On the Town

What to Do and See This Month, from Norman Rockwell to Lewis Black

Plus, Beatlemania returns with Mark Morris Dance Group's Pepperland.

By Chris Gray December 27, 2019 Published in the January 2020 issue of Houstonia Magazine

H-town Picks


Jan 30–31 No rock album, even from the hazy height of the psychedelic era, is better suited to become a kaleidoscopic dance performance than the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In Mark Morris Dance Group's Pepperland, several songs from the album come to life in campy and imaginative ways, anchor points for the live band’s fanciful improvisations. Recognizable moments—the Bach-like trumpet of “Penny Lane,” for example—become foreign yet alluring. The Brooklyn-based dancers, meanwhile, are clad in candy-colored costumes as they move through a world where “every single move in the dance is, while being utterly musical, entirely unexpected,” wrote the LA Times. “What first seems wrong always feels right.” From $39. Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave. 713-227- 4772. spahouston.org

Holly George-Warren

Jan 10 at 6:30 After book-length studies of Woodstock and power-pop genius Alex Chilton, the veteran Rolling Stone journalist takes on one of the titans of Texas music in Janis: Her Life and Music, a sweeping new biography that, as much as possible, allows the Port Arthur tomboy–turned–countercultural icon to speak for herself. $28.99 (book price). Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet St. 713-523-0701. brazosbookstore.com

All New Festival 2020

Jan 16–26 Houston’s reputation as a regional theater capital rests on events like this one, now in its fifth year, a series of workshops and readings showcasing top contemporary playwrights—all totally open to the public. This year’s participants include Theresa Rebeck, Katie Bender, Vichet Chum, C. Denby Swanson, and Sharr White. Free. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Ave. 713-220-5700. alleytheatre.org

Virginia Lee Montgomery: Sky Loop

Jan 18–Mar 22 Hurricane Harvey was as devastating to Houston’s artists as everyone else, including Yale-trained sculptor and filmmaker Montgomery. This multidisciplinary project analyzes the storm on a psychic level, incorporating footage from many sources—including some she shot herself, both at her studio and along Buffalo Bayou—to emphasize its personal impact. Free. Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main St. 713-528-5858. lawndaleartcenter.org

MLK Battle of the Bands

Jan 19 at 3 A performance by the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard and Drill Team headlines the 19th installment of this high-stepping annual competition, in which nearly 20 high-school marching bands will face off as part of the MLK weekend festivities. Last year’s event drew squads from as far away as Tulsa and Atlanta. $12. W.W. Thorne Stadium, 1865 Aldine Bender Rd. 713-953-1633. mlkgrandeparade.org

La favorite

Jan 24–Feb 9 Gaetano Donizetti’s 1840 opera frames a love triangle between a king, his mistress, and a monk-turned-warrior during the Moorish invasion of Spain. Once popular but rarely performed today—and never before by Houston Grand Opera—La favorite is an ideal example of the ornate, aria-heavy subgenre known as bel canto. From $25. Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave. 713-228-6737. houstongrandopera.org

Venezuelan Folkways

Jan 25 at 7:30 Latin Grammy–winning violinist Eddy Marcano joins edgy contemporary quartet Apollo Chamber Players to perform selected Venezuelan folk songs from the Library of Congress archives, newly arranged by Marcano himself; plus late Dominican composer Albert Hernandez’s Ensayo de la Suite #1 and Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No. 4. From $10. MATCH, 3400 Main St. 713-521-4533. apollochamberplayers.org


The Color Purple

Jan 3–4 A wealth of African-American musical styles—gospel, blues, ragtime, and more—enlivens this Tony-winning revival of the 2005 musical, in which a young woman comes of age in the early-1900s rural South. Despite a troubled childhood and philandering husband, she begins to blossom after meeting a worldly jazz singer. From $30. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby St. 713-315-2400. spahouston.org

Broadway at the Hobby Center: Hello, Dolly!

