SWEET DREAMS: THE GREAT RUSSIAN NUTCRACKER
We're nearly at Christmas Day, so various versions of the Nutcracker have been dancing through town for weeks.
One of the best marketed is the Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker, which gives three performances Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater. The touring company, created in 1993 around choreographer Stanislav Vlasov's adaptation of the Tchaikovsky suite, retains the charm of the 19th century tale.
With a Christmas Eve party with Russian court dances and the Moscow skyline in the background, a little girl falls asleep. You know the rest. (It involves a gigantic Nutcracker toy that fights an army of mice; there is a Nutcracker prince and Father Christmas and a Snow Maiden.)
This ballet company (which had the foresight to snag the Web address nutcracker.com), is more an assembly of Russian dancers touring North America than a cultural artifact of Moscow. But they do amazing things, especially in the signature pas de deux that opens the second act.
At the center of this "Land of Peace and Harmony," a feature the Moscow Ballet's Nutcracker has copyrighted, is dove of peace. In 2012 the ballet modified the dove from a single female dancer to a couple forming one bird with a 20-foot wingspan.
EIGHT COMICS LEFT: SIDE SPLITTERS CONTEST
The comedy contest at Side Splitters Comedy Club is heading into the quarterfinals.
The contest, which at its outset pits 64 aspiring local standup comics against one another, has been going on for six months. It's a fun way for audiences to see what people who live among them have to offer.
The club squeezes comics in between the opening act and the headliner. Comics do five minutes each. The audience votes on slips of paper.
Club manager Brian Thompson said Side Splitters doesn't prohibit contestants from stacking the audience with their friends.
"Part of comedy is marketing yourself, so you don't want to punish them," he said.
The format changes as the contest enters the homestretch. Each comic in the final four will go head to head in January, doing a total of 16 minutes. Winners from the final four on are selected by judges, although the audience still gets a small share in the vote.
"I truly want the best person to win," Thompson said. The contest will wrap up sometime in January, with the winner earning a cash prize and a gig at the Laughing Skull Comedy Club in Atlanta.
In the meantime, Happy Cole, left, headlines this weekend. Cole has performed regularly with Carnival Cruise Lines but hasn't spared Carnival in his material — or, for that matter, the destinations or the customers themselves.
Cole's shows start at 6, 8 and 10:15 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday at Side Splitters Comedy Club, 12938 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. $10-$12. (813) 960-1197. sidesplitterscomedy.com.
THE POLITICS THAT SHAPED US: ALL THE WAY
West Side Story, with which the Asolo Repertory Theatre opened its season, has sold out through Sunday, the end of its run.
So, you might want to reserve seats early for All the Way, a look back at former President Lyndon B. Johnson. In the 2014 Tony winner for Best Play, the story zeroes in on the driven man regarded by friends and foes alike as a master politician. The man who signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which went into law a little over a year after being called for by President John F. Kennedy) while coping with a worsening situation in Vietnam is easy to imagine on the stage. Around him are other critical or even monumental figures of the era, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Hubert Humphrey and J. Edgar Hoover. All the Way, written by Robert Schenkkan and directed by Emily Sophia Knapp, runs Jan. 6 to April 9. 5555 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 351-8000. asolorep.org.