The Fantasticks: If you want to experience a holiday show that features no rat kings, no charming little handicapped kids who say things like "God Bless Us All, Everyone," and absolutely no warnings about the perils of materialism, then Theatre Three has a theatrical tradition that might be for you. It's certainly true that Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's The Fantasticks is about as familiar in musical theater circles as any old nutcracker and enjoys a pretty solid reputation among folks who rarely attend musicals (the damned thing has been running for 30 years at the off-Broadway Sullivan Theatre in New York). Theatre Three figures the musical's mix of vaudevillian comedy and Shakespearean romantic fate offers a nice diversion from the usual holiday fare, but still sports enough sentimentality and good cheer to qualify as seasonal. Once you've left the performance, try to forget "Try to Remember," the show's opening number--it'll nag at you for days, like an abscess in the corner of your mouth. Performances happen Thursday-Saturday, 8:15 p.m.; Sunday, 2:30 p.m. through January 5 at Theatre Three, 2800 Routh in the Quadrangle. Tickets are $17-$24. Call (214) 871-2933.
Celebrate Africa! Festival: The African American Museum and the Dallas Museum of Natural History pool their resources to offer Dallasites, especially children, an African adventure that won't require transportation and lodging costs. The "Celebrate Africa! Festival" features workshops, activities, and interactive performances designed to educate folks on the everyday rituals of African life and the grand religious and secular philosophies that govern them. Kids can hold traditional musical instruments of the continent, get their ear bent by a griot spinning centuries-old folk tales, touch live African insects, taste and learn how to prepare traditional foods, make masks, and participate in dancing and drumming demonstrations. The African films Guelwarr and Night John will be screened at the Dallas Museum of Natural History; a 90-minute seminar entitled "The Origins of African-American Religion and Social thought is conducted; and a poetry presentation by various area scribes under the title "Gathering of Tribes: Writings from the American Diaspora" is offered. A performance from the Daylon McCoy Jazz Trio is scheduled. This will also be one of your last chances to see "Africa: One Continent, Many Worlds" before that exhibit closes on January 5. Events happen December 27-30, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Dallas Museum of Natural History and the African-American Museum, both in Fair Park. Tickets are $2.50-$4. Call (214) 421-3466.
The Analytical Art: A lot of people who complained after so-called "modern art" slipped into national consciousness in the 1920s base their grousing on the merits of representational vs. nonrepresentational visual art--or, to be specific, nonrepresentational sucks because it doesn't look like anything recognizable. Plano resident, professor, and painter Karl Owen studied the psychoanalytic theory known as Gestalt while teaching in Illinois and was drawn to interpret landscapes, portraits, and still lifes by creating "a visual fusion of the essential parts of the subject." The resulting images have been collected in "The Analytical Art," a one-man show of Owen's applied psychology. If you thought Picasso's cubism was hard to swallow, take a gander at this. The show runs through January 17 at Artcentre of Plano, 1039 East 15th Street, Plano. Call (972) 423-7809.
Sean Botkin: You don't normally get a press release for a classical musician that leads with the description "Direct From Las Vegas, The Entertainment Capitol of the World." But that's exactly where the promotion headquarters are for the Sergei Rachmaninoff Recital Series are. This series is bringing the renowned pianist Sean Botkin to the Dallas Museum of Art to perform Beethoven, Chopin, Kodaly, Rachmaninoff, and Schubert. The show kicks off at 8 p.m. in the Horchow Auditorium of the DMA, 1717 North Harwood. Tickets are $8-$15, with a discount for DMA members. For ticket information call (214) 369-9365.
Road Poems/City Nights: A bear of a man with a penchant for black hats and sexual, stream-of-consciousness imagery, Clebo Rainey has knighted himself as a Texas troubadour, a traveling wordsmith who spreads the inspirations of the North Texas poetry scene in bookshop and cafe tours across the country. Rainey holds a reading in Deep Ellum with a few of his friends to mark two occasions: the recent release of his third poetry collection, Road Poems/City Nights, and the start of his latest tour to promote the book. Rainey has 27 scheduled readings throughout Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and California in a rather tight 29 days (also along for the journey will be former Austinite Garland Thompson, promoting his new collection Hey, Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Suit. After their Dallas performance, Rainey will steer the stage as host of an open mic show for poets. Rainey and friends read beginning at 8 p.m. at the Dark Room, 2715 Elm in Deep Ellum. For more info call (214) 748-7666.
