“Memphis” is Mesmerizing at Midtown Arts Center!

Memphis at Midtown Arts CenterMusical “Memphis” pleases audience in Fort Collins!

By Tom Jones
Reviewed March 20, 2015

Memphis, Tennessee, was a racially divided city in the 1950s. Blacks had their own schools, as did whites. Each had its own music, with crossovers quite rare. Along came Dewey Phillips, one of he first white disc jockeys to play black music, and life began to change! The terrific musical “Memphis,” now on stage at the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins is loosely based on the efforts of Dewey Phillips, known as “Huey Calhoun” in the show.

Photo credit  Anne Terze-Schwarz
Photo credit Anne Terze-Schwarz

Huey is a young, virtually illiterate, man in Memphis who has felt an inexplicable draw to black music ever since he was a child. While his formal education is limited, he dreams of becoming a disc jockey, having his own show. He dares to show up at an underground black Rock and Roll bar, where he becomes attracted to Felicia, a talented performer who is under the careful eye of her brother, Delray! Kurt Terrio, owner of Midtown Arts Center, and the show’s producer has lined up an amazing group of performers and technicians to bring “Memphis” to light.

Evan Buckley Harris is a wonder as Huey. This is Harris’ first appearance on stage in Northern Colorado. He is not to be missed. He is completely at ease as Huey, with an instant attraction to Felicia, who would like to return his interest, but is cautious do so, because of her watchdog brother. Danielle J. Summons is excellent as Felicia, as is Michael (MJ) Jones as the brother, Delray.

Photo credit  Anne Terze-Schwarz
Photo credit Anne Terze-Schwarz

Huey is not easily assimilated in the underground bar, but becomes less of a threat when the black patrons realize he is truly interested in their music. Harris, Simmons, and Jones are very effective in their roles, each attracting audience sympathy to the difficulties they face in a segregated society. They have powerful voices and can dance up a storm! Another standout is Michael Wordly, a black man so traumatized by the lynching of his father that he has not spoken since the horrific event. When he finally does speak, the moment is breathtaking and Wordly has a singing voice that MUST be heard!

Huey doesn’t have much formal education. But he understands people, what they like, and how to find his way with them – black or white! When he is given his first opportunity as a disc jockey, the station manager gives him a commercial to read. Huey cannot read, and elicits the help of the station’s black janitor.

Huey’s mother, Gladys, begins the story as a hardline racist, but begins to empathize with her son and his black friends after attending a black church choir and realizing that “Change Don’t Come Easy.” Jalyn Courtenay Webb portrays the mother. She continues her non-stop journey of inhabiting every role she portrays, and is well known to local audiences. She is the only local lead in the cast, with others coming from Las Vegas, New York, etc..

Everyone in the cast is very talented, whether as a singer or a dancer! Among the other supporting leads are Marc-Anthony Lewis, an over-sized man with equally-oversized abilities, and Daniel Harkins, as Calhoun’s boss who finally realizes that Huey is a force to be reckoned with, and ultimately backs his plans. Harkins is originally from New York City, but is known to local Midtown audiences for his performances in several shows and he also currently solves mysteries in Midtown’s “The Dinner Detective.”

“Memphis” is directed by Jordan Nichols a native of Memphis. Nichols directed the hilarious “Spamalot” at Midtown Arts Center last year. This time around he is into more serious subject-matter. He is enormously successful – choreographing the dances as well as directing the entire show. The dancing is every bit as terrific as are the remarkable voices. Paul Falk and Jalyn Courtenay Webb provide vocal direction to the show, with Travis Bradley as assistant choreographer, and Julia Smith as assistant director. Scenic design is by Aaron Sheckler, with costumes by Anthony Mattivi, lighting by Chad Bonaker, sound by Kurt Terrio, and set construction by Justin Hermanek and Aaron Sheckler. The excellent orchestra is conducted by Casey Cropp, and includes efforts of Larry Bridges, Larry Currey, Sonia Daggett, Marty Rein, Jeremy Girard, Andy Kropp and Dave Lunn

“Memphis” as currently produced, was developed over several years, finally turning up on Broadway in 2009. The production won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It ran in New York for more than a thousand performances, and was filmed in 2011 for presentation to nationwide audiences in April and May of that year. The current London production has received rave reviews.

Music was written by David Bryan, lyrics by Bryan and Joe DiPietro, and book by DiPietro. The music is exciting, but the audience doesn’t leave the theater humming a tune. They were so enamored with the show, however, that they just didn’t want to leave the theater. Standing ovations are rare at dinner theaters, but when it became apparent that “Memphis” was reaching its finale, the audience made certain that all tables and dishes were out of the way to stand and cheer!

“Memphis”
Where: Midtown Arts Center, 3750 South Mason Street, Fort Collins
When:Through May 30, 2015
Information: Box Office at 970/225-2555, or online 24/7 @ www.midtownartscenter.com

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“Always…Patsy Cline” at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Always Patsy ClineMusical Memories Highlight an Enchanting “Always… Patsy Cline” in Johnstown

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 15, 2015

For fans of the late, great Patsy Cline, “Always… Patsy Cline” will invoke fond memories. For those not acquainted with Cline, the show provides a charming evening of music – country, gospel, and rock and roll! Accompanied by an immensely talented on-stage band that adds to the show’s welcoming ambiance, Melissa Swift-Sawyer is in excellent voice, as Patsy Cline, singing nearly 30 songs made famous by the song stylist in the 60s.

From the moment the house lights dimmed and spotlights were focused on the inviting set set and the terrific band, the audience realized they were in for a treat at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse!

Photo credit Rachel Graham Photography
Photo credit Rachel Graham Photography

“Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “You Belong to Me,” San Antonio Rose,” “Crazy,” “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” and even Hollywood’s “True Love” are all included in more than two hours of entertainment.

The show was created by Ted Swindley who also directed the original production of the show in 1968 when it became one of the top ten shows produced across the country. Swindley’s credentials are impressive, and his work on “Always, Patsy Cline” is evident, as he has woven an interesting tale to highlight the many songs. It would have been acceptable to have just a show with a talented singer singing songs Cline made famous – for a two-hour concert. Swindley, however, brings Cline to life through the tale related by an adoring fan, Louise Seger, who became a close friend of the singer.

Seger first saw Patsy Cline perform in 1957 on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts TV Show. She was immediately impressed by the voice that she heard and followed Cline’s career to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Seger was driving a Houston disc jockey crazy with her never-ending requests to play Cline’s music. He did alert Seger, however, that Cline was coming to Houston for a performance. Seger was there!

She introduced herself to Cline, and there was instant rapport between the two! Seger even took her home for the night, to share her son’s bedroom and to cook some bacon and eggs! This was just the beginning of a deep friendship between the single mother, Louise, and the now-becoming-famous, but unhappily married, Patsy Cline!

Photo credit Rachel Graham Photography
Photo credit Rachel Graham Photography

This friendship story intermingled with the wonderful songs. Cline did not write her own music or lyrics for the songs she immortalized. But she had great success in selecting songs that amplified her talents and were appreciated by her audiences. Many of the songs explore lost loves, accepting rejection when a lover moves on, and finding peace with one’s self!

For the next two years, following their meeting in Houston, they exchanged many letters and telephone calls, with Cline always signing off with “Always…Patsy Cline.”
The friendship ended tragically when Cline was killed in an airplane crash at age 30 in 1963. By that time she had become one of country music’s greatest vocalists and was a switchover success in other musical milieus. In 1973 she became the first female solo artist inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Melissa Swift-Sawyer as Patsy and Alicia Dunfee as Louise Seger are both excellent performers and have great chemistry. Swift-Sawyer sings the wonderful songs, and Dunfee provides a spark that is enthusiastic and rewarding.

Photo credit Rachel Graham Photography
Photo credit Rachel Graham Photography

Swift-Sawyer knows the songs! She has played the role in more than 2500 performances, singing the songs probably more than Cline did in live shows! Patrick Sawyer directed this “Always…Patsy Cline” production. When asked how many time he had seen his wife as Cline, he noted, “Probably 1500 or more, with my directing many of them.”

Patrick and Melissa just might be the currently-reigning “King and
Queen of Northern Colorado Musicals!” He concluded his bravura performance as Edna Turnblad in Candlelight’s delightful “Hairspray” just in time to direct his wife in this heart-warming version of “Always…Patsy Cline.”

“Always…Patsy Cline”
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, 4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnson, CO 80534
Through April 19, 2015
Information: Box Office: 970/744-3747. Email: info@ColoadoCandlelight.com

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“Kismet” Operetta at Loveland Opera Theatre

Kismet“Kismet” provides some of most rewarding melodies in recent memory!

 

Reviewed by Tom Jones

March 1, 2015

It is the fault of the Loveland Opera Theater!  For the past 24 hours the amazing melodies of “Kismet” are firmly imbedded in my memory, and I can’t seem to rid myself of them.  Not that I want to.  As where can more incredible songs be found — “Stranger in Paradise,” “This is My Beloved,” “Night of My Nights,” and “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.”

The Loveland Opera Theatre has enjoyed audience enthusiasm while presenting such productions as “The Mikado,” “HMS Pinafore,” and “La Boheme” in past seasons.  Juliana Bishop Hoch and her artistic team took a risk by presenting “Kismet,” an amazing, but less familiar show!

Senhica Klee as Caliph. Photo credit Darlene St. John Photography
Senhica Klee as Caliph. Photo credit Darlene St. John Photography

Prior to the opening curtain, when welcoming the audience to the Rialto, Dr. Hoch noted that the show has rarely been seen in Colorado, with the last production provided several years ago by the CU Boulder School of Music!  The rarity of productions is our our loss.  I first became acquainted with the music when it opened on Broadway, winning the Tony Award as best musical in 1954 and ran for more than a year  starring Doretta Morrow and Richard Kiley.  It transferred to London where it ran for 648 performances.  I bought the original record then and have found two subsequent concert CD versions of the show.  An MGM movie was released in 1955 starring Howard Keel, Ann Blythe, and Vic Damone.

The show has music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forest, with melodies derived from Alexander Borodin’s collection of works including “Prince Igor.””  The story is based on a 1911 play by Edward Knoblock.  I first saw the show as an excellent London revival many years ago. .

Lindsey French as Marsinah and Senhica Klee as Caliph. Photo credit Darlene St. John Photography
Lindsey French as Marsinah and Senhica Klee as Caliph. Photo credit Darlene St. John Photography

On the stage of the Rialto, the Loveland Opera Theatre production begins on the streets of ancient Baghdad, where beggars plead with the locals for enough coins to feed their families!  Some beggars have staked out claims to specific areas of the marketplace, with the most desired place occupied by Hajj.  A poet turns up, finding that Hajj is out of town and immediately sets up shop to beg and to hopefully sell his rhymes.  Benjamin Wood is terrific as the Poet.  His voice is excellent, as he sings and tells of his abilities to not only create rhymes but to cast and reverse spells (cast by others), as needed.  He is accompanied by his beautiful daughter, Marsinah!  Lindsey French is a terrific “find” portraying Marsinah.  She has the moves of a ballet dancer, and a voice that is as clear as rare crystal!

