‘Mormon’ a true stage gem
By Kristian Jaime
Back by popular demand, the national tour of The Book of Mormon took the stage at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio to familiar acclaim.
The Book of Mormon follows Elder Price (Kevin Clay) and Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson) on their Mormon mission as they attempt to share their scripture with the inhabitants of a remote Ugandan village. The earnest young men are challenged by the lack of interest of the locals, who are preoccupied with more pressing troubles such as AIDS, famine, and oppression from the local warlord, played by Corey Jones.
Along the way, Elder Cunningham does more than just bend the truth to get converts. He even catches the eye of Nabulungi (Kayla Pecchioni), the daughter of Mafala (Sterling Jarvis), a local villager.
Granted, Mormon does not shy away from the foul language or the reality of disease and political unrest, but it does not take long to see why audiences have warmed to it. One would expect the blessing of comedic timing and irreverent storytelling from the minds of Matt Stone and Trey Parker. After all, this is the duo behind South Park. Yet it still catches you off guard how sophisticated they are in their use of comedy to make valid and timely points about the true nature of faith and suffering.
Opening night included a cross section of patrons that were perhaps not familiar with the crassness of some of the scenes, but were moved to guttural laughs all the same. The thing about this brand of comedy is how sharp it is in its delivery and intent. Mormon is proof that Broadway is more than just a string of musical numbers with little in the way of story.
Even with songs like “Hello,” “You and Me (But Mostly Me),” “All American Prophet,” and “Tomorrow is a Latter Day,” the dialogue between the cast exemplifies their chemistry.
Since 2011, Mormon has already become one of the successful productions in the history of Broadway grossing over $500 million in ticket sales. Thus far, it has garnered nine Tony Awards and a Grammy Award.
Accolades aside, Mormon is the reason people of every stripe can enjoy musical theater. It should be no surprise this a production that can be enjoyed countless times and that has much to do with the talent on stage and in the creative process.
Aside from Stone and Parker, Robert Lopez worked on the book, music and lyrics. Directing the show is Casey Nicholaw.
Nicholaw’s other credits include directing and choreographing Something Rotten!, Disney’s Aladdin and co-directing and choreographing The Book of Mormon in 2011. Other Broadway credits include directing and choreographing: Tuck Everlasting, Elf: The Musical, The Drowsy Chaperone and Monty Python’s Spamalot.
For more information on The Book of Mormon, visit their official tour site.
Opera San Antonio bids adieu to fourth season
By Kristian Jaime
The production runs May 17 and 19 and will be sung in Italian with English subtitles. Readily considered part of the canon for opera lovers, the story follows a shy stranger who knocks on the door of a penniless poet, looking for someone to light her candle, they both find that something more magical is kindled.
Thus begins one of the most beloved and tragic operas ever written, which continues to move audiences to tears with its tale of the doomed love between the poet Rodolfo and the seamstress Mimi. The tale is set against the backdrop of life in the Latin Quarter of Paris, with the lively and engaging characters of Musetta, Marcello and all the bohemians brought to life by the beautiful music of Puccini.
For Adam Diegel, OSA artistic director, putting together a season palatable to aficionados and novice opera lovers starts with appreciating the gamut of shows. It also means demystifying opera to make it connect with patrons.
“Education is our concern, whether we are bringing it to schools or [the stage],” said Diegel. “It’s our mission to let people know that we have a full commitment to providing the highest level of artistic quality and integrity for this and future seasons. We are challenged that we only have two operas a season and that we have to build our base.”
Yet the business of staging such an elaborate and meticulous show starts with the talent. This production of La Bohème includes the likes of: Amanda Kingston as Mimi, Derrek Stark as Rodolfo, Jessica Jones at Musetta, Daniel Scofield as Marcello, Justin Hopkins as Colline, Andrew McLaughlin as Schaunard, and Jake Gardner as Benoit and Alcindoro.
Under the direction of E. Loren Meeker and orchestral conducting of Sebastian Lang-Lessing, the show is poised to leave a lasting presence till the fifth season is officially announced.
Aside from traditional shows, Diegel is eager to expand the OSA repertoire to more contemporary works in the future and to include more productions to the company’s schedule.
“We have a vision of bringing three operas a season and hopefully that third one can be contemporary but has appeal. It is very much an ongoing discussion,” he continued.
Like many arts organizations in the city, financing such lofty aspirations is work in itself. With the Tobin Center the focal point of the performing arts in San Antonio, the pressure to continually sell out the venue is never far off. In an effort to reach those reluctant to make an evening of the opera, ticket prices are more than reasonable for a show of this caliber.
With the venue also one of the Alamo City’s gems following a multi-million dollar renovation, patrons can appreciate its design that was implemented with them in mind.
In an effort to capitalize on OSA outreach, the professional opera company is no stranger to reaching out to school and community organizations. Such resources have even encompasses the “Opera Study Guide” for educators to use the shows as a means of teaching great literature and the arts. For opera fans on the night of the production, there is a pre-show lecture covering the history and themes in that particular staging.
“We think bringing this art form to people gives them the opportunity to decide for themselves if they like it and we know many haven’t ever been exposed to it at all. But we can create a perspective that makes it fun and [interesting],” concluded Diegel.
Ballet San Antonio unveils new season
By Kristian Jaime
Willy Shives, BSA artistic director, is not one to shy away from an eclectic program and this season is no exception. It includes Beauty and the Beast on October 19-21, The Nutcracker on November 23-25, 30 and December 1-2 and Carmen on February 15-17. The annual free Ballet on the Park is slated to take place March 9.
BSA will include two world premiers in Beauty and the Beast and Carmen with the holiday classic, The Nutcracker remaining in the repertoire.
“I wanted to reach out to the community and let them know we are their professional dance company,” said Shives. “I was looking at the story of [these shows] including the more extreme side of the adult intellect in Carmen. I’m really excited about the entire season.”
Portraying a tale as old as time in a film made famous by Disney meant paring down the original story. While much of the action features Belle, Gaston and the beast turned royalty, Shives was eager to make a full and vivacious experience for the audience. What started with an adaptation meant challenging his company with innovative choreography.
This season will feature full-length ballets instead of the hour-long productions of the past. With the help of the his wife, Shives has narrowed down the music to achieve the appropriate tone.
Finally, Carmen joins the season bringing the seductive and tantalizing element. When the death card reveals to Carmen, the fabled temptress of Seville that she will die at the hands of one of her lovers she scoffs and goes about her wiles. Her attraction to an intense young soldier named José is short-lived when she meets a new lover, the exceptionally handsome bullfighter, Escamillo. A sizzling tale of seduction, jealousy, betrayal and rage—all in the name of love.
“The talent of the dancers now is so much higher than when I first arrived. I’ve pushed them and the artistry [is better]. I want that high caliber of performer and I have that with this company,” concluded Shives.
For more information on the 2018-19 Ballet San Antonio season or to purchase tickets, visit their homepage.
Luminaria opens call for artists
By Kristian Jaime
For the eleventh year in a row, Luminaria, one of the largest contemporary arts festivals in the nation, is ready to welcome San Antonio.
Originally founded in 2008 by the City of San Antonio (COSA), the full slate of events include live performances, art installations and poetry readings. As the Alamo City celebrates its tricentennial, 2018 also represents an opportunity to underscore its eclectic history all in the centrally located Hemisfair Park.
“Cultural programming develops our neighborhoods, especially our urban core, for residents and visitor,” said Debbie Racca-Sittre, Executive Director of the San Antonio Department of Arts & Culture. “It increases participation in cultural diversity and positive creativity. This is what makes Luminaria more than just a festival. It is an interactive, educational and creative space.”
In an effort to include a myriad of local artists, Luminaria officially opened the application process to be considered as a participant via a link on its website. Artists are also encouraged to submit a proposal on PublicArtist.org and the application will be open until May 15. Aside from the numerous proposals expected this year, it also confirmed that Hemisfair park would host the annual event until 2020.
With a permanent home, for now, the ample space for galleries, stages and public art will be put to good use since Luminaria routinely averages 20,000 patrons every year. Over the decade, the number of visitors has totaled over a million with over $500,000 paid out in artist fees.
The Luminaria 2018 Mission San Jose Interpretive Arts Program will open on Sunday, November 11 the featured artist’s work on display through Sunday, January 6, 2019. Their work will be accessible during the Mission’s normal hours of operation.
“This gives us a much stronger infrastructure since we know our sites and our theaters here at Hemisfair,” said Kathy Armstrong, executive director of Luminaria. “When you know that, you can respond to the artists’ proposals in a much more [specific] way. Also, we want our audience to build and we want them to have a core location to attend.”
The tradition of downtown being the focal point of the city continues to not only be a cultural tool, but an economic one as well. The American Planning Association (APA) corroborates as much with data that links such locations to stronger sectors of economic development.
Luminaria’s artistic partners include Artist Foundation of San Antonio, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC), Contemporary Art Month (CAM), Southern Poetry Slam, National Park Service and Western National Parks Association and the Consulate General of Mexico.
With the scope of the event already impressive, paring down the number of participants is not easy. For Armstrong the numerous individuals that make the festival a reality have much to plan and the 50 artists talented enough to be selected will join a very distinct alumni.
“Through many years of different artists and organizers, Luminaria has showcased the arts for free for ten years. That’s thanks to former Mayor Phil Hardberger initiating it and the city’s support,” concluded Armstrong.
Gloria and Emilio Estefan gets Majestic on their feet
By Kristian Jaime
The rise to stardom is never easy and On Your Feet! is a prime example of the trials and tribulations through the eyes of acclaimed recording artists Emilio and Gloria Estefan.
The national tour made a recent stop at the Majestic Theatre as part of the Broadway in San Antonio series much to the delight of South Texas. While it is a relatively new musical, with its first performance in Chicago in 2015, the story has been decades in the making.
The true tale of Emilio and Gloria’s love story and ascent to music legends started with an acoustic guitar and a little girl from Miami, Florida with frightening natural talent. It follows Gloria (Christie Prades) and her mother Gloria Fajardo (Nancy Ticotin) and sister Rebecca (Claudia Yanez) as they take care of their Army veteran father Jose Fajardo (Jason Martinez). While life seems only an endless cycle of chores and family obligations, young Gloria seems destined to grace the stage as her neighbors all rave about her ability as a singer and lyricist.
Before long, she meets Emilio (Mauricio Martinez), a flashy and confident singer in a relatively famous band making their name. After a successful audition, the journey to fortune comes at the disapproval of her mother and support of her grandmother Consuelo (Debra Cardona).
For fans of the couple and their iconic band, the Miami Sound Machine, much of the show hearkens back to seminal moments in their career. From numerous international tours to the devastating bus crash in 1990 that had Gloria alive by a thread, the personal saga of the entire Fajardo and Estefan family was incredibly human.
Not only did Prades shine in the title role, but her energy and honesty was astounding. It goes without saying that making it to a national tour implies an ability to carry a tune, but Prades did Estefan’s repertoire justice. One expects the lead to steal every scene, but Prades was effortlessly captivating.
One of the qualities that makes Gloria Estefan such a beloved recording artist is her humility and her value on family. That permeated the entire show and the constant struggle between success and family was palpable. As her spouse and confidant, Martinez showed a range as an actor and singer.
Many already know him from a long career in telenovelas and as a recording artist in his own right in his native Mexico. Yet his performance was funny, heartfelt and impressive. It was a joy to have him take the stage for solo numbers and illustrate the beauty of having two equally capable leads.
It is no surprise that the band’s greatest hits all make an appearance in the show. Chart toppers like “1-2-3,” “Anything For You,” “Coming Out Of The Dark,” “Conga,” “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” and “On Your Feet” will have any audience singing. One forgets the impact that Emilio and Gloria had on a fledgling Latino music industry. Moreover, they were the first to crossover from just a Hispanic market to music as a whole.
One must wonder where many Latino recording artists would be without Estefan opening a very lucrative door.
On Your Feet! is proof the best and most poignant stories come from reality and entertainment does not have to be classified by ethnicity. It is also testament to the fact that greatness is for those willing to work for it.
For more information on the show, visit their official website.
‘Scarlet’ sees red in S.A. debut
By Kristian Jaime with additional research by Christina Acosta
Adapting the complexity of Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” was no easy task. But in the hands of the Frankfort, Illinois-based Ballet 5:8, it looked effortless.
Scarlet, the modern staging of the classic was a combination of film, spoken world and traditional ballet making it as visually stunning as it was provocative. The national tour stopped at San Antonio’s Lila Cockrell Theater for a single performance adding to the company’s ambitious reputation.
Hester Prynne (Brette Benedict) stands accused of adultery as evidenced by her pregnancy and birth of her child, Pearl. Her husband, Roger Chillingworth (Samuel Opsal), has been away for three years.
As punishment for her sin, Prynne is forced to wear the “A” for adultery. Prynne refuses to reveal the identity of her lover, much to the anger and frustration of Prudence and the rest of the Puritan village.
Chillingworth demands that Prynne keep his identity as a secret as he focuses all of his rage upon finding and tormenting her lover. The village shames Prynne for her sin including Prudence (Emily Ratkos), Placidia (Lorianne Barclay), Silence (Stephanie Joe) and Credence (Beth Patterson), who themselves grapple with sin.
However, there is one person who shows Prynne and her daughter compassion and kindness–Arthur Dimmesdale (Antonio Rosario). While having the love and esteem of the village, there is a guilty secret he carries about his role in the scandal.
It is easy to see why Benedict, in the title role of Prynne, is the company’s lead artist. Her footwork is as precise as it is mesmerizing. She shifts between the graceful melancholy of her solitude and the tour de force exuberance we hoped for her character. One could not help but get swept away in the turmoil she exudes on stage as the cast of characters writhed in righteous indignation.
Her counterpart in Rosario also captivated as he pondered his sins. As the company’s only male solo artist, he was nothing short of passionate in the role. Like Benedict, he walked the line between the elegance of his solos and his descent into self-loathing. Among the highlights of the show were the few moments we saw Benedict and Rosario dance with one another. The chemistry between the two was a necessary component to making the story poignant.
Ratkos, Barclay, Joe and Patterson were the perfect commentary on the perils of hypocrisy as examined by one of the most heralded writers of our time. Opsal played the role of a scorned husband with the nuance that added depth to the performance. One could only imagine the impossible obligation between taking care of a child who did not ask for such scorn and adhering to strict moral codes.
In total, Scarlet was a moving and heartfelt testament to individuals trapped within rigid religious views and the gray areas that often seep in such black and white vision.
Following the show, artistic director Julianna Rubio-Slager joined the cast on stage for their “talkback” sessions with the audience. It was a chance to not only get a behind-the-scenes look at the production, but the years of work to get the ballet ready for the stage.
Scarlet will be at Illinois Central college on March 17 and the Paramount Theatre on March 24 before starting their Compass Project on April 7.
Lila Cockrell welcomes ‘Scarlet’ to S.A.
By Kristian Jaime
The show gracefully lands in the Alamo City on March 10 at the Lila Cockrell Theater as part of a six-show tour across the nation. The source material was the classic and provocative novel “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, first published in 1850. Since then, it has spawned film adaptations and countless stagings in playhouses.
Yet it received unique updating when the Frankfort, Illinois-based company added modern elements and even a round-table discussion following the ballet open to the public with dancers and Julianna Slager, its artistic director.
“We have a wonderful team of supporters that make [tours] possible,” Slager said. “We have many logistics that go into planning. That includes local partners in line with our mission, but it’s been such a joy to see so many people get behind [the company].”
For a dance company as much at home performing in school gymnasiums for students as it is premiering in the finest theaters in the country, outreach is not a choice. For that matter, being part of the arts means it is a requirement. Following that mission starts from the top down by making programming that resonates with a wide audience and spreading the message that ballet is not for the few.
On top of that, there is another message at the heart of the company. It is one rooted in Christian fellowship. Even the name is taken from Scripture as it recalls Romans 5:8.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” the passage reads.
To call it simple evangelizing sells it short. It is creating a community with faith at the center with the athleticism and aesthetics of dance as a tool. What some see as purely the domain of the wealthy or cultural elite is no more. Ballet 5:8 can be found everywhere from public libraries to parks to schools; in short, anywhere the public would not expect a professional dancer performing a meticulously crafted routine.
“We spent a lot of time trying to get the public to see what we’re doing,” continued Slager. “Ballet is this wonderful art form not just on stage. We want to teach people what it is and break down those barriers that are perceived. It’s for everyone and can be enjoyed by anyone.”
The current tour was uniquely crafted by the network of donors and those eager to bring national dance companies to their markets. San Antonio has quickly become known as a cultural hub boasting two opera companies, three ballet companies and a state-of-the-art performance hall situated downtown.
Scarlet is a not your usual ballet. While some may only see the taboo subject matter, Slager was drawn to the rich and descriptive writing by the seminal author. Such tight and evocative storytelling has made the novel a literary staple. It also made it ripe for a ballet adaptation.
“[Hawthorne’s] writing is just brilliant,” Slager explained. “It’s such a rich dialogue and has such amazing description of the characters and their inner thoughts and outward reactions. Dance is a medium that can take you deeper than what they just say and into the internal realm.”
The three-year process to bring it to the stage culminated with audiences not only seeing this production for the first time, but being initially introduced to Ballet 5:8 as well. If the pressures of being an artistic director were not enough, imagine doing it all with two children and a third on the way. Slager finds that delicate balance by having her family travel with her when possible.
She also enjoyed a career as a professional dancer and worked with numerous companies. Asking her today if she would prefer acclaim as the best soloist or artistic director to ever live, there is no hesitation. Her work at the artistic helm of the company has provided her with all the satisfaction for which she could hope.
RED shows its true passionate colors
By Christina Acosta
Ballet San Antonio (BSA) made a passionate and contemporary return with “RED” to the Tobin Center this weekend for their last show of the 2017-18 BOLD & Beautiful season.
“RED” was not the usual story ballet with which audiences have grown comfortable. This performance was broken up into five small routines where dancers told the story of love through contemporary ballet and modern dance.
The first was “Elements” that paints the story of the city’s unpredictable weather. San Antonio has the perfect skies by day and rain that becomes wild and heavy. The performance comes into full harmony under the calming autumn moon.
The dancer’s red costumes were a representation of that autumn moon, and no matter how temperamental the weather gets, people continue to love their city. Principle dancers Sally Turkel and Ian Morris were captivating and flowed with a sweetness of rich chocolate and were as fluid as the rain itself.
Turkel’s joyous facial expressions showed that no matter how bad the storm, we must dance through it.
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” was one performance that made everyone laugh and beam with joy like a young child. The performance told the story about a lazy apprentice wizard who tries his hand at magic, but fails when he multiplies one broom to 10. The only way he can undo his mistake was to call his mentor to bring everything back to order.
The performance featured the children’s cast from BSA’s arts education and dance training program, Learning That Moves You, at the Boys & Girls Club of San Antonio. The audience could reminisce the love they had to bring their inner child out with laughter.
Corps de Ballet dancer Alexa Horwath may be extremely petite, but do not let her stature fool you. As the broom that got the sorcerer in trouble, her bourres, leaps and turns made her the lively centerpiece of the adaptation.
An etching entitled, “Ronde d’Anges” by Cavaliere d’ Arpino, inspired the “Round of Angels” performance. The emotional ballet set against a starry night sky features a couple that destined to part. There were broken-winged male angels surrounding them.
The silver costumes made the audiences appreciate what the beauty of a night sky offers even though the performance was emotional. Kathryn Meeusen played a convincing tale of a woman accepted her sad fate through her arabesques and bourres. Her partner, Mayim Stiller was the man who did not want to accept that fate, holding Meeusen together from falling apart.
It was enjoyable to see that artistic director Willy Shives put a realistic piece into the show that represents an uncertain love. Love is not always red.
The sentiment transitioned into the next performance “Something Stupid,” which was the best performance of the night. Three couples tell three different stories of young love.
In “I’m Gong to Sit Down and Write Myself a Letter,” Aidan Carrasquel played the part of the man who falls head over heels right after meeting Sofie Bertolini. She shows him attention and affection, but she is not interested, leaving him in the dust.
“Jealousy, Tango,” couples Jenna Stamm and Luis J. Corrales Ceballos indulges in their lustful dance that shows the passion they have for one another.
The third performance “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” tells the story of a couple, played by Alexander Allen and Julia Turner, who want to stay as far away from love, but change their mind when they see what the other as to offer. Their yellow costumes were a symbolic nod to the hope they eventually feel.
Bertolini and Carrasquel come back to finish their story in “Karen’s Theme,” proving that if you chase love, there is a fifty percent chance that one could end up with their crush. The three couples show their fun side in “Something Stupid” and “L-O-V-E” making the audience dance and sing along.
Bertolini had carried her “Nutcracker” bravado on this stage with her flirtatious and coy energy. She was as adept in the nuance of contemporary dance as she was in a classical production.
The show ended with a powerful bang in “Rubies,” which was also a BSA premiere.
The performance sent the dancers dramatically running across the stage like lightning to Igor Stravinsky’s jazz-inflected piano “Cappricio,” adding hints of sharp and sassy. Any chance to see Kate Maxted take the stage for a solo is a joy. Maxted’s meticulous and artistic precision belies her small stature.
Her performance added more intensity than the music intended. This was the perfect performance to end the 2017-2018 season.
Hopefully Shives will put on another contemporary show for next season. BSA will also host their annual “Ballet in the Park,” on Saturday, March 10 at 6 p.m. at Travis Park. The show will be free admission, but it is recommended to arrive early. For more information, visit Ballet San Antonio.
‘The Color Purple’ triumphant in S.A. premier
By Kristian Jaime
Inspiration for some of the most moving stage productions often draw from the written word. The Color Purple is no exception.
The stage adaptation comes from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning work of the same name by author Alice Walker. The notoriety of the book soon precipitated a film in 1985 that was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Oprah Winfrey.
December 2005 saw the latest iteration as a stage production opening on Broadway. The success of the show, including the Tony Award for Best Revival, is history.
The story revolves around Celie (Adrianna Hicks) as she is forced to marry Mister Albert (Gavin Gregory) and enter into a loveless marriage based on servitude. In the process, she must leave her beloved sister, Nettie (N’Jameh Camara) and her abusive Pa (J.D. Webster). From there, she meets a cast of characters bent on maintaining the misogyny of her way in life. That includes Harpo (J. Daughtry), Mister Albert’s son.
Yet it is not long before she also finds those willing to empower and teach her valuable lessons in love. Chief among them is Shug Avery (Carla R. Stewart), her husband’s lover and Sofia (Carrie Compere), Harpo’s estranged wife. As the years pass, Celie grows increasingly jaded with each personal indignity. There seems to be little hope until Shug and her new husband, Grady (Jared Dixon), steal her away to a new life in Memphis.
While much of the show is admittedly mired in the bleakness of Celie’s struggle to stay positive, the theme of hope and redemption is never far behind. The empowering “I’m Here” and “The Color Purple” best exemplify it in the second act.
Fans of the show are readily familiar with iconic songs like “Huckleberry Pie,” “Our Prayer,” “Hell No,” “Too Beautiful for Words” and “Miss Celie’s Pants.” What the latest tour does is more than entertain; it strikes a very human chord of how despair can be such a pervasive force in life.
Hicks is pitch perfect in the main role as the audience is with her every step of the way. Her transformation from youthful and naïve newlywed to jaded servant and eventually to proud and determined businesswoman is nothing short of masterful. Gregory is the perfect representation of a way of life rooted in subjugation, but as he changes his ways, you see a vulnerable character neglected in his own way.
Stewart and Compere are a tour de force in their respective roles and their bravado and confidence makes them captivating from start to finish. With every song they sang, the capacity crowd at the Majestic Theatre was nothing short of transfixed. Rarely does the audience see why a particular individual is cast for a given role. But it was evident from the first time they stay step on stage that own every scene in which they appear.
Among the most underrated story lines in the production is the bond between Hicks and Camara. The sisterly love they share was palpable and so was the devastation Hicks left on stage when she was separated from her by her marriage. Fortunately for the overall tone of the show, so was the bliss of the duo reuniting.
The Color Purple arrives just in time for Black History Month. As one of the most iconic works of fiction within the African American canon of literature, it is no surprise that a stage adaptation would be just a poignant and haunting. This production stands as testament that what resonates most is always uncompromising and human.
The Color Purple runs from February 6-11 at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio.
Broadway in S.A. announces banner year
The Majestic Theatre announced its line-up of shows for the 2018-19 North Park Lexus Broadway in San Antonio Season.
Hamilton anchors the season with a three week run, May 7-26, 2019. With eight productions, the season includes a mixture of Blockbuster Tony Award-winners, five market premieres and returning audience favorites.
“It’s San Antonio’s passion for theatre that has made our season offerings grow,” says Emily Smith, general manager of the Majestic and Charline McCombs Empire Theatres. “We always like to offer audiences the newest and latest; this season delivers the perfect mix with five market premieres, returning audience favorites and a comedic play. And, of course, we couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Hamilton to the Majestic stage.”
Broadway in San Antonio at the Majestic Theatre opens in September with the return of Wicked, the remarkable odyssey of how two unexpected friends change each other’s lives for good. Declared “The best musical of the decade” by Entertainment Weekly and “A cultural phenomenon” by Variety, Wicked is the recipient of over 100 international awards including the Grammy Award and three Tony Awards.
In November, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock makes it market premiere. Based on the hit film, the hilarious new musical follows Dewey Finn, a failed, wannabe rock star who decides to earn a few extra bucks by posing as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. There he turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band.
Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera will make a triumphant return to San Antonio in December. The production, overseen by Matthew Bourne and Cameron Mackintosh, boasts many exciting special effects including the show’s legendary chandelier. The beloved story and thrilling score, with songs like “Music of the Night,” “All I Ask Of You,” and “Masquerade,” will be performed by a cast and orchestra of 52, making this Phantom one of the largest productions now on tour.
Waitress makes its San Antonio debut in January 2019. Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, it tells the story of Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker, Jenna dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life. “Waitress is a little slice of heaven!”
says Entertainment Weekly and “a monumental contribution to Broadway!” according to Marie Claire.
Anastasia, a romantic and adventure-filled new musical also opens in February. This dazzling show will transport you from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s, as a brave young woman sets out on a journey to discover the mystery of her past.
Audiences across North America are toasting the new production of Fiddler on the Roof returning to the Majestic in March. Featuring the Broadway classics “Tradition,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and “To Life,” Fiddler will introduce a new generation to this uplifting celebration that raises its cup to joy, love and to life.
In May, Hamilton will make its San Antonio debut with a three-week run. It is the story of America’s founding father Alexander Hamilton. He is an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway, Hamilton is the story of America then, as told by America now.
The Play That Goes Wrong is a remarkable rags-to-riches story for a play which started its life at a London fringe venue with only four paying members of the public at the first performance. The production has gone on to play to an audience of over half a million around the world. This award-winning smash comedy closes out the season in June.
Jersey Boys, the Tony Award-winning true-life musical phenomenon about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, will return as a season option.
