Now that Cirque du Soleil has become a household name, almost everyone understands the basic idea: Fellini-esque set design and costuming combine with world-class acrobatics and gymnastics (minus the presence of poor abused elephants or bears) to create some of the most jaw-dropping feats of human ability you'll ever have the privilege of seeing. One of the real treats of a Cirque du Soleil show is watching physics and gravity behave exactly the way you expect them to . . . and then seeing human beings work with and around those natural forces for the audience's amazement and, clearly, their own pleasure. These performers have worked hard to earn the right to the titles of coolest people alive, and by the end of the show, your applause will be completely genuine.
Cirque du Soleil: Corteoat the Orange County Fairgrounds, 88 Fair Dr., Costa Mesa, (800) 678-5440; www.cirquedusoleil.com. Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 5 p.m. Through Dec. 23. $38.50-$90. - Tom Child
Many of us have uttered those words at some point in our musical development, and hopefully by now, we're smart enough to regret it. Even the most hardened anti-country punker has been known to shed a tear or two upon introduction to Hank Williams Sr., the original hard-drinking, heart-breaking country crooner. His twangy voice-cracking delivery on such hits as "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" remains emotionally potent and spits in the face of the string-laden, pop-sheened Nashville sound that was to develop after his tragic death in the back of a Cadillac at the age of 29.
Now the Laguna Playhouse is bringing the story of Hank Williams to life with Hank Williams: Lost Highway, a musical journey through the life of the greatest musician Alabama ever produced. Bring a hankie and a bottle of whiskey. (Well, don't really bring whiskey. It's a dry theater.)
Hank Williams: Lost Highway at the Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-2787; www.lagunaplayhouse.com. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. For additional times, see website. Through Dec. 16. $25-$39.