In December, Mary Poppins returns, Moby plays, and the annual run of holiday shows and concerts begin. Our Seattle Times arts writers dish on next month’s most buzzworthy arts and entertainment events.

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From Mary Poppins to Moby, “Nutcracker” to a nutso number of holiday shows, here are arts-and-entertainment events to keep you merry throughout December.



“Mary Poppins Returns”

Why am I feeling so curiously optimistic about this movie (which, at the time of this writing, I haven’t yet seen)? Is it because Emily Blunt, who plays the title nanny in this sequel to the peerless 1964 Julie Andrews classic, seems incapable of giving a performance that isn’t charming? Is it because the presence of Lin-Manuel Miranda, as a Cockney lamplighter, lightens my “Hamilton“-loving heart? Is it because I’ve watched the trailer way too many times and covet Mary Poppins’ smartly caped coat? Or have I just had too many spoonfuls of sugar today? Anyway, chim-chim-cheree, the gang at Disney who dreamed this up have got a lot of nerve, and entire generations of us are hoping they didn’t screw it up. It’ll probably make a fortune either way.

Opening Dec. 19 at multiple theaters; advance tickets available at

Moira Macdonald


KEXP Yule benefit: Moby

The beloved station‘s annual fundraising concert should be one to remember, with inventive electronic composer Moby partnering with members of the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra. Moby recalibrated some of his best-known songs for this one-off orchestral performance, conducted by PNB’s Emil de Cou. A truly unique gig to support a Seattle institution.

8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, McCaw Hall, 305 Harrison St., Seattle; $49.50-$99.50,

Michael Rietmulder


Run the Holiday-Show Gantlet

It’s that time of year again, when Seattle stuffs its collective stocking with so! many! holiday! shows!, from the traditional to the bonkers. You could make a whole day of it, from warm fuzzies at a matinee to cold pricklies in the evening. A brief overview: “A Christmas Carol” at ACT Theatre; “The Dina Martina Christmas Show” at ACT Theatre; “Scott Shoemaker’s War on Christmas” at Re-bar; “A Very Die Hard Christmas” by sketch-comedy group The Habit at Seattle Public Theater; “Christmastown: A Holiday Noir” by Wayne Rawley, also at Seattle Public Theater; the Book-It adaptation of Willa Cather’s “My Ántonia” (which has some Christmas-y themes); “Jingle All the Way” by Seattle Men’s Chorus at Everett Civic Auditorium and Benaroya Hall; “Homo for the Holidays: Jingle All the Gay!” at Oddfellows West Hall; “Murder on the Mistletoe Express,” by delightfully weird local playwright Scot Augustson, at Cafe Nordo; “Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker” at the Triple Door; “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” at Taproot Theatre; “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” also at Taproot; (pant — hold on, I’m catching my breath — pant); “Sugar Plum Gary,” a grimly funny, solo-show creation from comedian/storyteller Emmett Montgomery at 18th & Union; “To Jesus, Thanks for Everything!” by “RuPaul’s Drag Race” stars Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme at Neptune Theatre; “Wonderland,” a winter-themed dance/burlesque show at the Can Can; “A Christmas Carol” and “Christmas Carol Junior” (like “A Christmas Carol,” but with kid-friendly elves instead of ghosts) at Second Story Repertory; and, um, more? Haven’t you suffered enough?

All month, all across town.

Brendan Kiley


“The Nutcracker”

Complete with tutu’d snowflakes and flowers, gargantuan mice, a 40-foot Christmas tree and 30 cubic feet of fake snow (per performance!), Pacific Northwest Ballet’s enjoyably giant-sized “Nutcracker” continues throughout the month, with choreography by George Balanchine, sets and costumes by Ian Falconer (love the stripes!) and music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It’s mostly a colorful spectacle for families (and a showcase for many talented PNB School students), and rightly so, but there’s some gorgeous dancing hiding within, particularly in the quietly noble Sugar Plum Fairy/Cavalier pas de deux in Act II.

Through Dec. 28; Pacific Northwest Ballet, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $37-$209; 206-441-2424,

Moira Macdonald


Seattle Symphony presents Handel’s “Messiah”

One of the region’s beloved traditions, the SSO “Messiah” is different every year because of changes in soloists, conductors, and the inclusion or omission of various arias and choruses. This time, “triple threat” Dmitry Sinkovsky will be the conductor and violinist … and countertenor soloist, too. Yulia Van Doren is the soprano soloist, with Colin Balzer, tenor, and baritone soloist Michael Kelly.

