Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What to Know About Zilker's Summer Musical: Oklahoma!

First, I need to freely admit that I LOVE musical theatre! I especially love classic shows with songs that I've been singing for as long as I can remember. So I was pretty excited when Zilker Hillside Theatre Productions announced that this year's show would be Oklahoma!, one of Rodgers & Hammerstein's cherished shows. This is the 56th year that the Zilker Summer Musical offers Austinites high-quality entertainment for FREE. Oklahoma! runs Thursday-Sunday evenings in the park through August 16, 2014.


I had the chance to see the show this past Sunday, and it really surpassed my expectations. But I realize that not everyone is as personally enthusiastic as I am to head to the outdoor show. When I was initially looking for someone to accompany me, I heard several reasons why friends decided to pass on my invite -- heat, bugs, parking concerns, and even someone who firmly believes that "you get what you pay for" and questioned if a free show would be of good quality.

All of these are valid questions and reasons for hesitation, but I also think this production is truly worth your time and effort to get there! The quality of this show is top notch, and once there, you're sure to enjoy yourself. In attempt to help you plan ahead and make the most of your experience, I have rounded up some of the various questions I have been asked about attending the show.

Everything You Want to Know About Attending Oklahoma! in Zilker Park


What is the show about?

Oklahoma!, set in a Western Indian territory just after the turn of the century, tells the tale of Laurey Williams and her suitors, Curly McLain and Jud Fry, the spitfire, Ado Annie and her patient beau, Will Parker, and the ever tenacious and optimistic Aunt Eller. This landmark, Pulitzer Prize winning musical, takes us back to a time when the farmer and the cowman struggle to be friends, traveling salesmen hock their wares, and a trip to Kansas City is the hottest story in town.


Will I know any of the songs?
Yes! This show features the timeless Rodgers & Hammerstein classics "Oh What a Beautiful Morning," "The Surrey with the Fringe On Top," "I Cain't Say No," "People Will Say We're in Love," and of course, the title song, "Oklahoma!". Even if you've never seen this play or movie-version, you will recognize some of the tunes.


Is there a cost for attending?
Zilker Summer Musical productions are FREE and open to the public. Zilker Theatre Productions is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and can only provide this annual entertainment through contributions. So during intermission, you will be asked to donate what you can to support these shows.


What time does it start and end?
The show starts around 8:30pm. On the night that I went, intermission was around 10pm, and the show ended around 11:20pm. This of course, could vary slightly each night. And if you're worried about staying out too late, you might want also consider the fact that it takes a little while for all of the cars to exit the parking lot. However, if you know that you're going to wish to leave a little early, you can certainly plan to do so. Just sit on the sidelines or way back, and you can easily sneak out without troubling those around you.

Where is the Zilker Hillside Theatre, and where can I park? 
Beverly S. Sheffield Theater is located across from to Barton Springs Pool. The parking entrance is located at 2201 Barton Springs Rd. within Zilker Park, with much of the parking in a dirt field. The City of Austin charges $5 per car for parking and there is limited handicapped parking in the lower parking lot closer to Barton Springs Pool.


Where can I sit?
Everyone is invited to bring their own blankets and folding chairs to sit on the grassy hillside and watch the show. Blankets may not be put down before 6pm and plastic tarps are not allowed. Full-height lawn chairs are only allowed along the walls at the top of the hillside, as they block the view of other patrons. Low-height, low-backed “beach chairs” and blankets are allowed in the section behind the lighting poles on the second level. Also note that there are some centrally located spots that are reserved for donors and cast members families.

ADA accessibility allows for designated seating for audience members with special needs. The first level (stage level) will be available for these patrons. Please contact Zilker Theatre Productions at 512-479-9491 if you need any special assistance.

What can I bring?
Pack a picnic basket and/or cooler. A variety of drinks and snacks (including cotton candy and donuts) can also be purchased from the theater's concession stand (proceeds benefiting the production). Don't forget your bug repellant. And if you have any hand-held fans, you might wish to bring those, too, or anything that helps you stay cool in the warm summer temperatures.
- No glass containers are allowed.
- No smoking is permitted in the seating area.
- No pets are allowed.

What is the bathroom situation?
There are port-a-potties on site as well as the restroom by Barton Springs Pool (although that building operates on pool hours.) There is also an air-conditioned bathroom for the actors that patrons can use for the night if they provide a $25 donation.

Is this good for kids?
Obviously, this is totally up to parents to decide if this is a good fit for their children. There were plenty of kids of all ages on the hillside the night that I was there. The beauty of a free, outdoor show is that you can certainly leave early if it's not working out -- or you can plan ahead to leave early if you know that they cannot stay up late enough for the show's end (around 11:30pm).  The storyline mostly focuses on love and romance. There is definitely that creepy "bad guy" portrayal in the character of Jud, but I but I think a lot of the dark themes would be over the heads of many young children. (Specifically, if you're curious, there are a few references to dancing girls and nude photos, talk of murder, a few "damn's" and "hell".)

On Saturdays at 6:30pm, Zilker Hillside Theatre presents Lil' Ropers' Roundup! This looks like an adorable bonus activity to keep the kids entertained as you wait for the show to start. Kids will meet  Oklahoma! characters "Gertie" and "Will" and have a chance to learn how to spin a rope and more.

What if it rains?
For information on the status of an evening’s performance, call the Zilker Theatre Productions Hotline at 512-479-9491. You can also check their Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.

Where to get more info?
For more information, visit the Zilker Theatre Productions website.

Zilker Hillside Theatre
2201 Barton Springs Rd
Austin, TX 78704
512-479-9491

Don't forget!
Seeing Oklahoma! is one of the items on the Austin Summer Fun Checklist for Kids. Don't forget to cross it off your list, and post your Instagram photos of yourself out enjoying the show with hashtag #AustinSummerFun.


Freelance web producer, Heidi Okla is mom to three boys (ages 4, 6, and 8), and can't pass up any opportunity for fun family adventures that she shares on FreeFuninAustin.com. Heidi also covers theatre, health and beauty topics on Austin's LiveMom.com.

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