From Chagall to Arcade Fire, Globe Arts staff preview 2017's best, buzziest events across the worlds of theatre, music, film and visual arts
THEATRE IN 2017
The Shaw Festival reboot
"I believe in theatre that's unpredictable," new artistic director Tim Carroll is quoted as saying on the repertory theatre's redesigned website – and, certainly, the British director's first lineup of plays in Niagara-on-the-Lake is anything but predictable. If former artistic director Jackie Maxwell expanded the "Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries" mandate, Carroll seems to have rewritten it as "Shaw and contemporary theatre." The most anticipated work in his upcoming first season (beginning previews in April) was all penned post-1970: Rick Salutin's legendary but rarely revived Theatre Passe Muraille play 1837: The Farmers Revolt; the Canadian premiere of off-Broadway sensation Branden Jacob-Jenkins' An Octoroon, to be directed by the definitely unpredictable genius Peter Hinton; and Middletown, American oddball Will Eno's response to Our Town. Carroll, a Tony nominee, will be directing the two Shaw plays on the bill: Saint Joan and Androcles and the Lion – his first and second time tackling the festival namesake's work. So, like he says, unpredictable.
Michael Healey's 1979
Joe Clark: The hero of a play? Political junkies eagerly await The Drawer Boy playwright Healey's new comedy, 1979 – which imagines the former Progressive Conservative prime minister, behind closed doors, as friends and foes plead with him not to introduce the budget that would topple his minority government less than a year after it had taken office. Healey has previously written speculative comedies about a Canada where Quebec voted 53 per cent in favour of separation (Plan B); and an 2011 election victory by Stephen Harper where the Conservatives swept la belle province (Proud). His latest seems set in a more recognizable past – with figures such as Harper, Maureen McTeer and Pierre Elliott Trudeau all making cameos. In the world premiere for 1979, set for April at Alberta Theatre Projects in Calgary, Clark will be played by Philip Riccio. A few days later, the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa will open a second production starring Sanjay Talwar that will eventually move to the Shaw Festival.
National Arts Centre and Canada 150
Major news will come in 2017 when the National Arts Centre announces who will be the inaugural artistic director of its new Indigenous Theatre – set to launch in 2019. But the NAC's commitment to indigenous artists is not just in the future: As part of Canada 150 in July, its English Theatre will bring Children of God, Corey Payette's musical about an Oji-Cree family split apart by residential schools, to the capital following a run in Vancouver at the Cultch. Early buzz has drawn comparisons with challenging Broadway fare, such as Fun Home and Next to Normal. Artistic director Jillian Keiley's buildup to the sesquicentennial celebrations looks equally intriguing – with her old St. John's-based company Artistic Fraud's production of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams (adapted from the bestselling novel by Wayne Johnston about Newfoundland premier Joey Smallwood) kicking things off in January. After a run in Ottawa, it will tour to the Neptune Theatre in Halifax in February and the Grand Theatre in London, Ont., in March.
Métis and Inuit characters are at the centre of several major new plays premiering in the new year – written by both First Nations and settler playwrights: Redpatch, about a young Métis solider from Vancouver Island fighting in the First World War inspired by co-creator Raes Calvert's grandfather (Vancouver's Hardline Productions, from March 29); Sarah Ballenden, Maureen Hunter's new drama set during the Red River settlement and starring Sera-Lys McArthur as the Métis wife of a high-ranking Hudson's Bay Co. officer (Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, from April 19); and The Breathing Hole, Colleen Murphy's epic set over 500 years in the North directed by Reneltta Arluk (Stratford Festival, starting July 30). An influx of indigenous actors will be joining the Stratford company for the latter production – from veterans Jani Lauzon and Gordon Patrick White to hotly tipped newcomers, including Yolanda Bonnell and Nicholas Nahwegahbow.
Toronto to New York – and vice versa
Come From Away has found acclaim and sold-out crowds in Gander, Nfld., and Toronto; next, we'll see how New Yorkers greet Torontonian Irene Sankoff and David Hein's joyous show about refugees and the kindness of strangers in Newfoundland on 9/11, only the fifth musical both written and composed by Canadians to make it to Broadway (official opening March 12). Then, just a few blocks south and to the west, Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre Company will be showcasing works by Ins Choi, Ravi Jain and Vern Thiessen, as well as several of its hit musical works composed by Mike Ross (Spoon River), at the Pershing Square Signature Center during a month-long residency in July.
Meanwhile, back in Hogtown, infamous producer Garth Drabinsky has brought a ton of New York talent to town for his new musical Sousatzka (opening March 23 at the Elgin Theatre) – written by Broadway veterans and starring the likes of Tony-winner Victoria Clark and nominee Montego Glover. But while the Drabinsky-groomed tale of a piano teacher and her protégé is being billed as "prior to Broadway," unlike Come From Away and Soulpepper, it hasn't got a theatre booked in Manhattan yet.
