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Photo by Matt Beard

The world’s favorite circus/acrobatic/aerialist experience is headed back to Houston for high-flying acrobatics, dazzling spectacle, and some zany hijinks. Global phenomenon Cirque du Soleil returns to Houston with a whimsical new show called Kooza, the beloved company’s tribute to the circus tradition.

Kooza arrives at Sam Houston Race Park’s Big Top on January 25, 2023 and runs through March 5, marking more than a decade since its Houston debut. Tickets for the highly anticipated show go on sale at 10 am Monday September 19 online.

True to the Cirque form that has made the company famous with an audience of more than 215 million in more than 70 different countries, Kooza promises nonstop, high-flying spectacle, intricate, flashy costumes, vivid sets, and kooky antics.

Here, a character called the Innocent is magically transported to an exotic yet zany kingdom, one starring a mysterious trickster boasting electrifying powers. Nearly 8 million spectators worldwide have taken in the show, with over 4,000 performances in 65 cities across 22 countries.

Given Cirque’s Montreal-base and famously French je nais se quois, Kooza will feature some silly, colorful clowns who are sure to steal the show.

Fans should especially look forward to edge-of-seat action in the high wire, teeterboard, and Wheel of Death acts, in a show that will delight in sending in the clowns.

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Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza runs January 25-March 5, 2023 at Sam Houston Race Park’s Big Top, 575 North Sam Houston Pkwy W Gate 3. Tickets go on sale Monday, September 19 and can be found, along with a schedule and more information, on the official show website.

Photo via Pixlr

Ken Hoffman on how his worst public restroom mistake yielded the best luck

relief in the wrong place

I had the most embarrassing moment — and luckiest day of my life — last week. Both on the same day, within hours of each other.

I’m going to have to explain what happened in delicate terms. But first, let me give you my view of public restrooms.

They’re disgusting. I do everything in my power, every ounce of my foresight, will and intestinal fortitude, to avoid them. I’ve never used a port-a-potty. I try to avoid using the restroom at Buc-ee’s, and theyve built an empire on clean restrooms and beef jerky.

So imagine my distress last week when I was driving in Southwest Houston and suddenly realized that nature was calling — and it was an emergency call. Oh, like this has never happened to you?

What to do? I calculated the time it would take me to drive home vs. finding a public restroom vs. never being able to trade in my car. (Editor’s note: Thanks for that, Ken.)

Sidebar: Several years ago, I wrote a column detailing all the quirks and oddball habits of Houston television legend Marvin Zindler. One of them was, his wife Gertrude never saw him without his famous wig during their 55 years together.

Another was, when young Marvin was in grade school and felt he had to go No. 2, he would go to the office and call for a cab to take him home so he could do his business there. The cab would wait and bring him back to school.

(I thought that was the most normal thing about Zindler.)

Now I’m sweating bullets and wriggling in the car seat, please get me to a public restroom. I saw a sporting goods store along the 59 feeder. I had no other choice.

Wait, we’re not to the most embarrassing part yet.

A desperate search
Where’s your restroom? A cashier pointed to the rear of the store. Usain Bolt had nothing on me as I raced there, shoulder blocked the door open, found an empty stall and took a seat — I’m serious, just in the nick of time. Whew!

I stayed there listening to make sure nobody else was in the restroom before emerging. When I thought the coast was clear, I opened the stall door and walked out … to find three women standing by the sinks. I took a quick glance, no urinals. And where are the flowers? I had always heard that women’s restroom had flowers.

I was in the women’s restroom with three women who were shocked, to say the least, to see me. Almost as horrified as I was to see them. I didn’t know what to say. I was frozen with shame and embarrassment.

Why, hello, ladies...
The women quickly left the restroom. I washed my hands (hygiene, always) and plotted how to leave the store, hoping the women didn’t report me to security. I pulled my baseball cap down low, stared at my feet and slunk out of there.

A few hours later, I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch and realized that my wallet was missing. I tore my house apart looking for it. We’ve all done that when we can’t find keys or sunglasses — or wallet, right? I looked everywhere, including the refrigerator. You’ve looked there, too. I searched my car. No wallet.

I thought it could be in only one place — the women’s restroom at the sporting goods store, third stall on the right. Maybe my wallet fell from my pants during the frantic chaos.

Losing your wallet is a Top 10 worst thing that can make your life miserable. I started calculating what’s in my wallet: driver’s license, healthcare ID, work ID, parking pass, credit cards, ATM card, gift cards, and money. I was leaving for a trip the next day and had a few hundred in my wallet.

Losing your wallet will wreck you.

I drove back to the sporting goods store, this time with a different though equally desperate urgency. I retraced my steps to the restroom area. That is when my day went from hugely embarrassing to incredibly lucky.

Some relief?
A woman and her two daughters were about to enter the women’s restroom. I said, “I know this sounds weird, but would you mind going to the third stall on the right and see if there’s a tan men’s wallet on the floor?”

Please, please let it be there. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life on hold getting new credit cards and driver’s license. I was writing off the gift cards and money.

Mom came back out, said here it is, and handed me the wallet with everything intact — including the money.

What were the chances? My wallet sat on the floor of a public restroom of a busy store for several hours and nobody saw it or took it or turned it in or anything.
Lesson learned. Like your parents told you before taking a car trip, go to the bathroom first.

And most important: If you must use a public restroom, use the correct one.

Fetch tickets to Tina Fey's hilarious Mean Girls musical coming to Houston

with frenemies like this...

Few films encapsulate the twists and turns of suburban high school life like Tina Fey’s quintessentially quotable comedy, Mean Girls.

Though based loosely on the book Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence, Fey’s Mean Girls draws on her high school years; she admitted in an interview that she was once a mean girl herself.

Now, Houston fans can get a dose of the Plastics (the aforementioned Mean Girls) and make “fetch” a thing when the new musical comedy heads to Houston August 16–21 at Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.

Individual tickets for the show presented by Memorial Hermann Broadway at the Hobby Center start at $40 and go on sale at 10 am Friday, April 1.

Boasting a book by Fey (a nine-time Emmy Award winner), music by three-time Emmy Award winner Jeff Richmond (Fey’s husband), and lyrics by two-time Tony Award nominee Nell Benjamin, Mean Girls opened on Broadway in April 2018 after a world premiere at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2017.

Fans can follow the spirited story of Cady Heron, who grew up on an African savanna and finds herself among the wildlife in a suburban Illinois high school. Hilarity ensues and the plot thickens when the wide-eyed Cady takes on The Plastics, a trio of frenemies led by the charismatic and ruthless Regina George.The show has been heralded by New York Magazine as a “...smart, splashy new musical that delivers with immense energy, a wicked sense of humor and joyful inside-jokery.”

In other words, a fetching Fey fete.

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Mean Girls runs August 16–21 at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby St. For tickets and showtimes, visit www.BroadwayAtTheHobbyCenter.com.

Photo by Anne Fishbein

Snarky satirist David Sedaris brings his pretty talk to Houston for one night only

exploring diabetes with owls

Quirky, bookish, and sardonic, author-humorist David Sedaris is beloved for his ability to pick apart life’s mundane moments and point out the abject silliness of it all.

To wit: the satirist once spent a well-documented stint as a Christmas elf at Macy’s in New York City and the result has become an NPR tradition as he recounts the gig in The Santaland Diaries.

Houston fans of the glib writer — who once drew the ire of our columnist — can enjoy his rapier wit when he visits the Brown Theater in Wortham Center on Thursday, April 28 (7:30 pm) as part of a special Society for the Performing Arts show.

His Houston stop will include a post-event book signing. Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased online.

Fans can look forward to Sedaris reading and relaying tales from his popular titles, including Barrel Fever and Holidays on Ice, Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames. His most recent book, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, became an immediate bestseller.

Boasting more than 10 million copies of his books in print, translated into 25 languages, the droll Sedaris has also been nominated for three Grammy Awards for Best Spoken Word and Best Comedy Album. His spoken-word accounts are a favorite on NPR’s This American Life.

He also makes occasional stops on TV, such as a CBS Sunday Morning turn that really irked our Ken Hoffman.

Sedaris has been a Houston fan favorite for a decade — his SPA visits regularly draw a big or sellout crowd. Expect tickets to go fast.

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David Sedaris appears at the Wortham Center’s Brown Theater (501 Texas Ave.) at 7:30 pm Thursday, April 28. Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased here.

Photo by Brandi Morris

Hysterical Mystery Science Theater 3000 tour heckles Houston in riff-heavy new live show

servo says

For those of a certain generation, no B or C-level movie screening was complete without the zany, ad hoc characters of the long-running TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000 taking shots at the sheer campiness, heck, crappiness of the flick.

On the beloved TV series, the three riffing robots and human characters made the worst movies the absolute best, spawning a generation of “inspired” copycats.

Now, fans of MST3K (as it's known by fans) can rejoice as a nationwide tour makes a stop in Houston, courtesy Society for the Performing Arts. Mystery Science Theater 3000 LIVE brings the Time Bubble Tour to town on Wednesday, January 19, 2022, at Cullen Theater in the Wortham Center.

Tickets start at $40; VIP, meet and greet, and VIP merch packages are available, per a press release.

This Time Bubble Tour has the blessing and is supervised by series creator Joel Hodgson and will feature the returning cast of the MST3K 2019 Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour: Emily Marsh, Conor McGiffin, Nate Begle, and Yvonne Freese. That group will be paired with riff-bots Tom Servo, Crow, and GPC.

The show will be directed by Tim Ryder, a former writer and performer from the MST3K TV series.

“I’m thrilled to announce that the MST3K live show is back on the road for audiences to enjoy together again, especially after a year that's been tough on all of us,” Hodgson said in a statement. “I’ve learned to never underestimate the power of hanging with friends and watching a cheesy movie while bots yell stuff at the screen.”

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Mystery Science Theater 3000 LIVE: Time Bubble Tour; Cullen Theater at Wortham Center 501 Texas Ave. 7:30 pm Wednesday, January 19, 2022; tickets start at $40; for more information, visit the official SPA website.

The Masked Singer reveals Houston-area date as part of epic national tour

Costume drama

The Greater Houston area will soon play host to a touring version of America’s favorite song-and-dance reality show.

The Masked Singer, the Fox series guessing-game competition that features costumed celebrities belting out their best (and sometimes worst) renditions of popular songs, will take to Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land on July 14, 2022 as part of a national tour.

Tickets for the Sugar Land show are on sale now online. VIP packages are available now through VIPNation.com and include meet-and-greet opportunities with the cast, exclusive merch, and photo opportunities.

Fans of the TV show can expect much of the same zaniness during the live performance, which will include some recognizable characters from the TV series brought to life onstage alongside “surprise celebrity guests,” according to a release.

Celebrity guest hosts from the TV show, who will be announced closer to performance dates, will join one “local celebrity” at every show, with that VIP performing in a top-secret disguise.

The Houston audience will then try to decipher clues to guess the local celebrity’s identity until the he or she is unmasked at the end of the night’s festivities, with producers promising “an incredible production of song, dance, and craziness that only The Masked Singer could deliver.”

The tour is presented by Right Angle Entertainment — which has made a killing touring with live versions of popular TV series, including Price is Right Live — and producers Guy Phillips and Mark Swanhart, the minds behind Dancing with the Stars: Live!, The Bachelor Live on Stage, and the Simone Biles-led Gold Over America Tour.

With the following The Masked Singer show has amassed (it’s currently the No. 1 primetime series, averaging 7.9 million viewers across multiple platforms), it was likely only a matter of time before these producers took the show on the road.

The Masked Singer national tour kicks off in St. Louis on May 28, 2022. In addition to the Houston engagement, the tour will also make Texas stops in San Antonio on July 12, Austin on July 13, and Grand Prairie on July 15.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Iconic Austin blues club brings the show to fans with new indie livestreaming platform

Live on Live

If legendary Austin blues club Antone’s is your vibe, but the drive to Capital City isn't, you’re in luck. Antone’s Nightclub launched a new service for livestreaming its shows in November.

Kicking off with New Orleans-based funk and jam band Dumpstaphunk, for their special “Phunksgiving” show last month with Michael Hale Trio, the full lineup is delineated on the Antone’s website. Specifics were still loose before the launch, allowing the famous blues club to call the shots. The partner agency that created the streaming service, 3rd + Lamar, created the system to give Antone’s as much freedom as possible.

"Partnering with Antone's to build their livestreaming platform and produce each of their shows is an incredible opportunity for 3rd + Lamar," said the agency’s co-founder Nick Schenck in a press release. "The amazing talent that performs at Antone's – and their fans worldwide – deserve best-in-class live production quality, and we're thrilled to play a part in this operation."

Not that Antone’s needed to stand out more in the music industry (the nearly 50-year-old venue has always been one of the best places to see both local and national talent), but this achievement places it among relatively few venues across the country, especially those that operate their system independently.

The intimate Antone's shows are filmed by four Blackmagic 4K cinema cameras on tracks overhead, which ensure that the whole space is easily visible without having camera operators amid the audience.

“We did over 430 individually ticketed shows in 2019 and we felt like we were bursting at the seams,” said Antone’s owner Will Bridges. “Then when livestreams became more prominent during the pandemic we realized, this is our opportunity to take Antone’s outside of our four walls. … [W]e see people in the comment threads all the time saying ‘If I could only be teleported to Antone’s!’ Well now they can.”

The release emphasizes that the system means Antone’s “fully retain[s] ownership of their content, which can then be utilized at their discretion.” It also calls the service “an add-on option for all artists performing at Antone’s,” positioning the service as not just an audience luxury but a performer’s low-cost marketing tool. Suddenly, artists playing at Antone’s are afforded a choice without needing to be invited to record or pay an independent video team, while reaching even more viewers with no extra time spent advertising.

