December 2, 2013
Special to The Alexandria Times
In between sending out cards, trimming the tree, wrapping gifts and drinking a dram or two of Christmas cheer, be sure to plan on seeing one or more of these fabulous holiday shows.
Family holiday shows are everywhere. But where can you find one that’s tailor made for teens…and non-denominational too? This year the Synetic Theatre Teen Ensemble is tackling the company’s Silent Shakespeare version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it promises to be scintillating. In this beautifully reimagined production local teens star as Feuding Fairies, Lost Lovers and Merry Mechanicals in a production directed by Alex Mills.
There are two special events during the run of the show. Synetic will host a special “Party Night” for teens after the December 8th evening performance, where young adults will be able to hang out with the cast and dance to a DJ onstage. Also on the 8th at 2pm there will be a “Family Day and Holiday Party”. Expect a visit from Santa to include snacks and games in the company’s new theatre space.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs from December 5th through the 14th.
For tickets and information call 800 494-8497 or visit www.synetictheater.org. 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington, VA 22202
Peter Boyer, Tracey Stephens, Russell Sunday with puppets Want and Ignorance -
Photo credit: Chris Banks
Over at MetroStage it’s a rollicking sendup of the classic tale with A Broadway Christmas Carol. This is not your mama’s cup of eggnog. The endearingly outrageous three-person cast of Russell Sunday, Peter Boyer and Tracey Stephens will delightfully dissect your funny bone through parodies of thirty-one totally recognizable show tunes from the likes of Andrew Lloyd Weber, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim and many more. Boyer is this year’s newcomer to the cast and he is absolutely phenomenal as Scrooge in this madcap holiday whirlwind of costume changes and characters sung by some of the best pipes in the biz. Look for Pianist Howard Breitbart to get into the act in “The Phantom of Christmases Yet to Come”. It’s all a hoot and a howl for adults only.
From November 21st through December 22rd; Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm; Sundays at 3 and 7pm. For tickets and information call 800 494-8497 or visit www.metrostage.org. 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria, VA
Gary Cramer (Bob Cratchit) – Erik Payton (Turkey Boy) – Valerie Chamness (Ghost of Christmas Past) – Photos by Eddy Roger Parker
At The Little Theatre of Alexandria it’s time once again for A Christmas Carol. Directed and adapted by Rachael Hubbard, this family-friendly Dickens’ classic will warm the cockles of everyone’s heart. Replete with elegant Victorian costumes, the accursed curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge, and the adorable Tiny Tim, you can almost smell the chestnuts roasting as ghostly guides transport you through Christmas past, present and future. Relive this Currier & Ives picture postcard of a show that reveals the true meaning of Christmas.
From November 30th through December 16th, Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm and 5pm. For tickets and information call 703 683-0496 or visit www.TheLittleTheatre.com. 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
Signature Theatre’s line-up for the holiday season has something for everyone. Holiday Follies is back with a wonderful wintry line-up of Signature’s closest friends and artists. There’s never been a better way to keep company on a cold winter’s night. The special holiday performance schedule for Holiday Follies in the ARK Theatre is December 17th at 7:30pm, December 18th at 7pm, December 19th at 8pm, December 20th at 8pm, December 21st at 2pm and 8pm, December 22nd at 2pm and 7pm and December 23rd at 7pm.
In addition Matt Conner will star in his very own show, A Matt Conner Christmas. Promising to be a cozy evening of Conner on piano sharing his favorite Christmas memories, the composer of Crossing, The Hollow and Nevermore says, “I’ll be blending them with some of my favorite Christmas songs, along with a few surprise guests. The show will range from bluegrass to classical with a lot in-between – - all full of holiday cheer.” At Signature’s ARK Theatre with performances on December 11th at 7:30pm, December 12th at 8pm, December 13th at 8pm, December 14th at 2pm and 8pm, and December 15th at 2pm and 7 pm.
Be sure to check out the special New Year’s Eve party and midnight toast for ticketholders of the theater’s latest extravaganza, Gypsy, one of the greatest American musicals ever written starring Sherri Edelen as Mama Rose.
