Pick Five (Plus)
What was San Diego Symphony's concertmaster Jeff Thayer doing in Houston? He happens to be Houston Symphony's horn player Julie Thayer's hubby. He stepped in last minute and occupied the principal chair at River Oaks Chamber Orchestra's season opening concert replacing Brian Lewis who was out recovering from an overuse arm injury.
ROCO's program featured mostly unknown pieces — with the exception of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G Minor. Conductor Mei-Ann Chen was truly a breath of fresh air. Lead with her gusto, ROCO has never sounded so stylishly expensive.
I hear rumors she may be a future guest conductor with the Houston Symphony. We would second that motion.
Houston's favorite baritone Timothy Jones' interpretation of Finzi's Songs was deliciously exceptional as well last week. Ominous at times, gaily frolicsome at others, his appearance earned numerous cheers and an encore selection with cellist Richard Belcher.
Rossini's Barber of Seville opened to sold-out halls this past weekend. I can't say I loved everything about the performance — a drab, depressing set behind colorful cubist accessories and burlesque-like head pieces perplexed the comedic senses — but the brilliant cast, which included soprano Ana Maria Martinez as Rosina and Nathan Gunn as Figaro, delivered a delightfully brilliant performance.
Lawndale's Art Center's Dia De Los Muertos Gala and Silent Auction brought a throng of retablo-loving disciples to partake in the nonprofit's biggest fundraiser of the year. And what a diverse display it was. Chaired by Jessica Phifer and James Glassman, the love for the dead was very much a lively crafty bacchanal.
Later, devotees moved over to 13 Celsius where an impromptu al fresco party took shape quickly.
What's hot this week? Read on.
Chi of Shaolin: The Tale of the Dragon at Miller Outdoor Theatre
If it's not good enough for Houston's most discerning stages, you will certainly not find it at Miller Outdoor Theatre. The powers that be at Houston's always-free performance venue scout the city and the country for what's hot, always avoiding what's not.
That's why Chi of Shaolin: The Tale of the Dragon is on its way here for a Friday night performance. The spectacle mingles daring martial arts — weapons included — with colorful costumes and theatrical original music atop of dramatic lighting, acrobatics, special effects and illusions.
It's not just shinny flash, there is a story with a bit of theft, prized relics, a quest and personal transformation.
Gypsy Swamp Showcase at The Orange Show
If you like your Halloween weekend with a dash of quirky and a sprinkle of folk-esque tenor, then this Gypsy Swamp Showcase at the Orange Show Monument is on your must-do list this weekend.
The artsy affair Friday night melds Houston's corps of improvisers, visual artists and dancers for a somewhat naughty fete in reverence of the occult-side of the afterlife.
Accompanying her Gypsy violin and robust vocals, Hilary Sloan summons musicians Jo Bird, Jeremy Nuncio and Thomas Helton and artists Y.E. Torres, Erin Joyce, Emily Sloan, Ashley MacLean, Valerie Ann Ramirez and Brittany Wallis in this swampy soiree.
Houston Sound Concert Series: Bonerama at Market Square Park
I know what you are thinking — time to get your head out of the gutter. From New Orleans comes a brass funk group spearheaded by three trombones (bones, get it?) supported by bass, drums and a guitar.
If Rolling Stone called them "the ultimate in brass balls," don't you think it deserves your attention? The Friday night concert closes the fall portion of the Houston Sound Concert series at Market Square Park.
Fifth Annual KBR Kids Day on Buffalo Bayou
If you and the kiddos haven't enjoyed a genteel stroll down the Sabine to Bagby Promenade, Saturday may be the day to do so. At the Fifth Annual KBR Kids Day on Buffalo Bayou, the rolling path will be lined with stations manned by 30 of Buffalo Bayou Partnership's nonprofit partners. Each station will be stocked with hands-on activities that bring awareness of the critters and botanicals that call the urban waterway their home.
The pontoon boat will be anchored below, so don't be shy to take a lovely educational tour down the bayou. Self-guided wetland hikes, a bayou scavenger hunt and paddling demos round out the family-friendly eco-happy Saturday afternoon (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
BooTown presents How Many Puppets Can Fit Into a Phone Booth: Three New Works For the Puppet Stage
Not one. Not two. But three puppet shows in one evening schemed by the rascals at BooTown — the wacky homies that brought Grown-up Story time to Rudyards — make up a Saturday night (with a repeat next weekend) I just can't resist.
For those of us who are consumed with reliving the glory days of Sally Jesse Raphael, A Bloody Puppet Show travels from the talk show to a metal version of the Ice Capades with puppets that would be evicted form Sesame Street, or Avenue Q for that matter.
Then there's A Sandbox Love Story, which includes a live performance from local musician Lucas Gorham of the band Grandfather Child amid discussions of young love. But I presume puppet-master Camella Clements' No Soy Marinero takes the cake with a tale derived off Samuel Coleridge Taylor's “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
Historic Cemetery Crawl
A living history tour of cemeteries is not an oxymoron. The Alexander Love Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, the Captain Edward Weyman Society, Children of the American Revolution and the San Jacinto Chapter, Daughters of the Republic of Texas bring back the spirit — via reenactment — of those who had a hand shaping events leading up to the Texas Revolution.
There's more. At four cemeteries — Congregation Beth Israel, Founders Memorial, College Memorial Park and Olivewood — samples of frontier snacking, a treasure hunt, weaponry displays and period cultural activities remind guests of yesteryear's way of life.
Arts contributor, Dancehunter and smiley beer-loving dame Nancy Wozny's pick: Memphis presented by Gexa Energy Broadway at the Hobby Center
Nancy says: "The four 2010 Tony Award-winning musical Memphis comes to town this week. Sure you can go because it won Best Musical and more bling, but I'm going because it's a good story about the music that sprung from underground clubs of the segregated 1950s. With rock and roll, cultural revolution, music by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro, you can't go wrong. Also, the choreography is by Sergio Trujillo, who currently has three shows on Broadway (Memphis, Jersey Boys and TheAddams Family)."
Arts and architecture savant and all around awesome guy Tyler Rudick's pick: Screening of Kamchatka: The Salmon Country at Russian Cultural Center
Tyler says: "While the showings at the Fifth Annual Russian Documentary Film Showcase all look fantastic this years, I'm particularly drawn to 2009's Kamchatka: The Salmon Country by filmmaker Daniel Levine, screening Friday at the Russian Cultural Center.
"Long a favorite territory in the board-game Risk (which was, for the record, invented by a film director), Kamchatka is that peninsular strip of land jutting into the North Atlantic above Korea and Japan. Known for its massive bear and salmon populations, Kamchatka is plagued with poaching and corruption issues, which Levine explores in the documentary."
Assistant editor and all-knowing nightlife gal Caroline Gallay's pick: Fifth Annual Montrose Crawl
Caroline says: "My pick this week is the Halloween-themed Fifth Annual Montrose Crawl. More than 1,000 people showed up last year, and this year's crawl starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Brasil before traveling to Poison Girl, Boondocks, Anvil, ETRO Lounge, Catbirds, Royal Oak, Slick Willie’s and El Real Tex-Mex — with drink specials and costume prizes throughout.
Say hey if you see me — I'll be the girl dressed as Kreayshawn."