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'Producers' goes wacky at SWIC

The most acclaimed Broadway musical of all time will enjoy its metro-east debut this weekend when Jeff Blue brings "The Producers" to the stage of Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.

Based on Mel Brooks' wacky 1968 film of the same name, "The Producers" won a record-breaking 12 Tony awards and ran for 2,502 performances on Broadway after opening in April 2001. Starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, it spawned national tours and international productions before coming full circle with a 2005 film featuring the Broadway leads.

Here, David Guebert, of O'Fallon, and Bryan Arnold, of Mascoutah, will take over the roles of producer Max Bialystock and accountant Leo Bloom, who are determined to stage the worst musical ever created. What they wind up producing are madcap complications when "Springtime for Hitler" becomes a huge hit.

"The show is filled with Mel Brooks humor, great music and lavish production numbers," said Jeff Blue, who also will be on stage as the world's worst director, Roger DeBris. "It is irreverent and hilarious. It is the best show about the worst show I've ever seen."

Get ready for laughs when the curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday this weekend and next. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door; for advance tickets, call 235-2700, ext. 5561.

'Willy Wonka'

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will sweeten the pot of fun when it wraps up its five-day run of "Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka" this weekend in Dunham Hall.

Immediately after the 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, parents can take snapshots of their children with Mr. Wonka. Then, on Sunday, some lucky "gold" ticketholder will win a chest of chocolate at intermission.

Brennan Stamps, of Edwardsville, stars as Charley Bucket, who wins the opportunity to tour Willy Wonka's chocolate with Wonka himself (Roger Speidel, of Glen Carbon). What you'll find is a mystifying but wonderful world filled with strange inhabitants and musical delights.

Final performances are at 7:30 p.m. tonight through Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $15, $12 for children, but no child under 4 will be admitted. For reservations and group rates, call 650-2774.

Sparta BluesFest

Chicago guitarist Carlos Johnson will blow in from the Windy City Saturday to lift your spirits at the Sparta BluesFest in Evansville.

Along with Rich McDonough and his Rough Grooves, Johnson will cap a long day of Blues on the River that will get under way at 2. Admission to Blues on the River is $10.

Before becoming the leader of his own band, Johnson toured the world with such legends as Koko Taylor, Otis Rush and Junior Wells. Now, the southpaw guitarist rules the blues clubs on Chicago's West Side while delivering such notable CDs as "Don't Mess with the Bluesman" and "In and Out."

Returning for their third appearance are McDonough's Rough Grooves, a popular fixture at festivals throughout the United States and Europe. And, in keeping with the festival's tradition to feature local acts, the day will open with the Barefoot Blues Band, Fertile Soil and the Rockin' Daddy-O's.

All that plus a water-boarding demonstration by Extreme Power Sports at 3:30 along with food and drink. Just bring your chairs; for more information, go to www.bluesfest.com. Evansville is 10 miles southeast of Red Bud on Illinois 3.

Live on the Levee

The alt-rock sounds of Sonic Youth and the 40th anniversary tour of Little Feat will kick off another summer of free Live on the Levee concerts this weekend on the St. Louis riverfront.

With its new CD, "The Eternal," just out, Sonic Youth will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Little Feat, which has been rocking fans since 1969 will follow with its eclectic mix of rock, blues, folk, R&B and funk at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Each night will open at 6 with family entertainment in the K-Town Kids Zone and wrap up with fireworks at about 9:15. The series also will feature Angie Stone July 24, Gretchen Wilson July 25, Guster July 31 and Lupe Fiasco on Aug. 1. All of the headliners except Sonic Youth will start at 8 p.m.

In addition, The Sauce Cafe will offer tablecloth dining on the river levee each Saturday night. Serving up three-course meals for $30 meals at 6 and 8 p.m. will be LoRusso's Cucina this weekend, Mike Shannon's Steaks and Seafood on July 25 and the Sky Box Sports Bar & Grill on Aug. 1.

For information or to make reservations, go to www.celebratestlouis.org.

Gospel concert

St. Matthew United Methodist Church will be making an extra joyous noise to the Lord Sunday when it hosts the Homecoming Gospel Choir in a lively Gaither-style concert.

Now in its 10th season, the choir features singers and musicians from across Southern Illinois performing an upbeat, fast-paced 21/2-hour concert of your favorite gospel songs and hymns. Backed on stage by both tracked and live musicians, the Homecoming Gospel Brass features keyboards, horns, guitars and violin accompaniment.

Admission to the 6 p.m. concert is free, although an offering will be taken. The church is at 1200 Moreland Drive in Belleville; for more information, call 397-5994.

Homecomings

Home will be where the fun is when New Athens and St. Jacob host their annual homecomings this weekend.

The New Athens fest will be a three-day affair with armband ride specials from 6 to 10 p.m. each night and dancing to The Boogiemen Friday, the Smash Band on Saturday and Aftershock on Sunday. The big highlights come Sunday with the annual chicken dinner at 11 a.m. and the parade at 5, all crowned by the queen coronation at 9.

St. Jacob will take to the streets with parades at 7 p.m. Friday and 6:30 Saturday followed by music at 8 both nights.

Jubilant Jazz

Let Faith Lutheran in O'Fallon spice up your weekend with its annual summer jazz festival at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Hot licks and cool ice cream will fill the church as not one, but two jazz combos strut their stuff. Along with the familiar sounds of Jubilant Jazz, the church also will welcome Dave Filkins' Twilight Jazz along with a number of soloists and others surprises by music director Marcia Harty.

Admission is free, too, so just get ready to sit back and swing at the church, 520 E. Highway 50; for more information, call 632-5562.

Avenue of Art

The Gateway East Artists Guild hopes you'll take a stroll through its Avenue of Art when it opens its annual show Sunday at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.

Dozens of area artists will be showing off their latest work during the exhibition, which will run through Aug. 22 in the Visitors Center. Opening day festivities will include a reception from 1 to 4 p.m., highlighted by the awards presentation at 2 p.m.

For more information, go to www.GEAG.net.

Song showcase

Area songsmiths will take the stage to benefit a local drama troupe during another Songwriter Showcase Sunday in Breese.

The Clinton County Songwriters Guild are promising a Party in the Park when eight of its members serve up their solo acoustic creations during an afternoon of music starting at 3. Performers including Kerry Steinmann, Mike Isenhart, Mike Bango and Robert Wagener along with Kyle Klostermann, Bob Hemmer, John Edwards and Beverly Bandy.

The $5 admission will benefit the Clinton County Showcase, and the group also is seeking donations of nonperishable food items for the House of Manna. For more information, go to www.myspace.com/CCSG.

Summer Sing

Whether you're a member of a high school choir or a senior citizens chorus, Robert Howard would like you to join in the Belleville Philharmonic Society's third annual Summer Sing.

It's an opportunity to rehearse and perform a major choral work all in one night and without the pressure of singing in front of an audience. Your final chance comes Monday when soloists Laura Billings, Teresa Schmidt, Paul Blecha and Leon Burke will join you for Haydn's Mass in the Time of War.

Registration will be held from 7 to 7:30 p.m. with a 45-minute rehearsal and intermission to follow, all leading to a run-through performance at 9 p.m. The hall is at 116 N. Jackson St. For information, call 234-8079 or e-mail bellphil22@sbcglobal.net.

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