Houston Music

Best Bets This Weekend in Houston: All Hallows Eve, Fringe Fest, Jazz on the Hill

Dark Circles riffs on Peter Pan in this new dance musical.
Dark Circles riffs on Peter Pan in this new dance musical. Photo by Brian Guilliaux, courtesy of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

Everybody will be happy with a weekend like this one. Dance, opera, Korean film, music from the 1950s and 1980s, theater, Día de los Muertos events and free comic books, plus concerts that celebrate jazz greats and the ancient Chinese sheng instrument: There's literally no reason to stay home in your pajamas. So get out, enjoy the cooler temps, and celebrate the diverse offerings that can be found in the Bayou City.

Houston Fringe Festival

Expect zero percent chance of boredom over the next three weeks as the Houston Fringe Festival returns with a robust line-up of alt and out-of-the-box performances. Opening weekend kicks off with Collin Williams mining the depths of his own depression in My Suicide Note; his comedy show went on to inspire a TEDx Talk on dark humor. Perennial fave and often misunderstood jhon r. stronks presents the loosening grip #TodaysPynk, described as a solo performance that explores the trajectory of becoming, arrival and transformation, with an underlying message of love.

If you were incensed when four congresswomen of color were told to "go back," then you'll understand the premise behind My People, a movement conversation between two human bodies of color by Corian Ellisor and Alex Abarca. This celebration of ethnic culture is being paired with The Fact of Flesh, where Rebekah Chappell laboriously explores the feelings of being a woman trapped inside a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

J.M. Barrie might have been onto something when he wrote Peter Pan: "All you need is faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust." The novel also has inspired a new musical, conceived and directed by award-winning choreographer Joshua L. Peugh. Presented in Houston by Dallas-based Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Pete: A New Dance Musical blends those childhood themes with concepts of race, inequity and perception.

Rounding out this first week of HFF is Silver, a seamless music-poetry-dance performance that honors the grandmother of YungChris, and The Merry Mortality Mystery Show where Neil Ellis Orts recounts frequent trips to his doctors, with numerous asides, in a pill-bottle laden journey of laughter and despair.

My Suicide Note is scheduled for October 24-27 at 7:30 p.m.Thursday, 9 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Sunday.
The loosening grip #TodaysPynk is scheduled for October 26-27 at 2 p.m. Saturday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
My People and The Fact of Flesh is scheduled for October 26-27 at 3:30 p.m.Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.
Pete: A New Dance Musical is scheduled for October 26 at 6 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
Silver is scheduled for October 27 at 2 p.m. Sunday.
The Merry Mortality Mystery Show is scheduled for October 29 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Houston Fringe Festival is scheduled for October 24-November 10 at MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit houstonfringefestival.org or matchouston.org/presenter/houston-fringe-festival. $10 to $20.

Handel's Saul

The chorus plays a big part in any production of Saul.
Photo by Bill Cooper, courtesy of HGO
In real life we all want to be the hero, but when it comes to opera the flawed characters are much more interesting. Bass-baritone Christopher Purves sings the title role of Saul, a part that earned him accolades at the 2015 Glyndebourne Festival and which he's reprising for the upcoming Houston Grand Opera production. The biblical story really takes off when Goliath is slain, and as young David's trajectory rises King Saul begins to go off the rails. Expect huge chorus numbers, riveting performances and — according to Purves — "the most sublime music ever written." Sung in English with projected English text.

Performances of Saul are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. October 25 and November 2, 5 and 8; 2 p.m. October 27 at Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas. For information, call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org/saul. $35 to $270.

4,000-year-old Chinese Sheng

Setting the upcoming "Solos and Encounters" at the futuristic James Turrell's "Twilight Epiphany" Skyspace only solidifies the other-worldliness of the music. Composed by Shih-Hui Chen and Kurt Stallmann, and written for unconventional instruments, the two soloists (sheng virtuoso Wu Wei and contrabassist Shawn Conley) are separated by space and aesthetic until electronics step in as intermediaries, bringing the sounds together until they intertwine.
The following evening, the musicians will present Sheng Reimagined: A Night with Wu Wei in a co-presentation with Asia Society Texas Center and the Shepherd School of Music, where Wei will play the ancient, 4,000-year-old instrument in a modern musical context; he will be accompanied and in conversation with Stallmann.

