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To Do: December 16-December 30, 2015

Twenty-five things to see, hear, watch, and read.


Samuel L. Jackson in The Hateful Eight, George Balanchine’s , and more New York events.   

1. Watch Luther
Back, just the way you like him.
Idris Elba as James Bond. Idris Elba as Batman. Idris Elba in a silk robe eating pasta and watching The Price Is Right. Or how about Idris Elba as Luther, in a one-night special, glowering and snarling and exploding and snarking his way through a comic-book-noir universe of vicious criminals whose biggest mistake is underestimating him? Yes, that’ll do. —Matt Zoller Seitz
BBC America, December 17 at 9 p.m.

2. Hear Ronnie Spector
Be her Santa baby.
If you’ve already experienced Mariah at the Beacon (from whom a stellar performance is not exactly a guarantee these days), your next best bet for some big-voiced pop-musical holiday cheer is the one and only Ronnie Spector, who’ll be playing selections from her EP Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever. —Lindsay Zoladz
City Winery, December 22 and 23.

3. See Lucy Dodd’s Wuv Shack
Hear the art.
That force of painterly nature Lucy Dodd continues her tremendous breakout in a show evoking an optical version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by way of the shaman’s medicine tent. Few artists mingle gesture, chaos, tinctures of color, strange materials like kombucha and hematite, and great scale in such beautifully operatic ways. —Jerry Saltz
David Lewis Gallery, through December 20.

4. See The Hateful Eight
Slinging guns and dialogue.
An embargo on reviews prevents a judgment here of Quentin Tarantino’s Eighth Film The Hateful Eight (as it’s identified onscreen). But we can say it’s a sort of chamber Western in which the first two hours are a series of garrulous but freighted exchanges leading to a third hour of splattered brains, blown-off testicles, and so much more. A ticket will be the perfect gift for your favorite ­psychopath. —David Edelstein
In theaters December 25.

5. See Piaf: A Centennial Celebration
The Little Sparrow takes flight again.
A parade of divas gather to celebrate the proto-diva on her 100th birthday, singing songs she popularized, exemplified, or inspired. Expect Elaine Paige to regret nothing, Marilyn Maye to love Paris, and surely someone to see life in shades of pink. The American Pops Orchestra accompanies; Robert Osborne hosts. —Jesse Green
Town Hall, December 19.

6. Read Christopher Buckley’s The Relic Master
Holy Roman high jinks!
Perhaps acknowledging that our politics have rendered Washington satire obsolete, the arch humorist tilts his lance at the high corruption of the latter days of the Holy Roman Empire. ­Sixteenth-century hustler Dismas traffics in mostly fake holy relics. After a client catches him in an underhanded ruse, he and his buddy Albrecht Dürer are induced to try stealing the shroud of Turin; Ocean’s-style capers and Spamalot slapstick ensue. —Boris Kachka
Simon & Schuster.

7. Hear Norm Lewis
A finger-snappin’ good time.
Lewis’s caramel baritone and onstage gravitas make him a magnet for tragic roles (the Phantom, Porgy), but he’ll step lighter in this swingy show, singing his way through Christmas classics, duets with surprise guests — and, yes, “Bring Him Home” from Les Miz.
Feinstein’s/54Below, December 20 through 24.

8. Listen to Free TC
Ty Dolla $ign’s debut.
An unctuous R&B record as well suited to the club as it is to the bedroom afterward, Free TC features some heavy guest hitters (E-40, Rae Sremmurd, and Future, among others), but Ty Dolla $ign manages to outshine his collaborators with his signature Auto-Tune-enhanced vocals.

9. See George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
With each passing year, new layers of Balanchine’s choreography and indelible characterizations are revealed through City Ballet’s casting. This season, look for Lauren Lovette’s return after surgery (her performances as Sugarplum are her first as a principal dancer), Ashley Laracey and Anthony Huxley (as Coffee and the Cavalier), and glamorous corps member Ashly Isaacs debuting as Sugarplum. —Rebecca Milzoff
David H. Koch Theater, through January 3.

Classical Music
10. See and Hear Carnival of the Animals
A wild rumpus.
Saint-Saëns’s playful score, with its preening swans, braying asses, and heavy-pawed pachyderms, has always been a children’s delight, especially when accompanied by Ogden Nash’s verse interpolations. Miller Theatre puts it on the stage with puppetry and dance, plus a few musical extras. —Justin Davidson
Miller Theatre, December 19.

11. Read Sara Benincasa’s DC Trip
That one time at the Washington Monument …
Remember when your class schlepped to Our Nation’s Capital? The on-the-bus interpersonal drama, the contraband booze, the teachers who had a weird thing of their own going? It’s all here, delivered by a funny, prolific author-comic whom you ought to be following on Twitter. Best to screen this YA novel before giving it to anyone really Y; as in real life, what happens in Washington is pretty filthy.
Adaptive Books.

12. Listen to Anna Faris Is Unqualified
Instantly addictive.
The unendingly charming actress’s new podcast is a “Loveline” for a more evolved generation; Faris and guests (like Rosie O’Donnell and Allison Janney) answer listener questions (“Should I date a musician?”; “Why are all the guys at Sarah Lawrence ‘soft boys’?”) and discuss their romantic lives. Start with the surprisingly moving episode with Silicon Valley’s T. J. Miller and his wife, Kate.

Classical Music
13.–15. Hear Handel’s Messiah Three Ways
Many, many voices singing hallelujah.
Never mind that it was written for Easter: ’Tis the season for “Hallelujah” addicts, with three variant performances worth seeking out. The forces of Trinity Wall Street merges high drama with historical scrupulousness. As orchestras swelled after Handel’s death, his original was found puny and pallid, so Mozart jazzed it up for late-18th-century tastes; the Oratorio Society is reviving that once-modern rewrite. And the New York Philharmonic looks to balance the big and the accurate in a performance conducted by the Baroque specialist Jane Glover. —J.D.
Alice Tully Hall, December 17 (Trinity Wall Street); Carnegie Hall, December 21 (the Oratorio Society); David Geffen Hall, December 15 through 19 (New York Philharmonic).

16. See Cynthia Daignault’s Light Atlas
Creating her own map.
Last year, Daignault took a 30,000-mile trip through the back roads of America, stopping for a picture every 25 miles. Her show of 360 little paintings is a wonderfully obsessive, possessed chronicle of that journey. —J.S.
Lisa Cooley, through December 20.

17. Read Ethan Mordden’s On Sondheim
Refinishing the hat.
Is there more to write about King Steve? There is: In a corrective to the all-facts, no-insight standard biography by Meryle Secrest, Mordden offers a highly idiosyncratic, big-­picture, and completely delicious portrait of Sondheim, show by show, as one of the 20th (and 21st?) century’s greatest artists. —J.G.
Oxford University Press.

18. Hear Squeeze
East Side Story, in Times Square.
Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, the co–front men of the British New Wave band, have been playing all-acoustic sets as a part of their cheekily titled “The At Odds Couple Tour.” What does “Tempted” sound like without that organ? —L.Z.
PlayStation Theater, December 17 and 18.

19. Watch The Andy Griffith Show Christmas Special
Out of black-and-white.
The surprise ratings success of colorized I Love Lucy episodes prompted CBS to try the same with The Andy Griffith Show. The producers here have gone to great lengths to match the hues to those of the show’s latter-day color episodes, and it’s a treat to see Andy, Opie, Aunt Bee, Barney, and the rest showcased in prime time again. —M.Z.S.
CBS, December 25 at 8 p.m.

Movies/New Music
20. See Youth
And listen up.
Paolo Sorrentino’s drama Youth is, for better or worse, all over the place, but the better part is the soundtrack and the work of “post-minimalist” (and sometime art-rock) composer David Lang. Among the treasures is the Trio Medieval’s recording of the incantatory but insinuatingly melodic “Just,” in which life’s rich pageant is distilled into a series of sacred objects. It’s so nice — and necessary, given the film’s cool tone — that it’s played twice. —D.E.
In theaters.

21. See Berg Matthams Self & Weaver
A taste of good things to come.
The three women in this group show look pretty promising. Tatiana Berg channels her inner Matisse in stained colorful painting; Grace Weaver really gets weird realism; and Tschabalala Self looks fabulous with constructed collages of cut-up canvas that toggle between abstraction, abjection, joy, and mythic figuration. —J.S.
Thierry Goldberg Gallery, through January 17.

22. Read Kara Platoni’s We Have the Technology
The humans behind the gizmos.
Eschewing both the glib hyperbole of techno-futurists and the finger-wagging of neo-Luddites, Platoni takes her notebook on a whistle-stop tour of sensory pioneers: AI developers, VR engineers, pain analysts, flavor enhancers, and even a few people who really are making the world a better place. Her focus on the senses raises smart questions about the pliable boundaries of human perception and the very real limits of technology.

23. Listen to But U Caint Use My Phone
Erykah Badu has your number.
Snippets of the Isley Brothers, New Edition, and some of Badu’s classics float weightlessly through the cosmos of this new mixtape, a meditation on communication, technology, and human connection. On the sparse “Phone Down,” Badu delivers one of the simplest, most seductive lyrics of this year of perpetual distraction: “I can make you put your phone down.” —L.Z.

24. See Maurice Hines Tappin’ Through Life
Hot feet.
Maurice Hines is one of the last Golden Age hoofers still standing and dancing. In his new show, a tap biography accompanied by the 20-something Manzari brothers and the Diva Jazz orchestra, the 72-year-old not only reminisces but swings and shuffles and buffaloes like there’s no tomorrow. —J.G.
New World Stages, previews begin December 23.

Classical Music
25. Go to Winterreise Festival
A lonely traveler gets some new company.
A pre-winter winter-themed festival culminates with a freewheeling rewrite of Schubert’s classic song cycle, Winter’s Journey, conceived and performed by singer Theo Bleckmann and pianist-composer Uri Caine. There will be toys, Yiddish, and strange sounds. —J.D.
National Sawdust, December 17.

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