Arts & Culture

70 events in arts and culture — and the eclipse! — to look forward to in 2017

We asked our arts and culture experts what we should look forward to in 2017, and the list is impressive and promising.

From Sting’s intimate show at Uptown Theater in February, to the Bloch Galleries opening in March at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, to the revival of “Star Trek” on television, to “Wonder Woman” on the big screen in June, there’s something for everyone on this list. Plus, that rare total eclipse in August crossing right over KC.

Happy New Year, indeed!


▪ Eric Church at the Sprint Center, Jan. 31: One of the biggest stars in country music marches to his own beat, and it isn’t the one that drives bro-country.

▪ Sting at the Uptown Theater, Feb. 16: He is taking his 57th and 9th Tour to smaller venues, including one of the best theaters in Kansas City.

▪ John Prine at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland, March 11: One of the greatest songwriters of his time will return to Kansas City for the first time since September 2009. Amanda Shires opens.

▪ Bryan Ferry at the Uptown Theater, March 24: The suave former leader of Roxy Music will perform in Kansas City for the first time in decades.


▪ Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey at the Sprint Center, April 16: Richie’s first headlining performance in Kansas City since 2000 will include a set from Carey, the best-selling recording artist of the 1990s.

▪ Middle of the Map, May 4-6: This homegrown music festival has evolved into a national event. Every year, the lineup has been rock solid, and each year it gets better. This will be No. 7, and we eagerly anticipate the impending lineup announcement.

▪ Roger Waters at the Sprint Center, May 26: He opens the North American leg of his Us + Them Tour in Kansas City, promising a mix of old and new material.

▪ Westport Roots Festival, May 26-28: They’ve expanded to three days and filled the extra time with more top-shelf acts from the roots/insurgent country/bluegrass world, like Moe Bandy, Dale Watson and the Legendary Shackshakers.


▪ Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at the Sprint Center, June 2: Petty and his band are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a tour. It will be his first performance in Kansas City since 2010. Joe Walsh opens.

▪ Boulevardia: The date and locale haven’t been confirmed yet, but for three years this annual three-day event has been in the West Bottoms on Father’s Day weekend. Each year it has delivered a worthwhile music lineup and a great mix of beer and food.

Timothy Finn,


▪ “Split” (Jan. 20): The real mystery surrounding any M. Night Shyamalan endeavor is whether it turns out passable or monumentally terrible. There appears to be no in between. But his premise for “Split” sounds promising: James McAvoy plays a kidnapper with 24 distinct personalities, and his three victims must find the one persona who can help them escape.

▪ #OscarsNotSoWhite (Jan. 24 nominations; Feb. 26 ceremony): The Academy Awards endured rampant criticism for failing to nominate any black actors (or Asian or Hispanic) two years in a row. But a repeat again seems unlikely, given 2016’s strong roster. “Loving,” “Fences,” “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” all boast performances with a better-than-average chance of receiving Oscar nods and quelling the controversy.


▪ “Kong: Skull Island” (March 10): If the Godzilla franchise can earn a respectable reboot, then so can King Kong. Oscar winner Brie Larson (“Room”) stars as a photojournalist who partners with a group of adventurers and soldiers exploring an uncharted island, a place that is home to giant creatures, including the mondo ape of the title. Oh, and it’s set in 1971 — which explains his sideburns. (It comes a week before another hairy creature, Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast,” March 17.)

▪ “Ghost in the Shell” (March 31): Here’s the most buzzworthy movie that doesn’t showcase a superhero or numeral after its title. Based on the manga by Masamune Shirow (and a subsequent 1995 animated feature), “Ghost in the Shell” stars Scarlett Johansson as a cyborg counter-cyberterrorist engaged with stopping a saboteur.

▪ “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (May 5): With so many upcoming superhero movies carrying a big question mark as to whether they’ll work (another Spider-Man, another Thor) this sequel appears an almost guaranteed winner. Filmmaker James Gunn continues his irreverent space opera, which finds the oddball warriors hoping to solve the backstory of leader Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), all set to the catchy tunes of “Awesome Mixtape #2.”


▪ “Wonder Woman” (June 2): Lawrence-raised director Patty Jenkins adds an extra level of empowerment to the first female superhero film since “Elektra” a dozen years back. Israeli model Gal Gadot — the best part of “Batman v Superman” — returns as the formidable Amazon princess, who is recruited by an American World War I pilot (Chris Pine) to leave her island paradise and defend the outside world.

