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21 Best Things to Do in Houston This Week: Monty Python Royalty & Touchdown Tour

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Tuesday, November 29

And now for something completely unbelievable: John Cleese and Eric Idle, known best for co-founding the landmark British sketch troupe Monty Python, are appearing at the University of Houston for one night only, presumably to pay off some back royalties and legal fees. (Don’t laugh — that’s precisely the reason we got 2014’s Monty Python Live (mostly) — One Down Five to Go.) Regardless of the circumstances, this event — billed as John Cleese and Eric Idle: Together Again At Last… For The Very First Time — is a momentous opportunity to see true geniuses in their element. Based on our research, the goofy twosome are engaging in a brave new form of humor known as “sit-down comedy,” which features a hybrid of scripted and improvised gags, audience interactions, music, dance, a can-can line and (according to their website) “aquatic juggling.” Hope all this fun won’t kill your parrot, if you know what I mean. Wink-wink nudge-nudge. 7:30 p.m. November 29. Cullen Performance Hall, 4800 Calhoun. For information, call 832-842-3131 or visit uh.edu/cullen-performance-hall. $60 to 105. — Vic Shuttee

Wednesday, November 30

A holiday lights display inside of a baseball field in Fort Bend County might sound like America, multiplied by a cornball factor of 5,000, but it’s not. (And even if it is, who cares?) The Sugar Land Holiday Lights, at the four-year-old Constellation Field, home of the Sugar Land Skeeters minor-league baseball team, features 2.5 million lights that are arranged in insane displays and constructions. Not only are there holiday-themed characters (Santa and the elves), but there are also adornments (Christmas trees and oversized sculptures of lights that depict holiday lights; so meta) located in the concourse as well as all over the field and in the grandstands. Of course, the ginormous Lone Star State-shaped scoreboard that flexes its Texas-size muscles beyond center field is also outlined in blinking lights. In other words, go America and go Texas. 6 to 9 p.m. November 30. Continuing 6 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and December 25. November 25 through January 8. Constellation Field, 1 Stadium Drive, Sugar Land. For information, call 281-240-4487 or visit sugarlandholidaylights.com. $11 to $14. — Steve Jansen

Thursday, December 1

At first, Go Yell It on the Mountain was going to be a Saturday Night Live-style set of improv sketches realized by director Rozie Curtis and musical director John Cornelius II. But then Obsidian Theater Artistic Director Tom Stell was stirred into the mix, and the result is a comedic story line inside of a “fun piece of musical theater,” says Curtis. The holiday play — which, of course, is a reference to James Baldwin’s masterful novel Go Tell It on the Mountain — chronicles an attempted hostile takeover of an innocent little historic church by a devilish, mean ol’ megachurch, “but told in a really funny way,” says Curtis. “It’s not like Walmart taking over the mom-and-pop shop. There’s a history between the pastors of the two churches.” Curtis says six cast members are playing multiple roles. “Anywhere from small children in Sunday school to the deacons and deaconesses to the church elders to the mayor and secretaries.” 8 p.m. December 1. Continuing 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. December 18. Through December 23. Obsidian Theater, 3522 White Oak. For information, call 832-889-7837 or visit obsidiantheater.org. $15 to $30. — Steve Jansen

The holidays aren't always happy times, especially when they call to mind the memories of those who are no longer with us. The folks over at the National Museum of Funeral History continue to offer thoughtful ways for us to honor the deceased: Each December they set up the Community Memorial Tree and invite the public to come to the museum, create a holiday ornament in memory of their loved one, and decorate the tree; then make another for the tree at home. The timing of this opportunity pairs nicely with the museum's temporary exhibit, "United We Stand, United We Signed," which honors the victims of 9/11 and also continues the story by allowing the public to record their memories in a guest book that will become part of a special 20th anniversary exhibit in the year 2021. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. December 1. Continuing 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. December 31. Closed December 24-25. Through December 31. 415 Barren Springs Drive. For information, call 281-876-3063 or visit nmfh.org. Free to $10. — Susie Tommaney

Friday, December 2

It starts with a man contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve after a life filled with disappointments. It’s a wonder why no one before this recognized the material in the Frank Capra movie classic It’s a Wonderful Life would be perfect for opera. Houston Grand Opera has turned to composer Jake Heggie (Moby Dick, Dead Man Walking) and librettist Gene Scheer (Moby Dick) for the two-act world premiere. “It’s an absolutely beautiful treatment of a story that is very familiar, but quite different from the film,” says tenor William Burden, who sings the George Bailey role. Not willing to reveal any of the surprises in this new version, Burden promises “wonderful theatrical magic.” And still a happy ending. Sung in English with surtitles. 7:30 p.m. December 2. Continuing 7 p.m. December 6, 8, 9, 13, 15 and 17; 2:30 p.m. December 4 and 11. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $48 to $127. — Margaret Downing