Season packages are now available. Subscribers can choose a six-show package starting at $270 or seven-show package including Phantom starting at $315. More information is available at www.BroadwayInSanAntonio.com.
Season subscribers enjoy the privilege of priority ticket opportunities, lost ticket replacement, exchange privileges on existing seats for select shows. On-sale dates for individual shows will be announced in the coming months. Group minimums start as low as 10 for select shows; groups can reserve seats now by calling (210) 226-5967.
The best way to guarantee tickets to Hamilton is to purchase a season subscription for the 2018-19 season. Subscribers will be able to guarantee their tickets for the premiere San Antonio engagement of the show before tickets become available to the general public.
The schedule for the 2018-19 season is as follows:
September 26 – October 14, 2018
School of Rock
November 6-11, 2018
The Phantom of the Opera
December 6-16, 2018
January 8-13, 2019
February 1-2, 2019
February 5-10, 2019
Fiddler on the Roof
March 26-31, 2019
May 7-26, 2019
The Play That Goes Wrong
June 18-23, 2019
McNay celebrates Black History Month with ‘Something to Say’
By Kristian Jaime
In time for Black History Month, the McNay Art Museum has unveiled Something to Say: 100 Years of African American Art and 30 Americans: The Rubell Family Collection.
The show runs from February 8 through May 6 and is the first showing of the compendium of African American art spanning the century. The 50-piece exhibit includes: Charles Alston, Elizabeth Catlett, Lois Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis and Charles White. The exhibition and related programs allow visitors to reflect on a range of African American experiences, and examine how artists have expressed personal, political, and racial identity.
“There were so many artists that we wanted to represent to tell this story,” said Rene Barilleaux, head curator for the museum. “We wanted to make this accessible to the public and make it understandable. So much of this imagery is new to people so we wanted to make it welcoming and familiar when it’s not.”
The time frame covered by the show was one of the most tumultuous eras in African American history and the themes it tries to tackle is very much indicative of that. Issues like sexism, racism, poverty and cultural identity are all examined by way of self portraits and abstraction with nods to well-known classic masters.
The exhibition juxtaposes works from the pioneering collection of Harmon and Harriet Kelley with loans from the collections of Guillermo Nicolas and Jim Foster, John and Freda Facey, and the McNay.
“This is a wide range of artists and time periods that go into making work. The materials they use and approach they take doesn’t have to be so [rigid]. It can be more open-needed and intuitive,” continued Barilleaux.
30 Americans, the other exhibition sharing the space, shows much more contemporary work from artists still working. The pieces are well traveled and come from Miami’s Rubell Family Collection.
Featured artists include Mark Bradford, Nick Cave, Robert Colescott, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas and Kehinde Wiley. The exhibition even contains a piece by acclaimed New York icon Jean-Michel Basquiat. While there are clear overlapping themes in both shows, 30 Americans plays more with the principle of scope and pop culture.
“I think, in general, we’ve overlooked many of the African American visual artists,” Barilleaux explained. “People are much more aware of the political or the cultural story of African Americans instead. It’s important when thinking about Black History Month, that they also get into the picture.”
While many of the exhibits at the McNay often focus on the narrow points in expansive arts movements, the pairing of these shows exemplify a large swath of African American art. Its what Barilleaux compares to walking through a comprehensive textbook on this particularly rich tradition.
Rich Aste, director of the McNay, underscored the importance if including varied perspectives.
“We are honored to present this extraordinary range of community-building exhibitions concurrently. They exemplify the museum’s commitment to equity, inclusion, and social consciousness as well as artistic excellence,” said Aste.
Cultivating couture in S.A.
By Kristian Jaime
As the Alamo City celebrated Dreamweek, a commemoration of the civil rights legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from January 5-20, artists of every sort received the spotlight.
Esé Azénabor, the designer of the luxurious and sophisticated gowns at “Culture and Couture,” is self-taught and drew inspiration for her latest line from the Garden of Eden. The Nigerian-born Canadian soon made Texas home in her pursuit of a Master’s Degree at Southern Methodist University. Yet plans quickly changed when the world of high fashion came calling.
With the launch of her self-titled, prêt-à-porter line, it was not long before the likes of New York Fashion Week followed. Since her professional debut, Azénabor has made strides in both couture and bridal creations.
Among the goals Azénabor professes is to “empower women through the art of fashion.” As Dreamweek highlighted underrepresented pioneers in influential industries, Azénabor’s brand is already growing with locations in Dallas, Houston, New York City and internationally with Dubai.
“Culture and Couture,” recently held at the Southwest School of Art in downtown San Antonio, showcased the elegant and refined designs for which she has become known. The event drew of a number of patrons drawn to the meticulous detail and embellishment of each gown. The themes behind the collection ran the gamut of ultra feminine floor-length gowns to whimsical cocktail dresses to dramatic evening selections complete with intricate beading.
As the seventh largest city in the nation, San Antonio is no stranger to high fashion. Fashion Week San Antonio has become a fixture on the city’s calendar with this year’s festivities taking place March 25-31. That has also spurred entrepreneurs seeking to raise San Antonio’s fashion profile through boutiques across the city.
One storefront at a time
One such store owner is Karen Cuellar-Schmelzer of the recently opened Grayce Ln Fashion in Alamo Heights.
As a life-long fashion enthusiast, opening her own storefront was always in the cards. With couture sensibilities on the rise, Cuellar-Schmelzer took on the task of dressing the modern women.
“I feel the fashion scene in San Antonio is already so great, so being able to supplement that with more high-end fashion is very exciting for us,” Cuellar-Schmelzer explained. “For us quality matters above anything else, the dress has to have a certain desirability from [any designer]. It’s a fun process ans we have more safe options, but we also have some fun and exciting ones as well not found elsewhere.”
Staying ahead of fashion trends has never been an easy task even for people in the industry. Yet Cuellar-Schmelzer is quick to note that stepping outside one’s comfort zone is the first step to new horizons.
At the core of any statement gown, Cuellar-Schmelzer posits, is the confidence one gets when wearing it. For many women, stepping out with an attention-grabbing ensemble brings an uncomfortable spotlight. The inherent allure of a stunning dress is one of the reasons behind such creations in the first place.
As for customer service, that is the beginning of the journey to finding that perfect gown. After 17 years of working at Rackspace, the customer experience is vital to Cuellar-Schmelzer.
“My goal [with this store] is when a woman walks in, they feel beautiful. I wanted them to feel like they were in their dream closet. So I have to be very thoughtful about the [selections] I put out,” concluded Cuellar-Schmelzer.
More information on Grayce Ln Fashion, including their hours and designer selections, visit their homepage.
SACC shakes up another banner year
By Kristian Jaime
For the seventh year in a row, the San Antonio Cocktail Conference (SACC) played host to an international roster of fine spirit experts.
While this annual event brings together some of the most celebrated mixologists across the country, it is a party with the purpose. The festivities, which ran from January 10-14, once again donated 100 percent of its profits to benefit children. Past beneficiaries include: Children’s Shelter, ChildSafe, Clarity Child Guidance Center, HeartGift San Antonio, TEAMability and Transplants for Children.
Since its founding, the organization behind it has been Houston Street Charities. While the SACC stands as its largest and most lucrative event, it is a packed year of charitable celebrations with culinary tastings, picnics and The 10 Days of Giving.
The full slate of parties at the 2018 conference included Women Shaking It Up, Opening Night at the Doseum, Waldorf on the Prairie, Tasting Suites, Cocktails Under the Sea and a concluding brunch presented by Jazz Texas. In between mixers were a number of seminars led by internationally renowned presenters about the cocktail industry which brought in $25.2 billion in profits just two years ago.
Across the board, spirits are making a comeback with scotch and whiskey enjoying the biggest surge with a $3.1 billion industry according to Fortune business analysts. Vodka production is a close second with similar sales milestones.
Among the seminars included: Designing and Branding, A New Classification for Rum, Diversity in the Cocktail Industry, The Heritage of Irish Whiskey, Re-imagining Consumption Practices and Flavor, Balance and Technique to name just some.
As the business of cocktails becomes more profitable, finding a place in the market is becoming increasingly more difficult. Yet with the SACC growing exponentially every year, 2018 represented an opportunity to expand a given brand by appealing to patrons themselves. Similar conferences are traditionally geared only to industry professionals.
As the SACC wrapped up another year, there is growing clout in the Alamo City as a cocktail destination. With fine dining and craft cocktails two sides of the same coin, patrons will soon indulge on the bites and cocktails of the future today.
‘Cinderella’ graces S.A. stage
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” the 2013 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical will play five performances at the Majestic Theatre from January 12-14, 2018.
Tickets for the production start at $35 and are available by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 982.ARTS (2787), at all Ticketmaster outlets including the Majestic Box Office, or online at the official Broadway in San Antonio site and Ticketmaster. “Cinderella” opens with performances at 8 p.m. on January 12 at the historic Majestic Theatre.
With its fresh new take on the beloved tale of a young woman who is transformed from a chambermaid into a princess, this stage adaptation combines the story’s classic elements – glass slippers, pumpkins, and a beautiful ball along with some surprising twists. More than just a pretty face with the right shoe size, this Cinderella is a contemporary figure living in a fairy tale setting. She is a spirited young woman with savvy and soul who does not let her rags or her gowns trip her up in her quest for kindness, compassion and forgiveness.
She longs to escape the drudgery of her work at home and instead work to make the world a better place. In pursuing her own goals, the prince opens his eyes to the world around him and realizes the future is bigger than even he imagined.
“Cinderella” has music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, a new book by Douglas Carter Beane and original book by Oscar Hammerstein II. Originally directed by Mark Brokaw and choreographed by Josh Rhodes, the tour is directed by Gina Rattan and choreographed by Lee Wilkins. Music adaptation and arrangements are by David Chase and music supervision is by Greg Anthony Rassen. Orchestrations are by Bill Elliott and are adapted from the original Broadway orchestrations by Danny Troob.
As one of duo’s most popular titles, “Cinderella” was written for television — debuting in 1957 starring Julie Andrews. In 2013, the show made its long-overdue Broadway debut. Along with this show, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s legendary musicals include “OKLAHOMA!,” “Carousel,” “The King and I,” “South Pacific” and “The Sound of Music” to name a few.
Mr. Beane’s book for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” blends masterfully with the musical’s cherished score with songs including “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible/It’s Possible,” “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”
The creative team includes scenic design by Tony Award nominee Anna Louizos, costume design by six-time Tony Award-winner William Ivey Long, lighting design by Tony® Award-winner Kenneth Posner and sound design by Tony® Award nominee Nevin Steinberg.
The tour is produced by Work Light Productions and the show was produced on Broadway by: Robyn Goodman, Jill Furman, Stephen Kocis, Edward Walson, Venetian Glass Productions, The Araca Group, Luigi Caiola & Rose Caiola, Roy Furman, Walt Grossman, Peter May/Sanford Robertson, Glass Slipper Productions LLC/Eric Schmidt, Ted Liebowitz/James Spry, Blanket Fort Productions and in association with Center Theatre Group.
‘White Christmas’ an exuberant journey
By Kristian Jaime
When the source material for any musical is a project with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, it is sure to be a hit.
In the musical adaptation of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” Captain Bob Wallace (Sean Montgomery) and Private Phil Davis ( Jeremy Benton) entertain their military regiment on Christmas of 1944. It is then their commanding officer on the European front, General Henry Wavery (Conrad John Schuck), notifies them he is being relieved of command.
Ten years later, the story finds Wallace and Davis as best selling recording artists and Broadway stars during the golden age of musicals and variety shows. As Davis is on the lookout for the next great opening act, he is tipped off about Judy Haynes (Kelly Sheehan) and her sister, Betty (Kerry Conte). When the duo goes to see the “Haynes Sisters” in concert, Phil and Judy hit it off instantly while Bob and Betty are icier than a northeast Christmas evening.
It is not long before the Phil and Judy concoct a plan to change Bob’s itinerary from Miami to Vermont. Little did Wallace and Davis know the Columbia Inn to which the foursome was heading was owned by retired General Waverly and run by Martha Watson (Karen Ziemba).
With the inn on the verge of closing, they all decide to put on a show complete with the men of the regiment to raise money. With the help of their army buddy, Ralph Sheldrake (Gil Brady), a producer for the Ed Sullivan Show, the show must go on.
It is little more than a showbiz platitude that chemistry is important, but in the case of Montgomery and Benton it was true. Most of the scenes and even the musical numbers include both of them. So when the duo played off one another with comedic timing and genuine friendship, it only made the production better.
So often, the role of the love interest is one-dimensional. Not only did Sheehan and Conte play them with gumption and sincerity, but with a musical ability to blow the roof off the place.
“White Christmas” is as balanced a show as you will find on any national tour. It contains stunning musical productions that fit right into any MGM extravaganza. Yet it makes the most of the quiet moments between characters. Mainly between Montgomery and Conte, the development of their relationship was well-paced and genuine. Much of the attention might deservedly go to Sheehan and Benton as the comedic and romantic foil of the show.
Yet the story that was most compelling was two people with no reason to find common ground finding love amid miscommunication and self-doubt. Surprisingly, one of the best performances came from the youngest member of the cast in Bella Yantis in the role of “Susan Waverly,” the granddaughter of the rigid General.
Not only was Yantis energetic and able to hold the spotlight on her own, but it created the perfect framework for the family of Schuck and Ziemba. “White Christmas” was the perfect primer for the holiday season and will run at the Majestic Theatre from December 12-17.
DoSeum names new CEO
The DoSeum’s Board of Trustees has appointed Daniel Menelly as the institution’s new CEO.
