This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001


The Sigafoos’ Christmas tree pulls into Rock Center earlier this month (photo courtesy TODAY show)

The Sigafoos’ Norwegian spruce pulls into Rock Center earlier this month from Pennsylvania (photo courtesy TODAY show)

Over the next few weeks, Christmas trees and menorahs will be lit all over the city, accompanied by live performances, seasonal treats, special guests, and family-friendly activities, all free. Below are only some of the many highlights as the Big Apple prepares for the holidays.

Park Slope Holiday Tree Lighting
Fifth Ave. at Third St.
Saturday, November 29, 6:30
Live music by Amy Miles, carols by Opera on Tap, crafts, puppet shows, cookies, marshmallows, hot chocolate, popcorn, children's activities, Santa and Frosty the Snowman

winters eve

Fifteenth Annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square
Dante Park, Broadway between 63rd & 64th Sts., Time Warner Center, David Rubenstein Atrium
Monday, December 1, 5:30 - 9:00
Emcee Billy Porter, ice sculpting, live performances by Arlo Guthrie and family, Alice Farley Dance Theater, Golem, Spuyten Duyvil, Batala NYC, the Lucky Chops Brass Band, M.A.K.U. SoundSystem, the N’Harmonics, Uptown Vocal, the Cafe Wha? House Band, the Jazzmeia Horn Quartet, Bach Vespers, Annika, Hungry March Band, Raya Brass Band, Shinbone Alley Stilt Band, Dylan Meek, Elena Ayodele Pinderhughes, the Hot Sardines, Yaz Band, Mariachi Real De Mexico, the Suzi Shelton Band, the Big Apple Circus, Chinese Lion Dancers, Kinky Boots, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, dance groups, WNET characters, a screening of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, food tastings ($1-$4), Sesame Street’s Digital Playground & Walkaround Abby Cadabby

The South Street Seaport’s Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
Fulton St. at Front St.
Tuesday, December 2, 5:45
Live music, family-friendly activities, more

Winter Village Tree Lighting
Bryant Park
40th - 42nd Sts. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Tuesday, December 2, 6:00
Details to be announced

Eighty-Second Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting
Rockefeller Plaza, between West 48th and West 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues
Wednesday, December 3, 7:00 - 9:00
Musical guests to be announced; tree will remain lit through January 7

Central Park Conservancy’s Eighteenth Annual Dana Holiday Lighting
Charles A. Dana Discovery Center inside the park at 110th St. & Malcolm X Blvd.
Thursday, December 4, 5:30 - 6:30
Flotilla of more than twenty illuminated trees on Harlem Meer, live ice carving, photos with Santa and his elves, Christmas carols, and hot cocoa and cookies

Christmas in Richmond Town: Traditional Tree Lighting
Historic Richmond Town, Staten Island
441 Clarke Ave.
Sunday, December 7, 5:00
Festivities begin at 11:00 am ($2 per person, six and under free) with shopping village, carolers, storytelling, Santa Claus, tours, Bell Choir, horse & carriage rides ($2, two and under free), free Christmas tree lighting at 5:00

Carl Schurz Park Holiday Tree Lighting
East 86th St. at East End Ave.
Sunday, December 7, 5:00
Christmas carols, Cantori choir, Orbital Brass, candlelight, candy canes, and hot chocolate

The Park Avenue Tree Lighting
Outside Brick Presbyterian Church, Park Ave. at 91st St.
Sunday, December 7, 6:30
Annual lighting of trees along Park Ave. Malls between 54th & 97th Sts., starting with tree outside Brick Presbyterian Church

Mad. Sq. Holiday 2014
Madison Square Park
23rd - 26th Sts. between Madison & Fifth Aves.
Tuesday, December 9, 3:30
Live performances by Audra Rox and cast members of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, horticultural workshop with a red twig dogwood planting led by Gardener Steph, Reading Rangers storytelling, Gingerbread Boulevard, seasonal treats from Hill Country Chicken, SD26, and Frittering Away, tree lighting at 5:00

