The 5 Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Dickens on the Strand, the Sneaker Summit and More

New York-based actress/playwright Ginna Hoben wanted to see a holiday show besides The Santaland Diaries every Christmas. She looked around and didn’t see anything, so she wrote The Twelve Dates of Christmas. It’s a one-woman show coming to Bayou City Theatrics for its Houston premiere and our suggestion for a Friday visit. 

The talented Katrina Ellsworth stars. “She’s completely relatable, and so versatile, she plays around 20 characters in the show; she’s just incredible in each and every one,” says Colton Berry.

“Basically, it’s all one long drawn-out tale of her year following the breakup with her fiancé after she catches him cheating. She’s telling the story to us, and the audience has magically appeared inside her New York apartment; we’re girls sharing a glass of wine. It’s very smartly done. You feel like you’re engrossed in the story instead of a spectator.”

In addition to directing, Berry also wrote an original musical score, which works as a soundscape for the show. “We have a supernumerary cast of Christmas carolers that appear in her window that push along her story.

“The ending is sort of unexpected. It leaves you with a smile on your face, a happy feeling,” says Berry.

8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 5 p.m. Sundays. Through December 20. The Kaleidoscope, 705 Main. For information, call 832-817-8656 or visit bayoucitytheatrics.com. $35 to $40

Armed with some aftershave, some ball bearings and a lot of ingenuity, eight-year-old troublemaker Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) defends his home from bumbling burglars at Christmastime in the holiday film Home Alone.

For 25 years, audiences have laughed at his antics as he battles wits with the inept thieves (Jose Pesci and Daniel Stern) To celebrate the anniversary of Home Alone’s release, the Houston Symphony accompanies a screening. It's another pick for Friday. 

It’s a rich score. The main tune, “Somewhere in My Memory,” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, and composer John Williams’s score was nominated for Best Original Score. Williams is a familiar face at the Oscars — he’s had 49 nominations and five wins.

“There may be five or six different themes,” says Steven Reineke, principal POPS conductor designate for the Houston Symphony. “He uses them in very different ways, as little leitmotifs, the same way he wrote the score for Star Wars. He uses the music to represent the characters.

“I’ve done lots of different movie projects; I’ve conducted Wizard of Oz, West Side Story, Star Trek, Back to the Future, a lot of movies. It’s a big part of what a POPS conductor does these days,” says Reineke, who is slated to take over as principal POPS conductor for outgoing Michael Krajewski in 2017.

“The synchronization is the key; that’s very, very hard to do. This one is particularly challenging, because it’s a comedy. It’s almost like a cartoon. It has its heroic moments, but it’s not an epic adventure. It’s much more of a comic score, lots of woodwinds. [Williams] has a lot of hard hits, hard hits [that emphasize the action] on the screen.”

7:30 p.m. Friday. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $35 to $129.

Charles Dickens is one of the greatest novelists of the Victorian era. Galveston's residents think he's also a really good reason to give a party. Starting Friday and running Saturday and Sunday, that's just what the island's residents are doing. 

The annual Dickens on The Strand celebration is one of the biggest events on the island with several parades, tours, concerts, Civil War living history encampments and a facial hair contest. And then there are the very popular Dickens Victorian bed races.

This year, two of his descendants also will be present, great-great-granddaughter Jane Dickens Monk and great-great-great-granddaughter Lucinda Dickens Hawksley.

Hawksley, who has authored more than 20 nonfiction books, learned some interesting facts during her research. “I first started writing about Dickens when I wrote a biography of his artist daughter Katey,” Hawksley tells us. “Then I discovered what he was like as a father – he was very loving and indulgent and determined to educate his daughters properly, as well as his sons, which was unusual for a Victorian father.

“He wrote A Christmas Carol as a protest against the prevailing social and political conditions that kept people in poverty; he was inspired to write it after visiting Manchester in the north of England, where the poverty was even worse than he had seen in London. He said that he was writing it in order to strike a ‘hammer blow in favour of the poor man’s child.’”

We ask Hawksley if she will be wearing a Victorian-era or steampunk-inspired costume while in Galveston. “Victorian era – although I have a hankering to wear Steampunk some time.”

Hawksley hosts this year's Dinner with Dickens, and she'll attend several other events including the Queen’s parades, the Pickwick’s Lanternlight parade and the handbell concert. Ever the author, Hawksley is also set to lead children's writing workshops and judge the competition. She'll also be signing copies of her newest book, Queen Victoria’s Mysterious Daughter: A Biography of Princess Louise.

5 to 9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. 2215 Strand, Galveston. For information, call 409-765-7424 or visit dickensonthestrand.org. Free to $15.

It’s the semi-autobiographical story of a New York City out-of-work writer looking for something to tide him over so he can qualify for unemployment benefits, who accepts a job as an elf and is catapulted into the Santa chair. If you think you already know how this goes, then Ho Ho Humbug at Stark Naked Theatre may surprise you because a lot has changed in a year since the Houston launch of this play. The revised show is our choice for a Saturday visit. 

“Last year was the first production. I knew I was going to learn things,” says playwright Scott Burkell, who also takes on the role of the main character, Guy. The audience, he found, “wanted to get Guy in that Santa suit sooner.”

So this year’s version is not last year’s model. The play has been trimmed from two acts in two and a half hours to one act and a streamlined 90 minutes (which also means the change of clothing from Elf to Santa is accomplished onstage). Last year’s stark set has been replaced with one bursting with color. “It looks like Christmas morning exploded in your house,” says Kim Tobin-Lehl, who acted in the last version and is now directing.

Her husband, Philip Lehl, who directed the last outing, is now acting in the play. Kristen Warren (Murder Ballad at TUTS Underground, Mack and Mabel at Stages Repertory Theatre) has been added to the cast, taking on the Tobin-Lehl roles, among them: “The sassy little señorita from the Bronx; she turns into a kindly British woman who loves Santas but detests the elves.” Guy spends less time as an elf and more as Santa, roles have been tweaked and the ending has been changed.

Besides Burkell’s return, Susan Draper, who delighted audiences last year as the dim and sight-challenged elf, Sparkle, is back, this time at an even faster pace with a more poignant back story, Burkell says. As an added measure of interest, every night one lucky audience member will be invited to have a visit with Santa.

Again, parents are advised this play is not for kids who believe in Santa and that because of language, it’s best for those 13 years of age and older.

Dates and times vary. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday. Through December 23. Studio 101, 1824 Spring. For a complete schedule, call 832-866-6514 visit starknakedtheatre.com. $15 to $49.

Houstonians love their cowboy boots. And a great number of them also love their sneakers, as demonstrated on Sunday by the ever-growing  H-Town Sneaker Summit. Now the biggest expo of its kind in the nation, it began humbly enough. A couple of dozen enthusiasts got together at an Internet cafe a decade ago. That was then; this is now. And now, founder Bryan Angelle expects a crowd of 8,000 or more at the NRG Center.

Calling the event “a celebration of sneaker culture for the sneaker community,” Angelle gives us some shopping tips. “This season, I would say the Adidas Yeezy by Kanye West has been a big hit, and, of course, Jordan Brand will be re-releasing some timeless collectibles from Michael’s heyday.”

During the summit, visitors can see the latest and greatest in sneaker releases; gawk at rare vintage collectibles; buy, sell and trade shoes; or meet special guests like Jon Wexler, the global director of entertainment and influencer marketing for Adidas.

3 to 8 p.m. Sunday. NRG Center, One Reliant Park. For information, visit sneakersummit.com. $25 to $60.

Susie Tommaney, Margaret Downing and Chris Lane contributed to this post. 
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Olivia Flores Alvarez