Saturday, January 2, 2016

Happy January! Happy 2016!

January may seem like a lesser month when it comes to entertainment, what with most local colleges and theaters waiting for February to launch their years, but there is actually a lot out there if you know where to look. Some of your favorite television shows will be coming back after the holiday hiatus, the awards season heats up, and movie theaters will be showing many of the potential nominees who hadn't made it before Christmas. You're well advised to keep an eye on listings and schedules if you don't want to miss out.

The 2015 Kennedy Center Honors
And speaking of missing out... If you were too busy with your own celebrations to see the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, where luminaries Carole King, George Lucas, Rita Moreno, Seiji Ozawa and Cicely Tyson were honored, you'll want to head over to without delay. You can watch the whole show, which included performances and tributes from Aretha Franklin, who brought down the house when she sang King's "Natural Woman,"as well as Sara Bareilles, Yo-Yo Ma, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Karen Olivo, Steven Spielberg, James Taylor, CeCe Winans and even C-3P0 and R2-D2.

Since singer/songwriter extraordinaire Carole King was one of the honorees, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that Beautiful, the Broadway musical, which uses King's songbook to chart her early career and rise to stardom, is in Chicago at the Oriental Theatre through February 21. King did indeed write "the soundtrack to a generation." Or maybe more than one generation.

If you are a Downton Abbey fan, you will want to stick close to home (and your telly) tomorrow night, when Downton begins its sixth and final season here in the Colonies. It's already finished up in England, but we get to start our new season at 8 pm on local PBS stations. If you're wondering what's in store for the Crawleys and their servants, let's just say that Season 6 has plenty of romance, intrigue, hints at the future and sweet goodbyes. 

The Art Theater Co-op in Champaign has all kinds of goodies in the queue for January, starting right now with The Danish Girl, starring Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe, on screen through Thursday the 7th. Director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) is at the helm of this fictionalized love story based on events in the real Elbe's life early in the 20th century. Alicia Vikander plays Gerda Wegener, married to Elbe when he was still Einar Wegener, as well as a painter herself.

After The Danish Girl has departed, you can catch Mel Brooks' space parody Spaceballs on January 8; Jane Eyre, a filmed stage show offered in conjunction with the National Theatre Live program from London, screened on the 9th, and John Carpenter's classic horror flick The Thing on the 22nd. Visit The Art's site here for details on these and other films on their January calendar.

The Normal Theater has some dandy choices of its own coming in January, with Alfred Hitchcock's Rope up first on January 5. This psychological thriller sticks professor James Stewart at a strange party hosted by two of his students, played by Farley Granger and John Dall. The two have murdered a fellow student and stuck his body inside a chest in the very apartment where they're having their party. They think they've staged the perfect crime. Will their professor figure it out?

That's followed by Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, famous for a very long tracking shot that opens the film, as well as for Welles' own larger-than-life performance as a corrupt border-town cop, on January 6 and 7; Preston Sturges' charming and saucy romantic comedy The Lady Eve, with Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda as a mismatched pair of lovers, on January 19, and a mini-Macbeth film festival that pairs Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood with a 2015 film version of Macbeth that stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as the murderous couple, with the two films on screen between January 27 and 31. You can't miss with any of those options, or, for that matter, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lawrence of Arabia or Clue. To see what's on when, check out the January calendar on the Normal Theater site.

Although Heartland Theatre is dark in January, they are hosting a "mock audition" workshop for the Illinois Theatre Association on January 10, starting at 2 pm. This workshop is intended to help actors who want to know more about the important art of trying out, along with the scoop on headshots, resumes and how to "make the most out of your 90 seconds on stage." There is no charge for members of the Illinois Theatre Association and a $10 fee for others. Click here for more information or here to register. 

You may also want to give a look at the annual Golden Globe Awards, airing later on January 10 on NBC. There are a total of about 80 voters, half the attendees seem to be sloshed, and you can never guarantee if the winners will be ridiculous, hilarious or just plain odd, but they do put TV and film people together and they do (occasionally) get it right. The live broadcast of the Golden Globes will begin at 7 Central on NBC on Sunday the 10th. To check out who's nominated, you can visit my rundown of the list here.

Masterpiece's modern-day Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman was back for a special Victorian outing called Sherlock: The Abominable Bride on January 1, simulcast to some pretty nifty ratings on both sides of the Atlantic. BBC One, PBS and Masterpiece are kind enough to offer an encore broadcast of Sherlock, Watson and and their Abominable Bride on the very same January 10 as the Golden Globes, at 9 pm that night Central time. After that encore, you will also be able to see the 90-minute show at Until then, there are all kinds of fun bits of insider info here, including the trailer and a behind-the-scenes look at how they recreated Victorian London.

Arthur Miller's The Crucible takes the stage at Community Players Theatre for two weekends, beginning with a preview on January 14. Players' cast includes Samuel James Willis as John Proctor, a proud and honest man caught up in the Salem witch trials, Hannah Artman as his wife Elizabeth, Vicky Snyder as Abigail Williams, a manipulative young woman who fans the flames of hysteria and persecution in Salem, and Fania Bourn as Tituba, a West Indian slave woman who becomes another victim when witch-hunting hits its peak. The Crucible won the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play for its original production, along with a Best Featured Actress Award for Beatrice Straight, who played Elizabeth Proctor.

One of my favorite comedies currently on TV, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, comes back with new episodes starting January 25th on the CW. When we last saw Rebecca (the crazy person in the title), she was hosting her mother for the holidays while still yearning after Josh Chan, the sweet but kind of dim boy she once loved, while Greg, the friendly neighborhood bartender who is much better suited to her, was having Mom problems of his own. Oh, yeah, and they were all singing and dancing, along with Rebecca's boss and her friend at work, AND her neighbor, Heather, who is now apparently dating Greg. Oops! The musical numbers and the top-notch cast -- Rachel Bloom, Donna Lynne Champlin, Santino Fontana and Vincent Rodriguez III, for starters -- make this a worthwhile way to spend your Mondays at 7. Much better than any Bachelor(ette), am I right?

Back on the local scene, you may want to make room for A Night of Comedy with Terri Ryburn on Thursday, January 28th at the Eagles Club, 313 S. Main Street in Bloomington. Terri describes her comedy as "clean, but edgy," noting that she happily takes on "family, friends, the workplace, some ex-husbands, and other absurdities" in this comedy fundraiser that aims to bring something called The Best of Hank and Rita to town. Parking is in the Eagles lot south of the building, on the street, or in the parking deck one block north. Doors open at 6:30pm, with a cash bar, snacks, and bar food available, and Terri's Night of Comedy starting at 8.

After that, it's straight on to The Best of Hank and Rita. What is it? It's a Barroom Operetta, of course, about a fictional husband-and-wife country-pop duo who hit the top of the charts briefly in the 70s, but have been on the skids more recently. As the show opens, it's 1986, and Rita is planning to leave Hank as soon as this show is over. Except he doesn't know that, which is where the honky tonk and tears come in. Hank and Rita will also play at the Eagles Club, on Friday, January 29, and Saturday, January 30, at 8 pm each night. Tickets are $15 in advance at or $20 at the door (if any are still available). Terri's plans for Hank and Rita are more complicated than just these two nights of show, but I will save that for a more complete preview closer to the shows. For more information now, contact Terri Ryburn at or Kathi Davis at

If you have room to squeeze in another awards show, you might want to make it the Screen Actors Guild Awards, broadcast on both TNT and TBS on January 30. This one tends to be a bit more subdued than the Globes, but a lot better prognosticator for the Oscars and the Emmys, and, hey, at least they didn't nominate Lady Gaga, so there's that. But that doesn't mean I've forgiven SAG for ignoring Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Fargo and The Leftovers and their fantastic actors. I doubt they care whether I'm throwing a hissy. But I still am.


  1. Speaking of long tracking shots, "Rope" has to be mentioned as trying to outdo all other contenders: Hitchcock aimed to disguise beginnings and ends of shots throughout the movie (3 or 4 plain shifts in viewpoint remain), making almost the whole film seem to be one long tracking shot.

  2. I think ROPE is a different kettle of fish. Yes, Hitchcock used long takes (I think there are 11 total in the whole thing) to make it look like it's one continuous take and the "real time" thing also makes it stand out -- that the length of the film is the time it takes up in its characters' lives -- but Touch of Evil's opening tracking shot (or maybe a crane shot is more precise) is something else, starting with a close-up of a bomb/moving to the car where the bomb is being set/swooping all the way down the street and over the roof and on for over three minutes... It's pretty astonishing and sets the whole story in motion, defining where we are and who our characters are and eventually blowing up the car. You can see it here:

  3. Oh, without a doubt. That opening shot of "Touch of Evil" is a thing of beauty.