▪ A true Bosch. In February, an oil-on-wood panel acquired by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in the 1930s and attributed to the studio of Hieronymus Bosch was authenticated as being by the artist himself. The piece, “The Temptation of St. Anthony,” is one of only about two dozen Bosch works known to exist.
▪ “Lemonade.” Beyonce — singer, writer, director, hard-working daughter, sister, mother and wife — dropped an epic album with an epic video, and the world would never be the same. Queen, indeed.
▪ American Royal moved west. The annual rodeo and revered barbecue contest founded in the West Bottoms stockyards in 1899 moved across the state line for the first time to Kansas Speedway. And it was welcomed to stay. The Royal has plans to build a $160 million complex in Wyandotte County.
▪ “American Honey”: Kansas City serves as one of the prime locations in filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s sprawling odyssey following itinerant youths as they hawk magazine subscriptions throughout the Midwest. The key scene finds newcomer Star (Sasha Lane) learning the ropes from veteran Jake (Shia LaBeouf) as they hustle a Mission Hills house where a teen’s birthday party is underway.
▪ “Stranger Things.” Netflix’s ode to ’80s horror, fantasy, comics and sci-fi culture managed to get nearly everything right, from the Jean Grey-ness of Eleven (played by breakout star Millie Bobby Brown) to the “Goonies”-like relationship of the three boys looking for their missing friend. Plus: The return of the wonderful weirdness of Winona Ryder.
▪ Guns N’ Roses at Arrowhead: For the first time in 24 years, Slash, Axl Rose and Duff McKagan were on the same stage, this time for their Never in My Lifetime Tour. About 25,000 fans were thrilled with the reunion.
▪ The Anniversary reunion: Speaking of reuniting, 12 years after their sudden and unexpected breakup, the heralded Lawrence band announced a reunion tour that included stops in Lawrence and Kansas City.
▪ Ryan “Lyin’” Lochte. Unfortunately, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro might forever be remembered by many as that time a U.S. swimmer with bleached hair lied on television about being held up at gunpoint. Thank goodness for the glorious Final Five gymnastics team of Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman.
▪ “The Bronze”: Though this Olympic-themed comedy didn’t make much of an impact, its sex scene was worthy of a gold medal. A washed-up gymnast (Melissa Rauch) rekindles an affair with a fellow Olympian (Sebastian Stan), resulting in a hotel room romp in positions and maneuvers suitable for the pommel horse, balance beam and uneven bars. Hilarious and hilariously offensive.
▪ “Settle for More,” Megyn Kelly. The Fox News host was among the first to directly question then-presidential candidate Donald Trump on accusations of improper sexual conduct and assault, and the revelations detailed in her book helped bring down the chief executive of Fox News, Roger Ailes. When she came to Kansas City in support of the book, she was extremely gracious with her time, going so far as to film a stand-up with the crowd at her signing.
▪ Big Slick guys were big draws. The 2016 fundraiser for the Cancer Center at Children’s Mercy raised nearly $1.35 million, the most in its seven years. The event is hosted by hometown celebrities Eric Stonestreet, of Kansas City, Kan.; Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis and Rob Riggle, who all grew up in Overland Park; and David Koechner, from Tipton, Mo.
▪ RecordBar reopened: At the end of 2015, the owners were booted from 1020 Westport Road, their home for 10 years. In May, they welcomed fans into their new home, a bigger and better space on Grand Boulevard.
▪ “Hamilton”: Goddess Barbra Streisand, wearing ruffles as a tribute, seemed genuinely humbled as she presented the best musical Tony Award to Lin-Manuel Miranda for his rap musical juggernaut, “Hamilton.”
▪ Kanye x Kim. It was a topsy-turvy year for hip-hop’s Second Family. First Kanye West released a heralded sixth album (with Kim Kardashian West coming to his side to help fend off her hubby’s latest dramatic spat with Taylor Swift). Then Kim was robbed at gunpoint in Paris. Weeks later, Kanye entered the hospital for mental evaluation, all amid rumors of a possible divorce. Is the love fadin’?
