Tag Archives: “Texas” musical

Iconic play falls victim to coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic appears to have inflicted a major casualty in the Texas Panhandle: an iconic musical that has been thrilling millions of visitors for decades.

“Texas” is going to miss its 2020 summer season at the Pioneer Amphitheater on the floor of Palo Duro Canyon.

This is a very huge deal in the lives of West Texans, not to mention those who have flocked to the canyon floor to watch the musical that tells the story of the settling of the Panhandle.

Donald Trump declared that the national “social distancing” guideline will remain until April 30. Texas has imposed similar measures statewide. Communities and counties are taking proactive measures, too, to stem the spread of the illness that likely is destined to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Hey, if they can postpone the Summer Olympics until July 2021, it only makes sense that the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation will put “Texas” on the shelf as well until next year.

This news saddens me, but it must be done.

‘Texas’ continues to provide thrills


Somewhere, the late Neil Hess might be looking down on Palo Duro Canyon — with a smile on his face.

The longtime artistic director of the acclaimed musical “Texas” died not long ago. I didn’t know the man well, but I certainly felt badly for him over the way he was dismissed from his job many years ago after devoting many years before to making the musical the attraction it has become.

We went tonight to the play and watched — for the umpteenth time — the pageantry, flash, color and talent that danced across the amphitheater stage. We had a special treat, too, as our granddaughter came with us … along with her parents and her brother.

“Texas” ended with its trademark salute to our beloved nation, complete with fireworks, lighted water displays and lots of proud music.

My wife and I have lived in the Texas Panhandle for more than 21 years and we’ve been to the musical on the floor of the canyon more years than we’ve missed during all that time. We’ve watched the play evolve some over the years. The artists tinker with bits of the play here and there just to change things up.

The story remains the same: a fictionalized telling of the settling the Panhandle and the advent of the railroad.

There’s a bit of pathos in it, with the Quanah Parker character telling the settlers of the sacrifices he and his people made and the suffering they endured while giving away their beloved land to the white men.

You know already, perhaps, that I’m a sucker for pageantry. I love patriotic music, the sight of Old Glory, the salutes to veterans and active-duty military personnel.

Love that patriotic pageantry!

“Texas” encompasses all of that while telling a robust story of a people who were willing to sacrifice everything to settle a once-wild and untamed region.

Man, the play continues to amaze me after all this time.

And wherever he is, Neil Hess — and I hope he eventually got over the way his association with the musical ended — should be glad to see his legacy continuing to flourish.

Hess’s legacy lives on in The Canyon


I did not know Neil Hess, although I surely knew of him.

Hess’s reputation was — and still is — huge in the community he left behind some years ago.

Hess died this week, but I’m so glad and grateful that one of his shining legacies lives on in the form of that play they perform every summer on the floor of Palo Duro Canyon.

“Texas” is a musical that tells the story through song, dance, music and lots of color of the settling of the Texas Panhandle. It became Neil Hess’s “baby” over the many years he served as artistic director of the musical.

My wife and I have been to the play, well, countless times during our 21-plus years living in Amarillo. We enjoy it every single year. We plan in just a few days to take our granddaughter, her brother and her parents to the play to watch the spectacle unfold in the 2016 version of “Texas.”

No tribute to Hess, though, cannot avoid mentioning the unceremonious manner in which he was terminated as artistic director of the play. The Panhandle Heritage Foundation board committed — in my view, at least — a monumental PR blunder when it fired Hess and then spent several days avoiding any explanation as to why it did what it did.

Moreover, Hess had just gone to Austin to receive the Texas Medal of Arts from then-Gov. Rick Perry; the award commemorated his many years contributing to the state’s rich arts culture.

Then he was fired.

Well, the art he helped create remains for visitors to enjoy.

We will continue to do so for as long as we are able to visit the canyon theater.

Rest in peace, Neil Hess … and thank you for all you did to enliven and enrich our community.