1 “Twenty Feet From Stardom” is the rare rock documentary where audiences clap at the end. It’s an invaluable, compellingly told, behind-the-music history lesson on backup singers, especially Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Lisa Fischer, who may be one of the greatest singers you’ve heard without knowing her name. Mick Jagger, Sting, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen testify about the role and value of background vocalists. They might not have the ego, ambition and looks of big-name stars, but they have some of the most fantastic voices you’ve ever heard.
2 It’s a throwback to the heyday of John Hughes and “Risky Business,” when coming-of-age stories had a sense of comic naturalism, pungent characters who stay with you and significant emotional stakes. “The Way, Way Back” is a very funny movie with serious things on its mind. It’s the story of a disillusioned teenage boy (Liam James, pictured) whose mom (Toni Collette) drags him off to her boyfriend’s (Steve Carell) summer home. Boy meets girl — and a life-of-the-party dude who shows him how to have fun. Like the earlier Carell-Collette hit “Little Miss Sunshine,” this is a romp that will have you reaching for your handkerchief.
3 There isn’t a false step in John Command’s zesty staging of “Urinetown: The Musical” at Jungle Theater in Minneapolis. The cast delivers at the top of its talent in a Broadway-caliber production that is performed in a playhouse the size of a big living room. “Urinetown” is a show that even people who don’t know or like musical theater can love. With dance numbers that quote everything from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to “Fiddler on the Roof,” it sends up the form. www.jungletheater.com
4 Almost 50 years since recording its first album right here in Minneapolis, New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band marks another first with “That’s It,” the one and only record in its long discography to feature all original material. My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James co-produced the 10-song collection, a sign that it’s no mere walk in the vintage Dixieland park. Highlights such as the light-boogeying “I Think I Love You” and the Tom Waits-ish howler “Rattlin’ Bones” offer a modern edge without ever betraying the group’s legacy.
5 King of all Twin Cities media, Jason DeRusha can be a bit full of himself. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that the part-time restaurant critic/part-time WCCO Radio host/full-time social media phenom may be the most effective communicator on local TV. Always engaged, he can be curious, fun, informative, self-deprecating, silly and serious when necessary. His recent move to co-anchor of WCCO-TV’s daily morning-show and noon news is a boon to Channel 4 viewers, though we 10 o’clock news fans miss him big time on “The Good Question” segments.
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