Taste of Cincinnati, New Orleans benefit concert, Jersey Boys, CAC opening, Robbie Knievel and much more

CityBeat Recommends

May 21, 2008 at 2:06 pm
Chris Bennion

Jersey Boys

ONSTAGE: JERSEY BOYS Oh, what a night! Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were all the rage way back when (it was 1962, if you really must know). And they might have remained a 1960s blip on your oldies radio station if it hadn't been for the 2006 Tony Award-winning best musical, Jersey Boys. The cynics will tell you that it's just one more "jukebox" musical, an excuse to string together a bunch of familiar Pop tunes — especially if they'll appeal to Baby Boomers. But Jersey Boys has something more, maybe several somethings. First, there's the music: catchy tunes with melodies that people either remember from 40 years ago or that get stuck in the brains of younger entertainment seekers, even if the songs are new to them. Second, the story isn't contrived (à la Mamma Mia). In fact, it's true, recounting how Valli and his bandmates made their way in the music industry with more than two dozen hits — including No. 1 Billboard songs like "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man" and "Rag Doll" — that eventually landed them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Third, and most important, each production of Jersey Boys, from the Tony winner on Broadway to this national tour that will be here until June 15, has assembled a winning cast that's talented and fun to watch. Rather than stars, each Jersey Boys' cast has become a legitimate, coherent ensemble — just like the original Four Seasons.

Through June 15 at the Aronoff Center. $20-$80. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Rick Pender

EVENTS: ZOO BABIES This is the last week to see the Cincinnati Zoo's 22nd annual Zoo Babies display. It's not like they're going to kill them off after Sunday — they'll still be in their exhibits — but there won't be the additional free talks and musicians scattered throughout the park celebrating these little things. If you do happen to catch them this week, follow the 6-foot-tall pink and blue stork statues around the park and they'll lead you to the baby animals. This year the zoo welcomes a baby bearcat, gorilla, Sumatran rhino, potto (pictured), takin, cheetah and more. Find a "Baby Talk" session to learn about each new baby. The talks run from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each day and are held in each baby's habitat. $13 adults; $8 children; free for children under 2. (Get Zoo details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Maija Zummo

MUSIC: GIVE BACK TO THE BIRTHPLACE OF JAZZ BENEFIT With fresh news that the New Orleans relief efforts (yes, they're ongoing, way-post-Katrina) are running out of funds, the time couldn't be more right for Wednesday's "Give Back to the Birthplace of Jazz" benefit concert at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley. The show will raise money for Give Back Cincinnati's upcoming summer trip to New Orleans to build houses. The concert/benefit features appropriately N'awlins-flavored Jazz and Cajun music from the local music scene. Slated to appear are local Cajun juggernaut Lagniappe, the marching-band-styled Queen City Zapatistas, local Jazz hero Erwin Stuckey and Dixieland faves the Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band. Music starts at 7 p.m. The concert is the first of the CincyDiversity concert series, which will feature a monthly "cultural theme" and benefit a related nonprofit. Liz Wu, an organizer of the series (and CityBeat contributor) says the CincyDiversity events strive to "encourage integration of the community through music." (Get event details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Mike Breen

ONSTAGE: AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS uses five actors to depict a hilarious voyage. See Rick Pender's review here.

ART: CARL SOLWAY GALLERY's latest exhibitions, Accumulations & Constructions and Off the Yellow Brick Cliff, are an unlikely but surprisingly complementary pairing. See Angela Kilduff's review here.

COMEDY: BILLY GARDELL It's taken 17 years, but people are finally starting to notice comedian Billy Gardell. This past TV season he appeared on My Name Is Earl as well as Desperate Housewives. On the season finale of the latter he made advances towards Eva Longoria. "I (got) to kiss her, and then she (slapped) me," he says, laughing. "It was like being married." His first love is still stand-up, though TV work appeals to him for one very important reason: "I love the stand-up performance, but I like the acting money better." In fact, he's unabashed about his approach to TV. "Ultimately, I want to get on a show for four years, then disappear and go golf." Not particularly surprising for this self-described working-class comic. "I think the loss of the working class and the loss of tradition in this country is what we're missing today." Gardell performs Thursday-Sunday at Funny Bone on the Levee in Newport. $15-$17. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — P.F. Wilson

MUSIC: DEVOTCHKA, the multi-instrumental Euro-Gypsy Folk quartet, performs Thursday at the Southgate House. See interview here.

