Spring Culture Preview

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Shauna Lyon
Goings On editor

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With spring showers come joyous flowers and lots and lots of culture, in a season that is more packed than ever—or, at least, since 2019. In shows grand and small, there’s no denying that a certain artistic frisson is in the air—from the oft-reliable bellwether the Whitney Biennial to Mark Morris on Burt Bacharach, from a climate-change piece directed by the delightful boundary pusher Peter Sellars to that stirrer of our youthful souls Olivia Rodrigo. Broadway is as starry as ever, with Steve Carell, Jessica Lange, Eddie Redmayne, Rachel McAdams, and Jeremy Strong all taking center stage. At the movies, finally hitting the screen are “Industry” ’s Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse and a long-simmering Zendaya tennis film, plus Regina King as Shirley Chisholm and David and Nathan Zellner’s Sasquatch fantasia. The future looks bright—we’ll see you there.

Jump to: Contemporary Music | The Theatre | Dance | Art | Classical Music | Movies

Contemporary Music

Illustration by Millie von PlatenOlivia Rodrigo, Sleater-Kinney, Davido

This spring—which features perhaps the most loaded concert lineup of the COVID era—jazz experimentalists both fresh and familiar put their work on display: Herbie Hancock, a pop-bop legend of many innovations, brings his piano flair to Lincoln Center (March 26), and Jasper Marsalis, under the name Slauson Malone 1, explores intersections of pop music and performance art at the Park Avenue Armory (March 27-28). Other options range from the traditional (the saxophonist Melissa Aldana at Dizzy’s Club; April 10) to the progressive (the modern soul man BJ the Chicago Kid at Blue Note; April 30-May 5).

In other venues, pathfinders who have defied and defined genres reveal their various breakthroughs. Brooklyn Steel welcomes the Scottish fringe-rap group Young Fathers (April 4) and the pop-rock reformist Amen Dunes (May 15). Woods and Avey Tare, indie needle-movers since the mid-two-thousands, co-headline Knockdown Center, joined by the New Age guru Laraaji (April 13). Helado Negro, on the heels of his wondrous new album “Phasor,” brings Latin folk-pop to Webster Hall (April 24). The Brooklyn native L’Rain, now with three albums’ worth of avant-garde soul, celebrates a homecoming at Bowery Ballroom (May 9).

The historic Brooklyn Paramount Theatre reopens with a medley of shows. The U.K. dance revivalist PinkPantheress teams up with the emergent plugg envoy Bktherula (April 14-15), sharing music of the Web with IRL audiences. On April 21, the explosive rapper Busta Rhymes runs through a catalogue spanning nearly four decades. On April 26, the experimental electronic artist and score composer Daniel Lopatin surveys the many revolutions of his music as Oneohtrix Point Never, and a day later Katie Crutchfield débuts songs from “Tigers Blood,” her latest album as Waxahatchee.

At Madison Square Garden, two distinct and distinguished pack leaders with strong brands make cases for their primacy: Olivia Rodrigo (April 5-6 and April 8-9), who solidified her standing with the pop punk of her 2023 album, “Guts,” and Davido (April 17), arguably the most popular progenitor of modern Afrobeats. At Radio City Music Hall, the Icelandic TikTok sensation turned Grammy winner Laufey restores traditional pop for a new generation (May 3-4).

The goth-rock singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe continues recent forays into industrial music at Bowery Ballroom (March 13). Erika De Casier, after writing for the K-pop visionaries NewJeans, furthers her own retrofuturist R. & B. vision at Warsaw (March 30). At Elsewhere, the fusionist Hudson Mohawke tests the danceability of his oddball creations (April 6), and a few weeks later the Newark d.j. UNiiQU3, one of Jersey club’s finest practitioners, displays the power of the form amid its online renaissance (April 18).

At Brooklyn Steel, the riot-grrrl pioneers of Sleater-Kinney work through difficult, grief-stricken songs from their latest album, “Little Rope” (March 13-14). Baby’s All Right hosts Rosie Tucker, who, this past fall, illustrated their music’s pith and thrash with “Tiny Songs Volume 1” (May 8). The following days feature two sublime folk artists operating in singular modes: Julia Jacklin, attempting her version of a Las Vegas residency (National Sawdust; select dates May 9-29), and Kara Jackson (Public Records; May 15-16), whose début album, “Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love?,” from last April, is delightfully lush and breezy—and most fitting for the season’s aura.—Sheldon Pearce

The Theatre

Illustration by Millie von PlatenArt, Politics, and Rock and Roll Onstage

The spring glut of 2024 Broadway openings is upon us—eleven musicals and seven plays—all cramming in before the Tony Awards’ eligibility cutoff of April 25. For audiences, it means a bonanza of major stars in major works: Steve Carell, Alison Pill, Anika Noni Rose, William Jackson Harper, and Alfred Molina as a romantic pentangle in Heidi Schreck’s new translation of “Uncle Vanya” (Vivian Beaumont; starting previews on April 2); Rachel McAdams in the title role of “Mary Jane” (Samuel J. Friedman; April 2), Amy Herzog’s shattering masterpiece about maternal sacrifice; and Jessica Lange and Jim Parsons as mother and son in Paula Vogel’s “Mother Play” (Hayes; April 2). For those hungry for an unadulterated celeb experience without a playwright, Laurence Fishburne will be at PAC NYC, downtown, with an autobiographical solo show, “Like They Do in the Movies” (March 10-31).

Almost as handy as a star is an intellectual property. This spring, several new musicals capitalize on our fondness for period movies that are themselves reworkings of books: Rick Elice and the PigPen Theatre Company adapt the love-in-the-circus novel “Water for Elephants” (Imperial; in previews); the composer-lyricist Ingrid Michaelson and the book writer Bekah Brunstetter wax romantic with “The Notebook” (Gerald Schoenfeld; in previews); and the playwright Adam Rapp collaborates with Justin Levine and the band Jamestown Revival on the youth-in-revolt staple “The Outsiders” (Jacobs; March 16).

Notably, many of the musical partners here come from the worlds of retro folk, indie pop, and Americana. And there’s more: Alicia Keys’s “Hell’s Kitchen” (Shubert; March 28) draws deeply from her neo-soul catalogue; Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff’s “The Who’s Tommy” (Nederlander; March 8), from 1993, gets another crack at the rock-opera game; and Charlie Smalls’s 1975 musical, “The Wiz” (Marquis; March 29), eases down a road—yellow-brick Broadway—it hasn’t seen since 1984. Even one of the plays going up, David Adjmi’s vivid recording-studio-set “Stereophonic” (Golden; April 3), transferring from Playwrights Horizons, is stuffed with seventies Fleetwood Mac pastiche, courtesy of Arcade Fire’s Will Butler. We’re awash in the rock-inflected past.

There are also some less comfortingly nostalgic projects on Broadway. Eddie Redmayne plays the silvery-voiced emcee in “Cabaret” (August Wilson; April 1), Kander and Ebb’s admonitory 1966 musical, revived yet again, just as we can hear fascism’s not-so-distant jackboots; Peter Morgan’s drama “Patriots” (Ethel Barrymore; April 1) stars Michael Stuhlbarg as the oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who defied Vladimir Putin. Shaina Taub’s women’s-suffrage musical, “Suffs” (Music Box; March 26), transfers from the Public with Hillary Clinton among the producers—a rallying cry in an election year. And “Lempicka” (Longacre; March 19), the book writer Carson Kreitzer and the composer Matt Gould’s musical about the titular Art Deco painter, considers the detachment of the “pure” artist in times of revolution.

Farther afield, Off Broadway, the preoccupation is with safety: Suzan-Lori Parks’s “Sally & Tom” (Public; March 28) imagines an actor couple negotiating their own racial and sexual politics while playing Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, in the supposedly protected space of theatre; the composer Dave Malloy is back with “Three Houses” (Signature; April 30), a tripartite musical about an intergenerational haunting in three places of theoretical refuge; Abe Koogler’s “Staff Meal” (Playwrights Horizons; April 12) creates a mysterious restaurant that offers respite from a world in flames; and in the late spring, at Classic Stage Company, LaChanze directs a rare revival of Alice Childress’s “Wine in the Wilderness,” from 1969, in which a Black woman forces her portraitist to truly see her as riots rage outside. How do we find places of safety? And how do we keep them, or return to them, once they’re found? As the uptown shows roll down the windows and turn up the radio, downtown, it seems, the artists are thinking about locking the door.—Helen Shaw


Illustration by Millie von PlatenEccentric Flamenco, Mark Morris on Burt Bacharach

From March onward, many of New York’s companies holding their in-town seasons are joined by visitors from elsewhere. This year, Olga Pericet (March 15), an intriguing and occasionally eccentric flamenco artist based in Madrid, comes to City Center as part of the Flamenco Festival (March 8-17), with her one-woman show “La Leona.” The title (“the lioness”) borrows the moniker of a sonorous flamenco guitar developed in the mid-nineteenth-century—and could also apply to Pericet herself. She is a diminutive dancer-choreographer with an imposing stage presence, unafraid to break conventions—at points in the show, she wears a mask and dances topless—while exhibiting an impressive mastery of form.

