This will be a busy week in the Brazos Valley theater world, with a huge MSC OPAS production spread over three nights and opening nights for The Theatre Company and Unity Theatre in Brenham. The productions at both of those area theaters run three weeks, so there will plenty of time to see everything.
And, This Is Water Theatre continues to go out in style with ongoing performances of The Undertaking. Stage Center continues its run of the fabulous Play It Again, Sam, while Navasota Theatre Alliance enters its second week of The Psychic.
We'll take the shows in the order of their opening nights.
All That Jazz
Chicago is such a wonderful musical that it just may play forever -- and for three big nights this week, it will bring All That Jazz to Rudder Auditorium.
The final MSC OPAS Ann Cobb Wiatt Main Stage production of the current season, Chicago will play Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. nightly. This is a show you don't want to miss.
Tickets range from $30 to $77 nightly. They are available at the MSC Box Office on the first floor of Rudder Auditorium, by calling 845-1234 or online at www.MSCOPAS.org.
Chicago is the longest running musical in Broadway history, and it is easy to see why. With music by the legendary John Kander and lyrics by the equally legendary Fred Ebb, Chicago tells the rollicking story of housewife and nightclub dancer Roxie Hart, who kills her lover after he threatens to walk out. To avoid seemingly inevitable conviction, Hart hires the best criminal lawyer she can find to dupe the media -- and through them, the public -- as well as Velma Kelly, her cell mate who is jealous of Roxie stealing the spotlight from her.
Chicago is based on a play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, who covered the 1924 trials of accused murderers Beulah Annan -- the model for Roxie Hart -- and Belva Gaertner -- the model for Velma Kelly -- for the Chicago Tribune. Both women were acquitted.
With its book by Ebb and, well, legendary choreographer-director Bob Fosse, Chicago opened in 1975 and ran for 936 performances. Its original cast included Gwen Verdon -- then Fosse's wife -- Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach.
In 1996, 17 years after the original production closed, Chicago was revived on Broadway and still is running today. Ann Reinking based her choreography of the revival on the original work by Fosse.
Among the great songs in the show are All That Jazz, Cell Block Tango, When You're Good to Mama, Mr. Cellophane, Razzle Dazzle and Hot Honey Rag. They are all based on the Vaudeville music of the 1920s. The only question will be which one you will be humming when you leave Rudder Auditorium.
Over the years, the revival has attracted numerous well-known performers who have joined the cast for a month or two, including Brooke Shields, Sofia Vergara, Usher, Brandy, Charlotte d'Amboise, Michael C. Hall, Jerry Springer -- yes, that Jerry Springer -- NeNe Leakes, Patrick Swayze, Rita Wilson, Alan Thicke, Melanie Griffith, Taye Diggs, John O'Hurley, Ashlee Simpson, Adam Pascal, Wendy Williams, Jennifer Nettles, Marilu Henner, Mel B. and Christie Brinkley.
The version playing at Texas A&M for three nights this week stars Dylis Croman -- who has starred in Chicago for more than a decade -- as Roxie Hart, Erra C. MacLeod as Velma Kelly, Jeff McCarthy as the slick lawyer Billy Flynn, Jennifer Fouché as Matron Mama Mabel Morton, and Paul Vogt as "Mr. Cellophane" Amos Hart, Roxie's almost forgotten husband. All of them have extensive Broadway résumés.
The original version of Chicago was nominated for 11 Tonys, losing all, including Best Musical to A Chorus Line, which would have a long life of its own. The 1996 revival was better received, earning eight Tony nominations, winning for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for James Naughton, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for Bebe Neuwirth, Best Direction of a Musical for Walter Bobbie, Best Choreography for Ann Reinking and Best Lighting Design for Ken Billington. It also received the Grammy for Best Musical Cast Recording.
Chicago is a show you won't want to miss. Get your tickets now. You had it coming.
Marriages change as they age, often turning from passionate to comfortable. Joe and Becky Foster have been married for almost 30 years and, for Becky, her life has become a boring routine, at home and at her job as office manager at a new car dealership.
But her life is headed for change when Walter Flood, a recently widowed billboard magnate looking to purchase nine new cars for his employees. He asks Becky for her help and comes to believe that she, too, is widowed. The two begin a relationship as Becky envisions a new, more exciting, life. She lies to Joe about why she is gone so often. Her life totters on the brink of collapse, but which way will she fall?
That is the premise of Becky's New Car, a delightful and moving blend of comedy and drama written by Steven Dietz opening a three-week run at Brenham's Unity Theatre on Thursday. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through May 6.
All tickets are $27 except on Thursday's opening night, when all seats are $19. They are available at the box office in the theater lobby at 300 Church St. in Brenham. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays and 90 minutes prior to each performance. Tickets also may be purchased with a credit card by calling 979-830-8358 or online at unitybrenham.org.
Any seats unsold 15 minutes before each performance are available at the ticket window for $15 on a first-come basis.
Kate Revnell-Smith, Unity's artistic director, said, "I have had this play on my radar for several years and have been wanting to produce it since I first read it.
