“Beauty And The Beast” Is Pure Delight In Boulder

Elaborate Sets And Great Costumes Add To The Magic

Reviewed by Tom Jones
May 14, 2019

What a treat.  Belle is a beauty, the Beast is beastly, and Gaston is everyone’s over-the-top egomaniac.  The only persons who like him better than he likes himself are the audience.  Scott Severtson as Gaston is a crazed delight as he kisses his biceps and struts around the stage with every girl in the village (except Belle) falling at his feet.  He is a remarkable sight.

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

But just one of the “remarkable sights.”  BDT Stage has gone all-out to create a virtual spectacle of sight and sound.  The scenic design by Amy Campion, Tom Quinn and Jeff Rusnak is terrific in every respect.  The orchestra conducted by Neal Dunfee is very good.  The choreography by Alicia K. Meyers and Matthew D. Peters, assisted by Danielle Scheib, is enormous fun.  What’s not to like in this fun-for-the-entire family show?

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

Lillian Buonocore is convincing as the charming “Belle.”  She feels out of place in her French village, as her primary interest is in books.  She is not interested in the unwanted attention given to her by the handsome town bachelor buffoon, Gaston.

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

When Belle ends up in the spooky castle of the mysterious “Beast,” her life has turned into turmoil.  She has gone in search of her kidnapped father and ends up imprisoned in the Beast’s Castle for what might be her home for the rest of her life.

The Beast was put under a magic spell many years ago when he was an uncaring, self-centered younger man.  The spell will not be lifted until he finds love for someone who offers love in return.  The castle’s beast is truly formidable.  Belle, however, is not alone with her problems.  The castle is staffed by a host of formerly human characters now becoming more and more mechanized as the spell continues.  Unlike the angry beast, the staff is a pleasant and clever lot – Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Madame de la Grande Bouche, Le Fou, Babette and Chip.  Chip is the amazing young man who has ended up as a teapot, turning in every direction just to speak.

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

They are happy to have the company of Belle, the new addition to the castle, but fear for her future.  She is destined to end up in the same tragic circumstances they have found.  The delightful “Be our Guest” brings all the staff to life, as they welcome Belle to the castle.

These “spell-bound” charmers are Bob Hoppe as Lumiere, Scott Beyette as Cogsworth, Tracy Warren as Mrs. Potts, Alicia K. Meyers as Madame de la Grande Bouche, Leo Batlle as Le Fou, and Danielle Scheib as Babette.  The teapot Chip is portrayed by various young performers on a rotating schedule – Markus Hollekim, Hayden McDonald, and Miles Shaw.

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

The cast does not stop there, as several other performers play various characters in this two and one-half hour extravaganza of sight and sound.  Cole LaFonte has the difficult role of the angry Beast, imprisoned in his remarkable make-up.  One unfortunate aspect of the show is that the Beast is so beastly and physically unappealing that it is difficult to warm up to him.  LaFonte’s excellent voice is hampered by his costume, resulting in an un-appreciated rendition of the beautiful “If I Can’t Love Her.”

“Beauty and the Beast” has been around as a story virtually since time began.  It turned up as a 1991 American animated movie musical released by Walt Disney Pictures.  It received numerous awards and has been a worldwide audience favorite.  The movie was turned into a stage musical in 1994.  The stage version was not initially praised by critics, but became an enormous audience success.  Another movie version, this time live action, was a recent success as well.

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

BDT Stage continues the string of “Beauty” success with this season’s masterwork.  The story comes alive for a long run – to September 21, 2019.  Alicia K. Meyers and Matthew D. Peters have co-directed and co-choreographed this charmer for the ages. 

“Beauty and the Beast”
Where: Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage.
5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder
When: Through September 21, 2019
Tickets: Box Office (303) 449-6000
For more information: www.bdtstage.com

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“Lady” Continues To Be Fairest In The Land!

A Look Again At “My Fair Lady” At Midtown Arts Center

An Update To My Review!

by Tom Jones, May 9, 2019

A few weeks ago I was in the audience for opening night of the marvelous “My Fair Lady” at Midtown Arts Center.  I was in awe of the entire production.  Staff of the show noted that one of the supporting characters, Michael Lasris, was out of town for that opening night, and could I possibly return later in the run to see him perform as Eliza Doolittle’s father.

