1. Hear the Z100 Jingle Ball
A holiday buffet.
The annual Top 40–palooza at the Garden is the bargain of the year. Or (at $490 for the best tickets and $51 for obstructed seats) is it a huge ripoff? Depends on whether you prefer quantity over quality time; also depends on whether you’re 13, or at least in touch with your inner teenybopper. Those who qualify will get a bunch of big stars—Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Fall Out Boy, Pitbull, Selena Gomez, Enrique Iglesias, Ariana Grande, et al.—playing brief sets for a very loud and appreciative crowd. Warning: There may be twerking. —Jody Rosen
Madison Square Garden, December 13, 7:30 p.m.
2. See Michael Light: Some Dry Space
Man-made, monstrous beauty.
To see Michael Light’s aerial pictures of western landscapes, oil derricks, exurbia in mid-sprawl, and drying-up rivers is to simultaneously love these pictures and the Earth, and feel sick to your stomach about what we’re doing to our water and air and soil. In Light’s pictures, nothing is safe in our path—yet we turn destruction into beauty. —Jerry Saltz
Danziger Gallery, through January 18.
3. Watch The Blacklist
James Spader, creeping us out.
Why is Spader’s Raymond “Red” Reddington so watchable? Because he is a monster you find yourself queasily liking, the way you did Walter White, and because at this point in the show’s first season, we aren’t sure where he’s headed.
NBC, Mondays at 10 p.m.
4. See Frozen
Let yourself go.
When Disney does it right, one’s defenses melt—as is the case with this cheerfully colorful portrait of two sisters (one a manic pixie dream girl, the other an X-Men-worthy mutant) and the super-power that separates them and nearly brings down a kingdom. Hans Christian Andersen would be appalled at the happily-ever-after stuff and wisecracking snowman sidekick, and some of the music is Disney Channel bad. To which I say—to you and to myself—shut up and love it the way you want to.—David Edelstein
In theaters now.
5. See A Murray Little Christmas
With Santa hat and pencil mustache.
Murray Hill—the downtown drag king, not the fratty neighborhood—tops the bill at this buoyant Christmas show, along with Bridget Everett, Perle Noire, and more.
(Le) Poisson Rouge, December 14, 7 p.m.
6. Or Try A John Waters Christmas
Possibly less strange, possibly with more vomit.
In case Murray isn’t quite blasphemous enough for you: The Pope of Trash is also in town that night.
Stage48, December 13 and 14, 8 p.m. (doors at 6).
7. Read Inside the Dream Palace
The definitive history of the Chelsea Hotel.
An impossible order for any writer: Get the Chelsea’s romance down on paper and try to keep up with Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell and Arthur Miller. But Sherill Tippins’s history does a vivid job of taking you up into those seedy, splendid hallways, now gone forever.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
8. Hear A Lotta Lutoslawski
The great Polish composer is best known for extracting great cosmic washes of sound from huge orchestras, but he was also a refined maker of miniatures. The American Contemporary Music Ensemble pairs his chamber music with that of his Pulitzer Prize–winning kindred spirit Steven Stucky, and a day later, the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter launches a Carnegie Hall recital with his solo Partita. —Justin Davidson
Symphony Space, December 13, and Carnegie Hall, December 14.
9. Watch Playwright: From Page to Stage
The making of a great show.
This Independent Lens documentary follows the productions of Rajiv Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which ultimately ended up starring Robin Williams, and Tarell McCraney’s Brother/Sister Plays. It’s also a look at how personal biography drives creativity. Directed by Robert Levi (who made the excellent Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life), it paints concise, elegant portraits of Joseph, an Indian-American from Cleveland, and McCraney, whose story of growing up gay and black in a poor Miami neighborhood is a drama all its own. —Matt Zoller Seitz
PBS, December 16, 10 p.m.
10. See The Last Two People on Earth
It’s hard to imagine the shvitzy warbler Mandy Patinkin paired with the adorable genderkind Taylor Mac, yet here they are in “an apocalyptic vaudeville,” singing and dancing to Sondheim and Queen as the floodwaters recede. Classic Stage Company offers this workshop production, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman. —Jesse Green
Abrons Arts Center, December 14 through 31.
11. And Catch Big Fish
Before it gets away.
Susan Stroman, working the other end of the scale, was the moving force behind the fall’s most disappointing fizzle, but there was much to admire in this feel-good musical about, well, death. Maybe that was the problem? In any case, see Norbert Leo Butz’s overwhelming central performance (and Stro’s great opening number) before they breathe their last.—J.G.
Neil Simon Theatre, through December 29.
12. Hear The Messiah
Which one? This one.
This is the time of year when virtually every chorister in town hops from Messiah to Messiah, only to have the audience drown out the pros. If you prefer just staying put and listening, you couldn’t ask for a better guide than conductor Andrew Manze, leading the New York Philharmonic and the Westminster Symphonic Choir. —J.D.
Avery Fisher Hall, December 17 through 21.