McTavish Weekend: Meow Time, Mellencamp, Country Rap and African Dance

Why did “Cats” – opening tonight at the Music Hall - become such a successful Broadway musical back in the day?

Could there have been just as big a hit show about, say, canines?
 
Not in a million dog years!
 
Cats are mysterious and play hard to get. Dogs are obvious and born to please. Not to say which one makes a better pet, but be honest: Which one would you rather know more about?
 
I can imagine being mildly intrigued by a cat’s inner life. The only thing I can even remotely imagine about a dog’s insides is what it just swallowed as fast as it could for dinner – and with any luck it wasn’t the surplus Halloween candy left on the kitchen table. Bad dog!
 
I suppose that the 20 songs in “Cats” by Andrew Lloyd Webber have more than a little to do with the amazing track record of the show, which opened on Broadway in 1982 and won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It went on to become the second longest running show in Broadway history (behind Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera”) and remains the longest running North American touring production, including performances Friday through Sunday at the Music Hall, 301 W. 13th.
 
But it’s really the psychodrama surrounding the inscrutably slinky state of mind of “Cats” that makes the show’s ditties (including the teary standard, “Memory”) irresistible to a whole bunch folks, especially when purred by prancing actors dressed to the nines as felines.
 
Show times for “Cats” are 8 tonight, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets start at $46; go to broadwayacrossamerica.com.

 
Bring the kids. Just don’t bring the cat – yeah, as if you could pull that off. We all know that Mr. Whiskers does what he wants.
 
More is ‘Better’
 
John Mellencamp aims to give his fans their money’s worth when the veteran rocker screens a documentary film at 6:45 tonight followed by a concert at 8:30 at the Midland by AMC, 12th and Main.
 
The film, "It’s About You," focuses on Mellencamp’s 2009 summer concerts with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson at minor league ball parks and the recording of his new album, “No Better Than This." The concert is to feature acoustic and electric sets.
 
Lately, Mellencamp has said that he’s “done being a big rock star” (which he actually hasn’t been for quite some time), in favor of being more of a folk musician.

Well, he is on Rounder Records now, a venerable label that’s shared the talents of plenty of American folkies through the years. And he’s been telling interviewers that he’s no longer about trying to put on the “biggest concerts,” which outside of Dylan and the occasional march on Washington lines up pretty nicely with the folk tradition.

Mellencamp says that these days it’s all about just having fun. C’mon, John, being a big rock star had to be pretty fun for at least a year or two there!
 
Anyway, for those going to tonight’s show (and it should be a decent one, because Mellencamp can still, dare I say it, rock), try screaming for the guy like it was 1985. Who knows, he might have even more fun than he thinks he can.
 
Tickets cost $42 to $125; go to midlandkc.com.
 
Talkin’ Country
 
Country rap might seem like an oxymoron.
 
But when you stop to think about the many examples of spoken-word country music, including Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue,” Jerry Reed’s “Amos Moses” and Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” then the alternative country hip-hop of Colt Ford doesn’t seem all that odd.
 
OK, maybe still a little. Labeled on his website as “a walking, talking 300-pound celebration of country music and country living,” Ford (real name Jason Farris Brown) started writing rap lyrics in high school, but the first concert he ever went to was a Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers gig. And so a weirdly entertaining amalgam was born. And he’s good at it.
 
You may not know whether to holler like a good old boy or fist-bump your homie while listening to this enterprising stuff, but either approach should work mighty fine when Colt Ford (new album, “Chicken and Biscuits”) shares his surprisingly effective musical hybrid at 8 tonight at the Beaumont Club, 4050 Pennsylvania.
 
Tickets cost $25.50; go to beaumontkc.com.

Say Yes to Nokoko

The Kusun Ensemble from Ghana, West Africa, will perform its inventive mixture of music and dance called Nokoko in free shows at 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday in Atkins Auditorium at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 45th and Oak.

The ensemble includes former members of Ghana’s National Ballet and the Pan African Orchestra, who combine traditional African instruments with popular highlife music and more intricate strains of jazz.

The performances are in conjunction with the Museum’s “Through African Eyes: The European in African Art” exhibit, which offers a fascinating visual chronicle of how Africans have viewed their relations with Europeans and Westerners for more than 500 years.

Tickets to “Through African Eyes,” cost $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for students (children 12 and younger get in free). The same ticket is also good for another current exhibit, “Alfred Jacob Miller: Romancing the West,” featuring rare in-the-field depictions of the early American West from 1837.

Museum admission is free. Although there’s no charge to see the Kusun Ensemble, tickets are required. Go to nelson-atkins.org or call 816-751-1278.

Want More?

Hear me further disseminate on what to do with your free time each week on “Up to Date” with Steve Kraske on KCUR-FM (89.3). For this week’s chat, go to kcur.org and click on the show’s Thursday archive.
 
Brian McTavish

http://www.mb-kc.com/
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