Joe Kirkendall
Joe Kirkendall
Photo by Dalton DeHart

The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Christmas...With Monkeys!

On Friday, standout musical theater stars Joe Kirkendall, Jennifer Gilbert, Joel Sandel, John Gremillion and Tamara Siler tackle The Great American Christmas Songbook in the Bayou City Concert Musicals holiday program Christmas on Broadway. Sharon Williams, president of Bayou City Concert Musicals, tells us that while the show is called Christmas on Broadway, that's just one genre on the program. "We're taking a rather broad definition of 'Broadway,'" she says. "We're including music from Broadway shows, film scores and the standards." And, yes, a few Christmas carols. "We're doing 'Little Drummer Boy' and 'Peace on Earth,' so there will be a little bit of traditional music, but most of the program is made up of pop and show tunes."

Under the direction of BCCM Musical Director Michael Mertz, the group sings "A Winter Wonderland," "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" and "The Christmas Song." "We're jazzing 'em up a little. Jennifer Gilbert is going to sing "Hard Candy Christmas" from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. We're keeping it fun." Fun, Williams is quick to point out, doesn't mean unsophisticated. Group numbers include "Believe," "Countdown to Christmas" from the Broadway show A Christmas Story, and "Jing-a-ling-a-ling," which is an Andrews Sisters song. "Those group numbers can get really complicated. [The singers] have to make it seem so easy, but there's a lot of difficulty in [the arrangements]. There's lots going on."

8 p.m. Ovations, 2536 Times Boulevard. For information, visit bayoucityconcertmusicals.org. $25 to $35.

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The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Christmas...With Monkeys!
Photo by Lynn Lane

On Saturday, see a high-flying Christmas show at A Gift: The VauLt Holiday Show. Aerial artist Amy Ell, a respected member of the Houston arts scene since 1989 and founder of VauLt Houston, contributes the opening number, Miracle. Loosely based on the film Miracle on 34th Street, this Miracle also gives a nod to film/swim star Esther Williams, "with 1940s bathing suits, swim caps and all," Ell tells us. She has plans to develop it over the next three or four years into a full-length "something-new-for-Houston" holiday show.

There are lots of holiday shows in Houston, Ell agrees, but none is quite like VauLt's. "We use space in an unconventional and exciting way," she says. "Who else regularly uses the air space while presenting a performing art? We do lots of work in the air."

The VauLt Holiday Show includes a total of eight newly created works, most with holiday music. Along with Ell, almost a dozen choreographers have contributed to the show. There's Emma Foster and Erin Garrett (mixed apparatus); Christian Scott (fabric); Adam Skidmore (lyra); and Melanie Bell (trapeze). Performers, among them several recognizable names in the Houston arts scene, include Toni Valle, Abby Flowers and Fernando Garcia.

7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring Street. For information, call 713-880-8161 or visit vaulthouston.com. $20.

The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Christmas...With Monkeys!
Courtesy of Cantare Houston

Enjoy your holiday surrounded by masterpieces at the Cantare Houston's Mother and Child: Songs of Love and Joy. The three-night run by Cantare, including a Saturday performance, is once again set in the grand galleries of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Michael Rowell, a member of the group's board of directors and a tenor, says the setting has proven ideal for previous Cantare performances. "It's very intimate and beautiful; all around you are these masterpieces. And you're standing there, right in front of the people you want to connect with. And they're sitting there, right in front of the people they want to connect with. Everything comes together wonderfully. We've performed in the museum before and because of the setting, it's becoming one of our favorite [concert halls]."

Auditioning conductor Amy Solberg put the program together, focusing on the mother-and-child theme. "It's especially poignant during the holidays," says Rowell. "The theme of mother and child was what resonated with her most and it seemed perfect for our program." The program includes Four Motets by Duruflé and Magnificat by Clausen. Works by Rachmaninoff, Willan and others are also on the schedule. As always, the program ends with a group sing-along of "Silent Night."

Rowell has a word of advice to fans planning to attend the concert. "Get your tickets early! It's a small space, and this show is going to sell out," he says happily.

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, visit cantarehouston.org. $40.

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It seems Crystal the Monkey in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb has her own groupies. On Sunday, the new film starring Ben Stiller has a special screening at Alamo Drafthouse - Vintage Park and three Capuchin monkeys will be in attendance. Sasha, Cody and Darwin, friends from Ms. Monkey's Emporium, a gourmet popcorn shop in League City, are set to arrive about an hour before the screening to pose with fans for photos (and cause a little ruckus no doubt). Once the film starts, the trio of tiny primates will join the audience and watch the film. The third installment in the series, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb stars Crystal the Monkey (as a monkey), Ben Stiller (as a museum guard who's discovered the museum's residents come to life every night), the late Robin Williams (as a rough and ready Teddy Roosevelt) and Owen Wilson (as a miniature cowboy with a seriously bad attitude). Alamo Drafthouse officials tell us the Capuchins will have to follow the theater rules, so there'll be no texting or talking during the movie. (We're guessing spontaneous monkey shrieks will be allowed.)

The monkeys arrive at 2:30 p.m. The film starts at 3:30 p.m. Alamo Drafthouse, Vintage Park, 114 Vintage Park. For information, call 713-715-4707 or visit drafthouse.com. $8.

Let the kids work off some of their pent-up energy while they go into the last stretch before Santa arrives with Christmas at the Children's Museum of Houston. There are plenty of holiday activities for everyone from toddlers to tweens with Sunday offering a variety of events.

Santa's been sighted all over Houston, but his reindeer are making only one appearance in Houston at Meet Santa's Reindeer. They'll spend the afternoon at the Children's Museum of Houston and be available for photos along with Santa and his sleigh (bring your own camera), but sorry, the museums says no petting or feeding the reindeer. Petting and feeding Santa, it seems, is up for grabs.

Inside the museum there's Selfies with Santa (kids make an individualized elf hat, then pull it on as they crawl into Santa's lap for the traditional "And what do you want for Christmas?" meet-and-greet). The Grinch Who Stole Christmas makes an appearance at the Grinch's Holiday Workshop (an "interactive experience" with crafts, games, finger puppets and story time all centered on the Grinch and residents of Whoville).

Kids get a look at winter holiday traditions from around the world at the hands-on "Seasons of Sharing" exhibit (a multicultural neighborhood has been set up inside the museum with a different house decorated in one of seven traditions -- Ramadan, Diwali, Hanukkah, Las Posadas, Christmas in Norway, Kwanzaa and the Lunar New Year -- and filled with dipa lamps, menorahs, luminarias, kinaras, Christmas lights, games and toys). All of the museum's regular exhibits are also open.

Noon to 6 p.m. 1500 Binz. For information, call 713-522-1138 or visit cmhouston.org. $9.

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