Welcome back to The Big To-Do. The Olympic Games are underway, with all six New England states represented among the 613 American athletes in Tokyo. “The Tempest” is roaring on Boston Common. With the right mind-set and equipment, every day is a beach day. Just thinking about this time of year can keep us going when we realize our snow boots have sprung a leak — enjoy it while you can!
ARTS COMEBACK: As the economy continues to reopen, cultural institutions are finding their way in the “next normal.” With the fall arts season on the horizon, Globe experts survey the landscape and find transformations galore.
The daunting logistics of reopening performance venues have occupied operators for months. “We spent more time learning and diving into our HVAC system than I ever expected,” Katie Most of the Huntington Theatre Company tells the Globe’s Malcolm Gay. Says ArtsBoston’s Catherine Peterson, “[I]t’s going to enable a lot of people to go back and enjoy the magic of live arts performance.”
Boston Landmarks Orchestra returns to in-person performances at the DCR Hatch Shell in August, and “on the whole, it’s a joyful homecoming, not a stopgap,” writes the Globe’s A.Z. Madonna. It’s no coincidence that composers of color and works by women feature on the newly announced season schedule. Says music director Christopher Wilkins: “Access and inclusion is always what Landmarks have been about.”
Pent-up demand is fueling a zero-to-60 pop music rebound. “[W]ith the city reopening in earnest, the schedule isn’t simply some scattered one-offs but something genuinely resembling a full summer concert season,” reports Globe correspondent Marc Hirsch, who runs down a thoroughly miscellaneous slate with something for everyone.
International music is already back in a big way, with generally young crowds thronging to enjoy reggaeton, Haitian compas, Colombian cumbia, Dominican bachata, and more. “[M]usic from anywhere south of Miami, you’ll find it here,” Taras Hrabec of Oceanside (the former Wonderland Ballroom) tells Globe correspondent Noah Schaffer.
Museums from Stockbridge to Gloucester are throwing themselves back into live events, some free, many outdoors. From picnics and movies on lawns to concerts near Boston Harbor, Globe correspondent Riana Buchman has the lowdown.
Mass MoCA’s return has been eased by “the expanse of the museum’s 16-acre campus and 250,000 square feet of gallery space,” Globe correspondent Kyung Mi Lee reports from North Adams. As expected, there’s plenty of excellent music programming.
“People are looking for comedy,” The Comedy Studio’s Kathe Farris tells Globe correspondent Nick A. Zaino III. Schedules are filling quickly, as are clubs. And a bonus of New England’s above-average vaccine uptake, according to Andrew Mather of The Wilbur, is that for performers on tour, “it’s much more appealing to want to come here than other parts of the country.”
Benched (in person) until “The Nutcracker” opens in November, Boston Ballet is embracing virtual reality, and the result is “an intimate, visceral, immersive, and interactive experience that totally engages the viewer,” writes Globe correspondent Karen Campbell. The “Dance in VR Series” consists of three specially commissioned pieces. “Though each dance was filmed in a day, the editing process for each was an intensive week of post-production.”
FILM: With “Old,” writer-director M. Night Shyamalan “returns to the kind of ‘Twilight Zone’ bear trap in which he specialized before his career went off the rails,” Globe film critic Ty Burr writes in a 2½-star review. Two vacationing families visit a beach where, it turns out, a human lifetime takes one day, setting off “events and improbabilities, some of which are ludicrous.” It all culminates in “an explanation that’s both ridiculous and ridiculously satisfying.”
Old love notes resurface, and “the flashbacks start tumbling forth like sands through the hourglass” — what’s not to like? Burr gives “The Last Letter From Your Lover” 3 stars for “its faith in the old verities of love found, love lost (and lost again, and again) and love eventually re-won.” It “almost feels too well made for a melodrama until you remember that the ‘women’s pictures’ of classic Hollywood were solid rock themselves.”
A gay teen’s dad walking cross-country “to call attention to bullying and intolerance” sounds like a based-on-a-true-story Very Special Episode, but “Joe Bell” has a secret weapon in star Mark Wahlberg. “He’s required to do more emoting here than in maybe all of his previous movies combined,” the Globe’s Mark Feeney writes in a 2½-star review. “He’s up to the challenge.”
In directing and co-writing “Stillwater,” Tom McCarthy drew on lessons he learned in his Academy Award-winning work on ”Spotlight.” “The script I had before ‘Spotlight’ wasn’t a movie I wanted to direct — it was a straight-up thriller, and it didn’t have a point of view,” he tells Globe correspondent Cassidy Olsen. The finished product “has all these different threads I think I was more prepared to weave together at exactly this moment in my career.”
Among the documentaries on the Woods Hole Film Festival schedule are several “that ponder the nature of politics and art,” writes Globe correspondent Peter Keough. David Henry Gerson’s “The Story Won’t Die” focuses on exiled Syrian artists; Drew Furtado’s “Restart 2020” spotlights artists in New Bedford, which “has been a microcosm of the country’s recent troubles, such as racial discord and political divisiveness”; and Skye Wallin’s “American Gadfly” looks at former senator Mike Gravel’s late-in-life presidential candidacy.
