Let's all go to the lobby at Jones Hall, at the Wortham Theater Center, the Hobby Center and any other theater that catches your fancy to grab yourselves a snack. Houston has a first-class lineup for the theater-driven audience this weekend. Big cinema is all too easy to choose, so take a break from it and lend your ears to local talents that will indulge your need for escapism. Go on the journey of a little girl embarking on an adventure through New York in Shadowland. Take a trip to Cuba without your passport by listening to the heavily Cuban-influenced jazz of Grammy award winner Arturo Sandoval. After, close out your post-inaugural weekend by taking in Nixon in China at the Houston Grand Opera.
In our dreams, anything is possible, and the collective Pilobolus Dance Theater followed that thread to create an evening-length show that fuses shadow act, circus and concert, the visually stunning Shadowland, making its premiere in Houston. “The story is this little girl is going on a journey. She left home and goes to New York City and there are monsters — as many of those big-journey stories have — with hiccups and obstacles along the way,” says Marcus Powers, public relations manager for presenter -Society for the Performing Arts. A large arm reaches down to transform a girl into a dog (it can roll over and do tricks), and a kiss causes a giant’s head to break apart into a heart-tipped flower made of dancers. Powers says the performers move their bodies in front of or behind screens, with the aid of a few props, to make the magic onstage. “They do everything where it looks like something completely different.” Shadowland is only in Houston this Friday night, so don't miss the opportunity to watch and enjoy the skill of the Pilobolus Dance Theater on their pit stop through Houston.
8 p.m. January 20. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit spahouston.org. $43 to $103.
“Award-winning” and “musician” are thrown around way too much — and sometimes the two don’t even match. However, in the case of Arturo Sandoval, he has deserved all of the earned kudos. The 67-year-old Cuban jazz trumpet master, pianist and composer has scored ten Grammys, six Billboard awards, an Emmy and a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2013. There are many bona fide reasons for all that hardware. “The thing about Arturo, technically speaking, is that he’s one of the best trumpet players alive. His facility on the horn is nearly unmatched,” says Rick Mitchell, who wrote the program notes for Sandoval’s concert, which is presented by Da Camera. “Like other Cuban musicians of his generation, he had classical training. He brings classical and jazz into one precision sound.” Sandoval will surely deliver an energy-filled performance that will make you move and put you in the mood for a cold sangria by the moonlit beach. Grab your pair of tickets for this Friday night and don't be late; you don't want to miss a moment of Sandoval's performance.
B is for Bach…and breakdancing? Not so surprising, says Uwe Donaubauer, a.k.a. B-Boy Real, one of the dancers with the German troupe Flying Steps. Houston marks the last stop of the United States tour for Red Bull Flying Bach, which reinvents Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier by adding a backstory with romance, urban beats and power moves. Donaubauer says the preludes and fugues, composed in the 1700s and often paired with ballet, translate well to hip-hop. “You will feel like the music really fits our crew because we are the voices of Bach. The idea of what Bach was making with the music, it fits the character of each dancer.” He also says United States audiences are unique. “If we’re doing a solo or quartet, most of the time people go crazy. The Americans will go, ‘Ooh, that’s fresh. Go, girl; come on, go get him.’ The dancing is more alive; they are there in the moment,” says Donaubauer. “The Europeans, they wait until the end of the number.” Red Bull Flying Bach is more than just a clash of genres and sounds; this acts as a bridge of performing groups and audiences. Where one would have to choose between breakdancing or ballet, here you get the skilled execution of both. Houston audiences have the opportunity to catch their performance
There were whisperings that Good Will Hunting was the work of the two young, fresh-out-of-high-school, unknown Boston actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. These rumors are at the heart of the 2002 comedy Matt and Ben, written by a then relatively unknown Mindy Kaling and her best friend, Brenda Withers. The show opens with a fully formed Good Will Hunting script falling from the sky into Ben’s apartment and into Ben's and Matt’s struggling hands. Matt and Ben have to decide whether they go with it or continue trying to adapt Catcher in the Rye word for word. Both Logue and McCurdy are a wonder to watch. Mercifully eschewing too strong a Boston accent, the women inhabit their male personas with perfect dudeness. Hair braided up and clad in dress shirt, chinos and runners, Logue’s Matt is jumpy and high-strung even when he’s manspreading on Ben’s secondhand couch. Her long, dark hair worn down under a ballcap, McCurdy’s Ben has the swagger of a young man with more self-confidence than he deserves. Just when you think one or the other might be nailing the character more, you realize that both these actors are selling the hell outta the show and thrilling us. For selling us on a Boston accent in Texas, this appeals to our knack for accents and earns being our best bet for
8 p.m., January 20, 21 and 22. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit rogueproductionshtx.com. $17 to $37.
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In honor of its 30th anniversary, composer John Adams’sreturns to the Houston Grand Opera stage with Scott Hendricks as Richard Nixon and Andriana Chuchman as his wife, Pat, to tell the story of the president’s historic 1972 visit to China. “I’m just trying to find the physicality of it,” said Hendricks when interviewed in early rehearsals, adding that he watched (the movie made from the play) as research. “The music is great and the libretto is fantastic. It’s hard to believe it was John Adams’s first opera. I think it’s just a work of genius.” Sung in English with projected text. Running time is almost three hours with one intermission. Close out your weekend with this well-performed moment in history. Nixon in China runs through January 28, giving you time to catch it, but with this at the beginning of a busy spring season line-up, get a head start on this not-to-be-missed performance this
2 p.m. January 22; 7:30 p.m. January 20, 24, 26 and 28. Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas. For information, call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $15 to $354.
Margaret Downing, Jessica Goldman, Steve Jansen and Susie Tommaney contributed to this post.