From Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, to Sutton Foster and Ali Wong, there will be plenty of familiar names and faces on Boston-area stages as the second half of the arts season picks back up after the holiday intermission.
In the downtown theaters, snazzy musicals will predominate as usual – several of them returning for the third or fourth or fifth time. But there are also new titles arriving straight from Broadway – with Tony Awards in tow – to knock the socks off audiences.
On the boards, strong female protagonists and themes of family, race and identity dominate much of the region’s serious theater. It is also a busy season full of comedy, dance, music and visual arts that will keep y’all hopping from venue to venue. Bundle up!
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ArtsEmerson continues its 10th anniversary season with innovative contemporary works from artists around the world. “Detroit Red” is a commissioned world premier by hip-hop playwright Will Power about Malcolm X and his years in Roxbury when he was called Detroit Red and began to develop as a civil rights leader. It’s a world premiere and runs Feb. 1-16 at Emerson Paramount Center, Boston; artsemerson.org.
The award for most star power, hands down, goes to Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker in “Plaza Suite,” a revival of a Neil Simon comedy about marriage that premiered at the Colonial Theater in 1968 and will again be there Feb. 5-22 on its way to Broadway. Benjamin Hickey directs; emersoncolonialtheatre.com.
At the American Repertory Theater, tickets are selling fast for “Gloria: A Life,” a play by Emily Mann about Gloria Steinem, the feminist trailblazer. Artistic Director Diane Paulus helms an all-female cast in the show that opened last week and runs through March 1 at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge; americanrepertorytheater.org.
Patricia Kalember stars as feminist activist Gloria Steinem at A.R.T.
Elsa Dorfman, the Cambridge portraitist who was a friend of the Beats and quite an artist in her own right, working exclusively with Polaroids, is the subject of an exhibition titled “Elsa Dorfman: Me and My Camera.” On display are her images of friends, family and self-portraits, Feb. 8-June 21, Museum of Fine Arts; mfa.org.
An act with international flair is the Bereishit Dance Company, the contemporary troupe from Seoul, Korea, making its Boston debut in a pair of Celebrity Series performances, Feb. 8-9 at New England Conservatory’s Plimpton Shattuck Black Box Theatre; celebrityseries.org.
Boston Ballet resumes its season with “rEVOLUTION,” a dynamic program paying tribute to three pioneering choreographers who transformed the world of ballet: George Balanchine (“Agon”), William Forsythe (“In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated”), and Jerome Robbins (“Glass Pieces”). Feb. 27-March 8, at the Citizens Bank Opera House; boston ballet.org.
Among the season’s more curious works are “Plata Quemada,” a U.S. premier by Teatrocinema of Chile, which uses live performance, animation and illustration to adapt a controversial graphic novel about Argentina’s most daring bank heist. It runs March 11-15 at Emerson Paramount Center, Boston.
Billie Eilish is the youngest singer ever to record a James Bond theme song for the suave spy’s 25th film, “No Time to Die.” The 18-year-old electropop wonder made history at the Grammy Awards Sunday, becoming the youngest person to win one of Grammy’s top awards — record, song and album of the year, and best new artist. She performs March 19 at the TD Garden.
The Tony Award-winning musical “The Band’s Visit” is a lilting opus that sings praises to music’s power to facilitate change and understanding – even between ancient enemies like Jews and Egyptians; March 24-April 5, Citizens Bank Opera House; www.BroadwayInBoston.com.
Comedian and actress Ali Wong is one of the hottest tickets in town and she’s added a fourth show to accommodate the demand. She hits the stage with “The Milk and Money” tour April 25-26 at Boch Center Wang Theatre. Wong gained fame for her raunchy take on feminism and motherhood in her Netflix specials “Baby Cobra” in 2016 and “Hard Knock Wife” two years later; bochcenter.org.
These shows are just magical humdingers, worthy of all the attention they get.
Among the Broadway musicals new to Boston audiences is “Mean Girls.” The smash musical adaptation of the hit movie tells the story of home-schooled teen who goes to public high school for the first time and clashes with the cool girl clique. That’s so fetch. Jan. 28-Feb. 9, at the Citizens Bank Opera House; www.BroadwayInBoston.com.
Having a blast with the laughs in ‘Mean Girls’
Boston Ballet presents an old favorite in “Carmen,” a program filled with four ballets that celebrate the creativity, beauty and power of women while exploring the emotional depths of human connection. Jorma Elo choreographs. March 12-22 at Citizens Bank Opera House, bostonballet.org.
Following her critically acclaimed turn in 2017’s “Tosca,” Russian soprano Elena Stikhina returns to Boston Lyric Opera in the title role of Bellini’s bel canto “Norma,” March 13-22 at Cutler Majestic Theatre. blo.org
Country giants Little Big Town perform their monster hit, “Girl Crush,” written by Stoughton’s Lori McKenna, Feb 7-8 at the Boch Center Wang Theatre. bochcenter.org.
There have been lots of great dance teams – Fred and Ginger, Gene Kelly and Jerry the Mouse, Patrick Swayze and Baby. The Celebrity Series and Paul Taylor Dance Company have also proven to be a great match. The troupe returns to the Shubert Theatre, April 17-19. celebrityseries.org.
Sutton Foster, a Tony winner for her portrayal of an ambitious flapper in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and star of TV’s “Younger” does her song-and-dance thing in a Celebrity Series production, Feb. 1 at Sanders Theatre, Cambridge. celebrityseries.org.
Expect riveting contemporary dance with plenty of hard edges when the Bessie Award-winning Camille A. Brown and Dancers take the stage in a Celebrity Series production March 7-8 at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre; celebrityseries.org.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
Nothing takes the edge of winter’s chill faster than comfortable, reliable entertainment. These old favorites will fix you up nicely.
“Shear Madness,” the comedy about a murder in a beauty parlor, just keeps on enduring – the longest-running play in the history of American theater. The production, which started in Boston, celebrates 40 years of cutting laughs. It’s a wild and wacky mix of mayhem, mystery and mousse with plenty of audience participation; through Feb. 29 at the Charles Playhouse, Boston. www.shearmadness.com
Also in the familiar returnees category are “Fiddler on the Roof” – the crowd pleasing story of a Jewish dairy farmer and his threatened traditions, Feb. 25-March 8, Emerson Colonial. www.BroadwayInBoston.com
Expect a parade of hits, from “Oh, What a Night!” to “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and more, when “Jersey Boys,” the Tony-winning musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, returns March 18-22 at Emerson Colonial Theatre, BroadwayInBoston.com
“Chicago,” the razzle-dazzle revival of the Bob Fosse show about Roxie Hart, a conniving and murderous chorine and her quest for celebrity, makes a return engagement May 5-10 at the Emerson Colonial Theatre. If you haven’t seen it yet, do. BroadwayInBoston.com
Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen’s show-stopping “Swan Lake” is a classical masterpiece that follows the Swan Queen Odette and Prince Siegfried in a tale of romance, sorcery, and deceit. The second act, originally choreographed by Lev Ivanov, is historically considered the finest piece of classical choreography for the corps de ballet; May 1-31 at the Citizens Bank Opera House, bostonballet.org.
Canadian crooner Michael Buble seduces the adult contemporary crowd at TD Garden on March 25. ticketmaster.com
America’s leading modern dance company, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, makes its annual appearance in Boston and will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Ailey’s signature dance, “Revelations.” Get ready to be moved. April 30-May 3 at the Boch Center Wang Theatre.
Superstar soprano Renée Fleming returns to Boston for her seventh Symphony Hall recital. This time, acclaimed pianist Evgeny Kissin provides accompaniment, April 26 at Symphony Hall; celebrityseries.org.
A highlight of returning works is “Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower,” a fully staged production of an ArtsEmerson workshop that sold out in 2017. With music and lyrics by Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock and her daughter Toshi Reagon, it presents 200 years of black music to tell the story of the 1980s futuristic science fiction work by Butler. The books will be a citywide read. It runs March 26-29 at Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre, Boston. emersontheatres.org.
Also making a repeat visit is “69 Degrees South,” a multimedia piece of life-size puppetry, dance and cinema – set to the music of Kronos Quartet – about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 expedition to traverse Antarctica. It runs April 28-May 3 at Emerson Paramount Center. emersontheatres.org.
LAUGHING ALL THE WAY
No joke: smiling and laughing go a long way to curing the wintertime blues. And, Boston will host a rich roster of comedians and laugh-out-loud stage productions in the coming months to distract from the snow and below-zero wind chills.
Boston comedian and actor Dane Cook brings his “Tell It Like It Is” concert to the Boch Center Wang Theatre for two performances March 20-21. bochcenter.org.
It’s a night of full-frontal illusions when the Naked Magicians get down and dirty with their R-rated magic act, Feb. 27 at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre. bochcenter.org.
The Huntington Theater teams up with the women of the wildly funny Second City comedy troupe to bring “She the People: Girlfriends’ Guide to Sisters Doing It for Themselves” to Boston for a mimosas-and-madness-fueled foray that proudly roasts the patriarchy in a mashup of sketches and songs, Feb. 18 to March 8 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts. huntingtontheatre.org.
Strong female characters lead the way in Boston playwright Kirsten Greenidge’s “Our Daughters, Like Pillars,” a comedy about an African American family whose vacation is upended when the wicked stepmother arrives unexpectedly. Huntington Theatre Company presents its world premiere run from March 20 to April 19 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts. huntingtontheatre.org.
Well-known comedians Paula Poundstone (April 17) and Tracy Morgan (April 18) pack a powerful one-two punch at the Wilbur Theater; thewilbur.org.
Political satirist and comedian Bill Maher (“Real Time”) says stuff that ruffles everybody’s feathers. Bring your indignation to the Boch Center Wang Theatre on May 30. bochcenter.org.
JUST BUST A MOVE
The lineup of dance offers a variety of entertainment and culture. From ballet to postmodern, check out what is happening in the area dance scene – and we dare you not to chair dance.
Global Arts Live’s Winter Dance Festival continues Feb. 1 with Philadanco, the Philadelphia-based dance company presenting works based on African-American traditions mixed with jazz, ballet and modern dance. Parsons Dance, a New York-based modern troupe performs Feb. 8 to close the festival. Both performances are at Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston; globalartslive.org.
Malpaso Dance Company, the internationally acclaimed Cuban dance company, tours with 11 dancers and puts on a dynamic show mixing artistry and athleticism. They’ll perform three shows March 13-14 at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston; icaboston.org.
Reggie Wilson and his Fist and Heel Performance Group explore the spiritual and mundane traditions of Africa and its diaspora through contemporary dance; Feb. 21-22 at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston; icaboston.org.
TAKE THE STAGE
Serious theater fans will welcome the chance to see the works from prize-winning playwrights who bring a number of adventuresome offerings to the boards this season.
The Huntington Theatre Company tackles Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Sweat,’’ a study of economic insecurity. Set in America’s Rust Belt was inspired by interviews Nottage conducted with the residents of Reading, Pa., over the course of more than two years. The characters and story that emerged involve shattered friendships, violence and resentment when the opportunities once afforded to a town disappear, Jan. 31-March 1 at the Avenue of the Arts Huntington Avenue Theatre. huntingtontheatre.org.
Watertown’s Ted Hewlett is behind the action when fights break out onstage in Huntington’s ‘Sweat’
A mother-son relationship is the emotional anchor of “The Treasurer,” Max Posner’s 2017 off-Broadway play. The Lyric Stage Company presents the show Feb. 21 to March 22. lyricstage.com.
“The Fabulation or, The Re-Education of Undine,” is from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage and in it the playwright explores African American identity through a strong female protagonist. April 3-May 3 at Lyric Stage Company. lyricstage.com.
The Lyric Stage Company takes on Lucy Kirkwood’s environmental disaster drama, “The Children,” with a stacked deck of Boston acting heavyweights – Paula Plum, Karen MacDonald and Tyrees Allen. Presented by the SpeakEasy Stage Company, Feb. 28-March 28. lyricstage.com.
Issues of class, race, parenting, and education come to a head in Dominique Morisseau’s searing drama, “Pipeline,” which follows a mother trying to protect her son from an educational system rigged against him. Presented by Central Square Theater, March 5-29. www.centralsquaretheater.org.
In an exhibit titled “Out of Body,” Harlem-based artist Tschabalala Self creates large-scale figurative paintings, integrating paints, fabrics, collages, textiles and prints to tell stories of urban life, the body and humanity; through July 5 at Institute of Contemporary Art, icaboston.org.
Black history and representation is the theme of the teen-curated exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, titled “Black Histories, Black Futures,” through June 20, mfa.org
Harvard Art Museums mounts its largest-ever exhibition with “Painting Edo,” featuring 120 works that represent the rich visual culture of Japan’s early modern era; Feb. 14-July 26, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, harvardartmuseums.org.
“Boston’s Apollo” explains the story behind how the city’s preeminent portrait painter, John Singer Sargent, crafted a series of murals for the MFA’s grand staircase and rotunda and introduces us to the man he used as a model, a black elevator operator named Thomas McKeller. On display for the first time are Sargent’s preparatory drawings, which provide a window into metamorphoses of race, gender and identity, and attest to a relationship between two men, artist and model, at a time of intense social upheaval. Feb. 17-May 17, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; gardnermuseum.org.
The first comprehensive museum survey for American artist Sterling Ruby features more than 50 mixed-media works. Feb. 26-May 26, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; icaboston.org.
The art of the late Lucian Freud, grandson of Sigmund, concentrated on the human figure in sometimes ghastly ways. A forthcoming exhibition, “The Self Portraits,” turns the attention on Freud himself; March 1-May 25, Museum of Fine Arts; mfa.org.
SOUNDS OF THE SYMPHONY
The biggest news for the Boston Symphony Orchestra as it continues the fifth season under the direction of Andris Nelsons is the group will perform Act III of Wagner’s opera “Tristan and Isolde” on April 9 and April 11. Emily Magee makes her BSO debut as Isolde, and Jonas Kaufmann returns as Tristan. Nelson leads his final concerts of the season April 17-18 in a performance that features principal cellist laise Déjardin in his first concerto appearance with the orchestra. An acclaimed roster of guest conductors also get their chance to shine. Pinchas Zukerman is conductor and violin soloist for a Feb. 21–25 program that includes Strauss, Bruckner, Mozart and Haydn. Giancarlo Guerrero is back to conduct Grime, Walton and Duruflé, featuring cellist Johannes Moser, Feb. 27-29 and March 3. Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu leads music by Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Prokofiev, and Sibelius featuring pianist Seong-Jin Cho on March 5-7. André Raphel conducts Coleridge-Taylor, Still and Caine featuring the Uri Caine Trio March 19-21. BSO Artistic Partner Thomas Adès returns to the podium to lead works by Stravinsky and his own Lieux Retrouvés, March 26-28. The long-awaited return of Christoph von Dohnányi, who closes the season, April 30-May 2 is another highlight; bso.org.
Handel and Haydn Society, Boston’s period music orchestra and chorus, presents programs of Beethoven and Mozart (Feb. 14, 16) and Haydn and Beethoven (Feb. 28, March 1) at NEC’s Jordan Hall; Bach’s St. Matthew Passion April 3, 5) and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (May 1, 3) at Symphony Hall. handelandhaydn.org.
SO CLOSE TO HOME
Wellesley Repertory Theatre investigates life after the apocalypse in “boom,” hilariously exploring the relationship between the two survivors of a global catastrophe and what it means about our modern world. Jan. 16-Feb. 9. www.wellesleyrep.org.
“Indian Ocean Current: Six Artistic Narratives” is at McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College, 2101 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, through May 31. Featuring contemporary artists with ties to our region, the exhibit sheds light on the complex and crucial issue of climate change, focusing on the Indian Ocean region. www.bc.edu/artmuseum.
New York blues legend Popa Chubby is at the Center for Arts in Natick Feb. 28 and Dave Mason is there March 19, followed by Jonatha Brook March 20. John Sebastian takes the TCAN stage April 3 and Ellis Paul picks up his guitar April 18. American Idol runner-up Crystal Bowersox brings her powerful voice April 23. natickarts.org
In Framingham at Amazing Things Arts Center – now called ATAC – the Boston Comedy Chicks hit the firehouse stage Feb. 7. Folkies Lisa Bastoni and Rachael Kilgore perform Feb. 21. Singer, songwriter and actor Kemp Harris slides in March 7 and winner of the Independent Music Award Pierre Bensusan performs April 10. May 1 brings the Porch Party Mamas and Jennifer Kimball, and Patty Larkin takes the stage May 8. www.atac160.org.
Feel like you’re back at the Sands casino in Vegas with Sammy Davis, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra when Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston in Waltham brings in “The Rat Pack” on Feb. 23. Then, March 14-15 celebrate St. Pat’s with “A Little Bit of Ireland.” Hoot and holler with “A Country Jamboree” April 26. www.reaglemusictheatre.org.
The Winter Arts Preview is inclusive, but not a comprehensive list: dates, times, locations – change. Performances and shows are added. Look to our daily online reports and our Thursday Get Out! and Friday Arts & More sections for up-to-date and comprehensive coverage of the entertainment goings. Daily News arts editor Nancy Olesin contributed to this report.
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