Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
With its devotion to producing American musicals the way their writers and composers intended — full orchestra, full dance numbers, big chorus and big voices — Steven Jones' Lyric Stage in Irving is starting to get the national attention it deserves. Composer Charles Strouse, in his 80s, came to see Lyric's versions of his shows Bye Bye Birdie and Rags (and he loved them). The Rodgers and Hammerstein estate helped with research for this year's magnificent staging of Oklahoma!, which used original orchestrations and added back several numbers usually cut for time. The lavishly produced three-hour show was directed by Dallas' Cheryl Denson, with the 40-piece pit orchestra directed by Jay Dias. Nobody's done an Oklahoma! this size for decades, including the recent revivals in London and New York. Lyric's cast was young and sexy; the singing and dancing sublime. Oh, what a beautiful evening.
At first glance, this might seem an unconventional choice. In between shows, Oliver Francis Gallery looks more like a cross-fit workout facility than a high-gloss showcase arena. But that's the thing. With so many Dallas spaces representing the biggest names in art, we've come to look to OFG for something else: difficult to market but important to see contemporary work. Owner and curator Kevin Rubén Jacobs balances the scales by presenting art he loves made by people he finds interesting. It's that simple. Whether he's passionate about an international sculptor like Rachel de Joode, whose exploration of art as documentation is still lodged deeply in our robotic hearts, or he's interested in emerging local talents hiking their way up, Jacobs offers their collections a temporary home. At Oliver Francis Gallery, you won't see art as décor. You will find things that make you feel uneasy. Frustrated, even. But that's the kicker: You will feel. You will think. And a couple of years down the road, it's these exhibitions that you'll remember.
Mind Spiders started out as a solo project for former Marked Men singer/guitarist Mark Ryan. Fast forward a few years, and it's now expanded to a six-person wrecking ball with two drummers. Last year's self-titled was an impressive amalgam of all Ryan's influences: punk, soul, new wave, pop. Meltdown, released in February, is more focused in its attack, and finds Ryan sharpening his ax. One of the best North Texas albums this year. Maybe even all of Texas.
It's sort of become a running joke for Black Dotz frontman Wanz Dover to take to Facebook and declare that the quartet's next show will be their last in a while. Inevitably it's not, but they always keep us on our toes, which is what a good rock and roll band should do. If you've caught them live, you understand: All four members are accomplished musicians in their own right, but together, they pull up their soul, R&B and punk roots and claw out your eyes in a white-hot blast. If you haven't seen them, what are you waiting for? This could be your last chance.
Ah, the much maligned "special guest" is the scourge of fliers and Facebook invites everywhere. This Fort Worth punk group decided to cut out the middle man and just own the name, and we support this kind of script-flipping and mischief-making.
Jeff Siegel is funny and all that, but he also has an incredible talent for getting stuff first, which makes him not only a fun read but a must. He writes a regular column that is called, as best we can tell, "Jeff Siegel" (catchy, what?) in the Lakewood and Lake Highlands Advocate magazines, free-distribution monthlies. If they already hang the magazine on your doorknob, you know Siegel. If they don't, you need to go find him in a rack, or you will miss a steady diet of insider scoops: He was way out front on the Trader Joe/Greenville Avenue story, first to tell the tale of Lincoln Properties wanting to re-name Gaston Avenue "Arboretum Way" or some such nonsense and first to hear the Andres brothers had put most of Henderson Avenue up for sale. Siegel is also author of a blog called "Wine Curmudgeon," which often is the only place to go for plain talk about wine in Dallas — a topic that cries out for plain talk. Beneath all that writing and attitude beats the heart of an old-fashioned newspaper reporter. Siegel's got good ears, good sources, and if a really good story walks up and bites him in the ass, he gets it on the page or up on the web faster and better than anybody else in Dallas. If it bites him anywhere else, we're not sure what happens.