“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→
1940s Family Fare Film Classic turns up as Holiday musical in Johnstown
Review by Tom Jones
November 30, 2016
The year is 1928. George Bailey is a bright young man on the threshold of making his mark on mankind. He has been raised in a loving family. His kind father owns a savings and loan company, and has taught George what is right and wrong, what is good and what is evil, and how to treat everyone with respect and kindness. George has finished high school and is set to go to Europe to begin life’s experiences away from his home in Bedford Falls. He plans to enter college upon his return from Europe. Then a lifetime of “skids” begins. Continue reading “A Wonderful Life” onstage at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse→
Seles VanHuss shines in 1920s musical at Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage
Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 27, 2016
Millie Dillmount, delightfully played by Seles VanHuss, is the traditional mid-western young woman who arrives in New York City without fear, and with aspirations of a great change in her life. Some girls travel to the Big Apple to make it big in show business. Millie’s plans are much more defined. She wants to marry a rich man. Continue reading Millie Goes Thoroughly Modern in New York City→
Bas Bleu presents new version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen
Reviewed by Tom Jones, November 21, 2016
Lilly Bolduc is a (very) tall and impressively evil Snow Queen. She has powers to bring persons under her spell by enticing them to leave with her, freezing their hearts bit by bit. She is about to succeed in freezing the heart of another, when young Gerda comes on the scene, and does everything she can to protect her friend, Kai. Continue reading “The Snow Queen” has magical scenery, costumes, makeup and masks.→
Talented cast and excellent choreography highlight “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 19, 2016
Based on the assumption that “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” a creative team has been working for nearly a year to bring “I’ll be Home for Christmas” to the stage at Arvada Center. This is the first time the Center has provided a world premiere of an original production. Book is by Kenn McLaughlin, with lyrics and original music by David Nehls. Some of the music includes familiar Christmas tunes – arranged to provide opportunity for excellent dancing. Gavin Mayer directed the show with Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck providing the choreography. Continue reading Arvada Center Provides World Premiere of Christmas Season Musical→
Acting excellence keeps audience awake in longer-than-usual production.
Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 13, 2016
A dying Massachusetts movie theater is portrayed as an aging artifact, one of the state’s few remaining movie houses using 35mm projection. The “digital” age is taking over movie theaters across the country, and The Flick’s three staff members continue their boring work of keeping the theater alive. The three manage the box office, the refreshment stand, run the projector, clean messy restrooms, and most of the time are seen sweeping up spilled popcorn and discarding boxes, cups, and candy wrappers after each film. For nearly three hours the audience watches as two of the three sweep bucket after bucket of refuse while maintaining their sanity with mundane conversation, spiked with “tests” they provide each other about past movie memories. As they chat and sweep, and chat and sweep, they reveal how difficult it is for them to become close to anyone – each other included. Continue reading OpenStage’s “The Flick” is heart-wrenching look at the staff of a movie theater on its last legs.→
PopUp 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. Continue reading Deb Note-Farwell Amazes as Maria Callas→
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.→
Family 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→
Andrew 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→
Those 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→
Munchkins 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. Continue reading “Wizard of Oz” Marches into Johnstown→
“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→
Variety 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. Continue reading Utah Shakespeare Festival Wows Audiences→
“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. Continue reading Colleen Johnson Shines as “Practically Perfect” Mary Poppins→
Shakespeare’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→
1985 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→
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.→
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→
Pulitzer 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→
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!”→
Regional 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→
Five 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→
Dysfunctional 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”.→
Bussy 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 “→
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→
Rebecca 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.→
Mountain 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→
There 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→
Denver 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.→
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.→
Midtown 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.
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
Wild 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.
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.
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!
Arvada Center For the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003
Runs through February 21, 2016
Box Office 720/898-7200
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.
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.
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.”
Where: OpenStage Theatre production
Magnolia Theatre Stage of Lincoln Center.
417 West Magnolia Street, Fort Collins.
When: Through February 6, 2016
For more information: www.lctix.com
Music 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.
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
Beth 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.”
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.”
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.
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse 4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown To: March 6, 2016 For Tickets: Box Office: 970/744-3747 Email: info@ColoradoCandlelight.com
“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 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.
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.”
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 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.
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!
Boulder 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.
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.
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!”
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 Lelandand 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!
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.
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
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!”
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!
His 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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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!”
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
Or visit: www.basbleu.org
Playing 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.
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.
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.
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.
Where: OpenStage Theatre production, on the Magnolia Theatre Stage of Lincoln 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!
“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!
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
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.”
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.
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.
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
Or visit the Web: www.basbleu.org