Featured events in January 2019
There is plenty to do in NYC on New Year’s Day, so shake off your hangover and get ready to start off 2019 with a bang. Strip down to your skivvies and take part in the annual New Year’s Day Swim at Coney Island, indulge in verse and good food at the annual New Year’s Day Marathon Reading and more.
Each January, Winter Jazzfest hosts a stellar lineup over five nights. Its signature two-night Greenwich Village marathon brings vets and up-and-comers, hordes of music fans and a palpable air of excitement to an array of cozy downtown venues. The shows aren’t individually ticketed, so a wristband grants you access to any of each night’s shows—as long as a given club doesn’t hit capacity, that is.
In January 2002, Improv Everywhere’s Charlie Todd produced the first-ever No Pants Subway Ride and posted the event on YouTube, where the short clip quickly gained popularity. Now it has turned into one of the group's most anticipated events, as thousands of New Yorkers continue the funny tradition on subway cars all across Gotham. Donning winter clothes, minus their pants, the straphangers share the same goal: to confuse bystanders.
Since it was first observed nationwide in January of 1986, the holiday commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has served as a reminder of his legacy to the causes of civil rights, nonviolent opposition and community service.
The garden lights up with its collection of trains that chug along a nearly half-mile track by 150 miniature NYC landmarks like the Empire State Building and Radio City Music Hall, all made of natural materials such as leaves, twigs, bark and berries.
Put a pin in your New Year's resolutions for a couple hours and dig into endless bites and brews at this annual event. The fest, now in its third year, offers eats from over 20 local chefs, plus unlimited tastings from prized neighborhood brewhouses like Sixpoint Brewery, Coney Island Brewing, Wartega and Kombrewcha. You'll walk out with a free souvenir tasting glass, and plenty of time left to realize your 2019 healthy eating goals.
Theater events in January 2019
Hamilton: Theater review by David Cote What is left to say? After Founding Father Alexander Hamilton’s prodigious quill scratched out 12 volumes of nation-building fiscal and military policy; after Lin-Manuel Miranda turned that titanic achievement (via Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography) into the greatest American musical in decades; after every critic in town (including me) praised the Public Theater world premiere to high heaven; and after seeing this language-drunk, rhyme-crazy dynamo a second time, I can only marvel: We've used up all the damn words. Wait, here are three stragglers, straight from the heart: I love Hamilton. I love it like I love New York, or Broadway when it gets it right. And this is so right. A sublime conjunction of radio-ready hip-hop (as well as R&B, Britpop and trad showstoppers), under-dramatized American history and Miranda’s uniquely personal focus as a first-generation Puerto Rican and inexhaustible wordsmith, Hamilton hits multilevel culture buttons, hard. No wonder the show was anointed a sensation before even opening. Assuming you don’t know the basics, Hamilton is a (mostly) rapped-through biomusical about an orphan immigrant from the Caribbean who came to New York, served as secretary to General Washington, fought against the redcoats, authored most of the Federalist Papers defending the Constitution, founded the Treasury and the New York Post and even made time for an extramarital affair that he damage-controlled in a scandal-stanching pamp
In this captivating original musical, Hello, Dolly! scene-stealer Taylor Trensch now plays the title role of a high school student thrust into social relevance after a classmate's suicide. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's score combines well-crafted lyrics with an exciting pop sound, and Steven Levenson’s book gives all the characters shaded motives. Read the full review.
