From Mardi Gras to musicals 

Best dinner theater ever

This past weekend, all eyes were on New Orleans for Mardi Gras, but Charleston will soon be back in the spotlight with a busy spring calendar that kicks off with this weekend’s Wine + Food Festival and continues on with Charleston Fashion Week, the Cooper River Bridge Run, DIG South, and a multitude of smaller events that will eventually deliver us at Spoleto’s doorstep.

Since the mood of the moment was “laissez les bons temps rouler,” we headed out to the Royal American for their Third Annual Mardi Gras Celebration. “So I guess all these people didn’t have enough Sky Miles to get to New Orleans,” quipped my co-conspirator for the evening, Twitter’s potty-mouthed @justhaveaseat.

The event’s $5 cover charge included music from the Royal American Mardi Gras band and a table of party favors that included masks and beads in the ubiquitous green, yellow, and purple. Only a collection of beads remained by the time we arrived, which we scooped up like the sad, krewe-less Carolinians that we are. Next year, remind me to post up on the patio with a garbage bag overflowing with beads, masks, wigs, feather boas, and other trinkets that I can shower upon the crowd in exchange for whatever acts I demand of them. Anyone who utters a good “Throw me something, Mister,” gets double.

The band alternated between funky riffs with a touch of brass and long jam band sessions, a fitting tribute to the dual musical interests of Gulf Coast denizens. One girl could be seen jam band dancing, monopolizing a couple square feet of dance floor and flailing her limbs about so that she could be properly inhabited by the spirit of the music. Or previously ingested hallucinogens. Finally, someone embracing the Mardi Gras decorum!

“I should’ve brought my voodoo doll,” @justhaveaseat murmured at the end of the night. Although we were far from being mere spectators, we had also forgotten to bring our Mardi Gras A game. Oh well. There’s always next year.  

On Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised to find all the trappings of a great event in the Taking Flight Comic Book Show at the Sparrow in Park Circle. The ability to concurrently drink and shop, coupled with a philanthropic angle and an educational environment made it my favorite outing of the weekend.

As I learned from a few comic book super-fans at the event, few regional comic book shows allow you to drink in the vicinity of all those rare tomes. I guess a few suds of spilt brew could really tank the value of a Detective Comics #27. A staggering array of comic books were available for sale and most stacks were thumbed through by collectors looking to fill in holes in their collections. There was also a trade-in table for those hoping to lighten their load of random comics.    
The fine folks at Holy City Brewing donated a keg of Overly Friendly IPA so that a full 100 percent of proceeds from its sale could be donated to charity. The more than $600 raised in just a few hours was donated to the Chicora Place Community Garden. Park Circle may be changing as new development creeps into its west side, but the strongholds along East Montague Avenue are keeping the neighborhood’s unique flavor intact.

Saturday evening saw us back out in North Charleston for a bit of culture. The show was Pippin, my companion was @justhaveaseat, and the results were hilarious. The dinner theater show is being produced by Midtown Productions in their brand new theater at the Midtown Cabaret on Azalea Drive.

The theater had a warm and accepting atmosphere, but a few elements felt off. Tables were set with plastic tablecloths — so easy to clean, so hard to look at. The tablescapes were unnerving as we were in the same complex as Duvall Catering and a collection of other event rental companies.

“We’re probably sitting right next to a warehouse brimming with fine linens and chiavari chairs,” I lamented. “You think they’d have some spare yardage to donate,” @justhaveaseat replied, casting a disgusted eye down at the black-and-white checkered tablecloth upon our table.

But as the show got underway, the only spare yardage we could think about was the crotch of the lead player as it girated in Fossesque movement at the edge of the stage. Perhaps it was a poor idea to put the two snarks in the front row?  

The show itself was a trippy interpretation of a young prince’s search for meaning, although its liberties with the finality of death are almost as outrageous as its creative license with history. Arriving early for dinner and basking in the full dinner theatre experience is the best move for serious musical theater fans; the show runs until March 29. But after draining the last drops from our bottle of wine, we sneaked out halfway into the second half. We blame the source material.


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