Every week, WGBH Arts Editor Jared Bowensums up the exhibitions, theater, movies and music you should check out in and around Boston.

AMERICAN EPICS: THOMAS HART BENTON AND HOLLYWOOD, at the Peabody Essex Museum through Sept. 7

Jared says: "This is really a fantastic show…As somebody who’s been out to the West a lot over the last few years, as somebody who’s fallen in love with it myself, I can see where his appreciation comes from. It’s so heartfelt."

Synopsis: Thomas Hart Benton was a major player in the early 20th century, taking in the landscape of the American West and taking on the country’s wars. And as his painting “Hollywood” would later reveal, he basked in movie magic—stemming from the days he worked right alongside early filmmakers. But Benton saw himself in competition with Hollywood. And with vivid color and complex composition, he felt he could do things black-and-white movies couldn’t. Just as directors worked from storyboards, Benton worked from clay models he sculpted. He wanted a hands-on approach to his subjects too—for what he called the “authentic” America, which didn’t quite fall in line with accepted history. The onslaught of World War II fueled a fury in Benton, and he unleashed a host of propagandistic paintings brutal for their depictions of rape, disembowelment and death. After the war a new America emerged and with it, new art. Benton’s one-time student Jackson Pollock was the new star, and Benton shifted his focus where Hollywood often did—to the West. (Learn more about Benton on Open Studio July 24.) 

NEWSIES, playing at the Boston Opera House through July 5

Jared says: "The choreography here is the star of the show…They’re so acrobatic. I lost count of the number of backflips in the show. It’s so young and vibrant and energetic."

Synopsis: Based on a 1992 Disney box-office bomb-turned-cult-favorite, "Newsies" became a Broadway hit that won Tony Awards in 2012 for Best Score and Best Choreography. The musical follows a “rag-tag gang of ragamuffins,” as they're affectionately called, who rally against the publishing magnates that try to pass along their profit loss to the boys who sell their papers. The cast belts out in one song, “They’re gonna see there’s hell to pay," and follow through, facing police, armed thugs, censorship, and the larger issue of child labor. 

TED 2, in theaters Friday

Jared says: "There is a sweet kind of sensibility about watching this teddy bear and this friendship, as profane and sophomoric as it might be."

Synopsis: In the sequel to the 2012 hit, Ted (voiced by director Seth MacFarlane) re-emerges as the smut-talking teddy bear who has left “thunder buddy” bachelor life with John (Mark Wahlberg). He's gainfully employed and married to Boston stereotype Tami-Lynn. To salvage their marriage, the couple attempts to adopt a child, until the Commonwealth of Massachusetts deems Ted not human, but property. He and John team up with a young lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) to sue the state, eventually landing celebrated civil rights attorney (Morgan Freeman) to reclaim Ted's life.

Which shows are you excited about? » Tell Jared about it on Facebook or Twitter.