Menelly is an experienced science educator and non-profit management expert with a solid background in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education in both formal and informal learning environments. He comes to The DoSeum from the Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC), where he served as president and chief science officer. The RMSC, located in Rochester, New York, engages 365,000 stakeholders in STEM experiences, exhibitions and programs annually.
As president of the Rochester Museum & Science Center, Menelly directed and oversaw all program and exhibition activities at the 105-year-old public science institution. Prior to that, he was vice president, STEM, at the Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, New Jersey, where he directed STEM programming at an institution dedicated to public science education with both on-site and online activities.
Menelly, who is passionate about making STEM education accessible to all, has made a specialized career in adapting tools and learning models through a variety of settings, including schools, museums, and blended/cyber-enabled learning environments. His extensive experience in the teaching field, including rural, urban and suburban school settings, as well as public, independent, and international school communities, combined with years of experience in the management and administration of non-profit entities make him an ideal candidate to lead The DoSeum.
“Over the past three years, Dan’s work as Chief Science Officer has led the program areas of the Rochester Museum & Science Center to a new level of excellence; incorporating essential STEM perspectives on behalf of the community we serve,” comments CEO Kate Bennett. “Recently, as President and Chief Science Officer, he has taken on more of the day to day leadership, growing the capabilities of our teams, while enthusiastically linking the Rochester community to the STEM ecosystem.”
A search committee was appointed by The DoSeum’s Board of Trustees, which hired search firm Russell Reynolds. After an extensive national search, Menelly stood out from a pool of highly accomplished candidates. “The DoSeum is very excited to welcome Dan, knowing that he brings exceptional leadership skills to San Antonio and will lead this incredible place which promotes joyful learning for all kids in our community. While our search took some unexpected time, Dan is definitely worth the wait,” said Suzanne Goudge, president of The Doseum’s Board of Trustees
Menelly is trained in research and STEM policy through the National Science Foundation R.E.T and Einstein Fellowship programs, respectively. He was education advisor for the Science House Foundation as well as the producer and host of their Videoscience app, a free online resource with experiments and lessons for emerging STEM educators. He has served as a science media advisor for a variety of videographic tutorial and science commentary productions. Menelly has received awards for science teaching and mentoring and holds U.S. patent awards for teaching tools he developed during his 20 years as a science educator.
“Museums have a special role in building excitement and curiosity, and these are important to learning in all contexts, particularly as students form their identities and discover themselves as learners and doers,” said Menelly. “I have long admired The DoSeum’s model conceptually and I consider San Antonio a very exciting setting for informal (“out-of-the-classroom”) learning in all its forms.”
Menelly will officially join The DoSeum staff beginning February 1, 2018. Julie Huls, interim CEO as of September 2016, will remain on board through January 31, 2018.
“I am particularly excited to partner with others in San Antonio’s learning ecosystem, including schools, clubs, foundations and universities that are interested in STEM engagement,” concluded Menelly.
‘Nutcracker’ reigns with cheer, SA Flavor
By Christina Acosta
Ballet San Antonio returned this weekend to the Tobin Center to showcase their second performance of the 2017-18 BOLD & Beautiful season with this year’s iteration of the “The Nutcracker” in the Alamo City.
Opening night included holiday spirit all around with white Christmas trees and ornaments that provided mementos of the performance for patrons.
Young Clara’s mysterious uncle, Herr Drosselmeyer, concocts a fantasy world for Clara, replete with a growing Christmas tree and a nutcracker doll that comes to life and battles a Mouse King.
The defeat of the Mouse King brings a fantastic sleigh ride through falling snow and dancing snowflakes. Clara’s visit to the Land of Sweets is a showcase of dancing treats presented by the Sugar Plum Fairy herself. The performance also featured The Spurs Coyote and live music provided by San Antonio Symphony.
During the first half of the show, Clara, played by Cecily Romaynne Shives, left something to be desired with some yet unpolished technique. However, her acting, youthful look and cheerfulness was infectious with holiday spirit.
Corps de Ballet dancer Sofie Bertolini took the reigns of the first half in the role of Snow Queen. She melted into her role elegantly with her Pas De Deux making it into a performance nothing short of spellbinding. She made ballet itself look effortless and flawless.
The Snow King, played by Andres Angulo Castillo, also shined in his effort to bring the audience into a fantasy with his leaps and turns.
During Act II, “The Kingdom of Sweets,” principal dancer Sally Turkel’s solo continued Bertolini’s energy and began the second act with a graceful dénouement. Her clean bourrets, turns and smile deserved a standing ovation from the audience.
Despite some moments where Nutcracker Prince Marko Micov was shaky with transitions, Turkel took control of the “almost errors” and turned it into a new step. As a principal dancer, she has to prepare for these moments. Yet her ability to weave those improvisations of sorts truly deserves another round of applause.
That great energy was then passed on to soloist Lydia Relle with her performance as Coffee from Arabia was rich with belly dancing movement, turns and a lot of great core work vital to being lifted by from Castillo.
Another great performance was Tea From China’s Alexa Horwath and Ryland Acree. In anyone else’s hands, the jumps throughout that solo would be tenuous. However, the pair executed their finger gestures and leaps with ease. Nougats from Russia’s Andie Alshouse’s performance were quite memorable and, with her happy face and jumps, put a great ending to the soloists from the show.
The Spurs Coyote, a special guest in the internationally beloved show, added San Antonio authenticity. Who knew blending basketball and ballet would amount to a performance catered to the San Antonio audience? He was an instant star and the focal point anytime he stepped on stage.
Overall, this was a performance that was reined over by the women in the company. Although there were some moments that left something to be desired, it is highly recommended as a reminder that Christmas, with all its cheer, is coming.
Performances of “The Nutcracker” continue on Sunday, Nov. 26 at 2:00 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m., Friday Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday Dec. 2, at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 3 at 2:00 p.m. For more information and for tickets, visit the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.
The ‘King’ rules the Broadway stage
By Kristian Jaime
It says something when a Broadway show still has productions after 66 years. It says even more when, after all its iterations, it still resonates enough for a national tour.
In the latest installment of Broadway in San Antonio at the Majestic Theatre, “The King and I” starts a run from October 17-22. It does not take long to see why it is readily considered a classic and part of musical theatre canon. For the packed house of The Majestic, the anticipation was palpable and once the iconic boat pulled into the Bangkok harbor, they were hooked.
The story follows “Anna Leonowens” (Heather Botts), a widow and school teacher hired by the “King of Siam” (Jose Llana) to educate the children of the royal court with a progressive and Western education. In the process, her and her son, “Louis” (Rhyees Stump) confront the trappings of palace life and the cultural norms that run counter Anna’s English sensibilities.
Along the way, they meet an interesting cast of characters including a concubine, “Tuptim” (Q Lim) sent by the Kingdom of Burma to the king, “Lady Thiang” (Joan Almendilla) the head mistress of the palace, “Prince Chulalongkorn” (Anthony Chan) the heir to the throne and “Lun Tha” (Kavin Panmeechao) the forlorn true love of “Tuptim” who is forbidden from ever being with her.
Amid a large cast, including a fair amount of children in the royal court, Botts finds her place as the voice of compassion and reason. That perfect foil for the stubborn and brash role played expertly by Llana added tension and even touching moments between the pair.
“The King and I” joins the list of stage productions that has gotten the Hollywood treatment as of late. The screen adaptation in the 1999 Jodie Foster film “Anna and the King” increased the scope of the story as movies often do. But the charm of the stage is still well intact and this national tour is proof.
Llana approaches the commonly stern role of the king with great comedic timing and tenderness. As his character evolves, we appreciate the stress of being a political leader and father in a rapidly changing world. With every quarrel between his latest hire and himself, more is chipped away at the rough exterior exposing a man simply trying to do his best for his people.
Botts is delightful as “Anna” and effortlessly transitions between a formidable woman and gentle teacher. The internal struggle to leave the real and psychological confines of Siam or stay to teach a new way of life is real and impressive.
Just as stunning is the show within the show reminiscent of “The Mousetrap” in Hamlet. As the royal court puts on a staging of Uncle Tom’s Cabin for English dignitaries, not only is it the most poignant part of the overall show, but is performed exquisitely. The parallels between Tuptim’s personal struggle to return home and the play which she narrates is heart wrenching.
For fans of the Rodgers and Hammerstein, the brilliance in their musical arrangement is no surprise. But we forget just how moving songs like “Hello, Young Lovers,” “Getting to Know you,” “I have Dreamed,” and “I Whistle a Happy Tune” really were.
All that paired with the creative team of director Bartlett Sher, features sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lighting by Donald Holder, sound by Scott Lehrer and choreography by Christopher Gattelli and you still have a must see show.
For ticket information, visit the official site of the national tour for a stop near you.
‘The Bodyguard’ a tout emotional ride
By Kristian Jaime
Screen to stage adaptations do not usually work. Yet the operative word is usually.
When “The Bodyguard,” the 1992 Warner Bros. film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, was developed into a musical, one had reason to be skeptical about the final product. After garnering a number of awards in its initial year for best stage production, rest assured it did not disappoint.
Its recent stop in San Antonio’s Majestic Theatre from Sept. 19-24, much like Houston’s legendary voice, was triumphant.
The story follows “Rachel Marron” (Deborah Cox), a spoiled and successful singer and starlet, as she must hire a security detail led by “Frank Farmer” (Judson Mills). Along with tantrums and public appearances, Farmer must also track down an obsessed and dangerous stalker (Sean Rozanski) before it is too late.
Marron’s son, “Fletcher” (Kevelin B. Jones III), and her sister “Nicki” (Jasmin Richardson) are mere pawns in this dangerous game as the tumultuous relationship between the Marron and Farmer gives way to romance at their peril.
For fans of the film, Houston’s iconic voice was a much a character than any actor on screen. Songs like “Greatest Love of All,” “How Will I Know,” “I’m Every Woman,” “I Have Nothing,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “Saving All My Love” are part of the great American songbook.
This adaptation does them all justice with Cox at the helm of the production. What makes them so indelible is the passion in which they were originally performed and Cox does more than hold her own in her turn on stage.
Intrinsic to the plot is the chemistry between Cox and Mills. Not only does the pair have moments of much-needed levity, but also genuine romance. Much of the challenge in adapting a film to the stage is the logistics making the action compact enough for a theatre.
Consider “The Bodyguard” a tutorial in how to shrink a feature film script, with all its scope and peccadilloes, into a lean and dynamic show. Credit goes to award-winning director Thea Sharrock (Sunshine Boys, Equus, The Misanthrope) and her entire team.
While much of the acclaim will go to Cox, Jasmin Richardson must be in the conversation for one of the strongest voices in the entire show. Not only does she compliment Cox in the handful of duets they share, but it is also like Houston herself is singing if you close your eyes.
Jones, in his role as her son, is pure energy and joy. Whether dancing along with the ensemble cast or on lead vocals with his impressive voice, such a casting choice was nothing short of inspired.
“The Bodyguard” takes a page from “Jersey Boys” in that it makes the audience a character in the show as they become one of the thousands clamoring for Rachel Marron to hit the stage. It is a clever detail in the transition from the silver screen to the stage and one that only serves to underscore that Cox could be an actual pop star if she so wished.
Matthew Schmidt, Charles Gray, Alex Corrado, Jonathon Hadley and Stefan Raulston all round out the cast on the U.S. tour with 19 stops left.
Tickets are available at the official tour site with five more performances left in the Alamo City.
‘Matilda’ a charming, heartfelt romp
By Kristian Jaime
In the literary canon of renowned British author Roald Dahl is perhaps one of the most dynamic heroines ever imagined–and she is only a child.
Thanks to the creative team of Dennis Kelly, Tim Minchim, Matthew Warchus and Peter Darling, “Matilda” takes to the stage in an award-winning musical. After adapting the original book, the whimsy and darkly comedic tones stayed intact as they wowed the audience of San Antonio’s Majestic Theatre.
The story follows Matilda Wormwood (Jenna Weir) as her less-than-capable parents (Matt Harrington and Darcy Stewart) and rather dim brother Michael (Darren Burkett) constantly chide the precocious child for her intellectuals ways. After seemingly finding solace with the help of librarian Mrs. Phelps (Keisha T. Fraser), she crosses paths with Miss Honey (Jennifer Bowles) who is also her teacher on her first day of school.
It is not long before the drudgery of the Dickensian school life is imposed by Miss Trunchbull (Dan Chameroy), the punitive-minded headmistress also intent on crushing Matilda’s bookworm bravado. But that sparks a touching and inspiring relationship with Miss Honey only to reveal a dark secret that slowly unravels with the help of one of the girl’s enthralling tales.
As part of the Broadway in San Antonio season, “Matilda” is a whimsical change of pace in a list of performances by shows like “Cabaret” “Jersey Boys” and “Rent” just to name few. Not long into the opening number of “Miracle” by the whole company, you see why it garnered 50 international awards including a Tony Award.
That is all the more impressive considering its first official opening night was April 2013. Now with its first tour stopping across the country, the exuberance that keeps it a taut production is dotted with understated and poignant numbers like “Pathetic,” “This Little Girl,” “Quiet” and “My House.”
In truth, this is more than just a children’s show; it is commentary about how quickly potential can be snubbed out by fear, doubt and an almost tyrannical adherence to rules and order. Weir, despite her age, expertly plays a character aptly aware that her background will not define her. That is in sharp contrast to the role Bowles brings to life as someone who simply accepts limitations.
In the usual Dahl way, the hero always win and the villains always lose. But it how they do that that makes it endearing and enjoyable. This production is no different. The comedic notes are left to Fraser as an adult wrapped in attention to every word of the tot’s story–not unlike all of us in the audience.
While Weir is the much-deserved focal point of the show, Chameroy meanders between moments of sadistic discipline and expert comedic timing. That is no easy task considering that the role is such a caricature from the start.
