Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

Circus, circus

Only two shows remain (today, at 2 pm and 6 pm) before the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus moves on. Our tickets were fifteen dollars apiece, and they were worth every penny and more. There are no bad seats at the Erwin Center for Zing Zang Zoom, as the production’s called.

If there were favorites among the varied acts, they included the youthful Chinese acrobat troupe, the dog acts, the beautiful liberty zebras and horses (although I love those even better when there are plumes nodding atop their heads), the multi-platform Russian swing act, the chiffon dancers, and the beautifully choreographed and costumed vaguely Balinese dance accompanying the parade of elephants.

The band boasted nine pieces (two trumpets, a trombone, a saxophone, percussion, two guitars, and two keyboards), and it offered up a wonderful arrangement of our national anthem. For once, the ringmaster was not a singing one and so those of us spectators who sang were not overpowered by a show-bizzy vocal.

The costumes were all bright and clever, and the between-acts demonstration of a certain flying gizmo did a lot to sell examples to the audience. I succumbed to temptation myself, but haven’t yet tried out my skills. We all left the arena smiling, and some of us took time to peer backstage and see the artists, in and out of costume, and some of the jaunty performing dogs.

What an entertainment bargain!

Over the top

The circus is in town!The circus is in town and it’s as great an audience-pleaser as ever. The top levels at the Erwin Center were blocked off, and the entire quota of lower-level seats appeared to be sold out. Our tickets were a mere $15, and a complete bargain, so long as the souvenirs, photo ops, and refreshments can be resisted. This year, the presentation is the blue show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The costumes are inventive and colorful, the choreography is fresh, and every aspect contributes to a full theatrical experience. Certain acts (those with a vague aura of being refugees from Cirque du Soleil) were accompanied by somewhat New Age music; all music was courtesy of the band, incorporating a good number of live musicians and some prepared synthesized elements.

In the photograph of the departing audience may be seen a bit of a souvenir stand. As we walked down the hill after crossing with the assistance of an off-duty policeman who held up traffic to allow our passage, perfect strangers enjoyed lively discussions about which were the best acts. My favorites were the “Cossack” horsemanship segment, the humorous dog act, and the accomplished and very beautiful performance by the large troupe of Chinese acrobats, which I won’t describe, but that incorporated novelties that produced very beautiful effects.

Remaining shows are one more today (at 7:30 pm) and two tomorrow (at 1:30 and 5:30 pm). We always enjoy looking at the outdoor backstage and commissary area in the parking lot. It’s always a bit surprising how many of the performers do love their cigarettes. Today all of us watching were treated to a view of the performing dogs frisking around together. There are more expensive seats, to be sure, but those $15 bargains give a perfectly fine view. For those arriving early there’s a preperformance look at aspects of the circus that are a great treat for small children.

Cinderella charming

La Cenerentola will star the same cast for all performances (scroll down the linked page to read a little about the people who have made this production the wonderful experience that it is). See a show if you can: remaining performances are on Wednesday, November 12, at 7:30 pm; Friday, November 14, at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, November 16, at 3 pm. All the singers are young and talented, and the staging is also a work of art. I hope that this conductor, Robert Tweten, will return for future productions. He and all the singers have a way with Rossini.

The conceit of the show keeps the music, sung in Italian and with projected supertitles in English, but changes the era and the place, to twentieth-century Hollywood. To aid in this, the translations in the supertitles take some liberties, but in truth the plot is the same as it has always been. We all know that story and this is just another variant.

Program notes place the setting in the ‘Thirties. It’s an eye-candy pastiche that doesn’t follow a fashion timeline terribly closely. We see everything from stepsisters wearing clothes that could have come straight from Mary Pickford’s wardrobe during the silent era, to flapper dresses accessorized with cloche hats, to a smart little tailored suit with a peplum jacket of the sort that many women wore as their best civvies during WWII and up to the introduction of The New Look. Some of the men are costumed in plus-fours, argyle sweaters, and other hallmarks of a gone-by era. Everyone, male and female, gets to sport entertaining headgear at one time or another.

There’s so much to praise that I’ll just report that the show was wonderful: musicianship with clear enunciation, a small but clear orchestra ably conducted, and everything about the staging itself, including sets, costumes, use of the chorus, lighting, and the wonderful choreography, which on a small but heroic scale was a tribute to Busby Berkeley

The Long Center commands one of the finest views of downtown. This photograph makes it look a bit like a set from a German Expressionist movie, but there’s more to it than that. We noticed a light sculpture meant to be walked on, and some kids were having a fine time trying to be the best predictor of the next color of the panel under foot.

Grown-up entertainment – Sinsational!

Sinsations 3rd Annual Erotic Carnival

Sinsations 3rd Annual Erotic Carnival

So, one of my good friends just emailed me and ask me to check a local store, I must admit I hadn’t been paying attention, and as readers will know, I’m always for “bigging-up” activities and businesses on South 1st St. I was delighted while checking their website to find out that this Friday sees Sinsations 3rd Annual Erotic Carnival. Honest, I did get an email from a friend asking…

As neighbors go, Sinsations are great. They are quiet, discrete, apart from the occasional car wash or throw down, not that I’ve been, honest. Friday sees the carnival start at 9pm at Red 7, on the 7th St. Along with some of the more predictable fare, such as the spanking booth(!), music will be from Mr Lewis and the Funeral 5. So theres a perfectly legit’ reason to go then.

Ok, must stop writing blog posts like I’m writing for the Benny Hill show… See you Friday, I’ll be the one there to watch the fire dancers. The entire event is a benefit for AIDS Services of Austin. All proceeds go directly to helping those living in our community with HIV/AIDS and helping to educate and hopefully stopping the spread of the disease. All artists and performers have donated their time and energy, and all prizes and gifts have been donated by local businesses to support their community. In turn, we ask that you support these performers and businesses for their generosity and graciousness!

Tickets, if still available, $15 presale or $18 on the door.

187th and Belmont

You didn’t have to grow-up in the Bronx or even have visited to get in the mood for Chazz Palminteris A Bronx Tale, on for two more nights at the Long Center.

I saw the show last night, having not seen the 1993 Film, I really had no idea what to expect. When I told one of my colleagues I was going he mentioned something about a mouse and kids, so I suspect he was even further off base than I was. Palminteri wrote the show back in the late 1980’s while unemployed, it’s supposedly a semi-autobiographical tale of his youth in an early 1960’s Bronx neighborhood but I suspect it could equally have been Chicago, DC, Boston, et al.

I really hadn’t been prepared for it to be a one-man show. Palminteri pulled it off magnificently, he moved from character to character with ease and pretty much seamlessly. After all, he’s been doing it for 20-years so he should. It was a engaging dialog about the stresses and strains of living in a working class neighborhood, that was probably more diverse then than now, and the on-off relationship between a son, his father and the neighborhood “boss”.

There is an interesting racial twist to the plot and Palminteri shouts out the N-word partially during a heightened exchange, which I have to say caused some rumblings down in the stalls at the Long Center, but I thought both the scene and the story line were in context with the times, as was the use of the N-word.

Palminteri managed to keep my attention for the full length of the show. Despite the fact that being up in the Mezzanine was more like watching an outdoor theatre in Siberia. It was freezing, I guess less than 64f. Since there are only two more shows, it would be well worth attending, but take a warm top!

It was my first trip to the Long Center since the opening w/e. It was a perfect evening to walk. They’ve got valet parking, there’s parking in the adjacent garage and traffic is carefully managed afterwards to keep the streets clear. Please don’t park in the residential neighborhoods, it may be only one night for you, it’s every night of every day for them.

My Links: NPR Interview with Palminteri back in 2007 on the Broadway opening of a Bronx Tale
Somehat whacky, but recent drive through of the show and 187th St. on YouTube

Hail, hail to piracy

Austin Gilbert & Sullivan Pirates of Penzance Only two performances remain, one tonight at 8 o’clock and one tomorrow afternoon at 3 o’clock. Today’s matinee performance of The Pirates of Penzance was dedicated to children. Even after a precurtain show of costume-making, balloon-twisting, and swordplay, most of the kids, some of them very young, lasted well for the entire performance.

The production puts a grand chorus of 18 singers on the stage, each capable of a solo turn, and a delightful and professional 15-piece orchestra in the pit. These shows are at the performing arts center at Crockett High, 5601 Manchaca. I’ve been to a performance there once before, but a long time ago. The acoustics best those at the new Long Center, if you ask me (not that anyone has!). Everything is audible and very natural-sounding.

The Austin Gilbert & Sullivan Society is an organization of volunteers. Generous gifts from stout local supporters pay for the orchestra, I believe, and many are those who vie for the featured roles. Those selected to fill them did an admirable job.

Even with all the small children there, which some (not I) consider to be a drawback, the house was nearly full. Buying a ticket at the door is very informal and refreshments are available. There’s lots to incite laughter and the many sentimental and affecting tunes do their work as well. Remember; it will be another year before the next big performance comes around. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy this one.

Plenty o’ somethin’

A feature on Porgy and Bess, as adapted and now being performed by the Zach Scott company at the refurbished Austin Music Hall, accompanied by a nine-piece orchestra, takes a prominent place on the front page of today’s NYT arts section (byline Ralph Blumenthal). This short run of two weeks only (January 25 – February 3), with six performances remaining has, according to the local daily, experienced some acoustical problems affecting those in selected balcony seats, but it’s promised that remedies are being initiated. Dave Steakley and members of the cast are quoted extensively. The print version has two photographs; the on-line version goes it better, with the better photograph in color and a couple of audio excerpts from the production.

Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors” at The Curtain Theater

This Saturday, September 22, The Baron’s Men will present their one and only public performance of “A comedy of Errors” by William Shakespeare. It will be at The Curtain Theater which is not normally open to the public, so here’s your chance to come see Shakespeare and check out a cool little theater based on The Globe Theater where Shakespeare himself put on his plays. All the pertinent info can be found at the link above including a map. It’s kind of a strange trip down windy gravel roads on hills through normally private wooded property, so if you feel like you’re getting lost then your probably on the right track!

Get Your War On One More Time

email_gywo_philly06_6.jpgJust a quick note since I already plugged this on its last two runs and briefly reviewed it, but if you still couldn’t get yourself off the couch to check it out you’ve got another chance.

Rude Mechanicals presents Get Your War On

WHEN: September 6 – 22, 2007 | 15 performances only!
WHERE: 2211-A Hidalgo St., Austin, TX 78702 | MAP
Thursdays are Pay-What-You-Can | Fridays & Saturdays are Sliding Scale $12 – $30
Purchase tickets online or call 512-389-0315 or 888-512-SHOW

It’s still completely relevant since, like the crazed old man who picks fights with his neighbors, Bush and Co. seem bound and determined to repeat this whole Iraq fiasco or worse with Iran. At least we can laugh our way to Armageddon.

RIP Joe York


Michael Barnes at the Statesman has reported that beloved Austin actor Joe York has died in his home in Brooklyn. Joe was most recently seen in Zach Scott’s production of Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I saw and briefly wrote about. Joe was an electrifying presence on the stage and I regret that I only got to see him once, but once was enough to have his image burned in my memory to this day. A great artist has been lost today, but his art lives on, and he will be missed.

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