Press Picks

thursday
may 23
Mixed repertory program The Houston Ballet is billing this as a celebration of 20 years under the artistic guidance of choreographer Ben Stevenson, and is merely mentioning that this production will be one of prima ballerina Janie Parker's final performances. Maybe they're hoping she won't really go. Parker will dance Stevenson's Image, a work the Ballet's artistic director created not so much for Parker as with her. Image: a Meditation on the Myth of Marilyn Monroe is, ironically, about modern-day goddesses and how they can't sustain their facades forever. The program also includes Bartok Concerto and Four Last Songs, a work based on the music of Richard Strauss; the song cycle will be performed by soprano Stella Zambalis, who recently wowed critics in Houston Grand Opera's La Boheme. Opening, 7:30 p.m. (Subsequent performances listed in Thrills, Dance.) Wortham Center, Brown Theater, Texas at Smith, 227-ARTS. $10$75.

Ron Crick and the Aboriginal Texas Roadhog Ramblers, with the PC Cowboys Musical comedian Ron Crick is offering an evening of "keenly upholstered music and mirth," with Ron Crick classics such as "Jackie O's Garage Sale," "Oh No Not Another Song About Texas" and "It's Just That Monthly Thang." The PC Cowboys, a unique and modest band, appear with Crick and his entourage. 8 p.m. McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 528-5999. $5.

friday
may 24
The King of the Rocket Men Long ago, when the world was young and quality entertainment ruled the cinema, all movies were preceded by serials and newsreels and cartoons. Serials are a great thing -- something we need to bring back. Instead of endless sequels, wouldn't it be nice if we could just get the latest Die Hard installment as a serial every time we went to the movies -- and wouldn't ten minutes of even Bruce Willis be better than American Express and Coke commercials? Westwood Cinema, our town's newest repertory movie theater, is showing all 12 chapters of the Republic serial King of the Rocket Men (a five-hour program) today and tomorrow. The King has a ray gun, wears a prewar space suit and saves the galaxy -- all in glorious black and white. 7 p.m. both nights. Westwood Cinema, Westwood Mall, 271-2979. $4; $2, children 12 and under.

Astros versus Cubs National League Baseball pits a team named after hyper-competitive military men against a team named after wobbling baby animals. Baseball offers oddness like that. Plus, there's the deep weirdness of Orbit. Not to mention the almost supernatural statistics (like the number of home runs that have already been hit this season, a stat that may or may not make this year's bases stolen stats look less impressive than they are). Mull it all over in person, starting at 7:05 p.m. The Astrodome, eighth wonder of the world, Kirby at Loop 610, 629-3700. Tickets are delightfully affordable, as is Dome beer.

Shenandoah Songwriters Tour Three guitar-playing folkies from those rolling hills have banded together for a concert tour that includes the Kerrville Folk Festival and Anderson Fair. One of the singer/songwriters, Terri Allard, has already been named a showcase finalist at Kerrville, and the Washington Post is sure "she'll have no trouble making her mark in country-pop circles." Her companions, Seth Austen and Andrew McKnight, also garner good reviews for the mellow, steady quality of their music. 8 p.m. Anderson Fair, 2007 Grant, 528-8576. Call for ticket prices.

The Roaring Twenties "Someone to Watch Over Me," "The Man I Love," and "Stairway to Paradise" are part of this evening's Gershwin medley. Newton Wayland -- famous for his pops concerts -- conducts this salute to the Jazz Age and Harlem Renaissance with Falla's "Ritual Fire Dance" from El Amor Brujo and rowdy ragtime classics, such as Jelly Roll Morton's "Grandpa's Spells." The final concert of the pops season starts at 8 p.m. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. $15$22.

Mail Bonding Proof that chain letters are not always evil: this evening of dance and poetry grew out of a letter circulated between some local choreographers and a poet. Dancers Amy Ell, Sandy Marcello and Jane Wiener and poet Niobe Ngozi have performed Mail Bonding once before, and now the work is back by popular demand. Steel yourself: the piece is non-linear, site-specific and has something to do with screen porches and scaffolding. 8:30 p.m. Under the moon and stars at Zocalo Theater, 5223 Feagan, 861-2442. $5; $3, students.

Get Ready Join the Doves, a '60s rhythm and blues group, as they meet again in Knobby's Dance Studio to consider their lives, and maybe a comeback concert tour. Get Ready is a comedy about midlife crises and rhy-thm and blues music. When The Ensemble Theatre produced the play last summer, it drew standing-room-only crowds. 8:30 p.m. today and Saturday. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 100 Concert Drive, Hermann Park, 520-3290. Free. To reserve covered seating, call The Ensemble box office, 520-0055.

saturday
may 25
Sand blast Why wander down to Galveston and spend Memorial Day weekend trying to amuse yourself when you can enjoy organized beach events? Stewart Beach will be hoppin' this weekend, as beach bunnies, surf studs and we pasty, lumpy people frolic at games and contests organized by the crack beach-event planners responsible for the 104 KRBE Sand Blast. All games and contests are free, and winners will receive fabulous prizes like tickets, CDs and T-shirts; we suspect losers may be able to pick up koozies and key chains. Live broadcasts and activities, 10 a.m.2 p.m. today; noon3 p.m. Sunday. Stewart Beach, Galveston. For more information, call 266-1000. Free.

Don Henley Has Risen from His Grave Don Henley, well-known singer, environmental activist and Mojo Nixon foil, will be honored at Moody Gardens' fourth annual Environmental Leadership Awards luncheon. That luncheon, the Texas premiere of a new IMAX film and the grand opening of Palm Beach are all part of Moody's Earth Fair. The fair also features workshops, educational family activities and a new Kids Tent -- not to mention a new exotic insect exhibit, complete with hissing cockroaches. Here's the rundown of special events: 11:30 a.m., 16 fourth-grade kids are given scholastic awards for quality essay writing; 11:45 a.m. Across the Sea of Time premieres in the IMAX theater ($6); noon, the Don Henley luncheon ($17.50, reservations required); 2 p.m., Henley autographs Walden Woods merchandise; and all day long, sand sculptor Greg Glenn makes a masterpiece with the white sands of Palm Beach ($6). Moody Gardens, take I-45 to Galveston, exit 61st Street, turn right on Seawall Boulevard, then right on 81st Street and left on Hope Boulevard (800) 582-4673, extension 200. No admission charge to come in and walk around the gardens.

Pan African Festival The S.H.A.P.E. Community Center has organized a three-day party, running right through Memorial Day, to celebrate Africa and African-American heritage, a heritage spreading "from the rhythm beat of South America to the warm breeze of the Caribbean Islands to the barbecue pits of Texas to the Creole tastes and zydeco sounds of Louisiana to the rhythm and blues of Detroit." This 17th annual festival, presented with special thanks to the community, celebrates the gains African-Americans and many Africans have made (African women filmmakers, for instance, and everybody in Sierra Leone), and honors the current struggles of some Africans (for instance, Nigerians and Liberians). The festival is set up for families, and in addition to refreshments and vendors, this year's event will again have the popular do-it-yourself craft booths. On Sunday evening, local and national entertainers will drum, dance and sing on the Miller Theatre stage. The festival begins at 11 a.m. today, Sunday and Monday. 100 Concert Drive, Hermann Park, 520-3290. Free.

Killer B in Southwest Houston Sweet-faced second baseman Craig Biggio and faithful Orbit will meet and greet in the middle of Sharpstown mall for a full hour today. Fans will be treated to free popcorn and Cokes, and will have the chance to win game tickets. The grand prize winner in this free-for-all drawing will take three friends to the game tonight, in a limo, and will, from the comfort of a Dome suite, watch Biggio receive his Silver Slugger award. Take Me Out To the Mallgame pep rally, 11 a.m.noon. Sharpstown Center, 7500 Bellaire, 777-1111. Free.

sunday
may 26
Modernday Folklore and Something Obnoxious Beloved, low-key Texan blues-rock boy Ian Moore will play selections from his old records and from his latest recording, Modernday Folklore, at the KLOL Rocquafest. Something Obnoxious is the opening act, but the KLOL people suggest that Ian Moore fans who'd rather have no truck with Something arrive at this free concert early, anyway: Between 8,000 and 10,000 people are expected to storm the beach. The KLOL fun starts at 2; Grego's band (Something Obnoxious), 5; Ian Moore, 6:30 p.m. East Beach, Galveston.

monday
may 27
Blood, Sweat and Tears When David Clayton-Thomas replaced Al Kooper as the frontman for Blood, Sweat and Tears, it's unlikely that he knew the group would come to this: symphony performances. But then again, maybe this was what he had planned all along -- at one point during the group's heyday, Clayton-Thomas said, "There are only 20 U.S. cities with concert halls big enough for us." In any case, after three decades and 50 million albums sold, the band has Clayton-Thomas back and is appearing with the Houston Symphony. Imagine -- woodwinds and strings sprucing up radio hits such as "And When I Die," "Spinning Wheel" and "You Made Me So Very Happy." 8 p.m. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, 629-3700. $10$30.

tuesday
may 28
The Last of the Savages Most people cast a wary eye at Bret Easton Ellis, Tama Janowitz and Jay McInerney because, like the brat pack actors, these authors' reputations suffered from early early, and in some cases barely deserved, fame. McInerney, at least, has outlasted Bright Lights, Big City, not to mention the heavy burden of being proclaimed the voice of his generation. About his latest, Time magazine says, "His acuteness as a social critic remains intact, as does his occasional tart way with language ... surprising modesty." Be the first on your block to note the book's obvious parallels to Gatsby, not to mention the story of the Erteguns, Turkish founders of Atlantic Records. McInerney reads from and signs The Last of the Savages. 7 p.m. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, 523-0701.

wednesday
may 29
Svetlana Portnyanskaya The Russian-born woman cantor was a hit at the 1990 Soviet Union Festival of Pop and Rock Music, winning over non-Jewish pop-music judges with a selection of Yiddish songs. Since 1991, she's been in the States, singing and being favorably compared to Streisand. This week, she'll sing in Hebrew, Russian and Yiddish at the JCC. 7:30 p.m. Jewish Community Center, 5601 South Braeswood, 729-3200, extension 3231. $10.

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