Published 11:10 a.m., Saturday, August 13, 2011
I've seen High Hair in each of its incarnations and it just gets better and better. Gloria Liu and Phill George are a couple of astonishingly persevering folks who have created an incredibly fun evening for San Antonio that showcases terrifically talented performers singing hilarious original songs. Don't forget, it is produced and directed and (largely) written by San Antonians- for this city. It should be required viewing for everybody at City Hall and wherever Bexar County officials hang out, who then ought to take advantage of this wonderful show that was created for San Antonio and make sure that visitors also get a chance to see it, year-round. We need to find them a permanent home - like Esther's Follies in Austin and Beach Blanket Babylon in San Francisco. This show is a boon for San Antonio.
Since the 1970s, San Francisco's “Beach Blanket Babylon” and Austin's Esther's Follies have wrought musical fun from up-to-the minute scandals and celebrities. San Antonio has its own musical version of shenanigans, “High Hair and Jalapeños!,” but unlike the other cities, it doesn't have a permanent venue. So, people, now through Sept. 11 is your chance! Its current run is the fourth version in three years, keeping the local satire au courant through 27 songs, nine of them new. Performances (suggested for adults only) are at the Cameo Theatre, 1123 E. Commerce St. For tickets, call 210-212-5454.
“As long as you're a straight, Caucasian, Republican, Baptist, you ought to fit in just fine!” Big Ed, played by Matt Goodson, sings in the opening number. Eva Longoria, Barbara Bush, Lady Bird Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones and T. Boone Pickens aren't immune from ribbing, nor is a typical Texas family eating its way through Wurstfest, in “Bigger's Always Better.” Gov. Rick Perry's recent prayer gathering in Houston made his character's duet about separation of church and state more relevant. The other half of the duet: a character named Pastor John Hagee. The spitting image of Loretta Lynn, played by Becky King, sings, “If You Can't Live Without Me, Why Aren't You Dead?”
“High Hair” started in 1980 when veteran theater producer and director Gloria “GL” Liu approached Phillip George, a New Yorker who got his creative start at San Pedro Playhouse's old Saltines group, about writing the revue. It sat on the back burner until 1997 when George and Peter Morris sat at Liu's table and wrote the songs. They faxed lyrics to composer Michael Jeffrey in London, who wrote tunes and faxed them back. Deb Mays, whose Deb & the Desperados accompanies the singers, would come to Liu's and try out the new songs with the group.
“We probably couldn't have done some of this in 1997,” Liu said, “but times change and the strong satire seems to be very acceptable.” To keep the show fresh, Liu sends George local news articles. If they could just find a full-time theater, our news would come with costumes and song.
By Deborah Martin firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated 06:01 p.m., Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Director Phillip George has spent his career making people laugh. How, exactly, the funny happens remains a bit of a mystery, he said.
Part of the problem, he said, is that “everything's funny when you write it.
“I would sell my soul for a laugh check,” he said, describing it as a computer program similar to spell check, which would tell the writer when he'd struck gold with a joke. “I would kill for that.”
Even without that mythical program, he's managed quite nicely. Among other things, the New York-based theater artist was one of the guiding forces behind “Forbidden Broadway,” a long-running series of spoofs of Broadway musicals. And he's also helped shape “High Hair and Jalapeños,” the San Antonio revue he developed with various folks at the behest of producer Gloria Liu.
The show returns to the Cameo Theatre Thursday night, with several new numbers taking their place beside proven favorites such as “El Toro,” in which a bride-to-be confesses her passion for a mechanical bull; and “If You Can't Live Without Me,” a very funny country song.
One of the new numbers is “Keeping America Beautiful,” which was inspired by George's affection for Lady Bird Johnson. The tune has Johnson and Mary Kay Inc. founder Mary Kay Ash in heaven singing about how they worked to keep the country beautiful, in Kay's case, “one ugly face at a time.” Another is “Hard Time and Hard Labor,” about female prison inmates preparing to give birth while handcuffed.
Nine new numbers were written for the show; which will make the final cut remains to be seen. Some older material had to be scrapped to make way for the new stuff. The Wurstfest number, built around the long lines for the restrooms, is gone this time around, for example.
Every sketch was inspired by something from real life. George routinely looks through Texas Monthly, hunting for ideas, and Liu sends him links and clippings, too, so that he can keep abreast of things going on in San Antonio.
Talking a bit about funny business, George recalled that back in the '80s, he read an interview with Quentin Crisp in which the writer/performer said that he would have lunch with anyone who would pay for the meal. So George looked him up and took him out.
Among other things, they talked about George's work as a satirist, and Crisp said, “If you describe life as worse than it is, you're called a pessimist; if you describe life as better than it is, you're called an optimist; if you describe life as exactly as it is, you're called a satirist.'
“There is an absurdity to what really happens.”
Revisions, veteran cast continue to keep show fresh, topical.
By Deborah Martin
Updated 01:00 a.m., Friday, August 12, 2011
The catchy opening number for “High Hair and Jalapeños,” now in its fourth edition, promises “a rip-snortin' evening of fun,” and the cast and crew make good on that.
The irreverent show, paying a return visit to the Cameo Theatre, boasts nine new numbers, plenty of topical references to freshen up some of the older bits, and a cast of veterans and newbies who give each scene their all.
The show always starts the same. The audience is greeted by Lureen (Jillian Cox), a brassy Earl Abel's waitress, who sets out to explain all things Texan to the crowd. She's aided by fellow waitress Corrine (Becky King), Texas Ranger Big Ed (Matthew S. Goodson), cowboy Little Roy (Josh Harris) and Mexican immigrant Jorge (Michael J. Gonzalez). From there, the show offers a zippy series of sketches and musical numbers.
Harris and King are newcomers, and they're fine additions to the cast.
The best of the new numbers is the cheeky Act 1 finale, “Whatta We Get?,” a trash-talkin' bit that both appeals to and tweaks Texas pride. It runs through what various other states provide to the country — Wisconsin, the song holds, gives us stinky cheese and funny accents — and then offers a Lone Star salute to Texas' chief virtue. To reveal it would kill the punch line; suffice it to say the line is delivered with great gusto by the cast, all of them taking on the identities of Texas celebrities.
A returning number, “It Won't Play,” in which Gov. Rick Perry (Harris) and minister John Hagee (Goodson) sing of the separation of church and state, was a little stiff, movement-wise, on opening night; hopefully, they'll loosen up as the show goes along. The song itself is funny and well-delivered.
The show, conceived by Gloria Liu and Phillip George, who co-wrote and directed the show, is a lot of fun from start to finish. Liu, who produced it, is hoping to find a permanent home so that it could run year-round; here's hoping that comes to pass, because “High Hair” definitely has legs.
Posted on 08/10/2008 by mysa-admin
Note: Express-News theater writer Deborah Martin raved about “High Hair and Jalapeños,” now playing at the Cameo Theatre, and so I said, “Why don’t you write about it for The Downtown Blog?!” So here you have it. . . Also, in the interest of full disclosure, this post originally included MP3s of some of the songs in the show with permission from the producers. They have since asked us to remove them.
Quickie downtown theater review: You gotta, gotta, gotta see “High Hair and Jalapenos” (unless you prefer your theater dour and dark — if that’s the case, you might want to skip it).
The loosely structured revue strings together two-dozen songs and skits spoofing all kinds of Lone Star stuff, with an emphasis on San Antonio. It definitely comes from a knowing, affectionate place: There are references to mariachis interrupting romantic moments on the River Walk, lengthy bathroom lines at Wurstfest, lousy Spanish and gun-toting grandmas.
The show is weighted so that all five members of the cast — Roy Bumgarner, Jillian Cox, Marc Daratt, Michael J. Gonzalez and Valarie Miller — have ample opportunity to shine, and shine they do. Bumgarner manages to infuse the romantic ballad “Roadkill” (yeah, that’s right — it’s a romantic ballad) with genuine emotion while also nailing all the comic elements; Cox gives “El Toro” a terrific physicality; Daratt is very funny in the requisite George W. Bush sketch; and Miller is marvelous as a feather-headed-but-bossy cheerleader in “Shine.” Gonzalez, though, very nearly runs away with the whole show with his solo number early in the second act. To say too much about the song would give away the joke, but those who see the show will know it when they hear it. (For the record, it’s the number he sings dressed in lederhosen, not the one in which he is dressed as a jalapeño. Though he is a fine jalapeño, as well.)
Posted on 03/19/2009 by dmartin
And now, something for the “How Much Fun Is That?” file (Unironic category). Producer Gloria Liu has brought back the deliciously funny “High Hair and Jalapenos,” which premiered last year at the Cameo Theatre. Five new numbers have been added to fine effect, and virtually every other number has been tweaked and polished. The end result is a fast, hilarious show that’s a must-see.
Posted on 11/20/2009 by dmartin
“High Hair and Jalapenos,” the fast-and-funny musical revue satirizing all things Texan, makes a welcome return at a new venue. For its third go-round, the show has moved from the Cameo Theatre to the Josephine Theatre. All of the show’s strengths are intact, including most of the original cast; it’s also got several new holiday-themed numbers. The new material flows well with the returning numbers. (Don’t fret, fans — crowd favorites “El Toro” and “If You Can’t Live Without Me” are still there.) It’s definitely worth seeing.
High Hair & Jalapenos! at the Cameo Theatre
BY NICOLETTE GOOD 8/6/2008
No Texan is safe from bearing the brunt of a good-natured joke at the Cameo Theatre this month. High Hair and Jalapeños!, a musical revue of all things San Antonio, mixes racy, silly, and biting vignettes for a two-hour jaunt through Earl Abel’s, jumbo-tron evangelism, and the Olmos Basin Park (after hours, that is.)
High Hair’s laughs hit hardest when it goes for the throat — watch out, T. Boone Pickens. In the first number, a jolly waitress (Jillian Cox) assures an audience of supposed foreigners we’ll survive in Texas as long as we’re white, Caucasian, conservative Baptists. Between its five-man cast, the revue enjoys a few clichéd cartoons of Southern paradox like this one, but mostly it shows its fangs.
