Press Picks

january 15
Triple Focus Eighteen years ago, the Jewish Community Center started Dance Month at the Kaplan Theatre, and it's still going strong. This weekend, see three of Houston's finest professional dance companies -- Houston Metropolitan Dance Center, Joan Karff's New Dance Group and Weave Dance Company -- together in concert, all performing original modern and jazz dance works. 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday, Jan. 17, at the Jewish Community Center, Kaplan Theatre, 5601 South Braeswood, 729-3200. $12; $10, JCC members; $7, seniors and students.

Gigi The line "Thank heaven for little girls" might sound creepy in our 1990s consciousness, but back in the '50s, when French novelist Colette was watching her novel get famous via the machinations of Hollywood, nobody thought twice when Maurice Chevalier crooned those words in his sexy French accent. Theatre Under the Stars has revived the Lerner & Loewe musical version of Colette's tale. And this time, TV's Love Boat captain Gavin MacLeod stars in this tale of a precocious French teenager and the adults she intrigues and mystifies. It's fun and romantic, albeit terribly dated and terribly sexist. (Yes, Virginia, even a woman writer can be sexist.) Thru Feb. 1. 8 p.m. tonight (see Thrills for other dates and times), Music Hall, 810 Bagby, (800) 678-5440. $15-$48.

The Jesus Lizard After headlining a New Year's Eve show at New York's infamous CBGBs, The Jesus Lizard is snaking its way down south to our neck of the woods. This punk-modern-progressive rock and completely original band (some of whose members used to belong to Scratch Acid, out of Austin) will play, wail, sing and do their wild thing tonight. 8 p.m., Mary Jane's, 4216 Washington Avenue, 869-5263. $10.

january 16
Chaplin: Between Laughter and Tears Universally recognized by his baggy pants, derby hat and cane, Charlie Chaplin became the century's first superstar; his Little Tramp is simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. Tonight, the Museum of Fine Arts begins a series showcasing Chaplin's most famous works, as well as some of his more obscure ones. In The Great Dictator, Chaplin plays two roles: a Jewish barber who resembles the Little Tramp, and Adenoid Hynkel, a burlesque version of Adolf Hitler. Made in 1940, the movie was one of the first that dared to make fun of the Third Reich. 7:30 p.m., Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7515. $5; $4 seniors and students; free, kids 12 and under. (Special note to parents: Though The Great Dictator isn't aimed at kids, it's kid-friendly -- as is the entire Chaplin series.)

Houston Center for Photography Few galleries in Houston lend space for the art of photography. But photography continues to emerge, becoming more and more revealing and thought-provoking as photographers recognize its manipulative powers. Today, three photographers open shows of their work at the Houston Center for Photography: There's Carol Crow's "A Remembrance," Takayuki Ogawa's "Beyond the Mirror: A Self-Portrait" and Marianne Courville's "Based on a True Story." None will be mistaken for Ansel Adams. Thru Feb. 15. Opening 6-8 p.m. tonight, Houston Center for Photography, 1441 West Alabama, 529-4755.

january 17
Under Construction AlienNation Co., a new nonprofit performing arts organization experimenting with "cross-cultural ideas and multiple media," will hold a benefit party. Besides raising money for its upcoming performance series Parachute, the company is also celebrating the opening of The Americas, formerly known as El Mercado del Sol and now under redevelopment. Enjoy food, live music, DJs, films, visual-art installations and other "performance pieces" while roaming the 385,000 square feet of refurbished mall space, and help yet another new arts organization make it to solid ground. 8 p.m., 2115 Runnels (corner of Navigation & Jensen), 521-3325. $35; $50, couples.

Arbor Day at Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens Is there anything more sweetly American-sounding than Arbor Day? Never mind that we have clear-cut thousands of acres of just about every forest on the American continents; there are still organizations that believe in the power and beauty of trees. Mercer Arboretum is one such organization, and the folks there are working hard to take care of the trees we have left, and plant new ones. Today, learn how to prune your existing trees, get a free tree seedling and learn to select a tree or shrub that will do well in the spot where you want it to grow. 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., tree giveaway; 10:30 a.m., pruning lecture and demonstration; 12:30-2 p.m., lecture on selecting trees and shrubs. Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, 22306 Aldine-Westfield Road (one mile north of FM 1960), (281) 443-8731. Free.

A Symphony in White The Wonderful World of Horses features the world-famous Royal Lipizzaner stallions, those dancing white horses that have come all the way from Austria to perform in grand equestrian style. See the riding style taught at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, and the leaps and maneuvers once used by riders to protect and defend themselves on the battlefield 400 years ago. 2 and 7:30 p.m., Compaq Center, 10 Greenway Plaza, 629-3700. $14.50-$18.50.

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Lee Williams