For tickets and information visit www.signature-theatre.org or go through the Signature Box Office at 703 573-SEAT. 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206
November 24th, 2013
Special to The Alexandria Times
(L-R) Max Heimowitz, John Manzari, Maurice Hines, Leo Manzari and Sam Heimowitz, with members of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Photo by Teresa Wood.
On a stage flanked by Mondrian-like color block panels reminiscent of 1960’s television shows, a 9-piece all-female orchestra is cranking out the sounds of “Did You Do That”. It’s an old tune by composer Stanley “Kay” Kaufman, an early creator, manager and conductor for the tap dancing brothers, Maurice and Gregory Hines. Back in the day Kaufman founded the original Diva Jazz Orchestra and now a new crop backs up the Broadway legend in “Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life”. The “Divas” as they are known in jazz circles from Lincoln Center to Birdland to the Apollo Theater, are smokin’ hot and Hines urges them on giving solo turns to noted sax player, Camille Thurman, trumpet player Liesl Whitaker and drummer, Dr. Sherrie Maricle, whom he likens quite accurately to Buddy Rich. Right from the start the joint is jumpin’ and the show has just begun.
The projection panels begin to come alive with intimate family photos, memories of segregation and show biz moments frozen in time. Interspersed between nineteen musical numbers, Hines shares deeply personal stories and his encounters with megastars like Lena Horne, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Ol’ Blue Eyes – - the backstory to sixty-five years spent on stage and screen.
Maurice Hines in Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life – Photo by Teresa Wood.
Hines is captivating and stylish. His movements are silken – - his delivery both hipster and sophisticate. He does a modified “moonwalk”. “I love this step. It’s so sexy,” he croons. And it is. But I am waiting for him to tap. Isn’t everyone? He speaks sotto voce about a recent injury. Later he says, “You know I don’t tap much anymore.” But still, he’s suave in a black and white Armani jacket. And we’re totally enraptured by his shtick. Who doesn’t dig a song stylist with crazy, exquisite phrasing? The kind of phrasing that “owns” a song like Frank and Ella and Dino did. Hines learned it and honed it from the greatest of the greats and it shows as he segues seamlessly from Fats Waller honky-tonk to sophisticated ditties by Cole Porter to ballads like “All the Way”. In jazzed-up classic show tunes from Lerner and Lowe, “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”, and “Get Me to the Church on Time”, in which Hines gives a thumbs up to DOMA, he lures the audience back to the 1950’s and nights at the Moulin Rouge, the first integrated nightclub in Vegas. Some of the songs even use the familiar Nelson Riddle arrangements. In “Luck Be a Lady” we are transported to Vegas sitting tableside with the Rat Pack at the Flamingo Hotel.
Finally in the eighteenth number Hines does a long spin, some rapid-fire tap moves, and a bit of soft shoe. Not a lot, but perfectly executed. And then the Manzari Brothers come on stage and dazzle, really stun with their electricity. They are formidable as expected. Sam and Max Heimowitz, young twins Hines recently discovered in DC, do a short turn with the virtuosos. Now everyone is tapping and all of a sudden the evening feels like a moment in musical stage history. Oh yes, Maurice. You are too “mahvelous” for mere words.
(L-R) John and Leo Manzari in Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life – Photo by Teresa Wood.
Through December 29th at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St., SW, Washington, DC 20024.
For tickets and information call 202 484-0247 or visit www.ArenaStage.org.
November 15, 2013
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts, Broadway Stars, and LocalKicks
Cedar’s Aaron McCloud Creates Amazing Dishes with Olives from Spain
Olive salad at Cedar Restaurant
As one of eight U.S. chefs selected to highlight the use of Spanish olives in their cuisine by Olives From Spain, Cedar’s Executive Chef Aaron McCloud staged a spectacular five-course luncheon last week using recipes he devised and pairing the dishes with Spanish wines. Among the other well-known chefs chosen are Seamus Mullen of New York City’s Tertulia; Michael Kornick, Chef/Owner of Chicago’s mk; Ethan Stowell, of Seattle’s Staple & Fancy and Anchovies & Olives; and Giorgio Rapicavoli of Miami’s Eating House. The concept was to show how non-Spanish chefs and home cooks can incorporate Spanish table olives into their recipes. Throughout the season McCloud will be featuring some of these dishes on Cedar’s menu.
