21 Best Things to Do in Houston This Week: Pub Crawl, Hive Caroling and a Bake-off

Tuesday, December 6

You might not be able to name one of the longest-running television shows in history, but here are some hints: It has gone strong since 1999 and recently screened its 900th episode. Need more help? The two-hour program is on every Tuesday and features “real” violence from the likes of main characters with names like “The Lunatic Fringe.” No? It’s WWE SmackDown Live, arguably the first reality show that’s also a weekly professional-wrestling showcase that has been broadcast from seven different countries. The house of winners includes “world champion” AJ Styles, “intercontinental champion” The Miz, tag team rulers The Wyatts, women’s titleholder Alexa Bliss. “The Lunatic Fringe” Dean Ambrose, Becky Lynch and James Ellsworth are also scheduled to participate in the wrassling potpourri. 6:45 p.m. December 6. Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. For information, call 866-446-8849 or visit $20 to $105. — Steve Jansen

It's the classical music story of a British boy band that hit the big time. Grammy-award winning arranger and composer Philip Lawson performed with The King's Singers for 18 years, singing more than 2,000 concerts and appearing on 25 CDs. He's since moved on, but his contribution to the all male vocal ensemble will be evident during their one-night stop at Stude Concert Hall, courtesy of Chamber Music Houston. The program begins with a version of the ancient text, Veni, veni Emmanuel, created by Lawson. They also have planned an arrangement by Lawson of the French carol, Noël Nouvelet, which tells the story of the birth of Jesus and calls Christians to celebrate the good news. The second half of the program focuses on 20th century favorites from the Great American Songbook, including Ogden Nash's poem, The boy who laughed at Santa Claus. The King's Singers are celebrating their 46th year; current members Christopher Bruerton, Patrick Dunachie, Julian Gregory, Christopher Gabbitas, Jonathan Howard and Timothy Wayne-Wright are planning a full evening of holiday songs ranging from Orlandus Lassas and Arvo Pärt to Irving Berlin's "White Christmas." 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. December 6. Rice University, 6100 Main. For information, call 713-348-5400 or visit $20 to $80. — Susie Tommaney

Wednesday, December 7

Ready for another journey into the dark woods with great music? Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods is coming to Houston courtesy of Theatre Under The Stars, and Emily Skinner, a Broadway veteran (Billy Elliott), will be playing The Witch in a story peopled with fairy-tale characters who get their wishes, which doesn’t always turn out for the best. “It’s about parent-child relationships and family and accepting responsibility and growing up and wish fulfillment and the consequences of growing up,” says Skinner, who describes her character as “a frustrated truth teller.” She also promised some different things at the end, but wouldn’t say what. You’ll just have to come see for yourselves. 7:30 p.m. December 7. Continuing 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. December 6 through 18. The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-558-8887 or visit $38.50 to $116. — Margaret Downing

The classically-trained Irish Tenors are returning to the Jones Hall stage, this time for a holiday concert with popular selections such as "White Christmas," "Jingle Bell Rock," and "We Three Kings." Don't worry, their set-list includes the traditional Irish tunes that we've come to expect: "Galway Bay," "Lord of the Dance," "Little Brigid Flynn" and, naturally, "Danny Boy." Finbar Wright, Anthony Kearns and Ronan Tynan – who always mix in a little humor and warmth into their performances – have been touring for nearly twenty years, selling out shows in Radio City Music Hall, the Sydney Opera House and Carnegie Hall. After their breakout PBS special in 1998, the group went on to become the second-highest grossing touring act from Ireland, lapped only by U2. Come see what all the buzz is about this Wednesday night with We Three Kings — An Irish Tenors Christmas, presented by Society for the Performing Arts. 8 p.m. December 7. 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit $43 to $128. — Susie Tommaney

Thursday, December 8

Traditional Christmas caroling is flawed: Not every singer can carry a tune, and there’s that whole fadeaway when it comes to remembering the second verse. New York composer Phil Kline updated this holiday pastime in writing the four-track “Unsilent Night,” asking participants to simultaneously press “play” on smartphones, boomboxes and mp3 players while moving in procession. The international initiative is celebrating its 25th year and, here in Houston, is presented by University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. “It’s not the typical holiday, Christmas carol-type melodic tune. It is more contemporary and a little more ambient, but still very beautiful, especially as a cacophony with everybody’s speakers,” says Karen Farber, the center’s executive director. It’s presented in collaboration with Buffalo Bayou Partnership, and there’s a costume contest and an early reception at 6 p.m. RSVP, then download the app and charge your device in advance. 7 p.m. December 8. The Water Works, Buffalo Bayou Park, 105 Sabine. For information, visit Free. — Susie Tommaney

