HOUSTON - Out with the old, in with the new. On Saturday, May 31, Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) will celebrate the end of its 30th season with a fundraising party, as it does every year. This shindig, however, will be all the more festive since the Music Hall, which TUTS has called home since 1972, is being torn down. Mixing nostalgia with anticipation, TUTS' 1998 gala is called "The Wrecking Ball: A Real Blast." Proceeds will support TUTS' various ongoing education and outreach programs. Built as a WPA project in 1936, the Hall will be replaced, on the same site, by the $75 million state-of-the-art Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Completion is set for 2002.
During its four years of homelessness, TUTS will continue to offer full seasons of Broadway-type musicals out-of-pocket at various Houston venues. About the only change in how TUTS does its show business, at least so far, is that starting next season the troupe will alter its scheduling, mounting its musicals on a calendar year instead of from fall to spring. After TUTS' 1998 summer offerings, the next production will be early 1999.
TUTS' 1998 summer offerings begin June 30 - July 12, at the Wortham Center, with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, starring David Osmond in the title role, a part he recently understudied for his uncle Donny in a limited tour. Broadway veteran Jodi Benson plays the narrator and Osmond's brothers appear as half of the fraternal order. July 12 - August 2, also at the Wortham, brings Lerner and Loewe's final collaboration, Camelot, with Robert Goulet assuming the throne. August 13 - 30, again at the Wortham, unmasks the world premiere of Zorro the Musical. The adaptation, by TUTS resident lyricist and dramaturge Jim Bernhard, is based on the magazine serial "The Curse of Capistrano" by Johnston McCulley and uses compositions from the likes of Beethoven, Bizet and Brahms, Wagner, Offenbach and Puccini to tell the swashbuckling tale. Yet to be determined is the traditional free summertime musical at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park, July 15 -25.
One of TUTS' 1997 - 1998 shows was Lionel Bart's Oliver! and "The Wrecking Ball: A Real Blast" does, in fact, feature, "Food, Glorious Food." Buffet stations, created by Melange Catering, will be theme presentations celebrating classic musicals. Attendees can also dance to favorite Broadway tunes by Ned Battista's Dance Orchestra, the maestro having wielded the baton for many TUTS shows in the past. A raffle will give away a one-of-a-kind quilt stitched with TUTS memories. A silent auction will be held. Among the lots are trips to Hollywood, with a star-studded party on the itinerary, and to France, with accommodations at Leslie Caron's bed-and-breakfast, Lucarne Aux Chouettes. Also up for bid: fragments of the Music Hall stage, signed by stars who have performed on it, including Houston's own Tommy Tune, Howard Keel, and Robert Goulet, Jean Stapleton, Marie Osmond, and Ruth Buzzi. An historic lobby exhibit of TUTS' memorabilia and Music Hall artifacts will be on display. The evening's explosive finale is an outdoor fireworks display that will symbolically bring down the house that was the Music Hall.
Depending upon the significance of the contributions, perks include Playbill listings to a personal star dressing room for the evening to an invitation to detonate the fireworks explosion. But the biggest bang for the biggest buck will be a mention in a "Broadway Melody" written especially for TUTS by Bernhard and performed by the orchestra along with TUTS founder, president and CEO Frank Young. A bound and signed copy, as well as a tape of the performance, will be provided. "The Wrecking Ball: A Real Blast," TUTS' 1998 gala, occurs on May 31. For tickets, starting at $250 per person up to $10,000 per sponsorship table for 10, call (713) 558-2600 ext. 4013
By Peter Szatmary