Marcus Jarrell Willis, a former Houstonian and now a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, was in awe of the famous company when he first saw it onstage. Willis was a student at the time, and the experience made a lasting impact. It inspired him to become a professional dancer -- one, as it happens, with the same company. "To be with the company now, performing the roles I first saw from the audience, it's been an amazing journey," he tells us.
Willis, in town for a two-day, three-show stint by the company starting Friday courtesy of Society for the Performing Arts, confirms the group will perform Ailey's legendary signature work Revelations. Also on the program is Bill T. Jones's D-Man in the Waters, Ronald K. Brown's Grace, Kyle Abraham's Another Night and Ohad Naharin's Minus 16.
See the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit spahouston.org. $45 to $105.
This is the sixth year for the Anime Matsuri convention, which opens Friday and runs through Sunday. This is the first time that it has moved into the George R. Brown Convention Center to join other growing dens of geekery like Comicpalooza. The setting will be host to a much bigger spread of Japanese culture.
Top of the list is a chance to see the J-rock band Nightmare. Inspired by the manga and anime Doraemon, the band combines Asian goth with dubstep, jazz and even baroque to put on an extremely energetic and high-class show. This will be a rare chance for Americans to catch their act.
If you're looking for something a little more risqué, then prepare to be welcomed into the world of nerdlesque thanks to the women of the Broads and Panties troupe, which is based in Dallas. Sci-fi and fantasy elements replace the feather boas, but the titillation is the same.
On the guest front, anime fans will get to meet several top-notch voice actors. Naruto is heavily showcased, with both Yuri Lowenthal (Sasuke) and Tara Platt (Temari) in attendance. Your token Power Ranger this year is Johnny Yong Bosch, who was the Black Ranger, Adam Park, who replaced Zack Taylor in the Mighty Morphin show and who has had one of the longest-running tenures as a Ranger in the franchise.
Staple events like karaoke, the Lolita tea party and a cosplay contest are scheduled, as is a chance to check out some of the best examples of Japanese car modifications in the nearby Hyatt Regency.
Get your geek on noon to 4 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. 1001 Avenida De Las Americas. For information, visit animematsuri.com. $30 to $65.
Our pick for Saturday is Playhouse 1960's production of Boeing Boeing. Bernard, the playboy at the center of the comedy, has a pretty sweet setup. He has three airline stewardesses rotating through his Paris bachelor pad on a whirlwind schedule. Each woman believes she's engaged to Bernard. His scheme has worked so far because of the women's overlapping schedules; they're never in town at the same time. But things quickly -- and comically -- fall apart when the airline begins flying newer, faster Boeing jets. Now the women are making the cross-Atlantic flight in record time, giving each more time with Bernard. How can he keep them from running into each other?
"He can't," director Christine Weems tells us. "You know he's going to get caught. It's just a matter of when. And how bad it's going to be when the women find out about each other." Weems describes the comedy as a "fun farce, with somebody going out one door while somebody else comes in another. It's just a split-second difference. Bernard's doing everything he can to keep the women apart, but pretty soon he's going in circles."
Marc Camoletti's Boeing Boeing is set in the 1960s, a time when everyone seemed more innocent. "He's certainly not innocent, being engaged to three women, but he isn't doing it to hurt them. He's just doing it, well, because he can. And until the women's schedules change, it seems to be working. I don't think audiences will hate Bernard, even though he's clearly not a good guy. In a way, you find yourself rooting for him, hoping he does get away with it."
Watch Bernard juggle three fiances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Through April 5. 6814 Gant Road. For information, call 281-587-8243 or visit ph1960.com. $18.
A lot of comedy is about doing it short and fast. Clubs know that if they keep a comedian between the five- and ten-minute mark on set time, if the crowd doesn't like them, at least it's not too long before the next act can try to win them back. Unfortunately, that often leaves comedians without the space to work up longer bits.
Station Theater is giving them an opportunity to air those larger bits in 20/20/20, another pick for Saturday. A showcase of three local comedians without headliners, will each be allowed a full 20-minute set. Featured this month are Ryan Thauburn, Kevin Farren and Greg Deal.
"I've been working bars and clubs for a decade now," said Thauburn, who has been featured on Last Comic Standing. "What I love the most about doing longer sets is that it's a lot like the difference between a road trip and a trip to the store. One is using a car to get where you need to go, and the other allows you the time to get into the experience and enjoy yourself. My favorite bits are my more drawn-out ones. Short shows never allow me to do more than one or two of them. So I'll definitely be able to bring out more of my favorites."
20/20/20 starts at 8:30 p.m. 1230 Houston Avenue. For information, call 713-253-1579 or visit stationtheater.com. $6.
Our choice for Sunday is Houston Grand Opera's one-act A Coffin in Egypt. In it Myrtle is a 90-year-old woman, reflecting on a life that has had its dark moments along with the brightness. A creation of the famed late playwright Horton Foote, Myrtle will be played by true opera royalty Frederica von Stade.
Composer Ricky Ian Gordon worked with librettist and director Leonard Folia to develop the 85-minute chamber opera, in the process increasing the number of characters from the one-woman play version. "I love Flicka. I love writing for the voice. This particular script was so perfumed with rage and regret and disappointment and lost love. It was really something that you felt could lend itself to opera. And I also thought it was a really appropriate piece for Flicka. Because she's still an incredible voice and she's still singing."
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He said he and Foglia met to discuss how to convert the play to an opera. "It's such a wordy play. So the question is: How do you reduce it to a manageable size for an opera? In opera, a page of words can be an hour of music. We talked about turning it into manageable sections so it felt incremental instead of one long run-on sentence."
Myrtle looks back on her life with her husband, Hunter. She hears gospel spirituals from a nearby church. "This is a woman who in some ways thinks she is rejecting the notion of faith, and meanwhile the notions of faith and certainty are all around her right outside her window, even in the voices of the gospel singers, in the wind on the prairie, and eventually she lets it all course through her and bring her to a place of transformation."
See Frederica von Stade in A Coffin in Egypt at 2:30 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Fridays. Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $40 to $80.
Jef with One F and Margaret Downing contributed to this post.