"We read the play aloud in our monthly play reading club last year and had a wonderful discussion about it which was most helpful to me.
She said, "It is a different format than our usual play -- there's some audience participation and the audience is addressed directly throughout the play.
"I love the humanity of the piece; it is a comedy but it's also about reaching a point in our lives, which I think a lot of people can relate to, when we think about the road not travelled, what if I'd chosen a different life for myself? The character Becky is given that opportunity which starts her on a journey of discovery."
Lisa Thomas plays Becky, Mark Roberts plays her husband Joe, Gabriel Regojo plays her son Chris and Heidi Hinkel plays his girlfriend Kenni. Tom Prior, a member of Actor's Equity, plays Becky's workmate Steve, Jim Salners plays the socially awkward millionaire Walter and Leslie Wood plays Ginger.
Julia Traber directs Becky's New Car. Set design is by Ryan McGettigan, costume design by Kerry Bechtel, lighting design by David Gipson and sound design by Shawn St. John. Production stage manager is Alan Will and our assistant stage manager is Tam Trevino.
Playwright Dietz has authored numerous plays that have become a staple of regional theaters throughout America. In 2010, he was listed eighth on the list of Top Ten Most Produced Playwrights in America -- excluding William Shakespeare, who truly is in a category by himself -- tied with Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee for the number of productions. He has taught play writing and directing at The University of Texas for the past 12 years.
Brenham is a short drive from Bryan-College Station and the drive gives you the chance to see the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes.
A really 'Big' show
Many of us remember fondly the 1988 Penny Marshall film Big, in which a 12-year-old boy makes a wish to a antique fortune-teller machine to be big. He goes to bed one night as a boy and wakes up the next morning as a 30-year-old adult. After the transformation, he realizes being an adult isn't all it is cracked up to be. Who can forget the delight of watching stars Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia dancing on a giant piano keyboard?
The joy of that movie has been turned into a Broadway musical, Big, which opens a three-week run at The Theatre Company in Bryan Friday night. Performances are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through May 6.
Tickets are $7 to $20 and are available online at www.theatrecompany.com or at the box office one hour before performances.
The 1996 musical features music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. Susan Stroman, who has won four Tonys for her choreography and Best Director for The Producers, choreographed Big the Musical.
At The Theatre Company, Matthew Winn stars as the young Josh Baskin, with Dustin Bartee -- a Theatre Company newcomer -- portrays the adult Josh. Other in the cast include Gigi Greene, Daniel Hill, Jackson Petty, Nicole Gordon, Michael Prince, Lauren Moore, Susan Moore, Macie Steer, Harrison Bradford, Chaz Macklin, John McMullen, David Manuel, Taylor Christenson, Becky Dickson, Andrew Armstrong, Rick Price, Hannah Price, Hanna Prince, Zack Brattin, Corey Barron, Camilla Busselberg, Abigail Dye, Lucas Dickson, Lily Van Zandt, Deacon Bartee, Phoebe Bartee, Shiloh Bartee, Henry Bradford, Will Bradford, Asher Hinton, Kate Moore, Susan Moore, Declan Topf, Ryan Topf, and Gabrielle Woods.
Theatre Company Artistic Director Adrienne Dobson directs Big the Musical. Producer is Gary Thomas and the always reliable Beth Akin is stage manager. Cynthia Bradford is music director and Carrie Murawski is choreographer. Becky Dickson is costume designer, assisted by Susan Harty and Karen Winn; costumers are Hayley Cochran, Luis Codiz, Donna Fos, Mary Fos, Linda Hale, Karen Kullman, Tammy Lang, Linda Larson, Jennifer Moore, Terry Noack, Misti Steer, Erin Topf, Shannon Van Zandt.
Woody Lee is light designer, Camilla Busselberg is set designer and Luke Ruatta handles sound. Set construction is by Rich Bradford, Zack Brattin and Morgan Wang, with piano construction by Alan Bryant and Roger Pine and props by Taylor Christenson and Keith Owen.
Underwriters are the lifeblood of any community theater and Big the Musical has a host of them. John and Emily Jordan are show underwriters, while the Kilgore Group -- Mike and Daniela Kilgore -- are orchestra underwriters. The Rooney family is underwriting the costumes. Beal & Winn Insurance -- Andy & Karen Winn -- and Jeff and Becky Dickson are underwriting the sets. Cathy and Dale Bush and Andy and Gracie Hinton are underwriting marketing. Alan Bryant, who takes the wonderful photos for both The Theatre Company and StageCenter, is technical underwriter.
A new exhibit featuring maps from the earliest days of Texas opens Friday at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Texas A&M.
Mapping Texas: From Frontier to the Lone Star State will feature maps from 1513 to 1957. The maps are high-quality reproductions from the collections of the Texas General Land Office and Houstonians Frank and Carol Holcomb.
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush said, "This exhibit is the result of the great work of the staff of the Texas General Land Office and the Bush Presidential Library.
