Category Archives: Comedy

Monty Python is Alive and Well in OpenStage’s “Spamalot”

Choreography Excels In This Daffy Delight!

Reviewed by Tom Jones
October 29, 2017

Life isn’t easy in 932 A. D. for King Arthur in England. He is trying to round up a group of gallant and valiant men to serve as knights for his round table. Trouble is, not many people have even heard of this Arthur chap, and the French are outright hostile to him.

Charlie Ferrie as King Arthur in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Spamalot by Eric Idle and book by John Du Prez, photography by Steve Finnestead Photography

Charlie Ferrie is in fine form as the befuddled king. He IS in command, but can’t seem to easily round up followers. Except for his ever-faithful “trotting” servant, “Patsy.” Dan Tschirhart is a standout as the not terribly bright aid-de-camp whose primary role to knock coconuts together to create the sound of trotting horses. Tschirhart never loses character, even when the thoughtless king ignores his presence while trying to get sympathy with “I’m All Alone.”

Carl Buchanan, Larry Linne and Kiernan Angley as Taunting Frenchmen in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Spamalot by Eric Idle and book by John Du Prez, photography by Steve Finnestead Photography

While the local citizens aren’t eager to go to war, or to search for the Holy Grail, they are amazingly willing to sing and dance! The dancing is terrific. The “Laker Girls” cheerleading the knights, “His Name is Lancelot,” and “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” are all show-stopping routines. Choreographer Cole Emarine even includes a clever Jewish folklore “bottle dance” with Grail Goblets atop each dancer.

Direction of the continually-delightful mayhem is by Emelie Borello, with music direction by Joseph Perron.

In 1975 The Monty Python Comedy Group (including Eric Idle) created the movie, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” It immediately became a worldwide favorite and developed a cult following — the group that I refer to as “Pythonites.” Idle expanded the movie’s idea, writing book and lyrics for the 2005 musical “Monty Python’s Spamalot.” Clever bits of the movie have become comedy standards. Many of them turn up on the Fort Collins stage. Some work brilliantly, others not so well.

Dan Tschirhart as Patsy and Charlie Ferrie as King Arthur in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Spamalot by Eric Idle and book by John Du Prez, photography by Steve Finnestead Photography

Stage highlights include the creation of the Trojan Horse in the shape of a large rabbit that the knights forget to enter before placing it into a local castle. Then there is the incredibly mean rabbit who tears anyone to shreds who dares challenge him. The highwayman challenging the knights loses his arms and legs to King Arthurs’s men, noting with each limb-severing blow, “merely a flesh wound.”

And the goofy Knights Who Say Ni, who request a bit of shrubbery (with their virtually incomprehensible language) before anyone can continue the trail. Language is one of the few problems with the OpenStage production. From the welcome to the show through much of the dialogue emitting from the tops of castles the audience is often in a bewildered state of wondering just what is going on. Fortunately, the audience was packed with Monty Python fans (my “Pythonites”) who seemed to catch every nuance of craziness.

In addition to King Arthur and his ever-trotting servant, Patsy, another creative wonder is Kiernan Angley’s performance of Sir Lancelot. The role is just one played by versatile Angley. One moment he is the gay Sir Lancelot. The next moment he becomes a French Taunter, a Knight of Ni, or Tim the Enchanter. He is extremely masculine-heroic one moment, a fey delight, the next. Nikki Gibbs is the Lady of the Lake, the woman supposedly responsible for Arthur becoming the king. Gibbs is a very attractive addition to the scruffy crew, and is a good actress. She does not, however, have the raucous bravura of the desired diva. She sings her songs — doesn’t delightfully “belt” them.

Most of the performers play multiple roles, each with daffy-timing skills.

The 2005 “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” directed by Mike Nichols, received Tony Award for Best Musical. It has subsequently become a worldwide attraction. Currently on stage in Fort Collins, it is a brilliantly acted performance of non-stop lunacy, with only a modicum of sense. Just what we need right now.

