HERE & NOW
THINK OF JULY as Song and Dance Month at the Avalon Theatre -- don't worry, in this case you sit in air-conditioned comfort while Gene Kelly, John Travolta and other hoofers do the sweaty stuff. The Avalon is devoting four weekend mornings (starting Saturday) to Hollywood musicals, including toe-tapping favorites for families ("The Wizard of Oz" next weekend and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" on July 21 and 22). There's also a Wednesday morning lecture series by film historian Max Alvarez with DVD excerpts illustrating the history of the musical, followed by feature-length screenings of "Singin' in the Rain," "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" and "Fiddler on the Roof" on the big screen.
-- Desson Thomson
At the Avalon Theatre, 5612 Connecticut Ave. NW. For times, admission prices and more information, visithttp:/
JOHN LA FARGE IS BEST KNOWN for his work decorating the most lavish churches of Gilded Age America. But the luscious, almost incandescent flowers in his "Hollyhocks," painted in 1863, push decoration close to the sublime. That picture alone repays a visit to "Variations on America," a show drawn from a motley collection of private collections affiliated with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. There are any number of other fine pictures in the exhibition: a stunning snow scene by Whistler, a landmark painting by Mary Cassatt of her mother reading the paper, a vibrant portrait of twins by Alice Neel. They manage -- just -- to overpower some of the schlock and jingoism that dedicated buyers of American art also seem to go in for. The show is clearly a present to the collectors whose works are on display. Let's hope the best of them (but only the best of them) return the gift by donating their treasures to the museum that is showing them off.
-- Blake Gopnik
Through July 29 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, at Eighth and F streets NW. Open from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Visithttp:/
THIS EVENING AT WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL, the splendid New York-based organist Paul Jacobs -- who has played every note the late composer Olivier Messiaen ever wrote for the instrument -- will offer music not only by Messiaen but also by Cesar Franck, Max Reger and J.S. Bach. It is all part of the Summer Music Festival taking place within the structure's dark recesses, and it ought to be well worth searching out.