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Louisville Weekend Arts Picks: 'Showboat,' 'Star Wars' Meets Shakespeare

Alley Theatre

You may not think of "Showboat" as an opera, but it's one of the most operatic of all Broadway musicals, in terms of the plot and of what it requires of the singers. Written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II (a dream team if there ever was one), "Showboat" premiered in 1927 to great acclaim. It's been revived numerous times over the years -- odds are, you've seen a community or school production at some point -- and Kentucky Opera selected it to wrap up their 2015-16 season. "Ol' Man River" and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" are just a couple of the "Showboat" songs that have become standards. Given that Kentucky Opera often performs works that are 150 years old or more, "Showboat" is a refreshing departure. (Brown Theatre, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., tickets here.)

Fans of great singing should not miss baritone Nathan Gunn at U of L's Comstock Recital Hall on Saturday night. It's a rare chance to hear a truly world-class performer in a (relatively) intimate setting. You can hear my recent interview with Gunn here.

If you saw (and enjoyed) the recent live TV production of "The Wiz," you might be interested in checking out the 1978 movie version, screening this weekend at the Muhammad Ali Center as part of the Black Film Festival running through February. Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Richard Pryor? I'm in. You can also catch the remaining festival selections, "Do the Right Thing" and "Shaft," later in the month. (Muhammad Ali Center, 144 N. Sixth Street, full listings here.)

Valentine's Day has passed, but if you're still in that "hearts and flowers" mode, you can venture out to 21c for Shakespeare in Love, the annual benefit gala for Kentucky Shakespeare. Last year's event included food, ballet dancers, and short performances previewing the summer season. One of Macbeth's witches peeping over the balcony scared me so much I almost dropped my bourbon on the rocks. If you're able to swing the ticket price, it's a great way to support an organization that brings free theatre to so many every year. (Saturday 8 p.m.-midnight, tickets here.)

And for a decidedly quirky offbeat take on The Bard, check out "Verily, A New Hope: William Shakespeare's Star Wars" at the Alley Theatre. It's just what it sounds like: the saga you know and love, delivered in the style of Shakespeare. I can only imagine Yoda's deliciously convoluted sentences. Enjoy it perhaps, thou shalt? (The Alley Theatre, 633 W. Main Street, Feb. 18 through March 12, tickets here.)