“Guys and Dolls” and “Good on Paper” at Creede Repertory Theatre

Creede’s acclaimed Repertory Theatre Celebrates 50 Years of Excellence – we saw two of this summer’s shows – “Guys and Dolls” and “Good on Paper” – Both terrific!

Reviewed by Tom Jones
August 10, 2015

Many years ago my wife and I began summer visits to Pagosa Springs in Southern Colorado. We had spent a few summer visits there before we “discovered” Creede – a tiny town about 90 minutes north of Pagosa. Much to our amazement, we learned that Creede hosts one of America’s most respected theatre companies – Creede Repertory Theater (CRT). In recent years we have made a point of driving over Wolf Creek Pass to see delightful shows offered at CRT! We have rarely been disappointed, and some of our very favorite theatre experiences have been seeing Creede productions: “Fools,” “The 39 Steps,” and last summer’s amazing “Hope and Gravity” – just to mention a few. This year CRT celebrated its 50th Anniversary in providing great theater and was honored by the Colorado Theatre Guild as Outstanding Regional Theatre.

Creede has been home to some of our favorite performers, who have been part of the company’s summer theatre productions. We have seen Christy Brandt, Anne F. Butler, John Arp, John DiAntonio, Caitlin Wise, and John S. Green so many times that we are surprised when they don’t become as excited to see us when visiting with performers following the show – excited as we are to see them. We were miffed when John DiAntonio and Caitlin Wise didn’t invite us to their wedding last year – how could they not include us, when we thought we KNEW THEM so well– having seen them in so many different shows! But we are adult enough, however, to realize that unknown persons smiling from the audience do not provide opportunities for lasting friendships with the actors we admire!This summer we missed, “Ghost Light,” ”August: Osage County,” and “Our Town, but did see ”Guys and Dolls” and “Good on Paper.” Driving back to Pagosa Springs late one evening after seeing the two shows the same day, we mused that it was a shame we did not have the time to see all of this summer’s productions!

Creede Repertory Theatre
Creede Repertory Theatre

Guys and Dolls” is a charmer from the opening chords of “Runyonland” to the final “Marry the Man Today!” Rarely have the leading roles been in better hands than this year’s Tosin Morohunfola as Nathan Detroit, Sean Thompson as Sky Masterson, Emily Van Fleet as Sarah Brown, and Mehry Eslaminia as Miss Adelaide.

Sky Masterson is a sure-bet gambler who takes on a bet many think he cannot win – that he can take the humble Salvation Army worker on a date to Havana! He wins the bet, and almost loses the girl – but not quite! Sean Thompson is excellent as the no-frills Masterson, and Emily Van Fleet is his equal, initially fighting off Masterson’ advances, only to succumb to the potential “good” Masterson has to offer. The show’s “star, “ however is the zany Mehry Eslaminia as the wide-eyed Adelaide. She is “center stage” whether it be leading the under-dressed and over-exuberant girls in “Bushel and a Peck,” or in determining that a boyfriend’s hesitancy to marry can result in a bad cold! She is a very talented performer! The score includes “I’ll Know When my Love Comes Along,” “If I Were a Bell,” ”Luck Be Lady Tonight, “ and “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”

Supporting players are quite wondrous: Brian Kusic doesn’t miss a beat as Harry the Horse, Joey Biltmore and others. Keep your eye on Graham Ward as he switches persona in the flick of an eye between Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Big Julie. Caitlin Wise is super as one of the Hot Box girls, and plays other roles as well!.

Costumes, lighting, sound, choreography and a terrific cast combine to make “Guys and Dolls” a must-see!

– – – – –

Creede Repertory Theatre
Creede Repertory Theatre

Good on Paper” is not a splashy musical, but a terrific piece of theatre, outlining the challenges of finding that “perfect” mate! Caitlin Wise plays Peg, a lovelorn police-sketch artist whose drawings come to life. She rejects all suitors, as no one can match up to her standards. That is until “Guy” springs from her paper sketch and into her apartment as a live person! Guy is played by John DiAntonio whose self-assured swagger and incredible good looks, make him the “perfect man” of Peg’s dreams. Peg’s sister, Sandy, has her own imaginary friends, as she writes trash books about forbidden love, etc. Mehry Eslaminia plays Sandy. We saw her earlier in the day as the super Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls” and realized her extensive range of talent in bringing to life an entirely different character in the evening’s “Good on Paper.”

DiAntonio and Wise are married in real life – tying the knot a year ago in Creede. They are super together on the stage as sparring romantics. Completing the cast are Brian Kusic and Logan Ernstthal portraying two of the crooks shown in Peg’s police sketches. They also come to life in Peg’s apartment, with her fearing that more of her sketches may come in person to haunt her! Kusic is particularly amusing, as he wants to “expose” himself to everyone at every turn, whereas Ernstthal’s Vincent is a complete “tough.”

This is a fun and thought-provoking play making its Creede debut this summer!

For information, prices and dates of this summer’s CRT productions:’
www.creederep.org
Telephone 719/658-2540

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” musical based on popular family film at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is Family-friendly Entertainment Running the Gamut from Slapstick to Serious at Candlelight.

