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“2012 Musical - Sound of Music” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theater

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Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theater
2206 William Barton Drive, Austin, TX 78746
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Ranked #250 of 394 things to do in Austin
Austin, Texas
Top Contributor
115 reviews 115 reviews
13 attraction reviews
Reviews in 40 cities Reviews in 40 cities
121 helpful votes 121 helpful votes
“2012 Musical - Sound of Music”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 21, 2012

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.

Visited July 2012
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2 reviews from our community

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  • English first
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English first
Austin, TX
15 reviews 15 reviews
8 attraction reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
“Summer Musical”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 11, 2008

One of the best things to do in Austin with your family - and cheapest too!

For 50 years, Zilker Park has hosted a summer musical at it's hillside theater. This year the performance was the Disney Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast and it was spectacular. I can't commet on previous performances myself, but all the reviews led me to believe that the quality of past shows have been equally as good. The performance was wonderful - the set, costumes, live orchestra, and especially the actors. And the best part, it was free! The only cost was $3 parking, which you can avoid if you ride public transportation (first check that there will be buses running there late at night - we got stranded once a few years back when we were seeing a movie at the theater). We went once as a family and once with relatives from out-of-town and it was a great experience both times, but there are some tips.

First, get there early. Unfortunately, the park says that after 6 pm it is okay to leave an unguarded blanket to reserve your spot. I wish they would do away with this rule since the performance didn't start until 8:30 and by the time most people got there around 7, all of the central spots were taken up by people who had dropped off their blanket and then went swimming. The theater is basically a stage at the bottom of a hill and once there is a large crowd, getting a decent spot is difficult. We tried several different spots and figured out that being on the right was much better than being towards the back center, where the ground levels off and most people have chairs blocking your view. You can bring your own food, but there are concessions and restrooms available. If you drive, remember to have a lot of patience when you are trying to leave - it will take you 30 to 40 minutes to get out of the parking lot if you are towards the back. It would be nice if they used some of the money from parking to hire one or two people to direct traffic in the parking lot.

The summer musical was lovely because it was very family friendly and representative of the Austin community. It was a great way to spend an evening (for us - two!) and we plan on making this an annual event for our family.

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