Bum’s the Word
This is an excerpt from an article written by Nick Esquer in the September 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine.
“Opera is a little closed off to certain demographics and we wanted to make it more accessible to everyone,” says producer-director Luke Leonard, by way of explaining why the world needed an opera about Bum Phillips. But we hear your objection. If that’s the case, why focus on a man known only to an ever-shrinking subset of “everyone”?
Well, for starters, O.A. “Bum” Phillips, was a certifiable legend of Houston sports, and opera has always leaned heavily on those. As such, the show, Bum Phillips: All-American Opera, puts the beloved, one-of-a-kind Houston Oilers head coach center stage, dramatizing everything from Bum’s rural upbringing to his emphasis on sportsmanship to his two postseason runs in the late ’70s.
“Texas is big and Bum is kind of an anomaly [in pro football] because he came in wearing a big cowboy hat and spitting tobacco,” says Leonard, whose opera, with music by Peter Stopschinski and a libretto by Kirk Lynn, comes to the Stafford Centre for a one-night-only engagement on Sept. 24. It is an authorized opera, by the way, if there is such a thing, Phillips having given its authors the go-ahead in 2012, a year before his death. (Bum’s initial response? “I can’t sing a lick.”)