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See & Do 

In the past 10 years, Charlotte has grown a bounty of ethnic festivals. And we love it - the more diverse cultures the better is our motto. With that said, though, no other cultural festival in Charlotte comes close to the number of attendees and the widespread public support of Yiasou!, or as non-Greeks simply call it, "The Greek Festival." The cars practically blocking East Boulevard for four days every Fall prove our point. There's music, dance, art, cultural exhibits, the Agora public market, and, oh, did we mention THE FOOD? Roasted lamb, chicken and fish, loukoumades, spanokopita, gyros, souvlaki, pastries to die for, and baklava sundaes? Oh yeah. The festival's food is so popular, they offer an outdoor carry-out booth at the corner of East Blvd. and Winthrop Ave. The 27th annual Yiasou Greek Festival takes place at and around Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral at 600 East Boulevard, today through Sunday. Festival hours are 11am-10pm Thursday to Saturday; 12-8pm Sunday. Admission is $2 per person, kids 12 and under free. For more info, call the church office at 704-334-4771. (Grooms)

Third Reich decadence as seen by Charlotte Rep founder Steve Umberger at Theatre Charlotte? Yes, the season opening production of Cabaret at the Queens Road barn is an odd coupling. But Umberger has done exemplary work at TC before, including stellar productions of The Diviners and A Midsummer Night's Dream. With Billy Ensley tossing aside his Hedwig wig to play The Emcee -- and a cast that boasts Patrick Ratchford, Dennis Delamar, and Polly Adkins -- Umberger has the lineup to deliver another winner. Lisa Smith attempts the Sally Bowles bravura through September 26. Tickets are $22 for Friday and Saturday evening performances, $17 for Thursday nights and Sunday matinees. Call 704-334-9128. (Tannenbaum)

One of the two most talked-about plays at the 2003 Humana Festival in Louisville, Bridget Carpenter's The Faculty Room is an apocalyptic vision of the breakdowns in American education and culture. Violence runs riot in the halls and classrooms, hip-hop and belief in the rapture vie for supremacy in the students' minds, and their teachers -- can you fathom this? -- are depraved, depressed, and beset by the demons in their past. With Michael Simmons in charge of this C.A.S.T. production, you can expect a wholesome crime-scene ambience for this special back-to-school offering. Runs through September 25 at 1118 Clement Avenue. Tickets are $15, or $12 for students and seniors. Call 704-455-8542. (Tannenbaum)

The Charlotte Sting return to the Coliseum for three home games this week, bringing along their star-power guard and new Olympics gold medalist Dawn Staley. Today, the Sting take on the Sacramento Monarchs at 7pm. Saturday should be the toughest game of the week as the Minnesota Lynx, with their incredible shooting guard Katie Smith, come to town. Next Wednesday, Sept. 15, the Sting will play the Connecticut Sun. Tickets for Sting home games start at $12 -- get yours by calling 1-877-WNBA-TIX. (Grooms)

In what is sure to be a slew of politically based musical events this season (The Steeple has tentative plans for an "Out Bush" show Oct. 1), four local bands will hit the Casbah stage at Tremont Music Hall for a Rock the Vote event tonight to encourage people to vote this year -- as if King George wasn't enough. Included in the lineup are Baleen (one of Charlotte's top bands), Calabi Yau (an up-and-coming quartet specializing in a loud, angular sound), Job's Method and The Truant Scholars. The 16-and-up show is at Tremont, admission is $6-$8, and you can get more information by calling 704-343-9494 or logging on the Tremont website at (Schacht)

One of Charlotte's most frequent guest artists -- and one of the most welcome -- pianist Emanuel Ax lends his genial presence to Charlotte Symphony Orchestra's first classics concert of the 2004-05 season. Ax brings us Mozart's last piano concerto, #27 in B-flat, a banquet of charm and lyricism. Truly a tough act to follow. But the program is boldly filled out with maestro Christof Perick leading the CSO in Bruckner's Symphony #4, a lordly 70-minute celebration of the miracle of nature. Offered both Friday and Saturday evening at Belk Theater. Single tickets are $15-$73. Call 704-972-2000. (Tannenbaum)