▪ Brangelina no more. Speaking of divorce … Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt broke everyone’s faith in love when the actress filed for divorce in September. The couple were together for 12 years and have six kids.
▪ Joyce DiDonato’s “In War & Peace.” Using a glorious pastiche of Baroque arias, DiDonato’s project served as a beacon of peace, combating the helplessness and chaos of personal and societal turmoil and expressing hope and resolve, despite the torments in George Frideric Handel’s “Lascia ch’io pianga.”
▪ Pokemon Go. The augmented reality game came out of nowhere and became a global phenomenon. With more than 500 million downloads, the app cemented itself as one of the most popular (and addictive) apps of 2016.
▪ A streetcar KC desired. The much-anticipated streetcar line opened May 6, running from the River Market to Union Station, and has since exceeded all expectations. In October, the line marked its millionth ride.
▪ The Kansas City Ballet world premiere of Viktor Plotnikov’s “Vesna.” The performance was as infinitely varied as nature itself. The organic flow of partnering and ensemble time and again surprised, while also mutating the familiar longing of Anton Dvorak’s Largo with extra-musical elements: clapping, slapping, even delaying the melodic line in clever subversion.
▪ “Have You Met Miss Jones” at New Theatre Restaurant: At the end of this rousing retrospective about her life and long career, actress Shirley Jones, along with son Patrick Cassidy & Co., delivered a singalong rendition of “Everything’s Up to Date in Kansas City.” A fine tribute to her breakout role in “Oklahoma!” and the city hosting the premiere of this play.
▪ Remember when Hiddleswift was summer’s biggest thing? Taylor Swift and actor Tom Hiddleston embarked on a whirlwind PDA-filled romance. Right after she broke up with Calvin Harris. Who didn’t give Swift credit for his hit “This Is What You Came For.” Drama.
▪ RIP: It was the year’s biggest story in music. The list started early with David Bowie and by mid-December would include Prince, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, Ralph Stanley, Bernie Worrell, Phife Dawg, George Martin and Louis Meyers of the Folk Alliance International, a dear friend to many in Kansas City.
▪ C.W. Gusewelle. We also paid tribute to the longtime columnist for The Kansas City Star and author of a number of books, including “The Rufus Chronicle: Another Autumn,” who died in November. He was 83.
▪ The Cure returned: Eight years after an ailing Robert Smith vowed his band would come back to Kansas City, he fulfilled his promise. Their June show at Starlight was one of the year’s best.
▪ “Catching Kelce.” As far as reality dating shows go, E!’s series about Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce searching for love was average, at best. But the season finale showcased lots of Kansas City, so it wasn’t all bad.
What went viral on YouTube? Here are the top three videos.
▪ “Adele Carpool Karaoke” (136 million views). Adele and James Corden driving around. Singing. And she raps. ’Nuff said.
▪ “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen/PIKO-TARO” (96 million views). This song from Japan is literally what it says. Justin Bieber called it his “favorite video on the internet.”
▪ “What’s inside a Rattlesnake Rattle?” (60 million views). From the “What’s Inside” channel featuring a young Lincoln and older Dan cutting things open to see inside. People obviously have a thing for rattlesnakes.
▪ Ink’s Middle of the Map moved downtown: The four-day festival started in Westport and finished up with two days in and around the Crossroads Arts District. The lineup included Manchester Orchestra, Aimee Mann, Charles Bradley, Zhu, Vince Staples, the Cold War Kids plus 75 bands from Kansas City and Lawrence.
▪ Tech N9ne released “The Storm”: The Kansas City rapper continued his reign as one of the more inventive and provocative artists in music. Guests on his 17th studio album include Boyz II Men, Gary Clark Jr. and Jonathan Davis.
▪ Vinyl thrived: Vinyl records were back in a big way: Many Kansas City bands released albums on vinyl, and Kansas City now has about a half-dozen record stores, most of which regularly host live-music events.
