This year's musical on the hillside is the Sound of Music, and as usual it is outstandingly staged and performed. The talent level is very impressive, and the production values rival other professional venues. This is the 54th summer for the free event in Zilker Park, on Thursdays through Saturdays through August 11 at 8:30. It's a great tradition and recommended. The actors come to the front of the stage after curtain calls to visit with patrons, give autographs, take pictures, etc. It's family-friendly and fun, although it does make for a late night (finishes around 11:20).
As the previous reviewer intimated, come insanely early to get your blanket on a decent spot. 6 pm is not too early. Best spots are in the center - sight lines from the far left and right are not good and you may be behind a post in the lighting structure. The park rules (no smoking, no pets, no regular chairs except at the top of the hill - beach chairs OK-, no unattended blankets before 6 pm, no alcohol) would be great but they are not enforced at all. Thankfully, most of those in attendance voluntarily comply, except for the 6 pm rule which is widely ignored. Concessions are available close by, but the best food is at the pool snack bar about 50 yards away. Contributions are needed and encouraged, so plan on chipping in $20 per family at intermission if you can. This and concession sales fund the next year's production.
Now, for the drawbacks. It's hot - very hot. Bring a golf umbrella - you'll want it until at least 8 pm. Bring water. Airplanes overhead, motorcycles in the pool parking lot, and train whistles all seem to be perfectly timed to coincide with key romantic or musical moments in the production. And the moving pre-intermission turning point in the musical will be punctuated by a parade of rude patrons in front of you departing early for a head start to queue up at the paltry number of portable toilets onsite. About 5% of the patrons on a given night will talk through the production, laugh during dramatic moments, sing or wail along with the performers during songs, and in general carry on as though they were at home in front of the TV set. (This week, I had the treat of sitting directly in front of a group that fought all during the first act, degenerating into a physical brawl at intermission). The best way to avoid these boorish cretins is to come very early and stake out a premium place, as the yahoos are disinclined to go to that much trouble and are usually farther up the hill or toward the sides, but you may need a little luck on that score. Also be aware that lightning, rain or the threat of rain will usually cancel or terminate the performance.
Parking is $5 (new City of Austin ordinance), and if you arrive later than around 6:45 you'll have a long walk. If the grounds are wet, parking is very difficult as they won't allow parking on the grass/dirt areas and this reduces the available parking by well over 50%.
All in all, with a little luck and advance planning you'll have a delightful evening.
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