Calendar for the week

thursday
january 1
West Side Star-crossed love and gang warfare supply the backdrop for West Side Story, one of American theater's most revered musicals. In 1957 a quartet of creative minds -- composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim, librettist Arthur Laurents, and director-choreographer Jerome Robbins -- conceived this spirited takeoff on Shakespeare's timeless tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Forty years and many revivals later the story still rings true, and the songs, such as "Tonight," "Maria," "I Feel Pretty," and "Somewhere," still resonate. The rivalry between the Sharks and the Jets continues until Sunday at Actors' Playhouse (280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables). Showtimes are tonight through Saturday at 8:00 and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets cost $26.50 to $29.50. Call 444-9293.

First Run for Families: If you drank too much last night, you probably don't have a hankering to exercise this morning. But if you're willing to work off some excess calories for a good cause, read on. The Miami Runners Club and Neighborhood Health are sponsoring a 5K run to benefit the Family Resource Center (a local private welfare agency devoted to the prevention and treatment of child abuse) at 10:00 a.m. at the Biltmore Hotel (1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables). Too hung over to run? Walk or skate the course. Anyone from age 8 to 80 can participate. Competitors will receive a T-shirt, postrace refreshments, and a chance to win trophies and prizes. Registration ranges from $5 for individuals to $25 for a four-member family. Call 227-1500.

friday
january 2
Orange Bowl: Have no fear, college football fans: The Battle by the Beach continues this year and seemingly will go on for four more. But if you have any intentions of watching the second-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers fight it out with third-ranked Tennessee Volunteers in person today at Pro Player Stadium (2269 NW 199th St.), you're out of luck. All 75,192 tickets have been sold out for months. There's still fun to be had: Hang out in the stadium parking lot today starting at 10:00 a.m. and enjoy the pregame tailgate party, featuring musical act the Hush Brothers. Then hop in your car, head home, and plop in front of the tube -- just in time for kickoff and half-time entertainment by Jon Secada. Tickets for the party cost ten dollars. Call 888-879-2200.

Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: Way before people were getting naked on-stage in musicals such as Oh! Calcutta! and Hair, German composer Kurt Weill was writing songs for shows that were considered positively racy. Lurid lyrics about thieves, pimps, and prostitutes marked his most famous work, The Threepenny Opera, written with dramatist Bertolt Brecht in 1928; whence came the song "Mack the Knife." A tremendous success in Germany, Threepenny ran for five years, yet Weill still felt confined by the operatic form. Longing to find a place where he could create theatrical works that mixed drama, music, spoken word, song, and movement, Weill got his wish -- albeit by means of a dreadful impetus. After the Nazis came to power in 1933, the Jewish composer fled Berlin with his wife Lotte Lenya, came to America, and set his sights on Broadway. Here he began producing sophisticated, slightly subversive material that broke new ground with its in-depth characterizations and adventurous use of jazz and folk music. This musical retrospective of Weill's oeuvre (first produced in 1986, to rave reviews) returns to the Coconut Grove Playhouse (3500 Main Hwy.) tonight. Highlighting his 1920s Berlin tunes and his Broadway melodies of the 1930s and 1940s, the show runs through January 25. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m., with select matinees Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets range from $30 to $35. Call 442-4000.

West Side See Thursday.

saturday
january 3
Gulfstream Park: Horses, dinosaurs, and maybe a bunch of dead presidents. It's not the latest Speilberg extravaganza or a newfangled theme park, but opening day at Gulfstream Park (Hallandale Beach Boulevard and U.S. 1). Kicking off its 54th season at 11:00 a.m., the track features the usual thoroughbred races starting at 1:00 p.m. Then at 2:00 p.m. the dinosaurs will storm the stage -- dinosaur musicians, that is. Seventies soft rockers the Doobie Brothers (unfortunately sans Michael McDonald) kick off the track's concert series, performing their hits such as "Minute by Minute," "Blackwater," and more. If you intend to wager your nest egg, you'll be glad to know that everyone attending opening day gets a pack of coupons for discounts at track concessions. Some packs contain cash, and one is stuffed with $5000 -- not a bad return on next to nothing! Rock and roll lovers will want to come back to the track tomorrow for a show by Joan Jett and some of the original Blackhearts, also at 2:00 p.m. Grandstand admission is free; clubhouse admission is three dollars. Call 931-7223.

West Side See Thursday.
Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: See Friday.

sunday
january 4
Children at Play: The Historical Museum of Southern Florida (101 W. Flagler St) knows all about marbles, yo-yos, and hopscotch, and they want you to know more about them too; hence "Children at Play." The exhibition details how games evolved from the 1800s to the 1990s and allows kids and adults to participate. Challenge each other to a game of hide and seek, which was played as early as 300 B.C. in Greece, or play dressup in the area called "Grandma's Attic." The exhibition continues every day through April 5. Admission is four dollars. Call 375-1492 for hours.

