End of the Road
The jukebox musical A Ride With Bob bridges the gap between Bob Wills, the western-swing pioneer from near Kosse, and Ray Benson, the Austin bandleader of Asleep at the Wheel, the nine-time Grammy-winning modern-day exemplar of western swing. But after eight years, Benson said there is not enough money to keep the musical going despite receiving rave reviews and even being performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, where it was staged for President George W. Bush in 2006. “I met with Rocco Landesman, the producer who did The Producers, ” Benson said. “He loved the play but said it wasn’t a Broadway product because we’ve got too many people.” The show, which has a cast of two dozen, is an imagined conversation between Benson and Wills that reveals a historically accurate account of the “whole emergence of Texas from an agrarian, rural place to this modern state that we are today.” It is also a character sketch of Wills —the Elvis Presley of the thirties and forties —who was a binge drinker and a Hollywood actor who was married many times. “He was an outrageous character,” Benson said. “In the day of the big bands, the singer would sit onstage and croon. But Bob strutted around like a peacock and made Mick Jagger look tame.”
Zach Theatre, February 20-24, zachtheatre.org
Drinking With Protagonists
The Orange Blossoms that will be served at “Drinking by the Book: Cocktails and Character Formation in 20th-Century American Literature” will most likely be refreshing until Joanna O’Leary, the host of the program, asks everyone, “Do you know that this is the cocktail of a cold-blooded killer?” The drink—gin mixed with orange juice and sweet vermouth, and served in a chilled glass—is a refined version of the one favored by Dick and Perry, the murderers in Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood. O’Leary, a Ph.D. candidate in English literature at Rice University who writes about food and drink for the Houston Press, will use the cocktails to illustrate “the idea of creating an individual, signature drink, and how it defines the drinker who buys it,” like Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye, who drank scotch and soda despite being underage, and the ensemble cast of The Great Gatsby, whose Roaring Twenties environment was fueled by alcohol.
Rienzi, February 21, 6:30 p.m., mfah.org
Until recently, Mike Tyson had been remembered mostly for a rape conviction and for biting off Evander Holyfield’s ear—not for being the former heavyweight champ who went 37-0 before Buster Douglas beat him. But then he redeemed himself somewhat as the subject of the 2008 documentary Tyson and with his cameo in The Hangover . Now there is Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, his one-man Broadway show, directed by Spike Lee and written by his wife, Kiki Tyson. Tyson has been praised for his combustible humor, but the show has been criticized for lacking structure and for allowing Tyson to spend too much time defending his past sins. But with a new 31-city tour that passes through Grand Prairie (and then Houston), it would seem the show has been honed and Tyson is back in fighting shape.
Verizon Theatre, February 19, 7 p.m., tysonontour.com
Those who live in the greater Panhandle can be typecast as having a simple approach to life, but some interesting natives, including the writer George Saunders and the musician Buddy Holly, turn that stereotype on its head. There are also the lesser-known champions of culture, like Lucille Nance, whose penchant for collecting historical art, in particular eigtheenth-century Rococo, is presented in the exhibition “Collecting Art History: Taste on the Southern Plains.” For one final weekend, visitors can see the pieces that Nance used to decorate her and her husband’s home on their Randall County ranch, creating a wonderland of enlightenment for their cowboy visitors and spawning a cadre of West Texas art collectors.
Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, February 15-16, 9 a.m., panhandleplains.org
Shout It Out
Break out in a sweat about religion at “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” the interactive workshop on the highly emotional African-American forms of music—spirituals, gospel, and “calls-and-shouts”—that were born in the fields and the churches, and provided the soundtrack for the Civil Rights movement.
University Presbyterian Church, February 17, 3 p.m., upcsa.org
The Austin rock band Shearwater performed 200 shows last year in support of its breakout album, Animal Joy, playing increasingly louder sets, which will climax with the tour finale at the Parish—which Jonathan Meiburg, the band’s frontman, calls his “favorite-sounding room in town.”
The Parish, February 16, 10 p.m., shearwatermusic.com