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The freshest events for this fabulous week in Cleveland

Thursday | 03

At the Improv

A New, Improved Mencia

Famous for his brutally honest and sometimes divisive humor, Carlos Mencia — probably best-known for Comedy Central's Mind of Mencia — is bringing his 50-city, cross-country tour to the Improv tonight. Turns out he loves our town. "It's not like Boston or L.A.," Mencia says. "Cleveland doesn't look at itself with a big attitude. It has a sort of humility about it, and it draws a lot of energy from that." Ass-kissing aside, Mencia tells us tonight's show will be different from past projects. For one, he's slimmed down, neatened up, and looks about a decade younger. For another, he's started channeling some of his inner Everyman. "When I first started out, I was a ghetto comedian trying to prove myself," Mencia says. "Now I have gone from ghetto to success, so things will be a little different. Especially in my latest Comedy Central special, New Territory: It's going to be a big change in how people perceive me. I'm going to reveal a little more of my vulnerabilities. In everything else, you've seen Superman. In this show, you're going to see a little more Clark Kent." New Territory premieres on Comedy Central on December 4. Tonight's show starts at 7:30. Show-only tickets are $30; a dinner package costs $49. — Matthew Stafford

1148 Main Ave., 216-696-IMPROV,

clevelandimprov.com.

Friday | 04

Calling All Block Heads

Lego KidsFest Takes Over The I-X Center

Today marks the launch of the three-day Lego KidsFest at the IX Center. According to KidsFest spokesman Aaron Wartner, the three acres of family fun includes construction zones, life-sized models and displays, and tons of hands-on activities for kids big and small. "We don't want to give too many of our secrets away, but our newest addition is a Cars play area, with a gigantic Lightning McQueen model made entirely of Lego bricks." To make sure everyone gets a chance to play, admission is timed. Today's session runs from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Additional sessions are set for Saturday and Sunday. Tickets for any session are $18 for kids and $20 for grownups. Get your tickets and more information at legokidsfest.com. — Stafford

1 I-X Center Dr., 216-676-6000,

ixcenter.com.

Viva & Gala at the Art Museum

Get Your Ngoni On

Their instruments look weird, but Bassekou Kouyate and his six-piece band, Ngoni Ba, move it and groove it like a bunch of rock stars. An award-winning musician, Bassekou has revolutionized traditional Malian music by infusing it with rock, roll, and American roots. "He felt the ngoni (a primitive stringed lap instrument) was losing its connection to the younger generation," explains Massoud Saidpour, performing arts director for the Cleveland Museum of Art and the guy who lured Ngoni Ba to town this week. "Bassekou's genius was in expanding the ngoni's possibilities: playing it like a guitar, while on his feet, and turning it into a lead instrument." Bassekou's other groundbreaking notion was putting together an ensemble of four ngoni players, two percussionists, and a female singer for joyful live performances that weave a tapestry of ancient and contemporary sounds. "They lay down some very hypnotic dance grooves," says Saidpour. "They really get people up on their feet." Part of the museum's Viva & Gala series, tonight's performance is at 7:30 p.m. in the Gartner Auditorium. General admission tickets are $29 and $34, and students may pay what they can at the door. Order them by phone or online. — Cicora

11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7350,

clevelandart.org/vivagala.

Very Famous

Michael Ian Black Graces the Grog Shop

Is the intimate Grog Shop the right place for a big-deal comic like Michael Ian Black? "I wish I could tell you, but I'm not responsible for booking my venues," sniffs the star of the famously canceled series The State, Stella, and Michael and Michael Have Issues. "On the other hand, one of the perks of not being on TV is that you get to play lots of 'intimate' venues." We'll see if he fits tonight at 7 p.m., when M.I.B. brings his Black Is White tour to Cleveland Heights. After more than 20 years in the biz, Black has turned his supposed lack of success into a laugh line: Very Famous is the sardonic title of both his first Comedy Central stand-up special and his second CD, both of which dropped in August. But it isn't like the dude is collecting unemployment. He's also a screenwriter (including 2007's Run, Fatboy, Run), an author of books for children and adults, and co-host of a popular podcast. Still, he describes his persona as a blend of self-aggrandizement and self-loathing, "a marvelous combo, and actually how I feel about myself." Has he ever considered leveraging his sex appeal in his search for an audience? "I do nothing but attempt to leverage my appeal — sexual or otherwise — into my search for fame and fortune," he says evenly. "And you can see the results: I'm playing the Grog Shop." Tickets are $20 at the club, by phone, online, or at various local music stores; see the website for details. — Cicora

2785 Euclid Hts. Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5588, grogshop.gs.

Children's Theater

Ferdinand the Bull Comes to Willoughby

For those who prefer to sit and smell the flowers, this weekend's production of Ferdinand the Bull at the Willoughby Fine Arts Association is a gentle affirmation of the laid-back lifestyle. Produced and performed by the Barberton-based Magical Theater Company, the classic 1938 children's tale by American author Munro Leaf became the subject of political controversy during the Spanish Civil War, when the right wing excoriated it and leftists embraced it. Today, though, it's just a sweet, satisfying story of a little fella sitting under a cork tree who refuses to be goaded into violence — plus, of course, the inspiration for the title of a Fall Out Boy album. Tonight's curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. in the association's Corning Auditorium. Additional performances are set for Saturday and Sunday. Tickets range from $10 to $15; snag them by phone or online. — Cicora

38660 Mentor Ave., Willoughby, 440-951-7500, fineartsassociation.org.

Fun for Grape Heads

The World Series of WineMarks Its 16th Year

As sure as the crush follows the harvest, the Heinen's/WVIZ World Series of Wine returns this weekend for its 16th consecutive year. The annual fund-raiser for WVIZ/PBS ideastream does to wine lovers what a field of catnip does to Mr. Whiskers: makes 'em roll-on-the-floor crazy — but in a good way, of course! On this year's must-do list: five different wine seminars at assorted venues, an Italian food-and-wine extravaganza at Legacy Village, and three Grand Tastings at the Terrace Club, featuring 400 international and domestic wines from more than 150 fine wineries. (Don't try tasting them all in one night.) Tonight's Grand Tasting begins at 7:30. General admission is $75. Tickets and a complete schedule of activities can be found on the website. — Cicora

ideastream.org/wine.

Fun for Foodies

It's Story Time With Tony Bourdain

Culinary bad boy Anthony Bourdain returns to Cleveland tonight with a lecture-style appearance at Playhouse Square's State Theatre. The chef, best-selling author, and television host clearly has a soft spot for C-town: Catch the memorable 2007 Cleveland episode of No Reservations on the Travel Channel — or better yet, read his 2010 blogged remembrance of Harvey Pekar — for a peek into his tender, midwestern-inspired soul. But more important for tonight's audience, Bourdain is also an excellent raconteur, frequently salting his well-turned phrases with hilariously apt vulgarities. Just don't come expecting kitchen tips, a cooking demo, or food samples: From what we can gather, the show is just Tony, sans props, pacing the stage and dishing about his life as a culinary rock star. Sounds pretty tasty to us. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $27.50 and can be had by phone, online, or at the Playhouse Square box office. — Cicora

1519 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000,

playhousesquare.org.

Saturday | 05

Cleveland Jazz Orchestra

A Feast for the Ears

Tonight marks the start of Sean Jones' third season as artistic director for the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, and his audiences are showing the effects: doubling in size and growing more diverse in age and skin tone. If Jones has his way, that's just the beginning. "It's time America recognized jazz as its orchestral platform," says the Warren-born musician, whose impressive résumé includes playing lead trumpet for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. "We're here to celebrate the music and everything it means to the entire community." You can join the party tonight in the Hanna Theatre as Jones and his crew kick off CJO's 27th season with Celebrating Cleveland Voices. The genre-jumping concert serves up a taste of jazz in all its tempting flavors: gospel, R&B, big band, mainstream, progressive, and more. Dishing out the vocals: Ki Allen, John Morton, and Evelyn Wright, each performing in his or her signature style. "I like a buffet," says Jones. "Just make sure it's all good." The concert starts at 8 p.m., but come early: Happy hour begins at 5:30 in the upstairs lounge of Corks Wine Bar (1415 Euclid Ave.); at 7:30, head to the Hanna to catch a pre-concert talk by jazz authority Bobby Jackson. Tickets are $25 to $45 by phone or online. — Elaine T. Cicora

2067 East 14th St., 216-241-6000, clevelandjazz.org.

Arts & Crafts

A Very Screwy Christmas

Like it or not, here come the holidays again — and you know what that means: gift shopping. Instead of braving the Big Box, give the Screw Factory a try. "Attending today's open studio is a great opportunity to view and purchase the work of over 30 local artists in varying stages of their careers," says Gina DeSantis, founder of the Screw Factory. "The variety of media and demographics in the building make it quite unique." From paintings and prints (like the kitschy one below) to ceramics, handbags, and jewelry, you'll surely find something to get excited about giving. Plus, all contributing artists will be on hand to discuss their techniques. The show begins in the Lake Erie Building in Lakewood at 1 p.m. Starting at 2 p.m., Umami Moto will be on hand with good things to eat. And after the the show wraps at 7 p.m., the Barking Spiders will perform. For more information, visit the Screw Factory website. — Logan Boggs

13000 Athens Ave., Lakewood,

screwfactoryartists.com.

