Coming Attractions: December 18 through January 3 — What Will Light Your Fire

As the age of Covid-19 more or less wanes, Arts Fuse critics supply a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, author readings, and music. More offerings will be added as they come in.


A Christmas Past – Silent Film with Live Music
Dec 21 at 7:30 p.m.
The Lyman Estate, 185 Lyman Street, Waltham

Rescheduled from last year. The cinematic selections, accompanied by members of the New England Film Orchestra playing an original score by composer Alan Kryszak, offer a nostalgic peek into the Yuletide pleasures of the early 1900s. Most of the works were produced at Thomas Edison’s studios: the 1910 version of Charles Dickens’s immortal A Christmas Carol; a heartwarming melodrama by D.W. Griffith (A Trap for Santa); the first screen version of Clement Moore’s 1822 poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Limited seating available. All audience members free to tour the mansion starting one hour prior to start of performance.

Groucho Marx as President Rufus T. Firefly in Duck Soup, one of the greatest comedies of the 2oth century.

Marx Brothers Marathon
Brattle Theatre in Cambridge
January 1 – All Day

There may some out there who have never seen a Marx Brothers film on the big screen, or maybe you just need a chuckle to ring in the New Year. It is a Brattle Theatre tradition to serve up these seminal absurd and brilliant farces: the lineup includes A Night at the Opera, Animal Crackers, Horsefeathers, and Duck Soup. A tip — the password is “Swordfish.”

Critics Best Film Releases

From the Arts Fuse Critics ‘Bests’ lists, here is a short list of soon to be released films in local theaters.

The Banshees of Inisherin
Now playing West Newton Cinema and Kendall Square Theatre

Martin McDonagh’s (Three Billboards, In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) latest film was the Boston Society of Film Critics pick for Best Screenplay, Best English Language Film, and a Best Actor choice for Colin Farrell. It also features Brendan Gleeson and Kerry Condon.  (Gerald Peary pick)

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Coolidge Corner Theatre
December 17

Laura Poitras’s latest is about artist and activist Nan Goldin and her personal (and very political) fight to hold the Sackler family accountable for its role in the ongoing opioid crisis. Boston Society of Film Critics’ choice for Best Documentary (Steve Erickson Pick)

Everything Everywhere All at Once
Brattle Theater
Opens on December 17

A laundromat owner being audited by the IRS learns that she has to connect with her many selves in alternate universes to stop the end of not just her reality, but all realities. A Boston Society of Film Critics’ pick for Best Actress, Michelle Yeoh, and Best Supporting Actor, Ke Huy Quan. (Nicole Veneto choice) Arts Fuse review

Coolidge Corner Theater
December 23

Damien Chazelle’s controversial epic about the decadence of early American filmmaking. “A story of depravity in Hollywood in the late ’20s” (Ed Symkus pick)

Coolidge Corner Theatre
December 23

An existential look at the harshness of the world through the eyes of a wandering donkey. An imaginative, beautifully sho,t often troubling meditation on how deeply we are connected to the natural world. (Tim Jackson and Peter Keough pick)

Pick of the Week

Master of Light
Streaming on HBO

A scene from Master of Light.

The story of George Anthony Morton slipped under the radar of critics. A naturally gifted classical painter who spent 10 years in federal prison for dealing drugs, Morton nurtured his craft and unique artistic ability while incarcerated, using his work to better his standing in the prison community. Upon his release, he journeys back to his hometown of Kansas City, to heal the broken relationship with his mother and paint family members in the style of the Dutch Old Masters. Going back home forces him to face his past in a quest to rewrite the script of his life and discover the African contribution to and influences on the realist tradition.

— Tim Jackson

Classical Music

New Year’s Concert
Presented by Boston Baroque
December 31, 8 p.m.
GBH Calderwood Studio, Boston

Boston Baroque rings out 2022 with special guests Amanda Forsythe, Joseph Monticello, and Aldo Abreu performing festive music by Bach, Telemann, and Vivaldi,

— Jonathan Blumhofer


Boston Ballet’s the Nutcracker is now on view at Citizens Bank Opera House.

Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker
through December 31
Citizens Bank Opera House
Boston, MA

Those seeking a more traditional, yet riveting, rendition of The Nutcracker should look no further than Boston Ballet’s classic production. Enjoy splendorous sets, costumes, and exceptional technique as the timeless notes of Tchaikovsky fill the Citizens Bank Opera House.

Midwinter Revels
through December 28
Sanders Theatre
Cambridge, MA

Go back in time to Ellis Island in the 1920s with this year’s Midwinter Revels. Enjoy a coming together of cultures from around the world in this winter celebration featuring a myriad of traditional songs, dances, and stories from across the globe.

Urban Nutcracker
through December 23
Boch Center Shubert Theatre
Boston, MA

Those in search of a Nutcracker production that stands out among the rest should head to Anthony Williams’s Urban Nutcracker, the modern Boston-centric holiday classic presented by City Ballet of Boston. Experience what the Boston Globe has aptly described as “a holiday arts tradition reflecting the rich multicultural diversity of Boston.”

43rd Annual Christmas Eve Israeli Dance Marathon
Beginning December 24 6:30 p.m. thru December 25, 4 a.m.
Kehillath Israel
Brookline, MA

Looking to get up and dance, yourself? Join the 43rd Annual Christmas Eve Israeli Dance Marathon in Brookline for an overnight celebration of Israeli music and dance. Note to participants: You will need to sign a waiver and provide proof of Covid vaccination if you have not previously attended Rikud Revi’i.

Shen Yun
Boch Center Wang Theatre
Boston, MA

Enjoy what the Charlotte Observer has called “An explosion of color and sound…. Chinese culture in its fullest flower” with this elaborate performance celebrating Chinese tradition. Shen Yun promises a concert of roughly 20 pieces, shifting across times and regions. Experience the delicate elegance of Tang court dancers, the mystique of magical realms, and the battlefield heroics of valiant generals, all told through dance.

— Merli V. Guerra


COVID PROTOCOLS: Check with specific theaters; requirements often include proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 rapid test. Also, companies are requiring masks at indoor performances.

Chicken & Biscuits by Douglas Lyons. Directed by Lyndsay Allyn Cox. Staged by Front Porch Arts Collective at Suffolk University’s Modern Theater, 525 Washington St., Boston, through January 8.

The plot of this comedy: set in the Church, the Jenkins family is coming together to celebrate the life of their father — hopefully without killing each other. But any hopes for a peaceful reunion unravel when a family secret shows up at the funeral. Can Reginald deliver a sermon that would make his father-in-law proud? Can sisters Baneatta and Beverly mourn their father without laying hands? Can Kenny and Logan be their authentic selves in the wake of a traditional matriarch and who is that woman in the back? Actress/director/ playwright Jacqui Parker makes her Front Porch debut in this production.

The cast of Northern Stage’s production of The Railway Children.

The Railway Children, adapted from the novel by Edith Nesbit. Music and lyrics by Jane Shaw & Mark Hartman. Adapted and directed by Carol Dunne & Eric Love. Staged by Northern Stage at the Byrne Theater, 74 Gates Street White River Junction, VT, through January 1.

“Faced with a family crisis during the Great Depression, three siblings are uprooted from their city lives to a small Vermont railway town. Bobbie, Peter, and Phyllis are transformed by their life in the country as they make thrilling discoveries exploring the railroad and befriending the people in their new town. Adapted from the beloved children’s novel of the same name, this new musical holiday classic celebrates resilience, kindness, and the power of community.”

A.R.T. Puppetry Workshop for Life of Pi. Photo: Lauren Miller

Life of Pi, based on the 2001 novel by Yann Martel. Adapted for the stage by Lolita Chakrabarti. Directed by Max Webster. Puppetry and movement direction by Finn Caldwell. Scenic and costume design by Tim Hatley. Presented by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb drama Center, Cambridge, through January 29.

