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Hot picks: Jackie Evancho, Greg Warren, Day of Thirds

| Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Theater: Step into the 'Bon Soir' life

On Friday, City Theatre 's "Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir" set transforms into a real-life cabaret.

For one night only, the show's star -- actor Luke MacFarlane -- will share the stage with Lenora Nemetz, Billy Porter, Daphne Alderson and maybe you in a post-show performance.

The impromptu concert, which will start around 9:45 p.m., will include a program of hits and standards and solicit vocal requests from the audience.

Bring your sheet music, because the evening also offers the chance for those in the audience to belt out a favorite tune, with backup provided by the play's Bon Soir band.

Admission: $30, includes one free drink voucher. Space is limited.

Performance is in the Hamburg Studio Theatre, 1300 Bingham St., South Side.

Details: 412-431-2489 or www.CityTheatreCompany.org .

— Alice T. Carter

Jazz: Third time's a tradition

Holiday jazz has become a yearly event for trumpeter Sean Jones and the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra.

"This is our third year for Christmas concerts," he says. "So, it's become of tradition."

The big band he put together will offer its Christmas concert at 6 p.m. Sunday at a time Jones believes will make it accessible for families to celebrate jazz cheer.

Along with parts of Duke Ellington's version of the "Nutcracker" and arrangements by band co-director Mike Tomaro, the band will offer trombonist's Jeff Bush's new look at "Blue Christmas."

Of course, the band also will play Oliver Nelson's "Greensleeves," which has been part of the other two holiday shows "and is a real killer," Jones says. "So it will be some old, some new."

The concert is at the August Wilson Center, Downtown. Admission is $20 and $40. Details: 412-456-6666.

— Bob Karlovits


Art: Art that sings with nostalgia

Saturday evening, Christine Frechard Gallery will usher in a night of nostalgia when J oy Ike, Elise Massa and JD Eicher & The Goodnights serve up a lighthearted evening of Christmas tunes as backdrop to the wonderfully nostalgic works of James Guentner.

Guentner's paintings reflect Pittsburgh in the 1980s, when Big Steel still had a foothold in the region. Featuring steelworkers, coal miners, city streets and moody Western Pennsylvania landscapes, the work hearkens back to a simpler time.

The event, which gets under way at 7 p.m., is a food drive to benefit East End Cooperative Ministry. The gallery will be collecting nonperishable items for the group's food pantry. Tickets are $12, $10 for students, and $2 off with two or more canned good.

James Guentner's paintings will remain on display at the gallery through Jan. 20. The gallery is at 5871 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill, and is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Details: 412-421-8888 or www.christinefrechardgallery.com .

— Kurt Shaw

Holidays: Little girl, big talent

Jackie Evancho, who sold out the Benedum Center in October when she performed with Pittsburgh Opera, returns to the big theater Tuesday evening. After winning runner-up in the 2010 "America's Got Talent" show, the 11-year-old from Richland Township has enjoyed a flourishing career.

She was in Los Angeles earlier in December for television shows, but says she thinks she's coping very well with all the extra activities in her life. Of course, she has a lot of help from her parents. And, since she's cyber-schooled, it hardly matters where she is when she does her schoolwork.

Evancho's program will open with selections from her CD "Dream with Me" and conclude with Christmas songs. She says two of her favorites are "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night" because "they're tender and very pretty and peaceful. They're just great."

The young singer will be accompanied by a pickup orchestra conducted by Marvin Laird. She'll share the stage with 20-year-old tenor Christopher Dallo, of Toronto. They've been friends since singing together before she went on "America's Got Talent."

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Admission is $40.25 to $250.

Details: 412-456-6666 or www.trustarts.org .

— Mark Kanny

Film: 'The Dark Knight Rises'

Beginning Friday, the Carnegie Science Center will be giving visitors a preview of next summer's highly anticipated Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises," parts of which were filmed in Pittsburgh.

