Life Is a Cabaret, Damn It Those lashes, those lungs, that Liza-with-a-Z! A life's worth of comparisons (many unfavorable) to her late mother, Judy Garland, never dissuaded Liza Minnelli from carving out her own show-biz persona, however brassy (or campy, depending on your perspective). There were the TV specials, like Baryshnikov on Broadway, a romp with her good friend Mischa. There were the movies: New York, New York and Cabaret. There was an album, Liza Minnelli at Carnegie Hall, which marked a record-breaking three-week sellout crowd. Liza lovers, and it appears there are many, will flood the Civic Center when the entertainer belts out show-stoppers and standards from musicals and film, backed by a 12-piece band and the Cortes Alexander Trio. The concert begins at 8 p.m. (also Thursday and Friday) at Davies Symphony Hall, Grove & Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $45-75; call 864-6000.
Hurrell for Hollywood A buxom, artfully tousled Jane Russell reclining in the hay is evidence enough of photographer George Hurrell's talent for buffing the sheen on Hollywood's early stars. Through elaborate lighting and extensive retouching -- check out the before and after shots of a sun-damaged Joan Crawford in Bay Area photographer Mark Vieira's book Hurrell's Hollywood Portraits -- Hurrell set the standard for the publicity head-shot with glamour puss portraits of celebrities like Norma Shearer and Jean Harlow, giving audiences some of the era's most enduring images in the process. Vieira discusses and signs copies of the biography at a reception at 4:30 p.m. (an exhibit of archival prints is up through July 12) at Photo Metro Gallery, 17 Tehama, S.F. Admission is free; call 243-9917. (In a related note, Hurrell's work will be shown and sold along with work by Warhol and others at an auction of photos and pictures of Marilyn Monroe at 7 p.m. Monday at the Harvey Clars Estate Auction Gallery, 5644 Telegraph, Oakland. Admission is free; call 510/428-0100.)
Let the Soleil Shine What's supposed to be a fun spectacle for kids is also the first place many of them learn real fear: fear of aerialists falling and breaking their necks, fear of red-nosed men in oversized shoes and garish makeup, fear of tigers tearing their trainers to shreds (a fear justified by a recent real-life incident, by the way). Quebec's international Cirque du Soleil does much to repair the circus' tawdry reputation with a show favoring the theatrical over the death-defying. There's no shortage of astounding feats in the new production Quidam, as a jaded little girl rediscovers wonder in a fantastic parallel universe populated by Spanish web acrobats, hoop jumpers, contortionists, and cloud swingers, but the vivid costumes and haunting live score alone will leave audiences breathless. The show begins at 8 p.m. (and runs through July 20) at Jack London Square, Alice & Embarcadero, Oakland. Admission is $8.25-45.50; call (800) 678-5440.
Bi Here Now Britain meets the bay at about the same time it pulls out of Hong Kong, while London's Bi Ma Dance Company's premiere Blue Mandarin chronicles the sense of unease in that formerly colonized city. The luminous beauty of choreographer Pit Fong Loh's theatrical modernity, inspired in part by tai chi and qi gong, finds its match in a joint performance with San Francisco's Lily Cai Chinese Dance, which offers its own premiere, Candelas, a work based on the historical use of candles as a symbol in Chinese poetry and in folk dance around the world. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through June 1) at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida, S.F. Admission is $12.50-18.50; call 621-7797.
Frightfully Funny Like the heroine of Hitchcock's Rebecca, who spends most of the film fleeing the specter of her new husband's late wife in his lavish but creepy mansion, the newlywed Lady Enid uncovers all kinds of terrifying secrets at the Mandacrest Estate in Charles Ludlam's The Mystery of Irma Vep. Ludlam, of the famed Ridiculous Theatrical Company, parodies the Gothic horror melodrama in this Obie Award-winning "penny dreadful," which sends principals Charles Shaw Robinson and Danny Scheie through several countries and costume changes in their encounters with werewolves and vampires. The show previews at 8 p.m. and runs through June 29 at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, Berkeley; it then continues July 8-27 at the Magic Theater, Building D, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $18-22; call 441-8822.
The Fur Flies Love Letters playwright A.R. Gurney shifts gears with Sylvia, a love story of sorts between a man and the street-smart mutt he adopts from Central Park. The romance takes a comic turn as Sylvia's dogged exuberance strains relations between the man and the other love of his life, his wife. The production, a local run with a national company, is directed by John Rando and previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through Aug. 31) at the Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter, S.F. Admission is $25-37; call 771-6900.
At the Baile Fireworks explode from the back of El Diablo in "Dance of the Devils," a piece based on a Mayan harvest ritual and performed by the Ballet Folklorico Nacional de Guatemala as part of their ritual theater signature piece, El Pabaanc. A peace accord that cooled the fireworks in Guatemala after 36 years of civil war initiated this rare visit from the company, which dances its repertoire to live musicians playing folk instruments like marimba and xylophone. Augmented by the candles, incense, and richly colorful costumes, Ballet Folklorico dances reflect Maya and Catholic religious symbols and imagery. The show begins at 7 p.m. at Center for the Arts Yerba Buena Gardens, 700 Howard, S.F. Admission is $15-20; call 978-ARTS.