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Photo Credit: Lionel Montagnier

CIRCUS
Les 7 Doigts de la Main’s Sequence 8

French-Canadian circuses have long eschewed elephants, lion-tamers and hoops of fire. But instead of Cirque du Soleil’s oft-twee whimsy, Montreal’s Les 7 Doigts’ spectacle is shaped by its spectacular cast: a juggler, two masters of the Korean plank, two crackerjacks of Chinese acrobatics, a duo of hand-to-hand gymnasts and an aerial-hoop specialist.

As individuals, they amaze. But what’s most riveting is their teamwork and movements that occur with seemingly telepathic fluidity. One gymnast jolts from another’s arms, or vaults and somersaults feet-first into a platform of raised, steady hands. They cluster together to create a human bridge. A performer lithely pulls and catches (it’s somehow both) a partner slinking from a trapeze. It’s electric.

Les 7 Doigts’ name is a spin on the French expression “the five fingers of the hand”—five individual elements striving for the same goal. The “7” stands for the seven founding members of the circus, including Sequence 8 directors, Shana Carroll and Sébastian Soldevila. Their conceit here is one’s encounter with the “other,” and whether we’re defined by it, or against it.

Sequence 8 runs Sept. 27–Oct. 7 | $25–$79 | The Cutler Majestic Theatre | 219 Tremont St., Boston | (617-824-8400) | artsemerson.org

 

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Photo Credit: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

MUSICAL
War Horse

It’s not just the wrenching narrative that won War Horse five Tony Awards last year, including best play. What steals the show is the craftsmanship—and crazy realism—of this musical’s life-size puppet horses.

They’re the invention of Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones, cofounders of the South Africa–based Handspring Puppet Company. Each animal is handmade, taking up to 10 months to construct. Bands of flexible, lightweight cane bend to create a ribcage, and nylon stretches as skin. Instead of manipulating strings from the rafters, three puppeteers work within the frame of each horse so that it neighs, perks its ears, flinches and breathes as if alive.

Choreographer Toby Sedgwick is the master behind these movements, while directors Marianne Elliot and Tom Morris adapt Michael Morpurgo’s children’s story of an English lad who braves WWI  battlefields to retrieve his beloved horse. Bring Kleenex.

War Horse runs Oct. 10–21 | $25–$145 | The Boston Opera House | 539 Washington St., Boston | (617-259-3400) boston.broadway.com

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Photo Credit: C. Taylor Crothers

JAZZ PERFORMANCE
Chick Corea & Gary Burton Hot House Tour with the Harlem String Quartet

Some folks cash their chips after a streak of massive success. Take Michael Phelps. For others, no amount of glory can justify hanging up their trophies and calling it quits. Over the past 40 years, Chick Corea and Gary Burton have won 23 Grammys and counting. With Burton on vibraphone—aka vibraharp, or the “vibes”—and Corea as pianist, they’re a unique hybrid of good vibrations. Melodies freewheel, rhythms coalesce and like the best of coconspirators, they intuit each other’s intentions without—literally—skipping a beat.

Corea grew up in Chelsea and Burton taught at Berklee for 30 years, so their Oct. 21 show is a happy homecoming. Joined by the Harlem String Quartet, the duo swings into Symphony Hall to promote their latest album, Hot House, a nod to Tadd Dameron’s definitive bebop number of the ’40s that’s fast and full of improvisation.

The Hot House tour arrives on Oct. 21 | $30–$75 | Boston Symphony Hall | 301 Mass. Ave., Boston | (888-266-1200) | bso.org


CLASSICAL PERFORMANCE
Handel and Haydn Society performs Bach’s Magnificat

Bach first performed his Magnificat in 1723 during an evening Christmas service in Leipzig, Germany. The ensemble was larger than most at the time, with five soloists and a five-part choir bringing the joyous, lively piece to its zenith.

This October, award-winning conductor Harry Christophers transports the work to Symphony Hall for a performance designed to sound just as Bach intended. The Handel and Haydn Society is considered a pioneer in “historically informed performance,” replicating ensemble sizes and instruments from when the pieces were originally written. (In 1723, for example, brass instruments lacked valves). This is purity in D major, “the key of glory.”

An hour before curtain, H&H fellow, Teresa Neff, discusses the show, while opening night ends with an encore party at Lucca Back Bay to celebrate H&H’s 198th season and the album release of Mozart Coronation Mass.

