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21 Best Things to Do in Houston This Week: Doctor Who, Sherlock and Anything Goes

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Tuesday, December 27

The Doctor is back, or at least the Twelfth Doctor, and he's joining forces with an investigative reporter and the mysterious figure known only as The Ghost to fight brain-swapping aliens before they attack. It's Peter Capaldi's third time at bat as the alien Time Lord, and early reports say that this Doctor Who Christmas special does not disappoint. Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio aired on BBC Christmas night, but the TARDIS doesn't drop down in Houston until Tuesday and Thursday, when we get to see it on the big screen, courtesy of Fathom Events. There's always an upgrade with these folks; this time we get not one but two bonus programs: The Doctor: A New Kind of Hero (which delves into why he does what he does) and Doctor Who Christmas Extra (a behind-the-scenes making of Season Twelve, episode three with appearances by Capaldi and showrunner Steven Moffat). Cosplay is encouraged but let's not get dangerous people: Masks, fake weapons and costumes that could conceal nefarious activities are strictly prohibited. 7 p.m. December 27 and 29. Edwards Houston Marq*E Stadium 23 & IMAX, 7600 Katy Freeway. Price varies by location; visit fathomevents.com for participating venues. $13.53 to $16.24. — Susie Tommaney

Now in their 91st season, the Harlem Globetrotters are tipping off their 2017 world tour in Houston, and nine-year vet William “Bull” Bullard makes it clear that between travel and training, the job is 24/7 — you don’t enjoy that kind of longevity without hard work and a little innovation, like the four-point line debuting this tour — but Bullard wouldn’t have it any other way. “When you hear the name, you can’t do nothing but smile,” he says. Bullard says Houston audiences can expect a lot of energy, high-flying dunks and enough sleights-of-ball-handling to make David Blaine jealous and send you home whistling “Sweet Georgia Brown.” If that’s not enough, Bullard still has an ace up his sleeve. “We all look good,” boasts Bullard. “I know I look good.” Stick around post-game for autographs, pictures and high-fives. 2 and 7 p.m. December 26, 7 p.m. December 27. NRG Arena, 1 NRG Park. For information, call 800-745-3000 or visit harlemglobetrotters.com. $19 to $408. — Natalie de la Garza

Robert “Doc” Morgan is a difference-maker. Just ask Grammy Award-winner Robert Glasper and nominees Jason Moran and Everette Harp, all students of his who attended Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts during the years he was director of jazz studies (1976-99). Now one of those students — renowned jazz pianist and Houston native Moran — is giving back by headlining at the 3rd Annual DocFest this Tuesday, joined by bassist Chris Walker and drummer Denardo Coleman. The concert benefits the Helen and Bob Morgan Jazz Scholarship Fund at New York’s New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, a worthy cause indeed. It's also shaping up to be a reunion of sorts: There's a 6:30 p.m. meet and greet before the concert with music by the HSPVA Jazz Combo, and a post-concert HSPVA Alumni Jam Session where the neckties come off and the smooth jazz starts flowing. 7:30 p.m. December 27. The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit thehobbycenter.org. $30 to $102. — Susie Tommaney

Wednesday, December 28

The recently rediscovered and rehabbed underground Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park lends itself to “Rain: Magdalena Fernández,” the debut exhibition inside the former water reservoir. The video installation by Fernández – a Venezuelan abstract-constructivist artist who has transitioned from sculptural works to digital media and animation – showcases a conceptual video projection entitled 2iPM009 that mimics a rain-soaked night and features a minimal musique concrète-like soundtrack. Starting with a geometric unit, she multiples the line exponentially and adds in light, sound and movement until the underground space feels like a rainy night sky. Hollywood SFX designers should take note: her raindrop sound comes from a cappella Slovenian choir members who snapped fingers, stomped heels, and slapped their hands against their legs. This time rain doesn't come from the sky; it's co-presented by Buffalo Bayou Partnership and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 3:30 to 7 p.m. December 28. Continuing 3:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. December 10 through June 4. The Water Works, 105 Sabine. For information, call 713-752-0314 extensions 301 or 401, or visit buffalobayou.org. Free to $10. — Steve Jansen