J. Kelly Nestruck
MUSIC IN 2017
Run the Jewels
Rap's centre of gravity has long been shifting to the American south, but its soul sprang from New York. Run the Jewels lives in both worlds. Atlanta's Killer Mike and Brooklyn's El-P first joined forces earlier this decade through their solo work, but have since become one of hip hop's most formidable duos. Run the Jewels 3 drops in physical form on Jan. 13, following a near-universally beloved sophomore album. On singles this year, including Legend Has It, Talk to Me and 2100, the band builds upon their balanced blend of brash beats and boasts, one-liners and full narratives, weed smoking and political trolling.
Weezer may go down as the most name-checked band from the heyday of 1990s power pop, but Canada's East Coast handed them a moderately formative moment: The first tour bus Rivers Cuomo ever stepped into, the frontman says, was Sloan's. The Maritimes has a rich history of catchy-as-all-hell power pop – including the Super Friendz, Jale, Thrush Hermit, and more recently, TUNS – and Sackville, N.B.'s Partner is adding to that legacy. Leaders Josée Caron and Lucy Niles write sub-two-minute blasts of punky noise that range from stoner celebrations to coming-out anthems. The band's debut, In Search of Lost Time, is due out in 2017. It was mixed by Chris Shaw, a four-time Grammy-winner who engineered – no joke – Weezer's eponymous 1994 "blue" album.
I screwed up. A year ago, I wrote that Japandroids's long-rumoured third LP would be one of the best records to look forward to in 2016. Readers, I was wrong by 27 days. But I'm happy to announce that the garage-rock band's Near to the Wild Heart of Life will come out in January, after a nearly five-year wait. It promises the same thing a Japandroids album always does: bangers. But there's more this time. Wedged among their washed-out electric-guitar wild-outs are acoustic moments and Tom Morello-style warbles. Singer-guitarist Brian King told me in a forthcoming interview that the band abandoned its usual studio rules for this record. Now, he says, "the band or its music could be anything."
How much more can contemporary pop mine the eighties before stripping it bare? The least cynical among us might suggest the answer is less about running out of source material than to tap a less-used vein. Enter Haim, a band from Los Angeles whose 2013 debut Days Are Gone owes its sound less directly to Prince or Michael Jackson than to Fleetwood Mac's synthy, glossy 1987 album Tango in the Night. Sisters Este, Alana and Danielle Haim have promised a new album come summer, and have been testing new songs live, including one called Nothing's Wrong. It fits in Tango's and Days Are Gone's lineage: revelling in hooks and harmonies, playing with drums that shift from sparse to pounding, building the kinds of grooves that stick in your head for days. They're not afraid to pay tribute to more obvious 80s contenders, though: lately they've taken to covering Prince's I Would Die 4 U.
Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene
While the Internet flustered most of the record industry in the early 2000s, "indie rock" – which then referred to independent artists but has since been mostly robbed of meaning – became a more accessible beacon of cultural currency. Canada gifted the world with two of the finest bands to have outlasted that era. Arcade Fire frontman and NBA All-Star Celebrity Game MVP Win Butler hinted last year that a new album should arrive this spring. And after a long not-quite-breakup, Broken Social Scene got back together after the 2015 Bataclan concert hall attacks and have discussed plans for a 2017 record. While the bands drive on separate sonic avenues, they're each prone to lamenting the modern world in song, and will have plenty of new source material to work with.
FILM IN 2017
Blade Runner 2049
Remakes, reboots, and superheros – yes, 2017 promises all of Hollywood's usual tricks. But among those big-ticketed items are a handful of genuinely intriguing blockbusters, if not in eventual execution than at least in initial promise. The most prominent example is Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve's sequel to Ridley Scott's influential sci-fi treatise. While current industry fashion dictates a Blade Runner remake would be preferable, Villeneuve (along with Scott, in the producer's seat) has crafted a genuine follow-up to the original narrative, with a new android-hunter named K (Ryan Gosling) on a quest to find the maybe-replicant Deckard of the first film (Harrison Ford, who, after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Force Awakens, is an old hand at revisiting old roles). That short synopsis may not sound innovative, but the Québécois Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) has proven himself time and again to be a bold filmmaker full of surprises. (Oct. 6)
Whatever you think of Christopher Nolan's filmography, it's hard to deny the director has a flair for taking cinema to literal new heights (see the sky-set opening of The Dark Knight Rises or the entirety of Interstellar). Case in point: Dunkirk, Nolan's upcoming Second World War film, which was shot on a combination of IMAX 65mm and 65mm large-format stock. Following the evacuation of Allied soldiers in Operation Dynamo, the thriller promises action of an epic scale, and boasts a gargantuan cast to boot (including Nolan regulars Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, plus newcomers including Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and, intriguingly, Harry "One Direction" Styles). (July 21)
Star Wars: Episode VIII