Reviewed by Tom Jones, August 13, 2015

Photo credit Garland Photography.
Photo credit Garland Photography.
The car flies! Well, not quite “flies,” but it does rise up from the stage – much to the delight and amusement of everyone in the theatre. The car itself is quite amazing – a terrific highlight to its production namesake “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” now on stage at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown.

Special effects have long been used by movies. Now, they are becoming wonderfully commonplace on the stage! We saw Peter Pan fly away with Wendy on the stage at Candlelight. We saw Mary Poppins fly away from the stage at Boulder Dinner Theatre. Now we have an entire car that is airborne, occupied by David Wygant, Alisha Winter Hayes, Rebecca Hyde and Brekken Wald as they fly from England to Vulgaria – and back! Wygant plays Caractacus Potts, the car’s inventor. Alisha Winter Hayes is Truly Scrumptious, a delightfully self-assured woman who is willing to get on board. Hyde and Wald play Pott’s children with no fear of where the amazing car just might take them.

The show did take a little time for me to become enchanted by the goings-on! The script seems to be two shows. The first act introduces us to the Potts family, to the wonderful Truly Scrumptious, and tells us that Potts is a somewhat daffy inventory, who has yet to make it big. The second act is more interesting, as Potts and group fly the car-plane to Vulgaria, a mythical country whose loony Baron is trying to steal Pott’s car and other inventions.

This is the regional premiere of Richard and Robert Sherman’s musical adventure based on the 1968 movie, a version of an Ian Fleming book for children. The premise is that Potts is a kind-hearted but down-on-his luck father of two who has terrific ideas,with little financial success. . Alisha Winter Hayes turns up as Truly Scrumptious, the motorized bicyclist who claims to know more than she does about engines. She is great fun and is quick to charm Pott’s children. Young stage actors are sometimes difficult to understand. Not so with Rebecca Hyde and Brekken Wald. They are delightful from the outset – each has a very good singing voice, stage presence, and speaking voice.

This is specially important in “Chitty,” as the audience included a large number of well-mannered young persons who appeared to be completely in love with the show – even when the evil “Childcatcher” appears in the second act with plans to capture every child in the dreadful country of Vulgaria. Markus Warren was in great form as the Childcatcher! His job is to pick up any children and to “send them away,” as the country’s Baron and his wife claim they hate children and have them banned from the country. Bob Hoppe became drenched in Candlelight’s “Singing in the Rain” and is back for more abuse as the goofy Baron. Alicia King is deliciously wicked as the Baroness Bomburst who claims that she hates “little things.”

There are many young persons in the cast who provide vitality to the production. Of the supporting cast adults, Scott McCoppin is especially endearing as The Toymaker in Vulgaria who makes toys only for the silly Baron, as children have all been exiled or are in hiding! Stephen Charles Turner is convincing as Grandpa Potts. Eric Heine and Jack Barton provide comedy relief as Vulgarian spies who are trying to hijack Potts’ ideas. They provide over-the-top slapstick, but their interaction with the audience is substantial, and the young people watched their every move!

The music is reminiscent of the Sherman brothers’ earlier “Mary Poppins,”and includes some fun pieces, “Toot Sweets” in the candy factory, “Hushabye Mountain” in the children’s bedroom, “Truly Scrumptious” at the countryside and seaside, and the always hummable “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

Sets are very good, as is the orchestra, conducted by Casey Cropp. Choreography by Alicia King is first rate, as are costumes by Judith Ernst. Melissa Swift-Sawyer is credited as Vocal Music Director – with excellent results! The show is staged and directed by Pat Payne who directed Candlelight’s recent hit, “Hairspray.”

I left the theater with my first-act concerns completely gone, as the ultimate tale of the importance of helping each other came through loud and clear, and I was humming the super “Bang Bang, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” all the way home!

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown
To September 13, 2015.
For Tickets: Box Office: 970/744-3747
Online: ColoradoCandlelight.com
Email: info@ColoradoCandlelight.com

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“Secret Garden” and Tarzan” at Thingamajig Theatre Company, Pagosa Springs Center of the Arts

Pagosa Springs is site of delightful productions year-round, with “Tarzan” and “The Secret Garden” among summer 2015 offerings

Reviewed by Tom Jones
August 9, 2015

My wife and I have been going to Pagosa Springs for several years, but did not take the time last year to see live theatre which was offered by Thingamajig Theatre Company. The shows we saw advertised earlier were well known, but we brushed off seeing them, in what appeared to be a tiny theatre. We were wrong. This month we corrected the error of our ways, and stopped in to see two delightful shows there this summer! The theatre plays year-round and their ambitious summer 2015 season includes such popular offerings as “Damn Yankees,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.,” “Tarzan,” and “The Secret Garden.” The shows change daily, so you could spend a week in the area, and see all four different shows this summer! Further information about the history of the Theatre company, etc., is found at the conclusion of this article.

