It was a crazy year, from hurricanes to Haynie’s mayoral blues. Here’s what we took away as the best, the issues that defined us and our insider picks for don’t-miss people and places.
By Marie Speed, John Thomason and a select committee of people who do, indeed, know it all
STRANGEST FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS PERFORMANCE (EVER!)
No matter what you expected from Bill Murray’s singular jumble of music, poetry and prose at Festival of the Arts, you were probably surprised. Somnambulistic readings of Whitman and James Fennimore Cooper left some heading for the exits early, which is too bad—the comic actor’s hilarious butchery of a Tom Waits bar anthem and his prancing medley of three “West Side Story” classics would have brought them back.
BOCA EVENT OF THE YEAR
Halloween at the Addison once again transformed the romantic courtyard of this premier wedding venue into the over-the-top costume party of your dreams—or perhaps your nightmares. Borrowing its theme from the asylums, freak shows, covens and haunted hotels of “American Horror Story,” it featured a live-action walk-through, roving entertainment, DJs, spooky décor and more calorically dense gastronomic delights than a state fair. If you had to enjoy your spiked punch next to a severed limb or two, so be it.
VIPS PLAY FOR VIPS
Lynn University President Kevin Ross’s band, Wolfhawk, entertains the VIPs at this year’s ESPN Boca Raton Bowl.
BEST MUSIC AT A BALL
The mighty Temptations play for guests at the Boca Raton Hospital Ball. For one night, we were in Motown Heaven.
BEST NEW FOODIE EVENT OF THE YEAR
People loved the Seafood Festival at the Mizner Park Amphitheater. That no one knew about. Note to readers: Do not miss the next one!
BEST MUSIC FESTIVAL
We still do not, for the life of us, understand the appeal of the torturous techno of Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, which sells out faster than a politician with a briefcase of cash. But the past year saw plenty of top contenders, from the rootsy consistency of the Sunshine Music Festival in Boca, to the Okeechobee Music Festival’s winning combination of alt-rock swagger and Zen vibes. But the Riptide Music Festival takes the top prize, attracting a stellar lineup and thousands of toes to the Fort Lauderdale sand.
BEST CONCERT VENUE NAMED AFTER A FRENCH ENLIGHTENMENT WRITER
Programming-wise, anything goes at Voltaire, a second-floor speakeasy above Lost Weekend on Clematis Street, the latest jewel in nightlife guru Rodney Mayo’s busy crown. It satisfies the Enlightenment spirit of its name with more varieties of absinthe than many bars have draft beers.
CULTURE TREND: PUBLIC ART
The artsy enclave of Lake Worth became a central gathering place for public art last November, when the CANVAS Outdoor Museum Show migrated from its former home in West Palm Beach. Artists created eye-popping sculptures, which are still viewable downtown. West Palm received its own art infusion, transforming the former Macy’s in CityPlace into the experiential art space known as Culture Lab, featuring a wraparound mural by Irish artist Michael Craig-Martin.
TOP 10 CONCERTS OF 2017/2018
(Send all complaints and snubs to firstname.lastname@example.org)
10. Spoon at Revolution Live
9. Sam Hunt at Coral Sky Amphitheatre
8. Garbage at Hard Rock Event Center
7. They Might be Giants at Culture Room
6. The Killers at AmericanAirlines Arena
5. Grizzly Bear at Fillmore Miami Beach
4. The Zombies at Parker Playhouse
3. LCD Soundsystem at James L. Knight Center
2. Paul McCartney at AmericanAirlines Arena
1. U2 at Hard Rock Stadium
TOP THREE ART EXHIBITS
Based on John Thomason’s reviews on bocamag.com
“Frank Stella: Experiment and Change” at NSU Art Museum: “The museum’s ambitious retrospective reveals an artist brushing against decades of boundaries and obliterating them.” (1/12/18)
“Earth Works: Mapping the Anthropocene” at Norton Museum: “Justin Brice Guariglia’s work conjures the terror and intensity of the early abstract expressionist painters more than anything in the traditional photographic realm. Their collective implication is of a clarion call unheeded, of the last desperate gasps of a dying planet unsentimentally presented for observation by its very killers.” (10/4/17)
“Regarding George Ohr” at Boca Raton Museum of Art: “It’s both a succinct primer and a survey of Ohr’s vast and variegated influence on pottery and sculpture. It is easily the most thoughtful and provocative ceramics exhibition I’ve encountered.” (11/29/17)
THIS YEAR’S “SHOW MUST GO ON” AWARD
Mother Nature threw a wet blanket over the costumed revelers at Moonfest, West Palm Beach’s signature Halloween festival, showering the goblins and centaurs and sexy nurses from 8 p.m. until well past midnight. Many attendees took shelter under the awnings of local businesses, but the festival proceeded without a hitch. The wildest fans stuck it out until 2:30 in the morning to watch local favorites Surfer Blood, whose band members donned garb from “Harry Potter” and “Back to the Future.”
The South Florida Science Center brought back its beloved laser concerts, with a $200,000 grant covering new seating, curtains and wall coverings, plus a “hazer” and more integrative lighting. A far cry from the cheesy squiggles of early laser technology, the new concerts provide a 3D effect without the necessity of glasses, and simulate the feeling of being a little bit high—which, when you’re immersing yourself in Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, is perfectly appropriate.
STILL THE BEST BARGAIN IN TOWN
Where else can you edify yourself on lectures about Van Gogh or Gaugin one minute, make your own masterpiece at a workshop the next, and end the night with live music by a Beatles tribute band—all for the low, low cost of nothing? Starting next year, the weekly Thursday tradition of Art After Dark at the Norton Museum will revert to its normal museum admission price, but it’s still the best bang for your cultural buck.
BEST ART FAIR
Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary in downtown West Palm was small but not too small, which made it both exciting and manageable at the same time. A mix of emerging and established artists across several mediums, from sculpture to textiles and painting to prints, featured a fresh (and somehow local!) vantage point on contemporary art.
BEST NEW CULTURAL CENTER
Anchoring the cultural renaissance of a city that’s on the upswing, the Pompano Beach Cultural Center’s angular, modern building is home to 11 arts organizations, from ballet and choral groups to professional theatre companies and taiko drummers. Despite all of this, the space is often dark: Here’s hoping its second season will be busier than its first.
FIVE BEST PLAYS/MUSICALS:
“The Camp” at West Boca Theatre Company: Local playwright Michael McKeever’s somber world premiere, about a Polish community receiving is penance for a crime of omission during the Holocaust, painted stark and sobering pictures with trenchant dialogue and probing performances.
“The Drowsy Chaperone” at the Wick: A peerless lead performance, savvy source material, and direction that clicked on all cylinders elevated this cheeky musical-within-a-musical.
“An Inspector Calls” at Maltz Jupiter Theatre: The Maltz dusted off this antique British mystery about the collective guilt of an aristocratic family with exemplary technique and a 21st century vision, deploying smoke, curtains and scenic obstructions to bring the play’s themes to vivid life.
“Newsies” at Maltz Jupiter Theatre: The Maltz’s dazzling production of the Disney musical featured innovative choreography buttressed by the director’s novel introduction of female “newsies” in the chorus, along with performances that tugged at our heartstrings.
“Wrongful Death and Other Circus Acts” at Zoetic Stage at the Arsht Center: Miamian Chris Demos-Brown’s cynical legal comedy, written with the topical relevance and the rapier wit of an Aaron Sorkin script, received an exhilarating production from Zoetic, including an actual three-ring circus, acrobatic interludes and wry audience interaction.
RISING STAR OF THE YEAR
A recent transplant to the South Florida theatre scene, Mallory Newbrough stunned audiences with her impassioned, transformative portrayal of Janis Joplin in the Wick’s “Beehive” last spring, a role that netted her a Carbonell Award this year. She received a second nomination for her charming Belle in the Wick’s “Beauty and the Beast.” She continued to impress at MNM Productions’ “Little Shop of Horrors,” injecting fresh pathos into the play’s ditzy but victimized Audrey. Here’s hoping for another busy year from this triple-threat chameleon.
The cranes continue to be in the air at the Norton Museum for what has felt like an eternity, but it wasn’t the only area museum to lift its face this past year. The Cornell Art Museum solidified its growing reputation as a premier contemporary art space thanks to a $1 million redesign that included industry-standard lighting and movable walls. The Boca Raton Museum of Art kicked off its own $1.5 million update with new lighting and signage, a fresh paint job, exterior art installations and new outdoor gallery space.
CULTURE TREND: ROCKERS WHO PAINT
KISS’ Paul Stanley, The Cars’ Rick Ocasek and Metallica’s Jason Newsted, all of whom visited Boca or Palm Beach this past year, are just three classic rockers who, from time to time, exchange guitar picks for paintbrushes. None of them are Picasso, but could Pablo have rocked the rhythm axe on “Detroit Rock City?” I think not.
See who else made the Best of Boca 2018 list:
Best of Boca: Food & Drink
Best of Boca: Retail & Business
Best of Boca: People & Lifestyle
Best of Boca: Issues & News
Best of Boca: Arts & Entertainment