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band camp 2008 three: Texas

July 16, 2008

We went to the local outdoor musical yesterday. In the canyon just 8 miles outside of town, there is an amphitheater that has put on a historical musical about the Texas Panhandle in the mid-1800s when families were moving out to the west, looking for a claim to stake, and where cattlemen ruled like kings. It’s been going on for some 50 years. Believe it or not, this musical is called “Texas.” If you didn’t know this by the advertisements and billboards, you’d know by such rousing numbers as “We Invite you all to Come (to Texas),” “Texas Forever” and “Texas, Texas, Texas.”

This used to be a world class performance considering how half the cast and crew is home-grown and usually pretty green. However, having just revived itself from another version of the musical that was less spectacular and less inviting, they had a new cast of actors and dancers. Before, when they ran the original musical and not the less loved “Texas Legacies,” there was a regular set of actors that could be counted on the portray the lovable and boisterous Uncle Henry and Aunt Anna, as well as other lead roles. The dancing was superb, the pyrotechnics were just right, and the music was just one step below amazing, but fun nonetheless.

Last night’s performance featured fresh actors with seemingly little experience. The main role, farmer Calvin Armstrong, has a tonal quality to his voice that led him to deliver lines in near sing-song with a slight upturning at the end of his phrases like question marks. Uncle Henry sounded nearly like a voice over. Elsie, the leading lady and love of Calvin Armstrong, was silly and flamboyant, where before she was proper and reserved, a fitting description of a character meant to have escaped the wilds of the west before, only to return after finding true love in hardship.

One of the local University’s professors, the very school I attended, played Aunt Anna. Dr. Cloyce Kuhnert, while being a very accomplished and deserving vocalist, sings in the mezzo-soprano range normally, and the solo she has about midway through the song has a low, heavy quality and timbre that I don’t find desirable in female vocals. It was a hard sell.

The dancers, while doing fine, and some of them probably being professionals, were lack luster, especially on the women’s side. No snap, as they might say. And the only thing that got great reactions from the audience were the hot kisses and the scene with a burly, bare-chested Calvin Armstrong, which evoked a few choking sounds as the lights came up from black.

Overall, this musical was not the highlight of this band camp day. I hope they improve upon it for next there.

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