Music is the common thread that runs through this Memorial Day weekend. We've got Motown's finest at Miller, Broadway's best with Houston Symphony and a couple of tributes to the late, great Pauline Oliveros. Film buffs can choose between a cerebral bicycle flick that follows the great migration and a documentary that mines astronaut interviews and footage, MFAH kicks off its big summer exhibit, and Finnish funnyman ISMO is at Joke Joint. For a touch of culture, check out the final weekend of Houston Ballet's Coppélia and the Pan-African Cultural Fest at S.H.A.P.E.
The quick-stepping, high-energy Dancin’ in the Street...Motown & More Review returns to Miller Outdoor Theatre with tie dye and polyester threads, dance grooves, and the legendary sounds of Motown. The "Thrill on the Hill" kicks off Memorial Day weekend with tributes to soul greats, dancing, singing and a live orchestra. The producer behind this winning formula is Bacement Foundation for the Arts; in the past Dalilah Whitmore, co-producer, artistic director and costume designer, has told us that there's even more action backstage as they pull off 30 acts over a two-and-a-half hour program. “It’s a pretty fast-paced show,” said Whitmore a few years ago. “Behind the scenes, in most cases there are people ripping and running, getting out of their costumes and into their next costume to get onstage.” So get down and get groovy, baby, because the thrill is back.
Performances are scheduled for May 23 through May 26 from 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive. For information, visit milleroutdoortheatre.com. Free.
Whereas last summer's "Big Bambú" was a pick-up sticks jumble and "Pipilotti Rist" before that was a cosmic journey through time and space, this year's big summer exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is minimalist zen with a kinetic twist. "William Forsythe: Choreographic Objects" is immersive — which we've come to expect at this point — and will ask viewers to move, dance and sway through three of the artist's installations. City of Abstracts takes our body movements and turns us into surreal figures projected onto a giant video screen, Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time challenges visitors to navigate swinging pendulums through a labyrinth that's constantly changing, and man is pitted against a feather duster in Towards the Diagnostic Gaze.
"William Forsythe: Choreographic Objects" is scheduled for May 23 through September 15 at 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12:15 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Caroline Wiess Law Building, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit mfah.org. Free to $17.
Bonus event: Normally there aren't any do-overs in life, but the once-in-a-lifetime "Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art " exhibit wraps up at the end of June so the MFAH will open up for three Mondays to accommodate the crowds: June 10, 17 and 24, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Raise your hand if you remember your first ballet. Nutcrackers aside, we've got another candidate for first ballet and it's perfect for kids of all ages, even the young at heart. Coppélia is a big production that's light and funny, with colorful costumes and scenic designs, and is danced by a large company with plenty of principals and up-and-comers. Best of all the second act features a doll that comes to life and even toys. This Houston Ballet treasure, with choreography by former Houston Ballet Artistic Director Ben Stevenson, wraps up this weekend, so don't delay.
Performances are scheduled for May 24 through May 26 at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas. For information, call 713-227-2787 or visit houstonballet.org. $25-$175.
Danger, Will Robinson: earworm alert. No way are you walking out of Best of Broadway without a few lyrics on perpetual loop. There's something for everybody with overtures and showstoppers from Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific and Oklahoma!, Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady, Stephen Sondheim's West Side Story, the new-ish Dear Evan Hansen and even the love-it-or-hate-it Andrew Lloyd Webber blockbuster Cats. Our personal fave is Rent so, even though this is Houston Symphony's 2018-2918 season closer, we've got our fingers crossed for "Seasons of Love."
Performances are scheduled for May 24 through May 26 at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $29 to $124.
Is ISMO actually "The Funniest Person in the World"? Hollywood's Laugh Factory says yes, and now it's our chance to weigh in. Pronounced izz-mow, the Finnish funnyman is still struggling with the English language, though he's figured out that the right answer to "What's Up?" is — and this blows his mind — "What's Up?" He's still trying to work out the nuances of why bad is "bad" but badass is "good," while dumb and dumbass are basically the same. Get inside his unique perspective and you'll soon find yourself rethinking what we say and do.
