Celebrate Austin Musical Theatre did precisely what it promised to do: Show the city just what a vibrant artistic organization Austin Musical Theatre has been and still is, and how much it has added to Austin's theatrical scene in only six years. The replay of certain standout numbers with the original performers found them just as thrilling without the benefit of dramatic buildup or backing from Christopher McCollum's brilliant sets: Annaliese van der Pol and Kevin Early teasing each other through Oklahoma!'s "People Will Say We're in Love"; Armen Dirtadian reprising Fiddler on the Roof's "If I Were a Rich Man" with wry shrugs; Leslie Stevens belting out Sweet Charity's "If They Could See Me Now" with a grin as broad and bright as the Paramount marquee; LuAnn Aronson radiant as she once more made My Fair Lady's "I Could Have Danced All Night" a hymn of rapture.
And it wasn't just the guest artists who delivered the excitement; Austin's own electrified the crowd as much as anyone, whether it was Alex Rollins returning to Oliver! with his sweet rendition of "Where Is Love?" or Marita Stryker serving up a gorgeously affecting version of "Children Will Listen" from Into the Woods or Sandy Walper taking over the stage with a brassy reading of Follies' "Broadway Baby." Greg Holt proved a movingly tortured Nazarene in the Gethsemane solo from Jesus Christ Superstar, the AMT Junior Company glittered with talent, with Emily Vanover's "I Wanna Be a Rockette" delivering a terrific kick and Marlow Moore's "NYC" raising honest-to-gosh goosebumps, and AMT founders Scott Thompson and Richard Byron damn near stole the show with a comical tip of the top hat to their company's financial woes, "Poor Penniless Bums." The revue, which tore through 75 songs in two-and-a-half hours, contained enough onstage wonders to fill a season at most theatres. It's difficult to imagine anyone seeing it and not believing that Austin Musical Theatre doesn't deserve to survive.
And yet it appears Celebrate Austin Musical Theatre may have been the final curtain for AMT. The company cannot continue as it was, so there it goes. But waiting in the wings is a new company, still dedicated to the production of musicals and still headed by Byron and Thompson, but with an amended mission and new name. At the final performance of the celebratory revue, Thompson announced that AMT was becoming Broadway Texas, a change that reflects the organization's new interest in touring productions across the state -- a move with which producer Charles Duggan can offer some assistance -- and in developing new works for the stage, including musicals that it might send to Broadway and possibly even straight plays. The company is already talking to producers and presenters about a Texas tour as soon as this fall. Don't worry that the kids will be left behind in the move. The academy that has done so much to nurture young talent will reopen soon, with a spring-break camp for children ages 5-12 and a full-length musical to be produced this summer. For more information on Broadway Texas, call 428-9696.
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