Wicked Broadway fun, free dance classes, women's art and much more

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Le Rug

ONSTAGE: WICKED "Something wicked this way comes" wails Shakespeare's second witch in Macbeth. This week most of the wailing will be about the shortage of tickets for Wicked, back for another run at the Aronoff Center. Perhaps with a touch of lineage back to Shakespeare, this popular Broadway musical is about witches, too. But in this case, it's the pair from L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz and played by Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch and Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West in the classic 1939 film. Baum didn't provide much back-story about them, so novelist Gregory Maguire filled the gap with Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Composer Stephen Schwartz took over next, creating a Tony Award-winning stage version of the story about the rivalry between Glinda, all sweetness and light, and her girlhood rival Elphaba, whose green skin and intellect made her an oddball. In one funny number, Glinda lectures Elphaba about how to be "Popular." Wicked was a hard ticket to come by in March 2006, and that's the case again. (If you miss it, it's still running on Broadway.) Through Feb. 3.

(Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — RICK PENDER

SPORTS: UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI BASKETBALL Cincinnati basketball fans were so excited about the team's upset of Louisville that many started looking ahead to a respectable Big East record and a chance at playing in the postseason. Those people were brought back to reality Jan. 5, when the Cats got their asses kicked by a very average St. John's team. The schedule doesn't get any easier now, as UC will host the 12-3 Syracuse Orangemen, who have won six in a row and promise to travel six to eight players who can actually dunk the ball. The Bearcats only have like three guys who can do that, and one of them is a freshman who doesn't really play much. If 6-foot-10 center Adam Hrycaniuk doesn't start jamming the ball in the hoop instead of throwing it off the backboard, it's going to be a long season for the Bearcats. 8 p.m. Tickets: $24 adult/$15 youth. 1-877-CATS-TIX or gobearcats.com. — DANNY CROSS

ART: JEWELS OF TIME at the Taft Museum of Art through Jan. 27. See review here.

ONSTAGE: HIGH STREET A CAPPELLA A contemporary men's musical group from Columbus will kick off the first-ever chamber music season Thursday night at the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington. High Street A Cappella will perform at 7:30 p.m. The group, comprised of eight members, performs a wide repertoire ranging from Baroque, Classical and contemporary Choral music to Rock, Pop and Jazz, featuring many original compositions and arrangements. Made up of former members of the Ohio State University's Men's Glee Club, High Street A Cappella has recorded two studio albums and is working on a third. The group fits with The Carnegie's mission for the series, which is to challenge traditional assumptions about chamber music and host ensembles from various genres that will push the boundaries of the medium, organizers say. The concert will be held at The Carnegie's Otto M. Budig Theatre in Covington. An hors d'oeuvre and cocktail reception will be held before the event at 6 p.m. Tickets are available for $18 ($10 for students and ETA members) at The Carnegie box office and online at www.thecarnegie.com. Tickets for the entire season of four concerts can be purchased for $60. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — KEVIN OSBORNE

MUSIC: LE RUG The theory that great pain makes great art only holds up if the artist is a good one. Proof can be found in the innumerable mediocre Emo/Screamo bands inhabiting the planet at this moment. Proof of pain producing something a bit more engaging and real can be found in the work of Ray Weiss, the young leader of New York City Indie Pop ensemble Le Rug. His high school band had its butt sniffed by record labels, but personal turmoil (if legend is to be believed, Weiss' longtime girlfriend left him for a 15-year-old "replica" of himself) and band member infighting left that group a pile of dust. Devastated on all fronts (and reportedly having developed some substance abuse problems), Weiss finally returned to music for therapeutic reasons. Reinvigorated, Weiss formed Le Rug to play his new songs and the band and its Bleenex album started getting drooled over by bloggers and Indie fans across the country. With high-pinched vocals (think more manic Built for Spill) and a kinetic flail of wiry guitar and lashing rhythms (think The Strokes vs. The Shins), Bleenex is a sparks-laden collection of potent Pop songs that might have underpinnings of melancholy, but the buoyant energy is cranked so high, you don't have to be a depressive mess to get absorbed by it. The band plays a free show at The Gypsy Hut in Northside Thursday with local greats Eat Sugar. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — MIKE BREEN

ART/LITERARY: WOMEN WRITING FOR (A) CHANGE AT YWCA ART GALLERY "Growing older" doesn't always have to mean "going gray." Local artist Kay Muir's exhibition The Dance of the Painting: Lyrical Color on Canvas has proved that with aging not only comes wisdom but also bright colors and lyrical movement. The women and girls of Women Writing for (a) Change honor the inspirational Ms. Muir, now well into her nineties, with Conversations: Celebrating the Mysteries & Joys of Growing Older. Several writers from the group will be reading their poetry and narratives centered on the theme of growing older at the YWCA Art Gallery on Friday. The reception/refreshments begin at 6 p.m., and the readings begin at 7 p.m. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — MAIJA ZUMMO

