The Met Looks to Right a Historic Wrong
Early in 1969, the Metropolitan Museum sparked an uproar with an exhibition called “Harlem on My Mind: Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900-1968.” Although conceived as the museum’s first big-ticket acknowledgment of African American creativity, it included no visual art beyond documentary photomurals. Black artists, many working in Harlem just blocks north of the museum, angrily picketed the show, denouncing it as evidence of art world racism writ large.
As a student visiting New York in 1969 I saw, and was baffled by, that show, so I’m eager to see a new one that can only be viewed as a corrective to it, the marquee-scale survey of paintings, sculptures, photographs and films titled “The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism” scheduled to open at the Met in February. The announced inclusion of a wealth of African American art considered inadmissible to the Met half a century ago — some represented by rarely seen loans from the collections of some of the country’s historically Black colleges and universities — is, on its own, an exciting prospect. And so is the exhibition’s larger promise to fully position modern African American art not just as a local phenomenon, but as a generator of international modernism itself.
Furiosa Gets an Origin Story
Next year brings a lot of sequels: “Inside Out 2,” “Beetlejuice 2,” “Joker: Folie à Deux,” “Gladiator 2,” “Dune: Part Two,” plus new films in the “Quiet Place” and “Venom” and “Paddington” and “Godzilla” and even “Despicable Me” cinematic universes. I rarely get excited for non-original films, since most of them come off as naked cash grabs capitalizing on existing I.P. and risk-averse audiences. But I’m always curious if a sequel (or prequel or side-quel or whatever) will manage to be good, and the one I’m excited for is “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.” George Miller returns to direct an origin story for the character that Charlize Theron played in 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road,” with Anya Taylor-Joy in the Furiosa role. I love a dystopia, and few have exceeded the sheer adrenaline and dread of “Fury Road.” I’m revisiting all the “Mad Max” movies in preparation.
Tom Hollander Tackles Truman Capote
Clive Owen as an aging Sam Spade on AMC’s “Monsieur Spade” (Jan. 14), Helena Bonham Carter as the 1970s soap opera star Noele Gordon (“Nolly,” PBS), Ben Mendelsohn and Juliette Binoche as Christian Dior and Coco Chanel (“The New Look,” Apple TV+, Feb. 14) — there may have never been a new TV year with so many intriguing bits of casting. But the one that has me the most curious is the wonderfully acidic British actor Tom Hollander playing Truman Capote in FX’s “Feud: Capote vs. the Swans” (Jan. 31). Naomi Watts, Diane Lane, Chloë Sevigny and Calista Flockhart play some of the society women Capote befriended and then used as material for his highly unflattering roman à clef “Answered Prayers”; if the thought of Hollander channeling Capote as he calls Happy Rockefeller “that fat-ankled harridan” turns you on, then you must tune in.
‘The Wiz’ Returns to Broadway
I tell everyone that my son Sidney is a musical theater kid. So naturally, his favorite movie is “The Wiz.” And, of course, for his eighth birthday, we went to Baltimore, where the musical version first debuted in 1975, and its current tour started this past October. My parents even saw one of its 1,672 performances during its original four-year Broadway run, when it won seven Tonys, including best musical. Because I come from a family of avid “Wiz” fans, I find myself anticipating its return to Broadway this April at the Marquis Theater with more zeal than usual.
Based on L. Frank Baum’s children’s book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and with an all-black cast, “The Wiz” is a cultural classic, so its revivals have to come with some powerful updates. Directed by Schele Williams with additional writing by Amber Ruffin, it now features Nichelle Lewis, whose TikTok audition landed her the role as Dorothy; a stirring Melody A. Betts as Aunt Em and Evillene; Kyle Ramar Freeman as the Lion, Phillip Johnson Richardson as the Tinman; Avery Wilson as the Scarecrow; and Deborah Cox as Glinda, with Wayne Brady returning to Broadway to play Oz. My sneak peek already has me excited about this dynamic cast, Hannah Beachler’s (“Black Panther”) kaleidoscopic set and the former Beyoncé choreographer JaQuel Knight’s dance moves, especially when Dorothy and her squad of outsiders make their way to Emerald City.
A Double Dose of Itamar Moses
Talk about range: February brings to New York stages two exceedingly contrasting works by Itamar Moses, who previously wrote the book for “The Band’s Visit.” Feb. 15 through March 10, the Public Theater presents Lila Neugebauer’s staging of “The Ally,” starring Josh Radnor as a Jewish college professor caught in the crossfire between wokeism and free speech when asked to sign a social justice manifesto. The topicality is off the charts.
Then, Feb. 28 through April 7 at the Minetta Lane Theater, Audible reunites Moses with some of his “Band’s Visit” collaborators for “Dead Outlaw.” The musical, directed by David Cromer, with a book by Moses and songs by David Yazbek and Erik Della Penna, is about … a mummy. Specifically, the mummy of a failed Old West gunslinger, used as a sideshow attraction for decades before the truth is discovered in a super-gross way. Spoiler alert — I guess literally.
Stylish Spy Moves, Stacked Cast (and One Cat)
The concept at the center of “Argylle” — a best-selling author discovers that what she writes comes true — immediately reminds me of one of my favorite films, “Stranger Than Fiction.” (I’m just a sucker for meta stories about the power of storytelling.) Starring Bryce Dallas Howard as a meek spy novelist whose words draw her into the dangerous world of espionage, “Argylle” (opening Feb. 2) is directed by Matthew Vaughn, whose devilishly stylish “Kingsman” franchise suggests he’ll know just how to play to and satirize the spy movie genre. The cast is filled with actors who have taken on action roles but have also shown impressive comedic chops (Henry Cavill, Sam Rockwell, John Cena and Samuel L. Jackson among them), while the cinematography looks to share the same sleek style Vaughn has made his signature. And an inconvenient, frazzled cat in a backpack? The cherry on top.
Larry David Does Another Finale
How in the world did Larry David do it? It’s a question I’ve been hearing a lot lately. How did he make one of the funniest episodes of television ever out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? How did he tackle race, the Holocaust, Trump without getting in trouble? How did he make us care so much about these insufferable rich Hollywood types whining during their golf game? How did he manage the impossible feat of putting on 11 seasons of a show dominated by improvised small talk? The questions are rhetorical, of course, but everyone knows the answer. Larry David is really really (dare I say “pretty preeetty”) good at what he does. So, his last season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which premieres Feb. 4, is a sad occasion. But it’s also one of the few things on television that I will not tape but watch exactly when it airs. I don’t know what the storylines of the next season will be, but here’s one idea to consider: David has already written a much-anticipated finale, the one on “Seinfeld.” I thought it was excellent. Many disagreed. Jerry Seinfeld has said onstage that he will be revisiting this finale in some form. Food for thought.
‘Girls5eva’ Hit the Road
When Season 2 of “Girls5eva” ended in 2022, my hopes for a renewal were slim; no Peacock original show has actually made it to a third season. But now it isn’t a Peacock show anymore: There is a third season premiering March 14, but it will be on Netflix. Season 1 found the ’90s girl group reuniting, and in Season 2 they put out their album. This season, they’re heading out on tour, an experience for which they are not prepared. I am of course looking forward to the zingy jokes and warped nostalgia, but the even bigger wish is for another absolute banger that will join “Four Stars,” “B.P.E.” and “I’m Afraid” on my playlists.
Christmas in Spring at the Met
First things first: “El Niño” isn’t an opera about weather patterns. In fact, while John Adams’s energetic, eclectic two-hour score is opera-length, it’s not exactly an opera at all. It’s an oratorio, in the tradition of Handel’s “Messiah,” that tells the Nativity story without characters or naturalistic scenes. It’s more of a reflection on the tale; the choral numbers and solos have their texts drawn from the Bible as well as from Latin American poetry, all sewn together by Adams and Peter Sellars.
First performed in 2000, the piece isn’t always staged, but for its Metropolitan Opera premiere (April 23-May 17), the company is giving it a grand treatment. The production, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, boasts the conductor Marin Alsop, the soprano Julia Bullock, the bass-baritone Davóne Tines and the mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges — inspired musical forces. It’s a few months late for Christmas, but “El Niño” will be welcome nevertheless.
Brittany Howard Unveils Startling New Songs
Unbridled emotions, sonic ambitions and audacious singing have been the makings of Brittany Howard’s songs since she arrived with Alabama Shakes in 2012. She’s steeped in Southern soul and rock, and her voice has gospel-rooted power. But with Alabama Shakes and then on her 2019 solo album, “Jaime,” Howard moved far beyond revivalism, pushing toward startling new hybrids; her co-producer, Shawn Everett, has also worked with SZA and Kacey Musgraves. Howard’s second solo album, “What Now,” is due Feb. 2, and its advance singles have plunged into the turbulence of a failing relationship, leaping between the percussive and the ethereal. The full album promises even more innovative ups and downs. Howard begins a North American tour on Feb. 6, with New York City shows Feb. 16 and 17 at Webster Hall.