All posts by Tom

“Frozen” at DCPA is Broadway Bound

Frozen’s Transfer From Movie To Stage Boggles The Senses

Reviewed by Tom Jones

September 15, 2017

Ten years from now it will be interesting to read how many gazillion persons worldwide have seen the stage musical, “Frozen.” The animated movie was released by Walt Disney Pictures in 2013 and generated $1.3 billion in worldwide box office revenue. It is the highest-grossing animated film of all time. What could be done for an encore? What could a stage version do that the movie could not? For starters, it can provide a visual feast of enormous proportions. Then, the excitement of the audience experiencing a live performance right in front of them cannot be replicated.

Denver Center – Jelani Alladin (Kristoff) and Patti Murin (Anna) in FROZEN. Photo by Deen van Meer

The sets for Frozen” at Denver Center for the Performing Arts are beyond description. The creative team must have spent endless joyful and laborious creative hours figuring out what would excite the audience: a set that would be so incredible on its own without detracting from the show’s basic story. They were not always successful in this regard, as in some instances the set IS the show. Near the end of the First Act, I was so enthralled with what I was seeing and hearing, that I felt as if I were on an amusement park ride of never-ending amazement

Denver Center – Patti Murin (Anna) and Caissie Levy (Elsa) with Jacob Smith in FROZEN. Photo by Deen van Meer

Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s the Snow Queen,” the basic story remains intact. Two sisters, Anna and Elsa, enjoyed wonderful childhood experiences together. When it was discovered that Elsa had magical powers and could accidently cause injury to her sister, the two are separated for Anna’s protection. Upon the death of their parents, Elsa is to be crowned queen, and her sister Anna attends the coronation as the princess.

Denver Center – The Company of FROZEN. Photo by Deen van Meer

A dispute at Elsa’s coronation results in her becoming angry with Anna, and she accidentally releases some of her magical powers. The causes temperatures to drop throughout the kingdom, as ice was replacing sunshine. Anna flees from the palace, bewildered by what has happened.

Anna’s memories of her happy times with Elsa as a child encourages her to find a way to approach her sister, now ensconced in an ice incrusted palace. Along the way she enlists the help of Kristoff, (an ice deliveryman), his reindeer (Sven), and Olaf, everybody’s favorite snowman.

Patti Murin plays Anna, with Caissie Levy as Elsa. They are both excellent performers, and Elsa’s “Let it Go” is a triumphant conclusion to Act 1.

Denver Center – Patti Murin (Anna) and John Riddle (Hans) in FROZEN. Photo by Deen van Meer

Music and lyrics (for the movie and the stage production) are by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and her husband Robert Lopez, with the book by Jennifer Lee. In the 2014 Academy Awards, the film was honored as Best Animated Feature, and “Let It Go” was given award for Best Song.

Enthusiasm for the production in Denver was enormous. Based on obvious audience enjoyment, it will be difficult for theatre-goers to let the show leave Denver to continue its journey to Broadway. The stage at the Buell is impressive, and it will be interesting to see how the enormous sets can be accommodated in other venues. The production is not without problems, and messages are sometimes confusing, and over-powered by the magnificence of the set. It does have all the hallmarks of a Disney production, designed to entertain.

Denver Center – Jelani Alladin (Kristoff) and Andrew Pirozzi (Sven) in FROZEN. Photo by Deen van Meer

The story has been expanded from the movie, and includes substantially more music. Performances are universally excellent. Jelani Alladin is a very helpful Kristoff. Andrew Pirozzi is a marvel as Sven, the delightful reindeer. Robert Creighton is in fine form as Weseltoln and Greg Hildreth is a talented charmer as the snowman puppeteer.

Based on the assumption that the stage version will move on to becoming a mega hit, ten years from now this season’s audience can look back on their memories of “Frozen” at the Buell, with great satisfaction of having “been there when it all began.”

“Frozen”
Where: Buell Theatre, Denver Center for the Performing Arts
To: October 1, 2017
Buell Theatre’s Website

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“A Chorus Line” — Better Than Ever!

Groundbreaking Musical at Arvada Center

Reviewed by Tom Jones
September 13, 2017

Is it possible for a musical to turn up now, looking even more vibrant and exciting than when it was the toast of Broadway 40 years ago? Yes! The Arvada Center continues its run of providing excellence to Colorado theatregoers.

The show’s director, Rod A. Lansberry, has produced or directed more than 100 productions. When, oh when is he going to get it right? Just about always! “A Chorus Line” is a marvel. Lansberry does have help. Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck’s success choreographing or directing more than 40 shows is evident as she has the dancers performing at their peak. There is evidence of work of the show’s original director Michael Bennett, but she has personally provided most of the current production’s terrific dancing.

A Chorus Line at the Arvada Center, 2017 – Ensemble Matt Gale Photography 2017

In the summer of 1975 an unusual musical opened on Broadway. For years the backbone of New York shows had been the singers and dancers who were highly entertaining, but not the stars. This changed when some Broadway dancers hosted some workshops about their efforts. Performer Michael Bennett became involved and took over the effort. The dancers’ personal stories were put into a format which ultimately became “A Chorus Line.” Bennett went on to direct the Broadway production, with Bob Avian as co-choreographer.

The book was by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicolas Dante, with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban. Response to the show was electric and immediate. It tells of dancers auditioning for an upcoming Broadway production. The tough director Zach puts the wannabee performers through a series of tryouts. The group is narrowed down to 17 dancers, of which only four males and four females will be selected.

A Chorus Line at the Arvada Center, 2017 – L-R: Matthew Dailey (Don), Jordana Grolnick (Maggie), Joe Callahan (Mike, understudy), Rae Leigh Case (Connie), Ron Tal (Greg), Dayna Tietzen (Cassie), Katie Mitchell (Sheila), Parker Redford (Bobby), Jennifer Arfsten (Bebe), Kristen Paulicelli (Judy), Michael Canada (Richie), Zac Norton (Al), Seles VanHuss (Kristine), Lexie Plath (Val), Tyler Jensen (Mark) and Natalie…

Zach asks the finalists to tell their stories, why they want to dance, where they come from, and anything they want to talk about. The results are an intriguing two hours of incredible dancing and soul-searching memories. Stephen Cerf is excellent as Zach, the director and choreographer auditioning the potential performers. Jean-Luc Cavnar-Lewandowski is also very good as his assistant, Larry. They are both talented performers, and keep the action moving.

A Chorus Line at the Arvada Center, 2017 – Dayna Tietzen (Cassie) Matt Gale Photography 2017

The finalists tell their stories. These are not heart-warming Hallmark Cards family tales; but are looks at the dancers’ feelings as outsiders in society, or success yet to be obtained, and of unrequited love for dance. Some male dancers were tormented in coming to terms with their sexuality. Some of the tales are too long, but most are riveting. The same can be said for the entire production. After hearing such gut-wrenching personal stories and seeing such brilliant dancing, there is a late-in-the show lag when too much chatter takes too long to introduce one of the show’s most memorable songs, “What I Did for Love.”

Many of the songs have become Broadway classics, including “One,” “What I Did for Love,” ”At the Ballet,” and “Hello Twelve.” Interwoven with the dancers’ stories is the past romance between director Zach, and Cassie, one of the auditioning dancers. A highlight is Cassie’s breath-taking, “The Music and the Mirror.” The “mirror” is used frequently as a backdrop to reflect the dancing brilliance. Cassie, played by Dayna Tietzen, has the largest role of the group, as her relationship with Zach is an integral part of the show.

A Chorus Line at the Arvada Center, 2017 – Ensemble Matt Gale Photography 2017

The original “A Chorus Line” ran in New York City for 6,137 performances – the then-longest-running musical in Broadway history. It has been seen worldwide, and was made into a movie in 1985. Unfortunately, the movie version lacked the incredible spark a live performance can provide. When I saw the original Broadway show, I was impressed. I was more impressed this season with the current presentation on stage in Arvada.

This is more than “One Singular Sensation.” It is a two-hour display of brilliant talent. The current production in Arvada is every bit as thrilling as that presented on Broadway in 1975.

A Chorus Line
Where: Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities.
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003
When: Through October 1, 2017
Tickets: 720/898-7200
Arvada Center’s Website 

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Love Lost and Found in Dublin

Award Winner “Once” Charms Midtown Arts Audience

Reviewed by Tom Jones
September 8, 2017

Before the story begins, the audience is entertained to some spirited Irish music, performed by the talented cast, in the setting of a Dublin bar. At the show progresses the performers sing to us, sing to each other, talk to us, and talk to each other. They tell us what they look for, what is important and what is not. It is early apparent that the characters portrayed are good and caring people – albeit with rough edges of language.

The first person we meet is “Guy,” who is emotionally in the dumps. His girlfriend has moved to New York, he lives upstairs above his dad’s vacuum repair shop where he works. And sings for coins on street corners. He has written lots of music, but has decided to give it up and has no idea what he truly wants in life. Fortunately, the for the audience, Guy is portrayed by Barry DeBois, who is very good looking and has an amazing voice. Whenever he sings, the audience is enthralled.

