The Five Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Comicpalooza, Aliens Reunion and a Do-Over for Charlie Hunnam

What in the world could top a 30-year anniversary Aliens reunion at Comicpalooza 2016, the largest comic and pop culture event in Texas? How about the best do-over in the history of ever, with Sons of Anarchy bad boy Charlie Hunnam returning to the Bayou City, making good on promises made — and broken — during the Memorial Day comic convention, though we still haven't figured out where to point the fingers on this one. Everybody wins here, and he'll be at George R. Brown on Saturday and Sunday. But that's not all folks. Martin Lawrence is in the house over at NRG, we've got a new look at contemporary dance, a pair of world premiering operas, and the powerhouse ThunderSOUL Orchestra is opening for Maceo Parker at Houston’s Juneteenth Celebration.
Big Momma is back, and taking off the dress! Martin Lawrence, the comedy star of box office hits Bad Boys and Bad Boys II, Wild Hogs, Blue Streak and the Big Momma’s House trilogy, is taking Houston downtown for questioning as part of his national Doin’ Time Uncut Live Tour. The headlining stand-up comic, who got his start as a wisecracking disc jockey on the FOX sitcom Martin, is playing NRG Arena to a crowd of (likely) 8,000. Born to American parents on a military base in Frankfurt, Germany, Martin found his love of comedy at a young age. He caught an early break with a successful run on the talent series Star Search, and from there began to book stand-up spots on Showtime at the Apollo, HBO’s One Night Stand, The Tonight Show, Late Night and Def Comedy Jam. Audiences at NRG can expect Lawrence’s candid takes on family life, sex, race, drugs and getting older, making this one of our best bets for this Friday night. The Doin’ Time tour culminates in late 2016 with a filmed version of the performance, directed by actor and director David Raynr.

8 p.m. Friday. NRG Arena, 1 NRG Park. For information, call 800-745-3000 or visit $49.50 to $129.50. 

The abstraction, absent narrative, and intensive silences, as well as a prevailing air of formality, can make contemporary dance off-putting to general audiences, admits Mollie Haven Miller, interim director of Dance Source Houston. So she is hoping that the showcase-style festival Barnstorm Dance Fest 2016 will “provide an entry point for someone who doesn’t know about dance.” In her piece for the festival, guest artist Courtney D. Jones finds value in the trademark silences of contemporary dance. “I love large, round, beautiful circles and falls and breadth,” says Jones, who capitalizes on stillness and legato movement in her solo, and though she be but little. “I’m allowing myself this room within the musicality and within the steps in the moment.” Over its two-week run, the festival is presenting 21 contemporary dance artists and companies across three programs, with works ranging in length from four to 18 minutes, sounding just interesting enough to make this our other choice for Friday night.

8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Through June 25. The Barn, 2201 Preston. For information, call 713-224-3262 or visit $15 to $35. 

It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley awoke from a cryogenic sleep in Aliens (1986), the sole human survivor after the rest of the Nostromo crew was killed by a mysterious life form in 1979’s Alien. In a fitting tribute, Comicpalooza 2016 has booked an all-star lineup of several actors from the franchise, and the Aliens autograph experience is shaping up quite nicely with Weaver, Bill Paxton, Paul Reiser and William Hope available for autographs and photos on Saturday. Making appearances during all three days of the con are Michael Biehn, Jenette Goldstein, Mark Rolston and Ricco Ross; plus Kate Beckinsale, the vampire death dealer Selene, is making a Saturday-only stop, whetting our appetites for the October release of Underworld: Blood Wars. It’s safe to say we’re pretty psyched about the largest comic and pop culture event in Texas — with about 2,400 hours of programming jammed into one action-packed weekend. “Most people still don’t realize how much entertainment value they get from Comicpalooza,” says founder John Simons. With its parallel multi-genre tracks, there really is something for everybody. This one's a no-brainer: There's enough to see and do for all three days of the con, but if you can only do one day, it's going to have to be Saturday, with Kate Beckinsale, Charlie Hunnam and the Aliens autograph experience converging in a perfect trifecta of awesomeness.

Noon to 8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas. For information, visit $10 to $250, plus additional fees for autographs and photo opportunities. 

While many arts organizations take it easy during the low season, Lone Star Lyric is kicking it up a notch with its 10th Anniversary Summer Festival, offering up not one but two world premiering operas. Kelli Estes, executive artistic director and co-founder of Lone Star Lyric, has been doing a little match-making of late. The Houston-based promoter of living American composers has a loyal following of opera lovers who flock to the lyric theater's summertime chamber operas. “Four years ago we added monthly cabarets during the year, American songbook jazz cabarets, and we built a huge following for that,” says Estes. To appeal to both audience bases, she's pairing each opera with a cabaret. “I thought it would be good to commission a jazz-influenced opera and of course Omari Tau is a master of all things,” says Estes. Night at the Algonquin is the result, set in the jazz age of the '20s and '30s. The performances on June 19 and June 25 open with Cocktail Hour Cabaret, set in the Algonquin Hotel's Rose Room, as Rob Hunt and his Swing Trio present hits from the old-time radio show, Your Hit Parade. The opera revolves around Dorothy Parker and the hotel's infamous round table of critics, writers, poets and artists, harkening back to a more romantic, creative time in history, putting the Sunday evening show on our list of quality entertainment. The other new opera, Three Skeleton Key, was composed by Michael Remson and is performed on June 18 and June 24. Part of a trilogy of one-act chamber operas, the opera was based on a short story by the French author Georges G. Toudouze. After a ship crashes, swarms of giant rats eat everything in sight and corner the lighthouse keepers, leaving them near-dead and near-mad.

Performances are at 8 p.m. June 18, June 24 and 25; 5 p.m. June 19; 1 p.m. June 22 (both cabarets). The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit $25.

The powerhouse ThunderSOUL Orchestra — those phenoms from Kashmere High School who, led by band director Conrad “Prof” Johnson, dominated band competitions in the ’70s and performed at prestigious jazz events — is bringing its sensation to Miller Outdoor Theatre, fresh on the heels of a new album release. “It will be a public acknowledgment of the loss of [Johnson], our first time doing that,” says ThunderSOUL’s artistic director, Craig “Tino” Baldwin. It’s bittersweet; the man who transformed the lives of many young musicians died two days after a 2008 reunion concert that was featured in the documentary Thunder Soul. For Houston’s Juneteenth Celebration, the orchestra is performing works by influential artists of the era: “Sly Stone; James Brown; Earth, Wind and Fire; as well as other artists, even Joe Cocker,” says Baldwin. They’ll be opening for front man and living legend Maceo Parker (the golden thread that ties together James Brown, George Clinton and Prince) in a tribute that honors those artists who have gone before. So, get on down to the hill this Sunday for a funky, funky good time and celebrate freedom for all.

6 to 11 p.m. Sunday. 6000 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 281-373-3386 or visit Free.

Katricia Lang, Vic Shuttee and Bill Simpson contributed to this post.