Get Out!

Event picks for this cheerful week in Cleveland

Thursday | 08

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet at Playhouse Square

The Nutcracker

Battling mice, toy soldiers, and dancing snowflakes come to the State Theatre on Playhouse Square this weekend when the Royal Winnipeg Ballet takes its turn in providing Clevelanders with one of their most cherished holiday fixes. While old-timers remember the decades when the classical dance extravaganza was the sole domain of the dear, departed Cleveland Ballet, our neighbors to the north promise to deliver a stirring rendition as choreographed by the company's Galina Yordanova and Nina Menon. As for Tchaikovsky's memorable score, a live orchestra featuring the talents of 46 local musicians will be performing under the direction of RWB's conductor, Tadeusz Biernacki. Five performances are set for today through Sunday, December 11; tonight's curtain rises at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 to

$80 by phone or online. — Elaine T. Cicora

1519 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000,

Funny Stuff

Don't Eat the Onion Rings

Whether he's soliciting sex for cheeseburgers or eating onion rings off his grandpa's Viagra-enhanced parts, Detroit native Dave Landau brings a laid-back midwestern sensibility to his stand-up that lets him say the darnedest things without sounding like a total perv. While part of that is certainly due to his everyman persona, we're guessing his improv background is also a factor: He spent two years in training at Second City and graduated from their nationally renowned comedy writing program, so the guy obviously has some chops. Combine that with a keen eye for funny stuff, and you've got a comic who is both original and entertaining. You can catch Landau this weekend at the Improv, where he is set for five performances through Sunday. Tonight's show begins at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $15. Get yours by phone or online. — Cicora

1148 Main Ave., 216-696-4677,

Friday | 09

Viva! & Gala

Chinese Virtuoso Brings Art to Life

A savory syngery is on display at tonight's performance by virtuoso pipa player Yang Wei at the Cleveland Museum of Art. (The pipa, fyi, is an ancient Asian stringed instrument similar to the Western lute.) Together with a cadre of fellow instrumentalists, the master musician will debut a commission titled Chinese Art Music: Yang Wei and Ensemble, created especially to complement the museum's exhibition Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution. "At the core of this commission is the notion of tradition and individual talent, a shared theme that links the music and the art exhibit in a broader cultural context," says Massoud Saidpour, museum director of performing arts, music, and film, and the guy who snagged Yang Wei for this year's Viva! & Gala series. You can see what he means tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Gartner Auditorium. Tickets are $29 to $34 by phone or online. Subject to availability, students can get in for whatever spare change they have in their pocket. — Cicora

11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7350,

Beer of Good Cheer

BrewHop in Tremont

What could be better than the Tremont ArtWalk? How about splicing it onto a seasonal pub crawl? That's the thinking behind tonight's Holiday BrewHop, served up as a liquid enhancement to the regularly scheduled ArtWalk festivities. Starting at 6 p.m., you'll find Lolly the Trolley standing by to transport you free of charge to all corners of the happenin' hood. Among the stops: Aperture Photography, where you can have your photo taken with Sexy Santa; A Christmas Story House, where your tour is half-price; and gallery exhibitions at bookstores, bistros, boutiques, and studios throughout. Then, of course, there's the beer-drinking part of the equation: Suffice it to say, you'll find sudsy specials at the South Side, Flying Monkey, Prosperity, Bac, and many more joints. The ArtWalk goes until 11 p.m.; the official drinking lasts until 1 a.m. The BrewHop is part of a whole weekend's worth of Tremont-based festivities, including tomorrow's Run With the Santas; keep reading for more information or visit the websites below. — Cicora


Saturday | 10

Family Fun at the Bar

Santa Drops In at the Happy Dog

As proof that even hipsters someday grow up and have families, check out today's Breakfast With Santa at Happy Dog in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. Starting at 10 a.m., kids can commune with the Jolly One, watch cartoons on the telly, and dig into a breakfast of sausage and fresh-off-the-griddle buttermilk pancakes — all for free. Meantime, the kids' staffers can enjoy the same eats for $5 or savor something a la carte from the Happy Dog hot dog menu. (And yes, the bar is open and Bloody Marys — which go very nicely with chili-cheese dogs — will be available.) The fun continues until around 1 p.m., depending on Santa's schedule. "It's simple, but it's a great way to make people happy during the holidays," says Happy Dog owner Eric Williams. "We have just as much fun as the kids!" — Cicora

5801 Detroit Ave., 216-651-9474,

Beck the Halls!

