Spring Performing Arts  Preview

Duke Ellington 125  

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., orchestra leader and composer Edward Kennedy Ellington was nicknamed “Duke” early on for his sense of style. These events celebrate the 125th anniversary of his birth, on April 29, 1899.  

Singer Lisa Fischer joins the Duke Ellington Orchestra, conducted by Ellington’s grandson, for two shows in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (March 15). In the Concert Hall, Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser leads the National Symphony Orchestra in “Symphony Swing! An Evening of Duke Ellington” (March 15 and 16) and a family-concert version (March 17).  

“Solo Ellington,” in the Eisenhower Theater, features pianist Jason Moran, Kennedy Center artistic director for jazz (April 10). Three programs follow in the Terrace Theater: “Beyond Category: The Concert Music of Duke Ellington” by PostClassical Ensemble, led by Angel Gil-Ordóñez (April 16); “Celebrating Ellington,” a performance by cellist Tomeka Reid (April 24); and “Three Keys to Ellington,” two shows by pianists Justin Kauflin, José André Montaño and Matthew Whitaker (April 26). On Ellington’s birthday, Cyrus Chestnut offers his own piano interpretation of the “Sacred Concerts” in the Concert Hall (April 29).  

In May, the Cathedral Choral Society, the Heritage Signature Chorale and Pershing’s Own U.S. Army Blues perform Ellington’s “Sacred Concert” in Washington National Cathedral, conducted by CCS Music Director Steven Fox (May 19).   

Jazz, Hip Hop, Latin and Rock

Jazz stars booked into Georgetown’s Blues Alley: soprano saxophonist Marion Meadows (Feb. 15 to 18), guitarist Lee Ritenour (April 11 to 14) and alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett (April 25 to 28).  

The Capital City Blues Festival returns to DAR Constitution Hall (Feb. 23).  

Along with famed jazzmen Arturo Sandoval (March 10), Emmet Cohen (March 15) and Pat Metheny (April 3), Strathmore hosts top artists from other genres, such as: Ladysmith Black Mambazo (March 8), Rhiannon Giddens (March 18) and Caetano Veloso (April 9). Later that month: a concert version of “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” Terence Blanchard’s “opera in jazz,” co-presented with Washington Performing Arts (April 26).   

At Strathmore on March 8: Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

The Barns at Wolf Trap mixes things up with, among others: Ali Sethi (Feb. 24 and 25); Bria Skonberg and Benny Benack III (March 2); Rick Wakeman’s Final Solo Tour (March 27 and 28); Black Opry Revue (March 29); and Shawn Colvin and KT Tunstall (April 12).  

The Barns at Wolf Trap hosts Rick Wakeman’s Final Solo Tour on March 27 and 28.

Jazz in the Kennedy Center’s Studio K: saxophonist/bandleader Lakecia Benjamin (March 7) and Igmar Thomas’s Revive Big Band (March 29). Returning to the Eisenhower Theater: the NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert (April 13). Closing out the Ken Cen’s inaugural “Hip Hop & …” festival, exploring connections between hip hop and jazz: the Rakim & DJ Jazzy Jeff & Ravi Coltrane Project in the Concert Hall (April 19).  

An earlier NEA Jazz Master, violinist Regina Carter, performs at the Library of Congress with pianist Xavier Davis (April 11).  

¡Atento a esto! In the Kennedy Center Concert Hall: Charlie Cruz with Puerto Rican salsa band La Sonora Ponceña (March 29) and singers Silvana Estrada, Silvia Pérez-Cruz and Susana Baca with fusion group Snarky Puppy (April 17).  

Coming to the Warner Theatre: Jon Batiste (March 21), Adam Ant (April 10) and Joe Satriani and Steve Vai (April 11). Over at The Birchmere: Marty Stuart (March 28), Marcus Johnson (April 12) and Leo Kottke (April 14). Bringing the rap to Capital One Arena: Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday 2 World Tour (April 1) and Bad Bunny’s Most Wanted Tour (April 9).   

April 9 at Capital One Arena: Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, i.e., Bad Bunny Most Wanted Tour.