“Monty Python’s Spamalot”
Where: OpenStage Theatre production, on the Magnolia Theatre Stage of Lincoln Center.
417 West Magnolia Street, Fort Collins.
When: Through November 25, 2017
Tickets: 970/221-6730
For more information: www.lctix.com

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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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The Music Man Triumphant

“The Music Man” Has Triumphant Return To Candlelight

Reviewed by Tom Jones

September 10, 2017

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

PHOTO CREDIT: RDG Photography

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

PHOTO CREDIT: RDG Photography

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

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

PHOTO CREDIT: RDG Photography

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

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

PHOTO CREDIT: RDG Photography

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Coca Photography

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

Reviewed by Tom Jones
June 4, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Boeing Boeing” is Bonkers Fun at Bas Bleu!

 

An Architect in Paris Keeps Busy Tracking Airline Stewardess Schedules.

Reviewed by Tom Jones,
June 2, 1027

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

Photo courtesy William A. Cotton

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

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

Photo courtesy William A. Cotton

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

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

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

Photo courtesy William A. Cotton

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

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

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

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

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

Tricia Navarre, Production Manager

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

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

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

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

Reviewed by Tom Jones
April 8, 2017

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

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

Photography Credit: Dyann Diercks Photography

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

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

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

Reviewed by Tom Jones
April 2, 1017

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

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

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An American in Paris Is Right at Home in Denver

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

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

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

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

Loveland Opera Theatre Provides Great Fun – Greatly Sung

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 27, 2017

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

PHOTO CREDIT: D. St. John Photography

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

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Remarkable Cast Brings Great Holiday Joy to Fort Collins

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

Reviewed by Tom Jones, December 9, 2016

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

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“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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“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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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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“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.
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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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“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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“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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“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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“A Tuna Christmas” is a Holiday Charmer on Stage of Bas Bleu

Tuna-Christmas-Slide

Tall Tales from Tuna, Texas, are Terrifically Told!

Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 20, 2015

This was my first “Tuna.” Tales of the fictitious small Texas town, Tuna, have been around for several years. The series, by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard, began in 1981 with “Greater Tuna,” followed by “Red, White and Tuna,” and “Tuna Does Vegas.” The current “A Tuna Christmas” debuted in 1989 in Texas. The plays are performed frequently across the nation.

Photo courtesy of William A. Cotton
Photo courtesy of William A. Cotton

This week, provided me with my first glimpse of the quirky little town. The program lists only two performers. Very curious, as I saw something like 20 characters come to life in 90 minutes of fun. Jay Benedict Brown and David Austin-Goen are remarkable, as they breath life into a variety of characters telling their tales of life in tiny Tuna!

Although fictitious, the town is reportedly the “third-smallest” town in Texas. Tuna is inhabited by a host of different citizens, each with his/her own charm and concerns. They are introduced by Thurston and Leonard, at the town’s radio station, dropping hints as to what is happening in Tuna this Christmas Season. We meet lots of strangely wonderful persons. We learn that a mysterious Christmas phantom is on the loose, causing mischief. There is the by-the-book bureaucrat who threatens to cut the electricity on the town’s Christmas party at the school unless the school district pays its over-due electrical bill.

Photo courtesy of William A. Cotton
Photo courtesy of William A. Cotton

There is Bertha Bumiller, the ditsy mother whose son, Stanley, has just been released from jail and is on probation for a few more days. Her daughter, Charlene, is having a difficult time fitting into Tuna’s citizenry. Charlene’s idea of “decorating” the Christmas tree is to toss handfuls of tinsel, letting them land where they may. Bertha’s husband, Frank, is somewhere in town, but no one knows where. Vera Carp is the town snob who pays a call on Bertha to admire what a wonderful “view” Bertha has of Vera’s home just across the street. Vera has won the town’s Christmas outdoor decorations contest for 14 years, and will be furious if she should lose this time around.

There’s the mismatched couple who own a used weapons and ammunition shop. Didi is furious with the husband she chose. He is excited only with the sight of UFOs. Her shop’s motto: “If we can’t kill it, it’s immortal!”

