25 Things To See, Do, and Hear This Spring

(And no, they’re not all virtual—hooray!)

Photo via BieShutterB/Getty Images

Nerd out.

Were you reading The Witcher long before Netflix came knocking at Henry Cavill’s door? Then this one’s for you. On April 9, the Seaport Westin plays host to the comic event of the year, Wicked Comic Con. Created by local fans for local fans, the “100 percent Boston homegrown show” has inked a mint-condition lineup of vendors, artists, and cosplayers, including con staple 501st Legion—an international army of Star Wars Stormtroopers. March on over.

April 9, wickedcomiccon.com.

Lorde. / Photo via OpusTwelve/Flickr

Let the sunshine in.

Last year, Lorde graciously bestowed on us Solar Power, her much-awaited third album and a breezy dose of psychedelic pop following 2017’s introspective Melodrama. Now the famously reclusive New Zealander charges into Boston with her “Solar Power” tour at the Boch Center’s Wang Theatre on April 12 and 13. Given the sun-drenched visual universe Lorde created for the album’s music videos, the stage version is guaranteed to be ahem, lit.

April 12-13, bochcenter.org.

Go global.

Films from more than 60 different countries have hit the big screen throughout the 19-year history of the annual Boston International Film Festival, which marks another trip around the sun April 14–20. BIFF will once again import to local theaters short and feature-length films (including some standout student-made flicks) from every corner of the world. We say: Bring on the subtitles (and the popcorn).

April 14-20, bostoniff.com.

Have some good old-fashioned fun.

Perhaps the only big-name comedian whose standup hasn’t sparked controversy in recent years, Jim Gaffigan continues to be A) a guy anyone would genuinely want to grab a drink with, and B) seriously hilarious. Well, here’s your chance to share a beer and a laugh with the two-time Emmy winner: His “Fun” tour hits the Chevalier Theatre in Medford for two nights starting on—you guessed it—4/20. Just a coincidence, we’re sure….

April 20, chevaliertheatre.com.

Dance on over.

The U.S. Congress once designated Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater “a vital American cultural ambassador to the world.” Find out why when the venerated modern dance company, which celebrates Black heritage through movement, returns to Boston for its annual Celebrity Series residence at the Wang Theatre April 28 to May 1. Among the highlights will be a performance of Revelations, Ailey’s aptly titled choreographic masterwork exploring the African-American experience.

April 28-May 1, celebrityseries.org.

This ain’t the Nutcracker—in May, Boston Ballet debuts two new exciting contemporary works. / Photo by Angela Sterling/Courtesy of Boston Ballet

Blow your mind.

Don’t get us wrong, we love classical ballets. Every once in a while, though, it’s exciting to see an established troupe perform something totally new, fresh, and unexpected—something like Boston Ballet’s “MINDscape,” a duo of world premieres that the company describes as “physically demanding and mentally stimulating.” Debuting May 5, the performance will highlight Blake Works II, from legendary choreographer William Forsythe, and—speaking of surprises—a mystery piece from Boston Ballet’s resident choreographer, Jorma Elo.

May 5, bostonballet.org.

Don Winslow. / Photo by Robert Gallagher

Bookmark this date.

On May 10, best-selling author and part-time Rhode Islander Don Winslow will pop by Coolidge Corner Theatre for a live talk about his new novel, City on Fire, the first entry in a gritty trilogy about Irish and Italian organized crime in New England. Winslow’s The Power of the Dog just scored a boatload of Oscar nominations, so make sure you stick around for the book signing at neighbor Brookline Booksmith—this literary star’s autograph is one you’ll want to snag.

May 10, brooklinebooksmith.com.

Wave hello to a piano-rock icon.

It’s been a long road since 1992’s Little Earthquakes, the seismic album that established Tori Amos as an artistic firebrand and baroque-pop legend. Last year, Amos released Ocean to Ocean, inspired by the Cornish landscapes the expatriate now calls home, the U.S. Capitol insurrection, and grieving her mother amid a global pandemic. The record is a lush reflection on life, loss, and love, and on May 14, she brings it to us live at the Orpheum.

May 14, crossroadspresents.com.

Milad Yousufi. / Courtesy photo

Discover a fascinating journey.

Some of us take certain things for granted—citizenship; safety; music. Not Milad Yousufi. During a Taliban ban on music, the Afghan pianist and artist was forced to practice his art in secret until the regime collapsed and, eventually, he came to the States as a refugee. The experience inspired “My Journey to America,” Yousufi’s series of musical vignettes representing his travels overseas and settling stateside. On May 15, he performs his stirring work at St. Paul’s Church in Brookline.

