Essentials: Entertainment Picks Dec. 10-16 

The Nutcracker, Africanized Christmas, Travelling to Infinity and more

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Ballet West: The Nutcracker

This year, Ballet West's The Nutcracker celebrates 60 years as one of Utah's most cherished traditions. Bring tidings of comfort and joy to your family this holiday season with a classic show that has won over audiences for generations.

William Christensen, one of the founders of Ballet West, created the timeless choreography for the show, which will feature four talented ballerinas as Clara: Eva Thompson, Olivia Huntsman, Kennedy Stapley and Ella Whitney. Alexander MacFarlan, Jordan Veit, Joshua Whitehead, Oliver Oguma and Tyler Gum will share the role of the Nutcracker Prince.

The Nutcracker, based on a fairy tale by E.T.A. Hoffman, unfolds in two acts. The story is based around a little girl named Clara, who receives a nutcracker as a Christmas gift. After the party ends, she falls asleep and dreams that her nutcracker has turned into a young prince. Each scene is set to Tchaikovsky's charming score and features whimsical costumes and extravagant sets.

The production's visual appeal, along with its memorable characters, make The Nutcracker a favorite with children, as well as adults. Following each matinee show (except Dec. 24), Ballet West will host Sugar Plum Parties for the kids. Young members from the audience will be invited onstage to join the Sugar Plum Fairy and other favorite characters from the show for special treats. (Shawna Meyer)
Ballet West: The Nutcracker @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, Dec. 10-27, evening performances, 7 p.m.; matinees, 2 p.m., $20-$88, Sugar Plum Party tickets $10.

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FRIDAY 12.11

Alex Boye's
Africanized Christmas
Christmas should have a little bit of something for everyone. So it's nice to see that Kingsbury Hall has such an eclectic line-up of holiday themed musical acts this week.

Friday night brings a little bit o' the Irish with Danú's Feile Na Nollag ("A Christmas Gathering," pictured). One of the leading traditional Irish folk ensembles, this small orchestra—flute, lute, tin whistle, fiddle, button accordion and bouzouki (a mandolin-type instrument of Greek origin)—will bring a mixed set of ancient traditional tunes and modern repertoire. Danú has won numerous awards in their home country, including twice being named Best Traditional Group at the BBC Folk Awards. Their Christmas evening combines songs with storytelling and traditional Irish dance.

On Saturday, Mormon music sensation Alex Boye performs his Africanized Christmas. Boye, born of Nigerian parents, grew up in England and converted to the LDS faith at the age of 16. In 2006, Boye auditioned for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, at the invitation of the choir's musical director Craig Jessop, and became one of the group's three black members. He recently reflected back toward his parents' home country with a series of hit pop songs (like Coldplay's Paradise) rearranged in the rhythm and style of the African continent. Now, Boye is applying this "Africanized" spin on traditional Christmas songs, in a one-night concert that will feel like "Silver Bells" hopped up on some gospel caffeine. (Katherine Pioli)

Danú: Feile Na Nollag @ Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, University of Utah, 801-581-7100, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m., $19-$45.

Alex Boye's Africanized Christmas @ Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, University of Utah, 801-581-7100, Dec. 12, 7:30 p.m., $35-$55.

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Kevin Allison's Risk! Live

Revelation is a connecting experience. When people let others into their secrets, their fears, even their humiliations, they forge a bond of shared humanity. And, sometimes, we can even laugh or cry along the way.

That idea has provided the foundation for Risk!, the popular podcast hosted by Kevin Allison, perhaps best known from the TV sketch comedy troupe The State. In 2009, Allison was performing stand-up when his erstwhile state-mate Michael Ian Black suggested that there could be something even more entertaining in Allison revealing his personal stories. Along with producer Michelle Walson, Allison launched Risk! with a live recording at a grocery store in Manhattan, based on the concept of people telling "true stories they never thought they'd dare to share in public."

Now based bicoastally in New York and Los Angeles, Risk! presents a regular monthly—and almost always sold-out—showcase for confessional storytelling that has featured professional funny people like Marc Maron, Rachel Dratch, Sarah Silverman, Kevin Nealon and Margaret Cho, with downloads regularly passing 1 million per month. But it has also spawned a tour that checks in at other cities, looking for locals to tell their own "I can't believe I'm actually saying this out loud" stories. That tour visits Salt Lake City this week, and while the featured participants were not yet set at press time, you can be sure that this unique experience will surprise you about some of the strange-but-true tales happening all around you. (Scott Renshaw)
Kevin Allison's Risk! Live @ Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, 801-746-0557, Dec. 12, 7 p.m., $18-$20, 21 and older only.

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Jane Hawking: Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen

It can't be easy to see the most personal parts of your life portrayed on the big screen. In 2014, the feature film The Theory of Everything won an Oscar for Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking, and a nomination for Felicity Jones in the role of Hawking's long-suffering wife, Jane. But that story didn't originate on the screen; Anthony McCarten's Oscar-nominated adapted screenplay was based on the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen by Jane Hawking.

This week, Utah residents will get a chance for an even more up-close-and-personal story of the Hawkings' life together. Jane Hawking visits Sundance Resort's author series to share tales from the book and beyond, recounting their struggle to balance his growing celebrity, his physical deterioration from motor neuron disease, and the fissures in their relationship. Brunch and a signed copy are included for this special event. (Scott Renshaw)
Jane Hawking: Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen @ Sundance Resort, 8841 N. Alpine Loop Road, Sundance, 866-734-4428, Dec. 12, 12:45 p.m., doors 11:30 a.m., $110 (includes lecture, signed copy of book and brunch).

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MONDAY 12.14
Savion Glover & Jack DeJohnette

Tap, it could be argued, is more than a dance. It's also a musical feat. The lightning-quick feet of a skilled hoofer, the clack and slash of metal atop a wood floor, produces a type of percussive music alive with the complexity of rhythm and timing. Tap's ability to bridge art forms may be what inspires famed hoofer Savion Glover to team up with some jazz colleagues every so often. This week at Kingsbury Hall, Glover does just that, performing alongside fellow hoofer Marshall Davis Jr. and jazz drummer and composer Jack DeJohnette in the first date of their national tour.

A dance prodigy, Glover debuted as a tap dancer at age 10 in the Broadway show The Tap Dance Kid. By the time he was 15, he was teaching classes and was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the Broadway show Black and Blue. Now 42, Glover's prolific career, unique style and unequaled energy has earned him wide praise even from legendary tap figures such as Gregory Hines, who called Glover "possibly the best tap dancer that ever lived."

Jack DeJohnette's career began at the piano keys, but he's made his biggest contribution to music behind the drum set. DeJohnette was the primary drummer on the landmark Miles Davis album Bitches Brew and is still most often regarded as an instrumental figure of the jazz fusion era. In 2012, DeJohnette was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Together, these two masterful figures of music and dance will take their audience on an unforgettable journey of sound and rhythm. (Katherine Pioli)
Savion Glover & Jack DeJohnette @ Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, University of Utah, 801-581-7100, Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m., $19-$45.

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