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Event picks for this delightful week in Cleveland

Friday | 02

Too Big to Ignore

Get Schooled by Ralphie May

I just want to say that it is an honor and a privilege to be coming to Kent," comic Ralphie May tells us during a recent phone call. "To walk in the footsteps of those brave student protestors [from May 4, 1970] is like walking on a battlefield of the Revolutionary War." He isn't joking. But if you think that's an unusually heavy topic for a funny guy, you don't know Ralphie: The super-sized comedian mines the most emotionally charged topics — racism, sexism, immigration policy — for satiric laughs. On abortion: "You wanna shrink government? Let's start by getting politicians out of women's vaginas!" On gays in the military: "What, you don't think they can march without sucking dick?" In fact, at 40, the Nashville comic's political beliefs run so deep that he's planning an eventual bid for Congress. At the core, though, May calls himself an educator. "I make them laugh, and while their minds are open I fill them with what I believe: that we're all in this together, like fingers on the same hand." May brings his big, topical self to the Kent Stage tonight at 7:30 as part of his Too Big to Ignore tour. His Comedy Central special by the same name debuts on Sunday, March 4. Tickets for the 18-and-over show are $20 to $32.50; get them by phone or online. — Elaine T. Cicora

175 East Main St., Kent, 330-677-5005, kentstage.org. Thursday | 01

Funny Stuff

America's Happiest Comic Hits the Improv

Maybe it's because he went from the boring world of computer programming to a career as a stand-up comic, but Rob Little is all laughs — not that you'd expect anything less from a guy whose tagline is "pure optimism." Bald, baby-faced, and well upholstered, the Detroit native makes his Cleveland debut this weekend at the Improv, on the West Bank of the Flats, with a routine that pokes fun at himself, his family, and his love of food. ("I'm a crazy fool for diners," he tells us. "Someday I'd like to own one!") Much of the material we'll hear this weekend is slated for an upcoming CD. Also, Little says he's shopping around a pilot for a TV show on history. "I call it A Little History With Rob Little!' Isn't that adorable?" The adoration begins tonight at 7:30; tickets are $17. Additional performances happen Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Reserve a seat by phone or online. — Cicora

1148 Main Ave., 216-696-4677,

clevelandimprov.com.

Picture That

Through History's Lens

Cleveland photographer Allen E. Cole was about more than just capturing pretty images, says Cole's chronicler and former curator, Samuel W. Black. "As the dean of black Cleveland photographers, when Cole picked up his camera, he understood that he was documenting history." Those documents — nearly 6,000 prints and 30,000 negatives — today make up the Allen E. Cole Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society, and provide a perfect peephole into African-American life in the Cedar-Central neighborhood during the 1930s and '40s. "Without them, that period of black life in Cleveland would be sort of an empty slate," says Black, who has just published a book — Through the Lens of Allen E. Cole — exploring the man, his times, and the importance of his work. Today, Black and his co-author, Regennia N. Williams, will be at the History Center, signing their book and talking about Cole and his historical significance. The free talk and reception runs from 5 to 7 p.m. It's open to the public, but reservations are requested at the number below. A related exhibit of Cole's photography continues at the History Center through May 25. Learn more on the website. — Cicora

10825 East Blvd., 216-721-5722 x 1502, wrhs.org.

Friday | 02

Music & Art

The Pleasures of Sweet Harmony

Cantores Cleveland isn't just a chorus: It's a cadre of veteran vocalists who perform the music of the Middle Ages, with a repertoire that includes madrigals, Latin liturgy, and early Baroque masterpieces. On a similar, ahem, note, downtown's Trinity Cathedral isn't just a church: It's a trove of artistic treasures, including Renaissance paintings, sculptures from the Middle Ages, relics from the Holy Land, and two 15th-century stained-glass windows. Imagine tonight's artistic synergy as the two cultural cohorts team up for The Pleasure of Sweet Harmony: a combination art exhibition and early-music concert happening inside the Gothic-style cathedral. The gallery opens at 6:15 p.m. The docent-led tour begins at 6:45 p.m. And the narrated concert begins at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $10; reserve your spot via the website below. — Cicora

2230 Euclid Ave., 216-771-3630, cantorescleveland.org.

Absolute Intense Wrestling

Man Overboard!

