When Texas revolutionaries first cried “Remember the Alamo!” during their fight for independence from Mexico, little could they have known the resilience of their rallying cry. Generations of Texans are have been fascinated with the Alamo and the story of the 1836 battle. The 185-year-old tale gets a fresh telling this month with the premier of Remember—A Musical Honoring Those Who Gave Their Lives for Texas.
Presented by The Alamo and the Tobin Endowment, the musical will premier with two shows on Feb. 29 at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio. The show features the 60-piece San Antonio Symphony, 11 actors, and a chorus 75 voices strong. Brett Strader, the composer of Remember, and W. Blake Winchell, author of the show’s book and lyrics, are the latest to delve into the influential battle. This project follows Texas State University’s production last year of The Survivors/Los Sobrevivientes, a play written by Katie Bender that tells the stories of three women who were inside the Alamo during the battle. And in San Antonio, the ongoing Alamo Plaza redevelopment plan aims for a fresh portrayal of the historical events.
Serving as co-director, Winchell has directed over 30 productions, from Camelot to Forever Plaid, while Strader is the resident musical director at the Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre. Both artists currently hang their coonskin caps in San Francisco.
TH: How did this new musical about the Alamo come about?
Winchell: As an eighth-generation Texan, I’ve been fascinated by the Alamo story since childhood. I read a book about the Alamo, and it struck me that there were so many colorful characters that came together in a very moving story that it would be perfect for a musical. So I then did a deep dive in books and other literature on the topic.
Strader: I remember watching Disney’s Davy Crockett as a child, and over the years I’ve come to understand how important the battle was for Texas and the United States.
TH: The story of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution is a large and sprawling saga. How do you lasso it into a couple of hours or so?
Winchell: Remember tells the story from the perspective of five key participants in the fight for Texas independence. It starts with Stephen F. Austin welcoming settlers to Texas and then tells the backstories of Sam Houston, Jim Bowie, David Crockett, and William B. Travis and how they got to Texas.
Strader: These men all left their lives and came to Texas for different reasons. As a storyteller, I love the opportunity to give the audience a reason to love each character, and these men’s stories do that exceptionally well.
TH: How does the cast of eleven actors theatrically portray the hundreds of participants in the battle?
Winchell: The battle is portrayed with a dramatic “symphonette” that is supported by audio-visual projections.
Strader: We compress the battle into a powerful five-minute orchestral suite that both tells the story of the battle and emotionally conveys the impact of these brave men giving their lives for freedom. I structured the music to generally follow the battle timeline and wove into it the melodies from all our characters’ theme songs. It ends with a deeply moving ‘aftermath’ hymn.
TH: Does the show include any lesser-known parts of the story?
Winchell: We include the young Tejano Carlos Espalier and explore why he fought with the Texians against the Mexican Army. And while we present the issues that Texians had with the autocratic government of Santa Anna, we also present issues that Santa Anna had with Texians not living up to their end of the colonization bargain.
TH: I’ve seen David Crockett’s fiddle’ in museum exhibits. Will Davy play the fiddle in the show?
Winchell: Yes! In his big song, “Larger than Life,” he does “play” the fiddle, though the music will actually be a violinist in the San Antonio Symphony.