Ever since it moved Uptown from Winston-Salem 23 years ago, North Carolina Dance Theatre has staged the most enchanting celebration of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. First there was a darker, Freudian choreography by the late Salvatore Aiello, and in recent years, the more traditionally festive and candy-colored version choreographed by NCDT artistic director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux. Since landing at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in the early ’90s, each year Belk Theater is transformed into a hall of wonder. The Nutcracker is a sensational explosion of resplendent sets, eye-popping costumes, live music by the Charlotte Symphony, the grace of the adult NCDT corps augmented by legions of adorable children, and a precious young Clara who annually flies off to Tchaikovsky’s special fairyland. More than 100 dancers perform the 2013 Nutcracker at Belk, Dec. 13-22, with conveniently early curtain times, since it’s all about the kids. (Perry Tannenbaum) $25-$90
Year three of Clara’s Trip is rolling into Booth Playhouse for a three-performance engagement, beginning this Friday. It delivers Yuletide dancing, flying and a hip-hopping work-in-progress in every good sense of the phrase. The frame for this updated Nutcracker, created and presented by Caroline Calouche & Co., remains the same: Clara LeBlanc will have a nasty mishap at a holiday party that lands her in a hospital. Ah, but as Clara dozes off, her dreams become a fantasia of good friends and get-well gifts with the folks at Calouche & Co. inserting fresh twists. Very much like the early years of North Carolina Dance Theatre’s Nutcracker, design elements are evolving in successive productions of Clara’s Trip. Expect new snow, flower, candy-cane and fish costumes by Kriss Yavelak and Marie Calouche, along with new backdrops by Jennifer O’Kelly that coordinate with her lighting design. Of course, the folks at Calouche & Co. are best known for their aerial feats, so trapeze, aerial silks, stilt walking and more are also in the holiday package. (Perry Tannenbaum) $35-$45
Corny as it is, the folks at Carolina Actors Studio Theatre are bringing back A Tuna Christmas, its favorite (or so we’re guessing, based on numerous past runs — last year was an exception) holiday hell-raiser. Set in the “third smallest town in Texas,” a rambunctious Christmas Eve simmers with the vandalism of Christmas lawn displays, a production of A Christmas Carol that’s threatened by unpaid bills and the arrival of aliens from outer space. Actors Tom Ollis and Jack Utrata portray more than 20 characters (yep — that’s a lot of costume changes), including a duo of radio personalities, snowed in at the station, who report on the town’s chaotic current affairs over the airwaves. (Anita Overcash) $18-$28
DOUBLE DOOR INN 40TH ANNIVERSARY
Few establishments have the staying power to last a decade or two, let alone four, but the Double Door Inn is proudly ready to celebrate that milestone. Touted as one of the oldest music venues east of the Mississippi, this night will feature a performance by the Federal Bureau of Rock ‘n’ Roll and updated copies of the Daniel Coston/Debby Wallace book, now titled Charlotte’s Home Of The Blues: 40 Years Of The Double Door Inn. The latest version of the book includes never-before-seen photos of the infamous night Clapton played there — yeah, sure you were there.
It's Find Your Muse open mic night at The Evening Muse this and every Monday. Musicians, grab up your music gear and head over to perform one of your own creations in front of a crowd. No one can guarantee they'll be liked, but constructive criticism is always helpful! Get there early to snag a performance spot. And, if you don't play, come out to watch. You never know who might show up. $3
Brew enthusiasts can expand their knowledge — rather than just their bellies! During Growler's buzz-worthy talks, hosted by brewers and distributors, you'll learn the art of craft brewing. Free admission
In an effort to further explore African-American identity, The Gantt Center is unveiling three new exhibits. They’ll focus, more specifically, on black men through a variety of mediums. Question Bridge: Black Males, created by Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair, is a video project based around San Diego’s African-American community. Later expanded, the project asks black men to express their views on a range of topics. There’s also New Mythologies, a multi-media exhibit of works by Brooklyn-based artist William Villalongo. He uses symbolism and intricate details to make his viewers dissect the meaning in his works — interwoven with aspects of race, identity and history. It’s a fun quest. Also on exhibit: African-American Art Since 1950: Perspectives from the David C. Driskell Center, comprised of works inspired by the social, cultural and political visions of its creators, both professional and budding African-American artists. $6-$8
My pick for this week is Colors Of Christmas at Knight Theater, happening this weekend. This amazing production features four superstar performers for one incredible show of chart-topping songs as well as some holiday favorites: Peabo Bryson, CeCe Winans, Ruben Studdard and Melissa Manchester. Each artist represents well in his or her musical category: Bryson is known for his classic love songs. Winans is an award-winning gospel singer many will recognize for her time performing with brother BeBe. R&B singer Studdard, the 2003 winner of American Idol, topped the gospel charts with his 2004 album I Need An Angel. And Manchester shares her powerful voice in the adult contemporary genre. If you want something that will put you in the holiday spirit, this will do it. Not to mention, Knight Theater is an intimate venue for a show like this. (Mike Kitchen) $54.50 and up
