Photo courtesy ©2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc.

Photo courtesy ©2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc.

This is my first chance to welcome you to the new year — and there’s so much to share!

First, the big news. The big tent returns as Cirque du Soleil sets up shop on the beach in Santa Monica with its latest spectacular, “Totem.” I’ll attend opening night on Jan. 21 and report back to you.

I’m excited to witness the incredible and much-deserved success of this amazing circus troupe since covering their first appearance outside of Canada for NPR’s “Morning Edition” as they opened the Los Angeles Arts Festival back in 1987. Tickets, details and reservations at www.cirquedusoleil.com.

 

Binge on art

 

Two giant art extravaganzas open this month. Among the 100-plus international art houses featured at the 19-year-old LA Art Show are several Santa Monica and beach cities galleries. ADC Contemporary, Axiom Contemporary, Egenolf Gallery, Roger Genser and the Marina del Rey-based Hayden & Fandetta and G2 Gallery from Venice will show off their top work. An anticipated crowd of 50,000 will view contemporary and traditional art at the L.A. Convention Center, Jan. 15-19, with an opening night premiere party on the 15th. More info at www.laartshow.com.

Closer to home and now in its fifth year is Art Los Angeles Contemporary. This big bash showcases 70 international galleries that focus on contemporary art, from Jan. 30 through Feb. 2 at our own Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport. With 40,000 square feet and 40-foot-high ceilings crammed with art of all kinds, your senses can be overwhelmed; try dividing your viewing across the several days of the fair. Angeleno Magazine says, “Art Los Angeles Contemporary is no longer the new kid on the block, growing into a mature, cultured player in the international art arena.” It’s fun, too. Find out more at artlosangelesfair.com.

 

Pier reviewed

 

A sold-out run with top reviews, plus LA Weekly’s Pick of the Week, have extended the life of the West End Theatre, the new cabaret at the edge of the Santa Monica Pier. “Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel,” the creation of actor Paul Sand, continues indefinitely, beginning Friday, Jan. 17. Enjoy two performances of this musical revue every Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. featuring the dark song hits (“Mack the Knife” and “The Alabama Song”) of one-time Santa Monica resident Kurt Weill. Drinks are available. For info and tickets, visit thewestendtheatre.com or call (310) 488-4862.

 

Opening next week

 

Classicists take note: “An Iliad,” based on Homer’s epic poem, has been adapted for the contemporary stage by director Lisa Peterson and actor Denis O’Hare (of “True Blood” and “American Horror Story” fame). It opens on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, running through Feb. 2.

The New York Times wrote this: “Drawing on the muscular translation by Robert Fagles, Mr. O’Hare and Ms. Peterson have telescoped the mighty expanses of Homer’s great poem into an evening that scales the conflict of the Trojan War down to an intimate solo show illuminating both the heroism and the horror of warfare.” I am looking forward to reviewing this production.

Also opening on Jan. 16, hang onto your haggis as “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” occupies The Broad’s intimate second stage, The Edye. The National Theatre of Scotland promises a wildly entertaining evening of supernatural storytelling, music and theatre inspired by the Border Ballads, Robert Burns and the poems of Robert Service. A stuffy academic at a conference about ballad music gets caught in a vortex of drinking, singing and carousing that will change her life forever.

I’m in; will let you know my thoughts in about two weeks.

For details, info and tickets on both of these shows, visit thebroadstage.com or call (310) 434-3200.

 

Fireside nights

 

The fifth annual Fireside at the Miles kicks off on Friday, Jan. 10 for eight weekends. Each concert features a different mix of contemporary music, opera, jazz, storytelling, dance, poetry, beat boxing, a cappella singing and more. The ambiance includes a vintage fireplace, comfy couches, cozy candles, organic beverages and snacks in an historic playhouse. The series culminates with a special weekend performance by audience favorite String Theory, on Feb. 28 and March 1. Call (310) 458-8634 for reservations or e-mail milesplayhouse@smgov.net. The Miles Playhouse is located at 1130 Lincoln Blvd.

 

Plan ahead

 

If I hadn’t seen for myself how amazing the Amazing Bubble Man is I couldn’t begin to imagine how anyone could turn bubbles into performance art.

But Louis Pearl is what he says he is, The Amazing Bubble Man. And you don’t want to miss his upcoming six-performance run at The Edgemar Center. Believe me, these seats will sell out fast.

In addition to exploring the breathtaking dynamics of bubbles, Pearl combines comedy and artistry along with the art, science and fun of bubble tricks; square bubbles, bubbles inside bubbles, bubble volcanoes, fog-filled bubbles, and even people inside bubbles. The man knows how to wow audiences of all ages.

He’s back at Edgemar on March 1 and 2 only, and for this engagement, Pearl will be accompanied by his lovely wife, Jet Black Pearl, an internationally renowned musician who sings and plays a variety of instruments. Performances take place at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on those dates. Reserve by phone at (310) 392-7327 or online at edgemarcenter.org

 

Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.