A list of new things we’ve liked (subject to unexpected and wildly capricious updating).

To purchase or investigate, click on the link.

PLAY: Room Service (SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam, extended through Mar. 25). An electrifyingly frenetic off-Broadway revival of the 1937 backstage farce about a fast-talking Broadway producer with a heart of brass who can’t raise enough cash to pay his hotel bill. Filmed by the Marx Brothers in 1938, Room Service works infinitely better on stage, and the Peccadillo Theater Company has given it a first-class production directed with zany aplomb by Dan Wackerman. If there’s a funnier show in New York, I haven’t seen it (TT).

DANCE: Mark Morris Dance Group (2 Lafayette St., Brooklyn, closes Jan. 24). A perfect mixed bill: Morris’ latest effort, a new work set to Bach’s Italian Concerto, plus three of his finest small-scale pieces, Love Song Waltzes (1989), The Argument (1999), and Sang-Froid (2000). All programs will be danced in the wonderfully intimate performance space of the Morris company’s Brooklyn headquarters. Not to be missed under any circumstances whatsoever (TT).

EXHIBITION: The Odyssey Continues: Masterworks from the New Orleans Museum of Art and from Private New Orleans Collections (Wildenstein & Company, 19 E. 64, up through Feb. 9). One hundred works of art, including major pieces by Lotto, Tiepolo, Rodin, Bonnard, Redon, Braque, Kandinsky, Pollock, Cornell, and Diebenkorn. The $10 admission fee benefits NOMA, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and is nowhere near recovering. Do yourself–and NOMA–a favor and visit this memorable show (TT).

DVD: Ballets Russes (Zeitgeist). An enthralling 2005 documentary about the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, one of the most important dance companies of the Thirties and Forties, whose barnstorming tours helped to create an audience for dance in America. Interviews with surviving members are skillfully blended with vivid archival performance footage to tell an irresistibly nostalgic tale of life on the road. Great, great fun (TT).

CD: Erin McKeown, Sing You Sinners (Nettwerk). “About Last Night”‘s favorite pop singer-songwriter hangs up her pen (temporarily) to cut an album of old-time standards performed in a rough-hewn, bewitchingly unslick style that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the glammed-up slumming of Linda Ronstadt and her successors (TT).

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Not new, but still worth a look or listen (and no less subject to change without notice).

To purchase or investigate, click on the link.

CD: Glenn Gould, Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491 (Sony). Glenn Gould claimed to hate Mozart’s music and played it badly–with one towering exception. Never have the stern yet shapely melodic lines of Mozart’s greatest minor-key concerto been etched more incisively than in this 1961 recording, gracefully accompanied by Walter Susskind and the CBC Symphony. If you’re one of the many music lovers who finds Gould’s myriad eccentricities offputting, listen to this CD with an open mind and prepare to be surprised (TT).

NOVEL: John P. Marquand, Sincerely, Willis Wayde. Babbitt with a backstory. This undeservedly forgotten 1955 blockbuster follows a New England businessman along the twisty road that leads from youthful idealism to mature vengefulness. Less subtle than Point of No Return, Marquand’s masterpiece, it offers a harsher, explicitly satirical view of life among the capitalists, and though Marquand’s Lewis-like portrayal of his anti-hero’s philistinism is a bit heavy-handed, I can’t think of a more convincing fictional description of the high price of getting what you think you want (TT).

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FINE ART OF DISTINCTIONS

Historically, a director’s staging of a play has had the same legal status as a singer’s interpretation of a song, but John Rando, the director of Urinetown, thinks it should be protected by copyright and subject to royalty. Whether or not the directors of the Akron and Chicago productions of Urinetown stole his ideas, this claim is clearly defensible…”

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BALLET? NEVER HEARD OF IT

No classics, no stars, only a handful of long-lived institutions…so why take a chance on dance? And therein lies the challenge of reviving dance in America: Anyone who seeks to launch a new company, or revitalize an old one, must start by figuring out how to make large numbers of Americans want to see something about which they no longer know anything…”

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About Terry’s Books

Terry’s latest book is Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, published by Gotham Books in the U.S. and the Robson Press in England. The paperback edition will be published on November 4, 2014. He has also written biographies of Louis Armstrong, George Balanchine, and H.L. Mencken, as well as a volume of his collected essays called A Terry Teachout Reader and a memoir called City Limits: Memories of a Small-Town Boy.

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