Get Out!

It may be cold, but there's still plenty to do


Holidaze in Hicksville

Dan Hicks Plays Kent Stage

Together with his band, the Hot Licks, musician Dan Hicks has been laying down a reliably weird mix of swing, folk, jazz, and country music since the 1960s. So it's likely his Christmas concert Thursday night at the Kent Stage — Holidaze in Hicksville — will be more than a little off-center. That's certainly true of his newest CD, Crazy for Christmas, which includes sounds effects ranging from chipmunks to choo-choo trains, along with a scat-singing version of "Carol of the Bells." Then again, we wouldn't expect anything less from the guy who, backed up by the sexy female Lickettes, brought us swinging classics like "Where's the Money?" and "I Scare Myself." The holiday extravaganza kicks off at 8 p.m. at the Kent Stage, 175 East Main St. in Kent. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at Call 330-677-5005 for more information. — Cicora

Foodie Fun

Tasting at Tower City's Olive and the Grape

Here's a reason to stay downtown today: the bounteous gourmet food tasting at the Olive and the Grape. Fabulous foodie Candace Berthold owns this Tower City food-and-gift emporium (as well as a sister store in Mentor and a stand at the West Side Market), and she promises that the top-quality, single-origin EVOO will be flowing like water — along with samples of mulled wine and juices, and other tasty treats. "We'll be sampling easy, healthy options for holiday entertaining," she says, including everything from appetizers to desserts. The tasting takes place from 3 to 6:30 p.m., with the Keller Brothers performing Italian arias, Dean Martin faves, and various Christmas standards starting at 4 p.m. The Olive and the Grape is on the Public Square level of Tower City, between GNC and Designer Perfumes. Call 216-771-0778 or visit for more information. — Cicora

Competitive Eating

'Beefcakes' Bickel at Cleats

Cleveland's own competitive eater, Scott "Beefcakes" Bickel, goes for the world wing-eating record tonight at Cleats Club Seat Grille in Strongsville. The burly 20-year-old hopes to down 242 wings — a whopping 16 pounds — in one 90-minute sitting, besting the current record of 241. Despite a recently diagnosed jaw injury, Bickel is confident he will prevail. After all, he managed to pack away the entire "2 for $20" menu last month at Strongsville's Applebee's, consuming eight entrées, five apps, and an astonishing 23,000 calories! His résumé also includes speed-eating his way through the five-pound grilled cheese platter at Melt Bar and Grilled, and putting away an eight-pound "monster" burger at Cleats. As for his jaw prognosis, Bickel is somewhat less optimistic. "People don't realize how physically demanding this sport is. I train very hard, but all this purposeful eating has taken its toll. I just might have to retire." Catch him — possibly for the last time — tonight at 7 p.m. at Cleats Club Seat Grille, 15147 Pearl Rd. in Strongsville; call 440-238-9464 for more information. — Cicora



Black Nativity at Karamu

Black Nativity returns tonight to the Karamu stage following a one-year hiatus. A soulful retelling of the Gospel of St. Luke from an African-American perspective, the song-play was written by Cleveland native and Karamu alumnus Langston Hughes, and has had a recurring role in the troupe's repertoire since 1979. In that time, it has garnered consistent praise for its evocative score, dazzling modern-dance numbers, and eye-popping costumes. Scene theater critic Christine Howey said it best, way back in 2004: "Gospel music is one of the finest expressions of the Christian idea of salvation and hope, overlaid with the emotions of people within a loving and supportive community. Black Nativity provides a joyous firsthand experience of that mind-set — without any of the hate and exclusion that is passing for religious devotion these days. And for that we should all say, Amen!" Performances continue through December 30 at Karamu, 2355 East 89th St. in Cleveland. Tickets are $25 to $30 and can be snagged by phone at 216-795-7077 or online at — Cicora


Pedal Power

The Merry Freakin' Christmas Ride

"It's not too cold to ride my bike!" Yeah, just keep telling yourself that as you head out for the Merry Freakin' Christmas Ride, a seasonal blend of bicycling, boozing, and charitable giving. Grab your helmet, your headlight, and a new toy or clothing item to donate to the Domestic Violence Center. Then turn your wheels toward Cranky's Pub (2527 W. 25th St., 216-583-0701) where the fun begins at 5 p.m. with the always-festive triumvirate of whiskey, cookies, and gift wrapping. Once that's taken care of, you'll set off to Reddstone to deliver the gifts to Center representatives. Then it's on to the Tap House and ABC Tavern for more rounds of holiday spirits, followed by a final stop at Cranky's for a party with DJ Justin Nyilas. If that's not enough to warm you up, you can eat our fleecy tights! For details, go to — Michael Gill


Escape From Suburbia in Rocky River

Lest you get too giddy on holiday cheer, the good folks of the West Shore Social Action Committee are standing by with sober films on serious topics. Tonight's screening, Escape From Suburbia, asks us to consider what life will be like when we finally run out of oil. Is nuclear power the answer? Is sustainability the key? How can the average citizen confront the problem with courage and vision? The 95-minute Canadian film premiered in Toronto in 2007 and went on to make the rounds of film festivals and universities throughout North America. It screens tonight at 7 p.m. at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church at 20401 Hilliard Blvd. in Rocky River. Admission and parking are free, as are the refreshments and conversation that follow. For more details, go to or call 440-333-2255. — Cicora

Family Fun

Breakfast With Santa at the RainForest

Apparently, even Santa gets chilly on these dark December days. Must be why he's hanging out at the RainForest this morning, mingling with the kiddies and tossing back the coffee and scrambled eggs. So grab your appetite and your wish list, and join him at the buffet table, where the options include scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, spuds, waffles, bagels, and a smoothie station. In addition to quality time with Santa, there's also a "make it and take it" crafts station and a visit from one of the zoo's friendly, furry critters. (We're not sure his mom will let him out to play today, but we do hear the baby porcupine is particularly adorable!) The program repeats on December 12, 18, and 19. Admission, which includes full access to the Rainforest and the zoo, is free for children younger than 2; $18.50 for those 2 to 11; and $22.50 for adults. Reservations are required at 216-635-3300. The RainForest is part of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo at 3099 Wildlife Way. For directions and information call 216-661-6500 or go to — Cicora

Strung Out for the Holidays

Ryan Humbert at Akron Civic Theatre

Singer-songwriter Ryan Humbert is home for the holidays following a 2008 move to Nashville, and he's performing tonight at Akron Civic Theatre. A fixture on the Northeast Ohio music scene, the busy young musician has opened for acts ranging from Dave Mason to Elvis Costello, and recently released a new CD, Old Souls, New Shoes, which he recorded in Nashville with help from former members of the Black Crowes. All of which is to suggest that tonight's second annual Ryan Humbert Strung Out Holiday Extravaganza will be a jolly good time. Joining Humbert will be an 11-piece acoustic band complete with a string quintet — explaining the "strung out" designation — tackling a play list that includes covers, seasonal classics, and Humbert's original material. Afterward, join him in the Civic lobby as he celebrates his 30th birthday with food, drink, dancing, a DJ, and cake. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show and after-party are priced at $15 to $20 with proceeds benefiting the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. Order online at or by calling 330-253-2488. The Akron Civic Theatre is at 182 South Main St. in Akron. — Cicora

Funny Stuff

Thunderlips Debut at Powerhouse Pub

Local actor-comedian Don Mitri wanted a performance space and training ground for Cleveland’s up-and-coming crop of improv addicts, so he founded Big Dog Theater, slated to open soon inside Cleveland Heights’ former Centrum movie house. Once that was accomplished, he turned his attention to creating various house troupes. The first one, focused on short-form comedy à la Whose Line Is It Anyway? bears the mysterious yet suggestive moniker of Thunderlips and the Submissives. This merry group of funsters, with members drawn from throughout the region, makes its debut tonight at the Powerhouse Pub, with what Mitri promises will be a hilarious evening of fast-paced, high-energy comedy. Coached by Deena Nyer Mendlowitz, co-founder of Cleveland’s Friends with Benefits Improv, the gang takes the stage at 8 p.m. with a show designed for those 18 and over. The Powerhouse Pub is at 2000 Sycamore St. on the west bank of the Flats. Tickets are specially priced at $5 and can be reserved by calling 216-472-3636 or at — Cicora


Christmas Shopping

Winter Lights at Log Cabin Gallery

Shopping comes with a side of history and a garnish of natural beauty at Peninsula's Log Cabin Gallery, where 24 local artists offer an impressive lineup of giftable arts and crafts as part of the current Winter Lights exhibit. The gallery itself is an enchanting piece of handiwork, nestled into a circa-1850s log cabin on a cliff overlooking the Cuyahoga River. Against this rustic backdrop, shoppers can linger over objects ranging from Native American flutes to traditional quilts, and blown glass to handmade paper. The gallery (behind a private residence at 1671 Main St.) is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, as well as next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; call 330-657-2670 or go to for directions and more information. While you're in Peninsula, check out the other holiday happenings in this historic canal town; for a complete list of things to see and do, go to — Cicora


Cleveland Music Settlement

Celebrate Jazz With

Bobby Jackson

You can peek inside one of the region's top jazz minds this evening, as award-winning broadcaster Bobby Jackson hosts a free Holiday Jazz Celebration in Glick Recital Hall at the Cleveland Music Settlement. Aimed at musicians and fans alike, the party begins at 6 p.m. with a potluck dinner, then segues seamlessly into an improvisational riff on the subject of holiday jazz, conducted by the mellow-piped Jackson. They don't come much more knowledgeable than this guy, who recently wound up a 19-year stint as host, musical director, and producer for 90.3-FM WCPN Ideastream. Among his circle, Jackson counts such greats as Ben Sidran, Benny Golson, and Ellis Marsalis; you can learn more about many of them on Jackson's newly launched Jazz Mind website (, which he describes as "a repository of content for professionals and lay people who seek to learn more about jazz and the business of jazz." The Music Settlement is at 11125 Magnolia Dr. on University Circle. The cost of admission is a side dish to share; RSVPs are required at 216-421-5806 ext.184. Learn more at — Cicora


Local Christmas

Holiday Farmers Market in Tremont

While most of us are hunkering down for winter, the region's farmers and producers are still hard at work, overseeing a seasonal bounty that includes apples, artisanal cheeses, organic meats, maple syrup, jams, jellys, and delicious home-baked goods. Be sure to get your share today at the Tremont Farmers Market, as it makes its monthly cold-weather appearance inside the Pilgrim United Church of Christ (2592 West 14th St.). Market manager Jody Lathwell expects at least 20 vendors to take part, many of them toting ready-made gift baskets filled with local goodies just right for giving. Crafters will be on hand as well, offering jewelry, knitted goods, hand-sewn purses, and more. The market runs from 4 to 7 p.m. today. Go to for more information. — Cicora

Classical Music

Apollo's Fire Illuminates Messiah

The Messiah is everywhere this time of year, in treatments ranging from rock opera to community sing-alongs. But if your taste runs to the authentic item, then the upcoming performances by Apollo's Fire are the Messiahs you've been waiting for. The traveling troupe will perform the Messiah six times in the coming days. Choose your show based on your personal level of passion: Highlight performances, which last a little less than two hours, are today at 7:30 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church (1250 West Exchange St., Akron) and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at St. Noel Church (35200 Chardon Rd., Willoughby Hills). Or prove your musical mettle at one of the full-length, three-hour performances happening this Thursday through Sunday in Shaker Heights and Rocky River. Tickets are $10 to $65. For complete schedules and information, call 800-314-2535 or go to — Gill


Fit For Foodies

Vegan Dinner at Bistro 185

Restaurant owner Ruth Levine isn't a health nut, but sometimes she acts like one. She created a rooftop garden at her cozy Bistro 185 (991 East 185th St.) to supply her kitchen with the freshest herbs and produce. She also teamed up with the talented Jakub Mejstrik, a vegan personal chef who occasionally lends his chops to her multi-cultural menu. United by a passion for both wholesomeness and great flavor, Mejstrik and Levine recently launched a series of vegan dinners, many of which sold out almost as soon as they were announced. "There's a real interest in vegan dining," Levine confirms. "But to me, the most important factor is that we're serving real food: satisfying, delicious, and good for everyone, vegan or otherwise." Your next opportunity to dig in comes tonight when Levin and Mejstrik cook up a three-course, prix fixe vegan dinner. For thirty bucks, you get butternut squash soup with caramelized Vidalia onions, eggplant Parmesan with whole wheat pasta, and fresh apple pie and ice cream. The vegan menu will be offered all evening, from 5 to 9 p.m. Prepaid reservations via credit card are required at 216-481-9635. Learn more at Cicora

Classical Music

Vienna Boys' Choir at Severance Hall

The roots of the Vienna Boys' Choir go back to the 13th century, making it one of the oldest boys' choirs in existence not connected to a college or a church. Nowadays, the gifted youngsters —divided into four equally accomplished troupes — appear at official state functions, perform each Sunday at the Vienna Imperial Chapel, and maintain a rigorous schedule of domestic and international touring that puts them before nearly 500,000 listeners each year. Tonight they bring their angelic voices to Severance Hall (11001 Euclid Ave.) to sing music by Schubert, Rossini, and Purcell, plus Christmas songs and more. The concert begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $31 to $117.50; to order, call 216-231-1111 or go to

— Gill

tttxeconLaughing Skulls Fest at the Improv

It's payback, of sorts, for anyone who's ever been the butt of some a-holes jokes, as the Laughing Skulls Comedy Festival grins its way into the Powerhouse tonight. As an audience member, you have the power to vote on your favorite funny guy or gal, and can either take these novice comedians down a notch or help send them on to stardom. Laughing Skulls is a 25-city comedy festival, in its second year running. This year, ten of the best in the Midwest will test their zest on Clevelanders, as they try to impress the audience and judges enough to make it to the next round, slated for Atlanta. So it's "be funny or die" in tonight's competition, where the winner will score cash, a contract, and a boost towards his or her dreams. The Laughing Skulls Comedy Festival is at the Cleveland Improv in the Powerhouse, 2000 Sycamore St. The competition starts at 7:30 p.m., and there will be a fee of $10. For more information go to or call 216-696-4677. — Hazen

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