Things To Do

Best Bets: What-A-Christmas!, Islamic Arts, and Elvis Presley

Hope Stone Dance will screen four dance films at 14 Pews.
Hope Stone Dance will screen four dance films at 14 Pews. Photo by Tati Vicedomine
If you didn’t know, today, December 8, is Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day, and you may wish you had the ability to time travel after looking at this week’s list of best bets and realizing that you can’t make them all. We definitely recommend you try to make at least one, so keep reading to see what the Houston arts scene has to offer you over the next few days.

On Thursday, December 8, at 7 p.m. you can experience a little holiday fare for the adults with the Alley Theatre’s new holiday production, Isaac Gómez's What-A-Christmas! Though new, it will be familiar to anyone who usually favors Charles Dickens this time of year, with Gómez recently telling the Houston Press that they were “really interested in seeing how the structure of A Christmas Carol might be experienced through the lens of a modern-day Latina." The one-act solo show is also in good hands with lead Briana J. Resa, who has already proven her skill with the one-woman show when she took home the 2020 Houston Theater Award for Best Solo Show for her turn as Dolores in Empanada Loca. Performances will continue at 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and December 23, through December 30. Tickets can be purchased here for $51 to $69.

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Duarte returns to the Houston Grand Opera and a role she originated back in 2010 on Thursday, December 8, at 7 p.m. when the HGO opens their seasonal production, El Milagro del Recuerdo (The Miracle of Remembering). With music from Javier Martínez and a libretto by Leonard Foglia, the mariachi opera is only the third to be written. Duarte described the one-act opera to the Houston Press as “a window to the Mexican world for Christmas Eve and all the traditions that go with it,” adding that it is “a beautiful production in the sounds that come out of it” as well as in the colorful visuals, including a “wonderful set” and “beautiful costumes.” Performances will continue at 7 p.m. Thursday, Fridays, Saturdays, and December 13; and at 2:30 p.m. Sundays through December 18 at the Wortham Theater Center. Tickets can be purchased here for $30 to $107.
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The Emerson Quartet returns to Houston for a farewell concert.
Photo by Jürgen Frank
Unfortunately, the Emerson Quartet, the multiple award-winning ensemble formed in 1976, is currently on their farewell tour. The good news is that Chamber Music Houston is bringing the quartet – comprised of violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, cellist Paul Watkins, and violist Lawrence Dutton – to town, specifically to Stude Concert Hall in the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, one last time on Thursday, December 8, at 7:30 p.m. The farewell program includes Felix Mendelssohn's Quartet No.1 in E-flat major Op. 12, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Quartet in D minor K.421, and Johannes Brahms's Quartet No. 3 in B-flat major Op. 67, a work that Brahms himself considered “his favorite of the three string quartets he produced.” Tickets can be purchased here for $20 to $95.

Though an undeniable family classic, Mary Poppins isn’t quite the typical holiday offering, but it’s exactly what you’ll find currently running over at Theatre Under the Stars. And it’s not counterprogramming either. Matt Loehr, who stars in the TUTS production as Bert, told the Houston Press that, upon a little reflection, the musical, based on the works of P.L. Travers and of course the Disney film with Julie Andrews, is “good for coming together around the holidays and [it's about] being good to each other. And embracing the hope that we can always be better people.” You can catch Disney & Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins tonight, Thursday, December 8, at 7:30 p.m. or when performances continue at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and Sundays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the Hobby Center. Tickets can be purchased here for $40-$145.

If you need a way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Hope Stone, Inc. let us suggest making your way to 14 Pews on Thursday, December 8, at 7:30 p.m. for “Hope Stone Dance on Film.” The program, a screening of four films created by the company, includes two short films made by High Street Pictures, 2017’s shut up and dance and Ghost Bike; Rule #4: Don’t walk on the sidewalk, which was created during a residency at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston with Bend Productions (and which you can get a preview of here from their virtual performance in 2020); and a second film by Bend Productions, the premiere of airs above the ground. The new work explores the healing that can be found in equine therapy and incorporates horses and dancers. Tickets can be purchased here for $15.
If you’ve ever been curious about henna, a thousands-year-old body art; ebru, a traditionally Turkish technique of painting on water; or the artistry of Arabic calligraphy, you’ll want to make your way to the Masjid Al-Salam in Spring for the 9th Annual Islamic Arts Festival. From 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 10, and Sunday, December 11, the Islamic Arts Society will host more than 50 artists – including guest artist Josh Berer – who will display their works across a range of Islamic art mediums and techniques, such as the aforementioned henna, ebru, and calligraphy, as well as painting, ceramics, and wood works. In addition, there will be live demonstrations, children’s activities, mosque tours, food trucks, and even an online session if you can’t make it out. Admission to the two-day festival is free, and you can view a schedule of programs here.

Did you know that last year Better Homes & Gardens determined that “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley was the most popular Christmas song in Arkansas and Montana? We didn’t either but, as The New York Times points out, it is evergreen. At 7:30 p.m. on Monday, December 12, and Tuesday, December 13, you can make your way over to A.D. Players at The George Theater to appreciate the song, along with many others, during Christmas with the King: Brandon Bennett Sings Elvis. Bennett, who has portrayed Elvis for more than 20 years, has said "every time I'm on stage, I strive to recreate what people remember and respect about what Elvis offered in his performance,” adding “it wasn't about what he wore. It was about the music, his voice and, most of all, he was real." Tickets to either show can be purchased here for $28 to $81.

On Tuesday, December 13, at 7:30 p.m. Ars Lyrica will swing by St. Philip Presbyterian Church for a holiday program dedicated to exploring the musical legacy of the Virgin Mary. The program, titled A Marian Feast, will feature works from Guillaume Dufay and Louis Couperin, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Sarah MacDonald, Isabella Leonarda, Giovanni Gabrieli, Luca Marenzio, Hugo Distler, and Claudio Monteverdi. Joining Conductor Matthew Dirst and the Ars Lyrica ensemble are sopranos Julia Fox and Alexandra Gorman, countertenor Michael Skarke, tenors Kyle Stegall and Thomas O’Neill, bass-baritone Christopher Besch, and organist Mario Aschauer. This program is specially for Ars Lyrica subscribers, but single tickets are still available (as of press time) here for $40. Those tickets are limited, however, and this concert will not be livestreamed or recorded, so you’ll want to snap up your ticket as soon as possible.
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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.