Lindsey French as Marsinah and Senhica Klee as Caliph. Photo credit Darlene St. John Photography
Lindsey French as Marsinah and Senhica Klee as Caliph. Photo credit Darlene St. John Photography

The Poet’s timing in occupying  the beggars place is unfortunate, as he is mistakenly thought to be the real Hajj, is kidnapped and taken to the desert dwelling of the leading criminal in all Mesopotamia, “Jawan”’  It appears that the original Hajj put a curse on Jawan many years ago, and  Jawan is eager to have the curse reversed.

The Poet displays his effectiveness with words, and convinces the evil Jawan that he can reverse the curse put on him, and return his son to him – all for an amazingly sum of coins.  The romp continues as The Poet is delighted to share his wealth with anyone of interest, and sends his daughter Marsinah to look at a palace to buy!

Marsinah is looking in the garden of a prospective palace and finds The Caliph, who she believes to be the local shirtless gardener.  He is actually trapped by his staff to look through a group of women to select a bride.   Senhica Klee is excellent as the wealthy Caliph. When French and Klee combine their voices in “Stranger in Paradise,” the chemistry is seductively enchanting!  This is one of the finest scenes in Northern Colorado in recent memory!

Rob Hoch as Wazir. Photo credit Darlene St. John Photography
Rob Hoch as Wazir. Photo credit Darlene St. John Photography

The road to love is not easy, and all manner of interventions appear, with everything eventually working out so that the young lovers can be united!  In the interim, the incredible music continues!

The cast is large and includes great performances by Boni McIntyre as Lalume, Rob Hoch as Wazir, Trevor Valdez as Omar, Bryan Grosbach as Chief of Police and Greg Fischer as Jawan.

Costuming is good.  Lighting is impressive.  Set is nice, although a bit cumbersome in moving features to create various locations.

“Kismet” in Loveland is directed by Timothy Kennedy, Conducted by Nicholas Gilmore, with Choreography by Sarah Wilhelm, and Scenic and Lighting Design by Peter F. Muller.  Don Reidy is credited as Master Carpenter.  There are over 150 costumes in the show, with 80% of them designed and hand stitched by Davis Sibley and his team of three other costumers.

My wife and I saw the Loveland production with a few friends who noted they had substantial difficulty in understanding what was being said and sung especially in the first act.  This is unfortunate, as the lyrics are delightful!

This is a major production, and kudos must be given to Dr. Hoch and the entire team of the Loveland Opera Theatre for providing such a remarkable show!  The voices are outstanding.  And no, I still can’t get the melodies out of my mind!

 “Kismet”

February 20 to March 1, 2015

Loveland Opera Theatre on the stage of the Rialto Theater in Loveland

For information about Loveland Opera Theatre, contact www.lovelandopera.org

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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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“Harvey” at Arvada Center

Harvey Logo“Harvey is the unseen star of delightful Arvada Production

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 8, 2015

Elwood P. Dowd is an affable chap – entirely without guile, and a friend to everyone. His very best friend, however, is a 6 foot one and one-half inch rabbit named “Harvey.” Harvey is actually a pooka, conjured from Irish folklore. Elwood takes Harvey with him wherever he goes, searches for him when he becomes lost and the two are evidently great drinking buddies.

Harvey is less appreciated by Dowd’s sister, Veta Louise Simmons.  It appears that Elwood was extremely close to his mother and would do anything for her. When his parents died, the family home was left to Elwood much to the dismay of his sister, and her marriage-age daughter, Myrtle Mae

Elwood has now transferred his love for his mother to the less appreciative sister.  Veta Louise is an avid social climber, longing to host parties and to be invited to others. Everything must be properly perceived. She is viciously afraid that Elwood will turn up with his unseen friend Harvey, and proceed to introduce him to everyone .

Her daughter, Myrtle Mae has her own challenges, as she believes that everything wearing pants might be the love of her life.

Veta Louise decides that she has had “enough” of the kindly Elwood and his tall rabbit friend and arranges to take him to a nearby sanitarium where she will admit him to stay forever. This also provides a path for her to gain ownership of the house.

Photo Credit: P. Switzer Photography 2015  Pictured L-R: Torsten Hillhouse (Elwood P. Dowd), Kate Gleason (Veta Louise Simmons), Missy Moore (Myrtle Mae Simmons).and Mark Rubald (Judge Omar Gaffney),
Photo Credit: P. Switzer Photography 2015
Pictured L-R: Torsten Hillhouse (Elwood P. Dowd), Kate Gleason (Veta Louise Simmons), Missy Moore (Myrtle Mae Simmons).and Mark Rubald (Judge Omar Gaffney),
Gavin Mayer and Ron A. Lansberry, director and artistic producer for the show, have assembled a delightful cast of wonderfully talented performers to bring this sometimes frenzied tale to life on the Stage of Arvada Center. Torsten Hillhouse is a jewel as the mild mannered Elwood Dowd. He has no desire to cause anyone any trouble and is quite willing to do whatever his sister suggests.

Elwood’s sister, Veta Louise, is in a delightful frenzy, as played by Kate Gleason. She is eager to have Elwood and his rabbit out of the house, and wants her daughter Myrtle Mae, to similarly disappear, hopefully with a husband!

Missy Moore is a delight as the awkward daughter, Myrle Mae. She is a fine comedian, while not letting the part become camp!

Insanity reigns as Elwood’s sister,Vera Louise, is erroneously admitted to the sanitarium instead of Elwood. Staff cannot believe that someone as kind and caring as Elwood might need psychiatric care, where as his sister appears to be completely nuts!

The cast is universally believable. Graham Ward is a fine physical comedian as the sanatorium doctor who is trying to figure out who needs mental care and who doesn’t. His boss, played by Jeffrey Roark prefers not to be bothered with any details of activity in the sanitarium, but does become intrigued with the idea that Elwood’s rabbit friend just might provide a two week out-of-this-world experience to be with someone more exciting than his wife.

The only person not worried with problems is the affable Elwood Dowd, who wants nothing more than to please everyone!

It is finally arranged for Elwood to receive an injection that will make him “normal.” A taxi driver who turns up at the sanitarium tries to bring the group to their senses noting, that while the “injection will make Elwood a perfectly normal human being, you know what bastards they are!”

“Harvey” was one of America’s best-loved plays in the 1940s and Marcy Chase received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1945. It has been adapted for film and television several times, best remembered from the James Stewart performance as Elwood in the 1950 movie. Chase has roots to Colorado, graduating from Denver’s West High School, and later studied at the University of Denver and University o Colorado Boulder.

Everything involved with this production is flawless. The amazing set by Brian Mallgrave is changed before our eyes from the Dowd home to the Sanitarium in Act One and again in Act Two — each time receiving applause as if it were a character in the show!

By show’s end it just may be that Elwood (and his rabbit friend) are the only truly normal characters around. Veta Louise even admits that she just may have seen the the pooka !

“Harvey”
Where: Arvada Center For the Ats and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003
When: To February 22, 2015
Website: www.arvadacenter.org
Box Office 720/898-7200

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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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“Sweeney Todd” is Harrowing Tale of Seeking revenge at Midtown Arts Center

Sweeny-logo

“Sweeney Todd” is that Fiendish Barber on Fleet Street in Terrific Midtown Show!

Reviewed by Tom Jones, January 31, 2015

By the time “Sweeney Todd” ends, the stage of the Midtown Arts Center includes a pile of corpses, and an astonished audience, realizing they experienced a truly memorable production! “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim opened on Broadway in 1979 with the usual trappings of a Broadway show – a large stage, the audience seated behind the usual orchestra, etc. The show was a critical favorite, received major awards, including the Tony Award as Best Musical. It sometimes left the audience a bit stunned, by the starkness of the story, and the brutality of the show. It has gone on to become a virtual classic – both as a Broadway musical and as an opera!

Kurt Terrio, owner of the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins, has a great track record of providing Fort Collins audiences with wonderful musicals. He does take risks, however, and has produced “Sweeney Todd” in a small new theater known as Studio 2 of the Midtown Arts Center. The production is more of an adventure than a show! The audience huddles around tables, with barely enough room to move. The orchestra is placed around the room, some elevated, and some on ground floor. The performers are also found throughout the room, mixed with the theater patrons. Some are at tables, some wandering around the elevated platform, and some on the small stage in the middle of the room.

To the audience’s amazement, the performers seem to find their way around the cramped quarters, and present the show as if they had all the room in the world. Brandon Schraml is a wonder as the demonic Sweeney Todd, returning to London after being exiled for many years on trumped-up charges. He is rescued at sea on his return to London by a young sailor, Anthony.

Brandon Schraml as Sweeney Todd and Jalyn Courteny Webb as Mrs. Lovett. Photo credit Marco A Robinson
Brandon Schraml as Sweeney Todd and Jalyn Courteny Webb as Mrs. Lovett. Photo credit Marco A Robinson

Todd returns to London to learn that his beloved wife, Lucy, has died, and that his child, Johanna, is now a young women living as a virtual prisoner in the home of London’s Judge Turpin. He ends up at the pie shop of Mrs. Lovett, who is a bit daft, and perhaps knows more than she wants to tell about Todd’s wife and child. She does offer him a place to stay, however, above her pie shop which isn’t doing very well, as she claims they are the “Worst Pies in London.”

Todd subsequently strangles a man in the Barber Shop when he learns the man was partially responsible for Todd’s exile many years ago. “What to do with the body?” Mrs. Lovett comes up with the idea of turning him into pies….. Lovett and Todd take off on a delightfully grizzly plan to turn men of various occupations into special pies! As Todd’s revenge results in more bodies, the pie shop business flourishes. Todd learns that Anthony, the sailor that saved his life, has accidentally found Todd’s daughter, Johanna, and wishes to marry her. Judge Turpin becomes outraged, wanting to marry the beautiful young girl himself; and thus begins plots for Joanna and Anthony to run away together, for Judge Turpin to find Johanna, and for Todd to ultimately find revenge for Turpin’s actions.

Terrio and his staff have assembled performers with incredible voices. Schraml as Sweeney Todd is re-united with Jalyn Courtney Webb as the somewhat-crazed Mrs. Lovett. They both had important roles in MAC’s not-to-be-forgotten “Les Miserables last Season. Also from that earlier triumph is Michael Lasris, who plays Judge Turpin in “Sweeney.” Webb and Lasris continue to provide inspired performances, adding to the work of Schraml’s “Todd.” They are joined by a cast which seems much larger than it actually is. Anthony is played by Taylor Martin who nearly stops the show with his lilting hymn to the young woman he has just found, “Johanna.” Lisa Kay Carter plays Johanna. Her voice is crystal clear, especially when she sings of her birds, “Green Finch and Linnet Bird.” Michael Spaziana as Toby, the young assistant Lovett and Todd have hired, is believable, as he promises he will protect Mrs. Lovett in “Not While I’m Around.”

Also outstanding are Napoleon Douglas as Beadle Bamford, Allen Dorsey as Adolfo Pirelli, and Anne Terze-Schwarz who has a thankless job of stumbling through the show as a beggar woman, mumbling oaths. Casey Cropp directs the orchestra, placed throughout the theater.

Michael Lasris and Julia Smith directed the terrific show with the vocal direction by Jalyn Courtney Webb. Scenic design is by Aaron Sheckler, with costumes by Anthony Mattivi.

Sondheim was born in 1930 and wrote the lyrics for “West Side Story” and “Gypsy,” before branching out to provide lyrics and music for many shows. He is currently considered to be the most talented living Broadway creator. His first production providing both music and lyrics was “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” with the delightful opening song, “Comedy Tonight.” He has subsequently thrilled audiences with such shows as “A Little Night Music, “ “Company, “ “Follies,” “Sunday in the Park with George,” and “Into the Woods” which is now shown as a movie!

Many years ago my wife and I were living in New York, and The New York Times ran a small ad, soliciting producers for a “new” show by Stephen Sondheim. This was before Sondheim became so incredibly popular. Persons were offered to “buy” a portion of the new production “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” for $1,000 per share. I didn’t have the $1,000, so did not invest. I have subsequently wondered if I’d now be independently wealthy if I had invested!

The Midtown Arts Center production includes all of the acclaimed music, and the cast is uniformly excellent. The room where it is performed does present problems, however, as the cast is scattered throughout the room and it is difficult to always locate who is speaking/singing. The story is easier to follow when seen on a traditional stage setting. That does not, however, provide the excitement, interest, and sometimes nervousness as provided in the current format. Word of mouth has resulted in many sold-out performances, as the show appears to have found great audience appeal, especially for dating couples, and couples of all ages eager to enjoy an unusual experience.

. The plot, as noted above, is complicated. Reading a synopsis of the show prior to going to the theater is highly recommended. This should help you to better understand what an incredible performance you are seeing!
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“Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
Where: Midtown Arts Center
When: Through March 7, 2015
Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun at 6:00 p.m.
Matinees Saturday and Sunday at 12:00
For Tickets: 970/225-2555
www.midtownartscenter.com

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“The 39 Steps” at Midtown Arts Center

The 39 Steps At Midtown Arts Center“The 39 Steps” is Clever Farce at Midtown

Reviewed by By Tom Jones

Four persons become a cast of nearly 100 characters in Midtown Arts Center’s farce, “The 39 Steps.” The show gained fame Off-Broadway in New York a few seasons ago when theatergoers found great joy in an amazingly-different version of a 1935 movie! “The 39 Steps” movie was directed in all seriousness by Alfred Hitchcock, based on a thriller written by John Buchan in 1915. The story and movie were a serious look at British intelligence during World War I. A few years ago an English actor, Patrick Barlow, came up with the idea of transferring the spy book and movie to the stage as a comedy.
The results are the zany spoof where four persons play a cast of many, with amazingly clever changes of costumes, dialects, and props! I first saw the show a few summers ago at the Creede Repertory Theatre in southern Colorado, and was knocked out by brilliance of the production.

Within the past year Kurt Terrio and his crew at Midtown Arts Center have provided terrific shows for local audiences – especially the wonderful versions of “Les Miserables” Monty Python’s Spamalot,” and “Miss Saigon!” Those productions were awesome with large casts, impressive sets, etc.

The “wow” of those successes, however, takes a back seat as a substantially smaller show now on the Midtown stage. The farce is fun, with many bits of clever staging, and with a hard-working cast of four who appear to be enjoying the challenge. Nate Huntley plays just one role in the show, the bored debonair Richard Hannay who wants nothing more than a quiet evening in his London flat. He is wrongfully accused of a murder and begins the caper of chasing (and being chased) on foot, by train, and by car to Northern Scotland to hopefully free himself from injustice. The remaining cast includes Nicki Casseri who plays roles of some of the women in the show. Andy McCain and Daniel Harkins play everyone else, including some crazy turns at cross-dressing. McCain is especially delightful as he seems to enjoy chewing up the scenery every time he appears – whether it be as a man, a woman, a farmer, a newspaper salesman, a police officer, and just about everybody imaginable.

Eric Mather directed the production. He has past experience with the show, having played the role of Nate Huntley last year at Littleton Town Hall. The direction includes several bits of lunacy where cast members try to crawl over a fence while being handcuffed, a stroll down several hallways with never-ending doors opening and closing, escaping from buildings by crawling through window frames, and chasing through (and on top of) a fast-moving train, and riding in cars of various types on bad roads, etc.. The bits are clever to a point, but became tiring after the repetitious fun goes on too long.

Knowledge of the 1935 Hitchcock movie is helpful, as there are references to later Hitchcock standards such as “Rear Window,” “North by Northwest,” and others. I rented the DVD prior to seeing the show the first time a few years ago. It is not mandatory to know the original story, but makes the show substantially more fun when realizing how the lunacy was inspired!

This “The 39 Steps” is not a glorious musical with great sets, etc. but is a well-acted non-stop farce spoofing serious espionage and spy movies in general!