A Holiday Boutique in Lakewood

"I'm in favor of gifts you can't find just anywhere," says Kathleen Caffrey, marketing director for Lakewood's Beck Center for the Arts. "I think art holds more meaning as a gift because it is so personal and provides the satisfaction of supporting our arts community." Naturally, she's talking about the wares at today's Beck the Halls Holiday Boutique. Among the locally crafted options: jewelry, pottery, watercolors, photography, drawings, and prints. "Artwork outlasts trends and holds more meaning because it can be enjoyed for years," Caffrey adds. So forget about those generic department-store presents and get something your friends and family will really enjoy: original, locally made art. The shopping lasts from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. in Beck's main lobby. Admission is free. Find more information online or by phone. — Logan Boggs

17801 Detroit Ave., 216-521-2540,

Bazaar Bizarre

Not Your Granny's Craft Fair

Forget about "Oh, how pretty!" If "Whoa, that's weird!" is more what you're going for with your gift-giving, this weekend's Bazaar Bizarre should be right up your twisted little alley. Founded in Boston in 2001, the Bazaar Bizarre concept has spread to Los Angeles, San Fran, and C-Town where it's been an annual event since 2004. From "ugly" dolls to sassy embroidered messenger bags, the selections cater to those who delight in an alluringly abnormal local-shopping experience. Score your own one-of-a-kind find today from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It's free and happening at the 78th Street Studios near Gordon Square. — Boggs

1300 West 78th St.,

Go for Baroque

A Celtic Christmas With Apollo's Fire

Jeannette Sorrell isn't just an extraordinary musician and conductor: She's also a savvy entertainer with an unfailing sense of how to make her orchestra — the incomparable Apollo's Fire — stand out in a crowded field. To wit, her newest holiday program, Sacrum Mysterium: A Celtic Christmas, which bypasses the usual Handel and Bach in favor of elements from Scottish vespers and pagan Celtic folk tunes. The resulting program is an ear-opener, encompassing everything from bagpipes and driving dances to haunting Gregorian chants — and it all begins with a candle-lit processional in Gaelic! Featured artists include Canadian soprano Meredith Hall, legendary baroque guitarist and step dancer Steve Player, and hammered dulcimer virtuoso Tina Bergman; the program is a collaboration between Apollo's Fire and Ensemble La Nef of Montreal, directed by Sylvain Bergeron. Performances are scheduled at venues around the region this weekend and next. Tonight's 8 p.m. concert is at the First Baptist Church in Shaker Heights; ticket prices begin at $25. Snag them by phone or online at the website below, where you'll find a complete schedule of performances. — Cicora

3630 Fairmount Blvd., Shaker Heights, 216-320-0012,

Sunday | 11

Family Fun

Jingle Bell Jazz at the Hanna

Kids are naturally pretty jazzed up. So you may as well show them how the pros do it at today's family matinee by the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra. Set at a squirm-friendly 60 minutes, Jingle Bell Jazz puts a CJO spin on familiar holiday tunes, meaning you can expect to hear a little blues, a little gospel, and maybe even a little rock and roll mixed into the jazz renditions. The show begins at 2 p.m., but come early for the "instrument petting zoo," where the next generation of Art Blakeys and John Coltranes can try out some tentative licks. It's happening at the Hanna Theatre on Playhouse Square. The show is free for kids under 12 who are accompanied by an adult; grownups pay $20. Get tickets by phone or online at the website below. — Cicora

2067 East 14th St., 216-241-6000,

Monday | 12

It's Not Actually Dark

Dinner in the Dark

Tonight marks 2011's final Dinner in the Dark, the cleverly conceived series of pop-up-style dinners created by chefs Brian Okin, Jeff Jarrett, and Ellis Cooley. As always, tonight's event is a six-course blowout crafted by six local chefs; each course is paired with a specially chosen wine or artisanal cocktail. The hook? Guests are kept in the dark about the menu and the chefs until the moment they arrive! In fact, all we can tell you about tonight's feast is that it starts at 6:30 at downtown's Noodlecat. Tickets are $87.05, inclusive; get them on the website. — Cicora

240 Euclid Ave.,

Tuesday | 13

More Foodie Fun

A European Christmas on Playhouse Square

It's a well-known fact that, when it comes to Christmas feasting, our European cousins have us beat 12 ways to figgy pudding. But while we may not know our bottoms from our bûche de Noël, we do love to feast — especially when the chefs at the Encore are doing the cooking. Conveniently enough, tonight's seasonal Wine Dinner is designed to capture the traditional flavors of a European Christmas. Among the dishes to be sampled: beet risotto piqued with sharp feta and butternut squash, French-style duck a l'orange, and a classic bûche de Noël (a yummy sort of rolled sponge cake, decorated to look like a yule log); each course is complemented by a specially selected European wine. Tickets for the 6 p.m. dinner are $50 and include tax, tip, and valet parking; make your reservations by phone at the number below. Encore is in the Wyndham Cleveland Hotel on Playhouse Square. — Cicora

1260 Euclid Ave., 216-615-3318,

Books & Booze

Because Punks Crave Literature Too ...

A book club in a punk bar? "Why the heck not?" asks avid reader Heather Bise. Back home after a stint in N.Y.C., Bise says she was jonesing for the laid-back book clubs she had enjoyed in Big Apple bars. "I came back to help my brother [Spitfire Saloon owner Stosh Burgess], and I felt like a foreign exchange student! I couldn't find a book club anywhere!" When Bice suggested launching one at the West Side watering hole, Burgess initially pushed back. All that changed after his patrons started agitating for the club; now Burgess admits "it's kind of cool." The inaugural meeting is set for tonight at 8 p.m. sharp. Up for discussion: Tony Bourdain's best-selling Kitchen Confidential — an appropriate choice given Bourdain's rep as a tough-talking bad boy. (And besides, says Bice, "I'm such a groupie!") After tonight, members will take turns picking the books and leading the free monthly meetings. So far, about 18 readers have signed up, ranging from chemists to bikers to union workers; Bise is hoping for many more. "It's so exciting! I have guys coming who haven't read a book since high school," she laughs. Find out more at the website, send an e-mail to [email protected], or just read the book and show up. — Cicora

1539 West 117th St.,

Wednesday | 14

Brown Bag Concert

Today's Lunch Menu: The Sounds of Christmas

Grab your lunch and head to downtown's glorious Trinity Cathedral today for a free holiday concert. On the bill: A Ceremony of Carols by lauded British composer Benjamin Britten. You'll hear singers from the Cathedral Choir, along with harpist Jody Guinn, performing under the baton of Todd Wilson, the cathedral's director of music and worship. No brown bag? You can get lunch at the cathedral for $5. The concert begins in the nave at 12:10 p.m.; a free-will offering will be accepted. Get more information by phone or at the website below. — Cicora

2230 Euclid Ave., 216-771-3630,

The Voice of the Cavs

Joe Tait Talks Sports

Legendary sports announcer Joe Tait will be dropping by Mentor's Barnes & Noble tonight from 7 to 8 p.m. to chat and sign copies of his new book. Co-written by sports writer Terry Pluto, Joe Tait: It's Been a Real Ball covers Tait's broadcasting career from his early days announcing high school sports to his 2011 retirement after 40 years with the Cavs. And no, it doesn't skimp on covering the no-bullshit commentaries that delighted Tait's fans but sometimes got him in hot water with the coaches and owners. The talk and book signing are free; copies of the book will be available for $15.95, or order directly from the website below. — Cicora

7900 Mentor Ave., Mentor, 440-266-0212,

Deep Thoughts

Cozy Up to Global Crisis

We know what you're thinking: Here's yet another chalk talk filled with the oft-repeated perils of global warming. Well, you thought wrong: Instead of harping on the benefits of "going green," tonight's talk by Dr. Jeremy Bendik-Keymer — "The Ethical Challenge of Climate Change" — asks one simple question: Why don't we get off our keisters and fix it? Bendik-Keymer, an ethics professor at Case, thinks our failure to act reflects a "perfect moral storm" brought on by a lack of global government, a lack of personal and corporate responsibility, and the inability of those most affected — the poor, the unborn, and the non-human species — to lobby for action. The question remaining? How to combat this ever-growing cyclone in an efficient manner. "We have to reorganize our institutions," says Bendik-Keymer. "We have to get political, and the politics have to go beyond our nation alone." You can hear more from the good doctor tonight at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. His talk begins at 7 p.m. and is free with museum admission: $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and $7 for children ages 3-6. Check out the museum's website for more information. — Boggs

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