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6 Things To See On Stage This Weekend In Kansas City

J. Robert Schraeder
courtesy of The Coterie Theatre
Seth M. Jones (as Frog) and Steven Eubank (as Toad) in 'A Year with Frog and Toad.'

The extraordinary freedom of expression that we have in this country is routinely utilized by artists who choose to perform on stage, along with audiences that seek to be engaged by their efforts.

Keep that in mind this Fourth of July weekend, while enjoying the talents of actors and musicians who are free to go wherever their creative spirit leads.

That kind of liberty? Only in America.

1. ‘Pippin’

Everyone onstage lets it all hang out – well, a lot of it – in this Tony Award-winning musical that debuted on Broadway in the 1970s, which, as I recall, was the “Me Decade.” The staging of “Pippin” at Starlight Theatre apparently retains a good deal of the original production’s vintage naughtiness tied to the dance-happy title character’s exploration of sexual behavior, as well as some violence. A parental caution states that the show “may be inappropriate for children 8 and under.” Oh, to be 9. Thursday through Sunday, 8 p.m.; Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: start at $14.

2. Gogol Bordello

Gypsy punk music is the freewheeling name of the game for Gogol Bordello, a party-centric dance band made up of eight earthy musicians hailing from New York’s Lower East Side. Ukrainian-born front man Eugene Hutz fearlessly focuses on the fun at hand, including instructing everyone to “Start Wearing Purple,” if only because he says so. Fueling the collective frenzy is one passionately played tune after another infused with kinetic fiddle, accordion and guitar. Not jumping up and down is not an option. Friday, 8 p.m., Crossroads KC, 417 E. 18 th St., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $25, $35, $76.50.

3. ‘Hairspray’

The teenage trials of Tracy Turnblad are given their tuneful due in this Tony Award-winning Broadway musical adaptation of writer/director John Waters’ 1988 film comedy of the same name. Set in the early 1960s, Tracy doesn’t let her rotund shape stop her from following her dream of becoming the best dancer on a Baltimore TV show aimed at the high-school set. She also leads the charge in inspiring others to fight racial segregation on the show. A top-notch musical that uplifts as it entertains. Sunday, 7:35 p.m. (seating 6 p.m., dining 6:30-7:25 p.m.), New Theatre Restaurant, 9229 Foster St., Overland Park; tickets: $43-$56.

4. Steve Cardenas Trio

Ace guitarist Steve Cardenas returns to his home town of Kansas City with celebrated bassist and frequent collaborator Ben Allison, along with drummer Brian Steever for two gigs of cerebral jazz. Yes, it’s OK to actually think while digging the groove, man – pardon the lingo, sometimes I get carried away. But that’s what jazz can do! Cardenas has performed and recorded with many respected names in the jazz universe and was tagged as a Rising Star Composer in Downbeat magazine’s critics poll. Thursday, 7 p.m.; Take Five Coffee + Bar, 6601 W. 135th St., Suite A-21, Overland Park, Kan. ($10 cover); Friday, 8:30 p.m.; the Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., Kansas City, Mo. ($15 cover).

5. ‘The Secret Garden’

The promise of rebirth is at the caring heart of “The Secret Garden,” which is both a real and metaphorical place. Based on the 1911 novel of the same title, this family friendly musical follows the personal journey of an 11-year old orphan who discovers her true potential while helping to bring life back to an abandoned garden. A show with a message that we can all learn from. Friday through Saturday, 8:30 p.m.; Theatre in the Park at Shawnee Mission Park, 7710 Renner Road, Shawnee, Kan.; tickets: $10 adults, $6 ages 4-10.

6. ‘A Year with Frog and Toad’

This delightful musical for the young (and young at heart) features contented Frog and cantankerous Toad in an ageless tale of durable friendship that takes the quirky duo through all four seasons. Extra pleasure awaits those who can tell the difference between a frog and toad just by looking. Do both give you warts? Neither? Alright, I’ll stop now. Friday, 11 a.m.; Sunday, 1 and 7 p.m.; Coterie Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $10-$15.

Brian McTavish follows popular culture in the belief that the search for significance can lead anywhere. Brian explains, "I've written articles and reviews ... reviewed hundreds of concerts, films and plays. And the thing is, these high arts all sprang from the pop culture of their day. Don't forget: Shakespeare was once Spielberg."
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