Houston puppeteer Kevin Taylor’s influence on the premiering ensemble piece you see it from outside is just one of the surprises onstage as Hope Stone Dance partners with community organizations to present Collective + Hope. The evening includes a drum circle by the “Warrior Beat” veterans, a monologue by a Cristo Rey Jesuit high schooler, and dance pieces by fourth graders from Poe Elementary and the four-year-olds of Generation One Academy. “While I’ve always been a dancer, I realized that the visceral experience of doing art, performing art, being in community is what we all need,” says Jane Weiner, a former dancer with the Doug Elkins Dance Company who founded Hope Stone, Inc., in 1997. 7 p.m. December 8. The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-526-8898 or visit $11 to $55. — Lawrence Elizabeth Knox

Trying to determine exactly what led the wise men to the right manger is a little like investigating a UFO report, says Dr. Carolyn Sumners, vice president of astronomy and physics at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. In The Star of Bethlehem: Mystery, History and Science, a behind-the-scenes lecture investigating the most celestial of night sky objects, Sumners rules out the usual suspects (meteors, comets, supernovas, etc.) and re-creates exactly, for the first time, what scientists believe the Magi saw — live and in Tru-8K high-def. The full dome show in the Burke Baker Planetarium “totally immerses you, and the effect is 3-D without glasses,” says Sumner. “With our new system, the contrast ratio and the resolution, we can produce the sky and it is the sky. It looks just like the sky of the desert 2,000 years ago.” 6 p.m. December 8. 5555 Hermann Park. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit $12 to $18. — Natalie de la Garza

Countrified offshoot of ‘80s college-rock icons Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker is the less quirky, but no less acerbic, vehicle David Lowery rode to much success on the ‘90s rock charts through singles like “Teen Angst,” “Low” and “I Hate My Generation.” In more recent times, Lowery has taken to bringing both bands out on tour with him (and why not?), but not in Houston this time, meaning Warehouse’s cozy Studio room is in for an up-close whiff of uncut Cracker soul. Lowery and faithful partner/badass guitarist Johnny Hickman most recently planted their flag with 2014’s Berkeley to Bakersfield, a double album that explores the reaches of California far away from Sunset Boulevard or Silicon Valley. Here Cracker is fully able to explore their beautifully split personality, allowing plenty of room for Lowery’s trademark sarcasm (“March of the Billionaires,” “Reaction”) and Hickman’s honky-tonk genius (“King of Bakersfield,” “Get On Down the Road”). 9 p.m. December 8. Warehouse Live, 813 Saint Emanuel. For information, call 713-225-5483 or visit $20 to $23. — Chris Gray

Friday, December 9

If soulful classical guitarists make you swoon, then the line forms here. Jason Vieaux, 2015 Grammy Award-winner for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for his album Play, is coming to Houston courtesy of Da Camera. His international set-list includes works by German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, Spanish pianist Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz and American jazz legend Duke Ellington. “A lot of what is [appealing] about a classical artist is their choice of repertoire, how they put things together,” says Vieaux. “Not unlike how a restaurateur puts together his menu, the contrast is sort of what makes the whole experience.” He says classical musicians are interpreters. “My belief is if you took 20 pianists and had them be as faithful to a score as possible, they are still not going to be able to repress their own musical personality.” Vieaux, whose diversity is reflected in his 11 studio albums, will draw from those influences in presenting this musical self-portrait. 7:30 p.m. December 9. The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-524-5050 or visit $42.50 to $72.50. — Vic Shuttee

Movies and music go hand-in-hand — it’s the soundtrack that gives Jaws its bite and Psycho its fright — and CineConcerts has found a way to redefine the audience experience by presenting feature films along with a live orchestra. They’ve done it with The Godfather, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the entire Harry Potter franchise and now, for one night only with the Houston Symphony, they’re presenting Frank Capra’s classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life. Dimitri Tiomkin’s original score has been restored by composer/conductor Justin Freer, who co-founded CineConcerts along with producer/writer Brady Beaubien. “One of the things that makes this project so unique is the amount of music that has been restored from Dimitri. I spent three or four months restoring about 40 minutes of music that wasn’t used in the movie version,” says Freer. Cornball alert: Stick around for a sing-along to “Auld Lang Syne” at the end. 7:30 p.m. December 9. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit $22 to $115. — Sam Byrd

Don’t call Daniel Bauer an illusionist. “The ‘i’ word is a horrible word; I never use it. What I do is I’m a magician, an escape artist and a mind reader.” Bauer, who fancies himself a modern-day Harry Houdini, has been pursuing the craft of magic since his youth, when he was known as Dan the Magic Man of Poughkeepsie. He tried teaching high school (his parents insisted he fetch a “practical job”), but the limelight beckoned. “I sacrificed everything to move down to the city and become the new ‘it’ boy of magic,” says Bauer. Everything was a go until Bauer got the news that would rock his life: He’d been diagnosed with HIV, a fact Bauer tackles head-on in his act, Beyond Belief: Escape to Survival. He says that it’s really the story of his life, beginning with his very first escape, from his mother’s womb, and on into the dark days when he lost it all. “But magic was my safe haven. It’s [what] I keep going back to.” 8 p.m. December 9 and 10, 2 and 7:30 p.m. December 11. Classical Theatre Company, 4617 Montrose. For information, visit $30. — Vic Shuttee

Saturday, December 10

Admit it. There’s something sinfully enjoyable about busting out our tackiest sweaters. And there’s no better cure for viewing the tacky garments than downing a few brewskies during a pub crawl. And the only thing better than that is putting on the Nancy Drew hat for some sleuthing during a scavenger hunt. For all these reasons and more, TX Pub Crawls is hosting its annual Ugly Sweater Scavenger Crawl. “There are five bars with a set order and amount of time. There are five clues written in riddle format, and you have to figure it out,” says owner Nick Petersen. Want to know the starting point? That’s a mystery too. Bedecked revelers need to register to get the 411 on the locations. But don’t show up empty-handed: The event organizers are hosting a toy drive to benefit Toys For Tots as part of the entry fee. 3 to 8 p.m. December 10. For information, visit $20 to $25. — Sam Byrd

Ooey, gooey, sticky and sweet — everyone loves a gingerbread house. For those who skipped Martha Stewart’s master class on being the perfect gingerbread homemaker, thankfully there’s relief when Architecture Center Houston hosts its 8th Annual Gingerbread Build-Off. See more than 30 teams compete for prizes in categories such as Best Architectural Icon, Tallest Standing Structure, Best Traditionally Themed, Best Non-Traditionally Themed, Most Creative Interpretation of Materials and Public Favorite. And, of course, there’s the top prize: Grand Prix de Show. These edible structures inspire all sorts of creativity, says event organizer Geoff Smith. “Two of my favorite ones were grizzly scenes with Teddy Grahams. There was a Battle of the Alamo that was re-created with the bears, and there was a Houston’s historic Macy’s that was torn down, with Teddy Grahams as shoppers still inside the store.” 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. December 10. Hermann Square, 900 Smith. For information, call 713-520-0155 or visit Free. — Sam Byrd

’Tis the season to misbehave, and Firecracker Productions’ First Annual Holiday Soiree promises to be the perfect place to get a little naughty. But be sure to watch the spiked eggnog, because infused into the festivities is A Krampus Story, an original radio play written by Sammy McManus and Taylor Wood. “It’s anti-Christmas,” says McManus, Firecracker’s founder and executive director. “It’s not about going to the mall, it’s not about buying things; it’s about the way that you act around people.” And using St. Nick’s evil, horned counterpart Krampus — who according to German folklore punishes bad children on Christmas Eve — is “a really fun way of getting that message across.” McManus says the night will be “a little darker than your usual holiday party,” but folks can still eat, drink, be merry and take pics with Firecracker’s own “Old Saint Rick,” whom you’ll have to see to believe. 7 to 10 p.m. December 10. Hub Studio, 1502 Sawyer. For information, visit $20. — Natalie de la Garza

Mercury goes for baroque in Vivaldi’s Gloria, its holiday concert built around Antonio Vivaldi’s majestic choral work Gloria, RV 589. It is a passion program, yes, but it also glorifies life and renewal, a fact reflected in its additional offerings: Vivaldi’s chirpy Concerto for Sopranino Recorder in C major, RV 443 and the exultant hymn Lauda Jerusalem (Psalm 147), RV 609. “It’s an expression of instinct,” says Brian Ritter, Mercury’s executive director, about both the works and the performance. The ensemble is playing period instruments to give a crisper, clearer sound in the strings and a more natural, balanced and centered sound in the woodwinds and brass. The result, says Ritter, is a subtlety of flavor. The secret ingredients? Guest vocalists Teresa Wakim and Abigail Fischer and members of the Houston Symphony Chorus. There’s a pre-concert lecture at 7:15 p.m. December 10; the concert begins at 8. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-533-0080 or visit $19 to $68. — Katricia Lang

Houston's lyric theater company is having some fun with the holidays. It starts out easily enough, a sing-along to the tunes from Irving Berlin's White Christmas, with lyrics projected on the wall. No bouncing ball, but no excuses either. After the intermission is when things get really interesting: If you fashion yourself on par with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, then drop some notes into the tip jar then belt out the big notes into the mike. Joseph Li will tickle the ivories while Crosby and Clooney wannabes sing "Count Your Blessings," "Swinging on a Star," "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and more. Join Lone Star Lyric in its new "Saturday Series" for one night of extroverted fun with White Christmas - Sing-a-Long, Then Clooney & Crosby - Sing-a-Like. Now that's a mouthful. 8 p.m. December 10. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 917-414-9577 or visit $25 to $30. — Susie Tommaney

