Miami has plenty of glitzy, high-end strip clubs where your clique can celebrate a buddy's birthday in style, but Secrets is where you go when you want to fly solo and down-low. Even the sign outside admonishes patrons: "Shhh!" Inside, it looks like one of those seedy, shady strip bars in a movie — you know, the one where the bad guys make deals and good guys unintentionally make trouble. As you get your bearings in the dark, smoky room, you're transported back to a time when strip clubs were relegated to operating outside the city limits and patrons were still ashamed to be seen in them. The girls are friendly and happy for the business; the drinks and lap dances are cheap. After a bad day at work or a fight with your significant other, you can sit at one of the worn-out tables while flinging dollar bills and knocking back shots on autopilot (without worrying about your upcoming bar tab or unbearable boss).
For many years here at New Times, this award has been like Donald Trump's hair to a barber: We had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Dwyane Wade was clearly the best player, but we didn't want to keep naming him every year. So we gave the award to beacons of mediocrity such as Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley, and quietly melted in shame. But last summer (cue Michael Bay movie music, sounds of explosions, footage of thousands of panicked people fleeing on foot as the Cleveland skyline burns behind them), everything changed for the Miami Heat. The team was no longer a one-pony trick. It was a three-horse carriage of flames, hurtling toward Hades with a maniacally laughing Pat Riley riding bareback while holding aloft the severed head of that sorry Zen hippie Phil Jackson. Which is to say this award is suddenly relevant — and thought-provoking — again. We're giving LeBron the trophy (editor's note: there is no trophy) because he's half-gladiator, half-Greek god, half-lion, and 100 percent magnificent, arrogant, supernaturally talented asshole. Of course, now that both Wade and James have been named, we're worried about who'll get the award next year. Bosh? Is that a Dutch bath product?
Churchill's Pub
Alexander Oliva
There's so much naked flesh out on Miami streets that it takes more than just pasties, boas, and fishnets to get us excited about a burlesque troupe. Enter Hellion Burlesque with its riot grrrl aesthetic, perverse sense of humor, and capsules full of fake blood. Dancers Hellion, Ginger Bardot, and Betty Pickle might look like typical burlesquers thanks to their pin-up-girl good looks, but their routines are anything but. First, consider their range: They sashay seductively to classics, such as Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose," and to darker fare, such as Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus." Next, note their tricks: Pickle has been known to swallow a three-foot balloon. Then there's the blood. Their rendition of Eyes Wide Shut ended with the trio squirting blood, we hope fake, onto the pale chest of a fellow dancer. The experimental troupe performs regularly at Churchill's Pub — as if any other venue could handle their deliciously grotesque burlesque.
For old-school queens, the art of drag is all about female impersonation, but for a new breed of queens, all of those wigs, cosmetics, and sparkly costumes are meant less to signify feigned femininity than to celebrate a vision of pure fabulosity. We're talking glitter-bitch incarnate, honey. Take, for example, Leslie Quick, the alter ego of actor Danny Santa Cruz. Quick is one of the few queens in South Beach you might actually spot without a wig — or at least a full one. But even if she is proudly displaying a bald head, Quick isn't slow to accentuate with LCD-nightmare-hued makeup, rhinestones, and all sorts of imaginative getups. Quick might be bending gender in a new way, but she's not above the sacred drag tradition of paying homage to the strong female singers. She took her show "The Same Mobster" — yes, a tribute to a certain fame monster — on a tour of Miami clubs last summer.
The Awarehouse
On this night, you decide you're tired of the bright gallery lights, the soulless corridors of corporate event spaces, and the stale cigarette-scented couches of megaclubs. You go in search of the rabbit hole — a place where art freaks can wander aimlessly through a maze of exhibits, indie-electro fans can bang heads to the beat all night long in a warehouse garage, and New York City transplants can collapse on beanbags in a 10,000-square-foot garden to watch video projections like they're at a Central Park concert. You drink the magic potion and realize that Wonderland is really Wynwood and that the Mad Hatter tea party could take place only at Awarehouse. You quickly make friends with past partiers: electronic-norteño accordion players from Tijuana's Nortec Collective, funk-heavy hip-hoppers from N.E.R.D., American Apparel enthusiasts freaking over a rummage sale, and a plethora of experimental painters and photographers who love to watch disco lights roam over their canvases. Eventually you'll pine for the real world once again. But tonight you'll happily settle for life through the looking glass.
