Broadway comes to Austin

Amanda Weston

          Austin citizens and Cedar Park students got a taste of Broadway this year by seeing one of the many traveling shows performed at Bass Concert Hall. This was the first year that the hall featured performances after a $14.7 million renovation. Improvements to the 3,000 seat theatre included state-of-the-art acoustics, an expanded five-story lobby and atrium, new sidewalks, flooring, décor and a sixth-floor outside deck overlooking the University of Texas campus.

     “I loved [the hall]. It had really great sound.” said Jerry Blake, CPHS theatre director.

     A few of the shows that performed at the hall were Monty Python’s Spamalot, Rent and Wicked. Monty Python’s Spamalot is the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they search for the Holy Grail complete with killer rabbits, French guards and nefarious knights. The show’s music was written by Eric Idle, John Du Prez and Neil Innes and opened on Broadway in February 2005. The Broadway show is “lovingly ripped off” from the popular 1975 motion picture. Spamalot played at Bass Concert Hall from March 10 to 15 and performed a total of eight shows.

     “We could get tickets at the school, and [Spamalot] looked funny,” said Jeff Labaume, senior. “My favorite part was the knights who say ‘ni.’ It was hilarious.”

     The Cedar Park High School Thespian Troupe went as a group to see Wicked in August and Spamalot in March. Many who saw shows waited outside the stage doors afterwards to meet the actors.  These lucky theater-goers walked away with autographs and pictures from the cast.

     Billed as “the untold story of the witches of Oz,” Wicked also played at Bass this summer. The show is based on the novel by Gregory Maguire and the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.  The play follows the lives of Elphaba, later known as the Wicked Witch of the West, and Galinda, later known as Glinda the Good Witch, as they meet at Shiz University. The two characters become friends and uncover the secrets of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The show opened on Broadway in October 2003 and won three Tony Awards, six Drama Desk Awards and four Outer Critics Awards. It played at Bass Concert Hall from August 12 to 30.

     “I thought ‘oh my goodness. This is going to be amazing. Why did I wait so long?’” said Blake. “[The show] takes so much commitment, dedication and talent. And it’s remarkable because they have to travel. The quality is comparable to Broadway.”

     Another popular show with students was Rent. The show chronicles a year in the lives of several bohemian New Yorkers as they fall in love, encounter tragedy and overcome obstacles. With music written by Jonathan Larson, the show opened in January 1996 and received many Best Musical awards from the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Tony Awards, Drama Desk Awards, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Awards. The musical was adapted into a film in 2005 that featured members of the original Broadway cast. The show played at Bass Concert Hall from May 12 to 17.

     Shows scheduled to run later this year include Spring Awakening, The Color Purple, Fiddler on the Roof, In the Heights and A Chorus Line. Many teachers and students look forward to the coming shows and can’t wait to see more of Broadway in Austin.