About time. The angsty New Zealand electropop singer of “Royals” fame skipped the Twin Cities while touring behind her breakthrough debut album, even though she headlined Lollapalooza in nearby Chicago and crisscrossed America a couple times. She’s taking her bittersweet time getting here behind her successful follow-up record, too, but the wait could be worth it. Titled “Melodrama,” the Grammy-nominated sophomore collection shows greater musical depth and richer vocal abilities — the kind of growth that most of us experience in our lives from the ages of 16 to 20.
“Hamilton,” probably late summer, Orpheum Theatre
When theater genius Lin-Manuel Miranda read Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, he had one clarifying question: Who are the contemporaries with the swagger, courage and flair to take on an empire the way Washington, Hamilton and Jefferson did? Miranda looked to Biggie Smalls, Tupac and other rappers for inspiration. The result, marrying American revolution with revolutionary art, has become a force of nature that has engaged young people in history like nothing in recent memory. The nation had long yearned for a musical to tell its revolutionary story the way “Les Misérables” honors French history. The same goes for Minnesotans unable to catch “Hamilton” in New York or elsewhere.
Rohan Preston, theater critic
A new Wes Anderson film is always good news. And it’s a special degree of cool when his films feature stop-motion animation, an added bonus to his delightfully quirky work that started with “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” and fully bloomed in “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” His idiosyncratic vision returns with “Isle of Dogs,” a futuristic story about a 12-year-old Japanese boy exploring a huge garbage dump/island where his cherished canine has been quarantined following an outbreak of the dog flu. The trailer looks extra interesting, with the visual design resembling a grungy animé world rather than his usual fastidiously crafted aesthetic. The outstanding vocal cast includes Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston and Yoko Ono. Yes, that Yoko Ono.
Colin Covert, film critic
The final season for “Game of Thrones” would be the most anticipated event of the TV season — but rumor has it those last six episodes won’t unspool until 2019. That means the top of 2018’s must-see list is ruled by an entirely different kind of fire-breathing dragon. There’s always a chance that new episodes of “Roseanne” will be inspired more by 1997's bizarre final season than the 1980s blue-collar roots that made it one of the most grounded TV sitcoms of all time. But the fact that Roseanne Barr is asking viewers to ignore the show’s original ending and has reunited key players, including Tony winner Laurie Metcalf, has me cackling in anticipation.
Neal Justin, TV critic
I recently mailed Stephen Sondheim a note, thanking him for teaching me something about myself with this soaring shocker of a musical, in which a bunch of presidential assassins and would-be assassins try to explain their misguided actions, in songs that fit the eras when they lived (Carpenters-esque soft rock for Squeaky Fromme, a Sousa-like march for a failed attempt on Teddy Roosevelt). Alas, the note was returned because of an incomplete address. Although I missed out on communicating with the man known in the theater world as “God,” the show is a bold, difficult and moving work that has lots to say about times of political turmoil through the ages.
Chris Hewitt, theater critic
The guy behind the counter at the Electric Fetus was confused. I wanted to buy tickets to hear the SPCO perform … where? His surprise was a good reminder that this chamber orchestra is taking risks. Among them: putting an oboe on the stage of my favorite rock club. This season, after a successful first try, the SPCO is playing three concerts in that gritty, great-sounding room. The Jan. 24 show starts with Mozart but quickly veers into (where else?) more adventurous territory.
Jenna Ross, arts reporter
Before her debut album was released in 2006, little-known newcomer Taylor Swift ambled onstage at the Myth nightclub in Maplewood with an acoustic guitar and performed Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” I was smitten. I’ve paid attention ever since. She’s smart, creative and resourceful. She understands how to connect with fans more effectively than any other big star of today. Even though I don’t always dig her albums, I’m counting on Swift to figure out how to stage a successful concert at the problematic-for-concerts U.S. Bank Stadium.
Jon Bream, music critic
Opening of the MacMillan Planetarium, midsummer
Since the Minneapolis Planetarium closed in 2002, a generation of Minnesotans has grown up without a place to stargaze on cloudy days, to look deep into the universe and dream, as future astronaut Pinky Nelson did in the 1960s. That will change when the new Bell Museum of Natural History opens on the U’s St. Paul campus. The museum itself (and its life-size woolly mammoth) sounds plenty oohs-worthy, but what’s truly out of this world is this state-of-the-art planetarium, with two 4K laser projectors and seating for 120 under a 16-meter aluminum dome. The grand opening will feature an original production showing how Minnesota was shaped over the course of 4 billion years.
Tim Campbell, senior arts editor
TU Dance inspires bated anticipation with every performance, so hopes are off the charts for the company’s collaboration with Wisconsin singer-songwriter Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Vernon and TU choreographer Uri Sands are sensitive, visionary artists with enormous appetites for risk-taking. Their sold-out, three-night engagement, commissioned by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series, is bound to result in a sumptuous new work. Let’s hope it also marks the beginning of many more dancer-musician partnerships.
Sheila Regan, dance critic
Minnesota Orchestra celebrates Leonard Bernstein, February-June
August marks 100 years since the birth of Leonard Bernstein, arguably America’s most prodigiously talented classical musician. While Bernstein’s reputation as a conductor is solidly established, his music is still patchily appreciated. So I’m especially looking forward to a pair of Minnesota Orchestra concerts featuring some of Bernstein’s less familiar compositions. The intense, Oscar-nominated score he wrote for Elia Kazan’s 1954 movie “On the Waterfront” is the highlight of a spring subscription concert (May 3-5). Then comes the sparky ballet “Fancy Free” and “Chichester Psalms,” an iconoclastic religious work originally written for cathedral performance (June 1-2). The orchestra also will perform his "West Side Story" score with a screening of the film Feb. 15-17.
Terry Blain, classical critic
I can’t wait to introduce my 5-year-old to the infectious songs from “The Wiz” — aka the Super Soul Musical “Wonderful Wizard of Oz” — thanks to a kid-friendly co-presentation by Penumbra and Children’s Theatre companies. This highly promising production hews to the Broadway original that swept the 1975 Tony Awards — not the legendarily bad 1978 movie starring Diana Ross and a young Michael Jackson. The Minneapolis show boasts a stellar cast, too, including “American Idol” alum Paris Bennett and Minnesota musical all-stars Greta Oglesby and Dennis Spears.
Christy DeSmith, assistant arts editor
Although I’m an art critic who thinks about visual things all the time, I’m a sucker for well-wrought words-turned-art. That’s why I’m looking forward to this major retrospective. Best known for his late 1960s creations, conceptual artist Ruppersberg is invested in the American vernacular — what we broadly call “pop culture” — using it to riff and run in his text-based works. Using text and color only, he renders familiar slogans strange. If he had been born much later, he might be one of today’s meme-making internet artists.
Alicia Eler, visual art critic
Minnesota native Sharratt has built a career writing meticulously researched, fascinating historical novels about strong women forgotten by time. “Illuminations” (2012) brought to life 12th-century German mystic Hildegard von Bingen. “The Dark Lady’s Mask” (2016) might have solved the question of the identity of Shakespeare’s muse: poet Aemilia Bassano Lanier. “Ecstasy” takes up the cause of Alma Schindler, a composer in turn-of-the-century Vienna. Men fall at her feet — painter Gustav Klimt, composer Gustav Mahler, Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, poet Franz Werfel — but Alma dreams of becoming a composer. She falls in love with Mahler, who demands she give up music if they are to marry. This book comes out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and I, for one, cannot wait.
Laurie Hertzel, senior books editor
See more books coming in 2018, page E8