Things To Do

Best Bets: Jazz, Scrambled, and The Queen of Disco

The Cookers headline The Houston Jazz Festival at Miller Outdoor Theatre this week.
The Cookers headline The Houston Jazz Festival at Miller Outdoor Theatre this week. Photo by John Abbott
Twenty-five years ago today, went live, changing our lives forever. Join us in celebrating National Day by using the search engine to look up more information about this week’s best bets, which include a world premiere play, a tribute to a disco star, and a whole lotta jazz.

After falling into a deep depression following unsuccessful fertility treatments necessitated by endometriosis, Rotem Nachmany turned to her craft: theater. On Friday, September 16, at 8 p.m. Mildred’s Umbrella opens their 2022-2023 season with a limited, three-performance run of the resulting one-woman show, Scrambled. Nachmany told the Houston Press that her decision to process her experience by translating it “into something artistic using the language of theater” created “an opportunity to make the voice of women like me heard and to raise awareness about fertility treatments and endometriosis.” Along with Friday night’s show, two additional performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday, September 17, and 3 p.m. Sunday, September 18, at The Deluxe Theater. Tickets are pay-what-you-can, with a $10 minimum, and can be purchased here.

Since Ken Ludwig’s Tony Award-winning play, Lend Me a Tenor, made its Broadway debut back in 1989, its been bringing “mistaken identities, sexy ladies, naughty banter, looming scandal” – i.e. an old school hotel-room farce – to theaters around the world. On Friday, September 16, at 8 p.m. the Alley Theatre will premiere Lend Me a Soprano, Ludwig’s gender-swapped twist on his original tale. Susan Koozin, who plays Julie in the production, recently explained her history with Lend Me a Tenor to the Houston Press and said that while Ludwig’s new work has “a very different energy” with women in the lead roles, she still believes it will be a hit for people who “are into fast-paced comedies” with “brilliant comedic actors” and “some lovely operatic voices.” Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through October 9. Tickets can be purchased here for $26 to $78.
Did you know that “The Queen of Disco,” Donna Summer, was “the first artist to win the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance”? It was for “Hot Stuff” in 1979, and it was one of five Grammys Summer claimed during her career. If you’re one of those for whom disco is not dead (like us), you’ll want to head over to Miller Outdoor Theatre on Friday, September 16, at 8 p.m. for The Ultimate Donna Summer Tribute starring Rainere Martin. The show – fully produced with band, costumes and backup singers – will include hits like “Last Dance” and “Bad Girls.” This one will not be livestreamed, but you can reserve a free seat here starting at 10 a.m. today, Thursday, September 15, or you can aim for ticketless seating on the Hill.

The Wizard of Oz is “the most-watched movie ever” – so says the Library of Congress – and there’s a reason. It’s been said that the film’s “ability to serve as a blank canvas for so many kinds of American fantasies,” as well as its themes of “friendship between strangers; of journey and home; of human flourishing against the odds” make it timeless. It’s also pretty with what may be the “the 20th century's most iconic song.” So slip on your ruby red slippers – which were going to be silver like in L. Frank Baum’s book until Louis B. Mayer saw an opportunity to show off their new 3-strip color process, Technicolor – and head over to Discovery Green on Saturday, September 17 at 7 p.m. when Bank of America Screen on the Green presents a free screening of The Wizard of Oz.
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The Houston Grand Opera Studio Showcase returns for their annual presentation of their studio artists this week.
Photo by Lynn Lane
On Saturday, September 17, at 7 p.m. head over to the Wortham Theater Center to meet the artists of the Houston Grand Opera Studio during the annual Studio Showcase. This includes baritones Navasard Hakobyan and Luke Sutliff, bass Cory McGee, mezzo-soprano Emily Treigle and Erin Wagner, pianists Michelle Papenfuss and Bin Yu Sanford, sopranos Meryl Dominguez and Renée Richardson, and tenors Ricardo Garcia and Eric Taylor. Performers will show off on selections specifically chosen to highlight their talents, and these include works from Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd, Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito, Otto Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata, which will open the 2022-2023 HGO season on October 21. Tickets to the Studio Showcase can be purchased here for $20.

When its white producers wanted an “upbeat” ending to Trouble in Mind, a 1955 “backstage comedy” by Alice Childress about the experiences of Black actors starring in a play about lynching made by white producers, she refused and the production never opened. Childress’s work finally debuted on Broadway in 2021 or, as Deadline stated, “sixty-four years late and right on time,” a sentiment that Tené A. Carter agrees with. Carter, who will play the lead role of “self-made woman” Wiletta Mayer in Main Street Theater’s production, opening at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 17, told the Houston Press, "A good work you can't hold down. So here it comes years later and yet right on time." Performances of the regional premiere will continue at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through October 16. Tickets can be purchased here for $35 to $59.
Five years ago, Karen Stokes Dance premiered a one-act version of Mapping & Glaciers for the company’s 20th anniversary. Now, after many delays, the complete work – a union of choreography, film, and original music all under the direction of Stokes – will open on Saturday, September 17, at 7:30 p.m. at The MATCH. Stokes recently told The Dance Dish that inspirations for the piece came from maps, the U.S. border wall, changing boundaries due to climate change as well as “the tribal boundaries we create as human beings.” Mapping & Glaciers will also be presented at 7:30 p.m. on September 18, 19, 22, 23 and 24, and at 4 p.m. September 25. You can purchase general admission tickets on a sliding scale here, with a suggested price of $35.

Jazz comes to the Miller Outdoor Theatre on Saturday, September 17, at 8 p.m. when the Houston Jazz Collective presents The Houston Jazz Festival, headlined by The Cookers. The septet, “an amazing collection of veteran jazz musicians” who have “been at the core of the post-bop jazz scene for decades” will perform music from their latest album, Look Out!, released in 2021. Nellie McKay, a “satin-voiced” singer-songwriter “known for her unlikely and unexpected blend of influences,” will open, and the writing and art of Jack Whitten will also be featured. You can reserve a free seated ticket here starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, September 16, or you can claim a free, unreserved spot on the Hill the night of the program. If you can’t make it over, you can also catch the show on the Miller Outdoor Theatre website, YouTube channel, or Facebook page.

Over at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, September 20, at 7:30 p.m., Theatre Under The Stars will open their new season with a new production of the Tony Award-winning musical Ain’t Misbehavin’. Conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Murray Horowitz, the “well-known musical revue celebrating the music of Fats Waller and the other greats of the Harlem Renaissance” – music that has been described as “seductive, sassy and throbbingly human.” Performances are scheduled for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, September 25, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, October 2, at 2 p.m. through October 2. Tickets can be purchased here for $40 to $145.
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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.