"As the custodian of the GLO's Archives, I am proud of the work we do every day to protect and share our state's rich history, but I am especially proud both personally and professionally to be able to share this magnificent collection to those visiting the library that celebrates my grandfather's legacy as a Texan and the 41st president."
The earliest map in the exhibit is Martin Waldseemüller's 1513 Tabula Terre Nove, one of the earliest maps of the Americas. Also included are Alexander Von Humboldt's 1809 General Map of the Kingdom of New Spain, which was highly influential in the mapping of Texas and the American West, and Stephen F. Austin's 1837 Connected Map of Austin's Colony, which is more than 14 feet long.
The Bush Presidential Museum and Library is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturday and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and retired military and $3 for youth and college students not from Texas A&M or Blinn College, who are admitted free, as are active-duty military and up to five family members.
Our wonderful Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History will offer 10 different youth camps -- most lasting a week -- this summer. Families can register for one or more of the first nine weekly camps. Theme for the final week, Aug. 13-17, is Pollinator Pals, and registration is by the day.
The camps will make use of museum classrooms, the Discovery Room, museum galleries, and a 40-acre park. Camps are grouped by age to enhance children's learning experience. To ensure personalized instruction, classes are grouped kept small, with a teacher to student ratio of 1:10.
Registration for museum members has begun. Open registration begins May 1.
The schedule is:
• Spy Camp, June 4-8
• Kingdom of Animals, June 11-15
• Dinosaurs Rock!, June 18-22
• The Human Body, June 24-29
• Life on the Brazos, July 2-6
• Backyard Bugs, July 16-20
• Life Aquatic, July 23-27
• Outdoor Adventures, July 30-Aug. 3
• Get Hooked on Pirates, Aug. 6-10
• Pollinator Pals -- Bees, Aug. 13; Hummingbirds, Aug. 14; Bats, Aug. 15; Butterflies, Aug. 16; and Beetles, Aug. 17.
Camps run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.
Camp fees are $155 per week for museum members and $175 for non-members. Fee for each day of the Pollinator Pals final week is $45 for members and $50 for non-members.
Before-camp care from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. runs $25 per week. After-camp care from 3 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. is $50 per week.
The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History is located inside the Brazos Center at 3232 Briarcrest Drive in Bryan.
For more information, call 979-776-2195.
Navasota Theatre Alliance has a few openings remaining for its teen camp for students currently in sixth through 12th grade. The camp will run 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays July 9-20 and 2-4 p.m. on July 22.
The camp will include three public performances of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on July 20 and 21,
Earlene Rainey will direct the camp. Auditions for pre-registered campers will be May 5, starting at 10 a.m.
The summer camp is for students currently in sixth to 12th grade. Cost of the camp is $250 for the first child, with a $25 discount for other participants in the family. A pre-registration form is available at navasotatheatre.org/youthcamps.
More information is available by emailing Rainey at email@example.com or by calling 936-825-3195.
The Rising Stars camp for younger children is full.
• Today through April 29 -- The Psychic, Navasota Theatre Alliance, 104 W. Washington Ave. in downtown Navasota, today, Saturday and April 29 at 2 p.m. and Friday, Saturday, April 26, 27 and 28 at 7 p.m. $7 to $14, available at the door or online at navasotatheatre.org.
• Wednesday through April 29 -- The Undertaking, This Is Water Theatre, starting at Square One Downtown Bryan Event Center, 211 W. William J. Bryan Parkway and moving to four other Downtown locations, 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and April 25,26 and 27 and 2 p.m. April 29. $30 minimum ticket donation, must be ordered at thisiswatertheatre.com by noon before each performance.
• Thursday through Saturday -- Woody Allen's Play It Again, Sam, StageCenter, 201-B W. 26th St. in Downtown Bryan, above Mr. G's Pizza, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., $12 to $15, except on Thursdays, when tickets are $10, available at www.stagecenter.net or at the door.
• Saturday -- Annual Sundown Social sponsored by the Washington on the Brazos State Park Association at Rockin' Star Ranch in Brenham, featuring a steak dinner, cocktails and a performance by singer Dale Watson, 6 p.m. (979-830-1824 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
• May 4-12 -- Willy Wonka jr., Brazos Valley TROUPE. (bvtroupe.com)
• May 5 -- Brazos Civic Orchestra spring concert, Margaret Rudder Theater at Rudder High School in Bryan, 7 p.m.
• Through May 13 -- Joseph Henry Sharp: Visions of the Past, Forsyth Galleries in the Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M, Tuesdays through Fridays 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 6 p.m. Free (uart.tamu.edu)
• Through June 2 -- Bits and Bytes: The Innovation of Home Computers, Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History, 3232 Briarcrest Drive in side the Brazos Center in Bryan, $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, students and children. (www.brazosvalleymuseum.org)
• Every Sunday -- Open mics and poetry slams sponsored by Mic Check Poetry, 8:30 p.m. Revolution Café in Downtown Bryan, (miccheckpoetry.com)
Items for Arts Watch should be emailed to email@example.com. Deadline is noon Tuesday before the weekend you want it to run.