Category Archives: 2022

“The Scarlet Pimpernel” Is A Swash-Buckling Beauty Of French Revolution Intrigue

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse begins 15th Anniversary With Great Swordplay, Music, Romance & Deceit

Reviewed by Tom Jones
September 17, 2022

It is 1792 and current French leaders have found a new way to get rid of persons they don’t like, and the English are finding ways to stop the slaughter. Sounds grim? It could have been, but Candlelight’s latest triumph is a remarkable look at England and France during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution.

Acclaimed French actress, Marguerite St. Just, is performing in her final show in Paris at La Comedie Francaise. Her announcement to her audience that she is planning to marry a wealthy English aristocrat is disrupted by French government authority Chauvelin who announces the immediate closure of the entire theatre. The wickedness of Chauvelin is obvious as he then oversees the execution by guillotine of two of Marguerite’s friends.

Photo Credit: RDG Photography

Marguerite and her fiancé, British aristocrat Sir Percy Blakeney, leave immediately for England, horrified by the guillotine deaths. In England Percy perceives a plan to make amends for the deaths by saving other innocents from the guillotine. He doesn’t tell Marguerite what he is up to, as he puts together a group of friends to return to France for vengeance. The group of friends are well-trained English military men. Percy needs to provide a disguise for them, and they become elegant British ninnies – off to battle in Paris their finest over-the-top clothing! Percy sets himself up as a mysterious “Scarlet Pimpernel,” with only his band of “warriors” aware of who he is and what he is up to.

Sarah Forman portrays Marguerite St. Just, with Patric Case as Percy Blakeney, and Scott Hurst Jr. as Chauvelin. It would be difficult to come up with three more talented performers than Forman, Case, and Hurst. They have incredible voices, terrific acting skills and are just plain “excellence in action.”

Photo Credit: RDG Photography

Based on 1905 novel by British author Baroness Orczy, the musical began as a concert album in 1992, and some of the music became fairly well known, including “Into the Fire,” and “When I Look at You.” It didn’t turn up as a Broadway musical until 1997 and played in various Broadway theaters for nearly three years. It subsequently had National Tours, and has been seen in dozens of cities worldwide. The music is by Frank Wildhorn with lyrics and book by Nan Knighton. Wildhorn music is highly respected, especially his wondrous score for “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” He made history in 1998 as one of only a handful of composers to have three shows running on Broadway at the same time: “Pimpernel,” “Jekyll,” and “Civil War.”

The current Candlelight production succeeds on every level. The entire cast is excellent. Forman, Case and Hurst are given great support by a uniformly remarkable cast, including Ethan Walker and Kelsey McKelfresh in supporting roles. The set is effective; the costumes outstanding, lighting., orchestra, and sound are flawless. Steve Wilson directs the show, with Carrie Colton overseeing choreography and fight direction. Swordplay on stage has never been more exciting. Vocal direction is by Jalyn Courtenay Webb.

The Candlelight is to be admired for providing a variety of theatrical productions and especially for bringing such little-known shows as “Scarlet Pimpernel “to the attention of local audiences. A member of the audience, sitting near to me, noted on leaving the theatre, “This is the best production I’ve seen at Candlelight in the eight or so years we have been seeing their shows.”

This is remarkable theatre – providing the audience with terrific sights and sounds, and even a bit of history tossed it. Did you realize that the guillotine, Robespierre, and Madame Tussaud’s wax figures had anything in common?

“The Scarlet Pimpernel”
Through November 6, 2022
Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive
Johnstown,, CO 80534
Box Office 970-744-3747
Online: http://www.coloradocandlelight.com

“Cinderella” Loses Her Shoe – But Not When You Expect!

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse Dazzles Yet Again

Reviewed by Tom Jones
July 10, 2022

Candlelight continues its roll of providing first-rate productions!  A somewhat new version of the age-old fairy tale is visually wowing audiences this summer.  Emery Hines and Ian Black star as the mentally abused Cinderella and her handsome prince charming.  They are both very talented performers, and charm the audience, especially in Act One’s “Ten Minutes Ago I Met You” and in Act Two’s “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful.”

Photo Credit RDG Photography

The starring roles are a tad weakly written, however, and the wondrous fairy god mother (played by Sarah Forman) and the crazed stepmother (played by Annie Dwyer) nearly steal the show.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

Also dazzlingly delightful are Sara Kowalski and Kelly Maur as the evil stepsisters, Damon Guerrasio as Sebastian, Brian Wilcox as Lord Pinkleton, and Brian Adams as Jean-Michel. In a switch with tradition, one of the “evil” stepsisters turns out to be a courageous friend!

Photo Credit RDG Photography

The supporting cast is particularly interesting in this production, as the choreography requires nearly everyone to amaze with great athletic skills.  Choreography is credited to Susanna Cathryn Ballenski, with Phil Forman as the show’s director. They have Eli Emming and Lori Newsom nearly flying across the stage (as leaping fox and raccoon) and first rate technical staff keeping the audience alert with creative costume changes and special effects. 

