The Weekly Wire: The Week's Recommended Events

THURSDAY /2/3 Burlesque: Take Most of It Off! Overbearing mothers skank up their preteen daughters for beauty pageants while we watch in horror. But is this anything new? Not according to Karen Abbott, author of American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee (Random House, $26), whose subject was born in Seattle 100 years ago. In Abbott's telling, the money-lusting Mama Rose—played by Ethel Merman in the landmark 1959 Broadway musical Gypsy, based on Lee's memoirs—cared more about her two daughters' early vaudeville fame than their well-being. Lee and her sister, future actress June Havoc, were ruled by the whims of a near-madwoman. And while Lee became a striptease star by the '30s, she still struggled for the love of an unforgiving, finicky public. Yet by the '50s, she had developed a confident, comic, almost intellectual persona that has much to do with the current burlesque revival. Appropriately, Abbott's presentation will be accompanied tonight by performers including Miss Indigo Blue and The Swedish Housewife. Oddfellows Hall, 915 E. Pike St., 478-9475, $5. 7 p.m. LAURA EASLEY FRIDAY 2/4 Dance: Sweet Confections December may be forever dedicated to holiday shows, but February has its own holiday juggernaut. Valentine's Day demands art, and dance, about romance. PNB's Cinderella fills that bill nicely, with just enough angst from the motherless daughter before the prince and the happy ending arrive. Choreographer Kent Stowell spent more time with the Charles Perrault tale than the Disney movie did—no singing mice here. (Prokofiev supplies the score.) Modeling his work on the great 19th-century ballets, collaborating with scenic designer Tony Straiges and costumer Martin Pakledinaz, Stowell created an expansive version of the story (first performed in 1994). The lavish ballroom scene featues gowns as scarlet as the best box of chocolates, which you may crave after the show. (Through Feb. 13.) McCaw Hall, 301 Mercer St. (Seattle Center), 441-2424, $27–$165. 7:30 p.m. SANDRA KURTZ Dance: Site Specific When Merce Cunningham first started presenting his work in art galleries, pulling apart dances and scrambling their sections, it was a radical thing to do to dance qua dance. But in the early postwar era, it wasn't so apparent what a significant change Cunningham (1919–2009) was making in the where of dance—the venues where his choreography was performed. Galleries offered more than walls for paintings and pedestals for sculpture—they were series of spaces that could hold dancing or watching or both. For a series called The Merce Cunningham minEvent Project, the student company from Cornish College (Cunningham's alma mater) has been mixing and matching his kinetic material with various locations. This morning, the dancers will offer a tour of the Paramount, whose grand old stairs, balconies, and lobby will provide stately backdrops for excerpts from Cunningham's Roara-torio, Fabrications, and Enter. Other venues include ACT (tonight and Saturday), SAM, and the Olympic Sculpture Park. (Through April 21.) Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., 877-784-4849, Free. 10 a.m. SANDRA KURTZ SATURDAY 2/5 Stage: He Is American Music Never was "musical training" more irrelevant than in the case of Irving Berlin. Aside from being the son of a cantor, he had none (is it true he could only play on the black keys of the piano?)—only the inexplicable, almost frightening ability, again and again, to pull sounds from his head and insert them in yours. Growing up, archetypally, on the Lower East Side, in a single-parent family more than usually impoverished even for that 'hood, Berlin went to work early as a Tin Pan Alley song-plugger, soaking up everything there was to soak about pop music and wringing it back out in a seemingly effortless and endless series of hits. Of all the Great American Songbook composers, he was surely the most chameleonic. He could come up with a rouser as square, in all senses, as "God Bless America," or something as intricately sophisticated as "Puttin' On the Ritz"—in which he divides 16 beats, four bars of four, into 7 + 7 + 2, securing the off-kilter sevens with a rhyme ("If you're blue and you don't know where/To go to, why don't you go where"). Then there's the white-mink suavity of "Let's Face the Music and Dance" vs. the elegiac "White Christmas" and the klieg-lit anthem "There's No Business Like Show Business" and a dozen or a billion more tunes with nothing in common but their unbudgeableness from the national psyche. Tonight's revue, starring Shelly Burch, Louis Hobson, and many more, celebrates his legacy. (Also 2 p.m. Sun.) Moore Theatre, 1932 Second Ave., 877-784-4849, $24. 8 p.m. GAVIN BORCHERT Books: T Is for Trenches "Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life," says the narrator of David Levithan's new novel, The Lover's Dictionary (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $18). "No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough." Be that as it may, Levithan still has a go at it, telling a love story through a series of alphabetical definitions. Thus, under "brash," his narrator relates a first night together. Under "grimace," he describes the girl's morning breath. The story is wonderfully scattershot, skipping back and forth in time from sweet beginnings to painful degradation. (Anybody seen Blue Valentine?) And the definitions are sometimes bracingly, horribly honest and sometimes fleet and witty ("antsy, adj., I swore I would never take you to the opera again"; "celibacy, n., n/a.") Levithan is known for his young-adult fiction—most notably, the super-twee Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist—and The Lover's Dictionary is his first adult novel. Some of his Dictionary exhibits the super-dramatic, breathless style of teen lit. But its exuberance mostly rings true for us old people, too. At a key turning point in the relationship, the narrator recognizes that "We have fallen through the surface of want and are deep in the trenches of need." Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., 624-6600, Free. 7 p.m. ERIN K. THOMPSON Music: Diamond Club Let's say you're out on a hot August night, and you bump into a young lady who's a ringer for Mila Kunis. Mila's doppelgänger takes a shine to you, and you share common interests, like horseback riding, recumbent bicycling, homemade salsa, and geology. She's a veterinarian, bright and witty. Given that she looks like Mila Kunis, she's also smoking hot. You end up talking and drinking for hours, then head back to her place, where you have incredible sex. Not one-night-stand sex, but Wesley Snipes sex—furniture-cracking coitus you want to have again and again, and will, because you set a date to meet for dinner before you leave in the morning. Upon returning home, you get an invitation to meet some friends for brunch. When you regale them with details of your night over corned-beef hash, do any of them say, "Well, she may have looked like Mila Kunis, but she wasn't Mila Kunis, so kick her to the curb"? No, they don't. Rather, they're in awe of you for scoring a girl who looked just like Mila Kunis. Similarly, Super Diamond isn't Neil Diamond, but they sound a lot like him. And that's still mighty fine. (With local openers The Dudley Manlove Quartet.) Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151, $15–$20. 8 p.m. MIKE SEELY Sports: I-5 Rivals Seattle vs. Portland conjures memories of classic rivalries—Sonics vs. Blazers, Sounders vs. Timbers, even (going way back) Rainiers vs. Beavers. But with our former NBA team in Oklahoma City and Portland's MLS expansion entry not taking the pitch until next month, tonight's college basketball game at the Key is the best duel in town. Coached by former UW assistant Cameron Dollar, Seattle U found unexpected success last season, going 17–14 in its first Division I campaign since 1980. The Redhawks have struggled this season at 8–14, thanks in part to a brutal schedule that has included just seven home games. Their offense is balanced, with four players—Aaron Broussard, Sterling Carter, Alex Jones, and Cervante Burrell—scoring in double figures, but they're mediocre defensively. That spells trouble against Portland, with two of the country's top 3-point shooters, Nemanja Mitrovic and Marysville's Jared Stohl. The Pilots' main man has a familiar name: Senior forward Luke Sikma, son of Sonics legend Jack, leads Portland in rebounding and steals and is second in scoring and assists. Two more reasons to go: The #32 jersey of Tom Workman, who starred for Seattle U in the mid-'60s, will be retired at halftime; and there's a special Family Value Pack, with four tickets, four hot dogs, and two soft drinks (a $90 value) going for $50. KeyArena, 305 Harrison St. (Seattle Center), 800-745-3000, $15–$42. 7:10 p.m. MICHAEL MAHONEY SUNDAY 2/6 Comedy: Ahead of the Curve Back in 2005, a little-known San Francisco comic made a crack about a little-known Illinois senator, also black. Said W. Kamau Bell, "There will never be a black president named Barack Obama. Because that is too black." Then the unthinkable happened: Obama actually became president, and Bell focused his comedy into a stand-alone show, The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour. He's been performing and refining the act for years, adapting topics of his ire from George W. Bush to Michele Bachmann. And while he comes at the subject of race from a Bay Area liberal's perspective, his jokes also range from Star Trek to kung fu movies to Macbeth. ("As a society," says this Chicago-raised utopian, "let's be the The Matrix part one, not The Matrix II and III.") And, like the president, Bell has stripped the anger from his smart, genial demeanor—he's like the funniest dude in your Ph.D. program. Though he's a young guy, fluent in blogging and Facebook, he's also a bit of a throwback—skipping over the incendiary taunts of Pryor and Murphy back to the early humor of Cosby (before sweaters and sitcoms). Also note the ticket price: two-for-one if "you bring a friend from a different race." It's a great chance to save some money and meet someone not in your usual online-dating profile. Annex Theatre, 1100 E. Pike St., 728-0933, $20. 8 p.m. BRIAN MILLER TUESDAY 2/8 Stage: "Just a Small-Town Girl . . ." Journey. Whitesnake. REO Speedwagon. Styx. Names that don't get old, brands that never become fashionable, bands that not even hipsters can revive as ironic T-shirts. What do these album-rock '80s dinosaurs have in common? Their songs are featured in the touring, Tony-nominated jukebox musical Rock of Ages. Set back in the gloriously hair-sprayed year of 1987, the boy-meets-girl plot doesn't matter. Nor does the acting (Constantine Maroulis, of American Idol fame, is among the big-lunged cast). For theatergoers not even born in the '80s, here's a little primer on that decade and its music: Everything was totally awesome, jeans were stonewashed and worn proud and high, nobody was emo, and love was an emotion best expressed with an open-E chord run through a Marshall stack. Don't forget that feeling. Don't stop. Don't stop believin'. (Through Sun.) Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., 877-STG-4TIX, $28.50 and up. 7:30 p.m. BRIAN MILLER

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