Mark Morris Dance Group’s yearly run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (March 20-23) is one of the remnants of BAM’s once rich dance offerings. In “The Look of Love,” Morris, more often associated with Baroque music, responds to the familiar melodies of Burt Bacharach. (Even Kermit the Frog has sung “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”) The songs, adapted by Ethan Iverson for jazz ensemble and the vocalist Marcy Harriell, speak of life’s foibles with an earnestness that Morris both channels and subverts, with a suite performed by his wonderfully down-to-earth dancers. Loneliness and pain keep peeking through the friendly veneer—but hope remains.

Seven years after Trisha Brown’s death, the Trisha Brown Dance Company soldiers on, and lately it has begun commissioning new work. “In the Fall” is the second such creation; Noé Soulier, its choreographer, is based in France, where the influence of Brown’s momentum-driven, lucid dances has loomed large. At the Joyce (March 26-31), Soulier’s piece is performed alongside “Glacial Decoy” (1979), a beautiful, spare work by Brown in which luminous dancers clad in white pleated dresses move, with loose-limbed elegance, in front of black-and-white images of everyday places. (The set and costume designs are by Robert Rauschenberg.)

The following month, the Joyce shines a light on the work of the jazz innovator Max Roach, born a hundred years ago, with a program of dances, in “Max Roach 100” (April 2-7). Inspired by the drummer’s flexible, almost pointillist use of rhythm, three choreographers, working in different modes, take on Roach’s catalogue. Ronald K. Brown has made a fluid West African-influenced piece for an ensemble of Cuban and American dancers, set to Roach’s 1961 Afro-Cuban album, “Percussion Bitter Sweet.” Rennie Harris applies his sophisticated brand of hip-hop to Roach’s “The Dream/It’s Time,” which contains a dialogue between percussion and Martin Luther King’s voice. And, in a twenty-minute solo, Ayodele Casel, a tap choreographer with a rhythmic and sonic range to rival Roach’s, riffs on a series of duets that Roach recorded with the pianist Cecil Taylor, in 1979.

The Martha Graham Dance Company celebrates its centenary a little early—Graham’s first choreographic evening wasn’t until 1926—with revivals of classic dances by Graham and Agnes de Mille, plus a new commission (City Center; April 17-20). The most classic of all is Graham’s “Appalachian Spring,” from 1944, whose choreography, music (by Aaron Copland), and set (by Isamu Noguchi) have come to represent a certain idea of the spaciousness of the West. Another of Copland’s evocations of America, “Rodeo,” has been adapted for bluegrass ensemble, to accompany a restaging of de Mille’s ballet of the same name. (Graham and de Mille were not only contemporaries but close friends.) The young choreographer Jamar Roberts, lately of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, creates his first dance for the company, set to a folk-and-gospel score by Rhiannon Giddens, a vocal artist with a knack for reinvention.—Marina Harss


Illustration by Millie von PlatenHiroshige’s Edo, Jenny Holzer’s Scrolls

The theme of this year’s Whitney Biennial (opening March 20), entitled “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” splits the difference between the topical and the timeless. The co-curators Chrissie Iles and Meg Onli say they have emphasized art that explores shifting definitions of reality—also known as all art, you might argue, though the reality of the twenty-twenties has fluctuated like the price of cryptocurrency and seems particularly in need of artists who can make sense of it. There are sixty-nine of them (plus two collectives) in the new installment.

The early-twentieth-century German artist Käthe Kollwitz devoted her life to expressing “the sufferings of men,” and her Expressionist prints and drawings are as sombre as that pledge makes them sound. But they’re also joyfully inventive in their depictions of weavers, soldiers, and struggling mothers, and together they constitute something close to a history of their maker’s country in its darkest decades. For Kollwitz’s first major exhibition at a New York museum (March 31), MOMA has assembled roughly a hundred and twenty works, the better to make a full-throated case for her importance to art, politics, and political art.

With “Hiroshige’s 100 Famous Views of Edo (feat. Takashi Murakami)” (April 5), the Brooklyn Museum is showing one of the most glittery treasures in its permanent collection for the first time in nearly a quarter century. Hiroshige’s series of woodblock prints—produced in the years leading up to his death, in 1858, and thereafter completed by his apprentice, Hiroshige II—is inaccurately named: there are a hundred and eighteen views in all. Considering that “Views” has a claim to being the single greatest creation of the single greatest Japanese artist, however, showing more than advertised doesn’t seem like a bad thing. An accompanying set of Takashi Murakami paintings riffs on the prints’ calm with madcap Surrealism.

