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6 Genius Things To Do In Kansas City This Weekend

Boulevardia is this weekend in Kansas City's West Bottoms.

We’re all special, right? But some of us are extra special. There I said it.

And the weekend is going to back me up with events driven by special people – both living and dead – whose cultural contributions qualify as outright genius or at least border on brilliance.

Stick with the smarties. Not only will they put a smile on your face, but they’ll give you something to aspire to. Genius!

1. ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

The output of William Shakespeare is such that some big brains still find it hard to believe that he cooked up so many amazing plays by his lonesome – or that it was even a guy named Shakespeare who really wrote them. Say what you will, but nobody said it better than the Bard of Avon – if he indeed was the genius who put quill pen to paper to come up with “Much Ado About Nothing,” this summer’s Heart of America Shakespeare Festival show. The four-century-old comedy about the wily ways of lovers on their way to the alter holds up and then some. But even Shakespeare’s great wit will be playfully undercut in pre-show parody performances by Team Shakespeare. You know what they say: It’s OK to make ye olde fun, as long as you’re punching up.  

Thursday-Sunday, 8 p.m. (gates open 6 p.m.; pre-show activities 6:30 p.m.); Southmoreland Park, 4598 Oak St., Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free (donations accepted).

2. Boulevardia

Taking nothing away from the titanic talents of the live bands performing on two stages at this year’s Boulevardia music and beer fest – including Kansas City’s hip-hop sensation Tech N9ne and force-of-nature heavy-metal brother act Radkey – but the addition of a nifty “silent disco” should also be a draw. Dancers can groove to deejay-selected tunes that only they can hear on headphones, making for a sort of precocious party within the party. Sounds like it might be as much fun to watch as to wiggle.

Friday, 4-11 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Stockyards District, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: $25.

3. ‘The Unsinkable Molly Brown’

Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre presents “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” composer and playwright Meredith Willson’s rousing ode to never-say-give gumption. The 1960 Broadway hit (which starred Debbie Reynolds in the 1964 movie version) traces the real-life story of its inspirational title character, a virtual genius of survival, as she rises from 19th-century rural poverty to proprietor of America’s richest gold mine. Along the way, she figures out a thing or two about what true happiness means. Hint: It’s not just about the gold. Why “Unsinkable”? Brown was a passenger on the Titanic and made it back home to tell the tale.

Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; the Warwick Theatre, 3927 Main St.; tickets: $29-$54.

4. The Blasters

The genius of the Blasters: Be yourself. The band’s fiery singer/songwriter Phil Alvin has been making the convincing case for nearly 40 years, along with his hand-picked fellow practitioners of rough-hewn rock ’n’ roll, country and roadhouse blues of the highest order. Unpretentious, authentic and a damn good time, the L.A.-bred Blasters continue to blow up nightclubs across the land courtesy of such oldies but goodies as “American Music,” “Marie Marie” and “I’m Shakin’.” Oh, you will. Plus there’s strange-but-true opening act Clownvis Presley, who cops a funny feel from the King of Rock ’n’ Roll not only with his infectious songs but also a big red nose and magic. Dare I say genius? I’m afraid I just did.

Saturday, 9 p.m.; Knuckleheads Saloon, 2415 Rochester St., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $22.50-$40.

5. ‘The King and I’

You don’t have to be a mastermind to have a successful relationship. Still, it’s a jungle out there, gang, and any intellectual leg up to achieve mutual contentment should be taken. Which brings me to genius Broadway songwriters Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, who expertly explored an intelligent yet challenging odd couple in their 1951 hit musical, “The King and I.” The 1860s-era relationship between the stubbornly conservative King of Siam and the courteously progressive British tutor he hires to teach his offspring (and wives!) is at turns adversarial and amorous – and never less than interesting. It beautifully asks the musical question, “Shall We Dance?,” while showing how “Getting to Know You” can lead to “Something Wonderful.”

Thursday-Sunday, 8 p.m.; Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $15-145.

6. The Papas & the Mamas

Tortured genius is still genius. The life of “Papa” John Phillips was scarred by drug addiction and terrible choices. But it was also uplifting because of his gift for writing compelling vocal harmonies as the leader of the 1960s folk-rock group the Mamas & the Papas. Catch tribute act the Papas & the Mamas in a “Flashback to Folk” concert recreating such enchanting hits as “Monday, Monday,” “Go Where You Wanna Go,” “I Saw Her Again,” “Creeque Alley” and, of course, “California Dreamin’.”

Friday, 7 p.m.; Legacy Park Amphitheater, 897 N.E. Bluestem Dr., Lee’s Summit, Mo.; admission: free.

Brian McTavish is a regular arts and culture contributor for KCUR 89.3. You can reach him at brianmctavish@gmail.com

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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