The pregame shenanigans for the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl’s TexFest will be impossible to miss. That’s because the good ol’ Texas A&M Aggies are among the participants in the college football postseason game. Which means Gig ‘em Nation, Reveille, the Yell Leaders and all of that gung ho Aggie spirit will certainly come out in full force to the before-kickoff festivities that include live Texas yee-haw music and $2.50 Bud Lights. Oh, boy. “During the TexFest, both teams will conduct their spirit walks through the area,” says Katie Karsh of the Houston Texans. “They will get off the bus and walk straight through all of the fans at Bud Light Plaza. Both of the team bands will perform, and cheerleaders and mascots will also be there.” A&M’s opponent is the Kansas State Wildcats, an old Big 12 Conference foe still led by its bionic head coach, the 77-year-old Bill Snyder. 4 p.m. December 28; kickoff is at 8 p.m. NRG Stadium, 1 NRG Park. For information, call 832-667-2000 or visit advocaretexasbowl.com. Free to $200. — Steve Jansen

Tradition dies hard, but sometimes it's helped along by a change in national policy, especially when the old ways are viewed as a threat by the Communist Party. This seems to be the case with Shen Yun, created ten years ago by a group of elite Chinese artists who came together in New York to revive the ancient principles of harmony with the universe. They've updated the classical Chinese dances and folk traditions for modern audiences, weaving in animated backdrops and technological innovations along with historically authentic costumes. A few warnings come with this one: The organizers recommend opera or ballet performance attire, caution against online ticket scalpers, and won't allow children younger than four. 7:30 p.m. December 28. Also 7:30 p.m. December 27 and 29, 2 and 7:30 p.m. December 30, 1 p.m. December 31, 2 and 7 p.m. January 1, 1 and 6 p.m. January 2. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 800-380-8165 or visit shenyunperformingarts.org. — Susie Tommaney

Thursday, December 29

Impressionist Pablo Francisco can’t control the voices in his head. “Everybody just comes out all at once,” the ex-MADtv star says. His gallery of spot-on impressions of Mark Wahlberg, Chris Rock and Christopher Walken might appear during his annual pass through Houston, but he’s also mixing in some cartoons. Working with animator Steve Kramer, Francisco describes the new act as a unique blend of live material and on-screen animation. “I’ll talk about Dog the Bounty Hunter, then you’ll see a cartoon of Dog the Bounty Hunter. It’s really cool.” He’s also delving into politics. “I’m learning Trump, so get ready,” he laughs. “You gotta pull out the words he loves, like ‘huuuuuuuge.’ Everything’s huuuuuuuge! And since Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken over The Apprentice, you can get them switching jobs and all that.” 8 p.m. December 29. Continuing 8 and 10:30 p.m. December 30, 7:30 and 10 p.m. December 31. Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $22 to $70. — Vic Shuttee

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Dorothy and her little dog are back for another romp through the wonderful land of Oz, this time as a panto. Based on L. Frank Baum’s beloved story, Panto Wonderful Wizard gives families the chance to relive the magic with a comedic twist in a presentation that only Stages Repertory Theatre can deliver. Written by Rutherford Cravens and directed by Carolyn Johnson, the production has been earning overflowing accolades from critics and theatergoers alike. Don’t miss the chance to see this gem during its last weekend in Houston. Actor Ryan Schabach says everyone will love the show. “It’s meant for children, but the parents who bring their children will hear these double entendre jokes that only the adults would understand. And, of course, the children’s story comes out when the villain gets [its] comeuppance.” 7 p.m. December 29, 2 and 7 p.m. December 30, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. December 31. 3201 Allen Parkway. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit stagestheatre.com. $33 to $55. — Sam Byrd