Jan 7–12 Jerry Herman’s 1964 musical about a brassy 19th-century matchmaker originally ran for six-plus years and established a leading-lady Broadway benchmark on par with Gypsy. Three-time Tony nominee Carolee Carmello stars as Dolly, carrying on a lineage that also includes Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, and the incomparable Carol Channing. From $35. 800 Bagby St. 713-315-2400. houston.broadway.com

Mildred’s Umbrella: Samuel Beckett’s Ladies Night

Jan 8–19 This mini-festival highlights the complex and absorbing roles created for women by the late Irish playwright, and 1969 Nobel laureate for Literature, through the short pieces Not I, Rockaby, Footfalls, and Come and Go. Greg Dean, Jennifer Decker, and Jeff Miller direct. Pay-what-you-can (suggested $25). Rec Room, 100 Jackson St. #130C. 832-463-0409. mildredsumbrella.com

4th Wall Theatre Co.: The Realistic Joneses

Jan 17–Feb 8 Acclaimed for his sobering themes and nimble dialogue, playwright Will Eno won a 2014 Drama Desk Award for this glimpse into the lives of two small-town couples who share much more than a last name. According to the New York Times, the play “finds glinting humor in the static that infuses our faltering efforts to communicate.” From $17. Studio 101, 1824 Spring St. 832-767-4991. 4thwalltheatreco.com

Alley Theatre: Quixote Nuevo

Jan 17–Feb 9 Emilio Delgado, better known as Sesame Street shopkeeper Luis, stars as a delusional ex-professor who’s convinced that he’s the hero of Miguel de Cervantes’s 1605 novel. El Paso native Octavio Solis’s 2018 comedic drama effectively transplants the framework of Don Quixote to a fictional Texas border town where weather balloons have replaced windmills. From $30. 615 Texas Ave. 713-220-5700. alleytheatre.org

Stageworks Theatre: Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery

Jan 19–Feb 9 Ken Ludwig, the prolific playwright behind such madcap mysteries as Murder on the Orient Express and The Game’s Afoot, pays another call on 221B Baker Street in this 2015 reimagining of Sherlock Holmes’s most famous case: a family curse coupled with a demonic hound said to stalk the Devonshire moors. From $19. 10760 Grant Rd. 281-587-6100. stageworkshouston.org

Broadway at the Hobby Center: The Band’s Visit

Jan 28–Feb 2 A ceremonial Egyptian police orchestra ends up stranded in a remote Israeli village, at which point the members begin discovering unlikely patches of common ground with the wary townsfolk. Full of tantalizing Mediterranean melodies, David Yazbek’s musical took home a whopping ten statues at the 2018 Tonys. From $35. 800 Bagby St. 713-315-2400. houston.broadway.com


Fathom Events: Wozzek

Jan 11, 15 Viennese composer Alban Berg mines anxiety and despair to the hilt in this 1925 expressionist masterpiece, presented as part of the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series. Baritone Peter Mattei plays the title role: a luckless German soldier who is repeatedly humiliated, not to mention experimented on by a diabolical doctor, until he snaps. From $15. Multiple Houston-area theaters. fathomevents.com

Moores Opera House: Menotti Squared

Jan 24, 26 This pair of one-act comic operas hails from the late 1930s and the pen of popular Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti: The Old Maid and the Thief, in which a penniless con man wreaks havoc upon a gossipy small town, and Amelia Goes to the Ball, a spirited farce about adultery and evening gowns. From $10. 3333 Cullen Blvd. 713-743-3019. uh.edu/kgmca/music/opera



Jan 23–25 The street-percussion troupe that rode banging on trash cans to pop-culture prominence—a foolproof strategy that has conquered everything from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to the 2012 London Olympics—celebrates 25 years of success since landing off-Broadway, where STOMP is still going strong, with a riotous stop in Houston. From $34. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St. 713-227-4772. spahouston.org

Visual Art

Holocaust Museum of Houston: Dolores Huerta: Revolution in the Fields

Thru Feb 16 This bilingual exhibition reconstructs the 89-year-old labor and civil rights activist’s career—she co-founded United Farm Workers and helped spearhead a major table-grape boycott in the ’60s, among other achievements—through photographs, interviews, a brief documentary, and a custom mural by Houston artist Ignacio Sanchez. $15 (non-members). 5401 Caroline St. 713-942-8000. hmh.org

Menil Collection: Mapa Wiya (Your Map’s Not Needed): Australian Aboriginal Art from the Fondation Opale

