Press Picks

december 4
Holiday in the Park Oh! The comforts of tradition: The sweet, angelic voices of bored schoolchildren singing inanely silly songs in unison; the flashing lights on fat, plastic trees; and dear old Santa, the most beloved creepy guy in really weird clothes on the planet. If you aren't filled with ennui at the very thought of all this holiday folderol, then Bellaire Park is putting on a party just for you. A lighted kids' train, Santa on a fire engine, a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony and food, glorious food, will all be at your fingertips this evening, right in the middle of middle-class paradise. 6-8:30 p.m., Bellaire Park, 7008 South Rice Ave., 662-8280. Free.

november 5
Slaid Cleaves Folk music gets a bum rap these days: Slow and steady and full of stories, it offers those tales of woe and everyday Joes that can wheedle their way right through the smooth jade of your 1990s chest into the heart you packed away long ago, before everything got so bad that having a heart was the last thing anyone needed. Slaid Cleaves unpacks your heart with songs said to be some of the "most accomplished ... recorded by anyone in years." He lives in Austin, so don't miss your chance to see him while he's here. 9 p.m., Anderson Fair, 2007 Grant, 528-8576.

19th Street Holiday Open House Right about now, life narrows to only one activity: shopping. Oh my God! Just making a list takes days. And when you hit the malls, there's nothing but the same old dreck. Nineteenth Street, in the sweet Historic Downtown Heights, offers several blocks of one-of-a-kind shopping choices. From antiques to hand-me-downs to homemade crafts, you're bound to find something for that finicky friend who always hates everything. And tonight, food and refreshments and holiday lights will make your shopping a little more bearable. 6-9 p.m., 200 and 300 blocks of 19th Street in the Heights.

Flowers of Evil: Baudelaire, Chopin, Wagner and Debussy The New York Times said of this show: "Sarah Rothenberg, the artistic director of this acclaimed series, seems to have hit on another natural mix of sensibilities." The first half of the evening, which promises to be terribly dramatic, will bring music and poetry together with a film created by Da Camera for this production. Recordings of Baudelaire's "Les Fleurs du Mal" will be accompanied by selected works of Chopin. In the second half of the evening, hear rare French songs by Richard Wagner, along with works by Debussy. 8 p.m., Wortham Theater Center, Cullen Theater at 500 Texas, 524-5050. $15-$30.

The Christian Brother You're the Scrooge, the Grinch, the I-hate-Christmas fellow in the office, and there's simply nothing for you to do right now except sit on your thumbs and wait. Right? Christmas has taken over the ballet and the symphony. And forget TV: TV's crawling with Christmas. Even most theaters are showing only "family fun" and "holiday fare." It's enough to make your teeth ache from the sweetness of it all. But hold on a minute: Here's one little show that just might be suitable for all you Christmas-phobics. In fact, Theatre Songe and Lovelenz are billing their newest fare as a "Christmas antidote." The Christian Brother, by Australian playwright Ron Blair, satirizes all the ins and outs of a "good" 1950s Catholic education. Satire, especially during the holiday season, is good for the soul. 8 p.m., Little Room Downstairs, 2326 Bissonnet, 880-3450. $10.

november 6
Outdoor Ice-Skating Lessons Though we boasted on this very page just a couple of weeks ago that we Texans certainly do know how to ice-skate, thank you very much, we have to admit now that the statement may have been a wee bit of a stretcher. Maybe even a big ol' fat whopper. Fact is, last time we had ice on the road, we Houstonians had to turn on the TV just to figure out what that shiny stuff on the blacktop was. But even though we might not already know how to skate, we can learn, damn it, we can learn. Every Saturday, on that puddle of frozen water downtown, get a lesson on how to stand, how to fall (we're gonna need that one) and how to actually shake a leg. 10-10:30 a.m. Miracle on Main Street, 1000 block of Main, 650-3022. $10, includes skate rental and all the skating time you want, after the lesson.

Oliver! Sometimes it seems that Dickens practically invented Christmas. Victorian images litter every TV screen and every other shop window. They're charming, but most of us would rather stew our eyeballs in oil than have to sit through one more performance of A Christmas Carol. Okay, so that's a bit of an overstatement. But this year, there's a C.C. alternative. Oliver!, also based on the work of the old master of magazine serial writing, doesn't have one ghost, not one motley, pathetic family named Cratchit and no gawky Scrooge. Instead, meet a bunch of plucky little Victorian gang-bangers who'll do just about anything for a dime. Everyone gets their comeuppance in the end, so the audience will get its Christmas quota of Dickensian Protestant scolding. But at least there's fun music and terrific dancing. 8 p.m. The Music Hall, (800) 678-5440. $15-$48.

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Lee Williams