New Austin subscribers must wait for ‘Hamilton’ season tickets

Broadway in Austin has paused its acceptance of new subscribers for the 2018-2019 season that includes the smash musical “Hamilton.” Current subscribers to the 2017-2018 season can still renew their seats through March 27.

New subscribers to the Texas Performing Arts series can sign up for the waiting list to be notified if additional season tickets become available.

Michael Luwoye and Isaiah Johnson in the ‘Hamilton’ national tour. Contributed by Joan Marcus

This pause is quite unusual, perhaps unprecedented in the history of touring shows at the University of Texas’ Bass Concert Hall. Demand must be incredibly high.

Get your ‘Hamilton’ tickets for Austin right now

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At last you have permission to order those “Hamilton” tickets for the once-in-a-generation musical that will stop in Austin at Bass Concert Hall for three weeks in 2019.

Michael Luwoye and Isaiah Johnson in the ‘Hamilton’ national tour. Contributed by Joan Marcus

The happy catch? To secure those tickets beginning at 11 a.m. Feb. 20 when the Broadway in Austin call center opens, you must subscribe to the whole 2018-2019 season, presented by Texas Performing Arts at Bass Concert Hall. That means six other shows, including one comedy, three relatively new musicals and two long-running Broadway standards. Single tickets to “Hamilton” and the other shows will go on sale at a later date.

Yet let’s start with “Hamilton,” which plays May 28-June 16, 2019, at the very end of the coming season.

RELATED: Broadway smash ‘Hamilton’ coming to Austin in 2018-2019 season

“We have been building up to this season since ‘Hamilton’ opened on Broadway,” says Kathy Panoff, Texas Performing Arts director and associate dean of the University of Texas School of Fine Arts. “We’re thrilled it’s finally coming to Austin.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda reinvented the musical theater form with this ferociously smart show about Alexander Hamilton, inspired by Ron Chernow’s best-selling biography. Using a range of musical styles in a sung- and rapped-through score — as well as mostly nonwhite actors, who give every old idea new meaning — the show opened on Broadway in 2015. It has been sold out ever since, and individual tickets can go for hundreds of dollars.

Yet season ticket prices for all seven Broadway in Austin selections, including “Hamilton,” start as low as $224.

While you are holding your breath for the Great Arrival, six other shows wait in the Bass Concert Hall queue.

Alex Mandell and Amelia McClain in the ‘The Play That Goes Wrong,’ the only nonmusical in the Broadway in Austin season. Contributed by Jeremy Daniel.

The one comedy — a rare nonmusical for Broadway in Austin — is “The Play That Goes Wrong,” a British product that has been compared to the backstage farce “Noises Off.” In this show, things go disastrously wrong during the opening night of a play called “The Murder at Havensham Manor,” proving that theatrical life is often the theater’s most effective subject. It lands Oct. 23-28, 2018.

Among the new musicals, “Love Never Dies” is an Andrew Lloyd Webber tuner billed as a sequel to his mega-hit, “The Phantom of the Opera.” Lloyd Webber, however, once said: “I don’t regard this as a sequel — it’s a stand-alone piece.” He later clarified his remarks, saying that of course it is a sequel, but you need not have seen “Phantom” to understand it. Fair enough. It stumbled during its original London run but was embraced in Australia. “Love” tarries Nov. 27-Dec. 2, 2018.

‘Waitress’ is based on a charming indie movie. The musical has run on Broadway for two years. Contributed

Another new musical, “Waitress,” was inspired by the charming 2007 independent movie by the same name and features an admired score by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, who currently stars in the New York cast. The musical version of “Waitress” opened on Broadway in 2016 and is still running, which is a feat for a relatively quiet, personal show. It tells of a cafe server stuck in an unhappy marriage who is pregnant and having an affair and who seeks redemption through a pie contest. It takes your orders Jan. 22-27, 2019.

Before becoming a Broadway musical, ‘Anastasia’ was a book, play, film and animated movie. Contributed

“Anastasia,” the third new musical, shares an Austin connection. Local arts backers Marc and Carolyn Seriff are among the credited producers. The 2017 musical is based on the 1997 animated film — itself inspired by plays and novels about the recovery of a possibly lost Russian princess — and many of its fans remain loyal from that experience. It received lukewarm notices in New York, but, based on its built-in appeal, the producers immediately announced a worldwide tour. It appears Feb. 12-17, 2019.

The older musicals need no introductions. “Fiddler on the Roof,” the 1964 Bock and Harnick classic based on shtetl life, brings back Jewish traditions and indelible songs April 2-7, 2019. The musical focuses on Tevye, a dairyman with five daughters who must deal with changing cultural norms as well as the expulsion of the Jews by the Czar’s forces.

The record-breaking show comes to Austin by way of a fresh production from director Bartlett Sher.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s indestructible “Cats,” which debuted on Broadway in 1982 and then ran 18 years, shows up on our collective doorsteps again May 7-12, 2019. You either hate or love this show based on T.S. Eliot poems about feline life and afterlife. There’s no denying that tunes such as “Memory” are hard to pry from your mind. Whether you cotton to the furry costumes, circus makeup and undulating choreography is a matter of personal preference.

How to land tickets to ‘Hamilton’ and more

The seven-show Lexus Broadway in Austin 2018-19 season subscriptions go on sale starting at 11 a.m. Feb. 20. Prices start as low as $224. Visit broadwayinaustin.com or call Broadway in Austin at 800-731-7469 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The deadline for current season subscribers to renew their seats is March 27. Groups of 10 or more may request reservations by calling 877-275-3804 or via email at Austin.Groups@BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com. Individual show ticket sales will be announced at a later date.

Step inside the enchanted stick village at Pease Park

Kids rush into the doors and hang out the windows. Adults step gingerly over the mulch floors and step back to view the five, tall, curved, leaning structures that look like something from “Where the Wild Things Are” or “The Hobbit.”

“We let the kids in early,” says StickWork artist Patrick Dougherty. “They weren’t sure they were allowed to come in the gate.”

Sam Dougherty works on a stick work sculpture with his artist father Patrick Dougherty, from Chapel Hill, N.C.  RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The fences come down today. The public unveiling is 1 p.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 10, courtesy of the Pease Park Conservancy.

“We wanted to make a cathedral,” Dougherty says. “We got five corners instead.”

The $106,000 project made from 10 tons of locally harvested then bent, woven and fastened Texas ash, elm, ligustrum and depression willow were built in three weeks by Dougherty and his son, Sam, along with volunteers and staff from Houston’s Weingarten Art Group. The site off Parkway not far from Windsor Road was picked because of accessibility and parking, but it’s also a little sheltered and not clearly visible from North Lamar Boulevard.

Volunteer Carol Burton helps to intertwine tree saplings into an inner wall of a the sculpture is made entirely out of tree saplings and is made possible by the Pease Park Conservancy which is committed to enhancing the cultural environment of the park. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Dougherty, who has built 288 of these StickWork projects around the world after working on a family cabin, had always wanted to work in Austin. He says the still-unnamed group of five structures should last two years before they begin to deteriorate seriously.

The Conservancy will maintain the art, then, with the help mulch the remains to spread around the park.

READ EXPANDED STORY ON OUR PREMIUM PAGE.

Update: An earlier version of this post said the project cost more.

‘People of Color Christmas’ a witty and aware holiday tradition

Christine Hoang is something of a rarity among Austin playwrights: a creator of modernist, narrative dramas in the tradition of O’Neil, Miller and Williams. Her work eschews postmodern tricks and instead focuses on slow character-building and nuanced relationships, with a slam poem or musical number occasionally thrown in here and there to liven things up. Her “A Girl Named Sue” won the Austin Critics Table Award for best new play, and this holiday season she’s bringing back an older work, “People of Color Christmas,” that takes a woke look at Christmas through the lens of a truly multicultural cast of characters.

The first thing that makes “People of Color Christmas” unique is its producing partner. The show is a co-production between Color Arc Productions and City of Austin Parks and Recreation, Museums and Cultural Programs Division, meaning that it is actually a city of Austin event. As a result, each weekend the play has been presented at a different cultural center. Thus far it has appeared at the Asian American Resource Center and the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. In its final weekend it will be at the Dougherty Arts Center. Tickets are free; though most performances are currently listed as sold out throughout the final weekend, organizers say that thus far everyone who has come to the show on the wait-list has been admitted to the performance.

Beyond the interesting production partnership, “People of Color Christmas” is also notable for being a remounting. Originally produced at Ground Floor Theatre in 2015 as “People of Color Christmas: The White Elephant in the Room,” it was Hoang’s first play. Now, with a few years’ more experience, she has rewritten about half of the dialogue and worked with dramaturg Ashley Jernigan and director Rudy Ramireze to tighten and heighten the play’s theatrical experience.

