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Hot picks: Steel City Con, The Freelance Whales |

Hot picks: Steel City Con, The Freelance Whales

| Wednesday, December 1, 2010 12:00 a.m

Dance: Signs of the season

Two local holiday traditions will have new perspectives Friday evening when Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” will be danced at Phipps Conservatory in Oakland.

“Poinsettias and Pointe Shoes” will present vignettes from the extremely popular ballet about a girl’s fantasy-filled night before Christmas. The dancing will take place with the Phipps’ Winter Flower Show as a three-dimensional backdrop. The show, which runs through Jan. 9, 2011, explores the holidays with snowmen made from white garden flowers, hanging baskets and bedecked evergreens.

The performances start at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Friday at Phipps Conservatory, Oakland. Admission: $12 general admission; $11 for seniors 62 and older, and students with valid I.D.; $9 for children 2 to 18; free for children under 2. Seating is first-come, first serve.

Details: 412-456-6666 or .

— Mark Kanny

Holidays: Time for Mannheim

Kick off your holiday celebration with Mannheim Steamroller ‘s spectacular 25th anniversary production Friday and Saturday at the Benedum Center.

Grammy Award winner Chip Davis has created a show that features the beloved Christmas music of Mannheim Steamroller along with state-of-the-art multimedia effects in an intimate setting. The show will feature innovative multi-media light shows, giant screen images and videos synched along with Mannheim Steamroller’s holiday music.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday. Admission: $34.50 to $79.50

Details: 412-456-6666 or .

— Joanne Klimovich Harrop

Special event: A gift for collectors

The Steel City Con isn’t just a comic book convention.

Well, it is that, but it’s also a convention for those who buy, sell and enjoy toys, “childhood collectibles” and just about every type of pop culture-related stuff imaginable. As always, it will be packed with artists, celebrities and sort-of-celebrities, ready to autograph your memorabilia. Guests this year include the Incredible Hulk himself Lou Ferrigno, Daniel Logan (Boba Fett from “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones”), Kane Hodder (Jason from “Friday the 13th”) and Pittsburgh-born wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino.

The Con goes from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $12, and a 3-day pass is $20.

Details: or 412-213-0224.

— Michael Machosky

Music: Golden years

Oldies and goodies are coming on Friday to Consol Energy Center with the Pittsburgh Doo Wop Holiday Reunion Show IX.

The annual show’s lineup of ’50s and ’60s artists includes Bobby Rydell; Frankie Lymon’s Legendary Teenagers; The Dubs; Kenny Vance and the Planotones; Terry Johnson’s Flamingos; Jay and the Americans and more.

Artists say that the show is like a high school reunion, when they see so many of their fellow singers from that golden Doo Wop era. Fans often say the concert is a fun, nostalgic celebration of their younger years.

Tickets are $30.75 to $87. The show begins at 7 p.m. Details: 800-745-3000 or .

— Kellie Gormly

Art: Paper is mightier

We write on it, draw on it, print on it, file it, even defile it. Paper, it’s ubiquitous. And for many artists, it’s the foundation of their art, on top of which they can create their own personal masterpieces.

From 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, James Gallery will host the opening reception for “Pulp Friction,” a group exhibit featuring a wide variety of works by a dozen Pittsburgh-area artists who each in their own way explore what can be done with paper.

The exhibit will remain on display through Jan. 29. James Gallery is at 413 S. Main St. in Pittsburgh’s West End and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays.

Details: 412-922-9800 or .

— Kurt Shaw

Theater: Grown-up ‘runt’

Award-winning Canadian/Jamaican writer/actor Michael Phillip Edwards brings his powerful autobiographical one-man story “runt” to town Thursday for eight performances.

Edwards shares stories of his life growing up in Jamaica and his struggles with his abusive-but-charismatic father as he explains his progression from a powerless, fearful child to self-sufficient and confident manhood.

His performance and script won the 2001 Fringe First award at the international Edinburgh Theater Festival in Scotland.

Performances, at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, continue through Dec. 12 at the Trust Arts Education Center, 805 Liberty Ave., Downtown.

Audience members can meet the playwright and hear a talk about “runt” following this Saturday’s show. Following the Dec. 11 performance, there will be a Jamaica night post-show party with DJ Soy Sos.

Admission: $25.75

Details: 412-456-6666 or .

— Alice T. Carter

Theater: Chew on this

Kevin Bass and Art DeConciliis return to Little Lake Theatre to reprise their many, many roles in “A Tuna Christmas.”

The two actors appeared together last year in “Red, White and Tuna,” the Fourth of July installment of the giddy comedies about the goings on in a rural Texas community.

As the town’s radio personalities Thurston Wheelis and Arles Struvie, Bass and Deconciliis report on the town’s holiday activities, then slip into a succession of wigs and costumes to appear as everyone from Vera Carp, who is working to remove the objectionable material from the town’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” to gun-and-ammunition dealer DiDi Snavely, who decorates her tree with unique ornaments.

This delightfully silly holiday tale runs Thursday through Dec. 18 with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays at Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive, North Strabane.

Admission: $15 and $17, $12 for those age 15 and younger.

Details: 724-745-6300 or .

— Alice T. Carter

Comedy: ‘Friday’ laughs this weekend

Comedian and actor John Witherspoon doesn’t let any grass grow under his feet. A Detroit native, he worked on the assembly line at an auto plant before finding work as a model in car ads, including a spread for the legendary GTO. He was a featured player in “The Richard Pryor Show,” the short-lived comedy series that aired in 1977. A fellow cast member was some guy named Robin Williams.