Money. It’s the first thing you’ll probably think of when you read the title of this new exhibit at McColl Center for Visual Arts. If that’s the case, you’re partially right about the reference. This exhibit does feature what appears to be money, but also opens the doors to “creative” currency. Organized by Core Visual Art — a collective of six former McColl Center affiliate artists, including Daniel Allegrucci, Crista Camarroto, Diane Hughes, Ashley Lathe, Laura McCarthy and Felicia van Bork — the idea is to create dialogue around forms of exchange. A piece in the exhibit, inspired by the exchanging of ideas, is “State Currencies.” For it, artists came up with their own ideas of currency for all the states in the U.S., based on ongoing political drama. Folks attending the opening reception can add their two cents to an interactive work. Opening reception on Nov. 22. (Anita Overcash) Free admission
A collision of alt-country vixen Lindi Ortega’s snappy sass and Dusty Springfield’s soul-baring belting, Rachel Kate piqued interest as lead vocalist of Charleston’s rail-jumping, rollicking (and now defunct) rock ’n’ roll outfit Shaniqua Brown. Her 2013 debut solo LP With Love & Hate ditches the raw guitars and radical rhythms of SB for a stripped-down but still-intense mix of accordion, jangly acoustic guitar, shuffling drums and richly sawing cello. The result is like sweet tea spiked with ’shine, a concoction of sizzling ‘n’ sleazy Delta blues, fragile country waltzes, Nick Cave’s spindled and mutilated murder ballads, the hazy goth afterburn of Lee Hazlewood and a nostalgically sunny down-home tune penned by her father, Dave Gillon. Singing about optimism and rejuvenation along with “crybabies” and “somber assholes,” Kate splits her solo disc between paeans to love and outpourings of anger. Taking the stage in tattoos and a hand-sewn country craft dress, Rachel Kate evokes the hardscrabble Americana folk of Gillian Welch, the cow-punk tension of Cary Ann Hearst and the classic theatrical country of Patsy Cline. No paper-thin drama queen, Rachel Kate has plenty of authentic brass and compassion.
FAT FACE BAND
The Fat Facers feature three of the city’s better musical minds in a super-group of sorts. Trumpeter Matt Postle, tuba sensation Molly Jay and axe-slinger Troy Conn all exhibit the requisite chops on their respective instruments, and the unlikely instrumentation typically draws an initial “Hey, look at that crazy combo” reaction. But without the ability to mesh all that together into a cogent and compelling whole, none of that would matter a whit. Thankfully, the trio is fluent in the language of improv, turning simple onion skins into coherent musical conversations with each other. Unlike many current free-formers, though, the trio tethers their improv flights to melody and rhythm, relying on the contrast to provide the goods — which it does.
This exhibit exposes the greatness of photographer Sonia Handelman Meyer and works by other members of the long-defunct Photo League — a NYC photog group established in 1936 for budding young artists. Much of Meyer’s work focuses on social justice and presents individuals in a documentary style. From shoots at integrated hospitals to Harlem scenes, Meyer captures captivating portraits. After PL shut down in 1951, Meyer fell under the radar but her works resurfaced in Charlotte, where she moved later in her life. This showcase reminds us of photography’s ability to spur social change, a power that was very much opposed, and even dismantled, by the powers-that-be of Meyer’s time. (Anita Overcash) $5-$10; free for members and children 4 years old and under
Forget Ferris wheels, fun houses, funnel cakes, corndogs or whatever else you associate with fairs. That is not what this new Mint Museum exhibit is about. Instead, Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851-1939 showcases extravagant glass, furniture, jewelry, ceramics, metalwork and textiles. If you’re like me and decorative art at a fair seems foreign to you, that’s because in those days (remember, we’re talking 1851-1939, when technology was limited) it was a way for folks with money to make a big purchase and see new designs from around the world. Exhibition highlights include an extraordinary Fabergé tiara fashioned from hundreds of tiny rose-cut diamonds set on knife-edge mounts, which gives the tiara the appearance of woven lace. Items from Tiffany & Co., Lalique, Cartier, and Boucheron will be represented. And you thought a fair couldn’t be classy?
Since their founding in 2004, members of HRVRD — originally spelled Harvard — have been setting a standard in the local scene for musicianship and songwriting. In an environment that often seems more defined by short runs and relocations than staying power, HRVRD has lasted, stayed local and at the same time broken out into the wider world. This year, the members released the album From the Bird’s Cage on Albany, N.Y.,-based label Equal Vision Records. It continues the band’s tight, yet atmospheric sonic experimentations, but this time with an even more focused edge. HRVRD hasn’t entirely abandoned its progressive roots, but they are certainly less pronounced in the band’s latest effort. The songs are more driving and intense, but one imagines them loosening and flexing a bit in live versions. However they’re presented, you will be seeing one of the finer outfits our local music scene has created during this past decade.
Santa and his associates are an open book in David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries. The essay turned one-man seasonal stage fare made its jolly debut on an NPR broadcast. In the midst of classic holiday material, this tale polishes the ugly side of Christmas as seen through the eyes of an unemployed writer working as an elf at a department store. Yes, it sounds terrible, and yes, it is, as we learn through our protagonist’s experiences, loathing and gradual loss of pride. But listen closer to the deadpan delivery from the man with pointy ears and little green shoes and you’ll feel the full effect of Sedaris’ critique on consumer culture. This is something we tend to forget while shoving our way through the mall and swiping our plastic. Robin Tynes directs and Scott A. Miller stars as Santa’s pissy and pessimistic little helper. For more information on Three Bone Theatre, visit www.threebonetheatre.com. (Anita Overcash) $20