By Thomas Consolo
It’s officially here. This week is the official holiday edition of your weekly arts and entertainment picks. That is to say, it’s the last blast before the friendly folks at Movers & Makers take a two-week holiday hiatus. That is to say, it’ll be 2019 before you hear from us again. To help get you through it all, I’ve stretched this week’s picks to include a few events beyond our official one-week span. I’m focusing especially on when long-running events will close so you don’t accidentally miss them. (I often have that problem myself.) In the meantime, I send all of you who follow us the warmest wishes for your Christmas and New Year’s holidays – even if those aren’t actually the holidays you’ll be celebrating. See you next year.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden | 3400 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH 45220; 513-281-4700
Through Tuesday, Jan. 1: PNC Festival of Lights
The granddaddy of the region’s outdoor light displays has two weeks left. This year’s edition, boasting about 3 million LED lights strung throughout one of America’s finest zoos, was voted best zoo light show in the country by USA Today. The festival officially starts at 5 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, till 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Closed on Christmas Day.
The Mini Microcinema | 1329 Main St., Cincinnati, OH 45202
Thursday, Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m.: “La petite marchande d’allumettes”
Leave it to The Mini to find a unique take on holiday film. This year, it’s the 1928 adaptation by Frenchmen Jean Renoir and Jean Tedesco and American Charles Raleigh of Hans Christian Andersen’s short story, “The Little Match Girl.” No, it’s not exactly the feel-good story of the season, but it will touch your heart. The Mini calls the film the tree topper of the night, which also includes several Christmas-themed short films. There’ll be eggnog and cookies, too.
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center | 50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202; 513-333-7500
Thursday, Dec. 20, 2 p.m.: Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales
Among the great disservices the culturally European world does to Africa’s rich heritage is homogenizing it into a single, continental culture. That, of course, is about as logical as declaring Bulgarians and Britons, Swedes and Spaniards all the same. Nelson Mandela selected 32 tales from across the continent – from as far afield as Morocco, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya – in the hope of perpetuating Africa’s oldest stories and spreading them to children throughout the world. This program presents the tales as they were heard – orally.
Christ Church Cathedral | 318 E. Fourth St.; Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-621-1817
Sunday, Dec. 23, 5 p.m.: Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 29 and 30: The Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival
Thanks to the radio, people around the world in the 20th century were able to hear the lessons and carols service from King’s College, Cambridge. Though it seems age-old, the service in fact was created only in 1918. It’s since become the template for similar services around the world and across several denominations. The region’s Episcopal cathedral offers its version Sunday, preceded by harpist Elizabeth Motter at 4:30 p.m. If you can’t get there in person, you can still get a taste of the experience; it will be streamed live here.
The boar’s head feast, by contrast, is indeed age-old, dating to at least mid-14th century Oxford, England. The boar being symbolized as a nemesis to man and centerpiece of a winter feast may date to Roman days. Retooled with Christian symbolism, such festivals crossed the Atlantic in the late 19th century to become a common and treasured annual event in many U.S. cities. Cincinnati’s oldest feast dates to 1939 at Christ Church. You can join the tradition at one of three performances, 5 p.m. Dec. 29 and 30 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 30.
The Comet | The Comet, 4579 Hamilton Ave., Cincinnati OH 45223; 513-541-8900
Wednesday-Friday, Dec. 19-21, 8:30 p.m.: “The Steve Schmidt Xmas Schmidtacular”
One of Cincinnati’s best holiday jazz traditions returns as the Steve Schmidt Organ Trio gathers with friends for three nights of holiday shows – 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. each night – at Northside’s venerable Comet. Vocalists Adia Dobbins (Wednesday and Thursday) and Amy London, from New York (Friday), add their voices to the mix. Get there early to make sure you get a seat.
Knox Church | 3400 Michigan Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45208; 513-321-2573
Saturday, Dec. 23, 4 p.m.: “Messiah”
I know, we’ve had plenty of “Messiah” performances over the past few weeks. Maybe some of you couldn’t get to any of the previous offerings. Maybe you’d like to hear it again. Either way, the Knox Choir under Earl Rivers is always one of the best in town, so it should be a rewarding experience.
Memorial Hall | 1225 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-977-8838
Friday-Sunday, Dec. 21-23: “An Acoustic Christmas with Over the Rhine”
Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, the heart of Over the Rhine, have been doing Christmas shows every year for more than two decades. The performances have remained consistently genuine and touching. This year, they’re going acoustic in the friendly confines of Memorial Hall with the help of Leigh Nash. Expect to hear songs from the group’s three Christmas albums and other seasonal tunes, performed with the unmistakable OtR sound. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. A few tickets remain.
Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra | 3800 Victory Pkwy., Cincinnati, OH 45207; 513-723-1182 x102
Friday-Sunday, Dec. 21-23: “Amahl and the Night Visitors”
Opera and network television don’t often appear in the same sentence, but on Christmas Eve 1951, NBC broadcast the world premiere of “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” a work the network had commissioned of Gian Carlo Menotti. The conductor was Thomas Schippers, who would be named music director of the Cincinnati Symphony in 1970. The CCO teams up with a handful of singers, Pones Inc. dancers, Madcap Puppets and a choir of alumni from Miami and Xavier universities for a special production at Xavier’s Gallagher Center Theater (parking entrance: 1452 Dana Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45207). Tom Merrill conducts. Three performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
As one might expect, every theater company in the region is mounting a holiday production. Whether they’re old favorites or new presents to unwrap, they’re all worth a look. Here’s a quick roundup (with closing dates) to help you plan your trips to the theater.
• “A Christmas Carol”: Playhouse in the Park’s mainstage adaptation of the Dickens classic is officially a local holiday tradition. Runs through Dec. 29 in the Marx Theatre (962 Mount Adams Circle, Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-421-3888).
• “Alice in Wonderland”: Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic runs through Dec. 30 (1127 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-421-3555).
• “Cincinnati King”: The world premiere musical celebrates Cincinnati’s rich musical legacy through the history of King Records. Through Dec. 23 at the Playhouse in the Park’s Shelterhouse Theatre (962 Mount Adams Circle, Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-421-3888).
• “Every Christmas Story Ever Told”: Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s 13th annual, funny and slightly risqué romp through sundry Christmas tales. Through Dec. 30 at the Budig Theater (1195 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-381-2273).
• “White Christmas”: This production is based on the 1954 color film with Rosie Clooney, not the 1942 black-and-white “Holiday Inn,” for which the song “White Christmas” was written. Through Dec. 31 at La Comedia Dinner Theatre (765 W. Central Ave., Springboro, OH 45066; 937-746-4554 or 800-677-9505).
Again, these exhibitions and events wrap up the year’s end. Don’t miss them.
• “Life: Gillian Wearing”: The Cincinnati Art Museum’s major exhibition featuring the British conceptual artist Gillian Wearing, winner of the 1997 Turner Prize. Through Dec. 30 in the museum’s Schiff Gallery (953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-721-2787 [ARTS]).
• “Ping: Small Works with Big Impact”: Striking textile works by Cincinnati artist Abby Langdon from her new series, “Correspondence.” Through Dec. 22 at Marta Hewett Gallery (1310 Pendleton St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-281-2780).
• “Queen City of the West”: Los Angeles-based artist Drew Heitzler is interested in the associative power of images. For “Queen City of the West,” he created a map of connectivity centering on Cincinnati that features symbols, snapshots and designs from the city’s history. At the 21C Museum Hotel (609 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-578-6600) through Dec. 31.
• “Timescapes”: The climax of FotoFocus may have been a couple months ago, but some shows still linger, like this collection that combines and juxtaposes landscape images to make archival art a legitimate genre. At Wash Park Art through Saturday, Dec. 22 (1215 Elm St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-291-3626). Closing reception 5 p.m. Saturday.
• Yuletide 2018: Local holiday craft works for sale at 1305 Gallery (1305 Main St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-253-4709). Through Dec. 23.