The anger, the angst, and the ear-shattering volume are all back as Actor's Theatre of Charlotte revives its acclaimed production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Billy Ensley returns, dressed for distress, as the desperate youth who sees a sex-change operation as a ticket out of Communist East Berlin -- just weeks before the fall of the infamous wall. To avenge his cruel fate, Hedwig Schmidt starts a rock band in America named after his puny deformity. If you think Hedwig is twisted, wait till you see Yitzak, the wormy backup singer who adores him/her. The same tight quintet returns to drive the beat, including Matt Olin, Craig Spradley, and Ben Jackson, while Beth Pierce reprises her Yitzak. Through August 21 at ATC's outpost on 650 E. Stonewall Street. Tickets are $23 for 8pm performances with 11pm shows added Fridays and Saturdays. Call 704-342-2251. (Tannenbaum)
After an intense month of rehearsals and classes, Martha Connerton's Kinetic Works company struts their stuff in New and Improved for three nights at the Afro-American Cultural Center. Two of the five works on the program, "Duet for Four" and "Basically....," will be works that Connerton and Kinetic have staged before. "Sit Down!" is a new piece for five pro dancers set to the music of Vivaldi, and "Something That...." is for the entire company -- using a class writing assignment as its springboard. Concert tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. Call 704-338-1533 if you've done the math or purchase via PayPal at www.mckineticworks.org. (Tannenbaum)
AUGUST 6 - FRIDAY
Toss away your Tupperware and clear the runway! Tony Wright's latest sci-fi negligee romp, Omega, is ready for take-off at Carolina Actors Studio Theatre. If you missed Wright's previous futuristic adventure comedy, Alpha, this new Actor's Gym opus showcasing an all-woman cast will feature the same salacious ingredients in all their cheap, politically incorrect glory. Women warriors wielding swords -- and wearing no armor -- will parade with near-macho solemnity across the stage at 1118 Clement Avenue. Barbarella and her crew valiantly strive to return to their home planet of Omega, braving adventures that bear an uncanny resemblance to Homer's Odyssey. Lots of dance, swordplay, sci-fi mumbo jumbo, and cheesy special effects are promised along the way. Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm through August 28 with all tickets priced at $10. Call 704-455-8542. (Tannenbaum)
Go to this concert, or he'll put a boot in your ass. Yes, country star Toby Keith is in town, and he'll bring his uber-macho, butt-kicking, love-the-war-or-else shtick tonight to Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre beginning at 7:30pm. Once best known for his rather catchy hit "How Do You Like Me Now," Keith these days makes headlines by criticizing the Dixie Chicks' right to free speech, wrapping himself in the American flag and, apparently without any sense of irony, making truck commercials in which he sings "I don't compro-mi-i-se." Red-staters may purchase tickets ($28.75 and $60.75) by calling 704-522-6500. (Davis)
AUGUST 7 - SATURDAY
Get a first look at the 2004 Carolina Panthers at Fan Fest, an event geared to getting fans hyped up for the new season. Runners take their marks at 8am for the Blue Points 5K Road Race to start things off. The Catwalk and Fun Zone open outside the stadium at 9am, with games, music, contests and appearances by the TopCats and former Panthers players. At 11am, check out the talent as the 2003 NFC champs hit the field for their workout. The race costs $18 before August 6 and $25 the day of the race. All other activities are free. Go to www.panthers.com for details.
It's the 20th anniversary of the annual Bon Odori Japanese dance festival. This Buddhist fest is celebrated in the summer as a reminder of the gratefulness all should feel toward their ancestors. The organizers are expanding the concept this year by fusing east and west with performances by a local gospel singer and a shamisen (a three-stringed banjo-like instrument) player extending traditional music into bluegrass territory. Of course it wouldn't be a Japanese festival without a Taiko (performance drumming) ensemble. Numerous activities include demonstrations of Japanese martial arts (Aikido), food, tea ceremonies, crafts and dancing. Presented by the Japanese Association of Charlotte, at Wachovia Atrium, 12-5pm. Admission is $5. Details: 704-333-2775 (Shukla)
The inaugural BAC Invitational Criterium gets underway this evening at 7pm. Some of the best bicycle racers in the world will come to compete on a 1.2 mile course through uptown Charlotte in a 60-mile race for a total purse of more than $125,000. Funds raised go to the newly founded Brain Tumor Fund for the Carolinas. Organizers plan to make this an annual event with the goal of raising $5 million for the BTFC in its first three years. For more information on the race and surrounding events, go to www.charlottecriterium.org.
AUGUST 8 - SUNDAY
It's easy to overlook the timeless nature of swinging big band blues -- that is, until someone like Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers comes along and rekindles the flame to remind us that this stuff was the rock & roll of its day. It was and, in Ms. Smith and band's hands, still is fast, brash and driven by an insatiable beat -- no wonder it was condemned by fire-and-brimstone preachers everywhere for intoxicating the hormones of young folk. Ms. Smith's 14-piece backing band is made up of newcomers and veterans who've played with giants like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Gil Evans, and Lionel Hampton. Their sets are peppered with classics from Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billie Holliday, but their originals are filled with the same fire and joy. You'll hear jump blues, New Orleans, salsa, bebop and some R&B in her set, which takes place today at The Big Chill. For showtimes and ticket information, call 704-347-4447. (Schacht)
AUGUST 9 - MONDAY
The Charlotte Knights host the Louisville Bats tonight and tomorrow night at 7:15pm at Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, SC. Single game tickets start at just $6 and may be purchased by calling 704-36-HOMER. With Powerball Mondays, mention "Powerball" and get two reserved tickets for the price of one from the South Carolina Educational Lottery.