From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Grand Opening Night planned for New Year’s Eve in downtown Oklahoma City
Downtown Oklahoma City will be transformed into the ultimate variety show tonight in celebration of New Year’s Eve.
Opening Night 2011 will feature rock bands, roller girls, clowns, improv comedians, magicians and more leading up to a sparkling finale at midnight. Organized by the Arts Council of Oklahoma City, the 24th annual Opening Night will bring together 40 performers in nine venues starting at 7 tonight.
“We’re showcasing the best talent in Oklahoma,” said Opening Night Director Rachel Findley. “We’ve got amazing entertainment lined up.”
The alcohol-free, family-friendly event will feature a broad variety of musical acts, including The Ambassador’s Concert Choir, Mountain Smoke bluegrass ensemble, Mariachi de Orgullo, rockers Scott Keeton Band, Edmond Jazz Orchestra and well-known guitarist Edgar Cruz. Alternative rocker Dustin Prinz and pop/electronica group Queen of Monroe will play TAP Architecture garage, a new venue added since the Myriad Gardens are closed for renovation.
The Brother Summit Band, which fuses old-school and contemporary jazz, R&B and blues, will play the event’s finale from 9 p.m. to midnight at Kerr Park, with their show leading up to the traditional ascension of the glittering ball and a grand fireworks display.
“They’re real high-energy. They play a lot of covers and R&B and old-school music, stuff that people like the dance to, so I’m sure they’ll get the crowd really excited for the countdown to midnight,” Findley said. “They have performed with us in the past at different venues, but this is their first year to be on the main stage, and they’re really pumped about it.”
Besides music, live entertainment will include Oklahoma City Roller Derby, jugglers Upside Down Artist, hypnotist Steve Crawford and longtime Opening Night favorite David Thomas, an illusionist who puts on a Las Vegas-style magic show.
In the children’s area, Science Museum Oklahoma will present its Science Wow! spectacle, DisneyMania will invite youngsters to sing along to their favorite Disney movie songs, and an instrument petting zoo will let them experiment with making music, too. Children also can take on inflatable obstacle courses, a scavenger hunt and a wide array of art projects. The Bricktown Clowns will delight children with their playful antics and more.
“The kids love them. They make the balloon animals, and they’ve got that airbrush face painting now that is such a huge hit with the kids. They’re kind of a staple of Opening Night,” Findley said.
For the first time, the OKC Improv showcase will have its own stage at Opening Night. Four of its most popular improvisational comedy acts will play tonight in the fourth-floor auditorium of the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library.
“We just celebrated our first anniversary, so to cap that off by being part of Opening Night is really exciting for us. We’re happy to be able bring such a big variety of improv to the event,” said Eric Webb, OKC Improv co-producer and co-founder. “This is one of many steps we want to take to hopefully be part of the larger performing arts community in Oklahoma City.”
Tonight’s OKC Improv lineup will feature the long- and short-form stylings of Everybody and Their Dog, the state’s longest-running troupe; the themed comedy of The MiDolls, Oklahoma’s first all-female improv troupe; the antagonist’s ode “Villain: The Musical,” an improvised three-act play; and the musically inclined comedy duo Twinprov, which consists of brothers Buck and Clint Vrazel. Audience participation will be an integral part of the shows.
While most of the showcase’s regular shows at Ghostlight Theatre Club are geared to adult audiences, Webb said the performers also enjoy playing for family crowds like those at Opening Night.
“Improv is really about the imagination, so I think kids in particular can really appreciate the kind of skillful play that goes on in an improv scene,” Webb said. “It requires great imagination from the performers, but it also engages the imagination of the audience.”
About 75,000 people are expected to ring in 2011 at Opening Night, Findley said.
“It’s truly an event that families can come to, and there’s something for the kids but there’s also entertainment that the adults can enjoy,” she said.
OPENING NIGHT 2011
Activities: Celebrate New Year’s Eve with live music, improv, roller derby, magic shows, children’s area, strolling performers, fireworks display and lighted ball ascension at midnight. To see the full Opening Night 2011 schedule, click here.
When: 7 p.m. to midnight today.
Where: Nine venues downtown.
Admission: Wristbands are $8 in advance, $10 the day of the event. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Wristbands are available at 7-11 Stores of Oklahoma, metro Homeland stores, MidFirst Bank locations, Science Museum Oklahoma or at the event.
Discounts: People who show their Opening Night wristbands can skate for $5 at the Devon Ice Rink and enter the OK Cityscape Lego display for $1. For more information, go to www.downtownindecember.com.
Information: 270-4848 or www.artscouncilokc.com.