Image by Dyann DIercks Photography

Guy is on the verge of abandoning his guitar and whatever coins were tossed in his hat that day when along comes “Girl.” Elena Juliano is a delight as the feisty woman, a Czech by birth, now living in Dublin with her daughter, and her mother. Her husband has gone. She is a take-charge, no nonsense gem who immediately takes Guy under her wing, and convinces him that he has something going for him – his talent. She immediately realizes that he is a good “Guy.” She is in no hurry for romance, but needs a challenge to bring some joy into her semi-dreary life. She can play the piano and knows good music when she hears it.

How Guy and Girl look at life, what they want from life, and from each other are central to the story. “Once” began as a movie in 2007. The stage musical and the movie include music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The score incudes the haunting Acadamy Award winning song, “Falling Slowly.” Music ranges from delightful Irish pub songs to heartful suggestions of desire.

Image by Dyann DIercks Photography

The Broadway musical version opened in 2012 and received eight Tony Awards including those for Best Musical, Best Actor and Best Book. It has subsequently been seen by audiences in England, Ireland, Australia, Korea, Canada, South Korea, and throughout the United States. It is a very interesting show. The is no high-kicking chorus line, but is a thoughtful musical tracing the ups and downs of potential romance.

In addition to the beautiful “Falling Slowly,” some highlights include the opening “Leave,” and an especially beautiful “Gold.” With musical accompaniment of the cast, Guy sings this at the conclusion of Act 1, noting “And I love her so. I wouldn’t trade her for gold.” It becomes even richer late in Act 2 when the entire ensemble sings with without accompaniment.

Image by Dyann DIercks Photography

The cast includes twelve incredibly talented persons, all taking acting parts, all playing a variety of musical instruments, and dancing their hearts out. The cast includes the young girl, Ivanka, who is “Girl’s” daughter. The role is double cast, with Stella Seaman or Kassidy Terrio taking the role for various performances. I saw Stella Seaman. She is a joy! Most of the cast are new to the MAC stage. Familiar to local audiences, however, are John Jankow, Charity Ruth Haskins, and John Seaberry,

All the music is provided by performers on the stage. The set is an attractive bar that can become a music store, a vacuum repair shop, a hillside overlooking Dublin, and wherever the story goes. Kurt Terrio produced and directed the show, with Michael Lasris providing the terrific choreography. Barry DeBois, who is so excellent as “Guy,” also serves as music director.

The music, although beautiful, is not familiar. The audience does have difficulty understanding what is being said and sung. Accents are Irish and Czech. Sometimes the dialogue is flashed on the stage in Czech with the idea that it is clever to see what the persons are saying. Unfortunately, it just makes the situation more difficult, as we often can’t understand what is being said in Czech or in English. When Girl sings to her own piano accompaniment, the piano sometimes is too loud to hear Elena Juliano’s pleasant voice.

It is not difficult to follow the show’s basic premise. Twists along the way, however, can be difficult to understand. The conclusion is an emotional one with Guy and Girl singing the same song of love – with an ocean separating them. Maybe a second viewing would be helpful to better understand the lyrics, as “Once” may just not be enough. It is basically a heartfelt and beautiful show.

“Once”
Where: Midtown Arts Center
3750 South Mason Street
Fort Collins, CO 80525
To: November 11, 2017
For Tickets: Phone: 970/225-2555
MAC’s Website

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The Music Man Triumphant

“The Music Man” Has Triumphant Return To Candlelight

Reviewed by Tom Jones

September 10, 2017

He’s back! That smooth-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill is back in town. He can still charm the socks off anyone he meets, even going so far as to sell musical instruments (and uniforms) to the parents of youth in River City, Iowa. He claims that his “Think System” of instruction will result in their children becoming accomplished musicians. But he must collect the fees and get out of town before the first concert.

PHOTO CREDIT: RDG Photography

Hill’s tale, “The Music Man” remains the quintessential Broadway Musical! The show that just plain “has everything.” There is the rollicking opening scene on the train when we meet traveling salesman bouncing along to the train’s rhythm, and becoming amazed with tales of the fast-talking “Hill” guy who is taking the area by storm.

PHOTO CREDIT: RDG Photography

There is the smart, but oh-so-very careful librarian, Marian, whose mother believes is going to end up as an aging spinster. There is the crazy mayor with his more-crazy wife, with the wonderful name – Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn. And the School Board members who can’t abide one another and end up as a harmonizing quartet, under direction of Harold Hill. And there are the youngsters without goals or ambitions, who end up being the joy of the midwestern city.

Bob Hoppe is the conniving music man on stage at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse this autumn. He is a fast-talking wizard who warns the citizens of River City of the potential dangers that the local pool hall can inflict upon the town’s morals. He can sing. He can dance. He can charm the town’s ladies with the wink of an eye, and can make himself scarce when his credentials are sought. He has his eye on Marion the librarian who demands silence in the library, and has her own wall of personal silence. Alisha Winter-Hayes plays Marian. She is beautiful, with a beautiful singing voice, and is immediately wary about what this fast-talking Harold Hill might truly be up to.

PHOTO CREDIT: RDG Photography

The leads are very good, but are nearly overpowered by some of the supporting cast. TJ Mullin and Annie Dwyer are a combined hoot as the town mayor and his nutty wife. Especially in the first act, Dwyer rules the stage. For much of the show the four men on the school board are a site to see and hear. They suddenly find a common bond, singing their way through life. Kent Sugg, Ethan Lee Knowles, Anthony Weber, and David L. Wygant are the quartet of school board members.

“The Music Man” opened on Broadway in 1957, winning a host of awards, and being an international favorite ever since. Music and lyrics are by Meredith Wilson who drew upon memories of his youth in Iowa. He knew first-hand about the Iowa-stubborn mentality, the role of the traveling salesman, and the delights of small-town foibles and celebrations. Robert Preston and Barbara Cook created the leading roles on Broadway, with Preston and Shirley Jones taking the leads in the 1962 movie version.

PHOTO CREDIT: RDG Photography

The tale is the epitome of small-town America of a century ago. The excitement of a newcomer showing up, the arrival of the Wells Fargo wagon with its treasure of items the townspeople ordered, the fun of summertime picnics, complete with patriotic pageants, and the idea that boundless joy and comfort can be realized on a local basis, without travelling beyond the immediate area.

“The Music Man” continues to be a delight. The set is colorful, the syncopated movement of everyone on stage is impressive, and the familiar songs continue to sound terrific: “76 Trombones,” “Til There was You,” “Goodnight my Someone,” “Gary, Indiana,” and on and on. The orchestra is very good and lets the entire cast have a delightful “try” at Hill’s “Think System” as part of the rousing finale

The cast is huge, carefully directed and choreographed by Ali K. Meyers. Victor Walters serves as music director as well as leader of the orchestra. There are numerous young persons in the show. The entire cast appeared to be having great fun, and the audience showed its appreciation with a standing ovation – a rarity at a dinner theatre.

“The Music Man”
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown
To: November 5, 2017
For Tickets: Box Office: 970/744-3747
CDP’s Website

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“Elephant’s Graveyard’ Is Based On Actual Events Of 100 Years Ago

A small Tennessee town is witness to the tragic demise of a circus elephant.

Reviewed by Tom Jones,
September 9, 2017

“The circus is coming town” was usually the shout meaning an exciting event was about to make small-town life more interesting. Especially to a muddy Tennessee town whose main claim to fame was that they had a railroad station, where a trainload of circus performers and animals could stop for a day or two to provide entertainment from the outside world.

The Bas Bleu Theatre Company rehearses its production of “Elephant’s Graveyard,” August 30, 2017.

Such was the case in 1916 when a struggling circus arrived in Erwin, Tennessee. The circus prided itself on owning a few elephants, including the enormous “Mary” that lead the team in the parade and under the big top at every performance. Upon arrival in Erwin, however, a newcomer to the circus crew requested that he be “in charge” of Mary, not realizing that experience in elephant training was a basic requirement. This resulted in the death of the naïve animal trainer, and ultimately of the elephant itself – reportedly the only elephant to be ever lynched.

The play is a staggeringly interesting mix of the excitement of the circus arrival, the subsequent tragic events, and the resulting conflict of reactions of the local populous. This is a haunting tale, and the cast on the dirt-laden stage of the Bas Bleu Theatre is up to the task of providing 75 minutes of non-stop interest. There is no intermission, as various townspeople and circus performers relate what they believe transpired. The mood is amazing, with the feeling of being inside a circus tent, watching the performances of humans playing out their reaction to the tragedy.

The Bas Bleu Theatre Company rehearses its production of “Elephant’s Graveyard,” August 30, 2017.

There is more going on than the tragic tale told. The author is dealing with the “elephant” in each of our closets – how bigoted we are, how unwilling to overcome racial discrimination. Our lust for blood payment. Although not mentioned in the play, there was a situation in tiny Erwin, Tennessee two years after the elephant was lynched – the lynching of a black person. The “circus” in the play is used as a tool to show how insular we can become – whether it be to our “fellow performers” or our neighbors in insular situations.

The story begins with the Ring Master looking back (from the circus ring) as to what has happened. The show ends with him sitting in the circus ring on an upside-down pail, discussing what he thinks he has seen, and whether it has or has not changed him.

The Bas Bleu Theatre Company rehearses its production of “Elephant’s Graveyard,” August 30, 2017.

The 14-member cast is flawless, as they individually relate where they fit into the story – never speaking to one another, but always addressing the audience. Nick Holland is the Ring Master, Liam Kelley is the experienced animal trainer who has gained the confidence of the animals. Kate Lewis is the ballet girl, often announcing that she is a “ballet” performer, and not a tawdry novelty. Scott McCoppin is the tour manager, Ken Benda is the strongman who can’t lift much. Elizbeth Kirchmeier is the acrobatic clown who has probably the most challenging time in accepting the death of her dear animal friend. Greg Clark is the local marshal. Jim Valone, the local preacher, desperately wanting some member of his congregation to seek solace in the church. Kaya Rudolph, Tabitha Tyree, and Holly Wedgeworth are local townspeople. Wesley Longacre is a local shovel operator; Drew Cuthbertson, the engineer. Paul Brewer is the guitarist and drummer. The entire cast is on stage the entire time, except when the train engineer is confined to his office. We never meet the red-head youth whose lack of training resulted in his own death.

This is heavy stuff, with no one singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” The audience is left to figure out its own reaction to what has transpired, and how it may fit into our own life and world.

Author George Brant received the 2008 Keene Prize for Literature and the 2008 David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award. The writing is impressive. We do not see the lynching of the animal, but are told so vividly what has happened, that we feel as if we were present. The current production is directed by Garrett Ayers who notes ‘…the writer reaches inside the imaginations of the audience. What could be more theatrical and dramatic than that?”

The current art exhibit of Elephant Watercolors by Kimberly Lavelle and Bristlecone Photography by Brian Miller is a beautiful complement to the story being told on the Tom Sutherland Stage.

“Elephant’s Graveyard”
Bas Bleu Theatre
401 Pine Street
Fort Collins, CO 80554-2433
970/498-8949
Bas Bleu Website
To October 8, 2017

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“Fiddler on the Roof” Is A Winner

Student Production Wows Audience at Midtown Arts Center

Reviewed by Tom Jones

August 19, 2017

Twenty or so years from now the star performers at local theatres just might look back at this year, and say, “Remember when we received a standing ovation at MAC when we were young students in ‘Fiddler on the Roof?” That same group of performers may continue to receive “standing ovations” wherever they go, as they possess boundless talent and enthusiasm. Today they are the stars of tomorrow.

PHOTO CREDIT: Leah Allen

Forty-six students at the Academy at Midtown Arts Center provided three performances of their student training achievement in mid-August of 2017. At the “welcome” provided prior to the curtain opening, the audience learned that the production this season is a result of just three weeks of rehearsals. Jalyn Courtenay Webb and Michael Lasris, the show’s producer and director noted that finalizing the show is actually a miracle, with unbelievable odds that a show of this caliber could be completed in so little time, and with a cast of not-yet-professionals. The show itself echoes one of the productions songs, “Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Leah Allen

“Fiddler” is the tale of the Jewish milkman, Tevye, the kindly father of five daughters, questioning why God has made life so difficult for him in Russia of 1905. He and his wife of 25 years, Golde, live in a tiny village of Anatevka, accepting their poverty as a way of life, handed to them by “Tradition.” Tim Watson is amazing as the middle-age Tevye. He has a marvelous voice, and incredible stage presence. He will begin his college studies this year in Laramie. It will be interesting to follow his career, and I am curious how long before he will turn up as a brilliant Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” or as Harold Hill in “The Music Man.” Avree Linne is a student at Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins. I was slow to warm up to her. But midway through the production either she became brilliant, or I just began to appreciate her talents, and I came away from the show with awe for her skills.

The list goes on and on (and on and on, as there are 46 young persons in the show). Among the standout supporting players are Meg Brown as Yente, the matchmaker; Lexi Reese, Daye Waldner and Zoe Maiberger as the oldest of the five daughters, and Jack Bramhall-Heck as the shy tailor, Motel, in love with the oldest daughter, Tzeitel. Meg Brown (Yente) and Jack Bramhall-Heck (Motel) have the flashiest roles, and light up their every scene. Also of particular interest is Nic Rhodes who is the “Fiddler” at the beginning of the show and turns up frequently to provide the inner feelings of the show’s leading man, Tevye.

“Fiddler” is a musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and a book by Joseph Stein. The original Broadway production opened in 1964, and was the first musical theater run in history to surpass 3,000 performances. It received numerous awards, became basis for a highly successful movie in 1971, and continues to play on stages throughout the world.

The August 2017 production is the conclusion of this summer’s youth Academy endeavors. It is a winner in every respect. The sound and lighting are excellent, the costuming is very good. Perhaps the highlight of the production is the movement of the performers – getting so many persons on and off the stage so frequently and efficiently, and have them performing so many choreographic skills throughout the entire show. Director Lasris credits Dominique Atwater, Adam Bourque, Cassidy Cousineau, and Emily Erkman, for their work as choreographers and musical directors. Artistic Director is Jalyn Courtenay Webb, who also produced the show. Webb commented that she is personally impressed with the vocal skills of the ensemble, noting that she has rarely heard the show sound so good.

I have been a little hesitant to see student productions at local schools. Shame on me. Whenever you have a friend or family member that you know is performing in a local student production, find out more about it, and dash to the auditorium. The Academy at Midtown Arts Center is one of the most imminent theatre schools in the area. Enrollment for their next season is open now, with the Fall Schedule set from September 11 to November 16.

Congratulations to everyone connected with this delightful “Fiddler” production. I’ll be on the lookout to see where so many of you will be performing next!

“Fiddler on the Roof”
Where: The Academy of Midtown Arts Center
750 South Mason Street, Fort Collins, CO 80525
Online: Midtown Art Center

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“Newsies –The Musical” Lights Up Huge Tuacahn Stage

Tale of Real-Life Newsboys Strike in New York City in 1899 is Enormously Endearing

Reviewed by Tom Jones
August 8, 2017

A rag tag group of young newspaper sellers made their own headlines in 1899 in New York City. They fought the establishment, demanding slightly higher wages, and respect. Their exuberant story has found an equally-exuberant audience in Padre Canyon outside St. George, Utah, this summer.

This is the 22nd season for Tuacahn Center for the Arts – with its enormous stage and open-air backdrop of the red cliffs of Southern Utah. This summer their audiences are treated to “Shrek The Musical,” “Mamma Mia!,” and the terrific Disney’s “Newsies.” I didn’t plan to see all three shows, so selected the one I knew the least about, and ended up being swept away with “Newsies” this summer.

What a great choice. In 1992 the musical film “Newsies” turned up in movie theatres. Music is by Alan Menken, with lyrics by Jack Feldman, and a book by Harvey Firestein. The movie became a cult favorite, and became a Broadway musical in 2012, playing 1,005 performances. The Broadway production reportedly cost about five million dollars to stage, and recouped the initial investment in seven months. At that time, it was the fastest of any Disney musical on Broadway to turn a profit. A movie version of the theatrical production had a three-day release this past February, grossing more than three million dollars

As produced at Tuacahn there is an underlying feeling of ultimate joy, as the young boys struggle for survival in the tough streets of early New York. Their story could have resulted in a dreary look at dreary lives, but has succeeded in rising above the dire circumstances to become an anthem of survival for the city of New York and ultimately for the nation.

The production’s success relies not only on the basic story, but on the amazingly athletic dancing of the performers, the heartfelt music of the composers, and the story itself. Newspaper delivery boy Jack Kelly tells his disabled friend, Crutchie, of his desire to someday leave New York City, and move to find his dreams in the faraway western town of Sante Fe. He is a talented artist, with no family, no money, and has his share of troubles with the law. His story could be replicated throughout the entire cast of orphans and homeless young men of the time living on the edge of society in hostile New York City.

The leads in “Newsies” include Ryan Farnsworth as Jack Kelly, Jordan Aragon as his friend, Crutchie, Daniel Scott Walton as Davey, Will Haley as Davey’s brother Les, and Whitney Winfield as Katherine, the newspaper reporter who comes to their aid. The cast is enormous and featured roles include Matthew Tyler as Joseph Pulitzer and Jennifer Leigh Warren as Medda Larkin. Pulitzer has become immortalized by his financial success, and by the literary awards bearing his name. In “Newsies” he is shown in a very different light, with the audience wanting to “boo” his every appearance.

There is always a danger of performing a show outside on summer evenings. There were two (or maybe three) drops of light rain following the intermission, but the total effect of an evening outside on a wonderful summer night was one of sheer wonder. A visit to Tuacahn becomes an “event” all its own. At the top of the huge set are the living quarters of the young newsies. Their laundry was hanging out in windows, being blown slightly by a southern Utah breeze, and the incredible dancing on the stage beneath, providing its own storm of delight. A woman in the audience noted she had already seen the show more than ten times. That might be overdoing it a little, but “Newsies” is a true triumph.

