The Top 5 Things to Do in Houston this Weekend: Megan Hilty, The Wicker Man - Final Cut and More

You might not know her name, but you likely recognize Megan Hilty. She starred as Galinda in the musical Wicked both on Broadway and on tour. Later, she played the perky blond foil to Katharine McPhee's stormy brunette in the highly acclaimed but relatively short-lived musical television series Smash. In her latest TV role, NBC's comedy Sean Saves the World, she plays Sean's best friend and co-worker, Liz.

Starting Friday, Hilty shares the stage with the Houston Symphony in Luck Be A Lady. Co-starring actor/singer Aaron Lazar, Luck features recognizable melodies by Cole Porter, Harold Arlen and other American Songbook tunes made famous by such artists as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James and Dolly Parton. Hilty should be especially comfortable with the Parton tunes included here: in the 2008 Los Angeles run of the stage show 9 to 5: The Musical, she played Doralee Rhodes, Parton's character in the popular film.

See Luck be a Lady at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $29 to $126.

MECA's stage becomes the Thunderdome during the Bayou City Poetry Grand Slam on Saturday as poets from across the nation compete for bragging rights and a $1,000 prize. Three rounds are done tournament-style with Olympic-style judging. The top three poets in the final round win the prizes. The purse has attracted Ed Mabrey from Charlotte, North Carolina, a three-time winner of the Individual World Poetry Slam (IWPS), who recently performed on TV1's Verses & Flow; IWPS champion Rudy Francisco of San Diego; and Theresa Davis from Atlanta, a Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion. "Poetry Slam is competitive performance poetry," said the event's organizer, Savannah Blue. "Poets are competing, and the competition has a way of actually encouraging better writing. The poets aren't just reading, they're performing, which generates intense emotions."

The Slam starts at 7 p.m. MECA, 1900 Kane Street. For information, call 713-802-9370 or visit MECA's website. $10 to $15.

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Yes, the 2006 The Wicker Man remake was fun; watching Nicholas Cage dress up as a bear and utter the immortal line "Oh no, not the bees, not the bees! Auuuugh! Aglubah my eyes! My eyes! Aaaauuuurrrrgh!"

But Robin Hardy's original film, starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee, is actually not only a tremendous horror flick but a landmark work in British cinema. The movie follows Sergeant Neil Howie (Woodward) as he investigates the mysterious disappearance of a girl on the remote island of Summerisle. The island turns out to be the haven of a neo-pagan cult led by Lord Summerisle (Lee). Cult members worship strange gods to make sure their fruit harvest is successful, to the horror of the devoutly Christian Howie. It's a brilliant deconstruction of the world of religion, in addition to just being plain old terrifying.

Unfortunately, the original film was brutally cut in editing, and for decades the missing scenes were considered lost. "I still believe it exists somewhere, in cans, with no name. I still believe that. But nobody's ever seen it since, so we couldn't re-cut it, re-edit it, which was what I wanted to do," said Lee at Brussels Fantastic Film Festival 21. "It would have been ten times as good."

Luckily, after decades of searching, the 82-year-old Hardy has assembled the most complete version of The Wicker Man believed to exist, and it's this version, appropriately called The Wicker Man -- The Final Cut, that is making the rounds in movie theaters including a Friday and Saturday stop at Landmark River Oaks Theatre. While some footage is still sadly MIA, this is a wonderful opportunity to view an incredibly important piece of film history on the big screen almost as its director intended.

Catch The Wicker Man - The Final Cut at 11:55 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Landmark River Oaks Theatre, 2009 West Gray. For information, call 713-866-8881 or visit the theater's website. $10.

Frosty the Snowman and other familiar Christmas tales have a worthy competitor this year as the Ensemble Theatre brings a new holiday story to the stage: Djembe and the Forest of Christmas Forgotten, one of our picks for Sunday. Set in the imaginary world of Abahu and brought to life by puppetry and other special effects, the musical fairy tale "sends a message of hope, perseverance and the spirit of community," playwright Carlton Leake tells us. It is time for the Royal Christmas Festival in Abahu, but the festivities are spoiled when a curse falls on the kingdom and the sacred Djembe drum is lost. Princess Binah and her friend Nika go on a quest to retrieve the drum and save their kingdom, restoring the true spirit of Christmas in the process.

When asked what he would like the audience to take away from the experience, Leake replied, "We all face adversity at some point in life. Sometimes adversity is what helps us realize and appreciate the characteristics that make us human and connects us to a larger existence in the world."

See Djembe and the Forest of Christmas Forgotten at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sundays. 3535 Main. For information, call 713-520-0055 or visit the theater's website. $28 to $44.

A million-plus twinkling lights, the sound of ocean waves lapping the shoreline and Santa Claus parachuting in from the North Pole...can the holidays get any more magical than that? A regional tradition for families across the Gulf Coast, Moody Garden's 12th Annual Festival of Lights pairs occasion and location with ice skating, train rides, an arctic ice slide, 3D and 4D movies, musical performances and more. It's one of our picks for Sunday.

"Every year we try to do something new. We debuted our Arctic Slide last year, and this year we are making it bigger and better, raising the height by four feet," says Joshua Buckley, Moody Gardens's public relations coordinator. "We also have a new movie in our 4D Special FX Theater, Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas 4D. The nativity scene is a favorite at the festival. My personal favorite is Santa's Wonderland. You can make s'mores over a large fire pit while enjoying live entertainment, including a fire juggler. It's the perfect end to the trail of lights." With a mile-long trail of more than a million lights within 100 sound-enhanced animated light displays, the Festival of Lights is the Gulf Coast's largest holiday lighting display.

Times vary. Daily through January 4. 1 Hope Boulevard, Galveston. For information, call 800-582-4673 or visit the center's website. $6.95.

Nancy Ford, Karen Branch and Jef with One contributed to this post.

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