Update: Austin Miller was last in Houston in Hairspray at the Hobby Center. Before that he was at Miller Outdoor in 42nd Street.
Actor Austin Miller, last seen here in the Miller Outdoor Theatre staging of 42nd Street in 2009, is heading back for another round of heavy duty singing and dancing in Houston's summer heat to star as Bud, the lead role in Urban Cowboy: The Musical.
"I grew up in Alvin. I had a little window this summer that I wasn't booked yet. TUTS called and said 'Hey, you want to come and be our Bud?' and I said, 'Hell yeah, my family is so happy when I'm working down there'."
Based in New York City now, Miller said Urban Cowboy: The Musical isn't done a lot, but has special appeal for Houston audiences who will recognize Gilley's, the iconic Pasadena dancehall that is no more.
"My parents went and danced at Gilley's when I was a little kid. I remember very distinctly. They went all the time. And for that generation that actually lived it, I think it'll be interesting to see it brought back to life."
The show has 22 country songs in it, a sort of Mamma Mia approach to narrative structure, and Miller says that's half the fun - figuring out how they're going to shoehorn in another recognizable song to move the story along.
His favorites: the Garth Brooks songs "Thunder Road" and "Friends in Low Places" as well as his opening duet "Born to Fly" by Sara Evans with co-star Brooke Wilson.
Although this is the first time Miller has played Bud, he's set for it. He already had most of the show's songs on his computer.
But he's also something of a Renaissance man. This Monday, he's flying to Warsaw to perform with a symphony. He's part of a newly-formed Il Divo-type group with two other guys. He'll perform in Poland Thursday night, fly back to New York Friday and the next morning catch a 5 a.m. flight for Houston and walk straight into the rehearsal hall.
For the past year, he's also been working on his writing and has developed a feature length film script that just started making the rounds.
When he performed in summer 2009 "In 42nd Street , the costume I wore for 'We're in the money,' it was beaded from head to toe. When you're out there jumping around in the heat in July in Houston wearing 15 pounds of beads and microphones down your legs, it's its own special beast."
But "just the fact that you are playing so many people. Some of those nights we exceeded 13,000 people. As far as sentimental attachment, I love it," he says.
"All of my little sisters and friends from high school get to come and I don't feel bad that they're having to shell out a zillion dollars. They can bring a picnic basket and watch a show for free, that's a huge incentive for doing it."
And Miller hopes to see hometown fans after the show. "I hope to see people I know. I hope that people I went to school with will come out and see us and hang out for a second and say hi afterwards and let me know they were there. I always like that."
Free performances of Urban Cowboy: The Musical at Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive, will be every evening July 14-19 at 8:15 p.m. Free tickets for the covered seats are available on the day of the performance between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Miller Theatre Box Office. Any tickets remaining will be given out one hour before curtain. No tickets? Bring a blanket and enjoy the show from the theatre's lawn.
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