A North American premiere: “Sixteen-year-old Pi and his family set off to emigrate from India, but after their ship sinks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Pi is left stranded on a lifeboat with just four other survivors—a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Royal Bengal tiger. Time is against them, nature is harsh, who will survive?” Winner of five 2022 Olivier Awards including Best New Play, the production, which promises to be spectacular, plays here before it makes its way to Broadway in March. Arts Fuse review

— Bill Marx

Visual Arts

László Moholy-Nagy, Light Prop for an Electric Stage (Light-Space Modulator), 1930. Aluminum, steel, nickel-plated brass, other metals, plastic, wood, and electric motor. Photo: Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s kinetic sculpture “Light Prop for an Electric Stage Light-Space Modulator” (1930) is considered the culmination of the Hungarian artist’s experiments in sculpture, light, and motion at Germany’s famous Bauhaus school, efforts intended to revolutionize human perception. Moholy created “Light Prop” as a machine to generate “special lighting and motion effects” on a stage. When operating, the device produces a dramatic, animated light environment as it interacts with a beam of light. The display is recorded in numerous photographs and in an abstract film Moholy made in 1930.

When Moholy moved to Chicago seven years later, to be director of the short-lived New Bauhaus there, the “Light Prop” came with him. His widow, Sibyl, gave the pioneering work to Harvard’s Busch-Reisinger Museum in 1956. For years, it was appreciated as a piece of static abstract sculpture until it was restored to motion in the late 20th century.

Periodically since then, the Busch-Reisinger switches on Light Prop to reveal its true, intended use and its dramatic lighting effects. The next public demonstration takes place on December 20 at 12:30 p.m.  Museum staff members will be on hand for the “activation”  and to discuss the work’s important, path-breaking place in 20th-century art and design.

On December 18, a couple of museum season-closers take place in Connecticut and New Hampshire. Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art presents a different kind of lighting effect in its Festival of Lights, celebrating the start of Hanukkah. Organized in collaboration with the Mandell Jewish Community Center and PJ Library of Greater Hartford, the event will include art making, music, and more; 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m., free with museum admission. On the same afternoon, the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH, hosts its last Sunday Brunch in the Winter Garden for 2022. Besides brunch specials, a house Bloody Mary, and Mimosa flights, the weekly event features bagels, sandwiches, toasts, yogurt bowls, and live music starting at 10:00 am.

Marsden Hartley, Canoe (Schiff), 1915. Oil on canvas with painted frame. Photo: Bates College Museum of Art.

The most famous artist born in Lewiston, ME, was the modernist painter, poet, and essayist Marsden Hartley. Hartley’s career and artistic travels took him far from the New England mill city, then famed as the home of Bates Bedspreads, to New York, Paris, Berlin, Provincetown, Bermuda, Mexico, New Mexico, the mountains of New Hampshire, Gloucester, MA, the Bavarian Alps, Bermuda, Nova Scotia, and finally back to Maine, where he worked in such places as Vinalhaven Island and Mt. Katahdin until his death in 1943. His ashes were scattered on the Androscoggin River, which flows through his native Lewiston, and he bequeathed a selection of more than 400 of his works to Lewiston’s Bates College, where they are now part of the core collection of the campus Museum of Art.

Thanks to this key donation, Bates’ Museum of Art has always included Hartley as a major part of its programming: organizing exhibitions, hosting symposia, lectures, and other events and becoming a center for Hartley studies. Bates is home to The Marsden Hartley Legacy: The Complete Paintings and Works on Paper, a project that aims to catalogue, for the first time, all the artist’s major works and make images and information available online to scholars and the public. Starting late next year, the project will present more than 1,630 paintings and works on paper. In the meantime, the museum’s virtual exhibition, Marsden Hartley, Adventurer in the Arts, originally presented in the galleries in the fall of 2021, is available through the college’s website.

For those looking for a quick update of their artistic skills before the holidays take over all their free time, the New Britain Museum of American Art will offer Adult Studio: Watercolor with Mary Smeallie on December 21, from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., as part of an ongoing series. Fee for museum members is $45, for non-members, $50; register through the museum’s website ( The final class of the year will take place on December 28.

— Peter Walsh


The legendary Charlie Kohlhase in action. He will lead his group Explorers Club at the Lilypad.

Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorers Club
December 18 at 6:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge, Mass.