Little is known about the next instalment of the Star Wars franchise – even the title has yet to be revealed (although rumours point to a handful of options, including the great The Order of the Dark Side and the not-so-great Tale of the Jedi Temple). But the brain trust behind the franchise has already proved its worth with The Force Awakens and Rogue One, and let's be honest: There will be no avoiding this juggernaut. Plus, director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) is a fascinating choice to follow J.J. Abrams, and the mix of familiar faces (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, and Oscar Isaac are all returning) and franchise newbies (Benicio del Toro and Laura Dern? Sold!) is irresistible. (Dec. 15)
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
A big-budget sci-fi film with no built-in brand awareness? Yes, Luc Besson seems to have accomplished the impossible with this unwieldly titled adventure. Based on the French comic Valerian and Laureline, the film seemingly places Beeson in familiar Fifth Element-like territory: the first trailer is all candy-coloured visuals, wacky laser-shooting aliens, and gonzo haute-future set design. It will take a lot, though, for the picture to stand out against 2017's more well-known space-set properties (including the aforementioned Episode VII and Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant), but in Besson we trust. (July 21)
Yes, it's another superhero film. And yes, it's from Warner Bros., which has so far displayed a remarkable inability to do anything right with its DC Comics brand. But Wonder Woman offers a semblance of hope. For starters, it's that unfortunately rare comic adaptation that not only focuses on a female hero, but is helmed by a woman as well. It will be genuinely fascinating to see what Patty Jenkins brings to the genre, skilled as she already is at balancing action, comedy and intrigue thanks to her wide-ranging television work. And as Gal Godot's brief appearance was far and away the best part of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, audiences already know we have a star we can trust. (May 7)
VISUAL ARTS IN 2017
Chagall: Colour and Music, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Marc Chagall's popularity has always run ahead of his critical reputation. One London critic prefaced a thoughtful recent essay on the Russian painter's continued appeal with the question, "Is Chagall any good?" Whatever position you take, there's a strong body of opinion that his talents were best suited to situations related to music and stage performance. The MMFA opens its 2017 season with a huge display of Chagall's works for theatre interiors and theatrical productions, including paintings, sets and costumes. At more than 486 works and related documents, it's billed as the biggest Chagall exhibition yet in Canada. (Jan. 28-June 11) – Robert Everett-Green
The Museum of Canadian Art Toronto reopening, Automotive Building
The former Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art left its digs on Toronto's Queen Street West in 2015, with the ambition of opening a much bigger and better space in the century-old Automotive Building further west. The big move, which the museum hopes will expand its audience exponentially, has not been achieved without turmoil at the top, including the departure of director Chantal Pontbriand last summer, after only eight months on the job. With an opening planned for late 2017, the museum is betting that the refurbished industrial space will become a destination for art lovers in Toronto and beyond. (Fall 2017) – Robert Everett-Green
Emily Carr University of Art + Design opening
When the new Emily Carr University of Art + Design campus opens in September, 2017 (or thereabouts), its Michael O'Brian Exhibition Commons will be installed with works by Emily Carr alumni, from the first class of the Vancouver School of Art, as it was called in 1925, to today. While the university can't (or won't) say whose work will be included in the inaugural exhibition, consider the list of graduates of Emily Carr, one of the country's top art schools. They include Jack Shadbolt, E.J. Hughes, Douglas Coupland, Stan Douglas, Liz Magor and Geoffrey Farmer – Canada's representative at the 2017 Venice Biennale. Plus, you'll have a chance to check out the shiny new digs, currently under construction in East Vancouver. (September) – Marsha Lederman
Georgia O'Keeffe, Art Gallery of Ontario
If you think of Georgia O'Keeffe as a recluse living in the New Mexican desert painting big sexy flowers and brooding animal skulls, the Art Gallery of Ontario would like to broaden your horizons. The AGO is the only North American stop for a major retrospective devoted to the American painter organized by London's Tate Modern and opening in Toronto April 22. The show, titled simply Georgia O'Keeffe, will include such familiar paintings as Oriental Poppies and Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, which became the most expensive painting by a woman when it sold for $44.4-million (U.S.) at a 2015 auction. But it also includes the artist's early New York experiments with abstraction and a section on her artistic and personal relationship with her husband, influential photographer Alfred Stieglitz, as it seeks to challenge clichéd perceptions of the artist and stress her role as a pioneering modernist. (April) – Kate Taylor
National Gallery of Canada
With more than 1,000 works, it is being billed as the largest display of Canadian art in the world. It's the National Gallery of Canada's reinstallation of its permanent collection in time for the sesquicentennial celebrations next summer – a reinstallation with a difference: Indigenous art and photography will now be integrated into the main narrative. Opening in May, Canada's Masterpieces: Our Stories will follow the progress of Canadian art from 17th- and 18th-century religious work in Quebec to the flowering of the Group of Seven in the 1920s and the development of Inuit printmaking in the 1960s, and will include such familiar Canadian artists as Lucius O'Brien, David Milne, Tom Thomson, Emily Carr and Annie Pootoogook. The story after 1960 will then be picked up by a new hanging of 100 works in the contemporary galleries. – Kate Taylor