences in an intense experience. According to the late Roger Ebert: “Claudel was committed to an asylum in 1913 by her brother, poet/diplomat Paul Claudel, following the death of their father (a man who had always been in her corner). Dumont used Claudel’s medical records and the letters that Claudel and her brother wrote to one another as the basis for his script. The result is a story that has been pared down to its bone-white core, “a grim portrait of monotony and silence broken by unrelieved despair, and an almost suffocating sense of claustrophobia and entrapment.”
— Tim Jackson
Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorer’s Club
December 19, 8:00 p.m.
Outpost 186, Cambridge, MA
The always compelling saxophonist and composer Charlie Kohlhase—who just keeps getting better—convenes his Explorer’s Club, with trombonist Jeff Galindo, bassist Matt Stavrakas, and drummer Mike Connors.
Aardvark does Ellington and Strayhorn’s Nutcracker
December 21, 7:30 p.m.
Emmanuel Church, Boston, MA
The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra (and its leader, trumpeter-composer Mark Harvey) have long had a serious jones for Ellington — Duke is invariably a part of their programs, and they’ve also assayed his “Sacred Concerts.” Now, for their annual Christmas concert, they dig into one of the most popular pieces from the Ellington-Strayhorn book, the duo’s arrangement of the concert suite of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. This swinging rendition is admired even by classical enthusiasts, and the Aardvarks have the warmth, firepower, and dedication to pull it off. You can also expect Harvey arrangements of traditional carols sung by the band’s wonderful bass-baritone, Jerry Edwards.
Pieces of a Dream
December 29 (4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.) and December 31 (8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.)
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA
The venerable soul-jazz outfit Pieces of a Dream, born in Philadelphia in 1976, plays a pre-New Year’s pair of Sunday afternoon shows and then returns for the two shows on the big night, the latter with Boston blues and jazz singer Wanetta Jackson.
Dwight & Nicole
December 31, 9:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA
Guitarist Dwight Ritcher and singer Nicole Nelson can conjure acoustic Mississippi blues with as much authority as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (with which Nelson scored a hit on NBC talent show “The Voice” in 2012), classic R&B, or their blues-rock originals.
— Jon Garelick
Roots and World Music
Sugar Ray and the Bluetones
December 20, 7:00 p.m.
Johnny D’s, Somerville, MA
The new booking team at Johnny D’s seem to be emphasizing national and regional blues acts. There’s certainly a void waiting to be filled, suggested by the fact that a band led by an A-list harmonica hero such as Rhode Island’s Sugar Ray Norcia and featuring tasteful guitarist Monster Mike Welch and piano pounder Anthony Geraci tours internationally but rarely shows up at a T-accessible venue.
Wonderland Ballroom, Revere, MA
After acting as a kompa and zouk hit machine throughout the ’90s, Haitian band Zin imploded. Leader Georges Alan Cavé has focused on his solo career for most of the last decade, but over the summer the band played some well-received—and well-attended—reunion shows in New York, and now they’re making their way to other parts of the Haitian diaspora like Boston.
This year the Blind Boys of Alabama suffered a loss when member Bishop Billy Bowers passed away. But his replacement is a major figure in quartet gospel: Paul Beasley, best known as a member of the Gospel Keynotes. Beasley’s falsetto is all over their new “I’ll Find a Way” LP, produced by, of all people, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and featuring plenty of cameos from his hipster friends. The Blind Boys are slated to finish their set just about the same time Patti Smith will be starting up in another part of the Hynes. The punk queen has recently been involved in a number of roots music endeavors at the behest of her son, guitarist Jackson. The latest was singing the Joan Baez-associated “Baby I’m Gonna Leave You” in Another Day, Another Time, the concert film celebration of the new Coen Bros. folk ode Inside Llewyn Davis.
— Noah Schaffer
December 20, 8:00 p.m.
December 21, 2:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
First Church Congregational, Cambridge, MA
The choir presents “Christmas in Medieval England,” a performance of music for Advent and Christmas from Fifteenth century England, including motets and English carols, and Sarum plainchant.
December 20, 8:00 p.m.
Hancock United Church of Christ, Lexington, MA
Boston Camerata presents “Noel, Noel! A French Christmas,” which covers centuries of French music, starting up north, with the Thirteenth century revels at the Beauvais Cathedral, and ending up with fifes and drums from Renaissance Provence.
— Susan Miron
Presented by the Handel and Haydn Society
December 22, 3:00 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston, MA
Blue Heron music director Scott Metcalf makes his H&H debut with a program of (mostly) seventeenth century German music, including works by Michael Praetorius, Samuel Scheidt, and Martin Luther. Bach’s Nun kömmt der Heiden Heiland anchors the program.
New Year’s Eve/Day Concerts
Presented by Boston Baroque
December 31, 8:00 p.m.
January 1, 3:00 p.m.
Sanders Theater, Cambridge, MA
It’s not quite the Vienna Philharmonic playing Strauss, but Martin Pearlman and Boston Baroque tend to deliver memorable concerts (with free champagne, to boot) to send out the old year and ring in the new. This year’s program is all-Bach: two Brandenburg Concertos (nos. 3 and 4) plus the Coffee and Wedding Cantatas.
— Jonathan Blumhofer