Monday, December 4, 2023

Your Week Ahead: April 16 to 22

Gravity-defying dancers soar at the Kravis, Nu Deco Ensemble bends genres with an all-star lineup, and the Boca Museum redefines celebrity portraiture. Plus, The Church, “Rent,” “Murder Ballad” and more in your week ahead.


What: Opening night of “Murder Ballad”

Where: New River Room at Broward Center, 201 S.W. Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale

When: 8:30 p.m.

Cost: $39.50

Contact: 954/462-0222,

From Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” to Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” to a sizable chunk of Nick Cave’s recording career, the murder ballad has been an ongoing fixture in the western-music canon: As in paperbacks and podcasts, crime sells in song, and murder ballads keep listeners rapt with narrative and melody as they explore the psychology, the motivations and the methodology of a homicide. Julia Jordan’s rock opera of the same name, which premiered off Broadway in 2012, is inspired by this rich vein of songwriting, spinning a deceptively simple story about a young woman who dates an exciting bartender, leaves him for a more grounded life with a college student, then has second thoughts, to the detriment of all. A narrator sings through some of the interstitial material, adding a fourth wheel to this tale of lust, fury and woe, in which 39 numbers flow through a fast-moving 90 minutes or less. This production, the first Broward Center residency from Measure for Measure Theatre, runs through April 28.


What: Opening day of “John Ransom Phillips: Lives of the Artists”

Where: Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: $10-$12

Contact: 561/392-2500,

In addition to penning more than half a dozen plays, New York City’s John Ransom Phillips is an accomplished visual artist with an idiosyncratic style. A painter of watercolors whose abstract and figural forms dance for dominance, Phillips has lately explored unorthodox “portraits” of subjects ranging from Vincent Van Gogh to William Blake to Federico Fellini. Favoring humor, symbolism and imagination over realism, Phillips distills his fellow-artists’ essences in ways that perhaps only he fully understands, but which the rest of us can appreciate on our terms. It’s one of three exhibitions opening Wednesday, alongside “Beyond the Cape! Comics and Contemporary Art” and “Contemporary Sculpture: Sam Anderson and Michael Dean.”

What: “Rent” 20th Anniversary Tour

Where: Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $29-$100

Contact: 561/832-7469,

In the early 1990s, composer-lyricist Jonathan Larson wrote “Rent” with the dream of bringing “musical theatre to the MTV generation.” He certainly succeeded, with his timely rock opera all but defining Generation X counterculture, ambitions and existential anxieties. In the decades since, “Rent” has achieved almost mythic status, aided by the tragic coincidence of its creator dying the night before the musical’s off-Broadway premiere. These days, the engrossing narrative—charting the romances, travails and tragedies of singer-songwriters, filmmakers, performance artists, dancers and drag queens struggling to make it in an East Village community in the time of AIDS epidemic—feels both exemplary of its era and prescient toward our gender-fluid zeitgeist. The 20th anniversary national tour, which began a couple of years ago, continues for one night only.


What: NoGravity Dance Company

Where: Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $25-$100

Contact: 561/832-7469,

Cirque du Soleil may still have market dominance in the world of dance circus spectaculars, but small companies like NoGravity are nipping at its physics-defying heels. The acrobatic dancers in this high-flying troupe contort their bodies into impossible shapes—with the aid of some nifty magic and special effects—against an eclectic soundtrack of classical and rock. The production also has intellectual bona fides: Choreographer Emiliano Pellisari based the program, titled “From Hell to Paradise,” on Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Nu Deco Ensemble at the Lightbox at Goldman Warehouse on May 19, 2018

What: Nu Deco Ensemble with Kimbra and Ben Folds

Where: Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $35-$85

Contact: 305/949-6722,

For audiences at Festival of the Arts last month, Nu Deco Ensemble’s Boca Raton debut was one of the fest’s most enticing discoveries—a full symphony orchestra that cross-pollinates between high- and (allegedly) lower-brow music, comfortably traversing Cuban and vocal music, and the diverse sounds of Queen, Outkast and Daft Punk. This program at the Arsht is no exception, finding common ground among soul and symphonic music, electro-pop and alternative rock. Virtuoso pianist and singer-songwriter Ben Folds, who played with Nu Deco last year for a seven-song mea culpa after canceling a headlining Miami gig at the last minute, returns for another exclusive mini-set, but that’s not all, folks: This showcase also features songs from the New Zealand multihyphenate Kimbra, who sang on Gotye’s smash “Somebody That I Used to Know” and has enjoyed a celebrated solo career; and the electro-acoustic composition Spiritual America, a tribute to secular spirituality in American culture, with help from Jenn Wasner, one-half of the indie-folk duo Wye Oak. Also on the program, the Ensemble will perform Aaron Copland’s ballet score to “Billy the Kid” and a soul tribute to the music of Bill Withers.


What: Opening night of “Ash is Purest White”

Where: Lake Worth Playhouse, 709 Lake Ave., Lake Worth Beach

When: 2 and 6:30 p.m.

Cost: $9

Contact: 561/296-9382,

“Ash is Purest White,” the master Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s existential spin on the gangster epic, follows Qiao (Zhao Tao), the fiercely faithful girlfriend to Bin, a middling mobster. After serving five years in prison for firing a gun to protect Bin, Qiao must forge a new life, grifting from one mark to another while searching for Bin, whose allegiances have shifted. Zhangke’s direction and narrative preoccupations drift much like his unorthodox heroine, following her on boat and train, and culminating in a fascinating reversal of fortune. Doubling as a metaphor for China’s own complicated growth over the 21st century, “Ash is Purest White” is a pristine jewel of movie with stylistic associations ranging from Antonioni to Scorsese. It runs through April 25.


What: The Church

Where: Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale

When: 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $25, or $99 for VIP meet-and-greet

Contact: 954/564-1074,

Any U.S. gig from the Australian new-wave/psych rock outfit The Church is a rare occasion indeed, but this one is especially significant: It’s a 30th anniversary celebration of the band’s 1988 international breakthrough Starfish, which yielded the hits “Reptile” and “Under the Milky Way”—the latter a dreamy, evocative, slinky earworm that remains their biggest hit. The song, a favorite of my own karaoke warblings, enjoyed a millennial resurgence thanks to its expert placement in the cult film “Donnie Darko.” The Church will perform the album straight through, followed by selections dating all the way back to the 1981 single “The Unguarded Moment.” It’s a safe bet that, in South Florida, 2014’s 9-minute epic “Miami” will make the cut too.

John Thomason
John Thomason
As the A&E editor of, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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