Best Of This Week

January 20, 2008

THEATER

CIRQUE DREAMS JUNGLE FANTASY -- 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; 2 p.m., 8 p.m. Saturdays; 1 p.m., 6:30 p.m. Sundays; through Feb. 3. France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, 12 N. Eutaw St. $25-$60. 410-547-7328 or france-merrickpac.com.

High-flying aerialists. Contortionists with limbs seemingly made of licorice. Pole-vaulters. A man who can do a dead-on impersonation of an ostrich.

It's all part of Cirque Dreams, which comes to Baltimore this week for 16 performances. Cirque Dreams (not affiliated with Cirque du Soleil) was the first show to fuse European circus traditions with Broadway-style theatrics. Jungle Fantasy is the most recent in a series of similarly themed shows that have been delighting audiences worldwide since 1993.

[MARY CAROLE MCCAULEY]

FILM

SPIRIT OF THE MARATHON -- 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Regal Hunt Valley Stadium 12, Regal Bel Air 14 and AMC Columbia Mall 14. $10-$12.50. fathomevents.com.

Jon Dunham's documentary centering on the Chicago Marathon tries to capture the marathoners' spirit by focusing on six runners as they prepare for and participate in the race. Those profiled range from a pair of first-timers to Deena Kastor, American bronze medalist at the 2004 Summer Olympics. This one-night-only screening, set for 7:30 p.m. at theaters throughout the country, will include a documentary short featuring interviews with director Dunham, executive producer Mark Jonathan Harris and marathon runners, as well as behind-the-scenes footage and deleted scenes.

[CHRIS KALTENBACH]

TELEVISION

BREAKING BAD -- 9 tonight. AMC.

Hoping to duplicate the success of Mad Men, its critically acclaimed and Golden Globe-winning new drama about the world of Madison Avenue, AMC launches Breaking Bad, a series about a high school teacher-turned-drug dealer.

Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle) plays Walt White, a chemistry teacher who turns to making and selling drugs to provide for his family after he is diagnosed with a terminal disease.

Viewers have accepted a suburban mom selling pot on Showtime's Weeds. But this dad is making meth, and he's doing it in a series available in virtually every home that is wired for cable - as opposed to Showtime, which charges a premium fee for access.

[DAVID ZURAWIK]

WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON AUTO SHOW -- 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place N.W., Washington. $5-$12. 800-697-7574 or washingtonautoshow.org.

This year's show will feature more than 700 vehicles that represent 42 domestic and import auto companies. Keynote speaker Mark R. LaNeve, vice president of General Motors Corp., will discuss the latest technological and environmentally conscious advances.

The event will include appearances by WWE, Washington Wizards and Redskins athletes, as well as High School Musical star Monique Coleman, All My Children actor Cameron Mathison and Marvel comic book characters. Attendees can also participate in contests and drawings for cash and prizes.

[JENNIFER CHOI]

CLASSICAL

FACULTY CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT -- 8 p.m. Wednesday. Peabody Institute, 17 E. Mount Vernon Place. $5-$15. 410-659-8100, ext. 2.

The Peabody Institute didn't just get a new director in Jeffrey Sharkey, when he started on the job in September 2006, but an extra musician. He's an accomplished pianist who will provide the keyboard foundation in a chamber music concert this week that features two Peabody faculty artists - violist Victoria Chiang and cellist Alison Wells (she's also the director's wife).

Violinist Peter Salaff, a founding member of the Cleveland Quartet and director of string chamber music studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music, will be a guest artist for the program, which offers trios by Beethoven and Josef Suk and a piano quartet by Brahms.

[TIM SMITH]

DVD

TORCHWOOD: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON -- BBC Warner. Available Tuesday. $79.98.

When the flotsam and jetsam of bizarre other worlds seep into the modern-day Welsh port of Cardiff, it's up to the elite Torchwood team members to pick up the pieces. Tasked by the British government with tracking down alien technology, out-of-time travelers and even evil pixies, they're sort of an MI-666. But thankfully, the series steers clear of the sanctimonious tone that has pervaded the sci-fi genre. With grown-up themes and an attractive cast, it relishes being jaunty and a bit cheeky. Special features include deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes and an entire disc titled Torchwood Declassified, which provides commentary on all 13 episodes.

[TIM SWIFT]

POP

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO -- 8 p.m. Wednesday. Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St. $20-$50. 410-581-5100 or bsomusic.org.

The Grammy-winning South African a capella group, whose latest release is Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu, brings its spiritually charged music and native dance to the stage. The ensemble's new album pays tribute to one of Africa's greatest leaders. The music - raw and vibrantly rhythmic - is even more powerful live.

[RASHOD D. OLLISON]

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