Although it was put together after creator Jonathan Larson died, Tick, Tick . . . Boom! has all the hallmarks of his Rent, says Victoria Bussert, director of Cain Park's production of the musical bio. "It's truly a piece written from the heart," she says. The story is about a struggling artist fighting doubts and insecurities on the eve of his 30th birthday (Larson died of an aneurysm at 35, on the night of Rent's dress rehearsal). "I hope people really get a sense of what it is to be an artist today and what it is to make that commitment," Bussert says. It's at Cain Park's Alma Theater (Superior Avenue and Lee Road in Cleveland Heights) through August 15. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets are $12.50 to $20; call 216-371-3000.
Friday, July 30
Not every summer fest is capable of dishing up hefty portions of kafta, falafel, and tabbouleh. But the Shish-Ka-Bob Festival is no ordinary fete. The fourth annual gathering of Middle Eastern delicacies is one of the area's best, spicing things up with various kebabs and pastries, as well as with more standard fair fare, like hot dogs and French fries. Games, crafts, and plenty of kids' activities will be there too. Exotic eats are served from 5 to 11 p.m. tonight, noon to 11 p.m. tomorrow, and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, 2587 West 14th Street. Admission is free. Call 216-781-9020 for more information.
Saturday, July 31
Borders is throwing a Harry Potter Birthday Party today, celebrating the boy wizard's 15th year among mere Muggles. And he has plenty to celebrate: This summer's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the best movie of the bunch, a title (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince) has been announced for the sixth book (alas, no release date), and he was the subject of one of Saturday Night Live's funniest skits last season (Lindsay Lohan played gal pal Hermione going through some boobalicious changes). The party includes cake, games, prizes, and a sing-along to the birthday boy. It starts at 2 p.m. at Borders Books and Music, 2101 Richmond Road in Beachwood. Admission is free; call 216-292-2660.
NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers will be haulin' ass to Lorain Speedway's Race of Champions tonight, where Bill Elliott, Sterling Marlin, Kenny Schrader, and Casey Mears will compete in a pair of contests. The track's weekly races -- featuring up-and-comers tearing up the asphalt oval -- also will take place. The famous guys will sign autographs and greet fans prior to the lowering of the green flag, so be sure to get there early. Race time is 7 p.m., but other festivities start at 4 p.m. at Lorain Speedway, State Route 58 (just south of State Route 113) in Amherst. Tickets range from $15 to $32, available by calling 216-447-7888.
Sunday, August 1
When we were young, Mom told us every day was kids' day (after we bitched about Mother's Day and Father's Day and all the cool gifts, like hand-mixers and aftershave, that went with them). Well, guess what? There's now a National Kids Day, and it's today! The Akron Zoo is celebrating with arts and crafts, a whole bunch of hands-on activities, live music, and other family-friendly entertainment. Also, there'll be plenty of programs where you can learn all about the animals native to the area. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the zoo, 500 Edgewood Avenue in Akron. Admission is $7.50, $5 for kids. Call 330-375-2550 for more information.
Monday, August 2
Good thing the Medina County Fair's best events -- the demolition derby and a farm-tractor pull -- are scheduled for different days, because we're not sure we can handle all that action in one 24-hour period. These two heart-pumping feats of manliness, which involve several tons of crushing steel and enough exhaust fumes to choke a small town, are what summer fairs are all about. You can have the rides, games, and greasy eats; we'll take the sights, smells, and sounds of metal on mangled metal. The festival runs from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. tonight through Saturday, August 7, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, August 8, at the Medina County Fairgrounds, 710 West Smith Road in Medina. Admission is $5, $2 for kids. Call 330-723-9633 for more information.
Tuesday, August 3
The last time Hawaiian dub-rock trio Pepper was set to play Peabody's, things got kinda dark. "It was the night of the blackout," laughs drummer Yesod Williams. "We plugged in our amps, and the power went out. We didn't think anything of it. We'll just wait till the power comes back on.' Then we started hearing about all these other places that had their power out. That was one to remember." The Warped Tour vets' new CD, In With the Old, blends fast and furious punk with some sunny island sounds. "Hawaii's a real melting pot for the people who live there and their music," Williams says. "And it influenced us heavily. There's a good music scene, but it's not really thriving at all. But you can hear the full island style in our music." Pepper play Peabody's (2083 East 21st Street) at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 and $10, available by calling 216-241-5555.
Wednesday, August 4
Now that we're over the hoopla surrounding White Stripes frontman Jack White's appearance on last year's super-fine single by the Electric Six, "Danger! High Voltage" (White and the band both denied his contribution; they're liars!), it's time to free your mind and shake your ass to the danceworthy Detroit combo's electro-punk grooves. They play a free outdoor show as part of the Summer in the City Concert Series at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (1 Key Plaza) at 6 tonight. For more information, call 216-515-1930.