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21 Best Things to Do in Houston This Week: Babs, Ol' Blue Eyes & Broadway's N'Kenge

Through the miracle of stage magic, Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra share the limelight this Friday at the Stafford Centre.
Through the miracle of stage magic, Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra share the limelight this Friday at the Stafford Centre.
Photo courtesy of Diamond Horseshoe Productions
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Tuesday, February 14

With more than 11 CDs under their belt, Cuarteto Casals just might be the first Spanish string quartet with a truly international profile. The ensemble is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and Vera Martinez (violin) and Jonathan Brown (viola) join founding members and brothers Arnau Tomàs (cello) and Abel Tomàs (violin) for a special V-Day concert. It’s their second time in Houston with presenter Chamber Music Houston, and they’ll be lending Latin heat to Mozart’s “The Hunt” Haydn quartet, Bartók’s stirring, romantic quartet and Boccherini’s sultry “Fandango.” This passionate evening of music includes solo guitar selections of Granados’s Spanish Dances by Grammy-nominated Cuban guitarist Manuel Barrueco. 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. February 14. Rice University, Stude Concert Hall, 6100 Main. For information, call 713-348-5400 or visit chambermusichouston.org. $20 to $80. — Susie Tommaney

From the rubble of Stonehenge arose the dark lore of an ancient beast, a mesmerizing and captivating creature that demonstrated both femininity and strength. Now this ancient 4,000-year-old European legend has been transformed for modern audiences into an immersive, neo-burlesque performance piece titled BEAST. It debuted last weekend at the 100-year-old Prohibition Theatre, that downtown bastion of opulence and atmosphere, courtesy of the precision dancers, singers, musicians, comedians and high-flying aerialists of The Moonlight Dolls and Terrible Enfants Theatre Company. With French fashion, electrifying music and craft cocktails, this decadent evening of fantasy is not for the faint-of-heart. 7 and 9:30 p.m. February 14. Continuing 7 and 9:30 p.m. February 17 and 24. For information, visit prohibitiontheatre.com. $32 to $75, plus $65 for prix-fixe meal. — Susie Tommaney

Wednesday, February 15

Four busboys balance their work lives around each other in the backroom of a fancy Upper East Side restaurant in Manhattan. Plans and dreams are interchanged in general accord but new management has arrived, taking away their shift pay and making their low-wage jobs even tougher. Playwright Elizabeth Irwin has put together a one-act, 90-minute play in My Mañana Comes that looks at the people who are faceless to most of us. Leslie Swackhamer directs and says the main characters are three Hispanics — two of them undocumented — and one African-American, a combination that could naturally occur just as well in any of Houston’s restaurants. Things get even tougher as the affluent diners head for their weekend homes in the Hamptons, further decreasing the busboys’ hours, and relationships deteriorate. “They start to fight each other, which is not productive, but they don’t have any power to fight the system,” Swackhamer says. “It gets morally difficult very quickly.” 7:30 p.m. February 15. Continuing 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays. February 15 through March 5. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit stagestheatre.com. $21 to $65. — Margaret Downing

As the battle of the sexes rages on, one anthropologist offers hope for the fairer sex and predicts an era where male dominance will subside and give way to equality. The next HMNS Distinguished Lecture Series: Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy delves into the similarities and differences between male and female brains and behaviors. Guest lecturer is Melvin Konner, Ph.D., M.D., author of the bestseller, The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit and the just-released Women After All. Dr. Konner spent two years among the !Kung San Bushmen and is now at Emory University (departments of Anthropology, Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology); this program is cosponsored by the Center for the Study of Natural Systems and the Family. 6:30 p.m. February 15. 5555 Hermann Park. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit hmns.org. $12 to $18. — Susie Tommaney

