Bill’s Best Bets: Symphony back with South American flavor, Fair closes with Cowsills, Cactus comedy, ‘Nightmare’ opens, ‘Dead’ art

I considered making this Sunday’s Alamo Drafthouse movie party for Herb Ross’ 1989 film adaptation of “Steel Magnolias” – the one with Julia Roberts, Sally Field and more stars – into a Best Bet at 6 p.m. Sunday after my memory was jogged  by the local staging earlier this month of “Steel Magnolias” by Will of the Wind Productions,

But as of Thursday morning, all but five seats in the Alamo auditorium already had been claimed. And the Friday movie party for “Practically Magic” at the Alamo also is almost full.

Meanwhile, the Texas Tech School of Theatre and Dance opened a new Black Box Theatre and a new production of Moliere’s “Doctor Love” on Thursday.

We’ll mention it again next week, although director Jonathan Marks said, “What we’ve done is boil the script down to its basic scenario, which asks the question, ‘How do we cure what ails us?’

“From this we devised a new entertainment set in an imagined America in an imaginary century and then set our troupe’s comedic and improvisatory skills loose.”

Naturally, there also is a lot of music, including The Eddie Beethoven Band playing Friday at the O-Bar.

But you’ll soon see I colored a bit further outside the lines when choosing varied attractions. Read on for this weekend’s Best Bets … and welcome back, Maestro Cho.

Lubbock Symphony Orchestra, with featured guest Bandini Chiacchiaretta Duo

Late September traditionally reunites area music lovers and another concert season by the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra, once again conducted by Maestro David In-Jae Cho.

The first of five weekend “Masterworks” concerts arrive at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center Theatre, 1501 Mac Davis Lane.

The guest artist is the Bandini Chiacchiaretta Duo (seen above). Their introduction of tango music is expected to help those in Lubbock feel and enjoy the warmth and charm of Argentina.

For information concerning season tickets, call 762-1688, or drop by the orchestra’s office at 601 Ave. K.

Individual tickets for this weekend’s performances can be purchased in advance by visiting online, or by calling 762-1688. Tickets also are sold at the box office prior to each performance.

Individual prices for Masterworks concerts are: Premiere, $50 general public and $38 students; Choice, $40 general public and $33 students and Standard, $25 general public and $15 students.

Also, call 762-1688 if interested in making reservations for a catered, pre-concert meal at 6 p.m. called Soundbites. Tickets for Soundbites include remarks by Cho, and are $20.

The theme for this weekend’s concert is “Seductive Classics.”

The program each night includes:

  • “Blue Tango,” by Leroy Anderson – Billboard Magazine’s number one instrumental recording of 1952.
  • “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,” by Astor Piazzolla – a set of four tango compositions featuring the LSO with the Bandini Chiacchiaretta Duo.
  • Symphony No. 1, Op. 39, E Minor, by Jean Sibelius – Finnish composer (1865-1957) who composed his first symphony when patriotic feelings were enhanced by the Russian emperor Nicholas II’s attempt to restrict the powers of the Grand Duchy of Finland. His symphony was well received at its premiere in Helsinki in April 1899.

The members of the Duo are Giampaolo Bandini, playing the chitarra, a plucked string instrument and a chordophone of the guitar family – and Cesare Chiacchiaretta, playing the bandoneon, a type of concertina particularly popular in Argentina and Uruguay.

It was formed in 2002 with the specific intent to reproduce Argentine music – including the tango – through the charm and magic of representative instruments.

Invited by the most important festivals and theaters in the world, the duo has toured Mexico, Romania, China, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Holland, Croatia, Russia, Slovenia, Turkey, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

The Cowsills and the fair

While tradition has been maintained by at least occasional rain falling on the fairgrounds, this year’s Panhandle-South Plains Fair attendance likely has been aided by the lack of Texas Tech home football games, viewed by some as competition for fair dollars.

The Red Raiders enjoyed a bye date on the fair’s opening last Saturday  and will play on the road against Oklahoma this  Saturday at 11 a.m..

The fair’s closing Saturday generally attracts the largest turnout of all nine days and even those following Tech on television will have almost 10 hours to enjoy the fair afterward.