“The 39 Steps”
Where: Midtown Arts Center, 3750 South Mason Street, Fort Collins
When:Through March 13, 2015
Information: Box Office at 970/225-2555, or online   www.midtownartscenter.com

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“A Christmas Carol” at Stage Theater, Denver Center of the Performing Arts

Christmas Carol logo“A Christmas Carol” is Top Notch Holiday Show at Denver Center“

Reviewed by Tom Jones, December 14, 2014

In an article reviewing an entirely different show December 13, Denver Post Theatre Critic Lisa Kennedy wisely noted, “”The Denver Center’s version of Charles Dickens’ tale remains an edifying, possibly perfect holiday tale of hubris and redemption.”

Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen.
Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen.

I can only add, “Right on!” In the DCPA’s 35-year history, the Company has presented two different adaptations of “A Christmas Carol” totaling 22 productions! By now, the Company has it down pat! The scenery, lighting, sound, costumes, cast – all to perfection! Why, oh, why has it taken me so long to drive to Denver to see this terrific production?

Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen.
Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen.

Philip Pleasants as Ebenezer Scrooge has already played the role in nine different productions, but keeps the performance alive, as if it were his first time pleasing an audience. He is the Humbug that we love to hate, the man who believes any happiness around him is misplaced, and lives only to count his money and make life as miserable as possible for everyone – including his nephew, his only relative! His only employee, Bob Cratchit, has the audacity to ask Scrooge for a day off for Christmas. He is aware that his boss is a dreadful sort, but asks anyway, and is nearly rebuffed. James Michael Reilly plays Cratchit to perfection. His performing credentials are substantial, and he brings a great charm to the role – that of a very good man, trying his best to take of his family in difficult times, and putting up with Scrooge, as his only source of income.

Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen.
Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen.

The London in the 1840s was a difficult place to live, especially for the many with limited financial resources. Charles Dickens published his story “A Christmas Carol” in 1843 and it has become the epitome of a Christmas classic.

Ebenezer Scrooge’s only option of refuge is his bedroom, after Cratchit has gone to be with his wife and children. Scrooge is confronted by a dream of his former financial partner, Jacob Marley, now shackled in chains to endure the eternities because of his devious deals while alive. Scrooge is horrified, only to learn that he is to receive visits of three more ghosts in the days to come: The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Each one frightens Scrooge with promise of a future as dreadful as that faced by Marley unless he does something worthwhile with his life.

This is not a sugar-coated Christmas tale, but one of Christmas carolers, of families in poverty – of ghosts raging to frighten some sense into Scrooge. The set is terrific, as if everything else in this wonderful version of Dickens’ story. There is lots of music and dancing. Thought-provoking insight of the idea of “sharing,” and basically the encouragement of helping those less fortunate.

Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen.
Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen.

The enormous cast includes several in supporting roles. Especially noteworthy are Colin Alexander as Scrooge’s Nephew, Fred; Charlie Korman as Ebenezer as a child; M. Scott McClean as Ebenezer as a young man; Leslie Alexander as Mrs. Cratchit, and Stephanie Cozart, terrifically adorned as the Ghost of Christmas Past. There are many children in the cast, making the production of special interest to younger theater-goers.

The production is flawlessly directed by Bruce K. Sevy. Adaptation of Dickens’ story was done by Richard Hellesen, with music by David de Berry.

The end result is the desired realization that Scrooge can become teachable. He can learn some basic goodness, and realize the need of “sharing.” And while Scrooge is learning, the audience is treated to a visual feast of Christmas!

“A Christmas Carol” at DCPA in December of 2014 is a production to be cherished!

“A Christmas Carol”
Stage Theatre, Denver Center of the Performing Arts
Through December 28. 2014
Tickets: 303/893-4100
denvercenter.org
800/641-1222, TTY 303/893-9582

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“King o’ The Moon” at Bas Bleu in Fort Collins

“King o' The Moon” at Bas Bleu in Fort Collins
“King o’ The Moon” at Bas Bleu in Fort Collins

Heartwarming and Chaotic Pazinski Family Returns to Bas Bleu in “King o’ The Moon”

Reviewed by Tom Jones, December 9, 2014

We first met the chaotic Pazinski family last year in Bas Bleu’s production of “Over the Tavern.” Ten years have transpired in the family’s history when we meet them this year in “King o’ The Moon.” The bullying father has died, and his wife and children are planning a get-together to honor his memory. Why? Virtually no one really liked him — but “family is family is family!”

The Pazinskis still live in the apartment above the bar their father owned. The tavern is now managed by a friend of the father, and the family has become older. Not necessarily wiser, but seemingly more comfortable with their own situations. Jonathan Farwell has returned to direct the sequel whose story takes place at the time of the Apollo moon landing. His direction is particularly rewarding!

Deb Note-Farwell is terrific as Ellen, the widowed wife. She provides a wondrous portrayal of survival, trying to help put sense in the lives of her children and of herself. Note-Farwell has never been better!

"Courtesy of William A. Cotton"
“Courtesy of William A. Cotton”

Remaining at home is the youngest son, Georgie, with Down syndrome. Ben Means is convincing as the challenged Georgie. His older sister, Annie, is played by Lauren E. Jenkins. Annie has married, but returns home frequently, as her marriage is in turmoil. Her anti-social husband apparently spends most of his time in the couple’s basement, working with his collection of toy trains. The oldest son is Eddie, well-portrayed by Marshall Spring is married, but is at home on leave before being deployed to Vietnam The remaining son is Rudy, played by Jason R. Jenkins. Rudy remains conflicted since he promised his dying father that he would become a seminarian. He has suddenly left the seminary and turns up at home actively involved with a peace movement. He wants his military brother, Eddie to abandon the armed forces and his country, and take refuge in Canada!