It's easy to stand idly by and grumble about the economy but, when it comes time for constructive suggestions, the silence can be deafening. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, for its next Kinder Institute Forum Lecture, is bringing in the budget-balancing former governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley. Not only will he discuss the challenges facing our economy but he'll also offer up some strategies that could even make things better. As for his pedigree: As governor of Maryland (2007-2015), he lowered income tax bills for 86 percent of the state's residents, recovered all of the jobs lost during the national recession, and cut more state spending than any governor in modern Maryland history. 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. February 15. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit mfah.org. Free; reserve your seat at kinder.rice.edu. — Susie Tommaney

Thursday, February 16

World-renowned German violinist Christian Tetzlaff is coast-hopping the States this week, with a recital in New York on Wednesday, Texas on Thursday and California on Friday. Though he has performed solos with the Houston Symphony in the past, this Da Camera-presented program marks the Houston recital debut for Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt. Scheduled are works by Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert, as well as a pair of sonatas by Bartók. “One is a big romantic piece of 38 minutes, outreaching like a symphony in scope and content; the other is only 18 minutes long but is a very different sibling,” says Tetzlaff. “I don’t even start to comprehend about what the direct story is behind it, but I’m mystified. I love to go into this surreal world of strange colors and surreal beauty.” There’s a 7:15 p.m. pre-concert conversation with the musicians. 8 p.m. February 16. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-524-5050 or visit dacamera.com. $37.50 to $67.50. — Susie Tommaney

Ancient concepts like dybbuks, malicious spirits that possess the living; golems, magical creatures made to serve their creator’s will; and evil eyes and the eye amulets that offer protection are interpreted and modernized in a joint exhibit that comes with a stern warning: “Don’t Give Me the Eye!” Painter Anat Ronen channels the work of Arthur Szyk, while photographer Talya Arbisser documents modern-day dybbuks in the form of depression, cigarette smoking, alcohol and drugs. Marilyn Hassid, assistant executive director at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston, says the topic is quite relatable. “We all have our dybbuks today, and many of us feel we need golems and eyes to protect us.” There’s an opening reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. February 23.
10 a.m. to 10 p.m. February 16. Continuing 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Sundays. February 16 through April 17. 5601 South Braeswood. For information, call 713-729-3200 or visit erjcchouston.org. Free. — Natalie de la Garza

Friday, February 17

Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra never shared the limelight but, through stage magic, they will now in Barbra and Frank, The Concert That Never Was. Sharon Owens and Sebastian Anzaldo come through as spot-on impersonators of Babs and Ol’ Blue Eyes — complete with costumes, live singing and a multimedia experience that captures the magic of these legacies. “It’s showcasing the male and female voice of the century. You get a lot of their songs as well as some comedy and dialogue. We poke a lot of fun at each other because we’re dealing with huge egos, but the music is timeless and that’s what the show is about,” Anzaldo says. All the favorites are on the set list: “My Way,” “That’s Life,” “The Way We Were,” “Somewhere” and “Don’t Rain On My Parade.” Don’t miss the end: The pair duet on each other’s music for a spectacular finish. 8 p.m. February 17. Stafford Centre, 10505 Cash, Stafford. For information, call 281-208-6900 or visit staffordcentre.com. $35 to $65. — Sam Byrd

It’s kind of a chicken-or-the-egg thing. Ryan Scott Oliver composed songs inspired by Matthew Murphy’s photographs and, in turn, Murphy created even more images in response to the music and lyrics. 35mm: A Musical Exhibition premiered in 2012 and has since been produced more than 200 times, delivering its collection of stories about betrayal, death, love and LGBT issues through image and song. For its Houston run, Pitch Me This Productions has created a more “full show experience” offering dancing, staging and a through line of a story. “To kind of frame the whole show and put us in the same room, we made a concept that [the characters] form a support group,” says Danny Dyer, who directs, along with Joey Bernsen as music director. “We just blocked “[The Ballad of] Sara Berry” last night, which is one of the last, really big numbers of the show, about a prom-queen candidate who goes on a rampage to clinch the crown,” says Dyer, who adds that the rock music is beautiful and upbeat. Juxtapose Arts Collective and the PMT Band round out this edgy musical. 8 p.m. Fridays and February 23, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays. February 17-25. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit pitchmethis.com. $25. — Susie Tommaney

