If you happened to catch last year's Scooby-Doo in Stagefright theatrical show, you know how much fun big-budget live-action kiddie theater based on cartoons can be (the best part: the spooky backdrop that scrolled from left to right as the gang walked along, with the exact same dark copses passing by again and again, just like in the cheesy cartoon). One of the benefits of that big budget is the ability to hire Hollywood stuntmen and circus veterans to fly through the air and tussle in stage combat. In Spider-Man Live! at the Fox Theatre (527 North Grand Boulevard), the young mutant in question shoots webs, swings from the rafters and nabs the crooks; it's nice to see his redheaded hottie girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson, kick bad-guy butt, too. Ages four and older will also enjoy seeing Peter Parker get bitten by that fateful spider, yelled at by cantankerous J. Jonah Jameson and attacked by the jealous Green Goblin. Catch the special-effects-laden show at 7:30 p.m. tonight and Thursday; 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., and 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; or 1 and 6 p.m. Sunday. Call 314-534-1111 for tickets, priced from $15-$30.
Thursday, April 3
You have to have a good time at the Vintage Vinyl In-Store Concerts, dog. The real-life brothers of Arista duo Clipse perform and sign CDs at 4 p.m. at 6610 Delmar Boulevard. These young gangsta rappers are breaking out with a CD helmed by superproducers the Neptunes and featuring cameos by Faith Evans and Jadakiss. They're trying to put their hometown of Virginia Beach on the hip-hop map, and their "Virginia Is for Hustlers" T-shirt is a hoot. Come back to the Loop at 7 p.m. Friday for an in-store concert/signing with Solytude Committee crooners/rappers Steve West and Meta4. Previous concerts in the aisles of the store have featured Dan the Automator, Prince Paul, Fu Manchu, the Jungle Brothers, Queens of the Stone Age, Bratmobile and Rocket From the Crypt. Call 314-721-4096 or visit www.vintagevinyl.com for more on the free events.
Friday, April 4
How is it possible that the same man who issued forth the schmaltzy dreck of Love Letters also gave us a hilarious comedy, The Perfect Party? The A.R. Gurney farce on the upper-class social scene is full of swell one-liners about adultery, narcissism, Brie and farts. The comedy begins as Tony is about to welcome the first guests to his "perfect party": the guests, food, drink and conversation must all be perfect. Naturally, everything spins rapidly out of control, except for the clever script and unerring pacing of the satire. The West End Players Guild performs the play at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, through next weekend at Union Avenue Christian Church (733 North Union Avenue). Call 314-367-0025 for tickets, priced at $10.
Saturday, April 5
If you think Jimmy Kimmel is too vulgar or George Carlin too bitter, you'd best stay far away from Doug Stanhope. In the land of comedians unafraid to say absolutely anything, Stanhope is king: He descends deep, deep, deep into the pit of sickness, and yet, because his disturbing shtick comes with an angry conscience, he comes off not like a fratboy prankster but more thoughtful, like his idol, the late Bill Hicks. When Comedy Central's chauvinistic-and-proud-of-it The Man Show starts up a new season, you'll see that Kimmel and Adam Carolla have been replaced by Stanhope and sleazekick Joe Rogan -- how these two will tone it down for nonpremium cable, we have no idea. (Case in point: Dave Attell's Comedy Central show Insomniac is supposed to be funny, but when he lets it all hang out live and onstage, you see what the TV version is missing: greatness.) Get a sampling of Stanhope's taste for drugs and casual nudity at his site, www.dougstanhope.com. Visit him at the Funny Bone Comedy Club-Fairview Heights (inside the Ramada Inn, 6900 North Illinois Street, near the intersection of I-64 and Highway 159) at 8 or 10:30 p.m. Friday night or at 7, 9 or 11:30 p.m. tonight at an NC-17 show hosted by Howard Stern underling Stuttering John. Call 618-628-4242 for tickets, priced from $20-$25.
Sunday, April 6
Books hold a secret power; they are a tactile experience as well as visual and intellectual art. The feel of a handmade book is unmistakable: the texture of a cloth-bound board cover, the heft and weight of a well-stitched sheaf of carefully selected Japanese paper, the rich ink-hungry tooth of that paper gliding under your favorite pen ... it's love, baby. The Taproots School of the Arts (4021 Iowa Avenue) Book Arts Fair celebrates that love in a way bibliophiles can understand. The celebration of all things book is packed with readings, music, demonstrations, workshops and a market full of bookmaking wares. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for kids; hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and noon- 4 p.m. today, and you're going to need every last minute to revel in the glory of the page, pen and reader. Call 314-88-CREATE for more info.
Monday, April 7
Mickey Bernal's photo series The Madonna Project may seem a little trite at first glance. More photos of lawn ornaments? Hasn't that been done? Maybe, but Bernal's images of South St. Louis Virgin Mary statues are not just photos of commonplace objects. They reveal something about the nature of the people who place them in their yards and something about the nature of faith. His photo of a faded Mary, leaning beneath skewed power lines, is stripped of the iconic nature granted by her usual church context; in an average St. Louis yard, she is a depiction of faith in practice, not theory. Bernal's photos transform the ubiquitous statues into reflections of individuals, turning them from mere ornament into proclamations of very personal belief. The Madonna Project is on display at the Atomic Cowboy café and gallery (7336 Manchester Avenue) through May 1, with a free artist's reception at 7 p.m. Friday, April 4. Call 314-645-0608 for hours.
Tuesday, April 8
The new African-American Genealogy Database at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters (1640 South Lindbergh Boulevard) is a great tool not just for family researchers but for history buffs and fans of the lost and found as well. Containing personal information on African-American men who enlisted in the U.S. Army between 1863 and 1865, it is a treasure trove of people history had forgotten. Many of these recruits were slaves and, as such, had no record of their lives -- except here. Finally available on microfilm after years of being available only in Washington, D.C., the data provide names, ages, place of birth and names of family members, all of it invaluable to amateur genealogists, all of it essential for granting humanity to men who were fighting for the right to be recognized as human beings. The official introduction of the info is at a 10 a.m. ceremony on Friday, April 4, but you can come in any time during regular library hours to get to know these fine men. How 'bout today? Call 314-994-3300 to find out more.