Holiday lights aglow, orchestra on demand, and Michael Eric Dyson’s new book in this week’s ‘Things to Do’

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The Franklin Square Electrical Light Spectacle is presented by PECO. More than 50,000 lights dance to holiday music performed by The Philly Pops.

The Franklin Square Electrical Light Spectacle in 2016. (Emily Cohen for WHYY)

The region is ablaze with socially distanced holiday light shows from the city to the burbs. As COVID-19 continues its relentless march through the Delaware Valley, caution, flexibility and advanced planning is recommended.

‘The Why’ in race relations

Michael Eric Dyson is an author, scholar, Baptist minister and frequent pundit on TV talk and political shows. His latest book “Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America” uses a series of letters to those who were victims of racial animus, from Emmett Till to Breonna Taylor, to make a point about the continued challenge of race relations. Dyson joins The Why host Annette John-Hall for a virtual discussion of the book. Tickets can be purchased for the event with or without an autographed book. 

A Conversation with Michael Eric Dyson
Hosted by Annette John-Hall of The Why, virtual
Wednesday, Dec. 9, 6 p.m. (new time) $15, $38 for admission and book

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Lights, cameras, holidays

Despite the pandemic, the holiday events season has arrived. COVID protocols are new this year, but at least there are a wide variety of festive masks to wear if you choose to take the family somewhere. In Philadelphia, the Wells Fargo Center is hosting “Winter on Broad Street” a walk-through holiday light festival of 193 light displays with shopping and refreshment stations.

In Bernville, Pa., Koziar’s Christmas Village is back. Located in Berks County, they’ve been providing the holiday attraction on eight acres of the family’s former homestead since 1948.

Meanwhile, the 1989 holiday film “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is now firmly in the Christmas movie canon and it inspired a local family to create their own extravagant display. The West Chester “Griswolds” (actually the Plummers) annual light show at their suburban mansion has been lit up since Thanksgiving. 

“Winter on Broad Street”
Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St., Philadelphia
Through Jan. 2, $15 – $25.

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Koziar’s Christmas Village
782 Christmas Village Rd., Bernville, Pa.
Through Jan. 2, Monday – Friday, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., Saturday, 4:30 p.m. – 10 p.m., Sunday 4:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.
$10 – $12 ($5 extra on prime nights)

The West Chester Griswolds light display
304 Dutton Mill Rd. West Chester, Pa.
Monday – Thursday, 4:45 p.m. – 9:45 p.m., Friday – Sunday 4:45 p.m. – 10:15 p.m., through Jan. 3

Let’s talk about sax

Saxophonist Mike Phillips may not be a native son, but his work with Philly artists like Jill Scott makes him seem like one. The Mt. Vernon, N.Y. native (a distinction he shares with hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs) and horn player extraordinaire has also worked with Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Prince, and has released four studio albums since 2002. The latest, “Pulling Off the Covers” features a jazz/R&B remake of the late hip-hop star Craig Mack’s 1994 hit “Flava in Ya Ear.” Phillips is performing via livestream on Saturday night from City Winery Atlanta. 

Mike Phillips Live
Saturday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m., virtual

Intimate orchestra

The Philadelphia Orchestra has remained busy throughout the pandemic with livestreams and other initiatives to continue to provide the city with the joy of classical music. One of their initiatives, Our City, Your Orchestra, brings intimate chamber music performances to Black-owned businesses and to cultural landmarks around the city. The free concerts are designed to make classical music accessible to a wider range of enthusiasts and to show resilience through one of the most challenging periods for the city’s cultural venues and artists. The shows, recorded without audiences, stream live on the orchestra’s website and on their Facebook page every Monday at 7 p.m. 

“Our City, Your Orchestra,”
Mondays at 7 p.m., virtual

Virtual ‘Heroes’

Without theatergoers, does theater still exist? Thanks to technology, it can. The Wilma Theater is mounting a production specifically created for online viewing. “Heroes of the Fourth Turning” was produced in a quarantine bubble in the Poconos with all COVID-19 precautions. The play, set right before the 2017 eclipse, finds four conservative Catholic friends at a backyard party waiting to celebrate a friend who is a newly minted college president. But the festivities soon turn tense, when they realize they’re at odds over issues that the whole country is wrestling over. Playwright Will Arbery’s work was included among 2019’s best plays by outlets including The New York Times and Vulture.

The Wilma Theater’s “Heroes of the Fourth Turning”
Virtual through Dec. 13

Cash doc and more

Johnny Cash was among the biggest musical icons of his generation and was so well known for his love story with wife June Carter Cash that a 2005 movie, “Walk The Line,” was made about it, earning an Oscar for Reese Witherspoon. What many don’t know is that Cash had a first wife, Vivian Liberto, mother to Roseanne Cash and his three other daughters. The controversy around Liberto’s race, or perceived race, as well as Cash’s drug use and infidelity ultimately sabotaged the union, but Liberto’s fascinating story is now being told for the first time in the doc “My Darling Vivian,” on Amazon Prime. It’s available starting Dec. 8.

Dancer, choreographer and director Debbie Allen’s preparation for her annual nutcracker performance at her Los Angeles dance school is the subject of “Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker” on Netflix, streaming now. 

“The Godfather Pt. III” was first released in 1990 to underwhelming reviews. Now reworked as “The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone”, the last film in the classic gangster trilogy has been recut with a new beginning and ending by director Francis Ford Coppola. The new version is in select theaters on Dec. 4, and on-demand starting Dec. 8.

Keep checking in with “Things To Do” as we continue to provide our picks for entertainment during the industry’s COVID-19 hiatus. Please consult our coronavirus updates to keep up with the latest information regionally.

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