Arts & Entertainment
A gift from the music gods, Harvard Square’s newest rock club supplies a dependable string of primarily indie bands that you can actually see—the sight lines at the Sinclair’s subway-style space are killer. With a standing-room mezzanine, a seating area that drops over the crowd below and a stage that’s just four feet high, you can make goo-goo eyes at the musicians who make you quiver all night long. And it’s just a door away from the attached restaurant and patio, where you can carbo-load and sober up—or continue to enjoy the post-show euphoria.
Album by a Local Artist
Let the Right Ones In by Moe Pope + Rain
Moving through autobiographical lyrics hitched to grooves as catchy as the avian flu, this album reaffirms hip-hop as post-modernism with a beat. Roxbury’s Moe Pope, along with musical polymorph Rain and Chris Talkin on supporting vocals, pulls out 18 tracks of addictive, idiosyncratic sounds that nod to ’70s-style horn sections, Morrissey and A Tribe Called Quest. The top track, “What You Need,” leaves you wanting Moe.
At this North End hub for humor, lunacy is an art form. With improv and sketch comedy six nights a week, there’s always something new. And who said funny folk aren’t enterprising? By day, the troupe offers improv classes and corporate training programs. What better way to remedy awkward office outings than by injecting laughs that aren’t uneasy?216 Hanover St., Boston, 617-263-6887, improvasylum.com
Chicago Juke, Bmore and NOLA Sissy Bounce are all integral to LeahV’s style. Mixing music to move to, she blends genres at the city’s hottest clubs, including ZuZu and 28 Degrees. Everyone knows that one bad mashup can clear a dance floor. But with LeahV on deck, the beats are so hot you won’t be able to stand still.
Photo credit: Collection of Lance Armstrong
Os Gêmeos, Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston
In August 2012, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston opened its home to Brazilian brothers Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo, otherwise known as Os Gêmeos—“The Twins” (they’re identical). These A-listers in the graffiti and urban-art world displayed dream-state depictions in paintings, sculptures and installations, reiterating the Institute’s mission to bring the world’s best living artists to the attention of local audiences. It’s something we appreciate every time we see their 70-by-70-foot mural on the side of a ventilation building in Dewey Square.100 Northern Ave., Boston, 617-478-3100, icaboston.org
Lot F Gallery
On the second Friday night of every month, the normally nine-to-five Financial District comes alive in a loft swarming with young urbanites. They pack in to view the art at this brainchild of James Wormser, who opened the space with girlfriend Kate Ostreicher after graduating from Emerson College in 2009. Taking over a former party pad, the couple repurposed the space as both their home and as a gallery that promotes lesser-known artists, many with an urban, street aesthetic.145 Pearl St., Boston, 617-620-8452, lotfgallery.com
Photo credit: Joan Marcus
The Book of Mormon, Broadway in Boston
Counting this show’s accolades would take longer than the two-and-a-half hours of hilarity and profanity that audiences enjoyed when it came to town in April. “God’s favorite musical” follows the travails of two Mormon missionaries bound for Uganda, including their residency in a village of blasphemers and encounter with a local warlord. The show proved equally popular with Bostonians, selling out its four-week run and prompting a 2014 return engagement.Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston, 617-259-3400, boston.broadway.com
Intimate Concert Venue
The 300-seat venue at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was designed to satisfy the senses with uniform sound and clear performance views. Designed by Renzo Piano and Yasuhisa Toyota, Calderwood Hall offers seating that surrounds the musicians on the ground floor, then continues at three wraparound balcony levels, each with just one row of chairs. A bird’s-eye view couldn’t be better.280 The Fenway, Boston, 617-278-5156, gardnermuseum.org
Walking through the door at Wally’s is the equivalent of pushing aside the garments in a wardrobe and discovering Narnia. Except instead of Mr. Tumnus, you get saxophonists. At 66 years, Wally’s is among America’s oldest continually running jazz clubs. With duets, trios, quartets and any number of musicians cramming onto the tiny stage, this South End institution can rightly boast that its patrons are always close to the action.427 Mass. Ave., Boston, 617-424-1408, wallyscafe.com
The People’s Karaoke. What better way to describe a Wednesday night in Somerville where the people kill their favorite tunes? The singing spectacle attracts anyone who’s had a few or has an ax to grind—so long as it’s an air ax—for a night to, ahem, remember. Here, normal is someone dressed as Oedipus singing “Mama Told Me Not to Come.”150 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-625-1131, highlandkitchen.com
Acting is all about range, and for Tom Derrah, that means charming the snake within. No, not as in Shakespeare’s Iago. We’re talking about an actual snake: Come September, Derrah will slither as Kaa in Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of The Jungle Book with the Huntington Theatre Company. “It’s not like being a movie star,” says Derrah, a founding member of the American Repertory Theater. “Their idea of transforming is dying their hair. I’m stuck figuring out how to play a snake with two arms and two legs.”
The Ironwoman of acting, Paula Plum won the Elliot Norton Award for Sustained Excellence in 2004 for what is now a more than 35-year career. Touted for her range, she received acclaim this winter for her lead role as Dr. Katherine Brandt in the Lyric Stage Company’s 33 Variations. Plum has made appearances with companies throughout Boston, starting when she was just 3 years old, and is a founding member of the Actors’ Shakespeare Project. For Plum, it’s all’s well that ends well.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Individuals Collective
The five guys behind the Individuals Collective can craft whimsical fantasy—or your worst nightmare. But it’s all in good fun. “It’s just playtime,” says member Colin Driesch. The group salvages scrap to create life-sized creatures and characters that dot Boston storefronts, rooftops and alleyways. Their installations have appeared throughout New England and at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. “If it makes us laugh, we’ll go for it,” Driesch says.
Splitting time between Boston and Washington, D.C., hasn’t slowed local favorites Kingsley Flood. Three years after their album debut, they won two Boston Music Awards, including 2012 Americana Artist of the Year, and have been featured on NPR’s Song of the Day. With a steady schedule of concerts along the East Coast and in the Midwest, the band’s success comes down to a drip feed of raw energy.
Nonfiction Book by a Local Author
Marmee & Louisa by Eve LaPlante
Behind every great woman is her mother, or so argues Eve LaPlante’s 2012 dual-subject biography of Little Women author Louisa May Alcott and her mother, Abigail May Alcott. LaPlante, a Brookline native and Alcott descendant, draws on new documents that contradict the popular assumption that the 19th-century writer owed her then-uncommon literary success to her father. Instead, this scrupulous ancestral study reveals that it was Abigail’s progressive thinking that influenced her daughter’s writing. Skeptical? Read the book yourself.
Novel by a Local Author
Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
The latest novel by Dorchester native and crime-fiction czar Dennis Lehane begins in Boston: It’s the Prohibition era, and rum is pouring into New England from Florida as though its coastline were a colander. Released in October, Lehane’s 10th work of fiction already has Hollywood executives all but offering lap dances for the exclusive movie rights. And who said crime doesn’t pay?
Boston Lyric Opera
As New England’s largest opera company, BLO has mounted four productions each season for 37 years, but one upcoming show strikes eerily close to home. Lizzie Borden, a new chamber version of Jack Beeson’s 1965 opera about the alleged ax murderer from Fall River, opens in November with a BLO twist. It’s not so much a case of who-done-it as who-sung-it.Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont St., Boston; Opera Annex Location, 130 Columbus Ave., Boston; 617-542-6772, blo.org
Pippin, American Repertory Theater
The story of a young prince with a curious disposition, Pippin sat largely untouched in the 40 years since its Broadway debut, until the American Repertory Theater dusted it off—and how. Director Diane Paulus had acrobats singing and actors flying through the air. Broadway vet Andrea Martin, playing Berthe, even performed a number while suspended upside-down from a trapeze. This spring, Pippin returned to Broadway via the A.R.T., resulting in four Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-547-8300, americanrepertorytheater.org
“Matty in the Morning”
KISS 108’s “Matty in the Morning” is FM radio’s version of Family Feud. As the paterfamilias to sidekicks Lisa and Billy, Matt Siegel is a consummate showman who controls the sardonic quips and edgy editorializing with snap, no crackle and lots of pop. Boston’s No. 1 weekday morning show has filled the airwaves for 30-plus years, caffeinating its listeners with Top 40 music and slapstick back-and-forth. Here’s to the morning commute.
Photo Credit: Gene Schiavone
The Nutcracker, Boston Ballet
A holiday season without The Nutcracker would be like New Year’s Eve without Champagne. And the show continues to go on thanks to Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen. With newly designed sets, choreography and costumes—the Sugar Plum Fairy’s tutu alone sports more than 3,600 jewels—this Nutcracker thankfully remains the same present, expertly regifted.539 Washington St., Boston, 617-695-6955, bostonballet.org
In the heated world of theater for grown-ups, Company One is provocateur supreme. Going on its 15th season, the company strives to develop civically engaged artists while recognizing Boston’s diversity. With plays in which Dungeons and Dragons acts as a Ouija board for connecting with the dead and pro wrestling serves as backdrop for geopolitical satire, it’s no wonder this small theater sets the stage for change.539 Tremont St., Boston, 617-292-7110, companyone.org