Peter Pan Take your little boys and girls to see the musical about a boy (often played by a girl) who never wants to grow up. HITS Unicorn Theatre, which has since 1987 brought such productions as Anything Goes, Annie and Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella to the Miller Outdoor Theatre, presents this version of the James M. Barrie story. Erin Simpson stars as Peter and Travis Franklin is the fiendish Captain Hook. The show opens tonight; Saturday, at 11 a.m., tots can learn the ropes of flying and see how the show works from the standpoint of the actors and the technical crew in a special Backstage/Peter Pan presentation. Regular shows 8 p.m. ThursdaySaturday, April 6-8, and April 1315. Miller Outdoor Theatre, Hermann Park. For performance and Backstage/Peter Pan information, call 861-7408. Free.
14th Annual Benihana Celebrity Chef Show-Off It'll be a Who's Who roster of chefs, but not one of them is trained in using those fancy knives like real Japanese chefs. No, these local celebrities are donning aprons to divert attention and dollars to the ESCAPE Family Resource Center for the prevention of child abuse. Polly Bergen -- who co-starred in the original Cape Fear with Gregory Peck and with Johnny Depp in Cry-Baby -- serves as special guest celebrity. Seatings at 6 and 9 p.m. Benihana, 9707 Westheimer, 942-9500. $200 per person (tax deductible).
Hudson Vagabond Puppets Giant puppets from every genre of the animal kingdom will fill the stage tonight. Giant puppets that sing and dance. They start with a musical revue, "Mammoth Follies," featuring dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. Just because these dinosaurs sing and dance, don't expect Barney and Baby Bop to appear; the theme here is evolution and life before man appeared on earth. "Mythically Speaking" follows with puppets taking a humorous romp through Greek mythology. The puppets trace the union of Gaea and Uranus, which produced a race of giants who ruled the world until they were defeated by Zeus and his fellow Olympian gods. Ooh! 7 p.m. Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 363-3300. Tickets available through Ticketmaster, 629-3700. $5, $2.50 for senior citizens.
Secret Honor Robert Altman's dark comedy Secret Honor, the story of Richard Nixon as a tragic Shakespearean character coping with the death of his presidency, is the feature film at the Rice Media Center tonight. It stars Phillip Baker Hall -- and only Phillip Baker Hall. Armond White of Film Comment writes, "The one-man show is the roughest kind of theater film to sit through, full of sweat and spittle." But try to sit through it. Hall's ranting and raving is enhanced by the music of composer George Burt, a professor at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, who'll introduce the show. And to boot, this screening is of a new 35 mm print on loan to the center exclusively by Altman himself. 7:30 p.m. Rice Media Center, Rice University, entrance no. 8 off University Boulevard, 527-4853. $5.
The Art Guys: Think Twice Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing, affectionately known as the Art Guys, have a few people nervous and several more waiting in eager anticipation for the opening of this first comprehensive museum survey of their work. Tonight, in celebration of this opening, the Art Guys will ignite an eight-foot-long match drawing. Yep, they're going to burn it. This would seem to be very accessible art; even Beavis and Butt-head like fire. Opening, 7-9 p.m. Exhibition through June 25. Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose Boulevard, 526-3129. Free.
1995 Houston Home Show Jim Brown, Houston's own "Home Handyman," and Bette Odale, an expert on gardening in the Gulf Coast area, are among the experts who will be on hand to answer such questions as "Why is muddy water backing up in my kitchen sink when I run the washing machine?" and "Why are all the leaves dropping off my gardenia bush?" This show skips the glitz and glamour, and gets to the down and dirty basics of real home repair. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. today and Saturday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Astrohall, use the Kirby entrance. Free; $4 parking.
Jon Secada Grammy Award-winning artist Jon Secada kicks off the concert season at the newly expanded Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Now, 13,000 music lovers can park their fannies on the grassy hill, or in the new uncovered seats, or in the old covered seats, for those so inclined. (It is April. It may rain. There are no rain-outs. Just a reminder.) No full moon tonight, though Secada will help to kindle passions with songs from last year's Heart, Soul & a Voice, as well as tunes from his 1992 eponymous debut, which sold more than six million copies worldwide. 8 p.m. Cynthia Mitchell Woods Pavilion, 363-3300. Tickets available through Ticketmaster, 629-3700. $10-$40.
Drummers of Burundi If you've been swinging your push broom vertically and kicking hubcaps for the sheer pleasure of the sound since Stomp passed through last year, the Drummers of Burundi may be for you. They're more traditional than the rhythmic rompers of Stomp. In fact, this 14-man group is steeped in tradition; the ancient rhythms they perform are designed to promote agriculture, linking the drums symbolically to ideas of fertility in Burundi. The Drummers of Burundi first garnered international recognition when they participated in the World of Music, Art and Dance festival organized by Peter Gabriel in 1983. See them at 8 p.m. tonight. The Houston-based musical group Sechaba and Mor Thiam with his "Drums of Fire" open. Cullen Theater, Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 227-ARTS. $18, $22 and $26.
Buffalo Bayou Regatta The regatta is actually three events, starting with the 25th running of Texas' largest long-distance canoe and kayak race. Participants brave the waters of Buffalo Bayou starting in west Houston at San Felipe and Voss, then paddle their little hearts out while negotiating 14.5 miles to the Sabine Bridge overpass near downtown. Later, the more creative but equally competitive crowd plop their seaworthy (they hope) crafts in the water. Promoters say the "race" starts at the Sabine Street Bridge and ends about ten feet from there, "depending on the buoyancy of the floats." While aesthetics does count heavily in the judging and not all will succeed to the finish, vessels must float for at least 400 feet to qualify. (Here's a tip: no parking is available at Overlook Park, the starting site. Skippers should think light.) Chairman Scott Ballard has created a giant rebar mosquito. You'll be able to recognize Scott because he will actually be riding his mosquito; this time of year we usually have no choice but to let them ride us. The regatta begins at 9 a.m.; the Anything That Floats contest starts at noon. A post-race party kicks off thereafter. Overlook Park, Sabine Street Bridge, 654-8900. Free admission; $20-$25 entry fee.
Westheimer Art Festival A few years back, this festival was actually located on Westheimer. But the street fest that grew up with it became more and more prominent, so to keep things focused on art, the people behind this gathering decided to move closer to downtown. Now some folks forget which soiree is which. A hint: the art festival's not the one with music blaring from a variety of stages and people wandering around bleary eyed from drink. The people here are wandering around bleary eyed from staring at Significant Statements. For a mere quarter, you can make your own significant statement by painting an earth-friendly banner for the fence surrounding the festival site. For more than a quarter you can buy yourself some real art created by any of numerous local artists and others from across the nation. Whatever your interest, you won't be able to miss the twin, 15-foot high Lone Star step ladders crafted by Houston artist John Runnels. These stars are the festival's signature pieces and will be mounted at either entrance -- one atop two refrigerators. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today and Sunday. 1800 Main at Calhoun, 521-0133. $3, free for children under 12.
Handel's Messiah -- The Easter Portion Ever so slowly, the Grand Parkway is coming. These things do take time, but it's not too early to prepare. The congregations of First, Grace and Memorial Drive Presbyterian churches are doing just that. They've made a commitment to develop a "21st Century Church" to serve the expanding suburban corridor to the west. Of course, it takes money to build a church, and the choirs of the three churches have planned a benefit concert to coincide with this Palm Sunday weekend. Performing the latter half of Handel's Messiah, the program will include "The Trumpet Shall Sound" and "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth." Guest conductor Douglas McEwen will lead a full orchestra and professional soloists. 4 p.m. today; 8 p.m. Monday. Grace Presbyterian Church, 10221 Ella Lee, 267-5031. $10 general admission, $50 patron.
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Shirley Valentine She once played Hot Lips on TV. This is a different role. Loretta Swit stars in the one-woman play about a 42-year-old working-class British housewife who gets a new lease on life propelled by airline tickets to Greece. Sans husband, she makes the trip and learns much about herself during the adventure. 3:30 p.m. The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice Street, Galveston, (409) 765-1894. $12, $19 and $25.
DiverseWorks 1995 Gala Blue Monday is the theme, and no sad start to the week is this; here the name says it all, literally. Patrons to this event, benefiting the DiverseWorks Artspace, will drink blue margaritas and tap their blue suede shoes to the music of the Blue Man Group. Of course, said patrons may not want to sit too close to the performers. On-stage in New York, Blue Man made an abstract painting "by pouring paint onto drums, drumming the hell out of it and catching the cascading spatters on canvas," according to the New York Times. They are also said to do things with marshmallows and Captain Crunch cereal. Gala-goers won't have to eat such things; their food will be provided by Jackson Hicks, Ernest Stovall and folks at the School of Culinary Arts. We hope that not all of the food, if any, is blue. We agree with George Carlin's thoughts on blue food, even if it is prepared by Jackson Hicks. Patrons, however, are asked to wear blue. 6:30-11 p.m. Houston Lighting & Power Company's former Energy Control Center Building, 1308 Crawford, 223-8346. Reservations required. $250-$500.
Easter Celebration The A.D. Players present something old and something new in celebration of the Easter holiday. Virgule follows an early morning TV news team as they sift through the past day's events and two anchormen who must confront a final piece of the puzzle that adds new meaning to their story. Virgule is an A.D. Players touring favorite. The other half of the presentation, Road Side Service, is the premiere performance of Jeannette Clift George's story of Ferris Beach. He hitches a ride with some friendly singers bound for a church booking. There's a little car trouble and inclement weather -- things one might expect on a road trip -- and stranger things yet. Both performances combine ordinary events with heavenly circumstances. 8 p.m. Through April 15. A.D. Players Grace Theater, 2710 West Alabama, 526-2721. $7.
Cats People have spent more to see this musical than they have E.T. and Jurassic Park combined. Of course, it takes a lot of catnip to keep the cast purring. And worldwide, more than 40 companies have performed Cats. At seven years, this Cats IV Tour holds the record of being the longest, continually touring musical in theatrical history. In all this time, only two tour babies have been born. Perhaps these performers work too hard; perhaps their efforts are not in vain. Judge for yourself. Andrew Lloyd Webber's megahit saunters to town this week with its tail held high. 8 p.m. Through April 16, with matinees April 15-16. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 629-3700. $32 and $38.