Center Stage: What's hot in the Midlands

Perry brings Madea back to stage

If there's one thing you've learned from watching Madea, what is it? For me, it's that you shouldn't mess with her.

Tyler Perry, who created and plays the role of the tough-talking, sassy and keenly funny family matriarch, will bring his newest Madea-starring vehicle to the Colonial Life Arena this weekend: "Madea's Big Happy Family" will be performed tonight and Saturday.

And Perry will act as Madea, donning the wig and body suit for a live performance for first time in years. After a successful film run - "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," "Madea's Family Reunion" and "Madea Goes to Jail"- Madea is returning to her stage roots.

Her family is certainly important, but we know from previous sagas - our own included - that everything isn't always happy with the family. But you know Madea will make it work - and she'll have an uproarious time doing it.

That's something else I've learned from watching her.

Showtimes: 8 tonight and 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday. $47 to $67; http://www.TWCtix.com or (877) 489-2849


The Columbia Children's Theatre opens its production of "Cinderella" at its theater above the food court at Midtown at Forest Acres. The fairy tale runs through Feb. 21. Showtimes: 7 p.m. Friday; 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. (There will a special 7 p.m. performance Saturday.) Midtown at Forest Acres is at 3400 Forest Drive. $6; http://www.columbiachildrenstheatre.com


Vibrations Dance Company will perform "Musicality," a show separated into three movements based on the different rhythmic vibes of the contemporary dance company's choreographer Terrance Henderson. The shows will be performed Friday and Saturday at the CMFA ArtSpace. The dance inspirations range from hip-hop to house. Showtime for both performances is at 7:30 p.m. CMFA ArtSpace is at 914 Pulaski St. $10 to $30; (803) 361-5262 or visit http://www.vibrationsdancecompany.org

The Columbia College Dance Department will present original full-length contemporary dance pieces by senior dance majors Jennifer Becker, Elyse Cox, Amanda Ling, Chelsea Stackhouse and Emily Woodard. The shows will be at 7:30 p.m. in Cottingham Theatre on the Columbia College campus at 1301 Columbia College Drive. $5 to $10; (803) 786-3850


The South Carolina Philharmonic will perform its fifth Masterworks concert of the season, "From Russia with Love," Saturday at the Koger Center. The repertoire will include Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Ravel. Sean Yeah, the first-prize winner of the 2009 Arthur Fraser International Concerto Competition, will play the Ravel piece, "Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major," with the orchestra. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m., but before the show, at 6 p.m., the orchestra will host its annual silent auction. Tickets cost $17 to $51. For more information, call (803) 251-2222 or visit http://www.scphilharmonic.com.

"Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art" will open at McKissick Museum Saturday. The exhibition will detail how the sweetgrass baskets of the Lowcountry are connected to Africa. The museum is at 816 Bull St. For more information, visit http://www.cas.sc.edu/Mcks/ or call (803) 777-7251.

The Greater Columbia Civil War Alliance's will host its annual event, "Columbia's Longest Days: February 1865," at the South Carolina State Museum. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., you can learn about General Sherman's march to - and through - Columbia. The city was left in ruins.

Here's one cool thing about the day: Three Sherman's March bus tours will focus on different aspects of the Union troops' destruction of Columbia - The Congaree Creek bus tour, The Kilpatrick's Occupation and the Burning of Lexington bus tour, and The Sherman's Left Wing bus tour. The tour , which costs $20, lasts three hours. Tickets must be purchased in advance by calling (803) 217-0071.

The day's activities will begin at 8:45 a.m. with Union troops firing upon the State House from the West Columbia side of the Gervais Street Bridge.

Along with the events at the state museum, one should check out The S.C. Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, which is housed in the museum. For more information on the event go to http://www.columbiaslongestdays.info.


The Festival of Choirs at St. Peter's Catholic Church will be held at 4 p.m. The choruses of Spring Valley High School and Dreher High School, as well as the Coker College Singers and the Columbia Choral Society will perform. St. Peters is at 1529 Assembly St. $10 to $12; (803) 933-9060 or http://www.columbiachoralsociety.org

Who knew the Columbia Museum of Art would be the place to take a date on Valentine's Day? Here's what's going on:

- The Baker & Baker Art of Music series will feature a program titled "The Viola d'amore: Thomas Georgi and Friends." The performance will be held in the museum's baroque gallery. $5 and $7. Reservations are required for the 3 p.m. show.

- Chinese New Year Celebration. From noon to 3 p.m., the year of the tiger will be celebrated.

- At 1 p.m., "Against the Odds: The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance," a film about black artists working in the '20s and '30s, will be screened.

- At 2 p.m., there will be a free gallery tour of "The Chemistry of Color."

The museum is at Main and Hampton streets. Admission is free on Sundays. For more information, call (803) 799-2810.

- Otis R. Taylor Jr.