Spotlight Karaoke
If Ed McMahon had the gumption to host a Houston Star Search, Spotlight Karaoke would be his headquarters. Bringing in crowds of all colors, all ages and all -- umm, both -- genders, the Spotlight is where countertenor accountants go when they're not crunching numbers and where shower-stall divas go when they're trying to combat stage fright. A good majority of Spotlight's clientele exhibits some voice training, presumably from church choirs or high school ensembles. And these folks are real. No frilly costumes here. That guy sitting two stools down with the Shiner Bock in his hand and wearing the CAT baseball cap can really soar like Johnny Wilder on Heatwave's "Always and Forever." And that older gal in the stirrups and flats, her voice is a dead ringer for Patsy Cline's. Though the techies in charge of the microphone could lay off the echo sound effect a little, they never fail to deliver top-notch sound quality, in a room that's cavernous, clean and fun -- for everybody, not just out-of-work or aspiring musicians.
If Ed McMahon had the gumption to host a Houston Star Search, Spotlight Karaoke would be his headquarters. Bringing in crowds of all colors, all ages and all -- umm, both -- genders, the Spotlight is where countertenor accountants go when they're not crunching numbers and where shower-stall divas go when they're trying to combat stage fright. A good majority of Spotlight's clientele exhibits some voice training, presumably from church choirs or high school ensembles. And these folks are real. No frilly costumes here. That guy sitting two stools down with the Shiner Bock in his hand and wearing the CAT baseball cap can really soar like Johnny Wilder on Heatwave's "Always and Forever." And that older gal in the stirrups and flats, her voice is a dead ringer for Patsy Cline's. Though the techies in charge of the microphone could lay off the echo sound effect a little, they never fail to deliver top-notch sound quality, in a room that's cavernous, clean and fun -- for everybody, not just out-of-work or aspiring musicians.
Face it. The heat, humidity, hurricanes and assorted other urban horrors make Houston a place that can't survive without a healthy dose of -- you guessed it -- humor. While there are only a handful of stand-up comedy venues in the area, the the Laff Stop consistently comes through with the pros with the punch-line polish. The late Bill Hicks and assorted other Texas Outlaw Comics kept Houstonians laughing through the Bayou City's bleak days, and Laff Stop operator Mark Babbitt ensures that the fun will continue into the future. Laff Stop has a suitable venue, with good service and a showroom that holds up to 300, along with a more intimate lounge. Credit Babbitt's coast connections for a steady supply of major-league comedians (Jake Johannsen, Lewis Black, Harland Williams and Colin Quinn, to name a few). And his handle on humor keeps the club on top of the area's comedic scene. The Laff Stop bills itself as Texas's oldest comedy club -- while it shows it still has the freshest talent. And that's no joke.
Face it. The heat, humidity, hurricanes and assorted other urban horrors make Houston a place that can't survive without a healthy dose of -- you guessed it -- humor. While there are only a handful of stand-up comedy venues in the area, the the Laff Stop consistently comes through with the pros with the punch-line polish. The late Bill Hicks and assorted other Texas Outlaw Comics kept Houstonians laughing through the Bayou City's bleak days, and Laff Stop operator Mark Babbitt ensures that the fun will continue into the future. Laff Stop has a suitable venue, with good service and a showroom that holds up to 300, along with a more intimate lounge. Credit Babbitt's coast connections for a steady supply of major-league comedians (Jake Johannsen, Lewis Black, Harland Williams and Colin Quinn, to name a few). And his handle on humor keeps the club on top of the area's comedic scene. The Laff Stop bills itself as Texas's oldest comedy club -- while it shows it still has the freshest talent. And that's no joke.
Sometime in the '60s, the moviegoing experience suffered a serious blow: Chain operators built small, shoe-boxlike theaters where people were shooed in and out with all the ceremony of cattle herding. In recent years, chains have started building megaplexes with stadium seating and large screens. But the cheap materials, gaudy colors and boxy constructions still bespeak corporations more interested in moving tickets than leaving moviegoers genuinely moved by their surroundings. The Angelika, by contrast, understands that moviegoing is a sensual experience and that it deserves a building to complement it. This film center in downtown's Bayou Place is tastefully constructed and appointed: The foyer is a grand high-ceilinged waiting area with a light color scheme, a chandelier and oversize French liquor advertisements, à la Toulouse-Lautrec. To the left is a casual and subtly elegant cafe serving adventurous appetizers and sandwiches, and to the right is the hallway to the theaters, which come equipped with all the stadium comforts found in those megaplexes. The Angelika books a smart balance of mainstream Hollywood pictures and independent films, hip enough for inner-city cineasts and broad enough for their suburban friends. And unlike those Outer Loop gigaplexes, the Angelika doesn't dump you into an ugly, sprawling parking lot. Instead, it guides you right back into the heart of downtown, with even more entertainment options for the taking.
Sometime in the '60s, the moviegoing experience suffered a serious blow: Chain operators built small, shoe-boxlike theaters where people were shooed in and out with all the ceremony of cattle herding. In recent years, chains have started building megaplexes with stadium seating and large screens. But the cheap materials, gaudy colors and boxy constructions still bespeak corporations more interested in moving tickets than leaving moviegoers genuinely moved by their surroundings. The Angelika, by contrast, understands that moviegoing is a sensual experience and that it deserves a building to complement it. This film center in downtown's Bayou Place is tastefully constructed and appointed: The foyer is a grand high-ceilinged waiting area with a light color scheme, a chandelier and oversize French liquor advertisements, à la Toulouse-Lautrec. To the left is a casual and subtly elegant cafe serving adventurous appetizers and sandwiches, and to the right is the hallway to the theaters, which come equipped with all the stadium comforts found in those megaplexes. The Angelika books a smart balance of mainstream Hollywood pictures and independent films, hip enough for inner-city cineasts and broad enough for their suburban friends. And unlike those Outer Loop gigaplexes, the Angelika doesn't dump you into an ugly, sprawling parking lot. Instead, it guides you right back into the heart of downtown, with even more entertainment options for the taking.
In 1994 a group of Rice graduate students realized that drinking and singing together was more fun than writing their dissertations. Many eventually graduated anyway, but their group, the Lager Rhythms, lives on, filled out by a rotating cast of other Rice people: grad students, faculty, undergrads, staff, a faculty spouse, a staff member's brother-in-law and even (they claim) a person with no Rice connections at all. Deploying terrific voices and tight a cappella harmonies, they deliver the high-level goofiness you expect from the highly educated. For instance, there's a Star Wars medley that involves the Village People's "YMCA," only the letters have been changed to Y-O-D-A, and the lyrics celebrate a "macho, macho Han." Even better are the Lagers' takes on pop-culture clichés, stuff like the Commodores' "Brick House," the Eagles' "Desperado" and a medley from Winnie-the-Pooh. You thought you never wanted to hear those songs again, but you were wrong.
In 1994 a group of Rice graduate students realized that drinking and singing together was more fun than writing their dissertations. Many eventually graduated anyway, but their group, the Lager Rhythms, lives on, filled out by a rotating cast of other Rice people: grad students, faculty, undergrads, staff, a faculty spouse, a staff member's brother-in-law and even (they claim) a person with no Rice connections at all. Deploying terrific voices and tight a cappella harmonies, they deliver the high-level goofiness you expect from the highly educated. For instance, there's a Star Wars medley that involves the Village People's "YMCA," only the letters have been changed to Y-O-D-A, and the lyrics celebrate a "macho, macho Han." Even better are the Lagers' takes on pop-culture clichés, stuff like the Commodores' "Brick House," the Eagles' "Desperado" and a medley from Winnie-the-Pooh. You thought you never wanted to hear those songs again, but you were wrong.
All hail John Feltch, the gorgeous and thoroughly rakish actor who played Henry in the Alley's production of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing. The show was one of the season's best, owing in no small part to Feltch's bespectacled and brooding sexuality, along with his blazing intelligence. The long-limbed performer burned like a smoldering fire as he brought to life the lead character, a cuckolded playwright whose heart is crushed by the diddlings of his kitteny wife. In Henry, Feltch found a character who was astoundingly complex. An intellectual miser who lolled in the lush glitter of language like any fine playwright should, verbally cuffing anyone around who got it wrong, he was also an ordinary everyman who discovered the impotent and shameful grief that rises from the useless rage of a broken heart. It's a rare performance that can inspire in its audience the kind of thoughtful, deeply felt sadness that Feltch's did. It is glories such as this actor that make live theater urgent, meaningful and worth every dime.
All hail John Feltch, the gorgeous and thoroughly rakish actor who played Henry in the Alley's production of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing. The show was one of the season's best, owing in no small part to Feltch's bespectacled and brooding sexuality, along with his blazing intelligence. The long-limbed performer burned like a smoldering fire as he brought to life the lead character, a cuckolded playwright whose heart is crushed by the diddlings of his kitteny wife. In Henry, Feltch found a character who was astoundingly complex. An intellectual miser who lolled in the lush glitter of language like any fine playwright should, verbally cuffing anyone around who got it wrong, he was also an ordinary everyman who discovered the impotent and shameful grief that rises from the useless rage of a broken heart. It's a rare performance that can inspire in its audience the kind of thoughtful, deeply felt sadness that Feltch's did. It is glories such as this actor that make live theater urgent, meaningful and worth every dime.

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