Washington Square Park tree will be lit on December 10 (photo courtesy )

Washington Square Park tree will be lit on December 10 (photo courtesy Washington Square Park Blog)

The Washington Square Park Tree Lighting
Washington Square Park Arch at Fifth Ave.
Wednesday, December 10, 6:00
Live music by the Rob Susman Brass Quartet, songbooks for caroling, Santa Claus

Holiday on the Hudson
West Harlem Piers Park, West 125th & Marginal Sts.
Saturday, December 13, 5:00
Live music by the All-City High School Chorus, holiday decorations workshop, more

Zuccotti Park Holiday Lighting
Broadway & Liberty St.
Saturday, December 13, 5:30
Live music by the Manhattan Dolls and Metropolitan Klezmer, sweet treats, more

World’s Largest Menorah will be lit nightly in Grand Army Plaza (photo courtesy Chabad Park Slope)

World’s Largest Menorah will be lit nightly during Hanukkah in Grand Army Plaza (photo courtesy Chabad Park Slope)

World’s Largest Menorah
Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn
December 16-23, 6:00
Live music, hot latkes, gifts for kids

World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah
Grand Army Plaza, Manhattan
Fifth Ave. between 58th & 59th Sts.
December 16-23, 6:00



Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) and Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) take a look at their lives in Richard Linklater’s brilliant BOYHOOD

BOYHOOD (Richard Linklater, 2014)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Sunday, November 30, 2:00
Series runs through January 16
Tickets: $12, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk beginning at 9:30 am

Since 2002, Austin auteur Richard Linklater has made a wide range of successful films, from the family-friendly School of Rock and Bad News Bears to the second and third parts of the more adult Before series (Before Sunset, Before Midnight), with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, in addition to the Philip K. Dick thriller A Scanner Darkly and the Jack Black black comedy Bernie. But during that entire period he was also making one of the grandest films ever about childhood, the deceptively simple yet mind-blowingly complex Boyhood. The work follows Mason Evans Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) as he goes from six years old to eighteen, maturing for real as both the actor and the character grow up before our eyes. As the film begins, Mason, his older sister, Samantha (Linklater’s real-life daughter, Lorelei), and their mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), are preparing to move to Houston just as their usually absent father, Mason Sr. (Hawke), returns from a job in Alaska, supposedly ready to be a more regular part of their lives. But his emotional immaturity leads to divorce, and Mason Jr. spends the next dozen years dealing with school, stepfathers, and the normal machinations of everyday life, including sex, drugs, rock and roll, and, for him, a determination from an early age to become an artist. Along the way, his sister and parents experience significant changes as well as they all learn lessons about life, love, and loss.


Olivia (Patricia Arquette) reads to children Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) in BOYHOOD

To make the film, the cast and crew met every year for three or four days of shooting, with writer-director Linklater moving the story ahead by incorporating real elements from Coltrane’s life that add to the natural ease and flow of the story. Despite the obvious difficulties of maintaining continuity over a dozen years, cinematographers Lee Daniel and Shane Kelly and editor Sandra Adair do a masterful job of keeping the narrative right on track. It’s breathtaking to see Mason Jr. go upstairs in one scene, then come downstairs a year later, ready for something new, dressed slightly differently, with a little more facial hair, to signal the change in time. (Linklater also uses the soundtrack to note the passing years, with songs by Coldplay, the Hives, Cat Power, Gnarls Barkley, the Flaming Lips, and others.) Mason Jr.’s unique relationship with each parent and his sister is utterly believable, complete with all the pluses and minuses that entails; at one point, Lorelei, tired of being in the movie, asked her father to kill off her character, and even that energy is apparent onscreen. In addition to Coltrane’s career-making performance, Hawke and Arquette are sensational, doing something no other actors before them have ever done. You won’t be bored for a second of this two-hour, forty-minute journey with a relatively average American family that helps define the modern human condition like no other single film before it. “Photography is truth . . . and cinema is truth twenty-four times a second,” Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor) tells Véronica Dreyer (Anna Karina) in Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Petit Soldat. With Boyhood, that statement has rarely been so true. Boyhood is screening November 30 at 2:00 in MoMA’s annual series “The Contenders” and will be followed by a Q&A with Linklater and Hawke. The series, which consists of films the institution believes will stand the test of time, continues with such other 2014 works as Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (followed by a discussion with star Tilda Swinton), Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, and Isao Takahata’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya.


