"45 Days: Explore the Arts in Houston" Initiative About Halfway Through Its Run

Photo courtesy of Houston Arts Alliance
Houston Cinema Arts Festival
More than two weeks into this year's "45 Days:Explore the Arts in Houston" initiative, Jonathon Glus, president and CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance, says the campaign "to drive cultural tourism and to drive people who already partial to the arts to do something new " is working well.

"The response has been great. More than 50 organizations are participating.," Glus says. They've been encouraging an Instagram program through social media, asking people to send in their photos of themselves having fun at arts events.

The program's efforts seem to be working, Glus says and the crossover factor -- where someone interested in one type of arts attends others -- is especially high in Houston. And he and his office later provided statistics to back that up:

More »

Andre Watts Dazzles With a Spirited Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2

Categories: Music

Photo by Steve J. Sherman
Pianist Andre Watts
Pianist Andre Watts received a rousing standing ovation after his performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Houston Symphony on Friday night. Concert goers popped to their feet almost as soon as Watts hit the last note and the emotional response (and extended applause) was well deserved.

During what was the first of three performances he gave with the Houston Symphony over the weekend, Watts alternately attacked and caressed the piano. The concerto begins with a few notes ringing on the piano; rather than starting quietly and building to a crescendo over the span of the piece, Watts' playing was stirring from the first note. That he was able to reach an even higher crescendo is a testament not only to Watts talent, but conductor Andres Orozco-Estrada's deft handling of the orchestra and his exploration of subtleties in the score. There are moments for the woodwinds to shine (notably clarinetist Thomas LeGrand), which added to the depth of the performance.

This story continues on the next page.

More »

Jason Alexander: "Good-bye George Costanza, Hello Billy Joel"

Categories: Music

Courtesy of Houston Symphony
Jason Alexander
"What a lot of people don't know," actor Jason Alexander tells us, "is that I'm an old song-and-dance man." (And if we believe his biography, he's also a director, producer, teacher, poker player, magician and author.) Set for a three-day run with the Houston Symphony in Jason Alexander: An Evening of Comedy and Song, the actor, best known for his role as George Costanza on the television series Seinfeld, says he knows audiences come in expecting George to sing and dance. "The audience comes in thinking it's going to be George and it's my job to say 'Hi, I'm the guy who played George, now watch this.' It's my job to make them forget about George Costanza and leave the [concert hall] with a new view of Jason Alexander."

More »

Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Is Toe-Tapping, Jazzy Fun

Categories: Music

Courtesy of Masterworks Broadway.
Cover art for Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording).
Fabulously entertaining fans eight times a week, Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical, based on the 1994 Woody Allen film of the same name, racked up six Tony Nominations this year. The musical comedy also recently released its Original Broadway Cast Recording, featuring a score of music from the 1920s adapted by Glen Kelly, with orchestrations by Doug Besterman.

More »

The Doubleclicks: Their Music Is About More Than Being Nerds

Chuck Cook Photography
The Doubleclicks performing at Comicpalooza 2014

In what will likely be their only appearances in Texas this year, musician duo The Doubleclicks (aka sisters Angela Webber and Aubrey Webber) performed at Comicpalooza this past Saturday and Sunday. The duo writes and performs songs with a geeky bent. They're kind of like the female version of Paul and Storm.

Aubrey plays cello while Angela swaps back and forth between instruments as varied as an acoustic guitar and an adorable, modified B. Meowsic keyboard that makes kitty cat noises.

While their songs are ostensibly fun songs about velociraptors and annoying creeps who scream out "Freebird!", there are messages about how to treat fellow humans. For example, no one wants to pay good money for concert tickets and have their experience disrupted by a drunk, screaming idiot.

The Doubleclicks had an unexpected viral hit on their hands with a song with a more overt message. The music video for "Nothing To Prove" has become an anthem for women who participate in traditionally male-dominated interests and hobbies, such as reading science fiction, playing video games and collecting comic books. The cosplay phenomenon, amongst other things, has led misogynistic types to question whether women are "really" into such things, suggesting that these hobbies are some kind of attention-seeking behavior.

More »

Y Kant Kendall Read? 10 Hard-to-Pronounce Band Names

Categories: Music, Pop Culture

Honoring the Kardashian family's tradition of intellectual excellence.
I didn't watch the Billboard Music Awards last weekend, because why would I? Even so, it was hard to avoid the news about Kardashian sibling Kendall Jenner's flubbing an intro:

The 18-year-old Keeping Up with the Kardashians star botched her introduction of Australia's boy band, 5 Seconds of Summer, at the Billboard Music Awards Sunday.

As she read the teleprompter, she initially looked poised and confident, but then something went wrong. Suddenly Jenner got tongue-tied and tried to laugh off her embarrassment.

"And now we welcome, one..." she said before trailing off and bending over giggling

Jenner's been linked to One Direction's Harry Styles, which might explain her inability to tell one collective of smirking teenage dipshits from another. But reading about it, I could only breathe a sigh of relief she didn't have to introduce any of these bands.

More »

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Rests Too Heavily on Nostalgia

Categories: Music

Courtesy of Ghostlight Records.
Cover Art for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording).
Admittedly, when I first heard about Beautiful: The Carole King Musical I wasn't thrilled. As an avid theatergoer and fan of the medium, the jukebox musical that has seemingly taken over the genre of "new" musical is growing long in the tooth, and I can't help but wonder who still wants to see these things. Regardless of my personal feelings on the jukebox musical, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical has garnered seven Tony Award nominations, six Drama Desk Award nominations, strong reviews, and it has found Broadway patrons that adore it. The positive fervor surrounding the show made it a hot property for Ghostlight Records to record; however, as I imagine the show does, I simply feel that Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording) rests too heavily on the sense of nostalgia that these various hit songs generate.

More »

The Houston Symphony Goes to the Ball

Categories: Music

Courtesy of Houston Symphony
Whimsy and beauty

What better way to celebrate the whimsy and sprightliness of spring than with a ball? This Saturday the Houston Symphony throws a soiree complete with splendid music and first-class dance with Belle of the Ball, the last concert in its Family Series. The Belle in the title references Leroy Anderson's composition of the same name, and the golden-gowned heroine of the classic Disney film.

The concert was put together with the aim to introduce young audiences to the joy of live music. Selections will feature a diverse range of musical styles, as well as instruments from different families in order to present a rounded symphonic experience. "For me, the idea of getting into my costume and introducing families, and especially kids, to the music that I love is a thrill," explains associate conductor Robert Franz via press materials. "The Houston Symphony is best experienced live, and what better way to open up your child's world than with the sounds and sights of these incredible musicians."

More »

When Brilliant Met Divine: A Healthy Conversation with Bette Midler

Photo by Jonathan Pushnik
Bette Midler
She sings. She dances. She acts. She jokes. She cleans up decrepit, crumbling urban properties. She wins awards for all those things. And she also, simply, talks.

In a bit of a departure from her standard high-production fare, on April 29, Bette Midler, the aptly monikered Divine Miss M, addresses the equal-parts anticipatory/participatory audience of the Brilliant Lecture Series.

"I'm happy to be doing this event. I've been doing them for a couple of years now, I kind of enjoy them," Bette Midler remarked on her upcoming Q-and-A appearance with the series which this year has also welcomed luminaries Betty Buckley, Robert Duvall, and Diane Keaton. "I've been to Minneapolis, I went to Niagara Falls, I mean, I've been around.

More »

Sherie Rene Scott's All Will Be Well - The Piece of Meat Studio Sessions is Affective and Evocative

Categories: Music

Courtesy of Sh-K-Boom Records.
Cover art for Sherie Rene Scott's All Will Be Well - The Piece of Meat Studio Sessions.
Acclaimed musical theatre actress Sherie Rene Scott blew New York City audiences away when she debuted her cabaret concert Piece of Meat at 54 BELOW last year. Using songs from the show, which was about the struggle between enlightenment and animal desires, she has rearranged and reimagined the experience for her sophomore solo album titled All Will Be Well - The Piece of Meat Studio Sessions. With an album of pure ear candy, Scott brilliantly showcases her affective and evocative vocal talents.

More »