Visitors who purchase a ticket to the IMAX film "Tornado Alley" will be able to see the six-minute opening sequence of the Batman film at the Rangos Omnimax Theater, which is one of 70 IMAX theaters worldwide that is showing the prologue. "Tornado Alley" runs daily at the North Side center at varying times. Tickets are $8; $6 for children.

Details: 412-237-3400 or www.carnegiesciencecenter.org .

— Kellie B. Gormly

Music: Always ready to rock the house

Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers have played some high-profile gigs of late, performing two nights with Bruce Springsteen at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum and opening for Bob Seger at the Consol Energy Center.

But Grushecky and his band do quite well on their own. Saturday at Altar Bar in the Strip District, the Houserockers will celebrate the release of "We're Not Dead Yet," a double live album recorded earlier this year at the New Hazlett Theater in the North Side.

Among the 21 songs are rousing versions of "Junior's Bar," "American Babylon," "Swimming with the Sharks" and "East Carson Street."

Admission for the 9 p.m. show is $10.

Details: 412-263-2877 or www.altarbarpittsburgh.com .

— Rege Behe

Comedy: Funny and local

The hapless-but-hilarious Greg Warren is a familiar voice to those who tune in to the Morning Show on WDVE-FM. The St. Louis native, a frequent guest on the show, is a sort of Jack Lemmon of comedy, more acted upon than acting.

His routines frequently reference his run-ins with the service industry, women and "one-star people" -- those pushy, mouth-breathers with fake tans, mullets and no indoor voices, who make Larry the Cable Guy look like Sean Connery. Warren's old-but-still-much-requested routine "Flute Man" is his own personal "Free Bird."

He opens at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Pittsburgh Improv. Other shows are 8 and 10 p.m. Friday, 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $15 to $18 for the shows.

Details: 412-462-5233 or www.improv.com .

William Loeffler

Music: Held together by talent

Ra Ra Riot 's formula -- spare guitars, keyboard and drums, augmented by cello and violin -- shouldn't work. And, yet, the songs are mesmerizing, bound together by Wes Miles' upper-register vocals, sure, but also benefiting from some strange musical alchemy. Perhaps it's the inherent joy of performance the musicians seem to have, perhaps it's songs that are just a bit off center. Or maybe the five young musicians from Syracuse, N.Y., are just very good at what they do.

Ra Ra Riot appears Saturday at Carnegie Music Hal l in Oakland as part of the Andy Warhol Museum's Sound Series. The opening act is 1,2,3.

Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $15.

Details: 866-468-3401 or www.ticketweb.com .

— Rege Behe

Music: Tribute to the troops

Country stars Chris Cagle and Uncle Kracke r on Friday will be performing a benefit concert for Operation Troop Appreciation, an organization that provides care packages and wish list items to military members serving overseas.

Cagle's latest song, "Got My Country On," has received a lot of play, and he is preparing to release a new album with the song in early 2012. Uncle Kracker has rock, rap and country roots. The dinner show begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Pepsi-Cola Roadhouse in Burgettstown.

Tickets are $55 to $75. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Details: www.pepsiroadhouse.com .

— Kellie B. Gormly

Music: Lee Greenwood

Lee Greenwood -- a longtime country singer best known for his patriotic hit "God Bless the U.S.A." -- will be performing two shows on Friday in the banquet space at the Rivers Casino on the North Side.

Greenwood, who has produced more than 35 singles since the early '80s, will be singing his top hits, along with many holiday classics. Throughout his career, Greenwood's No. 1 hits have included "Somebody's Gonna Love You," "Dixie Road," and "Going, Going, Gone." Shows begin at 7 and 10 p.m. Tickets are $32.

Details: www.theriverscasino.com .

— Kellie B. Gormly

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Music: Third is the word

Tuesday will be a Day of Thirds at the Backstage Bar , Downtown.

George Heid and Benny Benack , both of whom are the third members of their family to bear that name, will be performing at the Tuesday-evening events sponsored by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Drummer Heid, son of Aspinwall recording engineer George Heid, is a student at the State University of New York at Purchase. He will open the evening at the happy hour show at 5 p.m.