▪ #NoMakeup was born. Singer/songwriter Alicia Keys decided to go makeup-free in May and momentarily caused the world to stop spinning. She wrote for LennyLetter.com: “I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”
▪ Stan Lee visited. Planet Comicon lured Stan the Man to town for the first time. Thousands of con attendees stood in line for long periods of time to chat with the man who co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk and so many more. Organizers said the event grew by 20 percent this year, an estimated half of which was spurred by Lee’s visit.
▪ George R.R. Martin visited. The world science fiction conference (WorldCon) returned to Kansas City for the first time since 1976, bringing with it a plethora of science fiction and fantasy authors, including Joe Haldeman (“The Forever War”) and George R.R. Martin (“Game of Thrones”), as well as tributes to local icons from the late Robert A. Heinlein to local filmmaker Kevin Willmott.
▪ “Game of Thrones.” Speaking of GoT, the last two episodes of Season 6 featured some of the finest moments of the series. Cersei had her revenge on nearly everyone in Westeros in the season finale. And Jon Snow came back to life, only to be nearly buried under a mountain of dead people in the penultimate episode, “Battle of the Bastards.” The image of Snow preparing to face a horde of soldiers on horseback will be an iconic image for ages to come. And, yeah, winter is here.
▪ Lawrence’s new gem. Following an $8 million, 18-month renovation, the Spencer Museum in Lawrence reopened to the public in October. Two days of festivities marked the unveiling of the sleeker, brighter, more modern space.
▪ Ceramics celebration. In March, nearly 6,000 souls flocked to KC for the 50th annual NCECA Conference, a nationwide gathering of ceramics artists and enthusiasts. Staged in venues from the Crossroads Arts District to Lawrence, the conference was a smörgåsbord of lectures, panels, demonstrations and, of course, exhibitions of extraordinary work.
▪ The Lyric Opera’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” Mozart’s “Marriage” is a perennial favorite, but to stay pertinent it requires a contemporary aesthetic, achieved by Leslie Travers’ design concept of rococo details. The versatile set pieces and opulent costumes for Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s co-production transcended period settings and supported the characters’ emotional journeys.
▪ “Hero of the Empire,” Candice Millard. The local biographer of historical moments explored Winston Churchill during his time in the Boer War, where he was taken prisoner and later escaped, only to return to free the men imprisoned with him. The New York Times called the true story “as involving as a popcorn thriller.”
▪ “Jackie”: Everyone has witnessed John F. Kennedy’s assassination from the vantage point of the Zapruder film or hearing onlooker testimony. But “Jackie” is the first piece to truly capture the unbelievable horror of what it must have been like from the perspective of the first lady (Natalie Portman). The moment offers a collision of panic, revulsion and unreality.
▪ O.J. Simpson. Meanwhile, the circus surrounding former football star turned accused murderer was the subject of two TV events this year: ESPN’s race-centered documentary “O.J.: Made in America” and FX’s docu-melodrama “The People v. O.J. Simpson.”
▪ Kansas City Symphony’s performance of Alexander Scriabin’s “Poem of Ecstasy.” The finale’s epic pace — chime clamoring above the ensemble, organ rumbling underneath, and their sudden cessation — set up a visceral force in the final crescendo that left a thousand people breathless.
▪ Dancer Molly Wagner in the Kansas City Ballet’s “Swan Lake.” Wagner was stunning in the dual personas of Odette/Odile. Her Odette was pure heartbreaking grace, but her Odile beguiled with aggression, staring down the audience and drawing us into her trap.
▪ “Zootopia”: When a police bunny (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) partners with a con artist fox (Jason Bateman) to solve a disappearance, their investigation guides them to the DMV, staffed, appropriately, by sloths. This leads to an excruciatingly funny exchange as the pair need to quickly extract info from the slow-motion beasts.
▪ “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” at Starlight: John Rapson delightfully played all eight greedy murder victims standing in the way of an up-and-comer’s inheritance, but his best was the tipsy reverend who falls from a belltower, amid “Vertigo”-like stage magic.