ART: ARTWORKS The much-anticipated exhibition at Artworks — Lines, Webs, And Sites: Work By Paul Kass opens this Friday. The Alfedena Gallery in Chicago calls Kass a "most idiosyncratic sculptor, blurring the physical and conceptual boundaries between sculpture and painting." The Artworks exhibition deals with line, form and the constructions they can make. His drawings and paintings manipulate color and line to create webs, nets and entrapments of all sorts. His sculpture, gracefully minimal, undoubtedly focuses on form. And yet it also provokes a critical examination of such form. Kass uses mass-produced media for his sculptures — ripping them up and stitching them back together in recognizable geometric shapes (the cone, for example), rendered complex with allusions to organic form. Opening reception: 5-8 p.m. Friday. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — LAURA JAMES

ART: A WOMEN'S VIEW II The Carnegie opens the new year Friday with this exhibition. Despite the painfully regressive approach to curating an exhibition — lumping female artists together just because they're female isn't really breaking down any bigoted barriers, is it? — The Carnegie has managed this year to give its audience something interesting. Two young artists, Ruth Wartman and Sayaka Ganz, will fill the Ohio National Financial Services Gallery in an untitled joint exhibition. Both artists focus on birds in their work. Wartman paints lushly colored, haunting canvases featuring crows. According the Art Academy, of which Wartman is an alumna, "the crows act as psychological self-portraits, chosen for their femininity in grace, a menacing presence, and the desired perspective gained through flight." The Carnegie has 75 paintings and drawings in the show. Ganz's sculpture adds to the exhibition's intrigue: She bends and twists metal into skeletal forms of birds. Her sculptures are uncanny in their simultaneous realism and anomaly. Both artists show great promise and transform the lazy ideology of A Woman's View into something much more profound. Opening reception: 6-9 p.m. Friday. Exhibition runs through Feb. 15. (Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — LAURA JAMES

ONSTAGE: BRUCE BRUCE Like most comedians, Atlanta-born Bruce Bruce wants to do a sitcom. But beyond that he has different aspirations. The former chef and snack food company salesman would like to combine his former and current careers: "(I would like) to open my own comedy clubs with my own menu. Have a very nice menu and do a comedy show once a month." On stage Bruce Bruce mixes a deep catalog of material with observations about the audience. It's the latter, though, that he feels brings out his best work. "The best reactions are from stuff you do right off the top of your head," he says. "Like when you just create something right there on the spot." Bruce Bruce performs Friday-Sunday at The Funny Bone on the Levee. $25. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — P.F. WILSON

ONSTAGE: PERFORMANCE AND TIME ARTS "This ain't your mother's PTA," says Judith Mikita, who co-produced this weekend's Performance & Time Arts production, Event Soiree: Live Art to Entertain and Tweak the Brain. The show features mixed-media artist Eric Camper in a mock virtual reality suit, actress Alison Vodnoy performing a one-woman play about dating, Antioch College dance department director Jill Becker, performance artist and actress Louise Smith and dancer Melissa Heston. The six solos address contemporary culture and are united by subtle humor. Mikita and Steve Kreimer perform a collaborative dance with a door. The duo originally performed the piece in 1999 to contemporary Irish music. Reunited, Mikita and Kreimer push the piece's humor with a new section that is set to international Jazz Lounge music. Camper, a DAAP graduate, is unique in his choice of medium. "He literally dresses in a virtual reality suit that has these lights coming off of it and video being shown behind him," Mikita says. "It's really just a feast of technology with a human body inside of it. It shows that the spirit and technology are not at polar ends of art." Mikita says all of the pieces will make you smile, whether because of a piece's creativity and talent or straight humor. "They're all intelligent artists and they're going to tickle our brains," says Mikita, who hopes the audience walks away with "a recognition that Cincinnati can offer intriguing, imaginative, contemporary theater experiences." 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Contemporary Dance Theater in the historic College Hill Town Hall. $12; $8 students. (Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.) — SUSIE SHUTTS

MUSIC: DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN with KILLSWITCH ENGAGE and EVERY TIME I DIE play Bogart's. See previews here and in Sound Advice.

MUSIC: MAURA O'CONNELL plays Seton Performance Hall at Seton High School in Price Hill. See Sound Advice.

CLASSES: FREE DANCE WEEK Wanna burn off some of those holiday calories? Feel like dancing but aren't sure where to start? No more excuses — it's time for Cincinnati Ballet's annual Free Dance Week! From January 15-21, all classes for ages 3 to adult at the Otto M. Budig Academy — the official school of Cincinnati Ballet — will be free of charge. If ballet isn't your thing, you might try Jazz or the popular, high-energy dance workout, Rhythm & Motion, where you can get your boogie on in a wide array of styles from African to Modern to Hip Hop. You don't even need to pre-register, but a signed release form is required for participation. (Forms are available on site or online.) Visit cincinnatiballet.com for details and class schedules. — JULIE MULLINS

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