Old School Square’s Beerfest gets crafty, a brand-new musical explores Operation Pedro Pan, and an “America’s Got Talent” champion revives ventriloquism. Plus, James Taylor, Mike Birbiglia, “Next to Normal” and more in your week ahead.
What: Delray Beach Craft Beerfest
Where: Old School Square, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach
When: 6:30 p.m.
Contact: 561/243-7922, oldschoolsquare.org
A fundraiser soaked in suds, Old School Square’s Craft Beerfest is a playground for grown-ups. Jumbo Jenga, jumbo cornhole and jumbo beer pong games will dot the downtown Delray Beach pavilion and park—competitive diversions best enjoyed with any of the 100-plus craft brews and ciders available for unlimited sampling from national, local, independent and home brewers. It’s a great place to stray from your comfort hops and experiment with a bold stout, a citrusy hefeweizen or a properly bitter IPA, or stick with the copious wines offered at no extra charge as well. There’s an upcharge for pizza and pub bites—and for water, oddly—but c’est la vie. Live and DJ-spun music, a photo booth and a silent auction round out the festivities at this seventh-annual event, whose attendance grows each year.
What: Opening night of “Next to Normal”
Where: The Abyss Theatre, 2304 N. Dixie Highway, Wilton Manors
When: 8 p.m.
South Florida has a new professional theatre company, and it has selected an exemplary musical to introduce its talents to the community. Measure for Measure, a company that is “dedicated to producing shows that open a dialogue and promote change,” will hopefully do just that with its debut production of “Next to Normal,” co-produced with Wilton Manors’ edgy Infinite Abyss Productions. The Tony-winning rock musical explores the debilitating effects of mental illness on a mother and her suburban nuclear family, broaching uncomfortable subjects with pathos, wit and imagination. Even if you’ve seen “Next to Normal” before, as I have, you likely haven’t encountered the show in a setting as up-close and intimate as the Abyss Theatre. It plays there through June 3.
What: Mike Birbiglia
Where: Parker Playhouse, 707 N.E. Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale
When: 8 p.m.
Contact: 954/462-0222, parkerplayhouse.com
The term “comedian’s comedian” has long applied to Mike Birbiglia, an improv veteran and alt-comedy urbanite. What does that moniker mean, exactly? It’s one way of indicating his cult appeal within the industry: His sly, wry material plays better with his devoted throng and his professional compatriots than with the public at large. “I’m a niche,” he admitted onstage, the last time I saw him perform. But who needs mass appeal? Birbiglia’s highly personal routines—”Sleepwalk With Me” is about his unusual sleep disorder, and “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” is a spot-on relationship self-analysis—have been dextrous and impactful enough to run off-Broadway. He’s back in town to tour his latest show, unironically titled “The New One,” which will showcase his deft blend of standup comedy and storytelling.
What: James Taylor
Where: BB&T Center, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise
When: 7:30 p.m.
Contact: 954/835-8000, ticketmaster.com
James Taylor, the perennial earnest folkie of the ‘70s, has outlived and outperformed his best-selling era, moving and entertaining an impressive and impassioned fan base for more than 50 years. He survived crushing heroin addictions and painful band breakups, and is now a certified elder statesman of popular music, selling out arenas on the strength of the beauty, austerity and simplicity of his music: As if he were performing in a Village coffeehouse, he still sits on a stool and strums. His 2018 tour, which kicks off in Florida this week, was supposed to feature opening act Bonnie Raitt, who had to back out because of a medical emergency. That’s unfortunate, but Taylor’s fans will receive even more from “Sweet Baby James” as a result; Taylor will perform two sets bisected with an intermission.
What: “The Return of the Living Dead” screening with special guest
Where: Savor Cinema, 503 S.E. Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale
When: 10 p.m.
Contact: 954/525-3456, fliff.com
The Popcorn Frights Film Festival, which brings new horror films to South Florida each August for exclusive screenings, is going retro with a monthly series of cult classics at Savor Cinema. It kicks off with the deliriously gory, tongue-in-undead-cheek camp of “The Return of the Living Dead.” The 1985 zombie flick, which has no relation to the George A. Romero zombie series, satirizes the punk subculture of the time; its plot centers on a klutzy punk rocker who inadvertently unleashes a toxic corpse-cloud in Louisville, Ky., raising the community’s cadavers into some of the most unrelenting zombies ever rendered on celluloid. But the best part of this screening is that it will be introduced by Linnea Quigley—author, singer and actress—who played the character of Trash in “The Return of the Living Dead.” Recognized as one of the seminal “scream queens” of ‘80s horror, Quigley will also answer questions in a post-screening Q&A session.
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY
What: “Cuban Courage”
Where: Theatre Lab at FAU, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton
When: 7:30 p.m.
Contact: 561/297-6124, fauevents.com
FAU Theatre Lab’s commitment to producing new work continues with a South Florida focus this weekend, with a super-limited two-performance run of “Cuban Courage.” Mark Walter Braswell’s world-premiere musical, presented on the Theatre Lab stage with a live band, is inspired by Operation Pedro Pan, in which 14,000 children were flown from Havana to Miami in the early 1960s to escape Communist indoctrination. “Cuban Courage” follows one child’s journey as a microcosm for thousands, charting the schisms in geography, language and identity wrought by this necessary but devastating decision. The show features original music incorporating Cuban styles of bolero, son and mambo, with its two sweeping acts spanning from 1960 to 1980.
What: Terry Fator
Where: Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach
When: 8 p.m.
Contact: 561/832-7469, kravis.org
Surely the first millionaire ventriloquist since Jeff Dunham, Terry Fator helped elevate this maligned and moribund genre by combining vocal dexterity and puppeteering with dead-on musical parody. This is what catapulted Fator to the winner’s circle in the second season of “America’s Got Talent,” earning plaudits from Piers Morgan, David Hasselhoff and Sharon Osbourne on the strength of his astonishing, tight-lipped but full-throated renditions of Louis Armstrong, Etta James, Garth Brooks, Tony Bennett and others, all “sung” by his right-hand dummies. For Fator, it was a long way from his bread-and-butter of afternoon state-fair gigs for dwindling audiences, where he was known to pass out from heat stroke. These days, he’s a highly sought-after Vegas headliner whose impressions extend to Paul McCartney, Bruno Mars and, yes, Donald Trump.