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The Weekender: Modern lovers, dancing Nutcrackers, and multiple Messiahs

Boston Ballet’s soaring production of “The Nutcracker” runs Friday through Dec. 31. Gene Schiavone, courtesy of Boston Ballet

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Look, I know what I’m up against here. I’m going to do my usual Weekender thing and suggest a few fun options for your weekend (none of which, I might add involve laying siege to Target), and meanwhile, that fridge full of leftovers will beckon you with a far lazier, far mushier itinerary.

Will I judge you for the choice you ultimately make? Of course I will – but silently, and from a great distance. You won’t even feel me judging you. Should you decide to venture out (and you should) there’s more than enough going on to keep you busy. (And away from pies.)


SUITE MUSIC: There’s the Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker,” there’s the Tony Williams Dance Center’s “Urban Nutcracker,” there’s “The Slutcracker,” there’s even a “Not! The Nutcracker” if you want to be like that. But when it comes to sheer spectacle, virtuosic skill, and sonic sweep, nothing comes to close to the Boston Ballet’s soaring production. We spoke to some dancers from the Boston Ballet about their favorite “Nutcracker” memories; if you haven’t ever seen it, now’s the time to make some of your own. Runs Friday through Dec. 31 at the Boston Opera House. Get tickets here.

Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea.”Claire Folger, Courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions

CASEY AT THE BAT: Globe film critic Ty Burr gives Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea” four big huge stahhs, hesitating only slightly (you’ll see) to call the “handmade human tragedy about the kind of people you see at the supermarket” a masterpiece, and cheering star Casey Affleck for coming “finally and fully out of his brother [Ben’s] shadow” — which, fun fact, is mostly chin. This one’s got Oscar written all over it (and is way less of a hassle to get to than the real North Shore). Opens Friday.

STRAIGHT MAN: The greatest thing ever to come out of Natick (sorry friends with kids in Natick) is, of course, Jonathan Richman — a Modern Lover of the past, a poet of the present, and a force for the future. (Dude just released his 23rd album, “Ishkode! Ishkode!”) The author of the would-be state song of Massachusetts if there were any justice spoke to us (well, wrote to us — as he said, “You Can’t Talk to the Dude”) in advance of his four-night stand at the Middle East Upstairs that extends through Friday and Saturday. It’s a rare opportunity, so take it. Tickets here.


STAND-UP GUYS: Stoneham native (and, let it be known, super nice guy) Josh Gondelman has been hard at work (that’s a guess) in the writers’ room at HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” but Friday and Saturday, he comes to Laugh Boston for a two-night stay. Get tickets here. And on Friday over in Allston at Great Scott, Gary Petersen (who you may remember from his opening spots at those pop-up Louis CK sets) is giving a farewell set before he packs up for Los Angeles, assuming he didn’t just sell everything. It’s an expression.

A FINE MESS: Like Thanksgiving, Warren Beatty’s new film is something of an enjoyable mess. Ty Burr calls “Rules Don’t Apply” — written by, directed by, and starring Beatty as eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes — “not a well-made film but . . . an enjoyable one, in part because it’s genuinely unpredictable and in part because it’s a pleasure to see one of the great stars of his era on a movie screen once more.” (And if you haven’t read Mark Feeney’s recent chat with Beatty, it’s worth it for the vomit metaphor alone. Jeez, Warren.) Now screening.

SLAY BELLS: Poetry’s pretty and everything, but where’s the danger? From the people who brought you “[Expletive] Shakespeare” comes “A Palpable Hit: Shakespeare Fight Night,” a program of a dozen canonical donnybrooks from the plays of Shakespeare, including storied smackdowns from “Henry VI, Part I,” “Twelfth Night,” “Macbeth,” A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Hamlet,” and some really passive-aggressive texts between Romeo and Juliet. Runs Friday through Dec. 11 at the Cambridge YWCA Theater. Trigger warning: Petard hoisting. Tickets here.

MOURNING BECOMES ECLECTIC: Globe art critic Sebastian Smee was deeply moved by “Doris Salcedo: The Materiality of Mourning” at Harvard Art Museums — a small but important show that negotiates a very big subject through the Colombian artist’s unique “sculptural language.” “Even when it pulls people together,” Smee writes, “it appears profoundly cognizant of the ultimate solitude of grief.” It’s on view through April 9 at Harvard Art Museums. More information here.


FEEL THE ‘BURN’: At 65, a decade after receiving his lifetime achievement award from the Americana Music Association, Alejandro Escovedo shows no signs of slowing or quieting down, least of all on his 12th solo album, “Burn Something Beautiful.” On Friday, the unstoppable raw-roots rocker comes to Brighton Music Hall for a show with former D Generation frontman Jesse Malin. Grab tickets here.

Handel and Haydn Society’s Harry Christophers leads “Messiah.”

JOIN THE CHORUS: From Friday through Sunday, the Handel and Haydn Society kicks off local performances of “Messiah,” with a 28-piece orchestra and a 30-voice chorus. Sound intimidating? It is. But you have plenty of chances to face this masterwork head-on — just consult our handy field guide to local “Messiah” performances, and you’ll have a Handel on it in no time. I’m only kind of sorry for that. Tickets here.

Lauren Graham (left) and Alexis Bledel in “Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life," premiering Friday on Netflix.Saeed Adyani/Netflix via AP

OR JUST STAY IN! Our own Janice Page has been watching “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” with her own daughter, trying to get to the bottom of this fictional mother-daughter duo’s appeal. The show (which originally ran from 2000 to 2007) returns as a limited miniseries after fans clamored for it to return from the dead. Yank off a turkey leg, get comfy, and see what you think. It’s available on Netflix starting Friday. Oh, and check out our chat with Emily Kuroda (Mrs. Kim) here.


If you’re planning on staring at football games all weekend, you can still give your ears an early present in the form of new holiday albums from Jon Batiste, Andra Day, Kylie Minogue, and many more, as collected in Maura Johnston’s festive roundup.

Whatever you do, don’t overdo it on the stuffing. I know. It’s really, really good.

Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at mbrodeur@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur.