The members of News on the March didn't rush into the spotlight, but instead took the time to hone their craft. The result was a standout offering of first-time performances, featuring the most perfect three-part harmonies ever heard live from a start-up act. News on the March plays Nashville-style pop that's more country than most country these days. The group is just as ready for the Opry as it is for Walter's, and given its already polished talent and widespread appeal, we're guessing Houston will have to share with out-of-towners sooner rather than later.

13 Celsius Wine Bar
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg

Tucked away in a corner of Midtown, 13 Celsius is housed in a cozy, window-filled, 1930s Spanish-style building. This sets the stage for a laid-back atmosphere complemented by a staff ready to give you as much or as little attention as you need. Want to know what the folks behind the bar recommend? The wine list always includes a detailed explanation of staff favorites — both edible and drinkable. If those aren't what you're looking for, the bartenders are always willing to guide you through the abundant and rotating selection.

Hope Stone, Inc.

Most Houston arts companies would say that they want people of every color, size, age, gender, ethnicity and ability in their audience. Hope Stone goes one better and puts people of every color, size, age, gender, ethnicity and ability onstage, too. Choreographer/artistic director/resident janitor Jane Weiner (hey, that's her joke, not ours) is the driving force behind the dance company and school, and it's her "everybody's welcome" philosophy that guides the group. Hope Stone most recently premiered Weiner's ballet SEE ME at Wortham Center with a cast that included a child, a blind man, a pregnant woman and a prima ballerina. It was a highlight of the Houston arts season.

Stages Repertory Theatre

Producing Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin proved himself over and over at Stages Repertory Theatre last season. The season of powerful scripts moved easily from money-making musicals like Altar Boyz to thoughtful social commentaries such as The Unseen and Black Pearl Sings. Rich with political heft, hilarious jokes and emotional power, the season was most impressive for its commitment to exploring what it means to be human in a difficult and complicated world. Add in the fact that most every production was beautifully cast and wonderfully directed, with designs from folks like Jon Gow and Kirk Markley that captured the strange beauty of the world, and you've got a season to remember.

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