The temperatures may be dropping, but LGBT entertainment in Philly this winter is anything but chilly. Highlights of the season’s rock-star arts lineup includes standup from Queer As Folk alum Hal Sparks and The Killers’ sure-to-be-electric concert. If an edgier take on the season is the craving, Philly drag darling Martha Graham Cracker ushers in the winter solstice with a Choral Spectacular at FringeArts, choreographer Brian Sanders’ Adult Swim spins holiday traditions by marrying sex appeal and dumpster diving, and, now in its 20th year, the venerable, 20-year-old tradition of GayBINGO! puts on its beloved Christmas edition.
To maximize the season’s offerings, visitors can book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package, featuring free hotel parking, two tickets to Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor at The Franklin Institute, two tickets and skate rentals for the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest and a $25 gift card valid at nine Jose Garces restaurants at visitphilly.com.
Here’s a look at what to expect from Philadelphia’s LGBT scene this winter:
Live Arts, Holiday Style:
1. Brian Sanders’ Adult Swim – A holiday feast for the senses, choreographer Brian Sanders marries the evocative dance of his troupe, named Junk, with seasonal scores from The Nutcracker to introduce Crushed Nuts. The self-described “high art for the lowbrow” is part of an ongoing Urban Scuba series—a body of work that combines the found objects (junk) that comprise the sets and acrobatic modern performance Sanders refers to as “dumpster diving.” December 13-23. 2040 Christian Street, (267) 406-6080, briansandersjunk.com
2. Tinsel Garland Returns to Philly! – A local drag legend comes home, bringing with her signature comedy and stage antics as a callback to drag days gone by. Garland performs her greatest hits, with support from drag daughter and Philly fave Brittany Lynn and a gaggle of queens whose lashes may be recognizable from the days of Gayborhood locale 12th Air Command. December 15. 200 S. 12th Street, (215) 964-9675, tabuphilly.com
3. Martha Graham Cracker’s Choral Spectacular – Martha, also kown as Pig Iron Theatre co-founder and visionary Dito Van Reigersberg, may not be the most conventional of Philly drag queens, with hairy armpits complementing the curly locks of her wig, but she proves she can nail the wails and warbles of the holiday classics as seamlessly as Mariah Carey on her best days. Transcending just holiday feel-goods, Martha joins a choir for a set about the winter solstice—making this FringeArts performance the city’s the most raucous one of the season. December 22. 140 S. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 413-1318, fringearts.com
4. SLEIGH – Gayborhood cocktail lounge and restaurant Valanni hosts a two-hour meet-and-greet with “Real Housewives” star Teresa Giudice, with the block closed for a holiday party that flows into the streets. Brittany Lynn emcees an entertainment lineup that includes performances by burlesque goddesses Honeytree Evileye and Flirt Vonnegut, appearances by Gayborhood socialite Miss Ty and drag queens Aloe Vera and Lady Geisha serving laughs. A portion of proceeds supports Toys for Tots. December 7. 1229 Spruce Street, (215) 790-9494, valanni.com
5. TOY – The Delaware Valley Legacy Fund hosts this swanky, sky-high, see-and-be-seen soiree—a three-hour toy drive that’s brought in more than 400 guests in past years—to benefit patients of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and clients of Action Wellness. Tickets grant hors d’oeuvres, open bar and music by DJ Carl Michaels, plus the stunning views of Sky Philadelphia. Guests are asked to bring an unopened toy. December 9. 1717 Arch Street, 50th floor, (215) 563-6417, dvlf.org
6. GayBingo White Christmas – GayBINGO! Philly, a 20-year-old (and year-round) event from the AIDS Fund, continues its tradition of hosting a Christmas-themed bingo event, filled with queens—also known as “Bingo Verifying Divas”—who don campy Santa outfits and other cheeky get-ups. Players are encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy for children infected with—or impacted by—HIV to the Gershman Y. December 16. 401 S. Broad Street, (215) 731-9255, aidsfundphilly.org
More Live Arts:
7. Hal Sparks – Though Sparks may forever be remembered as “Michael” in Showtime’s Queer As Folk, he’s since become a staple on the standup comedy circuit—notorious for his affable chattiness. Combining wit with eccentric physical comedy, Sparks tackles everyday life with a sprinkle of political commentary at Helium Comedy Club. December 7-9. 2031 Sansom Street, (215) 496-9001, philadelphia.heliumcomedy.com
8. The Killers – Lead singer Brandon Flowers has made a name for himself as a modern-day Bowie among his LGBT fans, who swoon as his notes soar over synth-y disco-rock. Flowers and his band take the stage at the Wells Fargo Center to promote new album Wonderful Wonderful—along with familiar hits. January 13. 3601 S. Broad Street, (800) 298-4200, wellsfargocenterphilly.com
9. Rufus Wainwright – The vocalist, composer and songwriter pairs with the 65-piece Philly POPS to celebrate his storied and successful career as a “popera” artist. Wainwright, who’s been recognized for his music in the past by GLAAD and identifies as gay, is joined by the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus on the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts stage for a guns-blazing finale. January 19. 240 S. Broad Street, (215) 893-1999, kimmelcenter.org
10. Andrea Gibson – Gibson, who identifies as genderqueer, uses poetry to explore the immensity of love and the feeling of living without the perfect identifying pronoun in a society that she sees as operating in boxes. She comes to The Fillmore in support of her latest spoken word album, HEY GALAXY, out January 12. January 23. 29 E. Allen Street, (215) 309-0150, thefillmorephilly.com
11. Dorian Corey Awards – Part performance showcase, part celebration of vogue ballroom dancing’s at-large culture, the 23rd annual Dorian Corey Awards—so named after the same Dorian Corey recognizable from the 1990 film Paris is Burning—honors House of Elite and seven new inductees into the voguing hall of fame. Dancers battle it out at The Victorian as Jack Mizrahi, a ballroom legend who’s collaborated with Jennifer Lopez, entertains as master of ceremonies. February 3. 4809 Germantown Avenue, (973) 980-7600, victorianphilly.com
12. Something Rotten! – Nominated for 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Casey Nicholaw’s just-off-Broadway production unfurls the story of two playwrights desperate—in the most hilariously campy of ways—to score a big hit in the 1590s against the enviable Shakespeare. The result is the fictional journey to produce the world’s first musical, taking shape as a high-energy show with lots and lots of sequins at Academy of Music. February 27-March 4. 240 S. Broad Street, (215) 893-1999, kimmelcenter.org
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On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.