The indefatigable reedman and composer (and jazz radio DJ) Charlie Kohlhase gathers his heavy-hitting Explorers Club for the typically excellent mix of his own pieces with material from composers like Don Cherry, Elmo Hope, Makanda Ken McIntyre and, especially, John Tchicai. The band is Kohlhase on alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones, Seth Meicht on tenor, Dan Rosenthal on trumpet and flugelhorn, Bill Lowe on bass trombone, Josiah Reibstein on tuba, bassist Tony Leva, and drummer Curt Newton.

Compaq Big Band
December 21 and 22 at 8 p.m.
City Winery, Boston

The venerable 19-piece Compaq, which has been barnstorming New England since 1975, is presenting “a big band Christmas,” with “seasonal favorites” and “very UNtraditional variations of jazz rock, ballad, samba and jazz waltz,” with arrangements by the likes of Gordon Goodwin, Tom Kubis, Sammy Nestico, and John Clayton. Alexandra Grace handles the vocals. The Thursday show was nearly sold out, so a second show was added for Wednesday.

Samara Joy
December 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Regent Theatre, Arlington, Mass.

The 23-year-old star’s  “A Joyful Holiday” is officially sold out, but maybe you can stand on the sidewalk with your finger up?

December 23 at 8 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge, Mass.

An a cappella improvisational vocal group, Nightingale is celebrating the release of Composition Sped Up, “65 minutes of fully improvised music, performed by a group of 8 singers a cappella.” There will also be a section of audience participation.

Bruce Gertz. Photo: Kolstein and Busetto

Bruce Gertz and Gargonz
December 27 at 7:30 p.m.
Lilypad, Cambridge, Mass.

Master bassist and composer Bruce Gertz reconvenes a band whose history goes back 40 years: Gargonz, his matchup of saxophone giants Jerry Bergonzi and George Garzone. They’re joined by trumpeter Phil Grenadier and drummer Rafael Barata.

Madeleine Peyroux
December 28-30 at 8 p.m.
City Winery, Boston

The jazzy chanteuse is calling this her “Careless Love Forever Tour,” named for her 2004 breakthrough CD on Rounder, which sold a half-million copies. The combination of Peyroux’s beguiling, laid-back but assured vocals with savvy arrangements of material drawing from early jazz, blues, folk, and songwriters like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Elliott Smith, as well as her own songwriting and the know-how of veteran producer Larry Klein, all helped make “Careless Love” a winner and defined her style. For her first Boston appearance in a while, City Winery has booked Peyroux for three nights.

— Jon Garelick

Roots and World Music

Brian Thomas Band
December 30
Fallout Shelter, Norwood

Trombonist Brian Thomas is such a vital part of the Boston music scene it’s hard to believe he’s just now releasing his solo debut as a leader. He’s the BT in the BT-ALC Big Band and always elevates the proceedings when he plays with any number of funk, reggae, jazz, and jam outfits. Thomas is celebrating the release of On The Bone, five enticingly clean soul-jazz instrumentals cut with a core band of fellow Boston all-stars: Darby Wolf on Hammond organ, Johnny Trama on guitar, Tom Arey on drums.cYahuba Garcia-Torres’s percussion is the magic ingredient.

First Night Rockport
First Night Chatham
December 31

First Nights used to be all over, but the number of alcohol-free community arts New Year’s Eve celebrations had already been steeply declining before the pandemic. Boston’s event remains a mere shadow of its former self. But a few communities are keeping the First Night flame bright. Rockport has an outstanding lineup that includes New Orleans export Henri Smith, reggae vets Jah Spirit and local gospel legends the Bullock Brothers. Chatham’s includes queer jazz icon and Cape resident Suede, rootsy songwriter Alastair Moock, and a pair of trad jazz bands featuring cornetist Jeff Hughes. Both events also feature a variety of children’s activities.

The Reggae Takeova
Dis-n-Dat Band
Bill’s Bar
Dorchester on January 1

As I’ll mention in my forthcoming best live music moments of 2023, the local reggae scene received an enormous boost with the Sunday night residency of The Reggae Takeova at Bill’s Bar. They’re continuing the run in 2023 and the year starts off with Dis-n-Dat, the always entertaining pan-Caribbean roots outfit that features the important reggae roots drummer Rangotan and steel pannist Sista Dee.

— Noah Schaffer

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