Press Picks

december 15
Rockets Those dastardly Los Angeles Lakers are back in town tonight, and if you're of a mind to recall the bleak days of the last decade when Showtime was riding high (and roughshod) over everything in the West, you might want to pay a visit to the Summit just to gloat. Or maybe just to see one of the better rivalries in basketball. Even at the height of Laker dominance, the Rockets never really rolled over and played dead (the home team did beat L.A. in 1981 and 1986 with Hakeem, Moses, Lewis Lloyd, Robert Reid and Ralph Sampson leading the way), and now that the Rockets are the NBA elite, L.A. isn't content to simply admit defeat and then retire to the dressing room to look through its scrapbook. If you recall, two Sunday's ago on the left coast these selfsame Lakers, even without greats Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Byron Scott, Jamaal Wilkes, A.C. Green and James (married-man-who-doesn't-want-just-one-but-two-naked-vixen-undercover-cops) Worthy, beat the hell out of the world champs.

But hey, Hakeem's hand was hurting, so we excuse the Rockets for a subpar showing. Tonight -- we hope -- we'll see a truer example of how things have changed in professional basketball as the Dream and his team reintroduce Los Angeles to the 1990s. And should you miss this particular blast from the NBA past, you'll have a second chance come Saturday, when the Boston Celtics, who in the '80s dumped on the Rockets after they squeaked by L.A. into the championships, arrive in Houston. These Bird-less Celtics have proven pretty hapless, even if they do have Dominique Wilkins, but don't expect the Rockets to show them much sympathy. 7:30 p.m. The Summit, 10 Greenway Plaza, 961-9003, or call your local ticket broker.

The Attitude Club New and improved with never-before-seen characters! Marianne Pendino premiered her one-woman show last year. The first run of The Attitude Club was extended, and extended, and extended again. Now Pendino returns with her homegrown show about self-help. "The piece is much more of a play now," Pendino says of the refurbished musical evening. "It is more focused on my character's spiritual journey to change a very bad attitude." No less a funny personage than Lily Tomlin was a fan of The Attitude Club's first incarnation, and now it's even funnier. Pendino is a bit nastier and has added a new character, one Hazel Dun, a guru with her own infomercial. Stuart Smalley, watch out! Opening tonight at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows at 8 p.m.; Thursday shows at 7:30 p.m. Through January 7. Main Street Theater, 2540 Times Boulevard, 524-6706. $12 Thursdays; $15 Friday and Saturday.

december 16
The Kingdom of Zydeco Less than a month ago, the Greenway theater presented High Lonesome, a loving, thoughtful bluegrass music documentary. Now, they continue celebrating the music of our people with The Kingdom of Zydeco. The climax of the film is the crowning of a new zydeco king, a big-bang ending that provides the suspense in this documentary. Most people who've been in this corner of the state for any time know that zydeco's quirky, joyful blend of R&B and Cajun music boasts Afro-Caribbean rhythms -- certain bands in the West Indies are indistinguishable from stateside performers who play Fred's Lounge in Mamou.

However, even those who have mastered the high-speed, bouncy two-step required to dance to zydeco may not be aware of the music's less obvious aspects. The influence of stodgy German (and Italian) accordion playing cannot be dismissed. And we should keep in mind that this part of Texas is part of the Cajun prairie and that roughneck money and mobility fueled the growth of zydeco. Ah, but there can be some tension even against a backdrop of happy, happy music with an irresistibly jumpy beat. Who will be king? The documentary shows the contest between pup Beau Jocque and old veteran Boozoo Chavis. Jocque is young and strong, but Boozoo, well, Boozoo is Boozoo. All the current players cite as influences Boozoo and former king Clifton Chenier. Chenier is gone now, leaving Boozoo as the oldest player around. Will the venerable Boozoo be respectfully honored with the crown? Or will a bunch of hot shots ignore tradition and make newcomer Beau Jocque the king? See an early show to find out, and then go dancing at the Zydeco Ballroom. The Kingdom of Zydeco plays nightly through December 22. Landmark's Greenway, 5 Greenway Plaza, 626-0402. Feature ticket price $6.50.

december 17
Cowboy Claus Most of the year, the George Ranch Historical Park provides a time-travel trip to the early days of Texas. For the holidays, however, the 474-acre park gets with the season. Cowboy Claus, whose black boots have pointy toes, will ask children what they want for Christmas, and check on their naughty and niceness, all weekend. Children will also be able to watch cowpoke crafters make cornhusk dolls and other toys and even string a little popcorn or make decorations at the blacksmith shop. Tonight only, there will be a candlelight celebration, wagon rides and a feast and entertainment around a campfire. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Campfire Christmas Evening 6-9 p.m. Located 30 minutes from the Galleria. Take U.S. 59 south to Crabb River Road, go south and follow the signs. 545-9212. $5, $3 children under 12; Campfire Christmas Evening $20, $15 children under 12.  

Someone to Watch Over Wichita writer Trish MacDonald Skillman will be signing her initial foray into the suspense market. Skillman cites Mary Higgins Clark as an influence and has, for her first mystery, got a fine, traditional title. Her topic, however, is thoroughly modern. (And very current in the wake of tabloid attempts to make O.J. Simpson the stalker poster boy.) Initially, the heroine of Someone to Watch Over, Kate Eldridge, is only a bit uneasy about accepting unsigned cards containing cash gifts. Suspense builds as Eldridge notices that everyone who annoys her has an accident. Someone is watching over Eldridge, someone who gives a whole new, very creepy meaning to the phrase "means well." Skillman's novel about a stalker is an enlightening, albeit nerve wracking, introduction to the nature of the crime. The paperback is $4.99. 1-2:30 p.m. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet, 524-8597.

