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    The Weekender: The Queen of Soul, the Mother of Dragons, the Moor of Venice, and a ‘Giant Peach’

    Aretha Franklin recording gospel album Amazing Grace in 1972, as seen in documentary film "Amazing Grace."
    Aretha Franklin recording gospel album “Amazing Grace” in 1972, as seen in documentary film “Amazing Grace.”

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    Well hello again, Weekenders!

    I realize that this weekend is a no-go for a small percentage of you, and that you’ll likely spend the next few days stretching out at home, mentally preparing for the long road ahead, and filling yourself with spaghetti. And others of you might even be training for the Boston Marathon. 

    But whether your weekend plans involve preparing for 26 miles on the road or 26 minutes on the sofa, we’ve got you covered. Monday, you’re on your own. (But good luck out there!)


    On your mark, get set, go do stuff. 

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    GRACE NOTES: Starting off on a high note is “Amazing Grace,” a long-unseen documentary covering two performances by Aretha Franklin at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972. Globe film critic Ty Burr gives it 3½ stars, calling the film “one of the holiest of pop-culture grails,” a mighty historical document, a balm to the soul, and proof of genius.” Directed by Alan Elliott and Sydney Pollack, the 87-minute time capsule captures the Queen of Soul on two very different consecutive nights, early in her reign and at the height of her powers. Opens Friday

    RAE OF SUNSHINE: As a devoted “Insecure” fanboy, I’d watch Issa Rae do her taxes. I’d even watch her in an inverted reboot of “Big” — and now I have my chance. “Little” is sort of like “Big,” but instead of Tom Hanks and Jared Rushton (who was in another little film about sudden onset smallness known as “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids”) you have the young Marsai Martin (of ABC’s “Black-ish,” playing the magically kiddified Regina King) and Rae, whom Burr calls “the star, a necessary (and welcome) by-product of a body-switch movie’s plot structure” in his 2½-star review. “‘Little’ is commercial fluff,” he writes, “but it’s uncynical commercial fluff, intent on giving its target audience (little girls, big girls, the men who love them) a good, emotionally satisfying time.” Opens Friday.

    TWO-YEAR PLAN: Umbrella at the ready, this still might be a good weekend to take in the deCordova New England Biennial 2019, on view through Sept. 15 at the museum and sculpture park in Lincoln. It’s a big one, with 23 artists from every state in New England filling the galleries and grounds with groundbreaking painting, video, sculpture, photography, fiber art, and ceramics. There are some real knockouts in the mix, like George Longfish, Sheida Solemani, and painter/community organizer Jordan Seaberry. More info here.

    Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets, 24-9-18, Roundhouse, London, © Jill Furmanovsky
    Jill Furmanovsky/rockarchive
    Nick Mason’s “Saucerful of Secrets”

    PSYCH OUT: Sure, you could go out and start your own eponymous band, [YOUR NAME]’s Saucerful of Secrets, and sure, I and your immediate family would be very intrigued — but would the secrets be any good? What about the songs? These are major unknowns. Meanwhile, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason — a.k.a. the guy who has been bashing away in the back of the band for its whole long strange trip? His saucer probably has some pretty significant secrets, and we know he’s got songs. This Saturday you can hear them in all of their Syd-tinted psychedelirious glory — including “A Saucerful of Secrets” — at the Orpheum. Grab tickets here.


    SLOAN SCHOOL: In her role as a correspondent for “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah,” comedic force to be reckoned with Dulcé Sloan has taken on/down topics including cultural appropriation, racial facial recognition software, and white caller crime. But her no-holds-barred stand-up sets dig a little deeper into her personal life. Or maybe a lot. OK, it’s a lot deeper. She’s doing four shows at Laugh Boston on Friday and Saturday; grab tickets here.

