When Icarus donned wings to reach the sun, the gods rewarded his boldness by throwing him back to earth. Varekai, the latest incarnation of the famed Cirque du Soleil, reveals what happens when he lands. The word "varekai" (veray'kie) means "wherever" in the language of the Gypsies. Based on the myth of Icarus' ascent and fall, the story travels to a magic forest atop a volcano, where the man must learn how to return to the world. It is a world where anything is possible -- as close to magic as one can get. "It's an imaginary world," says Chantal Blanchard, the show's publicist. "You forget about the real world for two hours." The show, awash with the Cirque's trademark aerial feats, celebrates the wanderer who is bold enough to follow the path leading to varekai.
In true circus tradition, the troupe travels in a self-contained village -- with cooks, a school and its own tent. "We're still the circus, you know," says Blanchard. "We're a spoiled circus, but there are some mornings that you definitely think you're in the circus."
Varekai plays under the Cirque du Soleil Grand Chapiteau at WestWorld, 16601 North Pima Road in Scottsdale, from Thursday, April 29, through May 23. For showtimes and tickets, $50 to $70, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com or call 1-800-678-5440. -- Quetta Carpenter
Tears for Spears
MAD TV comic jams at Celebrity
As the saying goes, comedy equals tragedy plus time. Tell that to Aries Spears, who headlines the Best Damn Comedy Jamn 4 at Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street, on Friday, April 30. The standup comic (and featured player on Fox's MAD TV) constantly mines catastrophes for comedic gold, including the World Trade Center disaster. "After September 11, Arabs took all the pressure off us [black people]," Spears jokes. "I get on a plane now, and white people, y'all are happy to see us." Also jamming at the event will be Marvin Dixon, Honest John, Gerald Kelly and Joe Vinson. The laughs begin at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.50 to $26.50 through www.celebritytheatre.com or 602-267-1600. -- Benjamin Leatherman
Old flames burn bright at ASU's Prism Theatre
Love's Fire consumes ASU's Student Production Board this weekend. (Perhaps a cold shower would help?) Five of the group's directors collaborate on the production, a collection of five plays penned by contemporary playwrights, including Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and Wendy Wasserstein (The Heidi Chronicles). Inspired by Shakespeare's sonnets, the works fuse drama and dance, putting the Western world's most famous poetry in motion. The Fire rages from Saturday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 4, at ASU's Prism Theatre, at Rural and Terrace in Tempe. Tickets are $3 at the door. Call 480-727-7877 for details. - Jill Koch
Grammy winner plays Miles of material at SCA
Joe Lovano was born cool. His pop, tenor saxophonist Tony ("Big T"), raised the Cleveland native to appreciate the masters -- Parker, Dizzy and, of course, Miles Davis. "My dad saw Charlie Parker play live; he saw Miles when he was playing with John Coltrane. I didn't have to buy the records when I was a kid; my dad had all of 'em," says Lovano, a 2000 Grammy winner for his album 52nd Street Themes. So it's most apropos that Lovano pays tribute to Miles -- and his own childhood -- when he and his nine-piece ensemble perform Birth of the Cool Friday, April 30, at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. Included in the set are Davis' "Moon Dreams," "Move" and "Boplicity," as well as original music by renowned jazz composer Gunther Schuler (who's teaching at ASU this semester). Showtime is 8 p.m. at SCA, 7380 East Second Street. For tickets, $34, call 480-994-2787. -- Joe Watson
Ballet Folkorico Quetzali performs in Chandler
In a week when its native country's national holiday will be misinterpreted by drunken Americans up to their gills in tequila shots and frozen margaritas, Ballet Folklorico Quetzalli legitimizes its Mexican heritage by way of traditional song and dance. Director Hugo Betancourt leads the troupe of more than 45 dancers and 10 musicians from the Mexican state of Veracruz through an array of dances and songs performed on authentic stringed instruments. The troupe, founded in 1985 by Betancourt, has performed in Peru, Spain, Germany, Taiwan and Canada. So before you drink away Cinco de Mayo's true meaning, get a whiff of real Mexican heritage. The show starts at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 1, at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 North Arizona Avenue. Tickets are $18 to $26, and can be purchased by calling 480-782-2680 or visiting www.chandlercenter.org. --Joe Watson