Hey! Austin! Look west, to the ‘burbs. There’s competition and quality in Lakeway for area entertainment dollars. Zach Theatre’s “Rockin’ Christmas Party” is not the only holiday stage show worthy of a $30-$56 price tag. Just when you think that this limited black box showcase – snugly ensconced in crowded strip center will be unable to contain a show with this much heart, you’d be wrong. Okay, it’s officially the Kam & James Morris Theater.
“I’ll Be Seeing You, A 1940s Christmas Musical,” now in its second seasonal offering, is somehow bigger, better and classier than the ’08 version. Hat’s off to Todd Dellinger, Exec. Dir. and Robin Lewis, Artistic Dir. (both Cofounders of TexARTS) for smoothly mixing professional singers and actors with 17 bright and talented students from the 620 enrolled at this four-year-old academy for music, theater and dance.
TexARTS has more than 530 registrations to its “Off Broadway Series” and boasts a regular audience nearing 1,000 . . .
. . . patrons per show. It has a $750,000 budget sustaining seven staff members, all those students 50 weeks a year, and a nonprofit that squeaks by on 10% in contributions versus the typical 40%.
And Lewis, a veteran of Broadway Shows, Disney productions, national tours (“The Producers”), regional and Zilker productions, has poured his heart and creativity into the choreography, particularly since he dance many of the numbers – modern, jazz, ballet. And he makes that limited space work.
The show weaves the narratives of two now-grown neighbor children of World War II with letters to and from the home front, with slides, videos and popular holiday tunes of the era. Shelby Davenport and Wendy Zavaleta are the narrators.
And the pro cast will knock your socks off staring with Selena Rosanbalm who wowed me when she had the lead in “Always…Patsy Cline.” Robin sings, but leaves the heavy lifting to en Mayne and Dale Herron, while Amanda Blalock, Leslie Hollingsworth and Wendy are the “Andrew Sisters” and other roles.
Todd wrote, directed and designed the set, while Robin also handled the costumes, and the costumes are stunning, particularly the swimsuits and the showgirls (Erin Erxleben, Kristin Douthit and Jennifer McCamish as the showgirls. Umbrellas, fans, candy canes – minimum props but big effects.
Joyful? Yes? Nostalgic? No question, if you are of a certain age or respectful of history.
Why painful? I had not thought so much about U.S. Navy 3rd Class Baker, Albert M. Kirk and his wartime courage and sacrifice. He passed away 12 years ago. With this show, we “reconnected” in an unexpected, warm and inviting suburban venue.
Preston Kirk, Spicewood TX
Greater Austin Creative Alliance