One of the true signs of spring is the frenzy of activity by orchid fanciers, as societies across the area mount their annual shows. The Cleveland Botanical Garden (11030 East Blvd., 216.721.1600) kicks off the season with its month-long flower orgy Orchid Mania 2010, which opens today and runs through March 28. The Garden’s lobby and Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse will be packed with colorful, exotic and often erotic blooms; special activities, including a vendor sale March 6-7 and tips from experts on orchid growing, will take place throughout the month. Photographers are also invited to try their hand at capturing the sumptuous beauty of these tropical plants and submit them to the Orchid Mania photo contest. Orchid Mania is free with garden admission: adults $7.50, kids 3-12 $3. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon-5 p.m. Sundays. — Anastasia Pantsios
PlayhouseSquare Partners is a young-professionals group that supports PlayhouseSquare theaters and activities. And do they know how to party! Their annual Jumpback Ball, now in its 19th year, always features a colorful theme that unifies the activities and gives partygoers an opportunity to unleash their imaginations when it comes to dress (they refer to it as “creative black tie”). This year, the theme is Celebrate: Carnaval, honoring Venice’s fabulous signature festival — so an ornate mask is appropriate. Sammy’s will provide the Venetian cuisine, and cocktails will be served from a 3,000-pound, seven-by-12-foot ice bar. Meanwhile, guests will gamble for raffle tickets and dance to a pair of bands on the State Theatre stage. A VIP event, starting at 6:30 p.m. and hosted by acclaimed local chef Zack Bruell, will feature cooking demonstrations and food from his restaurants — Table 45, Parallax, Chinato and L’Albatros. The ball itself starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $160; all proceeds benefit PlayhouseSquare. — Anastasia Pantsios
Twyla Tharp’s Sue’s Leg became one of the choreographer’s best-known works after it was included in Dance in America, a 1976 Emmy-winning Great Performances outing. It’s the last installment of Tharp’s works to include music from the 1930s — in this case, Fats Waller songs. Sue’s Leg is part of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s program when it comes to town this weekend. The troupe is a rarity among dance companies these days: It actually seems to be on the rise. Founded in 1996 by Joffrey protégé Bebe Schweppe, the company (run by artistic director Tom Mossbrucker) presents its regular season performances in Santa Fe, but it also tours steadily. They have a two-day stand at PlayhouseSquare hosted by Dance Cleveland. Performances are at 8 tonight and 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Ohio Theatre (1511 Euclid Ave., 216.241.6000). Tickets: $20-$45. — Michael Gill
The musical partnership between Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker has grown stronger over the three terrific albums their band Wussy has released. Their most recent, an eponymously titled record that came out last year, stands as their most complete album. It’s the apex of Cleaver and Walker’s individual formidable songwriting talents, which have been culled into a singular, irrefutable energy. Working together for almost a decade, Walker and Cleaver have solidified a position that reveals their status as another pair of exceptional guy/girl, boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife songwriters and performers that seems to constantly deal in the margins of their relationship. Think Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, and Richard and Linda Thompson. Yet Walker and Cleaver don’t necessarily see it that way. If Wussy were an autobiographical record, God bless the poor souls whose story it is. Things are amiss in these songs. There’s guilt. There’s suspicion. Trust is quickly dissolving and dissipating. And then, in their starkest moments, there’s resignation. The songs are so earnest, so powerfully written and so well executed that they can’t possibly exist outside of the reality of Cleaver’s and Walker’s romantic relationship. They simply cut too deep and too close to the bone. Wussy play the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124) at 9 p.m. Louisville’s the Fervor and locals Good Morning Valentine open. Tickets: $8. — Kurt Hernon
Philadelphia brings a few things to mind: cheesesteak, the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin and, maybe most importantly, Rocky Balboa. The image of Sylvester Stallone climbing the steps of Philadelphia’s art museum, while “Gonna Fly Now” blares in the background, will always be linked to the City of Brotherly Love. What does the Italian Stallion have to do with Philly pop-punkers the Wonder Years? The five-member Wonder Years are underdogs battling the urge to revert to pop-punk tropes like heartbreak, alienation and depression. Their second album, The Upsides, is the band’s attempt to fight youthful lethargy and existentialism. Singer Dan Campbell continually declares that he isn’t all mopey, while his bandmates pound out intricate, breakdown-packed songs that sound ready to explode at any moment. It’s a melodic, smile-laden take on pop-punk that can brighten up even a gloomy Cleveland winter. The Wonder Years play the Pirates Cove (2045 E. 21st St., 216.776.9999), with Therefore I Am and Man Overboard opening at 6:30 p.m. Tickets: $10. — Matt Whelihan
The politically incorrect Jim Norton is a jack of all comedic trades. The 41-year-old wisecracking entertainer is an actor (Lucky Louie, Spider-Man), a best-selling author (Happy Endings: The Tales of a Meaty-Breasted Zilch) and a radio personality (Opie and Anthony’s XM satellite show). And he’s a stand-up comic who doesn’t give a shit about being offensive. “I’m not worried about hurting anyone’s feelings,” he says. “People that come out to see me know that I’ll say what I think.” You can expect Norton to get topical onstage. “Nothing fascinates me as much as the Tiger Woods story,” he says. “I love him more than ever, since I relate to guys who have a life that’s falling apart. Do you think these girls who slept with Tiger were with him for his looks? No way. He looks like a black Smurf. He’s worth more than $1 billion. He’s not good-looking. I can’t relate to his money or power, but I can relate with him as far as looks go.” And you don’t have to be alive to be one of Norton’s celebrity targets. “Michael Jackson amazed me, since he overcame multiple pedophilia allegations,” he says. “To survive as many as he did is amazing. When you look back at his life, you can’t help but say he was a great dancer, but a lousy babysitter.” Norton performs at 8 p.m. at House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.2583). Tickets: $25.50 advance, $29.50 day of show. — Ed Condran
Wes Roj says he was recruited by his friend and fellow Hawken School alumni Sebastian Orr to direct Orr’s Hum after it was accepted into Cleveland Public Theatre’s Big [BOX] series. The play tells four seemingly disparate stories that have common circumstances — all of which are tied together by the end of the piece. The stories are based on memories of four characters who have died: a young man meeting his ex-girlfriend, a young woman who loses her job and takes a road trip, a professor who uses math and philosophy to figure out why she lost her son, and David, “who tells the story of a nighttime visitor who made things clear to him at the end of his life,” says Roj. Hum plays at 7:30 p.m. tonight and tomorrow and at 3 p.m. Sunday at Cleveland Public Theatre (6415 Detroit Ave., 216.631.2727). Tickets: $12-$15. — Michael Gill
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