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Sunday, June 18, 2000
Last modified at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, June 16, 2000
© 2000 - The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

A-J photo/Jim Watkins

photo: entertainment

Famed rock 'n' roll band KISS brought its farewell tour to Texas Tech's United Spirit Arena.

New venues bring an array of entertainment

Lubbock's relative isolation on the Staked Plains of the Llano Estacado may forever breed stereotypes from those who have not had the pleasure of visiting, but word about Lubbock's array of entertainment offerings continues to spread.

No doubt the publicized accessibility of the United Spirit Arena as a concert arena has helped (Elton John, KISS, The Gaithers, Dixie Chicks and a Franklin Graham three-night crusade over the course of seven months will do that). Although by this time next year, the opening of the multi-million dollar Canyon Amphitheater on East 19th Street will open even more eyes.

And keep in mind that the recently opened Coyote Meadow on North Loop 289 will attract more festivals.

Those enjoying theater have noted the success of the annual season of touring Broadway show. This fall's fifth season will include Oct. 27-29, "Footloose;" Dec. 6-10, Disney's "Beauty and the Beast;" Jan. 26-28, "Godspell;" and March 20-25, "Red, White and Tuna" not including the traditional bonus shows added by Larry Payton, president of Celebrity Attractions.

"Beauty and the Beast," by the way, is an even bigger physical attraction than the visit by "Les Miserables" in 1995.

An international flavor also will be added by the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra during its 2000-2001 season. Maestro Albert-George Schram has moved on after an exciting five year reign as music director and conductor, and this season will essentially be a public conductor search, with the five finalists from the hundreds who applied for Schram's position all bring brought in to conduct a pair of weekend concerts.

The Texas Tech University Center's Activities Committee annually offers a Nitelife Series of top-of-the-line touring cultural events from September through May, ranging from theater to dance to the more avant-garde and even lectures by celebrities from the popular and business and political worlds.

Much of the city's most cutting-edge theater also is found on Tech stages, with both the newly named Charles E, Maedgen Jr. main stage and the Lab Theatre hosting full seasons from September through May.

The Lab Theatre also offers at least three productions performed in repertory for a full month every summer.

Lubbock Community Theatre continues to impress, attracting bright, talented directors to helm interesting choices at a storefront theater on 34th Street, with the occasional major musical moved to the Civic Center Theatre and Tech's Allen Theatre.

The CATS (Children and Adult Theatre) Playhouse also offers many plays during the year, and is one of the few producing an array of children's productions.

Wayland Baptist University in Plainview and South Plains College in Levelland are home to fine theater programs. The outdoor historical musical "God's Country" is produced each July in a natural amphitheater north of Crosbyton.

Tech's School of Music not only produces its own operatic productions, but sponsors countless recitals every year by visiting and touring musicians, many of these recitals offered for reasonable prices and a surprising number free.

First United Methodist Church has gained support not only for its fine free series of Vesper Concerts by visiting artists, but for its annual spring theatrical musical or revue at the Civic Center Theatre.

And it is not unusual for theatergoers to make the 40-minute trek to Post to enjoy well-produced plays at the historic Garza Theater although the Cactus Theater in Lubbock, better known for hosting musical events showcasing area talent, also has staged large-scale productions ranging from "Little Shop of Horrors" to "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Musical" to "Always...Patsy Cline."

Lubbock has long since joined the ranks of cities with their own chorale, ballet companies and symphony orchestras.

The Lubbock Chorale, performing both serious choral compositions and occasionally lighter fare at its annual Valentine dinner concerts, is well supported by its fan base. Chorale performances often sell out in advance.

Ballet Lubbock, founded by Suzanne Aker more than 30 years ago, helped catapult local dancers into the professional ranks; Yvonne Racz serves as artistic director.

Ballet Lubbock performs a full slate of productions of "The Nutcracker" each December, of course, and in some years has impressed with a major spring performance. The company has been known to brings in professional dancers from such companies as American Ballet Theatre in New York to add spice to performances of "The Nutcracker."

The Lubbock Youth Symphony Orchestra also shines a spotlight several times each year on fast-improving students, several of which traditionally have been chosen by audition to perform in the National Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Other dance companies offer recitals, at the very least, and each year finds the city hosting a Ballet Folklorico Festival spotlighting Mexican-American folk dancers from throughout the Southwest.

For those who like their entertainment loud and rowdy, every year offers truck pulls and professional wrestling events.

Concerts, however, run the gamut from weekly live entertainment jazz, country, rock, folk, rockabilly, etc. each weekend at close to three dozen night spots. Looking for a hot spot on the weekend. If you can't find a live band to your taste in the Depot District, you're just not looking hard enough.

Touring recording acts also make stops at the United Spirit Arena, Municipal Auditorium and Civic Center Theater, not to mention bands ranging from ZZ Top to Mary Chapin Carpenter to Enrique Iglesias to Reba McEntire and Aerosmith attracting crowds at the Lubbock Coliseum.

For two months every summer, High Noon Concerts are offered at noon on Wednesdays outdoors in front of the downtown Lubbock Country Courthouse for those wanting to take advantage of the mild weather and entertainment during their lunch hours.

Love and appreciation of music starts at a very young age, with even Lubbock's school district getting into the act by producing an LISD String Fling in February, an LISD Jazz in the Park concert in May and a huge LISD band Extravaganza every September at Lowry Field.

Touring dance attractions, ranging from a pair of appearances by Mikhail Baryshnikov to splashier productions of "STOMP" and "Lord of the Dance," have taken advantage of area arenas.

Families show up in the tens of thousands for at least four annual events the Lubbock Arts Festival on the third weekend in April, now held throughout the Panhandle-South Plains Fairgrounds; 4th on Broadway festivities on or near July 4 (including a parade, street fair and concert with fireworks extravaganza); the Crossroad Music Festival (formerly the Buddy Holly Music Festival) with events booked near the Sept. 7 birthday of Lubbock's late rock 'n' roll innovator, Buddy Holly; and Lights on Broadway festivities linked in December to Tech's unique, one-of-a-kind, Carol of Lights ceremony.

Not that Holly is the only musician to leave Lubbock and make his mark on the world. Check out the plaques on the West Texas Walk of Fame, surrounding the downtown statue of Holly, to learn the names of just some of the entertainers and artists who have become unmistakable creative influences.

September generally is a month packed with entertainment, the aforementioned annual music festival followed by an arts and crafts "Fiesta!" at the Garden & Arts Center, Fiestas del Llano at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center and the National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration, also at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center.

And live music generally country and contemporary Christian recording acts is only part of the appeal of the annual Panhandle-South Plains Fair. The 83nd annual fair has been expanded to nine days, opening on Sept. 22 and running through Sept. 30.

Those seeking holiday entertainment also know by now to order tickets by mail early, and then keep their fingers crossed, when dates are announced for the annual Madrigal Dinner on the Tech campus.

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