8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14; 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec, 15; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16; Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $24-$89, 206-215-4747,

Melinda Bargreen






Rebecca Makkai

A 2018 National Book Award finalist for her novel “The Great Believers,” Makkai comes to Hugo House for a Craft Talk titled “Researching Into the Void,” in which she’ll discuss techniques for researching characters whose lives are unlike our own.

7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1; Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave., Seattle; free; 206-322-7030,

Erika Lee

Author of “The Making of Asian America: A History” and a professor at the University of Minnesota, Lee will present this year’s A. Scott Bullitt Lecture, on the topic of “A History of American Xenophobia from Japanese-American Incarceration to the ‘Muslim Ban.’ ”

7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1; Seattle First Baptist Church, 1111 Harvard Ave., Seattle; free; 206-624-6600,

Bob Peterson

Seattle-based photographer Peterson, whose 60-year career included stints at Life and Sports Illustrated, will speak in conversation with artist and sculptor Tony Angella about his newest collection of photographs, called simply “Bob Peterson.”

6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3; University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., Seattle; free; 800-335-7323, Also at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10; Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., Seattle; free; 206-624-6600, elliottbay

Octavio Solis

An acclaimed playwright for more than 30 years (his works include “Lydia,” performed here last year at Strawberry Theater Workshop), Solis comes to Town Hall to speak about his new memoir about his childhood, “Retablos: Stories From a Life Lived Along the Border.”

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4; Rainier Arts Center, 3515 S. Alaska St., Seattle; $5; 206-652-4255,

Christopher Sandford

A Seattle- and London-based author and biographer (“Masters of Mystery: The Strange Friendship of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini”), Sandford will discuss his latest book, “The Man Who Would Be Sherlock: The Real Life Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle.”

6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5; University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., Seattle; free; 800-335-7323, Also at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12; Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., Seattle; free; 206-624-6600, elliottbay

Randy Shaw

Shaw, director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic in San Francisco (a provider of housing for homeless single adults), will speak with journalist Monica Guzman about his new book, “Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America.”

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6; The Summit on Pike, 420 E. Pike St., Seattle; $5; 206-652-4255,

Martha Brockenbrough

Author of “Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary,” Seattle-based Brockenbrough will speak about her latest work of nonfiction, “Unpresidented: A Biography of Donald Trump.”

7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7; University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., Seattle; free; 800-335-7323,

Barbara Kinney

A former photojournalist for The Seattle Times, Kinney was an official photographer for President Bill Clinton and later official photographer for Hillary Clinton’s two presidential campaigns. Her new book, “#StillWithHer,” documents those campaigns, with a foreword from Secretary Clinton. She’ll be joined onstage by Florangela Davila, managing editor of Crosscut.

7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8; Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., Seattle; free; 206-624-6600,

Stephanie Stokes Oliver

A Seattle native and former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, Oliver’s at Third Place Books celebrating the paperback release of her book “Black Ink: Literary Legends on the Peril, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing,” a collection of great black American literature including authors from Frederick Douglass to Ta-Nehisi Coates.

7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10; Third Place Books at Seward Park, 5041 Wilson Ave. S., Seattle; free; 206-474-2200,

Moira Macdonald:



Turtle Island Quartet

This genre-bending, Grammy-winning ensemble is always fresh and imaginative. This time, the foursome offers Winter’s Eve, a concert of winter music and year-end celebrations from around the globe. How about a musical melding of J.S. Bach’s “Air on the G String” and Miles Davis’ “Seven Steps to Heaven”? Or a reworking of Vivaldi’s “Winter” (from “The Four Seasons”) as “Thin Ice”? Plus pieces from Ireland, India and Israel.

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8; Gerlich Theater at Meany Hall, University of Washington; $46-$54, youth 5-17 free (two per paid adult); 206-543-4880,

Seattle Pro Musica presents “Silent Night”

Marking 100 years since the end of WWI, this program of English, French and German carols conveys the spirit of the “Christmas truce” that took place in the trenches during the war: 100,000 English, French and German troops ceased hostilities to offer holiday greetings, mingle and even exchange gifts. This month also marks the 200th anniversary of the beloved carol “Silent Night,” by Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr.

