2017 is fresh, new, and already bringing deaths of beloved public figures – rest in peace, John Berger – extreme political controversy, and simultaneously hilarious and disheartening memes. Never fear; it’s too early to call the year “2016, Part 2,” and there’s enough exciting art, theater, and literature appearing this weekend to cheer even the most resolved cynic – well, at least for an evening.
1) Catch musical theater talent, new and old
If you’ve dreamed your whole life about seeing Barbra Streisand live, and you happen to live in Los Angeles, you’re in luck: Babs is appearing in conversation at the Grammy Museum this Thursday, January 5. Yes, tickets will set you back by triple digits – but, hello, it’s Babs. If your style is less “Yentl” and more folk music, catch Benjamin Scheuer’s autobiographical one man, six guitars musical “The Lion” at the Geffen Playhouse. “The Lion,” opened off-Broadway in 2015, snagging a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance. Watch one of the songs from the show below.
2) Return to the hipster utopia of “Portlandia”
Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen’s “Portlandia” has been lovingly eviscerating hipsters with astonishing creativity since 2011. Season 7 returns Thursday, January 5, and promises to be similarly weird – and side splitting. Also on TV this week: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” returns from its mid-season break on Friday, and the Golden Globes, where several Jewish stars are poised to win big, air Sunday.
Ask the right questions when holiday shopping. #Portlandiapic.twitter.com/VMUxExvJDf— Portlandia (@portlandia) December 21, 2016
3) See a heartrending Broadway rarity
The limited-run Broadway revival of “Falsettos,” which opens with a number colorfully titled “Four Jews in a Room Bitching,” has garnered widespread praise: the Forward’s Curt Schleier called it “emotionally satisfying and intellectually fulfilling,” and The New York Times’ Charles Isherwood commented that “hardly a moment” of the musical “doesn’t approach, or even achieve, perfection.” The show closes January 8, as does the less well-received Israel-set musical “The Band’s Visit” at the Atlantic Theater Company. Art lovers, head to Pace Gallery for the last weekend of a show dedicated to Mark Rothko’s interest in dark colors; that exhibit closes January 7.
4) Remember John Berger
Berger, an influential British art critic and Man Booker Prize-winning author, passed away on January 2. Born to secular Jews in London, Berger’s TV series and companion book “Ways of Seeing” popularize radically new ideas about interpreting art, starting with the opening shot of the first episode, in which Berger blithely sliced a section out of a reproduction of Boticelli’s painting “Venus and Mars.” Remember Berger by watching the series – most of it is available on YouTube, including Episode One, below – or picking up “G.,” his Booker Prize-winning novel.
5) See one of Iggy Pop’s favorite young musicians
In 2015, Iggy Pop issued a resounding endorsement of musician Ezra Furman: “I think the guy’s got something. He’s got a lot of wit and nerve.” (The Forward’s Michael Kaminer interviewed Furman, well-known for his music, his commitment to Orthodox Judaism, and his style – he often wears feminine clothing onstage – shortly afterward.) Furman plays Evanston’s SPACE Saturday, January 7. Also in Chicago, visit the Museum of Science and Industry for “Where the Wild Things Are: The Works of Maurice Sendak.” The exhibit is sticking around until February, but a Sendak adventure will help make for an unusually charming start to the year.
6) Remember the sparkle of Irving Berlin
Love Irving Berlin? (Of course you do.) Starting January 6, indulge that love in person at Washington D.C.’s Source Theater, which will be showing “A Simple Melody: The Magic of Irving Berlin” through January 28. Also in D.C., head to the National Museum of Women in the Arts on Sunday for a free community day. The Museum is currently featuring artworks from the Rubell Family Collection, the well-regarded collection of Donald and Mera Rubell.