Bill’s Best Bets: A ‘Boss’ movie, Ryan Bingham, LSO takes stairway to heaven, two plays … one scary, one powerful

I know what many are thinking: There can only be one collective Best Bet this weekend, and it has to be all of the Texas Tech homecoming activities that precede Saturday’s late morning kickoff of the football game between Tech’s Red Raiders and visiting Iowa State University.

Friday night includes the annual Homecoming Parade, bonfire, pep rally and more. For a peek at all things Homecoming, click on https://www.depts.ttu.edu/sub/Homecoming/schedule.php

That said, we face an active week, with even next Thursday, Oct. 24, including the celebration of the release of the 2019 Lubbock Music Now CD, with a concert at the Cactus Theater followed by a late-night jam at Blue Light Live.

Closer at hand, Johnny Rodriguez, 67, preceded Freddy Fender as the first popular Latin-American country recording artist and Rodriguez will headline and sing his hits at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Cactus Theater, 1812 Buddy Holly Ave. Tickets range from $35 on the front rows to $25 for regular balcony seating, with seats in the Balcony Box $60.

On top of that, you have two more weekends (and Halloween night) to take advantage of haunted houses in Lubbock, two of the best being Nightmare on 19th Street, at the Lonestar Amphitheater at 602 E. 19th St.; and Trail of Screams, 1300 Niagara St.

I still aimed at variety this weekend. Including a documentary highlighting Bruce Springsteen’s newest solo recording; a concert by Hobbs, N.M.-native Ryan Bingham; the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra saluting Led Zeppelin; a ghost story on the C.A.T.S. Theater stage and an award-winning original drama opening soon on the Texas Tech campus stage.

Plus you can see each of them and still make it to the Saturday Tech football game!

Read on for this week’s Best Bets.

Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Western Skies’

Released in June of this year through Columbia Records, “Western Stars” is the 19th studio album by Bruce Springsteen and his first studio album of solo material since releasing “Wrecking Ball” in 2012.

But for this album, Springsteen, who turned 70 last month, knew support would not take the form of a limited, national or world tour.

Rather, he came to the conclusion he would share this album via a feature film documentary, called “Western Stars” and co-directed by Springsteen with Thom Zinny, his long-time collaborator who also directed “Springsteen on Broadway” for its Netflix premiere.

“Western Stars” is not expected to be booked into theaters nationally until Oct. 25. However, a sneak preview of the full theatrical release, dubbed “early access,” is being provided through the Fathom series of specialty film events.

And this Fathom early access will be shown at Cinemark’s Movies 16 in Lubbock, with only three screenings at 7 p.m. Saturday and at both 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. next Wednesday.

The advance screenings include the songs, Springsteen’s conversation about the songs, and photos and videos reflecting the life that led him to these songs.

Tickets for each of the three screenings are $11.50 for all seats.

Springsteen stated in April that the album was influenced by “Southern California pop music” of the 1970s, including artists such as Glen Campbell and Burt Bacharach.

At its New York premiere, Springsteen talked a bit about “Western Stars,” and also explained why he chose “Rhinestone Cowboy” as the album’s only cover song. For that information, visit online at https://variety.com/2019/film/news/bruce-springsteen-western-stars-film-premiere-1203373905/

The 13 songs on the album written by Springsteen include “Hitch Hikin’,” “The Wayfarer,” “Tucson Train,” “Western Stars,” “Sleepy Joe’s Café,” “Drive Fast (The Stuntman),” “Chasin’ Wild Horses,” “Sundown,” “Somewhere North of Nashville,” “Stones,” “There Goes My Miracle.” “Hello Sunshine” and “Moonlight Motel.”

Yahoo Entertainment states, “For the film of a performance of the album, Springsteen leaned on something very familiar: Telling personal truths – about his shortcomings as a person, his desire for a better tomorrow for his family and country, subjects like redemption and forgiveness and love.”

The artist explained the process of writing a script for the concert film: “It was all very organic. We were not going to tour, so I decided to film a performance of the album. Then, out of that, I felt like I needed to have a way that fans could access the inner life of the songs. So I started to write a script that turned into a movie and here we are. It’s not something you’re thinking a lot about before you do it.”

I have been drawn to Springsteen’s lyrics, songs and onstage stories since the early-to-mid 1970s. Years down the line, my brother, John, was hired as Springsteen’s sound engineer and I took advantage of him (my brother, not Springsteen) as much as possible to gain seats at even sold-out events. The hours traveling to these concerts always seemed worth it in the end, even as friends loved to try to get under my skin by reminding me that music journalists were not supposed to be groupies.

That’s true. But every music journalist has his or her own list of favorites and Springsteen has been one of mine.

I was unable to travel to New York and watch a live performance of “Springsteen on Broadway,” although the aforementioned Netflix special helped. And I know “Western Stars” won’t be the three-to-four-hour rock show he used to deliver with full band. Years have passed. But I am eager to see it.

Even after reading his biography, I expect the documentary to showcase detours in the artist’s life, reveal what brought him to the 14 (narrowed down from 40 new tunes) songs on “Western Stars,” and provide an honest introduction for those who never were caught up in the Springsteen magic.

Ryan Bingham

Originally from Hobbs, N.M., Ryan Bingham for many years was torn between a rodeo career and one as a singer-songwriter. His detours as an actor would arrive much later.

As a teenager, he joined the rodeo circuit as a bull rider. But his mother bought him his first guitar when he was 16.

He was quick to learn chords. He first began playing tunes for his friends after each rodeo, but eventually moved to stages and a spotlight at small bars and honky tonks.

Bingham first tasted undeniable fame nine years ago, thanks to “The Weary Kind,” and fate soon found him moving to recording studios and a much larger concert stage.

Tickets at press time were selling well for Bingham’s headlining appearance at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center Theatre, 1501 Mac Davis Lane.

Reserved seats are $68, $57, $45 and $35, plus tax, at Select-A-Seat outlets. Call 770-2000 for advance purchases.

Bingham’s music combines folk, blues, country and rock; he has released six studio albums and one live album.

His first two studio releases on Lost Highway Records, “Mescalito” in 2007 and “Roadhouse Sun” in 2009, earned critical acclaim.

Bingham then collaborated with T-Bone Burnett on the soundtrack for 2009 film “Crazy Heart,” which would earn Jeff Bridges an Academy Award for his leading performance as a down-and-out country singer-songwriter. Also earning an Oscar was the film’s thematic song “The Weary Kind,” co-written by Bingham and Burnett and performed by Bingham.

The song also earned Bingham a Golden Globe award, a 2010 Critics Choice Award for Best Song, and a Grammy Award for “Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Media.”

In 2010, the Americana Music Association honored Bingham with the top award Artist of the Year.

He also wrote songs for movies “Joe” and “Until I’m One with You” and, in 2014, starred opposite Imogen Poots in independent film “A Country Called Home,” directed and co-written by his wife Anna Axster.

In 2016, he recorded his first live album at the Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels.

In 2018-2019, Bingham acted the role of former prisoner turned ranch hand Walker on the contemporary western cable series “Yellowstone,” which stars Kevin Costner. A third season recently was approved for “Yellowstone.”

‘LSO plays music by Led Zeppelin’

That’s not a typographical error.

The Lubbock Symphony Orchestra will, for one performance at 7:30 p.m. Friday, be joined by a full rock band for an electric performance of “Music by Led Zeppelin.” The concert will include such Led Zeppelin hits as “Stairway to Heaven,” “Kashmir” and “Black Dog.”

The concert, sponsored by City Bank, also features guest conductor Martin Herman and lead vocalist Randy Jackson.

Reserved seats are $60, $50 and $40. Information and advance ticket purchases are available online at LubbockSymphony.org or by calling 762-1688. Tickets also can be purchased at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center box office before the show.

“The orchestra adds a new layer of sound to the hits that fans already know and love. This show is a great way to introduce rock fans to the symphony orchestra experience,” said Galen Wixson, the orchestra’s president and CEO,

Presented by Windborne Music, “Music of Led Zeppelin” bridges the gap between rock ’n’ roll and classical music, as the orchestra is amplified by a full rock band and screaming vocals.

“Our concept for ‘Music of Led Zeppelin’ was to take the music as close to the originals as we could, and then add some colors to enhance what Led Zep had done. The wonderful thing with an orchestra is that you have an entire palette of sounds to call upon. The band is reproducing what Led Zeppelin did on the albums, verbatim, and then having an orchestra behind the band gives the music richness, a whole different feel, a whole different sense of power,” said Brent Havens, founder of Windborne Music.

Delivering a note-for-note interpretation, vocalist Randy Jackson acts as a window between the audience and reworked material. (Jackson also sings with Zebra, a hard rock band founded in the mid-1970s in New Orleans.)

“The music itself is one thing, but Jackson more than captures the spirit of legendary Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant,” said Havens.

Jackson is joined on stage by Daniel Clemens, bass guitar; Powell Randolph, drums, George Clinton, guitar and Allegra playing electric violin.

The band has been performing Led Zeppelin music with symphony orchestras across the country since 1995.

Commander Brooke (Tim Crouch) lays down the law for Roddy (Andy Rasa) and Pam Fitzgerald (Janie Curl), while his granddaughter Stella Meredith (Jacy Mace) remains silent beside Miss Holloway (Beth Petersen).

‘The Uninvited,’ at CATS Playhouse

A couple of weeks before Halloween – but in the spirit of the holiday – the 1979 theatrical ghost story “The Uninvited,” adapted by playwright Tim Kelly from an original novel by Dorothy MacArdle, will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 18-19, 25-26 and Nov. 1-2 at the C.A.T.S. Playhouse, 2257 34th St.

The theater’s name stands for Children & Adults Theatrical Studio.

Direction is by Chris Davis.

General admission seating is $17 for the general public, and $13 for all students and seniors.

Call 792-0501 for more information.

Synopsis: Seeking to escape the demands of London, Pam Fitzgerald (played by Jamie Curl) and her brother, Rodney Fitzgerald (Andy Rasa), an aspiring playwright, discover a charming house called Cliff End in the west of England, overlooking the Irish Sea.

The house had stayed empty a long time, and they are able to purchase it for a low price from village curmudgeon Commander Brooke (Tim Crouch).

The reason becomes obvious. The house has an unsavory reputation. Fifteen years earlier, a murder occurred on the grounds. The Fitzgeralds slowly begin to sense an evil spirit that inhabits the house, preceded by a bone-chilling drop in temperature. The housekeeper’s cat will not enter the nursery, where the sound of a weeping woman has been heard.

A scent of mimosa comes and goes.

The Fitzgeralds hear strange stories about Mary Meredith, who once lived in the house and the striking but unstable Carmel, who reportedly posed for a painting that led to her death. The birth of beautiful, young Stella (Jacy Mace) also might hold a clue. After an actress performs a séance, Cliff End seems forced to reveal its dark secrets. A ghost proves to be both real and dangerous at the climax.

The story was first told via a novel, then adapted into a movie before the play was written.

Other actors in this presentation are Teiler Patterson as Lizzy Flynn, Mickie Klafka as Mrs. Jessup, Sofia Casas as Wendy, Omar Sanad as Max Hilliard, David Mitchell as Dr. Scott, and Beth Petersen as Miss Holloway.

From left: Sasha (played by Laureen Karichu) and Riley (LyaNisha Gonzalez). Photo by Allison Roberts.

‘Black Girl, Interrupted,’ at TTU Maedgen Theatre

The award-winning drama “Black Girl, Interrupted,” written by Texas Tech student LyaNisha Gonzalez, will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturday, Oct. 24-26 and Oct. 31-Nov. 2, with 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays, Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, at the Charles E. Maedgen Theatre, located at 2812 18th St. on the Tech campus.

Reserved seats are $15 for the general public and $5 for all students with a valid student ID. A limited number of free tickets will be given to Tech students via “student rush” shortly before the play begins.

Direction is by Jesse Jou.

Tickets can be reserved in advance by visiting online site theatre.ttu.edu, or by calling 742-3603.

“Black Girl, Interrupted” received two awards from the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival: Distinguished Achievement for the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award, and runner-up for the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award.

Gonzalez, who indicated she has co-starred in each play she has written, is a fourth year Ph.D. student focusing on playwriting and arts administration. A New Jersey native, she studied at Spelman College in Atlanta for her undergraduate degree, then earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting from the Actor’s Studio Drama School in New York City. She returned to Spelman College as a professor, teaching there four years before enrolling at Texas Tech to pursue her Ph.D.

Her latest drama, “Black Girl, Interrupted,” is inspired by true events. In 2005, Pvt. First Class LaVena Johnson died while serving her country in Iraq. Her death was ruled a suicide by the Department of Defense – yet autopsy reports revealed injuries that led to allegations of rape, murder and a coverup.

Presently, her death still is listed as a suicide.

The play is a fictionalized version of this event. In her original theatrical treatment, tough and dedicated New York Times reporter Riley Jones, portrayed by playwright Gonzalez, is investigating the story of Sasha Green (played by Laureen Kirachu), a soldier whose brutal death has been covered up by the military.

As Riley nears a disturbing truth, she must face her personal demons and question her own motives for telling Sasha’s story – and also confront her own painful past. That includes her fraught relationship with her soon-to-be ex-husband, and the price she paid to pursue justice.

“The play deals with many uncomfortable topics, including race, gender and violence. As a playwright of color, it is important that I never shy away from addressing how these issues not only affect communities of color, but our society as a whole. I want to try to understand why some stories garner attention and outrage, while others fall to the wayside – and for this story in particular, what it means when we say justice for all,” the playwright told Cory Norman, Tech School of Theatre and Dance director of marketing and communications,

Having previously encountered casting barriers, Gonzalez also shared, “While at The Actor’s Studio, Bob Lupone suggested I write my own performance thesis, which had not been done before in that program. Since then, I’ve felt like that’s what I needed to do: to show what actors of different colors, sizes and ages can do. Mainly to leave something behind for other actors of color, black actors in particular. Something where they are not relegated to being servants or stereotypes. I like to write about real people and situations.”

Gonzalez also finds it rewarding to act in plays she has written.

“It is important to let other people come in and do their work on it. It’s rewarding to me. … We are all relating to it in different ways. It’s just a beautiful experience to trust other people with the work and see what they reveal and discover, which adds to the world that I created,” she said.