Beatrice and Benedick don’t get along at all. Don Pedro and his men decide to play matchmakers by planting erroneous information designed to bring the two together. What follows is a bundle of intrigue, lies, misunderstood intentions and one of the best comedies Shakespeare ever wrote: Much Ado About Nothing. Houston’s 4th Wall Theatre Company has decided to bring it to life with a cast of only five actors (Susan Draper, Herman Gambhir, Philip Hays, Philip Lehl and Kim Tobin-Lehl), most of whom take on several roles in the two-act, which is being done in the round. Looking for an alternative to Christmas plays? It’s here complete with a grand wedding at the end. 7:30 p.m. December 2. Continuing 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and December 19 (pay what you can); 3 p.m. Sundays. Through December 24. Studio 101, Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832-786-1849 or visit 4thwalltheatreco.com. $15 to $49. — Margaret Downing

It’s a chance for all the dancers in the Houston Ballet Company to shine and for audience members to spot rising stars along with the established ones. For one night only — a night off from The Nutcracker — Houston Ballet presents Jubilee of Dance, with everything from company premieres to excerpts from the classics. This is the third year Principal Jared Matthews is performing, and he’s paired in two of the three acts with Principal Karina Gonzalez. “It’s nice to be able to do this, hit a home run and then go back to the season run of The Nutcracker,” Matthews says. 7 p.m. December 2. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-227-2787 or visit houstonballet.org. $35 to $125. — Margaret Downing

Each of the characters is lost in some way and finds him or herself in a bakery cafe next to a railroad depot hotel. Such is the setup for A.D. Players’ revival of its heartfelt comedy O Little Town of Bagels, Teacakes, and Hamburger Buns, penned by founder and Artistic Director Jeannette Clift George. Her “floury” title is a play on words: “Bethlehem” means town of bread, and this production is just as warm and satisfying. Managing Director Ric Hodgin puts on his acting hat, portraying the role of genial owner Bob MacIntyre, who finds himself surrounded by a hapless group of bakers, baristas and patrons looking for love and friendship on Christmas Eve. It’s a nostalgic play, and there’s a touch of that in Hodgin’s performance too: He was cast in the very first show the company mounted at its Grace Theater on West Alabama, and this is the last show in the venue before it moves to the newly constructed theater on Westheimer just outside the Loop. 8 p.m. December 2. Continuing 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Through December 23. 2710 West Alabama. For information, call 713-526-2721 or visit adplayers.org. $20 to $40. — Vic Shuttee

We've said it before: Mayor Sylvester Turner knows how to throw a party, and he's doing it again as he tries to top Clark Griswold's Christmas decorating style. Don't expect any National Lampoon hijinks, though, because the 97th Annual Mayor's Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting Presented by Reliant, an NRG Company, has all the provenance it needs to make sure the block won't go dark when the lights are turned on. The 64-foot-tall tree uses energy-efficient LED lights and is topped by a dazzling star; other luminaries making their appearance are Santa (be camera-ready), former Destiny's Child Michelle Williams, electro hip-hop violinist Svet, H-Town's hip-hop dance crew SoReal Cru and costumed characters from the Houston Ballet. They're throwing fireworks into the mix (synchronized to 60 voices singing the "Hallelujah" chorus from Handel's Messiah) and, if you covet a light-up Santa hat from Reliant, bring a new, unwrapped toy to the Salvation Army booth. 6 to 8 p.m. December 2. Hermann Square, 901 Bagby. For information, visit houstontx.gov/mayorsholiday. Free. — Susie Tommaney

There's a reason the homes in Houston Heights are so desirable. The Craftsman, Italianate Revival and century-old bungalows are beautifully preserved, and the dedicated homeowners really pull out all the stops when it comes to holiday decorating. Now six of the homes near and along the 1300 block of Cortlandt Street are opening their doors for the 2016 Holiday Home Tour — Jingle Bell Block, courtesy of the Houston Heights Association. Each stop has its own surprise: There's a vintage Muffy Bear collection, a train set (the owner, Mr. Potter, has been updating it since childhood), hand-carved Santas and amazing stained-glass windows inlaid with jewels. 6 to 9 p.m. December 2 and 3 to 9 p.m. December 3. Heights Fire Station, 107 West 12th. For information, call 713-861-4002, option 6, or visit houstonheights.org. $20 to $25. — Susie Tommaney

