Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
ARKANSAS BLUES AND HERITAGE FESTIVAL
Thu.-Sat., Oct. 4-6
Downtown Helena. Free.
Your baby left you? Dog died? Not a cent to your name? Head on down to Helena, because they've got the blues too. This is the 22nd anniversary of the festival, which offers tasty eats (turkey leg, anyone?) as well as soulful music. Highlights include Blinddog Smokin' with special guest Bobby Rush; Pintetop Perkins and “Steady Rollin' ” Bob Margolin; Michael Burks; Hubert Sumlin and The Willie “Big Eyes” Smith Band, and the Robert Lockwood Junior Band with Wallace Coleman and Cleveland Fats. And you won't be singin' the blues about cost, because this event is still free. KW
Fri.-Sat., Oct. 5-6
Hill Wheatley Plaza, Hot Springs. $5-$7.
Nothing says fall like lederhosen, pretzels and beer — lots and lots of beer. But it's not just beer connoisseurs who'll want to join in the revelry of the 33rd annual Oktoberfest. There's something for everyone — from a strong-arm contest to pretzel making to dancing lessons. You won't want to miss appearances by Mrs. Arkansas, the Waterloo German Band (clad in traditional garb) and the Village Polka Dots (wearing, you guessed it, matching polka dot vests). Somewhere Lawrence Welk rejoices. Why drink a six-pack and saw logs on the couch at home when you can go to Hot Springs, imbibe some fine brew and participate in the Saw Log Competition? KW
THE RAT PACK
Fri.-Sat., Oct. 5-6
Robinson Center Music Hall. $16-$70.
A ring a ding ding! This “Symphonic Celebration” of Vegas-style crooners features vocalists Eric Jordan Young, Sal Viviano and Nat Chandler. An international hit, “The Rat Pack” celebrates the classic songs of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin, including “Volare,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “Mr. Bojangles,” and more. Choreographed and performed with the full Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, you'll think you're swingin' at the Sands Hotel. And remember, what happens in Robinson Auditorium, stays in Robinson Auditorium. KW
ARKANSAS RIVER FAMILY FEST
Sat.-Sun., Oct. 6-7
North Shore Park, North Little Rock. $7-$10
An encore of this week's Maumelle Familyfest, for people who couldn't get enough or think Maumelle is too far away, the two-day Arkansas River Familyfest is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of get-down for kids and grown-folks alike. To wit: “The largest petting zoo in the state,” pony rides, carnival rides, magic shows, a screening of “Star Wars,” an Elvis impersonator and lots of up-and-coming local talent, including crooner Josef Hedinger (formerly of Starkz), bombastic pop-rockers Latture and the winners of Little Rock Star. Tickets are available at Harvest Foods throughout central Arkansas. LM
EUREKA FOLK FESTIVAL
Wed.-Sun., Oct. 10-14
City Auditorium, Eureka Springs. $10-$44.
This mammoth, city-wide event starts Wednesday night with the Queens Contest, then continues through Sunday with musical performances in the City Auditorium and various venues throughout town. There will be a parade on Saturday at 2 p.m. with a songwriter's contest in Basin Spring Park to follow. This 60th annual festival, the oldest festival in the Ozark Mountains, features the legendary Odetta and the ubiquitous Trout Fishing in America, among other talents. Though it's grown in numbers, it still has the intimate feel of a down-home hootenanny. KW
Thu.-Sat., Oct. 11-13
Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville. $22-$45.
Hailed as one of the nation's best ballet companies by the New York Times, the Houston Ballet will perform three nights only in Fayetteville at the Walton Arts Center. On Thursday and Friday nights, the troupe will take on the two-act ballet “Madame Butterfly.” Immortalized on Broadway as “Miss Saigon,” the tragic love story unfolds when a young geisha falls for a foreigner. On Saturday, it's Repertory Night: The company will deliver dance pieces “Clear,” “Hush” and “Velocity.” After the show, the audience will be invited to mix and mingle with the dancers and with members of the Northwest Arkansas Dance Coalition. NB
ARKANSAS STATE FAIR
Fri.-Sun., Oct. 12-21
State Fairgrounds. $4-$7.
“Fun for all, fair for all, Arkansas State Fair! Livestock shows, rodeos, family fun . . . thrilling rides, win a prize, everybody come!” That was their slogan back in the day, and it's as true today. It's also “Food for all!” Whether you like it fried or on a stick, or fried and on a stick, you'll find it here. Imagine a 10-acre midway filled with rides, games and eats, and you've just scratched the surface of what this year's fair has to offer. Recipe for a good time (or painful trip down memory lane): Start with some REO Speedwagon, mix in a funnel cake and a ride on the Zipper, and add a dash of neon light, then airbrush it, fry it, dip it in ketchup and voila! KW
Fri., Oct. 19
Windsong Performing Arts Center. $25.
