Bill’s Best Bets: LCU stages classic ‘Mattress,’ night of gunslingers, chorale concert, singer-songwriter showdown, Roger Creager

We knew some events would sell out long in advance, one of them being an appearance by actor-musician Kevin Bacon with his brother Michael for a Saturday concert at the Cactus Theater called “An Evening with the Bacon Brothers: The Shaky Ground Tour.”

Imagine that, the Cactus already has played host to rock bands led by actors Kevin Bacon and Kiefer Sutherland in the past year.

Don’t forget Lubbock Community Theatre still is performing “The Savannah Sipping Society” and next weekend will include a performance by Ryan Bingham.

This weekend includes hilarious theater, my favorite competition by original songwriters at Blue Light Live and a chance to catch some of Lubbock’s best guitar players showing their stuff in a rare, acoustically superior venue.

‘Once Upon a Mattress’

Above: Cast of “Once Upon A Mattress’

If ever there were a physical comedy which seemed so simple in plot design and yet, with the right cast, possessed the potential to keep audiences laughing throughout, it may be the 1959 stage adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea” – better known as musical comedy “Once Upon a Mattress,” with music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer and book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshall Barer.

Only this play dares to ask if it was really a pea which caused the princess her famous sleepless night.

First written as a shorter work at an adult summer camp resort, the play was expanded, opened off-Broadway in 1959 and then moved to Broadway. Critics and even cast members were astonished by the play’s growing popularity with the masses.

My advice is you gather up family members and run, not walk – alright, just hurry – to see one of the Lubbock Christian University theater department’s three presentations of “Once Upon a Mattress” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday as well as 2 p.m. Saturday at LCU’s McDonald Moody Auditorium on the 19th Street campus.

Reserved seats are a bargain at $17.50 for the general public and $12.50 for children, all students with valid ID and seniors age 60 and older. Tickets can be reserved in advance online at lcu.edu or by calling 720-7429 and very likely will be available at the box office before showtime.

Cast members also will take part in a “Princess and the Pea” Tea Party at 1 p.m. in the Christian Development Center on the LCU campus, hosted by LCU’s Friends of the Arts. Tea party tickets are $10. Fun activities include prince and princess sightings. Call 720-7429 for more details.

Surprisingly, I remember an early adaptation of the Broadway show which was videotaped in black-and-white and televised as a special CBS production in the summer of 1964, when I was only 12. My family and I sat in the living room and laughed heartily throughout; decades later, what all of us remembered most was new actress Carol Burnett cast as Princess Winnifred – call her Fred – who arrived on set looking rather bedraggled, not at all like a princess, because she was so excited to meet Prince Dauntless that she could not wait for a formal introduction and instead “swam the moat.”

In this play, no one in the kingdom can marry before Prince Dauntless, and his mother, Queen Aggravain, consistently develops unfair tests which, thus far, have eliminated every prospective princess bride.

Ah, but Dauntless is truly emotionally taken by Fred.

There also is a sublot involving Lady Larkin and Sir Harry rather desperately needing to be married posthaste and yet stalled by the queen’s tactics with Dauntless.

Burnett returned for a second television adaptation, this time in color, in October 1972. By then, Winnifred had become her first signature role.

Throughout the next four decades, I enjoyed several Lubbock productions of “Once Upon a Mattress,” both on the Texas Tech campus and at community theaters. There have been varied wonderful performances as Winnifred, with local actresses making individual impressions; still unforgettable is actor Chad Miller, now working professionally, but during that run using children’s jacks as improvisational props when playing Dauntless on the Lubbock Community Theatre stage.

Don Williams began teaching theater at LCU in 1969, has thus been directing campus plays for 50 years – yet this is his first time to oversee “Once Upon a Mattress.”

“We wanted to provide our students an opportunity to perform comedy. They need to learn comedic techniques, and this show provides a great opportunity for that. Plus, of course, it fits the bill as family entertainment,” said Williams.

The role of Princess Winnifred the Woebegone now is played at LCU by actress Madison Simpson.

Williams dodged queries about potentially seeking a singer who acts vs. an actor who sings. Rather he concluded during auditions, “I always want to find the whole package and I was successful with Madison. She is doing an excellent job as Winnifred. Her energy and her ability to perform this comedic role, are excellent.”

That said, Williams never expected every laugh to be located within the script.

“I challenged the cast to find those moments provided in the script for physical improvisation, and (recognize) unique character moments that can provide a laugh,” he said.

Nor is Williams a dictatorial director refusing cast members an opportunity to research how past actors may have played their roles.

“I have no problem with our lead actors watching past performances. I also encourage, and often read to them from reviews of past performances to illustrate what may have worked or did not work. Nevertheless. I do expect their work to be their creation, and not just a copy of what someone else has done in the past,” he said.

Changing topics somewhat, Williams added his biggest directorial challenge arrives in “developing  (comic) timing for physical action during the chase scenes.”

Williams’ production staff includes Ryan Smith as orchestral director. Laurie Doyle as music director, and Williams added, “Dr. Doyle also devised the choreography involved with various songs.”

The play’s technical director is Schuyler Liles.

The gifted cast, in addition to Simpson, includes Clayton Henriksen as Prince Dauntless the Drab, Michaela Nix as Lady Larken, Ryan Counts as Sir Harry, Jessi Isbell as Queen Aggravain, Chantz Cochran as King Sextimus, Desirae Sarate as the Jester, Gunner Gonzales as the Minstrel and Elyssa Reaves as the Wizard.

Lubbock Guitarslingers Concert

Last year’s inaugural Guitarslingers Concert was a rousing success.

And just how often does one have an opportunity to hear the city’s best electric guitarists perform within the exceptional acoustics of a campus recital hall?

The second-annual Lubbock Guitarslingers Concert will take place from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Friday in Hemmle Recital Hall at the Texas Tech School of Music, 2624 W. 18th St. on the Tech campus.

This gala concert features some of the South Plains “baddest and best” guitar players, guest-curated by the Vernacular Music Center’s Electric Guitar in America sister conference. It’s free and  open to the public. Guitarists will be complimented by an ace rhythm section.

The show provides a rare opportunity – for featured players, as well – to hear many of the absolute best of the West shredding on what is arguably the most impactful instrument in 20th century popular music.

Featured guitarists will include:

  • Cary Banks and Steve Williams.
  • Corbin Burgett.
  • Scott Faris.
  • John Sprott.
  • The Square Waves (Roger Landes, Jonathan Smither and Brian Tate).
  • Doug Stapp.
  • Darren Welch.
  • Brent and Emily Wheeler.

The concert is sponsored by the Vernacular Music Center, with support from the Texas Tech School of Music, Office of Research and Innovation, Office of the Provost and Talkington College of Visual and Performing Arts.

The Lubbock Chorale

The prestigious Lubbock Chorale will perform its first fall Masterworks Concert – titled “Celebrating Women Composers, Past & Present” – at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Paul’s-on-the-Plains Episcopal Church, 1510 Ave. X.

John Hollins, artistic director, will conduct.

General admission tickets are $25 for the general public, $20 for seniors and students with valid IDs and $15 for children age 12 and younger. These ticket prices do not include service charges.

Tickets are on sale at all local Select-A-Seat outlets. Tickets also can be purchased in advance by calling 770-2000, or by visiting selectaseatlubbock.com online.

More information is available by visiting lubbockchorale.org online.

The chorale also will premiere a work commissioned by composer Elyse Kahler for this concert.

Chorale publicity included: “In his poem ‘Anthem for St. Cecilia’s Day,’ the great 20th century poet W.H. Auden wrote, ‘Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions to all musicians, appear and inspire: Translated Daughter, come down and startle composing mortals with immortal fire.’

“Despite the symbolic role Cecilia plays as patron saint of music, female composers are dramatically underrepresented on most choral programs and recordings.

“Our season-opening concert seeks to engage this lacuna by performing selections from the long history of creativity by women writers and musicians. From the Medieval mysticism of Hildegard of Bingen, to masters such as Fanny Hensel, Clara Schumann, Nadia and Lili Boulanger, Alice Parker, Eleanor Daley and Gwyneth Walker, audiences will enjoy a vibrantly rich mosaic of choral music.

“Guest soloists and instrumentalists will join Lubbock Chorale for this enriching evening.”

Blue Light Singer-Songwriter Competition

The now-famous annual fall Singer-Songwriter Competition at Blue Light Live, 1806 Buddy Holly Ave., begins on Monday – and continues on Mondays, Oct. 21, Oct. 28, Nov. 4 and Nov. 11, with a finals round held on Monday, Nov. 18.

Twelve singer-songwriters each will perform two original songs on the five preliminary Mondays,  with judges choosing three competitors on each Monday to advance to the finals competition.

Thus, there are five preliminary contest Mondays, collectively producing a total of 15 singer-songwriter finalists, who will present a who’s who worthy night of songs at the Nov. 18 finals.

Finals Night will result in an ultimate winner. Both a first and second runner-up also will be announced.

The 12 slots have been filled for each of the five preliminary Monday competitions, making a total of 60 singer-songwriters competing for the 15 slots at the finals.

Winners of the Blue Light Live’s past Singer-Songwriter competitions include Kenneth O’Meara, Casey Berry, Daniel Markham, Zac Wilkerson, Danny Cadra, Amanda Goebel, Erick Willis, Jacob Furr, Jerry Serrano, Zoe Carter, Starfire on the Mountain, Will Felty and, most recently, Juliet McConkey.

Prizes confirmed for this fall’s winners include a custom-handcrafted guitar by Tatum Handcrafted Guitars, a merchandise package from Johnny Velvet Ts, a music video produced by Mount Vernon Studios, studio time with Mount Vernon Studios, a slot on Fox34 Good Day Lubbock, a feature on the KTTV-TV production “24 Frames,” bookings at Blue Light Dallas and Blue Light Lubbock and a booking at Hotel Turkey. More prizes will be added.

The finals will be broadcast live. The feed will be available on the Blue Light website and social medias.

Judges confirmed thus far for this year’s event include Colin Gilmore, Cleto Cordero, John Baumann, Brandon Adams, Rode Morrow, Randall King, Rodney Parker, Charley Shafter, Ben Hussey and Parker Morrow.

As this is a weekly competition, those attending are asked to remain quiet and treat the competitors with respect. There is no admission charged at Blue Light Live during the six-Monday Singer-Songwriter Competition.

Roger Creager

Country recording artist Roger Creager brings his full band back to Charley B’s, 5204 Fourth St., for a 10 p.m. concert on Saturday. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Only those age 18 and older are admitted.

Tickets for those age 21 and older are $15 in advance and $20 on the day of the show. Tickets for those between ages 18 and 20 are $18 in advance and $23 on the day of the show. Tickets are available in advance at outhousetickets.com online.

Members of the Corpus Christi-based band are Creager, guitar and vocals; Stormy Cooper, bass guitar; Jason Broussard, drums; Aleph Yonker, lead guitar, fiddle and vocals and Allen Huff, piano, organ, accordion and vocals.

The band continues to tour in support of its 2014 release called “Road Show.”

Creager is an adventurist who does not like to sit still. Whether it’s climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, jumping off his boat to snorkel with dolphins, snow skiing in the Rockies, catching tuna 100 miles from shore, piloting his airplane to far-off concerts, spear-fishing around oil rigs, scuba diving coral reefs, surfing in Costa Rica, or playing music through the Italian countryside, he tries to get the most out of what the world has to offer.

According to Wikipedia, Creager songs considered popular when played live include “The Everclear Song,” “Fun All Wrong,” “I Got the Guns,” “Rancho Grande,” “Long Way to Mexico,” “Love is Crazy,” “A Good Day for Sunsets,” “I’m From the Beer Joint” and “Bad Friend to a Good Man.”