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Live entertainment is jivin’ and thrivin’ throughout Winston-Salem

by Mark Burger

It’s only the first week of a new year, but already some of Winston-Salem’s more popular entertainment venues are rocking and rolling right into 2011.

Theatre Alliance, one of the region’s most eclectic theaters, will open Jane Anderson’s controversial, critically acclaimed drama Looking for Normal this Friday at its playhouse (1047 Northwest Blvd., Winston- Salem).

The story focuses on Roy and Irma, a longmarried couple whose relationship is shaken to its foundations when Roy confesses during marriage counseling that he has been living a lie and wants to undergo a sex-change operation. Needless to say, this revelation has devastating, sometimes unexpected, repercussions for them, their two children, and the community at large. And that’s just the beginning of the story….

Anderson adapted and directed an HBO version, titled Normal in 2003, starring Jessica Lange and Tom Wilkinson as Irma and Roy. The film earned three Golden Globe and six Emmy nominations, including an Emmy nod for Anderson’s teleplay, and won the Emmy for Outstanding Makeup for a Movie, Miniseries or Special. Both Lange and Wilkinson received Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for their performances.

This is unquestionably a change of pace from Theatre Alliance’s last show, the lighthearted Christmas musical revue Winter Wonderettes — but it’s not entirely surprising. Artistic director Jamie Lawson, who directed both productions, has always touted the theater’s reputation for variety and its penchant for tackling unusual subject matter. It’s safe to say that Looking for Normal qualifies!

Due to adult themes and language, this production is recommended for mature audiences.

Looking for Normal is scheduled to run through Jan. 16. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Opening Night tickets are $12 (general admission), $10 (students and senior citizens). For subsequent performances, tickets are $14 (general admission), $12 (students and seniors). Reservations are suggested.

For tickets or more information, call 336.723.7777 or visit the official Theatre Alliance website: www.wstheatrealliance.org

For something a bit more family-friendly, the Children’s Theatre of Winston-Salem plunges into the new year with its presentation of If You Take a Mouse to School, which opens Friday at the Arts Council Theatre (610 Coliseum Drive, Winston-Salem).

Adapted from the best-selling children’s book by Laura Numeroff by Ernie Nolan, this light-hearted adventure follows the title “Mouse” as he hitches a ride aboard the boy’s backpack and spends the day at school with him. Once there, our rambunctious rodent tries his hand (paw?) at reading, writing, arithmetic and even science — in an experiment that doesn’t quite go according to his (or anyone else’s) plan.

Amidst the comedy, however, is an underlying message of friendship and trust, one that speaks to both mice and men of all ages.

Recommended for audiences Pre-K to Grade 3, If You Bring a Mouse to School is produced by the Tarraddidle Players, the acclaimed touring company of the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, which is celebrating its 39 th season this year. The talented four-member troupe includes Sal Garcia, Leslie Ann Giles, Darlene Parker and Stephen Seay.

Showtimes are 10 a.m. and noon Friday, 11 a.m. Saturday. Tickets are $8 (general admission), and $12 for premium seating (Saturday performance only). The Children’s Theatre is very often a hot ticket — sell-outs are common — so reservations are strongly suggested.

For tickets or more information, call 336.725.4531 or visit the official website: www.childrenstheatrews.org

If you’re in the mood for live music, the Garage ushers in its “American Music Showcase Series” for 2011 with a special per formance by Jason & the Scorchers this Friday at 9 p.m., joined by special guest Stacie Collins.

Jason & the Scorchers have been rewriting the book on Southern rock ‘n’ roll for the better part of 30 years, hailed by the Austin Chronicle as “contenders for best band on the planet” and recipients of a Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance by the Americana Music Association.

The group’s latest album is Halcyon Times and many consider it to be yet another “scorching” triumph. They are, however, as renowned for their live performances as for their studio work, if not more so.

As Billboard observed, “Someday, Jason & the Scorchers may play a mediocre set. But it won’t be in this lifetime.”

The Garage is located at 110 W. 7 th St., Winston-Salem, and it’s sure to be rockin’ this Friday.

Tickets are $12 (advance) and $15 (at the door). For tickets or more information, call 336.777.1127 or visit the Garage’s official website: www.the-garage.ws/boxoffice. You can also check out the band’s official website: www.jasonandthescorchers.com

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