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Best Bets This Weekend: Magicians, Crawfish, and a Country Jukebox Musical

Mezzo-soprano Zoie Reams as Marian Anderson in the workshop of Marian’s Song.EXPAND
Mezzo-soprano Zoie Reams as Marian Anderson in the workshop of Marian’s Song.
Photo by Lynn Lane

If you don't know, we're in the midst of National Procrastination Week, which is the first two weeks of March or, you know, whenever we can get around to it. One thing you won't want to put off any longer, though, is deciding what you want to do this weekend. We've rounded up a little something for everyone, from opera and classical music to canoeing and crawfish. Keep reading to see even more.

Flash back to 1939, when famous African American contralto Marian Anderson was invited to sing in Washington by Howard University. The problem? The venue most likely to accommodate the crowd she was sure to draw was owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), who had a whites-only clause in their contract. One member of the DAR was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, though not for long. Roosevelt resigned from the organization and invited Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial, which she did on Easter Sunday 1939, in an event NPR called “one of the most important musical events of the 20th century.” This week, Houston Grand Opera will premiere their commission, Marian’s Song, composed by Damien Sneed to a libretto by Houston’s poet laureate emeritus Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, based on Anderson’s life. If you want to know whether or not Anderson’s Easter performance is included, you’ll have to swing by the Wortham to find out. Read the preview here.

Performances of Marian’s Song are scheduled for 7 p.m. March 5 and 6 at the Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas. For more information, call 713- 228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $15 to $50.

The cast of Come From Away.EXPAND
The cast of Come From Away.
Photo by Matthew Murphy

If you're not familiar with Operation Yellow Ribbon, it refers to Canada’s routing, and then hosting, well over 200 flights diverted during the September 11th terrorist attacks. Of those more than 200 flights diverted to airports across the country, 38 of them touched down in a small town, Gander, in Newfoundland. The week around 7,000 “come from aways” (which is what the locals call visitors to their island) stayed in and around Gander inspired Irene Sankoff and David Hein to write Come From Away. The musical went on to garner seven Tony nominations in 2017, and in October 2018, it became the longest-running Canadian musical in Broadway history. Memorial Hermann Broadway at the Hobby Center has brought the musical to Houston, and did we mention that it boasts a distinctly Houston twist – two of the characters are based on a real-life couple, the woman from the Bayou City and the man from England, who met during their time as “come from aways.” Read the preview here and the review here.

Performances of Come From Away are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. Through March 8. For more information, call 713-315-2525 or visit thehobbycenter.org or broadwayatthehobbycenter.com. $35 to $264.

The Houston run of Quiara Alegría Hudes's Elliot Trilogy, which began with Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue at Main Street Theater (pictured above), will end this weekend when Mildred's Umbrella stages readings of the final installment, The Happiest Song Plays Last.EXPAND
The Houston run of Quiara Alegría Hudes's Elliot Trilogy, which began with Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue at Main Street Theater (pictured above), will end this weekend when Mildred's Umbrella stages readings of the final installment, The Happiest Song Plays Last.
Photo by Pin Lim / Forest Photography

Following successful runs of Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue at Main Street Theater and Water by the Spoonful at Stages, Quiara Alegría Hudes’s trilogy comes to a close with three staged readings of The Happiest Song Plays Last, courtesy of Mildred’s Umbrella. Set a few years after Water by the Spoonful, The Happiest Song Plays Last finds Elliot back in the Middle East, but this time on a film set, where he finally gets a shot at his showbiz dream when a dispute over a haircut turns him from war movie consultant to war movie actor. Meanwhile, back in his hometown of Philadelphia, his cousin Yaz works to establish a homestead in her image. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times called the play “warm-blooded” and said it “underscores how the disorienting flux of life can be navigated with the help of carefully tended family ties.

Staged readings of The Happiest Song Plays Last are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. March 6 and 7 and 3 p.m. March 8 at Main Street Theater, 2540 Times. For more information, call 832-463-0409 or visit mildredsumbrella.com. $10.

Actors Todd Waite, David Rainey, Elizabeth Bunch, and Jay Sullivan as Party Members in 1984 at the Alley Theatre.EXPAND
Actors Todd Waite, David Rainey, Elizabeth Bunch, and Jay Sullivan as Party Members in 1984 at the Alley Theatre.
Photo by Lynn Lane

If you’re familiar with the work of George Orwell, you can probably guess that he wasn’t the biggest fan of Joseph Stalin – and the feeling was mutual. Orwell’s Animal Farm, published in 1945, was an allegory for the Bolshevik Revolution, with the pig Napoleon as a stand-in for Stalin. And Orwell doubled down on his critique of Stalin with Nineteen Eighty-Four, released four years later. That said, the “re-education room” of Orwell’s dystopian 1949 novel, which tells the story of a man, Winston Smith, who lives in a world where everything is controlled by Big Brother, was actually based on the BBC Radio studios where Orwell worked disseminating British propaganda to India in the 1940s. Fun fact. The Alley Theatre will mount Michael Gene Sullivan’s adaptation of Orwell’s book, 1984, which refigures the story as Winston’s interrogation – with the audience front row and center for it all. Read the preview here.

Performances of 1984 are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sunday at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. Through March 29. For more information, call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $30 to $91.

Roger Bean, the man behind nostalgic jukebox musicals The Marvelous Wonderettes and Life Could Be a Dream, is now taking audiences to the Wishy Washy Washateria, where owner Lana Mae and new hire Katie both find themselves with guy troubles. In Bean’s world, though, this inspires Lana Mae to follow her passion, pursue her musical dreams and turn the laundromat into a honky-tonk. Stages will present Honky Tonk Laundry this spring, a country western-themed jukebox musical and two hander starring Holland Vavra and Brooke Wilson, and it’s chock full of tunes from country’s leading ladies – a veritable who’s who that includes Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, the Dixie Chicks, Carrie Underwood, and many more. The Los Angeles Times said to expect “lots of toe-tapping country music, from the familiar to the obscure,” to be “interspersed throughout the action,” which is exactly what we’d expect from Bean. For an idea of what you can expect, check out the video above to see Vavra and others perform a song from Stages' production of The Honky Tonk Angels.

Honky Tonk Laundry is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Stages, 800 Rosine. For more information, call 713-527-0123 or visit stageshouston.com. $25 to $84.

At the finish line, spectators can cheer on the racers and see hundreds of colorful boats up close.
At the finish line, spectators can cheer on the racers and see hundreds of colorful boats up close.
Photo by Katya Horner, Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership

The tradition continues as the Buffalo Bayou Partnership Regatta makes its way closer and closer to its golden anniversary. This year celebrate 48 years of racing with the Buffalo Bayou Partnership by participating in the largest canoe and kayak race in the state, with approximately 500 boats and 800 people expected to traverse a 15-mile length of Buffalo Bayou. Even better, after crossing the finish line you’ll have the chance to take part in the post-race festivities, where you can see the boats up close, eat, drink, and be merry while listening to some live zydeco music. If the idea of paddling your way along the waters of Buffalo Bayou has tempted you, you still have time to register at a discounted rate (saving $5), but you have to do it now. Early online registration will close tonight, Thursday, March 5 at 11:59 p.m. CST. (Also, note that neither canoe nor kayak is included in your registration, so plan accordingly.)

The Buffalo Bayou Partnership Regatta is scheduled for 9 a.m. March 7 with a starting line at 7700 San Felipe. (Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.) For more information, call 713-752-0314 or visit buffalobayou.org. $30 to $60.

Bring the entire family to the Heights Crawfish Festival.
Bring the entire family to the Heights Crawfish Festival.
Photo by Sarah Laval

Crawfish, crawdads, crayfish, mudbugs – whatever you call them, they’re delicious, and though Louisiana has a lock on the crustacean (it is their official state crustacean and they produce anywhere from 120 to 150 million pounds a year), we like to think Houston gives the Pelican State a run for its money. You can get a look – and a taste – for yourself during the Heights’ annual Crawfish Festival. The rain-or-shine event, hosted by the Greater Heights Area Chamber of Commerce, promises all the crawfish your heart desires, straight from New Orleans’ own Nola Crawfish King, along with corn and potatoes, beer and soft drinks, at the ready. If you need more, The Zydeco Dots will be on hand performing live and vendors will be on site to sell clothes, art, makeup, jewelry and more. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. and parking will be available in the Heights Medical Tower Parking Garage for $20.

The Crawfish Festival 2020 is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. March 7 at 411 West 20th. For more information, call 713-861-6735 or visit heightschamber.org. Free.

A mere week into Women’s History Month and it’s already March 8 – International Women’s Day. One day (and one month, for that matter) is hardly enough time to celebrate all the contributions women have made around the world and throughout history, but it is a chance for the Texas Medical Center Orchestra (TMCO) to put a spotlight on four special women composers during their International Women’s Day Celebration Concert. The program will include the first symphony composed by an American woman to gain international attention, Amy Beach’s Symphony in E Minor, Op. 32 (the Gaelic Symphony); the last orchestral work of Lili Boulanger, 1918’s D’un Matin de Printemps; Jennifer Higdon's "blue cathedral," which became one of the most performed contemporary orchestral works in the United States; and the first female African-American composer to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra, Florence Price, and her Piano Concerto in One Movement. 
The International Women’s Day Celebration is scheduled for 5 p.m. March 8 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For more information, visit tmcorchestra.org. $15 to $25.

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If you come looking for a top hat or tailcoat at The Illusionists – Live from Broadway, well, Herrmann the Great you won’t find. (Remember Alexander Herrmann? Great French magician of the 19th century.) Instead, you will find thoroughly modern looking gentlemen with repertoires that include sleight of hand, mentalism, and great escapes. When The Illusionists tour stops by the Smart Financial Centre on Sunday, it will bring “The Trickster,” David Williamson; “The Elusive,” Valentin Azema; “The Daredevil,” Jonathan Goodwin; “The Mentalist,” Chris Cox; and “The Manipulator,” Hyun Joon Kim. And that means you can expect some deft card tricks from Kim, maybe the classic swords-through-a-box routine from Goodwin, and Cox to read your mind, all while the emcee-like Williamson does just a little bit of explaining, with one reviewer describing him as a “magical equivalent of Bill Nye the Science Guy.”

The Illusionists – Live from Broadway is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 8 at the Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land, 18111 Lexington Boulevard, Sugar Land. For more information, call 281-207-6278 or visit smartfinancialcentre.net. $59.50 to $99.50.

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