The Chocolate Nutcracker: A holiday classic gets a flavorful treatment as Buffalo Soldier Productions presents the East Coast premiere of LaVerne Reed's Chocolate Nutcracker at the Dade County Auditorium (2901 W. Flagler St.). This version of Tchaikovsky's masterpiece, featuring the music of Duke Ellington and starring Bianca Vaughn, Erica Reed, and Miami native and Star Search winner Tovaris Wilson in the title role, takes place in Harlem during the Fifties, where Claire (Vaughn) receives a magical chocolate nutcracker that comes to life and takes her on a dream journey through the African diaspora. The production, which has run successfully in Los Angeles for the past four years, has a cast of more than 150 singers, dancers, and musicians. Tickets cost $12, $18, and $27. Performances run tonight through Saturday night at 7:30, with matinees at 2:00 on Saturday and 4:00 on Sunday. Call 547-5414. (GC)
Shear Madness: The nonmusical play with the longest consecutive run in American theater history takes the stage at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts (201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale) for a limited engagement. Written by Swiss playwright Paul Portner in 1965 as a serious murder mystery, the play was adapted by New York-based schoolteachers-turned-actors Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan as a comedic, audience-participation whodunit that takes place in a hair salon. Tickets cost $22.50 through Wednesday, $25 from December 26 through February 2. Performances run tonight and Friday at 7:30, Saturday at 4:30 and 7:30, Sunday at 2:00, and Wednesday at 3:00 and 7:30 p.m. Call 954-522-5334. (GC)
Songwriters at the Road: A bumper crop of homegrown talent takes the stage at Tobacco Road (626 S. Miami Ave.) as six of the best local singer-songwriters step out of their respective bands and perform solo sets. Acclaimed solo artist and former Natural Causes frontman Arlan returns to perform new music after relocating to his native Los Angeles and touring recently. Rounding out the bill are Alex Diaz of Ho Chi Minh, Rene Alvarez of Sixo, Brian Franklin of the Brian Franklin Band, Jeff Rolason of the Curious Hair, and the brilliant but under-appreciated Dennis Britt of West Indian fame. Admission is five dollars. Showtime is 10:00 p.m. Call 374-1198. (GC)
Dave Barry Celebrity Brewmaster Dinner: Author, columnist, and aspiring humorist Dave Barry gets smashed tonight at 7:00 at the South Pointe Seafood House & Brewing Company (1 Washington Ave., Miami Beach). But seriously, Barry plays host of a four-course gourmet dinner, each course accompanied by one of the Brewing Company's homemade specialty beers, including Barry's own Rudolph the Rednose Reinbeer Ale. Tickets cost $60, with proceeds benefiting the Tactual Speech Project at the University of Miami Mailman Center for Child Development. Call 673-1708 to reserve a seat. (GC)
december 20 Diane Ward: Playing a mean guitar and sporting a voice that can melt a glacier, local vocalist Diane Ward ended last year with a splash as she released her solo debut album Mirror, which received rave reviews from this and other publications. But lately Ward's been laying low, doing acoustic sets and popping up on the side stages of shows such as the recent Sheryl Crow concert on Miami Beach. Tonight at 11:00 Ward ends this year with a bang as she comes out of her electric moratorium to perform with a full band at Rose's Bar & Music Lounge (754 Washington Ave., Miami Beach), with openers Reckless Lester and the Tumbleweeds. Admission is five dollars. Call 532-0228. (GC)
Ira Sullivan's Christmas Jazz Special: The holidays get jazzy this weekend at MoJazz Cafe (928 71st St., Miami Beach). Jazz legend Ira Sullivan leads the MoJazz house band -- featuring piano man Dolph Castellanos, bassist Lew Barryman, drummer Billy Peeples, and vocalist-saxman Mo Morgen -- in four sets of holiday classics between 8:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. Admission is ten dollars for a table, six dollars at the bar (half-price before 8:00 and for the last set). Call 865-2636. (GC)
Punk Rock Showcase: The Edge (200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale) explodes tonight with a showcase of local, national, and international punk and hardcore bands. Christian hardcore band Strongarm and Brazilian hardcore heavyweights Korzus lead the lineup, which includes post-pop punkers the Vacant Andys, the heavy and heavily melodic Ed Matus' Struggle, the mutant space-core of Grass Patch, hardcore emoters As Friends Rust, and the drivingly dissonant Porchfront Chat. Admission to this all-ages show is five dollars (three dollars during the first hour). Doors open at 7:00 p.m. Call 954-525-9333. (GC)
The Chocolate Nutcracker: See Thursday.
Shear Madness: See Thursday.
december 21 Clarence Spady: Young guitarslinger Clarence Spady was raised in the unlikely blues center of Scranton, Pennsylvania, but the soul and fire he brings to his debut album Nature of the Beast (on Evidence) were summoned from the Mississippi Delta and Chicago's West Side. His gruff, sandpaper vocals are a perfect match for his impressive but tasteful lead work, which will have you thinking of everyone from Lowell Fulson to Freddie King. And self-penned cuts such as "Picture of Love" and "Answer to the Man" establish him as one of the genre's finest new songwriters. You can catch this rising hotshot tonight at Tobacco Road (626 S. Miami Ave.). Admission is five dollars and showtime is 10:00 p.m. Call 374-1198 for more information. (JF)