Yet perhaps the most impressive performance was Bowles herself. It was more than a one-dimensional homely school teacher. It was woman so thoroughly wounded, she failed to see herself with even the confidence of her best student. But it is considerably harder to transform into someone who sees a light at the end of a very frumpy tunnel.
Whoever said never work with children or animals never ran lines with the young cast of “Matilda.” Calling these kids talented is tantamount to simply saying an elite sports car is fast or a gourmet meal just tasty. What these young performers do on a schedule of a tour is nothing short of spectacular. Talent can get you through one song. But stage presence, meticulous attention to your craft, company chemistry and practice get you through fervent and adept choreography while singing an entire list of songs.
Soren Miller, Gabby Beredo, Jacob Anderson, Isabella Stuebing, Jim Kaplan, Molly Richardson, Talia Cosetino and Gregory Diaz IV are more than worth the price of admission.
You can bet when someone calls “Matilda” a children’s musical, they have never sat in a theatre surrounded by people of all ages engrossed in every word that comes from the child playing the lead on stage.
French moderns grace McNay
“Monet to Matisse: A Century of French Moderns” showcases sixty-five works of art from the Brooklyn Museum’s renowned European collection.
This selection privileges France as the artistic center of international Modernism from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. Ranging widely in scale, subject matter, and style, these paintings, drawings, and sculptures were intended for public display and for private collections, and were produced by the era’s leading artists.
“Where Brooklyn leaves off in 1929 in aggressively shopping for French paintings and sculpture, Mrs. McNay, our founder, picks up. It is a show about history, taste and collecting. We are on very good standing here in San Antonio,” said Richard Aste, director of the McNay Art Museum.
Those born in France as well as those who studied and showed there, including: Pierre Bonnard, Gustave Caillebotte, Paul Cézanne, Marc Chagall, Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Fernand Léger, Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Jean-François Millet, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Gabriele Münter, Odilon Redon, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Auguste Rodin, Yves Tanguy, and Édouard Vuillard.
The works in the exhibition exemplify the avant-garde movements that defined modern art in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, tracing a shift from capturing the visual to evoking the idea, from an emphasis on naturalism to the rise of abstraction.
“We took the walls down on this gallery to give people a sweeping view. [This exhibit] shows how pluralistic Paris was from 1850 onward. This was a global moment and the faces in the works were a reflection of that,” continued Aste.
The exhibition explores the themes of portraiture, landscape, and still life, providing an opportunity for a multi-dimensional and flexible installation. “Monet to Matisse: A Century of French Moderns” is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, co-authored by Rich Aste and Lisa Small, the exhibition’s organizers from the Brooklyn Museum.
The catalogue includes an introductory essay with a general overview of the exhibition and relevant social and artistic histories, brief thematic essays, and short interpretive entries on individual works of art. This exhibition is organized by the Brooklyn Museum.
“1929 was before the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), so if you wanted [the modern] it was at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. They believed that living artists were best served in Brooklyn,” Aste concluded.
The Elizabeth Huth Coates Charitable Foundation and The Brown Foundation, Inc provided the lead funding at the McNay. The Marcia and Otto Koehler Foundation, the Nathalie and Gladys Dalkowitz Charitable Trust, Frost Bank, the Joan and Herb Kelleher Charitable Foundation, the G.A.C. Halff Foundation, the Director’s Circle, and the Host Committee provide additional support.
The exhibit runs until June 4 at the McNay Museum of Art.
Carole King bio a ‘Beautiful’ tapestry
By Kristian Jaime
Immortalizing the life of seminal talent, the likes of Carole King on stage often leads audiences to think they know the full journey from humble beginnings to stardom.
“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” tells the story of the New York-born songstress as she started her music career with help of record executive “Don Kirshner” (James Clow), at the urging of her mother “Genie” (Suzanne Grodner), with the sale of her first song “It Might as Well Rain Until September.” “Carole” (Julia Knitel) soon finds her husband and collaborative partner “Gerry Goffin” (Liam Tobin).
Amid their rise to fame as prolific songwriters, fellow songwriters “Barry Mann” (Ben Fankhauser) and “Cynthia Weil” (Erika Olson) join the pair as lifelong friends in the pursuit of the ever-elusive number one hit. Along the way comes some of the most influential musical groups to lend their voice to the foursome’s creations.
They include: The Drifters, The Shirelles, Janelle Woods, Little Eva and The Righteous Brothers among others.
While productions like these can quickly devolve into a disjointed concert with vignettes in between hit songs, “Beautiful” strikes an emotional chord with its audience. Knitel expertly plays a young Carole with all the wide-eyed naivete at the beginning of her career only to transition to the contemplative and soulful singer by the final scene.
The creative malaise and agony of constantly creating from scratch is underscored perfectly in Tobin’s portrayal of Goffin. As their marriage falls victim to the stresses of a music career, it is poignant to see King hold on to a love she know had passed her by. But for all the drama, the comedic expertise comes by way of Fankhauser and Olson who are more than mere sidekicks. They represented the pressure to continually seek the latest sound and encapsulate it in a concise three minutes.
Fankhauser not only displays a talent for breaking the tension, but also for expounding on the life of those in King and Goffin’s shadow. The patter of the dialogue is so sharp thanks to the words of Douglas McGrath, who wrote the source material for the show. Just like many other bio-musicals, we understand where the music comes from in a way that is not usually seen just by listening to records.
It seems an appreciation for the creative writing and recording process comes when the logistics and emotional cost comes to the forefront as in “(You make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” later performed by Aretha Franklin.
“Beautiful” is the perfect balance of biography and musical retrospective in a way other productions hope it could be done. It stands as a fitting legacy to one of the most naturally talented singer-songwriters of her generation and a testament to the heights of Broadway shows themselves.
The tour continues with a stops in Texas and across the southern United States with tickets still available.
‘Rent’ pays exuberance forward
By Kristian Jaime
The 20th Anniversary Tour rolled through the Alamo City and told the tale of “Mark” (Danny Harris Kornfeld) and “Roger” (Kaleb Wells). The two deal with life amid an AIDS epidemic, love lost and found and growing up or burning out.
Along the for the ride is “Benny” (Christian Thompson) who owns the building where the two are squatting. “Maureen” (Katie Lamark) and “Joanne” (Jasmine Easler) are contending with their off-and-on relationship. “Collins” (Aaron Harrington) and “Angel” (David Merino) find love, but are are dealing with the ravages of disease and “Mimi” (Skyler Volpe) is just looking for the next high.
“This show is still relevant now,” said Easler, who is celebrating her first national tour. “Our audience is filled with people who have seen the show [numerous] times and those who have never seen it. They are both just as moved because we still have work to do with many of the issues it discusses.”
1996 saw the first production hit Broadway under the watchful eye of Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Larson. It was not long after this re-imagining of Puccini’s “La Bohème” that its energy and hopeful message was infectious.That was the case opening night as the first notes of “Tune Up” were the perfect primer of a story that preaches love is only true measure of life and the creative pursuits are their own reward.
Kornfeld did a masterful job of keeping the taut story on track as the concise and compelling show progressed. Not only did his voice hold its own in stirring duets with Wells, but he also provided levity in the midst of the reality of life at the poverty line in New York.
“Because of the nature of the show and its anniversary, there were so many things that set the tone of what were doing. This show is bigger than just one person in the cast, this is about so much history running through its veins,” continued Easler.
Other notable performances included Lamark and Volpe in the roles of two of the strongest female character in the Broadway canon. Volpe, like many of her cast mates, celebrate their first national tour with Merino making his professional debut in the production. The trio shined as the perfect foil of youthful abandon, hopeless optimism and the eventual clash with reality.
“Growing up, I saw these characters as confident adults,” concluded Easler.”But during the rehearsal process, we saw they were on their first steps away from home. The parts where we hear their parents checking up on them is so important because of that and it’s actually one of my favorite parts of the show.”
“Rent” exemplifies why Broadway shows exist. In the lives of the seven artists chronicled, the various disciplines shine a light on the creative process and the eventual catharsis that follows. The final product is a genuine moment with the audience through their triumphs and trials.
Director Evan Ensign has brought his substantial experience to a show celebrating it twentieth anniversary. It has reached this milestone for a simple reason–as long as there is someone willing to spotlight the human experience, there will always be a captive audience.
“Rent” continues its tour across the country after three shows in San Antonio.
SA stirs up cocktail class
Founded in 2012, the San Antonio Cocktail Conference (SACC) was the start of something equally delicious and altruistic.
The week of events was more than a reason to hold festivities in the Alamo City’s pristine and historic locations. It also serves as a fundraiser for Houston Street Charities, thus making it parties with a purpose.
Named “one of the top three cocktail festivals in the country” by Fodor’s, San Antonio Cocktail Conference ranks among the nation’s most dynamic gatherings for cocktail enthusiasts and professional mixologists
Over the course of five days, guests enjoy exclusive access to lectures and demonstrations with the industry’s top talent, as well as an impressive range of beverage tastings, paired dinners and cocktail-centric nightlife.
Founded by Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, the conference was designed to serve the larger San Antonio community through the leadership of non-profit Houston Street Charities. Each year, the programming and charitable giving generated by SACC have grown considerably, thanks in no small part to the vision and expertise of the Bohanan’s team, and in particular, executive chef Mark Bohanan and co-founding cocktail consultant, the late Sasha Petraske.
Opened by Chef Mark Bohanan in 2002, Bohanan’s has received critical acclaim for its flavorful cuts and civilized old-world ambiance. Over the years, this “classic steakhouse done right” (Zagat) has become synonymous with service, passion and Texas pride. A native Texan with more than 30 years of industry experience, chef Mark Bohanan is a co- founder of the San Antonio Cocktail Conference and one of the most respected leaders in the city’s food scene.
Both the Bohanan’s bar program and SACC have also benefitted from the passion and expertise of mixologist and Cocktail Conference cofounder Sasha Petraske, best known for his exceptional cocktails at Milk & Honey in New York City.
When the opportunity arose to give back to the community while further developing San Antonio’s cocktail scene, Bohanan and Petraske jumped in with both feet. Building on the city’s flair for public celebrations, food and drink, the dedication and leadership of the entire Bohanan’s team has helped make SACC one of the most impressive and educational cocktail gatherings in the country.
The nonprofit oversees the charitable endeavors of both the San Antonio Cocktail Conference and Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood. Over the past five years, the organization has donated over $400,000 to local children’s charities.
‘The Illusionists’ is pure magic
Magicians get a bad rap. What most think of as little more than entertainment relegated to children’s parties has become so much more.
The usual fodder of rabbits out of hats and picking any card has given way to the arts of deduction, disembodiment and feats of survival and escape. Thus earning them the moniker of “illusionists.”
After so many accolades for the new faces of magic, Broadway itself came calling and the hit “The Illusionists,” was born and now touring across the country. With 51 stops left, the mix of comedy, whimsy, the macabre is enticing audiences everywhere.
The cast includes: Andrew Basso, the escapologists; Colin Cloud, the deductionist; Jeff Hobson, the trickster; Kevin James, the inventor; An Ha Lim, the manilupator; Dan Sperry, the anti-conjuror and Jonathan Goodwin, the daredevil. With San Antonio a stop for the most sought-after productions, the Alamo City was as enthralled from the first slide of hand to the pièce de résistance, a chained escape from a chamber of water a la Harry Houdini.
As Broadway hits go, this is a new take on a traditional ensemble cast as each of the talented illusionists have found success individually. While the likes of David Blaine or Criss Angel may be the most publicized talents in recent memory, the cast behind “The Illusionists” are becoming a household name with every show.
Calling them magic tricks seem to sell them short.But the feeling the audience gets with a simple slide of hand allows us to suspend our disbelief. The beauty of magic is that we can hardly outgrow the childlike wonder. Despite an auditorium full of patrons who knew there was a simple explanation, it was the perfect escape from a world that keeps our feet on the ground.
“The Illusionists” is an experience to enjoy before it vanishes.
The ‘Boys’ are back Jersey style
A stroll down memory lane has never been more entertaining than with the crooners from “Jersey Boys.”
The recent performance of the Broadway hit at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, Texas was a reminder that the rise to fame was hardly without turmoil. Furthermore, the evolution from four guys singing by the glow of the streetlight to the legendary group now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame came with many iterations.
“Frankie Valli” (Miguel Jarquin-Moreland) is just one of The Four Seasons that includes “Tommy De Vito” (Matthew Dailey), “Nick Massi” (Keith Hines) and “Bob Gaudio” (Cory Jeacoma). Under the tutelage of producer “Bob Crewe” (Barry Anderson), these street punks with golden voices are turned into an iconic quartet responsible for a number of entries in the great American song book.
Along the way, there is love, loss and more than their fair share of shady deals and consequences with the New Jersey underworld.
“Jersey Boys” is a cautionary tale of fame and fortune that many have already heard. The point where humility gives way to success and eventually excess is the making of any true Hollywood story. But the crisp and exceptional songwriting provided by Gaudio and Valli’s expansive vocal range was a match made in recording heaven.
The performance turned in by Moreland is charmingly innocent at times and poignantly heart-wrenching at others. Playing someone who is not only living, but also still touring has its challenges. Yet with 17 stops left in the nationwide tour, Moreland and company bring you behind the glamour of the music industry in an entertaining and impressive way.
Dailey as the main narrator of the story delivers with all the swagger and grit of a native son of the Garden State. He not only serves up the comedic foil for the drama of fame, but also the final straw that led the group to go their separate ways.
Hines as the bassist is more than a background singer. He is the silent observer who finally has his say after much of the story unfolds. Though he also leaves the group, his performance is replete with comedic timing.
