Press Picks

Someone to Watch Over Wichita writer Trish MacDonald Skillman will be signing her initial foray into the suspense market. Skillman cites Mary Higgins Clark as an influence and has, for her first mystery, got a fine, traditional title. Her topic, however, is thoroughly modern. (And very current in the wake of tabloid attempts to make O.J. Simpson the stalker poster boy.) Initially, the heroine of Someone to Watch Over, Kate Eldridge, is only a bit uneasy about accepting unsigned cards containing cash gifts. Suspense builds as Eldridge notices that everyone who annoys her has an accident. Someone is watching over Eldridge, someone who gives a whole new, very creepy meaning to the phrase "means well." Skillman's novel about a stalker is an enlightening, albeit nerve wracking, introduction to the nature of the crime. The paperback is $4.99. 1-2:30 p.m. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet, 524-8597.

Revels Houston A Russian and American Celebration A fiercely orthodox celebration in true Slavic style with the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble. The Paragon Brass Ensemble and hardworking, well-rehearsed students from Lamar High and Fondren Elementary are also in the cast, but the most interesting segment of the show is the celebration of 2,000-year-old folk traditions presented by the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble. Pokrovsky is a music historian who spent a couple of decades tracking down traditional material in Russia (and Soviet Russia, in case you didn't know, was not the easiest place for historical scholarship). Pokrovsky and his troupe wear Russian villager costumes and perform wild village dances and rituals. The stuffy Boston Globe was more than enthusiastic about the ensemble: "The Soviets danced their American audience right out of their seats .... These performers are the real thing. They travel to the farthest reaches of the Soviet Union and learn the old songs and dances .... 'Performance' isn't quite the right word -- these people are sharing a kind of living with us; they create whole ancient worlds." Talk about world beat music. Revels Houston will present five performances. Today 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1 and 5 p.m.; and Monday, 7:30 p.m. Rice University, Stude Concert Hall, entrance no. 8 off University Boulevard, 527-4854. Call 668-3303 tickets, or buy them at the door staring one hour before each performance. $18, $15 seniors, $9 children under 12.

december 18
MCCR's Christmas Celebration The Metropolitan Community Church of the Resurrection is planning to make this celebration as traditional as possible. The evening begins with a Pasada at 6 p.m. In this Mexican custom, two church members acting as Joseph and Mary go through the neighborhood seeking shelter. The manger shortage being what is in modern times, Joseph and Mary end up at the church. After the holy couple's safe arrival, there will be a concert in the sanctuary. HeavenSound, the MCCR hand bell choir, which is just back from a very successful engagement at the Old Town Spring Holiday Festival, will perform. Following the concert, everyone, especially fidgety children, adjourn to the parking lot for a birthday party for Jesus. The Metropolitan Community Church of the Resurrection, 1919 Decatur, 861-9149. Free. Call for directions or more information.

december 19
A little holiday music Choruses, three for the price of one this afternoon at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which is decorated for the holidays (although we don't think they've gone so far as to put reindeer harnesses on the dinosaurs). In the acoustically interesting stone-walled, several-stories-tall paleontology hall, the Salvation Army Harbor Lights Choir, the Houston Masterworks Chorale and the Joyful Sounds Chorus will sing seasonal favorites. The program selections may not be all that different than those at any other holiday musical, but the setting is certainly novel. See these staid traditional choirs make a joyful noise unto the coelophysis, diplodocus hayii and the triceratops. 4-7:45 p.m. Paleontology Hall, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Hermann Park, 639-4600. $2; $1.50 kids. Concert included with regular museum admission.

december 20
The Farce Nsel WHAT Comedy Theatre, in addition to paying homage to/ripping off Abbott and Costello, have got down with this "to be jolly" seasonal edict. What their revue has, they say, is "sketches, twisted Christmas carols, improvisations and well-known holiday characters," all of which adds up to an evening of "highly entertaining diversion that's fun to see with loved ones or with those people you're obligated to spend time with but would rather not have to talk to." WHAT Comedy Theatre is Becky Byars, Dee Macaluso, John Swasey and Mike Vance. Macaluso was the star of Theatre LaB's extremely successful, as in international festival award winning, production of The Kathy and Mo Show. Vance is the author of Oilers Anonymous: a 12-step program for Oilers Fanatics. The Farce Nsel 8:30 p.m. tonight and next Tuesday. Ovations, 2536-B Times Boulevard, 522-9801. "Tickets are $10, but it is the holiday season, so you're welcome to give till it hurts."

Jelly's Last Jam This musical is perfect, in a way, for Christmas. For those who must have a ghost, and cannot stomach another haint of Christmas Past, Jelly's Last Jam has the Chimney Man. The Tony Award-winning story of Jelly Roll "I invented Jazz!" Morton, Jelly's Last Jam has tap-dance numbers, elaborately staged and slinky blues numbers and a tour-guide spirit. The play opens with Jelly on his death bed, where he's joined by the ectoplasmic Chimney Man, who, as spectral visitors will, leads his victim on a journey through the past. Jelly's Last Jam opens tonight 8 p.m. Through Christmas. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. $36-$42.

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