Garrison Keillor: As it so often does for life's other little inexplicables, The Simpsons cuts right to the mystery of Garrison Keillor's popularity when Homer, Marge, and the kids sit watching a TV performance by a Keilloresque performer whose flat-voiced use of words like "apple-cheeked" sends his live audience into hysterics. Homer, convinced that the Simpsons' lack of appreciation for the storyteller can be chalked up to bad TV reception, begins to kick the television and shout, "Be more funny!" There's no doubting Garrison Keillor's massive popularity, and he has often featured some killer musicians on his "Prairie Home Companion" broadcast, but for some of us, his celebration of simple lives lacks the bite and compelling detail of Jean Shepherd. And then there's that little matter of Keillor's rarely cited but bitter misanthropy, which mixes garishly with the homespun blanket he displays. Keillor comes to Dallas for a live New Year's Eve broadcast of "A Prairie Home Companion," with special guests opera singers Jan Grissom and Julian Patrick and Austin singer-songwriter Wayne Hancock. Keillor performs at 8 p.m. at the Music Hall in Fair Park. Tickets are $25-$55, and tickets for pre- and post-show parties are $45. Call (214) 373-8000.
Fort Worth Formal: It's ironic, but not surprising, that after decades of being harangued by homophobes for their promiscuity, gays and lesbians who attempted to gain legal recognition of their monogamous unions would receive a resounding raspberry called DOMA. Promiscuity, hardly exclusive to homosexuals, was really never the issue anyway; men doing things that only women were supposed to do, and vice versa, was the real rub for individuals whose identity depends on strict gender codes. Disappointing though DOMA was, the institutionalization of "the gay lifestyle" continues with events like The Fort Worth Formal, which for seven years now has provided a kind of "prom we never had"/New Year's Eve celebration. Proceeds benefit groups that champion gay/lesbian rights and the eradication of the HIV virus. The Fort Worth Formal happens 8 p.m.-1 a.m. in the Will Rogers Memorial Center of the Amon G. Carter, Jr. Exhibit Hall. For ticket info call (817) 877-5544.
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Czech Club New Year's: It's a shame to pay fifty bucks just to sit inside some crowded, smoky bar and receive a plastic noisemaker at midnight when you can fork over a measly $10 and dance your behind off to the eastern European rhythms of a veteran polka band. The Harvesters are the headliners at this year's Czech Club New Year's Eve celebration, where beer, mixers, wine, and champagne are available for sale but cannot be taken into (or out of) the club. And at the Czech Club, unlike many other New Year's celebrations, kids are encouraged to attend. The Czech Club party happens 8:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. at 4930 Military Parkway. Tickets are $7.50-$10. Call (214) 381-9072.
Don Walser and the Pure Texas Band: For those of us whose waistlines exceed our ages by at least a decade of digits, veteran Texas musician Don Walser is living proof that style knows no height-weight ratio. At 62 years of age and 350 pounds, Walser takes the stage with a supremely confident smile, then opens that smile to reveal the source of his confidence--a multi-octave voice that slips in and out of yodeling like a stunt pilot weaves through the clouds. Walser and his backup band, The Pure Texas Band, swoop into town for a Sons of Hermann Hall show that will highlight classic country composers like Faron Young, Merle Travis, and Bob Wills. The show is at 9 p.m.-1 a.m. at Sons of Hermann Hall, 3414 Elm at Exposition. Tickets are $17-$30. Call (214) 747-4422.
New Year's Eve Spectacular: If you want a louder, smokier, more hormonal, but still cheap way to greet 1997, check out the mammoth New Year's Eve Spectacular at Deep Ellum Live. Slowpoke, UFOFU, Baboon, Dooms U.K., Comet, Centromatic, and Peter Schmidt, many of whom have appeared on the Dallas Observer's two Scene Heard collections, compose the bill for this all-ages show. New Year's Eve Spectacular starts at 8 p.m. at Deep Ellum Live, 2727 Canton at Crowdus. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 the day of the show. Call (214) 373-8000.
New Year's Day Psychic Fair: There are predictions, and then there are hopes. The thing about psychic readers is, you never know if the stuff they're telling you about the future is more of the latter than the former. Before blowing out your birthday candles, for instance, you can make wishes that Democrats stop resembling Republicans and that bourbon becomes a lo-cal, vitamin-rich drink. However, if you attend the New Year's Day edition of Dallas' oldest and largest psychic fair, pay 15 bucks for a ten-minute reading, and learn all these things will come true, you may begin to believe the forces of the universe await your bidding. When the inevitable disappointment sets in after these events do not transpire, just remember that the psychic reader was only meant to entertain and stimulate the imagination, not accurately predict the future. Even then, you'll begin 1997 in a good mood. The Psychic Fair happens noon-6 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Select Hotel on LBJ and Jupiter Road. Admission is $7, plus $15 per 10-minute reading. Call (214) 241-4876.