Electronica. Psychedelica. Romantica -- what? It's time to float a new term: "Romantica" is an offshoot of the fabulously lucrative romance-novel genre. Romantica authors infuse graphic language and scenarios -- erotica -- into the customarily jejune, misty milieu of romance literature; a tongue-flicking snake wends through the flowerbed now. Bodices still rip -- but so do thongs and other sweet nothings. Dirk Diggler might crash the party.
The star of this hybrid show is Lora Leigh, a California mother of two who claims to use her husband's "male psyche" (so that's what that thing's called!) as partial inspiration for her plot elements and characters, and as a general sounding board. She's written 23 romantica novels under the Ellora's Cave imprint. Ellora's Cave is an e-book publisher -- the only e-house, if you will, to be recognized by the all-powerful RWA (Romance Writers of America). Leigh is E.C.'s top seller, and her titles recently have been converted to those perennial worthies: paper, ink and binding.
Wanna see the physical person behind the authorial cat-o'-nine-tails? Visit The Book Rack Too (8452 Watson Road; 314-842-2449); Lora Leigh will read from her work and greet fans there from noon to 2 p.m. -- Alex Weir
Life Isn't a Cabaret But JaBoni's Is
"The intimacy between the audience and the song, the audience and the performer -- it's like the music's sitting right there in your lap." So gushes cabaret artist Tim Schall, describing the cozy thrill of New York-style cabaret. Such nightclub acts -- in which singers, accompanied by piano, course through a roller coaster of torch songs, standards and pop -- are virtually nonexistent in these parts.
All the better, then, that Schall will bring his "Broadway Songbook" cabaret to the upstairs lounge at JaBoni's Bistro at 9 p.m. (4301 Manchester Avenue; 314-531-5317). For a $15 cover (which includes your first drink), expect oodles of Rodgers & Hart, some Sondheim and favorites such as Chicago's crowd-rousing "Mr. Cellophane." -- Rose Martelli
Vampires in the CWE Better call St. Nicholas
A despised theater critic, run to wrack and near-ruin by a coven of blood-sucking vampires? How delicious is that? Even as Joe Hanrahan was performing this offbeat one-man show last April at McGurk's, it seemed inevitable that the compelling and often amusing flight of fancy would soon be back; theater this invigorating shouldn't stay away long.
So beginning this week St. Nicholas will play a return engagement, this time at Café Balaban in the Central West End. The morality play by young Irish playwright Colin McPherson -- brimming with rich, vigorous, salty language that rolls as only the Irish can make prose roll -- concerns the subtle distinction between living and being undead. Unconventional, to be sure. But thanks to Hanrahan's riveting performance, this tale of vampires -- real, imagined and metaphorical -- is one of the year's theater highlights. Miss it again, and you have only yourself to blame.
Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays, July 14 through 29, at 7:30 p.m. at Café Balaban (Euclid at McPherson avenues). Tickets are $10 (no credit cards); call 314-487-5305. -- Dennis Brown
Flip Your Wig
You know, of all the great musicals that seek to explain the human need for love, none of them really ever tried to do so from the point of view of an East German rock & roll she-male -- until Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Vanity Theatre brings the off-Broadway sensation about an angry transsexual with a heart full of spite and longing to the Soulard Theatre (1921 South Ninth Street; call 314-481-4413 for tickets and times) Thursdays through Sundays (July 15 through 24). Tickets are $12 to $15. -- Paul Friswold