Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

To Do: December 14–December 28, 2016

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

1. See Babe: In Concert
That’ll do, pig.  
The decades haven’t dimmed the magic of Babe, the 1995 movie about an accomplished Aussie sheepherder — who just happens to be a small pig raised by sheepdogs and tutored by one Farmer Hoggett. You can see the film again this holiday season, and hear it anew, as composer Nigel Westlake conducts his delightful original score with the New York Philharmonic. —David Edelstein
David Geffen Theater, December 16 and 17.

2. Watch Tony Bennett Celebrates 90
Loving a living legend. 
Nineteen-time Grammy winner Tony Bennett, the last thriving link to the pre-rock-and-roll era, celebrates his nine decades with help from Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, and Kevin Spacey (one hopes he’ll do his Bennett impersonation). —Matt Zoller Seitz
NBC, December 20.

3. See Nikki Maloof: After Midnight
Like Celestial Seasonings packages gone wild.
This gallery just keeps discovering new alluring artists. Here, Nikki Maloof sways us with electric color, funky figuration, and smooth touch in strange scenes of tigers in the forest, monkeys in trees, and Starry Night, a stunner with a rainbow grid supporting moths and insects that entices us to come hither. —Jerry Saltz
Jack Hanley Gallery, 327 Broome Street, through December 18.

4. Read The Daily Show (The Book)
Building a new American medium. 
Chris Smith’s long experience as a political journalist (at New York — so we’re biased) lends flavor and rigor to a genre prone to dull gossip and empty praise. Jon Stewart comes off as sincere but driven, even a little merciless. The voices of his band of brothers (and some sisters) are supplemented by others ranging from cast-aside writers to Cindy McCain. —Boris Kachka
Grand Central.

5. See Phish
Jam in the new year. 
The Vermont vets know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but they’ve secured a dedicated audience large enough to not have to care anymore. Come to their annual year-end residency at MSG for the genius-level chemistry between singer Trey Anastasio and friends, and stick around to soak up the warm, communal family vibes the fans thrive on. —Craig Jenkins
MSG, December 28 through 31.

6. See The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey
Odd man in. 
The artist Edward Gorey was as peculiar and uncategorizable in his life as in the macabre stories (The Haunted Tea-Cosy, The Gashlycrumb Tinies) he wrote and illustrated. Largely untrained, uninterested in children, and “reasonably undersexed” (he never married or acknowledged a partner), he still produced highly formal and suggestively perverse works mostly for the youth market. No wonder, in Travis Russ’s new “fantasy memoir,” it takes three actors to fill the title role. —Jesse Green
Sheen Center, through January 14.

Cinema Studies
7. Go to Martin Scorsese
The Wolf of Wall Street, dissected.   
Film’s most beloved Marty (sorry, McFly, but you’re outclassed) is the subject of this new exhibit, which traces the director’s 50-plus-year career from his beard days up through the present. Some of his best films will also be presented: Taxi Driver on the big screen!
Museum of the Moving Image, through April 23.

8. Hear Kurt Vile
Look past the hair. 
The Philadelphia songwriter is far deeper than his stoned appearance might suggest. His good-time rock-and-roll shows are haunted by a resolute self-doubt; his sophisticated lyrics will stay with you.  
Terminal 5, December 28.

9. See Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Movement that’ll move you.
Plenty of reasons to see Alvin Ailey’s company this time of year: the slew of thought-provoking new work (Kyle Abraham’s Untitled America) and the fact that, well, it’s not another Nutcracker. But perennial Ailey favorites Revelations and Cry feel especially relevant right now: the former an ecstatic, timeless expression of hope, the latter Ailey’s iconic tribute to the historic strength of black women.
New York City Center, through December 31.

10. See Diane Simpson: Samurai
A sparkling start to a new space. 
The 80-something sculptress Diane Simpson organizes wonderful wooden planes into odd origami forms that suggest shields, temple figures, and huts from other dimensions. We see a sweet Cubism folding in on itself, presented in ways and scales that make us feel it could come out of a kit and be assembled under the Christmas tree. —J.S.
JTT, 191 Chrystie Street, through January 15.

Theater on TV
11. See Every Brilliant Thing
No. 572: This film. 
A solo play about a 7-year-old boy’s obsessive list-making of “brilliant things” in response to his mother’s depression and attempted suicide does not sound like very much fun. But in Duncan MacMillan’s telling and Jonny Donahoe’s interpretation, it was a highlight of the 2014–15 Off Broadway season. Luckily, one of the final performances was captured on film; surprisingly, it retains all the live show’s humor, poignance, and theatrical spontaneity. —J.G.
HBO, December 26.

