AnDa Union flies from Mongolia to the Edison Theatre on Sunday, October 20.
Return of the King
There's Everyman, and then there's Everyschlub. While a good chunk of network television programming over the decades has valorized the American Everyman in dramas about beat cops, detectives, firefighters, cowboys, medical personnel, et al., it's the classic situation comedy that belongs to the Everyschlub. Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners established the form; the brilliant Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker perfected it with All in the Family. Then along came the Heffernator, and a fat guy in work shorts never looked sexier. As Doug Heffernan in The King of Queens, Kevin James minted comedic gold. Doug delivers packages for UPS ("IPS" in the script) and happens to like his job. He likes watching football with his buds on a ratty couch in his garage, hates jazz but likes Eddie Money, hates reading books but loves TV, and loves his junk food (and lots of it). You get the picture: He's not hip. But in Doug Heffernan, Kevin James had the smarts to portray an ostensibly unsophisticated working stiff plenty sophisticated enough to actually know himself — a rare virtue. Though it's still commonly underestimated by overthinkers as a vehicle for stupid gags in an unfashionable milieu, The King of Queens is in fact one of the best-written, most expertly acted sitcoms in television history. Over nine seasons the series was consistently, unfailingly funny and made you buy its characters as genuine, complicated human beings. These days James chiefly makes movies. He also, fortuitously enough, still does standup, which means we can catch his act Friday, September 13, at 8 p.m. at the Peabody Opera House (1400 Market Street; 314-499-7600 or www.peabodyoperahouse.com). Tickets are $35 to $75.
— Alex Weir
Oh, Canadian Martin Short is a pure original, and we should thank Canada for producing him. (Actually we should thank Canada for many other felicities as well — ice hockey and Rush to name only two.) The glory of comedy is its offer of total liberation from the usual soul-oppressors: ego, vanity, self-importance and, worst of all, the need to be seen as cool at all times. Comedy levels the playing field; it delivers the ultimate democratic smackdown and keeps us healthily humble. Though it's routinely looked down upon as a poor cousin to the more sober and putatively sophisticated of the other performing arts, good comics keep an already only half-sane world from going completely insane and thus could be viewed as great humanitarians. And if there were a Nobel awarded for the art form, Martin Short should be among the first to win it. In a long career spanning well over 30 years, Short has gifted us with a superior comedic mind of sublime nuttiness and freewheeling gonzo invention; who else could've created characters as perfect as Nathan Thurm and Irving Cohen? Experience this true original at 8 p.m. Saturday, September 14, at An Evening With Martin Short, in the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts at Lindenwood University (2300 West Clay Street, St. Charles; 636-949-4433 or www.linenwood.edu/center). Tickets are $48.50 to $68.50.
— Alex Weir
Some comics are slow-burners, reeling you into the punch line through sleight of hand and verbal subterfuge. Lewis Black is your Fourth of July finale, blowing up his whole stock of fireworks right from the beginning. The master of the rant, Black sets his sights on the stupid, the vain and the hypocritical, and then blasts them to smithereens with his piquant (and loud) blend of common sense and vitriol. It's a hoot to watch and cathartic as hell. Black lights up the idiots of the world at 8 p.m. Friday, October 4, at the Peabody Opera House (1400 Market Street; 314-499-7600 or www.peabodyoperahouse.com). Tickets are $36.50 to $72.
New Dance Rising
Last year, Dance St. Louis commissioned four noted choreographers to create new pieces especially for local dance companies. That experiment was such a success that the partnership returns this year, with new choreographers and new ensembles for PNC Arts Alive New Dance Horizons II. This year features matchups between Uri Sands and Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company, Nejla Yatkin and Leverage Dance Theater, Pilobolus and MADCO, and Emery LeCrone with Saint Louis Ballet. This quartet of new dance and new faces is unveiled at 8 p.m. Friday and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday (October 4 and 5) at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus (University Drive at Natural Bridge Road; 314-516-4949 or www.touhill.org. Tickets are $30.
— Paul Friswold
St. Louisans are pretty well served with classical music. We're fortunate enough to have one of the country's top-tier orchestras doing its thing at Powell Hall on a regular basis (and taking said thing on the road around the U.S. and abroad — the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra is highly regarded internationally). In addition, there is a coterie of excellent string quartets, chamber music ensembles and choral societies active in the metro area. We can also boast the resources of our various local colleges' and universities' music departments. As an example you can hear the UMSL University Symphony Orchestra in its debut concert of the new season when it performs the Jubilee Symphony. Barbara Harbach is a professor in the school's music faculty, and she composed the piece on commission by the university to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The orchestra will also perform Beethoven's Symphony No. 2. Performance time is 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 9, at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus (University Drive at Natural Bridge Road; 314-516-4949 or www.touhill.org). The concert is free and open to the general public.