Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation’s press.



Drug ‘Dependency’ Stops STP Shows: The Stone Temple Pilots have canceled three free concerts, including a May 3 show at the Wiltern Theatre, because singer Scott Weiland is “unable to rehearse or appear . . . due to his dependency on drugs,” the band announced Wednesday. “He is currently under a doctor’s care in a medical facility,” said a statement issued by the group, whose “Tiny Music . . . Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop” is No. 6 on this week’s national album sales chart. Also canceled were shows in Chicago and New York. Plans for a summer tour are uncertain, the statement said. Weiland, 28, faces felony drug charges for cocaine and heroin possession stemming from an arrest locally last May, but the charges will be dropped if he completes a drug treatment program before October.

Raging to the Top: Rage Against the Machine’s “Evil Empire” was the nation’s top-selling album during its first week in stores, knocking Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” out of the top spot on the national album sales chart. “Evil Empire” sold about 249,000 copies last week, according to SoundScan, while “Jagged Little Pill” sold about 180,000, dropping to No. 2. Another impressive debut: country duo Brooks & Dunn’s “Borderline,” which sold about 89,000 copies to rank fifth. Meanwhile, Lionel Richie’s comeback “Louder Than Words” sold 28,000 copies, for a disappointing No. 33 in its first week.


‘Murder’s’ Judgment Day: ABC’s struggling legal drama “Murder One” received a positive verdict from viewers who turned out in large numbers to see Tuesday’s season finale. The program drew an estimated 18.2 million viewers and won its time slot with 22% of viewing homes, well above its average 14% ratings share. In addition, Monday’s two-hour “Murder One” installment grabbed 18% of the audience and finished second in its time slot. The show’s fate remains uncertain, but ABC Entertainment President Ted Harbert said Wednesday that “we’re very pleased with the numbers, and the show is definitely a candidate for renewal.”


‘Muppets’ Get Tomorrow: ABC on Wednesday renewed the family series “Muppets Tonight!” for the 1996-97 season, despite lackluster ratings. Saying that Kermit and the gang “will have every opportunity to grow into a successful network series,” ABC Entertainment President Ted Harbert announced that 13 new episodes had been ordered for 1996-97; seven unaired episodes already completed for this season will be broadcast when the show, which was pulled from its Friday time slot earlier this month, returns later in a different time period.


Still ‘Bolshoi’: A U.S district judge on Wednesday denied a temporary restraining order sought by Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre against Columbia Artists Management Inc.--producers of the “Stars of the Bolshoi”--to bar further use of the name “Bolshoi” on the North American tour, which began Feb. 21 and ends May 10. The Bolshoi has charged that the tour, under the artistic direction of former Bolshoi Director Yuri Grigorovich, contains no current members of the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet and that audiences should be “told the truth” about who is performing. But a Los Angeles judge ruled that since the Bolshoi Theatre waited until the tour was “more than 50% over” to take action, it was too late to require changes in the tour’s billing. “Stars of the Bolshoi” appears Tuesday and Wednesday at the Cerritos Center for the Arts.

Under the Spotlight: Twelve local students won $45,000 in scholarships Tuesday night at the eighth annual Music Center Spotlight Awards competition, which aims to encourage talented teens who hope to pursue careers in the visual and performing arts. Competition winners, who each received $5,000, were drummer Tony Austin, 17, of L.A. County Arts High School (jazz instrumental); Brittany Heather Reid, 14, of Huntington Beach High (ballet); Anastasia Horne, 17, of Claremont High (pop/musical theater voice); bassist Long Luo, 19, of Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts (classical instrumental); Aisha Francis, 17, of Colton High (jazz/modern dance); and Jessica Tivens, 14, of Calabasas High (classical voice). Visual arts winners, announced in March, were Jay Merryweather, 18, of Serrano High School ($1,500), and Kim Chau, 17, of Schurr High ($1,000).


Australian police are reportedly investigating racist death threats against the African American organizers of an upcoming Australian tour by Grammy-winning rapper Coolio and the groups Naughty by Nature, House of Pain and LV. Two promoters and an Australian record company owner said they have received threatening letters and abusive phone calls, apparently from an unknown group of neo-Nazis. Tightened security is planned for the tour, scheduled to stop in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane next month. . . . Madonna’s film “Evita” is now set for release in late December--time enough to qualify for consideration for next year’s Oscars, a Disney spokesman said. The company had been considering opening it before Thanksgiving but pushed the date back to give the pregnant performer--who will have a heavy promotion schedule for the film--time to recuperate from her scheduled October delivery.