Jon Marans's Pulitzer Prize finalist, Old Wicked Songs, is an elegant, understated play about art, music and the exquisitely terrible power of history. In it, two Jewish musicians find themselves in Austria, one of the most paradoxical places in all of the Western world, for it gave us Mozart, Schubert and Hitler. There, they must come to grips with history as they struggle to find themselves through the power of music. It is a delicate story, rich with the sort of nuance that requires intelligence, patience, generosity and reserve from its director, which is exactly what the gifted director Mark Ramont brought to Stages this past winter. First he put together a perfect cast, with Daniel Magill as the hotheaded young man and William Hardy as a world-weary jade. Then Ramont put these fine actors into motion, sparking up a rare chemistry on stage, filled with a tender grief and a wild passion for the power of art to make a moment better.
Jon Marans's Pulitzer Prize finalist, Old Wicked Songs, is an elegant, understated play about art, music and the exquisitely terrible power of history. In it, two Jewish musicians find themselves in Austria, one of the most paradoxical places in all of the Western world, for it gave us Mozart, Schubert and Hitler. There, they must come to grips with history as they struggle to find themselves through the power of music. It is a delicate story, rich with the sort of nuance that requires intelligence, patience, generosity and reserve from its director, which is exactly what the gifted director Mark Ramont brought to Stages this past winter. First he put together a perfect cast, with Daniel Magill as the hotheaded young man and William Hardy as a world-weary jade. Then Ramont put these fine actors into motion, sparking up a rare chemistry on stage, filled with a tender grief and a wild passion for the power of art to make a moment better.
Try though we may, we don't always get geek humor. But Peter Hughes has a way of clueing technophobes into the joke. No ordinary straight man, Hughes is a Web developer for J.P. Morgan Chase Bank during the day. At night -- or at least Wednesday nights -- he is the John Stewart of the high-tech world. Like the host of Comedy Central's mock news magazine, The Daily Show, Hughes delivers the headlines with an ever-present awareness that many technology developments are the absurd product of public relations flacks and are richly deserving of ridicule. On the other hand, if you've ever wondered what the United States vs. Microsoft is really all about, Hughes's running commentary on the PC giant's predatory business practices is a fine place to start. Hughes admits Microsoft is a "good fat target" and that all he really has to do to get a laugh is "add a little megalomania." Hughes's biting asides will probably become only more toothsome now that the Bush administration has opted not to break up Microsoft. Hughes, for one, is suspicious of the decision. "The whole reason for the breakup was that it was less onerous and would have less impact on their operations," he says. "It's kind of an odd flip for a Republican administration -- unless it's a setup for backing off the company altogether."
Try though we may, we don't always get geek humor. But Peter Hughes has a way of clueing technophobes into the joke. No ordinary straight man, Hughes is a Web developer for J.P. Morgan Chase Bank during the day. At night -- or at least Wednesday nights -- he is the John Stewart of the high-tech world. Like the host of Comedy Central's mock news magazine, The Daily Show, Hughes delivers the headlines with an ever-present awareness that many technology developments are the absurd product of public relations flacks and are richly deserving of ridicule. On the other hand, if you've ever wondered what the United States vs. Microsoft is really all about, Hughes's running commentary on the PC giant's predatory business practices is a fine place to start. Hughes admits Microsoft is a "good fat target" and that all he really has to do to get a laugh is "add a little megalomania." Hughes's biting asides will probably become only more toothsome now that the Bush administration has opted not to break up Microsoft. Hughes, for one, is suspicious of the decision. "The whole reason for the breakup was that it was less onerous and would have less impact on their operations," he says. "It's kind of an odd flip for a Republican administration -- unless it's a setup for backing off the company altogether."
Give the rest of the world Emeril (please!), we'll keep Houston's very own Johnny Carrabba and Damian Mandola. We can forgive this Italian restaurant family empire for taping the show in New York, because there is no question when you watch them that these guys call the Bayou City home. And there is no question that they equate food with fun. They laugh and kid around in the kitchen, with Damian breaking into song several times per episode. And you can't help but sing along and laugh right along with these guys. In fact, if you're really watching the show for recipes and cooking tips (and we would be if we weren't watching our waistline), we suggest you videotape it and pick up the details on the second go-round. Otherwise, you might get so caught up in the repartee and reverie that you miss a key ingredient, but for Johnny and Damian, the most important ingredient is merriment.

Give the rest of the world Emeril (please!), we'll keep Houston's very own Johnny Carrabba and Damian Mandola. We can forgive this Italian restaurant family empire for taping the show in New York, because there is no question when you watch them that these guys call the Bayou City home. And there is no question that they equate food with fun. They laugh and kid around in the kitchen, with Damian breaking into song several times per episode. And you can't help but sing along and laugh right along with these guys. In fact, if you're really watching the show for recipes and cooking tips (and we would be if we weren't watching our waistline), we suggest you videotape it and pick up the details on the second go-round. Otherwise, you might get so caught up in the repartee and reverie that you miss a key ingredient, but for Johnny and Damian, the most important ingredient is merriment.

They grew up together in Florida, sharing ballet teachers, friends, schools and neighborhoods. They even joined Houston Ballet within a few years of each other -- Scannell first, because she was older. And they have always looked out for each other. But on stage, the similarities end. Bears is soft and lyrical, emotive and effortless -- the perfect wispy sylph for the classics, or heroine for Sir Kenneth MacMillan. Scannell is sharp and dramatic, with a fiercely athletic attack -- perfect for a feisty Juliet, or for contemporary works by Christopher Bruce. With their equally impressive but unique styles, these two dancers have given Houston Ballet tremendous depth and versatility for more than a decade. Unfortunately, they have both decided to retire, and will be missed.
They grew up together in Florida, sharing ballet teachers, friends, schools and neighborhoods. They even joined Houston Ballet within a few years of each other -- Scannell first, because she was older. And they have always looked out for each other. But on stage, the similarities end. Bears is soft and lyrical, emotive and effortless -- the perfect wispy sylph for the classics, or heroine for Sir Kenneth MacMillan. Scannell is sharp and dramatic, with a fiercely athletic attack -- perfect for a feisty Juliet, or for contemporary works by Christopher Bruce. With their equally impressive but unique styles, these two dancers have given Houston Ballet tremendous depth and versatility for more than a decade. Unfortunately, they have both decided to retire, and will be missed.
Continental Club
We Houstonians might smirk a bit when we see those "we're hipper than you are" Austinites struggling to take a breath over the tidal wave of growing traffic and Silicon Valley rejects. But we can't get too smug. Not when they've exported a version of one their city's finest clubs to Midtown. The Continental Club, which opened in the summer of 2000, offers great local and national acts inside a former 1920s general store (the building still has its original fixtures and metal ceilings). Junior Brown, the Hollisters and Joe Ely make regular appearances, and the club has featured local blues greats like I.J. Gosey and Little Joe Washington at happy hour. Expect reasonable beer prices, friendly bartenders and fantastic sound. A big back room offers a pool table and separate bar, and the bathrooms are actually clean. To top it off, the night of the Great Flood, Junior Brown kept playing, and the bartenders kept serving -- while the patrons kept dancing in ankle-deep water. Whether it's Houston or Austin, who cares? That's pretty hip.
We Houstonians might smirk a bit when we see those "we're hipper than you are" Austinites struggling to take a breath over the tidal wave of growing traffic and Silicon Valley rejects. But we can't get too smug. Not when they've exported a version of one their city's finest clubs to Midtown. The Continental Club, which opened in the summer of 2000, offers great local and national acts inside a former 1920s general store (the building still has its original fixtures and metal ceilings). Junior Brown, the Hollisters and Joe Ely make regular appearances, and the club has featured local blues greats like I.J. Gosey and Little Joe Washington at happy hour. Expect reasonable beer prices, friendly bartenders and fantastic sound. A big back room offers a pool table and separate bar, and the bathrooms are actually clean. To top it off, the night of the Great Flood, Junior Brown kept playing, and the bartenders kept serving -- while the patrons kept dancing in ankle-deep water. Whether it's Houston or Austin, who cares? That's pretty hip.

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