On the Town

What to Do and See This Month, from Goya to Celine Dion

Plus Whiskey Myers and Ann Curry.

Edited by Chris Gray January 30, 2020 Published in the February 2020 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Go see Once on this Island from Feb 18 to Mar 1 at the Hobby Center. 

H-town Picks

Tim and Eric Mandatory Attendance Tour

Feb 1 at 8 p.m. The cringe-comedy savants behind the Adult Swim classics Tom Goes to the Mayor, Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! and Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories bring their signature public-access aesthetic to their Mandatory Attendance Tour, which promises “brand- new spoofs, goofs, and insanity” galore. $45. Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave. 832-487-7041. 

Photography and the Surreal Imagination 

Feb 5–June 14 Photography and the Surreal Imagination celebrates the many ways the camera can fool the naked eye. Culled from private Houston collections and the Menil archives by curator Natalie Dupêcher—and displayed next to the museum’s Surrealism galleries—the exhibition features the work  of nearly 30 artists and photographers, with Man Ray, Cindy Sherman, Diane Arbus, and Robert Rauschenberg numbering among the better-known. The Menil Collection, 1533 Sul Ross St. 713-525-9400 

Enjoy all four of Robert Schumann's symphonies during the Schumann Festival. 

Schumann Festival

Feb 6–16 The Houston Symphony’s deep dive into the works of relatively unsung 19th-century German composer Robert Schumann starts with performances of all four symphonies and stretches to a tour of Romantic-era art at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; an evening of chamber music at Hobby Center; and a lecture on “Music, Mood Swings & Madness.” From $29. Multiple Houston-area venues. 713-224-7575 

Toxic Tour of Houston

Feb 8 at 9:15 a.m. Representatives from Texas Environ- mental Justice Advocacy Services will lead a guided tour through Houston’s East End, where facilities from many of the world’s leading petrochemical companies—more than 100 in all—force thousands of residents to reckon with all manner of dangerous chemicals as an everyday part of their lives. $20. Rothko Chapel Annex, 1415 Sul Ross St. 713-660-1403 

Francis Bacon: Late Paintings

Feb 23–May 25 Focusing on the years 1971 through 1991, this exhibition on loan from Paris’s Centre Pompidou collects dozens of works by the 20th century’s most celebrated British artist. Riddled with darkness, brusque imagery, and tragedy, the paintings often nod to literary inspirations including Aeschylus and T.S. Eliot. $17 (non-members). Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 1001 Bissonnet St. 713-639-7300

The Sleeping Beauty

Feb 27–Mar 8 Another production timed to the company’s 50th anniversary, this revival of former HB artistic director Ben Stevenson’s 1990 staging—a widely acclaimed updating of what has been called the first true Russian ballet—pairs rich characterization and challenging choreography with imaginative set design and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s delectable score. From $25. Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave. 713-227-2787


Sing along to "Sherry," "Walk Like A Man" and other hits from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in the Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys.

Jersey Boys

Feb 7–9 The story of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, one of the longest-tenured acts in pop music—who were just through Houston in October, actually—has proved as irresistible to theatergoers, winning the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical, as it’s always been to record buyers, thanks to the group’s near-fathomless catalogue of hits. From $35. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby St. 713-315-2525

Stages Repertory Theatre: Water by the Spoonful

Feb 7–23 Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, Quiara Alegría Hudes’s richly layered drama uses the music of John Coltrane to underscore the triumphs and struggles of a returning Iraq War veteran. His difficulty adjusting to civilian life leads to unlikely connections in an online chat room for others in recovery. From $25. The Gordy, 800 Rosine St. 713-527-0123

Set It Off

Feb 14–16 Native Houstonian and urban-entertainment impresario Je’Caryous Johnson, whose Destiny’s Child musical is due next year, presents this stage adaptation of F. Gary Gray’s 1996 film about four female bank robbers whose crew begins to splinter as their success grows. The cast features rapper Da Brat and ex-DC member LeToya Luckett. From $50. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby St. 713-315-2525 

Catastrophic Theatre: Fefu and Her Friends

Feb 14–Mar 8 A largely unsung master of experimental theater, the late Cuban-born playwright Maria Irene Fornés won an Obie—one of an incredible eight—for this 1930s-set drama about eight women who gather at an eccentric friend’s country estate. Part of the play splits the audience four ways before rotating each group between different sets. Pay-what-you- can (suggested $40). MATCH, 3400 Main St. 713-521-4533

Alley Theatre: Camp David

Feb 14–Mar 15 Austin-based journalist and playwright Lawrence Wright— also the creator of Hulu’s pre-9/11 series The Looming Tower—later turned this 2014 play about the painstaking peace negotiations between Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, Israel’s Menachem Begin, and U.S. president Jimmy Carter into his bestselling book Thirteen Days in September. $47. 615 Texas Ave. 713-220-5700