The 4th annual Spread Your Wings Benefit is a fundraiser that's also designed to generate awareness of the fight against breast cancer. The event features top regional bands, a silent auction, and Locks for Love, where a certain local musician donates hair for children undergoing chemotherapy. This year's performers include The Houston Brothers, David Childers & The Modern Don Juans, Kenny Roby (w/ friends), Matthew Ryan and Tres Chicas (Lynn Blakey, Caitlin Cary and Tonya Lamm). At Neighborhood Theatre, tickets are $15. Details: 704-358-9298 or (Shukla)

Charlotte-based musician, producer and all-around music catalyst Jim Brock recently had unexpected surgery and ensuing huge medical bills. Brock's resume spans over three decades in the music business and his name appears in countless liner notes of varied recordings. Now some of those friends and associates are gathering to perform at The Jim Brock Tribute Concert, including Robin Rogers, Beth Chorneau, Don Dixon and Marti Jones, Janis Ian, Kathy Mattea and others. The fundraiser also hints at surprise guests that may turn up. At Visulite Theatre, 5pm. Donation: $20. Details: 704-358-9200 or (Shukla)

As if autumn's not gorgeous enough with the leaves changing color, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden exposes us to another fall phenomenon with their first Fall Encore Azalea Festival, beginning today and continuing through Sept. 26. For two weeks, visitors will have the chance to view the largest public display of Encore azaleas in the nation, and during their best season. For the not-so-green thumbed, Encore azaleas are multi-season bloomers developed by Buddy Lee, a leading azalea authority. The festival features more than 500 azaleas in every variety imaginable, some making their public debut. Daytime admission is free to members, $8 adults, $6.50 seniors 60+ and $4 for children 4-12. Call 704-825-4490 for details. (Grossman)

Since the Carolina Panthers made it all the way to the Super Bowl last season, they get to open their season with a Monday night home game at BofA Stadium on national TV with a big, loud crowd. They'll play the Green Bay Packers who will bring what's left of quarterback Brett Favre with them along with a strong running game and little else. Before the game, there's a quasi-official rally and tailgate party at the Square from 5:45 till 8:15pm, complete with fireworks. For ticket info, call 704-522-6500. (Grooms)

Gospel shout band music is one of the most unique cultural products of the Southeast and you have a rare chance to see it performed live in concert during GospelSHOUT!. Growing out of music written for the United House of Prayer, a Pentecostal denomination largely based on the East Coast, including followers in Charlotte, shout band music is dominated by brass, particularly trombone and sousaphone, is very uptempo and rhythmic, and utterly irresistible. GospelSHOUT! takes place at United House of Prayer for All People, 2321 Beatties Ford Rd. Featured acts include acapella group The Madison Golden Angels, the Madison String Band, and The Madison Clouds of Heaven, a high-energy shout band that's been recorded by the Smithsonian. The performances start at 7:30pm, but get there early for a soul food dinner at the House of Prayer cafeteria, beginning at 6pm. Dinner costs $10 and the entertainment is free! Presented by the Levine Museum of the New South and Charlotte Center City Partners. Call 704-333-1887, ext. 228 for details. (Grossman, Grooms)

Few musicals have ever been as dazzling, touching, or melodious as Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. The ever-perky, apparently ageless Sandy Duncan stars as Anna Leonowens, the intrepid governess who stands up so starchily to the King of Siam during the days of the American Civil War. Most of us remember "Getting to Know You," "Whistle a Happy Tune," and "Shall We Dance?" But King and I was written back when the big tunes in musicals still had individuality, and "Something Wonderful" is among R&H's best. The Thai-flavored re-enactment of Uncle Tom's Cabin also retains its charm. Through September 19 at Belk Theater. Tickets are $23-$64. Call 704-372-1000. (Tannenbaum)

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