Although Esther's Follies' variety show of music, magic, and comedy recalls the vaudevillian entertainment of yesteryear (albeit with a more acerbic modern bent), the nostalgia goes beyond just the performances. The longstanding venue and comedy troupe was named after Esther Williams, the Golden Age starlet whose career as a professional swimmer led to numerous iconic MGM films. Posters for several of these pictures are plastered throughout the space, and an undersea mural bustling with brightly-hued coral, kaleidoscopic marine life, and even a Loch Ness monster further contributes to Esther's otherworldly, aquatic theme. The magical environment, along with the shows themselves, have wowed audiences and Austin Chronicle critics alike.
On the production end, Esther's Follies busts guts in record speed with satirical quips on current events; relevant parodies; and high-stepping, fast-paced comedy sketches. Resident magician Ray Anderson keeps things light with levitation illusions known to dazzle crowds. As the Follies cast ignites into choral skewerings of front-page newsmakers, audiences will laugh so hard that giggles come out their noses.
Black Grace fuses contemporary dance with Pacific and Maori styles—forging a new form of movement at once tribal, thundering, energetic, and suffused with raw spirit. Having toured their homeland to sell-out crowds, the dance troupe has also wowed dance fanatics at many of the world's top dance festivals, including the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Mexico’s Cervantino Festival, and the Aichi World Expo. During their Austin performance, Black Grace will perform a three-part program of the best selections from their repertoire. The show begins with Minoi, a fusion of Samoan and western contemporary dance, followed by excerpts from Surface, a full-length piece centered around Samoan tattooing, before closing with choreographer Neil Ieremia's latest full-length opus, Gathering Clouds.
The Dinner Detective eschews campy costumes and plots for an exciting evening of food-accompanied mystery and paranoia, where actors hide among the diners, playing innocent and making everyone a potential suspect. To solve the crime, guests freely interrogate one another, chivvying out clues about the murderer and determining who has a bloodthirsty look in their eyes. Between dramatic deaths and simulated police involvement, guests dig into four-course meals, washed down with bottomless iced tea and drinks from the cash bar. The diner who comes closest to solving the mystery through their snooping goes home with a prize basket to show off to their friends or split with the murderer as per their shadowy conspiracy.
When Felicity Coltman founded it in 1981, the Austin Chamber Music Center's goal was simpler than it is today, yet still ambitious: to create a summer chamber-music workshop for teens. Since then, not only have many alumni gone on to become professional musicians, but the center has expanded into an outreach organization whose concerts and instruction brings chamber music to Austin ears, instruments, and hearts. Adults of similar skill levels gather into small chamber-music groups, whereas youngsters meet with instructors on weekends, during the summer, or in school. Just two years after its founding, the center sent students on two European voyages and hosted musicians from Salzburg, starting an international exchange program that continues today.
In 1988, a unique performance series took form with the center’s Intimate Concerts, which take place in private homes so that audiences can experience the music in a personal way and help their cats learn to read sheet music. Led by artistic director Michelle Schumann the center now holds year-round concerts for a variety of musical tastes, with all programs including live program notes.
Adapted from the popular 1988 film, this vibrant and crowd-pleasing musical follows two con men, Lawrence and Freddy, as they battle over the affections and bank account of Christine Colgate, a beautiful young heiress. Featuring Austin favorite Andrew Cannata as Freddy and an award-winning cast including Joe Penrod, Patty Rowell, and Michelle Cheney, the musical follows the two peddlers as they traipse through the French Riviera, outdueling each other for love of money and the right to pay for the popcorn.
Designed by legendary movie-house architect John Eberson and opened to the public as a vaudeville palace in 1915, the venue enjoyed performances by the likes of Harry Blackstone and Katharine Hepburn in its heyday. But things fell into decline during the 1960s as televisions became commonplace, more people migrated to the suburbs, and the stage’s trapdoor spontaneously grew fangs. The Paramount’s multi-tiered seating and historic ceiling murals languished in the theater’s years to follow as a tragically underused B-movie cinema.
In 1973, three men—John M. Bernardoni, Charles Eckerman, and Stephen L. Scott—formed a corporation with the ultimate goal of rescuing the Paramount, by that time slated for destruction. Soon, live performers were regularly supplementing a classed-up movie schedule, and the stage was graced by such artists as Dave Brubeck and Debbie Allen. The theater’s star rose ever higher in the ‘80s and ‘90s as the curtains introduced the world to such lasting works as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and the Greater Tuna series. Today, the lovingly built and rebuilt artifact is a constant reminder of Austin’s long history of arts appreciation.