On April 13, 1964, Sidney Poitier became the first African American to win an Academy Award for best actor, for his role in Lilies of the Field. But even beyond Poitier’s stellar performance, the film’s up-tempo gospel number, “Amen” (lip-synched by the tone-deaf actor), left an indelible imprint on American culture.
The new Broadway show Bright Star is a redemptive story of love lost and love found, told through rousing bluegrass songs. Happily, it managed to push every button for this hardcore musical theater–phobe, offering fun yet not “show-y” tunes, pacing that held my attention, and an overall authenticity that lent purpose to the exciting choreography and truth to the evening’s big emotions. But primarily I wanted to see what the odd pairing of its famous cowriters—Renaissance man comedian Steve Martin and 1980s alternative folk-rock star Edie Brickell—would come up with.
Like many great biopics before it, Miles Ahead focuses on just a small period of time in its subject’s life, jumping into jazz legend Miles Davis’s career during the trumpeter’s drug-filled 1970s musical hiatus. Making his directorial debut, Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle also stars as Davis, and he cowrote and coproduced the film as well. It’s safe to say this has been Cheadle’s passion project, one that certainly paid off—Miles Ahead was chosen to close last year’s New York Film Festival, where the audience adored it.
Broadway show-tune fanatics will be pleased to hear that the 2016 season of the Broadway By the Year series, judging from its first installment, may be its best ever. Expanded to encompass show music from entire decades, rather than single years as it has in the past, this four-program series of one-night-only musical revues opened on February 22 with a beguiling performance at Manhattan’s Town Hall. Directed, written and hosted by Scott Siegel, the show proffered tunes from 1930s musicals sung by Broadway stars of today.
So, Terence Winter: I tried to like your new show, Vinyl, I really did. Not least because a cool musician friend of mine is in it, and because I lived through 1970s NYC, albeit as a kid. But once I remembered who you are—the writer and creator-showrunner of Boardwalk Empire and writer of The Wolf of Wall Street and lots of episodes of The Sopranos—I understood why I wasn’t liking Vinyl and realized it was hopeless.
To some dear friends’ incredulity and annoyance, I’ve always claimed that I love Yoko Ono. And I haven’t been lying. But listening to her new record, Yes, I’m a Witch Too, released on February 19 (the day after Ono’s 83rd birthday), made me realize I haven’t kept up with her musically since Onobox, her 1992 compilation set. I’d had only the vaguest awareness of her self-reinvention as a septua- and, now, octogenarian latter-day disco diva, one who has racked up a dozen chart toppers on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs list since the Pet Shop Boys remixed her “Walking on Thin Ice” in 2003.
A thoroughly enjoyable vanity endeavor starring Maurice Hines—the less gifted older brother of tap great Gregory Hines—the autobiographical show Maurice Hines: Tappin’ Thru Life plays like an extended nightclub act, with the 72-year-old Hines singing, dancing and telling stories about his boyhood as a touring performer.