Best of Boca: Arts & Entertainment

"Hamilton"

Written by Marie Speed and John Thomason inspired by a brilliant consortium of all-knowing advisors and pundits

Our roundup of who’s in the news—and the highlights (and lowlights!) of the last year in and around Boca.

Best Transformation

“Typewriter Eraser, Scale X”

Driving down Dixie Highway for the first time to visit the Norton Museum of Art—which reopened in February after a $100 million renovation and expansion—our hearts skipped a couple of beats, and we probably held up traffic. The transformation begins outside, with the sleek new entrance and zen-like water feature housing a permanent sculpture, Claes Oldenburg’s colossal “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X,” a tilting, funky monolith. Inside, the galleries flow like never before, into a three-story art maze that takes more than one trip to digest it all. Out back, the new sculpture gallery and garden walk beckons. In short, it exceeds the considerable hype—and it’s free on Fridays and Saturdays!

An Institution Turns a New Page

Read all about it: The Palm Beach Book Festival, a staple in West Palm Beach since 2015, migrated south to FAU’s Boca Raton campus this year. The festival offered stimulating discussions and readings with literati from the worlds of fiction, memoir and investigative journalism, including James Patterson, Mitch Albom, Ben Bradlee Jr. and Susan Orlean. Score one for Boca—hopefully the first of many.

Welcome to the Club!

Theatre Lab, FAU’s professional theatre company, won its first Carbonell Awards this year—besting, in many cases, companies with larger budgets and more abundant resources. Well-deserved congratulations go out to Dawn C. Shamburger, whose period-evoking, and hilariously flamboyant, attire won Best Costume Design for “The Revolutionists,” and to Niki Fridh, for her unforgettable performance as a bitter, broken, chain-smoking working mother in the evocative memory play “Tar Beach.”

Best One-Hour History Class

(Photo by Paul E. Richardson)

Festival of the Arts brought some top marquee events to Boca this year, from Arturo Sandoval to Pink Martini to a “Star Wars” screening with live orchestration. But our No. 1 highlight was presidential historian and former Boca Raton resident Doris Kearns Goodwin. She was brilliant as usual, and left her audience with a renewed call for “civility, collaboration and compromise” in our body politic, reminding us of the importance of taking the long view and wide view.

Up-and-Coming Boca Event

Only in its second year, the Battle of the Bands in Boca was a sell-out and featured five local garage bands starring our friends and neighbors and benefiting the Golden Bell Foundation. Last year we got to see people like Anne Marie Van Casteren, John Mulhall, George Petrocelli and many others rocking out. Good? Better! We’re not even sure they should keep their day jobs.

TOP 5 PLAYS/MUSICALS

“A RAISIN IN THE SUN” at New City Players

New City Players’ scorching and heartbreaking production of Lorraine Hansbury’s masterpiece overflowed with passion, insight, even life lessons.

“KING LEAR” at Thinking Cap Theatre

This re-imagined “Lear” modernized the 17th century text with dance numbers, imaginative props and live Beatles instrumentals underscoring the action, adding up to a powerful and easily digestible night of Shakespeare.

“INDECENT” at Palm Beach Dramaworks

A self-reflexive play charting the rise and fall of playwright Sholem Asch’s controversial“God of Vengeance” in the years leading up to and after World War II, “Indecent” was live theatre in all its myriad forms, adding up to an unclassifiable experience that no other medium could replicate.

“Indecent” at Palm Beach Dramaworks

“WEST SIDE STORY” at Maltz Jupiter Theatre

The Maltz spruced up Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein’s streetwise tragedy with new choreography, dynamite actors, a cinematic set design, and a prologue and epilogue set in contemporary, hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

“THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME” at Zoetic Stage

Zoetic’s take on this literary adaptation was whimsical, creative and lovely, from a working mechanical train set to skies blanketed with stars to actors personifying their own props.

Hottest Ticket

Shoba Narayan as Eliza Hamilton and Joseph Morales as Alexander Hamilton

The season’s buzziest performing-arts event was certainly the first national tour of “Hamilton” at the Broward Center, a tour that, in terms Kafka could appreciate, was pretty much sold out before tickets went on sale. A lucky few won raffle tickets for a handful of seats for select performances, finding a Broward Center that suggested a World Series or a Rolling Stones concert, complete with multiple merch booths and pop-up food and drink vendors. The press has its perks: We sent three staffers to opening night, all of whom appreciated the show’s rich sonic tapestry and symphonic sweep, its colorblind casting, and breathless performances. Consider the “Hamilton” floodgates open: It’s coming to the Kravis Center in January and the Arsht Center in February; only Broadway season subscribers are guaranteed tickets.

TOP 5 ART EXHIBITS

“REMEMBER TO REACT” at NSU Art Museum

Offering tapas, not entrees, from the 60 years of this Fort Lauderdale museum’s history, the survey delivered a marvelous assortment of flavor.

“IMAGINING FLORIDA” at Boca Raton Museum of Art

This eccentric, sprawling romp defined the beautiful, messy, conflicted paradise that is Florida.

“Basin with Sailor, Villa Vizcaya Miami, Florida” by John Singer Sargent

“TECH EFFECT” at Cornell Art Museum

This worldly, postmodern group exhibition was among the Cornell’s most ambitious shows to date, with more moving parts than a Rube Goldberg machine.

“DWELLING” at Arts Warehouse

This site-specific exhibition was comprised of two identical, side-by-side houses that, sociologically, are worlds apart, evoking the subprime mortgage crisis, racial inequity and more.

“Dwelling”

“BEYOND THE CAPE!: COMICS AND CONTEMPORARY ART” at Boca Raton Museum of Art

This playful and provocative exhibition explored the connection between graphic novels and contemporary artists, showcasing 40 artists inspired by, rooted in, or subverting the time-honored aesthetic of panels and captions, heroes and villains.

Top 10 Concerts of the Year:

  • Father John Misty at Fillmore Miami Beach
  • David Byrne at Fillmore Miami Beach
  • Drake at AmericanAirlines Arena
  • Travis Scott at AmericanAirlines Arena
  • Classic Albums Live: Abbey Road at Old School Square Pavilion
  • III Points Festival in Miami
  • Nu Deco Ensemble at Mizner Park Amphitheater
  • Jeff Tweedy at Parker Playhouse
  • Vince Staples at Revolution Live
  • Leon Bridges at Fillmore Miami Beach

This story is from the July/August 2019 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.