CURIOUS INCIDENT star Alex Sharp will be at the National Museum of Mathematics on December 8 to talk about math’s role in play (photo by Joan Marcus)

CURIOUS INCIDENT star Alex Sharp will be at the National Museum of Mathematics on December 8 to talk about math’s role in multimedia play (photo by Joan Marcus)

National Museum of Mathematics
11 East 26th St. between Madison & Fifth Aves.
Monday, December 8, $14, 6:30

One of the most exciting shows on Broadway right now is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, the London import based on the award-winning 2003 novel by Mark Haddon, about a fifteen-year-old boy who is obsessed with prime numbers. On December 8, Alex Sharp, who gives an extraordinary performance as Christopher John Francis Boone, the teen with a kind of Asperger’s syndrome who is on the hunt for a canine murderer, will be at the National Museum of Mathematics next to Madison Square Park for the intriguing special program “Broadway Intersections: The Math Behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.” Sharp will be joined by MoMath founder Glen Whitney for a discussion on the role of math in the play, followed by an audience Q&A. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time brings math to life in an extraordinary fashion, and MoMath is thrilled to offer the opportunity for people to gain a deeper understanding of Christopher’s journey to self-discovery,” Whitney said in a statement. The show, running at the Ethel Barrymore, concludes with a wild postcurtain display of mathematics by Sharp that is certain to be a focus of this supercool event.


New York City’s Jane Lee Hooker, consisting of five women (from such bands as Nashville Pussy, Bad Wizard, Helldorado, and the Wives) who blast out traditional blues in a flurry of intoxicating aggression, will be celebrating the release of its debut album, No B!, on November 30 at Mercury Lounge with the Steepwater Band. The fast and furious No B! includes such hot tracks as the old spiritual “Wade in the Water,” Johnny Winter’s “Mean Town Blues,” Ray Charles’s “I Believe to My Soul,” the rollicking “In the Valley,” and Muddy Waters’s “Champaign and Reefer” and, appropriately enough, “Mannish Boy.” Lead singer Dana Danger Athens really lets it rip, with Tracy High Top and Tina T-Bone Gorin on guitars, Hail Mary Z on bass, and Melissa Cool Whip Houston on drums. Jane Lee Hooker is no mere novelty act with an ultra-cool name; this band knows the blues down to their souls, so get ready to have your ass kicked.


(photo by Joan Marcus)

Terry Connor (Ryan Silverman) and Buddy Foster (Matthew Hydzik) try to convince conjoined twins Daisy (Emily Padgett) and Violet (Erin Davie) to leave their Texas freak show for vaudeville stardom in SIDE SHOW (photo by Joan Marcus)

St. James Theatre
246 West 44th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through April 26, $49 - $145

