Opinions differ on the best examples of anything, whether it’s the finest flavor of ice cream or the greatest Batman villain.
Leave it to the weekend to provide some clarity, with quintessential samplings of history, music and public spectacle on tap.
And the most essential ice cream and Batman baddie? Chocolate and the Joker, obviously. Carry on.
Saturday’s grand opening of the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center will celebrate the history of JOCO, where America’s post-WWII suburban dream was sought as enthusiastically as anywhere. Museum tours and various family entertainments will allow visitors to look back, take stock and consider the future. Quintessential sights to see include the 1950s All Electric House and the socially symbolic White Haven Motor Lodge neon sign, which was purchased by the museum in 2010 after towering for more than half a century at 8039 Metcalf Ave. Have fun and hang onto your thinking caps.
Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave., Kan.; admission: free.
As the odd-looking guitar slinger depicted on the cover of his debut album, “My Aim Is True,” Elvis Costello was the breakout poster boy for new wave rock in 1977. Yet it’s his far more sophisticated 1982 album, “Imperial Bedroom” (from which he’s entirely missing from the cover) that may be his musical epitome. Revisiting songs from the latter triumph is the focus of Costello’s summer concert tour with his band the Imposters, including keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas, both of whom were part of Costello’s most famous group, the Attractions, which backed him on “Imperial Bedroom.” Fans can also expect such iconic 1970s Costello songs as “Alison,” “Accidents Will Happen” and “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.” Plus, KC natives Hembree will open.
Friday, 8 p.m.; Crossroads KC, 417 E. 18th St., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $40-$81.50.
This exemplary mash-up of two of America’s greatest cultural captivations – Broadway musicals and TV game shows – will encourage audience members to sing along with the Heartland Men’s Chorus as well as get onstage to test their Great White Way IQ. Better start cramming. Show Tune Showdown will be skillfully emceed by KCUR broadcaster and podcaster Brian Ellison, who doesn’t have to cram, because he just knows.
Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m.; Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $15-$67.
The short list of quintessential summer experiences in Kansas City has to include the annual Jazz in the Woods. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket – but no pets or cooking grills – to get the most out of the alfresco stylings of noteworthy artists playing jazz, soul, funk, R&B, Americana and Celtic rock. Friday’s lineup includes singer/songwriter/piano-banger Kelley Hunt and Irish-friendly party band the Elders. Saturday’s music includes Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal and tenor saxophonist Richard Elliot.
Friday and Saturday, 5:30-10 p.m.; Corporate Woods Founders Park, 8717 W. 110th St.; Overland Park, Kan.; admission: $5, ages 12 and younger free.
The Who’s 1969 album, “Tommy,” was the first rock opera and remains an archetype for rock ’n’ rollers seeking higher thematic ground. It’s also an inspiration for the classy crew at Musical Heritage Theatre, which is putting its stamp on the material by way of the Tony Award-winning stage musical version of the source material, which was also turned into a 1975 movie musical. MHT’s “Tommy” follows the by now familiar but still bizarre tale of the amazing “deaf, dumb and blind kid” who “sure plays a mean pinball.” Of course, the bigger they are, the harder they tilt.
Thursday, 7 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; Musical Heritage Theatre at Crown Center, 2450 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $17-$58.
One day a year, Brush Creek is transformed into a model venue for dragon boat team racing. Sponsored by the Society for Friendship with China, this colorful and fascinating event is the perfect way to learn about a faraway culture from the comfort of the Country Club Plaza. And shouldn’t your comfort be a quintessential experience? Glad that's settled.
Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.; Brush Creek, Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free.
Brian McTavish is a regular arts and culture contributor for KCUR 89.3. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.