In its current form, “People of Color Christmas” feels like a television sitcom Christmas special whose well-drawn cast of comedic characters are culturally sensitive about how being a person of color impacts their lives even during the holiday season. Of particular note are Allegra Jade Fox as Sasha and Lillie Lopez as Gabby, whose duel emotional arcs provide the show’s loose narrative structure, and Ryan Darbonne as Daniel, a gay black man who eschews all stereotypes to exist as a unique, individual character (complete with show-stopping original hip-hop number). The cast members are almost all seasoned improv performers, which adds an element of spontaneity to the show, as ad-libs foster legitimate laughs from castmates that help to consolidate the characters’ friendships.

The play is very funny at the same time as it is culturally aware, and both of these aspects work best when they are in harmony with one another. Hoang’s sense of humor in the writing is strongest when it is addressing particularly difficult issues, like cultural appropriation and the linguistic nuances of political correctness. Similarly, she handles these thorny issues the most powerfully through her wit. When the two diverge is when the play hits its lower points, either becoming overly silly or overly preachy.

Even in these few moments, though, “People of Color Christmas” retains its most important characteristic — its heart. This is one feel-good holiday special that doesn’t rely on tired clichés about “good will towards man” and instead embraces everyone in the audience, regardless of gender, sexuality, color, ethnicity, or religion.

“People of Color Christmas”
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Dougherty Arts Center, 1110 Barton Springs Road
Cost: Free; registration required at pocchristmas.eventbrite.com
Information: 512-974-3772, austintexas.gov/event/people-color-christmas

‘A Miracle on 34th Street Classic Radiocast’ is charming, if old-fashioned, Christmas treat

Writer/director George Seaton’s “A Miracle on 34th Street” (based on a story by Valentine Davies) was hardly destined to become a Christmas classic when it was released in June 1947. For one thing, it was, well, released in June, and the advertising tried to hide the fact that it was a Christmas movie about a nice old man who plays Santa Claus for Macy’s and who just might be the actual Kris Kringle. However, the movie’s naïve charm and strong performances by Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn and a young Natalie Wood won over audiences, and it became a perennial holiday favorite.

Contributed by Kimberley Mead

Round Rock’s Penfold Theatre has taken this Christmas classic and turned it into a unique performance that’s part stage play and part radio show, calling the hybrid “A Miracle on 34th Street Classic Radiocast.” The adaptation by Penfold co-founder Nathan Jerkins (with a prologue and spoofy commercials added by director Monica Ballard) turns the story into a radio show performed live before the audience’s eyes at the fictional station KPNF.

The strength of this production lies in its old-fashioned charm. The show is very well cast, with an array of actors whose voices adapt to the various characters they portray. While Sarah Marie Curry, Nathan Jerkins, Julie Linnard and Isto Barton take on a number of different roles that play to their vocal talents in a number of amusing ways, the strongest performance comes from Robert L. Berry, who only serves as one character throughout — Kris Kringle himself. In the spirit of Edmund Gwenn and Richard Attenborough, who played Kringle in the two film versions of the story, Berry’s warmth and charm embody the heart of the character, creating a realistic Kringle who doesn’t veer into a parody of our traditional ideas about Santa.

The entire show plays into the nostalgic aspect of the story and its evocation of the classic film. From the location itself, in the agreeably communal Old Settler’s Hall, to the sumptuous look of the set and costumes (designed by Desi Roybal and Glenda Wolfe, respectively), everything about “Miracle” screams of a simpler era.

The weaknesses of the show, however, also stem from this nostalgia. The play is a little too faithful to the screenplay, leading to a lot of expository dialogue and not enough use of the unique format (which features live sound effects). In addition, the story’s message — summed up by the line that “faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to” — may work in the context of a 1947 Christmas film, but in an era of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” it feels hopelessly outdated at best and downright dangerous at worst. There is certainly value to the concept of faith, but it would have been nice to see it updated to reflect modern concerns that also recognize the necessity of a dash of common sense, even within the most faithful.

“A Miracle on 34th Street” is, in a phrase, “old time-y,” which is at the core of both its charm and its failings. If you’re looking for a pleasant holiday escape into a rose-tinted vision of nostalgic white Christmases past, though, it will hit the spot.

“A Miracle on 34th Street Classic Radiocast”
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through Dec. 23
Where: Old Settler’s Hall, 3300 E. Palm Valley Blvd., Round Rock
Cost: $23-$25
Information: penfoldtheatre.com

Jane Austen meets charming Christmas comedy in latest from Austin Playhouse

If Jane Austen and Richard Curtis (writer/director of “Love Actually”) were to collaborate on an original story, it would look an awful lot like Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon’s “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.”

Jess Hughes and Stephen Mercantel star in “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.” Contributed by Austin Playhouse

Playing through Dec. 23 at Austin Playhouse, “Miss Bennet” is an utterly charming unofficial sequel to “Pride and Prejudice” that takes place a few years after the conclusion of the classic novel. Because it is written specifically for the stage, though, it takes the form of a drawing room comedy of manners that is entirely contained within an actual drawing room.

The story follows the Bennet sisters as they spend Christmas at Pemberley, the estate of Mr. Darcy, the novel’s romantic lead. While older sisters Elizabeth and Jane are both now happily married, their middle sister, the brainy and well-read Mary, remains single and resigned to her future life as a spinster. Enter Lord Arthur de Bourgh, a cousin of Mr. Darcy who has recently come into his own estate and whose own bookwormish tendencies quickly endear him to Mary, and vice versa.

Traditional romantic comedy antics soon follow, with Mary and Arthur needing to overcome both Mary’s flirtatious younger sister Lydia and a designing woman from Arthur’s past. Though the plot is extremely predictable, that actually adds to its charm. The play delights from start to finish with warm, heartfelt comedy that never gets too dark nor too serious, thanks in large part to the cast of Austin Playhouse regulars.

Jenny Lavery, Stephen Mercantel and Marie Fahlgren in “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.” Contributed by Austin Playhouse

Jess Hughes, as the titular Miss Mary Bennet, is pitch-perfect as the somewhat dour heroine who remains utterly likeable even within her deepest doldrums, and her chemistry with Stephen Mercantel’s shy and bumbling Arthur de Bourgh is adorable without becoming cloying. As Mary’s three sisters, Jenny Lavery, Marie Fahlgren and Maria Latiolais all shine with varying degrees of sororal bickering and affection.

Perhaps the unexpected highlight of the production is the comedic interplay of Samuel Knowlton as Mr. Darcy and Zac Thomas as Charles Bingley, two of the Bennet sisters’ husbands, whose scenes together take on an almost vaudevillian shine. Though somewhat removed from the heart of the narrative, the pair steal quite a few scenes as they play the Victorian vision of gentlemanhood against contemporary notions of masculinity.

Director Lara Toner Haddock and her design team — costume designer Buffy Manners, lighting designer Don Day, sound designer Joel Mercado-See and set designer Mike Toner — focus on realism here, with rich period costumes and a sumptuous set, accentuated by bright pops of color and mood-setting music and sound cues.

“Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” is a sweet, good-natured piece of escapism, and it just may provide the little bit of warm holiday cheer you might find yourself needing during a very hectic month.

 

“Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley”
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 23
Where: 6001 Airport Blvd.
Cost: $16-$36
Information: austinplayhouse.ticketleap.com/miss-bennet

 

‘The Nutcracker’ and “Drowsy Chaperone’ holiday tidbits

Ballet Austin’s “The Nutcracker” and the University of Texas’ “The Drowsy Chaperone” will be well worth your entertainment time this coming week. Here’s a taste of two articles about the shows.

 

The corps de ballet dance through a snowy “Nutcracker” scene in 2016, with Constance Doyle up front. Contributed

READ FULL “NUTCRACKER” STORY.

They come and go so quickly.

Oh, sure, some lucky ballet dancers manage to extend their careers for decades. Others happily switch to congruent creative roles at a convenient age. But just when you think you’ve identified all the major players in Ballet Austin — which opens its holiday treat, “The Nutcracker,” on Dec. 8 — myriad new faces joins the familiar ones onstage.

Already this season, veteran ballet watchers have noted a spate of younger talent on the Long Center stage. Now you can catch all of them through Dec. 23 because, for “The Nutcracker,” it’s all feet on deck.

PHOTOS: Ballet Austin’s ‘The Nutcracker’ through the years

Often a major role will be played by multiple dancers over the course of a long run. Watch for the relative newcomers during the Christmas party scene in Act 1, or dancing through snowflake magic as part of the corps de ballet later in the same act, or playing featured roles during the divertissements — the always diverting specialty dances — in Act 2. And elsewhere.

Some of these dancers are newly minted members of the main company; others serve in Ballet Austin II, the group’s farm team, as it were.

Now, we are not talking about the darling tots who hide under Mother Ginger’s huge skirt or play with gifts while teasing each other during the party sequence. These are professional dancers who have more recently come into the spotlight. Let’s introduce a few …

Natasha Davison (choreographer, center) and Nick Mayo (director, right) during rehearsals for “The Drowsy Chaperone” at the University of Texas. Contributed by Lawrence Peart

READ FULL “DROWSY CHAPERONE” STORY.