Photo courtesy of William A. Cotton
Photo courtesy of William A. Cotton

The list goes on and on. But not too long. The audience becomes highly involved in the lives of these townsfolk, their pitfalls, phobias, and human interest. Brown and Groen change costumes, wigs, and personas at the drop of a hat, and are a wonder to see. We see lots of costume and wig changes, along with lots of Christmas trees in the space of 90 minutes

The goings-on are directed by Nancy Roy, whose credentials are impressive, including direction of “The Will Rogers Follies” at Candlelight a few seasons ago. In the Director’s Notes on the “Tuna” program she cleverly says. “Tis a grand tradition for the director of fine theatrical literature to wax philosophical in the playbills, guiding the audience to a deeper and richer understanding of the play. In the case of this play, “A Tuna Christmas,” I got nothin.’”

Not so, her direction is as brilliant as the characters the two actors bring to life. “A Christmas Tuna” is a super introduction to the area’s Christmas Season.

“A Tuna Christmas”
Through December 27, 2015
For information: Bas Bleu Theatre Company
401 Pine Street
Fort Collins, CO 80524-2433
Telephone: 970/498-8949
Or visit: www.basbleu.org

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“Singin’ in the Rain” drenches the stage with exuberant  performances at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Singing In The RainActual Rain Doesn’t Dampen Enthusiasm of Delighted Johnstown Audience

Reviewed by Tom Jones,  May 21, 2015

Yes it rains.  Not just a mild sprinkle, but a torrential rain falls upon the stage, thoroughly drenching the dancing lead actor, as well as some of the audience in front rows! At the conclusion of Act I,  Don Lockwood, enthusiastically played by Bob Hoppe, has returned from walking Kathy Selden to her home after 24 hours of  deliberation concerning what to do with a very problematic movie-in-the making.  He is joyful with the plans they have made, and also enthused, as he has fallen in love. A little rain doesn’t dampen his joy.  In fact a lot of rain can’t even stop him.  The scene from the movie became immortalized by the legendary Gene Kelly more than 50 years ago.  The excitement has been transferred to the stage with Don Hoppes’ display of talent, as he sings and  dances through a delightfully drenching rain!  Hoppe not only stars in the show as Don Lockwood, but choreographed it, carefully re-creating much of the movie’s magic.

SITR Press photo 1Don Lockwood’s love interest is Kathy Selden,.  His friend and performing partner is Cosmo Brown.  I saw Michelle Sergeeff in her first performance as Selden.  The role is played by Rachel Turner in various performances. David Miller portrays the loose-limbed Cosmo.  The three appear to be having the times of their lives on stage, as the performance demands of singing, dancing, and  comedic routines are non-stop’.  The original movie roles were played by Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor.  Their portrayals have been so ingrained in our movie memories, that it must be a daunting task for anyone to fill their shoes.  Hoppe, Sergeeff, and Miller work exceedingly hard to make the roles come to life on stage!  Sergeeff is an incredible dancer.  Whereas she has a lilting voice in some songs, dancing is her forte!

SITR 2Donald Berlin is credited with staging and direction of the show.  He had his work cut out, putting the incredible production together.  The Candlelight Dinner Playhouse management team does not shy away from challenges.  Executive Director Dave Clark notes that “Singin’ in the Rain” is one of the two most technically challenging shows the theatre has produced, the other being the audience charmer “Peter Pan”   — where the leads flew above the stage, suspended by thin wires.  No thin wires this time around, but lots and lots of moisture.  I am anticipating a future Candlelight announcement that the Red Sea will be parted as a someday-stage-version of  “The Ten Commandments!”