Ending soon at Bethesda’s Round House Theatre is Brian Yorkey’s “Next to Normal,” directed by Alan Paul, with music by Tom Kitt and choreography by Eamon Foley (through Feb. 25).   

Now playing at the Keegan Theatre: Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along,” with a book by George Furth, directed by Christina A. Coakley and the production’s choreographer, Jennifer J. Hopkins. The music director is Nathan Beary Blustein (through March 3).   

Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along” is at the Keegan Theatre through March 3.

“Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations” closes Sunday in the Kennedy Center Opera House (through Feb. 18). Next, another Sondheim and Furth musical, “Company,” starring Britney Coleman as marriage-wary Bobbie. Note: Bobby became Bobbie (with Sondheim’s approval) in 2018 (March 12 to 31). Then, a second London-born show: choreographer Kate Prince’s “Message in a Bottle,” set to the music of Sting (April 9 to 21).  

Coming to the National Theatre: “The Book of Mormon” (March 5 to 17) and a new adaptation of “Peter Pan” by Larissa FastHorse, directed by Lonny Price, with choreography by Lorin Latarro (April 9 to 21).  

Now onstage at Signature Theatre is “Private Jones” by Marshall Pailet, about a deaf Welsh sniper, performed in spoken English, ASL and BSL. The music director is Myrna Conn, the choreographer is Misha Shields and the director of artistic sign language is Alexandria Wailes (through March 10). Next up, Eva Steinmetz directs Alex Bechtel’s “Penelope,” giving the wife of Odysseus her say. The book is by Bechtel, Grace McLean and Steinmetz (March 5 to April 21). And, at last, “Hair” is coming (but not combing), directed by artistic director Matthew Gardiner, with music direction by Mark G. Meadows and choreography by Rickey Tripp (April 16 to July 7).  

Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s “Little Shop of Horrors,” directed by Kevin S. McAllister, is soon to sprout at Ford’s Theatre (March 15 to May 18).     

At Arena Stage, Trip Cullman directs the “Unknown Soldier,” with music by Michael Friedman and lyrics by Friedman and Daniel Goldstein, who wrote the book (March 29 to May 5).  

Set on a fictional Scottish island, “Islander,” coming to Olney Theatre Center, won Best New Musical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The two-character show was conceived and directed by Amy Draper, with staging and associate direction by Eve Nicol, music and lyrics by Finn Anderson and a book by Stewart Melton (April 11 to 28).  

For kids: Adventure Theatre at Glen Echo Park is presenting “Junie B. Jones, the Musical,” adapted from Barbara Park’s books, directed and choreographed by Ashleigh King. The book and lyrics are by Marcy Heisler and the music by Zina Goldrich (through March 30).   

Tim J. Lord’s “Through the Sunken Lands,” a world-premiere musical directed by Cara Phipps in the Kennedy Center Family Theater, follows the interactions of wheelchair-using Artemis, Aunt Maggie and a talking heron. The original radio play was adapted by Lord, composer and co-lyricist Avi Amon, movement director Ronya-Lee Anderson and music director Angie Benson (March 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17).  

Also of parental interest: Discovery Theater puts on interactive educational shows, often with music, at 10:15 and 11:30 a.m. in the Smithsonian’s Ripley Center.  


Having recovered over $250,000 stolen by hackers, GALA Hispanic Theatre is open for business with “Las hermanas Palacios/The Palacios Sisters,” Cristina García’s reworking of Chekhov as a tale of 1980s Miami, directed by Adrián Alea (through Feb. 25); and Patricia Suárez’s “Quijote y Sancho Panza, nuevas andanzas/New Adventures of Quijote and Sancho Panza,” directed by Claudio Aprile (March 9 to 23).   

Opening Friday at Arena Stage, directed by Psalmayene 24: “Tempestuous Elements,” Kia Corthron’s play about Anna Julia Cooper’s rocky tenure as principal of D.C.’s M Street School, originally the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth (Feb. 16 to March 17).   

Opening Feb. 16 at Arena Stage: “Tempestuous Elements,” about educator Anna Julia Cooper, shown in this c. 1902 Library of Congress photograph.

Directed by Theater J Artistic Director Hayley Finn, Jonathan Spector’s “This Much I Know” — inspired by Daniel Kahneman’s book “Thinking Fast and Slow” — ends this month (through Feb. 25). Sharyn Rothstein’s world-premiere adaptation of the 1975 film “Hester Street,” with music by Joel Waggoner, rolls in next, directed by Oliver Butler (March 27 to April 21).  

“This Much I Know” closes at Theater J on Feb. 25.

Another world premiere: “The Sensational Sea Mink-ettes” by Vivian J.O. Barnes, directed by Taylor Reynolds at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (through March 3), followed by “Amm(i)gone,” a personal and Quran-infused take on “Antigone,” created and performed by Adil Mansoor and co-directed by Lyam B. Gabel (April 20 to May 12).  

“Love, Love, Love” at Studio Theatre, directed by Artistic Director David Muse, follows Ken and Sandra for four decades starting in 1960s London. Warning: Herbal tobacco will be smoked (show runs through March 3). Bryna Turner’s comedy “At the Wedding,” directed by Tom Story, is next in the receiving line (March 13 to April 21).  

“The Lehman Trilogy,” in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Harman Hall — written by Stefano Massini, adapted by Ben Power and directed by Arin Arbus — follows the trajectory of one family’s American Dream (Feb. 22 to March 24). Although it’s bad luck to say the name of the “Scottish play,” STC Artistic Director Simon Godwin’s “Macbeth,” starring Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma, has both sides of the pond abuzz (April 9 to May 5).  

Bethesda’s Round House Theatre presents “A Jumping Off Point,” a world premiere by Inda Craig-Galván about a Black woman screenwriter accused of plagiarism. Jade King Carroll directs (April 10 to May 5).  

Not only is Bobby now Bobbie (see above), but she’s in excellent company. Ken Ludwig has turned his “Lend Me a Tenor” into “Lend Me a Soprano,” now at Olney Theatre Center, directed by Eleanor Holdridge (through March 10). And there’s more: Michael Shayan portrays his Iranian Jewish mother in his one-person play “Avaaz,” directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel (March 6 to April 7).    

Who do you think “Nancy” is in Mosaic Theater Company’s next show, set in 1980s Washington? Directed by Ken-Matt Martin at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, Rhiana Yazzie’s play also involves “a Navajo mother advocating for her community” (March 28 to April 21).   

At Anacostia Playhouse, Deidra La Wan Starnes directs Dominique Morisseau’s “Sunset Baby.” Will “smart and sexy hustler” Nina reconcile with Kenyatta, her estranged father? (April 3 to 28).   

Jacqueline Bircher imagines the uproar when a dictionary editor is caught using profanity in “Webster’s Bitch,” directed by Keegan Theatre Artistic Director Susan Marie Rhea (April 6 to May 5).  

At the DC Arts Center, Scena Theatre presents Australian playwright John Shand’s “The Last Drop,” directed by Robert McNamara. Mary and Joe are surviving the collapse of civilization by desalinating water and eating bugs. “Then, a shady couple arrives” (April 18 to May 12).  

Whatever Mary and Joe are facing, at least it won’t go on forever — unlike “Shear Madness” in the Kennedy Center Theater Lab (through Sept. 29).  


Washington National Opera’s “Songbird,” in the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater, is an adaptation by Eric Sean Fogel, James Lowe and Kelley Rourke of “La Périchole,” relocating the Offenbach operetta to Prohibition-era New Orleans. Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard portrays the street singer (originally Peruvian) of the title, with famed Phantom of the Opera Ramin Karimloo as her lover (March 9 to 23).  

Washington Concert Opera’s spring performance in Lisner Auditorium is Puccini’s “La Rondine,” Italian for “the swallow” (the bird not the gulp), with WCO Artistic Director Antony Walker conducting and soprano Ailyn Pérez as Magda (April 7).   

Later this spring, Opera Lafayette mounts the modern premiere of Jean-Joseph Mouret’s opera-ballet “Les Fêtes de Thalie” in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (May 3 and 4).  


The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC presents “Exhibitions,” “a moveable feast of sound, harmony and dance” at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, with timed-entry between 4:30 and 8 p.m. (Feb. 17).   

Sunday in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall: “Living the Dream … Singing the Dream,” the annual Martin Luther King Jr. tribute by the Washington Performing Arts Gospel Choirs and the Choral Arts Society of Washington (Feb. 18). Also in the Concert Hall, Josephine Lee of Uniting Voices Chicago conducts a Choral Arts program, “E Pluribus, Una Vox: Out of Many, One Voice,” featuring Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” and Ted Hearne’s “Partition” (April 7).  

The season finale for Washington Master Chorale at the National Presbyterian Church is “A Bel Canto Salon,” a program of Rossini’s “Petite messe solennelle,” excerpts from Brahms’s “Liebeslieder Waltzer” and Lori Laitman’s suffragist cycle “Are Women People?” (March 3).  

Heritage Signature Chorale Artistic Director Stanley Thurston conducts the chorale’s 24th annual concert at First Congregational United Church of Christ (March 9).  

In Series’ new production “brings together music, poetry, art and creative expression of over four centuries of mystical Mexican female artists.” With the Washington Children’s Chorus joining in, performances of “Las Místicas de México” are at Dupont Underground (March 9 and 10), the Mexican Cultural Institute (March 15 and 16) and Baltimore’s Emmanuel Episcopal Church (March 23 and 24).  

The Cathedral Choral Society’s next performance at Washington National Cathedral is titled “Sonic Bloom: Music of Bruckner, Esmail and Gabrieli” (March 10).   


A John Philip Sousa Band Festival is coming to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, appropriately in March (March 10).  

Other conductors are keeping the Kennedy Center Concert Hall podium warm until National Symphony Orchestra Music Director Gianandrea Noseda returns for Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 (May 30 and 31 and June 1). For instance: Simone Young, with pianist Lise de la Salle playing Mozart (April 18 and 20); and Vince Mendoza, overseeing a Leonard Cohen tribute, with Ben Folds, Bill Frisell, Trisha Yearwood and others (April 26 and 27).  

More orchestras in the Concert Hall, presented by Washington Performing Arts: the Rotterdam Philharmonic (March 11) and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, under Simon Rattle (April 30).  

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Strathmore schedule includes James Conlon conducting Wagner with soprano Christine Goerke (March 2); cellist Zlatomir Fung playing Saint-Saëns, Ken-David Masur on the podium; and Music Director Jonathon Heyward conducting “Carmina Burana” with guest soloists, the University of Maryland Concert Choir and the Maryland State Boychoir (March 16). Heyward will then tackle Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 (March 24). After “Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Concert” (April 5) and Alexander Zemlinsky’s “Lyric Symphony,” conducted by Conlon (April 20), Music Director Laureate Marin Alsop returns for a program of Rachmaninoff, Ives and Carlos Simon (April 28).  

Capital City Symphony’s season at the Atlas Performing Arts Center includes “Battles Within,” part of the Atlas Intersections festival. Led by Victoria Gau, the program addresses “the journey of veterans post-conflict (Feb. 24).  

Next up for PostClassical Ensemble: a performance at the National Gallery of Art of Kurt Weill’s “Seven Deadly Sins” with soprano Melissa Wimbish (Feb. 25).  

Melissa Wimbish sings the role of Anna in PostClassical Ensemble’s Feb. 25 performance of Kurt Weill’s “Seven Deadly Sins” at the National Gallery of Art.

Like your music Early? The Washington Bach Consort presents recorder virtuoso Vincent Lauzer at Live! at 10th & G (Feb. 23) and at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria (Feb. 24). Folger Consort plays “Music of Medieval Spain” (March 22 to 24; preview seminar March 20) and “Ovid’s Metamorphoses” (April 12 to 14; preview seminar April 10). More in April, at the Library of Congress: Jordi Savall & Hespèrion XXI (April 2) and Quebec’s Les Violons du Roy with guitarist Miloš Karadaglić (April 30).  

Here in Georgetown: Artefact Ensemble performs Copland’s “In the Beginning” with mezzo-soprano Tynan Davis at St. John’s Episcopal Church (March 3). The 46th season of Dumbarton Concerts at Dumbarton United Methodist Church proceeds with: Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Winds (Feb. 17), Broadway singer Judy Kuhn (March 15) and Quatuor Van Kuijk (March 16). Coming to Dumbarton Oaks: harpist Bridget Kibbey (Feb. 25 and 26), the Kosher Red Hots (March 10 and 11) and Constantinople & Accademia Del Piacere (April 7 and 8).  

Speaking of Dumbarton Oaks, Paragon Philharmonia, led by Miriam Burns, performs Stravinsky’s “Dumbarton Oaks Concerto” in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (March 16).   

The Fortas Chamber Music Concerts turn up (and tune up) in various Kennedy Center chambers. Of note: Composer-in-Residence Carlos Simon conducts his “Requiem for the Enslaved,” inspired by Georgetown University’s 1838 sale of 272 enslaved persons, in Studio K (March 14).  

Appearing in the Library of Congress’s Coolidge Auditorium: Sō Percussion with Dominic “Shodekeh” Talifero (March 14), violinist Christian Tetzlaff with pianist Kirill Gerstein (April 5) and the Kronos Quartet (April 18).  

The Phillips Collection’s Sunday afternoon recitals and chamber concerts continue through May 5. And Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center performers return to The Barns at Wolf Trap (Feb. 23, March 10 and April 19).   

From Washington Performing Arts: cellist Alisa Weilerstein, performing her theatrical project “Fragments” (April 6); violinist Rachel Barton Pine (April 19) in the Terrace Theater; and, in between in the Concert Hall, cellist Yo-Yo Ma with pianist Kathryn Stott (April 14).  

Pianists, anyone? The National Philharmonic’s Strathmore season includes “Chopin the Virtuoso,” a recital by Brian Ganz (Feb. 24).

Marvelous Mezzos: Head for the Terrace Theater to hear Erin Wagner, brought to you by Young Concert Artists (March 13); and Daniela Mack, with pianist Keun-A Lee, by Vocal Arts DC (April 18).   

Likewise devoted to art song, the Russian Chamber Art Society presents “21st Century Masters: Sviridov & Slonimsky” at the Embassy of France (April 12).  


At “Jazz Icons: A Fine Romance,” in the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater, The Washington Ballet is backed by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (Feb. 14 to 18).    

The 15th annual Atlas Intersections Festival brings a bounty of envelope-pushing music, theater, spoken word, comedy and, most of all, dance, to H Street NE (through April 27).  

Part of this year’s Atlas Intersections Festival: Dissonance Dance Theatre asks “How does ballet fit into a world of TikTok and secular music?” on March 2.

American Ballet Theatre presents seven performances in the Kennedy Center Opera House of Kevin McKenzie’s “Swan Lake” (Feb. 21 to 25). In the Eisenhower Theater: Brazilian dance company Grupo Corpo (March 1 and 2); “The White Feather, A Persian Ballet Tale,” choreographed by Tara Ghassemieh (March 26); the en travesti (men in tutus) company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (April 4 to 6); and the Sydney Dance Company, performing Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela’s “Impermanence,” set to Bruce Dressner’s score, played by the Australian String Quartet (April 25 to 27).  

One of the cutting-edge shows at Dance Place in Brookland: “3 Rites: Life, Liberty, Happiness” from Edisa Weeks’s Delirious Dances. “This performance contains mature themes and potentially triggering content” (March 9 and 10). In the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, Project ChArma performs the Nina Simone-inspired “Chronicles of Nina … What now?” (April 12 and 13).  


Solas Nua’s 18th Capital Irish Film Festival screens 17 feature films and numerous shorts at Silver Spring’s AFI Silver Theatre (Feb. 29 to March 3). Later that month, the 32nd DC Environmental Film Festival presents dozens of in-person screenings and discussions at venues around the District (March 21 to 30).   


Kennedy Center programmers have been burning the midnight oil to fill the new spaces of the Reach (Cinema Dome, Justice Forum, River Pavilion, etc.). Visit the center’s calendar for a full list of events, notably the free ones — talks, book signings, films, cooking demonstrations, chainsaw carving — connected with Reach to Forest, a festival that “explores the symbiotic relationship between forests and the human world” (Feb. 20 to March 3).  




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