Downtown serves March Madness with a side of Hot Sardines

March Madness reaches a fever pitch in Downtown KC this week with the return of the Big XII Men’s Basketball Tournament beginning Wednesday and Kansas City’s Big 12 Run on Saturday.

The awesome return of Big 12 Men’s Basketball, along with a rich background of arts and entertainment lay the groundwork for a memorable week ahead, Monday to Sunday, March 5-11, including:

Big XII Men’s Basketball Championship will make its highly-anticipated return to Kansas City, on Wednesday through Saturday. This is the 17th year in the Conference’s 22-season history that Kansas City has hosted the Championship and the 10th time for Sprint Center as the host venue. The league’s 10 teams will compete in a single-elimination, nine-game format, while the Championship winner on Saturday will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Kansas City has been selected as the host city through 2020.

The Hot Sardines sound – steeped in hot jazz, salty stride piano and the kind of music Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, and Waller used to make: straight-up, foot-stomping jazz – will take center stage at the Folly Theater on Friday.

Folly Theater will light up the Downtown skyline with two red-hot performances this week, including:

  • The Hot Sardines – Take a blustery brass lineup, layer it over a rhythm section led by a stride-piano virtuoso in the Fats Waller vein, and tie the whole thing together with a one-of-the-boys frontwoman with a voice from another era, and you have the Hot Sardines … on the Folly Theater stage at 8 p.m. Friday.
  • Fabio Bidini will be featured in this special Friends of Chamber Music piano concerto at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Hallmark Visitors Center presents Pop Art – Then & Nowa free exhibit that features artists who were key figures in the 1960s, along with artists who were influenced by them, including works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring, now through June 16.

KC Public Library is featuring the popular exhibit Cattle, Cowboys and Culture for just two more weeks. It explores a time, roughly a century and a half ago, as trains hauling cattle and cowboys brought the real west from Amarillo, Texas, to Kansas City. Return trips carried a trove of materials to Amarillo – canned and dry goods, chemicals, furniture, and fashionable clothing – and Kansas City’s influence there ultimately extended to banking, education, architecture, and art. The exhibit – which has attracted nearly 25,000 visitors since its opening in September – continues through March 18 at the Central Library.

Kansas City’s Big 12 Run returns to the streets of Downtown on Saturday morning – the final day of the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament. The course begins and ends in the heart of Downtown Kansas City. Choose from the 1 mile, 5K, or 12K or run the 1 mile plus either the 5K or 12K.  Runners of all experience levels are encouraged to participate in this family-friendly event. To register or to learn more, visit the KC Sports Commission.

KC Tornados – the newest professional sports franchise in Kansas City will be at home for a showdown with the Vancouver Knights at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Municipal Arena.

‘Rigoletto’, presented by the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, continues through Sunday at the Kauffman Center.

Kauffman Center for the Performing will feature nine stunning performances this week, including:

  • Young Artists: The Future of Music – presented by Northwest Missouri State University – will feature the Park Hill High School Symphonic Band (Ky Hascall, conductor), the Blue Springs South High School Wind Symphony (Ken Hansen, conductor), and the Northwest Missouri State University Wind Symphony (John Bell, conductor) in a series of debut performance beginning at 7 p.m. today (Monday) in Helzberg Hall.
  • The United States Navy Concert Band – the premier wind ensemble of the U.S. Navy – presents a wide variety of musical selections including wind ensemble standards, soloists, marches, and patriotic favorites in a sold-out concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Helzberg Hall.
  • National Geographic Live presents Standing at the Water’s Edge with Cristina Mittermeier, marine biologist and photographer. This photojournalist knows the power of water: the power to give life when it is respected, and the power to destroy when it is misused, and will share these life lessons beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Muriel Kauffman Theatre.
  • Rigoletto: The Lyric Opera of Kansas City presents this masterpiece by Giuseppe Verdi, which is regarded as possibly the most beautiful, definitely the most tragic of operatic stories. Sung in Italian with English subtitles, Rigoletto continues for three more performances this week – at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, and 2 p.m. Sunday – in Kauffman Theatre.
  • Classics Uncorked: At the Movies –  The Kansas City Symphony is rolling out the red carpet to celebrate great orchestral repertoire from silver-screen blockbusters beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday in Helzberg Hall. Following the concert, enjoy a complimentary glass of wine or champagne and mingle with Symphony musicians.
  • Lady Be Good – Celebrating Women in Jazz month with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra by highlighting great female practitioners of the art form, with special guest pianist Jo Ann Daughtery. The performance is set for 8 p.m. Friday in Helzberg Hall.
  • Windfest Honor Band, a high school honor band invitational event, hosted by the William Jewell College department of music. Windfest is made up of highly talented band students from across the metropolitan area. This special event is set for 7 p.m. Sunday in Helzberg Hall.

Knuckleheads Saloon – the hottest honky tonk in town – features 13 shows this week, including Honky Tonk Country Dance Night at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Monday); Bob Schneider in a solo gig at 8:30 p.m. Friday; and Sam Bush at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Midland will have ’em rolling in the aisles, when comedian Jim Jefferies takes the stage 8 p.m. Saturday. His tour comes hot off the heels of his fifth major stand-up comedy special Freedumb which premiered last summer on Netflix.  

Stanfords Comedy Club brings the laughs to Downtown from its new location at 831 Walnut. Comedienne Janell Banks will headline an 18 & older show this week – beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. And, Open Mic is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sundays. For ticket information, visit Stanfords.

The Truman will be pounding with two back-to-back shows this week, including Phillip Phillips on The Magnetic Tour at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Boogie T & Squinto as they Strike Back: Kansas City at 8 p.m. Thursday.

John Singer Sargent’s masterpiece ‘Gassed’ is on exhibit now June 3 at the National WWI Museum.

WWI Museum – John Singer Sargent’s incredible masterpiece Gassed is truly one of the giants of the art world at more than nine feet tall by 21 feet long. The landmark painting is the focal point in this special centennial exhibition – that is on exhibition through June 3 in the Wylie Gallery – that also includes reproductions of many of his study drawings and historical and contemporary objects on detection and protection from chemical warfare.

LIVE THEATER is thriving on Downtown stages, which feature four productions this week, including:

  • Broadway’s Golden Age – Beginning with Oklahoma and ending with The Sound of Music, the 1940s & 50’s was Broadway’s Golden Age. Never was there a time when so many great composers contributed to the American Musical, and they will be celebrated in this special presentation that runs through March 18 at the MTH Theater at Crown Center.
  • It’s Delovely – De-Lightful, De-Licious, De-Lovely lyrics abound in this original cabaret tribute to two of the wittiest songwriters of all time – Cole Porter and Noel Coward – which continues through March 31 at the Quality Hill Playhouse.
  • Sex with Strangers – Desire, intellect, and secret agendas collide in this smart, tantalizing take on modern love and the double-edged quest for artistic validation in the digital age. This KC Rep production continues through March 25 at the Copaken Stage at H&R Block.
  • Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt’s popular novel comes to life on stage contemplating the benefits and burdens of never growing older will run through April 5 at The Coterie at Crown Center.

ARTS – your guide to arts and culture in greater Kansas City:

LIVE MUSIC – of all tastes and flavors – is performed at these Downtown venues on most nights:

MUSEUMS are alive and well throughout Downtown, including these 16 destinations:

For more of what’s happening in Downtown and Kansas City, check out our friends at