Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

The circus: mejor que nunca!

Circo Hermanos Vazquez is back in town, set up in the Highland Mall parking lot, and it truly is “better than ever,” which is saying something!

The seats in the capacious and sturdy big top are more comfortable than ever. No bad seats are to be found. There’s an eight-person live band again this year to accompany the acts, and the volume is not too loud for anyone, including all the infants, toddlers, and older children at the show attended. There are porta-privies available as there are at most events in Austin, and there are also sinks with soap for hand-washing inside the tent near the food-service area. The lighting seems to be entirely LED and provides excellent illumination. The audience is allowed to take still pictures and videos, so long as no flash is used.

The artists without exception were most entertaining and the acts were smartly paced and well done. They included funny dogs, a beautiful liberty act with white and dark Arabian horses, Russian swing, balance performances, an ingenious act featuring diabolos or Chinese yo-yos, aerial shows, two outstanding clown acts, and more. We were spared the cliches of the “wheel of death” and the “motorcycle globe of death.”

There’s a fifteen-minute intermission, during which attendees may have their pictures taken with the beautiful dog-act lady and some of the featured canines, with the result printed on the spot. Following the circus, there were two other photo opportunities, with the clowns and with the beautiful dancing girls.

Remaining shows are tonight (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday) at 7:30 pm, plus Friday and Saturday at 6 pm and 9 pm, with the last performances on Sunday, April 13, at 2 pm, 5 pm, and 8 pm.

Prices are: adult general admission, $40.00; adult senior general admission, $35.00; children’s admission, $15; so-called “better seats” for adults, $50.00, and for senior adults, $45.00; with “VIP” adult seats going for $60.00. Radio 107.7-fm is stationed at Highland to give away free promotional items.

There’s no need at all to know any Spanish to enjoy this Circo Hermanos Vazquez. Safety announcements are made in English for those who need it; after that, words are completely unnecessary. See a few pix and unedited videos; go to the circus!

The box office is open every day from 10 am to 9 pm; tickets are also sold at Fiesta Mart.

Texas Independence Day parade 2014

It was foggy and damp for today’s parade, but there was music for everyone: the Eastside Memorial band, the LBJ High School band, and a contingent from the 36th Infantry Division band of the Army National Guard complete with banjo and instrumentalists who sang. The Air Force J.R.O.T.C. from Del Valle was there; so were Shriners and a group of Vietnam veterans. There were no political candidates. The day was damp and overcast; spirits were bright. Search this site for recollections of other Texas Independence Day parades. See photographs and unedited videos and look for people you know.

Don Carlo: a grand opera indeed

Verdi's Don Carlo: Austin Lyric OperaHere for our enjoyment is a lush sonic treat in every respect, and a visual feast as well, with a fine orchestra, a lively chorus, and a uniformly excellent cast of singers in the leading roles, plus a production that fills the stage: Austin Lyric Opera has outdone itself with the current production of Verdi’s Don Carlo.

Don Carlo was staged as one of the musical events inaugurating the Performing Arts Center on the UT campus, but has not been performed here since.

At the Long Center on Friday, the temperature became chillier as the evening went on, so it’s best to dress for all conditions. Another reason to dress for comfort is that the performance lasts for three and one-half hours.

Tickets are still available for the two remaining performances (Thursday, November 21, at 7:30 pm; and Sunday, November 24, at 3 pm).

Anyone not able to attend in person may hear a live broadcast via KMFA 89.5-fm radio, beginning at 2:50 pm on Sunday, November 24.

This ambitious undertaking is also a strongly successful one and should not be missed! Anyone who loves music and theater is in for a great treat.

Princess Ida: Gilbert & Sullivan royalty

Don’t miss this musical and stage delight. Just five performances remain for the the Austin Gilbert & Sullivan Society production of Princess Ida: Thursday, 20 June, 7:30 pm; Friday, 21 June, 7:30 pm; Saturday, 22 June, 2 pm; Saturday 22 June, 7:30 pm; and Sunday, 23 June, 2 pm. All performances are supertitled. The venue is the lovely theater at Brentwood Christian School, 11908 North Lamar (see map).

Principal singers, orchestra, and chorus have never sounded better. Princess Ida serves up vivid characterizations and laugh-out-loud comedy. This is a three-act production. We attended the children’s matinee and, even though the show is a bit longer than usual, it held the attention of all ages from start to finish.

We are so fortunate to be able to enjoy a production of such wonderful quality, a theatrical pleasure in every way: music, acting, dancing, and wonderful stagecraft of all kinds. There are no bad seats and there are supertitles to assist the audience in following the rapid patter of many of the songs. These are far better coordinated with action on the stage than, say, those at the Austin Lyric Opera, where people sometimes laugh at a comedic action that hasn’t yet been sung or acted.

Princess Ida is obviously a labor of love, and the audience did love it. So will you.

Juneteenth parade 2013

It was a glorious day for Juneteenth festivities in Austin. A list of just some of the parade participants tells it all: city council membes minus one, Constable Danny Thomas, Margo Frasier, Kirk Watson, Andy Brown, fraternities, sororities, graduates of old Anderson High, Cheops Temple, church groups, more Austin bicycle police than anyone’s ever seen in one place, Spirit of the Drum, Greater Houston All Star Band, Austin All Star Band, the Manor Ace All Star Drumline, and a band we’d like to know the name of, KAZI radio, the king and queen of Huston-Tillotson University, car clubs, motorcycle clubs, the Wells Fargo stagecoach hitched with a team of six horses, Capital Metro, Fiesta Markets, H-E-B with its super-giant self-propelled shopping cart, and at least four riding clubs showing off beautifully groomed gaited horses, and much, much more, including representation from many City of Austin departments. The weather was beautiful and spirits were high, as toy-camera photos and unedited videos will attest.

Ramon Ayala at the Capitol

Ramon Ayala at the CapitolIn celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, yesterday evening there was a free concert in the Capitol grounds by Ramon Ayala y sus Bravos del Norte.

Fortified by delicious brisket from Live Oak Barbeque, we very much enjoyed seeing the crowd assemble. Many could not resist dancing on the Capitol lawn as we heard such favorite hits as “No mas un puno de tierra,” “tragos amargos,” “casas de madera,” “un rinconcito en el cielo,” and many, many more.

We were so caught up in the moment that we didn’t capture many toy-camera photos or (unedited) videos, but we’ll never forget the magic. The Capitol grounds were made for gatherings like this!

Cinco de Mayo conjunto fest

The weather was perfect and the people were out to dance. Fiestas Patrias of Austin provided a full schedule of music and other activities on both days.

We attended on day two, the conjunto festival managed by Johnny Degollado. We were sorry to arrive just too late to hear the University of Texas conjunto and the violins from Lake Travis.

As always there was much meeting and greeting. Congressman Lloyd Doggett took the stage and spoke briefly to great applause. Big news is that, in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, Ramon Ayala y sus Bravos del Norte will give a free concert in the south grounds of the Capitol, from 6 to 9 pm on May 15. Here are the FAQs for the event.

Henry Zimmerle and his conjunto
have played many times at this event and are always a treat to hear. Our great favorites are Los Dos Gilbertos, and they never disappoint.

When we left, between 6 and 7 pm, people were beginning to pour in and there was already a crowd. Toy-camera photos and unedited videos can never come close to capturing the delight of this festival. How wonderful it is for Austin to enjoy this wonderful annual event, made for all ages!

Gounod’s Faust: the Devil’s in the details

Gounod's Faust: Austin Lyric OperaThe Austin Lyric Opera orchestra sounds better and better and the cast of singers is outstanding. We are privileged to enjoy a memorable production of Gounod’s Faust.

All begins well. Faust has the opening of the opera to himself, and Jonathan Boyd sings beautifully and compels attention. The scene-stealer throughout is Mephistopheles, and Jamie Offenbach commands the audience from his very first entrance. The silent-screen-villain business is made for him. Once the soul-selling bargain is complete, we first meet the soldier Valentin and then his sister, Marguerite, soon to be the object of the attentions of the rejuvenated Faust. The character of Valentin is essential to the plot and Hyung Yun is an example of the excellent casting of this production. Jan Cornelius, our Marguerite, is a fine physical actress and has a beautiful voice, employed to full effect. From Siebel (Claire Shackleton) and Marthe (Cindy Sadler) to every member of the chorus, the singing is delightful.

The music never loses its enchantment, but the embodiment of the plot on stage becomes a bit peculiar, even ludicrous at times. Satan and the three devilettes in red wigs, the tableau vivant in which the figures become animated, the insane asylum, and more just cannot be properly described, but must be experienced in person. Several members of the audience near us really couldn’t completely stifle their laughter, and that’s understandable. In addition, what began seeming to be a sensible utilitarian set and production design required two quite lengthy scene changes behind a closed curtain in the final act. The projection of various words in bad typefaces added nothing praiseworthy, either.

At any rate, there’s one remaining performance, today at 3 pm at the Long Center, and tickets are still available. KMFA radio, at 89.5-fm, will broadcast it live, with commentary beginning at 2:30 pm. The music is sung in French and supertitle translations are shown above the stage proscenium. There are excellent reasons for the immediate and continuing popularity of this opera. It’s always a treat to hear it played and sung so beautifully.

Circo Hermanos Vazquez: just two more shows

Learned pigs were new to us. All the acts were fast-paced and expert and some were quite novel. There were feats of strength and balance by two acrobats without props of any kind. A rapid roller-skating act within a very small circumference was astonishing, and so was a high trapeze act that was more about balance than about swinging; the audience scarcely dared to breathe during these. Liberty horses with a high quotient of Arabians were very pretty, and so were Bactrian camels and zebras. A woman on a braced pole was graceful in her strength. The little boys in the audience were especially mesmerized by a dual wheel-of-death act. A pair of bad-boy clowns and a Martian clown new to Earth were both really funny, both for children and adults, although the “undocumented” Martian undergoing an interrogation was for the grown-ups.

The tent is air-conditioned and there are molded-plastic seats affixed to the bleachers, all really very comfortable. There was an ATM machine for those who didn’t bring enough money for souvenirs. Refreshments included Coca-Cola, bottled water, palomitas/popcorn, nachos, algodones/cotton candy, alitas/chicken wings, and more. Little boys couldn’t resist the light swords, and little girls loved their lighted butterfly wands.

A live band of at least six accompanied almost all of the acts, at a volume that was sufficient but not too loud. Initial safety announcements were delivered in both Spanish and English; thereafter, all was in Spanish except for the act of the trained pigs, whose accompanying people spoke English followed by an announcer’s translation into Spanish.

The Web site for Circo Hermanos Vazquez does not appear to have been updated for this season’s new performers. It does announce performances for today at 6 pm and at 9 pm. The location is in the Highland Mall parking lot, with ample parking. Call 1-877-829-7839 to confirm current information.

More pictures are available; the audience is permitted to make videos and take still photographs so long as there’s no flash. And there’s a wonderful opportunity for souvenir pictures of children attending; during the brief intermission, the smallest children may be photographed atop a very small saddled pony and one of the learned pigs is available to be included in a photograph.

This is a circus for all ages and there’s no need to understand Spanish to love it, although that does help with some of the jokes!

Zoppe Italian Family Circus





In one ring was an entire entertainment, as close as could be. The tent seating five hundred, in folding chairs and on bleachers, was set up on the grass just west of the Long Performing Arts Center, with handsome views in all directions, including downtown.

A little pre-show entertainment offered a foretaste of the delights awaiting. To the accompaniment of an accordion and a guitar and incorporating audience participation, we were especially entertained by the very youngest member of the family and the circus, performing with his father and others.

Once inside, in the aroma of sawdust, there were high wires, springboards, caparisoned horses, a unicycle, a continuing clown narrative, further appearances by the tiny and charming little boy working with his father, and a commedia dell’arte figure armed with a straight pin, who also seems to be the ringmaster, rigging supervisor, and all-round straight man.

Not to be forgotten are the aerial ballet on a rope high above the tanbark or the delightful performing dogs, who took a brief rest while two chickens did a trick.

There was an opportunity to pose with the pony for souvenir photographs. Those pulled from the audience to participate in the ring were all good sports, and one young boy who came into the ring definitely displayed the talent of a future performer himself.

The most popular souvenirs were toy conga-type drums, embellished twirling batons, and juggling pins (or clubs) and flat rings.

We did not see one bored or sulky child in the audience, which was rapt from start to finish, all ages enchanted by the performances.

Let us hope that the Zoppe Family Circus returns to Austin.

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