Category Archives: Johnstown

“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

“Curtains” is a showbiz tale of crazy backstage intrigue.

Candlelight spotlights the goings-on of a theater company in disarray with “Curtains”

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 17, 2022

Jessica Cranshaw is a supremely untalented star of “’Robbin’ Hood of the Old West.” She drops dead at her opening night curtain call in Boston. Was she just worn out for being such a horrific performer, or did someone in the cast or crew do her in? The show’s cast is delighted that the star is gone, but what now will happen to them? Do they say, “The show must go on,” or do they take the next train out of Boston?

Photo Credit RDG Photography

Boston detective Cioffi arrives on the scene, announces that Cranshaw has been murdered and demands that everyone in the cast remain in the theatre until the mystery is solved. Damon Guerrasio, a newcomer to Candlelight audiences, plays the theatre-struck detective. He is very good, and will hopefully turn up in future Candlelight productions. He has great stage presence, is an excellent dancer, and will hopefully find himself in center-stage in future shows.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

“Curtains” is a clever mix of stage stereotypes. There is the over-the-top child-star mother, the evil producer, the hassled director, and the cast doing whatever they can to become “stars.” Detective Cioffi is in his element, surrounded by the people he adores -– “Show People.” He just might make his mark in finding the murderer and finding a way for the show to go on.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

While the mics were sometimes problematic, the sets, costumes, lighting, orchestra and most of the cast were in fine form. The staging and direction are very good and the excellent choreography under direction of Kate Vallee, with orchestra directed by Phil Forman.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

Candlelight has a large pool of excellent performers, many taking the stage for “Curtains.” Standouts include Scott Hurst, Jr., Sara Forman, Abigail Kochevar, and Hugh Butterfield. Musical highlight of the production is “I Miss the Music” as performed by Hurst, and again as “Thinking of Missing the Music” assisted by Kochevar. Butterfield continues to be a wonder. It appears he can do everything – dance, sing, play comedy or tragedy. He continually lights up the stage.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

“Curtains” is a musical mystery comedy with a book by Rupert Holmes, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and music by John Kander, with additional lyrics by Kander and Holmes. It opened on Broadway in March of 2007, receiving mixed reviews. David Hyde Pierce received the Tony Award that year for his performance as Detective Cioffi.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

A show-biz hymn, “A Tough Act to Follow” is the production’s pleasant finale. It is somewhat telling, as the “Curtains” production arrived on the Candlelight stage immediately following the enormous success of the wondrous “Sound of Music.” “Curtain’s” performers are a hard-working team, highlighted by excellent sets, lighting and costumes, and super choreography. Great fun!

“Curtains”
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, CO
When: To March 13, 2022
Information or tickets:
Box Office: 970/744-3747 or
ColoradoCandelight.com

“Sound of Music” Is Pure Magic In Johnstown

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse Has Pulled Out All Stops To Provide An Incredible Entertainment

Reviewed by Tom Jones
December 3, 2021

“How do you solve a problem like Maria?”  That’s what the nuns in an Austrian Abbey are asking, concerning the actions of a new postulant who claims she wants to become a nun, but doesn’t yet fit into the mold they have hoped for.  The postulate, Maria, is late for dinner (yet again) as she has immersed herself in the scenery of her beautiful nearby mountains.  The beauties of the mountains have been her lifelong happiness. She soon has the entire audience of “Sound of Music” equally in love with them, just as they become in love with Maria.

Photo Credit The Creative Agency

Emery Hines is brilliant as the singing nun.  When the curtains open, a wondrous scene of the Alps unfolds, and the magic begins as Maria sings, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.”  Suddenly, the stage, the audience, the cast, and all of Johnstown become “alive” with the sounds and sights of this wonderful show. 

The pandemic has changed many of us, sometimes to the point of not particularly caring about returning to a theatre for a live show.  What a tragic mistake.  From the moment the curtain opened to show the mountains and Hines began to sing, I was “hooked.”  This is truly one of the finest productions to be seen in recent memory!

Photo Credit RDG Photography

The Abbess tells Maria that while everyone truly loves her, she does not seem to fit into the convent’s routine.  She has arranged for the young woman to become a governess for a family in a nearby village, to oversee the lives of seven children who have recently lost their mother, and whose father is choosing to be away frequently.

Maria accepts the challenge.  She arrives at the luxurious Von Trapp family home to find seven delightfully mischievous young children marching to the orders of their strict military father and desperately in need of love and affection.

Based on a true story, the Von Trapps are facing many problems, the least of which is that their beloved Austria is soon to be annexed by the Nazi regime in Germany.  Captain Von Trapp is a highly respected retired military officer the Nazi regime needs to help in their war effort.  This is very somber stuff to end up as a joyous musical classic.

Maria’s arrival at the family home is met with interest from the children, resentment from their father whose means of fathering consists primarily of blowing a horn whenever he wants the family to assemble, and to make certain they march for health each day.  Maria, on the other hand, loves to gather the children around the comfort of her bed, sing to them, tell them stories of her “favorite things,” resulting in their adulation of the new governess.

Music by Richard Rodgers and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II were the final effort of the world-famous Rodgers and Hammerstein team.  It opened on Broadway in 1959, and was an instant hit.  Hammerstein died just nine months after the opening.  It was filmed as a movie in 1965, again receiving great reviews including “Best Picture” starring Julie Andrews.

Photo Credit RDG Photography

While Emery Hines as Maria is the show’s star, the entire cast is remarkable.  Scott Hurst has an excellent voice as Captain Von Trapp.  Near the show’s conclusion he solos “Edelweiss”as the family is in an Austrian music competition.  He then asked the audience to sing along with him, and the result is a heart-warming realization that this man is singing about his beloved Austrian homeland, as he is about to try to hike his family to safety in Switzerland to get away from the Nazis.  The Candlelight audience participation is heart-felt!

Steve Wilson has directed this show, with Carrie Colton as choreographer and Phil Forman as music director.  The entire artistic team at Candlelight has combined efforts to provide a production that will be hard to equal.  The scenic design is a marvel of beauty.  Sound, light, and choreography are wondrous.  The orchestra and entire cast are flawless.  

Photo Credit RDG Photography

The cast is comprised of seasoned Candlelight talents, combined with delightful young newcomers, some making their first stage appearances, serving as the Von Trapp children. Families who see the show must be warned that any young people they bring with them will immediately set their sights on performing arts careers.

Jalyn Courtenay Webb is spellbinding as the Mother Abbess who stops the show with her instructions to Maria, “Climb Every Mountain.”  Hugh Butterfield is convincing as Max Detweiller, Von Trapp’s friend who is trying to help them flee from Austria.  Heather McClain is very good as the highly successful Austrian business woman who would like to become the next Mrs. Von Trapp.  Susanna Ballenski and Ethan Walker shine as the teenagers being introduced to romance.  Ballenski is the 16year-old Von Trapp daughter. Walker is the “older by one year” messenger boy who wants to take Liesl under his protective wing.  

Rodgers and Hammerstein provided the world with an amazing array of wonderful productions including “Oklahoma!”  “South Pacific,”  “The King and I,”  “Carousel” “Flower Drum Song,”  and concluding with the beautiful “Sound of Music” as on stage this autumn at the Candlelight.  The Candlelight has a wonderful track record of providing great family entertainment.  There is something unique to this particular show, however.   It provides the audience with a rare emotional experience seldom found on stage.  This is a production not to be missed!

“The Sound of Music”
Through January 30, 3022
Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive
Johnstown,, CO 80534
Box Office 970/744-3747
Online:  www.coloradocandlelight.com

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!
Continue reading Robert Louis Stevenson Story Results In Triumphant Candlelight Musical

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!” 

Continue reading “Hunchback of Notre Dame” Rings A Bell

“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

Continue reading “Tarzan” Triumphantly Swings Into Town!

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?”