Heavy horses The Budweiser Clydesdales are familiar to many Houstonians because of their many Livestock show appearances (and from Bud commercials where they gallop, in soft-core porn slow-mo action and moody lighting, across sunny beaches and snowy meadows.) The big horses are in town early to march in the Thanksgiving Parade. Beginning Friday and through the weekend, Duke, Captain, Mark and the rest of the bays will be on display with their dalmatian buddies at the Sam Houston Race Park. The eight-horse hitch will execute a precision drill on the track at 2:30 p.m. (weather permitting), and between noon and 1 p.m. kids can have their picture taken with the team for a mere $3 (benefiting Toys for Tots.) Parents of timid children should note that, at an average weight of 2,000 pounds, Clydesdales dwarf Thoroughbreds. Sam Houston Race Park, on the south side of Beltway 8 between 290 & I-45, 807-RACE. Gates open at 11:30 a.m. General admission $3.
Christmas Star and Nutcracker Fantasy Christmas Star is a provocative, seasonal planetarium show. The Digistar starfield projector recreates the night sky over the Holy Land, both during late December when we celebrate Christmas and in the spring, which is the time of year when Bethlehem-area shepherds traditionally watched over new-born lambs (and which is a more likely season for Jesus' birth). Maybe the story was skewed, and the timing that's become traditional is just smoke and mirrors, because the early Christians had to hide their holiday. (They sneakily celebrated during the Roman festival of Saturnalia.) And also maybe what the wise men saw was an astronomical event -- perhaps an alignment of the planets or a supernova heralding the death of a star (or perhaps just stellar puberty). The planetarium doesn't offer any hard answers, but it does provide some intriguing night sky speculation.
Nutcracker Fantasy, on the other hand, is a purely whimsical Christmas show. Instead of pondering seriously any important celestial events, this planetarium show employs laser lights in the images of dancing mice and characters from the Hoffman tale, accompanied by Tchaikovsky's music, of course. Both show several times daily through Dec. 31. Houston Museum of Natural Science, Burke Baker Planetarium, 1 Hermann Park, 639-IMAX. $2 adults, $1.50 under 12 and seniors, $1 members. Advance tickets available.
A Fertle Holiday! Radio Music Theatre used to call their Christmas show Invasion of the Bed Snatchers and everyone loved it. Then, Ken Polk moved to L.A. to work with Carol Burnett and everything changed. RMT's main man, Steve Farrell, has come up with a new name for the holiday show and, we suspect, punched it up and added a number of fresh topical references and maybe even some new songs. Still, it's the treasured story of the Fertle family reunion in Dumpster, Texas. The Fertle family seems to number 15 or so, but they won't sit still long enough to be counted, even though the whole clan is played by only three actors. There's still nothing quite like Radio Music Theatre. Take your dad, take your date, take everyone and go all the time. A Fertle Holiday! continues through Jan. 14. Radio Music Theatre, 2623 Colquitt, 522-7722. $12.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever From one of the best children's books ever. At first blush, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever might seem to suggest that Joseph, his dallying-with-the-big-guy wife and her son were all Holy Land trash. This is not, in fact, the message of the story. The idea is more that, while Joseph and his family might have been considered people of a lower order by their neighbors, they were responsible for the term Holy Land. This point is made when the six worst kids in the whole history of the world, the dreaded Herdman brats, take over a school pageant and portray the parents of the Christ child not as smug, beaming icons but as scared but still dang-proud parents. Through December 31. A.D. Players Grace Theater, 2710 West Alabama, 526-2721. Fri. & Sat., 8 p.m., $17; Sun., 2:30 p.m., $12.