Red, Hot & Soul for Zach Theatre, Wildflower Gala, Spring Day Hiking and more

Ariel Monte and Kuro Tawil at Zach Theatre's Red, Hot & Soul
Ariel Monte and Kuro Tawil at Zach Theatre’s Red, Hot & Soul

ARTS: Let’s not bury the lead: Jennifer Holliday will top the cast of “Sophisticated Ladies.” The casting of Broadway’s original Dreamgirl for this summer’s run of the Duke Ellington revue was announced by Dave Steakley at Zach Theatre‘s Red, Hot & Soul gala. That was far from all. Andrew Rannells, who played the title character in Zach’s staging of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” then later played the same role on Broadway, returned to sing several show tunes, including “I Believe” from the musical “The Book of Mormon.” He originated the role of Price on Broadway. Nicholas Rodriguez and Kenny Williams, also Zach vets who went on to national careers, sang several numbers, while oft-co-stars Jill Blackwood and Matthew Redden previewed a selection from next season’s “Mary Poppins,” alongside members of Zach’s young company, which also entertained during dinner in the tent named for party diva Bobbi Topfer. Outsized table centerpieces and other decor by David Kurio along with catering from the Four Seasons Hotel played on the event’s Sophisticated Ladies theme. Let’s just call Red, Hot & Soul, all-round, the most entertaining benefit in town.

Catherine Robb with a Houston friend at Wildflower Gala
Catherine Robb with a Houston friend at Wildflower Gala

NATURE 1: It’s often the most blissful evening of the social season. When the weather cooperates. And this year the Wildflower Gala was glorious. Our wet winter turned the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center grounds into fields of vivid dreams. Guests didn’t want to leave the winding paths, especially the ones through the new hands-on Luci and Ian Family Garden. After viewing artwork up for a silent auction, we sat down for another flawless Four Seasons Hotel meal. Almost alone among Austin’s scores of galas, this one comes with a minimum of speeches. All the better to chat in depth with your table mates. Luckily, I landed between photographer Nancy Scanlan and attorney Becky Beaver, who wove a web of stories that carried me into the beatific night.

Trail in Mary Moore Searight Park
Trail in Mary Moore Searight Park

NATURE 2: Former ranch land makes for ideal day hiking. Austin is blessed with many parks. Some of them are rather neglected. But that should not surprise anyone. By the most conservative estimates, it would take many hundreds of millions of dollars to bring them all up to our high standards. For a larger city chunk of land, Mary Moore Searight Metropolitan Park gets almost everything right. Located off Slaughter Lane, it includes sports fields, picnic areas and open spaces, but also nice series of trails through wooded brakes. The wide, well-tended main trail creates a natural mile-long starter loop, leading from a trailhead at the main parking area, but there are many others, including one right along Slaughter Creek. It’s a gem.

HUMOR: John Kelso knows how to handle the Jade Helm theorists. Taken from his column in the Statesman: “Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I’m Group Cmdr. J. Garfield Kelso, and I’m here today to answer your questions about our upcoming Jade Helm 15military exercise. I understand fear has been spreading online about the nature of our mission here in Bastrop County. So let’s get started. Fire away.  The lady in the back row with the fierce face: What’s your question? You want to know if we have any plans to take away your gums? No. At this time, the federal government has no plans to remove, molest, disturb, pester or otherwise mess with anyone’s gums. If you’re having problems with your gums, ma’am, I’d recommend flossing or seeing your … Oh, you said guns. No, we have no plans to take your guns. We don’t need your stinking guns. We’ve got our own guns, and we figure our guns are better than your guns. We didn’t have to go to a gun show out at the rodeo barn to get our guns.”

CITY: So it turns out we don’t exactly have the fourth worst traffic after all. Taken from W. Gardner Selby‘s PolitiFact column: “Traffic in Austin is so awful, Mayor Steve Adler declared, there’s less congestion in the Big Apple. Adler, speaking to the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, said: “We have gone from being the 24th most congested city just about 10 years ago to being the fourth most congested — more congested than NYCIs all of that so? To our inquiry, mayoral aide Jim Wick said that Adler relied on traffic scorecards for various years put out by INRIX, a company that says it analyzes real-time traffic conditions as part of its focus on “understanding the science of traffic.” In the latest INRIX scorecard, Wick noted, Austin landed fourth in traffic congestion and New York fifth. But …”

Author: Michael Barnes

Michael Barnes writes about Austin's people, places, culture and history for the Austin American-Statesman and

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