Disney’s “Newsies”
Where: Tuacahn Center for the Arts, the base of Padre Canyon,1100 Tuacahn, Ivins, Utah, 84738
Website: www.tuacahn.org

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Colorado Theatre Guild Honors Excellence in Theatre

OpenStage in Fort Collins named Outstanding Theatre Company

2016-2017 Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards were divided among many state-wide theatres. OpenStage Theatre and Company was honored for Outstanding Season for a Theatre Company, and also received awards for Dulcie Willis (outstanding direction), Sydney Parks Smith (outstanding actress in a play) for their work in””August, Osage County.” Steven P. Sickles, also of OpenStage, received award for outstanding actor in a play for his work in “La Bete.”

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company and DCPA Theater Company each received five awards — “Man of La Mancha” at Colorado Springs, and “The Book of Will” at DCPA.

Established in 2006, the Henry Awards honor outstanding achievements during the past season and serves as the Colorado Theatre Guild’s annual fundraising event. The awards are named in honor of longtime local theatre producer Henry Lowenstein.

The Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards Recipients for 2016-2017

Outstanding Season for a Theatre Company
OpenStage Theatre & Company

Outstanding Production of a Play
“The Game of Love and Chance,” TheatreWorks, Murray Ross, Director

Outstanding Production of a Musical
“Evita,” Lone Tree Arts Center, Gina Rattan, Director; Max Mamon, Musical Direction

Outstanding Direction of a Play
Dulcie Willis, “August: Osage County,” OpenStage Theatre & Company

Outstanding Direction of a Musical
Scott RC Levy, “Man of La Mancha,” Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company

Outstanding Musical Direction
Max Mamon, “Evita,” Lone Tree Arts Center

Outstanding Actor in a Play
Steven P. Sickles, “Le Bête,” OpenStage Theatre & Company

Outstanding Actress in a Play
Sydney Parks Smith, “August: Osage County,” OpenStage Theatre & Company

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Stephen Day, “Man of La Mancha,” Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company

Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Colby Dunn, “The Toxic Avenger,” Breckenridge Backstage Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play
Triney Sandoval, “The Book of Will,” DCPA Theatre Company

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play
Miriam A. Laube, “The Book of Will,” DCPA Theatre Company

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical
Matt LaFontaine, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical
Megan Van De Hey, “The Toxic Avenger,” Breckenridge Backstage Theatre

Outstanding Ensemble Performance
“The Book of Will,” DCPA Theatre Company, Davis McCallum, Director

Outstanding New Play or Musical
“The Book of Will” by Lauren Gunderson – Directed by Davis McCallum; Produced by DCPA Theatre Company

Outstanding Choreography
Matthew D. Peters, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” BDT Stage

The Colorado Theatre Guild has created two categories, or tiers, for our technical awards. The breakdown is for productions, of larger and smaller scale, based upon production budgets.

Outstanding Costume Design Tier 1
Camille Assaf, “The Book of Will,” DCPA Theatre Company

Outstanding Costume Design Tier 2
Jesus Perez, “The Little Mermaid,” Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design Tier 1
Holly Anne Rawls, “Man of La Mancha,” Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company

Outstanding Lighting Design Tier 2
Jen Kiser, “Evita,” Lone Tree Arts Center

Outstanding Scenic Design Tier 1
Christopher L. Sheley, “Man of La Mancha,” Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company

Outstanding Scenic Design Tier 2
Sean Jeffries, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Thunder River Theatre Company

Outstanding Sound Design Tier 1
Benjamin Heston, “Man of La Mancha,” Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company

Outstanding Sound Design Tier 2
Sean Jeffries, “The Tempest,” Thunder River Theatre Company

Special Awards were presented to:

Lifetime Achievement in Theatre
Ed Baierlein and Sallie Diamond

Outstanding Theatre Benefactors
Les Crispelle & Glenn Tiedt

Outstanding Improvisational Theatre
SCRIPTprov

Excellence in Special Makeup Effects
Todd Debreceni

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Ground-breaking “Hair” arrives at Midtown Arts Center

Those “Days of Aquarius” Amaze Local Audience

Reviewed by Tom Jones

July 9, 2017

Broadway audiences and critics either cheered or were aghast in the late ‘60s when a hippie musical about the sexual revolution, profanity, using mind-bending drugs, and opposition to the Viet Nam War opened in New York. Most agreed that the music was nothing short of phenomenal, but an ever-so-brief glance at full nudity caused concern. Following an off-Broadway opening in 1967 at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre, the show opened on Broadway the next year with substantial revisions More than a dozen 13 new songs were added and the show ran for an amazing l,750 performances. Music is by Galt MacDermot, book and lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado.

Living in the West, I had read about the New York show, but was curious as to why such a controversial look at America had spared such interest. I bought the cast recording, and was knocked out with what I heard. I dashed to see it the next time I was in London to determine if the production was worth the hoopla it generated. It was.

The terrific music is currently on stage at Midtown. The score is as pulsating as ever. The show looks terrific, sounds even better. The plot continues to revolve around hippies protesting — protesting virtually everything in their lives. The hippies have created a “tribe” where they can emotionally and physically love one another and rant and rave about everyone else. Claude, played by Tyler Hodges, is one of the group, but is hesitant to commit to burning his draft card – the ultimate act of defiance of the time. Hodges, a newcomer to Midtown Arts, is a sensation. He is torn between his basic decency and the encouragement of his friends to completely immerse himself in their group love and anger.

Tyler Hodges as Claude
Photo Credit Dyann Diercks Photography

At the conclusion of Act I, Claude sings of his tribulation with an incredibly heartfelt, “Where Do I Go?” While he is emotionally torn, other members of the tribe are eager for him to join them with their “bare it all” approach. Unlike the production in London where “baring it all” was not all-inclusive and brief, in Midtown it is a prolonged view of nearly the entire cast. I am not certain why this idea is important to the total message of the show. It is disarming and shocking.

The anti-everything message does become annoying. Act II is a rehash over why everyone is protesting, and includes some over-the-top mind-bending scenes with the tribe “high” on whatever drugs they can find. Claude’s war experiences are seen through hallucinogenic visions brought on by drugs gone bad. Group orgies are the mode.

The music, however, remains as wonderful as ever. Many melodies continue to be well known – some 50 years after they were introduced: “Aquarius” “I Got Life,” “Hair,” “Easy to Be Hard,” “Where Do I Go,” “What a Piece of Work is Man,” “Good Morning, Starshine,” and ultimately, “Let the Sun Shine In.”

Photo Credit Dyann Diercks Photography

Many of the performers are new to MAC. They are an enormously talented group with Hodges, Michael Hajjar, Stephanie Wasser, Bryan Staggers and Devin J. Hall in leading roles. Nine others successfully complete the “Tribe.” Of particular interest are the aerial acrobatics. Director/choreographer Ryan Hazelbaker worked with Cassidy Cousineau and Adam Bourque to dangle from two silks (rope-like cloths hanging from the ceiling) which become an integral part of the set. The effect is like seeing a mini Cirque Du Soleil on stage!

Dinner theatre patrons are accustomed to a “down” time between completing the meal and the beginning of the show. There are the usual commercials and announcements of birthdays, anniversaries, welcoming specific groups, etc. “Hair” itself took several minutes to get into gear. Cast members wandered around the stage. Hodges as Claude sat center stage without saying anything. Tribe Leader Berger (Michael Hajjar) chatted with the audience – nothing being heard beyond the first couple of rows. The pulsating music finally arrived. The long delay between dinner and actual music, however, resulted in my initial interest lagging in what turns out to be a brilliantly-interesting show.

Photo Credit Dyann Diercks Photography

“Hair” continues to be a show for the ages – now celebrating its 50th year with the exuberant version on Stage at Midtown through August 26. Ryan Hazelbaker directed and choreographed the production, with music direction by Paul Falk. The cast is very talented. The orchestra, lighting, and costumes are all excellent. This is a “tough” show – not the family oriented “The Sound of Music” or “Mary Poppins,” but in a style on its own, verging on soft porn. “Hair” the American tribal love-rock musical is in town, on stage this summer at Midtown Arts Center.

“Hair”
Midtown Arts Center
3750 South Mason Street
Fort Collins, CO 80525
To: August 26, 2017
Phone: 970/225-2555
Online: midtownartscenter.com

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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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Mary Lennox finds the key to “The Secret Garden” at DCPA

Artwork by Kyle Malone

Incredible Music And Sets Highlight The Enchanting Tale.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
May 18, 2017

The ultimate joy of overcoming adversity rules the stage in the enchanting “Secret Garden.” Finding redemption is given enormous help with incredible music and amazing sets. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book, written in 1911, has become a popular standard for young women worldwide. The story of loss of loved ones, at any age, has resonated over the years. The heartwarming tale includes the delight of a little robin helping a girl discover the door to a decaying garden, the excitement of teaching a bed-ridden young boy to walk, and the thrill of bringing a decaying garden back to life.

Emily Walton, Liam Forde, Sean Reda, Zoe Manarel. Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom

The musical version of the story opened on Broadway in 1971 and ran for more than 700 performances. When seeing the original show with friends while in previews, I was knocked out by the wonderful music, but had a reality check when a friend noted, “That show isn’t going to go anywhere. It’s just too confusing.” Some of the confusion concerning who is alive and who is portrayed as ghosts remains, but is vastly overshadowed by the beauty of the story, the amazing sets, and the unforgettable music.

Zoe Manarel. Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom

The story revolves around a young English girl, Mary Lennox, living with her parents in India, awakening one morning to find her parents and just about everyone else she knows has died in a cholera epidemic. She is sent to the Yorkshire Moors of England to live with two uncles she has never met. The uncles have grief of their own, and are initially unhappy with the arrival of the sad girl.

Liam Forde and Zoe Manarel. Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom

There isn’t much for the young Mary to do in the large ancestral home, and she has difficulty coming to terms with the idea that she is no longer living a privileged life in India. Mary, as portrayed by Zoe Manarel, does have enormous spunk, and substantial help from a chambermaid Martha, and Martha’s young brother, Dickon.

Martha, excellently portrayed by Emily Walton, offers encouragement with “Hold On.” Liam Forde, playing Dickon nearly steals the show with his insightful information about “Wick” – the joy of bringing life to everything. Forde is a marvel!
Sean Palmer and Michael Halling are both very good as Mary’s Yorkshire uncles, Archibald and Neville Craven. They have problems of their own, as they were both in love with the same woman, Lily, who the young Mary greatly resembles. Among the show’s memorable moments is the heartfelt duet the brothers sing, “Lily’s Eyes.”

The entire score is among Broadway’s best. In addition to the delightful “Wick,” and the moving “Lily’s Eyes,” and “Hold On,” there are “A Bit of Earth,” “Race You to the Top of the Morning,” “Where in the World,” “How Could I Ever Know,” and the brilliant “Come to My Garden.”

Carey Rebecca Brown and Sean Palmer. Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom

“A Bit of Earth” is a wake-up call to the two uncles, as they don’t know what to do with Mary, only to learn that all she wants is a bit of earth to bring plants to life. Archibald’s “Race You to the Top of the Morning” is sung to his sleeping young son, fearing that he cannot provide the boy with the emotional love required. “Where in the World” and “How Could I Ever Know” come near the show’s end as Archibald and the spirit of his deceased and beloved, Lily, share their feelings for each other.

The company of The Secret Garden. Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom

Marsha Norman wrote the book and lyrics, with Lucy Simon providing the music. The Denver production is directed by Jenn Thompson with music directed by Gregg Coffin, choreography by Patricia Wilcox, and scenic design by Wilson Chin.

The entire show looks sensational – the set, the costumes, the lighting. A word of caution – figuring out who is related to whom, who is alive and who is portrayed as ghosts can be a daunting task. Just relax and enjoy the beauty of the show, and everything will ultimately fall into place before the joyous conclusion.

“The Secret Garden”
Where: The Stage Theatre of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts
When: To May 28, 2017
Information: denvercenter.org
Box Office: 303/893-4100

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Lone Tree Production of “Evita” is a Marvel of Sight and Sound

Lauren Shealy Soars as The High Flying, Adored “Evita”

Reviewed by Tom Jones, April 14, 2017

Eva Duarte had a miserable early life in Argentina. Poverty and parental abandonment hardened her, giving unrelenting resolve to do something with her life. By the time she was 15, as reflected in the classic musical, she had learned substantial street smarts, including manipulation of many lovers. She had some professional success as a radio personality and as a movie star.

Eva meets General Juan Peron at a local reception, and immediately discards her date, going off with Peron. Peron is no saint. He has been with a string of women since his divorce, and has become an important officer in the military. His military progression has been by careful stratagem, and by force. He is not daunted to have Eva go to his apartment, finding a mistress in his bed. Eva isn’t the least bit fazed. She matter-of-factly demands the woman leave the bed, get dressed, get packed, and get out. The surprised mistress provides one of the show’s early musical moments, sadly commenting on what might be next for her with “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.”

Photo Credit Danny Lam

Eva Duarte becomes” Evita” Peron; and the musical traces the next 18 years of her life. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the music, with Tim Rice providing the lyrics. Webber had collaborated with Rice earlier, with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in 1968. They teamed up again in 1970 for “Jesus Christ Superstar.” In 1976 they created a rock album, “Evita,” which turned into a full production in London in 1978. That year it received the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical, and transferred to Broadway the next year to become the first English musical to receive the Tony Award for Best Musical.

Webber has subsequently worked with a variety of lyricists to provide a string of such acclaimed musicals as “Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats,” “Starlight Express,” “Aspects of Love,” “Sunset Boulevard,” and a slew of others. A movie version of “Evita” was released in 1996 starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas.

Photo Credit Danny Lam

The “Evita” production at Lone Tree is a winner. Director Gina Rattan has done her homework on studying Eva’s life, bringing it vividly to the local stage. She has modified some aspects of the original show, now emphasizing Eva’s many early lovers. She takes care to show how the young woman’s vulnerability transferred to her becoming hard as steel, while enjoying the adoration of the Argentine populous.

At the beginning of Act Two Lauren Shealy’s “Eva” is on the balcony of the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires. She is at the microphone, looking out over the cheering audience below, and begins with some humbleness to explain her role as wife of the country’s leader. As she moves more deeply into the song, her persona changes, and she displays an amazing self-confidence. The adoring fans appreciate her newfound brilliance, and regard her as their personal saint. This is the show’s triumphant, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” Shealy’s rendition may just be the song’s definitive interpretation.

The population continues its adoration of the “Santa Evita” while she is busy emptying the country’s coffers, and publicly tossing money to a few from her bogus charity fund.

Photo Credit Danny Lam

Looking on in bemused cynicism, watching Eva’s rise to the top, is Miles Jacoby, as the protagonist narrator, Che. His role is reportedly based on the revolutionary Che Guevara. There is no evidence that Evita and Che ever met. Jacoby is a show-stopper on his own, with a strong presence and commanding voice. He is substantially taller than anyone else in the show, but has an uncanny ability to fade into the crowd to become just one of the masses, when he is not the center of attention.

The music remains as exciting as ever, and now includes Eva singing, “You Must Love Me.” This is one of the second act’s most touching moments, and was not part of the original score. It was written for the Madonna movie, and is a rewarding addition to the stage version

Jesse Sharp is good as Juan Peron, as is Seth Dhonau as Magaldi, a local musician who served his time as Eva’s lover. It is Lauren Shealy as Eva and Miles Jacoby as Che who star in the show. They are flawless.

Another character, not as effective, is in the form of two staircases. They are moved around with great fluidity, but eventually become more distracting than effective. The show is also hampered with so much movement of tables and chairs early in the production. These are minor diversions, however, as the total effect is sensational.

Lone Tree’s commitment to excellence is clearly displayed here. The music is difficult, requiring substantial vocal ranges. The staging, lighting, costumes, choreography are remarkable, with excellent results. Someone leaving the theatre following the performance I saw, noted to a companion, “I had no idea it would be that good!”

“Evita” is a history lesson while providing such memorable music as “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” “Another Suitcase in Another Hall,” “High Flying, Adored”, “You Must Love Me,” and the exquisite “Don’t cry for Me Argentina.”

“Evita”
Where: Lone Tree Arts Center
10075 Commons Street
Lone Tree, CO 80124
To: April 29, 2017
Online: www.lonetreeartscenter.org

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Wendy Ishii Is Mesmerizing As Middle-Aged Woman Looking Back On Her Life

Colorado Playwright Eric Prince Wrote “Blue Kitchen” To Celebrate Bas Bleu’s 25th Anniversary

Reviewed by Tom Jones
April 8, 2017

Ava was born in Ireland. Now living in Colorado, she looks back with joy and sadness on her life. As portrayed by Wendy Ishii in “Blue Kitchen,” Ava is now in her middle years, and she is in emotional torment. Ishii is a marvel as Ava– joyful and happy one moment, facing tearful despair the next. And losing touch with reality.

Wendy Ishii in Bas Bleu Theatre Company’s production of “Blue Kitchen”. William A. Cotton Photography

The role was created specifically for her by longtime friend Eric Prince who also directs the production. Ishii and Prince first met in 1996 at the International Beckett Festival in Victoria, Canada. Their mutual attraction for works of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett has created their longtime friendship. Prince is now a Colorado State University professor whose doctoral thesis for the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, was “The Stagecraft of Samuel Beckett.” He has written extensively on the Irish writer and has directed many of his plays. Continue reading Wendy Ishii Is Mesmerizing As Middle-Aged Woman Looking Back On Her Life

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Popular Movie “Sister Act” Transfers With Great Enthusiasm To Stage At Midtown Arts Center

Marissa Rudd Is Sensational As Deloris, Becoming A Nun Against Her Will.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
April 8, 2017

Shakespeare’s Hamlet (the famous Dane) warned his love, Ophelia, to “get thee to a nunnery” to ward off his advances. In “Sister Act” a wanna-be nightclub performer is whisked off to a convent for her own protection after she sees her gangster boyfriend shoot a man.