▪ “It” (Sept. 8): It has been 27 years since Stephen King’s horror flick first aired as a two-part TV movie. Now the rebooted story of seven childhood friends who battle shapeshifting clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) is finally hitting theaters after a long and tortured development. Coincidentally, the novel spells out that this evil menace returns to their small Maine town every 27 years. Freaky.

▪ “Blade Runner 2049” (Oct. 6): 1982’s “Blade Runner” was a futuristic masterpiece, following a Los Angeles officer (Harrison Ford) tasked with terminating lifelike rogue “replicants.” The new trailer for the sequel, an anticipated mind-bender, showcased Ford and Ryan Gosling but very little else about the plot. Another prominently cast actor is KC’s own David Dastmalchian, who spent last summer filming “All Creatures Here Below” back here in his hometown.

▪ “Justice League” (Nov. 17): If it worked for “The Avengers” … That’s DC’s plan to rival Marvel by merging its cinematic heroes into a powerful-yet-dysfunctional team. Batman (Ben Affleck), Superman (Henry Cavill), Wonder Woman (the aforementioned Gadot) and newcomers Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) take on a villain known as Steppenwolf. And, no, he did not sing “Born to Be Wild.”


▪ “Star Wars: Episode VIII” (Dec. 15): Hopefully, there’ll be a cooler expanded title for this follow-up to “The Force Awakens.” The plot is equally vague, but all the principals will return from the previous pic, including Daisy Ridley as Rey, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren and the late Carrie Fisher as Leia (filming was completed last July). New cast members include Benicio del Toro and Laura Dern, with talented Rian Johnson (“Looper”) in the director’s chair.

Jon Niccum,


▪ “My Old Lady” (Jan. 11-29): Israel Horovitz may be a prolific playwright, but his work hasn’t been professionally produced in KC for more than 20 years. Kansas City Actors Theatre will rectify that with this dramedy about a failed novelist who inherits a Paris apartment inhabited by a 90-something woman and her spinster daughter. Darren Sextro directs David Fritts, Kathleen Warfel and Jan Rogge at City Stage at Union Station.

▪ Stephen Sondheim: Kansas City Repertory Theatre celebrates the composer’s career with “Side by Side by Sondheim” Jan. 27-Feb. 19. (The revue replaces the originally scheduled new musical “Fabulous Fitches.”) Then Spinning Tree Theatre will present KC’s first professional production of, arguably, Sondheim’s most controversial musical, “Assassins.” The show imagines a meeting of such sociopaths as John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald and John Hinckley Jr. and runs May 24-June 11 at Just Off Broadway Theatre.

▪ Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre’s big move: The theater is making do with its sometimes leaky home at 36th and Main while preparing for its grand new digs in the 1912 Warwick Theatre down the road off 39th Street. “The capital campaign is gaining steam. Basic designs for the renovation are complete,” says artistic director Karen Paisley. But, she adds, the renovation is expected to take at least a year. In the meantime, while Denzel Washington’s film adaptation of August Wilson’s “Fences” is getting acclaim, MET will present Wilson’s little-seen “Gem of the Ocean” Feb. 23 to March 11.


▪ “Eclipsed” (March 8-April 2): This Tony-nominated drama by the U.S.-born, Zimbabwean-raised Danai Gurira (Michonne on AMC’s “The Walking Dead”) is the first Broadway play to be written and directed by and cast entirely with women — black women, in this case. The edgy Unicorn Theatre takes on this drama, which is set at a rebel camp during the 2003 Liberian civil war.

▪ New Broadway musicals, Part 1: Theater League and Broadway Across America will present two recent Tony winners this spring: “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical,” March 28-April 2 at the Music Hall, tells the legendary songwriter’s life through her hits. And “Fun Home,” May 30-June 4 at the Kauffman Center, is based on Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic novel memoir about her relationship with her gay father.

▪ New plays festival: Kansas City Repertory Theatre will close its season with diverse new works. “What Would Crazy Horse Do?” by Native American Larissa FastHorse, is a fictional narrative about a dwindling tribe and the Ku Klux Klan. And “Man in Love” by Christina Anderson, a native of Kansas City, Kan., is a thriller about a serial killer. The plays will be performed in repertory April 28-May 28 at the downtown Copaken Stage.

▪ Shakespeare with a twist: As part of its new plays festival, the Rep will also show Shakespeare’s tragedy “Antony and Cleopatra” — translated into contemporary English by playwright Christopher Chen. It will be staged May 5-14 at the Spencer Theatre. And Kyle Hatley, the Rep’s former associate artistic director now based in Chicago, will return to stage a new adaptation of “Macbeth” at the Living Room Theatre, with only three actors and no intermission. It runs June 28-July 16.


▪ Nathan Darrow in “Hamlet” (June 13-July 2): The Shawnee Mission North graduate, who went on to play Meechum the bodyguard on TV’s “House of Cards” and Mr. Freeze on “Gotham,” will return to his hometown to help the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival celebrate its 25th anniversary. Darrow will play the titular Danish prince in Southmoreland Park, near the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

▪ “Million Dollar Quartet” (July 6-Sept. 24): Musicals are usually among the highlights of the New Theatre Restaurant season, and this rousing crowd-pleaser should live up to that expectation. It imagines a gathering of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis at the Sun Studio in Memphis.

▪ New Broadway musicals, Part 2: In addition to presenting old favorites like “Mamma Mia!” Starlight Theatre has included in its summer season three musicals never produced in Kansas City: “An American in Paris,” adapting Gene Kelly’s 1951 Oscar winner, July 11-16; “Something Rotten!,” a comedy about 16th-century brothers trying to outdo Shakespeare (him again), July 25-30; and “The Bodyguard,” adapting the 1992 Whitney Houston film, Aug. 8-13.

Sharon Hoffmann,


▪ U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Sprint Center, Jan. 17-22: Gracie Gold, the 2016 national champion, and Ashley Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist, are expected to compete for the women’s title.

▪ March Madness: The Big 12 Conference men’s championships will be March 8-11 at the Sprint Center; NAIA men’s national championships, March 15-21 at Municipal Auditorium; and the NCAA men’s regionals, March 23 and 25 at the Sprint Center.

▪ Royals home opener vs. Oakland at Kauffman Stadium, April 10: After last season’s disappointing finish, the Royals will start 2017 with six road games before facing the Athletics at home.

▪ Big Slick Celebrity Weekend, June 23-24: Hometown heroes Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis, Rob Riggle, Eric Stonestreet and David Koechner will play host to their Hollywood buddies.

▪ KC Fringe Festival at multiple venues, July 20-30: If you’re looking for mainstream performing or visual arts, this is not the place to be.


▪ Total solar eclipse, Aug. 21: For the first time since 1979 in the U.S., the moon will completely block out the sun, and the best place to see it will be north of Kansas City, with St. Joseph in the direct path.

▪ Kansas City Irish Fest at Crown Center, Sept. 1-3: You can get your green on at what has grown into one of the nation’s biggest celebrations of Irish heritage.

Kansas City Renaissance Festival in Bonner Springs, Sept. 2-Oct. 15: Travel back in time a few centuries to enjoy music, magic, crafts, food and much more in a 16-acre village.

▪ Plaza Art Fair at Country Club Plaza, Sept. 22-24: Nearly 250 artists and more than 250,000 visitors make the Plaza Art Fair one nation’s most popular art events.

▪ WinterFest at Worlds of Fun, Nov. 24-Dec. 31: This new event will transform Worlds of Fun into a winter wonderland with light displays, holiday characters and live entertainment.

Dan Kelly,


▪ Hesperion XXI with Jordi Savall: Fans of early music know that whenever Spanish viola da gamba player Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI give a concert, it is not to be missed. The Friends of Chamber Music will present Savall and his ensemble in “The Musical Europe: Europe Dances.” With toe-tapping music from the Renaissance and Baroque eras, the program should appeal to a wide audience. Feb. 10 at Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral.

▪ Lyric Opera’s “Dead Man Walking”: Opera doesn’t get more primal than when it deals with issues of death, forgiveness and redemption. The Lyric Opera will address all of those themes and more when it presents Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking.” The frequently performed opera based on Sister Helen Prejean’s ministry on death row is quickly entering the operatic canon. March 4-12 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

▪ Baroque music by Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin: This ensemble plays Baroque music with a freshness that blows the cobwebs off the scores. The Friends of Chamber Music and the Performing Arts Series of Johnson County Community College are jointly presenting the Akademie. The program, “Foreign Affairs,” will feature heavy hitters like Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann. March 18 at Yardley Hall, Johnson County Community College.