Two of Miami's finest art stars, Jen Stark and Alvaro Ilizarbe, both listed as Miami New Times' 100 Creatives, aren't just a couple of the most talented folks in town. They're also delightfully pleasant party guests. What makes someone a great shindig attendee? Let's look at the qualifications through Jen and Alvaro: (1) Sometimes when people are good, they think they're too good for other people. This is never the case with these two. They're never grouchy and always stop to say hello. (2) They always seem like they're enjoying themselves. There's never a moment when one is weeping in the corner while the other is punching someone in the head. (3) They're the first ones dancing. This is Miami, and you better get on the floor and move when you're tardy to the party. (4) At theme parties, Jen and Alvaro always dress to impress. One Halloween they arrived as dead surfers, complete with detailed makeup of exposed intestines. A sense of humor and a sense of fun — this pair will always bring these essential elements to your big bash.
Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre
Photo by Diego Pocovi
At just more than three hours long, Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning August: Osage County is ferocious playwriting at its best. Elaborate and epic in its operatic scope, the emotionally charged and darkly funny play puts family psychodrama center stage. As a result, the unflinching view of a dysfunctional family forced to deal with some thorny baggage packs a palpable punch. It boasted an outstanding cast and a mercurial performance by Annette Miller, who portrayed family matriarch Violet. Comedy and tragedy are present here in all of their forms, and Letts's characters are both complex and provocative. Actors' Playhouse pulled it off flawlessly. It's the kind of play that breathes new life into the Miami theater scene.
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Alliance Theatre Lab has quietly garnered a reputation for showcasing rising local talent — not only actors but also playwrights. In a hilarious, irreverent, and sentimental look at family, friendship, and the abandoned challenges of growing up, Brothers Beckett furthered that trend. Written and starring New World School of the Arts graduate and Alliance Lab Theatre alumnus David Sirois, Brothers Beckett laced sharp banter with the dark and sardonic humor that recalls classic sitcoms such as Seinfeld and The Odd Couple. Kevin and Brad Beckett are brothers, roommates, and best pals. But when Yale grad Kevin decides to propose to his longtime, long-distance girlfriend, jobless slacker Brad's world gets turned upside down. Just before Kevin's girl arrives for a weeklong visit, Brad does everything possible to prevent his brother from moving out of their bachelor pad and upsetting the order of things. It's a simple plot with a familiar outcome, but the blend of wit and heart shows us a glimpse of a bright future for Sirois and Alliance Theatre.
Florida Grand Opera
As with the best operas, The Tales of Hoffman, a 19th-century three-act work by German-born French composer Jacques Offenbach, is a stirring story that involves forbidden love, ominous symbolism, and tragic, untimely deaths. But unlike other operas, it also features enchanted mirrors, trippy magic goggles, and animatronic sex dolls. Based on the short stories of German fantasy and horror author E.T.A. Hoffman, with a French libretto by Jules Barbier, The Tales of Hoffman follows the poet's drunken odyssey of love. True to its creatively ambitious ways, Florida Grand Opera delivered a fast-paced epic production exceptionally conducted by Lucy Arner and featuring stirring performances by tenor David Pomeroy and soprano Elizabeth Futral. A fantasy opera such as The Tales of Hoffman can easily stall and languish under its own weight, but FGO produced a well-crafted spectacle that effectively captured the opera's grand scale and convoluted plot.
GableStage at the Biltmore has had its share of critically acclaimed and controversial plays — some comical, others surreal. But GableStage really shines when it comes to theatrical drama. Its small and intimate setting is perfect for productions such as last year's provocative Fifty Words and this year's moving A Round-Heeled Woman. Because the auditorium is packed tightly against the stage, the audience is right on top of the actors, lending a unique perspective. And the intimate space nurtures a more honest performance than the exaggerated belt-it-to-the-last-row screaming required in larger theaters. But the company's choice of plays, such as the politically driven Farragut North and the controversial Blasted, is what makes GableStage such a rich place to catch varied, diverse, and engaging dramas.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®