Joining the frenzied family is Eddie’s pregnant wife, Maureen, played by Jessica MacMaster. MacMaster is a wow! She plays Maureen, a girl who came from the “wrong side of the tracks,” and her younger days included seriously-wrong choices. MacMaster is terrific, and she lights up the stage whenever she appears!

Bas Bleu Theatre's Production of "King O' The Moon"
“Courtesy of William A. Cotton”

Rounding out the cast is Al Dominguez as Walter. He was a close friend of the deceased husband, and works hard to keep the tavern financially afloat. He is romantically interested in his friend’s widow, Ellen, the family matriarch.

Tales of the individual characters are interestingly woven into the radio broadcast of the moon landing, with a portrait of the moon hovering overhead on the theater wall. “King o’ the Moon”was written by Tom Dudzick and is the second of his trilogy of plays concerning the Pazinksi family. The very interesting back-yard set is designed by Jeff Tish, with lighting by Jimmie Robinson and sound by Grant Putney.

"Courtesy of William A. Cotton"
“Courtesy of William A. Cotton”

The first act is overly frenetic, with a lot of family yelling. Once we realize why everyone is so angry with everyone else, the tone softens, and the play concludes with a feeling of understanding and acceptance. Few of the individual challenges are resolved, but the need for a feeling of family unity is apparent – making it clear that such a unit can provide a great source of healing and comfort.

“King o’ the Moon” runs through January 4, 2005, with performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening and matinees on Sundays.

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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“She Loves Me” at Arvada Center

She Loves Me Logo

Hungarian Parfumerie is Delightful Locale for “She Loves Me!”

By Tom Jones
November 30, 2014

Maraczek’s Parfumerie in the 1930s Budapest is an attractive location for the entertaining “She Loves Me” now on stage at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities! The parfumerie is initially shown from the outside beginning with a warm summer day, and continuing through the falling of autumn leaves, and the welcome snow of the Christmas Season. When the set’s interior opens the audience is drawn into the splendid interior. No detail is missing in the shop’s displays.

The set alone is worth the price of admission, enhanced by the delightful show! “She Loves Me” is based on a 1937 play by Miklos Laszlo, “Parfumerie.” Many years later the story became the basis for a 1940 movie, “The Shop Around the Corner starring Jimmy Stewart. The basic plot turned up again in 1949 in the Judy Garland musical, “In the Good Old Summertime, and again in 1988 in the Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks hit, “You’ve got Mail.”

Photo Credit P. Switzer Photography 2014
Photo Credit P. Switzer Photography 2014

The current musical version, “She Loves Me” (as seen in Arvada this season) is based on the 1963 Broadway musical by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Life was somewhat more simple than the world of today. Girl and boy meet, fall in “hate” – or is it just thinly disguised “love”? The shop’s staff is a well-trained group of clerks, when looking-for-work Amalia Balash arrives on the scene, in search of a job. Julia Jackson is heartwarming as the eager Amalia. Mark Rubald is very good as the shop owner, Mr. Maraczek. He isn’t interested in any new staff, but finds Amalia so capable that he gives her a chance!

Amalia’s arrival on the scene is not warmly received by clerk George Nowack, excellently played by Andrew Russell. He finds her particularly offensive, as he lives in a dream world. He has been responding to lonely-hearts ads in the newspaper and believes he is in love with a “Dear Friend” that he has never met!

Photo Credit P. Switzer Photography 2014
Photo Credit P. Switzer Photography 2014

An especially talented cast has been assembled for this wintertime/Christmas gift to the community. Joining with Julia Jackson, Mark Rubald and Andrew Russell are supporting leads and each is given a chance to shine! Clerks in the shop include Ilona Ritter, delightfully played by Jennifer Lorae teamed opposite Gregory Gerbrandt as Steven Kodaly, a snake-in-the grass lech who believes that he can charm his way to whatever he wants. Parker Redford plays the young Arpad Laszlo, wanting to be more than a delivery boy. And Rob Costigan is a marvel as the experienced and insecure elder clerk, Ladislov Sipos. A comic delight is Stephen Day as the waiter in the cafe where the two “Friends” are set to meet. The”meeting” turns into a great scene where the waiter is trying to keep some sort of decorum, reminding everyone that the cafe presumes to provide a “Romantic Atmosphere” while chaos reigns!”The entire cast is flawless, with not a mis-step anywhere!

There are no “hit” songs in the show, but the music is very rewarding “Dear Friend” “Vanilla Ice Cream” and “She Loves Me” are especially memorable!

Photo Credit P. Switzer Photography 2014
Photo Credit P. Switzer Photography 2014

The production is directed by Gavin Mayer, with David Nehls as musical director. Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck provides the excellent choreography. Lighting is by Vance McKenzie, with sound by David Thomas. The beautiful set is credited to Brian Mallgrave, as scenic designer. The set not only includes interior and exterior of the perfume shop, but also a hospital room, Amalia’s bedroom, and a super cafe – scene of raucous of comedy.

The cast is large and all are excellent, as is the orchestra under direction of David Nehls.

“She Loves Me” is a very rewarding look at life in Europe nearly 100 years ago. The show has many delightful minor treasures – the woman walking her dog – each dressed appropriate to the season, the falling autumn leaves, and the first snow! Everything comes together at the frenzy of Christmas shopping – with a fun, somewhat unusual look at “The 12 Days of Christmas!”