Once on this Island 

Feb 18–Mar 1 A stage covered in sand transports audiences to the Caribbean for Once on This Island, a one-act 1990 musical from Ragtime collaborators Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, which re-envisions Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” on the Antilles archipelago. Winner of the 2018 Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. From $40. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby St. 713-558-8887

Dirt Dogs Theatre: The Dead Eye Boy

Feb 21–Mar 7 Before Junebug, the 2005 indie film that launched Amy Adams, North Carolina playwright Angus MacLachlan wrote this brutal 2002 drama in which a drug-addicted mother and her naive ex-con boyfriend attempt to carve out a normal family life with her troublesome adolescent son. $25. MATCH, 3400 Main St. 713-521-4533

Theatre Southwest: Shipwrecked! An Entertainment

Feb 21–Mar 14 Subtitled “The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself),” Pulitzer-winning playwright Donald Margulies’s fantastical 2009 drama explores the proverb “never let the truth get in the way of a good story” by relating the life story of the South Seas explorer once known as
“the greatest liar on earth.” $20. 8944-A Clarkcrest St. 713-661-9505


Houston Grand Opera: Aida

Thru Feb 16 The return of Verdi’s extravagant 1871 opera, in which a captured Ethiopian princess falls for a conquering Egyptian general, marks the HGO debut of director Phelim McDermott after lauded productions at English National Opera, LA Opera, and the Met. Soprano and HGO studio alumna Tamara Wilson stars as Aida. From $25. Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave. 713-228-6737

The music for the 1935 opera was written by famed American composer George Gershwin. 

Fathom Events: Porgy and Bess

Feb 1, 5, 8 One of the hottest tickets on the New York stage—and the Metropolitan Opera’s first production of George Gershwin’s 1935 folk opera in three decades—is now as close as your local theater thanks to the Met’s Live in HD series. “Authoritative and gripping,” raved The New York Times. From $15. Multiple Houston-area theaters. 

Opera in the Heights: The Leader/Kassandra

Feb 23, 29 For its New Works Festival, Houston’s more intimate opera company presents a doubleheader by Rice University composition professors: Karim Al-Zand’s The Leader, based on Eugène Ionesco’s absurdist play, and Anthony Brandt and Neena Beber’s Kassandra, in which the ancient soothsayer myth becomes a climate-change parable. From $34.50. Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights Blvd. 713- 861-5303

Visual Art 

The "Photography and the Surreal Imagination" exhibition, which showcases how the camera fools the naked eye, will feature the work of nearly 30 artists and photographers. 

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 booksA Place of Dreams: Houston, an American City and the Buffalo Bayou chronicle Along Forgotten River. Free. 6100 Main St. MS-480. 713-348- 2787

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 short films AKA, which examines mothers and daughters of all skin tones, and the Sundance-winning prison doc Alone. Free. 5216 Montrose Blvd. 713-284-8250

Lawndale Art Center: Virginia Lee Montgomery: Sky Loop

Thru Mar 22 Hurricane Harvey was as devastating to Houston’s artists as everyone else, including Yale-trained sculptress 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. 4912 Main St. 713-528-5858

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,” the paintings inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s January 1941 speech as the Depression-mired nation sat on the brink of WWII. $17 (non-members). Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet St. 713-639-7300

Moody Center for the Arts: Radical Revisionists: Contemporary African Artists Confronting Past and Present

Thu May 16 Ten artists from Africa and the diaspora confront the bitter legacy of colonialism through fearless reappraisals—a boy in Napoleon-era garb posing with a soccer ball, for example—in this sprawling multimedia exhibition timed to the opening of Rice University’s Center for African and African American Studies. Free. 6100 Main St. MS-480. 713- 348-2787

Lawndale Art Center: Kaisu Koski: Rehearsals for Empathy

Feb 8–Mar 22 An extension of the Finnish artist/filmmaker’s 2017 short “Scenes of Disclosure,” this video installation examines techniques used to train standardized patients, the people hired by medical schools to act out various symptoms so that students can improve their bedside manner. Free. 4912 Main St. 713- 528-5858 


Celine Dion

Feb 1 at 7:30 p.m. Back on tour after wrapping a Vegas residency that reached a staggering 4.5 million fans, the French-Canadian belter hasn’t been through Houston in a decade. Her latest album, Courage, mourns Dion’s late husband and her brother—who died just days apart in 2016—with top-drawer collaborators including Sia and David Guetta. From $59.50. Toyota Center, 1510 Polk St. 866-446-8849

New Pornographers

See the group perform on Feb 9 at White Oak Music Hall. 

