L.A. Times critics’ picks: The best 2019 tickets for giving the gift of live music and theater

Original Broadway Company of the 2017 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Revival of "Hello, Dolly!"
(Julieta Cervantes)

There was a time, when smartphones were still a relatively new addiction and not a necessity to modern living, that live entertainment seemed an endangered pastime. But as our digital lives have come to dominate so many hours of our day, it turns out that joining an audience of like-minded fans to watch a stage performance is just the break that many of us need. A pair of tickets to a concert or play is also an excellent gift. Consider these picks by classical music critic Mark Swed, theater critic Charles McNulty and pop music critic Mikael Wood for gift-giving.

RELATED: This year’s essential Christmas albums ranked, from ‘Shatner Claus’ to the irresistible JD McPherson »


Mark Swed

3 women, a concert for all

Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla conducts the LA Phil at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA October 19, 2017.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

In an era of tailor-making everything consumed and experienced to specific tastes, one size is no longer permitted to fit all. Different strokes for different folks and all that, especially when it comes to genre-filled music.


Give the gift of Patkop, Mirga, the Los Angeles Philharmonic in its attention-getting centennial season, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the gift of tradition, audacity and the gift of diversity all in one ticket envelope.


Between April 5 and 7, you have the choice of morning, afternoon or night to hear incomparably free-spirited violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and rising star conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla return Tchaikovsky’s Violin concerto to the startling fresh piece it once was before it was corralled as a weary warhorse.

In a program that also includes the world premiere of a new piece commissioned from South Korean composer Unsuk Chin, who is both experimental and traditional herself, this is a concert that promises something for everyone. For any young girls on your list, here are three role-model women among the finest performers, conductors and composers of our time.

LA Phil: Mirga Leads Tchaikovsky & Debussy, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles. 11 a.m. April 5, 8 p.m. April 6 and 2 p.m. April 7. Tickets, $20 to $194.


Mikael Wood

Classic rockers

Van Morrison, right, plays saxophone on stage at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 15, 2016.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Elton John is far from the only option for any classic-rock fan eager to see a living legend say goodbye. But you can bet that John’s final tour — he’s calling it Farewell Yellow Brick Road after his smash 1973 album of almost the same name — is the flashiest and most dramatic of the many pre-retirement road shows currently making the rounds.

Published set lists promise a crowd-pleasing survey of his deceptively quirky hits, from “Bennie and the Jets” to “Crocodile Rock”; photos from John’s Instagram suggest he’s got a sparkly jacket for each one.

Flamboyant farewells not your loved one’s thing? Surprise him or her with tickets to Van Morrison, who keeps on keeping on with a seemingly endless tour that presents the singer and songwriter from Northern Ireland as just another lifer at work.


Elton John: Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, Staples Center, Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Jan. 22, 23, 25 and 30. The Forum, Inglewood. 8 p.m. Feb. 1 and 2. Tickets, $59.50 to $1,475. or

Van Morrison, the Wiltern, Los Angeles. 7 p.m. Feb. 5 and 6. Tickets, $98 to $253.

Charles McNulty

Stage presents

Original Broadway Company production of the 2017 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Revival of "Hello, Dolly!"
(Julieta Cervantes)

Post-holiday blues can be hard to shake, so why not spring for tickets for someone on your list this year to the deliriously uplifting Broadway revival of “Hello, Dolly!” that arrives at the Hollywood Pantages on Jan. 29?

This is the Jerry Zaks production that earned Bette Midler a Tony for her vamping, vaudeville-esque turn as Dolly Levi. Betty Buckley, musical theater royalty and an actor who never fails to put her own distinctive stamp on a role, will be sashaying down the staircase of the Harmonia Gardens restaurant to the fanfare of everyone thrilled to have this majestic performer back where she belongs.

Need a gift for a theater lover who prefers more cutting-edge drama? Tracy Letts, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “August: Osage County,” has a play opening at the Mark Taper Forum beginning Jan. 9. “Linda Vista” is a dark comedy about a 50-year-old in the midst of a divorce who seeks a new start in the San Diego community that gives the play its title. The premise seems ripe for Letts’ twisted hilarity, which is another potent prescription for beating the winter doldrums.

“Hello, Dolly!” Hollywood Pantages, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. Jan. 29- Feb. 17. Tickets, $49 to $155 (subject to change). (800) 982-2787 or


“Linda Vista,” Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. Jan. 9-Feb. 17. Tickets, $30-$109 (subject to change), (213) 628-2772 or