The year is young. Are you having fun yet?
One theater that has been important to area entertainment is the venue now called Tulsa Theater. This is not to be confused with Theatre Tulsa, which is the longest-running theatre group in Tulsa. Rather, Tulsa Theater is what was known until recently as Brady Theater, or “The Old Lady on Brady,” and previously as the Tulsa Convention Hall and Tulsa Municipal Theater. This venerated performance space has been a cornerstone for music, drama, dance and a variety of acts since 1914.
Rachmaninoff, Fannie Bryce and Enrico Caruso all performed there. Caruso reportedly caught a cold when he came to Tulsa and later died of pleurisy. His ghost supposedly lurks in the rafters. Other notable stars who entertained at the venue include Ethel Barrymore, Olivia de Havilland, Helen Hayes, Tallulah Bankhead and Katherine Hepburn. Mae West acted five times at the theater in plays she wrote and produced.
Tulsa Convention Hall became Tulsa Municipal Theater in 1952 and was branded Brady Theater when the property was purchased from the City of Tulsa in the late 1970s. Since recently becoming Tulsa Theater, the building’s familiar Brady Theater sign has been removed. But there is great news! The stylishly lettered “Tulsa” from the old Tulsa Municipal Theater days is extant and will once again grace the front of this true Tulsa icon.
Now that the name confusion has been cleared up, here’s what we can look forward to seeing at Tulsa Theater and other venues in the upcoming weeks. Tulsa Theater hosts “Daniel Tiger Neighborhood Live!” on Feb. 12. Life lessons that touch on socio-emotional themes are augmented by music and engaging characters that will be familiar to preschool-aged children who follow the “Daniel Tiger” animated TV show. Its concept was created by Fred Rogers Productions.
The enduring fan-favorite William Shatner takes the Tulsa Theater stage following a screening of “The Wrath of Khan,” Feb. 13 for some Trekkie fun. Country and gospel singer Josh Turner performs with opening act MamaDear on Feb. 21. MamaDear is a rising star on the country music scene.
Country singer Brantley Gilbert brings his Fire’T Up Tour, Feb. 22 to the BOK Center before “Trolls Live!” turns the arena into troll-central for five performances, Feb. 29 – March 1. “Trolls Live” is predominantly a children’s show, but with enough flash and wizardry to entertain a much broader audience.
There’s more country music at the Hard Rock Casino’s Joint with Texas singer Casey Donahew’s “One Light Town” tour (Feb. 29). Casey’s racked up 18 chart-topping singles over the past 17 years. Get ready for two celebrated bands, Foreigner (Feb. 13) and Styx (Feb. 20) appearing at the River Spirit Casino. The next time I’m playing Trivia and a song from the 1970s is part of the quiz, my answer is going to be “Foreigner!” They are responsible for “Hot Blooded,” “Cold as Ice,” “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Feels Like the First Time” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” Among Styx’s biggest hits are “Lady” and “Come Sail Away.”
The Broken Arrow PAC presents celebrated Broadway singer, actress and Oklahoma native Kelli O’Hara. Kelli attended Oklahoma City University and studied under the same voice teacher as Kristin Chenoweth. She’ll be singing in the Kristin Chenoweth Theatre on Feb. 15. I’ve heard Kelli sing several times. Her performance in “The Light in the Piazza,” was a launchpad, and I enjoyed seeing her on Broadway in “The Bridges of Madison County,” along with her turn as Anna in the Tony Award-winning “The King and I.”
Tulsa Ballet returns to the Tulsa Performing Arts Center with “Dorothy and the Prince of Oz,” Feb. 13 – 16. The ballet’s story is based loosely on the “Wizard of Oz” characters, complete with flying monkeys and other dazzlement. The ballet was choreographed by esteemed dancer Edwaard Liang.
Tulsa Project Theater presents “Godspell,” Feb. 14 – 23 at the PAC, while Theatre Tulsa takes on Tulsan Tracy Letts’ raw and penetrating “August Osage County,” Feb. 15. – 23. It won the Tony for Best Play and earned Tracy the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. I am excited to revisit the special kind of hell that the playwright created with this script and these characters. It’s a wild ride.
Did you see “Miss Saigon” earlier this year at the Tulsa PAC? On Feb. 28 and March 1, Tulsa Opera presents the extraordinarily beautiful three-act Puccini opera on which Broadway’s “Miss Saigon” was based. “Madama Butterfly” is a tragic story about misplaced trust, broken promises and two cultures that are separated by not only oceans, but expectations. Maria Natale sings the role of geisha Cio-Cio San. Tenor Matthew White is her capricious lover, officer Pinkerton.
In August 1955, a black teenager from Chicago, was tortured and killed in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Remarkably, his mother held a funeral with an open casket to show the world the stark brutality of her son’s murder. Her act and courage helped spur the Civil Rights movement. “The Face of Emmett Till,” presented by Theatre North, plays at the PAC Mar. 1-8.
Also coming up in early March at the PAC is the crowd-pleasing Stomp, presented by Celebrity Attractions, Mar. 6-7 and the McGill/McHale Trio, Mar. 8, hosted by Chamber Music Tulsa.
Between scorching drama and “Trolls Live!” I deeply appreciate the depth of entertainment choices we have locally. They all contribute to a diverse and rich cultural life I hope you will want to explore.