The Five Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Blue Man Group & Venus in Fur

It’s hard to categorize the Blue Man Group, as this trio of performers with emotionless blue faces is so much more than a multimedia sound and light show featuring percussionists who improvise or mute actors who drum. But when we had the opportunity to speak with one of the Blue Men — which he was allowed to do since he wasn’t in costume — we challenged Ethan Golub to at least try.

“[It’s part] rock concert, science and technology, part dance party; it’s a really, really unique blend,” says Golub, who adds that it’s also “a very funny show,” which surprises first-timers. Which is why this is one of our recommendations for this Friday night.

The performers use their physicality and characterization (trickster, mad scientist, leader) to engage the audience members from the perspective of an innocent. Playing off the energy of the crowds also makes each show unique. “We like to think of the show as an experience,” says Golub.

“Even though we’re a touring show, this is our full theatrical show. We’ve gotten it down to a science. We travel with about six trucks. It’s pretty amazing. We don’t cut anything out in order to take it on the road,” says Golub, who promises that they “have some more tricks” up their sleeves.

7:30 p.m. Friday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Society for the Performing Arts, Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit spahouston.org. $43-$78. 

If you’ve ever been to a Las Vegas wedding palace in which a living Elvis officiates and then sings to the happy couple, you know the title “tribute artist.” We used to call them impersonators, like the late, great Jim Bailey, a fixture on ’70s television variety shows with his stunning musical interpretations of Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand. It’s not lip-synching; it’s actual performance art. Tribute bands are now a separate genre in the industry, spawning an entire catalog, selling out concerts and covering almost any of your favorite groups: ABBA, The Police, Queen, The Who, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, One Direction, you name it. There’s also an imitation group: The award-winning Broadway musical Jersey Boys is the ultimate tribute band to The Four Seasons, albeit in dramatic form.

With an authentic family-tree pedigree, and currently on tour from their home base in Branson, Missouri, tribute band Liverpool Legends offer a rollicking homage to our favorite boy band of all time — the Beatles — which we think is a great way to spend Friday evening. If you once screamed your head off while watching The Ed Sullivan Show or lived through the Beatles’ historic concert at Shea Stadium, these current Grammy-nominated mopheads — handpicked by the late George Harrison’s sister for the band’s startup in 2006 — will bring back every fond memory like an acoustic flashback. If you have a favorite chart-topping song, don’t worry, these guys will play it as they impressively rock and roll through the group’s entire history, including later solo work from each member: “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Long and Winding Road.” Costume changes, original orchestrations, vocal mannerisms and pyrotechnics, what more is there? If you squint a bit, the ersatz four actually look like the originals; they certainly sound like the lads.

Knowing that so many have never heard the Beatles perform live, the quartet — who also are big fans of the Beatles themselves — try to keep their performances as close to the original as possible.

8 p.m. Friday. The Stafford Centre, 10505 Cash, Stafford. For information, call 281-208-6900 or visit staffordcentre.com. $40-$100.

“In 2013 Venus in Fur was the most produced play in America,” according to actor/director/producer Guy Roberts. “As soon as I read it, I realized that David Ives had written one of the great modern roles for women.” So Roberts decided the work, based on the erotic novel Venus in Furs, was perfect for his Prague Shakespeare Company to do, which it did in both English- and Czech-language versions. (According to Roberts, no jokes were lost in translation.) Now the company is bringing the English version to Houston’s Main Street Theater to once again tell the story of an aspiring actress and a director/playwright who’s very full of himself.

On Saturday you might want to catch the show at Main Street Theater. Jessica Boone plays Vanda, the actress who seems to be one thing and then morphs into another and another during the 90-minute one act in which she tries to get a job and then increasingly challenges the director. “The actress plays almost five different versions of people in the play,” says Roberts, who plays Thomas, the director. “My character is a young first-time director very full of himself; he’s egotistical, he’s arrogant, [he] thinks he has everything figured out and he’s perhaps not a very nice person on the inside. It’s such a smart, well-written play that keeps the audience guessing what’s going on.” Boone and Roberts prepare for being onstage continuously with a pre-show ritual, he says. “We actually do the entire play about four hours before the performance every night.” Roberts also believes that his relationship with Boone in real life — “we are partners off stage” — adds something to the performance.

The Prague company, which has also teamed up with Main Street to present Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night this month, has benefited greatly from its five-year association with the Houston theater in which productions have been done in both countries involving actors from both countries, Roberts says. “So many of Main Street’s audiences have seen Jessica and I onstage in Shakespeare. We hope they’ll come to see us in this.”

7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. 2540 Times Boulevard. Through January 24. For information, call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com. $36-$39. 

“I don’t consider what I do work. I get to make people’s days better.” That’s the philosophy of stand-up comedian Carlos Mencia, who is cranking out two shows this Saturday night at the Houston Improv, one of our picks for great weekend entertainment.

The club atmosphere of the Improv is a welcome departure for Mencia, who just recorded his recent special in a similarly “intimate” setting. “Years ago, my ego would have said, ‘You can’t do a small venue.’ People are going to look at you and say, ‘What happened?’”

After ten hourlong specials, the Honduras-born comic figured his audience would accept him only in a “big venue” given his “rock and roll-size” performances. But Mencia had a change of heart, thanks to his vocal fans. “People who come and see me perform at the clubs, those people always come up to me and say, ‘I’ve seen you at the Toyota Center [and] the Verizon, but when you do the clubs, it’s such a different feel.’”

Besides stand-up, most know Mencia for his successful sketch-hybrid series, Mind of Mencia, which aired on Comedy Central from 2005 to 2008. When the Houston Press interviewed Mencia in 2010, he related that it was at first difficult to follow Chappelle’s Show, with some critics slagging him as a “cheap replacement for Dave Chappelle.” Mencia says he felt the pressure to perform instantly. “It was painstaking,” the comedian confides. “But it was also amazing. I couldn’t enjoy it [at the time], it went by so fast.”

The show also introduced him to a new audience. “I was able to connect with [this] generation that’s now old enough to come out and see me perform live. When I see people in their early twenties [in the audience], I realize who I was connecting with. And that is what it was for. That’s why it’s not work.”

8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday; 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday; 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $25. 

We’re not quite sure what alligator handling has to do with boats, but we think it’s one of the coolest demonstrations on hand at this weekend’s Houston Boat Show, which opens this Sunday at 11 a.m. Whether you just want to eye the shiny boats and dream, or you’re ready to take the plunge and invest in some serious weekend recreation, this show offers plenty of time to look around, talk to experts and comparison shop.

“There will be around 300 to 325 exhibits,” says Lynette Eichenour, director of marketing. “We have a bunch of fun toys, boating gear, hats, electronics and, of course, stuff for the ladies, including jewelry. We have insurance booths, engine parts, a really large selection of booth exhibitors. Over 1,000 boats, easily, will be available. We have several hundred campers and RVs on display as well.”

“We do different seminars every day on different topics that include different types of fishing, kayaking, skiing, electronic equipment, educational seminars and daily fishing demonstrations,” says Eichenour. “We’ll also have a live alligator handling show, something different we haven’t done before.”

1 to 9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. NRG Center, One NRG Park. For information, call 832-667-1400 or visit houstonboatshows.com. $12 admission plus $12 cash parking. 

Margaret Downing, D.L. Groover, Vic Shuttee and Bill Simpson contributed to this post.

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