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Event picks to make your week magical and exciting

Thursday | 27

Top Pick:

Raising the Dead

The Grateful Dead's rep as one of rock's premier live acts didn't come easy. The legendary jam band played more than 2,300 concerts from the mid-'60s until frontman Jerry Garcia's death in 1995. That doesn't mean that your chances of seeing a live Dead set are kaput. Transcending the idea of a "cover band," there is Dark Star Orchestra, an outfit bent on preserving the Grateful Dead experience down to the last detail. Each Dark Star performance is based on a specific set from the Dead's archives, recreated down to the placement of the microphone stands. So realistic is the resulting experience that even ex-Dead members have been known to perform with the band, including rhythm guitarist and vocalist Bob Weir. Dark Star Orchestra bring their good vibes (minus Weir) to the House of Blues tonight for an all-ages show. General admission is $22.50 in advance or $25 day of the show. Call 216-523-2583 for more information or visit houseofblues.com. — Bill Delaney

Family Fun

Nature Tales at the Botanical Garden

Cozy up to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, where you and the kids (ages 3 to 10) can enjoy songs, crafts, and a nature tale or two told by a Garden staffer. It all takes place inside the Eleanor Squire Library at 11 a.m. Registration is not required, but adult accompaniment sure is. Nature Tales story time continues each Thursday through March 31 and is free with regular admission: $3 for kids 3 to 12 and $8.50 for adults. For more info, visit cbgarden.org. The Cleveland Botanical Garden is at 11030 East Blvd. — Chrissy Niehaus

Friday | 28

Fantastic Freebie

A Legend Visits CIM

In what is undoubtedly the season's best entertainment bargain to date, you can take in a free appearance by award-winning Broadway and Hollywood composer Marvin Hamlisch this afternoon, as the One Singular Sensation guy leads a master class for Cleveland Institute of Music vocal students. It's happening in advance of Hamlisch's not-free Saturday-night concert with the CIM Orchestra and vocalists at Severance Hall. You'll find the maestro at 1 p.m. at CIM's Mixon Hall, 11021 East Blvd.; call 216-791-5000 for details. For the skinny on Saturday's concert, keep reading. — Elaine T. Cicora

Tribe on Tour

The Boys of Summer at Beachwood Place

Well in advance of the April 1 home opener, the Indians are hitting the road for a weekend tour of area shopping malls. Tonight they pull into Beachwood Place with a roster that includes manager Manny Acta; players Shin-Soo Choo, Tony Sipp, Michael Brantley, and Matt LaPorta; broadcaster Matt Underwood; and legendary player and manager Mike Hargrove, who led the team to World Series appearances in 1995 and 1997. Also in store: Slider, the Hot Dog mascots, and a chance to take part in baseball-themed games and activities, including a home-run derby. It's free and happening in the mall's upstairs food court from 5 to 9 p.m. The tour continues Saturday at Great Northern Mall, Sunday at Summit Mall, and Monday at Southpark Mall. Visit indians.com/tribeontour for more information. — Cicora

Our Heroes!

Last Call Cleveland Saves Cleveland

We asked local funny man Mike Polk about his troupe's show tonight at the 14th Street Theatre — Last Call Cleveland Saves Cleveland — and even his response made us chuckle. "The very loose premise is that someone stole our last remaining tourist attraction, the Free Stamp, and Mayor Jackson asks us to find it because he had to lay off the entire police force due to budget cuts. This serves as a loose and poorly executed structure for a 'greatest hits' type of show with a bunch of our sketches and songs. We ran two shows of this back in September. We've made some changes and adjustments since, and it should be pretty decent." We would expect nothing less from guys who have won rave reviews from Toronto to L.A. In addition to Polk (perhaps best known for his Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video), members of the self-proclaimed "world's only sketch comedy group" include Aaron McBride, Mark McKenzie, and Matt Zitelli. Catch them tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at 2037 East 14th St. Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 in advance at 216-241-6000 or playhousesquare.org. — Cicora

Cantores Cleveland

Madrigal Music Goes Downtown

Mad about madrigals? Then you'll be in good company tonight when the eight-member vocal ensemble Cantores Cleveland presents a concert of 16th-century secular music from Europe. Like founder and director Barbara Margolis, ensemble members are gifted professional musicians who share a passion for Renaissance vocal music — a form that can be as bawdy as it is tender. Tonight's concert, a fund-raiser, will bridge both styles as audience members are taken on a simulated tour of the Continent and England by a costumed guide. The result should be a light-hearted, somewhat educational, and thoroughly delightful evening of music inside the gallery of the Trinity Cathedral, 2230 Euclid Ave. Tickets are $10 at 216-991-0619. Visit cantorescleveland.org for more information. — Cicora

Friday | 28

Lady Wrestling!