Marissa Rudd is a wow as the talented singer, Deloris, whose boss boyfriend claims she is not yet ready for the big time. In disgust, she leaves the club, being in the wrong place at the wrong time to witness a murder.

Photography Credit: Dyann Diercks Photography

With the gangster and his mob-of-three on the trail, police hide Deloris in a local convent. The Mother Superior wants nothing to do with the idea, but is advised she must assist. Deloris’ background included several years in a parochial, followed by some street-smart adventures. She is no happier pretending to be a nun than the Mother Superior is in hiding her. The nuns in the convent are confused by the sudden arrival who doesn’t appear to truly be one of the sisterhood. Continue reading Popular Movie “Sister Act” Transfers With Great Enthusiasm To Stage At Midtown Arts Center

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OpenStage’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner” Is A Delectable Farce In The French Countryside!

Steller Cast Provides Laugh-Out-Loud Situations In This Bawdy Tale.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
April 2, 1017

Bernard, a successful Frenchman living with his wife, Jacqueline, in a country home, has taken careful precautions to plan the weekend to perfection. Jacqueline is set to go away by train for a few days to visit her mother. He has arranged with a catering service to provide a delectable dinner to share with his mistress, Suzanne, who is due to arrive for a blissful weekend of love making. Bernard learns that a longtime buddy, Robert, is also in the area, and can see no worry about also inviting him to the home, at least for dinner.

Bernard’s plans fall apart in quick order. When Jacqueline learns that the friend, Robert, is coming to stay the night, she cancels plans to visit her mother. Bernard does not know that his wife, Jaqueline, is Robert’s mistress. Continue reading OpenStage’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner” Is A Delectable Farce In The French Countryside!

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Direct your dancing feet toward “42nd Street” at Candlelight

Lisa Carter Shines as Broadway Ingenue Peggy Sawyer

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 24, 2017

Peggy Sawyer arrives in New York City by train from her home in Allentown. Allentown, PA. She has great naivete, and immense talent, ready to show New York what Pennsylvania can produce. Within a few minutes, Lisa Kay Carter has made the audience realize what a talent they are seeing. As Peggy Sawyer, Carter shows that she can sing. That she can dance. When does she have time to breathe?

“42nd Street” is the proverbial musical about New York City’s favorite area – Broadway and 42nd Street. Talents from throughout the world arrive by bus and train each day, hoping to make their mark as performers. Few of them realize their dreams. But those that do are immortalized by delightful productions like this one, on stage at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse.

Courtesy of Rachel Graham Photography

Director Pat Payne has a substantial record of directing successful shows, including “Hello Dolly,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and “Hairspray.” He continues his run of hits with “42nd Street.” There is every cliché in the showbiz vocabulary: The Broadway ingenue, the ageing diva who everyone loves to hate, the young male dancer and singer who befriends the ingenue, the producer and director who want a hit irrespective of what a toll it may take to create such, the show that is doomed to close before opening unless the right star can be found. And the show’s incredible opening night when everything works to perfection and the audience goes home happy.

Courtesy of Rachel Graham Photography

In the meantime, we are enchanted with non-stop singing and dancing. Tap dancing rules the evening – with every step heading in the direction of 42nd Street. Choreography under care of Kate Vallee, is particularly effective. She has been worked with seven different productions of the show, and her excellence as a choreographer is manifest. She has expert help with the bevy of dancers to provide enormous fun with “Dames,” “We’re in the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle off to Buffalo,” and an especially interesting “42nd Street Ballet” late in the second act.

Set is not particularly interesting until everyone ends up at the Broad Street Station. Lack of scenery is made up for, however, with sensational costuming. Sound and lighting are good, as is the orchestra, under direction of Nicholas Gilmore.” Choral work is also memorable.

While Lisa Kay Carter as Peggy Sawyer is the show’s star, excellent support is provided by Parker Redford as Billy, David L. Wygant as Julian Marsh, Samantha Joe Staggs as Maggie, Kent Sugg as Abner, and Heather McClain as Dorothy Brock. McClain has a challenging task. She is cast as a comic cliché of the traditional stage prima donna. Her talents are substantial, but she is so likeable that it is difficult to become angry with her character as the over-the-hill diva.

“42nd Street” was produced by David Merrick and opened in New York City in 1980. It became an immediate showbiz legend of its own. Choreography was by Gower Champion who had become incredibly successful with ‘Hello Dolly” and other shows. He was ill the last week of rehearsals and died the afternoon before “42nd Street” opened. Following a standing ovation by the opening night audience, Merrick came on stage to tearfully announce that Champion had died that afternoon. Merrick not told the cast before the show, even withholding the news from Champion’s girlfriend Wanda Richert who played Peggy Sawyer. The show went on to receive numerous awards and ran for several years in New York City, and worldwide.

The story is based on a novel by Bradford Ropes, and had been made into a 1933 movie, before showing up as Broadway hit about a Broadway hit in 1980.

The opening night audience in Johnstown was slow to warm up to the production. By show’s end, however, it was as if they could relax, enjoy super talent, and hear familiar music. They ultimately found boundless joy in the delightful Broadway fable.

“42nd Street”
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown
To: June 4, 2017
For Tickets: Box Office: 970/744-3747
Online:www.ColoradoCandlelight.comhttp://www.ColoradoCandlelight.com

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“Jesus Christ Superstar” Leaves Audience Breathless at Arvada Center

Familiar Show Has Never Sounded or Looked Better!

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 25, 2017

From the moment the audience sees the incredible set, until the story concludes, there is a reverent awe with the never-better production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Director Rod A. Lansberry has outdone himself with this brilliant show.

Ensemble and Jesus of Nazareth (Billy Lewis Jr.)
P. Switzer Photography 2017

Release of a single song, “Superstar,” in 1969 encouraged composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice to expand their work to a 1970 rock concert concept album which had an immediate following. The album ultimately resulted in a full-scale production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” opening on Broadway in October of 1971. The original Broadway show and subsequent productions met with enormous fan support, but were rejected by some religious groups. I saw the original New York production and was alarmed. My memory of that introduction is hazy, with my recalling that it was primarily “loud screeching.” What must I have been seeing? A few years ago, composer Webber appeared to agree with me noting that the original New York production was “a vulgar travesty” and opening night was “probably the worst night of my life.” Continue reading “Jesus Christ Superstar” Leaves Audience Breathless at Arvada Center

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An American in Paris Is Right at Home in Denver

Flawless Ballet Performances Reign In Gershwin Musical Masterpiece
Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 10, 2017

When Mary Poppins arrives on stage, she is helped with wires holding her up. Dancers in “An American in Paris” need no wires, as sheer grace and athleticism have them literally flying through the air. Garen Scribner as Jerry Mulligan and Sara Esty as Lise Dassin are both incredible in the brilliant production now on stage at the Buell Theatre in Denver. Lots of adjectives are in order, as this performance is a must-see. Now known as “An American in Paris – a New Musical.”

Loosely based on the 1951 film, the stage version opened in New York in 2015 with tremendous reviews. It went on to win four Tony Awards including those for choreography, lighting, orchestrations, and scenic design. This is George and Ira Gershwin’s love letter to Paris. The movie starred Gene Kelly as the American serviceman who decides to remain in Paris following World War II. He meets and falls in love with a young French girl, Lise. Garen Scribner takes the role of Jerry in the touring company production, with Sara Esty as Lise. They are wonderful to watch and wonderful to hear.
Continue reading An American in Paris Is Right at Home in Denver

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The Merry Wives of Windsor” have moved from England to Scarsdale, New York

Loveland Opera Theatre Provides Great Fun – Greatly Sung

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 27, 2017

Two neighboring wives in Scarsdale, New York, receive letters from the town lecher – John Falstaff, indicating his desire for rendezvous. He is a not very bright lecher, as the women receiving the letters live side by side in the community, and are most eager to share the silly request with each other. They decide to teach him a lesson by inviting him to their homes, with further plans to make him realize his foolishness.

PHOTO CREDIT: D. St. John Photography

So begins a delightful recounting of Shakespeare’s 1602 play, “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” now set to music. Shakespeare’s merry wives have seen many transformations. Italian composer Otto Nicolai wrote and conducted the music for a German language opera in 1849, with libretto by Salomon Hermann Munsenthal, first performed in Berlin. Forty-four years later, Italy’s Giuseppe Verdi took his turn with the play with his opera, “Falstaff,” premiering in Milan in 1893.
Continue reading The Merry Wives of Windsor” have moved from England to Scarsdale, New York

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Confident Cowboy Can’t Rope the Chanteuse of his Dreams

Sean Scrutchins and Emily Van Fleet Shine as Bo and Cherie in William Inge Classic

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 25, 2017

Bo Decker is an extremely confident young rancher from Montana. He inherited the family ranch when his parents died, and has created a very successful operation. He is a naïve cowboy at heart, and his exterior bravado might be hiding a more pleasant interior. He remains on the rodeo circuit, and has completed a trip to Kansas City where his skills have earned him substantial awards and glory. That week, while not rodeo roping, he went to a local nightclub and saw the “doe of his dreams,” a worldly chanteuse, “Cherie.”
Continue reading Confident Cowboy Can’t Rope the Chanteuse of his Dreams

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Pulitzer Prize Winner “August: Osage County” triumphs at OpenStage

Denise Freestone is Flawless as Heavily-Flawed, Pill-Popping Family Matriarch

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 19, 2017

The sustained applause at the conclusion of “August: Osage County” was an unusual display of approval. The opening night audience had been in their seats for more than three hours, but was in no hurry to leave the theatre, as the cheering, standing ovation was endless. The play is one of the most interesting productions performed in northern Colorado in recent memory.

Denise Burson Freestone as Violet Weston in OpenStage Theatre’s production of August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, photography by Joe Hovorka Photography

Denise Burson Freestone and Bruce K. Freestone, Founders of OpenStage, took substantial risk in bringing the award-winning play to Colorado. Looking at a family in turmoil is not a particularly pleasant subject. The cast is large. The set is large. The play’s duration is long. The language is foul. And the show is a winner.

Bruce portrays Beverly Weston, a poet whose fame reached its pinnacle many years earlier. He is now an alcoholic, unhappy with life. Denise plays his wife, Violet, who is suffering from oral cancer and is trapped in her own world of pills and cigarettes. They live separate lives under the same roof of their home in Osage County, Oklahoma, not far from Tulsa. The father’s alcoholism and the mother’s addictions have driven two of their three daughters to move far away, leaving only a lonely unmarried daughter nearby.
Continue reading Pulitzer Prize Winner “August: Osage County” triumphs at OpenStage

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“That Championship Season” looks back on a winning team 25 years later – men whose lives are stuck in memories of past glory.

Marlin May and Jim Valone provide gut-wrenching performances in Bas Bleu production.

Reviewed by Tom Jones February 10, 2017

The fictional local Catholic high school basketball team in Scranton, Pennsylvania, won the State Championship 1952. Twenty-five years later four of the team starters gather at the coach’s home to pay him their respects and to relive memories of their long-ago success. Time hasn’t been good to them. Their coach appears to be dying. One of the players is an alcoholic drifter. His brother is a junior high school principal who has helped others throughout his life, and now wants to do something “important,” but has no support. Another is the town mayor desperate to keep his political power. The wealthy player remains wealthy, but has apparently had a romantic dalliance with another player’s wife. The town’s economy is in shambles Political intrigue is rampant. Egos are out of control. Power is the goal. Winning is everything. This is not a group that you would to invite into your home for a quiet evening of pleasant chatter. It is hard to imagine that 25 years earlier the men were a cohesive unit – claiming a last-minute victory from the jaws of defeat.
Continue reading “That Championship Season” looks back on a winning team 25 years later – men whose lives are stuck in memories of past glory.

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“Million Dollar Quartet” – Incredible Music Based on Actual Event

Big Talent = Big Bucks as Presley, Cash, Lewis, and Perkins Get Together for Jam at Midtown Arts

Reviewed by Tom Jones
January 27, 2017

On December 4, 1956, some already-famous entertainers get together for an evening of conversation and a chance to record some music in the Sun Records studio in Memphis Tennessee. Headliners Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash were all put on the road to fame by producer Sam Phillips. They turn up at the studio to exchange pleasantries – hesitant to talk about the future, as some may have already made plans to leave Sun Records. New on the scene is an off-the-wall talent wild man by the name of Jerry Lee Lewis. Phillips sees his potential. The others aren’t quite so sure. Continue reading “Million Dollar Quartet” – Incredible Music Based on Actual Event

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“Forbidden Broadway” is Great Fun for Theatre Audiences of All Ages

Midtown Arts Center dishes up highlights of well-known shows.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
January 22, 1017

Broadway show fans will be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining venue than “Forbidden Broadway,” as presented by Midtown Arts through March 18. Local performers take on personas of the famous and not-so famous entertainers from the New York stages. Jalyn Courtenay Webb becomes Carol Channing in “Hello Dolly.” Scotty Shaffer is a wow portraying a tall feline from “Cats.” Lisa Kay Carter is a crazed over-the hill “Annie” longing for another role. Rob Riney is spot-on with his announcement that “This Is the Song That Goes Like This”” from “Spamalot.” Paul Falk keeps everyone on pace with his excellent piano accompaniment.

Scotty Shafffer, Photo Courtesy Jalyn Webb

Continue reading “Forbidden Broadway” is Great Fun for Theatre Audiences of All Ages

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“Forever Plaid” is forever fun!

Candlelight Brings Memory-Laden Music of Bygone Days

Reviewed by Tom Jones
January 20, 2017

How long has it been since you heard a song on the radio that you could sing-along with, or saw a show that was full of long-ago memories? Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is offering a trip down memory lane this winter with the forever-popular “Forever Plaid. Remember when Johnnie Ray instructed us to “Cry,” or when Perry Como” suggested we “Catch a Falling Star,” when we were told to throw “Three Coins in a Fountain,” or when we watched the craziness on The Ed Sullivan TV Show? Continue reading “Forever Plaid” is forever fun!

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OpenStage’s “Bright Ideas” is dark comedy of a couple’s desire to place their three-year-old son in the “best” pre-school.

Jessica Emerling Crow spirals into madness in her desire to climb the social ladder.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
January 14, 2017

Shakespeare used three witches in “Macbeth” to chant “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” as they stirred poison in their boiling cauldron in a dark cave. Later they had a difficult time with “out damn spot” trying to remove emotional and physical evidence of their potion. Genevra Bradley, excellently portrayed by Jessica Emerling Crow, in “Bright Ideas” uses her Cuisinart to mix up a potion in her kitchen that will hopefully provide the desired poisonous result – pesto sauce. Genevra is the three witches rolled up into one unfortunate housewife, desperately trying to get ahead.
Continue reading OpenStage’s “Bright Ideas” is dark comedy of a couple’s desire to place their three-year-old son in the “best” pre-school.

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Highlights of Colorado Theatre – 2016

Bravura Acting, Terrific Dancing Raised Standard for Shows Throughout Colorado in 2016

By Tom Jones, December 29, 2016

Looking back on my notes and reviews from the past year has provided me with renewed appreciation for the talents found on Colorado stages. This website has been very rewarding to me. I am a great fan of Colorado theatre, and it has given me the opportunity to share some of my joys of having seen nearly 50 productions in nearly 20 different venues throughout the state this year, as well as seeing productions of the Utah Shakespeare Theatre Festival in Cedar City, Utah. My wife, Linda, and I are both judges for the Colorado Theatre Guild, seeing many of the Guild’s shows, as reflected on the website.

Continue reading Highlights of Colorado Theatre – 2016

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Remarkable Cast Brings Great Holiday Joy to Fort Collins

“A Christmas Story – the Musical” is Delightful Tale of a Youth Longing for a Red Ryder BB Gun.

Reviewed by Tom Jones, December 9, 2016

The beguiling charm of “A Christmas Story – The Musical” does not wait to enchant, little-by- little. The magic is there from the moment the author, Jean Shepherd, begins his story of growing up in the 1940s. Daniel Harkins is terrific as Jean Shepherd, narrating the semi-fictitious tale of himself – the young “Ralphie” of the play.
Continue reading Remarkable Cast Brings Great Holiday Joy to Fort Collins

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“A Wonderful Life” onstage at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

A Wonderful Life Logo Final1940s Family Fare Film Classic turns up as Holiday musical in Johnstown

Review by Tom Jones
November 30, 2016

The year is 1928. George Bailey is a bright young man on the threshold of making his mark on mankind. He has been raised in a loving family. His kind father owns a savings and loan company, and has taught George what is right and wrong, what is good and what is evil, and how to treat everyone with respect and kindness. George has finished high school and is set to go to Europe to begin life’s experiences away from his home in Bedford Falls. He plans to enter college upon his return from Europe. Then a lifetime of “skids” begins.
Continue reading “A Wonderful Life” onstage at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

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Millie Goes Thoroughly Modern in New York City

thoroughly-modern-millie-mainstage-page-newSeles VanHuss shines in 1920s musical at Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage

Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 27, 2016

Millie Dillmount, delightfully played by Seles VanHuss, is the traditional mid-western young woman who arrives in New York City without fear, and with aspirations of a great change in her life. Some girls travel to the Big Apple to make it big in show business. Millie’s plans are much more defined. She wants to marry a rich man.
Continue reading Millie Goes Thoroughly Modern in New York City

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“The Snow Queen” has magical scenery, costumes, makeup and masks.

snow-logoBas Bleu presents new version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen

Reviewed by Tom Jones, November 21, 2016

Lilly Bolduc is a (very) tall and impressively evil Snow Queen. She has powers to bring persons under her spell by enticing them to leave with her, freezing their hearts bit by bit. She is about to succeed in freezing the heart of another, when young Gerda comes on the scene, and does everything she can to protect her friend, Kai.
Continue reading “The Snow Queen” has magical scenery, costumes, makeup and masks.