▪ Kansas City Ballet’s “Sleeping Beauty”: The company has been firing on all gears. The last two years it has given us excellent new productions of “The Nutcracker” and “Swan Lake,” and this year we get “The Sleeping Beauty.” Given the ballet’s masterful execution of the two previous Tchaikovsky ballets, we should be in for a treat with its first-ever performance of this fairy-tale classic. March 31-April 9 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

▪ Paragon Ragtime Orchestra: This group is like a ragtime early music ensemble, striving to protect the integrity of this uniquely American musical genre. The JCCC Performing Arts Series presents the orchestra in “You’re a Grand Old Rag: George M. Cohan’s Broadway.” March 31 at Polsky Theatre, Johnson County Community College.


▪ Duke Ellington Sacred Concerts: The jazz great’s classical output often gets short shrift in the concert hall. The Grammy-winning Kansas City Chorale conducted by Charles Bruffy will give Ellington his due. Duke Ellington Sacred Concerts should fill Helzberg Hall with a glorious sound. March 31 at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.


▪ Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile: This late addition to the Harriman-Jewell Series also has some of the season’s biggest star power. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, one of classical music’s superstars, will be joined by the very fine double-bassist Edgar Meyer and mandolinist Chris Thile for an all-Bach program. April 27 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

▪ Joyce DiDonato returns: For those of us who witnessed her jaw-dropping performance at the Folly Theater last month, the Prairie Village native’s appearance in Handel’s “Ariodante” is the most anticipated concert of 2017. DiDonato will be joined by the acclaimed English Concert and a full cast of singers for this concert version of Handel’s opera presented by the Harriman-Jewell Series. April 28 at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

▪ Kansas City Symphony’s Britten’s War Requiem: This work, one of the most important of the 20th century, should sound impressive in Helzberg Hall when performed by the Kansas City Symphony and Chorus. Written for the consecration of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral in 1961, the War Requiem is Britten’s passionate plea for peace. May 5-7 at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

▪ Kansas City Symphony with Emanuel Ax: Right at the top of the list of the finer things in life is listening to Emanuel Ax play Mozart. Ax will play not one but two Mozart concerti, Nos. 16 and 19, when he joins the Kansas City Symphony. Michael Stern also will conduct Richard Strauss’ puckish showpiece, “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks.” June 2-4 at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Patrick Neas, Special to The Star,

Visual art

▪ Nasty Folk: On Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, Greenwood Baptist Church will host Nasty Folk. The one-day group show and sale will benefit the ACLU.


▪ “Hail We Now Sing Joy”: The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art will open “Hail We Now Sing Joy” on Feb. 9. In it, Chicago-born, New York-based artist Rashid Johnson will explore identity and the African-American experience, incorporating his signature themes of anxiety and tension in the modern world.

▪ Julia Irene Kauffman and Arts KC: On Feb. 23, the Kansas City Convention Center will host Arts KC’s 2017 awards luncheon. Live entertainment will be provided by the Kansas City Boys Choir, Xiangyu Zhao of the UMKC Conservatory and MoonDrop Circus. The featured visual artist is Rachelle Gardner-Roe. Julia Irene Kauffman will serve as honorary chair.


▪ Bloch Galleries open: Monet, Degas, Renoir, Seurat, Manet, van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne — these dudes are the best of the best. In March, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art will open a new gallery space to display some of their glorious work, the wildly impressive Marion and Henry Bloch collection of impressionists and post-impressionists.

▪ Nerman marks 10 years. Every other year, Johnson County Community College’s Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art stages a fundraiser, Beyond Bounds. This year’s version, on April 29, should be an especially big to-do, as it marks the museum’s 10th anniversary.

▪ Annual art fests: The Plaza Art Fair, the granddaddy of them all, is always the third weekend after Labor Day. But art lovers shouldn’t sleep on Art Westport, Sept. 8-10, and the Brookside Art Annual, set for May 5-7.

▪ Black female artists showcase: For three straight years, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art has won a grant from the NEA. Impressive stuff. This year, that grant will support “Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today,” coming in June. It’s an exploration of abstraction by black female artists.

▪ Larry Thomas collages: Also in June, “So You Think You Know” opens at the Nerman. Larry Thomas, former professor and chair of fine arts at JCCC, is the man creating the installation, an amalgam of hundreds of small collages.

▪ Smithsonian portrait winners: The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, staged by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery, is a very big deal, and KC is one of only three cities lucky enough to host the winners. You can see them starting Oct. 6 at the Kemper.


▪ Picasso at the Nelson: In October, a major Picasso exhibit is coming to the Nelson, the show’s only stop in the United States. Using dozens of the great man’s works, the exhibit will explore how deeply Picasso was influenced by non-Western art.

Hampton Stevens, special to The Star


▪ One Day at a Time (Jan. 6, Netflix): Producer Norman Lear, the writer behind “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons,” remakes another of his sitcom classics, but this time the show focuses on the single mother of a Cuban-American family.

▪ “Victoria” (8 p.m. Jan. 15-March 5, PBS): “Masterpiece” didn’t have to stray far to find its “Downton Abbey” replacement. This new drama follows the title character, played by Jenna Coleman (“Doctor Who”), from the time she becomes the queen of England at 18 in 1837.

▪ “The Young Pope” (8 p.m. Sunday and Monday, starting Jan 15, HBO): Jude Law stars as Pius XIII, the fictional first American pope in history. His selection was orchestrated by the Vatican secretary of state (Silvio Orlando), who expected the pope to follow his lead and is surprised when he does not. The pope flies in Sister Mary (Diane Keaton), who raised him when he was left at an orphanage at age 7, to be his chief adviser.

▪ “Planet Earth II” (8 p.m. Jan. 28, BBC America): A sequel to 2007’s “Planet Earth” natural history series, this sequel takes advantage of new cameras and camera stabilization technology to get viewers closer to animals around the globe. Filmed in 40 countries over 2,000 shooting days, the series — with episodes devoted to “Islands,” “Mountains,” Jungles,” “Deserts,” etc. — is narrated by Sir David Attenborough with music by Hans Zimmer.


▪ “Superior Donuts” (Special preview at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 2. Moves to regular time slot of 8 p.m. Mondays on Feb. 6, CBS): Tipton, Mo., native and Big Slick squad member David Koechner is part of an ensemble cast taking on an adaptation of Tracy Letts’ play about a gruff old doughnut shop owner (Judd Hirsch) and his new employee (Jermaine Fowler). Letts is the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning author of “August: Osage County,” and the midseason replacement also features among its creators Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman (“Scrubs,” “Community,” “Worst Week”). Also in the cast: Katey Sagal, Maz Jobrani and Anna Baryshnikov.

▪ “24: Legacy” (9 p.m. Feb. 5 and 8 p.m. Feb. 6, Fox): A new star (Corey Hawkins, “Straight Outta Compton”) leads the effort to save the United States from a terrorist attack as the real-time formatted series returns. Hawkins plays Eric Carter, an Army Ranger who’s being hunted by members of a terror cell. Carter seeks the aid of former CTU director Rebecca Ingram (Miranda Otto) as they attempt to uncover a terrorist network before the ticking clock runs out.

▪ “Legion” (9 p.m. Feb. 8, FX): “Fargo” writer Noah Hawley debuts a new take on this “X-Men” spinoff Marvel Comics title that stars Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”) as David Haller, who was diagnosed as schizophrenic as a child and has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. But what if, as new patient Syd (Rachel Keller, “Fargo”) suggests, the voices he hears and visions he sees are real?

▪ “The Good Fight” (7 p.m. Feb. 19, CBS All Access): “The Good Wife” spinoff debuts on CBS and simultaneously on the CBS All Access streaming service, where subsequent episodes will be available. Set a year after the end of “The Good Wife,” the new series begins as Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) loses all her money in a scam. She’s forced out of Lockhart & Lee and joins Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) at another Chicago law firm. Cast members include Rose Leslie (“Game of Thrones”), Delroy Lindo, Bernadette Peters, Justin Bartha (“The New Normal”) and Erica Tazel (“Justified”).

▪ “Star Trek: Discovery” (May, CBS All Access): Here’s what’s known about the new series so far: Set about a decade before the original “Star Trek,” “Discovery” will tell stories from the point of view of someone other than the starship’s captain for the first time in the franchise’s history.

Entertainment Weekly reports actress Sonequa Martin-Green (“The Walking Dead”) will play that leading role with actor Anthony Rapp as a science officer — the first gay character who’s a series regular in “Star Trek” TV history — and Michelle Yeoh as captain of another Starfleet vessel. Klingons will also play a part in “Discovery,” which is set during an unexplored conflict in established “Star Trek” history.

▪ “American Ninja Warrior” (summer, NBC): NBC’s summer reality show staple comes to Kansas City April 24-25 to film competitors taking on challenging obstacle courses in qualifying and finals rounds. The Top 15 competitors from each city will advance to the finals in Las Vegas, where a winner will take home the $1 million grand prize. Hosted by Matt Iseman, the series begins its sixth season on NBC this summer — no exact premiere date has been announced — with encores on cable’s Esquire Network.

Rob Owen, Special to The Star; @RobOwenTV