West Side See Thursday.
Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: See Friday
Gulfstream Park: See Saturday.

monday
january 5
Les Brown: Les Brown is probably more renowned for his brief marriage to singer Gladys Knight and his short-lived talk show than for his career as a motivational speaker. A Miami native who was abandoned as a baby, Brown was misdiagnosed as mentally retarded; he was later adopted and raised in poverty. Nevertheless, he harnessed his pit bull-like persistence and made himself famous; now he's working on filthy rich. Tonight Brown comes home to preach the gospel of greatness. In his first book, Live Your Dreams!, he exhorted his readers that sheer perseverance and a good attitude will produce whatever one wants out of life. Now touting his second book, It's Not Over Until You Win, the talker is still espousing -- guess what? Tenacity. He prefers to call it "living dynamically." If you don't find Brown's sermons grating and if you could use a little goosing, motivate on over to Books & Books (296 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables) at 8:00 p.m. for a miniworkshop with the author. In no time you'll be tackling every barrier (and maybe people, too) in pursuit of your dreams. Call 442-4408.

Gulfstream Park: See Saturday.
Children at Play: See Sunday.

tuesday
january 6
Songwriters in the Round: Take a bunch of tunesmiths, give them instruments, seat them in a circle, and what do you end up with? Some really horrendous renditions of "Kum Ba Ya"? No, you get Songwriters in the Round. This monthly event, presented by a slew of music supporters, including folks at Warner Chappell music publishers and veteran songwriter Desmond Child ("Living on a Prayer," "Dude [Looks Like a Lady]"), puts local and national musicians together in a relaxed setting. From 7:30 p.m. aspiring songwriters can sign up to perform one tune at the evening's open-mike session. Then at 9:00 p.m. the pros go on (each night is usually organized around a theme or a style) and give the neophytes a short lesson in how it's done. Past participants have included Joan Osborne collaborator Eric Bazilian ("One of Us"), rock en espanol star Fulano de Tal, and vocalist Betty Wright. Tonight's theme is the blues. Featured musicians are Graham Drout of Iko-Iko, Verve recording artist Ronnie Earl, funky bluesman John Mooney, and music-makin' mama and Alligator Records artist Ann Rabson. A whole lotta melodies for a mere five bucks. The songs go round at the Park Central Hotel (640 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach). Call 899-7346.

Big: Where have all the good ideas gone? Don't look to Broadway. After years of pilfering plots from operas, cartoons, and dramas (see Rent, Annie, and West Side Story), the enterprising people who write musicals, as if in lockstep, have now begun plundering silver screen blockbusters for concepts. Recently the animated version of Beauty and the Beast was transformed into a live stage show; ditto The Lion King. This year the mawkish 1988 movie Big, which starred Tom Hanks and made him a really big actor (read: overrated, but that famous baby-corn-on-the-cob-eating scene is a keeper), has been retooled after an unsuccessful Broadway run a few years ago. The tale of a twelve-year-old boy who becomes an emotionally underdeveloped man when his desire to be "big" is fulfilled may still be good for a few hours of harmless family fun. But really, what's next: Seinfeld, the Musical? The show runs through January 18 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts (201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale). Performances are at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with 2:00 matinees Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tickets range from $35 to $47. Call 954-462-0222.

Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: See Friday
Gulfstream Park: See Saturday.
Children at Play: See Sunday.

wednesday
january 7
Die Fledermaus: Treachery, mistaken identity, and copious amounts of alcohol. Sounds like a typical soap opera. Add a bit of music and you've got a real operetta: Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus. An imaginative, complex, comic work, Fledermaus, which premiered in 1874, provides a look at what goes on in the ballrooms of Viennese nobility (it's a bit more than waltzing). In its second lavish production of the season, the Florida Grand Opera transports you to Prince Orlofsky's masked ball with all its pageantry and pandemonium. Helen Donath stars as Rosalinde and Robert Orth portrays Eisenstein. Matthias Bambert makes his conducting debut with the company. Performances (in German with projected English subtitles) are tonight and January 10, 13, 16 at 8:00, with a 2:00 matinee on January 18 at Dade County Auditorium (2901 W. Flagler St.). Tickets range from $18 to $125. Call 854-7890.

ARTS Week '98: See tomorrow's stars today. More than 8000 talented high school students from across the United States applied for the chance to be one of 124 finalists who will compete for up to $3000 each, a share in $3 million in scholarships, and the chance to be named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Beginning today and running through Saturday, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts hosts performances of dance, music, theater, and voice by the finalists; all are free and open to the public. Classical and jazz music exhibitions and a vocal presentation take place from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the University of Miami's Gusman Concert Hall and Clarke Recital Hall (1314 Miller Dr., Coral Gables. And the Colony Theater (1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach) hosts a dance performance at 2:30 p.m. Consult "Calendar Listings" in next week's paper for more details. Call 377-1147.

Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: See Friday
Gulfstream Park: See Saturday.
Children at Play: See Sunday.
Big: See Tuesday.

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