Revels Houston A Russian and American Celebration A fiercely orthodox celebration in true Slavic style with the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble. The Paragon Brass Ensemble and hardworking, well-rehearsed students from Lamar High and Fondren Elementary are also in the cast, but the most interesting segment of the show is the celebration of 2,000-year-old folk traditions presented by the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble. Pokrovsky is a music historian who spent a couple of decades tracking down traditional material in Russia (and Soviet Russia, in case you didn't know, was not the easiest place for historical scholarship). Pokrovsky and his troupe wear Russian villager costumes and perform wild village dances and rituals. The stuffy Boston Globe was more than enthusiastic about the ensemble: "The Soviets danced their American audience right out of their seats .... These performers are the real thing. They travel to the farthest reaches of the Soviet Union and learn the old songs and dances .... 'Performance' isn't quite the right word -- these people are sharing a kind of living with us; they create whole ancient worlds." Talk about world beat music. Revels Houston will present five performances. Today 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1 and 5 p.m.; and Monday, 7:30 p.m. Rice University, Stude Concert Hall, entrance no. 8 off University Boulevard, 527-4854. Call 668-3303 tickets, or buy them at the door staring one hour before each performance. $18, $15 seniors, $9 children under 12.

december 18
MCCR's Christmas Celebration The Metropolitan Community Church of the Resurrection is planning to make this celebration as traditional as possible. The evening begins with a Pasada at 6 p.m. In this Mexican custom, two church members acting as Joseph and Mary go through the neighborhood seeking shelter. The manger shortage being what is in modern times, Joseph and Mary end up at the church. After the holy couple's safe arrival, there will be a concert in the sanctuary. HeavenSound, the MCCR hand bell choir, which is just back from a very successful engagement at the Old Town Spring Holiday Festival, will perform. Following the concert, everyone, especially fidgety children, adjourn to the parking lot for a birthday party for Jesus. The Metropolitan Community Church of the Resurrection, 1919 Decatur, 861-9149. Free. Call for directions or more information.

december 19
A little holiday music Choruses, three for the price of one this afternoon at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which is decorated for the holidays (although we don't think they've gone so far as to put reindeer harnesses on the dinosaurs). In the acoustically interesting stone-walled, several-stories-tall paleontology hall, the Salvation Army Harbor Lights Choir, the Houston Masterworks Chorale and the Joyful Sounds Chorus will sing seasonal favorites. The program selections may not be all that different than those at any other holiday musical, but the setting is certainly novel. See these staid traditional choirs make a joyful noise unto the coelophysis, diplodocus hayii and the triceratops. 4-7:45 p.m. Paleontology Hall, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Hermann Park, 639-4600. $2; $1.50 kids. Concert included with regular museum admission.

december 20
The Farce Nsel WHAT Comedy Theatre, in addition to paying homage to/ripping off Abbott and Costello, have got down with this "to be jolly" seasonal edict. What their revue has, they say, is "sketches, twisted Christmas carols, improvisations and well-known holiday characters," all of which adds up to an evening of "highly entertaining diversion that's fun to see with loved ones or with those people you're obligated to spend time with but would rather not have to talk to." WHAT Comedy Theatre is Becky Byars, Dee Macaluso, John Swasey and Mike Vance. Macaluso was the star of Theatre LaB's extremely successful, as in international festival award winning, production of The Kathy and Mo Show. Vance is the author of Oilers Anonymous: a 12-step program for Oilers Fanatics. The Farce Nsel 8:30 p.m. tonight and next Tuesday. Ovations, 2536-B Times Boulevard, 522-9801. "Tickets are $10, but it is the holiday season, so you're welcome to give till it hurts."  

Jelly's Last Jam This musical is perfect, in a way, for Christmas. For those who must have a ghost, and cannot stomach another haint of Christmas Past, Jelly's Last Jam has the Chimney Man. The Tony Award-winning story of Jelly Roll "I invented Jazz!" Morton, Jelly's Last Jam has tap-dance numbers, elaborately staged and slinky blues numbers and a tour-guide spirit. The play opens with Jelly on his death bed, where he's joined by the ectoplasmic Chimney Man, who, as spectral visitors will, leads his victim on a journey through the past. Jelly's Last Jam opens tonight 8 p.m. Through Christmas. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, 227-ARTS. $36-$42.

december 21
A Christmas Memory Bettye Fitzpatrick and Charles Sanders star in Truman Capote's holiday classic. More subdued, more eccentric and, by many lights, more touching than Christmas on Walton's Mountain. A Christmas Memory is the Southern Gothic story of a young boy and his aunt and how they handle the holidays. A fine lunchtime treat, and sack lunches are encouraged. Have yourself a merry little afternoon break. Through December 24. Thursday, December 15, 1:30 p.m.; Friday, December 16, 12:15 and 1:30 p.m.; Saturday, December 17, 11 a.m.; Monday, December 19-Friday, December 23, 12:15 and 1:30 p.m.; and Saturday, December 24, 11 a.m. Christ Church Cathedral, Latham Auditorium, 1117 Texas (at San Jacinto). For tickets, call 227-2807. $7.

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