Oscar-winning writer-director Bill Condon makes a rousing Broadway debut with Side Show, a wonderful revival of the Tony-nominated 1997 musical about real-life conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. In Depression-era Texas, the daring, outgoing Daisy (Emily Padgett) and the shy, reserved Violet (Erin Davie) are the stars of a freak show run by a controlling ringmaster they call Sir (Robert Joy), who considers them his daughters while also overseeing the rest of his wild menagerie, which includes the 3 Legged Man (Brandon Bieber), the Geek (Matthew Patrick Davis), Venus di Milo (Lauren Elder), Dog Boy (Javier Ignacio), Reptile Man (Don Richard), the Half Man/ Half Woman (Kelvin Moon Loh), the Bearded Lady (Blair Ross), the Fortune Teller (Charity Angel Dawson), and the small Cossack Male (Josh Walker) and Cossack Woman (Jordanna James). When talent agent Terry Connor (Ryan Silverman) sees the twins, who are joined at the hip, he instantly visualizes them becoming stars on the vaudeville circuit. He has his partner, Buddy Foster (Matthew Hydzik), teach them song-and-dance routines, but when they’re at last ready and willing to leave the side show, the dastardly Sir stands in their way, and a thrilling tabloid-tale court battle ensues, also involving Sir’s right-hand man, Jake (David St. Louis), who serves as the twins’ protector. After the court’s decision, Buddy is soon falling for Violet, who Jake also deeply admires, while Daisy sets her sights on Terry. The romantic pentagon comes to a climax at an extravagant New Year’s Eve celebration that has the talented twins wondering if they might just be better off living separately, risking all on a potentially deadly operation.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Jake (David St. Louis) tells Daisy (Emily Padgett) and Violet (Erin Davie) that the devil they know might be better than the devil they don’t in stirring revival (photo by Joan Marcus)

Padgett (Rock of Ages, Legally Blonde) and Davie (Grey Gardens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood) are terrific as Daisy and Violet, respectively, beautifully displaying the characters’ emotional hopes and fears as a new world opens up to them that threatens their unique relationship. Joy (The Nerd, Hay Fever) is deliciously dastardly as Sir, while Silverman (Passion) and Hydzik (West Side Story) make a fine duo, the former full of smooth-talking charm, the latter sweet melancholy. St. Louis (Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar) brings down the house early on with a powerful rendition of “The Devil You Know” that shakes the rafters. Bill Russell’s lyrics and Henry Krieger’s (Dreamgirls, The Tap Dance Kid) music flow nearly imperceptibly from the exemplary book, which was written by Russell with new material by Condon, wisely never overdoing the idea that’s it’s okay to be different. The score, which contains additions and subtractions from the original production, features such moving numbers as “Cut Them Apart / I Will Never Leave You,” “Stuck with You / Leave Me Alone,” and the gorgeous “Who Will Love Me as I Am?” while such words as “connected,” “ties,” “bind,” “join,” “glue,” etc., become sly nods to the conjoined-twins aspect of the tale. David Rockwell’s eye-catching set has a sweet Gothic touch, while Paul Tazewell’s costumes, from the Hilton sisters’ gowns to the freaks’ general appearance, are simply fab. Condon and choreographer Anthony Van Laast do a marvelous job of keeping the twins together through most of the show, except for one breathtaking, memorable moment. If you want to find out more about the Hilton sisters after seeing the show, seek out Leslie Zemeckis’s 2012 documentary, Bound by Flesh, which includes plenty of archival photographs and film footage.


Gloria Grahame and Humphrey Bogart in IN A LONELY PLACE

Gloria Grahame and Humphrey Bogart encounter some difficulties in Beverly Hills in Nicholas Ray’s IN A LONELY PLACE

IN A LONELY PLACE (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Saturday, November 29, 2:00 & 7:00
Series runs November 26 - December 9

Humphrey Bogart stars in Nicholas Ray’s powerful, intense film about a cynical Hollywood screenwriter with a violent side. Dixon Steele (Bogart, in one of his strongest performances) is asked to write a screenplay based on a pulpy romance he has little interest in, so he brings home a coat-check girl (Martha Stewart) who has read the book so she can tell him the story. The girl turns up dead, and Steele, known for his drunken forays and abuse of women, is the main suspect. Aspiring star Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame), who has recently moved into the same Beverly Hills apartment complex, supplies an alibi for Steele, but she might have ulterior motives for doing so. Ray’s moody, introspective gem keeps you guessing until the very end. Ray (They Live by Night, Rebel Without a Cause) was briefly married to Grahame (The Bad and the Beautiful, Oklahoma!); they divorced when she had an affair with Ray’s teenage son, whom she later wed and had two children with. In a Lonely Place is screening November 29 at 2:00 & 7:00 as part of the BAMcinématek series “Sunshine Noir,” a two-week festival being held in conjunction with the Next Wave Festival presentation of Gabriel Kahane’s The Ambassador, a visual and musical exploration of Los Angeles, directed by John Tiffany. The film series runs November 26 - December 9 and includes such other L.A.-set works as Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, Brian De Palma’s Body Double, Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey, Joseph Losey’s remake of M, and Robert Mulligan’s The Nickel Ride.