    DAHL PLAY: With any luck, the Wheelock Family Theatre production of Roald Dahl’s children’s-lit classic “James and the Giant Peach” won’t be unexpectedly plunged into darkness like the one last year at Miles River Middle School in Hamilton. (And only then will it be acceptable to turn your phones on.) This musical adaptation features music and lyrics from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“Dear Evan Hansen”) and should go off without a hitch provided somebody doesn’t decide to use the hair dryer while I’m ironing. That’s up Friday through May 12 at Wheelock Family Theatre. Tickets here. Allergy warning: Stone fruits.

    BACK FOR MOOR: Reviewing Keith Hamilton Cobb’s “American Moor” in 2017, Globe theater critic Don Aucoin called it a “deep-from-the-heart spellbinder” and a “blisteringly eloquent and penetrating meditation on the ever-urgent matter of race in America — though ‘meditation’ seems far too tame a word for the dramatic force Cobb brings to the subject.” Framed as an audition for “Othello,” in which a white director instructs him how to play the role, it’s a visionary indictment of “all the unjust expectations and stifling categories that performers of color — and, of course, persons of color beyond the acting profession — have had to battle against.” ArtsEmerson brings the show back to town, this time at the Emerson Paramount through April 21. Get tickets here.

    EXTRA SALSA: On Friday night at New Bedford’s Zeiterion Performing Arts Center you can catch the acclaimed New York company Ballet Hispánico, led by Eduardo Vilaro and specializing in transformative adaptations of traditional ballet with contemporary Latino dance from Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. And if you wake up the next day with a spring in your step, there’s a Salsa & Latin Dance Night with Ballet Hispánico and Groupo Sazón on Saturday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Andrea McCoy Recreation Center in New Bedford. Find more information and tickets here.

    STRING THEORIES: And lastly from the outside world this week (or, outside the world, as it were) is the proverbial spacewalk embarked upon by local conductorless-and-zero-G string orchestra, A Far Cry, which launches into a weekend program titled “Gravity,” touching down at Jordan Hall on Friday and Merrimack College in North Andover on Saturday. Expect airborne works from Arvo Pärt, Aaron Jay Kernis, Osvaldo Golijov, Béla Bartók, and a celestial Iannis Xenakis piece that writer Matthew Guerreri calls “extreme, an attempt to delineate sonic structure by juxtaposing various types of noise: tone-clusters, sliding glissandi, the growl of bowing on the bridge, the clatter of the bows’ wooden handles on the strings.” In other words: Sick bangers. More info and tickets here.

    Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in the final season of HBO's "Game of Thrones." MUST CREDIT: Helen Sloane, HBO
    Helen Sloane/HBO
    Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in the final season of HBO's “Game of Thrones.”


    OR STAY IN! Straddle your dragons (or sink into your sofa) because the end is near! Or the beginning of the end, at least. It’s the final season of “Game of Thrones” and of course we are losing our minds and leaving room for Dracarys Burgers and Dragonglass Shakes (ouch?). No spoilers, but apparently winter is coming and the Westeros Market Basket is fresh out of bread and eggs. (Read: Everyone is screwed.) In any case, we’ve got a package to catch you right up on the story, the players, the unfortunately requisite incest, and the phenomenon. That’s Sunday night at 9 p.m. on HBO.

    Elsewhere in misery on Sunday night at 9 p.m., there’s “Les Miserables”! The new six-part PBS “Masterpiece” adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic is written by Andrew Davies (“Bleak House,” “Pride and Prejudice”), features absolutely no attempts at singing, and stars Dominic West, David Oyelowo, Lily Collins, Derek Jacobi, and Olivia Colman. Did I mention no singing? This is gonna be great! And also very sad. 

    Oh and if you’re up on Saturday because your kids insist on staying up to see South Korean boy band BTS perform on “Saturday Night Live,” take solace in knowing Emma Stone is hosting. She’s been pretty solid the other three times.

    And that, road-weary Weekenders, is the finish line for this week. Please go ahead and angle off to the side over there if you feel like you’re going to be sick. Everyone else, line up for your foil ponchos. Proud of you for making it all the way!  

    Good luck out there runners and everyone else; and however you spend your weekend, make it one you’ll miss come Monday.

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