May 15, winsormusic.org.

Reexamine important history.

In his Pulitzer Prize–winning book Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families, Anthony Lukas dug into racial issues in Boston households during the 1960s and through the 1970s desegregation busing crisis. Now playwright Kirsten Greenidge and director Melia Bensussen have reworked the material into a new play, Common Ground Revisited, which has its world premiere May 27 with the Huntington. Exploring this era might not be pretty, but it will be powerful.

May 27, huntingtontheatre.org.

Nothing is off-limits when Patricia Williams, a.k.a Ms. Pat, is on stage. / Courtesy photo

Bust a gut.

She’s raunchy, she’s sassy, and she’s not afraid to go there: She’s Patricia Williams, the comedian better known as Ms. Pat, and believe us when we say she’s capital-F funny. Fresh off a Netflix special, Y’all Wanna Hear Something Crazy?—and last year’s BET+ series The Ms. Pat Show—Williams is in town May 21 for a night at the Wilbur. Get ready to LOL.

May 21, thewilbur.com.

Go green.

It’s baaack: Wicked, the perennially “pop-u-lar!” prequel musical, returns to Oz Boston this month. From June 8 to July 24, Elphie, Glinda, and the rest of the Emerald City crew will transform Citizens Bank Opera House into a steampunk storybook as they fly through Broadway-karaoke hits like “For Good” and “Defying Gravity.” Sing it with us now: I’m through accepting limits.…

June 8-July 24, bostonoperahouse.com.

Movies al fresco at the Roxbury International Film Festival. / Courtesy of Roxbury International Film Festival

Celebrate diversity on the silver screen.

This month, the Roxbury International Film Festival, or RoxFilm, returns for its 24th annual run from June 22–28. As always, the Best of Boston–awarded fest highlights movie-making artists of color through screenings, panels, and more hosted at venues throughout the city. Last year’s winning films included documentaries such as Questlove’s Summer of Soul, about 1969’s Harlem Cultural Festival. As for this year’s? Your views and votes will help decide.

June 22-28, roxfilmfest.com.

Behold an illuminating play.

A joy-filled day quickly devolves into a nightmare for an engaged couple in The Light, opening at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston on June 3. When shocking allegations from the past resurface, protagonists Rashad and Genesis are forced to question themselves and their relationship, and as a result, the play—called a “rom-com, a drama, and very nearly a tragedy” by the New York Times—asks questions about trust and commitment that linger long after the stage goes dark.

June 3, lyricstage.com.

Take the leap.

You’re bound to find something you love when the three-day Spring Dance Fest from Global Arts Live lands at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre starting June 2. On the docket: Dorrance Dance, a tap troupe; Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence company, performing modern dance from the African diaspora, set to spoken word poetry by Angela Davis and other luminaries; and Cuban contemporary troupe Malpaso Dance Company.

June 2, globalartslive.org.

The Matrix who? It’s Kraftwerk 3-D, baby. / Photo by Kraftwerk

Werk it out.

Kraftwerk walked so Daft Punk could run. Part electro-pop pioneers and part extended performance-art piece, the 1970-established German band has taken to throwing immersive, 3-D concerts in recent years. That trend continues this month when the group sails into town for a June 1 show at the Wang Theatre. Expect synths, synths, and more synths from the minds behind “Das Model,” “Autobahn,” and other OG electronic tracks. We can see the lasers now.…

June 1, bochcenter.org.

A striking piece from David Antonio Cruz, on display at the ICA this spring. / Photo courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago. © David Antonio Cruz

Best In Show

Four must-see exhibitions at our favorite museums this season.

“A Place for Me: Figurative Painting Now”

Reframing personal experience is what figurativism is all about, and the eight painters featured in this group exhibition—all art-world darlings for pushing that f-word forward—represent distinct identities with relatable perspectives. Consider, for instance, Gisela McDaniel, a 25-year-old Indigenous Chamorro artist whose rich oils intimately explore her own (and others’) traumas and healing.

Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, March 31 to September 5, icaboston.org.

“New England Triennial 2022”

As stewards of 27,000 acres of Massachusetts conservation land, the nonprofit Trustees of Reservations is used to covering a lot of ground. See also: this year’s triennial, exhibited for the first time between two Trustees properties (Lincoln’s sculpture-garden-centric deCordova and the farm-set Fruitlands Museum in Harvard) and highlighting 25 standout artists from all six New England states.

decordova Sculpture Park & Museum, Lincoln, and Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, April 8 to September 11, thetrustees.org.

