Cirque du Soliel at The Pete; Jim Gaffigan Raises Laughs at Heinz Hall (CPs Thu., 3/27/14)
1) In its 30-year lifespan, Montreal-based Cirque du Soliel has turned circus routines into a fine science. The company ties eye-popping acts of agility and acrobatics around a loose storyline and creates memorable costumes with a show-specific design and color scheme. Under this modus operandi, they’ve unveiled over two dozen shows, more than a few of which have warranted bringing back for a revival. Varekai debuted in 2002 and is once again being produced on a tour that stops at the Petersen Events Center for a four-day stint beginning today. It takes inspiration from the Greek myth of Icarus, who, in case you don’t remember from you college classics course, flew too close to the sun. Varekai imagines him landing in a crazy world of aerialists and guys who do handstands on walking canes. 7:30 p.m. 3719 Terrace St. Oakland.
2) Doing clean, non-divisive material isn’t easy for stand-up comics. It’s challenging to be funny while steering clear of clichés, and the ooh-and-ah-eliciting shock value of sexual or political references is often too tempting a tool to give up. But Jim Gaffigan, who comes to Heinz Hall tonight, has made his more wholesome approach work for more than 20 years. The pudgy, always-bearded comedian has found plenty of material in guilty-pleasure food (cake, bacon, and Hot Pockets get frequent mentions), and he’s got loads of stories from two large Catholic families, the one that begot him and the one he begot. (The dude has five kids!) When his five-year-old son wrote “Daddy is fat” as part of a writing assignment, Gaffigan was able to turn it into a book and long-form stand-up routine. 7 and 9:30 p.m. 600 Penn Ave., Cultural District.
3) Les Misérables begot two of the longest runs in theater history: the Broadway production ran from 1987 to 2003 and the London one started in 1985 and continues to this day. The musical, based on the classic Victor Hugo novel, has a broadly appealing theme: Misunderstood parolee Jean Valjean tries to be a good person as society, represented by policeman Javert, coldly stamps him a criminal. A play this successful of course makes it into the seasons of countless regional theaters, and the Pittsburgh Musical Theater is putting on the French period piece at the Byham starting today and continuing through April 6. 7:30 p.m. 101 6th St., Cultural District.
4) With a frantic persona that echoes John Belushi, Dan St. Germain is a bearded maniac who takes to comedy club stages to yell about his alcoholism, lack of luck with women, and manic depression. “I don’t get mood swings,” he explains. “I get full-blown emotional monster truck events, where it’s ‘This weekend at Dan’s depression,’ it’s his thoughts about the one who got away vs. his dreams of becoming a Major League Baseball player!” However you read that, read again, imagining it much louder, and you’ve got the gist. He’ll be screaming from the stage of the Improv for the next four days. 8 p.m. 166 E. Bridge St., Homestead.
5) And speaking of loudness, Mindless Self Indulgence takes to Stage AE today. Since 1997, the black-clad New York City band has mixed the most abrasive parts of metal, goth, punk, techno, and industrial rock into a relentlessly fierce sound and come up with more than a few songs titles we’d rather not repeat here. Opening is Buffalo-based hardcore band The Bunny The Bear, whose members do indeed wear bunny and bear masks. Doors open at 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore.