A Twist On The Cinderella Story Offered At Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Annie Dwyer Provides Magic As Warm & Chatty Fairy Godmother

Reviewed by Tom Jones

June 17, 2017

Director Don Berlin has assembled an extremely experienced cast now performing on stage at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown. It is a “Who’s Who” of top talent in Northern Colorado. Matt LaFontaine wooed and wowed audiences with a string of outstanding performances in recent months. In the Arvada Center, he was Judas in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” At Candlelight, he was Che in “Evita,” and the Baker in “Into the Woods.” He is Cinderella’s Prince Charming this time, but doesn’t come into his own as the desirable man of Cinderella’s dreams until late in the show with his “I Can’t Forget the Melody.”

Photo Courtesy of Don Berlin

Sarah Grover is Cinderella, coming from a variety of acclaimed performances such as the spunky Little Red Riding Hood in “Into the Woods” at Candlelight. Cinderella in this version of the tale is more downtrodden than ever. With the help of her Fairy Godmother, however, her raggedy dress magically changes into an illuminated blue gown to wear to the ball.

Photo Courtesy of Don Berlin

Tom Mullin is the king. He’s been on Colorado stages for 44 years, and is a daffy delight as the befuddled ruler of the kingdom. Scotty Shaffer and Kent Sugg, David L. Wygant, and Broc Timmerman are back! Shaffer as the over-the-top Montague in the King’s Court, and Kent Sugg bewigged as the King’s mother tottering around in high heels. Timmerman and Wygant are not featured predominately, but are familiar faces and talents.

Ethan Knowles is effective as the prince’s friend, John, and Samantha Jo Staggs plays the long-suffering wife of the king. Melissa Morris makes quick costume changes to be Lady Caroline and other women in the ensemble.

Photo Courtesy of Don Berlin

One of the newcomers to the stage is Furby, an amazingly-trained dog, accompanying Annie Dwyer’s “Fairy Godmother.” Dwyer is very good, and has the good sense to let the dog occasionally steal her spotlight. The magic she weaves and Furby who obeys her every command provide great fun, especially to the many young people in the audience. Whenever she appears, some sort of magic is just around the corner. Visual effects are great, as the Fairy Godmother can prepare a full meal in the “twinkling” of an eye and can transform tacky dresses into beautiful gowns for the dreadful stepsisters.

The basic story is so familiar that I felt I was seeing stereotypes of characters I’ve known for generations. Heather McClain portrays the awful stepmother and with Katie Jackson and Rebekah Ortiz as the equally-dreadful daughters. All are talented performers but were unfortunately shrill and annoying as they tormented the hapless orphan, Cinderella.

Photo Courtesy of Don Berlin

The set, not to be outdone by the experience of the performers, becomes a character on its own. Casey Kearns is credited as scenic designer, with Joel Adam Chavez as scenic artist. The look is very impressive, as are the costumes designed by Debbie Faber, and the lighting by Emily Maddox. Sound by Mark Derryberry is excellent as is the music, under direction of Nicholas Gilmore. Stephen Bertles provides the choreography, including an especially charming ball at the conclusion of Act l.

The movie version of this Cinderella story was released as a British musical in 1976. Songs were provided by the Sherman Brothers – Richard and Robert — who also wrote the scores for “Mary Poppins,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” The Jungle Book,” and others. When England’s Queen Mother saw the Royal Command Performance of the movie musical in 1976, she noted to the songwriters, “The waltz you wrote for the ballroom scene is the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard.” There is a super sequence in the second act of the current production when the prince, his friend John, and palace servants compare everyone’s role in life, “Position and Positioning.” While the audience doesn’t leave the theatre humming the score, the music has an enchantment of its own.

The stage version was created in 1984 in England. It premiered in the USA in 2004 at the Hale Center Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah, but has not been produced frequently in the United States. Acclaimed Candlelight Director Don Berlin is respected for his work on a wide variety of productions, with a special interest in bringing little-known musicals to local theatre audiences.

This Cinderella version was created 40 years ago. As in other older musicals, this show sometimes becomes bogged down in dialogue — no fault of this very good production but of the play itself.

The total effect is a pleasant theatre experience. The show looks and sounds terrific. The experienced cast works hard. The mood swings from being a crazy comic opera in the befuddled kingdom, to the sad tale of Cinderella, to the hope that she and her Prince Charming will ultimately get together — all under the magical spell of the chatty Godmother with her mystical wand.

“Cinderella – the Slipper and the Rose”
Where:  Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown
To:  August 27, 2017
For Tickets:  Box Office: 970/744-3747
Online:  ColoradoCandlelight.com

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“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is highly charged delight on stage in Boulder

BDT Stage

Joseph, Jack Barton, shows off his many-colored finery while his eleven brothers plot to get even.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
June 7, 2017

Jack Barton is in great form as Joseph when he flaunts the notion that he is the “favorite” son. He has a delightfully naïve superiority when he shows off the coat his dad (Jacob) has given him. He just can’t help himself when he struts around the stage noting, “I look handsome. I look smart. I am a walking work of art – in my coat of many colors.” The audience is joyfully ecstatic. His brothers on stage want to kill him. This is Joseph from the Bible’s book of Genesis. He and his brothers are terrific this spring in the Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

This has long been one of my favorite musicals. Upon arriving at the theatre in Boulder this week, however, I was dismayed to see the artwork for the show – not a bright colored coat from biblical times, but a poster of a Michael Jackson wannabe, complete with a white hat and glove. The basic story wonderful, and I was worried that this “fresh look” wouldn’t wear well with me. Once the show began, however, I tossed my concerns aside, and enjoyed one of the most delightful evenings this year. The “new look” at Joseph is great fun. It is a high energy show, highlighted with amazing choreography, generally not so prominent in other productions.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice brought this tale to the stage in 1968 as a 25-minute pop cantata in a London school. The show expanded to become a concert album in 1969, and opened in London’s West End in 1973. It was modified and performed in a variety of locations before arriving on Broadway in 1982. A version starring Donny Osmond was filmed in 1999, with the DVD becoming very popular.

Joseph and his famous coat have become one of the greatest hits of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice collaborations. They went on to create “Jesus Christ Superstar” and Evita.” Webber continued providing music, working with different lyricists, to give audiences a continual string of mega-successes: “Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats,” “Starlight Express,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Aspects of Love” and on and on and on.

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

“Joseph” in Boulder is wondrously portrayed by Jack Barton. He is a handsome young man with a remarkable voice, and with an awe-shucks appeal to the audience, while his brothers rage against him. They dislike him so intensely that they toss him into a pit, and finally sell him to a caravan of Ishmaelites heading for Egypt. Tracy Warren is equally excellent as the show’s narrator. She was a memorable “Mary Poppins” a few shows ago, and has great charm and a powerful voice.

The music provides a variety of styles. There is a crazed “One More Angel in Heaven” country western provided by Brian Burron as one of the brothers, dishonestly claiming how much sorrow the brothers feel when Joseph disappears. There is the French ballad “Those Canaan Days” later in the show when the starving brothers think of past wealth, and are amazed at how well life seems to be in prosperous Egypt. There is the Elvis Presley take with black-wigged, hip-grinding Scott Severtson as the Pharaoh singing “Song of the King.” “Go, Go, Go, Joseph” looks like at a disco hit of the 50s – a roaring finale to First Act. Near the show’s end there is “Benjamin’s Calypso” when the brothers are in Egypt, humbled and pleading for help.

The rest of the music is disarmingly memorable, including “Any Dream Will Do.” (While I continue to be enchanted by this song, I have no idea what it means.)

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

The fresh look at the story is credited to director Matthew D. Peters and choreographer Alicia K. Meyers. They pay homage to Michael Jackson throughout. No mention is made of him, but the choreography is straight from Jackson “moonwalking” days, and the costuming is complete with the signature Jackson white hat and glove.

The supporting cast is flawless. Wayne Kennedy is a hoot as Potiphar, putting up with the antics of Mrs. Potiphar, played by Alicia K. Meyers. Scott Severtson is black-wigged to come across as the Elvis Presley Pharaoh. The eleven other brothers are unanimously super dancers and singers. The total music presentation, choreography and vocals, is brilliant. The cast includes many young persons who appear as “audience” initially to the narrator, then come back frequently, adding to the vocal delight of the production

The finale is complete with the high energy review of the major songs – an ending that has become standard with most productions of the show

Costuming, sets, and orchestra are extremely good. What is missing? Not much. Some of the show’s basic humanity has been lost by the sheer energy portrayed. Some of the lyrics are not as clearly understood as desired. The total effect, however, is dazzling. Yes, Joseph is handsome. He does look smart. He is a walking work of art — wearing his amazing coat of many colors. “It was red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and …… “

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”
Where: Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage,
5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, CO 80303-1391
When: To August 19, 2017
Information: Box Office: 303/449-6000,
Online: www.bdtstage.com

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“The Three Musketeers” Are A Dueling Trio In The Park In The OpenStage Production

Joe Coca Photography

Latest Version of Longtime Favorite Provides Great Fun, Great Swordsmanship!

Reviewed by Tom Jones
June 4, 2017

Eons ago, before the “Star Wars” illuminated sabers came into fashion, the weapon of choice among youngsters everywhere was the sword. Nearly every young man, and many young women learned early how to wield a wicked weapon with a wooden (or sometimes even cardboard) sword. These wondrous weapons are back – in the hands of three of fiction’s most famous: “The Three Musketeers.”

In addition to having great sword-playing skills, the Three Musketeers were known for their trust in each other. Their bond of friendship was never ending, and they swore forever loyalty with “One for All and All for One!”

D’Artagnan, a young Frenchman from the country, has a goal of becoming a Musketeer, to serve the French King. He is traveling to Paris to reach his goal. He is feisty and hot-headed. Within the first few minutes of his arrival on stage, D’Artagnan has challenged duels with three different men, three men that he was not aware are members of the Musketeers. Dan Muth is a site to behold as the ever-dueling, ever-loving, ever reliable D’Artagnan. His swordsmanship is impressive – impressive even to three Musketeers who realize the young man’s potential — and they offer him friendship instead of duels.

Such is the premise of playwright Richard Strahle’s version of “The Three Musketeers.” Alexandre Dumas wrote the original saga, first published in serial form in a French newspaper in 1844. It is fascinating to realize how much of Dumas’ lengthy epistle has been condensed to 90 minutes of fun in Strahle’s play, now outside on stage in Fort Collins. The story is placed in the mid-1600s in France. Intrigue between Comte de Rochefort, Cardinal of the Catholic Church in France, and the French King (King Louis XIII) is coming to a boil.

D’Artagnan is tossed into the turmoil, as he has becoming smitten with Constance, a servant to the queen who lives in the same apartment complex as the would-be Musketeer. The King’s Musketeers are at odds with the Cardinal’s Guards.

Dan Muth as D’Artagnan, Heath Howes as Aramis, Steven P. Sickles as Athos, and Andrew Cole as Porthos. Joe Coca Photography

The Musketeers are a jovial and efficient group of friends. The “three” we meet are Athos, played ty Steven P. Sickles, Aramis, played by Heath Howes, and Porthos, played ty Andrew Cole. They each have their own tales to tell and are well portrayed. Hannah Honegger plays Constance, the queen’s servant and love of D’Artagnan’s life. Casey Thomas becomes Anne of Austria, Queen of France. The leading woman’s role is the evil Milady de Winter. Kate Austin-Groen is very good as the conniving woman working with the Cardinal to bring down the French King.

The entire plot of intrigue and mischief could become dreary, but Strahle’s version is great fun, — more of a melodrama than a drama. The show’s program notes “Family Friendly Theatre in the Park!” This is OpenStage’s annual venue in The Park at Columbine Health Systems. There were several young people in the audience at the performance I saw. They cheered. They booed, and were continually alert during the 90-minute show.

The adults appeared to be equally delighted with the goings-on. The show begins at 7:00 p.m., with patrons urged to arrive early to find good places on the lawn to view the stage. There is no seating provided, so the audience brings their own chairs, or spreads blankets on the lawn. Many brought their own picnics, and there are food trucks where sandwiches and ice cream can be purchased.

The sound system is good, and the set is small, but efficient. Denise Burson Freestone has directed this delightful show, with Benaiah Anderson serving as fight director. The cast is large, and moves flawlessly on and off the tiny stage. There was no evidence of swords in the audience, but those onstage were kept impressively moving throughout the evening.

Playwright Richard Strahle is a Fort Collins native whose scripts are highly respected. The “Three Musketeers” marks the first time he has been commissioned to write a play, and the first time OpenStage has commissioned a playwright for a specific project. In the playbill he suggests, “Please laugh at the jokes.” The audience does.

“The Three Musketeers”
Where: OpenStage Theatre production, outdoors in the Park at Columbine Health Systems,
947 Worthington Circle in Fort Collins (Corner of Worthington Circle and Centre Avenue)
When: Through July 1, 2017
Tickets: 970/221-6730
For more information: www.openstage.com

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“Boeing Boeing” is Bonkers Fun at Bas Bleu!

 

An Architect in Paris Keeps Busy Tracking Airline Stewardess Schedules.

Reviewed by Tom Jones,
June 2, 1027

The wonderful set on the Bas Bleu stage provides the immediate idea that the audience is in for some door-slamming farce. Six or seven (I lost track of the count) doors provide enormous fun for arriving and exiting – such is the joy of French farce. In “Boeing Boeing” the doors are not slammed, but are opened and closed in split-second timing as the cast comes and goes with clock-like precision.

Photo courtesy William A. Cotton

Bernard is a bachelor architect living in Paris. His apartment affords sweeping views of the city. It is not clear when Bernard has time to enjoy the view, or even to work, as he is the paramour of carefully selected air hostesses (we now refer to them as stewardesses) whose schedules he carefully tracks. He is in love with and engaged to Gloria, an American with TWA; is in love with and engaged to Gabriella with Alitalia; and in love with an engaged to Gretchen with Lufthansa. He keeps an up-to-date worldwide airline schedule, so that he can keep track of his private team of stewardesses.

Phil Baugh is excellent as the sly Bernard. He doesn’t appear to be the least bit smarmy, but a “great to know” type of guy who is wonderful at wooing three beautiful women. He claims to love each of them, and they vow their love to him in return — not having any idea that they are sharing the guy.

Photo courtesy William A. Cotton

Berthe, was housekeeper of the apartment when Bernard purchased it, and has stayed on. It is her “home” and she has learned to tolerate Bernard’s lifestyle and abet his womanizing scheme. She knows when to cook “Italian,” when to cook “German,” and when to cook “American” (pancakes with ketchup).

We first meet Gloria who is getting ready to leave the apartment for her next flight. The timing is a little close, and Bernard doesn’t want to delay her departure, as the Alitalia stewardess, Gabriella, is soon to arrive. Before Gloria leaves, however, Robert (a longtime friend from Bernard’s school days) arrives. He is in Paris briefly, on his way to Southern France to see his mother. Robert, too, is a bachelor, but has no string of women chasing him. He is aghast and amazed when he learns of Robert’s system of scheduling his romances.

Jeffrey Bigger is terrific as Robert. His “Robert” and Phil Baugh’s” Bernard” are excellent comedy foils, with the long-suffering Cheryl King’s sometimes grumpy, and always interesting “Berthe” tossed into the mix.

Photo courtesy William A. Cotton

As anticipated, TWA departs. Alitalia arrives. Lufthansa arrives. TWA returns. Mayhem ensues. Alexandra Bunger-Pool as Gloria, Sarah Paul-Glitch as Gabriella, and Elizabeth Baugh, as Gretchen make a great trio of “engagees.” Each has her native-country accent and traits. Each is beautiful, and each is a super comedienne!

Bas Bleu is not known to be a mecca for farces. It has outdone itself, however, with “Boeing Boeing.” The plot is crazy, the set is a wonder, and the acting is first rate. It is so much fun, however, that in one moment, TWA’s Alexandra Bunger-Pool, could not restrain herself because Jeffrey Bigger’s Robert was being basically hysterical. This is a funny play!

It is a classic farce, written by the French playwright Mark Camoletti. It was subsequently translated by Beverly Cross and opened in London in 1962, running for a total of seven years. In 1991 the play was noted by the Guinness Book of Records to be the most performed French play throughout the world. The original 1965 Broadway production lasted less than a month, but a 2008 revival played nearly a year, winning several awards. The plot turned up in 1965 as a movie starring Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis.

It would be difficult to find a more delightful cast romping through the Parisian apartment than those on stage at Bas Bleu. Director Cheryl King has created a joyful group of thespians hard-pressed to keep a straight face throughout the knee-slapping hilarity. Brian Miller is credited with designing the wonderful set, and Dennis Madigan’s lighting is effective. “Boeing Boeing” soars.

Something new is being offered: The theater is opening the new Bas Bleu Café for the run of “Boeing Boeing” on Friday and Saturday nights from 6:00 p.m. to midnight. Wine, beer and sandwiches will be available for purchase before, during, and after the show, along with mingling with the cast.

Tricia Navarre, Production Manager

A final note: This is the final show of Tricia Navarre, production manager. Trish is retiring, after serving as an integral part of the Bas Bleu team for 15 years. Her know-how, kindness, and wisdom have been greatly respected.

“Boeing Boeing”
Where: Bas Bleu Theatre Company
401 Pine Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524
When: To June 25, 2017
Telephone 970/498-8949
Online: basbleu.org

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“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is a display of genius

Award Winning Drama Amazes Denver Center Audience

Reviewed by Tom Jones
May 30, 2017

When the creative team was developing “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” the sign on their door must have read, “Quiet, Genius at Work.” The result is a triumph. For a couple of hours playwright Simon Stephens opens a window for the audience to glimpse what probably goes on in the mind of the young man. Christopher. He has genius math skills and is tormented with a form of autism. His social skills are trapped in a constrictive labyrinth with minimal entry possible.

Christopher, brilliantly played by Adam Langdon, is a 15-year-old boy living alone with his father in Swindon, England. His only friend is his pet rat, Toby. He was told that his mother died a couple of years ago, and he relies substantially on his teacher/mentor Siobhan for emotional support. Gene Gillette is excellent as the father, helpless to have so much contact with his son as the touch of a hand. Gillette is a Colorado native — born in Evergreen, and growing up in Frankton. Maria Elena Ramirez is equally impressive as Siobhan, the tireless teacher. Teacher and father want nothing more than to help the bewildered and bewildering young man. Felicity Jones Latta skillfully portrays the boy’s mother who has fled her marriage and family, and now lives in London.

Adam Langdon as Christopher Boone (c)Joan Marcus

The set looks like it could be the inside of a computer. Initially, all anyone sees is a large golden retriever-size dog lying mid-stage with the pitchfork that killed him still emerging from the corpse. When the lights come up, an illusion is created that might be the inside of Christopher’s brain – seeing much more than the dead dog. The neighbor’s dog, Wellington, didn’t mean much to Christopher, but he is intrigued with its death and begins a project to find out who killed him.

Adam Langdon, Maria Elena Ramirez (c)Joan Marcus

There is no end to the amazement lying in Christopher’s brain. Video projections are a maze of their own, transporting the young genius into a never-ending explosion of facts, space, and especially numbers. Christopher is a math wizard. When he thinks of becoming an astronaut, the set goes sky bound, taking him with it for a few moments of incredible celestial beauty. The visual effects were created by a British company, Frantic Assembly.

When Christopher learns that his mother has not died, but is living in London, he sets out on a journey to find her. Although he has no experience of going anywhere, he has her address, and his father’s (stolen) bank card. This journey results in one of the most harrowing visual experiences afforded to an audience. His step-by-step autistic skills are put to the test, as he must find the train station, find out how to buy a ticket, how to find and board a train, and how to maneuver the chaos of The London Underground.

Adam Langdon is nothing short of amazing, as he is center stage for the entire performance, routed in his autistic and calculated routine, but held aloft by other members of the cast, being physically passed from group to group. His athletic abilities are in full effect, and he moves with the grace of an experienced ballet artist.

Gene Gillette, Adam Langdon (c)Joan Marcus

There is no dancing per se in the show, but the choreography is brilliant – every gesture and move calculated to reflect the bustle of every-day life and the inner turmoil of the autistic brain. Choreography is credited to Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly.

The play is based on a novel by Mark Haddon. Playwright Simon Stephens modified the approach from the first-person narrative of the book to the stage production resulting in a play within a plan, mirroring the book Christopher is writing. The London success of the play has been record-breaking. It opened there in March of 2013. It is set to close June 3 of this year, after providing more than 1,600 performances. The play’s London run was hampered in December of 2013 when part of the Apollo Theatre’s roof collapsed, injuring nearly 80 people. The production re-opened several weeks later at the nearby Gielgud Theatre where its run has continued to this week.

Adam Langdon and company (c)Joan Marcus

The Broadway production opened in October of 2014 and ran for nearly two years. It won virtually every award possible including 7 Olivier Awards (in London), The Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama League Award, and the 2015 Tony Award (all in New York). The UK National Theatre Production is on stage in Denver to June 18.

The son’s struggle for acceptance and survival is mirrored by the immense toll the mother and father face – as individuals, as a couple, and of the parents of a dear and talented son who is unable to accept the outward love offered to him. From the jolting loud noises of the first act, reflecting the extreme distress in Christopher’s mind, to his pleading with his teacher for a promise of success at the show’s end, “Curious Incident” is a marvel.

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time”
Where: The Ellie (Ellie Caulkins Opera House Stage of Denver Center for the Performing Art).
When: Through June 18, 2017
Tickets: Prices start at $30 at denvercenter.org. This is the ONLY authorized ticket provider for this
production in Denver.
Online:  denvercenter.org

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