“Our ultimate goal is to make these amazing musical experiences accessible to everyone. Life is busy, but we want to give everyone the opportunity to participate no matter where they are or what they have going on,” said Bridges. “We want to make livestreams from Antone’s totally commonplace. When we announce our upcoming shows, fans have two options: watch it at the club our watch it at home.”

Livestreams are at antonesnightclub.com, and links also appear with each applicable event across the site. Prices are listed on the website, and livestreams start 10-20 minutes before each show.

Alt-rock legends Red Hot Chili Peppers heading to Houston for 2023 North American tour

one hot minute

One of alternative rock's most pioneering and enduring acts is headed to Houston to close out a highly anticipated North American tour next year. Red Hot Chili Peppers will play Minute Maid Park on Thursday, May 25, 2023 as part of a North American trek that kicks off in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 29.

Houston lands the honor of the closeout city for the North American tour (the band will also play a slew of dates in Europe). Effortlessly hip, celeb-fave modern rock band The Strokes will support the Chili Peppers, along with the talented bassist-vocalist Thundercat.

Tickets go on sale this week at 10 am Friday, December 9 online.

Houston fans who can't get enough can also catch the Chili Peppers when they hit The Alamodome in San Antonio on Wednesday, May 17 — the only other Texas date.

Aside from The Strokes and Thundercat, supporting acts along the way include Iggy Pop, The Roots, The Mars Volta, St. Vincent, City and Colour, and King Princess.

Touring in support of their two No. 1 studio albums released in 2022, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, the Chili Peppers have been played sold-out shows in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and more with major names such as Notable artists such as A$AP Rocky, Anderson.Paak, Beck, and HAIM.

The first rock band in 17 years to score two No. 1 albums in one year, the band has been red hot on the Billboard charts and at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they received the Global Icon Award and brought the house down with a performance of the No. 1 single “Black Summer,'' which also won the award for Best Rock Video.

Fronted by the impossibly chiseled and ageless (he's 60!) Anthony Kiedis, the Chili Peppers formed in 1983. Unabashedly proud of their LA roots, the band burst onto the scene with early singles such as "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away," both showcases of bassist Flea's slappin', funk-fueled basslines.

Throughout the peak of alternative music in the '90s, the band saw tragedy, personnel changes at guitar, and reinventions — Kiedes' rap-singing, Flea's bass grooves, and singalong choruses all constants over the decades.

While many '90s alt-rock acts fizzled, the Chili Peppers stayed relevant; the band boasts two anthemic singles with more than 1 billion streams — "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" — and more than 25 million followers on Spotify.

Expect this show to be packed with Gen Xers and new fans for what promises to be one hot minute.

Red Hot Chili Peppers 2023 tour dates:

  • Wednesday, March 29 – Vancouver – BC Place
  • Saturday, April 1 – Las Vegas – Allegiant Stadium
  • Thursday, April 6 – Fargo, North Dakota – FargoDome
  • Saturday, April 8 – Minneapolis – US Bank Stadium
  • Friday, April 14 – Syracuse, New York – JMA Wireless Dome
  • Friday, May 12 – San Diego – Snap Dragon Stadium
  • Sunday, May 14 – Phoenix – State Farm Stadium
  • Wednesday, May 17 – San Antonio – Alamodome
  • Friday, May 19 – Gulf Shores, Alabama – Hangout Music Festival
  • Thursday, May 25 – Houston – Minute Maid Park

Fan-favorite, wood-fired Houston pizzeria quietly opens in the Heights

enough (pizza) to love

A popular Houston pizzeria has opened its second location in the Heights. The Gypsy Poet has begun a quiet soft opening in the former Fegen’s space at 1050 Studewood St.

Since its 2019 debut in Midtown, the Gypsy Poet has earned a devoted following for its wood-fired pizzas. The restaurant’s personal-sized, 13-inch pizzas exist somewhere on the spectrum between traditional Neapolitan and classic New York — too crispy for the Italians but not quite foldable like an East Coast slice. Options include a classic Margherita and the signature Fancy Backpacker, which is topped with prosciutto, truffle oil, and arugula.

Part of the restaurant’s appeal stems from its friendly service and easy going atmosphere. It regularly hosts informal musical performances and other artistic happenings.

Taken together, Gypsy Poet has earned legions on fans. Yelp users ranked it as Texas’s second best restaurant in 2021. More recently, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy awarded it a high 7.8 rating during a pizza review.

The restaurant opens at a time of transition for pizzerias in the Heights. Dallas-based Neapolitan restaurant Cane Rosso closed last year, and suburban favorite Crust Pizza Co. opened this summer in the former Mellow Mushroom space at N. Shepherd and 20th.

The Heights location of Gypsy Poet will be open Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9 pm; Friday from 12-2 pm and 5-10 pm; Saturday 2-10 pm; and Sunday 2-9 pm.