Category Archives: Johnstown

Ethan Walker Amazes As A Transplanted Teenager Who Wants To Dance!

“Footloose” Comes Alive At The Candlelight!

By TOM JONES

Ethan Walker portrays Ren McCormack who is at loose ends – yep.  He is footloose.  He and his mom have moved from exciting Chicago to “Bomont” in the middle of nowhere USA when his father abandons the family. Ren and his mom, Ethel, are forced to move to Bomont, as his mom’s sister and her husband have offered them a place to live.  Walker is wondrous as the out-of-place Ren.  He can sing.  He can dance.  He can act.  He creates excitement wherever he goes.

Unfortunately for Ren and his mom, Bomont is not excited to have them arrive in town.  It appears that a few years ago there was a tragic automobile accident that killed four youths, including the son of Reverend Shaw Moore, the local preacher.  The preacher continues his deep morning the loss of his son and has expanded his grief to exclude any type of normal teenage activity – including dancing.  Thomas Castro is well known to Candlelight audiences, and he is especially good as the preacher who has not only excluded the town teenagers from happiness, but has alienated his wife, Vi, and their teenage daughter, Ariel.

Photo Credit to RDG Photography

Heather McClain is convincing as the wife, Vi, and Susanna Ballenski dazzles as Ariel, their daughter.  Like Ethan Walker playing Ren, Ballenski is sensational as Ariel.  She, too, can dance, act, sing, and light up the stage.  Unfortunately she is dating the town trailer trash Chuck Cranston making her preacher father especially unhappy.  Hugh Butterfield also well known to Candlelight audiences is very good as Cranston, and he brings a roughness to the boy from the wrong side of town.

“Footloose” at the Candlelight is a wonderful story- one of forgiveness and hope  that doesn’t come along very often.  It has a beautiful storyline, some comedy relief, and some phenomenal dancing.  Music is pleasant, with a few songs that are hummable favorites from the past, including “Mama Says” and “Footloose.” Ren and Ariel make their own magic with “Almost Paradise;” and “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” in the second act is just about as rollicking a dance number as seen in recent memory.

Photo Credit to RDG Photography

Ren learned his dancing skills in Chicago and wants everyone in Bomont to enjoy such an opportunity. He even rallies the town around the idea of over-riding the Preacher’s anger, hoping to have an actual school dance.  He faces obstacles.

Everyone associated with his production appears to be first class!  The trio of leads is amazing, as are all of the supporting players. In addition to the persons listed above other standout performances are provided by Ethan Lee Knowles as Willard Hewitt,  Allison Hatch as Ren’s mother, and Sarah Forman as “Rusty.” The extent of talent is remarkable.

Putting the production together must have been a Herculean task!  The planned production was to be a version of “Peter Pan,” but that was pulled from the list only about two weeks prior to opening night.  Cast and crew decided upon “Footloose” and put the entire production together in only about two weeks.  A mini miracle on its own.

Photo Credit to RDG Photography

Much of the credit for the success is the work of Cole Emarine, (Director and Choreographer), Phil Forman Music Director), Heather McClain (Associate Choreographer), and Jalyn Courtenay Webb (Associate Music Director).  The set, lighting, costumes, and sound are all excellent.

Footloose the Musical is based on the 1984 movie that sky-rocketed Kevin Bacon to stardom.  Bacon portrayed Ren who has moved to Bomont with his mother and just plain doesn’t fit into the crowd.  The musical stage version opened on Broadway in 1998 and versions of the show have toured worldwide.

Photo Credit to RDG Photography

I saw the final dress rehearsal prior to opening night at Candlelight and was blown away with the excellence of the entire production.  Seeing it again a week later only heightened my appreciation for the efforts made to make “Footloose” such great entertainment.

As a bonus to “Footloose” is the current Candlelight meal!  Dinner theaters are not highly regarded as great places to eat.  That has changed as Rode Roberts is now Head Chef at the Candlelight.  The meal with “Footloose” was a super addition to an already exceptional evening!

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Market Place Drive
Johnstown, CO 80534
970/744-3747
www.ColoradoCandlelight.com

The Magic of Make Believe Is Alive And Well At Candlelight

Shrek And His Pals Combine For An Enchanted Evening

By Tom Jones
June 18, 2021

An ogre, an isolated princess, a talking donkey, an egotistical duke, and an unhappy dragon join forces with an amazing ensemble to provide an evening of absolute wonder! Mystery, intrigue, mayhem and a host of fairytale characters merge to provide nearly three hours of craziness this season in Johnstown.

Photo Credit: RDG Photography

The hi-jinks are non-stop as 13 performers take on more than two dozen characters in this look at the misadventures of Shrek and his friends (and enemies). Many of our fairy tale friends are there, including the Three Little Pigs, the Three Bears, Peter Pan, Humpty Dumpty, the Gingerbread Man, the Pied Piper, The Mad Hatter, The White Rabbit, Three Blind Mice, Little Red Riding Hood’s wolf (wearing grandma’s nightgown), and Pinocchio whose nose grows when he announces that he is “A real boy.”

The characters have been living in the Kingdom of Duloc and have been forced into exile by Lord Farquaad — sent to live in a swampy land currently inhabited by a grumpy ogre, Shrek. Already isolated in a castle somewhere in the area is Princess Fiona who has great problems of her own, changing persona as the sun sets each day. And along for laughs and pronouncements of wisdom is the wise-cracking, talking, Donkey.

We learn that Shrek was sent away from home at age seven, to fend for himself in a hostile world. Princess Fiona was also “sent away” at age seven, to spend her years in an isolated castle, counting the days until her prince would come to save her.

Photo Credit: RDG Photography

Meanwhile in the kingdom of Duloc, Lord Farquaad can’t become king until he marries a princess to become his queen. Shrek convinces Farquaad that he can find the isolated princess to become queen if the fairy tale chums can return to their homes in Duloc to get them out of his swamp. Donkey turns up to provide support, guidance, and non-stop jabbering.

Scott Hurst Jr. brings his powerful voice to portray Shrek. He provides pathos (as well as some fear) in the role of the misunderstood ogre. Matching talents with Hurst is Kelly Maur as the fabulous and feisty Fiona. Maur is new to Colorado audiences and is a real “find.” She can sing, dance, and act. She is terrific.

Oscar Whitney, Jr. is Donkey. He appears to have no bones in his body, as he has every “move” known to mankind, with a voice to go along with his athletic skills. Rounding out the leads is Ethan Lee Knowles as the diminutive Lord Farquaad, barely three feet tall. Knowles spends the show bouncing around on his knees, giving no indication that he is really about six feet tall. Every moment he is on stage is great fun.

There are two other “lead” characters. One is the entire cast ensemble. They take on numerous roles, changing costumes in a flash, with remarkable dancing skills. The other “lead” is the sad dragon, wanting only to be loved. This is a combination of three persons manipulating the huge dragon designed by Cory Gilstrap. Sophia Ruiz provides the strong dragon voice.

Photo Credit: RDG Photography

The show itself is a visual charmer. The initial backdrop of the forest is beautiful, and the set changes effectively to turn the stage into Shrek’s swamp, a castle, the Kingdom of Duloc, and trails throughout the woods. Lighting, sound, and costumes are all excellent.

Piper Lindsay Arpan has directed and choreographed this musical treat. It would be interesting to look into her mind to see how she figures out how to make everything “happen” on stage, and put the performers into their paces as skilled dancers. Phil Forman is music director, and participates with Heather Holt Hall, Gabriela Meriwether, Christopher Norwood and John Meriwether as the orchestra.

“Shrek’s” tale turned up as an animated film in 2001 and immediately caught the fascination of kids of all ages. It was turned into a stage musical opening on Broadway in 2008, and has subsequently been seen throughout the world. Music is by Jeanine Tesori with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire.

Opening night at The Candlelight was exciting. The cast and crew were in great form, and obviously looking at a long run. My only concern was understanding all that was said and sung. The diction will undoubtedly improve as the cast becomes more experienced. Opening night, however, there were no grumbles heard from departing patrons. I only heard, “We’ve got to look at our schedules and see when we can return to bring the entire family.”

This production is great medicine to help cure the pandemic ails of the past many months. As the audience is reminded — “This is a ‘Big, Bright Beautiful World.”

“Shrek – The Musical”
Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
June 17 – August 22, 2021
4747 Market Place Drive
Johnstown, CO 80534
970/744-3747
www.ColoradoCandlelight.com

“Little Women” Is A Heart-Warming Tale At Candlelight

A Mother And Four Daughters Are At Home In Concorde, MA — Far From The Warfront

By Tom Jones
April 18, 2021

Reverend March is away from home, serving as a chaplain for the Union during the Civil War. His wife, Marmee, has remained in Concorde to, MA, look after the couple’s four daughters – each on the brink of adulthood.

Jalyn Webb is excellent as the concerned Marmee, trying to keep her daughters in line while facing challenges of her own. The girls have their share of sibling rivalry as well as familial love!