Generating interest on the night before is a “free” Friday performance by touring members of pop-rock recording act The Cowsills – specifically Bob Cowsill, Paul Cowsill and Susan Cowsill, with a backing band.

Those attending the concert must have a ticket, still being distributed at the fair’s office and Ramar Communications. Call the fair office at 763-2833 to check ticket availability.

Mind you, even with free tickets in hand, fans must pay for parking and the gate admission fee.

The fair is open from 8 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. Carnival hours are 3 p.m. to midnight Friday, and 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday.

Only cash is accepted for gate admission and parking. Gate admission is $10 for the general public age 13 and older; $5 for children between ages 2 and 12; with children age 1 and younger free. No free re-admission is allowed. Those leaving the fairgrounds before closing will be asked to surrender their admission ticket to gate personnel and then pay a second gate admission for re-entry.

Fairgrounds parking on site is $5.

If you’re planning on attending the Cowsills concert , I encourage you to first watch director Louise Palanker’s fascinating, historical documentary “Family Band: The Cowsills Story,” presently streaming on the Amazon cable network.

The film was introduced in August 2010 at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. In 2013, it made its network television debut on Showtime.

The documentary – which also includes interviews with Tommy James, Waddy Wachtel and Shirley Jones – tells the behind-the-scenes story of The Cowsills, the family band’s rise to fame and its subsequent fall because of patriarch Bud Cowsill’s controlling and abusive nature.

From 1968 through 1972, The Cowsills played an average of 200 concerts per year and were among the most popular acts on the American concert circuit.

Since 2015,  The Cowsills have been touring across the United States each summer with The Turtles on the latter’s annual “Happy Together” tour. Since December 2000, John Cowsill also has played drums with The Beach Boys.

The Cowsills was formed in the spring of 1965 by Bill, Bob and Barry Cowsill, with brother John soon joining the band.

As one brother comments in the film, the last thing any young musician wants is his mom joining his rock band. But when the band hinted at success, family patriarch and Navy sailor Bud Cowsill insisted his wife Barbara, son Paul and young daughter Susan also join.

Only Bob’s twin, Richard, was totally left out of the family band during its heyday.

Regardless, this ensemble of mom and six musically-inclined children recorded hits in the late 1960s. Think “We Can Fly,” “The Rain, the Park and Other Things,” “Indian Lake” and even the title tune from Broadway’s “Hair,” the latter suggested by Carl Reiner.

The Cowsills also was the very real band that inspired a fictional “The Partridge Family” TV hit in the 1970s. starring Jones that also launched the late David Cassidy’s career.

Band members Friday likely will bring back memories for many, leaving the documentary to touch on any darker history. The Cowsills’ musical legacy, however, remains interesting – and their songs fun.

Dry Bar Comedy, spotlighting standups Paul Sheffield, Jordan Makin and Seth Tippets

The spotlight will be on a trio of professional comedians – Paul Sheffield (seen above), Jordan Makin and Seth Tippets – at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Cactus Theater, 1812 Buddy Holly Ave.

These comics previously performed on numerous late-night programs, including “The Tonight Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel,” “Netflix Comedy,” “Conan” and “Comedy Central.” They also generated more than one-billion online views.

Reserved seats on the floor and in the balcony are $25. Limited balcony box seats, which include free concessions with a ticket, are $50.

Note: Listed Cactus ticket prices are “base prices;” varied fees and tax always will be added to base prices at time of purchase. Tickets can be purchased in advance by using a link at

All sales are final. The Cactus Theater does not permit exchanges, refunds or credit for future shows in exchange for unused tickets. The theater’s box office is staffed at 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, unless Monday is a major holiday.

Call the Cactus at 762-3233 for more information.

“We experimented with some edgy touring comedy late last year, and some local and regional comedy early in the year. We’ve decided to go for more of a mainstream comedy-for-everyone approach,” said  Cactus Theater owner Darryl Holland.

“Dry Bar Live comedy teams that tour the country are certainly less edgy,and a better fit for what we are trying to offer across the board at the Cactus. We sold out the first Dry Bar show in early June and shows with Texas comedian Steve Trevino in August. Offering comedy every couple of months is a good programming mixture. We are excited to offer three nationally-known, touring comics Friday. Thus far, we have enjoyed good, positive feedback with the Dry Bar Live format,” he said.

