Kansas City Connection: Events worth going gaga over

My name is Lucas Wetzel, and as of today I’ll be serving as your Kansas City Connection. Each week I’ll be providing you with a few compelling reasons to visit Lawrence’s friendly little metropolis to the east.

Theater: ‘BlackTop Sky’

One event I’m especially excited about right now is the debut of “BlackTop Sky,” a play by Kansas City, Kan., native Christina Anderson, recently named one of 15 playwrights “whose work will be transforming America’s stages for decades to come,” by American Theatre magazine.

“BlackTop Sky” traces the relationship of an 18-year-old girl in a Chicago housing project and a young man who is homeless by choice.

The play runs through Feb. 10 at the Unicorn Theatre (3828 Main St., 816-531-PLAY).

Tickets range from $25-$35, with advance student tickets for $15, and check out unicorntheatre.org for tickets and showtimes for each day.

Music: Lady Gaga

The Sprint Center is sometimes criticized by locals for not having an anchor tenant, but who needs a pro hockey team when you’ve got visitors like Lady Gaga? The Lady’s “Born this Way Ball” takes over KCMO on Monday at 7:30 p.m., with tickets ranging from $64.50 up to $200 after taxes and fees.

I’m not a huge Lady Gaga fan myself (if you overlook the enormous stockpile of photos I’ve amassed during my research for this column), but that “Alejandro” song is pretty great. Find more info at sprintcenter.com.

Movies: ‘Small Apartments’

Indie film buffs will have a unique opportunity to see a film before most of the country when the offbeat comedy “Small Apartments” screens at the Alamo Drafthouse at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The film’s formidable cast includes Billy Crystal, James Caan, Johnny Knoxville, Rosie Perez and, yes, even Dolph Lundgren.

“Small Apartments” producer and Kansas City native Bridget McMeel will host a Q&A after the film. Visit tugg.com/events/2790 to buy a ticket and watch the trailer.

Music: K.C. Symphony

I had planned to suggest the Kansas City Symphony performance of “Rhapsody in Blue” at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, but the box office tells me that even rush tickets are sold out.

If you’re interested in seeing the Symphony this spring, it might not hurt to plan now. Students can pick up rush tickets for as low as $10 — easily one of the best deals in the city.

For a more visceral experience and a tremendous view, ask about seats in the choral loft. Visit kcsymphony.org for more details.

Music: Mike Dillon

For a more danceable, electrified night out, head a few blocks east in the Crossroads this Thursday to catch vibraphonist/bandleader Mike Dillon at the Brick, (1727 McGee St., thebrickkcmo.com).

Dillon is a versatile, kinetic performer who combines jazz chops with a punk attitude, and he’s jammed alongside everyone from Karl Denson and Ani DiFranco to Kansas City’s own Snuff Jazz. There’s a $7 cover.

Food: Grinders

While you’re in the neighborhood, stop by Grinders (417 E. 18th St.) for a pre-concert slice of pizza or plate of death wings (ask for “molten” if you’re feeling bold).

Grinders West just next door is a slightly more upscale operation that includes all the Grinders staples along with sandwiches, burgers and pasta.

Both restaurants are operated by the local artist Stretch, and his funky design touches are found throughout.

Music: People’s Liberation Big Band

If you just can’t wait to live it up in K.C., skip the Super Bowl tonight and come see the People’s Liberation Big Band of Kansas City perform its own halftime show (their avant-jazz Madonna medley last year outshone even M.I.A.’s middle finger).

The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Record Bar (therecordbar.com, 1020 Westport Road) and should wind down by around 10:30, giving you plenty of time to be home and in bed by midnight.

Save some room for one of the Record Bar’s signature pizzas, which come in either 45 or LP size (I highly recommend the “Love Supreme”).

Tickets cost $5 and can be purchased at the door.

More events to follow next week and every week. Feel free to send recommendations and feedback to kcconnection@ljworld.com.

— Lucas Wetzel grew up in Westwood, Kan., graduated from KU in 2004, and has since worked as a freelance writer, editor and language trainer in Leipzig, Germany, and Kansas City, Mo.

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