ART: CONTEMPORARY ARTS CENTER OPENING Uncoordinated: Mapping Cartography in Contemporary Art is now open. Its participants approach the conceptual implications of maps and mapping, underscoring maps' inherent rhetoric and the subjective bias that visual reduction casts over "the truth." Curated by the CAC's own Clare Norwood, one of the most exciting features of this exhibition is its healthy mixture of local and internationally established artists. Local heroes like Matt Coors and Tim McMichael are included along with Jimmy Baker, who continues to garner renown across the country. Russell Crotty's elegant and obsessive astronomy drawings on paper globes and books are always astounding. Best of all is the witty Aleksandra Mir, who approaches her various artistic projects with a background in cultural anthropology, resulting in smart observations about her environment and its conditions. Also opening this week at the CAC (with a party tonight) is American Idyll: Contemporary Art and Karaoke, an interactive look at the role karaoke plays in American life. $7.50; $6.50 seniors; $5.50 students. (Get gallery details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Matt Morris

STUNTS: ROBBIE KNIEVEL For most kids growing up in the 1970s, the death-defying stunts of Evel Knievel were as much a part of their cultural landscape as Pop Rocks, mood rings and feathered hair. Now Knievel's son, "Kaptain" Robbie Knievel, is trying to follow in his father's skidmarks. Thirty-three years ago, on Oct. 25, 1975, Evel successfully jumped over 14 Greyhound buses at the Kings Island amusement park, an event that was the last big jump of the legendary daredevil's career. Robbie will attempt to surpass his father's stunt today with a jump over 24 trucks at the park in what's likely to be the last big jump of his own 37-year daredevil riding career. Come watch as Robbie works out his father issues in front of hundreds of onlookers. Gates open at 10 a.m. and the jump occurs at 7 p.m. Free with park admission ($29.99). Discount tickets can be purchased in advance online at www.visitkingsisland.com or at Kroger, Meijer and Discount Drug Mart stores. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Kevin Osborne

EVENTS: TASTE OF CINCINNATI Grill-outs don't always work, especially after the propane tank has blown up your garage and your eyebrows are sitting in a small pile of embers at your feet. Instead of firing up the grill this weekend, fire up the family vehicle and drive on down to Fifth Street to witness the nation's longest culinary arts festival. There will be more food than you can shake a fork at, spread out for nearly six blocks. Enjoy culinary masterpieces from more than 40 fine restaurants as they sauté, broil and sear their coveted menu items. As the food digests, relax and groove to live music at one of the five stages. The fun is going on all weekend, so forget being the barbeque wannabe and let someone else do the work for you. Admission is free but sadly the food is not. (Get event details here.) — Beth Rudolph

EVENTS: LET IT GROW TOUR The Web site for Wahl Home Products, the company sponsoring this weekend's "Let It Grow Tour," describes its customers' facial hair-growing lifestyle: "Here, men grow beards just because they can and live life on their own terms." We at CityBeat can relate because we're totally free-spirited, but also because our friend Matt Bischoff has a massive beard that he plans to enter into Wahl's "Man of the Year" contest at Fountain Square this weekend. The contest will rate facial-hair styles all over the country and crown a national winner. In addition to soliciting crazy beards, Wahl will accept donations of razors, scissors and out-of-date trimmers (you don't need them if you're growing a beard) and donate $1 to the YMCA for each item donated. Noon-midnight Saturday-Monday on Fountain Square. www.wahlnation.com. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Danny Cross

MUSIC: OURS supports its latest album, Mercy (Dancing for the Death of an Imaginary Enemy), at Bogart's. See Sound Advice preview here.

MUSIC: JASON DENNIE, local guitar virtuoso, plays Jaspers in Mount Lookout. See interview here.

EVENTS: CINCY FRINGE FESTIVAL kicks off with an opening party at 9 p.m. at Know Theatre featuring local bands The Hiders and Eclipse. See the Fringe Festival preview here.

ART: ART ACADEMY OF CINCINNATI hosts the Visual Fringe portion of this year's Cincy Fringe Festival with an opening 6-9 p.m. Tuesday. See preview here.

MUSIC: NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS, accomplished and well-armed, play The Southgate House. See Sound Advice preview here.

EVENTS: JOHN SINCLAIR DOCUMENTARY Cincinnati filmmaker Steve Gebhardt has traveled around the world screening his latest documentary, Twenty to Life; The Life & Times of John Sinclair, to appreciative audiences, but his only previous public screening here was derailed by a snowstorm a few months back. So, University of Cincinnati's Reel Cinema has scheduled a make-up date at 7:30 p.m. May 28 in the Kaplan Auditorium (room 5401, DAAP Building). The screening is free and Gebhardt will be present for a Q&A. Sinclair, the Detroit hippie/radical who managed the Rock band MC5 and started the White Panther Party, was originally the (absent) subject of Gebhardt's concert film Ten for Two. It chronicled a 1971 Ann Arbor concert — featuring John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Bob Seger, Allen Ginsberg and others — staged to free Sinclair from jail, where he had been sent for 10 years on a minor marijuana charge. The film never got a U.S. release, but Gebhardt and the subsequently freed Sinclair became friends. This long-in-planning documentary about Sinclair's fascinating life is the result. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — Steven Rosen