Elizabeth Blair

Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812 was supposed to be the next Hamilton. It was going to invigorate Broadway and attract younger and more diverse audiences — and it almost succeeded. Instead, it's closing on Sept. 3, in part because of a controversy over casting and race.

Comedians have vastly different styles and sensibilities. Nowhere is this more apparent than at Montreal's annual Just For Laughs comedy festival, where one minute you're riding a speedboat of brainy one-liners from Jerry Seinfeld; the next, you're floating along with the intoxicating tales of Ron Funches.

Comedians are just as varied in their decisions of whether to talk politics on stage.

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The third and final movie in the "Planet Of The Apes" trilogy opens today. In this retelling of the original movies, the apes are in an epic battle for their survival.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES")

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has had several confrontations with Chinese authorities. (He was once beaten so badly by police that he had to have brain surgery.) Through it all, Ai continued to make art, and his art continued to travel the world, sometimes without him.

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It is a good time for the spoken word. There's a whole lot out there - from radio to podcasts to audio books. Turns out there are lots of choices out there for young audiophiles too.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WOW IN THE WORLD")

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A painting of a skull by Jean-Michel Basquiat broke records at Sotheby's last night. The work sold for more than $110 million. As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, that is the most ever for an American artist's work at auction.

When Josh Groban takes his final bow in Broadway's Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812, he'll leave some very big shoes to fill. Fans of the multiplatinum-selling recording artist have flocked to see him in this exuberantly offbeat musical, which is based on a section of the Russian novel War and Peace.

Elmo and Big Bird have lots of experience teaching children everything from the ABCs to autism. Soon, they could be bringing smiles — and education — to millions of refugee children forced from their homes in Syria, Iraq and other war-torn countries.

Actor Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, 24: Legacy) remembers the moment he knew he wanted to be a performer. At 9 years old, the Washington, D.C., native auditioned for a Kennedy Center production of The Brothers of the Knight, a children's musical about a preacher who doesn't approve of his 12 sons' all-night dancing.

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During the Vietnam War, An-My Le lived with her family in Saigon in the southern part of the country. It was April 1975, the tense days before the city fell to the North Vietnamese, and there was a knock on the door.

Infinity is a concept that's nearly impossible to grasp, let alone see. But it's one of artist Yayoi Kusama's obsessions.

When the Oregon Shakespeare Festival asked playwright Lisa Loomer if she'd be interested in writing a play about Roe v. Wade, she was understandably skeptical. The 1973 Supreme Court decision, which legalized a woman's right to an abortion, marked a historic moment, but more than 40 years later the issue is far from settled.

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It didn't get a lot of attention – and maybe that was intentional - but a new website from President-elect Donald Trump's transition team went live last week. It's too soon to judge the Trump administration's aesthetic sensibilities, but the new site provides some clues.

Troll dolls, those novelty toys with fluorescent Don King hair, are now the stars of their own movie. It's a balance between feel-good fun and the kind of offbeat humor that aims to keep adults in their seats.

Rod Temperton has been called pop music's "Invisible Man" because few knew his name. But his songs were megahits in the 1970s and 80s. Along with big hair, wide lapels and bell bottoms, his music helped define the disco era. Temperton died of cancer last week in London, according to a statement from his publisher. He was 66.

Curious George famously managed all sorts of escapes — from policemen, firemen, zookeepers and plenty other humans who didn't like his mischief. But many readers don't know that the husband-wife team who created the inquisitive little monkey — who is celebrating his 75th birthday this year — had the most harrowing escape of all.

Please, have a seat; it's time to talk about chairs.

If fashion is art, Sonia Rykiel is considered a master. Women's Wear Daily dubbed her the "queen of knitwear" — though she was the first to admit she didn't know how to knit — and her designs have been shown in museums. Rykiel, who had Parkinson's disease, died Thursday morning at her home in Paris. She was 86.

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"Everybody's gotta have a little place for their stuff. That's all life is about. Trying to find a place for your stuff." — George Carlin

It's one of his most famous routines and, like all great comedy, contains more than a grain of truth.

Since he died eight years ago, the keeper of George Carlin's "stuff" has been his daughter, writer and performer Kelly Carlin. She says he kept everything: Scrapbooks. Arrest records. The pink slip to his first car, a Dodge Dart. VHS tapes.

You may have seen the crazy amounts of money spent at high end art auctions: $81 million for a Mark Rothko, $179 million for a Picasso. Now, a new memoir called The Auctioneer dishes about the tycoons, rock stars and royalty who play in this high-priced game. Simon de Pury is an art world insider who has been called the "Mick Jagger" of auctions — he once even tried to compete with the two power houses, Christie's and Sotheby's.

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We're going to take a few minutes now to look back at the life of a gender-bending artist who gave us wailing guitar ballads, excellent dance songs and a lot more. Prince died today at Paisley Park, his home in Minneapolis. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

One of the most iconic songs of the civil rights movement is now the subject of a lawsuit.

The so-called Panama Papers have shined a light on the hundreds of thousands of shell companies used to circulate assets around the world. One of those assets is fine art, and the leaked papers show how collectors and companies have secretly bought and sold famous works by artists like Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso, among others.

Beatles fans around the world are paying tribute to the group's longtime producer, Sir George Martin, who died Tuesday at age 90.

Paul McCartney said in a statement, "The world has lost a truly great man who left an indelible mark on my soul and the history of British music." George Martin also left a lasting mark on the art of record production.

Whether horns or harpsichord, so many of the embellishments you hear on the Beatles' songs came from Martin. He wasn't just a good producer, says Grammy-winning producer Nigel Godrich.

First, it's not really black. It's not even a color or a pigment. "Vantablack" is a "material," according to Surrey NanoSystems, the British company that created it.

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