In a super-rare performance inside one of Houston’s coolest spaces that’s currently hosting a crazy one-of-a-kind exhibition, a large all-female ensemble will attempt to replicate, through improvised sounds, the visuals displayed in “Francis Alys: The Fabiola Project.” Red Currant, a Houston-based experimental music group, will present a suite of vocal and movement-based pieces inspired by the small paintings, woodcarvings, needlepoints and mosaics that stretch from floor to very tall ceiling. “The major themes in the pieces we’ve written are repetition and copying. The ensemble itself somewhat replicates the inclusive nature of the collection of paintings,” says Sandy Ewen, who will lead the ensemble of at least 12 women and a handful of small wind and percussion instruments. “This is in the spirit of Alys’s piece; the beauty is in the collective vision of the artists and the sincerity of their creations.” 7 to 8 p.m. February 17. Byzantine Fresco Chapel, 4011 Yupon. For information, call 713-525-9400 or visit menil.org. Free. — Steve Jansen

Houston is mega-underrated when it comes to designer coffee, says Jason Burton of the Missouri-based The LAB. “Houston is so special, and I’m a sucker for cities that are underestimated.” Burton is the creator of Caffeine Crawl, a jogging-, biking- and driving-based tour of boutique coffee, tea and chocolate establishments. The tour takes place in cities all over the country, and Houston is the only Texas locale for the crawl. “Austin receives a lot of Texas’s hype love, and the people of Houston seemed to want this more than Austin, so we went with Houston and it continues to grow each year,” says Burton. The 4th Annual Coffee Crawl in Houston is already sold out, so be sure to sign up early for future editions. However, at press time tickets were still available for the Super Bowl Throwdown – Latte Art Edition, a charity-geared post-crawl after party. 7:30 to 9 p.m. February 17. A 2nd Cup, 1111 East 11th. For information, call 832-962-7656 or visit caffeinecrawl.com/houston-throwdown.html. $2 to $5. — Steve Jansen

Broadway songstress N’Kenge and three-time Grammy-nominated singer Ryan Shaw join the Houston Symphony February 17-19 for R&B Mixtape. Joining them onstage are Houston natives Chelsea Cymone Warren, Jonquel Donte Holiday and La-Saydra Simmons.EXPAND
Broadway songstress N’Kenge and three-time Grammy-nominated singer Ryan Shaw join the Houston Symphony February 17-19 for R&B Mixtape. Joining them onstage are Houston natives Chelsea Cymone Warren, Jonquel Donte Holiday and La-Saydra Simmons.
Photos courtesy of Houston Symphony

Saturday, February 18

Hamilton’s gain is Houston’s gain. The Houston Symphony, while planning its POPS series, considered presenting a program of Stevie Wonder’s music. But then the soloist they had in mind, Joshua Henry, was cast as Aaron Burr in the Chicago production of Hamilton. No worries — the symphony went ahead and created R&B Mixtape, which features soloists N’Kenge and her opera-trained five-octave range, three-time Grammy Award nominee Ryan Shaw and three Houston-based backup vocalists delivering an invigorating program of soul and rhythm and blues, spanning James Brown and Motown to Stevie Wonder and Prince to Beyoncé and John Legend. “The POPS side of the symphony is a way to really spread our wings into all sorts of genres,” says Steven Reineke, principal POPS conductor designate. “We wanted to show off our R&B chops.” 8 p.m. February 17 and 18; 7:30 p.m. February 19. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $25 to $143. — Steve Jansen

So far she’s managed to dodge the musical genre question. “It’s one of the first things that people say to an artist when they’re starting out: ‘You need to work on your elevator pitch.’ Luckily I’ve managed to get this far in my career without one,” says Zoë Keating, who has nonetheless been described as a one-woman orchestra. Part techno-geek, part cellist, Keating has performed in the desert, in medieval churches and in punk clubs here and abroad, and now she (armed with cello and laptop) is coming to The MATCH. “The technology is interesting, but I try not to have the technology be the thing that the audience experiences,” says Keating about the intricate, haunting music that results from her layered looping. “I want to take us out of time and we can all get lost in it. For some people they like to think, ‘How is she doing that,’ and others just experience it.” 8 p.m. February 18. 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit matchouston.org. $35. — Susie Tommaney

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, under which United States citizens of Japanese descent were interned on American soil, one local dance troupe is presenting a full-length work to help us remember that this particular event ended in a government apology. Life Interrupted fuses dance with projected art and music, coupled with objects that would have been issued to those in the camps: a lightbulb, a bed, suitcases and wooden crates. “Art has this incredible power to create empathy and to begin the conversation so that we can, as human beings and everyday people, begin to feel what it’s like to be the other,” says Sue Schroeder, artistic director of Core Dance. 8 p.m. February 17, with a post-performance conversation with the artists; 8 p.m. February 18, with a pre-performance conversation at 7. Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore. For information, call 713?496-9901 or visit asiasociety.org. $10 to $20. — Susie Tommaney

The Gambrinus krewe’s electoral process seems less contentious than ours, and the odds are certainly better. The royal court of five women and five men gather together on King’s Day. “They have a king cake and whoever finds the baby of the men is king for that year, same for the women,” says Kate Marx, who serves on the krewe’s board. She says it’s her husband’s fourth year as duke, and “he keeps trying to find that baby,” but hasn’t yet. The honor comes with a lot of glory: During this Saturday’s Krewe of Gambrinus Parade, the costumed krewe will toss more than 650,000 beads to 100,000 of their closest friends. “We have two huge semi truckloads of beads that come in from New Orleans for the parade,” says Marx. “If you want to feel like a rock star, join one of the krewes and get in the parade, because all of those people are hollering and screaming for beads.” 6 p.m. February 18. 57th and Seawall, Galveston. For information, visit mardigrasgalveston.com. Free to $11.50. — Susie Tommaney

When is it too late to make a significant change? Can someone ever be too far gone for redemption? These are questions at the heart of Samuel D. Hunter’s amazing play, The Whale, which focuses on a 600-pound Idaho man unable to connect with the outside world. “The writing is quite good,” says Scott McWhirter, who is directing the production for Theatre Southwest. “And what I really liked from the jump was the dark comedy to it. It’s a drama. It’s got a lot of emotions, but it also has this tinge of just edgy humor. I laugh every night and, of course, cry at the end.” Starring Joseph Moore as the recluse Charlie, the production makes McWhirter excited to work with the actor in a new capacity. “Joseph was in a show [with me] last fall; we played the same character over the course of many years. So I encouraged him to come audition, and he was just right for the role.” Rounding out the cast are Pam Pankratz, Matt Prideaux, Melissa J. Mayo as Charlie’s long gone ex-wife and Rachel Watkins as “willfully bitter” daughter Ellie. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. February 26. February 17 through March 11. 8944-A Clarkcrest. For information, call 713-661-9505 or visit theatresouthwest.org. $14 to $18. — Vic Shuttee

Shrinking violets don’t stand a chance in Clear Lake’s annual Yachty Gras Grand Night Parade, billed as “America’s largest Mardi Gras boat parade.” Sure, judging is based on all sorts of factors – theme, music, lighting, creativity and costumes — but it’s the enthusiasm that will take you over the top for the win. It was the hula-hoopin’, umbrella-twirling krewe of Cajun Seadation that snagged Best of Show last year. And whoever started that rumor about “no beads” needs to walk the plank. Maurine Howard, Ph.D., executive director of the Yachty Gras Foundation, assures us that the skippers are out buying beads and that people are already standing in line to catch them. Boats of all sizes participate — all it takes is proper insurance and an appropriately silenced exhaust system — which means we’ve seen everything from 100-footers to one brave soul in a rowboat. “It was really funny because he had a little lantern that was like a candle, and he just rode along and stayed off to the side,” says Dr. Howard. She says the boats line up in front of the Watergate Marina, then travel down Clear Creek Channel, past Clear Lake Shores, along the Kemah Boardwalk and then circle back to Galveston Bay. “They keep doing that route and they do three to four passes. It takes quite a while to do that many boats,” says Howard. 7 p.m. February 18. For information, visit yachtygras.com. Free. — Susie Tommaney

It’s often said that nothing pulls together a family quite like a funeral. In Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor’s 2012 comedy, The Best Brothers, we meet Kyle and Hamilton, two estranged middle-aged men who are forced to reconnect after their mother’s tragic passing thanks to complications from a gay pride parade. “There are only two characters in the play,” says Stuart Purdy, who is directing the regional premiere for Theater LaB Houston. “The writing is interesting, and clever enough to sustain 85 minutes. The nature of their relationship keeps changing to a certain degree, which keeps you on your toes.” It’s Purdy’s first time working at The MATCH, and the director says he’s happy with the show and also the performances he’s getting from leads Jim Salners and Steve Bullitt. “This is a play that starts off silly and fun,” says Purdy. “But soon that melts away and you have this honest look at their relationship, ending with this overall bittersweet feel. Despite their differences, they can come together.” 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. February 26 and March 5. February 17 through March 5. 3400 Main. For information, call 713-868-7516 or 713-521-4533 or visit matchouston.org. $34 to $38. — Vic Shuttee

Sunday, February 19

Vikki Evans, chair of the ReelAbilities Houston Film and Arts Festival, says Houston’s tag-line should be “A City for Everyone.” In the spirit of inclusion, ReelAbilities is screening the festival’s films for free, and is partnering with the Houston Ballet for the opening night film, Enter the Faun, a documentary about a choreographer who works with a man with cerebral palsy. “[The film] is an inspiring display of what you can do when you don’t put limitations on yourself,” says Evans. The film portion of the festival continues through February 23, while other offerings — including an art exhibit, a TED-like talk on how gaming enhances the lives of people with disabilities, and ReelMusic, an all-inclusive jazz and blues jam Evans promises will be “one of the best times you’ll have all year” — continue through March 31. 7 p.m. February 19. Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24, 3839 Weslayan. For information, call 832-786-0361 or visit reelabilitieshouston.org. Free; registration is required. — Natalie de la Garza

It’s that age-old question: Are cheer and dance really considered a sport? Cheer America has an indisputable answer: Yes! Watch the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat play out as these athletes battle to the finish for this one moment of glory. The Cheer Bowl and Freedom Dance Nationals brings together competitors from across the country, vying for the title of national champion. The stakes are even higher for teams, because Cheer America will use this weekend’s scores to select a handful to progress to the USASF World Championship in Orlando. Will they rise to the occasion or crumble under the pressure? Who’s going to take home all the trophies? At the end of the day, there can only be one winner. 6 to 8:30 p.m. February 17, 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. February 18, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. February 19. NRG Center, One NRG Park. For information, call 800-554-4370 or visit cachampionships.com. Free to $50. — Sam Byrd

Monday, February 20

The partnership of composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David is the stuff of legend. The team burst onto the scene with Marty Robbins’s “The Story of My Life,” which rose to the No. 1 spot. Their winning streak continued with songs by Cher, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Tom Jones, Aretha Franklin, the Carpenters and the Beatles; and we dare not forget the astounding 38 hits they wrote for Dionne Warwick. Bayou City Concert Musicals is bringing their music to the stage with Always Something There to Remind Me…The Songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. “They wrote lots of music, and we’re going to shoehorn in a lot of their songs,” says Sharon Williams, executive director, about the cabaret-style performance with musical direction by Bill Bartlett. 7:30 p.m. February 20. Also 7:30 p.m. February 18, 4 p.m. February 19. The Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main. For information, call 713-465-6484 or visit bayoucityconcertmusicals.com. $35. — Sam Byrd

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