Saturday, December 3

Mario Enrique Figueroa Jr. (GONZO247), the man behind the first graffiti museum in the country, seems to be everywhere. Not content to rest on his laurels from producing October's HUE Mural Festival, and still in the process of ramping up The Graffiti and Street Art Museum of Texas for next year's launch, Figueroa joined dozens of other artists in painting 52 of the 194 football helmets for the traveling Touchdown Tour. It's part of an initiative presented by the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee and the Mayor's Office of Special Events, bringing the excitement of football to neighborhood venues. The next stop on the tour is this Saturday at Moody Park, with games, exhibits, food and fun. Can't make it? The Helmet Wall will also be on display during Super Bowl LIVE, the 10-day fan festival in and around Discovery Green, scheduled for January 28 through February 5. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. December 3, Moody Park, 3725 Fulton. The tour continues with four more stops around town from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. December 10 and January 7 and 14. For information, visit housuperbowl.com/touchdown-tour. Free. — Susie Tommaney

Crumpet the Elf has returned in all his green-velvet-with-yellow-and-orange-trim-costumed glory. And as once again envisioned by Alley Theatre company member Todd Waite, that is some very tall glory. The Santaland Diaries (not for kids) is once again playing out on the downstairs Neuhaus stage at the Alley. Based on the book by David Sedaris, it tells the story of an unemployed fan of soap opera stars who takes a job at Macy’s during the Christmas season as one of the elves assisting Santa. Along the way he meets an assortment of parents, children and co-workers — not all of them warmhearted — as he negotiates the season while helping kids sit on Santa’s lap. 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. December 3. Continuing 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. December 10 and 17; 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and December 18, 20 and 27; 2:30 p.m. December 4, 11, 24 and 31. Through December 31. 615 Texas. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $30 to $50. — Margaret Downing

The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fans are clearly divided into Team Josh and Team Greg, as Rebecca Bunch’s heart careens between both paramours. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t look like Greg (Santino Fontana) is returning for season three, though the talented performer (he voiced Prince Hans in Frozen) stays busy with other pursuits. In his first year at the helm of the Houston Symphony’s Very Merry Pops, Principal POPS Conductor Designate Steven Reineke is putting his own stamp on the festivities, this year with the help of Fontana and his wife, actress/singer Jessica. The concert, mixing sacred and secular, includes standards such as “O Holy Night” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Reineke’s own “Holiday Hits Medley” and soon-to-be classic “Yes, Virginia.” Reineke admits it’s “a bit of a sing-along,” but there’s an important question at heart — why doesn’t the spirit of the season last? “You’re walking down the street; people may be a little friendlier, might smile or shake a hand a little more readily,” says Reineke. “Why can’t we live like this all year?” 8 p.m. December 2 and 3; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. December 4. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $25 to $138. — Natalie de la Garza

Buckle up, Santa. With apologies to Rudolph, we do want to inform you there’s no need for that antiquated sleigh this year. As the saying goes, out with the old and in with the new. Soup up the ride with the Houston Pride Band and tool around town with its upcoming concert: Yuletide Ride. The most wonderful time of the year just wouldn’t be complete without the music that makes the season so cheery. And adding a 740 horsepower engine wouldn’t hurt. Yes, Sunny 99.1 plays the music ad nauseam, and one can’t crank up the beats without a tricked-out sound system, but there’s no substitute for the real thing: a live band playing all the best hits of the holidays. Get into the mood with the band as it moves and grooves with all the favorites, including Christmas, Hanukkah and other holiday melodies. 7 p.m. December 3. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 832-356-7476 or visit houstonprideband.org. $5 to $10. — Sam Byrd

Next up for Da Camera's Jazz Series is the return of vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, who has been quite busy since her Houston debut two years ago. She caught our attention when she received a Grammy nomination for her album, WomanChild, in 2014, and she sealed the deal this year when she took home the win for Best Jazz Vocal Album with For One to Love, an eclectic round-up that includes five original compositions as well as her own take on rarely recorded jazz and blues compositions. She's talented (past winner of the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition), she's stylish (she must have inherited her love of hats from her French mother) and she'll be performing in Houston for one night only, joined onstage by jazz virtuoso Aaron Diehl, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Lawrence Leathers. 8 p.m. December 3. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-524-5050 or visit dacamera.com. $37.50 to $67.50. — Susie Tommaney

If you and your dog resemble each other, you might have a shot at winning the pet owner lookalike contest at the SPCA's iWalk for Animals event. Other contests include best costume and best kisser (we're not sure about that one), and proceeds from the 5K Canine Caper and 1K Pup Strut help support SPCA's lifesaving programs and services. iWalk for Animals runs from 8 to 11:30 a.m. December 3, with the 5K Canine Caper beginning at 9:15 a.m. and the 1K Pup Strut starting at 9:30 a.m. Houston SPCA's iWalk for Animals, Memorial Park, 7575 North Picnic Lane, 713-869-7722, HoustonSPCA.org. Free (donations accepted). Click here to register for the event. — Susie Tommaney

They've mashed up Beatles tunes with traditional Christmas songs four years in a row and, instead of presenting The White Christmas Album 5, the talented performers over at The Music Box Theater have changed things up (albeit only slightly) when planning this year's A Very Beatles Holiday Concert. Using Beatles songs as inspiration — not as nutty an idea as you might imagine — these singing actors wrap us in cheer, good will, wintry nostalgia and goofy comedy, all while singing their hearts out. The great ones would be Rebekah Dahl, Brad Scarborough, Kristina Sullivan, Cay Taylor and Luke Wrobel. Per person onstage, the entertainment quotient is enough to populate any Ziegfeld show, three or more Andy Williams variety hours or a double-CD K-Tel reissue. Wrapped in incomparable musicality and beribboned in solid craftsmanship, this Fab 4/Fab 5 show is a gift you won’t return. 7:30 p.m. December 3. Continuing 2 p.m. Sundays (no performance on Christmas); 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and December 15, 21 and 26 (no performance Christmas Eve). Through December 30. 2623 Colquitt. For information, call 713-522-7722 or visit themusicboxtheater.com. $27 to $37. — D.L. Groover and Susie Tommaney

Sunday, December 4

There’s no place like home for the holidays. As for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Houston and the Bayou City Women’s Chorus, they invite us all to gather at their home for a winter celebration titled Ring! A Holiday Concert. The nearly 40-year-strong vocal group is singing all the best tunes of the season, and they’ve brought a few friends along for the ride. The Houston Heights Orchestra makes a cameo, joining the handbell sounds of the Houston Bronze Ensemble. Pencil in the date on the calendar because Gay Men’s Chorus of Houston Director Kenneth Clayborne tells us it’s a not-to-be-missed show. “We use this holiday concert to utilize memories and emotions for our world, and we’re using the vessel of music to bridge our lives to come together for the holidays.” 3 p.m. December 4. Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, 2025 West 11th. For information, call 713-521-7464 or visit bcpahouston.org. $10 to $20. — Sam Byrd

Forget holiday cards. Send your loved ones a text this year; it’s what the current generation is likely to do. It’s also the idea behind the newest addition to the Houston Tidelanders’ repertoire — “Text Me A Merry Christmas.” This weekend, about 40 members plus four quartets of the all-male a cappella group are performing this song, alongside favorite holiday classics in its Annual Christmas Show. “The real joy of what we do, particularly in this time of year, is being able to share our love for the music, our love for the season with our audiences,” says Jim Halcarz, who has served as president for the past two years. As the Houston chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, the chorus is celebrating its 70th anniversary of entertaining audiences with a variety of tunes, from ’60s doo-wop to Broadway to pop hits, all in the barbershop style. 2 and 7 p.m. December 3 at Sugar Land Baptist Church, 16755 Southwest Freeway, Sugar Land. 2 p.m. December 4 at The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-223-8433 or visit tidelanders.com. $20 to $35. — Lawrence Elizabeth Knox

Whether you’re a Scrooge or a Tiny Tim, the 43rd Annual Dickens on the Strand Victorian Holiday Festival could be the elixir to any “bah, humbug!” sentiments. “It initially started as a potluck dinner. Just something to bring attention to the Strand district, which was not as it is now,” says Will Wright, marketing director for the Galveston Historical Foundation. That simple event now includes street performers, craft vendors, great food and unique events like Albert’s Whimsical Whisker Revue and the Victorian-era bed races. “There’s a ton going on,” says Wright. “As crowd favorites go, the costume contest is always super-popular. There’s a beard and mustache competition on Saturday. And parades.” And, Wright notes, a word to the wise. “If you come in costume, you get in for half-price,” he whispers, adding, “I’m biased, but being at Dickens in costume is the only way to experience it.” 5 to 9 p.m. December 2, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. December 3, noon to 6 p.m. December 4. 2300 Strand, Galveston. For information, call 409-765-7834 or visit galvestonhistory.org. Free to $15. — Vic Shuttee

Monday, December 5

This year, the Duke is dropping by River Oaks Chamber Orchestra’s Yuletide: Annual Christmas Concert and Coffee, and he’s going to make it swing. ROCO’s Brass Quintet is performing Duke Ellington’s jazz interpretations of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite. George Chase, trumpeter and concert programmer for the quintet, says, “It’s a uniquely Ellingtonian take,” a composition in which Tchaikovsky’s “Marche miniature” becomes the “Peanut Brittle Brigade [March]” and the “Arabian Dance” becomes the “Arabesque Cookie.” The concert is held inside the mirrored spiegeltent at Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, which Chase says adds seasonal elegance. “It hearkens back to an earlier era, a time of authenticity,” says the trumpeter. “The smell of shoe polish, the smell of wood and leather and the touch of glass — tactile things — it envelops the senses.” 10 a.m. December 5. 6003 Memorial. For information, call 713-665-2700 or visit rocohouston.org. $55. — Katricia Lang

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