Isis the Amazon Slams Lakewood

Mothers, lock up your sons. Isis the Amazon is coming to town, and her preferred wrestling opponents are men. "It's a lot more fun to go out and throw little men around," says Isis, who, at 6 foot 9, makes a meal out of most guys. Isis, who went by the name Aloisa during her brief stint with the WWE, uses a vast repertoire of moves in the ring, including the Big Boot, Clothesline, and Snake Eyes. But her favorite is a good ol' fashioned body slam. "I can use my strength and my size, get them over my shoulder, and just parade around the ring with them," says Isis, who played Division I basketball at Virginia under the name Lindsay Hayward. She says her goal is to parlay her wrestling into a career making action movies. Until then, you can catch her Friday at 8 p.m. as part of Absolute Intense Wrestling's Girls Night Out at St. Gregory's Byzantine Hall in Lakewood, 12920 Madison Ave. Tickets start at 10 bucks; get them at shop.aiwrestling.com. — Nathaniel Maund

Saturday | 29

Chinese New Year

Party Like It's 4709!

The Year of the Rabbit begins on February 3, but nothing says you can't get that party started early. So pull on your bunny costume (really) and hop over to Asian Town Center for today's Chinese lunar new year celebration. The festivities kick off at 11 a.m. with a traditional lion dance: a noisy, colorful, and portentous welcome to the new year. Then stick around for a full afternoon of cultural performances and kids' activities, along with plenty of good eats from nearby restaurants. Oh, and about that bunny costume: Design and don your own rabbit outfit, and be entered to win $100 in the 3:30 p.m. costume contest. Asian Town Center is at 3820 Superior Ave. Go to asiantowncenter.com for more information. — Cicora

One Singular Sensation

Marvin Hamlisch at Severance Hall

If there's a music award out there, composer Marvin Hamlisch has it resting on his mantel. That includes Oscars (3), Grammys (4), Emmys (4), Golden Globes (3), and a Tony (1) — not to mention a Pulitzer for A Chorus Line. While you might think a dude of this stature could just pass his time shooting pigeons from his penthouse window, Hamlisch maintains what sounds like an exhausting schedule as principal pops conductor for six symphony orchestras, rounded out by the occasional guest appearance. Tonight, His Awesomeness stops at Severance Hall, where he will lead the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra and vocalists in a performance of his most popular scores, including The Way We Were, The Sting, and, of course, A Chorus Line. Among the featured CIM vocalists, you'll hear sopranos Claire Connelly and Megan Hamm, and tenor Oswaldo Iraheta. Tickets for the 8 p.m. songfest are $35 to $45; snag yours by calling 216-231-1111. Severance Hall is at 11001 Euclid Ave. Visit cim.edu for more info. — Cicora

On Screen

Short-Film Fest at the Kent Stage

Amid the glitz and glamour of Hollywood's annual cycle of self congratulations, it might be nice to take a breather and appreciate the little guy. In this case, we mean that literally: Tonight, the Eighth Annual Standing Rock International Short Film & Video Festival comes to Kent. A celebration of shorties in their myriad incarnations, the festival will feature flicks from Kent to Columbus and from Turkey to the Netherlands. Animation, comedies, documentaries, and more will be on the bill, along with two silent films by Kent multimedia artist Mike Hovancsek accompanied by live music. The event's featured filmmaker is Israel's Ilana Yahav, whose beautiful animations are created by her active manipulation of small mounds of sand. (Judging by her YouTube videos, these will look immeasurably better on a big screen.) The fest begins at 8 p.m. at the Kent Stage, 175 E. Main St. in Kent. Tickets are $10, or $7 for students and seniors. For more info, along with a rundown of the films, check out standingrock.net. — Delaney

Sunday | 30

La Vida Polka

Jeff Pecon Orchestra

Long before Cleveland became the Heart of Rock & Roll, it was widely acknowledged as the Polka Capital of the Midwest, thanks mainly to a Slovenian population that was the largest in the nation. Starting today, the region's eight remaining Slovenian National Homes, or cultural centers, are keeping that tradition alive with the launch of the 2011 Polka Tour of Greater Cleveland. Co-sponsored by the long-running Tony Petkovsek Radio Show (WELW-AM), the tour kicks off at 3 p.m. with a concert by the Jeff Pecon Orchestra, with special guest (and Frankie "Polka King" Yankovic protégé) Joey Miskulin on the accordion. The venue — the circa-1925 Slovenian Home at 6417 St. Clair Ave. — is as special as the music, notable for its art, archives, and a series of painted wall murals depicting Slovenian life. Take it in for $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Call 216-361-5115 for tickets and more information. The tour continues through October with nine additional stops; for a complete schedule, call 440-951-7235. — Cicora

Swing Brunch

Scrambled Legs

Spend a not-so-lazy Sunday at the Beachland Ballroom's Swing Brunch, a musically infused chow-down that will leave you foot loose and well fed. On the day's menu of activities: a well-stocked buffet featuring scrambled eggs, bacon, au gratin potato soufflé, bread pudding, and fresh fruit salad; swing dance lessons from Get Hep Swing Dance Co.; and a chance to practice what you've learned to the sounds of Ernie Krivda and the Fat Tuesday Big Band. The lesson ($5) runs from 11 a.m. to noon; brunch ($8) is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and the band ($10) makes its Beachland debut from noon to 3 p.m. Sign up for all or part of the fun by calling 216-383-1124 or at beachlandballroom.com. The Beachland is at 15711 Waterloo Road. — Niehaus

Monday | 31

Fit for Foodies

Wine Dinner at Grovewood Tavern

The Big Fat Cab Dinner returns tonight to the Grovewood Tavern. According to owner Beth Davis-Noragon, it's the rare opportunity to sample palate-pleasing California reds at all price points that has made this dinner a winner for the past seven years. Tonight's menu highlights five outstanding wines from Napa and Paso Robles, including a 2006 Dominus Estate Bordeaux Blend and a 2005 Guenoc Napa Valley Cab. To go with: six enticing courses from the Grovewood kitchen, including roasted quail, osso buco, seared strip steak, and mocha mousse with Tellicherry peppercorn. To help pinpoint the wines' pedigrees and nuances, Vintage Wine Distributors' Abby Miller will be on hand. The indulgence begins at 6:30 p.m. and costs $82 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are required at 216-531-4900. The Grovewood Tavern is at 17105 Grovewood Ave.; check out grovewoodtavern.com for details. — Cicora


Meet a Man Who Stared at Goats

Retired colonel and intel expert John B. Alexander will be on hand tonight at the Cleveland Cinematheque, following a special screening of The Men Who Stare at Goats, the 2009 satire based on the government's real-life attempts to harness psychic powers in the war against Iraq. Colonel Alexander was one of the military men upon whom the movie was based; today, he is a leading advocate for the development of non-lethal weapons, as well as a student of mysticism, ufo-logy, and near-death experiences. The Cleveland Council on World Affairs is sponsoring Alexander's appearance, which includes plenty of time for a post-flick meeting of the minds. It all begins at 7 p.m. at the Cleveland Cinematheque, 11141 East Blvd.; reserve your $12 ticket at ccwa.org. For more information, concentrate real hard on cia.edu./cinematheque. — Cicora

Tuesday | 01

Cook's Choice

Guilt-Free Goodies in Independence

Just in time for Valentine's Day, learn to share the love but spare the arteries in this low-fat dessert demo by culinary instructor Susan Aldrich. She's a corporate trainer by day, a chef by night — and her recipe collection includes lemon cheesecake pie, easy tiramisu, chocolate-Oreo mousse pie, and an Amish-inspired strawberry pie, among others. Tonight's class includes plenty of samples, along with copies of the recipes to try out at home. The popular local cooking teacher is HQ'd in Brunswick and teaches at Polaris Career Center in Middleburg Heights; her bio and a full schedule of classes are available at cooksusan.com. Tonight's demo at the Independence branch library is free, but registration is required at 216-447-0160. The library is at 6361 Selig Dr. — Cicora

Wednesday | 02

On Screen

Twisted Cinema at the Art Museum

You've seen Danny Trejo in movies like Desperado, Dusk to Dawn, and Machete. The tats, guttural growl, and menacing air have made the actor a fave with his second cousin, director Robert Rodriguez. Now, in another role that seems tailored to his bad-ass persona, he stars alongside Randy Russell and Mark Borchardt in Frankie Latina's Modus Operandi, an indie tribute to exploitation movies that out-grinds even Grindhouse. The 2009 flick follows the twisted story of a CIA agent seeking revenge on his wife's killer: blood, gore, and brutality ensue. The adults-only flick screens at 7 p.m. at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Admission at the door is $9, less for students and seniors. For more info, go to clevelandart.org. The Cleveland Museum of Art is at 11150 East Blvd. — Niehaus

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