As a plot catch-up – the year is 1927, when silent films were the the entertainment rage.  Hollywood’s Monumental Studios is just opening another successful silent film,  “The Royal Rascal,” starring Hollywood’s favorite couple – Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont.  This is yet another in a string of successful Lockwood-Lamont films with basically the same plot told over and over and over..  Lockwood cannot abide Lamont who claims they are a  romantic couple. .  When a competing studio comes up with a movie with sound,  “The Jazz Singer,” the industry goes into shock.  Monumental boss, R.F. Simpson realizes that his studio must face the opposition, and the movie, “the Dueling Cavalier,” they had just begin to film will be turned into a “talkie” – eventually a musical talkie to be known as “The Dancing Cavalier.”  So far, so good.  Lockwood has a good speaking, singing voice, but the Lina Lamont is a disaster.  She has a horrific speaking voice and can’t begin to carry a tune. Newcomer Kathy Selden is brought in to provide the “voice” of the crazed Lamont, and mayhem ensues.

SITR 3Stephen Charles Turner is convincing as the studio executive, trying to create order out of chaos.  Beth Beyer is an enormous delight as the raucous Lina Lamont who everyone believes is incredibly stupid.  Not so.  She is not only in love with Don Lockwood, trying to hold his affection for Kathy Selden at bay, but is found to be substantially more clever than anyone had imagined..  She is also a wonder to see in action.  Her scenes are brilliant – overshadowed only by the amazing dancing which fills much of the evening’s moments.

Among the show’s musical highlights are Don Lockwood and Cosmos Brown entertaining as Vaudeville performers to “Fit as a Fiddle,” Lockwood, Brown, and Selden realizing they have talked the night away with, “Good Morning,” and Brown pulling out all the stops in “Make ‘Em Laugh,.”  The show’s greatest triumph, however,  remains the “Singin’ in the Rain” finale to Act I.

David MacEachen is credited as being Technical Director.  I  am not certain what this entails, but the show includes several black-and-white movie scenes where problems are faced in synchronizing the film and soundtrack.  One of these technical displays is a flawless laugh-out-loud charmer where  Lamont’s inability to be understood is enormous fun.

Photo Credit is Rachel Graham Photography
Photo Credit is Rachel Graham Photography
The cast is large, including good performances by Scotty Shaffer, Samantha Jo Staggs, Thomas Castro, Melissa Morris and Markus Warren, as well as those mentioned earlier.  Jack Barton holds center stage for a few moments with his super tenor version of “Beautiful Girl.”  The featured dancers at performance I saw were the always-talented Broc Timmerman and Alisha Winter-Hayes.   The orchestra, under direction of Angela Steiner as conductor, had some problems, especially early in the performance.  This is unfortunate, and will hopefully be fine-tuned for shows later in the run.

The set and costumes are effective, as are lighting and sound., and the set.  I wonder how long it takes to dry-out the stage after the heavy rain.

Whereas the movie was released in 1952, the stage version did not appear until 1983 when it opened at the London Palladium, starring Tommy Steele.  The stage version has gone through several incarnations including a Broadway run in 1986 starring Don Coreia as Don.  I saw both of those productions, and was a bit hesitant to see it this time around on a local stage.  I erred.  The large cast is immensely talented and the show looks terrific.

And for outright exuberance, Bob Hoppe cannot be matched.  His joy is infectious as he sings and dances  “Singin’ In The Rain” in the thoroughly-drenching downpour.

“Singing in the Rain”
Where:  Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, CO 80534
When:  To July 12, 2015.
For Tickets:  Box Office:  970/744-3747
Email:  info@ColoradoCandlelight.com

 

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Timing is impeccable in crazy “Unnecessary Farce”

Farce LogoMagnolia Theatre at Lincoln Center hosts delightful OpenStage Farce with two cops, three crooks and eight doors!

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 22, 2015

I wonder what was going through the mind of playwright Paul Slade Smith when he wrote the zany show, and what must have been going through the mind of Director Judith Allen, as she mentally mapped out what would transpire in “Unnecessary Farce” on the Magnolia Stage of Lincoln Center!

Dan Tschirhart as Eric and Kirby Anderson as Frank in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Unnecessary Farce by Paul Slade Smith. Photo credit Kate Austin-Groen Photography
Dan Tschirhart as Eric and Kirby Anderson as Frank in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Unnecessary Farce by Paul Slade Smith. Photo credit Kate Austin-Groen Photography

The French reportedly created “farce,”only to have it refined and embellished into a true art form by the crazy British and their neighbors across the pond, the Americans! Paul Slade Smith has elevated the genre to even greater heights with his truly silly “Unnecessary Farce.” Director Judith Allen has assembled a sublime group of talented loonies, and whipped them into amazing shape as seen at the Lincoln center this month.

Police officers Eric Sheridan and Billie Dwyer have been assigned by their boss to carry out a sting operation to entrap the local mayor in an embezzlement scheme, with everything to be set up in two adjoining rooms of a local hotel. Dan Tschirhart and Jessica MacMaster portray the police officers. They are a hoot. Eric is a basic softy, and Billie has just completed her police training – but is not yet proficient enough to carry a loaded weapon, and not skillful enough to toss anyone around. They do appear to have substantial bravado as they review plans for the sting. Karen Brown, an accountant, is set up in the room adjoining the police officers, with a not-quite-so-hidden camera focused on the room’s bed, to be certain to capture everything that the mayor tells the accountant. The camera records and relays the goings on to the officer’s room where Billie can just lounge on the bed and enjoy herself watching the activities in the next room.

Unnecessary Farce #1
Photo credit Kate Austin-Groen Photography

Jessica Emerling Crow is delightful as the stern accountant, suddenly overwhelmed with the idea of becoming romantic with officer Sheridan. Don Kraus is also excellent as the ever-trustworthy mayor. Added to the mix are Kirby Anderson as Agent Frank, head of security at the town hall, and David Austin-Groen as a menacing hit man, “Todd.” Before Todd can complete any assignment he dresses in Scottish kilts, hopefully to scare his clients to death, after wearing them out with non-understandable Scottish! Then Louise F. Thorton turns up as Mary Meekly, the mayor’s wife, with secrets of her own.

True to form, the now-necessary farce is complete with slamming doors, mistaken identities, persons locked up in the closet, handcuffed, and wrapped in blankets, as clothes are taken off, replaced and everyone threatens everyone else with guns that may or may not function. One scene of high hilarity in Act Two has virtually the entire case circling around the room, up and over the beds, with guns draw forward and backward, trying to decide who is to shoot whom and …..why!

This is not “Our Town.” And it does not quite match the hysteria of another great farce, “Noises Off” as produced by OpenStage a year or so ago. Perhaps I am basically a hedonist, as I take delight in seeing such silliness. One reviewer noted the show “certainly isn’t food for thought, but its unsophisticated charm is a good taste of unabashedly crude comedy done right.”

“Unnecessary Farce” is a necessary “must-see” this season!

“Unnecessary Farce”
Where: OpenStage, at Magnolia Theater of The Lincoln Center, 417 West Magnolia Street, Fort Collins.
When: Through March 14, 2015
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays Matinees March 1 and 8 at 2:30 p.m.
For Tickets: 970/221-6730, lctix.com.
For more information: visit Openstage.com

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“Luv” at Bas Bleu takes an unusual look at love via New York of the 1960s

Luv Logo“Luv” searches for meaning – absurdist comedy, or just irritating?

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 21, 2015

Three characters search for life’s meaning at Bas Bleu this season in Murray Schisgal’s “Luv.” Schisgal wrote the play in 1964, and it ran for nearly 1,000 performances on Broadway and received several awards. The original show, directed by Mike Nichols, starred Alan Arkin, Eli Wallach, and Anne Jackson. Great credentials!

I was not familiar with the play prior to seeing the Bas Beu version this month. What did I miss? The set does look terrific, a path along a New York bridge where Harry Berlin (played by Daryl Branson) is writing a farewell note before a planned suicide leap into the river below. Life has not been easy for Berlin, and he has decided to end it all – only to be stopped by a former college roommate who turns up as Berlin readies his leap. The roommate, Milt Manville, is well portrayed by Kevin Reifel. The two have not seen each other for 15 years and compare stories of youthful terror. Manville appears to be quite financially successful, not helping the ego of the unhappy Berlin. Manville’s current problem is that he is tired of his wife, and wants to run off with his mistress. The wife, Ellen, turns up and Milt is eager to match her up with the beleaguered Berlin, so that he can go forward with his life – wifeless! Karina Yager plays Ellen Manville, the wife who appears to have a keen mind, but not much common sense.

