A Pluckin' Good Time

Jake Shimabukuro at E.J. Thomas Hall on Saturday

A string of good luck has surrounded ukulele phenom Jake Shimabukuro ever since he floored Conan O'Brien with his lightning-quick finger work on O'Brien's late-night talk show last year. For starters, he scored a couple trophies for his 2007 CD, My Life, at Hawaii's version of the Grammy Awards. Then he dueted with Yo-Yo Ma on the cellist's latest album, Songs of Joy & Peace. Tonight, the 32-year-old Hawaiian native kicks off a U.S. tour in Akron to promote his new live album, which features 12 originals and five covers, including Michael Jackson's "Thriller," George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and The Wizard of Oz classic, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Not bad for a guy whose mom taught him to play the uke when he was only four years old. "When I played my first chord, I was hooked, and I fell in love with the instrument," says Shimabukuro, who's opened concerts for Ziggy Marley, Fiona Apple and Béla Fleck & the Flecktones. "I love what I do and I'm forever thankful for music." The concert starts at 8 p.m. at E.J. Thomas Hall (198 Hill St. in Akron). Tickets: $5-$10. Call 330.972.7570 or visit eventsatua.com. Cris Glaser


At 6-foot-5, Michigan-born comic Sinbad could easily have made the NBA draft after starring on the University of Denver basketball squad in the early '80s. But by the end of his senior year, his "knees were shot and I knew my time was done," he says. Sinbad's backup plan? Standup comedy. Good call, because he wound up in the final round of Star Search and has been on a 25-year tour that brings him to Hilarities this weekend. "There was a period of depression where I didn't know what I was going to do," says the 52-year-old comedian who was born David Adkins. "That's when comedy came around. I knew I didn't want to work 9 to 5." Showtimes are at 8 p.m. tonight, 7:30 and 10:15 p.m. tomorrow, 7, 9:30 and 11 p.m. Saturday and 7 and 9:30 p.m. Sunday at Hilarities (2035 E. Fourth St.). Tickets: $25-$35. Call 216.241.7425 or visit pickwickandfrolic.com. P.F. Wilson


Former Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. Elizabeth Balraj dishes the dirt on her rise through the ranks from her native India to become one of America's first female heads of a coroner's office at tonight's International Women's Day celebration. Because she upgraded DNA and trace-evidence research in Cleveland murder cases, the doctor's success story underscores the event's mission to pay tribute to gals who've made landmark contributions over the past few decades. Balraj's lecture also kickstarts a three-hour shopping spree of artwork at the Ten Thousand Villages market inside Trinity Commons, which sells pieces made by women from Africa, Asia and South America. "It honors the resilient spirit of women worldwide," says Julie Verdon, the store's sales director. "We want to empower all women to build a more peaceful global community, celebrate our cultures and learn more about each other." The fest runs from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Trinity Commons (2254 Euclid Ave.). Admission: free. Call 216.575.1058 or visit tenthousandvillages.com. Glaser


While the rest of Northeast Ohio restricts its St. Paddy's Day imbibing to March 17, the Irish American Club East Side likes to hit the bottle early. The club starts its drunken homage to Ireland's patron saint during today's happy hour with an Irish Whiskey Night. "We don't look at St. Patrick's Day as St. Patrick's Day," says Linda Burke, the club's entertainment chairwoman. "It's sort of a high holy month. It's like three weeks of party." No joke. Tonight, patrons will knock back rare imports like Middleton and other whiskey blends, while Akron's Callahan & O'Connor command the stage with Irish ditties. "We'll be having things most people don't carry," says Burke. "It's the stuff you wouldn't go out and buy on your own because it's a little too much for a bottle. Hopefully, people will be able to try something they've always wanted." The pours start at 7 p.m. at the Irish American Club East Side (22770 Lake Shore Blvd. in Euclid). Tickets: $8. Call 216.731.4003 or visit irishamericanclubeast.com. Katherine Fulton


Since 2003, six Lake County vintners within a 10-minute drive from each other have insisted that top-of-the-line wine doesn't have to come from Napa Valley. Just ask Debonné Vineyards co-owner Beth Debevc, who runs the annual Ice Wine Festival. "We know there are real aficionados out there," she says. "Location means nothing. People love wine." Along with Debonné's offerings, patrons can sample wines, cheese and fruit-topped cheesecakes at wineries like Ferrante's (5585 St. Rt. 307 in Geneva), Laurello's (4573 St. Rt. 307 in Geneva), South River (6062 S. River Rd. in Geneva), Grand River (5750 Madison Rd. in Madison) and St. Joseph's (6060 Madison Rd. in Thompson). "Our partners have definitely helped us round out the experience," says Debevc. "We want to keep surprising guests with new ideas each year." Tastings start at noon at Debonné Vineyards (7743 Doty Rd. in Madison). Admission: $5 at each winery. Call 440.466.3485 or visit debonne.com. Chad Felton


Time flies when you're watching one bank of the Flats turn into a ghost town. To break the silence of halted construction, revelers will make a toast at the Roc Bar Anniversary Party, which marks the club's first year in business. Youngstown rockers First in Space will swap stage time with Akron's Drenalin before Phestur takes over to play some "rough-trade rock" originals. "We've even gotten euros in the mail with CD orders," says Phestur singer Adam Hines. "But where can you spend a euro here in the States?" Party from 7 p.m.-2:30 a.m. at Roc Bar (1220 Old River Rd. on the East Bank of the Flats.) Admission: $1. Call 216.771.6655 or visit rocbarcleveland.com. -- Glaser


Chug all the beer and wine your liver can handle at tonight's Honor Flight Cleveland Fundraising Party, which helps pay for airline tickets to send World War II veterans to the nation's capital. Once a month between April and October, the agency forks out $250 to fly vets to D.C. to scope out landmarks like Arlington Cemetery and the World War II, Vietnam and Korean war memorials. The trip typically starts at 6 a.m. and returns at 10 p.m. the same day. "It's the whole gig," says organizer Jack Newman. "There's no overnight stay, no hotel, because that would be crazy. It's a long day but a really nice deal." The benefit starts at 5 p.m. at Slim & Chubby's Bar & Grille (12492 Prospect Rd. in Strongsville). Tickets: $20. Call 216.403.7549 or visit honorflightcleveland.com. Glaser


The Stevens sisters have won so many beauty-pageant crowns, they could take on Queen Elizabeth in a tiara contest. The sibs will share tips and secrets at today's Science of Beauty workshop for kids. And it all starts with a bar of soap. For two hours, reigning Miss Ohio International Amanda Stevens will team up with younger sister Kelsey — the current Miss Ohio Teen USA — to help children melt the soap into mini cups of liquid suds to take home. Afterward, the beauties (in their gowns, crowns and sashes, natch) will sit for Polaroid snaps with each kid. Meet the sisters from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Children's Museum of Cleveland (10730 Euclid Ave.). Admission: $7. Call 216.791.7114 or visit clevelandchildrensmuseum.org. — Glaser


Parenting Magazine once called Laurie Berkner "the pied piper of the preschool set." The New Jersey-bred guitarist pairs with pianist Susie Lampert and bassist Adam Bernstein at a concert today to promote the new CD, Rocketship Run. With kid-friendly songs like "Choc-o-lot in My Pock-o-lot" and "Boody Boody Ya Ya Ya," it's a no-brainer why the 40-year-old Bertner switched to writing children's tunes in 1992 after wrestling with compositions for her old rock band, Red Onion. "Writing music for kids has not been a struggle at all," she says. "The more I started working on material for children, the more I realized that it opened up creativity in me that I never knew I had." The curtain goes up at 11 a.m. at the Allen Theatre (1407 Euclid Ave.). Tickets: $25-$35. Call 216.241.6000 or visit playhousesquare.com. Glaser


If you think you're up on the latest technological gadgetry, think again. There's a good chance that the hottest Internet craze will evolve before you even finish reading this. "It's about the people taking over the Internet," says Cleveland native David Pogue, who'll talk about online fads like social-networking site Twitter at PlayhouseSquare tonight as part of the Town Hall of Cleveland lecture series. "It's to take data points that are forming a trend and explaining the effect they will have in the next few years." He should know. As the New York Times' personal-technology columnist, Pogue keeps readers up to date on technological advances in computers and cell phones. And he can't wait to give the 411 to a Cleveland audience. "It's a real thrill to return to my roots and speak in my hometown," says Pogue. "It's been a long time coming and it feels good." The lecture starts at 6 p.m. at the Ohio Theatre (1501 Euclid Ave.). Tickets: $45. Call 216.241.1919 or visit townhallofcleveland.org. Lisa Kruse


Old Stone Church claims that it is the city's most historic place of worship with a 21st-century vibe. It backs its boast with Soul Café, which takes place every Wednesday afternoon with the church's music directors Tia McGraff and Tommy Parham. And during Lent, Pastor Mark Giuliano is inviting some of the city's movers and shakers to offer words of wisdom at the service's "Hope for the City" lecture series. The slate of speakers includes Giuliano himself at today's meeting. He'll be followed by Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman on March 18, Plain Dealer Publisher Terry Egger on March 25, Cleveland Botanical Garden Director Natalie Ronayne on April 1 and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson on April 8. The church will even pick up the tab for everybody's lunch. Feed your soul from 12:14-12:50 p.m. at the Old Stone Church (91 Public Sq.). Admission: free. Call 216.241.6145 or visit oldstonechurch.org. Glaser

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