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The 5 Best Things to Do This Weekend in Houston: Celebrate 4th of July with Cannons, the Beatles and Cocaine and Ethel Merman

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In honor of the nation's freedom, the Houston Symphony presents "ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Nights: Star-Spangled Salute," a Friday night performance where children and families are welcome to come and hang out under the stars as conductor Michael Krajewski and the Houston Symphony put on a show. There'll be patriotic, heartfelt performances of everything American, and the end -- which will close with the 1812 Overture -- should be quite a note on which to celebrate. If you're so inclined, seats to the show will be available, but they're definitely not required. All you'll need is a blanket and perhaps a picnic basket, and the hill above Miller Outdoor Theatre should provide the rest.

Let freedom ring at 8:30 p.m. Friday. 6000 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 713‑224‑7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. Free.

The exclusive Houston venue for the 50th anniversary of the film A Hard Day's Night, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has a three-day series of screenings planned, including one on Friday. The film has been restored, and is now enhanced with all the visuals and audio you could ask for. Giles Martin, son of the Beatles' longtime manager, had a hand in the new sound mix, which gives the movie even more of that '60s-era authenticity. From songs like "And I Love Her" to "Can't Buy Me Love," A Hard Day's Night is almost guaranteed to be a singalong of epic proportions, should you feel so inclined to pull out the big karaoke-style guns. But whether you're singing along or not, this multi-day event will have you feeling the way you did back when flower children, and the Beatles, reigned supreme.

Celebrate a different sort of British Invasion at 1 p.m. July 4, 7 p.m. July 5, 5 p.m. July 6, 1 p.m. July 10. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit mfah.org. $9.

Long gone are the days when video game music consisted of annoying beeps and boops. For more than a decade now, sweeping symphonic scores have been as important to the game experience as the complex visuals. It's become a -business as significant as the production of movie scores and draws big-name talent. Using themes from some of the most intense and popular video games ever to be released, the Houston Symphony will take audiences through American mythologist Joseph Campbell's "monomyth" in rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes, one of our choices for this Saturday. Campbell's theory is also known as "the hero's journey." He argued that classical myths follow the same patterns, even though they were created centuries apart. The steps of the hero's journey fall into categories of "Separation," "Initiation" and "Return." The Houston Symphony describes the progression as such: "Each stage in the monomyth is a chapter in our story, and each game/musical selection was chosen primarily for its suitability for the chapter that it is featured in." The musicians will perform selections from Portal®, Journey®, Final Fantasy®, The Elder Scrolls® and Halo®. Conductor Miriam Burns will guide the symphony through the epic musical tale. With stunning visuals and vocal accompaniment by the Houston Symphony Chorus, you can bet it's going to be an evening well spent. Best of all? You can bring your teenagers and get some serious parent cred.

The music starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $29 to $99.

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River Oaks Theatre is showing Army of Darkness for its midnight screening on Friday and Saturday. It's the third in director Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series and the last one that starred Bruce Campbell. While it may not have turned the square-jawed actor into a household name, it certainly did propel him to B-movie and pop-culture star status. Army of Darkness squishes a mystical quest movie together with a zombie film and pumps up the campiness until hilarity ensues. In this installment, Ash (played by Campbell) is whisked from a big-box discount store to the Middle Ages, where there's yet another army of Evil Dead to defeat. (Isn't there always?)

11:55 p.m. Saturday. Landmark River Oaks Theatre, 2009 West Gray. For information, call 713-866-8881 or visit landmarktheatres.com. $10.50.

After a successful Houston run in June 2012 that made L. Robert Westeen a finalist for the Best Playwright award at the 2012 Houston Theater Awards, Cocaine and Ethel Merman: The New Homo Guide will appear in Houston once more, including a show on Sunday. Originally developed by Westeen as a performance piece about his own life, the comedy Cocaine and Ethel Merman, as Westeen affectionately refers to his work, is the real-life uproarious story of a man who spends an evening alongside a coked-out Ethel Merman impersonator (are you sold yet?). The two are an unlikely pair, but the chain of events that take place that night ultimately give the man a new outlook on his life, past and present. Anchored by the protagonist's coming out and of-age tale, Cocaine and Ethel Merman is often hailed as a compelling story for any audience member, gay or straight, as well as a commentary on one man's journey through a troubling time and "coming out" on the other side a better man.

Cocaine and Ethel Merman: The New Homo Guide runs for six performances at Studio 101. 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m. Sundays through July 15. For information, visit queensburytheatre.org.

Angelica Leicht, Phaedra Cook and Barrett White contributed to this post.

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