McCloud, who gave up studying classical violin with Itzhak Perlman for a life behind the scenes, hails from Michigan and brings with him a farmer’s keen sense of natural ingredients in his approach to cooking.
Smoked trout with Meyer lemon and olive relish
At a luncheon last week the chef started the meal with a delicately crafted salad of spiced walnuts, arugula, Gordal olives, Manchego cheese and decorated the plate with nasturtiums. Our second course was smoked trout with pickled fennel, grapefruit supremes, preserved Meyer lemon and olive relish which was followed by Merino lamb loins crusted with olive powder and placed in a tart of olives with pickled royal trumpet mushrooms. Spanish Gordal olives made a second appearance stuffed into a roulade of wild boar loin and served with an olive salad and heirloom tomato salad dressed with bacon and olive vinaigrette.
Merino lamb with olive powder and pickled Royal trumpet mushrooms
Proving the versatility of the olive with meats isn’t as tricky as it is with sweets. But McCloud overcame the challenge by using the milder type of uncured black olives in a silky panna cotta. The smooth egg-less custard was enhanced with a sweet herb “soup” of made from pineapple sage, lemon verbena and sugar and cooked down to a light syrup and poured over the dish at table and served with a white chocolate olive cookie. McCloud explained, “I decided to make a cookie and thought of substituting the olives for the usual raisins.” Sliced almonds spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, fennel seed and cumin, and baked with maple syrup, provided the unique dessert with a delectable crunchiness. So delectable in fact that I secured the recipe along with a cache to take home.
www.CedarDC.com. And for more information on Spanish olives visit www.OlivesfromSpain.US.
Go With the FLO, Baby
Jazz Master Marcus Johnson at FLO Wines party
What pairs best with wine and friends? Why, jazz of course. So say DC-raised Contemporary Jazz Keyboardist virtuoso Marcus Johnson and his partner Winemaker and Co-Founder Rob Piziali. FLO stands for “For the love of…” and there was a lot of love flowing from the top floor of Georgetown’s chic Puro Café last week when the pair debuted their gently priced Red Blend, Chardonnay and 2011 Moscato wines, all of which are produced and bottled in Napa Valley’s St. Helena. Though the company was launched only a year ago, the popular wines can already be found around our area in stores like Costco, Wal-Mart, Target, Giant, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, Total Wine and Farm Fresh, and hotels like Marriott and Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC.
While guests enjoyed nibbles and sips Johnson tickled the ivories for his rapt fans – - one of whom won a lavish gift basket chockfull of gourmet goodies and bottles of FLO Wine. The company has teamed up with Thankfully Yours, a DC-based company, to create festive wine and food gift baskets for the holidays.
Johnson, a Billboard “Top 10” and NAACP Image Award-nominated jazz musician with 15 studio albums to his credit, will be at Blues Alley Jazz Club from December 12th to the 16th.
Visit www.FLOBrands.com to learn more about upcoming wine events in the area. To order their gorgeous gift baskets go to www.ThankfullyYours.com.
A Master Class in Brazilian Wines at DC’s Fogo de Chao
Coming from a family who bought a coffee plantation in Brazil on a whim, I can’t say I ever imagined in my wildest dreams I would be sitting among experts drinking fine wines from Brazil. But that’s what I was doing last week along with area buyers, wine consultants, fellow writers and local sommeliers at a large U-shaped banquet table in DC’s Fogo de Chao restaurant. A dizzying array of fifteen wines and thirteen “churrasco” style barbecued meats were served while Master Sommelier and Wine Educator, Evan Goldstein, kept the enthusiastic sippers engaged with a power point presentation of the regions of Brazil and the development of its industry.
Brazilian wines and churrasco at Fogo de Chao
After first reminding us that no less a wine connoisseur than British journalist and wine merchant Steven Spurrier (responsible for the legendary “Judgment of Paris”) had lauded Brazilian wines this year in an article featured in Decanter magazine, Goldstein urged us to begin with a delicate rose-colored sparkler before tasting more serious wines whose grapes are picked from vines brought to Brazil from early Italian and Portuguese settlers who arrived in the country in 1551.
One of the more intriguing factoids about the region’s wines is that Brazil has two harvest seasons every year. By applying a product called Dormex, growers can encourage early ripening that results in two seasons of picking grapes.
There are five dominant wine-growing regions in Brazil, though currently only three have certifications of origin. The main regions are Santa Catarina, Serra Gaucha, Serra do Sudeste and Campanha in the Southern region of the country, and Vale do Sao Francisco in the Northeastern Region near Bahia. Serra Gaucha is considered the most important and largest wine region within Rio Grande do Sul.
We sampled a 2009 Cave Geisse Terroir Nature, a glamorous sparkler made by Maurice Geisse, a Chilean winemaker who once worked for the house of Moet & Chandon and who is now using his considerable talents at his family’s vineyard in the Serra Gaucha region. But an appealing parvenu nipped at its heels. Retailing at half its price, Casa Valduga Brut 130 is a sassy sparkling wine once lauded by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a visit to Brazil.
As we progressed to the still whites, I was surprised to hear that Moscatos and Chardonnays dominate the whites. In fact Lidio Carraro Dadivas Chardonnay is made by fifth generation Italians and has been chosen as the “Official Wine of the World Cup”.
The stellar Salton Pinot Noir
Here are the wines that stole my heart and they were all reds. Salton Pinot Noir 2012 (young yet, but holding distinct promise); Salton Desego 2008, a Merlot aged in 50-50 French and American Oak; Perini Marselan 2010, another youthful vintage with the unusual cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache from a vineyard dating back to the 1870’s; Lidio Carraro, Quorum, a pricey Merlot, Cab, Tannat and Cab Franc blend from 2006; and Pizzato CONCENTUS 2007, a knockout at $25.00.
Look for these at www.FogodeChao.com
Iron Gate – History Restored
The much-anticipated opening of Iron Gate on N Street turned into one the most fabulous private gatherings for a restaurant opening ever. While many guests reminisced about their dining experiences in days past, there was no one present that could have said they were there when it was opened in 1923 by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. The group whose headquarters are in another historic building next door, is still the Iron Gate’s landlord. To this day the Federation Director’s private residence overlooks the restaurant’s garden from atop the third story.
The wood fire oven at Iron Gate
For those who may have dined here before the restoration slash remodel, the surprise will be an enclosed and two-story dining space and bar area inside the restaurant’s elegant carriageway. The entrance is now dominated by magnificent lead-framed windows that rise two stories up to meet the building’s original keystones. Iron lanterns, and a pair of repurposed chandeliers retrieved from an old theatre in Baltimore, light the old brick walls. In the bar a massive walnut-framed mirror that was discovered in a garage in Silver Spring, overlooks the 10-seat bar. The large bricked garden, adorned with century old wisteria and still-producing grapevines, sports an electronic awning for inclement weather. A romantic aura fills the main dining area where dark wainscoating, flickering candlelight and a roaring fireplace lend an air of charming intimacy.
The style of cuisine is drawn from the traditional dishes of Greece, Sicily and Sardinia with a menu arranged by category – “Garden”, “Water” and “Pasture”. Diners make their selection from a four- or six-course menu (with or without wine pairings). Some items are available a la carte at the bar or on the patio. Leading a trio of seasoned and award-winning professionals is noted Chef Tony Chittum who left Vermillion in Alexandria’s Old Town to showcase his creativity in this beautiful space. He is flanked by Mixologist Jeff Faile, formerly of Casa Luca and Fiola, and Wine Director Brent Kroll, formerly of Adour at the St. Regis.
