the wife and i went to visit some old friends last night. it's been a few years since we've spent time with Calvin Armstrong and Elsie McLean, Uncle Henry and Aunt Anna McLean, Tucker Yelldell and Kate Lucas and Parmalee Flynn, Dave Newverry and the talented cast and crew of the musical, "Texas". the "story" relates the trials of settling this vast and empty land. it is a tale of sacrifice, of a vision for what could be and the hard working men and strong women who persevered to overcome the obstacles the harsh and uncompromising land presented and the roadblocks stubborn, headstrong characters placed in the way of the realization of those dreams.
locals seldom visit the play, which is staged in the magnificence of the palo duro canyon, unless visitors from out of town come 'round during the summer months. "Texas" is always a good bet to fill a pleasant evening when comapny comes to call. with the canyon as a backdrop, taking in the play can be a fun, awe inspring way to make their visit a-one.
we've not had anyone passing through for some years. the kids are scattered to the winds. with a burn ban on across the state we thought we'd check out the new "water show" put in place of the traditional fireworks display staged at the end of each performance. i'm a sucker for fireworks but the new addition was pretty cool, featuring red, white and blue colored water jetting high into the panhandle night. the six flags of Texas raced from left to right, held high by mounted horsemen. A rider brought Old Glory onstage, the cast and audience sang "America the Beautiful". Not fireworks, but still a nice way to finsih off the evening.
whether it's you first time, or you've seen "Texas" before, folks let me tell you, a visit with this cast of characters is like connecting with good friends you've not seen in years. it's comfortable, easy, picking up again like it was only esterday. there has been changes in the staging since we last saw the play; back then, they had added real flames to the "fire dance" scene. this year they've taken that idea a step further, adding a stunt actor engulfed in real fire. Yikes!!
to start the evening, we chose to partake of the steak dinner catered by the Big Texan Steak Ranch. It was not a great meal, although i have to give credit to the BTSR, or the production staff, for serving watermelon and grapes on the salad bar. what a sneaky, but delicious, way to get a bit of extra hydration into their guests, particularly in light of the 90+ temp at show time. Still my preference would have been to have a pre-show dinner from yesteryear i.e. some of that great Sutphen's barbecued beef, potato salad and Sutphen's signature coleslaw, with cobbler for dessert. Now that was some good eatin'.
speaking of connecting with old friends, we got to visit for a few minutes with Vince Hernandez, now executive director of the texas panhandle heritage foundation and we visited a bit with Shelley Cunningham after the show. we had a ton of fun playing with them both in shows at the amarillo college summer arts festival lo so many years ago. if only we'd had more time with them to catch up.
in all, it was a good eveing. the threat of rain remained at bay making way for the storm staged with "lightning" against the canyon walls and the symphony of a real thunderstorm recorded right there in the canyon. the lightning strike splitting the tree at the end of the first act remains a highlight.
it was not the same show we've seen in the past, but like a new bride in taking something borrowed and something new, when the two are combined it makes for a grand night in the palo duro under a panhandle sky so starry you could almost reach out and scoop up a hatful. aio