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Things to do

The Weekender: ‘School of Rock,’ ‘Spamilton,’ beards, and banjos

LeAnne Parks and Merritt David Janes in “School of Rock.”
LeAnne Parks and Merritt David Janes in “School of Rock.”(Evan Zimmerman-MurphyMade)

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Hey, Weekenders.

You look mad. And I think I know why. And no, I don’t have an excuse apart from that I was watching “Russian Doll” and got very distracted and then all of a sudden it was Valentine’s Day and the Walgreens had zero chocolate left and here we are. Here’s the thing: This newsletter’s singular focus is making plans for the weekend, so when something lands on a Thursday — which, apparently, is a day — all bets are off.

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That said, this newsletter is also all about not letting you down. So in the absence of a Russell Stover assortment that you’ll only eat 20 percent of, I’m hoping you’ll instead accept this humble love letter of things to do this weekend to distract you from your (completely understandable!) fury. I wrote it myself. Please note: We’re probably looking at a 20 percent completion rate here, too.

All right, ready to go? You look really nice, by the way. (Yikes, OK, still mad.) Moving on!

[ROCK ’N’] ROLL CALL: Class is still in session over at the Boston Opera House, where “School of Rock – The Musical” will be stickin’ it to the man for another week or so. The musical makes for a high-fidelity counterpart to the 2003 comedy film starring Jack Black as a substitute teacher cum rock guru, especially since it’s fronted by two (albeit unlikely) masters: The score comes from Andrew Lloyd Webber, and the book from Julian Fellowes of similarly rockin’ “Downtown Abbey” renown. “I’d been drowning in lady’s maids and footmen for so long, I was absolutely delighted to do it,” Fellowes told the Globe, presumably before smashing the mirror in his hotel room with a Flying V. The Broadway in Boston production runs through Feb. 24. Find tickets here.

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SPOOF POSITIVE: Thank/blame Needham for producing Gerard Alessandrini, who himself has produced a couple dozen editions of the beloved Broadway-busting satire series “Forbidden Broadway.” Over the course of 37 years, he’s been writing and directing singular shows that savage all the others — from the debut of “Forbidden Broadway” in 1982 to 1998’s “Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act” to 2008’s “Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab” (saw that coming) and onward. For his next trick, Alessandrini (and the Huntington Theatre Company) brings us “Spamilton: An American Parody,” a spoof of the historic/histrionic “Hamilton,” and (I’ve found) a perfect way to trick young-enough nephews and nieces into thinking they’re seeing the real thing. That’s in the Wimberly Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, for an engagement running through April 7. Find tickets here.

CRUZ VESSEL: In the dark rooms with the sticky floors this weekend, you can catch “Everybody Knows,” the newest film from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem (and dredging up the Concrete Blonde cover of that Leonard Cohen song from the “Pump Up the Volume” soundtrack from the depths of my memory for what appears to be a permanent stay). Anyway, the previews made me audibly gasp, and moreover, Globe film critic Ty Burr gave it a Valentine of three stars and calls it a “brooding suspense melodrama with tragic undertones” and a “barely resistible potboiler.” Now screening.

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Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem star in Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows.”
Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem star in Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows.”(Teresa Isasi/Focus Features)

GRASS STASH: If you’re into the plucking of things in large groups, the next three items are really going to work out great for you. For one thing, the Boston Bluegrass Union’s annual Joe Val Bluegrass Festival takes place this weekend in Framingham, running Friday through Sunday — and it’s no slouchy assembly of average joe strummers. This year’s lineup of nearly 20 acts includes The Lonely Heartstring Band, the Gibson Brothers, the Seldom Scene, Sister Sadie, Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands, Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass, Frank Soliva and the Dirty Kitchen, and other renowned [Blank] and [the blanks] — plus master classes, workshops, jams, and a kids’ academy. Find more info here.

THREE’S A CHARM: For another, over at House of Blues on Friday night you can catch I’m With Her, the freshly formed (and quite literal) supergroup of Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan, who are celebrating a new single (“Call My Name” is a major mood in our house right now) and the still-mounting momentum of the trio’s 2018 debut, “See You Around.” Get there early for a solo set from 26-year-old bluegrass phenom Billy Strings. You can find tickets here.

