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This Week's Day-By-Day Picks 

Cowboy Bebop blasts into the Cinematheque's - Japanimation festival this weekend (Friday).
  • Cowboy Bebop blasts into the Cinematheque's Japanimation festival this weekend (Friday).

Thursday, May 1

Film Forward is Madstone's novel attempt to generate word-of-mouth buzz for half a dozen indie films unspooling at the Centrum over the next six weeks. The featured movies -- Soft for Digging; Bunny; Te Amo (Made in Chile); Tattoo, a Love Story; Side Streets; and Seven and a Match -- premiere in pairs, and each shows for two weeks. Film Forward kicks off with the supernatural thriller Soft for Digging and the dark comedy Bunny, which run through May 14 at the Madstone Centrum (2781 Euclid Heights Boulevard in Cleveland Heights). Tickets are $4.50 and $7.50. Show times vary; call 216-321-1000 for more information.

Friday, May 2

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, premiering in Cleveland tonight as part of the Cinematheque's Japanimation Weekend VIII, originates from the futuristic anime TV show that airs on the Cartoon Network. It follows a crew of bounty hunters as they look into a mysterious chemical virus, which may or may not be tied to a major drug corporation. While the soundtrack is annoying (jazz, techno, and rock songs futilely try to keep up with the on-screen action), the animation and story are top-notch. Cowboy Bebop is the showpiece of the festival, which also includes a screening of the magnificent Spirited Away, showing in the original Japanese-language version on Sunday. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie plays at 9:30 tonight, 7 p.m. Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday at the Cinematheque (11141 East Boulevard). Tickets are $7, $4 for members. Call 216-421-7450 for more information.

Saturday, May 3

Carol Burnett's status as a television icon is well deserved. Her self-titled show, which snagged six Emmys in its 11-year run, remains one of TV's benchmark variety programs. Burnett brings her one-woman performance, Laughter and Reflection, to the Civic Theatre tonight. She'll hit on many career highs as well as a few lows, and she'll also field questions from the audience -- so get those Dorf queries ready. Laughter and Reflection With Carol Burnett starts at 8 at the Civic Theatre, 182 South Main Street in Akron. Tickets are $51 and $61, available by calling 330-945-9400.

A cappella music can be tragically unhip, but modern practitioners are doing their best to inject some coolness. Take the 1,000 or so ladies participating in this weekend's Acappella Rocks On -- a competition for singers from Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania -- which wraps up with tonight's Show of Champions. Filling their repertoire with rock, jazz, country, and show tunes, the 13 quartets and 19 choruses do their best to prove that they're more than just distaff barbershop foursomes. Tonight's show starts at 8 at Cleveland Music Hall (500 Lakeside Avenue). Tickets are $15. Call 216-573-7357 for more information.

Sunday, May 4

Gary Shteyngart deftly incorporates his roots (born in the Soviet Union, moved to the United States, went to college in Ohio) into his fine debut novel, The Russian Debutante's Handbook. It was one of last year's best reads, a tale of an ordinary guy who crosses a drug lord and somehow ends up in the company of mobsters. "I constantly find myself moving around," Shteyngart says. "Most writers find one theme that means more to them than anything. For me, it's the theme of escape." Childhood, though, is one thing Shteyngart isn't running from. "I loved the Soviet Union before I left," he says. "I loved the Red Army, and I loved the big statue of Lenin outside of our window." Shteyngart reads and signs copies of The Russian Debutante's Handbook (which was recently released in paperback) at 2 p.m. at Joseph-Beth Booksellers (13217 Shaker Square). Admission is free. Call 216-751-3300 for more information.

Monday, May 5

Any mother will tell you that maternity clothing ain't fashionable. Clunky, ugly, and practical to a fault, clothes for moms-to-be were designed for one purpose only. Now the Western Reserve Historical Society is honoring the style in Dressing for Two. "Before the turn of the 20th century, there weren't any clothes that were designed specifically for maternity wear," explains Megan Spagnolo, curator of costumes and textiles. "Before that, women just sort of modified the garments that they would have worn regularly." The exhibit tracks maternity fashion from the late 18th century onward and includes other matronly objects from the past, such as hand-blown glass breast pumps and a cradle used by Moses Cleaveland. Dressing for Two is at the Western Reserve Historical Society (10825 East Boulevard) through October 12. It's open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission ranges from $5 to $7.50. Call 216-721-5722 for more information.

Tuesday, May 7

Given the success of the Lord of the Rings movies, it was only a matter of time before somebody set J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy world to music. The Hobbit -- The Musical takes the story of Bilbo Baggins -- complete with trolls, dwarves, dragons, and wise wizard Gandalf -- and attaches music, lyrics, and a libretto to it. Probably not what Tolkien had in mind for his complex and richly detailed characters, but it's entertaining nonetheless. The Youth Theater production wraps up its run with an 11 a.m. performance at Beck Center for the Arts (17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood). Tickets range from $8 to $10, available by calling 216-521-2540.

Wednesday, May 7

Today's Miniature Golf Challenge makes good use of the twin 18-hole courses at Challenge Park, located in Sandusky next to Cedar Point. (Hopefully, it will also make good use of that old miniature-golf standby, the windmill.) The tournament is a 36-hole scramble for four-person teams (organizers will place you on a team if you're flying solo). Proceeds benefit the Firelands Chapter of the American Red Cross. It starts at 4:30 p.m. (registration is at 4) at Challenge Park, One Cedar Point Drive in Sandusky. The Challenge costs $25 to enter, $5 if you just want to watch (you get three raffle tickets for a chance to win a Cedar Point getaway-weekend package). Call 800-589-2286 for more information.

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