Things to Do

The Weekender: Acrobats on ice, rockabilly on speed, and chestnuts on an open fire

Sally Hawkins in Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water.”
Kerry Hayes/20th Century Fox
Sally Hawkins in Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water.”

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Hey, hey, hey/ ho, ho, ho Weekenders. This newsletter understands full well that the last thing you need — in the midst of wrapping, baking, or pretending to wrap and bake while you rock back and forth on the floor, hugging your knees — is a list of additional things you really should be doing this weekend.

Be that as it may, the Weekender will gently remind you that the holidays are all about things you don’t really need right now, so this whopper list of worthwhile distractions from your many obligations is actually perfectly in line with the Christmas spirit. (Besides, you need to go out anyway. You’re out of Scotch tape. Again.) Read on! Party on! And be careful: Snow this weekend.

THING TANK: Those in search of Ty Burr’s missing four stars will find them hovering aglow above the latest film from the “absurdly talented” Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water,” which he calls “a love story like no other” and can say with certainty is “the first film to reimagine ‘The Creature From the Black Lagoon’ as an interspecies romance. Sally Hawkins is a silent force as a “mute cleaning lady in early-1960s Baltimore who stumbles upon a sinister scientific experiment and its watery victim,” and according to Burr, it’s “the kind of acting that makes you grateful you get to tag along and watch.” You’ll also get a “powder-keg performance” from Michael Shannon, whom the Globe’s Isaac Feldberg describes as “the film’s most nakedly monstrous figure, a sneering, self-righteous fascist in patriot drag.”) You’ll also get Dots, because I have no idea why. They’re really not that enjoyable you guys. Opens Friday.


HIS PRIME: Elsewhere in the darkness is the “good, glib entertainment” of “Darkest Hour,” the latest film from director Joe Wright (“Atonement,” “Pride & Prejudice”), which stars a heavily padded Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. Burr pins three stars on this “decent biopic,” calling it “rousing and well-made and unruffled by depth, with an expertly judged performance at its center.” As Churchill, Oldman “mutters and warbles and thinks half out loud. . . . Watching him is great fun, and Oldman knows it; he knows Winston saw the fun in himself, too.” So that’s the fun part; the advance of Nazi armies across Europe in the backdrop, much less so. Opens Friday.

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I SPY: Since we’re reaching back in time a bit, Moonbox Productions has what the Globe’s Don Aucoin calls a “delectably funny” staging of “The 39 Steps” (a “labyrinthine” adaptation of the 1935 Hitchcock film, itself based on James Buchan’s 1915 novel) at the Plaza Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, through Saturday. Director Allison Olivia Choat finds a “sweet spot” between farce and thriller with a “cast of talented and indefatigable actors” operating in full-tilt “spoofy send-up mode.” (Fans of the Master of Suspense may want to quietly bust out their Hitchcock Bingo cards, as the cross-oeuvre references will be heavy.) More info and tickets here.

LYNNTENSITY: If you’ve got two hours of time (and a gallon of sweat) to spare, might I suggest taking in a performance by the Mavericks (a.k.a. The Globe’s other unofficial favorite band)? On Saturday night, the recently reunited Florida powerhouse will peel the paint off the Lynn Auditorium with its trademark scorching roadhouse blend of Southern soul, Latin, country, rockabilly, and probably a couple of properly roasted holiday chestnuts. Find tickets here. And because this newsletter is nothing if not honest, it’s not going to pretend like it didn’t just now spot the listing for Dennis DeYoung playing “The Music of Styx” (in a vest and dress pants?) with opening act Eddie Money (WHAT?) on Friday night at the very same venue. Again: What?! Calm down Lynn!

MICHELLE-O-L: If you’ve been watching “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” (wow, you have?) one of the scattered high points of the rebooted fake newsroom are the appearances from the intensely funny Michelle Wolf. A former regular face on “Late Night With Seth Myers,” Wolf also has her first stand-up special for HBO, “Nice Lady,” airing Saturday — pretty much right after she gets off stage at Laugh Boston (where she’ll be performing four sets over the course of Friday and Saturday nights), so if she looks a little distracted, there you go. Though it could also be that festive sweater you’ve decided to wear everywhere, Joanne. Yes, you, Joanne. It’s very distracting with the blinking Rudolph nose. I’m sorry to have to tell you like this. (Tickets here.)

 Notice how up until Joanne’s sweater I hadn’t brought up the holidays once? That was on purpose. I was trying to give you a little break from Christmas before I dump out a proverbial Santa-sack of yuletidey options for the weekend, but as Boss Kringle yells at his elves every September, breaktime is over. 