“Philip Guston Now”

Imagery invoking Klansmen and the Holocaust caused this rare retrospective of Guston—whose abstract, sardonically cartoonish paintings pointedly confront social and racial injustice—to raise eyebrows before it even opened. Now, a couple of years after the onset of the pandemic and the controversy resulted in its postponement, the MFA becomes the first of four international institutions to mount the undeniably thought-provoking show.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May 1 to September 11, mfa.org.

“Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love.” / Photo by Patrick Kelly/Peabody Essex Museum

“Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love”

Exuberant joy is the common thread in Kelly’s peppy fashions. The late Mississippi-raised designer, represented in this PEM show by more than 80 of his most ’80s-catwalk looks, drew inspiration from the ebullient style he saw in southern Black churches and New York City nightlife to pioneer a multimillion-dollar empire, conquer Paris couture, and outfit avant-glam icons like Grace Jones. —Scott Kearnan

Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, June 25 to November 6, pem.org

Travis Alabanza brings Burgerz to the Emerson Paramount Center in April. / Photo by Travis Alabanza/Elise Rose

Queering the Air

LGBTQ+ themes move to the forefront of the season’s hottest tickets.

Now that RuPaul’s Drag Race has become a major international franchise à la The Real Housewives (with an even bigger mascara budget), it’s obvious that the more glittery sides of queer art have sashayed well into the mainstream. This spring, though, Boston stages and movie screens will fill with rounded representations of LGBTQ+ people and shine a spotlight on issues that are more than rouged-skin deep.

For starters, there’s the Wicked Queer film festival (April 7–17), an annual program of LGBTQ+-related flicks screened online and in city theaters. From experimental shorts to documentaries to comedy, romance, and horror features, the international entries tell stories reflecting the joys and sorrows of real life rather than the contrived drama of reality shows.

The format of a cooking show, on the other hand, is used to great effect in Burgerz, a nourishing live performance at the Emerson Paramount Center from April 13–24. Travis Alabanza, a buzzy U.K.-based theater-maker, created the work after a transphobic passerby hurled the titular sandwich at them. The star processes the incident by literally and figuratively deconstructing the weaponized food on stage with the help of a single audience member every night.

Meanwhile, a supersize cast dominates SpeakEasy Stage Company’s local premiere of the epic stage play The Inheritance (April 22 to June 11), which is performed over the course of two separately ticketed parts, each three-plus hours long. It takes that much time to unpack the wry observations of the Tony Award–winning saga about a group of friends navigating the politically regressive Trump era, the isolating effects of Grindr-fueled hookup culture, and their haunted half-memories of the AIDS epidemic, which left them orphaned from the loss of their gay elders.

Portraits of LGBTQ+ pioneers don’t get much more riveting—and conflicted—than Champion: An Opera in Jazz (May 18–22). Through these married forms of music, Boston Lyric Opera illuminates the real story of Black, bisexual boxing champion Emile Griffith, who delivered a fatal pummeling to his opponent on live TV after he was subjected to a slur. He’s a complex figure, to be sure, but his story is indisputably powerful. —S.K.

Jeffrey Page and Diane Paulus are the creative minds behind 1776. / Photos courtesy of American Repertory Theater

Will 1776 Be the Next Hamilton-Size Hit?

Cambridge’s A.R.T. is smashing the patriarchy—and might have a smash on its hands.

There’s a moment in the American Repertory Theater’s revival of 1776, a milestone musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, where the character of John Adams hails his compatriots for being willing to “stand up like men.” In this case, though, the performer playing Adams, that famous founding statesman, looks and sounds different than what audiences are used to. “To hear that line coming out of a non-male voice,” says Jeffrey Page, the show’s codirector and choreographer, “is stunning.”

In fact, in the A.R.T.’s novel new take on 1776, opening in May, every one of the country’s forefathers—Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and Thomas Jefferson, to name a few—is played by a female, nonbinary, trans, or genderqueer performer, all reflecting a multitude of racial and ethnic identities. It’s an intentional casting choice that “brings our full humanity” into the story of revolutionary protest that is “at the heart of the founding of the country,” says A.R.T. artistic director Diane Paulus, who has shepherded recent Broadway hits such as Jagged Little Pill.

The phenomenal success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, which is performed by a primarily non-white cast, proved audiences want to hear America’s origin story through a lens that better reflects America now. So there’s high anticipation for 1776, which will move to New York City (and, eventually, tour nationally) after its opening run in Cambridge. More important, Paulus says, with the nation at a major political crossroads in this year’s midterm elections, 1776 asks crucial questions about what kind of country we want to live in. “There’s a song in our show that goes, ‘Is anybody there? Does anybody care?’” she says. “Hearing that through the voice of our casting has a whole different resonance.” —S.K.