With the holidays approaching and the majority of Houston theater companies back to in-person performances, stage elves across the city are busy preparing for our favorite performance traditions.
But, for those saying humbug to early carols and decked halls, there’s still plenty of musical fun as well as serious drama. From singing nuns to an Society of Performing Arts showcase of Houston artists, a Tony-winning Tootsie, to those soaring Cirque du Soleil performers, get ready to fall into a most vibrant and eclectic theater season.
Sister Act from Theatre Under the Stars (now through November 14)
If you’re looking for theatrical fun, always bet on singing nuns.
Based on the Whoopi Goldberg early ’90s hit about a nightclub singer who has to disguise herself as a nun after witnessing a murder, the London to Broadway musical set the story back into the ’70s to allow the original music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater. Expect a funky time with a sometimes disco, sometimes soulful beat.
Directed by TUTS artistic director Dan Knechtges, who also choreographs, the show stars The Voice alum Simone Gundy along with a cast of fellow Houston faves. From design to performances, everyone goes all in on the sequin and disco ball goodness that dress up a surprisingly moving girl (and sister) power message.
El Huracán from Mildred’s Umbrella (November 11-21)
The female-focused company begins their new season at the DeLuxe Theatre with this contemporary play by Cuban-American playwright, Charise Castro Smith and directed by local actor/director favorite, Patricia Duran.
Set on the eve of a hurricane tells the story of four generations of Cuban American women with a production brought to the stage with an all LatinX cast and crew. Duran says that though the play is not necessarily a political play, its message of “ hope and forgiveness are timely.”
Houston Artist Commissioning Project Live: Part 2 from Society for the Performing Arts (November 12 and 13)
The culmination of SPA’s initiative to nurture local artists, giving them commission support and the Jones Hall stage, this performance features world premiere works of music, dance, and theater by Houston artists.
Harrison Guy, director of Urban Souls Dance Company debuts history told in dance of Houston’s first Black library. Riyaaz Qawwali presents a new message of harmony for all faiths, expressed in the lyrics and rhythm of music with South Asian roots.
And for theater lovers, the pandemic has inspired a new one act play, The World’s Intermission, from acclaimed writer, and former Houston poet laureate, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton.
Alegría from Cirque du Soleil (November 13-December 12)
A Cirque classic returns with a new look and high soaring spirit.
The show originally set up the big circus-of-the-sun top in its usual spot in the Sam Houston Race Park grounds in March of 2020, but had to go dark after only about a week of performances.
Now, it’s back and ready to bring gasps and delights to audiences of all ages once more. Cirque production’s overarching story usually takes a side ring to the physics-defying individual acts and performances.
But Alegría’s fairytale story certainly holds some contemporary resonance as the show depicts a world where the aristocratic traditions of the old guard are challenged by the revolutionary ideals of a youth in revolt.
A Motown Christmas from Ensemble Theatre (November 13-December 26)
Your favorite holiday standards hit the town, Motown that is, in this musical revue by Nate Jacobs.
In this very family-friendly production traditional carols get a soulful rendering and then paired with classic Motown songs originally from The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Night and the Pips, and the Jackson 5.
Staying true to their name for their 45th season, Ensemble has assembled a large and stellar singing and dancing ensemble to bring the songs to life and ring in a joyful season.
Tootsie from Broadway at the Hobby Center (November 16-21)
This hysterical, almost-too–edgy for the ’80s, comedy about struggling actor, Michael Dorsey, centers on him creating a female persona to win a lead role on a soap opera.
With original music and lyrics by David Yazbek and a Tony-winning book by Robert Horn, the show exchanges the daytime television world for some commentary satire on the world of stage musicals, as Michael tries to make it as a Broadway diva.
The show, which won a Tony for best book, was lauded by critics for its comedy for making the era move from the ’80s80s to the 21st century with high-heeled stride.
A Christmas Carol at Alley Theatre (November 19-December 29)
The Alley first produced this adaption last season as a streaming performance and now brings it to the stage for in-person audiences.
Playwright Doris Baizley’s imagining of the Dickens classic frames the ghostly tale with a timely spotlight on the magic of theater-making. In this Carol, a traveling theater company, going through hardships, resolves that the Christmas show will go on even with a barebones production.
Alley company actors get meta as they all play actors or backstage crew putting together a Carol from scratch. David Rainey reprises his Ebenezer Scrooge, while also playing the company within a company’s stage manager.
4.48 Psychosis from Catastrophic Theatre (November 19-December 12)
After several outdoor shows and filmed projects, the avant-garde company returns to its on-stage and in-person MATCH home to follow their long tradition of offering holiday counter programming at its finest and sometimes strangest.
This work by Sarah Kane will certainly become a gift for those eschewing any and all tinsel and sugarplums. Company co-founder Jason Nodler directs performing artist T. Lavois Thiebaud in this Theatre of Extremes production the company describes as “an abstract, experiential, highly poetic exploration of identity, dysphoria, depression, the body/soul dilemma, and the suicidal mind.”
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Main Street Theater (November 20 – December 19)
The new, and beloved, holiday tradition at Main Street Theater has become a production of one of the Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon penned sequels to Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice.
This first one gives the bookish sister Mary the spotlight and her own love story, while gifting flighty sister Lydia, who cause all the commotion in Austen’s original, a nice bit of empathy and redemption.
A sweet, funny holiday treat with some nutritional value of sisterly love, we can see why Main Street continues to spend the holidays with any and all of the Bennet sisters.
The Christmas Shoes at A.D. Players at the George (November 24-December 26)
Based on the novel by Donna VanLiere, this world premiere play tells the story of two families forever changed by a chance encounter.
In this story, young Nathan Andrews' mother is terminally ill, yet he and his cash-strapped family are trying to live life to its fullest. Meanwhile, wealthy Robert Layton is a workaholic attorney on the brink of losing the sweet family he unwittingly neglects.
Robert is long overdue for a wake-up call, which arrives when he crosses paths with Nathan on Christmas Eve.