In a tune called “Bush,” a boyish president (Marc Daratt) and placid first lady (Valarie Miller) declare they’ll never stray from Texas again … not even if Obama needs their advice. Bush’s public caricature is a little old hat, but Laura waddles on stage like a Conehead sans butt crack, and it’s a gas.
Miller shines throughout the production with a style that’s half Lily Tomlin, half Cheri Oteri, and the mixture is magic. Cox, the other leading lady, is as sweet as she is saucy, and both ingénues belt out melodies like they’re on a CMT reality show. And that’s what makes High Hair a truly special event: Director Phillip George could have relied on his cunning to float the show, but he couples smart humor with singers who nail three-part harmonies and flesh out Texas characters.
High Hair also gets a gold star for ingenuity, as when Jillian and Valarie hop on rolling office chairs, i.e. their Hummers, and cruise around the stage glued to their cell phones, pinpointing a good-for-nothing ex. In “Rotten Love,” a tribute to quintessential Southern infidelity, the heroines are joined by Michael J. Gonzalez as Jorge, who has a beef with the same man. Gonzalez won me over with subtlety and charisma throughout the production, but if I have one beef with High Hair, it’s the parts written for poor Jorge. For a show about San Antonio culture, it seems odd that only one cast member has a Latino name. And only one takes the fall for jokes about race, socioeconomics, and “other” qualities. No coincidence it’s the same guy. While he’s playing a mariachi being pimped out by a Mexican restaurant, two white, Caucasian, conservative Baptists chase him like he sounded an ambulance siren. Subtext? San Antonio is no place for the mariachi.
Jorge is also the only character depicted as gay. These episodes are hilarious — like when a doo-wopping Gonzalez sings about being in love with an illegal alien (a UFO passenger he met in Olmos Park), or when he confides to the audience that he’s bi, meaning he speaks English and Spanish — but please, share the love.
In spite of this theatrical profiling, Gonzalez delivers charm and wit, and seems to enjoy his skinny jeans. Director and choreographer Phillip George, whose extensive résumé spans 10 years of off-Broadway shows, knows just which lines he’s crossing.
Last weekend’s preview of High Hair and Jalapeños gave cast and crew a chance to field the audience, and their energy was unrelenting. I’m confident they’ll iron out any pacing issues before Thursday’s world premier, and with some editing, the revue has long-run, even touring, potential.
Thursday, November 19, 2009; Posted: 12:11 PM - by Frankie Daniel-Taylor
As their website says, "nothing is sacred in this satirically funny, fast-paced romp through all things Texas with a special focus on San Antonio AND a few holiday twists." "High Hair and Jalapeños" returns to San Antonio, this time at the Josephine Theatre, for a third serving of laugh-out-loud slapstick Texas humor.
"High Hair" has been produced in San Antonio twice before - both times at the Cameo Theatre. Four of the original cast members return for this performance, including the always fierce Jillian Cox, the charming Roy Bumgarner, the muy caliente Michael J. Gonzalez (pardon the pun, but he does don a jalapeño costume at one point), and the vivacious Valarie Miller. Joining the cast is Matt Goodson, a native of Alice, Texas (a town mentioned in the show), who is a perfect fit for this all-around talented group of performers.
Written by a team headed by co-directors Phillip George and Peter Charles Morris, "High Hair and Jalapeños" prods and pokes at just about anything and everything Texas - especially San Antonio. At the opening of the show, the audience is greeted by Lureen, a waitress from San Antonio dining landmark, Earl Abel's. At the opening night performance, audience members who likely had seen one of the former versions of the show, chimed in with "orders" for the waitress. Lureen, played with the perfect combination of charm and humor by Jillian Cox, went right along with it and then continued into the rest of the opening number, alongside her four fellow cast members.
Other stand-out numbers include Cox's hilarious solo "El Toro" about a woman's illustrious "affair" with something a little less-than-human on her wedding night; a stint where Gonzalez dresses up as a jalapeño and Miller joins him on stage dressed as a chalupa; a tap-dancing Texas; a song about an obsession with Eva Longoria Parker and then Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison; and even a number about fencing in all of Texas. And, this would not be a holiday production without a couple of Christmas-themed numbers. All of the performances are top notch, as they should be. Each of the actors has quite the stellar resume, and three of them - Cox, Miller, and Gonzalez - won ATAC Globe Awards for their performances in the second edition of "High Hair".
Rose Kennedy and Laura Briseno have done an outstanding job with the costumes that include the aforementioned jalapeño and chalupa, a collection of Texas-sized dresses, tight-fitting cowboy jeans, and just the right amount of cowboy hats and boots. Wigster Frank Latson finishes off each look with "big hair" creations, including one that rivals the coiffure of Texas Governor Rick Perry. My personal favorite is a curly blond wig that is decorated with colorful Christmas tree lights.
A simple, but effective set - featuring sliding doors with the Texas state flag, a mural of what looks more like a West Texas desert, and, of course, a Christmas tree - helps set the mood and allows the performances to be the key focus. Rounding out the production is a small on-stage band, led by musical director Deb Mayes, with David George on bass and Mark Welch on drums.