arts 01.26.06

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theatre… We've seen Sweeney Todd with Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou, and Dorothy Loudon and George Hearn, as well as Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson (just wanted to see if you're paying attention). Anyway, we've seen it a lot. And this stripped-down production with Patti LuPone and Michael Cerveris couldn't possibly erase its forebears, who are, by now, deeply imprinted on our synapses, could it? It could — amazingly, it turns out to be the most thrilling show on Broadway. Sondheim's exquisite, towering score, you realize listening to it again at the O'Neill, will hold up well for at least a few hundred years. And you've heard by now that the actors in this production also double as the orchestra; that may sound like a stunt, but as directed by John Doyle, you may be surprised how frequently it compounds the tension and depth of feeling. Watching Johanna (Lauren Molina) making quick draws on the bow of her cello is the picture of agitation, and seeing Sweeney gently strum the guitar during "Not While I'm Around" makes a horrifying tableau. Ms. LuPone and Mr. Cerveris are flawless, and Manoel Felciano (Tobias) is a talent to watch, though the whole cast deserves praise. The evening is a gift.

indie rock… Friday: Oh My Rockness fave Baby Dayliner croons at Pianos. Saturday: UK's Field Music hit Mercury Lounge. Just Announced: 3/11 Hot Chip at Bowery Ballroom, 3/24 Love Is All at Knitting Factory.

conversation… Ellie Mae Washington-Williams, the daughter of Strom Thurmond and his black maid, and author of Dear Senator, talks with Dr. Gail Saltz about the private relationship she had with the father who would not acknowledge her publicly. Monday, 8:15pm, at the 92nd St. Y, $25. [Photo: CNN/AP]

benefit… A late evening of Joni Mitchell music, performed by a strong roster of talent, takes place Thursday, February 2, starting at midnight, at Rockwood Music Hall, 196 Allen [Houston/Stanton] 212.477.4155. It's a benefit for New Orleans musicians.

travel…Atlantis in the Bahamas in $159, half-off the regular room rates on some dates, including weekends, in February. Among its attractions is the 34-acre marine habitat, an 11,500-square-foot spa, casino, Discovery Channel camp, and three miles of beach. More on TravelZoo (you need to subscribe, no charge) or by calling 800.285.2684 — use code TZOOW.

tv…Holly and Herbie, a bearded collie and a bloodhound who have had tough puppyhoods, are taken from a shelter and given a second chance on the Nature show Underdogs. They start to get their lives together when they work with a trainer to take advantage of their natural skills, and eventually…well, you'll have to tune in to find out what happens to them. Airs Sunday night on PBS, 8pm.

celebration… While we're on the subject of dogs, the Year of the Dog begins this Sunday, making it the Lunar New Year 4704. Check out The Museum of Chinese in the Americas for details on the Columbus Park market this weekend.

class… An eight-session course on embroidery starts this Saturday, 1-3:30pm at the Ukrainian Museum (runs thru 3/25). Besides learning the stitches, you'll learn about the history and techniques used throughout the Ukraine. $60 for adults, kids 10-16, $30.

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