Thru Feb 20 This exhibition, on loan from the Switzerland-based Fondation Opale—one of the world’s major collections of Australian indigenous art—includes more than 100 contemporary works across various media: paintings, shields, engravings, and the hollow log coffins known as larrakitj. Free. 1533 Sul Ross St. 713-525-9400. menil.org

Moody Center for the Arts: Geoff Winningham: Changing Houston

Thru Mar 17 A 2018 Houston Arts Alliance grant allowed the longtime Rice visual-arts professor to take a fresh look at this most ephemeral of cities, which he’s already explored in the books A Place of Dreams: Houston, an American City, and the Buffalo Bayou chronicle Along Forgotten River. Free. 6100 Main St. MS-480. 713-348-2787. moody.rice.edu

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston: Garrett Bradley: American Rhapsody

Thru Mar 22 The first solo museum exhibition by the New Orleans–based artist and filmmaker includes America, a multi-channel reconstructed archive of early African-American cinema; as well as the short films AKA, which features mothers and daughters of all skin tones, and the Sundance-winning prison doc Alone. Free. 4216 Montrose Blvd. 713-284-8250. camh.org

Image: Courtesy MFAH

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: Norman Rockwell: American Freedom

Thru Mar 22 Featuring a wealth of historical documents, photos, video, and paintings by his contemporaries, this traveling exhibition adds valuable context to the American artist’s iconic “Four Freedoms” series of paintings, inspired by the speech President Franklin D. Roosevelt made to the Depression-mired nation in January 1941, as it sat on the brink of WWII. $23 (non-members). Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 5601 Main St. 713-639-7300. mfah.org

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft: Escaping Earth: The Kinetic Work of Casey Curran

Jan 25–Mar 29 Through kinetic sculptures, asteroid paintings, and eerie installations, the Seattle-based mixed-media artist evokes faraway galaxies and subterranean chambers. His intricately rugged creations could easily be mistaken for the work of a confectioner instead of a gifted metalsmith. Free. 4848 Main St. 713-529-4848. crafthouston.org


Houston Symphony: Sinatra & Beyond

Jan 3–5 Tony DeSare, the New York–based crooner who channels the Chairman so well his nickname might as well be Young Blue Eyes, will join the orchestra to turn this weekend into a swingin’ affair full of standards like “Come Fly with Me,” “Summer Wind,” and “September of my Years.” From $25. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St. 713-224-7575. houstonsymphony.org

Mercury Houston: Bach’s Brandenburgs

Jan 11 at 8 Houston’s Baroque specialists scale the pinnacle of the period’s repertoire, concertos composed around 1721 and still widely admired for their precision and dazzling variety. Of the six, the ensemble will perform Concertos two through five; featured instruments include trumpet, oboe, and harpsichord. From $19. Wortham Theater, 501 Texas Ave. 713-533-0080. mercuryhouston.org

Dwight Yoakam

Jan 23 at 9 Last seen on record giving a bluegrass makeover to assorted catalog chestnuts—save a heart-melting cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain”—on 2016’s Swimming Pools, Movie Stars, the 63-year-old country iconoclast first broke through with Guitars, Cadillacs, etc., etc. in 1986, the year of Nashville’s “Great Credibility Scare.” From $55. Arena Theater, 7326 Southwest Fwy. 713-779-5900. arenahouston.com

Branford Marsalis

Jan 25 at 8 Far removed from his days with Sting and as Jay Leno’s Tonight Show bandleader, the New Orleans–raised saxophonist has positioned himself as one of the most innovative and forward-thinking performers in jazz. His eponymous quartet’s latest album is the Grammy-nominated The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul. From $42.50. Wortham Theater, 501 Texas Ave. 713-524-5050. dacamera.com

KINETIC: Flight + Fugue

Jan 26 at 6 The conductor-less, collaboration-minded local ensemble hails its fifth season with a program exploring the twin concepts in the title—a fugue is a polyphonic composition in which two or more themes intertwine before building to a thrilling climax—through the works of Benjamin Britten, Lawrence Dillon, and Patrick Harlin. $30. MATCH, 3400 Main St. 713-521-4533. matchouston.org

Comedy, etc.

Beth Stelling

Jan 16 at 8 Stelling is a writer for HBO’s Crashing and Sarah Silverman’s I Love You America, as well as co-host of the podcast We Called Your Mom, in which she and her amiable mother call up the moms of people like Maria Bamford and Seth Rogen. Just remember, the Ohio-raised comedian’s sunny demeanor masks a stinging wit and no-nonsense attitude. From $10. The Secret Group, 2101 Polk St. 832-898-1088. thesecretgrouphtx.com

Lewis Black

Jan 18 at 8 Perhaps best-known for his “Back in Black” rants on The Daily Show, the choleric yet lovable comedian was perfectly cast as Anger in the hit animated film Inside Out. Houston has long been fertile territory for him; mirror-image Starbucks in River Oaks once led Black to call the city “the end of the universe.” From $32. Cullen Performance Hall, 4300 University Dr. 713-743-2255. entertainhouston.com

Watch What Crappens

Jan 31 at 8 Bummed there’s no Real Housewives of Houston? This live edition of Ben Mandelker and Ronnie Karam’s weekday podcast—which has hooked more than 2.5 million monthly listeners on their dishy dissections of Bravo’s drama-packed programming—will scratch that itch with salon-worthy acrylic nails. From $30. Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel St. 713-225-5483. warehouselive.com


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Jan 9 at 7 Marvel’s web-slinging signature hero got a radical 21st-century makeover in this 2018 Oscar winner. Notwithstanding the film’s rather convoluted plot—six Spider-beings team up to foil Kingpin’s dimension-splitting machine—it’s a wildly entertaining romp full of cheeky humor and near-psychedelic animation, with a propulsive score to boot. Free. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St. 713-400-7336. discoverygreen.com


Brazos Bookstore: JP Gritton

Jan 16 at 6:30 In Wyoming, the former Cynthia Woods Mitchell fellow’s debut novel, a recently fired construction worker short on options agrees to drive 50 pounds of choice pot from Colorado to Houston; things get complicated after that. The author, who got his doctorate at UH, recently joined the English department at Duke. $15.95 (book price). Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet St. 713-523-0701. brazosbookstore.com

Inprint: Carolyn Forché & Carmen Maria Machado

Jan 27 at 7:30 Novelist and UH-Downtown creative-writing professor Daniel Peña sits down with a pair of National Book Award finalists to discuss their new memoirs: Machado’s In the Dream House, a prismatic examination of an abusive past relationship; and Forché’s firsthand account of El Salvador’s civil war, What You Have Heard Is True. $5. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Ave. 713-521-2026. inprinthouston.org


Rainbow on Ice

Jan 10 at 7 Featuring DJ Joe Ross, Discovery Green’s wintertime LGBTQ skating celebration doubles as a surefire showcase for Houston’s most imaginative drag entertainers. Between the tribute to Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” video and a re-creation of Katy Perry’s “Left Shark” halftime show, to name two, past routines have set a high bar indeed. Free. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St. 713-400-7336. discoverygreen.com

Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous

Jan 21 at 8 Aided by reconstructed video of the beast’s riparian habitat, German-Moroccan paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim will discuss how he scoured the Saharan borderlands of Algeria and Morocco for remains of this nearly forgotten prehistoric leviathan—a fantastical hybrid of T. rex, stegosaurus, and crocodile, except larger than all three. From $29. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St. 713-227-4772. spahouston.org

The Art of the Brick

Thru Mar 29 Large-scale sculptures made of LEGO bricks would be reason enough to visit this traveling exhibition CNN called a “global must-see.” The true joy lies in how artist Nathan Sawaya realizes his enigmatic humanoid figures, for example, or giant crayons—or a plastic reproduction of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. $30 (non-members). Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Dr. 713-639-4629. hmns.org


MATCH Family Fun Day

Jan 19 at 1 Recurring performances by three of its resident companies—Main Street Theater, Prelude Music, and the Open Dance Project—highlight the Midtown creative hive’s fifth-annual four-hour open house, with bounce houses, balloon and sidewalk artists, stilt walkers, and more on hand to enhance the festive atmosphere. Free. 3400 Main St. 713-521-4533. matchouston.org

Wild Kratts 2.0

Jan 26 at 1 Stepping onstage from their long-running PBS Kids program, personable zoologists Chris and Martin Kratt host an interactive show that folds useful information about our animal friends—and a weightier message about responsible environmental preservation—into the simple directive “Activate Creature Power!” (No live critters onstage, though.) From $40. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St. 713-227-4772. spahouston.org