Witherspoon was also featured in “The Wayans Bros.” TV series and provided the voice of the vinegary grandfather of Huey and Riley in the animated cable satire “The Boondocks.” But his most memorable role may have come in the first “Friday” movie, where he played Ice Cube’s father. The infamous bathroom scene, he says, had to be re-shot many times because the crew was laughing so hard. He performs at 8 p.m.Thursday ; 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday at the Pittsburgh Improv. Admission is $22 to $25.

Details: 412-462-5233.

William Loeffler

Music: Young voice, old soul

Sarah Jaffe is a singer and songwriter from Texas who plays acoustic guitar.

Change Texas to New York or Idaho or Virginia, and chances are you’ve heard this song before. Except Jaffe, who performs Thursday at Club Cafe, South Side, really doesn’t fit the mold of the weepy or tortured person with a guitar. There is a bit of twang in her voice, but it’s a dusty, weathered voice that belies her 24 years. She’s also a versatile songwriter, as evidenced by the quality of her new album, “Suburban Nature,” which positions her as somewhere between Emmylou Harris and Cat Power in the musical scheme of things.

Also performing: Ben Weaver and Caleb Pogyor.

Admission for the 7 p.m. show is $8.

Details: 412-431-4950 or .

— Rege Behe

Music: Violinist Roy Sonne

Roy Sonne, retired violinist from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, will show off the wide range of music in his heart at a concert Thursday evening.

He will perform music ranging from J.S. Bach to the contemporary violin work of Mark O’Connor. Included in between will be “Tango Etude” by Astor Piazzolla and “Bass Etude” by Jeremy Cohen.

Sonne will be joined by pianist Irina Trnega and accordionist Vladimir Mollov.

They will play at the Phillip Injeian Violin Shop, 821 Penn Ave., Downtown. Music starts at 7 p.m. Admission is free. Details: 412-571-1827

— Bob Karlovits

Music: Flamenco and classical

Grisha Goryachev, a Russian guitarist who is a master of flamenco and classical styles, will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts , Shadyside.

He made his debut when he was 9 and began a busy life as a child prodigy. He has performed in his career with flamenco star Paco de Lucia and classical star Christopher Parkening. He also was the winner of the Danny Kaye International Children’s Awards, a prize sponsored through UNICEF and the United Nations.

His appearance here is sponsored by the Guitar Society for Fine Art. Admission is $25 or $20 for members, students and seniors. Details: 412-622-0499.

— Bob Karlovits

Music: The Freelance Whales

Call it the animal kingdom bill of the year: The Freelance Whales, supported by the Miniature Tigers , will perform Saturday at Brillobox in Lawrenceville.

The Freelance Whales hail from Queens, N.Y. The music is a mix of gleeful pop and ambient indie rock, almost childlike in its innocence. The Miniature Tigers are from Brooklyn and their milieu is innocent-but-intelligent guitar pop.

Also performing is singer and songwriter Mia Riddle, who has no animal proclivities that we know of.

Tickets for the 10 p.m. show are $10.

Details: 412-621-4900 or .

— Rege Behe

Holidays: Santa Trolley

The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum is celebrating the Yuletide season for the next two weekends with the Santa Trolley, where kids can take a trolley ride with St. Nick and sing carols while enjoying the scenes from the countryside.

After taking a ride on the vintage streetcar, kids and adults can enjoy the Chartiers, Washington County museum’s holiday Lionel toy train layout, and make a holiday craft. Visitors can enjoy cookies and hot chocolate, and explore the museum’s store. If you bring an unwrapped toy for the “Toys for Tots” campaign, you get free admission.

Santa Trolley runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 12. Admission is $9, $8 for age 62 and older, and $6 for ages 3-15. A special family rate of $35 includes two adults, and up to four children. Details: 724-228-9256 or .

— Kellie Gormly

Theater: Attack unwraps holidays

Socks will become ice skates and the dinner table will have a life of its own when Attack Theatre presents “Holidays Unwrapped” this weekend in the Strip District.

Interactive games and movement adventures for kids and adults will complement the professional dancing, which will be performed to classical, jazz and klezmer music. The message of “Holiday Unwrapped” is, “It’s better to dance with the box on your head than to fret over what’s inside.”

The show was commissioned by Gateway to the Arts and over the past two years has been seen by more than 4,000 students in 20 schools.

The performances start at 6 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Attack Theatre Studios in Pittsburgh Opera’s headquarters in the Strip District. Admission, including refreshments, is $10, $5 for adults.

Details: 412-394-3353 or .

— Mark Kanny

Special event: Train types get say at Science Center

Train enthusiasts can head to the Carnegie Science Center on the North Side on Saturday and Sunday for Lionel Train Days, a toy train festival for enthusiasts of all ages.

The big lobby display features 17 operating Lionel trains, and representatives from Lionel will talk to visitors. Lenny the Lion, Lionel’s mascot, will be mingling with visitors, and kids can play in the Little Lionel play area, where they can try out G-scale Polar Express trains and Lionel play sets.

An actor will portray Joshua Lionel Cowen, the founder of Lionel, in a live show. Other activities at Lionel Train Days include face-painting, exhibits about train safety, a scavenger hunt, and more.

Activities are included with general admission of $17.95; $9.95 for ages 3-12. Details: 412-237-3400 or .

— Kellie Gormly

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