Hot time in the old town

            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.


High Hair and Jalapeños!
8pm Thu-Sat, 2pm Sun
Through Aug 31
$33; $15 student/military

Cameo Theatre
1123 E. Commerce
(210) 212-5454

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