"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
THURSDAY 12/10-SATURDAY 12/12
'IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE' & 'HOME ALONE'
7 p.m. Ron Robinson Theater. $5.
It seems fitting that "It's a Wonderful Life" (7 p.m. Thursday) was based on a story originally published in the form of a Christmas card mailed to family and friends of the author Philip Van Doren Stern, who had previously tried and failed to publish the short story in a magazine. It seems fitting, too, that the film wasn't well received commercially — in fact it was an enormous box office disappointment that appeared to confirm, to Hollywood studios, that director Frank Capra had passed his prime. "The weakness of this picture," the New York Times wrote, "is the sentimentality of it." (The FBI agreed, issuing a report objecting to the film's negative depiction of bankers — "a common trick used by Communists.") The film's legacy was salvaged by TV networks, which began airing it over the holidays in the late 1970s. Like George Bailey himself, the film was a failure that only realized it was a success after it had earned some much needed time and perspective.
Not so for "Home Alone" (7 p.m. Saturday), which was the No. 1 film at the box office for 12 consecutive weeks, the rare Christmas movie to stay in theaters well into the following February. (It's in the Guinness Book of World Records now as the highest-grossing live-action comedy ever made.) The film raises several interesting questions. For instance, do you know where your kids are? And what happened to Joe Pesci? And, more abstractly, what are the comedic limits of physical cruelty? Is pain — inflicted with Rube Goldberg degrees of complexity — always inherently funny, or only sometimes? Upon its release, the Washington Post judged it "too crass, too loud and too violent to be added blithely to Christmas viewing traditions." Never trust newspapers, is my point. WS
2015 CELEBRITY KARAOKE
7 p.m. Verizon Arena. $20-$40.
Years ago, I was in the Capital Bar & Grill about 9:45 p.m. when Ned Perme strolled in, tan and Mr. Wicks-dapper as ever, stood at the bar for about five minutes, no doubt drinking some sort of brown liquor, before coolly heading back up the street to confidently tell the state that it would not be snowing anytime soon. I remember it as vividly as the time I met Merle Haggard, or saw Mario Lopez on my honeymoon. In other words, local celebrity is a thing that captures people's imagination. Perhaps nowhere is that more in evidence than the Buzz's annual Christmas karaoke event, which began in a local club, but now attracts enough people to warrant Verizon Arena. This year's celebrities are radio and TV personalities, former Razorbacks and Republican politicians, which sounds about right. That includes pretty much everyone who works at the Buzz — Tommy Smith, David Bazzel, Roger Scott, Justin Acri, Pat Bradley, Matt Jones, et al. — KATV's Jason Pederson, Alyson Courtney, Melinda Mayo, Scott Inman and The Ned Perme Band; FOX 16's Donna Terrell; KARK's D.J. Williams (a former Razorback); Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Here are a couple of suggestions for the latter pair: For the AG, how about a medley of "Fancy," the Reba McEntire version and then the Iggy Azalea one? And the governor seems like he was born to do a sort of country-gospel version of "Don't Worry Be Happy." Or anything from Adele. Proceeds benefit Youth Home. LM
11TH EVER NOG-OFF
5-8 p.m. Historic Arkansas Museum.
Eggnog and Christmas. Christmas and eggnog. There's no other time of year when we mortals dare imbibe the traditional concoction of cream and eggs and sugar and bourbon with abandon. With just a sip, visions of sugarplums and colored lights begin their dance; with more than just a sip, you'll see those sugarplums double. The HAM's annual competition lets you sample all manner of nog — HAM Director Bill Worthen's ancestral recipe; Cache Restaurant's hip version; Loblolly Creamery's millennial style; John Selig and Lea Elenzweig's father-daughter nog; Stone's Throw Brewing's, perhaps with beer (?); and the punchbowl secrets of Heritage Grille, One Eleven at the Capital Hotel and Rock City Eats. Will the conjured visions differ depending on whose nog you drink? Will Nicholas Peay's (Bill Worthen's standby) conjure early 19th century tavern jollity? Empty your cup, dream your dreams, cast your votes and listen to live music by Heather Smith. You'll have to put your cup of kindness down in the galleries, where Arkansas artist Ray Parker's larger-than life portraits will be on exhibit, along with works by Kat Wilson, Joe Barry Carroll, crafts by Arkansas Living Treasures and more. It's 2nd Friday Night, which means there will be after-hours gallery events also at Arkansas Capital Corp., the Butler Center Galleries, Gallery 221 & Art Studios 221 and the Cox Creative Center. LNP
FRIDAY 12/11-SUNDAY 12/13
7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 2 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Maumelle Performing Arts Center. $20-$52.
Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" premiered in St. Petersburg in 1892 to middling reviews. Critics called it "completely insipid" and "lopsided" and "ponderous" and insufficiently faithful to the source material (an eerie story by the German Romantic author E.T.A. Hoffmann). "One cannot understand anything," one reviewer wrote of the choreography. "Disorderly pushing about from corner to corner and running backwards and forwards — quite amateurish." About its composer there were also serious reservations. Gay, deeply depressed and highly sensitive to criticism, Tchaikovsky was often dismissed as unserious, unambitious, too Western (which didn't play well in Russia's nationalist climate). The full-fledged American revival of the ballet didn't really get going until the early 1960s, and it's been a lucrative staple of most ballet companies' holiday programs ever since. This weekend Ballet Arkansas will present its production with help from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra at the ASO's temporary home base in Maumelle. WS
WINTER MARKET AT TWO RIVERS PARK
11 a.m.-7 p.m.
The 1,000-acre Two Rivers Park at the confluence of the Little Maumelle and Arkansas rivers is a joint city-county venture that celebrates nature's riverside-grassland-swamp habitats, and its connection to Little Rock's River Trail by pedestrian/bike bridge has added to its already substantial popularity. Etsy, on the other hand, celebrates the human-made, the artisanal and artistic, connecting artists directly to buyers. Now, the county and Team Etsy have joined up to hold the first Winter Market at Two Rivers Park, a benefit for the park. There will be vintage gifts, gifts to wear, art, ornaments and more; and since you'll need sustenance for outdoor shopping, there will also be food trucks and a beer garden. All vendor spaces are gone, so it ought to be big fun: Christmas shopping, biking, hiking, nature-watching and beer-drinking all rolled into one. All proceeds from sales at the day-long market will go to the Friends of Two Rivers Park for park improvements. LP
DAN THE AUTOMATOR
8 p.m. Smoke & Barrel, Fayetteville. $25 adv., $30 day of.
Daniel Nakamura is a legend to a specific subset of hip-hop fans — crate-diggers, turntablists, indie rap champions, cerebral futurists. He came up in the Bay Area DJ scene that also spawned peers like DJ Shadow and Kid Koala, both of whom he's worked with or released records by (via his late '90s label 75 Ark). His most prominent projects, though, have been his collaborations with Kool Keith (as Dr. Octagon), Del tha Funkee Homosapien (as Deltron 3030), Prince Paul (as Handsome Boy Modeling School) and Blur front man Damon Albarn (as Gorillaz). Most of these are united by a visual aesthetic of comic book kitsch — wild sound effects and animated alter-egos and elaborate back-stories. For me, the Dr. Octagon stuff holds up best of all, because it's such an original and organic extension of Keith's persona (1996's "Dr. Octagonecologyst" is a landmark for loopy, time-traveling weirdo-rap). In recent years Nakamura has more or less left rap behind, working with rock groups Kasabian and Exodus, as well as the actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead (with whom he has an indie-pop duo called Got a Girl). WS
9 p.m. Envy (formerly Elevations). $20.
Rodriquez Jacquees Broadnax is a Decatur, Ga.-born R&B singer associated with Rich Gang and Cash Money Records. His career arc has been sudden and sort of inexplicable — it seemed to lack an up-and-coming first act, making him one of those mysteriously fully formed successes that give rise to conspiracy theories about "industry plants." Where did Jacquees come from? Why was T.I. on his first single? How did an unproven singer even get in the same room with T.I.? Or, for that matter, Chris Brown, Rich Homie Quan, August Alsina, Travis Porter, Trinidad James or any of the other huge artists he's recorded with? We may never know, but I'll support him in his endeavors so long as he keeps singing as wildly and unpredictably as he does on Young Thug's "Amazing." His most recent single, "B.E.D.," suggests that he will — it's as steely smooth and implacable as Jeremih's "Late Nights," and as unstable and desperate as the Rich Gang material that introduced him. WS
Congratulations Tara, beautifully written!