A performance of "Solos and Encounters" is scheduled for October 25 at 7:30 p.m. Friday at James Turrell's "Twilight Epiphany" Skyspace, Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion, Rice University, 6100 Main. The "Skyspace Epiphany" sequence is scheduled for 6:30-7:10 p.m. For information, call 713-348-2787 or visit moody.rice.edu/events. Free (space is limited).
A performance of Sheng Reimagined: A Night with Wu Wei is scheduled for October 26 from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday at Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore Boulevard. For information, call 713-496-9901 or visit asiasociety.org/texas/events/sheng-reimagined-night-wu-wei. $25 to $35.

Enchanted April

The period drama Enchanted April is one of those magical tales that holds up well, whether it's the second time reading the novel or the fourth time watching the film. Men take a back seat in this female-driven story where women from very different backgrounds find themselves holidaying in an Italian villa during the early 1900s, where they clash, bond and bloom just like the wisteria that cascades from the pergola. Theatre Southwest is set to produce the stage version by Matthew Barber, directed by Joseph Moore, and starring Amanda Garcia Faul, Laura Bowles, Seth Ramsey, Eric Dunlap, Sandra Peck Ramsey, Melody Gray, Corey Barron and Julie Gersib.

Performances of Enchanted April are scheduled for October 25-November 16 at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. November 3 at Theatre Southwest, 8944-A Clarkcrest. For information, call 713-661-9505 or visit tswhouston.org. $18 to $20.

Korean Film Days

While there is some research that indicates the face can yield clues to the dark triad — narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism — it's no guarantee that we won't one day become entangled with these predators. But the ancient art of physiognomy makes for an interesting plot point in Face Reader (Gwansang), a box office success in South Korea and the opening film of Korean Film Days at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. In this costume drama, an 18th century fortune-teller with a gift for reading people like an open book becomes caught up in a deadly power struggle between the vice premier Kim John-seo and the king's brother, Prince Su-yang. Directed by Han Jae-rim and with gorgeous cinematography, it's easy to see why this 2013 film picked up six wins in the Grand Bell Awards (South Korea's equivalent of the Oscars). Korean Film Days continues with Grass, The Running Actress (Yeobaeoo-neun Oneuldo), Hit the Night (Bam-chi-gi), and Burning (Beoning).

The Face Reader (Gwansang) is scheduled for October 25 from 7-10 p.m. Friday. Korean Film Days continues October 26-27 at 5, 6:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 5 p.m. Sunday at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org/calendar/series/korean-film-days. $8 to $10.

Texas Renaissance Festival

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Next up for TexRenFest is All Hallows Eve weekend.
Photo by Margaret Downing

Skeletons, human calaveras, ghosts and goblins are invited to the Transylvanian royal court this weekend as the Texas Renaissance Festival ushers in All Hallows Eve Weekend presented by Coca-Cola. But pretty much any period cosplay is welcomed, including barbarians, pirates, superheroes and steampunk, so come out for another weekend of giant turkey legs, full armored combat (watching, not participating), and the new Cliffhangers Challenge that tests both strength and endurance. And if you're into competitive eating as a sport, then try your hand at the Kettle Korn eating contest for "spook-tacular" prizes. Huzzah!

All Hallows Eve weekend is scheduled for October 26-27 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Texas Renaissance Festival, 21778 FM 1774, Todd Mission. For information, call 1-800-458-3435 or visit texrenfest.com. $11.95 to $41.95.

Jukebox Saturday Night

Fats Domino found his thrill on "Blueberry Hill," but you'll find yours on the Miller Outdoor Theatre hill when the Houston Chamber Choir takes us on a trip down memory lane with classic rock n' roll in Jukebox Saturday Night. From Elvis Presley's "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Jailhouse Rock" to Bobby Darin's "Splish Splash," as well as classics from Chubby Checker, Pat Boone, The Platters and Connie Francis, this themed evening will leave you yearning for the good ol' days.
The 21-and-up set is invited to get in the mood with Drink to the '50s at Hotel ZaZa, presented by The Luminary Society on Thursday night. Put on your poodle skirts or comb back that hair for the "greaser" look for a chance to win tix to covered seating at Saturday night's concert.

