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Culture Watch

January is traditionally the month when season kicks into high gear—meaning there are plenty of activities competing for your time, attention and entertainment dollars. But even so, there are some standouts that fall into the “don’t miss” category—and one of the best doesn’t cost anything!

The must-see freebie is the NASA/ART exhibition at the Art League of Bonita Springs. This Smithsonian traveling show is making its debut right here. It chronicles 50 years of the space program, as seen through the eyes of some of America’s best-known artists.

This fascinating and unique blending of science, art and history includes what you might expect (Norman Rockwell’s painting of astronauts John Young and Gus Grissom) and what you certainly wouldn’t (a dress and shoes by fashion designer Stephen Sprouse that incorporate images beamed back to Earth by the Mars Pathfinder). There’s also Robert Rauschenberg’s Sky Garden lithograph, James Wyeth’s watercolor Gemini Launch Pad 1965 and, playing in the background, Terry Riley’s Sun Rings, a musical piece commissioned by NASA in 2002 to celebrate Voyager’s 35th anniversary.

A totally different sense of other-worldly is presented this month at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, when Sweeney Todd takes the stage.
If all you’ve ever seen of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street is the Tim Burton film released last year, you haven’t seen (or heard) the best of Sweeney. As much as I like Johnny Depp—and as good as I thought he was in the film—the stage version remains far and away my favored form.

When the show first debuted, many wondered if a musical about a murderous barber would have mass appeal. But Stephen Sondheim’s captivating melodies and lyrics and John Doyle’s outstanding book turned this very strange story into a classic.

NASA/ART: 50 Years of Exploration is on display at the Art League of Bonita Springs Center for the Arts through Jan. 17. Admission is free. From 1–3 p.m. on the final day, the Center also offers a free Art of Science & Space family activity day. Hours are 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Monday–Friday and 1–5 p.m. Saturday. (239) 495-8989 or www.artcenterbonita.org.

Sweeney Todd is presented at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall. (239) 481-4849 or www.bbmannpah.com.



• The Art League of Bonita Springs hosts the Bonita Springs National Art Festival, a two-day outdoor show featuring works by more than 200 artists from throughout the world. Jan. 10–11 at The Promenade. (239) 495-8989 or www.artcenterbonita.org.

• The Philharmonic Center for the Arts provides another chance to compare screen and stage as it presents Mamma Mia! Jan. 13–18. (800) 597-1900 or www.thephil.org.

• Opera Naples presents Puccini’s La Boheme, the lovely tragedy of artists that gave rise to the Broadway hit Rent. At Gulf Coast High School, Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 25 at 3 p.m. (239) 287-8694 or www.operanaples.com.

• TheatreZone brings Donna McKechnie, the Tony winner from A Chorus Line, to town for a star turn in Stepping Out, a delightful, toe-tapping comedy. Jan. 8–17. (239) 449-2323 or www.theatrezone-florida.com.

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