A show within a show, “The Drowsy Chaperone” tests the limits of the musical genre. On one level, it is a celebration of the giddy often mindless musicals of the 1920s. On another, it is a sharp critique of the stereotypes and cultural shorthand of the day.

As such, it makes an ideal candidate for a college musical theater program like the one at the University of Texas that, despite some high points, did not work out and will suspend operations — while Texas State University ramps up its efforts — with this carefully chosen material, while continuing to probe the history of theater for all its shifting meanings.

We asked director Nick Mayo about the musical that plays Dec. 6-10 at the Payne Theatre. Getting into the 1920s spirit of the show, he sent us some telegraphic notes.

Warning: The plot is ridiculously complicated. You see, a musical theater fan called Man in Chair introduces a show within a show called “The Drowsy Chaperone” about a mixed-up wedding that includes gangsters, mistaken identities and exotic locales, all of which infiltrate the Man in Chair’s apartment …

Hurricane Harvey inspires a Broadway response in Houston

Just returned from Houston. My large family’s experience with Hurricane Harvey mirrored the wide range felt by other Houstonians. Some weathered heavy damage; others helped out those in need.

Contributed by UPI

You probably have already seen this video, but at least two of my siblings’ neighborhoods looked a lot like this. Or worse. But how clever of someone to see piles of debris and think of the barricades in “Les Miserables.” This sync is rough, touching, big-hearted and a little fun.

Zilker Theatre’s ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is fun for parents and their munchkins

It’s hard to think of a movie musical more classic or family-friendly than 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz.” The movie, based on writer L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” has proven so popular over the decades that it was adapted into a stage production by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1987.

Andrew Cannata, Hannah Roberts and Jordan Barron perform in “The Wizard of Oz,” the 59th annual Zilker summer musical presented by Zilker Theatre Productions. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The resulting show, with a book by John Kane (adapted from Baum as well as the screenplay by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf), music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, and background music by Herbert Stothart, has since become a standard across the UK and the United States.

PHOTOS: ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at Zilker Hillside Theater

Zilker Theatre Productions’ latest free summer musical, running through Aug. 12 at the Zilker Hillside Theater, is a new production of this version of “The Wizard of Oz.” This is the 59th annual Zilker Summer Musical, and the most expensive show to date, with a great deal of that money clearly going toward creating the magic of Oz as experienced by naïve young Dorothy Gale, a Kansas farm girl transported to the other-dimensional realm via a convenient tornado. Through liberal doses of both theatrical innovation and beautiful carpentry and design, director J. Robert Moore and scenic designer Paul Davis effectively evoke both the plainness of Kansas (pun intended) and the splendor of Oz.

Much like the movie it is based on, Bilker’s “The Wizard of Oz” is long on broad, entertaining character types and short on actual character development. However, the zany antics of Dorothy and her companions (the “brainless” Scarecrow, “heartless” Tin Man, and “courageless” Cowardly Lion) play well in the open-air atmosphere of the Zilker Hillside Theater, with its huge, all-ages audience.

The main cast of the show all give big, broad performances that would be over-the-top in a small theater, but work nicely in this context. Andrew Cannata, Jordan Barron and Kirk Kelso, as the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, respectively, are vaudevillian in their physical comedy and banter, while Emily Perzan’s Wicked Witch delights more in being comedic than overtly scary.

MORE PHOTOS: The Zilker Summer Musical through the years

The production’s Dorothy, Hannah Roberts, is a star on the rise. She embodies the character’s youth and naivety in a charming, guileless manner, a complete turn-around from her delightfully dour portrayal of Wednesday Addams in last year’s Summer Stock Austin production of “The Addams Family.” She only manages to get upstaged by the exuberant full-cast numbers, which inventively feature children as the Munchkins of Oz performing the whimsical choreography of Adam Roberts (who is also the show’s musical director).

Zilker’s production of “The Wizard of Oz goes” beyond the show, itself, in order to create a full night of family entertainment. There are booths and amusements for kids to enjoy before the show, as well as refreshments that can be purchased both ahead of time and at intermission. Remember to bring a blanket and pillows along with some bug spray, and be sure to arrive early to pick out a good spot on the hillside.

MORE SUMMER FUN:

Where to get frozen drinks in Austin

5 hotel pools with passes for free hours for locals

Summer music: All the sounds under the sun, through September