If theater is your religion and the Broadway musical your sect, you've been woefully faith-challenged of late. Venturesome, boundary-pushing works such as Spring Awakening, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Next to Normal closed too soon. American Idiot was shamefully ignored at the Tonys and will be gone in three weeks. Meanwhile, that airborne infection Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark dominates headlines and rakes in millions, without even opening. Celebrities and corporate brands sell poor material, innovation gets shown the door, and crap floats to the top. It's enough to turn you heretic, to sing along with The Book of Mormon's Ugandan villagers: "Fuck you God in the ass, mouth and cunt-a, fuck you in the eye." Such deeply penetrating lyrics offer a smidgen of the manifold scato-theological joys to be had at this viciously hilarious treat crafted by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of South Park fame, and composer-lyricist Robert Lopez, who cowrote Avenue Q. As you laugh your head off at perky Latter-day Saints tap-dancing while fiercely repressing gay tendencies deep in the African bush, you will be transported back ten years, when The Producers and Urinetown resurrected American musical comedy, imbuing time-tested conventions with metatheatrical irreverence and a healthy dose of bad-taste humor. Brimming with cheerful obscenity, sharp satire and catchy tunes, The Book of Mormon is a sick mystic revelation, the most exuberantly entertaining Broadway musical in years. The high
Theater review by David Cote [Note: This is a review of the 2010 production of Gatz. The show returns in 2019 for an encore run at the Skirball Center, with its original cast.] “Since the introduction of printing, and the fatal development of the habit of reading amongst the middle and lower classes,” Oscar Wilde wrote in The Critic as Artist, “there has been a tendency in literature to appeal more and more to the eye, and less and less to the ear which…from the standpoint of pure art, it should seek to please.” An aesthete who elevated recitation over print, Wilde would have been quite flummoxed by Gatz, the jaw-dropping literary installation by Elevator Repair Service. This eight-hour-plus immersion—in which 13 actors read aloud every blessed word of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby—is thoroughly aural, even musical. And yet, the production acts upon the eye, through a meticulously layered physical score buzzing around Scott Shepherd, our intensely listenable narrator. Shepherd reads beautifully; we watch him read; we listen; we imagine that we read along with him; and so Fitzgerald’s images are burned into our brains by an indirect circuit of seeing and hearing on intermeshed levels. After eight hours of this, our narrative-absorbing faculties have been so recalibrated that we forget where ERS’s frame ends and Fitzgerald’s picture begins. Directors John Collins and Steve Bodow and their ensemble created the piece and presented a work-in-progress in January 2005 in
Theater review by Adam Feldman Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman is a tremendously noisy play about silence and its price. Rob Howell’s expertly detailed set, festooned with memorabilia and kids’ drawings, depicts a farmhouse in Northern Ireland in 1981. More than 20 actors stream on and off the stage, including many children of various ages, plus a live baby and a goose; there is music, both traditional and contemporary, and a celebratory dance. The whole thrilling production seems alive, as few Broadway shows do, with the clutter and scope of reality. It is harvest day, and for Quinn Carney (Paddy Considine) it starts with a sweet early-morning flirtation with Caitlin (Laura Donnelly). They seem a happy couple, but we soon piece together that she is not Quinn’s wife and the mother of his seven children—that would be the sickly Mary (Genevieve O’Reilly)—but the presumed widow of his long-missing brother, Seamus. As we have learned in the play’s prologue, Seamus’s corpse has just been discovered in a local bog, and the quietly menacing local Irish Republican Army warlord, Muldoon (Stuart Graham), is intent on ensuring that no one talk too much about how the dead man got that way. Although it is more than three hours long, The Ferryman never drags, in part because Butterworth continually shifts and expands the play’s focus to what had seemed like side characters, such as the sometimes-lucid madwoman Aunt Maggie Far Away (Fionnula Flanagan), the slow-witted Tom Kettle (Justi
Theater review by Adam Feldman The world of Harry Potter has arrived on Broadway, Hogwarts and all, and it is a triumph of theatrical magic. Set two decades after the final chapters of J.K. Rowling’s world-shaking kid-lit heptalogy, the two-part epic Harry Potter and the Cursed Child combines grand storytelling with stagecraft on a scale heretofore unimagined. Richly elaborated by director John Tiffany, the show looks like a million bucks (or, in this case, a reported $68 million); the Lyric Theatre has been transfigured from top to bottom to immerse us in the narrative. It works: The experience is transporting. Jack Thorne’s play, based on a story he wrote with Rowling and Tiffany, extends the Potter narrative while remaining true to its core concerns. Love and friendship and kindness are its central values, but they don’t come easily: They are bound up in guilt, loneliness and fear. Harry (Jamie Parker) is weighted with trauma dating back to his childhood, which hinders his ability to communicate with his troubled middle son, Albus (Sam Clemmett); it doesn’t help that Albus’s only friend is the bookish outcast Scorpius Malfoy (the exceptional Anthony Boyle), son of Harry’s erstwhile enemy, Draco (Alex Price). Despite the best intentions of Harry’s solid wife, Ginny (Poppy Miller), and his friends Hermione (Noma Dumezweni) and Ron (Paul Thornley), things turn dark very fast. Set designer Christine Jones and lighting designer Neil Austin keep much of the stage shroude
[Note: The review below is for a 2014 version of this show, which was then titled The Imbible. A revised version now plays at New World Stages. A different, brunch-theater edition, titled Day Drinking, plays on weekend matinees.] Remember Bill Nye the Science Guy? Great! Now imagine him as a bartender who is deeply interested in the history of ethanol alcohol, really likes wigs and costumes, and just joined a coed barbershop quartet. That description of Anthony Caporale’s The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking may sound far-out, but the show is both educational and entertaining. (It's also a fine showcase for a cappella classics arranged by Josh Ehrlich and performed by a gifted ensemble that includes the show's director, soprano Nicole DiMattei.) Mixing whimsy and information, Caporale makes the story of our relationship with alcohol remarkably compelling. And the show's lessons—on subjects like the drinks served at Prohibition-era speakeasies, the origin of the gin and tonic, and the difference between a cocktail and a mixed drink—can be washed down with complimentary, thematically appropriate beverages. As Caporale says, “Trust me, I get funnier with every sip.” That makes the show a must-see for anyone who enjoys free booze, which is probably nearly everyone.—Amelia Bienstock
Theater review by Helen Shaw When you walk into Say Something Bunny!, you enter another time. You might not notice that at first, because the brick office space where it takes place is so determinedly ordinary-looking. The small audience sits around a doughnut-shaped conference table, and as Alison S.M. Kobayashi begins her multimedia docuplay, some spectators are already paging through the scripts that have been placed in front of each chair. The text turns out to be the full transcript of a real, unlabeled 65-year-old recording that Kobayashi found hidden in an antique wire recorder: the audio relic of a teenage boy in Woodmere, Queens, enthusiastically taping two dozen family members and neighbors. Kobayashi has listened to the recording hundreds of times and has a seemingly boundless interest in the people whose voices it preserves, including amateur recordist David, mother Juliette and neighbor Bunny. She conducts us through a pair of after-dinner conversations, the first in 1952—she deduced the date from song lyrics mentioned on the wire—and the second in 1954. Aided by coauthor Christopher Allen, she pursues hints and half-heard jokes to determine who these people were and what befell them; she shows us the census records she used to find their old houses. The play unspools unhurriedly, leaving space for Kobayashi to make jokes, play short films and highlight points of historical interest. It takes a while for it to sink in that—of course—many of these vibrant people
This musical prequel to The Wizard of Oz addresses surprisingly complex themes, such as standards of beauty, morality and, believe it or not, fighting fascism. Thanks to Winnie Holzman’s witty book and Stephen Schwartz’s pop-inflected score, Wicked soars. The current cast includes Jackie Burns as Elphaba and Amanda Jane Cooper as Glinda.
