The French poet Alfred de Musset described the title character of Abbe Prevost's novel Manon Lescaut as an "[a]stonishing sphinx! A true siren! A thrice feminine heart, a Cleopatra in skirts!" Veronica Lake might have portrayed Manon as a hard-boiled hell cat with a blond flip had Hollywood transformed the book into a film noir in the 1940s. Late choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan viewed Prevost's vixen as a metaphor for the gulf separating the haves and have-nots in 18th-century Paris. In Houston Ballet's Manon, a revival of MacMillan's 1974 masterwork, Barbara Bears portrays the poor girl from the slums who's desperately, capriciously, seeking status and cold, hard cash. The music's by Jules Massenet (though, oddly, it's not from the composer's opera of the same name, which was also based on Prevost's work). Opening performances are at 7:30 tonight and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The run continues through June 14. The Brown Theater at Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 237-1439. $10 to $84 (Houston Ticket Center: 227-ARTS).
The Houston Gay & Lesbian Film Festival continues with what promises to be its strongest weekend artistically; the lineup includes Jeff Dupre's Out of the Past, the winner of the Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival; The Silver Screen / Color Me Lavender by Mark Rappaport (Rock Hudson's Home Movies, From the Journals of Jean Seberg); Kyle Henry's American Cowboy; and Ela Troyano's Latin Boys Go to Hell. Out of the Past is a documentary centered on a student's star-crossed attempt to form a Gay/Straight Alliance at her conservative Utah high school. Silver Screen, narrated by Dan "Bulldog" Butler of TV's Frasier, sifts through the Hollywood tea leaves of the '30s through the '60s in search of "gay meaning" in the movies. Cowboy is a portrait of gay caballero Gene Mikulenka, the queer rodeo champ (Night & Day, May 21); it plays with Daniel Baer's short Horse Dreams in BBQ Country, about the longtime romance between a couple of would-be Marlboro Men from South Texas. Latin Boys is the weak link in this fine chain of fare; see the capsule review on page 50. Out of the Past: 7:30 tonight, 1 p.m. Saturday. Silver Screen: 8:45 tonight, 2:15 p.m. Saturday. Cowboy /BBQ Country: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday (Cowboy director Henry and star Mikulenka are scheduled to attend both screenings; Q&As follow each). Latin Boys: 8:45 p.m. Saturday, 6:15 p.m. Sunday. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet. Info: 639-7515, 914-5037. $5; $6 for double features; $4 for matinees. (The HGLFF continues through June 14.)
Suzanna Guzman stars as Bizet's saucy Gypsy in the Houston Grand Opera's "modern dress" production of Carmen on the Multimedia Modular Stage. The MMS is a portable, $1.3 million concoction that the HGO hopes will revolutionize -- and popularize -- classical opera by placing it in a high-tech, rock-concert context (Night & Day, May 28). 8:30 tonight and Saturday. The Miller Outdoor Theatre, 100 Concert Drive in Hermann Park, 284-8350. Free.
Reggae godhead and secular spiritual leader Bob Marley once outdrew the Pope in Italy. The late musician's saluted annually with the one-love traveling show called the Bob Marley Festival, which traditionally begins in Houston and crisscrosses the U.S. during late spring and summer. This year's fest, themed "Jammin'," played at Buffalo Bayou Park in early March, and it hits the beach in Galveston this weekend. Expect the usual mix of ganja ideology (watered down for family audiences), poetry readings, drum circles and concerts by the likes of Michael Black, the Gypsi Fari Band, Natural Mystic, and Early Brooks Jr. and Jah Possie. Noon to 9 p.m. today and Sunday. Menard Park, 27th Street and Seawall. Info: 688-3773, (409) 762-5498. $3 to $5 requested donation (or the equivalent in books or nonperishable canned goods; proceeds: Galveston's P.U.B.L.I.C. Inc.).
"The Vagina Monologue: A Celebration of Eve Ensler" versus "A Complete Idiot's Guide to the British Royalty" -- this one's a ladies' choice for those distaffers who slip through George Strait's net. "The Vagina Monologue" is sponsored by the feminists of the Women's Group; in a press release, they say they'll "speak the unspeakable about our power bundles" as part of the group chat in honor of playwright/screenwriter Ensler -- whose off-Broadway hit The Vagina Monologues won a 1997 Obie and whose latest, Necessary Targets, played on Broadway with a cast including Meryl Streep and Anjelica Huston. (Ensler will not be present at the WG wingding.) In "Idiot's Guide," Britain-born, Houston-based humorist and former journalist Cathy Hollowell relates everything you never wanted to know -- and more! -- about England's Royals (except, we presume, Princess Di's power bundle). "Vagina": 10:45 a.m. The Sojourner Truth Room at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 5200 Fannin. Info: 529-8571. "Idiot's Guide": 4 p.m. The Parish Life Building at the Church of the Ascension, 2525 Seagler, 781-1330. Free.
Virginia's Sharyn McCrumb pens thrillers with an Appalachian twang. She reads from and signs her new one, The Ballad of Frankie Silver, at 6 p.m. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet, 524-8597.
The late father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, would have disavowed the Bad Livers -- or would he have? Actually, the Austin-born threesome occasionally strikes a note that sounds as if it were shot right out of the Monroe canon, but, more often, Danny Barnes, Mark Rubin and "Fast Bob" Grant come across like the Holy Modal Rounders with, well, three Rounders instead of two. The Livers also inherited the Rounders' gift for inspired headings. Our favorite album by the '60s duo was Moray Eels Eat the Holy Modal Rounders. The Livers' best disc is Horses in the Mines, which includes the songs "Shot at a Bird, Hit Me a Stump," "Clawhammer Fish" and "Puke Grub." Supporting their new album, Industry and Thrift, the Livers perform at 8:30 p.m. McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 528-5999. $8.
Choreographer/playwright/performance artist/hoofer Mark Dendy endows his inspired creations with camp and sass. In What Becomes a Legend Most?, Dendy and partner Lawrence Keigwin stick it (lovingly) to modern-dance maven Martha Graham -- that vain queen of furrowed-brow sincerity -- and the brilliant Russian lunatic Vaslav Nijinsky. Legend, which opens the Houston Fringe Theater Festival, includes Dendy's takes on Nijinsky's "Afternoon of a Faun" and Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring." Dendy portrays Graham; Keigwin handles the lion's share of the Nijinsky role, but Dendy also dons the guise for a dueling-Nijinsky segment. The run opens at 8 tonight and continues through June 13. DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway. Info: 228-0914, 868-7516. $12 to $15; $10 for students and seniors.
Fans of The Phantom of the Opera and the Galveston Island Outdoor Musicals face a tough decision tonight, as the Andrew Lloyd Webber piece and the annual Galveston series square off with head-to-head debuts. Lloyd Webber's ham-handed melodics reached their nadir with the screechy, inexplicably exalted Phantom, and drove us from the hall long before the chandelier dropped. The popularity of the Outdoor Musicals is slightly more comprehensible, if only because of the pleasant breezes wafting off the nearby Gulf. But Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella? Heck, the series opener looks cutting-edge compared to the rest of the season's lineup, which includes those rode-hard-and-put-up-wet warhorses Hello, Dolly! and Anything Goes. Phantom opens at 8 p.m. and continues through July 12. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-3974. $16 to $66 (629-3700). Cinderella bows at the same time and runs through June 27. The Mary Moody Northen Amphitheatre, FM 3005 and 13-Mile Road. Info: (800) 54-SHOWS. $20 to $30.