Bassekou Kouyate
Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba; Credit: Jonathan Fischer

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Thursday through Sunday: My Fair Lady at National Theatre

Every makeover montage owes a debt to My Fair Lady, the mother of all makeover stories, but after a long Broadway run, an Oscar-winning movie version, and countless revivals around the world over almost seven decades, it was perhaps time for this musical to get a face-lift. It’s tough to find a new spin on a beloved classic that’s been performed in endless permutations without veering too far off the rails, but director Bartlett Sher has found a loophole: going back to the original source material, George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion. My Fair Lady follows Cockney flower seller Eliza Doolittle as phonetician Henry Higgins attempts to transform her into a member of high society to win a bet. While much of the plot of My Fair Lady follows that of Pygmalion, the original play has a more biting take on gender and class politics, and (spoiler alert) this production reverts to Pygmalion’s more feminist ending. Sher’s production has been widely hailed as revelatory. Though some of the plot points are things of the past, the idea of men trying to control a woman’s appearance, tone, and station in life is infuriatingly relevant, and this version doesn’t let Higgins off the hook for his misogyny. Though the take is fresh, the beats of the story, characters, and songs are the same as ever. The pleasure of seeing a familiar favorite is in seeing the recognizable numbers performed live, and seeing what new layers are found in this particular experience. Even the musical theater averse have heard songs like “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” and “On the Street Where You Live” and will be inclined to sway along. My Fair Lady, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Lowe, and directed by Barlett Sher, runs April 6 through 9 at National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. $45–$125. —Stephanie Rudig

Courtesy of National Theatre

Friday: Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba at the Kennedy Center

Mali’s Bassekou Kouyate and his band Ngoni Ba have a varied musical catalog. The group offer songs where Kouyate’s wife, Amy Sacko, is singing angelically over lilting, harp-resembling high notes from Kouyate’s lute-like ngoni, and ones where she is vocalizing powerful, lower-toned melodies over danceable grooves propelled by Ngoni Ba’s rhythm section. Kouyate was raised in Garana, Mali, a small village 125 miles northeast of the country’s capital, Bamako. Kouyate has been moving the strings with speedy fingerwork on the ngoni since he was 12 and, over the years, has innovatively developed new ways to play the instrument. He has added four strings to it, plugged it in, and attached a wah-wah pedal. He also developed the ngoni bass that another member of his band plays. Kouyate has occasionally added flamenco and blues-derived riffs, and has performed on stage with Paul McCartney, Bela Fleck, and Taj Mahal. But seeing them live you can expect Kouyate and Ngoni Ba to focus on their modernized Mande music from Mali. On their 2019 album, Miri, they included a song about dealing with the loss of Kouyate’s mother, while others offered spiritual lessons about friendship. Even if one doesn’t understand the lyrics sung in Bambara, the vocal and instrumental sonics will still convey emotional messages. Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba play at 6 p.m. on April 7 at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, 2700 F St. NW. Free. —Steve Kiviat

Friday through Sunday: Aurora’s Wedding at Capital One Hall

Washington Ballet’s Masanori Takiguchi in Aurora’s Wedding; Credit: xmbphotography

Ballet plots can actually be fairly dark. Many fairy tales are. A sea witch steals a young mermaid’s voice. A wolf eats and then impersonates a little girl’s grandmother. The Nutcracker, especially for D.C. residents, presents a certain kind of nightmare: a battle with monster-size rats. But ballets, like the fairy tales they’re often based on, usually end in happiness—except for some especially gruesome originals (Hans Christian Andersen’s little mermaid fails in her mission, slips into the sea, and dies). In ballet, the celebration lasts an entire 20-minute act. With Aurora’s Wedding, the Washington Ballet presents just the happy ending, the third act of the full-length Sleeping Beauty, which the company will present at the Kennedy Center in May. The three-show performance is intentionally family-friendly, featuring dances by childhood characters including Puss in Boots and Red Riding Hood. The matinées include pre-show activities starting at noon: a so-called “petting zoo” for the dancers’ costumes on Saturday, a photo opportunity on Sunday, crafts during both days. Aurora’s Wedding runs April 7 through 9, with two evening performances and two matinees at Capital One Hall, 7750 Capital One Tower Rd., Tysons. $48–$93. —Mary Scott Manning 

Sunday: VÉRITÉ at Union Stage

VÉRITÉ; courtesy of Union Stage

From our Spring Arts Guide: Haunting is the first word I can think to describe VÉRITÉ’s sound, but, in fact, most adjectives used to describe the 32-year-old indie artist’s music live in the land of fantasy. I’m certainly not the first to call her music haunting. NPR describes her as “spellbinding,” another outlet calls her voice “ethereal.” Her vocals, by turns breathy and then crystal clear, are captivating as she sings about heartbreak. Her music, an electronic edge on indie pop, is equally fantastical with soft beats, edgy pulses, and thumping rhythms. I’ve seen VÉRITÉ compared to Lana Del Rey, and there are certainly similarities, but where Lana gives classic Hollywood sad-girl vibes, VÉRITÉ offers a twinge of American Horror Story violence. On Twitter, she describes her latest album, love you forever, released Feb. 24, as “a record about loving someone so much, you murder them and drag their body into a lake.” In the first single, “are we done yet?,” VÉRITÉ manages to make that same lyric sound an awful lot like “Are we dying?” And the best line of the title track hits you in the gut: “But I can’t help that when you walk away/ It feels like violence.” The album, VÉRITÉ continues, is “the most literal interpretation of a world built to trace the chaotic process of grief and learning to let go.” It’s a breakup album for anyone whose sadness mingles with morbidity, and, honestly, it’s the perfect soundtrack for a late night show. VÉRITÉ plays at 10:30 p.m. on April 8 at Union Stage. $22. —Sarah Marloff

Thursday, April 13: Curtis Sittenfeld with Martine Powers at Sixth & I

One of the principles of improvisational comedy is “Yes and,” meaning that performers should never negate or undermine their scene partners. Always agree, always build on what the other person said. It’s harder, in love, to be so agreeable; easier to say, “Yes but,” “Maybe,” or “What do you mean by that?” And who better than Curtis Sittenfeld, literary queen of the What if’s?—what if Hillary never married Bill? What if Laura Bush was, like, cool?—to “yes and” her way through a charming love story between a witty sketch comedy writer and a sexy pop star. The twist? What if the writer was the woman and the star was the guy? Yes, and then what if COVID happened? Sittenfeld has written the story of a woman and a moment in her latest novel Romantic Comedy (published April 4), which is more than a romance novel. “Girl writer” Sally Milz steers clear of all the adorable ingenue cliches. Instead of perky, she is prickly, and while she is appealing, she’s not exactly endearing. (Comedians rarely are.) It makes sense that Sally would respond to attention from a hunky superstar with suspicion and bitterness; it also makes sense that, in the locked-down days of the pandemic, that she’d be the girl a man like Noah Brewster couldn’t forget. Comedy fans and gossip hounds will recognize Sittenfeld’s lightly veiled treatments of guys like Colin Jost and Pete Davidson, while romance fans will appreciate the epistolary interludes, not to mention the sweet and sexy times between the leads. Several gender-swapped Notting Hills have been making the rounds lately, including Annabel Monaghan’s Nora Goes Off-Script, Katherine Center’s The Bodyguard, and the genuinely laugh-out-loud funny HBO Max series Starstruck, created by and starring Rose Matafeo; but there’s no question that Sittenfeld’s novel is one of the best of its kind. Curtis Sittenfeld joins Martine Powers to discuss Romantic Comedy at 7 p.m. on April 13 at Sixth & I, 600 I St. NW. $20–$35.Annie Berke