Best as we can figure, tonight's 30-man Gauntlet for the Gold 7 match at Turner's Hall goes something like this: Two fighters enter the ring and proceed to try to toss each other out again. Then, at regularly timed intervals, another wrestler joins the fracas with the same aim: tossing everyone else over the top rope and onto the floor. The last man left untossed after the other 29 dudes have been ejected is declared the winner and becomes the top contender to the Absolute Intense Wrestling championship title. Actually, substitute a bridal gown for the title bid, and it sounds a lot like the annual running of the brides at Filene's Basement. But anyway, besides the gauntlet throwdown, attendees get to ogle man mountains Colt Cabana, Luke Gallows, and Cliff Compton ("Domino" to WWE fans), who will be filming for their Wrestling Road Diaries sequel. The jollity begins at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $15 online or at the door, but fans holding pre-sale tix get seated first. — Cicora

7325 Guthrie Ave., aiwrestling.com.

At House of Blues

He's Having a Party

If his current press-kit photo is any indication, Southside Johnny Lyon is looking a lot less like a hard-rockin' party dude and a lot more like your kindly uncle the optometrist. Middle age notwithstanding, the music man has earned his wrinkles and his props over the past four decades: Together with his band, the Asbury Jukes, ol' Southside can lay claim to more than 30 albums and thousands of live concerts (approximately 700 of which, if memory serves, went down in Cleveland). He and the boys are back again, tonight at the House of Blues. Expect to hear oldies like the signature "I Don't Want to Go Home," as well as cuts off the 2011 Pills and Ammo CD. Tickets are $30 and $45. Snag them by phone, online, or at the HOB box office. — Cicora

308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583, houseofblues.com.

Saturday | 03

Onstage

A Life Lesson in Sheffield

The playwright is August Wilson, the setting is Pittsburgh, and the subject is the tension between legacy and progress. If you guessed we're talking about Radio Golf, currently on tap at the Cleveland Play House, you lose. This time we're pointing you toward The Piano Lesson, now in its final days at the French Creek Nature Center in Sheffield. As savvy theater buffs will tell you, The Piano Lesson, like Radio Golf, is part of Wilson's 10-play cycle exploring the African-American experience. This one is set in the 1930s, in the aftermath of the Great Depression, and follows a family trying to decide what to do with a symbol-laden heirloom piano. Presented by TrueNorth Cultural Arts, directed by Cleveland Arts Prize-winning playwright Michael Oatman, and fully staged with professional-quality lighting, sound, and costumes, performances continue through Sunday, March 4. Tonight's curtain is at 7:30. Tickets are $12.50 in advance by phone or online, or $15 on show day. — Cicora

4530 Colorado Ave., Sheffield, 440-949-5200, TNCArts.org.

Cleveland Pops Presents

The Texas Tenors at Severance Hall

What would make the venerable Cleveland Pops get tangled up with a bunch of cowboys like the Texas Tenors? Sure, in their leather dusters, black Stetsons, and brocade vests, the trio serves up the suave appeal of Bret Maverick. And after their 2009 breakout performance on America's Got Talent — followed by two CDs and an international tour — they have a rootin,' tootin' fan base. But performing with the orchestra? Really? Cleveland Pops conductor Carl Topilow doesn't see a problem. "The guys have world-class voices. They perform everything from country to classical with equal ease and flair. Our orchestra performs that same range of diverse styles in every concert we do, so the matchup with the tenors makes perfect sense." Turns out, this ain't the boys' first rodeo neither: John Hagen once sang Othello with the Cleveland Opera, J.C. Fisher performed in Italy's Puccini festival, and Marcus Collins was in the N.Y.C. cast of Hairspray. They're riding into Severance Hall tonight at 8 p.m. Tickets are $19 to $78 by phone or online. — Cicora

11001 Euclid Ave., 216-231-1111, clevelandpops.com.

Sunday | 04

The Musical Theater Project

Fascinating Rhythms in Kirtland

It's time again to rip a page from the Great American Songboook, as the Musical Theater Project presents a two-part concert series focusing on songs made famous by Fred Astaire. Playing the roles of host are Bill Rudman, the Project's artistic director, and versatile jazz pianist Joe Hunter. The concert, called Fascinating Rhythms, covers Astaire's career from vaudeville to movies, with photos, film clips, and songs like "Nght and Day," "Cheek to Cheek," and "Something's Gotta Give." "No singer introduced more first-rate American songs than Fred Astaire," says featured vocalist Vince Mastro, who considers Astaire a personal idol. "With every song he interpreted, it's like there were sparks shooting out of his body. For me, that's inspirational." Get inspired today at 4 p.m. at Lakeland Community College's Performing Arts Center in Kirtland. Tix are $10 to $18 by phone; see the Lakeland website for info and directions. Part two of the concert series happens at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 18, at Tri C's Metropolitan Main Stage Theater. Check out the Musical Theater Project website for the full skinny. — Cicora

7700 Clocktower Dr., Kirtland, 440-525-7133, lakelandcc.edu, musicaltheaterproject.org.

Funny Flick

Have a Laugh at Happy Dog

We can think of worse ways to spend a Sunday evening than watching a 16-minute indie comedy flick and pounding beers. So can Steve MacAdams, a Cleveland Institute of Art grad and local musician who — together with friends Erik Rozsa and Jay Leachikowski — recently created just such a flick. Operating under the Quarterback Club banner, the trio is set to debut C'mon, a short feature shot in color with a full soundtrack. Rozsa and Leachikowski star, while MacAdams plays a bit part and did the editing. "Eccentric millionaires embark on the adventure of their lives," MacAdams says of the plot. "It's hilarious." The screening happens at 5 p.m. today at Happy Dog's downstairs lounge. "The beer is cheap, they have good food, and there's no cover charge. And now that the Browns' season is over," MacAdams adds helpfully, "there's nothing else to do anyway." — Cicora

5801 Detroit Ave., 216-651-9474, happydogcleveland.com.

Monday | 05

Agatha Christie on Tour

A Mysterious Affair in Lakewood

A free touring production of Agatha Christie's Mysterious Affair at Styles has been making the rounds of Northeast Ohio in recent weeks, thanks to the fine folks at Great Lakes Theater. It lands at the Lakewood Public Library tonight at 7. Adapted by local actor and playwright David Hansen from Christie's very first mystery novel, the 65-minute play features a cast of five and top-shelf production values. So far, says education director Daniel Hahn, the response has been phenomenal — a fact he credits to Christie's enduring popularity. "She's the most published and most translated author in history," Hahn says. "She is simply in a class of her own." While the main goal of the tour is hooking the community up with Christie, Hahn also notes that the author's Mousetrap is the next work set for Great Lakes' main stage, beginning March 9 at the Hanna Theatre. For details about both productions, visit Great Lakes Theater's website. To learn more about tonight's free Lakewood performance, call the library at the number below. No tickets are needed, but get there early if you want a good seat. — Cicora

15425 Detroit Rd., Lakewood, 216-226-8275 x127,

greatlakestheater.org.

Tuesday| 06

More Monsters!

See Beasts From the Deep at Great Lakes Science Center

If your trip to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's Mythic Creatures exhibit leaves you craving more, head over to the Great Lakes Science Center for an Omnimax screening of Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure. Rotten Tomatoes' critics give the 40-minute flick an almost perfect score for its state-of-the-art photography and its blend of computer animation and live-actor recreations. Taken together, the museums' two attractions hit the sweet spot between science and imagination. Today's screenings are at 1 and 3 p.m. Because today is Free Youth Tuesday, kids 18 and younger pay $9 for theater admission and get into the rest of the Science Center for free. Grown-ups can pay $11 for the film or $14 for the film plus Science Center admission. Purchase tickets at the box office, by phone, or online. Learn more at the website. — Cicora

601 Erieside Ave., 216-694-2000, greatscience.com.

Mythic Creaturesat the Museum of Natural History:

A Beast of an Exhibit

A narwhal tusk was probably behind the myth of unicorns. Dinosaur fossils may have launched the tale of griffins. And who knows what sorts of beastly legends a West Sixth Street bender has inspired? Whatever the source, mythical beasts continue to intrigue us — as the recently launched show Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids reminds us. Full of freaky fossils and eye-popping images, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History exhibit nonetheless has a serious scientific purpose: tracing the connections between nature and legend, and exploring the cultural roots of some of the world's most enduring myths. Highlights include a 120-foot-long Chinese parade dragon, a 10-foot unicorn, and a sharp-taloned roc with a 20-foot wingspan, along with a ton of interactive stations. The exhibit continues at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History through July 1; today's hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is included in the regular museum ticket price of $10 for adults, $8 for kids 7 to 18, and $7 for children 3 to 6. Check out the website for details. — Cicora

1 Wade Oval Dr., 216-231-4600, cmnh.org.

Wednesday| 07

Let the Madness Begin!

The MAC Tournament Returns to the Q

We here in the heartland are a blessed lot when it comes to our college basketball. The ever-plucky Mid-American Conference has long been dominated by schools populated with sons and daughters of Northeast Ohio, and its top teams seem to cause trouble for somebody at the NCAA Tournament every year. Now the time has come to determine the MAC's automatic representative for March Madness 2012: The annual MAC Basketball Tournament gets down to business with second-round action today at Quicken Loans Arena. As of this writing, perennial favorites Kent State, Akron, and Ohio have emerged as front-runners yet again, and have earned the right to watch the opening rounds from the bleachers. Meanwhile, winners of preliminary-round games square off in a pair of contests this evening. Action for the top seeds begins Thursday, with the winners going on to meet the top two seeds in Friday's semifinal round. Tipoffs on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are at 7 and 9:30 p.m., and your ticket gets you access to both games each night. The conference championship begins at 8 p.m. Saturday, with the winner punching its ticket for the proverbial Big Dance. Tickets range from $20 to $54. (Not to be overlooked: The MAC women's tournament also takes place at the Q each afternoon this week; for more info on their exploits, see the conference website at mac-sports.com.) — Erich Burnett

1 Center Ct., 888-894-9424,

theqarena.com.

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