It seems that the revelry can't begin until we stop for a moment to pay tribute to Carrie Fisher, so we're beginning our weekend with a lightsaber vigil over at Alamo Drafthouse in Katy. The back-to-back deaths of both Fisher and her mother, the iconic Debbie Reynolds, remind us that time is fleeting and life is precious, so be sure to connect with friends and family this weekend in Houston. We've got Pablo Francisco's irreverent take on president-elect Trump, a handful of celebrations for New Year's Eve (ranging from retro to futuristic), and even a few laid-back offerings for hangover Sunday. Be sure to check out the Houston Press 2016 New Year's Eve Guide for all the action this Saturday night.
Incredibly touching and apropos, Alamo Drafthouse has invited back the cosplayers of the 501st Legion to attend, in full regalia, this Friday's special lightsaber vigil for Carrie Fisher. The folks at Alamo tell us that, even if you don't own a lightsaber, they won't pass judgment (this time around), and you can bring flashlights and glow sticks to help light up the night sky. Dig into those closets, dress up as your favorite Star Wars character, and invite your fellow Wookiees, Bounty Hunters, Ewoks and Stormtroopers. Plans are still in the works, so be sure to check out Alamo's Facebook and Twitter pages for breaking updates. May the Force be with you, Carrie Fisher.
6:45 p.m. Friday. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, 531 South Mason Road, Katy. For information, call 281-492-6900 or visit drafthouse.com/houston. Free.
Impressionist Pablo Francisco can’t control the voices in his head. “Everybody just comes out all at once,” the ex-MADtv star says. His gallery of spot-on impressions of Mark Wahlberg, Chris Rock and Christopher Walken might appear during his annual pass through Houston, but he’s also mixing in some cartoons. Working with animator Steve Kramer, Francisco describes the new act as a unique blend of live material and on-screen animation. “I’ll talk about Dog the Bounty Hunter, then you’ll see a cartoon of Dog the Bounty Hunter. It’s really cool.” He’s also delving into politics. “I’m learning Trump, so get ready,” he laughs. “You gotta pull out the words he loves, like ‘huuuuuuuge.’ Everything’s huuuuuuuge! And since Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken over The Apprentice, you can get them switching jobs and all that.” After a year like this, we could use a few laughs, making this our other recommendation for Friday night.
8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday. Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $22 to $70.
Time is forever moving forward and New Year’s Eve/Day is no exception. But party-seekers can at least feel like they’re superhuman, rewinding time during the New Year’s Eve Historical Bash at George Ranch Historical Park. The shebang brings back old-timey holiday traditions, ranging from a hay ride and old-school mask- and noisemaking crafts to the dos and don’ts of “first-footing” and, at noon, a countdown at the park’s 1830s Jones Stock Farm Site. Additionally, “our historic food ways department will be holding a special New Year’s Eve historic lunch at 12:30 p.m. in the yard of the 1930s George Home site,” says Jennifer Farrell of the Fort Bend County Museum Association. “The menu includes grilled or smoked pork, Hoppin’ John, mixed greens with hocks, fried cabbage, cracklin’ bread and peach cobbler.” Reservations are required for lunch, and there’s a park entry fee of $5 to $10. This sounds like a great way to wrap up the year before the drunks hit the streets, making it one of our picks for Saturday.
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. 10215 FM 762, Richmond. For information, call 281-343-0218 or visit georgeranch.org. $4 to $15.
This year has delivered some real stinkers. We lost David Bowie and Prince. Ebola and Zika flared up. The list of this year’s bad juju is inexhaustible. So, in the spirit of bidding adieu to this particularly nasty year, Mildred’s Umbrella organized the perfect way to ring in the hopefully more upbeat new year. The theater group’s Anything Goes New Year’s Eve Anti-Gala goes against all the rules. Dress up or wear pajamas — nothing is forbidden for this event. “We’re making it fun and casual, but it has spruced-up elements for people who want to do something fancy at midnight,” says party planner Dennis Draper. Be sure to sample the grilled cheese bar, board games, Nintendo and Xbox stations this Saturday night, plus complimentary beer from Saint Arnold Brewing Company. Also, plan ahead for the 11:45 p.m. “Out-With-The-Bad” ceremony, followed by a Champagne toast at midnight.
8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday. Studio 101, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832-463-0409 or visit mildredsumbrella.com. $20 to $35.
Even for the most crazed Johann Sebastian Bach fanatic, there’s a decent chance that he hasn’t heard BWVs 28, 36c and 248/V/1 in a live setting. “The music was specifically written for New Year’s Eve, so it’s not a widely performed program,” says Matthew Dirst, artistic director of Ars Lyrica Houston, which is leading the audience away from the grips of 2016 and into the clutches of 2017 during Bachanalia. The early-music ensemble, along with soloists Melissa Givens, Ryland Angel, Joseph Gaines and David Grogan, is performing “a bubbling concerto that encapsulates the conflicting emotions we feel at the passing of the old and the beginning of a new year,” says Dirst. The evening is part of a nightlong celebration that includes a pre-concert dinner and a post-show gala and silent auction. Both cool and classy, this annual event makes our list for Saturday night.
9 p.m. Saturday. The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit arslyricahouston.org. $22 to $75.
The duo of EaDo party venues are joining forces with SportsMonkey for this year's BLT Lucky #13 New Year’s Eve Party. The BLT dictates the attire – your choice of black tie, lingerie or toga – which makes for a pretty racy evening. The celebration includes an all-inclusive bar with more than 40,000 square feet of party space, live music and dancing all night long, party favors and a midnight toast, putting this on our list of parties for Saturday night. There will also be food trucks on site, offering some hearty soak-it-up food before you Uber your way home.
8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday. Lucky's Pub, 801 Saint Emanuel, and Warehouse Live, 813 Saint Emanuel. For information, visit sportsmonkey.com. $89.
Experience an epic night of fun and an abundant amount of glow sticks and other glow-y things. TopGolf invites guests to skip the crowded bar scene and reserve an all-inclusive bay package for your group that features party favors and unlimited TopGolf, making this a creative alternative for Saturday night.
9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday. TopGolf with three locations: 1030 Memorial Brook (Katy), 281-406-3176; 560 Spring Park Center (Spring), 832-200-0106; 21401 Gulf Freeway (Webster), 281-657-1300. Pricing and packages vary by location. For information, visit topgolf.com.
Houston audiences will have their third chance in just a few months to see Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing as Main Street Theater hosts a return visit by the Prague Shakespeare Company. Acknowledging the two “very excellent productions (Houston Shakespeare Festival and 4th Wall Theatre Company) in Houston this year already,” Guy Roberts, CEO and artistic director of the company, says that its version is set in 1942 England in an underground bunker. A group of service men and women perform a radio broadcast of the play to boost the morale of Allied soldiers. “What makes our production unique is that each performance is audio-streamed live over the Internet à la an old-fashioned radio play,” Roberts says. Thirteen actors, some local and some from five other countries, make up the cast. As Beatrice and Benedick battle their way to love, watch for the “extreme German accents” of some of the characters. Saturday's opener was already sold out, and there's a lot of buzz about this one, but they've still got tickets for this Sunday's show.
3 p.m. Sunday. Continuing 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. Through January 15. Main Street Theater, 2450 Times. For information, call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com. $36 to $45.
With both Moriarty and Magnussen out of the picture, who will be the next villain to battle wits against the brilliant but socially inept Sherlock Holmes? We don't have to wait much longer: Season 4, episode 1 kicks off on New Year's Day with Masterpiece: The Six Thatchers, followed by episode 2, The Lying Detective, on January 8 and episode 3, The Final Problem, on January 15. We know a few tidbits: Sidekick Watson takes on fatherhood, and rumor has it that Sunday's episode is loosely based on the Arthur Conan Doyle story The Adventure Of The Six Napoleons. The chat boards are rife with predictions, speculation and plot spoilers, so we won't go there, but we are looking forward to the rumored introduction of a third Holmes sibling. A little couch-surfing come Sunday sounds like just what the doctor ordered, making this one of our picks for Sunday.
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8 and 9:30 p.m. January 1, 6 p.m. January 8. TV 8. For information visit houstonpublicmedia.org. Free.
If 2016 wasn’t the best of times, then a unique way to hit the reset button on the first day of 2017 is with Crystal Bowls Meditation. Led by Dana Shamas of Bayou Bliss Yoga, the hour-long experiential offering — presented on New Year’s Day inside of the mystical Rothko Chapel for the fifth consecutive year — features attendees sitting in a hexagon formation while Shamas takes mallet to bowl to create a zone-out soundscape inside the resonate space. “There’s a reverberation inside of the octagon. The crystal bowls are incredible and create these amazing sounds. Depending on where you’re sitting, the sounds seem to come from all different directions,” says Ashley Clemmer, Rothko Chapel program and community director. Shamas adds, “The sound is beautiful, peaceful and joyful. There’s nothing about it that’s bad. My 94-year-old grandma and my mom come because they love pretty sound.” Shamas tells us that the bowls are dogma-free: not Tibetan and not hammered out by monks. It's crystal clear to us: This looks like a great way to kick-off the new year this Sunday.
Noon Sunday. 3900 Yupon. For information, call 713-524-9839 or visit rothkochapel.org. $10 suggested donation.
Sam Byrd, Margaret Downing, Steve Jansen, Vic Shuttee and Brooke Viggiano contributed to this post.