Bach’s Magnificat is on Oct. 12 and 14 | $20-$84 | Boston Symphony Hall | 301 Mass. Ave., Boston | (888-266-1200) | handelandhaydn.org

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Photo Credit: Jenni Wylie

AVANTE-GARDE SHOW
Whistler in the Dark’s Tales From Ovid

A bare stage, save for ribbons of blue silk that fall fluidly from the rafters. In the theater’s shadowy pockets, cast members blend into the darkness. The setting is ripe for transformation—precisely the theme of Ted Hughes’ Tales From Ovid.

Hughes was Sylvia Plath’s ex-husband and Britain’s poet laureate for more than a decade. He adapted Ovid’s mythical masterpiece Metamorphoses into Tales From Ovid, a poetic work of his own. Gods commingle with mortals, and jealousy, rejection and inflated egos inspire some particularly damning punishments.

Unencumbered by props, the cast leaps, swings and clambers up the silks, embodying Arachne, Venus, Echo, Narcissus and Atalanta with a spirit imbued by the first lines of Hughes’ text, “Now I am ready to tell how bodies are changed / Into different bodies.” Due to the dynamism of the small cast—Danny Bryck, Jen O’Connor, Mac Young and Aimee Rose Ranger—it feels as if the ensemble is twice as large.

Additional myths have been added to the script since this show first ran in Boston in 2010, including those of Bacchus, and Callisto and Arcas. And unlike the 22 feet between the ceiling and stage in their first venue, the cast will be soaring through 40 feet of air in the Paramount’s Black Box Theatre.

Ted Hughes’ Tales from Ovid runs Nov. 8–18 | $25–$49 | The Paramount Center’s Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre | 559 Washington St., Boston | (617-824-8400) | artsemerson.org

 

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Photo Credit: Jo McCaughey

ROCK SHOW
Jack White

After a string of side projects, Jack White—the rock, blues, punk genius behind the White Stripes and one of Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”—has finally gone solo with Blunderbuss. Released this spring on his label, Third Man Records, it debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. On tour this fall, he performs new tracks with either the all-female Peacocks or the all-male Buzzards, the band to be announced the day of each show. Obviously, his eccentricity holds: This is a man who released a single via 1,000 airborne flexi-discs stuck to helium balloons.

There’s a bit of bleeding to his new lyrics. White says he longs for love to bite him, stab him, slam his fingers and leave him for dead in the song “Love Interruption.” Most songs average about three minutes, just long enough for a taste, stirring an ache for what’s next.

Jack White plays on Sept. 28 | $39.50–$59.50 | Agganis Arena | 925 Comm. Ave., Boston | (617-358-7000) | agganisarena.com


GALLERY SHOW
Boston International Fine Art Show

Bostonians are lucky to be able to cover the art circuit on foot, whether it be on a Sunday stroll down Newbury Street or wending our way—wine in hand—through SoWa’s Open Studios on the first Friday of each month. But for a catchall of fine art, mark your calendar for the 16th annual Boston International Fine Art Show. Held in the South End’s Cyclorama, 40 galleries showcase and sell paintings, prints, photographs and more.

Massachusetts dealers are well represented, including Vose Galleries, America’s oldest family-owned gallery, with more than 150 of its 18th- to 20th-century American realist paintings now found in museums throughout the country. One minute, you can study an Art Deco print from Fusco & Four Modern’s inventory. The next, you’ll find yourself immersed in a New England seascape from Pierce Galleries.

For a sneak peek before the crowds swoop in, check out the festival’s Gala Preview, with proceeds benefitting the Friends of the Children-Boston association.

The Boston International Fine Art Show runs Nov. 15–18 | $15; free, ages 12 and under | The Cyclorama | 539 Tremont St., Boston | (617-363-0405) | fineartboston.com

DANCE
Boston Ballet’s reimagined Nutcracker

The loaded, big Bertha of ballet is, of course, back. It’s been performed in Boston since 1965, and for the past 16 years we saw sets by Helen Pond and Herbert Senn, with costumes by David Walker and Charles Heightchew. Consistency was part of its charm. But this year brings an exciting change, as Boston Ballet premieres a completely revamped holiday favorite.

You’ll still hear Tchaikovsky’s score. You’ll still see the Boston Ballet troupe. But this season marks the infusion of artistic director Mikko Nissinen’s own choreography, with entirely new costumes by Robert Perdziola, veteran of the Metropolitan Opera and the Juilliard School of Drama. Look for the pale hues of Act I’s party dresses and the transition of color as Clara awakens from her dream.