The Native American artist Rose B. Simpson is having a good year. Her work appears in the Whitney Biennial, and for the twentieth anniversary of the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s public-art program she has contributed a set of figurative sculptures in steel and bronze; while these occupy Madison Square Park, two others will be on view in Inwood Hill Park. The second location wasn’t lightly chosen. It’s believed to be the site where Dutch settlers “bought” the island of Manhattan from the Lenape tribe, for next to nothing—a sour truth that gives this two-part outdoor exhibition, “Seed” (April 11), a tone that is both outraged and triumphant.

Frederick Kiesler was a mutant creature of the early twentieth century: an experimental designer who was also an artist who was also an inventor, writer, architect, professor, and all-round charismatically wacky visionary. The Jewish Museum’s exhibition “Frederick Kiesler: Vision Machines” (April 25) examines his tenure as the director of the Laboratory for Design Correlation, at Columbia University, during which he pursued projects such as the Mobile Home Library, a rotating-shelf device that has been constructed specially for this occasion, close to a century after he dreamed it up.

Thirty-five years ago, the inner wall of the Guggenheim Museum was dressed in curling ribbons of L.E.D. lights. The dresser, Jenny Holzer, has spent her career composing koan-like phrases and turning them into signs that lurk in museums and public places, waiting to pounce. In “Jenny Holzer: Light Line” (Guggenheim; May 17), a reimagining of the earlier show, she brings back her old words and adds new ones, some generated by artificial intelligence. A natural response to all this may well be confusion, but, as the artist herself tells us, “CONFUSING YOURSELF IS A WAY TO STAY HONEST.”—Jackson Arn

Classical Music

Illustration by Millie von PlatenAmerican Identity, Climate Change, Bach in Modern Times

This spring, artists are engaging in seemingly spontaneous conversations with one another across performances—about identity, climate, and how to contextualize canonical composers for contemporary audiences.

American works about cruelly thwarted dreams hit the stage. The choir MasterVoices gives a concert of Ricky Ian Gordon’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” an opera that shines with goodness, at Carnegie Hall (April 17). Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang’s opera “An American Soldier,” about the tragic death of the Chinese American private Danny Chen, shortly after he joined the Army, in 2011, has its New York première, at PAC NYC (select dates May 12-19).

The Miró Quartet’s brief survey of twentieth- and twenty-first-century American art music, at the Church of the Intercession, in Harlem (May 4), adopts a tenderly elegiac tone, with famed string pieces by George Walker and Samuel Barber. Other ensembles fill in that history with missing voices. At Town Hall, Kronos Quartet and Ghost Train Orchestra delve into the extensive catalogue of Moondog (April 16), a blind composer of simple, catchy songs, who was known as the “viking of Sixth Avenue” for the horned helmet and cloak that he wore on the streets of New York in the fifties and sixties. For the centenary of the Black composer Julia Perry’s birth, the Experiential Orchestra mounts a four-day festival, which closes at Alice Tully Hall with Perry’s aching Prelude for Strings and her piquant Violin Concerto (March 16).

John Adams’s “El Niño,” a Nativity oratorio that humanizes Mary’s experience of motherhood, has its Metropolitan Opera première (select dates April 23-May 17). Dan Schlosberg and Amanda Quaid’s “The Extinctionist,” in Heartbeat Opera’s first world première, also contends with a birth: a woman wrestles with the moral dilemma of bringing a child into a world that appears to be falling apart as a result of global warming (Baruch Performing Arts Center; select dates April 2-14).

The director Peter Sellars, whose work is both visionary and humane, likewise concerns himself with climate collapse in “Shall We Gather at the River,” an original show that weaves together spirituals and Bach cantatas, at the Park Avenue Armory (May 21); the cast includes the smooth-voiced countertenor Reginald Mobley. Bach crisscrosses with the modern era in two programs: one by the pianist Simone Dinnerstein, who pairs his lilting sinfonias with music by Keith Jarrett and Philip Lasser, at Miller Theatre (April 25), and the other by the cellist Alisa Weilerstein, who couches Zoltán Kodály’s twisting Sonata for Solo Cello among Bach cello suites, at the 92nd Street Y, New York (April 3).

The Danish String Quartet presents the fourth installment of its “Doppelgänger” series, which pairs a Schubert work with a new commission, this time by the ever-interesting Thomas Adès (April 18), at Carnegie Hall. Paul Lewis, a Schubert interpreter of verve and fluidity, offers his own four-part cycle of the composer’s work—specifically, the piano sonatas—for Peoples’ Symphony Concerts, where tickets cost less than ten dollars with a subscription (various venues; April 27 and May 19).

