San Antonio, Texas
by Jerri Starbuck(photos by Michael Amico)
Surprisingly, JLO has not had many tours considering she’s one of the top selling artists (selling over 80 million albums). It’s her first tour in 6 years and perfect timing for the San Antonio tour stop -and it was a special one. Not only is it JLo’s 50th birthday in July, but the city has a large latin presence and a huge fan base.
From the start, the vibe was a complete Vegas-style party with full DJ- and all glitz and glam. Openers World of Dance (Lopez stars and produces) dancers were absolutely phenomenal. The opening to Lopez was the DJ “Go Shorty, it’s your birthday” (50 Cent) to get everyone in the birthday party mood. Lopez descended in a tiered bling chandelier dressed in all crystal bling (and boots) singing “Medicine” with full amusement park carousel and then trombone section dancing along with her—- the choreography was flawless with dancers in precision dressed in all white.
(photos by Michael Amico)
One of the crowd’s favorite moments was her tribute to Texas native Selena. “Whenever I get to Texas I remember the beautiful time I spent here doing the movie Selena.” Lopez sang Selena’s “Yes Once/Si Una Vez” in Spanish to great applause (Lopez’s big break came when she portrayed the famous Tejana singer who’s life was cut short by tragedy). She wore a gorgeous red gown and was suspended and appeared to be floating. The video production on the screen was breathtaking with gorgeous, sensual shots of Lopez.
She topped off this portion of the set by singing briefly with daughter Emme during “Limitless” and yes her daughter can sing and she is beautiful and looks like her. It was a sweet special moment and one of the night’s highlights. One wonders if Emme is destined to follow in her mom’s footsteps.
(photos by Michael Amico)
The set list seamlessly tied epic hit songs like “Love Don’t Cost a Thing”, “Jenny From the Block”, “If You Had My Love”, “Waiting For Tonight”, and more with newer ones. At times the show is nonstop, hit after hit, with a few built-in breathers for her costume changes. The killer finale was one of the best you’ll see all year with “Waiting For Tonight”, “Dance Again”, and “On the Floor” complete with perfectly planned 80’s throwback neon spandex bodysuits and tights (think Jane Fonda and Madonna). She came out briefly for a one-song encore of “Dance Again” dressed as a Vegas showgirl with full feathers (a nod to her recent residency).
JLo has been a style queen forever and this show did not disappoint. There were all the big designers including Versace, Marchesa, Guess, Jebron, and others. She had a bling cane, bling mic and bling hat and water bottle. The fashion and style were a huge highlight for the show and an amazing feat by her stylist Rob Zangardi. We read there were 19 costume changes for Lopez plus 176 for the dancers and band. Bling is the theme of the night; she loves some sparkle. We read that the Swarovski crystal count tops one million including a dazzling piano and giant chandelier also blanketed in bling.
The entire production was off the charts including major pyro moments during her songs at the piano. Tons of pink smoke pyro too. There was a cool floating round stage that all the dancers and her had to time their choreography around and at other times it dropped below the stage. Other parts of the set were birthday-party focused with tons of balloons, huge life-size bday cake, and DJ party grooves – of course focused on her big 50th birthday coming July 24th.
(photos by Michael Amico)
Lopez is known for some of the best lyrics- one of our faves -“Don’t be fooled by the rock that I got , I’m still Jenny from the block!” -got a huge crowd reaction during the set. “We had to show the children how we use to play when we were kids”! We love that she included several covers of top artists today like Drake, Sara Bareilles, David Guetta, and more, and made them her own.
JLo engaged the audience from start to finish including shaking hands, reading signs, and talking to them often. A surprise of the night was when she brought a guy on stage on his birthday who got to sit in a chair center stage with dancing girls and yes, lap dances and then JLO surprising him from behind during hit song “If You Had My Love”, up close and personal. He had a huge grin the whole time and this will be a night he will remember the rest of his life.
Part show-stopping concert and part birthday party, Lopez also included important messages of inspiration to the crowd with words of wisdom of overcoming life’s obstacles and hard times and believing in yourself. She proved why she is the icon she is today and one of the top shows of the year.
Love Don’t Cost a Thing
I’m Into You
Waiting for Tonight
I’m Real / All I Have / Feelin’ So Good / Ain’t It Funny
Jenny From the Block
Baby I Love U!
Hold It Don’t Drop It
Starting Over / I’m Glad / Secretly
If You Had My Love
Until It Beats No More
Let’s Get Loud
On the Floor
(Nik Walker, photo by Joan Marcus)
The long wait is over- Austin fans can finally see Hamilton- one of the top musicals in history -some say the best of all time-winning countless awards around the world including Tony Awards and Pulitzer Prize. Lin-Manuel Miranda is now a household name for bringing modern pop culture into historical theater. It’s broken rules, boundaries and records. For the last few years, people outside of NYC and Broadway couldn’t fathom actually seeing the buzz-worthy show in person. Even in New York, tickets were scarce and often resale prices were in the thousands and out of reach for most. Yes it is worth the price and lives up to all the hype.
(Joseph Morales photo by Joan Marcus)
The entire ensemble was brilliant in acting and choreography. Morales is flawless and feels like Miranda. Of importance is the fact that the all white founding fathers are played by non-white actors. Fans will be happy to know that many cast members on the touring show in Austin are from the original cast including lead (Alexander Hamilton) Joseph Morales (Chicago) who looks and appears like Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator/actor). The actors were so well cast and such a fit that one would assume Miranda hand picked each of them. The other lead characters are Burr (Nik Walker), then two sisters- Eliza (Erin Clemons) who eventually marries Alexander-and Angelica Schuyler (Ta’Rea Campbell). These actors were phenomenal and believable and worked cohesively to tell the story of Alexander. The actors in the great supporting, almost lead group were actually standouts and included John Laurens/Philip Hamilton (Elijah Malcomb), Lafayette/Jefferson (Kyle Scatliffe), James Madison (Fergie L. Philippe), George Washington (Marcus Choi).
There were bits of comedy relief throughout and at times King George (Jon Patrick Walker) stole the show with appearance, facial expressions, and the mannerisms that accompanied the comedic lyrics. He exuded jealousy and anger like an obsessed lover (Great Britain) who is losing his grip on his woman (America) as she slips away from his power and control. He says “You’ll be back-Remember despite our estrangement, I’m your man, You’ll be back, Soon you’ll see, You’ll remember you belong to me, You’ll be back”.(Jon Patrick Walker photo by Joan Marcus)
The story dives deep into the mastermind of Hamilton who came from nothing as an immigrant from the Caribbean to going to Columbia University (then King’s College) and becoming a lawyer to becoming the president’s right hand man and then the first American Treasury Secretary after proving his worth on many occasions during the great war with Britain. He’s responsible for the financial systems and Wall Street today. The show covers all his flaws including his irrational decisions, stubbornness, and his indiscretions during his marriage and the tragic loss of his son Philip in a duel-perhaps giving him bad advice to attend. Hamilton had 8 kids but Miranda focused on Philip. Sadly the show ends with him losing his life too soon in a duel (repeating the exact tragic end his son went through) via a bullet from Burr. It didn’t have to happen which is what makes it so tragic. Stubborn competitiveness/ego is to blame. The show ends with Hamilton being rowed back to Manhattan lifeless and his wife looking into the light of heaven in despair.
(cast photo by Joan Marcus)
The star of the show is of course the music- as it’s sung and rapped and seamlessly combines old with modern worlds. It’s a testament to Miranda that millions of young new theater fans have jumped into attending musicals because of him. The blend of hip hop and history has proven to get more people excited to learn and attend. The show has attracted all ages, races, and cultures because of the songs and the relatable lyrics-taking an old topic and making it new and interesting like a good teacher would. Highlights include: ‘My Shot’, ‘Wait For It’, ‘The Room Where it Happens’, ‘Alexander Hamilton’, the hilarious ‘You’ll Be Back’, ‘Satisfied’, ‘The Schuyler Sisters’, ‘Yorktown’. There are 51 total numbers and it often feels like there’s only a split second between any two songs. The show runs at a quick pace so at times you feel you can’t keep up. It runs through 30 years of history and over 20,000 words so it has to be continuous.
Part of what makes Hamilton so powerful and inspiring is the fact that it’s a political story that includes gun violence, hate, and racism that often mimics what our country is facing today. Manuel is a genius in how he blends rhyme and wordplay. The lyrics are familiar and powerful. “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”, “How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower somehow defeat a global superpower?”, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, “We fought for these ideals; we shouldn’t settle for less” and “How you say, no sweat, we’re finally on the field. We’ve had quite a run”- Immigrants: “We get the job done”. Other modern/relatable (often direct quotes) and often hilarious one liners in the show are highlights: “I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy, and hungry”. “Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!” “Why do you write like it’s going out of style?”.”When I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’m’a compel him to include women in the sequel!” “Wait for it”. “Being a self-starter”. “But my God, she looks so helpless, and her body’s saying, “hell, yes”.
The choreography was also superb. Mixes of ballet and hip-hop dominated and often had the ensemble both singing and dancing. Andy Blankenbuehler, choreographer, has talked about the importance of bringing the lyrics to life and slowing down time by creating the appearance of slow-motion sequences throughout. He uses poses and movements from baseball to illustrate important lyrics and emotions. Stopping time to magnify Hamilton’s thoughts was evident while often including modern hip-hop moves with the modern lyrics. There are huge sequences that are repeated over the course of the show due to their importance; you’ll notice these for example during ‘My Shot’, ‘Right Hand Man’, and ‘Room Where it Happens’.
The production is incredible and is the same production that’s on Broadway. It’s a simple set–or appears so at first– made of mostly wood (or faux)- with wood floors- with a rotating circular center-or turntable stage piece that the cast must artfully and carefully dance across and through- massively tall side brick walls and wood scaffolding staircases that move, long beams on the ceiling, second-level catwalk, and loose ropes used in a variety of scenes (apparently designed to resemble the inside of a boat). The lights were important and often single spotlights but many numbers included drop down candle lanterns that created a romantic ambience and are historically accurate due lack of electricity (was invented later).
More about Hamilton: Creator, writer, actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire. Hamilton is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
Hamilton runs through June 16th at Bass Concert Hall on the UT campus. The show runs about 3 hours total including one intermission. Tickets are available but limited. You can also try the Hamilton app to win $10 tickets.
Our Interview with Amy Striem, Co-Founder of Rock and Roll Playhouse
by Gina Alligood
Congratulations on the success of your Rock and Roll Playhouse and events! What went into building the national series, and what do you believe is behind the overwhelming response you’ve received?
Thank you, we took our time building the program in our home venues, Brooklyn Bowl and The Capitol Theatre, which helped us figure out how to bring a successful program to other venues and cities. We love opening up in new communities and hearing the enthusiasm that comes from families. The Rock and Roll Playhouse is a unique program. It was created as an interactive music program for the whole family — kids and adults — there isn’t anything else out there quite like it.
It’s fabulous to see you emphasizing creativity. As an educator you know research suggests kids are happier, better problem solvers, and overall more successful when they develop their creativity. Was the Playhouse a chance for parents to have their music fun with their kids, or was this about hosting a creative event for the children?
The Rock and Roll Playhouse was created as a way to pass down music to a new generation through family concerts, giving parents an opportunity to share the music they love with their children. The flow of the concerts is created for children to explore and interact with music. For example, we always hand out rainbow streamers to kids during the show. The kids dance and twirl with them, some pretend the streamers are wings while others use the streamers to jump over.
There are so many ways this program can impact parents and their kids. Do you see this primarily as a cultural experience to expose kids to their parents musical tastes, or is there more you hope is happening within the children themselves?
One of our goals is create a shared musical experience for the whole family, but we know that creating a live music experience for children opens up many opportunities for learning from exploring sound, to dance, to lights, to sharing a physical space and watching music come alive on a stage.
Amy, you bring an educator’s expertise to Peter’s music-promotion experience. How do the two of you use your unique talents to collaborate on events?
Peter is a visionary and has a a true love for music. I listen to his ideas and filter everything through an educational lens. It has been a true pleasure to work together over the years, creating The Rock and Roll Playhouse.
I imagine you hear great stories from parents about the fun and maybe the unexpected gifts of sharing this with their families. What are some of your favorite stories?
I love hearing the stories from parents whose children, at a very young age, connect with a particular artist in a very real way. Seeing the music played on stage is beyond special for both parents and children. One of our families, whose child is non-verbal, always sings along to a particular song and reached out to us to play the song on stage during a show. One story I just heard from a venue manager, while at the Relix Live Music Conference this week, was that he now receives requests from staff to work shifts during our shows because they enjoy the family vibe.
Along with all the fun to be had, whenever there are large groups of kids in one space there is potential for a bit of chaos. What sorts of strategies do you use to keep the kids engaged?
The setlist and activities are planned in advance with our band leaders, teaching artists, and production staff so we know that the flow of the show will work for kids. We always share that information with the venue so they’re in the loop. The teaching artists are also on the floor and stage interacting with the families.
Can you share a couple of tips that will ensure a good time and positive experience by families that are considering attending?
The show is 60 minutes long and usually starts 30 – 60 minutes after doors, so think about how that schedule affects you child’s nap time. Bring headphones if your child is used to wearing them and/or you’re worried about your child’s ears. We keep the volume down for little ears but there are lots of lights, sounds, and people at a show. Many kids may feel comfortable having headphones. If your child can’t walk, bring a carrier so they can dance! Lastly, check out the FAQ section on our website! We try to answer as many questions as possible that parents have about our shows so you can plan the day in the most successful manner.
What do you have planned for the future of Rock and Roll Playhouse?
We keep getting requests for new cities so our plan is to continue growing in order to continue sharing music with new families.
We love your band choices. How do you choose the bands, the classic music, and the event venues?
We start with the classics in every new city. We then work with venues and listen to families to bring in new artists. It’s all about fostering a musical community. Each city has a local band leader who helps us find the incredible musicians who live and play locally to come join our shows. Our venues are incredible and we are so happy to partner with each one to create unique daytime family programming with The Rock and Roll Playhouse.
We are lucky in Austin to have events happening each month at the iconic Mohawk on Red River in downtown. For more info on RRPH and upcoming shows, including the special Father’s Day event, check out their site.
The Rock and Roll Playhouse is a multi-city event at iconic venues around the U.S. to expose children and families to the amazing classic music (and great icons) of Tom Petty, The Grateful Dead, Phish, The Beatles, and more. Created by entrepreneur and owner of The Capitol Theatre and co-owner of the Brooklyn Bowl, Peter Shapiro, and Amy Striem, a certified Early Childhood and Elementary teacher, The Rock and Roll Playhouse uses music to educate children and explore their creativity. The idea for The Playhouse came to Shapiro, a parent of two young children, after he discovered first-hand a lack of regular programming in New York City that combined his passion for live music and his family. He collaborated with Striem, then an administrator at his daughter’s nursery school, to help fill this void that they felt many other parents also shared.
Amy Striem and family