Last but far from least is Jeacoma in a role that is one of the best supporting roles in any Broadway production. It stands as one of the most endearing elements in “Jersey Boys”largely because it was a real partnership even with the real Gaudio speaking at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction for the group.
Anderson as the voice of industry experience amid a journey spiraling out of control is heartfelt and ambitious. The inevitable clash between the decorum of stardom and the bad habits from the old neighborhood is as integral to the story as the music itself.
Ultimately, “Jersey Boys” is the prime example of reality as the best source material for the stage. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is testament that there is much more to music than talent and a dream. With the final notes of the performance, we feel that we have come full circle along with the cast itself.
Sound on Sound serves up ye old revelry
While Texas music festivals are becoming more ubiquitous, the inaugural Sound on Sound Fest (SOS) was one not to be missed
SOS took place last weekend in Sherwood Forest, 35 miles east of downtown Austin. In their opening year, the festival offered three days (Nov. 4-6) of high-profile musical performances, film screenings, wrestling, comedic performances and anything to satiate music and renaissance enthusiast of all types.
SOS did not fail to give you a nature filled experience with the option of camping and capturing the stars at night. Once inside, a hidden forest with castles, festival goers in full costume and joust was a full attraction on its own.
Resources like these at the festival allowed people to enjoy them rather than fight to get to the front of the stage. Unlike other popular festivals, this one was for those seeking a little something more who enjoyed what SOS offered rather than being on their phones waiting for the next act to start.
With fun activities surrounding the forest, there were also enough vendors in which to indulge, including Dark Horse wine. Winemaker Beth Liston paired fruity Sauvignon Blanc with grilled cheese, smoky Chardonnay with Indian food from India Gourmet and the robust Merlot with a brisket sandwich from Micklethwait Craft Meats.
The wine tasting proved that Liston was well prepared to make her wine pair well with certain foods. There may have been competition up her sleeve with other vendors, but she played it to blend her wine with a beverage that paired well with any food at SOS.
Food and activities made the experience convenient and organized, but it was the big acts that amplified the music festival experience. The festival cheered on headliner Phantogram, who performed new songs from their album “Three,” on the first day. Acclaimed hip hop super group Run the Jewels, Thee Oh Sees, Hinds and Empress Of also kept the crowd going on the dark, beautiful first night.
On Saturday, we could not forget the wedding of Ryan and Catherine at the globe stage that added a fairy tale ending for both husband and wife. After this incredible show, the majority of the crowd staged at the Dragon’s Lair Stage to watch indie-band Wild Nothing, The Dead Milkmen and Deerhunter and Big Boi. Beach House and Purity Ring closed the night with flashing lights on stage, keeping the crowd awake to enjoy daylight savings time.
The experience was going smoothly on Sunday morning watching early acts like Sailor Poon and Leopold and His Fiction until the rain forced the evacuation of the park. The festival was closed for at least four hours until social media posted that the park will re-open to the 6:05 showing of Kero Kero Bonito.
The rain did not stop the crowd from going back to the park to watch headliners including Big Freedia, Young Thug, Courtney Barnett and Explosions In The Sky. These talented artists convinced festival goers to fill up the Forest and Dragon’s Lair Stage, making up for the unfortunate events of the day.
SOS Fest was ultimately a good place to hold a festival with delicious food, endless activities and one of the best lineups this year. However, may this be a lesson for the organizers to better prepare for the unthinkable next year.
FWSA honors Selena on runway
As the fifth year of Fashion Week San Antonio kicked off, style and entertainment icon Selena Quintanilla was honored on the runway.
“Selena: A Salute to an Icon,” held at studio 109, featured looks inspired by some of the fashion seen in her performances and photo shoots. The clothes was provided by Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters with David Melgar acting as creative curator.
Also on hand was contributing stylist and Selena’s sister, Suzette Quintanilla. The contemporary looks were the blend of urban couture and polished evening looks. While the packed house snapped photos and sang along to the songstress’ greatest hits, the runway looks proves that she may be gone but far from forgotten.
Fashion Week continues with Cesar Galindo, Celestino, Moda and Jorge Duque Velez at venues that include the San Antonio Food Bank, Studio 109 and Brick located in the Pearl.
This year’s complete list of events includes 15 designers and brands, 10 venues and 16 events.
The valiant and villainous converge on Comicon
As the 2016 Alamo City Comicon (ACCC) opened its doors, heroes and villains from across the genre flooded the Henry B. Gonzalez Center.
The weekend-long celebration of fantasy, comics and cult favorites included such big names as: Doctor Who’s David Tennant, Billie Piper and John Barrowman; Daredevil’s Charlie Cox; The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal; The Karate Kid’s Ralph Macchio and William Zabka; American Pie’s Shannon Elizabeth and Mena Suvari; and from Stranger Things Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Noah Schnapp to name a few.
It also featured artists Greg Capullo, Brian Pulido, Matt Hawkins, Dave Wilkins, Adam Warren, Tom Raney, Eddie Nunez, Carlos D’Anda, Brandon Peterson, and Marat Mychaels. With DC, Marvel, IDW and Image well-represented on the convention floor, fans were able to get signed panels to mark occasion.
Alamo City Comicon also had the usual fare of the cosplay and costume contests complete with signings held with cosplay celebrities.
Panels from the comicon included question and answer sessions with actors from the Star Wars franchise and the beloved Doctor Who. With thousands making the 2016 Alamo City Comicon an unqualified success, next year looks to be even more comprehensive.
‘Cabaret’ soars in Majestic staging
Productions like “Cabaret” performed by the Roundabout Theatre Company at The Majestic Theatre is why there is no match for live shows.
The tumultuous tale of a bawdy burlesque club in Berlin, Germany circa 1929 is more than a parallel love stories between American Clifford Bradshaw (Benjamin Eakeley) and starlet Sally Bowles (Andrea Goss). It is a juxtaposition of romance that cannot exist because of the fog of detached and shortsighted youth and a political reality of an impending world war.
To highlight this, Bradshaw’s landlady, Fräulein Schneider must abandon her chance at love with a well-meaning fruit vendor Herr Schultz on the count that he is Jewish. With talk of a growing Nazi Party and increasingly violent retribution against both the Kit Kat Klub and the inn, the spiral of strained personal and political relationships leads to a sobering reality that even life itself is cheap when facing a great evil.
As Bradshaw and Bowles’ affair dissolves into chaos, so does the world around them once the Nazi scourge takes full hold of the country. It is then he must make the difficult choice to leave the land of lace and leather for the safe haven of the United States.
“Cabaret” is a Broadway staple for a reason. It is equal parts recklessly sublime and brutally stark. Under the watchful eye of directors Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, the Roundabout Theatre Company produces a taut and compelling show. From the opening song to its reprise in the final scene, it appears the Kit Kat Klub is merely a temporary escape from the brutality of antisemitism and dictatorship.
Along for the ride is a cast of dancers that soon become the perfect backdrop of a world so intrinsically tied to the bacchanalia from whence it came. It is soon the victim of one of the darkest points in all of human history.
Rosie (Hillary Ewkwall), Lulu (Dani Spieler), Frenchie (Aisling Halpin), Texas (Margaret Dudasik), Fritzie (Alison Ewing) and Helga (Sarah Bishop) round out the cast as the “Cabaret” girls and become indispensable in capturing the seethe side of the making a living in show business.
Much of what works in this new production does so because the story is allowed to stand on its own. It is no filler with superb energy from Randy Harrison. Goss equally commands the stage and they play off each other so well so as to compliment the source material. More than anything, “Cabaret” is about chemistry and the Roundabout Theatre Company has it.
It gets saucy, seductive and sad. When it makes the turn for any one of those themes, it is as unapologetic as it is entertaining.For any novice of Broadway, not spending time in the Kit Kat Klub is a crime.
If pushing the limits of a character and confronting the demons in our history is the obligation of good art, then “Cabaret” stands as a testament to that and more. It exists to ultimately teach us the price of not reading the the writing on the wall and that great injustice can creep slowly into society unless we are vigilant. Most importantly, for the Roundabout Theatre Company, it means success.
Kit Kat Klub welcomes SA
Broadway in San Antonio’s second production of the season at the Majestic Theatre would like to welcome you to the world of the Kit Kat Klub and “Cabaret.”
The traveling production is part part of their fiftieth anniversary season. The Roundabout Theatre Company is proud to present Sam Mendes (“Skyfall” and “American Beauty”) and Rob Marshall’s (“Into the Woods,” “Nine” and “Chicago”) Tony Award-winning production of “Cabaret.”
“Everyone knows this show and the film and they expect to hear the songs [they love]. The directors really stripped away anything that was decorative about the play,” said Alison Ewing who plays “Fräulein Kost” in the national production of the show. “They just made it about the acting and rawness of the show. So you got a chance to dive right into the text and develop your character.”
While many can recall the seminal role played by Liza Minnelli in the iconic film, this production is much more stage friendly down to full cast and the not-so-large costumes.
Ewing also is a veteran of the production having first performed in it in 1998. Since then, it has been time well spent getting to know the various iterations the production has undergone by equally varied companies.
While it first hit the stage on Broadway on November 20, 1966, it quickly became a favorite for theatergoers not just for its saucy decorum, but also its poignant political backstory underscored by its grand finale. Now as it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, it continues to build its following to this day.
“Every single person of the play is vital regardless of their role. There really is no time to rest since we have to develop a sense of ensemble very quickly,” Ewing continued. “You can’t play the end of show because no one knew how bad the politics would get. If you [tip your hat] then it wouldn’t be as effective. From the beginning you can’t be shy.”
“Cabaret” is as unflinching as is visceral, which led many to wonder all those many decades ago if the performances went too far. As Ewing points out, it needs to be a roller coaster that exists independently of the political reality of the time. As a production that has become synonymous with Broadway, that unapologetic approach has paid off.
Among the elements of the show that draws viewers in is the audience becomes part of the Kit Kat Klub. At times, it breaks the fourth wall where we get cheeky inside jokes and at others, we become the omniscient viewer. The transitions to either are both subtle and effortless.
“If we’re doing our jobs right, I hope people leave with a sense they saw a window to the past. I think the show is always current because politics repeats itself and we’re in a politically polarized climate [even now],” Ewing concluded.
While the current run will take The Roundabout Theatre Company to 21 other locations, Ewing is grateful that she can have the outlet of being various people on stage. Even now, she is prepared to roll with the ebbs and flows of a show–especially in the topsy turvy world of “Cabaret.”
An exhibit of cathartic care
There are times when counseling needs to be as creative and expansive as any artistic masterpiece, and thanks to the Ecumenical Center for Education, Counseling and Health, it is.
“Art Heals Hearts: The Power of Expression,” an exhibit at the center recently displaying 150 artworks along with music and poetry, was about the pieces created by those undergoing art therapy.
The exhibit brought in artists such as Gini Garcia, Lionel Sosa, Ricardo Romo and Steven Smith that introduced their creative gifts and healing journeys that connected internally and interpersonally to the community.
“It gives people the freedom to know that they can find a means to express what is in their heart,” said Mary Beth Fisk, CEO and executive director of the Ecumenical Center. “It is healing that someone else can find that you are not alone in your grief. It is also special to walk into the show and to see different images; each of the artists has displayed it with wholeness.”
The exhibit, which runs until January 6, is just one of a whole host of approaches to therapy for children all to the way to adults including veterans dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The Ecumenical Center currently serves 20,000 people per year and half of those are children. To expand resources and to allow more admission, The “Art Heals Hearts” exhibit also celebrated the launch of Therapeutic Expressive Arts institute of South Texas that same night.
Launching Therapeutic Expressive Arts institute of South Texas was the first step in introducing diverse forms of therapy.
“Our therapy is so special because it allows the children to find a way in creating a voice about issues they could not sit down and talk about,” continued Fisk. “Being able to tell their story through art and to say what one their heart is and what is troubling them can now be spoken in a different way.”
It is the first of its kind in South Texas and will provide a diversified array of therapy options for clients using visual art, poetry and prose writing, therapeutic rhythms and music therapy. It is building upon a highly successful program started at the Ecumenical Center some years ago and hopes it expands to include the gamut of individuals in need.
“Here at the center one of the things we are blessed to have a building where they walk in and instantly, they feel at home,” Fisk explained. “The space is quiet, serene and creativity will flow and produce the ability to find their language and to their journey. It is another form of assisting children with resolution of difficult traumas in their past.”
Among the artists on hand for the event was Franco Mondini-Ruiz, who painted impressionist-inspired portraits onsite. While the pieces on display were for sale with all the proceeds going to the Ecumenical Center, the real winners were the burgeoning art collectors who received a one-of-kind painting.
The success of the event proved, once again, that art belongs to everyone despite the individual’s motivation behind its creation.
More information on the full slate of creative therapy options at the Ecumenical Center is available at www.ecrh.org.
‘The Sound of Music’ hits all the right notes
Even before Jack O’Brien’s production of “The Sound of Music” hit the stage at the Majestic Theatre on Tuesday, it was already ingrained in the American consciousness.
So imagine the monumental task of stepping into the iconic roles played by the likes of Christopher Plummer as “Captain Georg von Trapp” and Julie Andrews as “Maria Rainer.” Yet the latest offering by “Broadway in San Antonio” is more than another iteration of a beloved classic.
“You come into this production with an incredible amount of respect for the history of this show and for the people that are best known for playing these roles. What I hope to do is bring something new to the role,” said Davis in an interview with March Magazine.
What you hear is more than “The Sound of Music,” it is the cast taking the source material and being inventive, and even ingenious, with a new infusion of whimsy, romance and suspense.
The story follows Maria Rainer (Kerstin Anderson) as she leaves the confines of her nunnery to become the governess at the home of famed Captain Georg von Trapp (Ben Davis) and his seven children (Paige Silvester, Roy Gantz, Ashley Brooke, Austin Levine, Iris Davies, Kyla Carter, Anika Lore Hatch). Amid an insidious Nazi threat in their home country of Austria, widower Captain von Trapp must navigate a less than ideal relationship with a potential wife in Elsa Schraeder (Teri Hansen) and a sycophantic companion in Max Detweiler (Merwin Foard). The tide of political fanaticism soon forces the family to flee for their lives.
Knowing the film and knowing this production are not the same. The chemistry between Davis and Anderson is palpable and is most evident when the pair shares a dance at a party held at the von Trapp house. Despite knowing the story, you still rooted for Anderson’s character to not turn her back on a match made in Broadway heaven.
It takes a certain caliber of production to make you forget the far more famous film now entering its fiftieth anniversary. Yet O’Brien achieves that with subtle, but comedic performances by Foard and Hansen. Credit the entire cast for hitting all the right notes with soaring vocals, comedic timing and chemistry that simply exudes on stage.
“The great thing about this show is that it has a great book to it. The book for the stage version is so strong, you don’t have to superimpose many things on it. The stage version has much more danger in it than the movie does and is more political,” Davis continued.
Whoever advised to never work with children or animals never had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Paige Silvester, Roy Gantz, Ashley Brooke, Austin Levine, Iris Davies, Kyla Carter, Anika Lore Hatch. As the von Trapp children, they not only brought levity and innocence to the show, but also vocal talent that paired well with their adult costars.
“It was a natural evolution of a relationship with the [kids in the cast]. It was a complete joy and honor to watch them grow as performers and kids. Now we just watch what they bring to the stage and relate to them individually,” concluded Davis.
Among the standout performances included Silvester as the oldest of the von Trapp children, Liesl. As a girl on the cusp of becoming a young lady, not only was she an exemplary older sister, but also an individual actively wondering what life truly had to offer.
“The Sound of Music” is the first production of the new season of “Broadway in San Antonio,” and it is starting off on the right foot. Despite the considerably smaller scale than its grand MGM musical counterpart, it moves with fluidity and poise. The story is as engaging as ever and is a credit to the lineage of productions across the world.
O’Brien shows why he has won three Tony Awards and how, under his tutelage, a classic can be a fresh re-telling. “The Sound of Music” will be in San Antonio from September 13-18 at the Majestic Theatre and tickets are available at Ticketmaster or through Broadway in San Antonio.
SA hears ‘The Sound of Music’ approaching
2015 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the iconic film, “The Sound of Music.” As of September 13, it will continue its legacy with its performance at the Majestic Theatre.
The musical is currently on tour across the country with Jack O’Brien at the helm as director. The three-time Tony Award winner took on the project after the recent renaissance the show has experienced capped by its live performance on NBC in December of 2013.
Yet the longevity of the show is due to its story lines complete with romance, family dynamics and even an impending military conflict as it is set during World War II.
“People feel like they know the show and plot. But seeing this musical at this time with the political situation affects people differently. We can perform everything the same, but the volatility of the world today makes it feel different,” said Merwin Foard, who portrays “Max Detweiler” in the production.
Merwin, a 35-year veteran of Broadway, knows all too well there are few productions that that do not juxtapose the comedic and the calamitous. His role as “Max Detweiler” though, is the levity in story arc that changes tone from one half to another. That has not dampened the worldwide reception to the film version, though, as it out-grossed “Gone with the Wind” and stands as the most successful musical film to date.
That tenuous balance between the lighter side of the Von Trapp family and the reality of a growing Nazi threat is not easy to strike. Yet it is possible with the music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp.
Sometimes, it is a simple as building a rapport with the cast to make the softer moments that much more poignant.
“That balance is right there in the script and it allows for that see-saw effect that comes with the [political conflict],” Foard continued. “I’m a dad and my experience with the children in the show is colored by me being a father. We like to spend as much time off-stage with these children actors through field trips to The Alamo for instance.”
That chemistry is vital to the retelling of a story with so many iterations being performed across the country from high schools to community theaters to even large venues like the Majestic Theatre.
Director Jack O’Brien and Foard hit it off almost instantly with both seeing “Max Detweiler” as the comedic foil of the production. The 28-city tour was more than enough time to feel out the character and make the cast a traveling family of its own.
In a career that has included roles in “Annie,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Oklahoma!” “The Phantom of the Opera,” and “Mame” to name a few, that relationship made this production stand out.
“To say that I’ve had a 35-year career on Broadway is a rarity, and to be part of this show is absolutely the highlight thus far,” Foard said.
For many, musical theater is synonymous with east coast bastions like New York, but through “Broadway in the San Antonio,” the Alamo City is getting the attention of such high-profile shows like “Cabaret,” “Jersey Boys,” and “Rent” as some of the shows in 2016-2017 season.
While the energy of a live audience is unique to the performing arts, it quickly becomes another player in the show especially on Broadway.
“We drive our performances off that audience’s reaction and response. So every performance is going to be completely unique. That combination of people in the audience and the people onstage for the three-hour window exists in that moment only,” concluded Foard.
Jazz, TX plays first notes at Pearl
The Pearl has taken one more step to becoming the city’s preferred spot to live and play with the opening of Jazz, TX.
The latest addition to San Antonio’s nightclub scene differentiated itself as a bastion of live jazz care of the acclaimed “Doc” Watkins band. On a night that served as a preview of the music and meticulously prepared menu, it was also a chance to finally see the long list of renovations the basement of the bottling plant has undergone.
“This is a historical event for all of us with the [type of cuisine] and the music sets the tone for everything else. We’re very simplistic, Chef Lorenzo Morales made a great menu that’s delicious and [easy to appreciate],” said Sandra Trevino, Maitre’D of the Jazz, TX.
The first official opening night will be Tuesday, August 23 with patrons able to enjoy a full bar with unique libations like the “Bit A’ Grit,” “Ensemble,” “Yellow Rose” and “Butterfly Bee Keeper.” Yet the mixologists behind the bar are prepared to handle any order from the fascinating to the familiar.
For the famished, the menu features starters like Foie and Brisket Taco and Chilaquiles. Full entrees include pan-seared flat-iron steak called “The McCrae,” with a side of Fried Okra. For the sweet tooth, people can continue on to the “Peach Cobbler.”
“It’s a different atmosphere here and we want everyone to enjoy it. It’s not the usual clientele at most bars,” continued Trevino.
While jazz is the new club’s bread and butter, it will also feature blues, big band, Texas swing, salsa, conjunto, and Americana to boot. Jazz, TX is even complete with a dance floor for those suddenly feeling light on their feet.
Expect to pay cover at the door when the club hits its stride after the opening week. But with virtually no venues offering live music of this caliber, it will more than be worth it.
The addition of Jazz, TX is part of a master plan to expand The Pearl to the area surrounding The Can Plant apartments already brimming with tenants looking to take advantage of the downtown culture.
With many in the band even putting in their own sweat equity from building the stage to tiling the bathrooms, this is truly a self-made venue poised to become the focal point of the city.
For more information, visit the official facebook page for dates and ticket sales.
SA Film Fest wraps up a banner year
SA Film Fest has another one in the books and if this is any indication of next year, the Alamo City has much to boast about.
Not only were 145 films screened, but 29 of them were by local filmmakers. The headliner, “Hell or High Water,” even starred San Antonio native Gil Birmingham. The musician and veteran of film and television served as a reminder that star power is not reserved for the traditional cradles of the film industry.
“This is a neo-western and being able to screen it in my hometown is very thrilling for me,” said Birmingham. “It great that we have this because we have so many great films that have limited resources to get distribution and this may be the only time people can come out and see them. So it’s great that people support them.”
“Hell or High Water” follows Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), a pair of Texas Rangers as they hunt down two bank robbers, Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) and his brother Toby (Chris Pine), in a race to justice or away from it. With a film that strikes such a delicate and effective balance between humor and tragedy, the ambiguity of whether all crimes are done for malicious intent forces the audience to question their sense of morality.
“Hell or High Water” marked the peak of the annual event that turned 22 this year. It also made it possible for the audience to ask Birmingham some questions after the screening to get some insight about his role and his longevity in such a competitive industry.
“I play a Texas Ranger and being from this state helps [a great deal]. Also my father was a career police officer so I had that to draw on as well including a really good technical advisor in Joaquin Jackson. So all of that was very helpful,” Birmingham continued.
Amid an expansive Lone Star setting, the production of the film centered around the dusty little hamlets that dot the state. Even the rustic confines of traditional Texas ranches served as a beautiful backdrop for the uncertainty and violence of robbing banks for a living.
For Birmingham, there is no hard and fast rule for what project to choose next. For that matter, he quickly pointed out that aspiring filmmakers and actors would follow a similar journey as him in terms of following one’s passion.
“It’s always a matter of people following the passion in your heart. If you feel you’re destined to do this work, then it’s a matter of the perseverance and the discipline to stay with it and follow through,” Birmingham said.
The selection process for the star of over 40 films returns to the writing. Scripts must resonate with him as they must for any actor. Among the many reason he chose to act alongside Bridges was relationship dynamics between his character and his law enforcement partner and that between Foster and Pine’s characters.
The CBS Films release opens in limited cities across the country later this year.
SA Film Fest hits the big screen
22 years ago, Adam Rocha had an idea to feature some of the up-and-coming filmmakers the Alamo City had to offer.
After over two decades of the annual event, it has hit its stride as the largest film festival in the South Texas with film formats such as shorts, documentaries, full-length features and, for the first time, children’s films. With Rocha at the helm as founder and executive director, he would not have it any other way.
“It’s alot of teamwork and it takes about nine months to put together and it’s a labor of love. Our staff is all volunteers and we are exhibitors of the artists themselves. So we respect that it’s a difficult challenge to put these films together,” said Rocha.
This year’s festivities kicked off at the Pearl Stable with an opening night screening of “Trust Me, Your Famous,” by Director Ryan Tower from Los Angeles. From there, it will return to the meticulously detailed Tobin Center for the Performing Arts for the “Legend of Swee’ Pea,” by director Benjamin May of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Then it is time for the short documentaries to take center stage July 26. Yet not far behind is serious star power in films like “Ma Ma,” starring Academy Award winner Penelope Cruz from acclaimed Spanish director Julio Medem. This not the first time the SA Film Festival has gotten attention from Hollywood.
This year the festival features the screening of “Hell or High Water,” directed by David Mackenzie and stars Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham. The story revolves around a crude, but principled Texas Ranger and two brothers with nothing to lose but their family farm to foreclosure. Birmingham, a San Antonio native, will be on the red carpet on Saturday, July 30. His roles include parts in “The Lone Ranger” and “Rango” alongside Johnny Depp.
“San Antonio is like Austin in the 90s insofar as we’re launching careers and educating filmmakers by being a platform for contemporary cinema,” Rocha continued. “We’re explaining to our city that these are artists that need to be cherished. We have [films] that have been made by people that have been doing this for some time and other who are just starting.”
Among the film pioneers that many still do not know is Marcia Nasatir. The San Antonio native achieved success as a producer and as the first woman to serve as vice-president of production at a major Hollywood studio, United Artists, and later served as president of Johnny Carson Productions. Marcia was involved in the making of some of the greatest films in Hollywood history: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Rocky,” “Carrie,” “Three Days of the Condor,” “The Big Chill” and others.
For that Reason, SA Film Festival has started a petition to presented to the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to grant Marcia Nasatir with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Honorary Award.
The festival is more than just an opportunity to see under-appreciated films and come away with valuable education. Among the panels will be the business basics of the motion picture industry and women in film and television.
“As a cinema artist, your not only nervous to show your film to your actors and crew, but also to the world. It’s difficult to get into our festival now, which is a nice thing for us. This year, we are screening 29 films from San Antonio of 145 films from around the world,” explained Rocha.
With the next horizon always within view, the SA Film Festival is always working on next year’s event–shocking to some, that even includes during the current festival. After 22 years, Rocha has learned what it takes to continue his labor of love and, in so doing, the magic of the silver screen for those thinking outside the box.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit safilm.com.
Float Fest ready to set sail
Stages going up for another year at Cool River Ranch means only one thing–Float Fest is returning for a third year in San Marcos, Texas.
This year features an impressive line-up of national acts such as: Chromeo, Rick Ross, Santigold, Future Islands, Big Gigantic, Kongos, Metric, Bleachers, Yeasayer, Bone Thugs N Harmony, Slim Thug, Rooney, Auto Body, Nina Diaz, Fat Tony, Wild Moccasins, Night Drive, Emily Bell & The Talkbacks, Blue Healer, Holiday Mountain, Riders Against the Storm, Blue, The Misfit, Pop Pistol, Buhu, and Löwin–all between between two stages.
This year, purchasing a general admission ticket covers camping and tubing on the river. Float Fest is one of the few festivals during the summer that is more than just music. Even with a line-up that is garnering bigger names than in past years, San Marcos is the known for being a Mecca for staying cool during summer.
During the previous two years, it has quickly become known as a a festival on the rise. According to a blog released by festival organizers, this year’s theme is very clear.
“We would not be a Texas Festival if we did not celebrate everything that makes Texas great,” explained the statement. “This year we will be combining, Austin’s live music, San Marcos’ river floating, Dallas’ Style, San Antonio Swagger and Houston’s Parties! We will be working with top local vendors, artist and stylist in Texas to make our festival celebrate everything great about The Lone Star State.”
Thousands are expected at this year’s festivities, but with only two stages, it retains it the intimate charm that often falls by the wayside at larger music festivals.