“She Loves Me” is a charming addition to the Holiday Season!

“She Loves Me”
Tuesday through Saturday through December 21, 2014
Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO
For information go to www.arvadacenter.org or call 720-898-7200

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“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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“Spring Awakening” (OpenStage) at Magnolia Theatre

Spring Awakening Open Stage“Spring Awakening” is Harrowing Look at Pubescent Teens’ Search for Understanding!

Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 15, 2014

Wendla is a teenager in a provincial German town in the late 1800s. She realizes that her body is going through some changes, but has no idea what they might mean! Nicole Olson is very good as the anxious young teen who goes to her mother for help. The austere mother refuses to give her daughter any guidance about the sexual awakening her daughter is facing – throwing her to the mercy of her young friends, many as confused as Wendla!

“Spring Awakening” produced by OpenStage in the Magnolia Theater of Lincoln Center is a harrowing look at the situation many teenagers face as they reach puberty – in the Victorian Germany or in present day-America. The original play, written by Frank Wedekind in 1891, was considered a scandal for its time, and was not produced on stage until several years later. The musical adaptation arrived on the Broadway scene in 2007 and received several Tony Awards that year, including being named Best Musical.
Continue reading “Spring Awakening” (OpenStage) at Magnolia Theatre

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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.
Continue reading The Last Romance, Creede Repertory Charmer on stage at Arvada Center

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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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Unsinkable Molly Brown at Stage Theater, Denver Center of the Performing Arts

Molly BrownUnstoppable Beth Malone wows audience in “Unsinkable Molly Brown”

Reviewed by Tom Jones, October 16, 2014

“Unsinkable Molly Brown” at Stage Theater, Denver Center of the Performing Arts

She’s barely five feet tall, but she just can’t be stopped! The miners in Leadville are in awe of her, including J. J. Brown who marries her, but can’t control her! Denver society look down their noses at her, and European nobility are in delighted by her. Also in awe are the audiences at The Stage Theatre of the Denver Center of Performing Arts as Beth Malone proves to be unstoppable as the tough Molly Brown!
Continue reading Unsinkable Molly Brown at Stage Theater, Denver Center of the Performing Arts

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Journey to the West at OpenStage Theatre

Heavenly Exiles Make 16-year “Journey to the West” in Search of Clues to Immortality!

Reviewed by Tom Jones

Journey LogoYes, an orphaned Buddhist monk and three disciples are on a quest – searching to find sacred scrolls that hold the key to immortality. They are currently on the stage of Lincoln’s Center’s Magnolia Theater, in OpenStage’s impressive production of “Journey to the West.” Man’s search for the meaning of life, for immortality, and to bring enlightenment to the world have been themes of literature and theatre for centuries. The “search” occurs in “the Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” in “Pippin,” and even in “The Wizard of Oz!”
Continue reading Journey to the West at OpenStage Theatre

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Miss Saigon at Midtown Arts Center

MissSiagon-sm“Miss Saigon” at Midtown Arts Center Wows Audience with Tale of the Fall of Vietnam!

Reviewed by Tom Jones

“What do you do for an encore?” Claude-Michel Schoenberg and Alain Boublil found worldwide fame with their incredible stage production “Les Miserables” in London in 1985, and in New York in 1987. They were not content to sit back and count their money, however, as they launched “Miss Saigon” in London in 1989, on Broadway in 1991 with Schoenberg again providing the music; lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr.  “Saigon” went on to receive an enormous following, and a London revival in 2014 set a new world record for opening day ticket sales.
Continue reading Miss Saigon at Midtown Arts Center

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The Year of Magical Thinking at Bas Bleu

Bas Bleu's Production of "The Year of Magical Thinking"Reviewed by Tom Jones

“Wendy Ishii Triumphs as Joan Didion in “The Year of Magical Thinking” at Bas Bleu

Joan Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, were both respected writers  living in New York City, but with strong ties to California. Their only child, a recently-married adult daughter, had been hospitalized for five days, and was in a coma in a New York hospital. Her parents had just returned to their apartment, after visiting with the daughter, when Mr. Dunne slumped over the table at dinnertime and died.
Continue reading The Year of Magical Thinking at Bas Bleu

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The Great Goddess Bazaar at Bas Bleu!

bazaar_posterReviewed by Tom Jones, September 6, 2014

Tammy L. Meneghini Becomes Nine Different Women in “The Great Goddess Bazaar” at Fort Collins’ Bas Bleu!

Don’t let the title throw you off! “The Great Goddess Bazaar” is actually a mesmerizing one-woman show where Boulder actress Tammy L. Meneghini virtually inhabits the persona of nine different woman – just by changing shoes!
Continue reading The Great Goddess Bazaar at Bas Bleu!

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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

7Brides

Reviewed by Tom Jones

“Terrific Dancing Lights up Candlelight Stage with “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”

Before the show began I asked Jordan Centeno, an accomplished dancer who plays Brother Daniel, about the show’s dancing.  His comment, “It is ‘heavy duty’ dancing!”

He was spot-on, as the dancing is nothing short of terrific! It was the dancing that caught the audience’s interest in the original movie musical in 1954, especially the barn-raising scene at the county social. The movie, starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell was honored a few years ago by the American Film Institute as one of the best American musical films ever made. This time around Choreographer Stephen Bertles and Dance Captain Tracey Zimmerman-Dennig have created exuberant dances, showcasing the incredible talents of a seasoned cast!
Continue reading Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

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Enjoying Theater Across Our Great State