San Antonio’s historic Woodlawn Theatre, built in 1945 as a proper movie theatre, was once best known for hosting the premiere of the John Wayne film the Alamo in 1960. Photographs of the Deco District building during the era show attendees dressed in formal gowns, military uniforms and suits for the occasion. Other photos of the theatre show the outdoor marquee displaying film classics Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), the Sand Pebbles (1966) and others amongst the backdrop of now-classic cars which were parked across the street of the movie theatre.
Declared a City of San Antonio Historic landmark in 2013, the theatre is now known for its all-musical live productions. The theatre is comprised of multiple distinct, but united areas – the theatre, which seats 260 occupants on the lower level and an additional 80 in the balcony area, the rehearsal area, office spaces for administrative work and the recent addition of the popular youth rehearsal space. I am given an extensive tour by the theatre’s young executive director Christopher Rodriguez, who began his tenure as Youth Director in 2012. He worked his way up to Artistic Director in 2016 to his present role as Executive and Artistic Director in 2017. I was immediately struck by his kindness, passion for the arts, and sincerity in conveying the mission of the community arts theatre (“to assist in sustaining the tradition of theatre while contributing to the lives of local artists, and to enrich the community by encouraging people of all ages to participate in the arts).” Formally designated a 501©3 nonprofit in 2012, the theatre is “devoted to creating opportunities for its surrounding community by providing quality, entertaining, educational, and affordable programming for all ages.
I was privileged to attend opening night for Oklahoma!, the first musical written by the famed composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II team, based on the 1931 play by Lynn Riggs, “Green Grow the Lilacs”. “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” opens the play and sets the tone for the country-themed musical, which like all Woodlawn Theatre productions, boasts a live orchestra production piped in from an adjoining room in the theatre. I sat next to a former speech coach who had previously directed the play who shared theatre history with me, relaying that the length of the play (2 hours and 45 minutes), marks the pre-television age in which it was written where groups would sit enraptured at live performances for hours on end as their source of entertainment. The production was lively enough to keep my boyfriend and I entertained with several high energy dance numbers, suggestive jokes and witty banter. Standout performances from actors Jimmi Nelson-Reid who played “Ado Annie Carnes” and Ivan Ortega who played “Ali Hakim,” had us sending raves the actors’ way after the play. And because it was opening night of the season, patrons were gifted with complimentary celebratory cake, champagne and an after-show cabaret show (which can be attended by anyone, not just ticket holders). Actors, choreographers, stage directors and others from the production took turns singing standards old and new, such as actor Robert Nauman, who played “Ike Skidmore” in the musical and stole the cabaret with his electrifying performance of “Man of La Mancha” from “I, Don Quixote.” A fun ending to the night was a crowd sing-along to Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” and a friendly goodnight of “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here,” message to joyful patrons of song, dance and acting.
The Woodlawn Theatre has received numerous Alamo Theatre Arts Council Globe Awards for Direction, Lead Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, Sound Design, Scene Design, Choreography, Music Direction, and People’s Choice Award and has been voted “Best Community Theatre” via The San Antonio Current in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
There are six main stage shows a year – Oklahoma! continuing until- March 2; In the Heights (the Lin-Manuel Miranda, (of Hamilton fame) musical about the largely Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City), running April 12-May 5; Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Audition information coming soon!), July 5-July 28; Dreamgirls (same), August 23-September 15; Priscilla Queen of the Desert (which I am especially excited to see!), running October 11-November 3 and A Christmas Carol the Musical, November 29-December 23. Parking is free, located behind Vogue Beauty School. Yearly discounts (25% off ticket prices) benefiting students, youth, the LBGTQ and American Sign Language (ASL) communities are available – visit for more information.
1920 Fredericksburg Rd. San Antonio, TX 78201 210-267-8388