Alamo Aftermath: A Texas Revolution Operetta
Crank Collective's atypical new musical succeeds in sharing a brief Texas history lesson with us
Reviewed by Adam Roberts, Fri., Nov. 15, 2013
City Theatre, 3823-D Airport
Through Nov. 16
Running Time: 50 min.
You've probably already caught the brief running time in the heading above. Alamo Aftermath: A Texas Revolution Operetta could well be the shortest theatrical production performed by adults that I've ever attended, but its duration would be just right for the kinds of venues to which it seems particularly suited: history museums, elementary and middle school classrooms, and reenactment sites.
While City Theatre is none of these, it does offer an appropriately intimate, fertile ground for the debut of Crank Collective's second installment of its Texas History Series (preceded by Cabeza de Vaca: Shipwrecked in Texas this past April and to be followed by Wildcat! this coming May). Aftermath tells the story of José Antonio Menchaca, a Tejano army officer who fought in the Battle of San Jacinto alongside Sam Houston and Juan Seguín, based "partly on Menchaca's memoir and historical documents," according to the Collective's website.
The production "byline" attributes the show's creation to John Cecil (who also serves as producing director) and Crank Collective, so it's difficult to credit the score to a given composer. The music, though frequently lighthearted and accessible to all ages (and accompanied solidly by a live band), does invoke a somewhat confusing mélange of genres – imagine a mash-up of Grease and Hair, with frequent touches of mariachi and old-school Broadway. There's a bit of visual dissonance in play when attempting to match the musical tropes and choreography, but the nice thing is that most of the songs are shortened proportionately to the length of the piece itself. Again, this quality makes Aftermath a perfect candidate for educational outreach departments and initiatives.
As a Midwesterner by provenance, I came to the musical with less knowledge of Texas history than many of my fellow audience members, including my friend, who grew up in Weslaco. But the high school exchange student from Germany who joined us had never even heard of the Alamo, which got us all talking about its special significance in the fabric of our state. We represented three tiers of knowledge regarding the Texas revolution for independence, from the virtually nonexistent to the very familiar. At the end of the event, each of us walked away with something more. Alamo Aftermath may be an atypical musical in most every way and its potential audience decidedly narrow (history buffs and younger students being likely to be most engaged, I wager), but given the mostly steady performances of its leads, the production succeeds in sharing a brief history lesson with us. Hopefully, it will do the same with others in the future.