▪ “The Good Lieutenant,” Whitney Terrell. The UMKC creative writing professor released a stirring novel about the Iraq War told in reverse from a female soldier’s point of view. The U.K.’s The Guardian wrote, “The result might be the best work of fiction the Bush wars have produced so far.”
▪ “Moonlight”: In a film full of heartbreaking scenes, the dinner table conversation between Juan (Maherishi Ali) and Little (Alex Hibbert) may be the toughest. Little asks Juan what a certain homophobic epithet means, and Juan answers that it’s “a word used to make gay people feel bad.” Little follows up by asking how he’d know if he were gay, and Juan answers perfectly, “You just do. You don’t gotta know right now. Not yet.”
▪ “Hand to God” at the Unicorn Theatre: Bob Linebarger played teenage Jason and Tyrone, his foul-mouthed sock puppet, locked in rapid-fire dialogue with each other. A performance that was jaw-droppingly complex and screamingly funny.
▪ “The Nightly Show” was canceled. Larry Wilmore started to find his stride just as Comedy Central decided it had had enough — and to add insult to injury, it was right before the election. Which was too bad, because Wilmore and his panel of guests talked about race in ways no one has talked about it since Dave Chappelle walked away from his show.
▪ “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.” Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers all try to express something like incredulity at the absurd nature of current events, but no one gets to the point with more wit and ferocity than Samantha Bee. It’s so refreshing to see someone just let their rage fly that once a week isn’t enough. We’d rather see her on a daily … show.
▪ Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “A London Symphony.” The Kansas City Symphony started 2016 in exemplary form with guest conductor Robert Spano and cellist Timotheos Petrin. But Williams’ “A London Symphony” soundscape captivated with bustling energy and exceptional quiet moments, including a divine solo moment with violist Christine Grossman as Spano shared a subtle smile with her.
▪ Farewell, “Downton Abbey”: Lady Edith found the happiness she deserved after her transformation from bitter, overlooked middle child to liberated professional woman and single mother. The Washington Post called it “one of the most satisfying story arcs anywhere this year.” But oh, how we do miss the Dowager Countess’ zingers.
▪ “Commonwealth,” by Ann Patchett. A stolen kiss sets Patchett’s seventh novel in motion in an affecting story about stories: who owns them and who gets to tell them. Readers familiar with Patchett’s essays will recognize autobiographical elements in this novel, about which Patchett’s mother reportedly said, “None of it happened and all of it’s true.”
▪ NewEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble performance of John Luther Adams’ “Four Thousand Holes.” The concert exemplified the malleability of the temporal experience with the organ-like depth of the seismic pulse … the final strains evaporated like a curl of smoke in the sunlight, leaving silence.
▪ The season premiere of “The Walking Dead.” The final revelation of whom Negan bludgeoned to death in the Season 6 finale was horrifying and incredibly sad. And it cast a pall over the rest of the year’s episodes. Ratings dipped to the lowest numbers in years, but a course correction in the midseason finale and the promise of all-out war likely will bring a lot of people back.
▪ “Rebirth,” DC Comics. Overall, it was a good year for comic books. Screenwriter Max Landis created “American Alien,” the best Superman story in decades. In “The Vision,” former CIA operative-turned-comic writer Tom King created a multilayered character study of the android Avenger played by Paul Bettany in the movies. And best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates gave us his take on Marvel’s Black Panther. DC books overtook Marvel in the marketplace for the first time in a long, long while.
▪ “Captain America: Civil War”: There are two “Wahoo!” moments in this year’s first Marvel Avengers movie. The first involves the addition of Spider-Man to the Avengers universe. The second involves Kansas City’s Paul Rudd, who, as Ant-Man, grows into the colossal Giant Man, which was a thrill for hardcore comic nerds and movie fans alike.
▪ Kansas City Symphony’s June Happy Hour Concert. The Symphony created a dialogue between two of the greatest musicmaking minds of the 20th century, Pierre Boulez and John Cage, using quotes from their letters to elucidate philosophies and their music to demonstrate it, opening with a staged … er, couched … version of Cage’s “Living Room Music.”