The Man (Hugh Jackman) and the Woman (Cush Jumbo) discuss life over dinner in THE RIVER (photo © 2014 Richard Termine)

The Man (Hugh Jackman) and the Woman (Cush Jumbo) discuss life and love in THE RIVER (photo © 2014 Richard Termine)

Circle in the Square Theatre
1633 Broadway at 50th St.
Tuesday - Sunday through February 8, $35 - $175

British playwright Jez Butterworth has followed up his brilliant, Tony-nominated Broadway hit, Jerusalem, with The River, a perplexing, comparatively slight tale in both length and scope. Hugh Jackman is superb as the Man, who has brought the Woman (Cush Jumbo) to his family’s fishing cabin on a cliff above a river stuffed to the gills with trout. On ULTZ’s rustic set that cuts through the audience, the Man and the Woman discuss fishing, poetry, sunsets, and interior design. She sings W. B. Yeats’s “The Song of the Wandering Aengus” and he removes a splinter from her using a rather large knife. She disappears during a nighttime fishing excursion and he desperately calls the police until she finally shows up, this time as the Other Woman (Laura Donnelly), both she and the Man acting as if nothing has changed, picking up the narrative as easily as a stream progresses down a mountain. Over the course of a lean eighty-five minutes (Jerusalem clocked in at three hours), the Woman and the Other Woman keep replacing each other as they individually explore the meaning of their relationship with the Man, who may or may not be a true romantic. But there is no doubt that, above all else, he is indeed a man, proud of his fishing heritage, swilling whiskey, and having fun with sharp objects.

The Man (Hugh Jackman) and the Other Woman (Laura Donnelly) discuss life and love in THE RIVER (photo © 2014 Richard Termine)

The Man (Hugh Jackman) and the Other Woman (Laura Donnelly) discuss life and love in THE RIVER (photo © 2014 Richard Termine)

Originally performed in London’s tiny Royal Court upstairs theater with Dominic West (The Wire, The Affair) as the Man, Miranda Raison as the Woman, and Donnelly as the Other Woman, The River is more like a Raymond Carver-esque short story filtered through the labyrinthine mind of Jorge Luis Borges than a fully realized theatrical production. That said, what there is of it is, for the most part, intimate and entertaining, until things get out of control in the last twenty minutes, resulting in too much obfuscation, confusion, and mystery in an attempt at philosophical grandeur. The Australian Jackman could barely be any more manly as the Man, waxing poetic over the art of fishing in long soliloquies while wearing thigh-high Wellingtons, a smartly nuanced performance worthy of his ever-growing stature. The English Jumbo (Josephine and I) and the Irish Donnelly, (Judgment Day; Philadelphia, Here I Come!) are fine foils for Jackman, going head-to-head and toe-to-toe with him as various truths come out — or remain hidden. Butterworth, who has also written such plays as The Winterling and The Night Heron and is an in-demand screenwriter as well (Edge of Tomorrow, Get On Up), has cast his line far into the water, but he doesn’t reel in quite the catch he could have. The night we went, there was an extra bonus, as after the play, Jackman auctioned off his shirts and a trip to the backstage bedroom for Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS, raising more than ten thousand dollars as he thoroughly enraptured the adoring crowd with his natural elegance and charming sense of humor.