Theater review by Diane Snyder For seven Harry Potter novels, the mediocrities of the Hogwarts house Hufflepuff lived in the shadow of their overachieving schoolmates. Matt Cox’s Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic gives them their due. In this funny and affectionate homage to J.K. Rowling’s world of wiz kids, Harry, Hermione and Ron take a back seat to average American wizard Wayne (Zac Moon), goth gal Megan (Julie Ann Earls) and math genius Oliver (Langston Belton), who is stuck at a school that doesn’t even teach his subject. They may not be at the top of the class, and they’re not wild about Harry, but they persevere through adversity and find power in friendship. A press release asks that the word parody be avoided in describing Puffs, but much of the show’s comedy is clearly aimed at Potterphiles. The 11 cast members play an assortment of characters, from a mumbling potions master to a squeaky house elf, and some of the jokes will be lost on those with no knowledge of the films or books. But even Potter virgins will enjoy the show’s witty wordplay and well-executed physical comedy. At times, the pacing is so frenetic that jokes can’t find a place to land, but there’s heart as well as humor here. In the past two years, Cox and director Kristin McCarthy Parker have shepherded their silly, subversive show from the People’s Improv Theater to Off Broadway’s New World Stages. Like its main characters, Puffs illustrates the heigh
Music events in January 2019
Each January, Winter Jazzfest offers a crash course for anyone interest in exploring NYC's jazz scene. Its signature two-night Greenwich Village marathon brings vets and up-and-comers, hordes of music fans and a palpable air of excitement to an array of cozy downtown venues. The shows aren't individually ticketed, so a wristband grants you access to any of each night's shows—as long as a given club doesn’t hit capacity, that is.
Working under the name Zola Jesus, Nika Roza Danilova creates unapologetically dramatic tunes that craftily balance arty texture with poppy drive. Expect tunes from her most recent album, Okovi, which marks her return to beloved local imprint Sacred Bones, as she kicks off the inaugural night of the 2019 Ecstatic Music Festival.
Bow down before NOLA’s queen diva of bounce, the hip-hop style so named for its high spirits and the frenzied ass-shaking it inspires on the dance floor. You’ve heard Freedia’s voice on Beyoncé’s “Formation”and Drake’s “Nice for What,” now experience the veritable booty-quake live. We trust she'll keep the megafun alive all night as she brings her talents Brooklyn for a two-night stint.
The quirky yet poignant punk of NYC antifolk songsmith Blum bares a world-weary atmosphere and an attention to the minutiae of the everyday.
The always captivating local art-pop act balances kaleidoscopic arrangements with crisp drumming and tight harmonies. Listen for new material from its forthcoming album, Good Fruit, due in March.
While her first album soared through majestic dream pop summits, Michelle Zauner's stellar latest, Soft Sounds from Another Planet, features a revamped sound that veers from shoegaze into ’80s synth-pop. Her band has been filling bigger and bigger venues, and deservedly so: Zauner is a confident and captivating performer.
The Queens-via-Uruguay songsmith pretty much charmed the whole city at the helm of local DIY folk-punk institution the Beets. Here, he celebrates his latest album, La Onda de Juan Pablo, a wide-ranging collection of Spanish-language songs written while traveling in South America.
Kyle Thomas, the Vermont longhair who writes ditties as King Tuff, comes to town toting the glittery glam-rock and deep-funk boogie of his 2018 album, The Other. Tuffy may be serving up something wholly different from the catchy garage rock we know and love. If he decides to unleash more of the funk swagger demonstrated on "Pycho Star," we certainly wouldn't complain.
Given the recent huge resurgence in meditative synthesizer music among certain indie circles, it's not surprise to learn New Age music is experiencing something of a comeback. Laraaji is a zither player best remembered for his splendid Brian Eno–produced 1980 LP, Ambient 3: Day of Radiance. He's been active in the borough the past couple years performing in spaces ranging from BAMcafé Live to Brooklyn churches (like at this particular gig). Local ambient-electronic composer Rachika S—a recipient of an emerging artists fellowship with massive new Hudson-Yards art space The Shed—plays the opening set.
Expect heaps of technical virtuosity as Harrington—best known as half of the downtempo duo Darkside with dusky electronic wunderkin Nicolas Jaar—settles into a five-night residency with a rotating cast of characters, including his nebulous improvisational Merry Pranksters supergroup (Feb 2). Since Darkside's dissolution, the guitarist has wound his way between cinematic ambient synthscapes and funky, foot-tapping fusion.