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Summer Stages: BWW's Top Summer Theatre Picks - Houston

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Summer is coming and luckily for you, here in Houston there is no shortage of nice, air-conditioned theaters for you to choose from. With so many choices it can be a daunting task, so let the BWW Houston editors give you their picks for the upcoming summer season.

FADE TO BLACK FEST

For those of you who like to see new works, the FADE TO BLACK FEST is for you! Founded by Denise O'Neal, Houston's first playwriting festival is entering its third season celebrating the new works of Black playwrights. This year they will be the first to perform in the brand new Queensbury Theater! Please note, this year's plays have a wide range of content with some including strong language and one with partial nudity. The material is not suitable for theatergoers under 18.

FADE TO BLACK FEST runs from June 11 to 13 at The Queensbury Theatre, 12802 Queensbury Lane, Houston, 77024. For more information please visit http://www.fadetoblackfest.com.

- Bryan-Keyth Wilson

Connor Walsh and Melody Mennite

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (Houston Ballet)

"If I be waspish, best beware my sting." Oh Katherina - I get a buzz out of you! Soon, you will too as the Houston Ballet presents John Cranko's staging of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.

This season, the dance company has been knocking Shakespeare out of the park. And given their penchant for slapstick, I suspect the rough and tumble romance between Katherina Minola - the older, shrew-y sister of beautiful blonde Bianca whose father, the browbeaten Baptista, is desperate to marry off - and Petruchio, the iron-fisted proto-pick-up artist whose increasingly abusive wooing techniques "tame" Katherina and lead them both to marital bliss, will be a gasser.

Now, all my modern ladies, put your jazz hands down. I know what you're thinking, but look at your leading lady, Melody Mennite. She's giving Petruchio (Connor Walsh) hot fire. It's sun versus sun, not Venus versus Mars. So watch out for solar flares and go ahead and get your buzz on. But take care, Kate might be serving bitches brew.

Performances of Houston Ballet's THE TAMING OF THE SHREW are at 7:30 p.m. on June 11, 13, 19, and 20 and at 2:00 p.m. on June 14, 20, and 21. For more information, please visit Houston Ballet online at http://www.houstonballet.org.

- Katricia Lang

TRAV'LIN: THE NEW 1930's HARLEM MUSICAL
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TRAV'LIN: THE NEW 1930's HARLEM MUSICAL (The Ensemble Theatre)

If you love musicals with great sangin' and shows like AIN'T MISBEHAVIN and RAGTIME, then you need to make sure to book your seat at The Ensemble Theatre's TRAV'LIN: THE NEW 1930's HARLEM MUSICAL. This nostalgic love story will have you vying for a ride on the A Train uptown to 125th Street and your toes tapping to the music of J.C. Johnson. Johnson is noted for writing Bessie Smith's "Empty Bed Blues," and he collaborated with greats like "Fats" Waller and Chick Webb. This Harlem love story is sure to be a summer hit.

TRAV'LIN: THE NEW 1930's HARLEM MUSICAL runs from Friday, June 26 to Sunday, July 26 at The Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main Street, Houston, 77002. For more information or to purchase tickets online, please visit http://www.ensemblehouston.com.

- Bryan-Keyth Wilson

THE DROWNING GIRLS (Mildred's Umbrella)

Bigamist George Joseph Smith's deadly modus operandi was to marry a woman, coerce her to will her fortune to him, and then murder her, drowning her in a bath, before finally collecting his money. He did this three times. In THE DROWNING GIRLS, Bessie, Alice and Margaret, Smith's three brides have returned, be-veiled in white, from their watery graves to share their stories. It's about time.

Mildred's Umbrella has taken on this eerie, grisly affair and much more. "It is a Houston premiere, and the play is experimental storytelling, involving bathtubs and running water in a small black box theatre," says Mildred's Umbrella artistic director, Jennifer Decker.

Even more interesting is the play's exploration of a society that allowed George Joseph Smith to extinguish three lives so easily and to evade capture for so long. Like most serial killers, Smith found easy prey in the socially disenfranchised. In this case, aging, unmarried women. That he was successful thrice indicts his contemporaries. That he could find success in the present indicts us all.

THE DROWNING GIRLS runs from July 16 to August 1 at Spring Street Studios, Studio 101. For more information visit http://www.mildredsumbrella.com or contact info@mildredsumbrella.com or 832-463-0409.

- Katricia Lang

MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL Poster

MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL (Broadway Across America)

"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" to stop me from seeing the Broadway Across America tour of MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL. Book writer Berry Gordy based this jukebox musical on his 1994 autobiography To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown. It chronicles the founding and running of the popular record label and Gordy's personal/professional relationships with Motown artists like Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson. The Motown sound influenced many popular musical acts (New Edition, New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, and NSync to name a few) as well as the popular American musical DREAMGIRLS. This production will also feature some of H-Town's own home grown talent, Ashley Tamar Davis and Jarvis B. Manning.

MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL runs in Sarofim Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby Street, Houston, 77002 from July 21 to 26. For more information, visit http://houston.broadway.com.

- Bryan-Keyth Wilson


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