Theater: The Return of Freestyle Love Supreme
Jan. 30-March 2; freestylelovesupreme.com.
One of the most fascinating things about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s fame is the way he uses the freedom and wealth that “Hamilton” gave him to boost people, projects and places dear to his heart.
Examples from this month alone: “Hamilton” opening in a still-rebuilding Puerto Rico, Miranda back in the title role; the rescue of the Drama Book Shop, a threatened resource in Manhattan’s theater district bought by Miranda and friends; and the return, starting on Wednesday, Jan. 30, of the hip-hop improv group Freestyle Love Supreme.
Miranda, a founder of the group, is a producer of the five-week engagement at the Greenwich House Theater in Manhattan. He’s also on the roster of occasional surprise guests, as are Christopher Jackson, the original George Washington in “Hamilton”; Daveed Diggs, who created that show’s sexy Lafayette; and James Monroe Iglehart (“Aladdin”), a current “Hamilton” star.
TV: Jimmy Breslin, Pete Hamill and Tales of a Lost City
Jan. 28; hbo.com.
Sometimes colleagues, sometimes rivals but always good friends, Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill gave voice to the city’s masses as columnists in newspapers like The New York Post and The Daily News. Raised in working-class neighborhoods by Irish-American families, each knew well the divisions of class and race, and put them into words that resonated with millions. And if Hamill wrote the equivalent of poetry, Breslin was all punch.
“Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists,” airing Monday, Jan. 28, on HBO and its streaming platforms, looks back at the men’s most searing columns on a national scale: the funeral of President John F. Kennedy, whose gravedigger Breslin interviewed; and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, whose shooter, Sirhan Sirhan, Hamill helped disarm. And how they covered their city’s most indelible events: the Son of Sam serial killings in 1976, the Central Park jogger case in 1989 and 9/11.
“There aren’t any more Breslins and Hamills,” says Ed Kosner, a former editor in chief of The Daily News, in this documentary from Jonathan Alter, John Block and Steve McCarthy. “This was the last expression of great 20th-century muscular American journalism. Journalism that’s gone — it’s gone.” KATHRYN SHATTUCK
Dance: De Keersmaeker’s Romantic Turn
Jan. 30-Feb 3; bacny.org.
The Brussels-based choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker opens the Baryshnikov Arts Center’s new season with a whiff of romance. In the New York premiere of “Verklärte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night”), De Keersmaeker finds inspiration in Arnold Schoenberg’s 1899 string sextet, based on a poem by Richard Dehmel. In it, a woman tells the man she loves that she is pregnant by another. And its setting in a moonlit forest adds to the ambience.
Originally conceived as a group work in 1995, De Keersmaeker recast the dance in 2014 for three performers; in its final form, it is mainly a duet, and one overflowing with emotion. As a dance artist, De Keersmaeker is revered for her rigorous experiments in form and architecture. But with “West Side Story” expected to open on Broadway in 2020 — she is choreographing, and Ivo van Hove is directing — who knows? Love is in the air. GIA KOURLAS
Pop Music: R&B’s Late Bloomer
Feb. 1 and 2; theiridium.com.
It’s tough to sum up Bettye Lavette in typical genre shorthand. The 72-year-old Detroit native started her singing career recording R&B sides for Atlantic at 16, eventually touring with artists like Otis Redding and James Brown. But a series of unlucky breaks meant her talent and early success were mostly ignored by the 1970s, when what was meant to be her debut full-length record — Muscle Shoals-recorded set “Child of the Seventies” — was shelved.
Lavette’s path back to the music industry came, in part, via her truly omnivorous appetite for songs. When she began releasing music again in the early 2000s, fueled by R&B collectors’ appetite for her early work, Lavette covered songs by the likes of everyone from Fiona Apple to Willie Nelson to Ray Charles. Her latest album, the twice Grammy-nominated “Things Have Changed” (2018), samples exclusively from Bob Dylan’s catalog. In short, predicting what you’ll hear during her two-night run at the Iridium in Manhattan is a challenge — but audiences are guaranteed a rich, deeply-felt selection of pop songs. NATALIE WEINER
Art: Small Treasures at the Art Institute of Chicago
Through May 5; artic.edu.
The American artist Lee Bontecou has explored the color black in a variety of media. But its ambiguous depths are particularly entrancing on paper, as in “Fifth Stone” (1964), one of more than a hundred small treasures currently showing at the Art Institute of Chicago in the first show of Bontecou’s prints in more than 40 years.
Concentric ovals of black and of a rich, orange-y yellow, with irregular breaks, stains and overlaps, create a strangely stately sense of motion: As foreground and background seem to slowly change places, the piece’s central black oval becomes an emptiness that’s also an object. WILL HEINRICH
Film: A Double Feature of Mads Mikkelsen
Jan. 25 and Feb. 1.
Mads Mikkelsen, the steamy Danish actor of “Hannibal” fame, apparently has ice coursing through his veins. Chunks of it.
In “Arctic” — the feature debut from Joe Penna, a Brazilian YouTube auteur — he plays a researcher who has crash-landed in an endless expanse of white, stranding him painfully alone in survivalist mode to ice fish, dodge polar bears and summon help, though none seems to exist. Then a rescue helicopter goes down, leaving behind a critically injured survivor (Maria Thelma Smaradottir). And now he has two to save.
In “Polar” — an adaptation of Victor Santos’s Dark Horse graphic novel by Jonas Akerlund, a Swedish director and drummer — Mikkelsen is Duncan Vizla, a k a the Black Kaiser, a k a the world’s top assassin. After his employer decides he’s a liability upon his retirement, he finds himself in the cross hairs. Then an odd young woman (Vanessa Hudgens) moves into his snowy Montana village, and she also needs looking after.
“Polar” debuts on Friday, Jan. 25, on Netflix. “Arctic” opens on Friday, Feb. 1, in New York and Los Angeles before a national rollout. Best viewed in scarves and mittens. KATHRYN SHATTUCK
Classical: Feting a New-Music Champion
Feb. 2; kaufmanmusiccenter.org.
Few pianists have been so single-mindedly dedicated to building the repertoire of new music for their instrument as Ursula Oppens, a longtime champion of avant-garde works by composers from Elliott Carter to Meredith Monk to Frederic Rzewski.
Oppens’s authoritative musicianship will be feted at Merkin Hall on Saturday in a 75th birthday tribute hosted by WQXR’s Terrance McKnight. But Oppens will not be resting on her laurels: She is performing music composed for her by Carter, John Corigliano and Tobias Picker, and will be joined by the Cassatt String Quartet for the world premiere of a new quintet by Laura Kaminsky. WILLIAM ROBIN