3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, Seattle First Baptist Church, 1111 Harvard Ave., Seattle; 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, Chapel at Bastyr University, 14500 Juanita Drive N.E., Kenmore; $12-$38; 206-781-2766,

We Three Kings: The Irish Tenors Holiday Concert

The famous Irish Tenors — Ronan Tynan, Anthony Kearns and Finbar Wright — offer a program of traditional, well-known holiday classics and Irish ballads, in an evening of stories and song that should charm even a determined curmudgeon into the holiday spirit.
 And it’s nice to know that proceeds from this show go to benefit the programs and services of Ballard NW Senior Center.

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18; Benaroya Hall, 200 University Street, Seattle; $55-$150; 206-215-4747,

Baroque String Extravaganza

Byron Schenkman & Friends present some of the region’s premiere period-instrument performers in a baroque program that includes “Winter” from Vivaldi’s beloved “The Four Seasons.”

7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 30; Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall; $10-$48; 206-215-4747,

Melinda Bargreen:



“Merce 100: Seattle Artists Respond to Merce”

In the dance world, this is the Year of Merce — an international centennial celebration of choreographer Merce Cunningham, the local boy (born in Centralia; met the love of his life, John Cage, at Cornish) who utterly transformed the contemporary dance world. Born in 1919, he first studied with tap dancers and vaudevillians, eventually joined Martha Graham’s dance company, then kept chasing his avant-garde horizons, working with Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, the I Ching, computers (before that was fashionable), Radiohead and so much more. His legacy is so revolutionary, it still baffles neat encapsulation. Intrigued? As part of the Cunningham Centennial, Velocity presents a weekend of workshops (for dancers and non-dancers), plus Cunningham-inspired performances by an appropriately eclectic range of dancers, artists and writers including Donald Byrd, Kate Wallich, Christiana Axelsen, Daniel Roberts (a former member of Cunningham’s company) and others.

Dec. 14-16; Velocity Dance Center, 1621 12th Ave., Seattle; $15-$25;

Brendan Kiley:



Tickets are already on sale for the following movies:


Writer/director Alfonso Cuarón (“Gravity,” “Children of Men”) looks back on his Mexican childhood in “Roma,” a beautifully filmed black-and-white drama about family, love and memory. It’s screening for a brief run at Cinerama, and will look stunning on that enormous screen; see it there if you can.

Dec. 6-9 and 14-19; Cinerama, 2100 Fourth Ave., Seattle; 206-448-6680, Also opening Dec. 7 at Landmark Crest.

“It’s a Wonderful Life”

One of Seattle’s most enduring — and endearing — holiday traditions gets underway Dec. 7: the annual Grand Illusion run of Frank Capra’s 1946 classic, featuring James Stewart as the Bedford Falls businessman who learns to his joy (and ours) that it is, indeed, a wonderful life. Now in its 48th year, the screenings begin with a Christmas gift for everyone: The 6:30 p.m. showing on the 7th is free for everyone (but get there early; the theater’s small).

Dec. 7-27; Grand Illusion Cinema, 1403 N.E. 50th St., Seattle; $9; 206-523-3935, (note that tickets are only sold in-person)


The DC Comics half-Atlantean/half-human superhero, played by Jason Momoa, finally gets his very own movie (he appeared in “Justice League” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice“). James Wan (“The Conjuring,” “Furious 7“) directs, and the cast also includes Amber Heard, Dolph Lundgren, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe and (be still my heart!) the voice of Julie Andrews.

Opens Dec. 21 at multiple theaters;

Moira Macdonald:



Kinski 20th anniversary

After dropping their fuzzed-up new album, “Accustomed to Your Face,” earlier this year, the local psych-rock crushers celebrate 20 years of bandhood with two shows on either end of the city. The weekend of Kinski also coincides with the remastered vinyl release (through Kill Rock Stars) of the band’s classic “Be Gentle With the Warm Turtle” LP. Kinski plays side one (among other songs) Friday, Dec. 7, at the Sunset and side two Saturday, Dec. 8, at Clock-Out.

9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7; Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave. N.W., Seattle; $12; 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8; Clock-Out Lounge, 4864 Beacon Ave. S., Seattle; $12-$15;

Lil Mosey

One year ago, Lil Mosey was unknown even to most local hip-hop observers. But the Mountlake Terrace teen’s viral hit “Pull Up” sparked a whirlwind year that saw the young rapper moving to L.A., touring with rising cloud-rap stars Juice Wrld and Smokepurpp and scoring a major-label deal. Mosey returns for a homecoming show fresh off the release of his debut album, “Northsbest.”

8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, Showbox, 18-plus, 1426 First Ave., Seattle; $10-$20,

Minus the Bear

It’s the end of an era for the proggy indie-rock vets, who are disbanding after 17 years of intricate riffs and occasionally goofy song titles. The Seattle quartet, which released one last EP, “Fair Enough,” this fall on Suicide Squeeze, fittingly closes its farewell tour with three very sold-out nights at the Showbox.

8 p.m. Dec. 14-16, Showbox, 1426 First Ave., Seattle; sold out,


This year saw the release of the long-awaited debut album from one of Seattle’s most promising rock bands and the ’70s-revering rawkers heavily toured the U.S. and Europe nobly chasing “total world domination.” Headlining the venerable Showbox for the second straight New Year’s Eve, Thunderpussy lead what might be the loudest NYE party in town, featuring Portland’s mighty stoner rockers Red Fang and fellow Seattle faves the Black Tones.

9 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31, Showbox, 1426 First Ave., Seattle; $39.50-$45,

Michael Rietmulder:



“Dragon Mama”

Writer, performer, director and omni-artist Sara Porkalob brings us part two of her semi-autobiographical “Dragon Cycle” trilogy. Part one (“Dragon Lady“) was about a badass Filipina gangster, trying to tell younger family members stories about her exploits. “Dragon Mama” deals with the next generation, especially Porkalob’s mother, Maria, who wants to bust out of her Bremerton hometown. Porkalob promises “queer love in a barren land, a dope ’90s R&B soundtrack, Filipino gangsters and ghosts.”

Through Dec. 8; 18th and Union, 1406 18th Ave.; $15-$25; 206-937-6499,

“In the Heights”

You know the deal: People have been looking forward to this for months: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning, pre-“Hamilton” musical set in Washington Heights, a largely Dominican neighborhood in Manhattan. Directed by May Adrales. This is your chance to see (or revisit) the musical that made Miranda a Tony Award magnet before he became a household name.

Through Dec. 30; Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle; $16-$112; 206-443-2222,

Dina Martina: “The Dina Martina Christmas Show”

Dina Martina‘s Christmas show is as old as Christmas itself. (Seriously. Her first gig was singing off-key in the manger, where her shoes were splashed with sheep dip. Google it.) Circa 1998, she washed up on the shores of Re-bar, performing her gorgeously deranged version of Christmas (pronounced “Chriisht-maash”) glamour with pianist and “adult prodigy” Chris Jeffries. If you know Dina, you know the deal: Like you and your great aunt have taken a heroic dose of something hallucinogenic and she’s trying to live up to her girlhood dreams of hosting her own holiday TV special while holding you hostage on the couch. If you don’t know Dina, do yourself a favor and just go. She’s traveled the world; converted John Waters and Whoopi Goldberg into fans; and performed with Margaret Cho, Alan Cumming and the Village People. This year, she’ll be at ACT Theatre. How will she look under the bright lights of a theater that doesn’t double as a gay bar/dance club? Will there be as many happy, loud drunks? Will there be sheep dip? There’s only one way to find out.

Dec. 6-24; ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle; $27-$47; 206-292-7676,

Theater Anonymous: “It’s a Wonderful Life”

The premise behind “It’s a Wonderful Life” is simple: Take a holiday classic and cast it in secret — so secret, even the actors don’t know who the other actors are. But the execution is complex. How do you rehearse and perform a show where the actors have never met? The resolution: Everyone takes a vow of secrecy, works one-on-one with the director, comes to the show dressed in undercover “audience” clothes, sits in the crowd, listens for her cue line, stands up to declaim her first line, then walks up the aisle to join the show. The result is improvisation at its finest. Every person in the theater sorta-kinda knows what to do and sorta-kinda makes it up in the moment. Like the conclusion to the 1946 Frank Capra movie, it’s an invigorating, real-time exercise in what people do when there’s nobody in charge and everyone is calling the shots together.

Dec. 8; Cornish Playhouse, 201 Mercer St., Seattle; $30-$55;

Okwui Okpokwasili: “Poor People’s TV Room”

Artist, choreographer and MacArthur fellow Okpokwasili (creator of the mind-bending “Bronx Gothic“) brings “Poor People’s TV Room” to On the Boards. “TV Room” takes two historical events as its starting points: 1) the 1929 Women’s War, in which Igbo women rioted against British-Nigerian colonial powers (by singing and dancing their grievances, as well as looting and smashing up buildings), and 2) the Bring Back Our Girls movement, which protested the kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian girls during 2014 by separatist group Boko Haram. The result, On the Boards says, “is a narrative by brown women contending with the meaning of their bodies in relation to each other.”

Dec. 6-9; On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; $5-$30; 206-217-9886,

Brendan Kiley:



Quenton Baker: “Ballast”

In 1841, en route between Virginia and New Orleans, the ship Creole became the site of one of the most successful slave revolts in U.S. history. Led by a cook named Madison Washington, the 135 enslaved people aboard — who were being transported along with tobacco — took over the Creole and demanded it be sailed to British-controlled Nassau, where slavery had been illegal since 1833. Award-winning local poet Quenton Baker (“This Glittering Republic”) has created an exhibition of poems and “erasures” from Senate documents about the event. Baker blew up pages from the Senate report to loom over visitors, then heavily redacted them with black paint so they look like stark, silent monuments, with scraps of language bubbling up to the surface. Two screens project what he calls “invented form” poems, inspired by his years of historical research about documentation of the Creole: “a palm-in-palm rebuke of this brutal arithmetic” and “blood don’t run toward freedom/it just run.”

Through Jan. 27, 2019; Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave., Seattle; free; 206-622-9250,

Nordic Museum: “The Vikings Begin”

Fact: Some people find the idea of Vikings weirdly attractive. For them, the mythos of a pale-but-brawny coastal people who basically said “screw it — the Roman Empire is falling apart, so let’s till our soil, forge some weapons, build some boats, then rage forth into the unknown!” is like a siren song. That song has inspired a 21st-century interest in old Viking sports (throwing heavy bones at each other, competitive swimming that involves competitive drowning), “Viking metal” bands and the fashion trend of “Viking chic” (beards, man-buns, braids, wrought metal, tanned hides, amulets, etc.). Where did all this come from? Seattle’s Nordic Museum teamed with Gustavianum (the Uppsala University museum) to bring a traveling exhibit of Viking-era artifacts (helmets, weapons, carved bone, a replica of a burial ship) and “tell the story not only of the person buried with them, but also of the world they inhabited.

Through April 14, 2019; Nordic Museum, 2655 N.W. Market St.; $10-$20; 206-789-5707,

Edgar Arceneaux: “Library of Black Lies”

Los Angeles-born artist Arceneaux is interested in the conversations between then and now. Past project titles, of large-scale drawings and installations, include: “Jesus and Dinosaurs,” “Miracles and Jokes” and “The Philosophy of Time Travel.” Sometimes, Arceneaux gets tangled up in mistranslations between the two. (His much-heralded Watts House Project, an attempt to pair artists and designers to remodel houses around the Watts Towers, hit major turbulence when the project did not live up to residents’ expectations.) The exterior of Arceneaux’s “Library of Black Lies” looks like a simple, cube-ish wooden box — or perhaps the abstracted hold of a ship — but its insides are slowly roiling, with a labyrinthine “library” of books gradually growing sugar crystals: “Birth of a Nation,” “On the Origin of Species,” “Framing Blackness: African American Images in Film,” “Goodnight, Moon.” The “library” is a sprawling intellectual biography that’s growing sugar (a key economic component of the trans-Atlantic slave trade), and a chilling rumination on how ideas, and bodies, can be preserved or corroded — and, sometimes, mysteriously transfigured — while stowed away in boxes.

Through June 2, 2019; Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington; $10 general public, $6 seniors, free for members, UW faculty/staff, students and children; 206-543-2280,

Wing Luke Museum: “Worlds Beyond Here: The Expanding Universe of APA Science Fiction”

“Blade Runner,” “Star Trek,” “The Fifth Element,” “silkpunk” (an Asian-inflected variation on steampunk): How heavy — or light — is the Asian presence in the landscape of sci-fi? Seattle Times freelance writer Tantri Wija says: “You can explore the idea of Asian imagery in sci-fi visions of the future at the Wing Luke Museum’s new exhibit, ‘Worlds Beyond Here,’ which highlights Asian Pacific Americans in sci-fi, both as characters or creators.”

 Through Sept. 15, 2019; Wing Luke Museum, 719 S. King St., Seattle; free (for children under 5) to $17; 206-623-5124,

Brendan Kiley: