ACL Taping: Tim McGraw

After many months of trying, Bill and I won tickets to a taping for the Austin City Limits TV show. Both of us have been submitting requests to snag two free tickets since January 2011, when tapings started in downtown Austin’s ACL Live at the Moody Theater. We have patiently–but jealously–watched from our apartment as lucky audience members entered the theater for each taping. But our turn finally came last week.

Bill and I got in line to pick up our tickets about 90 minutes before the taping began. We had been warned not to arrive too late or the tickets might be given away. A small crowd was allowed to stand in front of the stage but most of the audience was seated. Our assigned seats were up in the balcony.

This was Tim McGraw’s debut show for ACL. Not being country music fans, neither of us knew much about him. Tim sang, but did not play any instruments. Not that he needed to: five guitarists, a violinist, a keyboard player, and a drummer provided plenty of accompaniment. The set lasted about 45 minutes. Then Tim came back onstage and told the audience that he had made mistakes, so he was going to redo three songs again, but he ended up doing his final song “Truck Yeah” again as well. We weren’t familiar with his music but we certainly didn’t notice any mistakes the first time around. 

There was no sign of his wife, Faith Hill, at the taping. But the next day, I read that Tim and Faith were in Las Vegas to announce a limited run at the Venetian starting in November.

Zilker Summer Musical: The Sound of Music

Austinites, there are only two more weekends to see The Sound of Music at Sheffield Hillside Theater in Zilker Park. You don’t want to miss it!
This 54th annual Zilker summer musical runs Thursday through Sunday evenings during July and early August. Admission is not charged (except $5 for car parking) but cast members do collect donations during intermission. Over 60,000 are expected to attend this summer’s performances. I hear that some folks show up in the early afternoon to put their blanket down and claim their spot on the hillside. Considering that yesterday’s high temperature was 100 degrees, these early-birds must be dedicated musical theater fans, faithful friends, loving family members, or lunatics. Most people arrive about an hour before the show’s start time around dusk (8:30 PM).
I am a big fan of the movie and have been known to enter The Sound of Music costume contests but I don’t remember seeing the stage play before. The play was very similar to the movie with a few additional songs. The first half was long (90 minutes) but ended on a literal high note with “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” The second half was much shorter but it was getting late and so the audience was noticeably smaller after intermission.
I must rave about the excellent cast. Michelle Hache and Joshua Denning are now my second-favorite-ever Maria and Captain Von Trapp. Coty Ross as Mother Abbess left us teary-eyed at the end of the first act. All of the Von Trapp children were cute and talented.

Bravo to Zilker Theatre Productions for an outstanding 2012 summer musical!

Grease Sing-along

Ramma lamma lamma ka dingity ding da dong
Shoo bop shoo wadda wadda yippity boom da boom
Chang chang changity chang shoo bop
Dip da dip da dip do wop da dooby do
Boogy boogy boogy boogy shooby sho wap sho wap
Sha na na na na na na na yippity dip da do
Ramma lamma lamma ka dingity ding da dong
Shoo bop shoo wadda wadda yippity boom sha boom
Chang chang changity chang shoo bop
Yip da dip da dip shoo bopp sha dooby do
Boogedy boogedy boogedy boogedy shooby do wap sho bop
Sha na na na na na na na yippity dip da do
A womp bop a looma a womp bam boom

Can you can sing this verse from “We Go Together”? Do you know the motions to “Born to Hand Jive”? Do you secretly long to be a Pink Lady? Then you should have been at the Grease Sing-along at The Paramount Theater last weekend!

Grease Sing-along is a 2010 re-release of the original 1978 movie. The newer version adds  lyrics and graffiti-like animation during the songs, plus the film’s colors were digitally enhanced.

Local “drag personality” Rebecca Havemeyer introduced the film and provided commentary along the lines of the Alamo Drafthouse’s Master Pancake Theater. One of her running jokes was about the older actors playing high school students: John Travolta was 24, Olivia Newton-John was 28, and Stockard Channing was 33 when the movie was filmed…not quite teenagers anymore.

During intermission, Rebecca collected donations for AIDS Services of Austin and hosted a costume parade. Poodle skirts and Pink Ladies jackets were popular. One woman came in the silver Beauty School Dropout costume, complete with curlers. At the time, we were impressed with all the creativity, but I’ve since found out that Grease costumes are very easy to buy online.

Bill and I realized that we hadn’t seen Grease for many years. We remembered the top 40 hits, like “Hopelessly Devoted,” “You’re the One That I Want,” and “Summer Nights,” but had forgotten about other classics such as “Beauty School Dropout”  and “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee.” The audience knew all the songs though, even that tongue-twister “We Go Together.” They sang loudly and enthusiastically and applauded themselves after every number. It was a fun Summer Night!

Twelfth Night

When I walked over to the Zilker Hillside Theater last week, I expect to see a traditional staging of Twelfth Night or What You Will. But instead Austin Shakespeare reimagined this famous comedy as a Bollywood production, set in India with colorful traditional  costumes. What an entertaining way to see a Shakespeare play!
The production included several Bollywood-style dance numbers. Local Austin singer/songwriter Naga Valli composed and recorded original music and also performed before the play began. 
At intermission, we checked some sections of the script and, with just a few exceptions, the actors stayed true to the original lines. Even the lyrics were based on the original text.

Bollywood and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night fit together surprisingly well. Both have melodramatic, complicated storylines with oversized characters. The lead actors (especially the actors playing Viola/Cesario and Sir Toby) were excellent and made the  Shakespearean English sound perfectly matched to the Indian setting. 

Midsummer in Motion

No doubt about it… Midsummer in Motion is a very unique interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
Here’s Wikipedia’s synopsis of A Midsummer’s Night Dream: “…portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta. These include the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of 6 amateur actors, who are manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set.”

Austin Bike Zoo billed their production as a “pedal-powered Shakespearean fantasy.” That’s a pretty accurate description. Bikes were used for scene changes and even for a battle. I’m no expert, but the play seemed to be true to the Shakespearean version and the actors even spoke in old English. The fantasy part was fulfilled by steampunk costumes and performances by local aerial artists, Sky Candy, plus the kings, queens, and fairies that are part of the story line. 

The lead actors were expressive and engaging, especially the two women playing the court jester (Puck) and the donkey (Nick Bottom). With no sound system and three inconsiderate talkative audience members nearby, the dialogue was often difficult to hear, and since the performance didn’t end until after dark, the final few scenes were somewhat hard to see. But twinkle lights, glow-in-the-dark bikes, and fairy flashlights added to the unusual ambiance of this production.

There are five more performances of Midsummer in Motion over the coming week; all except one are at Republic Square Park. Admission is free, but pass-the-hat donations are welcome.