Critics' entertainment picks for the weekend of 8/26-8/28

Posted: August 26, 2011



Talk about your Triple Crown: Actress Lanie Kazan has won critical acclaim portraying an overbearing Jewish mother (in "My Favorite Year") and an overbearing Greek mother ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding"). This weekend, she's at ACH (formerly the Atlantic City Hilton) playing what is being described as (what else?) a "loud, outspoken, opinionated" Italian mom in "My Big Gay Italian Wedding." Sharing the bill with Kazan is Nikki Blonsky, who played the frock-wearing John Travolta's daughter in the film version of the Broadway smash "Hairspray." Despite its title, "MBGIW" is not an "environmental comedy" a la "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding," but an original-book musical.

ACH Casino Resort, 3400 Pacific Ave., 9 tonight through Sunday. Admission is $199, $129, $75 and $45. Tickets, 800-736-1420,



Load up on heavy metal, emo and post-punk howling at the Uproar Festival, a loud and proud slamfest. Avenged Sevenfold headlines the main stage, along with Three Days Grace, Seether, British hot shots Bullet for My Valentine and Escape the Fate. Over at the second (Best Buy Music Gear) stage, Sevendust is the big lure, along with Black Tide, Art of Dying and Hell Or Highwater.

Susquehanna Bank Center, 1 Harbour Blvd., Camden, 2 p.m. today, $79, $49.50, $39.50, $25, $19 (lawn seat), $14.25 (each in a four pack.) 800-745-3000,


Created and curated by Brian Carpenter, Ghost Train Orchestra revitalizes the voh-de-oh-doh ragtime music of 1920s Chicago and Harlem. Think swaggering saxophones, a huffin' puffin' tuba, slithery violins and percussive banjo-scored arrangements of classics like "Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You," "Dixie Stomp" and "Slide Mr. Jelly Slide." Like nothing you've ever heard before live. PercyFearAnts Jazz Band and DJ Corey Duncan also dish the hot stuff.

Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 9:15 tonight, $12, 215-739-9684,


Philly-spawned guitarist Kevin Eubanks (best known as Jay Leno's longtime "Tonight Show" bandleader - but a whole lot more) is the season capper for the Smooth Jazz Summer Nights series.

Great Plaza at Penn's Landing, Columbus Boulevard at the foot of Chestnut St., 7:30 tonight, free, 215-922-2FUN,


The charming, well-seasoned French Quebec chamber folk ensemble Le Vent Du Nord is worth the drive to Chester County.

Longwood Gardens, Routes 1 & 52, Kennett Square, 7:30 tonight, free with garden admission (adults $18, seniors $15, students 8, under 4 free), 610-388-1000,


One of the most accessible of "Contemporary Christian" talents, Israel Houghton and New Breed, pump up the praise with earnest vocals (think a soul-spirational Sting), polished tunes and rockin' good time arrangements at the Sounds of Gospel Concert. Even non-believers should see the light. The Bryant Pugh Band and Tamika Patton are featured, too.

Great Plaza at Penn's Landing, 4-9 p.m. tomorrow, free, 215-922-2FUN,


Jeannine Hebb, a craft-conscious indie pop pianist, composer and singer, honed her skills (and was rewarded with prizes and a scholarship) at the Berklee College of Music. Hebb's a good fit for those who relish Vanessa Carlton, Yael Naim, Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles.

Milk Boy Acoustic Cafe, 824 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, free, 610-527-0690,



Playwright Kash Goins' provocative "VI Degrees" traces the shattering effect promiscuity and the "down low" lifestyle have on a family gathered together for what should be a happy event, a wedding. South Philly native Goins was inspired to write "VI Degrees" when he read the alarming statistics about the disproportionate rate of HIV infections among black Americans. Prepare to be challenged, but also entertained by this shockingly serious drama, which in 2009 was named the best play at New York City's Downtown Urban Theater Festival.

Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut St., 4 & 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, $20, $15 in advance, 302-793-9499,



Cat fanciers will gather in Oaks this weekend for the "Eye of the Tiger" CFA Cat Show, presented by the William Penn and European Burmese Cat Clubs. Forty-two breeds will be represented, with more than 200 felines competing, with a household-pets competition, too. Cat agility demonstrations featured, as well as raffles, adoptable cats and vendors selling all kinds of kittie geegaws. Bring a bag of cat food or litter to support the organization's rescue program and you'll get free raffle tickets.

Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, 100 Station Ave., Oaks, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. tomorrow & Sunday, $6, $5 kids 4-12, under 3 free. Discount coupons at


You better make sure your legs are sea-ready if you plan on attending "Constants: A Performance Journey in History Along the Schuylkill River." First performed at last year's Fringe Festival, Constants takes participants - via three canoes - to Peter's Island (above the Reading Railroad bridge) where they hear how the Schuylkill has remained an anchor for the Delaware Valley even as Philadelphia has changed. Using a Lenape Nation tale, "The Story of Four Crows," the river's relationship to the city is revealed from its pre-industrial days to its current renewal. Word to the wise: Spots on the canoes are limited so snap up your tickets soon.

Schuylkill River along the west side of Fairmount Park (exact location revealed when tickets are purchased), 8:15 nightly through Sept. 4, 10:30 late shows tonight, tomorrow, Sept. 1-4, $15, $20,, 800-838-3006, ext. 1.


Since 1999, Philly's own Big Beautiful Women Pageant has celebrated the sass and style of ladies who wear size 14 and up. The idea: Pretty comes in big packages, too. Or, as local artist Destinee Marie sings in the showcase's theme song, "Beauty comes in plus." BBWP founder and director David Wilkes has signed up about a dozen entrants this year. He expects about 200 guests to attend the formalwear, lingerie and talent competition.

Renaissance Philadelphia Airport Hotel, 500 Stevens Drive, 2-5 p.m. Sunday, $30-$40, 215-222-7127,



Scribe Video Center was to bring its summertime mini-movie festival Street Movies! to an end tomorrow with a presentation of five short films made by locals - including one by students at West Philadelphia High School - on a variety of topics. Fear of Hurricane Irene has forced a postponement until Wednesday, when the center will screen several films tackling topics of local interest, including a profile of Philly-based heavyweight boxer Fast Eddie Chambers and more. Before the screenings begin, soul jazz troupe Abstract Truth will provide tunes and hosts from Mill Creek Farm will speak about the location.

Street Movies!, Mill Creek Playground, 4700 Brown St., 7:45 p.m., Wednesday, free, 215-222-4201,


Pack up the kids and head to Mantua for an outdoor festival with a hip-hop flair. Now in its seventh year, the Mantua Day Family Festival brings the community together with music, art and activities for children - moonbounces, face painting and horse rides. From noon to 4 p.m., the Fourth Wall Arts Salon has scheduled a slate of local acts for a Philly-only showcase, followed by a to-the-teeth emcee battle, with prizes for the champ. Pros take the stage afterward, with a lineup that includes Naughty by Nature, Slick Rick, Kwame and Chubb Rock. Think of it as an epic block party, but with a better sound system.

34th Street and Mantua Avenue, noon to 7 p.m. tomorrow (Sunday rain date), free, 215-382-6242,



In the wake of disaster, what survives? In the years after 9/11, archaeologists and physical anthropologists sifted through the rubble left after the destruction of the Twin Towers. In an exhibit called "Excavating Ground Zero: Fragments from 9/11," the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology gives visitors a way to commemorate that tragic day by displaying 15 of the found objects, including items such as eyeglasses, a computer keyboard and a visitor's badge. Who did that badge belong to? What about the eyeglasses? The exhibit is a stark reminder that no matter how many wars are fought in its memory or arguments are started over its memorial, 2,976 lost their lives that day. In addition, the museum encourages visitors to remember where they were on 9/11 and share their experiences on a communal wall.

Penn Museum, 3260 South St., through Nov. 6, $10-$6, 215-898-4000,

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