Last week, the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts unveiled its long-awaited 2013-2014 seasonal entertainment lineup. As usual, Palm Beach’s County’s most prominent cultural destination has amassed another eclectic season of theater, dance, music, lectures, film and standup comedy. The full schedule can be found on the venue’s website, but to help get you started, here is my personal top 10 don’t-miss events this season at the Kravis.
10. The Second City, April 8-13, $35
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the legendary Chicago-based troupe the Second City, a sketch-comedy and improv organization responsible for launching the careers of Alan Arkin, John Belushi, Chris Farley, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and countless others. With a talent roster like that, you can bet that only the crème de la crème of the comedy world will be permitted to grace a Second City Stage, and the touring performances provide fans the opportunity to see tomorrow’s stars today. This production, titled “Happily Ever Laughter,” will celebrate the institution’s half-century milestone with selections from its archives as well as new skits.
9. Buck and the Preacher, March 6, $10
The highlight of Kravis’ annual African-American Film Festival, “Buck and the Preacher” may be the best blaxploitation western ever made – not that it has much competition. This cult film was directed by Sidney Poitier who, in a departure from the stately characters he crafted in prestigious studio films, stars as a rowdy trail guide leading former slaves to a western homestead in the wake of the Civil War. Harry Belafonte plays a swindling priest who joins forces with Buck, pistols blazing, to tackle the largely all-white hegemony of the Old West. This is an ultra-rare screening; while “Buck and the Preacher” is available on DVD, it is almost never shown or referenced.
8. Ayikodans Dec. 14-15, starting at $28
Just because you can’t pronounce it doesn’t mean you should skip it. Translated from two Creole words, Ayikodans is Haiti’s premiere dance company. Founded in 1987, the company has performed throughout the world, integrating folk performance, free improvisation, Indian and French influences, and voodoo religious culture into its boundary-pushing modern dance repertoire.
7. Chris Isaak Holiday Show, Dec. 20, starting at $15
There’s something a little neutering, perhaps, about the soul-rock bad boy who gave us “Wicked Game” and “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing” performing a set of ostensibly innocent yuletide favorites. But Chris Isaak is nothing if not unpredictable – his last album, which went gold in Australia, was a collection of Sun Records covers from the ‘50s and early ‘60s – and perhaps he’ll bring some of his signature naughtiness to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and “Let it Snow.” Expect to hear his greatest hits thrown into the mix.
6. Fahrenheit 451, Jan. 23-24, $38
In 1966, the great Ray Bradbury adapted his own best-seller “Fahrenheit 451” for the stage, bringing an even wider audience to his prescient story of an oppressive society where televisions control minds and books are burned (unsurprisingly, the book itself was subject to censorship). Witness how many of Bradbury’s themes and ideas have come depressingly to pass in this touring production from New York’s Aquila Theatre Company, which always puts its own stamp on theater classics.
5. Savion Glover, Nov. 7, starting at $15
Tap treasure Glover, whom Gregory Hines described as “the best tap dancer who ever lived,” has gone a long way toward bringing world-music rhythms – especially African funk – into the traditional hoofing pantheon, and he has brought his craft to such esteemed venues as the White House and the Smithsonian Institute. Just seven months after touring a show to Miami’s Arsht Center, Glover is back with all-new production. Titled “STePz,” this one will marry tap’s past, present and future through the complexity of jazz phrasing.
4. Audra McDonald, Jan. 5, starting at $25
When Audra McDonald visited the Mizner Park Amphitheater this past March for Festival of the Arts BOCA, she promised that she’d come back. I didn’t expect a return date so soon, but I’m certainly not complaining. Witty, charming and lovely to look at, McDonald brings the total package to her solo cabaret-style performances, with a repertoire as eclectic as it is unconventional. At the Boca festival, she sang numbers from “The Scottsboro Boys,” “Ordinary Days” and “Steel Pier;” who knows what forgotten Broadway delicacies she’ll re-invigorate this time?
3. The Elephant Wrestler, March 28-29, $28
Performace artist Jacob Rajan is from New Zealand, not India, but that hasn’t stopped him from exploring that country’s traditions and modern-day atmosphere, while adopting a pitch-perfect Indian accent, in this show. Rajan is an actor, comedian and magician, and he adopts all of these hats in this unique performance piece, which also integrates audience interaction, slapstick, puppetry and live music; most importantly, reviewers have said that this award-winning show never condescends to the Indian archetypes Rajan portrays.
2. Christopher O’Riley, Feb. 12, $30
Pianist Christopher O’Riley is much more than his day job as the host of NPR’s “From the Top,” where he promotes talented young musicians in the classical world. As he performer, he provides his own contributions to furthering the dialogue between classical forms and youth music by reinterpreting modern indie songs as classical piano compositions. What started as a few on-air piano doodlings of Radiohead songs in between more established examples of the piano repertoire has since spawned two albums of solo piano Radiohead albums and similar 88-keyed tributes to Nick Drake and Elliott Smith. This tour will see O’Riley exploring these artists in addition to piano interpretations of R.E.M., Nirvana, Cocteau Twins, Portishead and others. This is my most-anticipated entry in Kravis’ cutting-edge P.E.A.K. series, which stands for Provocative Entertainment at Kravis.
1. War Horse, Feb. 12-16, starting at $174 for the six-show Broadway series
One of the most groundbreaking, experimental and profitable Broadway successes of recent years, the Tony-winning “War Horse” is the only nonmusical in the Kravis Center’s Broadway tour series. The glitzy, towering sets and pomp and circumstances of most Broadway tours are replaced here by a spartan set, theater-of-the-mind sound effects, a handful of actors, and an impressive herd of mechanical horses that act so lifelike you’ll barely notice the legs of their human controllers protruding from their midsections. The narrative is based on Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel about a boy separated from his favorite horse during World War I; even if you know how it ends, be prepared to shed a few tears at this immensely moving production.