Best Bets: British Arrows, Dirty Dancing and Diva Legends

Brooke Wilson as Olga in The Ugly Xmas Sweater Musical at Theatre Under the Stars.
Brooke Wilson as Olga in The Ugly Xmas Sweater Musical at Theatre Under the Stars. Photo by Melissa Taylor

Food and family will certainly highlight Thanksgiving weekend for many, but we got some suggestions of things to get you busy between napping off the tryptophan and watching football. Keep reading for this week’s list of best bets over the next seven days.

Back in 2015, a study from Microsoft claimed that people officially had an attention span shorter than a goldfish, and it’s allegedly (and anecdotally) only gotten shorter since. If you find your own attention span is a little short these days, you may want to check out the 2023 British Arrows at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 24, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The British Arrows Awards (gold, silver and bronze) are given to the best of advertisements, with this year’s recipients including ads featuring Daniel Craig, Miley Cyrus and John Boyega. Two additional screenings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, November 25, and Friday, December 8. Tickets to any of the screenings can be purchased here for $7 to $9. (Note that this one is recommended for mature audiences.)

Get ready to return to the Kingdom of Sweets at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 24, when Stanton Welch's The Nutcracker returns to Houston Ballet. Set to a beautiful score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the classic tale follows young Clara as she journeys from her home into a magical world with the Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy. Performances will continue through December 17 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and December 20-22 and 26; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays; 7:30 p.m. December 8, 14-15 and 19; 1 p.m. December 24; and 2 p.m. December 27. Tickets are available here for $30 to $230. VIP experiences – including access to a private reception, treats, a photo booth and more – are also available on select dates. More information can be found here.

Diana Ross once said, “It takes a long time to get to be a diva” – and if anyone should know, it’s Ross. Miss Ross is but one diva you’ll hear on Friday, November 24, at 8 p.m. when the Houston Symphony presents “I Will Survive” – Diva Legends. Conductor Lucas Waldin will lead the Symphony and diva vocalists LaKisha Jones and Nova Y. Payton in a genre-spanning program (including everything from pop and R&B to Broadway and disco) that includes songs from Beyoncé, Tina Turner, Lady Gaga, and many more. Performances are also scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday, November 25, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, November 26, at Jones Hall. Saturday night’s concert will also be livestreamed with tickets available for $20. In-hall tickets to any of the three concerts can be purchased here for $34 to $127.

Last year, Buffalo Bayou Park debuted “Cistern Illuminated,” a site-specific light installation placed in the cistern, an underground water retention area dating back to 1920. On Saturday, November 25, the multidisciplinary work by artist and engineer Kelly O’Brien will return to Buffalo Bayou Park with new additions, both audio and visual, for visitors to experience. Tours of the Cistern will be available Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and tickets for these tours can be purchased here for $10 to $12. Performances from the Schola Cantorum of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart will also come to the space on select dates from November 30 to January 6, 2024. A list of performance dates and tickets to these performances (which are $25) are available here. “Cistern Illuminated” will remain on view through January 7, 2024.

On Sunday, November 26, at 5 p.m. Creative Minds Collaborative will present their latest program, Retracing Paths, at The MATCH. The program will feature two new works, from CMC Executive and Artistic Director Nao Kusuzaki and Ad Deum Dance Company member Dylan Allen, and the other by Maria McCain, the director of dance at the University of St. Thomas. The third piece featured on the program is a reimagining of a work originally presented during an online show in 2020, reimagined by former Houston Ballet First Soloist (and current resident choreographer for the New Orleans Ballet Theatre) Oliver Halkowich called Frame of Mind. Tickets to the program can be purchased here for $10 to $25.

Fun fact: According to screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein, because Canadian border patrol thought the dailies they saw titled Dirty Dancing were for a film of, well, let’s say an adult variety, the name of 1987 romantic drama was almost changed to I Was a Teenage Mambo Queen. Luckily, that didn’t happen. You can experience the film like never before on Sunday, November 26, at 7 p.m. when Dirty Dancing in Concert comes to the Wortham Theater Center, courtesy of Performing Arts Houston. With the film, digitally remastered, playing on a big screen, and a live band and vocalists performing the film’s iconic soundtrack, including of course “(I've Had) The Time of My Life,” which won the Oscar for Best Original Song. A few tickets remain and can be purchased here for $69 to $109.

Paul Hope Cabarets will present their first holiday cabaret, We Need a Little Christmas, at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, November 27, at Ovations Night Club. Known for regularly bringing tunes from the Great American Songbook to Houston audiences, the group of local performers have mined the Great White Way for holiday songs – like “Lovers on Christmas Eve” from the 1977 musical I Love My Wife and the song the program was named for, “We Need a Little Christmas,” from Jerry Herman’s Mame – and paired them with a selection of less heard carols. Hope will also serve as emcee for the event, sharing stories from his 40 years doing holiday shows in Houston. Two additional performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, December 4, and Monday, December 11. Tickets can be purchased here for $15 to $125.

You could argue that the ugly Christmas sweater, a staple of the holiday season, really established itself in the early 2000s, right around the time Colin Firth turned up to a party in a reindeer sweater in Bridget Jones’s Diary. Regardless, on Tuesday, November 28, at 7 p.m. office employees will decorate for their livelihoods when they find out their jobs depend on who makes the best ugly Christmas sweater in the world premiere of The Ugly Xmas Sweater Musical, by Dan Knechtges and Megan Larche Dominick, at Theatre Under the Stars. Performances will continue at 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sundays through December 24 at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets can be purchased here for $40 to $85.

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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.