Les Délices

Party Like a Frenchman

Forget the winter of discontent: Tonight marks the start of the Age of Indulgence, a musical two-night stand from Cleveland's French baroque ensemble, Les Délices. Directed by Debra Nagy — one of the nation's leading baroque oboists, who just happens to be a graduate of Oberlin College with a doctorate from Case Western Reserve — the ensemble will be playing period instruments to re-create the opulent sound experience of an 18th-century Parisian salon. Four of the pieces on this weekend's program have never before been heard in Ohio, including two quartets by François-André Philidor. "All the works on the program date from the 1740s and '50s," says Nagy. "They stand on the cusp of the classical era, so they have the humor and wit of early Haydn, a little of C.P.E. Bach's sturm und drang, mixed with the lush French harmonies." Tonight's performance is at 8 p.m at the William Busta Gallery; tomorrow's concert is at 4 p.m. at Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights. Tickets are $20, and less for seniors and students. Get them at the door or in advance on the website, where you'll find details about the season. — Cicora

2731 Prospect Ave.,

lesdelices.org.

Sunday | 06

Heartfelt Holiday

Christmas Craft Show Alert!

This weekend marks the 20th year for Heartfelt Holiday, a juried show of fine arts and handmade crafts sponsored by the Brecksville Center for the Arts. More than 60 creative sorts are expected to be on hand, displaying wares that include jewelry, handmade dolls, pottery, fiber art, and holiday decorations. You'll find trendy fashion items like evening bags, scarves, and hats in the Boutique. The Bakery serves up brownies, cakes, and Irish soda bread. Vintage collectibles and artwork are for sale in the Collectible Corner. And there'll be gift baskets and decorations in the Holiday Tree area. Tickets are $5 for adults, less for seniors and children. Proceeds from the two-day show go to support the arts center; today's hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Find more information about the show on the website. — Cicora

1 Community Dr., Brecksville, 440-526-6232, brecksvillearts.org.

Monday | 07

At the House of Blues

Team StarKid Touches Down Downtown

What, exactly, is a StarKid, you may ask? A young alien? A child prodigy? Turns out it's neither. Starting off as nothing more exotic than a bunch of University of Michigan students with a video camera, a penchant for Harry Potter, and dreams of show business careers, Team StarKid has grown into one of the biggest internet sensations to date, blending the art of parody with the potential of the World Wide Web. Starting with the 2009 posting of their first YouTube production, A Very Potter Musical, the team has built a repertoire of six musical send-ups (including A Very Potter Sequel, Starship, and Me and My Dick) that together have garnered more than 97 million views. Your chance to see this troupe of self-described "writers, actors, directors, designers, producers, and other goof-offs" comes tonight at the House of Blues. The stop is part of their 14-city "StarKid Precarious Auditory Concert Experience," or SPACE tour, for short. Singer-songwriter Charlene Kaye will open. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, or $50 for VIPs, who can attend a meet-and-greet and snag some swag. For tickets and more information, see the House of Blues website. For more about StarKid, check them out on Facebook. — Boggs

308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583,

houseofblues.com.

Tuesday | 08

One Singular Sensation

A Chorus Line Visits KSU

What could be meatier for a troupe of show-biz hopefuls than sinking their teeth into A Chorus Line, the 1975 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical that dissects the hopes and dreams of 19 Broadway actors? Students from Kent State's School of Theatre and Dance have been doing just that since November 4. Professional actor Jim Weaver, a vet of both regional theater and Broadway, brings a little real-world wisdom to the boards. So do artistic director Terri Kent and choreographer MaryAnn Black (who played Maggie in the first national Chorus Line tour, then took the role to Broadway). Performances continue through November 13 at the E. Turner Stump Theatre in the Music and Speech Building. Tonight's curtain is at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16, by phone or online. — Cicora

1325 Theater Dr., Kent, 330-672-2497, theatre.kent.edu.

Wednesday| 09

Comedy

Todd Barry @ Reddstone

You'll probably recognize comedian Todd Barry from Flight of the Conchords or Bored to Death. Or from Conan or The Howard Stern Show. Or maybe from movies like The Wrestler or Road Trip. Or ... well, you get the picture. The little bald dude is a one-man funny factory, and he's bringing it to Reddstone tonight for two performances. Barry is known for his sarcasm and sly wit. Additional laffs will be provided by opener and Akron native Anthony Savatt, and by host and Chucklfck producer Ramon Rivas III. Performance times are 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased through the website. — Boggs

1261 West 76th St., 216-651-6969,

shows.chucklefck.com/show/16.

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