The eldest is Jo, a bit of a tomboy who is always eager to show her rough and tumble side while not quite knowing how to accept neighborhood boy, Laurie, into the group. She is a writer who has already received numerous rejections from several publishers. “Little Women” is basically Jo’s tale, with memories of her childhood and family and fanciful stories interspersed throughout the show. Jo is portrayed by Emery Hines, a newcomer to the Candlelight stage. She is excellent.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

Sara Kowalski portrays Amy, a romantic, with issues of her own – very unhappy to be in Jo’s shadow, claiming that she has nothing on her own. Meg is portrayed by Elaina Osburn, a more traditional woman eager to take on the role of a caring mother. Beth, played by Charlotte Movizzo, is the more timid of the family, willing to stay somewhere in the shadows of her more outgoing sisters. One of the show’s highlights, however, occurs when Beth sits at the piano with a cranky neighbor, Mr. Laurence, making delightful music together with “Off to Massachusetts.”

Almost a part of the family is the neighborhood boy, Laurie, very well portrayed by Eric Heine. Laurie lives with his grumpy grandfather, Mr. Laurence, who the March family feels is aloof and unpleasant until Beth’s music softens him. Todd Resseguie is convincing as the dour grandfather, touched by Beth’s music.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

Michelle Jeffres is a wonderfully-annoying as a somewhat stereotyped Aunt March, eager to irritate everyone. She announces she will take Jo to Europe to give her culture and refinement. When Jo doesn’t meet her idea of perfection, however, she takes Amy instead. Chris Bain is Professor Bhaer who Jo meets in a boarding house when she is living in New York, and is interested in her potential as a writer. Ethan Lee Knowles is Mr. Brooke who meets Meg March at her first ball and immediately woos her.

The set is minimal, and is particularly effective. The lighting is also very good as are the costumes and choreography. Scenic design and lighting are by Shauna Johnson, costumes by Liz Hoover and Judith Ernst; scenic arts by Joel Adam Chavez; wardrobe by Judith Ernst; and sound by Kyle Harper.

Pat and Payne and Phil Forman have co-directed the production, with chorography by Susanne Houdesheldt, and music direction by Phil Forman. Orchestra consists of Mr. Forman, Heather Holt Hall, and Joshua Margheim.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

“Little Women” was written by Louisa May Alcott of Concorde, and appeared in print as a semi-autobiographical two-volume novel in 1868-69. It went on to become a literary classic, appreciated throughout the world.

The stage musical version opened on Broadway in 2005, starring Sutton Foster as Jo. Foster received excellent reviews, and the production ran for 137 performances. The Candlelight production looks very good and the cast is universally eager to please. Music is by Jason Howland with lyrics by Mindi Dickstein. The audience does not leave the theatre humming the music, which sometimes gets in the way of the story. The story itself is well told and will provide those familiar with the story a great opportunity of seeing how the characters they well remember are currently portrayed.

Two songs are particularly good. Emery Hines as Jo sings a wonderful “Astonishing” at the end of an overly-long first acts and arrives too late to be fully appreciated. Jalyn Webb’s Marmee pulls out all the stops in “Days of Plenty,” mid-way in Act II.

The total production comes through with a tender tale of family love. This is a warmly effective look at the March family’s life in Concorde during the Civil War. It is set to be on stage at Candlelight to June 6.

“Little Women”
Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
April 8-June 6, 2021
4747 Market Place Drive
Johnstown, CO 80534
970/744-3747
www.ColoradoCandlelight.com

“Little Women” — The March Family Sisters Move into Johnston

Alcott’s Little Women To Open Candlelight

By Tom Jones, April 6, 2021

Jo is there. So are Amy, Meg, and Beth – under the careful watch of their mother, Marmee March . A musical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic “Little Women” opens this week at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse this week for a two-month run.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

I dropped in to see much of the show in one of its final rehearsals this week, and was charmed by the excellence of the performance! Returning to the Playhouse, after more than a year of absence, was an eye-opener for me – reminding me of the wonder of seeing a live performance. The theatre industry has been among the hardest hit groups suffering from the pandemic. The Candlelight has been extremely careful in preparation for the few shows that have graced their stage in the past 14 months.

It now looks like the dinner theatre world might be back in full action, beginning now with minimum inconvenience to patrons while observing social distancing.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

I’ll review the full show in a couple of weeks. My comments here are just a look at a virtually flawless run-through shortly before opening. Alcott’s semi-biographical novel was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869 and went on to international fame. The musical version, now on the Candlelight stage is based on the Broadway production that opened on Broadway in 2005 with Sutton Foster as Jo and Maureen McGovern as Marmee.

This time around Emery Hines appears as Jo, with the always-excellent Jalyn Webb as the mother, Marmee. Hines is a newcomer to the Candlelight stage and is a marvel as the tomboyish Jo. She has great stage presence and a super voice. The remaining sisters are Sara Kowalski as Amy, Elaina Osburn as Meg, and Charlotte Movisso as Beth. Longtime Candlelight favorite Eric Heine is at his best as the family friend, Laurie. Each performance is very good. Pat Payne and Phil Forman co-direct the show, with music directed by Phil Forman and choreography by Susanna Houdesheldt.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

The sparring siblings are often at odds, but eventually always willing to be “family.” Setting is Concord, MA. The four sisters are at home while their father is serving in the Civil War. Intercut with a look at the family, are vignettes where their lives are unfolded in the melodramatic short stories Jo has written. The most important of these interjections takes place at the beginning of the Second Act where the sisters appear in wild reincarnations of Jo’s fantasies. Whereas I was familiar with the basic story, I was not adequately prepared for the wild insert, but it IS entertaining.

“Little Women” has been a young-girls favorite since it first appeared, and holds up well in its heartwarming look at life in Concord during the Civil War. I’m looking forward to “officially” seeing it in the next few weeks, especially with the hope that I can make more sense of the interjections of Jo’s fantasies.

“Little Women”
Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
April 8 – June 6, 2021
4747 Market Place Drive
Johnstown, CO 80534
970/744-3747
www.ColoradoCandlelight.com

Robert Louis Stevenson Story Results In Triumphant Candlelight Musical

Robert Louis Stevenson Story Results In Triumphant Candlelight Musical

“This is the Moment” As Two Talents Take Turns In Leading Role

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 2, 2020

There’s substantially more than the soft glow of “candlelight” in Johnstown this season, as the “Jekyll and Hyde” musical is sheer brilliance. The Candlelight Dinner Playhouse has raised the bar so high with this triumphant production that it may be nearly impossible to beat!
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It’s A White Christmas At The “Holiday Inn”

The 1942 Movie That Gave Birth To “White Christmas” Has Arrived As A Stage Musical At Candlelight Dinner Playhouse.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
December 14, 2019

Jim Hardy, Ted Hanover and Lila Dixon are an entertainment trio. They sing. They dance. They entertain. They are very good performers. Their contract in a New York City nightclub is ending, and Jim believes he is ready to retire. He has found a farmhouse in rural Connecticut in foreclosure and snaps up the buying rights. Now he needs to convince his dancing partner, Lila, to accept his marriage proposal and move to the Connecticut countryside where they could become farmers.
Continue reading It’s A White Christmas At The “Holiday Inn”

“Hunchback of Notre Dame” Rings A Bell

Hugo’s Classic Story Is Set To Music At The Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Reviewed by Tom Jones
September 6, 2019

That famed Parisian landmark was in the news recently, as Notre Dame suffered serious fire damage and is currently closed for repairs.  The Victor Hugo’ famed cathedral story has remained intact, and is now glowing on the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse stage, with a very impressive fire scene of its own.

Dinner theatre has reached new heights with this masterwork production.  The set is remarkable, the choral work outstanding, the performers in great shape.  This is not the standard for-the-children Walt Disney musical. It is virtually a tragic opera with themes of goodness and evil, haves and have-nots, and accepting others “not like us!” 

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“Tarzan” Triumphantly Swings Into Town!

Tarzan and Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse Greets The Jungle Man With Great Enthusiasm

Reviewed by Tom Jones
June 6, 2019

It’s a jungle in Johnstown this summer as Tarzan literally swings on a vine into town!  And what a Tarzan he is. Tyler Fruhwirth is enormous fun as the young Tarzan, being raised by a pack of gorilla following the death of his parents.  He is a young actor – delightful with great enthusiasm.

Tarzan – Barret Harper Photo Credit – RDG Photography

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Orphaned Oliver Asks, “Where Is Love?”

Dickens Classic At Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 15, 2019

Indeed.  WHERE is love?  Charles Dickens explored the impoverished lives of London’s lower class in the mid 1800s.  The result was his classic “Oliver Twist.” The tale has received worldwide fame as dramas, movies, and musicals. It is now in a triumphant musical production on the Johnstown stage of Candlelight Dinner Playhouse.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

“Please sir, may I have some more?”   Such is the never-before-made request of eleven-year-old orphan, Oliver, in line for his daily gruel at the parish workhouse.  The request is met with a very loud and angry tirade,”No,” from Mr. Bumble, the greedy workhouse caretaker.  Bumble is so angered that he takes Oliver onto the street announcing, “Boy for Sale.”

Continue reading Orphaned Oliver Asks, “Where Is Love?”