Category Archives: Review

“Mamma Mia” Is A Must-See-Production

“Thank You for the Music” – And The Entire Show!

Reviewed by Tom Jones
October 11, 2019

Early in Act 1, the cast of “Mamma Mia” provides a captivating rendition of “Thank You for the Music.” I have not enjoyed such a “feel good” moment in a musical for a long time. And that is just a part of the show! “Mamma Mia” on stage this season at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre Stage is an entire joy!

Photo courtesy of BDT Stage

Christy Oberndorf is a delight as the coming-of-age Sophie Sheridan living on an idyllic Greek island. She has found the diary her mother kept, of three summer romances 20 years ago – the summer Sophie was conceived. Sophie is engaged and would like nothing more than to have her father walk her down the wedding aisle. Problem is that she does not know who her father is – possibly one of mother’s three romantic liaisons those many years ago. Unbeknownst to her mother, Sophie has tracked down the three men, and has invited them to her wedding.

Photo courtesy of BDT Stage

Such is the premise of this worldwide favorite, “Mamma Mia,” now on stage at the Boulder Dinner Theater Stage through February 22, 2020. That looks like a long run; but when local audiences hear how terrific this production is, sold-out performances will be on the horizon. While Oberndorf is a wonderful Sophie, Tracy Warren is astonishing as Sophie’s mother, Donna. Near the show’s end, Warren is triumphant with her “The Winner Takes It All.” I would not have been surprised if the audience had not stopped the show with a standing ovation for that rendition.

Photo courtesy of BDT Stage

Music and lyrics were not originally written for a musical story. They are the work of the world famous Swedish pop/dance/disco group, ABBA. Their songs topped music charts worldwide from 1974 to 1982, respected for their unique sound. ABBA disbanded in 1983, but their music continued to find success. Producer Judy Cramer became infatuated with the idea of putting the ABBA songs by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus into a story, completely un-related to the singles that had become famous. Anderson and Ulvaeus were reportedly not initially interested in the concept. Undaunted, producer Cramer went on to commission Catherine Johnson to write the book for a potential musical, and the rest is history.

Photo courtesy of BDT Stage

Since opening in London in 1999, the musical has subsequently been seen by an estimated 60 million theatregoers worldwide. It became a movie musical in 2008, with a sequel in 2018. I was one of the stage production’s initial fans when I saw it in London while in previews, just before it opened. I was aware of some of the ABBA music, but had no idea the songs would bring such excitement to a live audience. The London production I enjoyed resulted in some of the audience dancing in the aisles.

They’re still dancing! Who can just sit still when the theater pulsates with “Money, Money, Money,” “Thank You for the Music,” “Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen,” “I Had a Dream,” “Take a Chance on Me,” and “I Do, I Do, I Do.” Alicia K. Meyers and Matthew D. Peters share the direction and choreographer roles for this marvel, produced by Michael J. Duran. The set and lighting are impressive as are the costumes. Particularly terrific is the work of music director who also directs the excellent orchestra. Sound has probably never been better in BDT Stage, as off-stage background voices are added to some of the solos.

Photo courtesy of BDT Stage

Oberndorf and Warren as Sophie and her mother, Donna, are not alone with their starring excellence. Alicia K. Meyers and Joanie Brosseau-Rubald are enormous fun as Donna’s longtime friends who show up to support their friend at the wedding. