From Broadway to the Bonham: San Antonio’s NYC-Style Entertainment

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The 2013 WEBB party dance floor. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio AIDS Foundation.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to live in New York City. The city seemed to have so much going on, from trendy dance clubs to extravagant stage productions. Unfortunately, growing up in San Antonio made NYC seem so far away. I was convinced, for some reason, that we didn’t have any of the culture or entertainment that NYC seemed to have in abundance.

Needless to say, I was proven wrong. When I got old enough to explore the city myself, I found out that San Antonio does indeed have entertainment offerings similar to those in New York – made even better by San Antonio’s cultural influence.

Some of my favorite San Antonio organizations are partnering to host an event that combines the glamorous New York life I’ve always dreamed of with San Antonio’s unique flavor. The San Antonio AIDS Foundation (SAAF), The Rivard Report, The Current, and members of the national touring company of “Wicked” are teaming up to host “Wicked WEBB” on at 11:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20 at the Bonham Exchange, 411 Bonham St.

The event will feature exclusive performances by the “Wicked” cast, as well as live auctions that will give participants a chance to join the company backstage at The Majestic Theatre. Tickets are $20 online or at the door, and proceeds from the event will benefit both SAAF and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

The "Wicked" cast performs "Pinball Wizard." Photo by Daniel Coston.

The “Wicked” cast performs “Pinball Wizard.” Photo by Daniel Coston / Courtesy of the “Wicked” cast.

It’s the type of classy event that I used to think only happened in New York. But now I know that these types of events are common occurrences in San Antonio – the city has a lot more to offer.

I remember the first time I heard about the Majestic. I was watching TV one day when I saw an ad for some musical that was coming to the theater, “Mama Mia!,” I think.

“Experience Broadway in San Antonio,” the announcer man’s voice boomed through the television. I was immediately intrigued. Not because I was excited to see the famous musical inspired by the songs of ABBA (my love of euro-pop wouldn’t blossom until a few years later), but because I was excited at the thought of experiencing a piece of New York in San Antonio.

The Proscenium of the Majestic Theater - Writer Photo

The proscenium of the Majestic Theater as “WICKED” takes the stage. Photo by Kevin Tobar Pesantez.

In fact, the Majestic brings a number of Broadway productions to San Antonio, in addition to hosting a variety of musical and comedy acts every year. “Wicked” is one of the many shows the Majestic is hosting this year. The wildly popular production is a retelling of “The Wizard of Oz” from the perspective of the witches of Oz. The show will open on March 12 and run until March 30. As a child, I never would have imagined such a huge production coming to the city in which I was raised.

When I visited downtown for the first time on a school field trip, I realized that not only do popular stage shows come to San Antonio all the time, but I didn’t even need to go to the Majestic Theater to experience New York-style living in San Antonio. Downtown San Antonio looked and felt like the New York City scenes I had seen on TV. Floods of people filed down the sidewalk—from fanny-pack-toting tourists to suited-up businesspeople—popping in and out of the unique shops and important-looking city buildings that lined the streets.

That field trip was just my introduction to downtown San Antonio. As I grew older, I started exploring the area on my own and developed a love affair with el centro de San Anto. Rivercenter Mall became a regular hangout for me and my friends. I even started working just north of downtown, at a print shop owned by a family friend, and I took the long way home every night just so I could have dinner at one of downtown San Antonio’s many unique dining establishments.

When I turned eighteen, I went to my first night club. My love of euro-pop was in full bloom, so my tia took me to what she claimed was the best dance club in the city, the Bonham Exchange, which is in the heart of downtown SA. While I have no doubt that taking me to the LGBT-friendly club was her way of showing support of my identity (at the time, I identified as a gay man and had recently come out to her), she wasn’t lying about the quality of the dance floor.

The 2013 WEBB party dance floor. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio AIDS Foundation.

The 2013 WEBB party dance floor. Photo by Essentials/Fabian Villa.

The vibe was gritty and urban, but still glamorous. The DJ played all the music I loved and the crowd danced until the morning. I had never experienced anything like that before and I couldn’t get enough. I became a bit of a regular at the Bonham. It was my favorite place to go to let loose after a long week at work.

Another thing that I loved about the Bonham was the commitment they seemed to have to the community. I would always see posts on their website and Facebook page about a WEBB After-Party that was hosted at the Bonham every year. I didn’t know exactly what “WEBB” was, but I knew it was about AIDS awareness, which is one of the issues I’m passionate about.

When I got an internship at SAAF in the summer of 2013, I finally learned what “WEBB” was all about. The WEBB Party is a fabulous social event that happens during Fiesta, and is one of SAAF’s largest fundraisers. It’s known in the community as the “alternative” Fiesta event and all kinds of people from different walks of life show up each year.

Bonham Exchange at 411 Bonham St.

The Bonham Exchange at 411 Bonham St.

It makes sense that the after-party is hosted at the Bonham. Both are safe spaces where you can be yourself while having lots of fabulous, San Antonio-flavored fun. At WEBB Party, this manifests in a literal way—the event features a cuisine tasting with some of the best local bites from places like Rosario’s and Liberty Bar. There’s also an open bar, live music and a dance floor. The best part is knowing that all the proceeds go to funding SAAF’s client services.

This year’s WEBB Party takes place from 7:30 p.m. to midnight, Friday, April 11, at Lambermont Estate, but you don’t have to wait until then to party like you’re in NYC. At the Wicked WEBB event tonight, not only will you get to experience the Bonham’s amazing dance floor, you’ll get to see exclusive performances from the cast of “Wicked,” which will no doubt take the Bonham’s Big Apple vibe to the next level.

Both events promise to be a fabulous combination of grit, glamour, art and culture. It all sounds very New York – but it’s not. It’s even better. It’s San Antonio.

*Featured/top image: The 2013 WEBB party dance floor. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio AIDS Foundation.

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