Photo Credit RDG Photography

The set, lighting and costumes are excellent!  The show is a beauty!

Photo Credit The Creative Agency

“Cinderella” fairy tale has been around forever.  Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein turned it into a musical written for television in 1957 starring Julie Andrews.  That production was viewed by more than 100 million people.  It was subsequently remade for television twice with different stars (in 1965 and 1997).  A 2013 adaptation for Broadway had a new book by Douglas Carter Beane production.  It ran for 770 performances on Broadway and was nominated for nine Tony Wards. It is 2013 production that has been recreated on the Candlelight Stage this season.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

Rodgers and Hammerstein are credited for writing many of Broadway’s most famous shows, including “Oklahoma,” “South Pacific,” “The Sound of Music” and “The King and I.”  Music for “Cinderella” does not have the famous music as their other shows, but local audiences may remember hearing “Ten Minutes Ago, “ “In My Own Little Corner,” “The Prince is Giving a Ball,” “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful,” and “Impossible.”

Photo Credit RDG Photography

“Impossible” is nearly a theme for the entire production, as it is a scenic wonder providing never-ending “impossible” delights.  The new story line was written with social correctness in mind.  Sometimes that doesn’t quite fit the fairy tale.  Also a tad disturbing to the opening night audience was the end of the first act when the glass slipper did NOT fall from Cinderella’s foot as she leaves the ball.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

Through the ages, a giddy delight in having the shoe finally “fit” has been a mainstay of the Cinderella fable.  Not to worry, the shoe does eventually need to find its owner.  And, triumphantly, does fit!

Enormous fun!

“Cinderella”
Through September 4, 2022
Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive
Johnstown,, CO 80534
Box Office 970/744-3747
Online: www.coloradocandlelight.com

“Singing in the Rain” – Not To Be Missed!

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse Dazzles The Audience And Even Rains On Some!

Reviewed by Tom Jones
April 29, 2022

Standing ovations are rare in dinner theater shows, and applause during an actual dance routine is nearly unheard of. Audience response to “Singing in the Rain” opening night at Candlelight was remarkable as applause nearly stopped a dance routine and a standing ovation completed the final curtain call. But in fact, everything about this production is “remarkable.

Kate Vallee brings excitement to the stage as director and choreographer. Her talents are enormous, with a background that includes performing as part of the famous New York City Radio City Rockettes. Timing in outstanding in this jewel of a production. Dancing is about as impressive as anything previously provided on local stages.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

Denver native Matthew Dailey stars as silent movie star Don Lockwood in 1927 Hollywood. Dailey is a newcomer to Candlelight, and hopefully he will return frequently. He is a polished performer with super skills as an actor, singer, and dancer. He is a treasure to see in motion, so light on his feet that even Gene Kelly could be in awe. Rachel Turner, a Candlelight favorite, is teamed with Dailey as Kathy Selden, a performing newcomer with potential. She continues to bring joy to the stage each time she appears. She and Dailey have great chemistry and believability.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

Stephen Turner is Cosmo Brown, Lockwood’s longtime friend and burlesque partner with no bones in a body that can move in every direction – at the same time. The flashbacks of him and Don Lockwood’s burlesque days are enormous fun. Another longtime Candlelight wonder, Alisha Winter Hayes, sparkles as the over-the-top diva, Lina Lamont, who photographs well, but has few other skills. Hayes, who plays Lina, on the other hand, is enormously skillful with sly winks, an impossibly obnoxious voice and a commanding presence

This quartet of talents is backed by a glorious ensemble with some taking more than one part. Michele Jeffres keeps backstage crew busy as she changes wigs and costumes to appear in at least three roles—all delightful.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

The movie version of “Singing in the Rain” was a 1952 American musical romantic comedy film. It starred Gene Kelly, Donald O’Conner, and Debbie Reynolds (who was only 19 at the time)! Choreography was by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen. The movie was not a run-away hit when first released. It has subsequently become a classic, however, now on many lists as one of the best musical films ever made. A Broadway stage version opened in 1985 and enjoyed only a limited run.

Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are stars of Hollywood’s silent move era. Lockwood is multi-talented, and has no desire to be Lamont’s boyfriend. Lamont is an unabated love-crazed movie partner to Lockwood. She has no talents except for being photogenic. Her “romance” with Lockwood is a fantasy created by the gossip columnists and motion picture back-offices to maintain the public’s interest in showbiz. Unassuming Kathy Selden comes into the mix, meeting Lockwood while getting away from the crowds following a Lockwood movie premiere. She is a warm hearted, honest individual who immediately clashes with the wild over-the-top Lina Lamont.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

The plans to transfer an ill-fated silent film into a full length musical with sound are filled with terrific dancing and singing. The costumes are especially interesting, as is the set that has pieces moving on and off effortlessly, as if they are a moving picture. There is so much going on in this super production that it is impossible to lose interest. Among the technical wonders are the black and white film clips of the silent movies – starring the cast we see in real life on stage and prepared by the impressive team at The Creative Agency. Lighting, sound, costumes, dancing and singing combined to provide an unusually awesome evening. The orchestra is very good, under direction of Phil Forman.