Trumpeter Benack is the son of reed master Benny Benack Jr. and grandson of cornetist Benny Benack, who sounded the bugle call for the Pittsburgh Pirates 1960 championship. He studies at the Manhattan School of Music and is establishing a performance presence in Gotham.

He will be doing the closing set at 8 p.m.

Both are skilled at many aspects of jazz, ranging from mainstream to contemporary sounds. Benack also adds a little singing to his gigs.

Both events are at Theater Square, 655 Penn Ave., and are free. Details: 412-456-6666.

— Bob Karlovits

Special event: Comtra, Savoyards team

Charles Dickens' trio of yuletide spirits meet Gilbert and Sullivan's pirates a s Comtra Theatre and the Pittsburgh Savoyards join together for a holiday event.

The evening features a complete performance of Comtra Theater's "A Christmas Carol" followed by a preview of The Pittsburgh Savoyards spring show, "Pirates of Penzance."

The performance begins at 7 p.m. Sunday in the auditorium of at Our Lady of Victory Maronite Church, 1000 Lindsay Road, Carnegie.

Admission: $10, cookies and coffee included.

Details: 412-734-8476 or www.pittsburghsavoyards.org .

— Alice T. Carter

Kids: Children's Museum

If your kids like to create things with their hands, take them to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh this weekend, when the North Side museum will be holding several hands-on, creative activities.

At the "Meet the Makers: Wool Spinning" program, visitors can make their own spindles and yarn with Virginia artist Lauren Capehart. She will demonstrate how to make spindles from everyday objects, and spin yarn from wool, T-shirts and other fabrics.

Capehart -- who dyes wool with water, Kool-Aid and vinegar in a microwave -- will show kids how to make "plarn," which is yarn spun from plastic grocery bags. The wool-spinning program will be offered from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday; and from noon to 2 p.m. and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

For kids interested in clay art, artists from the Union Project will be in the museum's studio from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday to demonstrate techniques at the pottery wheel.

And, every day through New Year's Eve, kids can participate in the Handmade Holiday Gift Program to create their own Christmas gifts. Crafts include cutting paper cards and silkscreening T-shirts.

Activities are included with general admission of $12; $11 for ages 2-18 and senior citizens.

Details: 412-322-5058 or www.pittsburghkids.org .

— Kellie B. Gormly

Claus' last stop at Oxford Centre

Saturday is the last time your kids can visit with Santa Claus at One Oxford Centre, which is hosting "Saturday at the Centre."

The free event, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., features Santa Claus, Christmas crafts and instrumental performances. Activities will take place around One Oxford Centre's giant Christmas tree.

Visitors can enjoy free horse-drawn carriage rides during the event's hours. Free gift wrapping for anything bought at the shopping center will be from 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Details: www.shopoxford.com .

— Kellie B. Gormly

Special event: Shopping without the kids

Parents, if you want to shop for Christmas gifts without the prying eyes of your kids, you can drop them off at the Carnegie Science Center on Sunday for the "Drop & Shop" event.

At "Drop & Shop," from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., kids, ages 4 to 12, can explore the North Side center and its exhibit. They will watch an Omnimax film and a laser show, enjoy a science workshop and other activities.

Meanwhile, parents can spend five hours shopping. Cost is $40 per child, and registration is required.

Details: 412-237-1637 or www.carnegiesciencecenter.org .

— Kellie B. Gormly

Special event: Santa in the Strip

Ho Ho Ho, Strip District! Santa Claus will be Christmas shopping and visiting Sunday at the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Produce Terminal Building, 17th and Smallman streets. Santa will be posing for pictures with kids, and will be eager to hear kids' wish lists.

Santa will be there from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Starting at 11:30 a.m., he will make surprise stops along Penn Avenue in the Strip District.

Details: www.neighborsinthestrip.com .

— Kellie B. Gormly

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