Aries Spears at Pittsburgh Improv; CLO Staging ‘Pump Boys and Dinettes’ (Thurs., 2/20/17)

1) New York native Aries Spears didn’t rest on his laurels when he left FOX’s “MADtv” in 2005, though the show had been his bread and butter since 1997. He hit the ground running with a “Comedy Central Presents” special that year and did a short stint on Showtime with Damon Wayans on the short-lived “The Underground.” He has also made guest appearances on everything from “CSI: Miami” to “The Boondocks.” But the real magic happens when this natural-born comedian returns to his roots, stand-up comedy, and hits the road with his hilarious Shaq impression. He has been touring internationally, and you’ll get the chance to see him tonight at 8 p.m. at Pittsburgh Improv, with additional shows through Sunday. 166 E. Bridge St., The Waterfront, Homestead.

2) Return with us now to those long-ago days of the early 1980s when V-8 Pontiacs prowled the roads, when a Macintosh was just an apple you could eat, and when country music and small-town country characters were still amusing novelties to us sophisticated Northern urbanites. It was during those days, in the unlikely bowels of New York City, that a cabaret musical titled Pump Boys and Dinettes was born. The plot? Shucks, who needs one? This is a singin’, pickin’, and stompin’ revue-type of show with a bunch of sketch-comedy bits worked in. And the composers? Why, a bunch of nightclub performers called none other than Pump Boys and Dinettes themselves. The setting is a place down in North Carolina where a gas station and a diner sit side-by-side. And wouldn’t you know, Pump Boys and Dinettes took off so well that the show made it to Broadway … and then across to London, England … and it remains in the repertoire today. 7:30 p.m. Performances run through April 15.  The living evidence awaits at CLO Cabaret, 655 Penn Ave., Cultural District. (MV)

3) It is tempting to describe the Broadway musical Ragtime as one of those sweeping epics that throws in everything but the kitchen sink. But in fact, the show even has elements of kitchen-sink realism (i.e. the portrayal of gritty working-class family life), so here’s a sweeping synopsis. Adapted from E.L. Doctorow’s novel of the same title, Ragtime is set in New York during the early 1900s. The story switches back and forth among three families—wealthy upper-crusters, African Americans in Harlem, and Jewish immigrants in the Lower East Side, respectively—while it works in a raft of historical figures including J.P. Morgan, Booker T. Washington, Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, the ill-fated showgirl Evelyn Nesbit and her murderous husband Harry Thaw (both Pittsburgh-area natives), and more. There’s also a fictional musician named Coalhouse Walker who plays that funky genre known as, well, “ragtime.” The musical won 1998 Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Score. 8 p.m. Continues through March 4. You can catch the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama production of Ragtime in the Philip Chosky Theatre at the Purnell Center for the Arts, 5000 Forbes Ave., Oakland. (MV)