Luv_00059There is some basic craziness! The wife, Ellen, turns up to confront her husband with a large chart mapping the success and failure of their marriage. The unhappy Berlin loses his ability to see, or to hear, or to speak, or to walk – all without warning, and leaving him rigid as a board for others to toss around!

The premise has potential, but gets lost with so much talk talk talk about “Luv,” “Luv,” “Luv.” The characters never can claim “Luv” is “Love” and leave the audience wondering why this was such a successful show 50 years ago! Robert E. Braddy directed the Bas Bleu version and his Director’s Statement in the program acknowledges that the show is very much a play of the 1960s and was borrowed unashamedly from the great “Absurdists” notably Edward Albee, Samuel Beckett, and Eugene Ionesco. The absurdity has now become irritating, and by show’s end (and after three tumbles in the water, only to be rescued) I was cheering for everyone to jump from the bridge, so the audience could go home.

Bas Bleu has been terrific for many years in providing local audiences with sometimes-unusual challenges. As a basic romantic, however, I did not grasp what “Luv” was trying to tell me!

“Luv”
Through March 8, 2015
For information: Bas Bleu Theatre Company
401 Pine Street
Fort Collins, CO 80524-2433
Telephone: 970/498-8949
Or visit the Webb: www.basbleu.org

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“Hairspray” is Pleasant ‘Welcome to the 60’s at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Hairspray LogoCandlelight’s “Hairspray” is an Enthusiastic Delight!

Reviewed by Tom Jones, February 1, 2015

Marketing staff of Candlelight Dinner Playhouse got it right when preparing the show’s program announcing, “BIG hair, BIG heart. Big HIT!” Director Pat Payne has put together one of Candlelight’s most delightful shows – ever – “Hairspray.”

Bailey Peyton Walton is a real find, playing the leading role as Tracy Turnblad. Tracy is a Baltimore teenager in the early ’60s whose dream is to be a singer/dancer on a local television station show “Good Morning Baltimore.” Trouble is, while she realizes that she is a terrific singer and dancer, she lacks self confidence, as she is ….. fat! The only “enormous” thing about Walton, playing the role, however, is her incredible talent. She is a delightful marvel, glued to the TV set daily, not wanting to be a problem to her mother, but desperately wanting to be her own person. And she has an enormous crush on the young star of the Baltimore show – Link Larkin.

Hairspray press photoTracy talks her nerdy friend, Penny, into going to a tryout for the show, when one of the stars announces she is leaving. Michelle Sergeeff is great fun as the bespectacled, knock-need friend. The audition is a virtual disaster, but Tracy ultimately finds a spot in the television show, and becomes even more smitten by Link Larkin. Jordan Centeno doesn’t make a false move as the teen idol, Larkin. He is every bit as in love with himself as are his fans! Centeno has become an audience favorite with his local performances as Harold Hill in “The Music Man,” and as the talented dancer in “Swing” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” When, as Link Larkin, he brushes shoulders with TV newcomer Tracy, she is thrilled beyond belief, projecting what her life might be with him, in “I Can Hear the Bells.”

“Good Morning Baltimore” (think an “American Bandstand”)is produced by Velma Von Tussle, a woman approaching middle age, resting on the laurels of fame many years ago when crowned, “Miss Baltimore Crab!” She now wants fame and fortune for her snobby daughter, Amber, a member of the TV show’s cast. Alicia Dunfee and Alisha Winter-Hayes are super as the snobby mother and spoiled daughter!

While initially worried that her mother might be angry about her being on television, Tracy is relieved when her mother, Edna, becomes very supportive, as does her father, well-portrayed by Kent Sugg! Edna is a riot, played in a cross-dressing role by Patrick Sawyer! “Hairspray” the musical is based on a John Waters 1988 movie. The original movie included a man playing the mother role, and than gender-bending has continued through the movie to the Broadway musical again as a movie – John Travolta playing the role of Edna. In various incarnations of the show, the mother’s role played by a man has been off-putting to me. My feeling has now changed, as Patrick Sawyer is a sight to behold. He makes no effort to make the role seem quirky – turning the part into a thought-provoking experience!