12. See Yasiin Bey
True retirement or Jay Z–style hiatus?
After ten months of detainment in South Africa for traveling without an approved passport, the artist formerly known as Mos Def returns to his home city to kick off a farewell tour.
Apollo Theatre, December 21.

13. Hear In War & Peace
Capturing the season’s jangled spirit.
When mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato lets rip on a gnashing Handel aria like “Scenes of horror, scenes of woe” from his oratorio Jephtha, you can practically hear the Earth crack and souls moan. And when she waxes consolatory, everything feels better. —Justin Davidson
Carnegie Hall, December 15.

14. Read The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma
A wry, honest voice. 
Ratika Kapur’s novel follows the first-person peregrinations of Renuka Sharma, a Delhi woman left to scrimp and dream with her teenage son while her husband tries to make good in Dubai. Against the backdrop of India’s modern contrasts, the lonely wife grows close to a man she meets at a train station. The consequences seem as inevitable as the global realities that fence her in. —B.K.
Bloomsbury, December 13.

15. See Acid Dad
Energetic psych punk. 
The Brooklyn-bred quartet owes much to garage-rock contemporaries Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall. As far as aural fuzz goes, Acid Dad’s PBR-gurgling trippy punk struts right up alongside them.
Baby’s All Right, December 17.

16. Watch Running for His Life: The Lawrence Phillips Story
Portrait of a downfall.
This engrossing documentary by Ross Greenburg examines the short life of Phillips, an immensely talented University of Nebraska running back who died in January of this year. The film is unstinting in its scrutiny of both Phillips’s violent tendencies (including a propensity for domestic battery) and his dramatic and neglectful upbringing. —M.Z.S.
Showtime, December 16.

17. See Things to Come
Hip, hip, Huppert!
In addition to Elle, you can now see la belle Isabelle in Mia Hansen-Løve’s amusing and so-very-French talkfest in which a philosophy professor must start her life anew after her husband leaves her for a younger woman. There’s a lot of philosophizing, but the emotions still run deep. —D.E.
In theaters now.

18. & 19. See Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith
Dynamic duo.
When trumpeter and ’70s avant-garde champion Wadada Leo Smith teams with pianist, ex-physicist, and MacArthur “genius” Vijay Iyer, the pair emits quiet reflections and slowly building dramas. As a rule, these jazz giants favor texture over melody.
National Sawdust, December 20.

Musical Theater
20. See The Mikado
Let the punishment fit the crime.
Productions of The Mikado have too often involved “yellowface” makeup and Asian stereo‑typing, but by the fall of 2015, when the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players planned a traditional staging, activists helped shut it down. Now, in a rethought version that attempts greater authenticity (and restores Gilbert’s focus on satirizing the English instead of the Japanese), the classic operetta returns for a test run of its ongoing viability. —J.G.
Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, December 28 through January 8.

21. See Elizabeth Murray
Colorful abstractions. 
This show of mostly drawings was the brainchild of a prominent writer (Dan Nadel) and a successful painter (Carroll “Lena’s father” Dunham) who share an obsession with the late American painter Elizabeth Murray.
Canada, 331 Broome Street, through January 29.

22. See Seun Kuti
Prodigal son.
The son of Afrobeat and anti-colonial icon Fela Kuti, Seun joined his father’s Egypt 80 orchestra at the age of 14, when most of us were just getting a handle on “Chopsticks.” At 33, he brings his father’s band into the 21st century, blending joyous polyrhythms and tight horn sections with touches of hip-hop.
SOB’s, December 17.

23. Hear The New York Philharmonic
With much fanfare.
The orchestra, which opened its season with Dvorák’s “New World” Symphony, ends the year with a blast of Americana: Copland’s Quiet City, which features trumpet and English horn; the world premiere of William Bolcom’s sure-to-be-noisy Trombone Concerto, played by in-house virtuoso Joseph Alessi; and a new symphony by Wynton Marsalis. Jazz at Lincoln Center joins the Philharmonic, which ensures an abundance of sonorous brass. —J.D.
Geffen Hall, December 28 through January 3.

24. See The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart
The devil goes down to Chelsea.
The National Theatre of Scotland takes over the restaurant space here, transforming it into a Scottish pub for this limited-run, immersive show that follows a woman who comes face-to-face with the devil. The musical production is written by David Grieg, who will bring his version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Broadway next spring.
The McKittrick Hotel, through January 29.

25. Hear Young Thug and 21 Savage
Double feature.
The rappers released two of the year’s sharpest trap projects this year — check out Thug’s Jeffery and 21’s Savage Mode if you haven’t already — and their tandem winter shows are not to be missed. Between Thug’s mercurial quirkiness, 21’s unnerving poise, and a gaggle of bone-crushing beats from Georgia’s finest, there’s a lot to love. —C.J.
Terminal 5, December 18.