Press Picks

january 2
Phantom The sewer-dwelling brute is out of fashion; the Phantom of this hit musical is from the Beauty and the Beast school of disfigurement. He's a sensitive artist and scholar with the voice of a world-class tenor (thanks to Richard White's portrayal) who's devoted to the betterment of a beautiful soprano. Phantom debuted at the Music Hall in 1991 and has since spawned 175 productions worldwide, grossing more than $100 million; the gothic tale makes its homecoming as TUTS's most successful musical, and with much of the original cast in tow. 8 p.m. Performances continue through January 19 (see Thrills, Theater for additional showtimes). Music Hall, 810 Bagby. For tickets, call Advantix at (800) 766-6048. $18-$48.

PhoneWorks and WebWorks DiverseWorks kicks off the New Year by offering a couple of new ways to experience new art. The first, PhoneWorks, lets your fingers do the walking: Call 228-2882 today and hear Joel Brower recite five of his original poems. This inaugural work is current -- the ideas for a couple of the poems were co-opted from newspaper headlines -- and optimistic in a "we-fucked-up-but-you-can-learn-from-us" kind of way. Don't be put off by Brower's warning, "I hope this isn't a toll call you're making"; the entire experience can be had in less than ten minutes. The text-based art and aural performances of PhoneWorks will rotate biweekly; dial up Brower's work through January 15. The second unveiling is of DiverseWorks's e-zine WebWorks; visit for a multimedia exhibition pulled together from the art space's late November Digital Storytelling Workshop. For information on reaching or contributing to PhoneWorks or WebWorks, call 223-8346. Free.

Hairdresser Becomes Famous Artist When Chris Olivier was a stylist, he was known to some as "the one next to the window." Now he wants to be known simply as Olivier, an artist (albeit an artist with good hair); only time will tell whether the newly shortened moniker takes or he becomes known as "the one whose art is next to the pasta salad." Either way, he's taken the plunge and is putting his paintings up for a monthlong public display at Butera's delicatessen. Opening reception, 5:30-8:30 p.m. tonight. Through January 31. Butera's, 4621 Montrose, 523-0722. For more information, call 520-0157. Free.

"Big Daddy" Ralph May Big Daddy commands attention. He started developing his fairly high energy shtick on the Comedy Showcase stage six years ago, when he was a mere lad of 19, and just recently he cleared a field of 2,000 comedians to earn a spot on the People's Choice Comedy Festival of Toronto bill alongside Robin Williams. The Showcase folks describe May as "larger than life"; he'll have to be to hold his own on a stage with the frenzied Williams. Before he heads to the chilly north, he's playing for a hometown audience that's long since warmed to him. 8:30 p.m. tonight and Sunday; 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The Comedy Showcase, 12547 Gulf Freeway (at Fuqua), (281) 481-1188. $6-$9.

january 3
Houston International Boat, Sport & Travel Show A vast and varied selection is one reason why, for 41 years, people have been coming to this exposition. More than 500 exhibits spread across 19 acres are there for the taking or, more realistically, for the gawking. But it's the little things that make this show special. For example, the Fish-O-Rama, where for 37 years now urban dwellers have come to teach their offspring the joys of planting their feet firmly on the Astrohall concrete, casting their lines into the indoor tank and hooking rainbow trout. Then you've got the new virtual reality sports fishing simulator and Channel 13 outdoorsman Thom Dickerson, broadcasting live throughout the ten-day event. 5-10 p.m. tonight. Through January 12. Astrohall and AstroArena, Kirby Drive at Loop 610, 799-9500. $5; $2, children under 12.

Speed There's Keanu Reeves's version, and then there's IMAX's version, which cuts the Hollywood crap and gets down to the heart of the matter -- intensely fast forward motion. Using cyclists racing around the concrete bowl of an Olympic velodrome, a future Indy champ manipulating the hairpin turns of a mountain road and astronauts soaring above Earth at 25,000 miles per hour, this film examines the social, historical, comical and scientific aspects of speed. Multiple showings daily. Space Center Theater, Space Center Houston, 1601 NASA Road 1, (281) 244-2100. IMAX screenings are included in the park's general admission price of $11.95 for adults, $8.95 for children four-11 and $10.95 for seniors. Children under four admitted free.

Taking Steps The Alley presents its ninth and final play of the 50th anniversary season, and they've chosen to go with goofy, lighthearted fun in the form of a British farce. Ill-conceived schemes, mistaken identities and English puns are the mainstay of Alan Ayckbourn's madcap play. Previews begin today (Taking Steps opens officially on January 8). 7:30 p.m. Neuhaus Arena Stage, Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Avenue, 228-9341. $19, preview performances; $35-$37, January 8-26.

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Betsy Froehlich