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Arvada Center Provides World Premiere of Christmas Season Musical

home-logoTalented cast and excellent choreography highlight “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”

Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 19, 2016

Based on the assumption that “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” a creative team has been working for nearly a year to bring “I’ll be Home for Christmas” to the stage at Arvada Center. This is the first time the Center has provided a world premiere of an original production. Book is by Kenn McLaughlin, with lyrics and original music by David Nehls. Some of the music includes familiar Christmas tunes – arranged to provide opportunity for excellent dancing. Gavin Mayer directed the show with Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck providing the choreography.
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OpenStage’s “The Flick” is heart-wrenching look at the staff of a movie theater on its last legs.

the-flickActing excellence keeps audience awake in longer-than-usual production.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 13, 2016

A dying Massachusetts movie theater is portrayed as an aging artifact, one of the state’s few remaining movie houses using 35mm projection. The “digital” age is taking over movie theaters across the country, and The Flick’s three staff members continue their boring work of keeping the theater alive. The three manage the box office, the refreshment stand, run the projector, clean messy restrooms, and most of the time are seen sweeping up spilled popcorn and discarding boxes, cups, and candy wrappers after each film. For nearly three hours the audience watches as two of the three sweep bucket after bucket of refuse while maintaining their sanity with mundane conversation, spiked with “tests” they provide each other about past movie memories. As they chat and sweep, and chat and sweep, they reveal how difficult it is for them to become close to anyone – each other included.
Continue reading OpenStage’s “The Flick” is heart-wrenching look at the staff of a movie theater on its last legs.

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Deb Note-Farwell Amazes as Maria Callas

put-master-class-logoPopUp Theatre’s “Master Class” is in a class by itself!

Reviewed by Tom Jones, October 22, 2016

Deb Note-Farwell has long-been one of Colorado’s most talented performers. This season she has outdone herself. She not only plays a role, but becomes opera diva Maria Callas on a tiny Fort Collins stage. The actress has completely moved her own persona out of the way in the performance of a lifetime.
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Not much glitz and glamour working for high end fashion magazine in New York City.

ultimate_logo

Talented cast in OpenStage, etc. production of “Ultimate Beauty Bible”.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
October 15, 2016

Three young millennials, working for the same high-end fashion magazine, get together for cocktails; with the idea they are renewing friendships which began when they interned together at the magazine following college. They are an unusual trio: a blond, a brunette, and a redhead, sitting in a bar or cocktail lounge, dressed to the nines, and attempting to be gracious and loving while their friendship, if there ever was one, is shallow as a saucer.
Continue reading Not much glitz and glamour working for high end fashion magazine in New York City.

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“The Blue Flower “is Fascinating Display of Unusual Theatre, with Super Music

blue-flower-graphicFour characters at Bas Bleu face challenges of existence in and after two world wars.

Reviewed by Tom Jones, October 9, 2016

Four characters are at loose ends before, during, and after world wars in Europe in Bas Bleu’s challenging, and fascinating tale – with wonderful music. Caution is involved, as experienced theatre-goers may be over-the-top excited. Persons coming in off the street may wonder what in the world they are seeing. I was somewhere between the two with The Blue Flower.
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“Tartuffe” cons his way to high hilarity at Arvada Center

tartuffe-logoFamily has hilarious time in exposing plan to steal the families jewels

Reviewed by Tom Jones
October 9, 2016

Beware of scams. Hang up when a supposed IRS agent threatens to take away your home. Don’t offer your social security number or other information that could be used to defraud you. And be especially on the lookout for Tartuffe. He is the pious beggar at the doorstep with mystifying charm – promising eternal salvation. Orgon, the family patriarch, believed him, took him into his home; and the scammer soon had Orgon and his doting mother under his spell. The rest of the family was aghast.
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“Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” highlights “Evita” at Candlelight

evita-square-logo-final-web-231x230Andrew Lloyd Webber’s excellent music is a reason to see this sobering tale of political intrigue

Reviewed by Tom Jones, October 7, 2016

Among Broadway’s most memorable moments is one from “Evita” when Eva Peron, immaculately clad and coiffed, appears before the microphones on the balcony of The Casa Rosada, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her dramatic “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” is a plea for the masses to stick with her – claiming that everything she has done is “for the people.”
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“Motones vs Jerseys” musicians are in fine form as Midtown audience cheers

mvjAbout 50 songs are included in the “war” of opposing performers at MAC

Reviewed by Tom Jones

It is “Fight Night” at Midtown Arts Center. All gloves are off, but two teams of amazing vocal cords are in combat as “Motones vs. Jerseys” offer the audience a grand duel for more than two hours of superb music.
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“Sister Act” at Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

sister-act-logoThose nuns and a “novice” make rock and roll habit-forming!

Reviewed by Tom Jones
September 10, 2016

Getting into the “habit” can be risky business. Staying there has difficulties of its own! Many nuns in this show face a variety of challenges. One possible new addition, Deloris Van Cartier, has a specific concern — being “chased” (by the mob). Deloris is a flashy vocalist longing to become a pop star. Her boyfriend/manager is a mob boss, Curtis Jackson, who is watching her perform in a Philadelphia nightclub. Deloris is a glamorous woman with a huge voice, but the evening doesn’t go well. Curtis advises Deloris that she is just not yet ready for the big time.
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OpenStage’s “La Bete” is Two Hours of Bravura Acting on Lincoln Center Magnolia Theatre

la_bete_logoA knockout of theatre when an obvious bore becomes enchantment

Reviewed by Tom Jones
September 9, 2016

How long has it been since you’ve been “trapped” in the same room with someone who talks non-stop about himself, believes he (or she) is the center of wisdom, and stops talking only to stuff bits of food in his mouth, spewing much of it on the floor. This might be in classroom, a car, in a business environment, or (heaven-forbid) at a family reunion.
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“Phantom of The Opera” returns to haunt Buell Theatre audiences

Phantom LogoDenver welcomes an opulent “Phantom” for 25th Anniversary.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
August 28, 2016

Seven years have passed since the last “Phantom” haunted the stages of Denver’s Buell Theatre! And 25 years have passed since Denver audiences first saw the amazing show! The mind-controlling Phantom is back in a glorious production, now through September 11.
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“Wizard of Oz” Marches into Johnstown

WizardofOz-SMALLMunchkins are a Marvel as “Wizard of Oz” Marches into Johnstown

Reviewed by Tom Jones
August 12, 2016

The Wizard of Oz” has been around forever. In 1900 L. Frank Baum wrote the American children’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” which turned up as the Metro Goldwyn Mayer movie musical in 1939 and immortalized Judy Garland as Dorothy. The film shows up regularly on television; and many in the current audience grew up knowing that Dorothy was swept away in a tornado – or just a bad dream, after her beloved dog, Toto, was taken by a mean-spirited neighbor. The movie begins in black and white, turning to dazzling Technicolor when Dorothy arrives in Oz.
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Creede Repertory Theatre Continues to Amaze Audiences

“Kind of Red” and “The History Room” Provide Super Diversity To Theatre-Goers

Reviewed by Tom Jones
August 9, 2016

Tiny Creede, Colorado, (year-round population of less than 400) continues to make theatre history by being home to the terrific Creede Repertory Theatre (CRT). This summer the highly respected company basically has seven different shows running, including the musical “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” Noel Coward’s classic comedy, “Private Lives,” and the improv “Boomtown.” My wife and I were able to see two productions this summer, coming away delighted with each — “Kind of Red” and “The History Room.” Both were world premieres this summer, and both received acclaim a year ago when the company was looking at not-yet-produced shows at the Annual Headwaters New Play Festival.
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Utah Shakespeare Festival Wows Audiences

UT Shakespeare FestivalVariety of performances offers something for everyone in Southern Utah

My wife and I had not been to Cedar City for twelve years! We were impressed at the quality of plays during that long-ago visit. We were concerned then to learn that a massive project was underway by the Utah Shakespeare Festival to upgrade the facilities to the tune of several million dollars. We did not believe the goal could be reached. Woe be unto us. Twelve years later — the project IS completed! And excellently so! The Utah Shakespeare Festival itself is a mini (or maxi) miracle. The facilities are first rate. The performances are first rate. The whole project appears to work like clockwork, with visitors coming from throughout the nation and abroad. We were amazed at what we found this year on the campus of Southern Utah University.
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Colleen Johnson Shines as “Practically Perfect” Mary Poppins

MaryPoppins“Mary Poppins” is great charmer at Midtown Arts Center

Reviewed by Tom Jones, June 20, 2016

Colleen Johnson is a wonder. From the moment she arrives on stage, umbrella on her arm, shoes pointing outward from the heels, she is completely in charge. I first became enchanted by Johnson when she dashed from the MAC stage through an exterior exit as the frenzied Fiona in “Shrek.” This time around she arrives at the Banks household on London’s Cherry Tree Lane after the recent Nanny has departed in great haste. She immediately announces that she is “Practically Perfect in every way!” And we believe her. She has great (pointed) shoes to fill. Julie Andrews received the Academy Award as Best Actress for the 1964 movie – which has become one of the most-loved movies of all time.
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