Also at Carnegie, the American Symphony Orchestra tackles Schoenberg’s “Gurre-Lieder,” a last, magnificent gasp of post-Romanticism in the composer’s œuvre, for the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of his birth (March 22). Mitsuko Uchida, a pianist of engrossingly precise insight, centers her “Perspectives” series on her lodestars Mozart (March 28) and Schubert (April 9). The baritone Matthias Goerne wraps a voice of dark velvet around Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” (April 25), and the sensitive pianist Jan Lisiecki plays Chopin’s Twenty-Four Preludes for his recital début on Carnegie’s main stage (March 13).

Meanwhile, at David Geffen Hall, the mellifluous violinist Hilary Hahn rounds out her New York Philharmonic residency (April 25-27), by stealing away into an Iberian fantasy with a concert of Sarasate, Ginastera, and Ravel.—Oussama Zahr


Illustration by Millie von PlatenShirley Chisholm, Zendaya’s Tennis Smackdown

Even as the Oscar season rolls by, the bio-pics keep coming, and this spring offers a pair of notable ones. “Shirley” (opening March 22) stars Regina King as Shirley Chisholm, who, in 1968, became the first Black woman elected to Congress, and, four years later, was the first Black woman to run in a major party’s Presidential primary. The movie is written and directed by John Ridley; Lance Reddick and Terrence Howard co-star. Marisa Abela plays Amy Winehouse in “Back to Black” (May 17), the story of the singer’s adolescence and too-brief adulthood, written by Matt Greenhalgh and directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson.

Much of life’s most important action takes the form of talk, but Hollywood sees things differently and, as usual, will be filling the screen with rough-and-tumble adventure in a range of genres. “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” (March 22), the franchise’s latest sequel, directed by Gil Kenan, combines members of the first-generation poltergeist patrol (including Dan Aykroyd, Annie Potts, and Bill Murray) with newcomers (Carrie Coon, Celeste O’Connor, Paul Rudd) who attempt to prevent a new ice age. Alex Garland’s dystopian fantasy “Civil War” (April 12) stars Kirsten Dunst as a journalist covering the violence of a second American civil war involving the secession of Texas and California; Nick Offerman plays the President. “The Fall Guy” (May 3), directed by David Leitch, a former stunt coördinator and a co-director of the first “John Wick” movie, is a comic thriller about a stuntman (Ryan Gosling) who hunts for an actor (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) gone missing from a film that his friend (Emily Blunt) is directing. In the sports romance “Challengers” (April 26), Zendaya plays a tennis coach who is training her husband (Mike Faist) prior to his big match against her ex (Josh O’Connor).

American independent filmmaking returns to prominence with a varied slate of movies. One of the hits of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, “Sasquatch Sunset” (April 12), directed by the brothers David and Nathan Zellner, stars Riley Keough and Jesse Eisenberg as the titular creatures, who make their way across American landscapes. In Bob Byington’s “Lousy Carter” (March 29), David Krumholtz plays a terminally ill literature professor whose professional activities and love life are in chaos. Joanna Arnow wrote and directed “The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed” (April 26), a dramedy about a thirtysomething New Yorker (Arnow) who searches for romantic connection and a sexually submissive relationship; it was one of the outstanding entries in last year’s New York Film Festival. Pamela Adlon makes her feature-film directorial début with “Babes” (May 17), starring Ilana Glazer (who co-wrote the script) as a single woman who becomes pregnant and decides to raise the child on her own.

Idiosyncratic offerings are en route from the international cinema, such as “The Beast” (April 5), the French director Bertrand Bonello’s science-fiction spin on a Henry James story of failed romance, “The Beast in the Jungle”; the movie is set in three eras, ranging from the early twentieth century to 2044. The contemporary dystopian tale “Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World” (March 22), from the Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude, centers on two women named Angela: a production assistant on an industrial-safety video, who is also a social-media provocateur, and a taxi driver who is also the protagonist of a real Romanian movie from 1981. In “La Chimera” (March 29), directed by the Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher, an archeologist haunted by memories of a woman he loved becomes involved with smugglers, whose excavations may open a door to his past. And Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s new feature, “Evil Does Not Exist” (May 3), is set in a rustic Japanese village whose fragile ecosystem is threatened by the development of a resort.—Richard Brody

P.S. Good stuff on the Internet:

  • An interview with MGMT.
  • Ayo Edebiri at the SAG Awards
  • The “Disney adult”-industrial complex

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