Tunes for 'Toons You can almost picture the light bulb clicking on above Nik Phelps' head. The composer, whose score for the CBS TV series The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat earned him a nomination for an Annie Award from the International Animated Film Society, began pondering ways to link new films to new music after meeting with society members. What he came up with was "Ideas in Animation," a monthly series where young professional animators can screen new work to the live, partly improvised accompaniment of the Sprocket Ensemble, an eclectic quartet whose members have played with the Club Foot Orchestra, Tom Waits, and the San Francisco and Berkeley symphony orchestras. Pamela Z. and Connie Champagne are among the guest artists scheduled to perform at upcoming shows, which recall the days before "talkies"; musician J. Raoul Brody kicks things off at 8 and 9:30 p.m. at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St., S.F. Admission is $6-10; call 681-3189.
Saving "Face" Irving Berlin's Face the Music hasn't seen the stage since its successful eight-month Broadway debut back in 1932. Was it the plot? Berlin and partner Moss Hart stick it to show biz and New York's finest in this satire about a money-laundering scheme between the NYPD and Broadway producers. In a twist that probably inspired The Producers, a flop becomes a hit and the cops find themselves party to the most scandalous show in town before local politicos intervene. The musical endeared itself to audiences with racy dialogue and catchy numbers like "Manhattan Madness" and "I Say It's Spinach (and the Hell With It)." 42nd Street Moon is the first company Berlin's estate and Hart's widow have authorized to remount the production. Face the Music previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through April 13) at the New Conservatory Theater Center, 25 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $15.50-18.50; call 861-8972.
On a Wig and a Prayer Hair, like everything else in New York, is bigger, as Wigstock: The Movie proved beyond reasonable measure. But it takes something more than just a perfect coif to stand out in a crowd of scenery-munching drag queens, and the Misstress Formika has it. It's that finesse that comes from playing hostess to Squeezebox, a long-running Manhattan rock club with a mostly transvestite clientele, and from having performed there with talents as far-flung as Green Day's Billy Joe, Courtney Love, Evan Dando, and Debbie Harry. It comes, too, from having starred in productions like The Bad Weed '73. Study the essence as Formika headlines a show with Tribe 8 and TranSister's Chloe Dzubilo at 11 p.m. at the CW Saloon, 917 Folsom, S.F. Admission is $5; call 974-1585.
Faithfully Yours When Marianne Faithfull sings "Don't Forget Me," it seems unlikely that anybody could, although the world nearly did while she struggled to break loose from heroin's grip in the 1970s. Before that bleak time, she helped give London's swinging '60s its reputation, less so as the wispy-voiced pop singer for whom Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote "As Tears Go By" than for her social life, which included druggy parties with Dylan and Hendrix, and bed-hopping with Richards, his longtime love Anita Pallenberg, and the late Brian Jones. She was the girlfriend who made headlines with Jagger for a drug bust, and whose long downward spiral into junkiedom ended when she cleaned up and released the raw comeback album Broken English. With her most recent release, 20th Century Blues, Faithfull finds a suitable vehicle for her throaty, smoke-eaten vocals and authentically worldly-wise outlook in noirish cabaret songs like Kurt Weill's "The Ballad of the Soldier's Song" and Friedrich Hollaender's "Falling in Love Again." The show begins at 8 p.m. at the Warfield, 982 Market, S.F. Admission is $20-22.50; call 775-7722.
Oil Slick Beads and whorls of oil paint give the landscapes in Kira Chuchom's black-and-white photos a spectral, subaqueous quality. Chuchom's exhibit "Phoenix ... Hand-Oil Reticulated Photo-Images" represents an intersection of the artist's favorite media, in which she chemically altered the film through reticulation, made photographic prints of the negatives, and then applied oil paints to the prints. After this work, it hardly seems surprising that Chuchom is busy on a side project, "The Familiar After Five ...," which deals with low-light and night subjects. "Phoenix" opens at 10 a.m. at Rayko Gallery, 2423 Polk, S.F. Admission is free; call 567-9067.
Jailhouse Rock In one sense, Co-Ed Prison Sluts is to Chicago what Beach Blanket Babylon is to San Francisco: a long-running theatrical landmark. But its minuscule budget and thoroughgoing commitment to tastelessness make it different. As the title suggests, Sluts spoofs B-grade prison flicks in traditional musical style, adulterating sappy pop songs with over-the-top adult lyrics and splicing together the cliches of both genres. This screwball show, Chicago's longest-running musical comedy, finally makes its West Coast debut courtesy of S.F.'s Pipedream Productions and Chicago's Annoyance Theater, whose director, Jim Fitzgerald, acts in and oversees the local version. Co-Ed Prison Sluts opens at 11 p.m. (and runs through June 14) at the Exit Theater, 156 Eddy, S.F. Admission is $12; call 255-6772.
Big Bang If there's one thing Frank Higgins wants people to know about Gunplay, the drama he was commissioned to write following the 1991 mass murders at the University of Iowa, it's that the work is not an anti-gun rant. Nor is it a blow-by-blow account of that bloody horror. Rather, it's a series of scenes -- some comic, some solemn -- written around the long history and bitter battle over gun possession and use in America. Aurora Theater Company stages the show, which previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through April 27) at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berkeley. Admission is $18-22; call (510) 843-4822.