HOUSE PARTY: And finally in this power trio, you can drift into the Institute of Contemporary Art and stay there for a good long while, taking in the return of Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s multichannel music and video installation, “The Visitors,” which immerses  visitors in the dusty, sun-dappled 43 rooms of an old mansion and surrounds them with a soundtrack produced by the artist’s beardy besties and a wide range of musical collaborators, all strewn about and simultaneously strumming whatever is in reach. The result is a silly, tender, perpetual jam session that invites you to drift like music through its virtual halls. I love this thing. It’s on view through July 28. More info here.

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MOVEMENT OF THE PEOPLE: While you’re at the ICA, over the weekend you can catch performances there from the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane company, who will be rounding out an extended run of “Analogy Trilogy” (created by Jones and the company’s associate artistic director Janet Wong). Inspired by W.G. Sebald’s novel “The Emigrants,” the performances employ dance, text, and music to present the stories of immigrants in dimensions more accommodating than the headlines. Friday through Sunday you can see the latter two parts of the trilogy, “Analogy/Lance: Pretty aka The Escape Artist” and “Analogy/Ambros: The Emigrant,” as well as pre-performance conversations 30 minutes before each show. More information and tickets here.

NATURE BUOY: In Salem at the Peabody Essex Museum, you can take in the more than 100 works that constitute “Nature’s Nation: American Art and the Environment,” which the museum calls “the first exhibition to trace environmental awareness in American art over the last three centuries,” and which Globe art critic Murray Whyte calls an exhibition of “canny inclusions” that “tilt the show toward the complexities of cultural history, contemporary politics, and the inevitably bloody disconnects that an identity tied to contested land begets.” Including works by John James Audubon, Albert Bierstadt, Valerie Hegarty, Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Salish-Kootenai), it’s on view through May 5. Find more information here.

KEY MASTER: And lastly from the outside world, at Symphony Hall on Friday and Saturday, you can hear pianist Yuja Wang with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and conductor Andris Nelsons for a performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto, as well as Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9. Globe writer Zoë Madonna attended Wang’s last performance in town, which included “five encores, too many standing ovations to count, and one fascinating glimpse into the processes that drive her.” This weekend’s engagements should be no less gripping. Find tickets and more info here.

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Ellen Page stars in the Netflix series “The Umbrella Academy.”
Ellen Page stars in the Netflix series “The Umbrella Academy.”(Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix)

OR STAY IN! If you’re suffering from CSF (Chronic Superhero Fatigue), consider resting your way back to health in front of Netflix’s new series “The Umbrella Academy,” which stars Ellen Page, (freakin’) Mary J. Blige (!!), and Tom Hopper and follows the tale of superhero kids born to ostensibly unpregnant women. “It has flaws and excesses,” writes Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert, “but the series, whose first season is available on Friday, nonetheless lands in the sweet spot between comedy and drama, and between a plot-and-action-driven narrative and character exploration.”

And if you, the couch, and a giant book sounds like the perfect belated valentine, there’s “Ashes to Ashes: The Songs of David Bowie, 1976-2016.” It’s a sequel to Chris O’Leary’s 2015 collection covering Bowie’s early works (“Rebel Rebel”) and spans the 40 years between “Low” to “Blackstar.”

Alternatively, if you’d rather just submit to the tubes this weekend, crack open a cold one and your laptop, because Northeastern professor Matthew McDonald and Steven Braun (good bowlers, good men) have authored a visual guide to the Coen brothers’ cult classic, “The Big Lebowski,” and it really ties the proverbial room together. You can see it here; prepare to stay in that robe all weekend.

And that, ever-forgiving Weekenders, is all I’ve got in my year-old bag of Necco Sweethearts (hey — they’re still fine and their sentiments germane!). However you decide to spend your post-Valentine’s weekend, make it one you’ll miss come Monday.

See you next week!


Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at mbrodeur@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur.