Things to Do

The Weekender: Nutcrackers, Peanuts, ice queens, and crack-ups

“The Hip Hop Nutcracker” is at the Shubert Theatre.
United Palace of Cultural Arts
“The Hip Hop Nutcracker” is at the Shubert Theatre.

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’Twas the Weekend before Christmas and all through the town, not a creature was stirring, or could put their phones down. “There’s nothing to do!” or at least so they’d say — and then sit around texting for most of the day.

“Reindeerpucky,” says I (the Weekender here, with virtual sackfuls o’ holiday cheer). “There’s movies, and art, and music, and dance. You’ll just have to change out of sweatpants.” 

I’ve even drawn up a list, and checked it, like, twice. It won’t rhyme. (There’s no time.) But you’ll like it. It’s nice. First the holiday stuff, just to get in the spirit (and I’ll get through it fast if you don’t want to hear it); then theater and movies and art sure to thrill, plus plenty of options for Netflix and chill.


TALE SPIN: Back in 1979, Kurtis Blow made a way stronger showing at yuletide rhyme-slinging than I just did up there. His very first single, “Christmas Rappin’,” was a massive hit, and had a lot to do with mainstream masses tearing open the gift of hip-hop (best Christmas ever?). Blow’s follow-up “The Breaks” defined him as a star of a genre that was finding its footing as a cultural force. Four decades later, “Christmas Rappin’ ” is the gift that keeps on giving, as Blow finds himself guest MC for “The Hip-Hop Nutcracker,” which puts a (head)spin on the classic tale by setting it in 1980s Brooklyn and subbing out the sugar plum fairies for a dozen dancers and a DJ — what Blow calls a “mash-up between hip-hop and classical music, and b-boying and ballet.” You can still get tickets for Friday and Saturday performances at the Shubert Theatre here.

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PRIME CHUCK: Equally heartwarming but with a little less bass and a lot more room for your . . . interpretive approach to dance, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” takes the stage at Arlington’s Regent Theatre through Sunday. Kiddies more accustomed to the perennial Christmas cartoon special will thrill to see their favorite Peanuts (provided kids still have those?) come to life. (And man, is that poor little tree ever pathetic in person. Way to ruin everything, Charlie Brown.) Get tickets here — before Lucy gives you five good reasons.

ST. NICK FIT: If you prefer your Christmas stories with a splash more deception of children, try “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which has a final matinee performance on Saturday at Greater Boston Stage Company. This family-friendly holiday romp tells the tale of a mouse, an elf, and a little girl who needs to speak to the proverbial manager after her house was skipped by Santa the previous year. (Maybe he has a thing about mice? Just a guess. That would sure as sleigh bells keep me out of the chimney. And does your father know about your mouse friends? I would tell him.) The rest of you can find tickets here

JANGLE BELLS: Or, if you prefer your holiday cheer with no children at all, there’s the Twisted Pine Holiday Show at City Winery on Saturday night. The rising Boston roots powerhouse just released its debut self-titled album, a surprisingly effervescent blend of bluegrass, folk, vintage pop, and Americana. Expect a night of highly wassailable jams. Grab tickets here.

HO HO HO!: And finally from the holiday front (and really, this is it, no more Christmas stuff, we are done after this, promise), the reliably ho-worthy (meaning laughter, guys) Improv Asylum is putting on “The Holiday Showthrough Dec. 31. It’s a wintry mix of sketch comedy, improv bits, and other fleeting distractions from the harrowing loneliness that churns behind the whole futile charade. SORRY! I’m sorry about that. Just heard myself. Having more nog now. Mmmm! Nog. Tickets here.

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya.”
Neon via AP
Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya.”


TAKE A KNEE? There. That wasn’t so bad. Was it? To glide into the rest of the selection, there’s the hotly anticipated ice capade from director Craig Gillespie, “I, Tonya” — the sordid (yet tender!) telling of the tale of shamed erstwhile skating champion Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie). The Globe’s Ty Burr gives it three stars and calls it “one of the year’s surprises, a defiant, funny, and multi-layered saga of talent and class resentment, marred only by some technical oddities and a certain smug awareness of everything the moviemakers are daring themselves to do right.” (Intriguing! More on that here.) Opens Friday.

FLIRT SO GOOD: Burr also quite dug “Call Me By Your Name,” pinning 3½ stars to director Luca Guadagnino’s “richly detailed sexual and emotional coming of age story” about two young Americans in the Lombardy region of Italy, swept up in a sudden attraction and all that comes with it. Adapted by James Ivory from a novel by André Aciman, the film follows “the ecstasies, jealousies, melodramas, and pain” of young love/lust. Says Burr: “This is a film fully of heart, hormones, and mind.” So maybe bring a fan. Opens Friday.

PITCH AND MOAN: This newsletter hopes that its reliably anodyne approach to all things a cappella is enough to communicate certain things without over-communicating them, and will now proceed to let you know that there is yet another installment (sorry, that had tone) of the “Pitch Perfect” series, with the trilogy-topping “Pitch Perfect 3.” Apparently it’s not as good as the other ones are? [Shocked expression.] “The numbers just aren’t as dynamic as we might have hoped for from director Trish Sie,” writes Tom Russo in his 2½-star review. Opens Friday but will be unavoidable on cable for the rest of my life on Earth, just like the others.

LOCAL FOCUS: If all you want for Christmas is stillness and (relative) quiet, dash away dash away (sorry, sorry, I said no more Christmas stuff) to the Institute of Contemporary Art for “Nicholas Nixon: Persistence of Vision.” Since the ’70s, the Boston-based photographer has been using a large-format 8-by-10-inch camera to produce black-and-white images that capture a changing city and its culture(s) — as well as a certain set of sisters. “Whether photographing Kenmore Square in the ’70s, a dying man in the ’80s, the Hancock Tower in the ’90s, a premature baby in the ’00s, Nixon practices an unprying scrutiny,” writes Mark Feeney. “He is both forthright and scrupulous.”  It’s on view through April 22. More info here.

DUSTIN TIME: “Come see me,” says Boston’s Tom Dustin on his website. “I promise to be wicked funny.” Now, mind you, this is from the Internet so it’s likely to be true; and it seems to be backed up by Dustin’s staple status at the Boston Comedy Festival and ample supply of dirty jokes (like this bit about HPV). He’s got a pair of shows Friday and Saturday night at Cure Lounge (under the Wilbur Theatre) via Nick’s Comedy Stop. Find tickets here.

Will Smith stars in the Netflix thriller “Bright.”
Matt Kennedy
Will Smith stars in the Netflix thriller “Bright.”


OR STAY IN! It’s beginning to look a lot like 72 hours on the couch, as Netflix busts out its big-budget, Will-Smith-sporting cop thriller, “Bright.” Here’s the setup from Isaac Feldberg in the Globe: “Directed by ‘Suicide Squad’ helmer David Ayer, the movie’s set in an alt-fantasy inversion of modern-day LA, where magical creatures like elves and orcs live alongside humans.” So, yeah! Jump right in. But with a warning: “For a story trying to shine someplace new, ‘Bright’ generally operates at little more than an enthusiastic flicker.”

And if you entered 2017 whimpering in the fetal position, you can exit by belly laughing on the sofa with James Sullivan’s picks for the 10 best comedy specials of the year. (Alternatively, you can read a book because those are still a thing.)

And that oughta do it — but whatever you choose, make it a weekend you’ll miss once it’s . . . Tuesday?

OK, I’m taking off these elf shoes now. See you next week!

Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur.