Five years ago, the United Palace in Washington Heights mashed up hip-hop dance with Tchaikovsky’s music to produce its groundbreaking annual touring show, The Hip Hop Nutcracker. This holiday season, the historic Manhattan theater is continuing that tradition by presenting Handel’s Messiah—uptown style—with Too Hot To Handel: The Gospel Messiah, at 3 p.m. on December 15.
This reimagining of the holiday classic fuses gospel and jazz with Latin music to connect with the Washington Heights community, which is predominantly Dominican. The performance will feature local musicians and artists, including the Washington Heights Chamber Orchestra, Fort Washington Community Choir, and guest choirs under the music direction of composer, conductor and pianist Chris Whittaker. Headlining soloists will include Angela Birchett (The Color Purple, Smokey Joe’s Café), Anwar Robinson (American Idol finalist, Rent) and up-and-comer Yancy Garcia.
Rev. Heather Shea, CEO and spiritual director of the United Palace, says the performance is part of the United Palace’s mission to foster creativity and transformation through the connection to spirit through music, art and entertainment—or “spiritual arts.”
The 3,400-seats venue opened in 1930 as the region’s premiere vaudeville and movie theater. Today the United Palace produces world-class concerts, immersive multimedia productions, communal experiences, movie screenings, spiritual programming and more.
Too Hot to Handel, first performed in 1993 at Lincoln Center, has been hailed as “ingeniously re-imagined” by the Chicago Tribune and “perhaps the jazziest, most soulful reinterpretation of Handel’s Messiah you’ll ever hear” by the New York Post.
“We believe families who have never been to a traditional performance of the Messiah will have the same transformative experience with this new holiday classic,” says Mike Fitelson, executive producer of the United Palace.
Cost: $15-$75. Discounts for children 12 and under and seniors. Group rates available. Location: 4140 Broadway at 175th St. For tickets and information, visit UnitedPalace.org.