Performances are scheduled for May 24 through May 26 at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. Sunday at Joke Joint Comedy Showcase, 12802 Gulf Freeway. For information, call 281-481-1188 or visit jokejointcomedyshowcase.com. $14 to $23.
Let's all go to the movies, but this time it's not the next superhero iteration at the neighborhood megaplex. Head over to Space Center Houston for the next installment in their Space on Screen series inside the enormous five-story-tall 4k theater. This month's offering is For All Mankind, a documentary that weaves together stories and commentary from real Apollo astronauts. Director Al Reinert really went down the rabbit hole for this one, culling clips from more than six million feet of film. Relive history and get excited about space again as we gear up for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in July. Stand by for mode one bravo.
A screening is scheduled for May 24 at 7 p.m. Friday at Space Center Houston, 1601 NASA Parkway. For information, call 281-244-2100 or visit spacecenter.org. $5 to $8.
Africa Liberation Day (May 25) is celebrated all over the world, giving those with ties to the continent a chance to reflect on history, honor their ancestors, and celebrate liberation from slavery, colonialism and imperialism. Here in Houston the party starts at S.H.A.P.E. Community Center with the 40th Annual Pan-African Cultural Festival. The daylong affair includes live music, African drum and dance, food trucks, arts and crafts, and special guest speakers. Look for merch from Blazin' Shadez, Delali Artworks, Lovey's Island Kitchen, and Mystic Soul candles at the African market.
The Pan-African Cultural Festival is scheduled for May 25 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at S.H.A.P.E. Community Center, 3815 Live Oak. For information, call 713-521-0629 or visit shape.org. Free.
Some bike routes revolve around graffiti walls and taco trucks, or follow clear paths along bayous and waterways. Then there are cerebral bicyclists who get all literary and decide, "Hey, wouldn't it be a great idea to document the migration journey from The Grapes of Wrath?" And so five Australians set out to do just that, bicycling westward from Oklahoma to California just like the Joads. Along the way they looked at what has changed — and what hasn't — since Steinbeck wrote his novel, touching on immigration, the wealth gap, and the enduring strength of the human spirit. Part of the proceeds from this screening of Bikes of Wrath will benefit BikeHouston.
A screening is scheduled for May 25 from 7-9 p.m. Saturday at 14 Pews, 800 Aurora. For information, call 281-888-9677 or visit 14pews.org. $11.
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Who was Pauline Oliveros? An early electronic musician, she was a champion of the Deep Listening® movement that enhanced sensory perception by challenging musicians to listen and respond to their environmental conditions. She turned the opera world upside down when she manipulated a recording of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly," using tape delay and augmenting its sounds with oscillators. Since her death in 2016, the composer's legacy has been kept alive with Deep Listening events all over the world. Here in Houston, Discovery Green is kicking off the first installment of Houston Arts Pioneers, a new series that honors groundbreaking local artists, with Deep Listening®: Pauline Oliveros Day. Her family will be present during a ceremonial proclamation of the day, while Deep Listening practitioner Lisa E.(Li) Harris will perform the composer's work on the Grace Event Lawn as well as inside Margo Sawyer's Synchronicity of Color (Blue) — a first for the artwork. This event is co-presented by Discovery Green and Studio Enertia.
A performance is scheduled for May 25 from 5-8 p.m. Saturday at Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney. For information, visit discoverygreen.com. Free.
One of the major benchmarks in Oliveros' career was in 1988 when she — along with trombonist, didgeridoo player and composer Stuart Dempster and vocalist/composer Panaiotis — descended into something similar to our Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park. Inside that resonant space in Washington state they recorded drone-based improvisations and eventually published the sounds on their 1989 Deep Listening CD. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Nameless Sound is picking up the baton, co-presenting Sounding the Cistern for Pauline Oliveros along with Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Houstonians David Dove and Lisa E.(Li) Harris will be joined by Mexico City-based double bassist Juan Garcia and California's Tom Bickley on recorder. All three performances have already sold out but fans can email Justin Bogert to get on the waiting list.