This week, the Kravis Center unveiled its full 2019/2020 entertainment schedule, and it’s another star-studded doozy full of classical and pop music, Broadway theatre, ballet and contemporary dance and comedy. We sifted through the shows, running from October 2019 through May 2020, for the 10 events I’m personally most excited about: Mark your calendars now. They are, in chronological order:
Rennie Harris Puremovement, Oct. 19-20
Pioneering hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris launched his dance company Puremovement in 1992, and he’s been showered with accolades ever since: The New York Timescalled him “the most profound choreographer of his idiom,” and the London Timeslabeled him to “the Basquiat of the U.S. contemporary dance scene.” Discover why at this performance of his popular “Nuttin’ But a Word!!!” suite, an eight-part, two-act reinvention of hip-hop dance for a 21st century vernacular that satisfies Harris’ Three Laws of Hip-Hop: individuality, creativity and innovation.
Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Nov. 3
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019, Complexions combines the best of both dance worlds—the rarefied movements of ballet and the limitless possibilities of contemporary—performed by a multicultural stable of performers that looks like America. The corps’ ability to merge the classic and contemporary will be on vivid display in its Kravis program, titled “Star Dust from Bach to Bowie,” which includes a glitter-and glam-fueled tribute to the late pop icon.
A John Waters Christmas, Dec. 2
One of Hollywood’s undisputed kings of trash cinema, John Waters is likely one of the last entertainers you’d expect to host a Christmas tour—a genre long the domain of spritely carols and good cheer. But the creator of “Pink Flamingos” and “Polyester” professes a genuine affection for the holiday, which he’ll exhibit at this yuletide rant alongside his hatred for e-Christmas cards and his exploration of the most unsafe toys to wrap under a tree.
17 Border Crossings, Dec. 13-14
This solo theatre piece from peripatetic writer and performer Thaddeus Phillips is a journey through his own journeys, undertaken over the past 28 years. Referring to himself simply as “The Passenger,” Phillips relates has travails traversing borders around the world by means of bus, cab, ferry, train and plane. His narratives span from the tight quarters of the wheel well of a transatlantic jet to an ayahuasca session in the Amazon, all conveyed on a largely bare stage brought to life through evocative light and shadow.
The Isley Brothers, Dec. 20
Fresh off their surprising headlining set at the hipper-than-thou Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, soul legends the Isley Brothers continue to earn new fans for their fertile, genre-fluid blend of hip-shaking, baby-making music. This gig is part of the family band’s 60th anniversary (!) tour, promising hits from “Twist and Shout”—first charted by the Isley Brothers before the Beatles basically co-opted it for the broader masses—to “Who’s That Lady,” “It’s Your Thing” and, hopefully, the group’s newer material, on its 2017 Santana collaboration, Power of Peace.
Bella Gaia Live, Jan. 17-18
For those who don’t speak New Age, “Bella Gaia” translates to “Beautiful Earth,” and if the creators of this immersive multimedia project have their way, you’ll leave it with a renewed respect for our little blue dot. This NASA-powered production combines music, dance, cutting-edge technology and satellite imagery from our space agency in order to catapult audiences into the interstellar perspective of an astronaut drinking in our planet from space.
Boyz n the Hood, Jan. 20
The jewel of the Kravis Center’s annual African-American Film Festival, 1991’s “Boyz n the Hood” introduced much of the world to Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube and other versatile actors, not to mention its debut writer-director, John Singleton, whom we lost this year far too early at 51. Its story of a good kid from South Central Los Angeles who is torn between his father’s hard-nosed values and the allure of the gang culture surrounding him is both culturally specific and thematically universal. For his efforts, Singleton became the first African-American to be nominated for a Best Director Oscar.
Seven, March 7-8
On tour from L.A. TheatreWorks, the documentary play “Seven” refers to the seven female change-makers from around the globe whose stories of perseverance and activism inspired its structure, as well as the seven women playwrights who interviewed them and shaped their lives into theatrical monologues. The subjects include campaigners for women’s education, sex trafficking prevention, domestic violence awareness and gender equity in nations such as Afghanistan. Their stories have resonated with audiences worldwide: “Seven” has been translated into 27 languages in more than 30 countries.
Come From Away, March 31 to April 5
An anomaly among the branded pop-culture franchises adapted for Broadway, “Come From Away” is an honest-to-goodness originalmusical inspired by one of the lesser-known impacts of the 9-11 attacks. It’s set during Operation Yellow Ribbon, in which the Canadian government shut down its airspace for safety concerns, grounding 38 planes in a small town in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Characters include some of the town’s actual residents as well as the passengers, and this unorthodox musical was nominated for seven Tonys last year on the strength of its uplifting message of hospitality and communion in the face of terror and hate.
Fela! The Concert, April 25
This performance is not to be confused with “FELA!,” the full-scale, Tony-winning musical about the life and times of Fela Kuti, the composer, activist and Afrobeat pioneer. But it’s the next best thing: a celebration of Kuti’s music and legacy that honors both his joyous, danceable songwriting and the confrontational politics that undergirded it, complete with a live Afrobeat band, singers and dancers whose rhythms conjure Kuti’s own, and vivid projected images complementing every note.