Houston's 5 Best Weekend Events: Jazz Fest, the I-45 Killing Fields and More

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Courtesy of Shelley Carrol
Music took saxophonist Shelley Carrol from the Houston Boys Choir to Carnegie Hall. Along the way, Carrol, who's being featured in the 17th Annual Moores School of Music Jazz Festival on Friday and Saturday, spent some time at Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, with the University of North Texas's One O'Clock Lab Band and as a regular sideman with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and Sheryl Crow. While Carrol has toured the world, performing and recording with some of jazz music's best, he says returning to Houston, which he once called home, is a special treat.

"It means everything to me to come home, where I learned everything I know. My teachers are still here, and through the years, I've thought of all of them constantly. Dr. Bob Morgan, Horace Alexander Young, Marsha Frazier, Horace Grigsby and many others."

It was a Houston jazz legend who inspired Carrol the most -- Arnett Cobb. Cobb's the epitome of the "Texas tenor" sound, a loud, honking, electrifying style that has been given new life through Carrol and his contemporaries. Carrol, a master at phrasing, says he learned from Cobb both on and off the stage. Early in his career, he began performing with his childhood hero. "I was doing a gig and complaining about it a little to Arnett Cobb, and he said, 'Son, if you can make a living with the saxophone in your mouth, be happy because you doing okay!'"

The two-day music festival features Carrol and his band, the UH Jazz Orchestra and the Moores School Jazz Festival All Stars, a collection of veteran players led by director of jazz studies Noe Marmolejo, and two lunchtime music workshops.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. University of Houston, 4800 Calhoun. For information, call 713-743-3313 or visit uh.edu. Free to $17.

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Houston's 5 Best Weekend Events: The (Mostly) Dance Edition

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Photo by Sharon Bradford
Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Music by Stevie Wonder and Prince isn't commonly used for ballet scores, but Complexions Contemporary Ballet isn't interested in what's common. Led by Co-Artistic Directors/Founders Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden, the company comes to Houston for a one-night three-act performance on Friday. The program includes Innervisions, an upbeat modern dance tribute to the music of Stevie Wonder, as well as Solo, restaged for this program, and features music by Prince. Also on the bill: Head Space, a brand-new work featuring music by Grammy Award-winning New Orleans jazz musician Terence Blanchard.

The program will also debut new works. "[Complexions] is a fusion of traditional ballet and modern movement...but this performance will not have the women en pointe," says Richardson. "We really create an arc throughout the concert in order to transport the audience with music and dance." Among the 12 dancers performing in the concert is Houston native Ashley Nicole Mayeux; see her in an excerpt from the ballet Testament, which uses a score of gospel hymnals.

8 p.m. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit spahouston.org. $35 to $80.

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The Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: The (Mostly) Valentine's Day Edition

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Photo by Ben Doyle
Members of Met Dance
Met Dance has a Valentine's Day treat for fans -- Duo. Marlana Doyle, the Met's artistic director, says, "Every year my husband and I go out to dinner for Valentine's Day. I thought people need to have something else to do besides dinner. We came up with Duo." The program, which is just an hour long with Friday and Saturday performances, includes several duets drawn from the company's repertoire. "It's kind of a ride -- some things are up, some things are down, some are funny. It's still date night, just a different sort of date night. It's just fun; come see the individual dancers and support the arts." There's plenty of time after the show for a romantic dinner, she notes.

The group, our Best of Houston Best Dance Company winner for 2014, is celebrating 20 years this season. It's also welcoming six new members. Duo is the perfect introduction of the individual dancers to Met fans. "With Duo, what I was trying to do was to get the company to do something more intimate and on a smaller scale," Doyle says. "We always dance as an ensemble. I wanted to challenge the dancers to work one­-on­-one for a change."

Partnerings includes new company members Jesus Acosta and John Michael O'Neill in an athletic, dramatic piece (the men are tied together with a length of black rope). There's also Terrill Mitchell and Danielle Snyder in a somber work choreographed by Doyle (Mitchell is in his last year with the company; Snyder is in her first). Kerry Jackson partners with Doyle for a funny piece that closes out the evening. Music for the program includes Angélique Kidjo, Earth Wind and Fire, Nat King Cole and Ben Doyle (Marlana's husband).

See Duo at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Studio 101 at Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring Street. For information, call 713‐522‐6375 or visit metdance.org. $25.

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The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Jo Koy, The Flesh Peddler's Ball and More

Categories: Top 5

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Courtesy Brillstein Entertainment Partners
Comedian Jo Koy, in town for a Friday and Saturday run, got his start in stand-up in Las Vegas. It was a tough city for a young performer, and Koy spent lots of his time in those days booking himself. "I did everything," he recalls, laughing. "I'd rent a hall for $600. I'd sell advertising on the back of the tickets and in the programs. I'd go around and sell tickets. They were always two-for-one; I didn't sell full-price tickets back then. I'd do the show and then keep the money from the door. I spent years shaking people's hands and saying, 'Please come see my show.' It was crazy, but that's what I had to do."

These days, Koy, one of only a handful of comedians ever to receive a standing ovation on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, still spends lots of time shaking people's hands. Now it's with hundreds of fans during after-show meet-and-greets. Some other comedians limit their meet-and-greets to VIP ticketholders or are available for only a limited time, rushing fans through. "I will never do that," Koy says earnestly. "Are you kidding? Shaking hands got me my start. I'll stand there for hours if there's somebody waiting after a show. Believe me, I would so much rather do that than have to go around renting halls and selling ads. Shaking hands? That's the easy part."

Koy gets funny at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday; 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Improv Comedy Showcase, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit houston.improv.com. $25 to $55.

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The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Love Lies Bleeding and More

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Photo by Charles Hope
From Love Lies Bleeding
Pair the music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin with ballet and what do you have? Believe it or not, a show that has traveled to considerable acclaim from its home in Canada. As part of the Houston Ballet's The Cullen Series, Love Lies Bleeding comes to the Wortham Theater for a weekend run, including a Friday show. Created by the Alberta Ballet's artistic director, Jean Grand-Maître, and performed by 36 dancers from the company, it features 14 classic songs in a story that traces a lot of things from John's own life: his rise to stardom and the good and bad things that followed. Grand-Maître spoke to us recently while walking to work on what he called a warmer day. (It was minus 6 instead of the minus 20 it had been the day before, from his headquarters in the Calgary-Edmonton area.)

"When we started these portrait ballets, we started with Joni Mitchell," Grand-Maître said. John had heard about the show and asked for a performance tape, which Grand-Maître sent him. Three months later, Grand-Maître sent John an email asking if he'd be interested in doing something similar and to his surprise, John said yes. They met in Las Vegas, and when John began talking, it wasn't about his many successes, Grand-Maître said. "For Elton, the first thing he said to me was he wanted us to use his life to educate people, so about homosexual repression, drug addiction, bulimia, alcoholism, he had it all. The death rate is very high in that business. Acting too and the business of celebrity. He didn't talk so much about his triumphs. He talked about his struggles, and so you realize the struggles really make the music."

Grand-Maître studied John's entire catalog of songs before submitting his selections to John (who suggested and got two changes). Grand-Maître says he didn't want to do a biography. ("It would take too long.") Instead, Grand-Maître focused on the demands of celebrity and the burnout. "Because for Elton, for the first four years of his contract, had to write four albums a year. And they all went platinum."

See Love Lies Bleeding at 8 p.m. Friday; 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Wortham Theatre Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-227-2787 or visit houstonballet.org. $100 to $105.

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5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Madame Butterfly, Artopia 2015 and More

Categories: Top 5

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Photo by Lynn Lane
Ana Maria Martinez in Madame Butterfly
The original Madame Butterfly was a two-act disaster that premiered in 1904. Composer Giacomo Puccini hauled it back in and rewrote extensively in time for another try later that year, and in the two years that followed, after another few revisions, came up with the three-hanky classic that audiences have appreciated ever since and that Houston Grand Opera has lined up to be its next production this season. Our choice for Friday, the story begins with the marriage of Cio-Cio-San (Madame Butterfly), a 15-year-old Japanese girl, to American Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton. He sees the marriage as a temporary stop on his worldwide travels; she thinks it's permanent. He splits and while she waits for his return, she has their baby. Baritone Scott Hendricks plays Sharpless, the American consul who presides over Pinkerton's marriage and tries to make the officer take responsibility for his actions.

Texas native Hendricks, who made his Metropolitan Opera debut a year ago in the role, says: "Sharpless is the moral conscience of the piece. He feels for Butterfly and warns Pinkerton not to take this lightly." And it only gets worse for the consul. He has to tell Butterfly her husband is not coming back to her and that Pinkerton and his American wife, Kate, want to take Butterfly's child. "He's been put in an awful position by Pinkerton's actions and his selfishness," Hendricks says. So why do people continue to turn out to see this opera, the most tragic one Puccini ever did? The music, Hendricks says, as well as the fact that the story remains relevant, with resentments con-tinuing to this day over the actions of U.S. servicemen overseas (in 2012, two U.S. sailors were accused of raping a Japanese woman on the island of Okinawa, he points out). Hendricks, who says, "It's nice not having to play a bad guy," sings a lot of Puccini and Verdi as well as new works. Houston favorite Ana Maria Martinez returns as Butterfly. Hendricks has a special reason to look forward to this HGO production. "My mom missed my Met debut, so she'll be coming from San Antonio to see this."

See Madame Butterfly at 7:30 p.m. January 23, 28, 31 and February 6; 2 p.m. January 25 and February 8. Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas. For information, call 713‑228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $15 to $354.

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The 5 Best Things to Do This Weekend: The Naughton Sisters, Mel Chin and More

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Photo by Jordan Jaffe
Ty Doran and Lindsay Ehrhardt in Tigers be Still
Art imitates life when father and son Justin and Ty Doran play father and son in Black Lab Theatre's production of Tigers Be Still, a black comedy by Kim Rosenstock and our choice for Friday. Joseph is a high school principal; Zach is his son, who's still reeling from losing his mother in a car accident. Joseph hires Sherry, a newly graduated art therapist, to work with his son but since Zach's range of emotions is limited to snark, she doesn't make much headway.

Sherry (Samantha Slater) has her own problems. She's moved back home, which rather resembles a psychiatric ward. Her sister Grace (Lindsay Ehrhardt) is permanently entrenched on the living room sofa, wallowing in depression; her mother, who's upstairs in her bedroom and won't come out, talks to her daughters only by phone.

Oh yeah, and a tiger has escaped from the zoo and is roaming the neighborhood streets. Tigers is directed by Jordan Jaff, Black Lab's artistic director.

See Tigers Be Still 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and January 19. Through January 31. Wildfish Theatre, 1703 Post Oak Boulevard. For information, call 713‑515‑4028 or visit blacklabtheatre.com. $25.

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The 5 Best Things You Can Do in Houston This Weekend: Diavolo, Hot Box Girls and More

Categories: Top 5

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Photo by Alexander Slanger
Diavolo company members in Fluid Infinities
Jacques Heim's Diavolo dance company has an unusual tagline: "Architecture in Motion." The phrase eloquently describes Heim's fusion of industrial set pieces with concert dance. In town on Friday for a one-night stand courtesy of the Society for the Performing Arts, Diavolo has two dramatic works on the bill, Fluid Infinities and Trajectoire.

Originally created for the Hollywood Bowl and commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Fluid Infinities is set to Philip Glass's Symphony No 3. In it, company members dive, slide and propel themselves through crater-like holes in a 1,600-pound dome sitting onstage that looks like the moon. The work investigates our connection with space and time. Trajectoire also features a large set-piece with a giant, rocking ship onstage. The performers (dancers, gymnasts and actors) take the audience on a suspense-filled voyage.

The French-born artistic director Jacques Heim founded Diavolo in 1992. Since the emergence of his Los Angeles-based company, he's choreographed for notable shows such as Cirque du Soleil's Kà.

8 p.m. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713‑227‑4772 or visit spahouston.org. $28 to $70.

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The 5 Best Things You Can Do in Houston This Weekend: Robert Hodge Closes at CAMH and More

Categories: Top 5

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Courtesy of Robert Hodge
The Great Electric Show and Dance by Robert Hodge
Visual artist Robert Hodge didn't have far to drive when he attended the opening of "Robert Hodge: Destroy & Rebuild" a few weeks ago. His first ever solo museum show is in its final weekend. (We strongly suggest a Friday visit.) Hodge grew up in and still has his studio in Third Ward, just a few blocks away from the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston that hosted "Destroy & Rebuild." The exhibit is a collection of recent and new work. The pieces, works on paper, are made up several layers of found paper (posters, signs and such) that Hodge collected from around the city. Hodge cut text in the top layer, so the viewer sees bits and pieces of the paper underneath. The text comes from music lyrics.

Among them is "There's a war going on outside no man is safe from / You can run but you can't hide forever" from hardcore hip­hop duo Mobb Deep's "Survival of the Fittest." There's also "The Great Electric Show and Dance," a nod to Houston blues guitarist Lightnin' Hopkins.

Catch "Robert Hodge: Destroy & Rebuild" 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Through January 4. 5216 Montrose. For information, call 713‐284‐8250 or visit camh.org. Free.

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The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: 2014 DocFest and More

Categories: Top 5

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Photo by Gary Spector
Bettina May
Kick off your weekend with the women from the Ruby Revue Burlesque Show. Pinup queen and burlesque dancer Bettina May, who's often compared to Rita Hayworth, appears as the special guest artist at one of Friday's two shows. It's easy to see why May gets compared to Hayworth - the Titian-haired beauty has a 36-28-38 figure, movie-star good looks and a vintage Hollywood glamour style. But Rita Hayworth never shimmied like Bettina May.

Among her most popular routines are a classic gown peel (her ode to Hayworth), a chair dance (a nod to Marlene Dietrich) and a showgirl showstopper (echoes of Josephine Baker). Originally from Canada, May earned her green card for her skill as a striptease artist. (She was deemed an "alien with extraordinary ability," a category usually reserved for scientists, world-class athletes and such.) Now based in New York City, May is the author of the recently released Everyday Bombshell, a how-to guide for women who want to add a bit of vintage pinup beauty to their lives.

Also appearing as a special guest is Grace Gotham. Billed as a bawdy chanteuse, the Dallas native has been known to take a spin on a pole if there's one handy. Gotham's a gourmet of sorts; she writes Tassel to Table Cuisine, a popular food blog.

The women of the Ruby Revue will take their turn in the spotlight. "We'll be performing our award-winning group act, Taste The Rainbow," troupe member Ginger Valentine tells us. "We won Best Troupe from [the] Burlesque Hall of Fame for that routine, and crowds always go nuts." Shelbelle Shamrock (also known as The Get Lucky Girl) is performing She's Dangerous, a routine that showcases her hip-hop and break-dancing skills. And Renee Holiday draws on her opera training for La Petite Morte, a satire of a classic aria.

See Bettina May, Grace Gotham and the Ruby Revue Burlesque Show at 6:30 and 10 p.m. on Friday at the House of Blues, 1204 Caroline. For information, visit therubyrevue.com. $32 to $40.

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