Of special note in an astonishing talented cast is Lisa Young as Motormouth Maybelle. She rocks the room with “Big, Blonde and Beautiful” and “I Know Where I’ve Been.”

Tracy comes through with a mind of her own, announcing that she is for acceptance of blacks as equals – much to the horror of the television show’s producer! A local demonstration for fairness gets out of hand, resulting with many of the demonstrators on both sides of the issue being put in jail. Racial tolerance now becomes the theme as Tracy and her friends begin to enlighten others, with super dancing and music making the whole idea become more acceptable.

The entire show is a joy to see. Set is great. Costumes are wonderful, Performances are universally excellent. The orchestra, under direction of Angela Steiner is very good. Michelle Sergeeff provides the rewarding choreography – she is a super choreographer as well as being the believable nerd, Penny! Music is great fun throughout, especially “Good Morning Baltimore,” “I Can Hear the Bells” “Welcome to the 60s’s, and the Finale that the audience doesn’t want to end: “You Can’t Stop the Beat!”

While everything about “Hairspray”is perfection, the star is Bailey Peyton Walton as Tracy Turnblad. She makes if very clear that an incredibly talented person, irregardless of physical size, can become exactly what she wants to be!

This is a classy show, looking with great affection on the 1960s when “popularity” was determined by the height of a beehive hairdo, a hickey on a dating girl’s neck, being crowned “Miss Baltimore Crab,” or even becoming a dancer on nation-wide TV!

“Hairspray”
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, CO 80534
When: To March 8, 2015.
For Tickets: Box Office: 970/744-3747
Email: info@ColoradoCandlelight.com
Website: www.ColoradoCandlelight.com

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“Miracle on 34th Street” at Candlelight

Miracle“Miracle on 34th Street” is Reminder that Christmas is Nearly Here!

By Tom Jones
November 16, 2014

With the arrival of Macy’s televised Thanksgiving Day Parade, can Christmas be far behind? The famous Parade is front and center at the beginning of “Miracle on 34th Street” on the stage at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown through December 31. The curtains open to a terrifically appealing view of the front of Macy’s Department Store on 34th Street in New York City. The created mood is delightful – parade lovers looking skyward at the large balloons, the clown-costumed technicians doing their best to hold onto the ropes of the balloons. Even the high=-kicking Rockettes from Radio City Music Hall are there!
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The Last Romance, Creede Repertory Charmer on stage at Arvada Center

TheLastRomance

Tear ducts open as senior citizens find friendship on a New Jersey Park Bench

By Tom Jones, October 19, 2014

“The Last Romance” Creede Repertory Charmer on stage at Arvada Center

Hoboken, New Jersey is on the banks of the Hudson River overlooking the Manhattan skyline. Ralph Bellini, an 80-year-old widower, has recently recovered from a stroke, and has gone to a park to relax, and possibly to make some human contact with persons who are walking their dogs. He lives nearby with his sister, Rose, who has been taking care of him for several years. Her husband left her for another woman 22 years ago, but she refuses to divorce him, with the naive hope that he will someday return to her.
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Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Ricketson Theatre, DCPA

Vanya logoTerrific Comedy looks at a Chekhov-like dysfunctional family in Bucks County, PA

By Tom Jones, October 17, 2014

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at Ricketson Theatre, DCPA

Vanya and his adopted sister, Sonia, are getting on each other’s nerves. Their “day” consists of a morning coffee, watching for the heron on the pond outside their window, and … not much else. They have lived singular lives in this routine of nothingness for several years – ever since the parents they were taking care of died. They might actually like to do something with their lives, but just can’t get around to it. The spark in their existence is the housekeeper, Cassandra, who drops in once a week, claiming she can foresee the future – and it doesn’t look good!
Continue reading Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Ricketson Theatre, DCPA

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