Feb 9 at 7 p.m. Formed in 1996, A.C. Newman’s Canadian crew hit their stride with mid-2000s releases Electric Version and Twin Cinema, and can be counted on for another installment of sparkling power-pop every few years. The latest example is last year’s In the Morse Code of Brake Lights, another must-own. $30. White Oak Music Hall, 2915 N. Main St. 713-237-0370

Lyle Lovett

Feb 11 at 7:30 p.m. Last seen crowing about cowboy boots to Texas Monthly, the 61-year-old Texas icon has temporarily pared down his sound to tour with his Acoustic Group. He expects to release a new album, which would be his first since 2012’s Release Me, later this year on Verve. From $30. Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice St. Galveston, TX 77550. 409-765-1894

Mercury Houston: Schubert’s Winterreise

Feb 15 at 8 p.m. Tenor Nicholas Phan will perform this 24-poem song cycle composed in 1827 and characterized by a frigid beauty. In a piece that plumbs the depths of unrequited love through such titles as “Frozen Tears” and “Numbness,” “Dreaming of Spring” is about as optimistic as it gets. From $19. Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave. 713-533-0080

Whiskey Myers

Feb 15 at 8 p.m. Opening shows on the Rolling Stones’ last U.S. tour and screen time on cow-punching Kevin Costner series Yellowstone are just two examples of how high these wooly East Texas rockers’ profile has risen. Their fifth album, last fall’s Whiskey Myers, splits the difference between Led Zeppelin and Chris Stapleton. From $27. Revention Music Center, 520 Texas Ave. 713-230-1600

Ars Lyrica Houston: Goya’s World: Reflection and Revolution

Feb 22 at 7:30 p.m. Projections of the Spanish painter’s stormy artwork will accompany the music of Enlightenment-era composers Francisco Courcelle, Luigi Boccherini, and others as performed by Houston-based mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte, violinist Adam LaMotte, and guitarist/guest director Richard Savino. From $23. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby St. 713-315-2525

Houston Symphony: Unforgettable: Celebrating the Nat King Cole Centennial

Feb 28–Mar 1 Thrice Grammy-nominated vocalist Ryan Shaw and the orchestra have plenty of options at this tribute to the impeccable Alabama-born crooner: Cole landed more than 100 singles on the Billboard pop chart, but the more durable include “Mona Lisa,” “Nature Boy,” “Ramblin’ Rose,” and “When I Fall in Love.” From $25. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St. 713- 224-7575

Vijay Iyer Sextet

Feb 29 at 8 p.m. Winner of a 2013 MacArthur fellowship, the 48-year-old pianist and composer has established himself as one of jazz’s most versatile and progressive artists through albums including Blood Sutra and Historicity. Far from Over, Sextet’s 2017 LP, won Iyer his fourth Jazz Artist of the Year award from Downbeat. From $37.50. Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave. 713-524-5050

Andrew Tyson

Feb 29 at 8 p.m. Not yet 35, the Juilliard-trained pianist and native of Durham, North Carolina, has medaled in several international competitions and was listed among “classical music’s most exciting rising stars” by London’s The Times last year. He’ll perform selections by Rameau, Rachmaninoff, Chaminade, Schumann, and more. From $29. Hobby Center, 800 Bagby St. 713-227-4772

Comedy. etc. 

Maysoon Zayid

Feb 8 at 6 p.m. Co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, the Palestinian-American comedian is an unapologetic Jersey girl and dauntless advocate for the disabled. “I Got 99 Problems ... Palsy is Just One,” her 2013 TED Talk, has been viewed more than 15 million times. From $35 (non-members). Asia Society Texas, 1370 Southmore Blvd. 713-496- 9901

See the duo behind the Whoreible Decisions podcast on Feb 23. 

Whoreible Decisions

Feb 23 at 7:30 p.m. No subject is too raw for Mandii B and WeezyWTF, whose sex-positive podcast more than lives up to its Instagram promise of #NoKinkShaming. Their wild back-and-forth only underlines the hosts’ sisterly bond; “underneath their bickering is a well of love that they’ve spent half their lives building,” Vice noted. From $40. Improv Houston. 7620 Katy Fwy., Ste. 455. 866-468-3399

Ann Curry

Feb 27 at 6 p.m. Part of the Bank of America Women’s Leadership Series, the host of PBS documentary series We’ll Meet Again—which reunites ordinary people drawn together by major historical events—will reflect on her decades-long career in journalism, much of it at NBC News, and the rapidly changing nature of women’s roles in her field. $50 (non-members). Asia Society Texas, 1370 Southmore Blvd. 713-496-9901


The Messenger

Feb 21 at 6 p.m. Unnerved by the inexplicable disappearance of the familiar songbirds around her home, Canadian filmmaker Su Rynard made this 2015 documentary to investigate the recent dramatic decline in avian numbers— much of it man-made—and highlight a handful of activists working to reverse the damage. Co-presented by Audubon Houston. Free. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St. 713-400-7336

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: Putney Swope

Feb 22, 29 at 7 p.m. A black man inadvertently becomes CEO of a powerful NYC ad agency; soon enough its commercials are so good people stop going out to stores. Admirers of this farsighted 1969 satire directed by Robert Downey Sr.—yep, Iron Man’s dad—include Jane Fonda, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Dave Chappelle. $9 (non- members). 1001 Bissonnet St. 713- 639-7300

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: What We Do in the Shadows

Feb 23 at 5 p.m. Kiwi comedy aces Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit) co-directed this 2014 mockumentary about slacker-vampire flatmates who discover that immortality is a poor tradeoff for getting stuck with dishwashing duty. Season 2 of the film-fest favorite’s TV counterpart is due later this year on FX. $9 (non-members). 1001 Bissonnet St. 713-639-7300


Brazos Bookstore: Anna Meriano

Feb 1 at 6:30 p.m. The Houston-based creator of the Love Sugar Magic series will introduce its third installment, A Mixture of Mischief, which finds adolescent heroine (and witch-in-training) Leonora Logroño dealing with her still-nascent powers, a rival bakery horning in her family business, and the return of her long-lost abuelo. $16.99 (book price). 2421 Bissonnet St. 713-523-0701 

Murder by the Book: Kate Winkler Dawson

Feb 12 at 6:30 p.m. A journalism professor at UT-Austin, Dawson will discuss her latest book, American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI—the story of California scientist Edward Oscar Heinrich, whose Depression-era discoveries revolutionized the field of criminology—with Becka Oliver of the Writers’ League of Texas. $27 (book price). 2342 Bissonnet St. 713-524-8597

Inprint: Alan Gratz

 Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. After his widely acclaimed 2017 novel Refugee wove three different timelines into the stories of kids escaping Syria, Cuba, and the Nazis, the award-winning young-adult author’s new Allies focuses on a single 24-hour period: D-Day, in which disparate soldiers temporarily set aside their differences to fight a common foe. Free. Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School, 10410 Manhattan Dr. 713-521-2026


We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Feb 9 at 4 p.m. Before his operatic tribute to Marian Anderson bows at Houston Grand Opera next month, versatile composer and conductor Damien Sneed heads up this tour that honors the late civil-rights leader by balancing live performances from across the African-American musical tradition with Dr. King’s recorded speeches. From $29. Wortham Center, 501 Texas Ave. 713-227-4772

The Peking Acrobats will perform a matinee and evening show on Feb 22 at Jones Hall. 

Peking Acrobats 

Feb 22 at 3 and 8 p.m. A Guinness world record for “tallest human chair stack” is but one accolade the Beijing-based troupe has earned since its founding in 1986, wowing audiences across the globe with a dazzling array of contortions and stunts, including the self- explanatory (we hope) “human jump rope.” From $29. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St. 713-227-4772

World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest

Feb 27–29 Houstonians limber up for rodeo season by consuming an obscene amount of smoked meats at this annual three-day affair, which welcomes Texas country’s rowdiest acts to the Miller Lite Garden Stage. Most tents are invitation-only, but admission includes a complimentary plate at the Rockin’ Bar-B-Que Saloon. $20. NRG Park, 1 NRG Pkwy. 832-667-1080


Sesame Street Live!

Feb 7–9 In “Make Your Magic,” visiting magician Justin inspires Elmo to try his hand at the conjuring arts despite the furry creature’s lack of any discernible talent. Luckily, Abby Cadabby and his other Sesame Street pals are along to help Elmo discover how perseverance pays off in this rollicking hocus-pocus adventure. From $20. NRG Arena, 1 NRG Pkwy. 832-667-1400

Main Street Theater: The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley

Feb 25–Apr 4 A bizarre bulletin-board mishap turns an average boy into a globe- trotting adventurer—when you’re flat as a postcard, it’s incredibly easy to travel through the mail—in Timothy Allen McDonald’s song-packed adaptation of the classic children’s book by Jeff Brown. From $16. MATCH, 3400 Main St. 713-524-6706 

Houston Symphony: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Feb 29 at 10 and 11:30 a.m. Just in time for spring training, the Symphony plays ball with this pro- gram featuring a musical version of “Casey at the Bat” and a “seventh- inning stretch”—naturally, “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” Let’s hope the Astros’ 2020 season begins on an equally promising note. $23.50. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St. 713-224- 7575