“Singing in the Rain” provides exciting entertainment. Much of the music is well-known. The first few rows of the audience are provided with ponchos to keep dry while Matthew Dailey pulls out all the stops to sing and dance, and stomp in the rain-drenched stage at the conclusion of Act One.

Based on audience response on opening night, tickets might soon be gone to experience this delight.

“Singing in the Rain”
Through June 26th, 2022
Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive
Johnstown,, CO 80534
Box Office 970/744-3747
Online: coloradocandlelight.com

“Murder on the Orient Express” Reigns As Whodunit Delight In Johnstown

Agatha Christie mystery is, simply said, “Enormously fun entertainment”

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 18, 2022

Passengers congregate in Istanbul, to board the famous “Orient Express” train to travel to Western Europe in the 1930s. They are a disparate group, a mixture of unusual characters, with one of them (Mr. Ratchett) to turn up dead not long after departure from Istanbul. Who could have killed Ratchett? And was his name really ”Ratchett?” Fortunately, one of the train’s passengers is the famous detective Hercule Poirot. Can he solve the mystery?

Raja Salaymeh as Poirot. Photo Credit: The Creative Agency

For several years Raja Salaymeh was a talent to be reckoned with, primarily as owner of the Union Colony Dinner theatre in Greeley. He has been absent from local stages for much too long. His return to the stage as the detective Poirot is a reminder of how much he has been missed. He is excellent as the careful detective. Welcome back, Raja! And I am not giving away any secrets — he does solve the mystery before the train arrives in Western Europe!

The Cast Photo Credit: The Creative Agency

Candlelight is highly respected for its super musical productions and has taken a risk with producing a music-less show. It succeeds in every way. While Salaymeh is the show’s “star,’ he shares the stage with a super cast of talents. These “talents” are not only the performers, but the staging itself. The cars of Orient Express train fit nicely onto the stage with a great rendition of the train designed by Casey Kearns, with Master Carpentry by Dave MacEachen, and Scenic Painting by Joel Adam Chavez and Lelah Radostis. Lighting, costumes, and sound are excellent. For most Candlelight productions mention is made of “Choreographer.” As “Murder” is not a musical, it has no dancing, but credit is given to Miranda Guettlein as “Dialect Coach.” She has done a great job with the cast’s diction. The sound system is at its best, and there was no problem in understanding virtually everything that was spoken in the entire show.

Playwright Ken Ludwig has done a very good job transferring Agatha Christie’s 1934 worldwide favorite “Murder” story to the stage. Director Kenny Moten has taken the Ludwig work and wondrously transferred it to the Candlelight stage. Moten is one of those theatrical magicians who appear to be able to do just about everything from performing to directing.

“Hugh Butterfield and Sarah Gibson, as the train departs Istanbul.” Photo Credit: The Creative Agency

The train’s passengers include a super cast of Candlelight favorites and new faces playing roles secrets that make them possible murderers. But not to worry, Poirot will find who dunnit! In the meantime, the audience can watch the goings-on while the train is partially stalled in the mountains due to a freak snowstorm.

“Alexander Watson in the Istanbul fog” Photo Credit: The Creative Agency

Elliot Clough portrays Bouc, a longtime friend of Poirot who is Director of the Wagon Lits train Company. Chris Bain has two roles – Colonel Arbuthnot as well as the murdered Samuel Ratchett. Alexander Watson plays McQueen, secretary and translator for Ratchett. Hugh Butterfield, who has turned out to be one of Candlelight audiences’ favorites, turns up this time as Michel the train Steward, trying to take care of everyone on board when the train becomes snowbound. Samantha Jo Staggs is regal as Russian Princess Natalia, with Charlotte Lafonte as her travelling secretary, Mary. New to Candlelight audiences is Emily Valley, who portrays Greta, a Swedish missionary. Another new is Sarah Gibson as American widow, Helen. Her role is one of the show’s most interesting, and she is excellent!

Everything works to perfection in this clever tale. It is a one-of-a-kind theatrical delight. It does appear, however, that the show might be completely sold out for its entire run, so speed is required to check for tickets. Yes, this Agatha Christie mystery is, simply said “Enormously fun entertainment.”

Murder on the Orient Express
Through April 16, 3022
Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive
Johnstown,, CO 80534
Box Office 970/744-3747
Online: www.coloradocandlelight.com