Gravel-throated Dale Watson is a hard-core honky-tonker of the first order, and it's not too much of a stretch to mention him in the same breath as Johnny Cash, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard -- potentially, at least. The Alabama-born, Texas-reared musician paid homage to Haggard ("Help me, Merle / I'm breaking out in a Nashville rash") on his excellent HighTone debut, Cheatin' Heart Attack, which was packed to the rafters with purist-pleasing grooves like "South of Round Rock, Texas" and "Holes in the Wall." Dale and his Lone Stars are on the road in support of their on-the-road-themed Good Luck 'n' Good Truckin', currently available stateside via mail order only (info: www.dalewatson.realcountry. net). They play at 8:30 tonight at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 528-5999. $8. (P.S. If you can't make the Duck show, check out Watson and crew at that fahn honky-tonk named Blanco's on August 14.)
The Houston Shakespeare Festival, the University of Houston School of Theatre's annual outdoor freebie, is one of those seasonal attractions that's worth braving the humidity for. This year's Bard-on-the-knoll fest features in-repertory productions of the romantic comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona and the timeless tragedy King Lear. Verona opens the HSF at 8:30 tonight; Lear plays at the same time Saturday and Wednesday. The fest continues through August 15. The Miller Outdoor Theatre, 100 Concert Drive in Hermann Park, 284-8350. More info: 520-3290.
Also worth the risk of a heat rash: the eighth annual Houston International Jazz Festival, which opens with tonight's Poolside Jam featuring Norman Brown, Benita Hill and Bubbha Thomas and the Jam Session. Chuck Mangione, Bobby Lyle and the L.A. All-Stars, and Boney James top the marquee at Saturday's Outdoor Festival; Paul Jackson Jr. headlines the Mayor's Jazz Brunch on Sunday. Poolside Jam: 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Omni Houston Hotel, Four Riverway ($25). Outdoor Festival: noon to 11 p.m. at Sam Houston Park, 1100 Bagby ($10). Jazz Brunch: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel at Allen Center, 400 Dallas ($50). Info: 227-8706.
The mythical folk hero of Chuck Berry's 1958 rock standard becomes flesh and blood in the world premiere of Houston playwright Thomas Meloncon's Johnny B. Goode. Meloncon (Diary of Black Men, Whatever Happened to Black Love?) relocated the story to Texas, applying an unusual twist on the age-old conflict between fathers and sons: Johnny's dad plays the rural blues, and wants his offspring to follow in his footsteps; young Johnny wants to make his name and fortune playing the newfangled rhythm and blues. Tonight's performance starts at 8 (for the rest of this week's showtimes, see page 51). The run continues through August 16. The Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main, 520-0055.
"Putt-Modernism: An Eighteen-Hole Miniature Golf Course and Exhibition" is a semi-successful merging of modern art and minigolf. Though the touring exhibit is patchy in places, its unkempt appearance is also testimony to the show's popularity. And there's the ultimate point: what fun to tromp around on off-the-wall artwork by cheese-doodle whiz Sandy Skoglund, Mel Chin, Cindy Sherman and Nina Yankowitz. Best-of-show trophies go to Skoglund's cagey and delightful "Sketching with Cheese Doodles," Yankowitz's whimsical "A Landscape and Metallic Topiary," Elizabeth Murray's deceptively simple "Untitled," Pat Oleszko and Ward Shelly's titillating "Censorama" and Chris Clarke's Republican-baiting "Blood on Your Hands." "Putt-Mod" continues through August 9; hours are 1 to 5 p.m. weekends, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston entrance 16 (off Cullen Boulevard), 743-9528. Viewing is free, but there's a "putter" fee of $5, $3 for kids.
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John Fogerty comes and goes, but he's never really left. His music is a virtual Top 10 time capsule for the years 1969 through 1971. Who could fail to respond to the instant karma of Creedence Clearwater Revival classics like "Bad Moon Rising" and "Run Through the Jungle" -- 2.5-minute slabs of Americana hot wax that have transcended their time and remained relevant in ours? Fogerty fell off the map for the duration of the '70s and the first half of the '80s, returning in '84 with the smash album Centerfield, whose good-vibes title track has provided the background for every baseball-highlights reel between that day and this. J.C. faded out again until last year, when he returned with a vengeance and the disc Blue Moon Swamp, which bagged the Best Rock Album Grammy (unbelievably enough, it was Fogerty's first). His latest release, the critically acclaimed Premonition, was recorded live-on-soundstage, and includes Fogerty's first solo recordings of CCR tunes. The self-proclaimed "Artist Formerly Known as Creedence Clearwater Revival" is scheduled at 7:30 tonight. The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, (281) 363-3300. $15 to $50 (Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
The Great White Way has begun to reclaim its nickname in recent years. After years of churning out sorry, moth-eaten shows for the benefit of the tourist trade, Broadway's been on an artistic roll this decade; think Angels in America, Rent, Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk, Kiss of the Spider Woman, those excellent revivals of Show Boat and Carousel. Another member of Broadway's new generation -- and another revival -- is the red-hot remake of John Kander and Fred Ebb's Chicago (Kander and Ebb also wrote Spider Woman). Chicago choreographer Ann Reinking won a '97 Tony for her work, drawing on Bob Fosse's original staging and his "unique and sexy dance vocabulary" for the updated version of the Roaring Twenties vehicle. Alan Thicke stars as fast-talking (and -singing) attorney Billy Flynn; Belle Calaway plays his charge, murderess-turned-vaudevillian Roxie Hart. The score includes "All That Jazz," "Mr. Cellophane" and "Razzle Dazzle." Opening performances are at 8 tonight and Wednesday; the production continues through August 16. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-3974. $43.50 to $49.50 (Ticketmaster: 629-3700).
L.A.'s Marcy Lafferty paints the title character of Vivien Leigh: The Last Press Conference as a real-life Scarlett O'Hara -- scheming, manipulative and catty -- in her one-woman portrait of the immortal actress, whom Lafferty considers "blessed by the gods yet at war with the devil." The Last Press Conference is an offshoot of Lafferty's Oscar-nominated short film Vivien: The Movie, the Marriage, the Madness; the play's Southwestern premiere opens with a performance at 8 tonight and continues through August 9. Theater LaB Houston, 1706 Alamo, 868-7516. $18 to $20.
Dallas's Nic Nicosia leads a Power Lunch tour of the new works in the video-art installation "Projected Allegories"; Nicosia's own Middletown -- sort of an abbreviated Blue Velvet with a twang -- is included in this round of projections along with Hysteria by Britain's Sam Taylor-Wood. The tour steps off at noon; a discussion follows. The works by Nicosia and Taylor-Wood remain on view through August 23; "Allegories" continues through September 13. The Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose, 284-8250. Free.