Astral Project, one of New Orleans' most lauded jazz ensembles, will perform two shows on one night. Since the four-man band formed in 1978, its players — saxophonist Tony Dagradi, guitarist Steve Masakowski, bassist James Singleton and drummer Johnny Vidacovich — have drawn inspiration from just about everything, true to the original spirit of jazz. Vidacovich might pound out parade beats while Singleton shoots for funky blues rhythms. Possessing a flair for free-wheeling and an impulse for improvisation, no two Astral Project shows sound the same. NB
Sat., Oct. 20
When leaves start falling on tree-lined Kavanaugh Boulevard, you know it's time for Harvest Fest. Beginning at 4 p.m., several blocks along the Hillcrest strip will be closed off for the festival, which includes live music from local bands, food and beverage vendors (including booze) and an art walk. All proceeds from sales benefit Arkansas Hospice Foundation. Kicking off the outdoor concert is Chris Henry at 5 p.m. followed by 800 Bullets at 6 p.m. At 7 p.m., Box Turtle boutique highlights looks by local designers Missy Lipps, Lauren McCants, Erin Lorenzen and more in a fall fashion show. Music continues with the Boondogs at 8 p.m. and Jeff Coleman and the Feeders at 9 p.m. NB
RING OF FIRE: THE MUSIC OF JOHNNY CASH
Tue.-Wed., Oct. 23-24
Robinson Center Music Hall. $14-$44.
Sat.-Sun, Nov. 10-18
Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville. $34-$46.
It burns, burns, burns! This Broadway musical brings to life the hits of the legendary Man in Black. Cash's story is full of high drama, triumph and tragedy. “Ring of Fire” celebrates first and foremost Cash's music itself, featuring 38 signature songs including favorites like “Walk the Line” and “A Boy Named Sue.” KW
Wed., Oct. 24
Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA. $10-$20
Fri.-Sat., Nov. 2-3
Baum Walker Hall, Walton Arts Center,
One thing we miss about college is the downright kooky shows people used to bring to campus. The Bread and Puppet Theater. Asian dance troupes. Gamelan drumming. All right, we never really went to this stuff, and we hated the drummers with a passion for playing all over campus and destroying our peace, so we guess what we really miss is the frequent opportunity to spurn such performances. It'll be just like old times when the Shaolin Warriors bring their Kung Fu act to UCA's Reynolds Performance Hall. It sounds pretty cool — it's a group of 18 monks performing a martial arts routine on stage. UCA's website advises that “children should be at least 6 years of age to understand and enjoy it.” JW
FULL MOON HORROR CONVENTION AND FILM FESTIVAL
Fri.-Sun., Oct. 24-26
Market Street Cinema and Statehouse Convention Center. $15-$150.
Horror fans will get their fill this weekend when Arkansas's first horror convention comes to town. Movies, celebrities, live music and a 3,000-square-foot haunted house highlight the convention. Linda Blair of “The Exorcist” and P.J. Soles of “Carrie” are among the actors set to appear. On Saturday, the festival will show the only extant un-cut, unrated version of “Re-Animator”; star Jeffrey Combs and director Stuart Gordon will be on hand. Filmmakers and screenwriters have a chance to submit their work to win a distribution deal with Full Moon Features. Buy one of only 250 VIP tickets and get admission to all events, face time with a horror celebrity and a concert at Juanita's. LM
THREE MO' DIVAS
Wed.-Thu., Oct. 24-25
Hall, UCA, Conway.
Acclaimed Broadway writer/director Marion J. Caffey presents his latest production, “Three Mo' Divas,” a spin-off his smash hit “Three Mo' Tenors,” itself a take on “The Three Tenors.” Three classically trained vocalists will cover a range from Bach to Beyonce. LM
BAREFOOT IN THE PARK
Fri.-Sun., Oct. 26-Nov. 11
Arkansas Rep. $20-$25.
n See what happens when mismatched newlyweds, a free spirit and a straight-laced attorney share a tiny fifth floor walk-up in Greenwich Village. This is vintage Neil Simon, and was his first runaway Broadway hit. Rep boss-man Robert Hupp directs. KW
Fri., Oct. 26
City Auditorium, Eureka Springs. $116.50.
Everyone knows Willie Nelson, if only because he's the icon who made long hair and pot safe for country music. But there's a long and storied career behind that hippie image. He wrote Patsy Cline's “Crazy.” He helped start Farm Aid. He was a key member of the outlaw country movement. He played in the Highwaymen, an all-star act that also featured Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. At one time he owed the IRS $16.7 million in back taxes. Now 74 and still going strong, Nelson comes to Eureka's City Auditorium. JW
DEMETRI MARTIN AND SETH MYERS
Fri., Oct. 26
UCA, Conway. $10-$15.
Demetri Martin of “The Daily Show” and Seth Myers of “Saturday Night Live” offer a comedy double-header during UCA's homecoming weekend. Martin, who's been doing stand-up comedy on Comedy Central and “Late Night with Conan O'Brien” since the early 2000s, more recently began “Trendspotting,” his Daily Show segment of deadpan looks at “hip trends,” like hookahs and MySpace. Myers, a long time “SNL” cast member, last year took over as the show's head writer and as a “co-anchor” on the Weekend Update. LM
Fri., Oct. 26
Playhouse Disney's psychedelic answer to the Laurie Berkner Band, the members of this colorful, zany kids' group look like gumdrops, or maybe claymation figures, come to life. Hyper-happy and relentlessly upbeat, their brand of music will get little ones up and clapping before the inevitable post-concert sugar-induced meltdowns ensue. Parents might feel inspired to get up and groove too. The Wiggles they're not, but they'll doo. KW
HOT SPRINGS DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL
Fri.-Sun., Oct. 19-28
Downtown Hot Springs. $20-$150.
