Every holiday season, thousands of Clevelanders are faced with the dilemma of what to do with their families while they're in town. Having drifted off into a food-induced daze, some flock to the local multiplex for Hollywood’s annual blockbuster barrage, while others settle into the tried-but-true routine of continued grazing, imbibing and television marathons. But for those hungering for something more fulfillingly Cleveland, here’s a trio of great local events that are simply too good to pass up (and will encourage people to get out of your house for a bit):
Black Nativity at Karamu House
This is a Cleveland institution, written by a Cleveland institution and performed at a Cleveland institution. A transcendent gospel meditation, Karamu House's annual production of native Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity is always top-notch. Performed at the oldest African American theater in the country, Nativity centers on the spiritual Christmas story through vivid costumes, dance and melody. It’s been 30 years since Mike Malone, late former Karamu artistic director, found the script (and other Hughes works) on the Karamu property. To say Nativity is inspirational is an understatement; like snow and Christmas Ale, it’s hard to imagine a Cleveland holiday season without it. The production runs through Monday, December 28. Visit online for schedule and showtimes, or call 216-795-7070.
Cleveland Botanical Garden’s WinterShow
Life around the holidays was different before shopping mall impresarios began conjuring retail theater in every suburb across America. This no-cost, open-to-the-public (with Garden admission) WinterShow is most certainly a throwback: a much-needed dose of Rockwellian nostalgia for the holidays, replete with a timelessly decorated tree, window displays, a gingerbread house competition, a Garden Store and much more. Cleveland Botanical Garden’s seasonal programming is simply the best of its kind in the city; the WinterShow is the best of their best. Finish your visit with a skate on Wade Oval (skate rental is a mere $3) and hot chocolate and cookies at the Garden’s Café. WinterShow runs through Monday, January 4.
Coffinberry at the Grog Shop
Coffinberry’s latest, self-titled release is a harmonic epiphany, particularly given the post-punk immensity of their previous effort, God Dam Dogs. Incorporating acoustic and pop elements into their sludgy, garage rock instrumentation, Coffinberry recalls J. Mascis, The Replacements and Ohio's Pere Ubu in the process. This quartet is, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, noisy, casual and “selflessly fashion unconscious.” They’re also one of the area’s best live bands. Check them live at the Grog Shop on Saturday, December 26 at 9PM with special guests The Walkies, Good Touch Bad Touch and Buried Wires, the latter one of Cleveland's other most buzzed about bands.