Things To Do

Best Bets: Potted Potter, Sleep, and a Spontaneous Smattering

Send your Victorian-era best to the cleaners, because Dickens on The Strand returns this weekend.
Send your Victorian-era best to the cleaners, because Dickens on The Strand returns this weekend. Photo by Illumine Photographic Services, Courtesy of Galveston Historical Foundation
The holiday festivities continue this week with a Dickensian transformation hitting Galveston’s historic Strand, the city’s official tree lighting, and all the Tchaikovsky you could want (courtesy of the Houston Symphony). But there’s also a bit of film noir, Disney, and spontaneous theater, too. Keep reading for the full list of this week’s best bets.

If experiencing A Christmas Carol on stage or screen isn’t enough, try stepping back in time this weekend when Galveston’s historic Strand is transformed into Victorian London. The Dickens on The Strand Festival returns and brings with it Dickensian characters roaming the streets and Victorian-inspired goodies. On Friday, December 3, is a free kick-off party at Fezziwig’s Beer Hall, and then on Saturday, December 4, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, December 5, from 12 to 6 p.m. you can enjoy the street festival. Dickens’s great-great grandson will be there, as well as choirs, circus performers, the Dickens Dash, the Queen’s Parade, and Victorian Bed Races. Get tickets here for $14 to $20 (or show up in costume for half off the cost).
If you’re one of those genre fans who prefer “the cerebral over the visceral,” Goethe Pop Up Houston and Rice Cinema have got you covered on Friday, December 3, at 7 p.m. when they present Michael Venus’s Sleep (Schlaf). The German horror/thriller, a “never-ending tangle of family trauma” unraveled “through an echo chamber of national shame,” boasts a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If you enjoy films like Mulholland Drive, The Shining, and Zentropa, you’ll like Sleep, as it “gathers inspiration from a swirl of influences that range from the fairytales of the brothers Grimm to the lost highways of a David Lynch nightmare.” The screening is free and will be held at Sewall Hall on the Rice University campus. You can RSVP here.

If you also believe you can never hear “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” too many times, you’ll want to check out this weekend’s Houston Symphony concert, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker + Gil Shaham. Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada will be at the helm for a program that includes excerpts from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s classic score, Florence Price’s Dances in the Canebrakes, and Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto and Giovanni Bottesini’s Gran duo concertante – both featuring guest violinist Gil Shaham. Performances are set for 8 p.m. Friday, December 3, and Saturday, December 4, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, December 5. In-hall (Jones Hall, that is) tickets are available here for $29 to $144, or you can purchase access to a livestream of Saturday night’s concert here for $20.

If that wasn’t enough, on Saturday, December 4, at 10 and 11:30 a.m., Orozco-Estrada will return to the Jones Hall stage to open the Symphony’s Family Series with Musical Treats from The Nutcracker ─ for Kids! At this family-friendly program, you can enjoy Tchaikovsky’s music with a narrator and host, local actor Juan Sebastian Cruz. You can expect a special appearance by Santa Claus, as well as a mailbox in the Jones Hall lobby to drop off letters to Santa. In-person tickets are available here for $29 or you can view a livestream of the 11:30 a.m. performance for $20.

Okay, so maybe the Thanksgiving Day Parade was cancelled. But that’s no reason to believe the next City of Houston event, the Reliant Lights Mayor’s Holiday Spectacular, will meet the same fate. So get ready to attend the lighting of the official holiday tree at City Hall on Saturday, December 4, from 6 to 8 p.m. Mayor Sylvester Turner will host the free festivities, which will include performances from headliner Taylor Dayne (“Tell It to My Heart,” anyone?), Shelby and Carley Nunn, DeAndre Nico, Houston Contemporary Dance Company, Kaminari Taiko, and more. Of course, Santa Claus will be on hand for pictures in The Gingerbread Village, and don’t forget to bring a new, unwrapped toy for the World’s Ultimate Toy Drive benefiting Toys for Tots.
Christen the new Lynn Wyatt Theater at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, this weekend by viewing what else but one of Wyatt’s favorite films, Laura, on 35mm. Otto Preminger’s classic 1944 film includes – among other things – “a detective who never goes to the station,” “a heroine who is dead for most of the film,” “a dull-witted Kentucky bumpkin moving in Manhattan penthouse society,” and “a murder weapon that is returned to its hiding place by the cop.Laura will screen on Saturday, December 4, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 5, at 5 p.m. You can get tickets here for $7 to $9, and note another of Wyatt’s favorite films, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, will screen later this month on December 18 and 19.
click to enlarge Cone Man Running Productions celebrates 10 years with the 14th edition of Spontaneous Smattering. - PHOTO BY CHRISTINE WEEMS
Cone Man Running Productions celebrates 10 years with the 14th edition of Spontaneous Smattering.
Photo by Christine Weems
Cone Man Running Productions is celebrating their tenth anniversary this year, and a gift of tin or aluminum seems apt if only for its usefulness on a night like Saturday, December 4, when they present Spontaneous Smattering XIV. Once again, playwrights will be handed themes and randomly draw two actors. The next day, each playwright hands the short script they created overnight to the actors who have to find props, costumes and, oh yeah, learn their lines for back-to-back shows that very night. Shows are set for 7 and 9:30 p.m. at Spring Street Studios, and be ready to vote for favorites in categories like “Cast That Look Like They Had the Most Fun.” $20 tickets are available here and benefit the Houston Food Bank.

Though not as well-known as his Piano Concerto or the music he provided to Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, Edvard Grieg’s Two Nordic Melodies lends its name to Mercury Chamber Orchestra’s concert on Saturday, December 4, at 8 p.m. In Nordic Melodies, Conductor and Artistic Director Antoine Plante will lead the musicians in two works by Grieg, two by Jean Sibelius (including a “five-minute work” which “conjures a whirlwind of emotions,” Romance in C), and Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, “a pillar of the triad-based ‘tintinnabulation’ stylethe Estonian composer developed. In-person tickets to enjoy the show from a seat in the Wortham Center are still available here for $10 to $76. Or, if your couch is more your style, you can get virtual access here for $20.

The Disney Renaissance comes alive over at Theatre Under the Stars on Tuesday, December 7, when they open an all-new production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid at The Hobby Center. Delphi Borich, who plays Ariel, tells us she admires the courage of her character, seeing to find her place in a new world. Directed by TUTS Artistic Director Dan Knechtges, the musical will include the music you love from eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman – such as “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” and “Kiss the Girl” – and the Doug Wright’s book will again tell the tale of a young mermaid who gives up her voice for some legs to walk on land and get a shot at a prince (and learns some lessons along the way). The musical will run through December 24, and you can get tickets here for $40 to $136.

At some point, the Harry Potter movies began making the rounds around the holidays. Though not exactly holiday movies, per se, we’re not complaining. We’re also not complaining about Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience - A Parody by Dan and Jeff, which is opening up a holiday residency at The Hobby Center on Tuesday, December 7. From Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner’s two-handed, 70-minute parody you can expect “favorite characters, a special appearance from a fire-breathing dragon, endless costumes, jokes, brilliant songs, ridiculous props, and a generous helping of Hogwarts magic.Potted Potter is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 5 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 and 5 p.m. Sundays through January 2. You can get tickets here for $59.99 to $109.99.
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Natalie de la Garza is a contributing writer who adores all things pop culture and longs to know everything there is to know about the Houston arts and culture scene.