“When I started in 2002, the Globe had two film critics and a stable of freelancers who covered every movie opening in Boston theaters,” Burr writes in his farewell column. “Nineteen years later, it’s mostly just me.” He looks back and forward — he’s bound for Substack — at how movies and newspapers have changed and concludes that “it’s the readers I’m going to miss the most.”
TV: A year after a “folksy guy with an optimistic worldview and a refusal to succumb to negativity and divisiveness” took the edge off many viewers’ pandemic stress, “Ted Lasso” is back for season 2. The new episodes are “as positive and cheering as those of the first season,” Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert says. “Watching the show provides the same kinds of warm-and-fuzzies as the humane likes of ‘Schitt’s Creek’ or ‘Parks and Recreation.’”
An Ask Matthew reader who finds “The White Lotus” “snarky and weird” is considering bailing after one episode (of six), but Gilbert advises hanging in there. “Creator Mike White, who wrote and directed the whole thing, is an unsparing storyteller, and his portrait of wealthy Americans on vacation in ‘The White Lotus’ is particularly so,” he writes. “I don’t want to give too much away ... but I like where it goes.”
NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL: After a year away, the Newport Folk Festival is back, “taking place over six sold-out days — Friday through Wednesday — instead of the usual three, so an ample and diverse roster of artists will perform,” writes Globe correspondent Stuart Munro. Guitarists Steve Gunn and William Tyler will make their Newport debuts together, and Gunn is relishing “the history of it, and the fact that it’s still going and still relevant.”
For singer-songwriter Allison Russell, who recently released her debut solo album, “Outside Child,” the festival “was dear to her heart even before she was asked to be the first Black woman to curate a headline set,” writes Globe correspondent James Sullivan. Says Russell, “It makes me want to cry. It’s deeply meaningful, and a healing thing.”
The festival also includes, “as always, the promise of surprise appearances and spontaneous collaborations,” says Munro. He zeroes in on some big names, including Randy Newman and Beck, as well as “ample music from emerging artists.”
MUSIC: Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi had two kids before they had a band together, but Tedeschi Trucks Band was worth waiting for. “Sparks fly when they’re in a groove, and they’ve earned a reputation as a bring-down-the-house live act,” writes Globe correspondent Lauren Daley. Stay-at-home fans can check that out on the new live album “Layla Revisited (Live at LOCKN’),” featuring Trey Anastasio.
PARENTING: The Globe’s In the Family Way project tackles your thorniest pandemic-era dilemmas, including life with the not-yet-vaccine-eligible under-12 set. Through a weekly newsletter and column, it explores questions about children’s health, education, and welfare in uncertain times, including the latest medical advice about vaccines and the Delta variant. Sign up for the newsletter here.
THEATER: Mark St. Germain’s “Eleanor” isn’t great, but the one-person play at Barrington Stage Company “provides a scaffolding for Harriet Harris to do what she does supremely well,” writes Globe theater critic Don Aucoin. As Eleanor Roosevelt, the veteran character actress (Bebe the agent on “Frasier”) “burrows into what made Roosevelt distinctive, from the first lady’s vocal style (which Harris wisely does not overdo) to the power of her personality, then goes deeper.”
LOVE LETTERS: Ready for a fresh start? Aren’t we all? The theme of season 5 of the Love Letters podcast, hosted by the Globe’s Meredith Goldstein, is “New Beginnings.” The episodes tell stories about love that’s new, revived, reinvented, and full of hope. The latest installment tackles the question of creating romantic expectations — and what happens when we let them go. Listen here.
VISUAL ART: With “more than a dozen artists painting murals about ocean conservation in one week,” the Sea Walls Boston 2021 program “aims to appeal to the eye to motivate people to learn about our troubled oceans,” writes Globe correspondent Cate McQuaid. Shepard Fairey is onboard along with local artists including Sophy Tuttle, who says, “This activist-oriented festival is unique.”
Painter Esteban Cabeza de Baca often “lays down a landscape, masks over portions with a resist, paints on top of that, then strips the masking,” writes McQuaid. Drawing on his Mexican and Indigenous heritage, “[a]s Cabeza de Baca wrestles with conquest and colonialism, his paintings evoke the persistence of Indigenous cultures.” At Gaa Gallery in Provincetown.
FOOD & DINING: Plant-based dining is no longer an oddity or an afterthought, and the recent announcement that New York’s Eleven Madison Park is going vegan got Globe restaurant critic Devra First thinking about Boston: “Could we be ready for our own version of Eleven Madison Park, a meatless temple of haute cuisine (with haute prices to match)?”
BRIGHT IDEA: A ”light display feels a little magical — like you’re being transported elsewhere,” writes the Globe’s Meredith Goldstein, an aficionado of the outdoor extravaganzas. She recommends visiting Franklin Park Zoo for “Boston Lights: A Lantern Experience,” which includes “a Tyrannosaurus Rex tunnel you can walk through” and “a whale lantern display that’s 120 feet long.”
LOOK AGAIN: This star of “Roots,” “Reading Rainbow,” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” steps in as guest host of “Jeopardy!” starting Monday, after a months-long fan campaign backing him to succeed the late Alex Trebek. ... Who is LeVar Burton?