The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival was launched by a small group of arts enthusiasts back in 1992. That year, 10 Academy Award-nominated documentary films were screened for the public free of charge. Actor James Whitmore, who spoke at the first festival, gushed: “Hot Springs could be the documentary capital of the world.” Folks behind this year's event would like to think so. Dozens of films will be screened.
Fri., Nov. 2
Staples Auditorium, Hendrix
College, Conway. Free.
n It's impossible to pin Bill Frisell down. The guitar virtuoso fits most easily into the genre of jazz, but only because of its openness to experimentation. Through the years, he's messed with country, bluegrass and rock; covered Bob Dylan and Madonna, and provided live soundtracks to silent Buster Keaton films. With a much-imitated swooning and swooping guitar timbre, Frisell now comes to Hendrix to perform “Musical Portraits from Heber Springs,” a concert inspired by and featuring the stark black and white photographs of Mike Disfarmer. Violinist Jenny Scheinman and steel guitarist Greg Leisz also share the stage. LM
Fri.-Sat., Nov. 2-17
The Weekend Theater. $10-$14.
Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning first drama tracks a professor of 17th-century poetry as she battles ovarian cancer. A meditation on mortality, religion, medicine and academics, the play is being billed as “brutally human and beautifully layered.” The title, FYI, is not a typo. It's a nod to an old use of the word ‘wit,' as a synonym for wisdom. LM
Tue.-Wed., Nov. 13-14
Robinson Center Music Hall. $21-$50.
After picking up a copy of T.S. Eliot's “Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats” in an airport bookstore, Andrew Lloyd Webber composed what's become one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history. Winner of seven Tony awards, including Best Musical, “Cats” follows a full cast of felines along their magical and mysterious exploits. NB
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS
Thu.-Sat., Nov. 7-11.
If you've always wondered what it would be like to see dinosaurs in Alltel Arena (and we don't mean Def Leppard), here's your chance. Travel back in time, way back, to the age when these colossal beasts walked the earth. They may be made of latex and steel, but they're realistic enough to terrify and thrill parents and youngsters alike. They'd eat Barney for a snack. This show, derived from the BBC/Discovery Channel series, features 15 frighteningly life-like dinosaurs in a 90-minute stage production that cost more to create than most shows on Broadway. KW
Sat., Nov. 24
Robinson Center Music Hall. $41-$51.
Long live Loretta! Loretta Lynn has got to be the crowning jewel in Robinson's fall season, following luminaries such as Merle Haggard, Wilco and Norah Jones. She reigns supreme as the queen of old-school country while managing to stay modern and keep her edge, gaining new fans and charming old ones. After over four decades in the business, the woman knows how to put on a show and please a crowd. So much has already been said about this legendary lady, all that's left to offer is this haiku: Lovely Loretta/Daughter of a coal miner/Bad ass of all time. KW
KEELY AND DU
Fri.-Sat., Nov. 30-Dec. 15
Weekend Theater. $10-$14.
Never one to shy away from controversial topics, the Weekend Theater stages “Keely and Du.” Jane Martin's 1993 Pulitzer Prize-nominated drama follows a Christian right-to-life organization that kidnaps a pregnant woman, Keely, from an abortion clinic. Raped by her abusive ex-husband and working two jobs to support her invalid father, Keely doesn't seem to be in any place, financially or emotionally, to support a child. That doesn't stop Walter, pastor and leader of the kidnappers, who plans to hold Keely until she brings her baby to term and convince her she's wrong to seek an abortion. Keely forms a love-hate relationship with her companion, Du. LM
Sat., Dec. 1.
Alltel. Sold out.
Unless you've been living under the proverbial rock, or pop-rock, you know that Hannah Montana is the tween queen of the moment with a Disney show and national concert tour to prove it. OK, follow closely, because here it gets tricky. Hannah Montana is actually the alter ego of Miley Cyrus, who, thankfully, inherited her father Billy Ray's singing chops and not his hair. It's a two for the price of one kind of deal (or one for the price of two). New Jersey's Jonas Brothers open the show. KW
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL
Tue.-Sun., Dec. 4-9
Robinson Center Music Hall.
First a smash hit Disney Original Movie and chart-climbing soundtrack, now a musical extravaganza. You've seen the movie, you've heard your kids talk about it and sing the songs, incessantly, and now you can experience the multi-media sensation that is “Disney's High School Musical.” This stage production features a new cast of favorite characters to know and love, all the music from the movie, plus two new songs written especially for the stage. It's kind of like if “Grease” and “Romeo and Juliet” got married and had a really super-cute baby with awesome clothes and kickin' dance moves. KW