Nightmare on 19th Street, haunted house

Even thinking way outside the box, yes, this strikes me as about a month early to be thinking about tiptoeing my way through varied sections in the equivalent of a haunted house – even if checking it out by request.

On the other hand, Nightmare on 19th Street has been entertaining/scaring a lot of visitors for years and one cannot expect the business to wait until Halloween night to open its doors.

The official opening hours this year for Nightmare on 19th Street – located at 602 E. 19th St., thus the name – are 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27.

The seasonal scare-fest is open from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27-28; again on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 4-5; Friday through Sunday, Oct. 11-13; then Thursday through Sunday for two weeks, Oct. 17-20 and Oct. 24-27.

Closing weekend includes Halloween Thursday, Oct. 31, as well as Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1-2.

Tickets are $25 on Fridays, Saturdays and Halloween night. The price dips to $20 on the other Thursdays and Sundays when the attraction is open.

Early arrivals are advised every night, as only VIP passes can be purchased early.

Group discounts are $2 apiece for groups of 15 to 20, and $4 apiece for groups of 20 to 30, with discounts of $5 apiece available when arriving in a group of 30 or more guests.

VIP passes offer a fast track to the front of sometimes lengthy general admission lines.

VIP passes add $15 to each ($25) ticket price on Fridays, Saturdays and Halloween and add  an additional $10 to each ($20) ticket on other Thursdays and Sundays when the attraction is open.

Gluttons for fear are invited to purchase season tickets for $75, which can be used for admission on any open date. Send an e-mail to to pre-order VIP passes.

Visa, Mastercard and Discover are accepted and no refunds are given to anyone who departs early via an emergency exit, no matter how scared they may be.

Alcohol never is sold. And the use of video and/or photography is not permitted without prior approval.

This includes the use of cell phone cameras.

“If we see you taking pictures or shooting videos with any device without proper notification, the device will be confiscated and returned when you leave – with pictures deleted. We do allow for cell phone pictures outside of the attractions while waiting in line,” officials said.

Actors/characters do not intentionally grab passers-by. There is a “no touch” policy – and it works both ways – although a visitor and character might come into contact briefly because of purposely dim lighting.

“You should wear comfortable, preferably closed-toe shoes. There also is a chance you will get slightly wet. Two of our attractions are outdoors and subject to inclement weather conditions,” officials added.

Varied explanatory videos can be found by checking out Nightmare on 19th Street on youtube online, or simply call up online for more details.

Experienced actors, as well as those sharpening their skills with frightening costumes and makeup, are known to take part.

Law enforcement professionals are on site and the establishment employs professional security.

That said, Nightmare on 19th Street attempts to provide a different scary experience each year. The  attractions this year are called Krampus 3D, Blood Moon Manor, Dead Doll Island and The Wastelands.

Fear is relative.

“Only you can judge what is acceptable for your child. We would not, however, recommend any of our attractions for children younger than 12,” their website says. “All in all, you are paying us to entertain and scare you. That is what we do. Being scared in an otherwise safe environment is fun … for most people. At Nightmare, our goal is to immerse our visitors into a particular scene to make them feel as if what is happening is, in fact, reality. We do this by using detailed sets, experienced actors and suitable lighting and audio. All together, these variables make for one relatively scary attraction.”

Some, for medical reasons, need to know that strobe lights and heavy fog are used.

Those behaving in a violent or disruptive manner, or under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, will be removed.

‘Celebracion’ art exhibit

The annual art exhibition titled “Celebracion” opens Friday  in the Fine Arts Gallery at the Buddy Holly Center, 1801 Crickets Ave., and remains on display there through Nov. 10.

The exhibit is free. (Fees are charged only for the Buddy Holly Gallery.)

Buddy Holly Center hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

“Celebracion” provides an open invitation worldwide to artists whose work will explore the history and meaning behind the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

Dia de los Muertos blends the Catholic tradition of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (Nov. 1 and 2) with the pre-Columbian concepts of death that have been a part of Mexican society since the time of the Aztecs.

Modern traditional Dia de los Muertos festivities take place on Nov. 1 and 2 and have become a time of remembrance, reunion and feasting.

Artwork is showcased through a variety of media and focuses on the unified theme of Mexico’s centuries-old ritual of commemorating the death of a loved one.