Editors' pick

Washington Revels present the Christmas Revels

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Editorial Review

Backstage: Revels

By Jessica Goldstein
Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011

The best way to describe the "Christmas Revels," the celebration of the winter solstice held at George Washington Lisner Auditorium, is "big."

At any given moment in the show, 100 people could be onstage. Those people come from every walk of theatrical life: trained actors, a children's chorus, a teen chorus, an adult chorus, professional musicians, tradition bearers from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. The show is seen by 10,000 people over the course of the run.

"Revels, in and of itself, is a sprawling undertaking," said Greg Lewis, Washington Revels executive director. "Revels weaves in music, dance, drama, story and ritual."

The narrative loosely follows two adventurers who happen upon a treasure when they travel back in time from the Spanish Renaissance to 10th-century Cordoba.

The treasure discovered by the adventurers turns out to be magical; the objects come to life when touched. Singing and dancing ensue, woven together with poetry and drama.

It's a massive cross-cultural endeavor: Arab-Andalusian music back-to-back with Sephardic songs; Spanish folk carols alongside North African dance.

This is the 29th year Washington has put on a Revels show - there are numerous other Revels cities across the country - and, Lewis said, there are audience members returning this year for the 25th time. "There's something about Revels that reaches to a core. This sense of creating community and becoming part of a community that crosses these cultural lines.

"At the real root bottom, it's the very fact of presenting, onstage, the Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions together. . . . That's worthy of celebration."

Friday through Sunday at GW Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. www.revelsdc.org. 800-595-4849.