▪ “Green Room”: Members of a touring punk group witness a murder in a club and aren’t allowed to leave. We meet the musicians (led by the late Anton Yelchin) as they play a “deserted island band” game, where they begin by listing favorite acts such as Cro-Mags and Minor Threat. But as the night gets more grim, their genuine mainstream picks emerge, culminating in the perfect end line for this nihilistic opus.
▪ “When Breath Becomes Air,” by Paul Kalanthi. A brilliant young neurosurgeon working at Stanford is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and suddenly finds himself the patient. Not a word, not a metaphor, not a philosophic reference is wasted in the late Kalanthi’s beautiful memoir as he confronts mortality.
▪ “Twelfth Night” at Heart of America Shakespeare Festival: It’s one of those crazy Shakespeare comedy devices where a woman is disguised as a man. As Viola/Cesario, Bree Elrod pulled it off with swaggering macho aplomb, and the beautiful Olivia (Vanessa Severo, in gorgeous flapper dresses) fell for “him” hard.
▪ Festivals: Kansas City continued to be a showcase of homegrown music festivals. Among them: Ink’s Middle of the Map, Boulevardia, the Westport Roots Fest, Porch Fest, Center of the City and the Crossroads Music Festival.
▪ “Arrival”: The most cerebral of alien invasion thrillers finds a vigilant linguist (Amy Adams) recruited to help communicate with the occupants of a hovering spaceship. As she and a physicist (Jeremy Renner) enter the forbidding black structure, gravity shifts 90 degrees in a dizzying initiation best expressed by Renner’s “Holy (expletive).”
▪ “Next to Normal” at Musical Theater Heritage: As the delusional mother Diana, Ashley Pankow made her hurt and confusion palpable, especially in the revelatory “I Miss the Mountains,” about the downside of bipolar medication.
▪ The Spire Chamber Ensemble performance of David Lang’s “The Little Match Girl Passion.” The concert was timely, thoughtful and humbling, and the voices and spare percussion articulated a work evoking stillness and chill starlight.
▪ “Parade” at Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre: As Southerner Lucille, Kimberly Horner wonderfully evolved from priggish wife to a loving crusader as her Jewish husband suffered the community’s anti-Semitism.
▪ “Deadpool”: Best opening credits ever? “Deadpool” introduces the Marvel mercenary antihero (Ryan Reynolds) as he tumbles in ultra-slow motion alongside opponents during a car wreck. Then come the truly honest credits: “Starring God’s Perfect Idiot.” “A Hot Girl.” “A British Villain.” Finally, the most telling one: “Written by the Real Heroes Here.”
▪ Flash meets Supergirl. Both superhero shows have had their ups and downs, but the crossover between the CW’s “Flash” and CBS’ “Supergirl” was not only revolutionary because of its network cross-pollination, but also because it featured the most nerdtastic moment of the year, as Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) sped out of a room, only to return a second later with ice cream cones for Kara (Melissa Benoist) and her super-squad.
▪ “The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo,” by Amy Schumer. We all have our insecurities, quirks and very human stories that make us who we are. Schumer hides none of it in this memoir, which somehow is heartbreaking, raunchy, hilarious and empowering all at once.
▪ The Culture Club lit up the Kauffman Center: Their stellar July show in the Muriel Kauffman Theatre featured the still-charming Boy George and a nine-piece band that included a horn section and backup singers. Another Top 10 show.
▪ “I’m Not Rappaport” by Kansas City Actors Theatre: Victor Raider-Wexler was splendid, sitting on a park bench monologuing on the vagaries of growing old and wistfully dreaming of love that never was.
▪ Bangert exploration. The Kansas City Artists Coalition explored the 50-year career of Colette and Jeff Bangert. Opening in June, “Alone & Together: Colette & Jeff Bangert” featured Colette’s drawings, paintings and fiber works along with some of her pioneering, collaborative computer works with Jeff. Colette is a founding member of the KCAC.
▪ “The Invisible Hand” at Kansas City Repertory Theatre: As Imam Saleem, the spiritual leader of a band of Pakistani terrorists, Rock Kohli invited our sympathy, until he eventually revealed his true ugly nature.