Kelly Clarkson is one of the headliners of Kiss 108’s Jingle Ball at TD Garden.
Vincent Peters
Kelly Clarkson is one of the headliners of Kiss 108’s Jingle Ball at TD Garden.

SLAY BELLS: It wouldn’t be Christmas(TM) without the arena-decking annual popsplosion that is the Kiss 108 Jingle Ball. You can catch Kelly Clarkson (who just released the new holiday single “Christmas Eve,” as well as the children’s book “River Rose and the Magical Christmas”) along with Fall Out Boy, Fifth Harmony, Halsey, Charlie Puth, Camila Cabello (the “Havana” girl!), Sabrina Carpenter, Max, and Why Don’t We — who I hope are a Deee-Lite cover band but probably aren’t. That’s Sunday night at TD Garden. Tickets here.

WHOOP ’N’ HOLIDAY: If Saturday night’s Mavericks show put you on a level you’d like to maintain until Monday, or if you’re just dreaming of a white-knuckle Christmas, hit the Sinclair on Sunday night for the ho-ho-hoedown of the Reverend Horton Heat and his rambling Holiday Hayride show featuring Junior Brown. He being a Reverend and all, Christmas means a lot to Jim “Reverend Horton” Heath — he graced/greased the world with “We Three Kings” back in 2005. Expect Sunday night’s holiday party to wallop you like a mug of spiked punch. Tickets here.

SLIDE PROJECT: If you like eye-popping acrobatics, capades of the sort that take place on ice, trippy visual spectacles, and wearing a parka indoors (or a sweater, Joanne, fine, you can wear the damn sweater), it’s hard to imagine an event more precision-carved-out for you than “Crystal: A Breakthrough Ice Experience.” No, it’s not about suddenly turning to party drugs, it’s Cirque du Soleil’s first-ever production on ice, and it’s just as bonkers as that sounds. The general gist: “A young woman transcends reality and reaches ‘a surreal world filled with possibility.’ ” (So maybe I was wrong about the drugs part?) That’s at the DCU Center in another surreal world filled with possibility, Worcester, through Sunday. Tickets here.

MERRY MAKER: Not done yet! We’ve got Holiday Pops to hear! If you think you’re tired of Christmas, just think how they feel. Forty shows! (You throw, what, like one party?) And each night finds them moving merrily from house to house — Handel’s “Hallelujah” to “A Christmas Carol” to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to “Sleigh Ride” and onward. It’s always a familiar trail, but Keith Lockhart and Co. always infuse it with fresh spirit. And this year in particular, we need a little Christmas. (Are they playing that one?) Find out through Dec. 31, and find tickets here.

A FINE MESSIAH: Should that small sip of “Hallelujah” set you on a Handel bender, Boston Baroque’s trusty annual visitation to Handel’s “Messiah” comes once again to Jordan Hall, with performances Friday and Saturday nights. Martin Pearlman directs with soloists Ava Pine, Paula Murrihy, Aaron Sheehan, and Stephen Powell. (For more Handel — there’s more — check out Matthew Guerrieri’s recent Score.) Find Boston Baroque tickets here.


REVEL REVEL: And one last bit of wassail before we Uber home and hit the sugar plums: The 47th annual Christmas Revels! This year’s theme is the Renaissance — specifically “A Venetian Celebration of the Winter Solstice” — and finds the Doge of Venice ghosting from his courtly responsibilities to chase adventures with a bawdy gang of “reckless actors, jailbreaks, itinerate musicians, English Morris men and maybe even the Spanish Armada.” Not quite sure what’s going on here, but color me interested. It’s running through Dec. 27 at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. Find tickets here


Claire Foy and Matt Smith in “The Crown.”
Robert Viglasky/Netflix
Claire Foy and Matt Smith in “The Crown.”

OR STAY IN! If this whole leaving the house and acknowledging what time of year it is thing isn’t happening for you (which is fine, you’re fine), there’s no reason not to submit yourself entirely to “The Crown,” season two of which arrives on Netflix on Friday. (It’s Claire Foy’s final season as Lizzy 2!) Not a bad idea to brush up on the current state of TV royalty with Matthew Gilbert’s helpful primer.

And if it’s looking like more of a blanket-plus-headphones weekend, Isaac Feldberg and Terrence Cawley have cobbled together a list of fresh new album releases worth couching up with from Neil Young, Chris Stapleton, Bjork, Miguel, Andy Grammer, and Belle & Sebastian. (Can you guess which one is “a triumph on all counts”?)

And that, dear Weekenders, is all I could fit in the sleigh this time. I’ll make another round next Friday (and I’ll try to bring a new sweater for you know who). Until then, however you spend your weekend, make it one you’ll miss come Monday. See you next week!

Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur