Category Archives: Buell Theatre

“Waitress” Now Serving Patrons of Buell Theatre

First National Touring Company Is Delicious Entertainment

Reviewed by Tom Jones

December 29, 2017

Three waitresses working in a diner somewhere in America’s South have become good friends. They are the “Three Musketeers” of food service. They ignore their boss, and try to fix each other’s problems. Becky is a heavy-set woman who has a heart as large as her frame, and who claims her husband has not shown her sexual attention for 15 years. Dawn is a social misfit, eager to find romance but with no idea of how to go about it. Jenna appears to be the most challenged of the three. She is in an incredibly unhappy marriage, but is afraid of doing anything to change her situation.

Their woes are effectively brought to life this month in the national touring company of “Waitress” now on stage of the Buell Theatre.

Desi Oakley, Charity Angel Dawson and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of WAITRESS  Credit Joan Marcus

Whereas Charity Angel Dawson as Becky and Lenne Klingaman as Dawn are great fun, they basically provide the comedy relief to the concerns of Jenna played by Desi Oakley. Early in the show Jenna learns that she is pregnant by her louse of a husband, Earl, whom she intensely dislikes. Larry Marshall is so convincing as Earl, that the audience at curtain call were eager to boo him. His performance is so menacing that he sustains the threat of violence throughout the show.

Jenna is the product of a family with its share of unhappiness. She was helpless in protecting her mother from the abuses of her father. Her memories of her mother sustain her. Her mother taught her how to bake a pie, but not how to choose a man. Jenna is probably the best pie maker in the area, and is thinking about entering a pie-baking contest with financial rewards.

Desi Oakley as Jenna in the National Tour of WAITRESS  Credit Joan Marcus

She is also considering running away, leaving her husband and her job, when she learns that she is pregnant with Earl’s child. Her life appears to be in shambles. She has no idea what to do, and wants nothing to do with the forthcoming child. The results provide an evening of great interest. There are no high-kicking chorus girls, or glittering Broadway/Hollywood scenery. There is, however., thought-provoking courage in the making. The set is effective, and clever choreography of movement keeps the action flowing. Timing is flawless.

Jenna’s gynecologist, Dr. Pomatter, is new to the area. He is a new doctor, and provides an enormous innocence and insecurity which become wisdom and know-how, as the show (and Jenna’s pregnancy) progress. Bryan Fenkart is excellent as the bewildered and helpful Dr. Pomatter. His own marriage isn’t the greatest, and he finds enormous support just being with his patient, Jenna.

The development of their friendship is the basis of “Waitress.” Events in the lives of the other waitresses provide terrific counterpoint to the feelings shared by Jenna and Dr. Pomatter. Becky becomes physically interested in Cal, the diner boss. Dawn finds a date – and potential of a happy future with Ogie. Ogie, played by Jeremy Morse, is one of the show’s most energetic enjoyments. He is every bit as socially adrift as is Dawn, and they make a hard-to-resist couple. Ogie steals the first act with a delightful “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” after a five-minute first date.

The musical is based on the 2007 film of the same name, written by Adrienne Shelly. Music is good. No melodies become embedded in the brain for future humming. The second act, however, is particularly interesting as Jenna sings “She Used to Be Mine,” and is joined by the company for “Everything Changes.” Music and lyrics are by Sara Bareilles with the book of Jessie Nelson. The show’s director, Diane Paulus, was one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2014.

Paulus directed the original production at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge in 2015, and the Broadway opening in 2016. The show received several awards, and is the first musical in Broadway history to have four women in primary functions: Director, writer, composer, and choreographer. The national touring company on stage at the Buell this year began its tour this past October.

Pies are in abundance throughout the show. My first desire when leaving the theatre, was to find a slice of warm pie. Perhaps a-la-mode. “Waitress” provides a deep dish of wisdom and entertainment looking at Jenna and her friends in the diner.

Where: Buell Theatre, Denver Center for the Performing Arts
To: December 31,2017

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Nothing “Rotten” In This Giddy Delight!

A Shakespearean Wannabee Tries To Write A Play

Reviewed by Tom Jones
October 18, 2017

Welcome to the Renaissance! It is 1590. The Dark Ages are over. There is a rebirth of creative activity in Elizabethan England. The arts are flourishing, and William Shakespeare is the rock star of the era. He is the toast of the town and his play “Romeo and Juliet” is about to open. Everyone in London is enamored with the new author. Everyone except playwright Nick Bottom. He is incredibly jealous of Shakespeare’s success, and openly announces in song, “God, I Hate Shakespeare.” Nick and his brother, Nigel, are about to lose the patronage of a local artistic funder, unless they can come up with a substantial hit — immediately. Even the author brother, Nigel, is impressed with Shakespeare’s success, much to the dismay of his brother.

Something Rotten! Cast of the National Tour ©Jeremy Daniel

Nick is desperate for an idea for the potential play, and goes to the teller of the future Nostradamus, for help. Unfortunately, this is not THE Nostradamus, but Nostradamus’ nephew, Thomas Nostradamus. Thomas can also see the future, but not particularly clearly. He does advise Nick Bottom that the future is going to be in musical comedy, and outlines the idea in one of theatre’s most recent delights, “A Musical.” Thomas Nostradamus has Bottom intrigued with what might happen on the stage if performers could sing, and dance, and act — all possibly at the same time. The audience is likewise enthralled, and Bottom goes to work with Nigel to provide a show that will save them from financial ruin.

Something Rotten! Cast of the National Tour ©Jeremy Daniel

Thomas Nostradamus then advises that Shakespeare’s next show may be the most widely acclaimed play in history. If Bottom works now, he can have Shakespeare’s success even before Shakespeare can write his own play. Nostradamus advises that the play is to be “Omelette.” Seems that Nostradamus didn’t quite see the future, confusing “Hamlet” with “Omelette.” The ensuing result is hysteria as “Omelette, The Musical” is being prepared. “Something Rotten” then becomes a Broadway show to be reckoned with. There are bits of Shakespeare’s most quotable lines and snippets from Broadways most-seen musicals.

The theatre-savvy Denver audience was in awe with the hijinks, audibly delighted when they recognized each show or lyric mentioned. This is enormous fun.

Something Rotten! Cast of the National Tour ©Jeremy Daniel

The touring cast on stage at the Buell this month is terrific. Bob McClure is a gem as Nick Bottom, with Josh Grisetti equally impressive as Nigel Bottom. Trying to pilfer what he can from the new authors is Shakespeare, played by Adam Pascal. McClure, Pascal, and Grisetti, have extensive Broadway credentials. Pascal was the original Roger Davis in “Rent.” and Rob McClure received the Theatre World acting award for his performance in “Chaplin.” Grisetti was also honored with a Theatre World Award for his work in “Enter Laughing.”

Supporting players are equally as talented with Blake Hammond as Nostradamus, Jeff Brooks as Shylock, Scott Cote as Brother Jeremiah, Maggie Lakis as Bea, and Autumn Hurlbert as Portia. Hurlbert has the look and sound of Kristin Chenoweth, as she plays the daughter of the stern Puritan leader who literally falls head over heels for Nigel Bottom. The cast is large. The sets, costumes, and lighting impressive. The dancing is first rate.

In addition to the show-stopping “Welcome to the Renaissance, ““God, I Hate Shakespeare,” “Will Power,” and “A Musical” is the lilting “To Thine Own Self” — an impressive plea for everyone to take responsibility for the way they behave.

There is nothing “Rotten” about this delightful transfer from Broadway. It opened in New York in 2014, receiving rave reviews. It is a rewarding, rollicking evening of energy, silly sophistication, and charm. In addition, it involves the audience, trying to figure out which Shakespeare quotes are from which plays, and which crazy bits and pieces are from Broadway musicals.

“Something Rotten”
Where: Buell Theatre, Denver Center for the Performing Arts
To: October 29, 2017
Online: Click Here For the Denver Center for the Performing Arts

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An American in Paris Is Right at Home in Denver

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

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

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