Thingamajig Theatre Company
Thingamajig Theatre Company

Our first venture was “Tarzan, the Stage Musical.” Yes, this is the basic show that was Broadway’s most expensive offering a few years ago. The Broadway sets and staging were so incredible that it took longer than usual to work out the problems, and a near-forever series of previews raised doubts about the production’s ultimate success. The version that is appearing in Pagosa Springs does not have the glitz and glamour of the New York version, but is an up-close-and-personal charmer. Marek Zurowski plays the young man raised by gorillas in a far away jungle. Zurowski is remarkable. He is every bit the Tarzan hunk that fans imagine, and has a terrific voice and stage presence. His “Jane” is played by Annie Jenness, who arrives on the scene fully clothed and prim and proper, shedding some of her clothes, but none of her academic skills by show’s end.

Their Pagosa stage home is actually the foyer of the theatre – all decked out with the looks of a jungle, complete with lots of hanging lines, bamboo shoots, and trees for everyone to climb around. It is enormously interesting. We sat next to a couple who had seen the original production in New York. They commented that the set cannot begin to match that of New York, but the play was substantially more interesting and entertaining this time around as everything was so close-up!

The actors and actresses playing gorillas are appropriate attired and made up to look like wild beasts, and costuming is excellent. Giving support to Zurowski and Jenness are Michael E. Martin as the gorilla leader (Kerchak), Heather McCall is Kala, his wife who decides to raise Tarzan over her husband’s objections, Rodney Holmes as Terk, a gorilla who befriends Tarzan, and Samaya Dunn as the young Tarzan. They are all talented performers! The cast is quite large and provide delightful aerial acrobatics with the vines!

“Tarzan” is well worth a visit. Tickets are extremely reasonable, and there are no reserved seats. Seating, however, is a problem. The theater in the foyer is not large, and only a few rows of folding chairs, are elevated on two sides of the theater. We opted for top row on the back side, only to learn that we could not see the set directly above our heads, which included scenes of Tarzan’s family arriving on the island. We were further hampered by tall persons directing in front of us, so we feel we visually missed some interesting parts of the show. As there is no reserved seating, audience needs to assemble outside the theatre around 6:30 for the 7:00 p.m. production of “Tarzan.”

 

Thingamajig Theatre Company
Thingamajig Theatre Company

The Secret Garden” includes some of the most beautiful songs in recent Broadway memory. They are not, however, immediately recognizable to those not familiar with the show. The music is all here in Pagosa, however, with such amazing pieces as “A Girl in the Valley,” “A Bit of Earth,” “Lily’s Eyes,” and “How Could I Ever Know.” The songs are wonderfully performed! The show itself is excellent!

This is the popular children story of a young girl, Mary Lennox who is living with her family in India, where her relatives all suddenly die of cholera. Mary is sent to live with two uncles – brothers on the moors of Northern England. One brother, Archibald, was married to Mary’s aunt, Lily. Archibald and Lily were expecting a child, only to have Lily die after the child was born. The child survived, and is kept hidden in the English house, supposedly in ill health. Archibald can’t reconcile himself to life without his beloved Lily. He does read to his ill son, Colin nearly nightly. Archibald has a deformed shoulder, and is terrified that Colin will face the same deformity.

Hanna Hawson is remarkable as the orphaned Mary Lennox. She has acting and musical capabilities well beyond her actual years. Tyler D. Collins is convincing as her uncle Archibald. He was a somewhat daffy professor in “Tarzan,” and makes the switch to leading role in“The Secret Garden” to taking command of the stage!

Lily in this show is played by Annie Jenness who was super as Tarzan’s Jane! Her portrayal as Lily is a triumph when she combines voices with Tyler Collins in “How could I Ever Know” at the show’s end.

Archibald’s brother, Neville, is played by Michael E. Martin. We saw him as the gorilla pack leader in “Tarzan” and were amazed when he dressed up as a proper Englishman for “Garden.” Among the show’s highlights is the duet of Martin and Collins reminding each other that Mary Lennox appears to have “Lily’s Eyes” – the eyes of the girl both loved many years ago.

The entire cast of “the Secret Garden” is flawless. This show is performed in a little theater behind the foyer. Seating is better here than for “Tarzan” as there is not a bad seat in the room!

The persons who died of Cholera, including Mary’s parents, turn up frequently in the show, interspersed with the persons playing characters in the English home. Their appearances are a tad confusing.

The musical as a whole, however, is a super, heartfelt retelling of the popular story. Some of the audience sitting near us appeared to be a little confused with the story line, but joined the audience in an inspiring, and well deserved standing ovation.

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Thingamajig Theatre Company was started in 2010 by Producing Artist Director Tim and Executive Director Laura Moore. It’s board is comprised of arts and business professionals in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nevada that were looking for a small town in which to have a big impact.

Thingamajig renovated the new Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts and opened in the spring of 2011. They have been a volunteer run organization committed to bringing in professional artists for the past four and one-half years, producing 41 professional productions, including several Colorado premiers, original scripts by Colorado writers and other works ranging from major musicals to small dramas as well as 13 children’s theater shows. original dance shows and 13 Free Concerts.

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For information:
Thingamajig Theatre Company
In residence at
The Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts
2313 Eagle Drive
Pagosa Springs, CO
Telephone: 970/731SHOW (7469)
Web: www.pagosacenter.org
E-mail: info@pagosacenter.org

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