The bar is set fairly low for the lawyers and judges who pony up fat stacks to get on stage and sing, dance and rap during this annual production that benefits local charities. The big surprise here is that some of these legal eagles are actually quite talented.
"The audience has a blast. People can see lawyers and judges making fun not only of their profession but of themselves," says Judy Frow, who directs. "We have people on stage who are professional singers, who have music degrees."
"Everybody who comes gets hooked," she adds.
Each year Frow and Head Writer Deborah Baker cobble together an original script and riff on "something to do with the law," add in topics borrowed from headline news, and finish with parody lyrics based on chart-topping hits.
This year's production was inspired by the 1981 film, Clash of the Titans, the cult classic that starred Laurence Olivier, Harry Hamlin, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress and Burgess Meredith. Night Court 2018: Clash of the Counselors will pit man's cleverness against the deviousness of the gods.
"The gods are really annoyed," says Frow. "The gods have sent Hurricane Harvey as punishment." Frow and Baker have written new lyrics to music by Imagine Dragons, Green Day, Bonnie Tyler and Michael Jackson. We'll see nods to Russia's alleged tampering with our electoral process, the Me Too movement, and the impact that Hurricane Harvey has had on our region, both good and bad.
"The big finale is a big dance off so we have a lot of fun but we say serious things at the same time," says Frow. She says they want to recognize the community-building that developed as we all pitched in after the flooding, as well as pay homage to the first responders and to Houston.
"I had one lawyer tell me — a longtime cast member — she described it as summer camp for lawyers," says Frow. "This is my 22nd year as director. All the gray hair I have is thanks to lawyers. It’s a blast for people in the cast; everyone helps with costumes and sets. It’s a great community builder, it’s a great networking opportunity."
And, in one of the most creative seat-filling endeavors we've seen on the local theater scene, legal professionals can receive two hours of CLE ethics credit for attending.
"We are the most fun ethics CLE court in the state of Texas. The great thing about Night Court is that you don’t have to be a lawyer to enjoy it," says Frow.
Sure, the audience members might let out a few groans at the blatant and often funny product placements and corporate name dropping built into the production, but remember that some of these supporters have paid between $2,500 and $25,000 for that mention, and it's all for a very good cause.
"I think people come just to see what we do and how we handle the ads. We do it slightly different every year," says Frow. "People have a love-hate relationship with our placement sponsors.
"We have given, in the course of our existence, over a million dollars to Houston area charities," adds Frow.
Night Court's 2018 charities are Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, Beacon Law, Family Unification Initiative, Houston Area Women's Center Children's Court Services Program, Lone Star Legal Aid Military Veterans Unit, South Texas College of Law Houston Legal Clinics, Child Advocates and the Tahirih Justice Center.
Night Court 2018: Clash of the Counselors is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. August 8-11, The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby, nightcourt.org, $28 to $36.
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