12 hot events to spice up winter, early spring

Rock stars, ballerinas and a country music outlaw are among the white-hot acts heating up stages across the metro area this winter and early spring. Here are 12 we recommend.

1. ‘Bad Jews’

Lauded by The New York Times for its "tenacity and wit," Joshua Harmon's "Bad Jews" makes a triumphant debut at Actor's Express. The comedy was developed at the Atlanta theater during the playwright's National New Play Network playwriting residency. The action revolves around two cousins — one an observant Jew, the other one not so much — who battle over a family heirloom at their grandfather's funeral. Directed by Freddie Ashley. Jan. 22-Feb. 22. Actor's Express, 887 W. Marietta St., Atlanta. www.actors-express.com.

» Onstage: Atlanta theater in early 2015

2. Merle Haggard

The 77-year-old Okie from Muskogee is a versatile multi-instrumentalist who helped create the Bakersfield sound, a rough-around-the-edges version of country music distinguished by the marriage of traditional country steel guitar and the twang of a Fender Telecaster. Like some of his brethren in the trade, he did time in prison before turning his life around and devoting it to a colorful, up-and-down music career. 8 p.m. Jan. 23. Symphony Hall, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta. www.atlantasymphony.org.

 »More music: Atlanta concerts in early 2015

3. Wendy Whelan

The New York City Ballet dancer is equally adept at classical ballet as she is performing in contemporary works. In "Restless Creature," she performs four duets created by four choreographers. The choreographers — Kyle Abraham, Josh Beamish, Brian Brooks and Alejandro Cerrudo — also perform as Whelan's dance partners. 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27. Rialto Center for the Performing Arts, 80 Forsyth St., Atlanta. www.rialtocenter.org.

4. ‘Detroit ‘67’

While the Detroit riots rage in the background, an African-American sister and brother battle over opposing aspirations for the after-hours club they're operating in the basement rec room of the childhood home they've recently inherited. Their relationship grows more strained when a mysterious white woman is found badly beaten in the streets and brought to the house to recuperate. Author Pearl Cleage moderates a post-show discussion with playwright Dominique Morisseau at 2 p.m. Feb. 14. Feb. 10-March 8. True Colors Theatre Company. Southwest Arts Center, 915 New Hope Road, www.truecolorstheatre.org.

5. ‘Imagining New Worlds’

Continuing its mission to expose museumgoers to significant but lesser-known artists, the High Museum presents this retrospective of Cuban-born surrealist Wifredo Lam. Said to be the godson of a Santeria priest, Lam was influenced by the underground religious practice that combines Yoruba mythology and Christianity. The show features 40 paintings, as well as prints and drawings, from private and public collections. Feb. 14-May 24. High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta. www.high.org.

» Atlanta arts: Cultural attractions expanding

6. ‘Wicked’

The celebrated musical backstory of how the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch became mortal enemies comes to life at the fabulous Fox Theatre for a 19-day run. Feb. 18-March 8. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St., Atlanta. www.foxtheatre.org.

7. Billy Joel

You don't have to go to Madison Square Garden to see the Piano Man. After a seven-year absence from Atlanta, Joel returns for his third solo show at Philips Arena. According to AJC music writer Melissa Ruggieri, who's seen him more than 50(!) times, he's sounding better than ever these days. 8 p.m. Feb. 28. Philips Arena, 1 Philips Drive, Atlanta. www.ticketmaster.com.

8. ‘Rigoletto’

The Atlanta Opera follows its critically lauded season debut "Madama Butterly" with "Rigoletto," another new co-production featuring new sets, costumes and lighting design. This time, the company partners with Boston Lyric Opera and Opera Omaha. Todd Thomas sings the title role. Soprano Nadine Sierra performs the role of his daughter, Gilda, and tenor Scott Quinn debuts as the Duke of Mantua. Atlanta native Morris Robinson performs the role of the assassin Sparafucile. Feb. 28-March 8. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. www.atlantaopera.org.

9. ‘Camino Real’

The Atlanta Ballet presents this world premiere of an ambitious production based on one of the lesser-known Tennessee Williams plays. A surrealistic meditation on getting older and the challenges of remaining relevant, it features appearances by a host of literary characters and luminaries, including Don Quixote, Casanova, Lord Byron and Esmeralda, the gypsy's daughter from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." The full-length ballet, which was postponed from last season, is choreographed by Helen Pickett and features music by Peter Salem performed by the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra. March 20-22. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. www.atlantaballet.com.

10. The Who

Touring in support of the classic rock band's two-disc set, "The Who Hits 50," surviving members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are joined by Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey on drums and bass player Pino Palladino, who fill the formidable shoes of Keith Moon and John Entwistle, respectively. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts open. 7:30 p.m. April 23. Gwinnett Arena, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth. www.gwinnettcenter.com.

11. ‘Creation Oratorio’

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra presents the world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis' new composition exploring science, philosophy and religion through a tapestry of orchestral and choral work, solo performances and text. Presented in partnership with Emory University and the Georgia Humanities Council. April 23-25. Symphony Hall, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta. www.atlantasymphony.org.

12. ‘Resurrection’

Flux Projects presents a series of free performances featuring a collaboration between artist Nick Cave — known for his "Soundsuits" wearable sculptures — and choreographer T. Lang, artistic director of T. Lang Dance. Rounding out the performance will be spoken word artists, musicians, dancers and actors exploring themes of identity. April 24-26. Ponce City Market, 675 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta. www.fluxprojects.org.

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