A performance of Jukebox Saturday Night is scheduled for October 26 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park. For information, visit milleroutdoortheatre.com or visit houstonchamberchoir.org. Free.
Drink to the '50s is scheduled for October 24 from 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Hotel ZaZa, 5701 Main. For information, visit houstonchamberchoir.org. Free admission.

Back to the '80s Again

Hop in your time-traveling DeLorean, don that Members Only jacket, and make sure your hair is teased real big because the talented crooners at The Music Box Theater are taking us Back to the '80s Again. It's another all new show that honors the decade that brought us Michael Jackson, Prince, Van Halen, U2, Janet Jackson, Billy Joel, the Police, Genesis and many more. It's fun to guess which chart-toppers the cast will select for their showcases — maybe Kristina Sullivan for Madonna, Brad Scarborough for Bruce Springsteen, and Luke Wrobel for Phil Collins – but the only way to find out is to hop in that seat, sit back, and enjoy the ride.

Performances of Back to the '80s Again are scheduled for October 26-November 30 at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. November 24 at The Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt. For information, call 713-522-7722 or visit themusicboxtheater.com. $31 to $41.

Día de los Muertos Procession and Celebration

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See Danza Azteca Taxcayolotl at Casa Ramirez on October 26 and at MECA on November 2-3.
Photo by Pin Lim
It's difficult to describe how powerful it is to witness or participate in the Día de los Muertos Procession and Celebration as it travels up West 19th Street in the Heights. Co-hosted by Casa Ramirez FOLKART Gallery and Aztec dance group Danza Azteca Taxcayolotl, and accompanied by music from Jesus and Maria Lozano of BOSSA II, there's no better way to remember and honor our deceased ancestors and loved ones. Afterwards, step inside the gallery to view the personal altar display, add a name to the community altar, and nosh on traditional refreshments. Mexican wedding cookies, anyone?

The Día de los Muertos Procession and Celebration is scheduled for October 26 from 5-8 p.m. Saturday at Casa Ramirez FOLKART Gallery, 241 West 19th. For information, call 713-880-2420 or visit casaramirez.com. Free.

Halloween ComicFest

Free Comic Book Day takes a decidedly macabre turn when our favorite comic book stores celebrate Halloween ComicFest. Though an international event, here in the Bayou City that list includes Bedrock City Comic Company (6516 Westheimer, 4602 Washington, and 12303 Westheimer), Third Planet (2718 Southwest Freeway), Atomic Monkey Comics (11177 Katy Freeway), and Kibler's Kollectibles (7979 North Eldridge Parkway). What's it all about? Think costume contests, free spooky comic books, creator signings, photo opps, prizes and raffles. Each store has its own programming — for example comic book artist David Marquez will be signing copies of Batman/Superman #1 at Bedrock City's Westheimer Store — so check individual Facebook pages for all the deets.

Halloween ComicFest is scheduled for October 26 at multiple locations around Houston. For information, visit halloweencomicfest.com. Free.

Jazz on the Hill

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Poncho Sánchez is the special guest during Jazz on the Hill.
Photo by Estevan Oriol
Here comes an annual tradition we can all get behind. Mayor Sylvester Turner has just announced the inaugural Jazz on the Hill concert at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Headlining the event is Grammy® Award winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum — a legend in his own right who backed Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," as well as his hit album For You. The concert also features a performance by special guest Poncho Sánchez and His Latin Jazz Band. Opening the concert are the Houston High School All Stars featuring Derrick Hodge, presented in collaboration with the Monterey Jazz Festival and Texas Southern University.

Jazz on the Hill is scheduled for October 27 at 6 p.m. Sunday at Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive. For information, visit houstontx.gov, houstonspecialevents.org, or milleroutdoortheatre.com. Free.

Tune in next week to read about MECA's Día de los Muertos Festival, as well as other offerings in Houston.
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney