Pity the Fools

Pity the fools who do not live in Greater Cleveland. Out-of-towners suffer under the delusion that Cleveland is a second-rate cultural backwater that could never appeal to elite sophisticates on the coasts.

But they know little about Cleveland's top-notch attractions, short commutes and accessibility to the finest of modern cultural life. And, yes, similar symptoms blind many native Clevelanders as well. So we must occasionally be reminded of our high standard of cultural living, including three institutions that constitute Exhibit A for our case.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's stellar glass edifice and pop-culture mission is understood and appreciated worldwide. This month, check out exhibits on Les Paul (the guy who invented the electric guitar), the music of Ohio, Jimi Hendrix and a celebration of rock 'n' roll's 50th anniversary.

Mention Cleveland to the cognoscenti of Europe and they instinctively think of an orchestra that may be the finest in the world. Our easy access to this artistic treasure — especially through free performances such as the one Jan. 16 — is unmatched by any other major arts capital.

When you tell people that Playhouse Square Center is the second-largest performing-arts institution in the country next to Lincoln Center, they respond with disbelief. But year after year, more than a million people sit in the velvet seats at the Palace, State, Allen, Ohio and newly restored Hanna theaters and walk away dazzled. Cleveland's top shelf rarely disappoints — even those elite sophisticates on the coasts.

Momix Dance Theatre is celebrated internationally for its ability to conjure a world of surrealistic images using props, light, shadow, humor and the human body. Inspired by the flora, fauna and simple magic of the American Southwest, Momix presents its heralded classic "Opus Cactus" to Northeast Ohio Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. Co-presented by Tri-C Center for the Arts. Call (216) 771-4444. State Theatre, Playhouse Square Center, 1519 Euclid Ave. www.playhousesquare.com

Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Concert Mayor Jane Campbell and Cleveland City Council will present the second-annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award to an outstanding individual and organization that have exhibited the spirit of King's teachings. The Cleveland Orchestra performs with Sphinx Competition prize-winning violist Kaila Potts Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. at Severance Hall. Tickets are free (limit two per person) and available on a first-come, first-served basis by calling (216) 664-2107 or (216) 231-1111. www.clevelandorchestra.org

Esplanade, Continuo and Appalachian Spring In one perfect night of visuals and movement, VERB Ballets New Classics Collection ignites your imagination with newly conceived scenic designs, costumes and contemporary movement in a set of four bills that will mesmerize the eye, including the premiere of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" by choreographer Hernando Cortez Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. Call (216) 241-6000. Playhouse Square Center's Ohio Theatre, 1511 Euclid Ave. www.verbballets.org and www.playhousesquare.com

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