Who needs Michael Flatley? Certainly not the cast of Riverdance, the Irish jig fest that has continued to stomp successfully despite the 1995 defection of its star/choreographer. Flatley, an American born to Irish parents, went on to create Lord of the Dance, his own sensational Celtic extravaganza, but now it appears that even that show must get along without his active participation. This past December, after eighteen consecutive months on tour, the seemingly indefatigable dancer collapsed after a performance and was diagnosed with bronchial asthma. He has passed the "Lord" role along to John Carey, his twenty-year-old understudy and five-time Irish National Dance champion. Control freak Flatley has stayed on as artistic director of the 108-minute show, which includes approximately 40 dancers, who do a lot more than bounce around like the Lucky Charms leprechaun. Flamenco, disco, ballet, and Gypsy dancing are a few of the styles that will be showcased when Lord of the Dance pulls into the James L. Knight Center, 400 SE Second Ave. Performances are at 8:00 tonight through Saturday, with a 2:30 p.m. matinee Saturday. Tickets range from $50 to $60. Call 372-4634. (NK)
While a lot of Latin American bands have created a south-of-the-border vernacular by fusing rootsy rhythms with rock guitar riffs and funky grooves, multiplatinum-selling Chileans La Ley represent a brigade of the rock en espanol movement that prefers electronica-tinged sounds. Founded in 1989, the group was the first widely popular Latin American rock band to play techno music. Their most recent album, Vertigo (it includes songs sung in English, French, and Spanish), not only features pounding dance tracks, but also offers up soulfully swinging, mellower tunes that lament the inhumane future of the digitized Global Village. La Ley performs tonight at 10:00 at La Covacha (10730 NW 25th St.). Local Latin rock bands Volumen Cero and D'Facto open. Tickets cost $20. Call 594-3717. (JC)
Hide your seashell collection! Steve Turre is coming to town. The trombonist-composer-arranger is also a "seashellist," meaning he makes music by playing conch shells. Over the past 26 years Turre has performed with legendary saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk (who introduced him to shells), Ray Charles, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and Van Morrison. A long-time member of the Saturday Night Live band, Turre recently released a self-titled album that fuses Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and jazz sounds. Tonight the Steve Turre Quartet performs a benefit concert for community public radio station WDNA-FM (88.9) at Coral Gables Congregational Church, 3010 De Soto Blvd., Coral Gables. Showtime is 9:00 p.m. Tickets range in cost from $20 to $50. Call 662-8889. (NK)
Celebrate the season and help the educational programs of the Historical Museum of Southern Florida at this weekend's Springtime Harvest Festival. More than 250 crafters from the Southeast will be on hand to display and sell their wares. Plants, Florida memorabilia, and antiques will also be on sale. While you make impulse purchases, the kiddies can amuse themselves with the Living Map, a huge interactive floor map (kind of like the one TV anchorman Rick Sanchez used to be so fond of trodding on during Channel 7's Gulf War coverage) designed to teach them history and geography. The festival runs from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. today and tomorrow at the Dade County Fair and Exposition Center (Coral Way and SW 112th Avenue). Admission is four dollars for adults, two dollars for children ages five through twelve. Call 375-1492. (NK)
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Bunny Wailer, the sole surviving member of the original Wailers (the trio also included Bob Marley and Peter Tosh), heads an array of reggae talent -- Luciano, Sizzla, Kimane Marley, Andrew Tosh, Screwdriver, and ten other acts -- at today's Reggae Music Extravaganza, held at Bayfront Park Amphitheater (301 Biscayne Blvd.). Wailer's debut solo album, 1976's Blackheart Man, is considered an aural manifesto for Rastafarian values. Since that time he has released eighteen additional albums and copped two Grammys. As for his live performances, whether singing about spiritualism or just having a good time, he has been known to move as many feet as souls. The concert starts at noon. Tickets cost $20 in advance (available only at select locations) or $25 the day of the show. Call 358-7550. (LB)
As far as we know, a Titanic-shape lunch box with a huge gash in its side has yet to hit the market, but it's probably just a matter of time before one shows up. Documentaries, books, films, and songs about the ill-fated ship just keep on coming. Tonight at 8:00 at Area Stage (645 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach), Books & Books sponsors a free reading by Daniel Allen Butler, who will discuss his book Unsinkable: The Full Story of RMS Titanic. While Butler talks about life and death at sea, Pulitzer Prize nominee and National Book Award recipient Robert Stone reads from his sixth novel Damascus Gate -- a dense thriller set in the Holy Land -- at Books & Books (296 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables). The novel's protagonist Christopher Lucas is a freelance writer who ventures to Jerusalem to do research for a magazine article but somehow finds himself embroiled in a scheme to blow up mosques. Stone reads at 8:00 p.m. Admission is free. Call 442-4408. (NK)
Drawn from the Smithsonian Institution's National Anthropological Archives collection, Beyond the Maine: Imaging the New Empire features photographs from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines that date back to the end of the Nineteenth Century. The last vestiges of Spain's colonial domain can be seen in the work of two Americans -- Charles Edward Doty and Helen Hamilton Gardener. Doty, an army photographer, was sent to Cuba to document social conditions and this nation's attempts to help modernize the island. Gardener, an avid proponent of women's rights, photographed life in Puerto Rico, producing images that are indicative of her interest in education and health. The exhibition is on display at Santander Gallery (1401 Brickell Ave.) through May 28. Admission is free. Call 530-2900 for the gallery's hours. (NK)
Although ebullient maestro James Judd may be away, the Florida Philharmonic soldiers on without him. Sometimes they even invite a few guests over to jam. This evening Judd's able stand-in, conductor Duilio Dobrin, leads the orchestra in a program that highlights the sounds of France, Italy, and Spain. On the bill: Debussy's masterwork La Mer, Respighi's light Ancient Airs and Dances, and Rodrigo's intense, passionate Concierto Andaluz, during which the Romero Guitar Quartet, led by renowned flamenco guitarist Pepe Romero, sits in with the orch. Showtime is 8:00 p.m. at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts (174 E. Flagler St.). Tickets range from $17 to $70. Call 930-1812. (