Composer Richard Rodney Bennett, already renowned for his film scores and concert pieces, is becoming almost as well-known for his interpretation of American popular song. This afternoon, at the Corcoran's Hammer Auditorium, the pianist-singer will revive the works of John Latouche ("Cabin in the Sky," "Beggar's Holiday" and "Golden Apples") and will then back Carol Fredette in a program of songs by Cy Coleman.

Two of the bright, upbeat bands from Down Under share the bill at the Wax Museum on Tuesday: Men at Work ("Who Can It Be Now?" sits at the top of the charts) and Mental As Anything make a strong case for Australia as the Liverpool of the '80s.

Luther Vandross -- singer, producer, songwriter, arranger -- has got his act together; the most exciting black performer since Teddy Pendergrass comes to Constitution Hall for two shows on Saturday. Also on the bill, Cheryl Lynn, whose outstanding new album he just produced.

It's not swing, but it swings madly; it's not bebop, but it soars free; it's not New Orleans, but it's got the sharpest syncopations outside of the French Quarter. It's Panama Francis and the Savoy Sultans, and they'll be at Charlie's Georgetown Tuesday though Sunday. Film

Continuing runs of "Tex," "My Favorite Year," "E.T.," "An Officer and a Gentleman," "The Chosen," "Diva" and "Night Shift." In the special-event category, "My Darling Clementine" and "The Wrong Man," the opening doublebill of a new Smithsonian subscription series devoted to the career of Henry Fonda, tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at Carmichael Auditorium; Preston Sturges' great romantic comedy "The Lady Eve," Tuesday at 8 p.m. at The Barns; and "Return From Silence," a documentary record of George Washington University professor Dr. Chung-Wu Shih's recent trip to China, where he interviewed several venerable Chinese communist writers restored to positions of honor by the current regime after years of persecution during the Cultural Revolution, Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the American Film Institute. Dance

"Music and Dance of the Silk Route" is the unbrella title for an unusual program of national minority culture of China, performed tonight by a touring troupe from the People's Republic of China, under the joint sponsorship of the Asia Society and Smithsonian Performing Arts, at Baird Auditorium, National Museum of Natural History.

On the heels of two European tours marking a company break-through, the Washington Ballet returns to Lisner Auditorium this week, Wednesday through Saturday, with programs featuring Washington premieres of ballets by Vincente Nebrada brada and William Dollar, as well as three leading works by resident choreographer Choo San Goh.

"Gesture in Dance" is the theme of an evening at the Dance Exchange Friday night, featuring informal performances of recent work by area choreographers, followed by an open discussion with the audience. Priscilla Barden, Martha Brim, Tish Carter, Nancy Galeota and Sharon Wyrrick are the choreographers.

For more than a decade, one of Washington's most thrilling annual events has been the fall celebration by the African Heritage Center. This year's festivity, Saturday night at the University of the District of Columbia auditorium, features guest troupes from Ghana, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, as well as Afro-American troupes of the metropolitan area. Music

There will be two overlapping and highly contrasting music festivals at the University of Maryland this week. While the Society for Ethnomusicology is holding its 27th annual meeting, Nov. 10 to 17, there will be an international music festival sponsored jointly by the university's music department and the International Conservatory of Music. Seven concerts are planned on the College Park campus and in the Smithsonian's Baird Auditorium, beginning with a concer by Ali Akhbar Khan, sarod virtuoso, Wednesday in the Center for Adult Education.Other performances will be given by Washington-area musicians who specialize in the music of China, Latin America, the Middle East and other areas.

The University of Maryland Handel Festival, Friday through Sunday at the university and the Library of Congress, will include performances of his orchestral and keyboard music as well as the "Dettingen Te Deum," three Italian vocal duets and the oratorio "Esther." There will also be two symposium sessions, a master class and a book exhibit. Theater

"On the Razzle" -- Two would-be swells slip away from their jobs in a provincial grocery store for a night in old Vienna. The plot may be familiar to you from "Hello, Dolly!" but playwright Tom Stoppard has lots of tricks up his sleeve. So does this wildly inventive production at Arena Stage. Art

A trio of exhibitions -- "David Smith," opening today at the National Gallery of Art; "David Smith: Painter, Sculptor, Draftsman" and "From the Life of the Artist: A Documentary View of David Smith," both at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden -- celebrates the struggle of the Herculean master.

"Charles Willson Peale and His World" at the National Portrait Gallery -- a first-rate introduction to the museum man and portraitist of the young Republic, and two Georges Braque shows -- "The Late Works" at the Phillips Collection and "The Papiers Colles" at the National Gallery of Art -- which together bracket the career of the French modern master.