▪ “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” by Spinning Tree Theatre at the Living Room: As singer Billie Holiday, Nedra Dixon brought home the despair behind the haunting song “Strange Fruit.”
▪ “LaRose,” by Louise Erdrich. A boy is accidentally shot by his best friend’s father in Erdrich’s achingly beautiful yet warmly funny 15th novel, a braided tale of dark loss, spiky love, retribution and reparation set on Erdrich’s staked-out patch of land nearby and on a reservation in North Dakota.
▪ “No More Nomads” at Kansas City Museum. In the performance art installation, elaborate garments transmuted the performing artists (flamenco dancer, singer, violinist) to near-sculpture. Victoria Botero, whose blood-red gown cascaded the length of the main staircase, sang a biting “Se dice de mi” as she descended, defiant and transformed.
▪ Jessica Lang’s “Thousand Yard Stare.” Artistic responses to war are often combative in themselves. Lang’s dance piece “Thousand Yard Stare” expressed empathy for those who served and suffered for our national safety, with its outward movement invoking the inner conflict of the battle-weary and the camaraderie of those who protect one another, their courage and their loss.
▪ “Today Will Be Different,” by Maria Semple. This smart and insightful, though uneven, novel contains passages that shimmer with truth, the kind you want to transcribe in your journal. In the space of a single day, a harried mother realizes she has missed major clues to her son’s personal identity and her husband’s true calling, and she comes not unglued, but unstuck, in the process.
▪ The Kansas City Ballet’s “New Moves.” The choreographic showcase featured Andrew Skeels’ “Seven Bridges,” enhanced by the intimacy of the Michael and Ginger Frost Studio. Acrobatic, responsive sequences flowed with beautiful control, the distance of sculptural abstraction made human and humbling by one dancer’s slight smile to the audience.
▪ “La La Land”: The opener is a bravura sequence to rival any classic Hollywood musical. Commuters stuck in gridlock on a freeway ramp (including the yet-to-meet leads played by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling) begin to dance, leap and backflip over cars.
▪ “Mine, Me, Mine” at Kansas City Dance Festival. In garish boudoir-chic, the ensemble in Garrett Smith’s world premiere “Mine, Me, Mine” played a chaotic and macabre version of musical chairs, shrieking as they greedily tried to outsmart one another in a vindictive and hilarious piece of dance.
▪ “Westworld.” At the end of the day, the series’ big mysteries were solved well ahead of time by the die-hard fans. But HBO’s meditation on consciousness (using Wild West sex robots, of course) was intriguing, to say the least.
▪ “Hell or High Water”: Now there’s a diner scene to rival the infamous “chicken salad sandwich” one from “Five Easy Pieces.” In this crime thriller, a gruff Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) orders from an ornery waitress (88-year-old Margaret Bowman) during a stakeout. “So what don’t you want?” she asks her perplexed customer, leading to one of the scene-stealing conversations of the year.
▪ International exposure. It didn’t happen in KC but was created by KC artists and exhibited on an international stage. Quixotic, Bazillion Pictures and BicMedia created a seven-minute digital projection for the November grand opening of the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of African American History & Culture.
▪ Jonathan Leshnoff’s Symphony No. 3. Commissioning new works is as risky as falling in love, but just as vital. Kansas City Symphony premiered Jonathan Leshnoff’s intriguing, challenging, pleading Symphony No. 3, which used source material from the National World War I Museum and commemorated the USA’s entry into the Great War.
▪ Trump vs. “Saturday Night Live.” Critics and viewers have hammered “SNL” for years for not being as funny as their memories. But just as the election took some weird turns, this season of “SNL” turned surreal as the president-elect took the unprecedented step of tweeting about the show and Alec Baldwin’s impression of him. This should be an interesting four (or eight) years.
Timothy Finn, David Frese, Jeffrey Ann Goudie, Lisa Gutierrez, Libby Hanssen, Sharon Hoffmann, Kathy Lu, Jon Niccum, Aaron Randle, Hampton Stevens