Musical honoring life of former Mayor Phil Hardberger to take stage at The Tobin

By Ellie Holmes - News Producer

SAN ANTONIO - He flew B-47s in the U.S. Air Force, flew a single-engine plane solo across the Atlantic Ocean twice, sailed across it once and served as executive secretary of the Peace Corps.

That was all before Phil Hardberger spent 50 years in San Antonio working as a lawyer, judge and eventually a two-term mayor. 

His nearly 85 years of adventures are at the focus of a musical, "An Adventurer's Journey," at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday night. The musical is part of a fundraiser for the Hardberger Park Conservancy. 

"It takes various incendiary instances, part of my various jobs and adventures, and turns it into a musical," Hardberger said. "I hope a few people are actually interested in my life. I certainly will enjoy it. There will be one person who thinks its a great hit and that will be me."

Those adventures are plentiful.

On the 50th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's historic 1927 transatlantic flight, Hardberger recreated it. He flew from San Antonio to Paris, landing where Lindbergh did at Le Bourget Field. 

Hardberger has also flown from San Antonio to Madrid in a single-engine plane and sailed across the Atlantic from Fort Lauderdale to Portugal. At age 60, he summitted Mount Kilamanjaro -- the world's tallest free-standing mountain, at more than 19,000 feet high. 

Lee Cusenbary, a local attorney, wrote and directed the musical. Cusenbary called Hardberger an "amazing guy, a remarkable part of San Antonio's history, and luckily he's still continuing to do great things for us." 

The musical, Cusenbary said, celebrates not only the man, but the park named after him. 

Hardberger Park was once Voelcker Farm -- a dairy farm that provided San Antonio with much of the milk residents drank for decades. 

"Much the gratitude of people in San Antonio, they didn't cut the trees," Hardberger said. "So we have trees there that are up to 400 years old ... there's not many of those in San Antonio."

Hardberger added that even the younger trees, a "couple hundred years old," are impressive. 

"That park has a lot of vegetation and trees that were growing when people were fighting and killing each other at the Alamo," Hardberger said. 

Nearly 10 years after becoming Phil Hardberger Park, nearly 1,000 people visit every day when the weather is right. The land bridge that will connect the two sides together is expected to be complete in about 15 months.

Hardberger said his passion for parks will not end there.

"Once we get everything done at Hardberger Park, I would like to devote whatever years I have left to building more parks in different places around town. I'm already looking at a couple sites," he said. 

WEB EXTRA VIDEO: 3 things Phil Hardberger loves most about SA 

For local actress and performer Corina Zars, the musical is a way to get to know a different side of a high-profile San Antonian. 

"I've grown up here in San Antonio my whole life. I haven't really followed the personal journeys of politicians, you know, you don't really know what their histories are," she said. "It is a fascinating story, and the more you learn about him, the more you want to meet him. I'd love to sit down with him and have a beer or something and say 'so tell me some more of your cool stories!'"

When asked if he would be doing a number in the show, Hardberger's answer was quite simple. 

"You will not get to see me sing or dance but that's probably is a great benefit," he said.

The musical is part of a sold-out gala-style fundraiser. However, The Tobin Center, which Hardberger help found, is opening up balcony seats for purchase to the public. Tickets are available for $25 on the conservancy's website. 

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