At the friends and family opening, plates were piled high with everything from spit-roasted pig, broccoli bruschetta bright with house-made ricotta and garnished with a tiny sardine. Crispy sunchokes with yogurt dipping sauce and light-as-a-feather veal sweetbreads were delectable treats as were the grilled fennel sausages that had an insinuating way of demanding repeat attention. I loved an Ouzo Punch, made with rosemary, ouzo and Galliano. I haven’t seen Galliano in a cocktail since “Golden Cadillacs”, made with the herb-infused yellow Italian liqueur, crème de cacao and cream, were all the rage.
Sweet things await at Iron Gate
The sweets were playful – Campari marshmallows, loukamades, hot from the oven and dripping with orange blossom glaze, and Sicilian pistachio buckeyes coated in chocolate. Sheer ambrosia.
With classic architecture, intriguing history, celebrated chef, gorgeous garden, fireplace, separate bar, intimate dining room and sidewalk patio, Iron Gate is truly dressed to impress. www.IronGateRestaurantDC.com
Photos by Jordan Wright
November 19, 2013
Special to The Alexandria Times
Gaylord National’s ICE Santa Reindeer
Santa and Company won’t get a moment’s rest this holiday season at the Gaylord National Resort. And neither, it seems certain, will his merry elves. If you haven’t gotten the Christmas spirit yet, a visit to the resort will kick it into high gear. Named one of the “Twelve Most Festive Places to Find Holiday Spirit” by AAA, the Gaylord National’s ICE! is bringing a magical Arctic paradise to our region from now until January 5th.
Who cares if the weather is frightful! Inside this winter wonderland you’ll find twice-nightly indoor snowfalls in the 1½-acre atrium replete with gardens and a small stream set amidst a colonial village and a 60-foot-tall glimmering glass “Tree of Light”. Sit beside a water fountain to watch colorful waterspouts soar three stories while dancing to Christmas carols every hour until nine at night.
ICE 2013 at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center
Just off the 19-story atrium is the main event — ICE! – - a breathtaking village of larger-than-life ice sculptures hand-carved from two million pounds of real ice. This year’s theme interprets Clement C. Moore’s classic poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. The winter wonderland was created by forty master artisans sculpting 5,000 blocks of ice from China’s Songhua River into the most popular themes of Christmas.
ICE 2013 Slide Room
Roaming through the enormous white tent you’ll see all the trappings of the holiday in living color – - from adorable mice all snug in their beds (actually giant teacups) awaiting Santa’s arrival, to Santa on his sleigh with his nine not-so-tiny reindeer. And you needn’t travel to New York when this year’s highlight is the city-in-ice at Christmas. Just hop inside a bright yellow ice taxi and you’re on your way to Rockefeller Center. The interactive exhibit is kept at an icy 9-degrees so despite the big blue loaner parkas issued at the door, be sure to wear your hat and gloves.
Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating
But the Christmas spirit doesn’t end there. Beneath the tree is a Peeps & Company old-fashioned “Potomac Express Train” for the little ones and Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating center where the whole family can create a gingerbread house or gingerbread family together. All the sweetest decorations from icing to gumdrops are provided. A life-size “Gingy” presides over the shop giving out heart-warming hugs to all the children.
Another fun activity is getting up close and personal with King Julien, Alex the Lion and their friends at their Madagascar Crack’ A Lackin’ Cook-in Character Breakfast. These crazy guys are always ready to party while you dine on Madagascar-themed breakfast items including a Flingin’ Chimps chocolate fountain. Afterwards join the self-guided interactive scavenger hunt for clues from the Madagascar movie to solve the puzzle. Shrek, Fionna, Donkey and Puss in Boots are there too sharing the meaning of Christmas.
Up on the rooftop overlooking the Potomac River from the 18th floor, Sunday brunch is served. Reservations are strongly advised for this event that sells out every year. The lavish brunch includes delicious savory selections along with gorgeous desserts like Yule log cakes, peppermint whoopee pies, chocolate chestnut s’mores and sticky toffee pudding. Santa is on hand to pose for keepsake photos.
