Friday, June 24
Free of sets and costumes, Musical Theater Heritage concerts allow the scores to shine, according to the organization's artistic director, Amy Coady. The Belger Arts Center (2100 Walnut) serves as its simple stage, and apparently it suits the singers just fine -- they've performed there for two years now, and their 2005 season debut, Carousel, landed them national attention and a sizable mention on Playbill.com. "These classics are so well-crafted," Coady said in the article, "that the music and lyrics tell the stories quite clearly on their own." Her efforts will be heard again tonight with the 8 p.m. premiere of America in Song, which she wrote and directed. This compilation of music and lyrics by popular songwriters -- including works by George Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein -- will also be performed at 8 p.m. tomorrow. Tickets are $20 for adults; call 816-756-0282 for more information.
Saturday, June 25
We find this new ironic habit of wearing John Deere T-shirts troubling. First, we're in the Midwest, where there are plenty of hardworking people operating farm machinery as part of their day-to-day existence -- and we doubt they find this at all amusing. Then again, maybe some of you hipsters are actually just really into tractors, in which case you'll be plenty excited about the Show-Me Tractor Cruise, a ride through rural and urban Missouri. On tractors. The ride starts today at 8:30 a.m. in Savannah, Missouri, at Derr Equipment (11001 Highway 71) and passes the Missouri River bluffs, various parks and the city of St. Joseph. The day ends with a barbecue -- and that never goes out of style. Call Richard Brand at 660-778-3476 for more information, or see www.showmetractorcruise.com.
Sunday, June 26
Sena Jeter Naslund's novel Ahab's Wife used Moby Dick and aspects of Herman Melville's real life to explore the role of women in the early 19th century. Her latest book, Four Spirits, travels between the real and the unreal, this time using the four victims from the explosion at a black church in Birmingham, Alabama, as a starting point to explore the civil rights movement. Alabama-raised Naslund weaves her story around several characters -- black, white, activist and racist --who see the girls as spirits. Hear what she has to say when she discusses her writing on New Letters on the Air today at 6 a.m. on KCUR 89.3. Can't make it out of bed for literary talk? It's available online on Wednesday; see www.newletters.org.
Monday, June 27
It was only a matter of time before the 1984 film Footloose (arguably Kevin Bacon's fourth degree, following Animal House, Diner and, um, Guiding Light) was adapted into a Broadway musical. The story of a big-city boy who teaches a small town to dance -- and, as a result, revitalizes its whole goddamned spirit -- pretty much has Ren-belongs-on-a-stage written all over it, in capital letters and followed by an exclamation point. We only wish that the audiences who first embraced the stage version in the late '90s could have had the benefit, as we do now, of an outdoor production. With the script's oh-so-fiery combination of passionate energy and raging hormones, we would have worried that an enclosed theater might have, like, exploded. Footloose premieres at 8:30 p.m. at Starlight Theatre (6601 Swope Parkway) and runs through July 3. Tickets start at $9; call 816-363-7827 or see www.kcstarlight.com to purchase.
Tuesday, June 28
Much to our chagrin, many of our favorite things do not yet exist on DVD. For example, MTV's foray into sketch comedy, The State. Notable for a whole slew of cast members viewers will recognize from everything from those Pets.com commercials with the sock-puppet dog to Strangers With Candy, the show trafficked in the sort of absurdist humor that makes us laugh until we cry. Like a skit with a mailman who delivered tacos instead of mail. Thankfully, former State-ers Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain have found a new home on Comedy Central. Their new baby, Stella, a live-action adaptation of their popular nightclub comedy show, premieres tonight at 9:30 p.m. The three play unemployed roommates who do wacky things such as gain co-op board approval after performing a Flashdance-style dance routine. In other words, we're staying home to watch it.
Wednesday, June 29
The Toastmasters International mission is to improve communication skills, which we always interpreted to mean that members were the sorts of people who gave speeches in front of large crowds. Then we found ourselves on the Toastmasters Web site and discovered something exciting. Almost all of the organization's tips for successful public speaking are actually perfect for first dates. For instance: "Concentrate on the message -- not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and outwardly toward your message and your audience." So instead of our usual self-deprecation schtick, we're thinking, I'm a sexy motherfucker! And we always scoffed when our mom told us that sometimes it was good to go on a date just to go on a date -- but Toastmasters agrees. "Experience builds confidence." OK, then! The next creepy-looking dude who hits on us totally gets our number. Locally, a new Toastmasters club for the LGBT community is forming, and its first info session is tonight at 7 at First Lutheran Church (6400 State Line Road). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, and remember: "Turn nervousness into positive energy."