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The Essential A&E Picks for Feb. 9-15

Jerry Herman, The Sleeping Beauty, Bill Maher, and more

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FRIDAY 2.10
Utah Symphony: Jerry Herman: The Broadway Legacy

Name the most prolific composers in Broadway history and inevitably Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Lerner & Lowe and Rodgers & Hammerstein quickly come to mind. But let's not forget another American master: Jerry Herman. Broadway buffs would certainly cite Mack and Mabel, La Cage Aux Folles, Mame and Hello, Dolly! as some of the most successful shows of all time, and the songs they introduced remain among the most memorable entries in the Great American Songbook. Consider this: When Louis Armstrong recorded "Hello Dolly" in 1964, it not only made it to No. 1 on the pop charts, but also knocked The Beatles from the top slot.

Not surprisingly, Herman's no slouch when it comes to reaping awards and recognition. He's one of only two composers to have three of his musicals reach more than 1,500 consecutive Broadway performances. Nominated for five Tony Awards over the course of his career, he's taken home two. In 2009, he was accorded a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater, and a year later, he was celebrated with the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors.

It's fitting then that the Utah Symphony, under the baton of conductor Randall Craig Fleischer, should salute Herman's remarkable legacy. Six vocalists share the stage, offering up heartfelt highlights from Herman's heyday on the Broadway stage and beyond. (Lee Zimmerman)
Utah Symphony: Jerry Herman: The Broadway Legacy @ Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Feb. 10-11, 7:30 p.m., $39-$65, utahsymphony.org

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FRIDAY 2.10
Ballet West: The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty ballet is a classic: tutus, tiaras and long mime sequences, held together with a touching love story. What else would you expect, after all, from a princess fairy tale?

The Sleeping Beauty showcases depth of talent from the entire company—there are just so many characters. In this version from Artistic Director Adam Sklute created in 2011, there are no less than six fairies: Kindness, Joy, Beauty, Temperament and the evil Carabosse, known as Fairy of Jealousy. Then there are the princess Aurora's (Sleeping Beauty) suitors: the Princes of the North, South, West and East, each dressed in clothing to signify their origin, and each with a dazzling moment on stage. Though we love seeing the principal dancers, it's nice to get a good look at the other talent every once in a while.

It's been almost 130 years since The Sleeping Beauty was first staged, adapted from the 1697 Charles Perrault tale The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood. Tchaikovsky wrote the music and Marius Petipa choreographed the dances; they also famously collaborated on The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. And while February might seem an appropriate month for a revival of this love story, there's another great reason Ballet West is bringing it to audiences now: This month marks the 80th anniversary of The Sleeping Beauty's debut in the United States, at the Philadelphia Ballet in February 1937. (Katherine Pioli)
Ballet West: The Sleeping Beauty @ Capitol Theater, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, Feb 10-26, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday matinees, 2 p.m., $32-$110, artsaltlake.org

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SATURDAY 2.11
Bill Maher

In the land of comedians with news-related shows, Bill Maher's desk sits on the edge of a massive gorge, where he jetisons everyone in politics while teetering on the brink of falling himself.

HBO audiences see this great balancing act in every season of Real Time with Bill Maher, as he bashes American stupidity on both sides of the aisle. For every person who loves him for creating dialogue about equality and opportunity in a country so fixated on stripping both away, there are just as many who hate his guts for mocking religion and the new administration.

In his most recent monologue on Real Time, Maher opens by saying, "It's Day 7 in the War on Facts. What the fuck is going on?"—pouring equal amounts of sincerity and empathy into a moment when a good portion of his viewing audience is genuinely scared of what's to come. And rather than bowing down to pressure and admitting everything sucks, he pushes on as a liberal (sometimes libertarian) hero to condemn poor decisions, while still playing the role of a comedian by taking jabs at executive orders and assuring everyone things can get better.

Maher regularly performs at sold-out shows in Las Vegas and frequently tours major theaters around the country. He brings his ever-changing stand-up routine to Salt Lake City— leaving a crowd that's likely going to be half pissed at him and half praising his opinions before the evening is done. (Gavin Sheehan)
Bill Maher @ Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main, 801-355-2787, Feb. 11, 8 p.m., sold out, broadway-at-the-eccles.com

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WEDNESDAY 2.15
Neil deGrasse Tyson: An Astrophysicist Goes to the Movies

Don't you hate it when some blowhard has to take all the fun out of things like religion (You mean popcorn doesn't pop on apricot trees?!) and movies? What happened to suspension of disbelief?

Well, if that blowhard—as climate-change deniers and other delusionals like to call him—is astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, it's actually a good thing. We are dealing with a badass over here, a brilliant man with a knack for making science relatable and an engaging and an edifying way of poking holes in things.

Although he'll most certainly throw shade at Mormonism during this show, Tyson's focus is on film in a lecture called An Astrophysicist Goes to the Movies. Did you ever wonder if telephone booth time travel as seen in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure was possible? Or what's in the Pulp Fiction briefcase? What about the fast-moving, human-liquifying virus like the one in Cabin Fever (i-i-is that a thing?). It's hard to know if he'll answer these questions, but one can hope (Tyson does cover at least one of these).

It's more likely that we'll hear about science-fiction films, since NdT's thing is blasting fiction with facts and grooving on scientific truths. But science applies to everything, so expect Tyson to cover some rather unexpected movies, including an animated family film and a maudlin James Cameron blockbuster, as he demonstrates—to paraphrase a Tyson-centric meme—that people don't think the movies be like they are, but they do. (Randy Harward)
Neil deGrasse Tyson: An Astrophysicist Goes to the Movies @ Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main, 801-355-2787, 7:30 p.m., $150, live-at-the-eccles.com

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