Another component of this year’s concerts will be a the effort to keep the natural beauty the way it is. According to the campaign using #KeepTheRiverClean, municipal concerns come along with accommodating festival-goers.
“We pride ourselves on the pure waters of the San Marcos; it’s what keeps our festival afloat (literally), and why we take personal responsibility to ensure our Ranch’s rubbish never reaches the river, no glass bottles breach the banks, and all junk jettisoned by floaters is reclaimed from the rapids before it can do the environment harm,” said a blog post to those attending the Float Fest.
Still, with all the logistics behind an emerging festival, Cool River Ranch is ready and willing to continue its tradition of providing a relaxing oasis of marquee music and friendship.
“We’ve listened to all your feedback, and this year will be something for the books. From our lineup up, ambassador programs to floating improvements, and booking bigger acts, we can’t wait for you to see Float Fest 2016,” concluded a media release by organizers.
‘Oz’ wows at Majestic Theatre
Reviving a cultural touchstone like the “Wizard of Oz” is no easy task. Since it first appeared to the public in 1900, it has always found an audience.
The latest iteration to hit the stage premiered at the Majestic Theatre to a packed house to no one’s disappointment. The adaption from the iconic 1939 film features Sarah Lasko as Dorothy in her national tour debut that is in San Antonio till June 5.
Alongside Lasko is: Mark A. Harmon as The Wizard, Morgan Reynolds as Scarecrow, Aaron Fried as The Cowardly Lion, Jay McGill as the Tin Man, Shani Hadjian as the Wicked Witch of the West and Rachel Womble as Glinda the Good Witch.
The story follows Dorothy Gale as the tribulations of being a teenage girl exists even on the dusty plains of Kansas. Upon running away, she meets a mysterious magician ready to show how large and wondrous the world really is. Yet their flight of fancy is interrupted when a twister barrels through the town and lifts her home to the titular land of Oz.
Once there, her journey back home begins with befriending a brainless scarecrow, a heartless tin man and a cowardly lion. Yet hot on their heels is the Wicked Witch of the West avenging the loss of her sister as a result of Dorothy’s wayward house.
Their allies come by way of a Glinda the Good Witch who assists her along her journey on the yellow, brick road and The Wizard who possesses fabled powers to send her back home. Her eventual showdown with the wicked witch reveals the truth behind Oz and her nefarious grip on the magical land.
“Oz” is the final performance of the season for “Broadway in San Antonio” presented by North Park Lexus. “The Sound of Music,” “Cabaret” and “Jersey Boys” all makes stops in the upcoming season with many more slated to arrive.
It is hard not to enjoy “The Wizard of Oz” since it hearkens back to most people’s childhoods. While it is not on the grand scale of an MGM-style extravaganza, it loses nothing in translation to the stage.
Lasko has a range and power to fit any song no matter how innocent or triumphant. There is no better example than her rendition of “Over the Rainbow.” It is delivered with sensitivity and naivete at the heart of Dorothy’s character. Yet her supporting cast of Harmon, Reynolds, McGill and Fried provide the perfect comedic foil for the trip.
“If We Only Had a Plan,” allows all three to shine as compatriots and talented voices in their own right. If a great performance is comprised of multifaceted characters and stirring music, then “Oz” hits every note perfectly. The stage design was expertly used and evolved with every scene. In many ways, the bright pallet of Oz or ominous pallor of The Haunted Forest was a character unto itself.
Womble and Hadjian play the juxtaposition of good and evil to perfection and throw in a pithy exchange or two for chuckles between songs like “Arrival in Munchkinland” and “Red Shoes Blues.” Not to be outdone was Harmon as a menacing and then fraudulent trickster.
But perhaps the most audience-inspiring character onstage was the cairn terrier named Nigel in the role of Toto. For the person who warned never work with animals, they never saw the meticulously-trained Nigel.
“The Wizard of Oz” was more proof San Antonio is as viable a home for the performing arts as any. With every note and beloved story arch in this seminal musical, the Alamo City’s love for “Broadway in San Antonio” is over the rainbow.
Texas revs up for music festival season
Texas summers have become known for more than the heat. It has become the gateway to a year’s worth of music festivals.
With the Austin City Limits Music Festival taking up much of the spotlight, it is easy to overlook the plethora of other locations making their name on the live music scene. They range from the bustling downtown skylines of Austin and San Antonio to the banks of a hill country river to a verdant gem known more for communing with nature than tour buses.
ACL Music Festival, September 30-October 2 and October 7-9
Among the most sought after ticket is to the annual pilgrimage to Zilker Park. Headliners include: Radiohead, Mumford and Sons, Kendrick Lamar, LCD Soundsystem, Major Lazer, Willie Nelson, M83 and Cage the Elephant to name just some. The lore surrounding the ACL Music Festival is as magnetic as the performers themselves. With the combination of perpetually successful and relevant acts and an atmosphere reminiscent of Woodstock itself, it will be a tradition tailor-made for the Texas capital.
Fun Fun Fun Fest, November 6-8
Often regarded as the little brother to the ACL Music Festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest is in its tenth year and brands itself as a progressive and underground event. With many of its acts not yet on the national stage, it is one of the few festivals that features spoken word and comedy. It features such specialized stages such as metal, indie, comedy and hip-hop. Every year, Auditorium Shores is transformed from a favorite spot for runners to a frenzied gaggle of music lovers. In recent years, Fun Fest has come into its own as an emerging festival with headliners such as: Jane’s Addiction, Wu-Tang Clan, NOFX, alt-J, Modest Mouse, MGMT and Passion Pit. It has slowly garnered a following that now rivals that other annual event at Zilker Park.
Float Fest, July 16-17
What happens when you combine tubing in San Marcos, Texas and wide open spaces enough for 25 bands? You get this year’s Float Fest complete with Chromeo, Metric, Rick Ross, Future Islands and Santigold to name just a few. File this festival under the more intimate and relaxed music events in the region with tickets prices still reasonable enough for the busloads of college students that flock to both the river and the stages. While Cool River Ranch is no stranger to major acts, it still manages to draw local talent on their way to the top. The limited number of stages makes it perfect to really enjoy the complete lineup without feeling overwhelmed. In short, Float Fest is about quality rather than quantity.
Utopiafest, September 29-October 2
So maybe you want a camping retreat along with your music. Utopiafest is right up your auditory ally. Unlike other festivals eager to sell as many tickets as possible, this yearly affair limits the total number patrons to avoid feeling like a massive herd of sunburned, tattooed audiophiles. With free camping allowed on the premises, the performers are not playing the Samsung or Honda stages at Zilker Park just yet, but it is still worth the ticket. Attending Utopiafest is more like going to a series of private concerts with 3,000 of your closest friends. That seems like a sizable crowd until you imagine the likes of Coachella only selling 3,000 tickets on purpose. If intimate is what you want, that is exactly what you get. The only downside? It is scheduled at the same time as the first weekend of the ACL Music Festival. Decisions, decisions.
Vans Warped Tour, June 25
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to go to Austin for every music festival. Staying in the Alamo City means catching up with one of the longest running festivals in the country. Unlike many of the ones on this list, this is unique in that it is a traveling show with interchanging bands at every stop. Aficionados of the metal and punk scene will appreciate how the Warped Tour has stayed true to its roots. While Vans were at the core of the skate culture, the music that developed around it was just as pervasive. Before long, it was more than what deck you had and also about what you listened to and wore. Bands like Atreyu, Bullet for My Valentine, Good Charlotte and Whitechapel for example now serve as the latest iteration of the tour.
River City Rockfest, May 29
Held in the shadows of the revered AT&T Center, the River City Rockfest is a bastion of Metal standards. Legendary band Anthrax was among its performers along with the Late Scott Weiland. Linkin Park was its most recent headliner and the this year keeps the tradition alive. Disturbed, Scorpions and Megadeth are at the helm in 2016 and the blend of the latest and greatest lives on in this festival. River City Rockfest now stands as the city’s only purely rock festival since the future of Maverick Music Festival is up in the air.
The magic and melancholy of Coney Island
Few places evoke such nostalgia as America’s Coney Island. Thanks to the latest exhibit at the McNay Art Museum, its whimsy and woe is front and center.
“Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008” holds 140 pieces and runs until September 11. Among its art and artifacts are original banners for those simply called “freaks” in their day, photographs of life on the shores of America’s playground and paintings inspired by what it meant to the national zeitgeist.
“The modernity of Coney Island at the turn of the century, its exuberance and astonishing style, was the initial motivation and then I started doing some research and I discovered that an astounding array of artists are taking Coney Island as their subject,” said Robin Jaffee Frank, the show’s organizing curator.
What emerged as a retreat for the rich soon gave way to people from all social and economic backgrounds. The intermingling of so many cultural influences was the perfect incubator for those simply looking for a weekend escape and those looking to carve out a unique culture along the boardwalk.
Before long, it was called “the people’s playground” and encompassed the Astroland Amusement Park. Where once stood miles of solitary coastline there were now purveyors of all sorts of entertainment. From the provocative to the childlike, Coney Island was the quickly becoming a microcosm of the American landscape itself.
“I discovered by looking at more works, paintings, photographs and films was that many of those artists perceived it as a prism in which to view the American Experience. The works of art varied widely in style and mood,” continued Frank.
Its role in American history was second to none as servicemen off to fight on the European and Pacific fronts of World War II had their last moments of innocence before becoming the greatest generation. Coney Island was also the site of many-a-love story with an intrinsic romanticism along its shores.
Yet for many, Coney Island was the epicenter of their disenfranchisement. People suffering from physical abnormalities became spectacles and their lives were little more routine exploitation. For a generation that made Coney Island a haven, it was a last resort for others.
“[The individual pieces] seem to convey together the sense that Coney Island is not just a strip in the borough of Brooklyn,” Frank explained. “But is in fact a singular place for the American imagination. [The art] conveys changing ideas abut leisure and the mixing of people of different backgrounds and transitioning social boundaries.”
“Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008” was originally organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. The McNay Art Museum will be its only stop in the Southwest and included artists such as: William Merritt Chase, John Henry Twachtman, Diane Arbus, Walker Evans, Red Grooms and Yasuo Kuniyoshi to name a few.
“It is the first exhibition I can think of that delves into the material culture of the time and the fine artists inspired by it. These are survivors of an era rather than art that museums traditionally collect,” concluded Dr. William J. Chiego, director of the McNay Art Museum.
For more information on admission to “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008,” visit www.mcnayart.org.
Linda Pace Foundation presents a ‘Secondary Story’ journey
This week, Linda Pace Foundation presented “Secondary Stories,” an exhibit created by Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander that will be taking place now through July 2017.
Neuenschwander is known for her adventurous transitory work using language, nature, social interactions and the passing of time.
Showcasing her work for the first time in Texas, the Brazilian artist dives into the exhibit and take viewers through the looking glass of how confetti plays a big role in the Hispanic and Latin culture. She also created images that pop into the alphabet, the role of insects and films going over the topic of love and human condition.
“I feel like this is a contemporary exhibition that features a diverse group of media that will appeal to a lot of different interests for people of all ages. I think it will also draw in people who do not know that much about contemporary art,” said Kelly O’Connor, collections exhibition officer at the Linda Pace Foundation. “There are different elements that anybody can appreciate, including the fact that Rivane is Brazilian will relate to Latino community in San Antonio.”
The central installations feature the theme of the annual Brazilian Celebration, Carnivale, which is a festival in the Latin American country that celebrates the establishment of Lent. Neuenschwander opens guests to “Secondary Stories,” (2006) a constellation of large confetti visible floating all around the room including the transparent ceiling marking the beginning of Carnivale, bringing her back into her childhood.
Before you get to the end of Carnivale, Neuencshwander takes the audience into other topics of her work using photography to tell the story. The “Accidental Alphabet,” (2003) one can see that Neuenschwander enjoys viewing perspective in a different light; and for the display, she found different landscapes to integrate the alphabet together.
The images in “Belongs Does Not Belong,” (2000) give a visual of how Neuenschwander pulled in a mathematical set theory to her exhibit. The images illustrate the conceivable links between three beetles and three soap bubbles using collaboration, a phenomena that is constantly overlooked.
The “Quarta-Feira de Cinzas/Epilogue,” (2006) is a film projection where she collaborated with Cao Guimarães, naming it after Ash Wednesday. Both Neuenschwander and Guimarães depict the end of Carnivale and filmed ants that are engaged in collecting and organizing the leftover confetti, left as fragments of festivities the day before.
In the exhibit, Neuenschwander and Guimarães collaborate again for “Inventory of Small Deaths (Blow),” (2000) in Super 8 digital projection capturing a large, formless soap bubble floating across different landscapes without ever bursting. The video imagery acts as a metaphor for the human condition of dealing with the passing of time and the transformations that we face daily.
Rivane and Sergio Neuenschwander collaborate in “Love Lettering,” (2002) a film projection where goldfish swim back and forth with tiny banners attached to their tails using words to express love, loss and longing. The words begin to form grammatical elements and reveal possible fragments of a love letter.
Using different elements to tell her story, Neuenschwander presents a stellar exhibit that will give many a reason to get a full grasp into her work. O’Connor believes that with the help of the Brazilian artist, people will learn that art is not only a picture on a white wall, but also something you can watch to interact with others.
“I think the exhibit is going to appeal to everyone because a majority of time, you are told not to touch anything or to stand back. This artwork really encourages you to engage so with the confetti piece for example, and the pieces falling on top of you,” concluded O’Connor.
If you are interested in playing a role in art, visit the Linda Pace Foundation, located at 111 Camp Street, between Wednesdays through Sundays from 12 to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.lindapacefoundation.org.