Michael Lasris, image by Dyann DIercks Photography

Lasris has become a highlight of nearly every show he has been associated with, either as a performer, director, or choreographer.  One of my earlier memories was his on-his-knees dancing as the diminutive Lord Farquaad several seasons ago in “Shrek.”  Lasris is older now and probably won’t want to dance “on his knees” in future productions, but is as delightful as ever as Doolittle in this current “My Fair Lady.”  It was bittersweet to see him perform, as Doolittle is his final role in Colorado before moving to New York in a few weeks.

For opening night I saw Robert Michael Sanders as the affable drunken father.  He was very good, so it was somewhat with caution that I returned to see Lasris this week in the role.  No need to worry.  Lasris is nearly untouchable as the likeable do-nothing Doolittle who wants “everything” in return…  

Also “delightful as ever” are the shows leads – Hannah Marie Harmon as Eliza, John Jankow as Henry Higgins, and H. Dan Harkins as Colonel Pickering.  This entire show is every bit as excellent as it was when I first saw it a few weeks ago.  Not to be missed.

************

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 22, 2019

“The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain!  She’s got it. By George, I believe she’s got it! Again – The rain in Spain lies mainly in the plain?  And where does it rain? On the plain, on the plain. And where’s that soggy plain? In Spain. In Spain.”

Yes, she’s got it! After weeks of sometimes difficult turmoil, the poorly-educated flower market salesgirl has shown she CAN be educated, and CAN learn to speak like a well-born sophisticate.  The “she” is Hannah Marie Harmon as Eliza Doolittle. And yes, she’s got it! In fact everyone in the cast has “got it” in this masterful Midtown Arts production of “My Fair Lady.”

Photo Credit to Dyann Diercks

More than sixty years have passed since the show triumphed on Broadway.  Curiously, it has maintained its absolute charm and freshness in this MAC wonder.

The excellent skills of Harmon are joined by those of John Jankow as Henry Higgins, and H. Dan Harkins, as Colonel Pickering.  The trio are on stage most of the time as Higgins places a bet with Colonel Pickering that he can turn the guttural persona displayed by the lowly Doolittle into a woman of charm and wisdom.  They are a trio to behold. The two men educate, but sometimes ignore the object of their effort.

The Henry Higgins role was originated on Broadway by Rex Harrison who needed to “speak” most of his songs.  In this production John Jankow is in excellent singing and speaking voice as the professor, as is Dan Harkins as Colonel Pickering.  Harkins had the additional responsibility of welcoming everyone to the theatre with the pre-show announcements on opening night. He was particularly good in that role as well, keeping the audience amused and entertained, and reducing time of the sometimes- lengthy pre-show announcements.

Julie Andrews zoomed to stardom as Eliza in the original Broadway production in 1956.  That show became the longest-running Broadway musical to that time, and went on to similar fame in London.  For the Academy Award winning movie version in 1964 Julie Andrews was overlooked for starring role, with that part given to Audrey Hepburn. The movie’s producers felt that Hepburn would be better-known to the movie-going public.  Andrews got her just rewards at the Academy Awards the next year, receiving the Best Performance by an Actress Award for her beguiling charm as “Mary Poppins.”

Photo Credit to Dyann Diercks

It would be difficult to find a better performer to play the role today than the excellent Hannah Marie Harmon.  She is convincing as the rough Cockney girl with ambitions to “be somebody.”

While Higgins, Pickering, and Eliza Doolittle are center stage, Eliza’s hapless father “Doolittle” is a wonder on his own.  For the opening night performance we saw Robert Michael Sanders as the affable drunken father, understudy to Michael Lasris who normally plays the role.  Lasris will be hard-pressed to fill the boots of Sanders whose performance is beyond “memorable.” I may find my interest in seeing Lasris, however, as my excuse to return to MAC for another look as this delightful event.

In fact, what is not to like about this show?  The set, the costumes, the lighting, the sound, the choreography, and the recorded orchestra accompaniment are exceptional.  (There is no live orchestra.) Where in my bag of adjectives can I find words to adequately report my reaction to this production?  The supporting cast members are as effective as the leads. Many in the ensemble take on several roles – always completely in step to the music and always in tune with their British accents.

Director Joseph Callahan has a long track record of excellent performances at Midtown Arts Center.  This time around he is displaying his remarkable abilities, directing and choreographing this production of “My Fair Lady.”

While “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain,” ”the cast is vast and….” completely delightful!

