Wu Tang’s Raekwon Plays Mr. Smalls; Texture Ballet Staging ‘Resounding Sound’ (Thurs., 7/20/17)

1) Staten Island, New York-born Corey Woods is best known by his stage name, Raekwon the Chef. He rose to fame as a member of the quintessential rap group the Wu-Tang Clan. He continues as one of the Wu-Tang Clan, but has also built a successful parallel career as a solo artist, writer, and producer. Raekwon is cited as a pioneer of the East Coast rap sub-genre known as Mafioso rap, which references the mafia and other crime syndicates, hustling, and criminality in its lyrics. The Miami New Times summed it up best when it described his lyrics as “street epics” that are “straightforward yet linguistically rich universes not unlike a gangsta Iliad.” He is also recognized as one of the best MCs in the business. Raekwon’s 1995 debut solo release, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… , debuted at no. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart. Raekwon’s latest album is this year’s release, The Wild, and he is now out on his Wild Tour. Stann Smith and DJ Big Phill open. 7 p.m. Mr. Smalls, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. 

2) Texture Contemporary Ballet, a company that performs exactly what its name says, is opening its 2017-18 season this month with Resounding Sound. As in all Texture shows, the dances are grounded in traditional ballet techniques but adapted and enhanced in new ways. Resounding Sound features a new ballet choreographed by Associate Artistic Director Kelsey Bartman to the music of legendary icon Bob Dylan. Sacramento-based musicians Justin Keim and Vinny Randazzo will play Dylan songs, including “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Just Like A Woman.” Another new ballet on the program is by Artistic Director Alan Obuzor, who has choreographed dance numbers to live sets by Pittsburgh rock band Meeting of Important People. Additionally, other ballet sets from Texture’s repertoire of works will be performed. 7:30 p.m. Continues through Sunday. New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. (MV, RH)

3) Some people like their summertime theater to be light-hearted and frothy. For the rest of us, Pittsburgh Festival Opera is doing Sweeney Todd. This is the musical in which the song “A Little Priest” does not refer to a clergyman’s height, but to the amount of his flesh needed to make a meat pie. The story takes us to London in the 1840s, a bustling city, but also a mean and hard place. For Sweeney Todd, who has suffered a tragic injustice, the city inspires these lyrics: “There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit / And it’s filled with people who are filled with shit / And the vermin of the world inhabit it … They all deserve to die.” Many do. Todd, a barber skilled with the straight razor, gives customers the closest (and last) shaves of their lives; the corpses are put to profitable use in Mrs. Lovett’s nearby pie shop. Calling Sweeney Todd a dark comedy sells it short, because the show does more than squeeze laughs out of gore. It’s a compelling work of theater in every sense, and if Stephen Sondheim had never written another musical, this one alone would secure his legacy. 7:30 p.m. Continues through Saturday. In the Falk Auditorium at Winchester Thurston School, 555 Morewood Ave. (but enter the side door on Ellsworth), Oakland. (MV)