Playwright Ted Swindley knows a thing or two about good country music. Two summers ago, Stages Repertory Theatre opened Swindley's Always...Pasty Cline, featuring songs by one of Nashville's most beloved stars. The show was such a success, it ran 14 months. Lovers of Swindley's honky-tonk will be happier than pigs in mud to learn that this week, Stages opens his Honky Tonk Angels, an homage to some of country's greatest queens. The show, which Swindley calls a "reviewsical," tells the story of Darlene, Angela and Sue Ellen, who meet on a bus on their way to Nashville. On the road they tell their hangdog tales and sing buckets of great country tunes. Honky Tonk's list of hits sounds like one of those irresistibly tacky compilation CDs sold on late-night TV. "Harper Valley PTA," "Silver Threads and Golden Needles," "Delta Dawn" and "Ode to Billy Joe" are just some of the greatest hits you can expect. Back it all up with a four-piece band, and you've got what should be a cool drink of water to beat this Southern heat. Opens Wednesday, July 13, and runs through September 18. 3201 Allen Parkway. For tickets and showtimes, call 713-527-0123 or visit www.stagestheatre.com. $25. -- Lee Williams
Jazzer John Axson Ellis brings his worldly sound to Ovations
Soon after high school, John Axson Ellis journeyed from his boyhood home in North Carolina all the way to New Orleans, where he studied saxophone under legendary patriarch Ellis Marsalis. Not much later, the kid landed a regular gig in a Singapore nightcub. He eventually traveled the world, soaking up experience and influences wherever he went and garnering a reputation as one of the most versatile of the "young lions" generation of jazz musicians. Ellis's latest CD, One Foot in the Swamp, reflects his eclectic ear, with backing that can shift from traditional jazz to quasi-electronica (courtesy of keyboard man Aaron Goldberg) without distracting from the primacy of the horn. He's in town this Thursday with a dynamic quintet, featuring Jason Marsalis on drums. 8 p.m. Thursday, July 7. Ovations, 2536 Times Boulevard. For tickets and information, call 713-522-9801 or visit www.ovationsnightclub.com. $10. -- Scott Faingold
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Okay, so your dad's an alcoholic, your brother's a loser and your mom is, well, who knows where the hell she even is? Quit your bitching and get industrious. That's what comic Christopher Titus did. When he realized his family had a penchant for dysfunction, he penned the one-man play Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding. Hearing the buzz, Fox offered him a deal, and soon his hilarious, edgy sitcom Titus was born. The show's out on DVD, and Titus is bringing his stand-up about family hell and hot rods on the road. 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 7; and 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 8 and 9. The Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray. For tickets and information, call 713-524-2333 or visit www.laffstop.com. $22 to $29.50. -- Steven Devadanam
Sounds Like a Hobbit
Consider it a dream date for Tolkien freaks. This weekend, fans of Middle-earth can take a symphonic journey at The Lord of the Rings Symphony. The concert of Howard Shore's score features 200 musical performers and original concept and storyboard artwork projected on a giant screen. Hear the Rings at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 8 and 9. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For tickets and information, call 713-224-7575 or visit www.houstonsymphony.org. $21 to $56. -- Steven Devadanam