“My Fair Lady”
Where:
Main Stage of Midtown Arts Center,
3750 South Mason Street,
Fort Collins, CO 80525
When:
To May 25, 2019
Information:
970/225-2555
www.midtownartscenter.com


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Local Talent Provides Hometown Charm To Broadway Favorite – “The Music Man”

Felicity Slade and Tyler Grasmick Shine in Windsor High School Production

Reviewed by Tom Jones
May 4, 2019

Beware, that smooth talking salesman, Harold Hill, is back in town.  His reputation as a less-than-honest salesman precedes him, as he arrives in River City, Iowa, with a new gimmick.  This season he is selling band instruments AND uniforms to naïve townspeople, eager to give their youngsters something to do while out of school.

The tale takes place over a hundred years ago – July of 1912.  Citizens of Iowa were known to be stand-offish, and one lyric notes —

“And we’re so by God stubborn
We can stand touchin’ noses
For a week at a time and
Never see eye-to-eye.
(But you) ought to give Iowa a try!”

Harold Hill has a good salesman’s eye to see how he can get rich quick in each town he visits.  This time he learns that a pool table has appeared as a public diversion, and is quick to alert the townspeople that there is “Trouble” in River City.  His suggested remedy is to keep the young men away from the “dangerous” pool hall after school. He wants to provide them with musical instruments and uniforms, all marching to the excitement of ”76 Trombones.”

Photo Credit Kalea Marie Photography

Windsor’s Tyler Grasmick holds the River City townspeople (and the Windsor audience) in the palm of his hand as Harold Hill, weaving his magic.  One skeptic citizen is the not-yet-married town librarian, Marian Paroo. She has set herself up as being intellectually ahead of everyone in the town.  After all, she is well read. When town philanthropist Madison died, he left River City the library, but he left all the books to her.

Felicity Slade casts her own magic spell as Marian.  She has a wondrous voice, and acting skills to match.  Harold Hill might have just found his opposite match with the clever Marian.

Photo Credit Kalea Marie Photography

What ensues are slightly more than two hours of absolute joy.  The show has been around a long time – premiering in New York in 1957, turning up as movie in 1962 and subsequently surfacing worldwide.

Meredith Wilson wrote the music and lyrics for this award-wining wonder.  The tale holds up very well since its arrival on stages more than 50 years ago.  In the current production nearly every song is a stand-out on its own, but several are nothing short of amazing.  Amie Tyler’s choreography is excellent, especially in the library sequence when Marian (the librarian) tries to keep Hill quiet and at bay.  Then there is the delightful picnic “Shipoopi,” and the town board quartet who Harold finds can sing together. even if they can’t find harmony in anything else they do.    

Grasmick and Slade as Harold Hill and Marian have especially wonderful scenes together, and on their own.  Marion sings of her not-yet-found” My White Knight,” and “Goodnight my Someone.” Hill lights up the stage with “Trouble” and “76 Trombones.” Near the show’s conclusion the two make magic with a very romantic “Till There Was You.”

Photo Credit Kalea Marie Photography

While Grasmick and Slade are the show’s stars, they have excellent support from a very large cast.  Some supporting cast members include Tiernan Cox as Winthrop Paroo, Tyler Cox as Tommy Djilas, Lillie Pooler as Mrs. Paroo, Christopher Wagnitz as Marcellus, Sydnee Glassier as Zaneeta Shinn, Jacob Naffziger as Mayor Shinn and the train conductor, and Alecia Marquardt as Eulalie McKechnie Shinn, over-the-top wife of the mayor.  

There are five sets of siblings involved with the production, including Tiernan and Tyler Cox.  Lillie Pooler (12th grade), plays Mrs. Paroo and her second-grade brother Ryan is among the town’s kids.  Jasmine Perry-Grice (11th grade) plays Alma Hix.  Her sister, Jade, plays Amaryllis.  Their mother, Jennifer Grice is the pit conductor.  Logan Vienhage (11th grade) is part of the board member quarter, and his brother, Landon, is a props master.   Twins Aidan and Ajay Lyons are a stagehand and sound board operator respectively.

The orchestra is excellent throughout.  Director Julie Estrada has assembled an especially talented staff to bring the show to life.  This is a difficult production, with a very large cast, wondrous costumes, and great technical support.

Photo Credit Kalea Marie Photography

At show’s end the standing ovation was not just the friends and families of the cast. It was as if the entire town was cheering for what might be a look at themselves as a town of loving and caring citizens.  They were offering a great “thank you” for everyone involved in this production. Harold Hill came to town to conquer. He conquered, the town conquered, and the audience cheered.

“The Music Man”
Windsor High School, Windsor, CO
May 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, 2019


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