All posts by Tom

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

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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.
Continue reading “Tartuffe” cons his way to high hilarity at Arvada Center

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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.”
Continue reading “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” highlights “Evita” at Candlelight

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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.
Continue reading “Motones vs Jerseys” musicians are in fine form as Midtown audience cheers

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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.
Continue reading “Sister Act” at Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

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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.
Continue reading OpenStage’s “La Bete” is Two Hours of Bravura Acting on Lincoln Center Magnolia Theatre

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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.
Continue reading “Phantom of The Opera” returns to haunt Buell Theatre audiences

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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.
Continue reading Creede Repertory Theatre Continues to Amaze Audiences

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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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The “Shrew” Becomes The “Tamer” at OpenStage Outdoors

Shrew-OSShakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” is Rollicking Tale

Reviewed by Tom Jones
June 11, 2016

Baptista is a wealthy gentleman of Padua whose younger daughter, Bianca, has many suitors. Unfortunately for the wooing young men, Baptista will not promise her to anyone until her older sister, Katherine is wed. Problem. Katherine, known as “Kate” is a semi-monster whose miserable temperament is well known throughout Italy. It is going to be a hard sell to wed her before allowing Bianca to follow suit.
Continue reading The “Shrew” Becomes The “Tamer” at OpenStage Outdoors

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“Footloose” is a High Energy Delight in Boulder

Footloose-Mainstage-logo1985 movie turns up as exciting look at teenagers in the 1970s

Reviewed by Tom Jones
June 7, 2016

Jean-Luc Cavner is a very talented performer! A graduate of The University of Northern Colorado, Jean-Luc is making his BDT Stage debut as “’Ren” in “Footloose” after substantial experience in various roles and delighting audiences travelling on Holland America Cruise Lines. He controls the stage from his first dancing scene, and retains command for the entire show. Ren is a street-smart rock-and-roll phenomenon in his native Chicago. When his father walks out on the family, Ren and his mother are uprooted and take refuge with her sister in a tiny western town known as Bomont. His street-wise actions are taken as hostile by many in the little town, and he has a difficult time fitting in. He is adrift without a father figure for guidance.
Continue reading “Footloose” is a High Energy Delight in Boulder

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“Good People” at Bas Bleu is close inspection of role of luck in life’s game.

Good-People-BB

Bas Bleu Drama Looks at Difficulty in Rising Above Inherent Social Implications

Reviewed by Tom Jones, May 29, 2016

Wendy Fulton-Adams is excellent as Margie, a down-on-her-luck cashier in a Dollar Store who is laid off from her job in South Boston. She is not particularly likeable, and gives the impression that she has done nothing wrong, except for constant tardiness. She argues with her employer, unsuccessfully pleading with him to let her keep her job. Her two adult friends, Dottie and Jean, commiserate with her, going so far as to say that Margie is such a “good person,” and should not be treated so harshly at work. Miriam Chase and Jeanne Nott are convincing as the two foul-mouthed “Southie” friends. While wanting to say how “good” Margie is, they are not willing to admit that the cause of her dismissal has a lot to do with them. Margie doesn’t have much going for her. She is a single mother, raising a handicapped daughter who was born shortly after Margie finished high school. Her husband subsequently left her.
Continue reading “Good People” at Bas Bleu is close inspection of role of luck in life’s game.

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Sondheim Musical Triumph “Into The Woods” at Candlelight

Debby Boone at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
Debby Boone at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

What Happens When Fairy Tales Don’t End “Happily Ever After”

Reviewed by Tom Jones, May 21, 2016

(Note: “Into the Woods” and I are like old friends – getting together after nearly 30 years of friendship, but not seeing each other all that often in the interim. I first found “Woods” on New York’s Broadway in 1987 when it was in previews just prior to its opening. Saw it again a few weeks later when it had become a full-fledged hit. We have visited again a few times over the years – listening to the CD, seeing the taped DVD of the Broadway show. Sometimes it was as delightful and friendly as ever, sometimes –as is the case with the movie version – it had become kind of dreary. So I was a little apprehensive before catching up with my musical friend at the Candlelight this week. I should not have worried, it was as fun — and as serious — as I remember from the first time we met.)
Continue reading Sondheim Musical Triumph “Into The Woods” at Candlelight

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“Lost in Yonkers” Finds a Home at Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins

YonkersPulitzer Prize Winning Play by Neil Simon Earns its Honors

Reviewed by Tom Jones
May 20, 2016

With minimal fanfare and unknown to most theatregoers, “Lost in Yonkers” arrived on the stage of the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins this spring. “Word of mouth” has traveled quickly, and the highly-honored show is receiving great local acclaim. The talented cast is a wonder, headlined by Morgan Howard in a bravura performance as Bella, an emotionally challenged woman in her mid-30s – desperately longing for someone to love her. Neil Simon wrote this touching play in 1991, and received the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for his work.
Continue reading “Lost in Yonkers” Finds a Home at Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins

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Debby Boone continues to “light up lives!”

Debby Boone at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
Debby Boone at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse. Photo credit Garland Photography

Debby Boone is starring in “Into the Woods” this Spring at The Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Interviewed by Tom Jones, April 28, 2016

Debby Boone found fame as a young singer in 1977 with “You Light Up My Life.” The song spent ten weeks as No.1 on Billboard charts that year, and she received the Grammy Award for Best New Artist the following year. While she hasn’t been in such great limelight in past years, she has continued to “light up lives” wherever she goes. She is an accomplished performer, writer, wife, mother, and even a grandmother. Her first granddaughter is not yet a year old, and a sibling is expected in the next few months. While in Colorado, she is staying part of the time with her younger sister, Laury, in Fort Collins.
Continue reading Debby Boone continues to “light up lives!”

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“Death Takes a Holiday” at Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

PrintRegional Premier of Maury Yeston Musical Greeted with Great Enthusiasm and Awe

Reviewed by Tom Jones
April 27, 2016

The standing ovation at the show’s conclusion wasn’t enough. It was as if the audience was in reverent awe of what they had seen, and wanted to do more than merely stand and applaud. They were supporting not only the amazing cast, but supporting the director, the orchestra, the show’s authors. And maybe even delighted that “Death” had passed them by, so they could continue with the excitement of their own lives.
Continue reading “Death Takes a Holiday” at Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

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“Love, Loss and What I Wore” Hides No Secrets in Bas Bleu Charmer

Love-Loss-1Five women tell their tales, and yes – what they wore.

Reviewed by Tom Jones, April 23, 2016

There is an interesting species currently roaming the world. I believe they are called “women.” They tend to be somewhat clannish, and have an uncanny knack for remembering every dress or outfit they wore in every happy and troublesome situation. A delightful look at this group is currently on stage at Bas Bleu, and just might be called “Ehpronites,” as their play is by Delia and Nora Ephron, based on a book by Ilene Beckerman. “Love, Loss and What I Wore” runs through May 1 at Bas Bleu, directed by Graciela Marin.
Continue reading “Love, Loss and What I Wore” Hides No Secrets in Bas Bleu Charmer

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OpenStage provides riveting theatre with “Orphans”.

OrphansDysfunctional Brothers Kidnap a Businessman for Whom No One Will Pay Ransom

Reviewed by Tom Jones
April 17, 2016

Treat and Phillip are adult dysfunctional brothers, living in a run-down area of Philadelphia. Their father abandoned them, and their mother has died. Treat has taken the role of family protector, going out each day to rob and steal. He has convinced his younger, mentally-challenged brother that he must never leave the house. As a result, Phillip spends his days either in the closet where his mother’s clothes were left, or watching “The Price is Right” on television in his upstairs bedroom. He is completely at the mental and physical mercy of his brother. He has no idea what it is like to go outside, and has never even learned to tie his shoes. He has, however, been teaching himself to read and has some books and newspaper stashed in secret places around the house, hoping Treat will not find them.
Continue reading OpenStage provides riveting theatre with “Orphans”.

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Candlelight Provides an Enchanted Evening of “South Pacific “

SouthPacific-SMALLBussy Gower is the “Cockeyed Optimist” Nellie Forbush in Revival of World Famous Musical

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 19, 2016

Bussy Gower is delightfully introduced as “A Cockeyed Optimist” early in the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse production of “South Pacific.” Gower portrays Nellie Forbush, a self-proclaimed hick from rural Arkansas. She is serving as an American nurse on a tiny Pacific Island during World War II, and is naively amazed with how different life can be from one part of the planet to another.
Continue reading Candlelight Provides an Enchanted Evening of “South Pacific “

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“Try to Remember” is Hard to Forget in “The Fantasticks” at Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins

Fantasticks-L“The Fantasticks” is a Heartwarming Memory Piece of Young Love

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 19, 2016

The lyrics of “Try to Remember” have long been my anthem of growing older and wiser – at the same time:

“Deep in December it’s nice to remember
Although you know the snow will follow.
Deep in December it’s nice to remember
Without a hurt the heart will hollow.
Deep in December it’s nice to remember
Then follow. Follow.”
Continue reading “Try to Remember” is Hard to Forget in “The Fantasticks” at Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins

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Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage Introduces Young Orphan in the Highly-Imaginative “Peter and the Starcatcher”

PeterAudience Meets Unhappy Young Boy Before He Became High-Flying “Peter Pan”

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 18, 2016

A generation before Peter Pan flew into Wendy’s London bedroom window, he was a very sad young orphan, abused by the British system, with only a couple of orphan friends. Life was hard and un-relenting until he met the sassy and spirited Molly who was enroute on the Neverland ship to meet up with her father in Rundoon. After Molly and Peter meet on the ship, their two lives would never be the same.
Continue reading Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage Introduces Young Orphan in the Highly-Imaginative “Peter and the Starcatcher”

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“Riverdance” Audience Gives Warm Welcome at Denver Center for the Performing Arts

The 20th Anniversary World Tour, Photographer Rob McDougal
The 20th Anniversary World Tour, Photographer Rob McDougal

Buell Theatre Hosts 20th Anniversary Tour of famed “Riverdance

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 9, 2016

Where to begin? What can be singled out to be the “best” of the show? Is it the opening “Reel Around the Sun”, which held the audience in awe? Or the flamenco “Firedance”? Probably the best-remembered number is “Riverdance” itself. No, the “best” has to be the “Russian Dervish.” Or the square dance take-off where partnered dancers were in a circle within a circle, with each circle rotating in different directions. There are just too many highlights to say one was the absolute “best.”
Continue reading “Riverdance” Audience Gives Warm Welcome at Denver Center for the Performing Arts

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“The North Plan” is a wild and thought-provoking tale of civil unrest and martial law possibilities.

North_Plan_logoRebecca Spafford is riveting as a not-so-dumb woman living on the fringes of society

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 6, 2016

Tanya Shepke is a character to be reckoned with. She is a sassy gum-chewing barmaid in rural Missouri who ends up at the police station – turning herself in before she can be arrested for drunk driving. She is a wild woman, who is amazingly street savvy. Her education is minimal, as she talks as if she might have learned her “basic ABCs,” but needs to include “f bombs” in every sentence. Rebecca Spafford is a wonder as the wild woman who claims, among other things, that her husband tried to drown her in the bathtub.
Continue reading “The North Plan” is a wild and thought-provoking tale of civil unrest and martial law possibilities.

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“Anything Goes” Wows Audience at Mountain View High School Production in Loveland

AGMountain View High School Students Shine in Cole Porter Musical “Anything Goes”

Reviewed by Tom Jones, March 3. 2016

If you were in the Loveland area around 8:00 p.m. you may have heard an enormous roar. It wasn’t an explosion, nor a low flying airplane. It was the thunderous applause provided by the audience at the conclusion of the first act of Mountain View High School’s production of “Anything Goes!” The entire cast is on stage tap dancing their hearts out with a remarkable display of talent and exuberance! This is one of the most delightful first act finales of a show in recent memory.
Continue reading “Anything Goes” Wows Audience at Mountain View High School Production in Loveland

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Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance” is Rollicking Tale in Loveland

Pirates LogoLoveland Opera Theatre Provides Pure Fun on the Rialto Stage

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 27, 2016

Daffy cops are in full chase as down-on-their-luck pirates try to woo a herd of the Major General’s daughters. Gilbert and Sullivan provided several delightful comic operettas, with “Pirates of Penzance” probably being the most entertaining, and containing wondrous melodies.
Continue reading Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance” is Rollicking Tale in Loveland

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A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder Wows Buell Theatre Audiences

gglogoThere is delightful murder in the air at the Buell with super musical comedy.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 17, 2016

A young, British chap, Monty Navarro, is an acknowledged romantic. The night before a possible execution for a murder he didn’t commit, he writes his memoirs about murders he did cause. And what a tale he tells. Two and one-half hours later the audience has chuckled and laughed out loud at the antics of the beguiling Monty. He recounts his own “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.”
Continue reading A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder Wows Buell Theatre Audiences

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“All The Way” Looks at LBJ and MLK as The Civil Rights Bill is Presented to Congress.


All the wayDenver Center presents remarkable Award Winning Play to Entertain and Enlighten Audiences

Reviewed by Tom Jones, February 6, 2016

Lyndon Baines Johnson had been President of the United States less than a year when he faced an uphill battle in congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He had no vice president, and appears to have been a loose cannon, ready for combat to pass the legislation. He needed all the help he could muster, as he would be up for nomination at the Democratic Party National Convention in late summer, and he was using every trick in the book to move his legislation forward.
Continue reading “All The Way” Looks at LBJ and MLK as The Civil Rights Bill is Presented to Congress.

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“Hide Sky” Features three talented performers portraying a family at loose ends.

Hide-Sky-Logo
Hide Sky at Bas Bleu

Bas Bleu hosts world premiere of “Hide Sky” by Caridad Svich

Reviewed by Tom Jones, February 5. 2016

“Home is where the heart….is or isn’t.” Three now-adult siblings get together at the Rawlins family home after the funeral of their suicidal mother. The eldest daughter, Shawn, appears to be taking on the role of the family matriarch. She is a take-charge woman whose own marriage is on the rocks, and her husband has moved on. The younger daughter Maureen (“Mo”) is a hippie who returns to the family home with enough baggage to fill several volumes of tribulations. Ray is the n’er-do well son who is basically a drunk, and has no desire to build relationships with his sisters.
Continue reading “Hide Sky” Features three talented performers portraying a family at loose ends.

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“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” is insightful look at relationships!

Love ChangeMidtown Arts production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” evokes memories of dating, marriage, and all….

Reviewed by Tom Jones, January 29, 20

The show’s title tells it all as fun and foibles of dating and marriage take center stage in “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now change” current at Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins. The popular review has been charming audiences worldwide since its inception Off-Broadway in New York twenty years ago. The show has something for just about every dating or married couple.

We see a couple on their first date. They claim they are uncomfortable in early dates, and opt to fast forward to second, third and all dates, concluding their friendship with no dates! Then there is the senior couple whose spouses have died, and the remaining widow and widower spend their days attending funerals of persons they don’t know — looking for possible match-up dates with other funeral-goers.

Photo credit Mikeal Macbeth.
Photo credit Mikeal Macbeth.

Current cast in the Midtown production is very good, headlined by Joel Adam Chavez who is an instant charmer with his wonderful facial expressions and ability to take on roles from the dating movie-goer to the senior citizen at the funeral home. He is a familiar face to local audiences. He is especially heart-warming as the macho date, dragged to a chick flick tear jerker. He prefers action westerns, heavy on violence; but ends up sobbing hysterically being reduced to mush at the two-hanky sob story his date insisted on seeing.

Also well known to local audiences is Anne Terze-Schwarz, a tall beauty with an equally beautiful voice. Rounding out the quartet of performers are Morgan Howard and Sean Wilcox, both newcomers to MAC productions. Each of the four players has an individual moment to shine, as well as playing multiple roles for other sketches. Morgan amazes as she jumps to a full dancing split! Sean Wilcox has very good stage presence and is enormously charming. His singing voice is very good, and his acting skills are effective.

Music is by Jimmy Roberts, with book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro. The songs are pleasant, but not particularly memorable. The sketches range from great fun to heartfelt somber memories. Among the highlights, in addition, to those mentioned earlier, are Wilcox visiting some married friends whose entire existence is currently revolving around their new baby; the family “traveling” around the stage reminding us how dreadful family trips by car can be; the husband who is bogged down with Macy shopping bags while his wife runs around the store trying to find a restroom; and a super sketch where married parents are hosting a dinner for their son and his girlfriend of two years, expecting the couple is about to announce their engagement. The parents are horrified as the young friends announce they are splitting up – with the mother tossing the gift she had brought thinking a wedding announcement was soon to be made.

Seth Caikowski directs the goings-on. He is highly respected for his acting skills, having received the Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award a few years ago for his looniness in “The Drowsy Chaperone” at Boulder Dinner Theatre. This is the third production of “I Love You…” that Caikowski has directed.

Midtown Arts Center is presenting the show in their smaller cabaret-style room. This is a slightly different format from shows featured on their main stage. No meal is provided, but appetizers and drinks are available prior to the show, with dessert at Intermission.

The show premiered Off-Broadway in New York in 1996 and closed in 2008, after more than 5,000 performances. It has been produced worldwide and translated into at least 17 languages. The themes presented are universal. Playwright DiPietro touches on romantic themes that are instantly relatable – sometimes with discomfort, sometimes with outright joy!

“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”
Where: Midtown Arts Center
When: Through March 4 2016
Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun at 6:00 p.m.
Matinees Saturday and Sunday at 12:00
For Tickets: 970/225-2555
www.midtownartscenter.com

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“Mrs. Mannerly” is great fun at Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

MannerlyLogoWild and wonderful days in an etiquette class are recalled by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher

Reviewed by Tom Jones
January 27, 2016

Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher wasn’t wild about athletics. In fact, at nine he was happily enrolled in a local etiquette class to get him away from playing little league baseball! He excelled in etiquette school, with his goal to receive a perfect “100” grade upon course completion. Hatcher’s memories of his youth in the class are wild tales now on display at the Arvada Center.

Pictured: Graham Ward (Jeffrey) and Leslie O'Carroll (Mrs. Mannerly) Photo Credit P. Switzer Photography 2016
Pictured: Graham Ward (Jeffrey) and Leslie O’Carroll (Mrs. Mannerly)
Photo Credit P. Switzer Photography 2016

His two-character play is a delight. Leslie O’Carroll portrays Mrs. Mannerly, etiquette teacher with 30 years of experience teaching manners to the citizens of Steubenville, Ohio. Graham Ward is the precocious student, Jeffrey, and also portrays other students in the class. O’Carroll is a longtime favorite of Colorado audiences; and Ward should soon be a name to be reckoned with, as he is basically a comedic riot in the making.

The etiquette class has seen better days, and appears to be on its last leg as Jeffrey’s session begins. By now it has only five students, including Jeffrey. They are a mixed bag, with only Jeffrey having any intention of completing the course, hopefully receiving the perfect “100” score. He is well on his way as the class brown-nose who is the instant teacher’s pet. O’Carroll is convincing as the teacher who as “seen it all,” and is discouraged as basic values and manners appear to be diminishing in Steubenville. Ward is a sight to behold. He appears to have no bones in his body, and he bounces from playing one character to the next, throwing himself from one end of the stage to the other. He is also a devious chap, partially responsible for the exit of other students from the class.

Pictured: Graham Ward (Jeffrey) and Leslie O'Carroll (Mrs. Mannerly) Photo Credit P. Switzer Photography 2016
Pictured: Graham Ward (Jeffrey) and Leslie O’Carroll (Mrs. Mannerly)
Photo Credit P. Switzer Photography 2016

Want to learn how to properly set a table? Ask Mrs. Mannerly. Want to know how to use a fork and a knife in Europe vs in America? Ask Mrs. Mannerly. Want to know how to foil the class’s best table-setting student? Ask Jeffrey.

Mrs. Mannerly’s instructions include more than manners. She also teaches values, and telling truth from fiction. Jeffrey has reason to believe that his teacher hasn’t been teaching with a clean slate, and sets out to prove his theory.

Edith Weiss has skillfully directed this delightful tale, that ends up looking at the value of values as well as the value of manners. She has skillfully held O’Carroll in tight control as the teacher in charge, and skillfully lets Graham Ward let loose to delight the audience.

The set is pleasant, as the class is held upstairs in a building which formerly contained a basketball court, with the basketball markings still present.

Jeffrey Hatcher grew up in Steubenville, Ohio, so is well acquainted with the goings-on in his hometown, and gently reflects upon his interesting youth in this part of Ohio before moving on to New York and then Minneapolis after attending Denison University in Granville, Ohio. He is an award-winning playwright, with the wild and crazy class of Mrs. Mannerly just one of his compositions.

“Mrs. Mannerly” is played without intermission, with a running time of about 80 minutes – with the audience obviously entertained and “instructed” throughout!

“Mrs. Mannerly”
Arvada Center For the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003
Runs through February 21, 2016
Box Office 720/898-7200

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OpenStage’s “Outside Mullingar” is by award-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley, about rural life in Ireland

Bruce K. Freestone as Tony Reilly and Jessica Emerling Crow as Rosemary Muldoon in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley. Photo by Steve Finnestead photography.
Bruce K. Freestone as Tony Reilly and Jessica Emerling Crow as Rosemary Muldoon in
OpenStage Theatre’s production of Outside Mullingar . Photo by Steve Finnestead Photography.

Denise Burson Freestone and Bruce K. Freestone share the stage as farming neighbors in production in Lincoln Center’s Magnolia Theatre.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
January 24, 2016

It is always a treat to see Bruce and Denise Burson Freestone on stage. The couple founded OpenStage Theatre in 1973, but rarely perform together in a local production. Seeing them share the stage is but another welcoming delight in “Outside Mullingar” at the Magnolia Theatre of Lincoln Center through February 6.

Jessica Emerling Crow as Rosemary Muldoon and Todd Hoven as Anthony. Photo by Steve Finnestead Photography
Jessica Emerling Crow as Rosemary Muldoon and Todd Hoven as Anthony. Photo by Steve Finnestead Photography

The Freestones appear as Tony Reilly and Aoife Muldoon, Irish neighbors who own adjacent farms. Muldoon’s husband has just died, and she stops in to visit with Reilly, a widower, on her way home from the funeral. They appear to be longtime friends who have probably cared more for each other than either is willing to admit. They talk about their farms, about their children, and appear to have a special bond. Their children, Anthony and Rosemary, are about the same age, but have barely been civil to each other since Anthony shoved Rosemary to the ground, when they were children, more than 20 years ago. The chemistry between the married-in-real-life Freestones is rewarding as they spar and chat as Irish neighbors.

Jessica Emerling Crow as Rosemary Muldoon, and Bruce K. F reestone as Tony Reilly and Denise Burson Freestone as Aoife. Photo by Steve Finnestead Photography
Jessica Emerling Crow as Rosemary Muldoon, and Bruce K. Freestone as Tony Reilly and Denise Burson Freestone as Aoife. Photo by Steve Finnestead Photography

Todd Hoven is believable as Tony’s son whose love of the farm is not apparent to his father. Because of this concern, his ageing father has decided to give the farm to a nephew living in New York. The father claims that the son is not manly enough. Hoven is great to watch as the sometimes insecure son who dearly loves the farm’s “earth,” and continues to be at loose ends since his girlfriend rejected his marriage proposal several years ago and married another man.

Completing the quartet of semi-lost souls is Jessica Emerling Crow as Rosemary Muldoon. She is the now-grown girl that Anthony caused to fall many years ago. She is a feisty pipe smoking dynamo with little self-esteem and no potential love interest. Even though she well remembers the time Tony pushed her to the ground, she has been holding herself in contempt for not letting the grown Tony realize she cares for him.

John Patrick Shanley is a highly-respected playwright. He received the Academy Award in 1988 for the movie, “Moonstruck,” and the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2005 for “Doubt: A Parable.” He was nominated for an Academy Award in 2008 for Best Adapted Screenplay for the movie version of his play now known as “Doubt.”

His “Outside Mullingar” opened in New York in January, 2014. His latest play, “Prodigal Son” is scheduled to open Off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York City next month.

Directing “Outside Mullingar” for OpenStage is Matthew G. Smith. In the program notes, Smith comments how important it is to take a leap of faith and explore what it means to love someone though they may not love us in return. Anthony Reilly and Rosemary Muldoon find themselves living alone and lonely in adjacent farms, each with their insecurities and neither realizing his/her own potential. The cast is uniformly excellent. “Mullingar” is an enchanting tale of persons growing older, finding faith in themselves, and hopefully finding the ability to “move on.”

“Outside Mullingar”
Where: OpenStage Theatre production
Magnolia Theatre Stage of Lincoln Center.
417 West Magnolia Street, Fort Collins.
When: Through February 6, 2016
Tickets: 970/221-6730
For more information:  www.lctix.com

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Ring of Fire” at“ Midtown Arts Center is a Mid-Winter Winner!

Ring of FireMusic written or performed by Johnny Cash keeps audience enthusiasm high!

Reviewed by Tom Jones, January 21, 2016

Within a few moments of the show’s beginning I realized I was seeing something quite special. The setting is minimal, but very inviting and effective, the lighting is very good, and the voices performing the more-than-30 numbers are amazing! “Ring of Fire” results in an evening of super music. The show itself is just two hours, making the entire event, including dinner, not much more than a well-spent three or so hours

The musical was created by Richard Maltby, Jr., and conceived by William Meade. It had a test run in Buffalo, New York, 2005, and opened on Broadway the following winter.

This is not retelling of the life of Johnny Cash, but a story which could belong to thousands of persons – solid family tired in harsh economic background. Most of us can relate to much of the music as a retelling of parts of our own lives. The difficult times Johnny Cash faced are not related as history, just read-between-the lines in the various songs. And such great songs: “Five Feet High and Rising,” “I’ve Been Everywhere,” The Man in Black,” “I Walk the Line (briefly),” and the signature “Ring of Fire.” While all of the music for the show was performed at one time or other by Cash, many of the pieces were written by others.

Photo credit to Malia Stoner
Photo credit to Malia Stoner

The five performers on stage at MAC are super musicians, each playing a variety of instruments, and each with super voices. A standout is Colin Summers whose deep bass voice goes through the floor. His curtain-call retelling of “A Boy Named Sue” had the audience cheering. On stage with Summers are Brittany Brook, Davey Rosenberg, Austin Hohnke and Kaine Riggan. Each has a moment to shine, as they share the wealth of terrific music.

Unfortunately, the show’s printed program does not include a list of songs, so I can’t recall the name of an early romantic piece where Cash and his wife, June Carter, tell of the love they shared.

Mathew Leland directs the show, keeping the audience excited by the flow of non-stop music.

As a routine, I do not read reviews of shows I have not seen prior to my seeing them for my own review. This was an especially good thing in regard to “Ring of Fire.” The original production was well-received by local critics, but less so by Broadway reviewers. A movie about Johnny Cash, “Walk the Line,” starring Joaquin Phoenix, had been an enormous success the previous year, receiving five Academy Award nominations. The “little” stage production was not to be compared with the movie, and was nearly lost in the shuffle. The stage show was re-conceived in 2013 and is now finding great success on stages throughout the country.

If I had read early Broadway reviews, I may have been turned off; and might have decided not to see the show. This would have been my loss. While the current production doesn’t begin to retell Cash’s life, it has a basic reverence for the human condition, and enchants the audience with terrific music!

“Ring of Fire”
Where: Midtown Arts Center
When: Through March 25, 2016
Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun at 6:00 p.m.
Matinees Saturday and Sunday at 12:00
For Tickets: 970/225-2555
www.midtownartscenter.com

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“Dolly is Back and Feisty as Ever at The Candlelight

Hello DollyBeth Beyer shines as Dolly Levi in terrific retelling of the matchmaker musical!

Reviewed by Tom Jones, January 16, 2016

Beth Beyer is a great charmer as the brassy matchmaker whose marriage she most desires to arrange is her own.  Dolly has business calling cards for every eventuality, and puts them all to use in arranging everything from dancing lessons to marriage proposals. Beth Beyer is well known to Candlelight audiences, and she maintains center stage as the conniving but ever-delightful “Dolly.”

Beth Beyer as Dolly Levi, PHOTO CREDIT: Garland Photography
Beth Beyer as Dolly Levi, PHOTO CREDIT: Garland Photography

While Beyer reigns as queen of the stage, Kent Sugg is another revelation as the curmudgeon Horace Vandergelder, Yonkers’s famous “half a millionaire” who has hired Dolly to find a wife for him.  Sugg is another audience favorite in Johnstown, and is at his best in “Hello Dolly.” He is in fine voice and great gruffness as the penny-pinching Horace Vandergelder, not willing to give his staff even an afternoon off work.  

“Hello Dolly” lit up the stage on Broadway in 1964 receiving 10 Tony Awards that year, including being named as Best Musical.”  Competition was strong as that was the season that Barbra Streisand stormed the Broadway stage in “Funny Girl.”  Dolly was triumphant, however, as critics and audiences were captivated by its vitality, sensational music, and basic charm. Music and lyrics are by Jerry Herman, based on the Thornton Wilder play, “The Matchmaker.”  Carol Channing was the original “Dolly.”  The performance made her a legend, and she played the role in many different productions over many years.  Original direction and choreography were by Gower Champion, who also went on to become a legend, due in great part to his work on “Dolly.”  The musical was released as a movie in 1969 with Barbra Streisand playing the lead.

The action takes place at the turn of the century in Yonkers, New York, where Horace Vandergelder is getting ready to board the train to New York City with Dolly to meet Irene Molloy, a widow who owns a hat shop in the city.  Dolly has arranged a meeting with the concern that Horace may actually find Molloy to be of interest.  The stage becomes alive thanks to Pat Payne who has staged and directed this delight.  Bob Hoppe provides the excellent chorography.  Well-known music begins with “Call on Dolly” and continues in the first act to include “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” where the stage is in constant motion as locals prepare to travel to the city in time for an important 14th Street Parade, and Dolly’s plea to her deceased husband, “Before the Parade Passes By.”

Beth Beyer as Dolly Levi, PHOTO CREDIT: Garland Photography
Beth Beyer as Dolly Levi, PHOTO CREDIT: Garland Photography

The production is a scenic wonder.  Lighting is exciting, costumes, and set are brilliant.  Voices and dancing share the kudos of an evening of musical fun.  Vocal Music Director is Melissa Swift-Sawyer, with Costumes by Debra Faber and Judith Ernst.  Lighting is by Shannon Johnson with Sound by Mark Derryberry.  Casey Kearns has designed an attractive set.

While Beyer and Sugg are the shows stars, they are given excellent support by several performers.  First and foremost is Barret Harper as Cornelius Hackl, Vandergelder’s assistant manager.  He has been in several regional productions, but has not enjoyed the spotlight he earns as Cornelius.  He sings.  He dances, He is a super comedian. Isaac J. Sprague is also very good as Cornelius’ 17-year-old sidekick Barnaby Tucker, who accompanies his friend to New York with the promise to see a stuffed whale!  Hackl and Tucker find a reason to abandon their work, also traveling to New York.  They find Mrs. Molloy’s hat shop only nearly to be discovered on the premises by Vandergelder.  Alisha Winter-Hayes is very good as Mrs. Molloy ad Melissa Morris s great fun as Molloy’s employee, Minnie Fay.   The hat shop scene is a Broadway favorite that becomes more bizarre with each performance.  Timing is wondrous, as Hackl and Tucker are hidden by Molloy under the table, in the cupboard, and under the table again – hopefully to hide from their employer who they are trying to avoid.  Molloy’s assistant Minnie Fay is naively super, a perfect foil for the also-naïve Barnaby Tucker.  Added to this delightful mix are Eric Heine as Ambrose Kemper and Bussy Gower as an always-wailing Ermengarde who wants only to get married.  And then there is the off-the-wall loony Enestina Money, played by Annie Dwyer.  Ernestina is a wild-looking woman in need of Dolly’s services as a matchmaker.

Act Two is centered around the goings-on in the Harmonia Gardens where everyone ends up after the parade and a long, long walk to the restaurant.  The Gardens were Dolly’s old stomping grounds, and the staff is excited to have her return with the famous welcome “Hello Dolly.”  This scene is sometimes too frenetic, and the split-second timing to make the dancing more effective will be a result of more experience.

Dolly is returning to the Harmonia Gardens, this time in Johnstown, through March 6, 2016.  It is rare that dinner theatre patrons rise to the occasion of giving a show a standing ovation.  The “Dolly” performance that I saw was the exception, as the theater audience seemed to be as welcoming to Dolly as the Harmonia Gardens patrons, with a well-deserved standing ovation.  

“Hello Dolly”

Where:  Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
 4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown
To:  March 6, 2016
For Tickets:  Box Office:  970/744-3747
Email:  info@ColoradoCandlelight.com

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Two Terrific Tiny Tims and Scrooges Wow Northern Colorado Audiences

"A Christmas Carol"
“A Christmas Carol”

“A Christmas Carol” Offered on Two Northern Colorado Stages!
Reviewed by Tom Jones, December 2015

A year ago I was knocked out by an incredible production of “A Christmas Carol” as performed on the Stage Theatre of Denver Center for the Performing Arts. This year two different productions based on the Charles Dickens story are charming audiences in the area! The Denver Center performance is again brilliant, and the Johnstown production at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is proving to be an incredible crowd-pleaser!

I won’t attempt to report which is the better show, but will mention some of the highlights of each show. You cannot “lose” by seeing either one, and it may just be a decision of going to the show nearest to your home. Both shows provide heart-warming “joys” of the season.

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse photo credit Rachel Graham Photography
Candlelight Dinner Playhouse photo credit Rachel Graham Photography

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown offers the musical with music and lyrics by Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens. This version premiered in 1994, and has been a popular attraction for several holiday seasons at New York City’s Madison Square Garden Paramount Theatre. This is a very family-friendly production.

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse photo credit Rachel Graham Photography
Candlelight Dinner Playhouse photo credit Rachel Graham Photography

T.J. Mullin is remarkable as the miserable tightwad, Scrooge. He is in great form, gleefully making the season as dreadful as possible for himself and everyone around him. Mullin was former owner/producer of the Heritage Square Music Hall and has been performing on stage for over 40 years. He played Kris Kringle last year at Candlelight’s “Miracle on 34th Street.”

2Carol 2015 ghost past
Candlelight Dinner Playhouse photo credit Rachel Graham Photography

Kent Sugg is wonderful as the tortured Marley. His voice is excellent, as he warns Scrooge that he is about to be visited by ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future. Also in fine voice is Christopher Walton as Tiny Tim. Young performers are sometimes difficult to understand. Walton’s stage presence, combined with the Candlelight’s remarkable sound system, make him an immediate miniature “star.” Stephen Charles Turner is convincing as Bob Cratchit, the Scrooge employee who is hesitant to say an evil word about his boss.

The set is very good, as are costumes, lighting, and, as mentioned earlier, the wonderful sound. The music is pleasant, but the audience doesn’t leave humming the songs.   Choreography by Michelle Sergeeff is very good. The entire production is staged and directed by Patrick Sawyer. This is a heart-felt rendition of the Dickens saga.

"A Christmas Carol" at Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Photo Credit: Adams Visual Communications.
“A Christmas Carol” at Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Photo Credit: Adams Visual Communications.
The company of "A Christmas Carol" at Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Photo Credit: Adams Visual Communications.
The company of “A Christmas Carol” at Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Photo Credit: Adams Visual Communications.

A few miles south of Johnstown is Denver Center’s production, directed by Bruce K. Sevy. This time the story was adapted by Richard Hellesen, with music by David de Berry. The unhappy Scrooge is played by Philip Pleasants, in his tenth version of “A Christmas Carol” on the Denver stage. He first played the role in 1978 on a stage in Alaska, and has indicated that this production is his “farewell” to the role which he has immortalized. He is wonderfully greedy, but has enough sense to realize that his life can make some great changes if he heeds the advice of the “ghosts” appearing to him.

The Denver cast is enormous, highlighted by performances by Pleasants, as well as James Michael Reilly as Bob Cratchit, Jeffrey Roark as the ghost of Jacob Marley, Leslie Alexander as Mrs. Cratchit, and Annie Dwyer as Mrs. Fezziwig. The entire cast is flawless.

"A Christmas Carol" at Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Photo Credit: Adams Visual Communications.
“A Christmas Carol” at Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Photo Credit: Adams Visual Communications.

The total production is a wonder. The set is terrific, as are costumes, lighting, and sound. This is a more solemn telling of the story, but is an extremely rewarding experience as the show looks and sounds so amazing. This might just be the definitive staging of “A Christmas Carol.”

The Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is a dinner theatre in a beautiful venue, with good food and complimentary parking. The Stage Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is a super theatre with nary a bad seat in the house. There is a fee for parking.

“A Christmas Carol” whether seen in Denver or in Johnstown this Holiday Season is a “Carol” well told and sung – and seen!

“A Christmas Carol”
Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive
Johnstown, CO 80534
Box Office: 970/744-3747
www.coloradocandlelight.com

“A Christmas Carol”
Stage Theatre, Denver Center of the Performing Arts
Through December 27. 2015
Tickets: 303/893-4100
denvercenter.org 800/641-1222, Telephone 303/893-9582

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“The Addams Family” Comes to Haunt the Stage in Boulder

AddamsFamilyBoulder Dinner Theatre Stage Offers Good Food and Ghosts with “The Addams Family”

Reviewed by Tom Jones

December 3, 2015

A very strange “family” has moved into Boulder.  There is the father, Gomez, his luscious bride, Morticia, their two children – the very strange Pugsley and his sister, Wednesday, who has potential of being somewhat normal.  Then Grandma comes with the group, as does Gomez’s brother, Uncle Fester.  The family’s servant is an extremely tall chap, Lurch, who doesn’t say much but brings an air of frightening delight to the going’s on.

© 2015 Glenn Ross

We meet the family on stage in “The Addams Family,” a musical version of the death-defying antics of cartoon characters created by Charles Addams.  The cartoons resulted in a very successful TV run about the strange family.  The gang was assembled for a Broadway production in 1960.  The Broadway team had great credentials, but were not successful in giving life to the family.  Even the amazing talents of Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth could not surmount the script and music difficulties, however.  The show was subsequently rewritten, and is finding a new life of it own in local productions, such as the current Boulder show.

The set is clever – the spooky mansion, the cemetery crypt, the ever-present trees!  This is a cartoonish set design that is very effective.

© 2015 Glenn Ross
© 2015 Glenn Ross

Wednesday realizes that her family is not normal, but confides in her father that she has fallen in love with a regular guy – Lucas Beineke.  She has an “uncharacteristic desire to marry a square kid from Ohio!”  She has invited Lucas and his parents to the family home, so that everyone can meet over dinner.  There hasn’t been such a stage dinner since “La Cage Aux Folles” when a gay couple invited the Mayor of Paris and his wife to meet their heterosexual son who was about to marry the Mayor’s daughter.  This time around there are not questions of gender, but problems of living and dead!  Uncle Fester enlists the help of the dead ancestors who emerge from the family crypt for guidance and support at the family dinner.

Wednesday has evidently worn black for 18 years, but turns up in a bright yellow outfit the the family party.  Her father is aghast, noting, “You look like a crime scene!”

© 2015 Glenn Ross
© 2015 Glenn Ross

Scott Beyette has directed the show and stars as Gomez.  Alicia King plays his wife, Morticia, with Sara Grover taking the role of their daughter, Wednesday.  Wayne Kennedy is a delight as Uncle Fester, as is Casey Andree playing the solemn servant, Lurch.  Barb Reeves plays the daffy grandma, and the role of Puglsey is double-cast, with Ethan Leland  and Owen Leidich sharing the part.  I saw Leland who is very good, especially when attached to his adored torture machine, giving him the opportunity to cream loudly in wonderful pain!

© 2015 Glenn Ross
© 2015 Glenn Ross

Brett Ambler is convincing as the naive young suitor, Lucas Beineke, who finds the zany Wednesday to be someone special.  Scott Severtson and Joanie Brosseau are effective as Lucas’ bewildered parents strangely horrified by the goings-on in the Gomez household.

Scenery is terrific, as are the lighting, and costumes.  The sound system did not permit me to understand some of the characters as easily as I had hoped.  Songs are pleasant, but not after-the-show hummable.  There is an especially fun scene when Fester declares that he is in love with the moon, singing, “the Moon and Me.”  Dancing is spotty – with some good numbers, but an overly-long Tango near the show’s end.

© 2015 Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com
© 2015 Glenn Ross

An interesting part of the production’s effectiveness is the presence of many dead ancestors who meander through the show, silently and effectively “commenting” on what is happening among the live folk.  This is a blissfully ghoulish little show!

Affectionadoes of early incarnations of “The Addams Family” will have a field day noting some of the comedic touches which have been handed from from cartoon format, to TV series, to the stage.  The dark and brooking “look” of the family has been remarkably transferred in this goofy tale.  And the food is very good!

“The Addams Family”
Through February 27, 2016
BDT Stage –Boulder’s Dinner Theatre
4401 Arapahoe Avenue
Boulder, CO 80303
For information: Telephone 303/449-6000
Or online at www.BDTStage.com

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“White Christmas” is Melodic Look at Holidays Gone by!

whiteXmas-200x200-final-1-201503261015

Even an unhappy Scrooge could not say “Bah Humbug” to the “White Christmas” Charmer in Arvada

 By Tom Jones

November 29, 2015

Ben Michael and Cody Williams take center stage early in Arvada Center’s “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.” The scene is an army entertainment show for servicemen at Christmastime of 1944. Michael is Captain Bob Wallace, and Williams is Private Phil Davis, putting on a vaudeville-type routine for the amusement of the attending soldiers in Europe, as the war there is winding down. As the scene concludes they learn that their commanding officer, General Henry Waverly is being relieved of his duty, and is set to return to the United States. Soldiers under his command are evidently very fond of him, and give him high respect, as he notes that “Ten years from now our lives will have changed!”

Photo P. Switzer Photography 2015 Pictured: Cody Wiliams (Phil Davis) and Erica Sweany (Judy Haynes)
Photo P. Switzer Photography 2015
Pictured: Cody Wiliams (Phil Davis) and Erica Sweany (Judy Haynes)

Michal and Williams are talented performers – song and dance men. The characters they play have remained friends and have become respected entertainers in New York, ten years after the battlefront show. Thus sets the stage for an evening of Irving Berlin music, remarkable choreography, and a nostalgic look at what patriotism meant to America’s citizens and soldiers.

Songwriter and composer Irving Berlin was born in Russia in 1888, moved to America with his family and is widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history. His songs include such hits as “Easter Parade,” “This is the Army, Mr. Jones,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “A Pretty Girl is Like Melody,”and the immortalized “God Bless America.” Berlin was raised in poverty and was forever in love with America and the opportunities it provided to him!

WhiteChristmas2His song, “White Christmas” first appeared in a 1942 movie musical, “Holiday Inn” about a country inn opened only on holidays. The song was performed by a crooner named Bing Crosby. It was an instant hit, and resulted in being the theme of a l954 Paramount Pictures movie musical, “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” again starring Bing Crosby. His recording of the song continues to be the most-sold single in recorded music history.

The movie was the biggest money maker in 1954, and generated the stage version which premiered in San Francisco in 2004 and has played in various venues including Broadway in 2008 and revived again in 2009. New York theatre critics were not impressed with the stage musical version, but audiences have been enthusiastic. The Arvada production is excellent – bringing to life the mood of the 1950s, and showcasing some of Berlin’s well-known standards.

Photo P. Switzer Photography 2015 Pictured: Darrow Klein (Susan Waverly) and Ben Michael (Bob Wallace)
Photo P. Switzer Photography 2015
Pictured: Darrow Klein (Susan Waverly) and Ben Michael (Bob Wallace)

The creation of the show revolves around using many of Berlin’s hit songs to advance a basic boy loves girl, girl loves boy story. They spar, leaving doubt as to how their relationship will conclude. The show can be a bit too talky, but once the music takes off, the show is very pleasant. Some of the musical numbers sometimes don’t quite fit into the plot line, but the “I Love a Piano” routine which begins the second act is as terrific as any in recent memory. Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck is credited as choreographer. She brought down the house with her disco action recently in Arvada Center’s “Saturday Night Fever,” and brings her clever ideas to “White Christmas.” The entire production is under the direction of Gavin Mayer who has put together a very talented cast in providing holiday cheer to Northern Colorado.

Ben Michael and Cody Williams are the production’s stars, assisted greatly by Lauren Shealy and Erica Sweany, as their love interests, Paul Page as General Henry Waverly, the enthusiastic Sharon Kay White as the Vermont Inn Manager, and Darcey Keating as the General’s granddaughter.   The granddaughter role is double cast, with Keating and Darrow Klein sharing the role. I saw Keating who was super, and very convincing as a young wannabee actress..

The song and dance team are ready to travel south by train from New York to Miami for some rehearsals for a new show, but end up going north to the “Snow” of Vermont, following two girls they just met.. Coincidentally they end up in the country inn owned by the now-retired General Waverly. Lack of Vermont snow is currently a great problem to Waverly’s maintaining ownership of the Inn. Bob Wallace and Phil Davis are concerned about the financial plight of their former commander. So, as Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland used to say in early movie musicals, “Let’s put on a show.” Unbeknownst to the General, the two soldiers from his past put together a show for the Inn, inviting everyone from their former army days to bring revenue to the resort.

Very good performances, excellent sets, costumes, lighting, and super dancing overcome any plot flaws, and provide the audience with the “feel good” memories of a “White Christmas.”

“White Christmas”
Through December 23, 2015
Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO
For information go to www.arvadacenter.org or call 720-898-7200

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“Superior Donuts” is the tale of a man of the 70s, who hasn’t progressed much since!

Superior_Donuts_1480Playing characters in OpenStage production Charlie Ferrie and Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye light up the stage in their efforts to change each other!

Reviewed by Tom Jones

November 7, 2015

Police have already been alerted and are on the scene by the time Arthur Przbyszewski arrives at his “Superior Donuts” shop to find it has been vandalized. The front window is broken. Tables and chairs have been tipped over and a nasty graffiti has been spray painted on the wall.

Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye as Franco Wicks and Charlie Ferrie as Arthur Przybyszewski in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Superior Donuts by Tracy Letts. Photo by Joe Hovorka
Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye as Franco Wicks and Charlie Ferrie as Arthur Przybyszewski in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Superior Donuts by Tracy Letts. Photo by Joe Hovorka

Charlie Ferrie portrays Arthur and is believable as the 60ish man who was a product of the free-spirited 1970s. He hasn’t yet quite grasped the reality that he just might be able to do something more
with his life than sit alone in his shop and smoke pot.

Even learning of the vandalism in his business doesn’t seem to upset Arthur. He accepts the situation as just one more distraction in his semi-reclusive life. He inherited the shop from his father, a
Polish immigrant who died while Arthur was hiding out in Canada, showing his opposition to the Vietnam War. He has subsequently returned to Illinois to take care of the shop, still maintaining his 70s
pony-tale and hippie attire. Arthur’s space is next door to a DVD store whose owner is eager to buy Arthur’s deteriorating space.

Duane Sawyer as Max Tarasov, Charlie Ferrie as Arthur Przybyszewski, and Sean Coffman as Kiril Ivakin in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Superior Donuts by Tracy Letts. Photo by Joe Hovorka
Duane Sawyer as Max Tarasov, Charlie Ferrie as Arthur Przybyszewski, and Sean Coffman as Kiril Ivakin in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Superior Donuts by Tracy Letts. Photo by Joe Hovorka

Arthur doesn’t like the idea. Why? Hard to explain, as “Superior” doesn’t appear to have much of a clientele and Arthur is not a congenial attraction! He just seems to feel safe and content in his situation. He his located on the North Side of Chicago, an area that has been down on its luck for many years, but might be on the verge of revitalization.

Shortly after the vandalism, and before Arthur has done anything to remove the graffiti, a tall black man, Franco Weeks, arrives,  indicating he wants Arthur to hire him to help out in the shop.

Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye is a revelation as the self-assured, smooth talking young man who appears to have a lot more going for him than even he might realize. Arthur questions him as to why
he wants to work there, and the interview process is reversed with Franco asking why Arthur doesn’t want to make the shop more functional and appealing He wants interesting pictures on the walls, music in the air, a more congenial atmosphere, and more than just donuts and coffee on the menu.

Louise F. Thornton as Lady Boyle in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Superior Donuts by Tracy Letts. Photo by Joe Hovorka
Louise F. Thornton as Lady Boyle in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Superior Donuts by Tracy Letts. Photo by Joe Hovorka

Amazingly, Arthur decides to hire Franco, at $8.00 per hour, which includes painting over the graffiti, mopping the floor and maybe eventually learning how to bake donuts. Franco accepts the
position, and by Intermission I expected to return to find the “Superior Donuts” look substantially changed. This does not happen, as the story evolves into the Arthur-Franco friendship, with some sub-plots along the way.

“Superior Donuts” is by playwright Tracey Letts who received the Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award and Drama Desk Award as best play a few seasons ago with his highly-acclaimed “August, Osage
County.” That was considered by many to be some sort of “masterwork” even though the language was disturbing.

Letts didn’t use all of his disturbing language in “Osage,” as he appears to be comfortable having swear words in English coming from lips of persons with several different native tongues in “Donuts.” These include Americans, Polish, Russians, and Italians!

The set and lighting are great, and Emelie Borello provides very good direction. The play looks like it was written to be a television sit-com series – complete with strong leading roles, and a variety of supporting players, showcasing several different characters: The kindly policeman and his devoted female co-worker, the quirky bag lady who drops in for freebies, the man desirous of buying the shop, and two mob men who are on the lookout for payoff.

The end result is an interesting play,made better than its writing by the talent of the two leading men – Charlie Ferrie and Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye. Their interchange is remarkable, as friendship grows and changes are contemplated.

“Superior Donuts”

Where: OpenStage Theatre production, on the Magnolia Theatre Stage of Lincoln Center.

417 West Magnolia Street, Fort Collins.

When: Through November 28, 2015

Tickets: 970/221-6730

For more information: www.ltix.com

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“Rock of Ages” is High Energy Wonder at Midtown Arts Center      

Midtown Arts Center
Midtown Arts Center

Dynamic music and enthusiastic cast brings 1980s to life in “Rock of Ages. Audience enthusiasm results in show extension to January 2!

Reviewed by Tom Jones, October 15, 2015

Justin Luciano is his name, and music is his game. Anne Terze-Schwarz is her name, and music is her game. Justin and Anne find each other as “Drew” and “Sherrie” and combine talents to wow audiences in the brilliant “Rock of Ages” now on stage at the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins. They headline a super cast in a production of non-stop music and dancing. It is doubtful that even the energizer bunnies can outdo them!

Photo credit Christina Gressinau
Photo credit Christina Gressinau

“Rock of Ages” was an enormous hit on Broadway, running for 2,328 performances in six years. It closed earlier this year, and Kurt Terrio’s Midtown Arts was the first company to obtain rights to produce the show in Colorado! The audience is warned at the outset, that noise might just “melt your face.” That doesn’t happen, and I found myself swept up in the excitement of an extremely well-crafted production.

Amazingly, I recognized many of the songs by several composers, and was captivated by the show. The 80s were considered the Golden Age of synthesizer music – ant this show has that along with big hair, tight, skimpy clothes and epic guitar solos – along with incredible voices! The show was originally scheduled to run through late November. Audience response has been so enormous that the show has now been extended to run to January2!

Justin Luciano and Anne Terze-Schwarz. Photo credit Christina Gressinau
Justin Luciano and Anne Terze-Schwarz.
Photo credit Christina Gressinau

Plot is somewhat basic: Boy and girl looking for girl and boy. Beyond this oft-told premise is a crazed German entrepreneur wanting to remove the rock music territory in downtown Los Angeles, with a plan for urban renewal. He is accompanied by his hapless son, who follows like a puppy dog. Rock venue music owners don’t want to lose their music club and enlist the help of local social activists to stop demolition.

Sherrie’s efforts to find love in Southern California are thwarted and she falls into hard times, including an experience with a famous rocker who casts her aside, leaving her minimal choices. She finds help in a stripper night club, owned by a wise and caring woman, who has past problems of her own.   All of the goings on are played out with very loud and very energetic music, performed by a terrific band comprised of Jason Tyler Vaughn, Jeremy Girard, Angela Steiner, Ryan Millard, Larry Bridges, and Alan Skowron.

Michael Lasris and Barret Harper play the millionaire German and his son. They appear to be an evil force to be reckoned with. Sean Allen Riley and Joel Adam Chavez portray owners of the rock club. They are a delight! Jon Tyler Heath is super as the rock idol Stacee Jaxx whose dreadful hair is a character all its own. Morgan Howard is a hoot as Regina, the city planner turned spirited activist. And Jalyn Courtenay Webb holds center stage on her own, as the madame/owner of the stripper club where Sherrie seeks shelter. Webb is a continual show-stopper. Whenever she arrives on stage, all eyes move to her. And when she begins to sing, the audience is in awe!

The cast is not as large as it appears, as persons listed as part of the “Ensemble” are seen so frequently that they become featured players. These include Courtney Blackmun, Alexa Bernal, Terra Scott, Chris Bober, and Frankie Shin. There is not a slacker in the entire cast!

The show is produced and directed by Kurt Terrio, with musical staging and ingenious choreography by Michael Lasris. Scenic design is by Aaron Sheckler, costumes by Alisa Metcalf, lighting by Chad Bonaker, sound by Mat Leland, set by Justin Hermanek and Jared Stuteville. Vocal direction by Jalyn Courtenay Webb.

Seeing “Rock of Ages” on stage at MAC is not unlike reading a children’s book by Richard Scarry, where there is always so much going on that it is sometimes difficult to zoom in on the central story. Terrio’s stage is one of constant movement with Lasris’ dancers and singers knowing exactly where they are go at every instant, and letting the audience figure out what parts of the stage and show they wish to direct their attention. This is a kaleidoscope of movement. Never a dull moment!

The cast is providing enormous entertainment to the audience. They also appear to be having an enormously fun time on stage. The show is well written with very clever situations and dialogue to keep the cast and audience in a state of near-continual joy!

By show’s conclusion, the cast must be exhausted. The audience is somewhat worn out also – with that continual applause! “Rock of Ages” is a show of the “Ages!” Curiously that “age” is now!

“Rock of Ages”
Where: Midtown Arts Center
When: Through January 2, 2016
Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun at 6:00 p.m.
Matinees Saturday and Sunday at 12:00
For Tickets: 970/225-2555
www.midtownartscenter.com

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“The Outgoing Tide” at Bas Bleu takes us on a thought-provoking ride about the effects of Alzheimer’s on the victims and their families

Outgoing-Tide

A Well-Told Harrowing Tale with No Happy Ending in Sight!

Reviewed by Tom Jones
October 8, 2015

Tighten your seat belts. The ride is bumpy, and there isn’t much hope of a happy landing! Fortunately the journey is well done, and provides opportunity for some introspection as we think — “what if we are ultimately afflicted as the victim or a family of someone faced with Alzheimer’s.”

Photo credit William A. Cotton
Photo credit William A. Cotton

Playwright Bruce Graham wrote “The Outgoing Tide” in 2010. This interesting, and sometimes frightening story made its way to the Bas Bleu stage this year. Bas Bleu must be heralded as a provider of plays not frequently found in local theatres. The subject matter is a reality that we are eager to sweep under the carpet, not talk about, and hope it will “just go away.”

Deb Note-Farwell has directed “Tide” with great care. The show’s star is Jonathan Farwell, Deb’s husband in real life. The Farwells are a team to be reckoned with. Jonathan is a veritable “treasure,” one of the finest actors in Colorado. Deb is a “treasure” in her own right, providing a host of memorable performances on stage, and directing many others were great acclaim.

Photo credit William A. Cotton
Photo credit William A. Cotton

In “Tide” we meet Jonathan as Gunner, a man in his late 70s or 80s, fishing outside his home on Chesapeake Bay, and realizing that his life has become a fright. He is losing his mind, losing his memory, and he realizes it. This is a terrifying prospect for him (or for anyone else with Alzheimer’s). Farwell is an acting miracle in virtually every character he portrays, and he has rarely been better than in this current role. He is feisty, kind, irritating, and wise –sometimes within the same sentence!

Farwell toe-to-toe, however, is Ann Whiteman, portraying Gunner’s wife, Peg. She is living on the edge herself, devoting her entire life to her declining Gunner. Truth be told, however, maybe that is all she truly wants to do! Whiteman is absolutely convincing as the fractured wife, and the conclusion she faces is virtually unbearable.

Photo credit William A. Cotton
Photo credit William A. Cotton

Rounding out the family trio is the couple’s son Jack, superbly portrayed by L. Michael Scovel. Jack has turned up at the family’s home, evidently at the request of his father. The two men have had virtually no closeness. The son is more interested in cooking than in fishing or playing ball. He believes his father has no use for him. The father cannot figure out his son, nor does he want to think much about it, beyond giving him some financial help in the event the son is left fatherless. The son and his wife are divorcing, and Gunner wants to make certain the divorce arrangement is clean and final. He also has ideas of his own about how to possibly end his own life with a boat “accident” while he retains the capability of so doing. This could leave his wife and son with substantial insurance funds.

The right to life. Death with dignity. The possibility of choosing how and when one might die. Tough topics to cover in a two and one-half hour production. But the thoughts linger long after the play’s conclusion – leaving the audience with incredible memories of a show superbly well done.

“The Outgoing Tide”
Through October 11, 2015
For information: Bas Bleu Theatre Company
401 Pine Street
Fort Collins, CO 80524-2433
Telephone: 970/498-8949
Or visit the Web:  www.basbleu.org

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Riveting “West Side Story” musical is a wonder at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

WestSideStoryThe ‘Jets’ and ‘Sharks’ spar for territory on the streets of Manhattan in superb retelling of “West Side Story” at Candlelight!

Reviewed by Tom Jones, October 10, 2015

Local gangs continue to be at war, each marking its ‘territory’ on the city streets.” Immigrants and local residents have difficulty getting along. Police officers can be ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ – depending upon your side of the argument. And all of this set to the brilliant music composed by Leonard Bernstein nearly 60 years ago – with brilliant dances based on choreography of Jerome Robins, and some of the finest voices in the area!

The original “West Side Story” opened on Broadway in 1957. Leonard Berstein’s music was heralded as among the most exciting written for a Broadway show.   His composing career included Broadway musicals, “Candide” and “On the town” plus numerous symphonies and choral classics. Music critic Donal Hehahan wrote,”Bernstein became one of the most talented and successful musicians in American History.”  Lyricist for “West Side Story” was a newcomer by the name of Stephen Sondheim who was 26 years old. The story is based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” and the dark mood it portrays was overshadowed by the cheerful “The Music Man” which won the Tony Award that year as Best Musical!

Scott Severtson and Kimberly Crawford star in West Side Story at the Candlelight Donner Playhouse.  Photo Credit Garland Photography
Scott Severtson and Kimberly Crawford star in West Side Story at the Candlelight Donner Playhouse. Photo Credit Garland Photography
“West Side Story,” however, went on to triumph in London and was made into a movie musical in 1961, receiving ten Academy Awards, including that for Best Movie. Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics for this show and later for “Gypsy,” then went on to write words and music for a host of Broadway shows, receiving eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer) and described by Frank Rich of The New York Times as “now the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in the American musical theater.”

The production now at the Candlelight is among the most sensational shows seen on the Johnstown stage! Heading the cast are Scott Severtson as Tony and Kimberly Ann Crawford as Maria. They are unforgettable! When they combine voices to sing on the balcony of Maria’s tenement house, and later when they sing “One Hand and One Heart” in the bridal shop, the audience is in reverent awe! Their chemistry is palatable! The “Dance in the Gym” sequence is one of Broadway’s most memorable scenes — when Tony and Maria first meet, dance, and fall in love.

Not to be outdone, however, are supporting players Jessica Hindlsey and Bob Hoppe. Hindlsey is terrific as Maria’s friend, Anita, and Bob Hoppe as Riff, the Jet’s gang leader, is superb.

Story looks at rivalry between two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds, in the 1950s on the streets of New York. The actual locale of the street gangs of the 50s was cleared in an urban renewal project, and is now home of the the city’s cultural triumph – Lincoln Center!

Choreography for the original production was created by Jerome Robbins. Matthew D. Peters based his choreography for the Candlelight production on the original work of Robbins. The current show is staged and directed to perfection by Donald Berlin. Casey Cropp is music director and conductor. The orchestra under his change is extremely good, especially considering the requirements of performing the near-classical Bernstein music!

Many of the songs of the original show have lasted as mainstream popular music for nearly 60 years – “I Feel Pretty,” “One Hand, One Heart,” “Tonight, “ and “Something’s Coming.” Vocal music direction is expertly provided by Melissa Swift-Sawyer.

Technical aspects of the show are flawless. Scenic design by Glenn Grassi, lighting by Katie Gruenhagen, sound by Colin Hardesty, costumes by Judith Ernst combine to provide a spell-binding evening of theater.
A word of caution. While Candlelight’s most recent production was the delightful family show “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “West Side Story” covers more serious themes and situations – but brilliantly so!

“West Side Story” has fortunately been passed from generation to generation, since its inception in the 1960s. Its message of potential hope does not fade – nor does the incredible music and choreography!

“West Side Story”
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown
To: November 15, 2015
For Tickets: Box Office: 970/744-3747
Email: info@ColoradoCandlelight.com
Website:  ColoradoCandlelight.com

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“Saturday Night Fever”” at Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

SNF LogoEnthusiasm Soars in Excellent “Saturday Night Fever – The Musical” at Arvada Center!

By Tom Jones
September 16, 2015

Ian Campayno takes no hostages. From the moment he swaggers onto the stage as Tony Manero in “Saturday Night Fever, The Musical” the audience is in the palm of his hand. He exudes self-confidence, and is a wonder to behold! The entire show is a wonder, but Campayno is a triumph!

Photo P. Switzer
Photo P. Switzer

The Regional Premiere of the show provided reason for the standing ovation at the show’s end at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. Front and center was Campayno who sings dances, acts, and swaggers. And oh, that swagger. The role he plays is a 19-year-old young man in Brooklyn. He has close friends, and the ability to attract any girl who interests him. His home life isn’t great, as his parents don’t give him much support or attention. Their devotion is set on Tony’s older brother, Frank, who has become a Catholic Priest, giving the family a special social status in the neighborhood. Thomas Borrillo and Sharon Kay White are very good as the parents, as is Adam Estes, as Frank, Jr., the religious son who is questioning his own beliefs.

When Tony is not wooing the local girls or dancing his heart out at the local disco, he works in a paint store. This just gives him enough funding to learn incredible disco moves and to look over the girls eager to share his spotlight. Emma Martin can equal his disco moves, but Tony believes that something is missing. She adores him, but he is more interested in a beautiful woman he finds at the local dancing studio. McKayla Marso is brilliant as the willowy dancer who appears to have no interest in the younger and less-sophisticated Tony. Tony can’t quite figure her out and finally asks her if she thinks he is “interesting,” realizing that he doesn’t have her basic smarts.

Photo P. Switzer
Photo P. Switzer

This love story is background for the disco “fever” with such Bee Gees music of the 70s. “Disco Inferno” early in the First Act just about burns down the theater with enthusiasm. The “Fever” is obvious! Other familiar songs include “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive, and “You Should Be Dancing.”

Based on the 1970s film, the Arvada stage comes alive with the “look” of the era – hot pants, white suits, and platform shoes. Everyone looks about three inches taller than reality! The musical, directed by Rod A. Lansberry is based on the Paramount movie, adapted for the stage by Robert Stigwood in collaboration with Bill Oakes.

The breathtaking choreography is by Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, with Brian Mallgrave credited for the impressive set. Mondo Guerra is costume designer, recreating the memories we have of how the “70s “looked.”

Everything about this show works! The cast is enormous, with special attention given to Tony’s friends Dan Reardon, Andrew Russell, Andrew Keeler, and Steven Burge. Musical Director and Conductor is David Nehls, backed by Keith Ewer, David DeMichelis, Harry Grainger, Wade Sander, Bradley Goode, and Jon Cullison.

This is a disco show – but emphasis moves from the ballroom to the lives of Tony and his friends. Tony’s swagger initially provides him with just about everything he wants. But he has a wonderful vulnerability. His final solo, “Tragedy” provides as much gut wrenching empathy, as did his incredible turns as the disco king.

“Saturday Night Fever” is a must-see production!

“Saturday Night Fever – The Musical”
Tuesday through Saturday through October 4, 2015
Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO
For information go to www.arvadacenter.org or call 720-898-7200

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

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

Reviewed by Tom Jones
August 10, 2015

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

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

Creede Repertory Theatre
Creede Repertory Theatre

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

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

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

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

– – – – –

Creede Repertory Theatre
Creede Repertory Theatre

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewed by Tom Jones, August 13, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewed by Tom Jones
August 9, 2015

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

Thingamajig Theatre Company
Thingamajig Theatre Company

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

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

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

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

 

Thingamajig Theatre Company
Thingamajig Theatre Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – – –

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

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

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

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Award Winning Drama “Side Man” Well Portrayed at Bas Bleu

Sideman-logo-BasBleauDysfunctional Family as Remembered by an Only Child in Moving “Side Man”

Reviewed by Tom Jones
June 4, 2015

Clifford Glimmer is front and center in Bas Bleu’s moving “Side Man,” as he reviews growing up with dysfunctional parents in New York City. Will Ferrie is convincing as the Glimmer son, telling the audience of trying to be the family peacemaker, as his father thinks only of his music and his buddies, and his mother is becoming a hopeless alcoholic. Dan Tschirhart and Corinne Wieben are brilliant in their difficult roles. Tschirhart is emerging from his excellence in comedic roles to become the hapless father who virtually disintegrates before our eyes. Wieben becomes a foul-mouthed, chain smoking drunk.

Photo Credit William A. Cotton
Photo Credit William A. Cotton

A “side man” in music parlance is a musician for hire who can blend in with the band or star as a solo performer. Gene Glimmer is such a performer when the story begins in the fifties. He is a terrific musician (a jazz trumpeter), but can’t seem to be in the right place at the right time to truly be a success. His wife, Terry, becomes increasingly irritated with Gene’s inability to find a regular job, and finally goes to work as a waitress to help make ends meet.

Gene and Terry had no skills as parents, and are seen through the bewildered eyes of their son, Clifford, over the years covered by the play. The story begins at the unemployment office where Gene and his buddies meet each week or two to pick up their unemployment checks. Gene is strangely proud of his now-adult son, Clifford who is picking up his very first check at the Unemployment Office. It is as if Clifford is being honored for some sort of unearned graduation or achievement!

Photo Credit William A. Cotton
Photo Credit William A. Cotton

“Side Man” was written by Warren Leight and received Broadway’s Tony Award for Best Drama in 1998. Leight’s memory play, inspired by his father, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Bas Bleu founder Wendy Ishii noted that the play has long been one of her favorites, as she lived in the New York depicted by the story, living across the street from jazz artist Miles Davis.

The stage set by Jared Grohs, constructed by Cathy Dietz is very effective, as the play’s action moves from the Glimmer’s apartment to the Melody Lounge, the unemployment office, and various other areas of New York City.

Photo Credit William A. Cotton
Photo Credit William A. Cotton

Director Laura Jones first directed “Side Man” in 2004 at CSU. That production received First Place honors at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region VII Festival in Ashland, Oregon. Jones notes the show is one of her top ten favorite plays.

Giving excellent support to the three lead players are Cara Buckley, Chaz Grundy, Karl Perry and James Burns. Ian Schmid performs selected trumpet solos through the production.

Photo Credit William A. Cotton
Photo Credit William A. Cotton

“Side Man” tells of a life foreign to most of us, and is a moving experience looking at the challenges faced, but not always overcome. Cast is an awesome ensemble of gifted actors moving through a particularly interesting time when Rock and Roll was beginning to take over big-band lives and jobs. Due to the strong language, the show is sometimes difficult to watch/listen to, but unquestionably well done!

“Side Man”
Through June 28, 2015
Bas Bleu Theatre
401 Pine Street
Fort Collins, CO 80524
For Information: Telephone: 970/498-8949
Or visit the Web:   WWW.BASBLEU.ORG

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Mary Poppins is “Practically Perfect” at Boulder Dinner Theatre!

MP BDTEnchantment Abounds in Boulder Dinner Theatre’s Delightful “Mary Poppins”

Reviewed by Tom Jones
May 29, 2015

When lyricists Richard and Robert Sherman collaborated on “Mary Poppins,” it is as if they had every reviewer in mind – creating lyrics that reviewers would use with great aplomb as they lavished praise on the show. I find myself using their great lyrics when writing my own review. I can’t refrain from saying that Mary Poppins is, just as she sings — “Practically Perfect in Every Way.” The entire production is nothing sort of Super! That is “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”

Photo credit Glenn Ross at Glenn Ross Photography
Photo credit Glenn Ross at Glenn Ross Photography

From the moment the impressive set appears and the cast begins to assemble, there is magic in the air. Somewhere early in the show something is said about “enchanted,” or “enchantment.” I can’t recall precisely what was said, but the entire production is delightfully “enchanting!”

Scott Beyette oversees a terrifically talented group of performers, as the show’s director and male lead. There are several persons on the stage at the same time, as many play several roles – resulting in the cast appearing to be substantially larger than it is! They sing. They dance. They act. They move around the stage making the audience think we might be seeing a movie!

Heading the group is director Scott Beyette as Bert, the chimney-sweep. This is the role that Dick Van Dyke played in the movie. Scott is a remarkable talent. He is very much at ease as the enormously likable man who cleans chimneys, and seems to know everyone in town. My wife and I saw the original musical when it first opened in London several years ago and were thunderstruck when the Bert character tap-danced up one side of the stage, across, the top, and back down the other side. We were alerted beforehand that Bert in this show wouldn’t be doing that – but he does something nearly as challenging. He dances part way up the side of the stage, then flies out over the audience!

Photo credit Glenn Ross at Glenn Ross Photography
Photo credit Glenn Ross at Glenn Ross Photography

Mary Poppins also flies over the audience! She lands at the home of George and Winifred Banks, just as yet another nanny has given notice – saying the children are beyond hope. Tracy Warren is a miraculous “Mary Poppins.” Undaunted by anything, she can pull a large coat rack from her tiny handbag, can put a damaged kitchen back into shape with a snap of her fingers, and cheerfully reminds us that “A Spoonful of Sugar” truly makes the medicine go down!

Scenery is particularly effective – showing us the Banks home, Mr. Bank’s office, The Park near Cherry Tree Lane, the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the rooftops of London. Dancing needs to be seen to be believed, including when the amazing statues in the park come to life – after we have long-thought they were scenery made of stone! When Bert and his chimney-sweep friends pull out all stops with “Step in Time” in the second act, the audience is basically breathless with the athletic expertise of the dancers!

The movie began charming us in 1964, based on the P. L. Travers books. The stage version was developed in collaboration with Disney Theatrical and Cameron Mackintosh, opening in London in 2004 when I first saw it. It has subsequently become enormously successful on Broadway. Michael J. Duran is Producing Artistic Director for the Boulder production.

Photo credit Glenn Ross at Glenn Ross Photography
Photo credit Glenn Ross at Glenn Ross Photography

Among those responsible for various areas of delight are Neal Dunfee (as music conductor), Linda Morken (costume design), Amy Campion (scenic design), Brett Maughan (lighting design), choreography by Matthew D. Peters, and aerial choreography by Troy Trinkle. Space does not permit giving suitable praise for everyone in the exciting cast. Mention must be made, however, of Joanie Brosseau who plays multiple roles including the Bird Woman who sings the wonderful “Feed the Birds” on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, McKayla Marso as Mrs. Corry, and Brian Burron who turns up in nearly every scene, playing a variety of characters, without the audience realizing it is the same person – just different hair! Amanda Earls is a hoot as the proposed replacement nanny. Wayne Kennedy and Shelly Cox-Robie are convincing as Mr. and Mrs. Banks, who try to keep the chaotic house in order! Their two children are played by Katie Phipps, Rylee Vogel, Kaden Hinkle, and Max Eugene Raabe, rotating the parts at various performances. The orchestra is yet another “plus.”

A cast member reported that the show is a “technical nightmare.” There are so many interesting challenges that could go wrong — from mini-magic tricks to changing the large sets, to see kites and people flying! The performance I saw was without problem, however, and left me feeling I had just seen something quite Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

“Mary Poppins”
Through September 5, 2015
BDT Stage – Boulder’s Dinner Theatre
5501 Arapahoe Avenue
Boulder, CO 80303
For Information: Telephone: 303/449-6000
Or visit the Webb: BDTStage.com

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