Holiday Theatre in DC: Politicians, Voltaire & Candy Canes

Candide at the Shakespeare Theatre

 CANDIDE

This month Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre tackles the weighty issues of life in Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” a musical classic based on the Voltaire novel of the same name.

 “Candide” is the story of a well-off young man who grows up believing that optimism is the cure for life’s problems. Despite the many hardships that come his way, Candide remains surprisingly optimistic and good humored.

 In addition to its witty dialogue and unconventional humor, “Candide” is known for its beautiful operatic songs. One of the voices behind this exciting musical is Lauren Molina. After appearing on Broadway in “Rock of Ages” and the revival of “Sweeney Todd”, the Detroit native is making her mark in the very challenging vocal role of Cunégonde, the love-interest of Candide.

 Says Molina of director Mary Zimmerman’s take on the story: “She has adapted the Voltaire novel in a way for the stage that is extremely accurate, and in keeping with the satirical tone. It’s funny, moving, biting, and makes you think and question your beliefs. In previous productions, the style can be very cartoony and broad, but Mary wanted to make a version in which the characters could be real and honest, even though they are dealing with absurd and absurdly horrific circumstances.”  Despite their intentions, Cunegonde and Candide have lives where things do not turn out as they planned. “It is a coming of age story, with themes of religion vs. hedonism, order vs. chaos, morality vs. immorality,” she continued. “Yet it is also a hilarious satire that pokes fun at power, corruption, organized religion, and of course, philosophy.”

 “When Candide falls in love with Cunégonde, the Baron’s daughter, he is ousted from the castle and thrust into the harsh real world, where tragedy after tragedy befalls them. Cunégonde’s home is destroyed; she is shot and then sold into slavery. She is forced into becoming the mistress of an Inquisitor and Portuguese banker. She is reunited with Candide, but then torn away from him shortly thereafter. Cunégonde goes on a major journey from the beginning to the end of the play,” Molina continues. She is forced out of her perfect life – brutally, and then victimized by bitter circumstance. By the end she loses her beauty, hope and philosophy but love prevails!”

 Join On Tap for a special evening at “Candide” on December 9th. We’ll enjoy a pre-show happy hour with complimentary beer and then see the play for the low price of just $20. Visit the Shakespeare Theatre website for tickets. Just click on the December 9th date on the calendar page.

 “Candide” runs through January 9 at Sydney Harman Hall: 610 F St. NW; 202-547-1122; www.shakespearetheatre.org. Tickets start at $48 with discounts for students, seniors and military.

“A Girl’s Guide to Washington Politics”

In the same vein as Second City’s “Barack Stars” show that came to Woolly Mammoth on the heels of the Obama administration, “A Girl’s Guide to Washington Politics” gives a good ribbing to our most indelible political leaders. From the unmistakable Alaskan accent of Sarah Palin to the trademark pantsuits of Hillary Clinton, “A Girl’s Guide to Washington Politics” is Second City’s look at America’s female political figures. It is not only a comedic and fast-paced romp through the machinations of Washington politics, but also a bitingly sarcastic indictment on the gender politics of the workplace and the home.

 “You have to love Sarah Palin’s habit of comparing the women of America to unattractive and/or aggressively dangerous animals: Pit Bulls and grizzlies. Who are the women that find these terms flattering? Other than the same six ladies they show cheering in the audience at every one of her rallies…,”says Kate James, head writer of “A Girl’s Guide.”

 “From Pelosi to Palin, the voice of the American woman in politics has never been greater,” says Kelly Leonard, President of Second City Theatricals. “Since we were looking for a unique organizing thread for a new show to bring to Woolly, everyone felt that this was a great topic upon which to build a Second City revue. This is a scripted show with a few improvisational moments – we wrote original material and adapted scenes that were developed on Second City stages in Chicago and Toronto, including material originally written by such notable alumni as Tina Fey,” she explains.

 “The show’s content is still evolving and we’ll be creating new material up until the time we come to DC” interjected James. “Right now we’ve got a number of female political figures that will potentially appear in the show, everyone from Elena Kagan and Arianna Huffington to Ann Coulter.”

 Donkey or elephant, there are sure to be laughs for all.

 “A Girl’s Guide to Washington Politics” runs December 8 through January 9 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D St. NW; 202-393-3939; www.woollymammoth.net. Tickets start at $30.

 Cirque Dreams Holidaze

 When it comes to holiday entertainment everyone looks forward to the ”Nutcracker” or even “A Christmas Carol,” but if Neil Goldberg, creator of “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” has his way, his play will be the new standard bearer of holiday entertainment. Playing this month at the Kennedy Center’s opera house, “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” is a holiday theatrical extravaganza for the entire family. From dancing candy canes to skating penguins, “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” is a veritable feast for the senses. 

 “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” brings the magic of the holidays to life in a lavish stage production. “Ornaments come to life on a 30 foot Christmas tree, penguins balance on ice and dolls juggle snowballs,” says Goldberg. “There is even a scene with six bicycles that will leave audiences on the edge of their seat.” This show brings the entire splendor of the holidays and incorporates the best acrobatics, music and choreography that are the hallmark of a Cirque Dreams show.

 “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” is presented with a lot of sophistication at an affordable price. “It’s unlike any other Cirque show,” says Goldberg. “There are 30 foot tall gingerbread men rising out of the stove, toy soldiers high above the stage on thin wires, icemen sculpting and reindeer flying over the stage.”  With a winter wonderland full of merriment and fantastic showmanship, “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” will be a tradition for those seeking quality holiday entertainment.

 “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” runs from December 7 through December 12 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org. Tickets start at $31.

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