HERE & NOW
THE THURSDAY FORECAST is calling for a wintry quiet storm, what with the rapturous soul-jazz singer Anita Baker coming to Constitution Hall. The smooth and sophisticated alto is on a seasonal tour that's centered on her year-old holiday album, "Christmas Fantasy," but you'll hear more than just Baker's glowing riffs on "My Favorite Things," "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and such: The show will also include some of Baker's hits -- no doubt including "Giving You the Best That I Got," "Caught Up in the Rapture" and "Sweet Love," for which it's always the season.
-- J. Freedom du Lac
Thursday, 8 p.m. at DAR Constitution Hall, 1776 D St. NW, $55, $65, $79.50 (service charges apply). 202-397-7328.
IF THE SEASON IS getting too predictable -- too many Sugarplum Fairies, too much "Messiah" -- the Paul Taylor Dance Company offers a tempting antidote. Never sweet, sometimes sour, often sardonic, Taylor puts a refreshingly clear-eyed spin on things in his upcoming program of four works. His 2005 work, "Banquet of Vultures," takes on the cruelties of war, dogmatic leadership and an oblivious populace. (Hmm, what could have inspired that?) In a different vein altogether, this year's "Troilus and Cressida (reduced)" enlivens the Shakespeare story with Taylor's special brand of cleverness and wit, while the abstract "Aureole" and "Airs" are among the earlier classic works that cemented the man's reputation as a master of musicality and movement.
-- Sarah Kaufman
At the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2:30 and 8 p.m. $21-$50. 202-467-4600 or visithttp:/
A NEW WASHINGTON GROUP called SoundIncentive is using both the Internet and the stage to revive the tradition of the radio play. Its holiday offering -- with proceeds going to the N Street Village Shelter -- is "It's a Wonderful Life." The cast, giving two performances at the H Street Playhouse, includes Terrence Currier, Helen Hedman, Susan Lynskey, Stephen Schmidt and Nancy Robinette.
-- Peter Marks
Tomorrow and next Monday, Dec.18, 7:30 p.m. at H Street Playhouse, 1365 H St. NE. Suggested donation: $20 adults/$10 children. For more information, call 202-396-2125.
ACROSS THE COUNTRY, mayors are remaking cities, whether they know how to or not. That's why, 20 years ago, Joseph P. Riley Jr., then and still the mayor of Charleston, S.C., dreamed up the Mayors' Institute on City Design. More than 700 politicos have hashed out their troubles in the presence of skilled designers since the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Architectural Foundation and the U.S. Conference of Mayors got behind this urban-planning boot camp. On Wednesday, the taxpayers are invited to sit in as the institute conducts its anniversary session in public. Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for the New Yorker and dean of Parsons the New School, will moderate a panel of mayors, including Riley, at the National Building Museum. For Washington, where vast swaths of waterfront and downtown are in play, who's in the audience may be more important than who's on the panel. Toward that end, Mayor-elect Adrian Fenty and his planning team have been invited.
-- Linda Hales
At the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW., Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Free. 202-272-2448.http:/