The Nutcracker runs Nov. 23–Dec. 30 | $35–$167 | The Boston Opera House | 539 Washington St., Boston | (617-695-6955) | bostonballet.org


STAGE DRAMA
Huntington Theatre’s Good People

Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire grew up in Southie on West Fifth Street, back when the neighborhood was strictly working-class Irish Catholic. He frequented what’s now a Boys & Girls Club where two staff members advocated for his scholarship to Milton Academy. Lindsay-Abaire went on to study at Sarah Lawrence, then at the Playwrights Program at the Juilliard School. In 2007, he won a Pulitzer Prize for Rabbit Hole, starring Cynthia Nixon (who won a Tony for best actress), and which he later adapted into a movie starring Nicole Kidman.

Good People brings the writer back to his roots. His story about class tension is timely and instantly recognizable: Margie lives paycheck to paycheck and just lost another job as a Dollar Store cashier; we hold our breath as she revisits a now-wealthy ex who left Southie to settle in Chestnut Hill.

Directed by Acton native Kate Whoriskey, the play asks, what’s the formula for success? Is it about hard work with the occasional stroke of luck? Who gets ahead (and how), and what are we willing to do to catch a break?

Good People runs Sept. 14–Oct. 14 | $30–$95 | The Huntington Theatre | 264 Huntington Ave., Boston | (617-266-0800) | huntingtontheatre.org

STAGE COMEDY
Marie Antoinette

If you were lucky enough to experience the immersive Sleep No More in the fall of ’09—each ornately decorated room the setting for a new scene, actors disappearing down hallways and snatching members of the audience into closets—you already know what the American Repertory Theater is capable of staging. And since last year’s The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, we’ve come to anticipate each new production as the next big Boston smash.

Marie Antoinette is this year’s top contender. Written by David Adjmi (who made last year’s New Yorker list for the “Top 10 in Culture”) and starring Brooke Bloom of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close as the high-wigged, “let them eat cake” queen, it brings a fresh take on the old tale of class warfare and decapitation. Karole Armitage, recently of Cirque du Soleil, choreographs and Rebecca Taichman directs.

Marie Antoinette runs through Sept. 29 | $25–$65 | The Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge | (617-547-8300) | americanrepertorytheater.org


FILM
Boston Film Festival

It’s been a while since we heard much about the Massachusetts film boom. While the 28th annual Boston Film Festival may not resuscitate dreams of Hollywood East, it does keep indie filmmaking in focus. Arguably the biggest buzz this year is for The Sessions. Slated to screen mid-festival, the Fox Searchlight production made a splash at Sundance and is already being mentioned as an Oscar contender for its script and lead actor, John Hawkes (of Winter’s Bone and Martha Marcy May Marlene). Based on a true story, it follows a man in an iron lung who wants to lose his virginity at the age of 38. So he hires a “sex surrogate,” played by Helen Hunt. What follows is less a Judd Apatow farce than a nuanced, and moving, comedy.

Screenings will be held in Theatre 1 at the Revere Hotel, which recently underwent an invigorating facelift that gave it a Dolby Digital sound system and a 30-foot Super Glo screen. Although festival organizers are still hammering out the final schedule and ticket pricing, they shared the following: Typically, two films screen per night, beginning at 7 pm. After each screening, filmmakers and some of the talent will be on-site for Q&A sessions.

The Boston Film Festival runs Sept. 20–24 | The Revere Hotel | 200 Stuart St., Boston | (617-523-8388) | bostonfilmfestival.org

MUSEUM EXHIBIT
Mario Testino at the MFA

When it comes to the British royal family, no photographer has gotten closer than Mario Testino. Starting from a long-ago snapshot of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Edward celebrating a wedding, Testino has applied his keen sense of composition and glamour to everything from Princess Diana’s 1997 Vanity Fair cover to Will and Kate’s engagement photos. Many of these are on display, along with other intimate shots, from October through June at the MFA.

Testino’s second exhibit, In Your Face, immerses visitors in the world of high fashion. Testino has shot Madonna for Versace, Kate Moss for virtually everything and Angelina Jolie for Vogue. His images allow viewers to voyeuristically rub elbows with the rich and famous.

Mario Testino’s British Royal Portraits runs Oct. 21–June 16, 2013, and In Your Face runs Oct. 21–Feb. 3 2013 | $25 | The Museum of Fine Arts | 465 Huntington Ave., Boston | (800-440-6975) | mfa.org