Christmas – Nighty Tree Lighting Show
Dazzling light displays are everywhere from Christmas trees throughout the lobby to two million twinkling LED lights. At night you can even witness the changing colors of the Northern Lights.
The best view and most romantic spot for viewing the snow cascading down is two stories above the garden level at the Old Hickory Steakhouse bar where you can pass the time while sipping Yule time spirits.
To purchase tickets to ICE! and ‘Brunch with Santa’ or to check on schedules for the hotel’s free events visit http://nationalharbor.com/event/ice-at-gaylord-national for information or call 301 965-4000.
Potomac Express in Atrium
November 11, 2013
Special to The Alexandria Times
Nyla Rose DeGroat (Ranger Wilson) & Shaina Higgins (Lucy Gale) – photo credit Michael deBlois.
Have you ever been curious about what goes on behind the scenes at battle reenactments? A type of “living history” that focuses on a singular moment in a particular battle and requires the participants to live outdoors, dress in hand-stitched period clothing, carry authentic arms, foodstuffs and field medicines, and speak in the manner of the day, it has become a popular pastime. In Shiloh Rules playwright Doris Baizly provides us not only with an intriguing behind-the-scenes interpretation of the type of people that participate in these activities, but also an exciting multi-layered script. As her character, veteran re-enactor Clara May Abbott (Jean Hudson Miller), puts it, “We play by Shiloh rules. There aren’t any.”
Factoid: Though there are more Civil War battlefields in Virginia than anywhere else in the country, the bloodiest of all the battles was the Battle of Shiloh in East Tennessee where 23,000 casualties were sustained. The hallowed land is now called the Shiloh Battlefield Park where the action takes place.
Karen Lawrence (Cecilia) & Shaina Higgins (LucyGale) – photo credit Michael deBlois
Director Mary Ayala-Bush has chosen to present the play in the round, a decision that creates a super-charged energy level. Drama and comedy converge when six women meet on the battlefield. Clara May, known as the “Angel of Antietam”, is on the Union side with young Meg (Jennifer McClean), a nursing school student. On the rebel front are Cecelia Delaunay Pettison (Karen V. Lawrence), the embodiment of the iron-fist-in-the-velvet-glove Southern woman, and Lucygale Scruggs (Shaina Higgins), a gung-ho first timer with a taste for blood in her youthful heart. Each describes a wartime profile of their character.
The rules of the re-enactors are created and overseen by the feisty Widow Beckwith (Adriana Hardy), the head of the “Authenticity Committee”, whose penchant for breaking the very rules she invents is outweighed only by her skewed sense of what is authentic. But Beckwith is outranked by Park Ranger Wilson (Nyla Rose DeGroat), a martinet whose adherence to the park’s rules threatens to upset the ladies’ adventures. Nonetheless it is Wilson, an African-American, puzzled by the women’s zeal to open up the old racist wounds of war, who raises the question, “Why keep fighting it?”
Adriana Hardy (Widow Beckwith) & Nyla Rose DeGroat (Ranger
Wilson) – photo credit Michael deBlois
When the battle begins before dawn before the bugler’s signal, all hell breaks loose. The rebels won’t “fall down”, real weapons are drawn and the action becomes all too real.
Ayala-Bush, who is also the Set Designer evokes the encampment with simple canvas tents on either side of the set – - one for the ladies of the North the other for the South.
left to right, Jennifer McClean, Adriana Hardy, Shaina Higgins, Jean Hudson Miller, Nyla Rose DeGroat & Karen Lawrence – photo credit Michael deBlois
Kudos to the entire cast who are in perfect synch in this outstanding production. Special recognition to Sound Designer Sean Doyle who does a “bang up” job recreating the fusillade of battle.
At Port City Playhouse at The Lab at Convergence, 1819 North Quaker Lane, Alexandria, VA 22302. Performances are on the following dates – Nov. 8, 19, 22, 23, 24, 27 & 28 at 8:00 p.m. Matinees on Nov. 16 & 23 at 2pm. For tickets and information visit www.portcityplayhouse.org.