Friday, December 30

It was 50 years ago this August when the most influential act of the rock era said no más to touring. The ranks of those lucky enough to see the Beatles live are dwindling, but true fans keep the flame alive with mementos, books, photos and ticket stubs. As for all those amateur and professional videos floating around, it took a literal army of archivists and producers to pull it together, but the Ron Howard-directed documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years, is out and screening at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Apparently even die-hard fans will discover something new: The doc includes interviews with 50 people who had a connection with the Fab Five (including Elvis Costello, Whoopi Goldberg, Larry Kane and Kitty Oliver), as well as interviews with Starr and McCartney. 4 p.m. December 30. Also 5 p.m. December 29 and 4 p.m. January 7. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org/calendar/eight-days-a-week. $7 to $9. — Susie Tommaney

Hell hasn’t frozen over but, through the magic of Christmas, Typhoon Texas has. It’s been transformed into a 25-acre winter wonderland with miles of lights, synchronized light shows, train rides and even a workshop where little ones can make crafts and take photos with characters while elves build Santa’s toys. The wave pool has been transformed into a 4-D light show, and WinterFest even has outdoor ice skating. “We’ve transformed our picnic area that we have out by the pavilion, Jack Frost Field,” says Evan Barnett, general manager. He says visitors can bring their own skates or rent a pair for $5. “We’ve added some holiday highlights: hot chocolate, hot cider, apple dumplings, doughnuts and caramel apples,” says Barnett. “We’re really hoping to make this a tradition in west Houston. There’s so much activity for the young at heart to the very young, something for everyone.” 6 to 9:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 6 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Closed Christmas Day. Through December 31. 555 Katy Fort Bend Road, Katy. For information, call 832-426-7071 or visit typhoontexas.com/WinterFest. Free to $24.95. — Susie Tommaney

Saturday, December 31

This year has delivered some real stinkers. We lost David Bowie and Prince. Ebola and Zika flared up. The list of this year’s bad juju is inexhaustible. So, in the spirit of bidding adieu to this particularly nasty year, Mildred’s Umbrella organized the perfect way to ring in the hopefully more upbeat new year. The theater group’s Anything Goes New Year’s Eve Anti-Gala goes against all the rules. Dress up or wear pajamas — nothing is forbidden for this event. “We’re making it fun and casual, but it has spruced-up elements for people who want to do something fancy at midnight,” says party planner Dennis Draper. Be sure to sample the grilled cheese bar, board games, Nintendo and Xbox stations, and complimentary beer from Saint Arnold Brewing Company. Also, plan ahead for the 11:45 p.m. “Out-With-The-Bad” ceremony, followed by a Champagne toast at midnight. 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. December 31. Studio 101, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832-463-0409 or visit mildredsumbrella.com. $20 to $35. — Sam Byrd

Time is forever moving forward and New Year’s Eve/Day is no exception. But party-seekers can at least feel like they’re superhuman, rewinding time during the New Year’s Eve Historical Bash at George Ranch Historical Park. The shebang brings back old-timey holiday traditions, ranging from a hay ride and old-school mask- and noise-making crafts to the dos and don’ts of “first-footing” and, at noon, a countdown at the park’s 1830s Jones Stock Farm Site. Additionally, “our historic food ways department will be holding a special New Year’s Eve historic lunch at 12:30 p.m. in the yard of the 1930s George Home site,” says Jennifer Farrell of the Fort Bend County Museum Association. “The menu includes grilled or smoked pork, Hoppin’ John, mixed greens with hocks, fried cabbage, cracklin’ bread and peach cobbler.” Reservations are required for lunch, and there’s a park entry fee of $5 to $10. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. December 31. 10215 FM 762, Richmond. For information, call 281-343-0218 or visit georgeranch.org. $4 to $15. — Steve Jansen

Even for the most crazed Johann Sebastian Bach fanatic, there’s a decent chance that he hasn’t heard BWVs 28, 36c and 248/V/1 in a live setting. “The music was specifically written for New Year’s Eve, so it’s not a widely performed program,” says Matthew Dirst, artistic director of Ars Lyrica Houston, which is leading the audience away from the grips of 2016 and into the clutches of 2017 during Bachanalia. The early-music ensemble, along with soloists Melissa Givens, Ryland Angel, Joseph Gaines and David Grogan, is performing “a bubbling concerto that encapsulates the conflicting emotions we feel at the passing of the old and the beginning of a new year,” says Dirst. The evening is part of a nightlong celebration that includes a pre-concert dinner and a post-show gala and silent auction. 9 p.m. December 31. The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit arslyricahouston.org. $39 to $75. — Steve Jansen

There’s no need to leave the suburbs to ring in the new year with the Houston Symphony. This weekend, the orchestra returns to The Centrum as part of the venue’s Star-Lit Series. This year also marks the Symphony’s 14th New Year’s Eve concert in Spring. “It’s become such a tradition,” says Nanci Decker, executive director of the Cypress Creek Foundation for the Arts and Community Enrichment. More than 800 people are expected to attend the concert led by Christopher James Lees, a new guest conductor. “I’m excited to have him come. He really engages the audience, which is so important,” says Decker. “People sometimes don’t feel comfortable going to a classical music concert.” Program selections celebrate dance, including Le corsaire, Opus 21 by Berlioz; Petite suite by Debussy; and selections from The Sound of Music.
8 to 9 p.m. December 31. 6823 Cypresswood, Spring. For information, call 281-440-4850 or visit cypresscreekface.org. $45 to $75. — Lawrence Elizabeth Knox

When it comes to end-of-year tradition, it’s nice to spend the Champagne-infused evening with family and friends, and that’s the way it feels over at The Music Box Theater. Founder and cast member Rebekah Dahl says they see a lot of regulars at the New Year’s Eve Show, but that every once in a while they’ll get some newbies at their year-in-review show. “That audience gets to see, for the first time, an amalgamation of all the best music we’ve done interspersed with sketches about what happened in America during 2016.” She acknowledges they’ll have to walk a fine line with that one, with strong opinions on both sides of the aisle, but is confident they can find things to make fun of that won’t upset anybody. The doors open at 7:15 p.m., and they serve a prime rib dinner at 7:30 followed by the two-hour show, which should include a mash-up of Broadway tunes, Texas songwriters, and the best from the ’60, ’70s and ’80s. “You get a good feel of what we do, and it’s our favorite,” says Dahl. “We get to push the envelope a bit.” 7:15 p.m. December 31. 2623 Colquitt. For information, call 713-522-7722 or visit themusicboxtheater.com. $80. — Susie Tommaney

Murray Burns, the protagonist in Herb Gardner’s A Thousand Clowns, is unemployed and middle-aged, flip and a little bitter. To Murray, everything’s a joke until child welfare shows up at his door, suspicious of the way he’s raising his nephew Nick. Murray may travel to the tune of his own ukulele, but actor Scott McWhirter says he’s more than a non-rule follower. “He’s got this cold, sarcastic attitude toward the world,” says McWhirter, “yet his heart is really so big and he cares about his nephew so much.” McWhirter says the play is a bit of a lost classic, but with a lot of laughs and a lot of heart. The performance on New Year’s Eve includes a buffet dinner, dancing and surprises. 8 p.m. December 31. Continuing 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. January 8 and 15. Through January 21. Theatre Southwest, 8944-A Clarkcrest. For information, call 713-661-9505 or visit theatresouthwest.org. $16 to $55. — Natalie de la Garza

Sunday, January 1

If 2016 wasn’t the best of times, then a unique way to hit the reset button on the first day of 2017 is with Crystal Bowls Meditation. Led by Dana Shamas of Bayou Bliss Yoga, the hour-long experiential offering — presented on New Year’s Day inside of the mystical Rothko Chapel for the fifth consecutive year — features attendees sitting in a hexagon formation while Shamas takes mallet to bowl to create a zone-out soundscape inside the resonate space. “There’s a reverberation inside of the octagon. The crystal bowls are incredible and create these amazing sounds. Depending on where you’re sitting, the sounds seem to come from all different directions,” says Ashley Clemmer, Rothko Chapel program and community director. Shamas adds, “The sound is beautiful, peaceful and joyful. There’s nothing about it that’s bad. My 94-year-old grandma and my mom come because they love pretty sound.” Shamas tells us that the bowls are dogma-free: not Tibetan and not hammered out by monks. Noon January 1. 3900 Yupon. For information, call 713-524-9839 or visit rothkochapel.org. $10 suggested donation. — Steve Jansen

It's a new year, and what better way to recover from last night's debauchery than a three-hour flick inside a dark auditorium? The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is screening Bernardo Bertolucci's epic masterpiece, The Last Emperor, which garnered nine Academy Awards in 1987. Filled with gorgeous cinematography, bejeweled with elaborate costumes and easy-on-the-eyes actors John Lone, Joan Chen and Vivian Wu, the film succeeds in telling both macro and micro stories. It's a fascinating look at the life of Emperor Pu Yi, crowned in 1908 at the age of three, as told through flashback/flashforward style. 5 p.m. January 1 and 7 p.m. January 6. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org/films. $7 to $9. — Susie Tommaney

With both Moriarty and Magnussen out of the picture, who will be the next villain to battle wits against the brilliant but socially inept Sherlock Holmes? We don't have to wait much longer: Season 4, episode 1 kicks off on New Year's Day with Masterpiece: The Six Thatchers, followed by episode 2, The Lying Detective, on January 8 and episode 3, The Final Problem, on January 15. We know a few tidbits: Sidekick Watson takes on fatherhood, and rumor has it that Sunday's episode is loosely based on the Arthur Conan Doyle story, The Adventure Of The Six Napoleons. The chat boards are rife with predictions, speculation and plot spoilers, so we won't go there, but we are looking forward to the rumored introduction of a third Holmes sibling. 8 and 9:30 p.m. January 1, 6 p.m. January 8. TV 8. For information visit houstonpublicmedia.org. Free. — Susie Tommaney

Monday, January 2

We’re not passing judgment on hunting — heck, this is Texas — but sometimes old traditions can morph into new ones. Up until the late 19th century, it was a Christmas rite of passage for hunters to compete for the biggest quarry (feathers and fur). As bird populations began to decline, the conservation movement began to take hold, and Christmas Day 1900 marked the beginning of a new ritual, the Christmas Bird Census. Kelsey Low, an instructor for the Buffalo Bayou Christmas Bird Count, invites Houstonians to join in what she describes as the “oldest citizen’s science project in the world.” Presenter Houston Arboretum & Nature Center makes it easy, arranging for field guides, apps, checklists and a break for coffee, tea and doughnuts. “It’s cold, and you have to get up early,” says Low. Last year the participants (ages 13 and older) reported back to the Audubon Society that 44 species and 520 individual birds were spotted. 6 a.m. to noon January 2. 4501 Woodway. Pre-registration is required, call 713-681-8433 or visit houstonarboretum.org. Free. — Susie Tommaney

When the animals at the Houston Zoo go down for their long winter's nap, the zookeepers turn on the sparkling LED lights – two million of them to be exact – for an after-hours winter wonderland. TXU Energy Presents Zoo Lights still has all of the favorite traditions we've grown to love over the past five years: singing carolers, twinkling replicas of zoo animals and an Enchanted Forest, but this year they've added a 33-foot-tall, glittering Christmas tree. Visitors still get to view a few animals, including twinkling replicas of the zoo animals and everybody's favorite, Candy the interactive talking zebra, who is standing bright and tall for photo ops. Just like restless kids on Christmas Eve, some of the live animals won't go to sleep, so visitors can still check out Boga the Komodo Dragon in the Reptile & Amphibian House, the fruit bats at Carruth Natural Encounters or the piranhas in the Kipp Aquarium. 6 to 11 p.m. December 27-31 and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; 6 to 10 p.m. January 2-5 and 9-12. Through January 15. 6200 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 713-533-6500 or visit houstonzoo.org/zoolights. Free to $19.95. — Susie Tommaney

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