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LonerATO 03-19-2014 08:13 PM

Bum Phillips Opera
Some of the Bum Phillips Opera.



"Places, Old Lady!" the stage manager shouts. "Places, Hippie Pig!"

A titter goes up in a venerable theater in Manhattan's East Village, where a collection of actor/singers, bedecked in replicas of the Houston Oilers' home blue jerseys, are milling about onstage. The director is trying to fix the timing of the entrance for the Hippie Pig, who is being played by a sort of biker-ish guy, bearded, long-haired, and shirtless, while the harried stage manager is trying to diminish the general hubbub.

When order is restored, a projection of the roof of the Astrodome begins once again to swirl on a screen, and everyone returns to the task at hand: a stumble-through rehearsal for Bum Phillips: All-American Opera. They're working out the knots in the staging of a number near the end of the first act. It's a song about Earl Campbell, and it transitions into a full-throated rendition of "Houston Oilers, Number One," because what else would you expect to encounter at a night at the opera?

(a growing number)
Look out football, here we come, Houston Oilers, number one.
We've got the Astrodome
the world's eighth wonder
We've got a state as big as the sun

We've got a coach

We've got a coach

We've got a running back all-star

We've got Earl Campbell!

BUD and BUM:
We've got tons and tons and tons of fans
we need a song!

Look out football, here we come
Houston Oilers, number one
Look out football, here we come
Houston Oilers, number one

Look out football, here we come
Houston Oilers, number one
Look out football, here we come
Houston Oilers, number one!
Which, yes. Feel free to raise an eyebrow. I'm not at the Ellen Stewart Theater/LaMaMa E.T.C expecting to see high art. Bum Phillips: All-American Opera is not La Bohème. Bum Phillips is a guy standing behind a trading-card-like prop frame, striking a classic QB pose. It's you, in the audience, wondering, "Is that supposed to be Dan Pastorini?"

But if you spend a few moments watching the production unfold—and I was lucky enough to be allowed to watch them run through the end of Act 1 and a portion of Act 2—you realize that, yes, there is a natural kinship between the NFL and the grand clash of high emotions that is usually opera's terrain. One involves lots of oversized and oversexed pituitary cases being subjected to epic violence and cruelty. The other is professional football.

Of course, we're not talking about just any professional football team; we're talking about the late '70s/early '80s Houston Oilers, in all their glorious wackiness: the "Luv Ya Blue" signs, the John 3:16 guy in the rainbow wig, everything about them striking a giddy contrast with their dynastic foe, Chuck Noll's Pittsburgh Steelers. Amazingly, in the brutish and brutal world of the NFL, they actually seemed to be having fun.

That was mainly due to their coach and general manager, Bum Phillips, who died last October and whose part in the opera is performed by Gary Ramsey. He was at the center of those wild, rambunctious teams—an honest-to-God Texan, prowling the sidelines in his cowboy boots, a wide-lapeled shirt, and a white Stetson resting on top of a Marine's buzz cut, bellowing like a sort of ****kicker Maximus to a delirious Astrodome crowd of more than 70,000 who had just watched their team lose in the AFC championship game: "Last year, we knocked on the door. This year, we pounded on the door. I'm telling you, next year we're going to kick that sumbitch in."

Texan_Bill 03-19-2014 08:26 PM

Re: Bum Phillips Opera
I am so proud as is Steph (I'm sure) and others to have contributed to this project!!

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