We're liking "Cinderella," Bond, the New Standards, a "Downton Abbey" picture book and the dark drama "A Behanding in Spokane."
1 Ballet of the Dolls' "Cinderella" is a must-see for those who prefer their holiday cheer spiked with a bit of goth. Choreographer Myron Johnson takes inspiration from cartoonist Charles Addams (of "The Addams Family" fame) to create his own darkly witty take on the familiar story. Stephanie Fellner infuses the title role with sweetness, longing and dignity. The light touch of her dancing balances a sense of dreaminess against heartache. www.ritzdolls.com
2 The editors of Life magazine celebrate "50 Years of James Bond" with many previously unpublished photos, two-page summaries of every Bond film, a chapter on the sacrilegious 1954 CBS TV presentation of "Casino Royale," crisp biographies of the Bond actors and an inflation-adjusted tally of each film's box-office take. Bond believers will be stirred, not shaken, by this handsome coffeetable book.
3 Although the New Standards have been playing many of these selections live for quite some time, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about the Twin Cities trio's "Sunday Morning Coming Down." It's another collection of left-field lounge-jazz interpretations of well-known songs. How about the Beatles' "And I Love Her" as sort of bossa nova minimalism with a classical piano bridge? Or a deliciously seductive take with strings on Lucinda Williams' "Essence"? Or Chan Poling sounding like Leonard Cohen on Kris Kristofferson's title track? A most imaginative trio.
4It's a long wait until January, when the third season of "Downton Abbey" starts on PBS. "The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era," a companion to the upcoming season, can tide you over. In addition to gorgeous color photos from the set (with all those fabulous clothes on great display), it provides a few plot clues. Jessica Fellowes (niece of producer Julian) and her co-author, Matthew Sturgis, take us character by character, mixing story with history. A great page turner -- while wearing white gloves, of course, darling.
5 The spellbinding "A Behanding in Spokane" is like something out of a David Lynch dream. On the surface, this one-act drama at Gremlin Theatre should be offensive. It is packed with toxic language, and the cast is all misfits and weirdos. But it disarms our objections with wit and charm. The plot centers on a one-handed bigot who spits a stream of racist, sexist and homophobic slurs. He is looking for his hand, which he claims was severed 27 years ago when he was held down by mean kids. It's a tale of dark quirkiness. www.gremlin-theatre.org
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