Sunday, December 11

One fateful night, Santa Claus crashed his sleigh onto the grounds of a historic mansion. Only Rudolph stayed behind, and now it’s up to us to find the rest of the reindeer. Detective work is only part of the fun at Christmas Village at Bayou Bend: There’s a faux snowball play area, a visit by Jingles the live reindeer (December 16-23), and some holiday magic courtesy of actor Todd Waite, Alley’s Crumpet the Elf. As creative director, he’s imagined themed tours, holiday decor and theatrical effects in the former home of Ima Hogg. “We’re bringing back the very successful 3-D video of Santa trying to get into the house,” says Bonnie Campbell, Bayou Bend’s director. Over in the stained glass and mirrored spiegeltent are model trains — so elaborate they took more than 1,000 hours to assemble — running through themed villages while a snowman blows snow. The event was so popular in its inaugural year that they’ve added timed ticketing for tours of the mansion. 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily; closed December 24, 25 and 31. December 10 through January 1. 6003 Memorial. For information, visit Free to $23. — Susie Tommaney

Singers from around the world were invited to sing “Silent Night” in their native language, as part of the audition process for International Voices Houston. Artistic Director Mark Vogel took that kernel of an idea and has planned a special collaborative arrangement of the song for the multicultural choir’s holiday program. “The arrangement will feature ten languages. It’s pretty special. The first time we did it, there were tears everywhere,” says Vogel. Also on the program for This Shining Night are works that promote peace and understanding. “Light is a strong theme. We begin with a beautiful, moody selection using traditional Irish text called ‘The Darkest Midnight in December,’ and from that darkness our program will progress toward a piece called ‘Northern Lights,’ by a Norwegian composer, Ola Gjeilo,” says Vogel. “It literally shimmers, the harmonies are so beautiful. 7 p.m. December 10; 3  and 5:30 p.m. December 11. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit $15 to $25. — Susie Tommaney

Italian tenors whose voices and fans can fill American sports arenas are hardly a dime a dozen, easily making Andrea Bocelli one of the most prominent pop-classical singers of his time. Much of the 58-year-old Tuscany native’s reputation rests on Romanza, the 1996 album that helped introduce him to American audiences with songs like “Con Te Partirò (Time to Say Goodbye).” Bocelli has gone on to sell more than 80 million albums worldwide, and his latest Houston appearance arrives on the heels of the recent 20th-anniversary reissue of Romanza as well as 2015’s Cinema, his collection of songs made famous in more than a dozen films, among them West Side Story, Life Is Beautiful and The Godfather. Joining him onstage Sunday are the Houston Symphony and Chorus and two featured vocalists, Houston Grand Opera soprano Ana María Martínez and Katherine McPhee, the former American Idol finalist now appearing on CBS’s espionage drama Scorpion. 7:30 p.m. December 11. Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. For information, call 713-758-7200 or visit $75 to $375. — Chris Gray

When they're not out sewing people up, running tests and saving lives, the medical community stays active with other creative pursuits. The Texas Medical Center Orchestra typically performs in the lobby at Houston Methodist Hospital, but for their upcoming holiday concert, 'Tis the Season to Be Jolly, they're taking things downtown to The Hobby Center. The health professionals enjoy rehearsing at the end of an intense shift, and they're looking forward to performing classic holiday fare in front of a larger audience, including "Carol of the Bells," the brass in "Bugler's Holiday" and selections from The Nutcracker Suite. They'll be joined onstage by the KIPP Sharp Singers, performing pieces by John Rutter as well as popular Christmas carols. 5 p.m. December 11. 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit $10 to $15. — Susie Tommaney

Monday, December 12

For more than 20 years, Mexican nationals traveled north through a guest worker program that offered pitiful conditions and backbreaking work, but also economic opportunities. Holocaust Museum Houston is hosting its first Spanish/English bilingual exhibit in “Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964,” telling the harsh reality of the bracero life through photographs and oral histories. The museum is a fitting location, says Michelle Tovar, a former fifth-grade teacher who now serves as associate director of Education-Spanish Outreach and Latin American Initiatives at the museum. “Students would tell me about their parents traveling to go work on the farms in the fields,” she says, of her time in the classroom. The Houston community is also represented through companion programming for the traveling exhibit. University lecturer Juan Galvan’s father was a bracero, and Helen Cavazos’s father was a troquero who trucked braceros to work; she now serves on the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board. There’s an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. December 8. Continuing 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. December 9 through May 14. Holocaust Museum Houston, 5401 Caroline. For information, call 713-942-8000 or visit Free to $12. — Katricia Lang
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