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Critic Tim Smith covers classical music, theater and visual arts in Baltimore and beyond
Enjoy this sublime Christmas carol while Artsmash takes a few days off

Your humble Artsmash correspondent has dared to take a few days off for Christmas. To hold you over before my next breathless post, please take a couple minutes to savor my favorite carol, "Still, Still, Still" -- such simplicity of melody, such grace and charm -- in a tender performance by the Winchester Cathedral Choir.


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ArtsCentric offers dynamic staging of 'The Color Purple'

There's enough material for at least two shows packed into "The Color Purple," the 2005 musical that had a good run on Broadway and is now enjoying a dynamic production by the ambitious company ArtsCentric.

The creative team — book by Marsha Norman; music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray — crammed as much incident as possible into this adaptation of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker. And that novel has a lot of incident.

Walker spun an absorbing story about a severely oppressed and repressed African-American woman named Celie, a story that inspired the 1985 Steven Spielberg film starring Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.

Celie's experiences over the course of 40 years include the bearing of children, in her early teens, from someone she knows as Pa; a forced marriage with an abusive man; unexpected solace and more in the embrace of a woman; and, ultimately, a path toward unaccustomed independence and self-respect.

You can't...

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Hippodrome feels the heat from reseating process

Arts patrons are used to receiving holiday greetings, usually with fundraising appeals, at this time of year. Hippodrome Theatre subscribers got a very different message about a week ago, something many of them apparently likened to an eviction notice.

A change in booking policy at the Hippodrome, from several multiweek shows to almost all one-week shows during the 2015-2016 season, will necessitate reseating thousands of people. A letter announcing the change informed subscribers of their new seat locations.

The Hippodrome has fielded over 1,000 calls from disgruntled people since then, along with any number of emails, letters and heated postings on Facebook.

Typical of the reactions is one from subscriber Joel K. Oppenheimer. He learned that his four tickets in Rows G and F of the center orchestra, which he has held for five years, would be moved to Row M, right orchestra — "practically out the door," he said.

"I always thought that you reward year-after-year subscribers with equal...

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A crush of 'Nutcrackers'

When it comes to generating keen anticipation as Christmas nears, Santa Claus isn't the only source. Every year at this time, people gear up for another appearance (or several) of "The Nutcracker," the ballet with ear-grabbing music by Tchaikovsky and a bunch of colorful characters.

As musicologist Richard Freed has written, there may be "several other ballets that are as respected or admired as this one, and several that might be considered in one sense or another more 'important,' but none that is more beloved."

In Baltimore and Annapolis, audiences can catch at least three "Nutcracker" productions the weekend before Christmas.

•There will be the third annual collaboration of Baltimore School for the Arts and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric.

•The much-traveled Moscow Ballet, with its 40 Russian dancers, returns to the Hippodrome for what is billed as the "Great Russian Nutcracker," joined onstage by 46 students honed by the...

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Affecting music for the season from Evolution Series, Folger Consort

Yes, I know it will be tough for me on Judgment Day, but I have to confess a very modest appetite for Christmas-related, or just plain holiday-related, concerts. I can happily go several years between hearing Handel's "Messiah," for instance, even though I do admire the work.

This confession is by way of explaining the paucity of reports on seasonal performances around town. I do hope you've been attending them and cheering them all heartily.

Having gotten the disclosure out of the way, let me hasten to add that I have not avoided all exposure this year to events with a holiday hook. I took in two recent concerts that, while widely different in some ways, proved very much alike in others.

On one side the historical spectrum, the excellent Folger Consort from Washington paid a welcome visit to Baltimore after an absence of several years to present "A Renaissance Christmas" program of vocal and instrumental music, ca. 1500, at the Walters Art Museum.

On the other side, there was a...

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Everyman Theatre ensnares with sizzling revival of 'Deathtrap'

Ah, Christmastime, when the nippy air is filled with heartwarming thoughts of family, friends and cold-blooded murder.

Thanks, Everyman Theatre, for providing the perfect anti-holiday entertainment — a revival of Ira Levin's good old-fashioned thriller "Deathtrap." This dose of duplicity, violence, nefariousness and more violence may just be the best spirit-lifter to come along this season.

Stick with all the usual feel-good fare, if you must (you really need to watch "Miracle on 34th Street" again?), but promise you'll catch up later with the show, which runs a couple weeks into the New Year. Everyone else can make a beeline for Fayette Street now to get in on what amounts to pretty much continuous, vicious fun for two and a half hours.

The Everyman production, directed with superb timing and tautness by director Vincent M. Lancisi, extracts just about every possible ounce of humor from "Deathtrap," the story of a well-known playwright with chronic writer's block and a would-be...

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