Deep in the Heart of ZACH

Stars shine through the rain at ZACH's Topfer Theatre opening

Stars shine through the rain at ZACH's Topfer Theatre opening

With a night full of stellar performances and lively entertainment, ZACH Theatre stylishly debuted The Bobbi and Mort Topfer Theatre Saturday night to Austin's artistically fashionable crowd.

Entitled Deep in the Heart of ZACH, the enchanted evening perfectly captured the celebratory tone that a major accomplishment deserves after so much effort. Donors, board members, patrons and stars mingled and danced together under the outdoor tent, marking this space as a place of public joy and memory making.

Outdoors, guests were treated to music, drinks and bites from several of Austin's favorite food stops. Chinatown presented neverending amounts of dim sum, Lucky J's was serving chicken n' waffles, 34th Street Cafe had both Asian slaw salad and Frito pie, Hey Cupcake was serving up their new minis, and Teo topped it all off with gelato.

Musical performances by former ZACH artists and local friends took place throughout the evening in the Kleberg Theatre, where their current production of Xanadu: The Musical is being performed. Rick Trevino, Ginger Leigh, Courtney Sanchez, Matt Wilson and John Pointer got the evening kicking and the crowds warmed up for the main event.

When it was time for the evening's headliner, everyone was thrilled to see the luxurious interior of the ZACH's latest addition that has been under construction for the better part of this year.

And the finished product does not disappoint. Every inch of the new theatre is a pleasure to take in, from the impressive full-scale Karen Kuykendall stage to the downtown view from the Skyline Lounge.

Perfectly timed for the opening of Ragtime as the debut show at the Topfer Theatre, ZACH welcomed beloved Broadway veteran and Tony Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell to perform a concert-style evening of his favorite songs.

In a pleasantly mixed bag of Broadway standards from his upcoming studio CD, Mitchell reinforced why he is one of the most profound and affecting male voices in musical theatre.

In addition to numbers from Kiss Me Kate, South Pacific and Les Miserables, the golden-throated Mitchell closed with his quintessential rendition of "Wheels of a Dream" with the entire 50-person cast of the upcoming show.

Seeing the giant cast gathered on the fully realized stage and realizing they now have the room to move and dance and create to their fullest potential was just as exciting as experiencing Mitchell's talent this intimately.

Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley wasn't kidding: there is literally not a bad seat in the house of the new Topfer Theatre. At 420 seats, the site views are still spectacular from even the ends of the last row. And the acoustics are so on point in the space that Mitchell even performed a number without his microphone and was perfectly amplified.

Despite the initial downpour from the sky as the first guests arrived, the event was the perfect introduction to the vibrancy and versatility of the expanded ZACH campus, facilitating merry-making out under the giant rain-proof tent on the People's Plaza and in two of the three on-site theatre spaces.

DJ Manny kept the dance music going — even getting some additional vocal support from the sequined cast of Xanadu at one point — and the happy crowd danced long into the night.

The theme of the evening was the eventual fulfillment of big, seemingly impossible dreams. Mitchell and Steakley and all of the ZACH staff and alumni were present to remind us why we love the theatre and keep believing in dreams even when they seem impossible.

The completed Topfer Theatre is now a standing testament to that lesson, and it will soon be filled with new dreams coming true for years to come.


Ragtime kicks off the new season for ZACH on Oct. 17 in the newly christened Topfer Theatre. Tickets are available through their website.

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Photo by: Michael Graupmann
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DJ Manny kept the crowd moving long into the night, with the help of the cast of Xanadu. Photo by: Michael Graupmann
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The lobby of the Joe Armstrong Family Auditorium within the Topfer Theatre displays the theatre's mission statement in one word. Photo by: Michael Graupmann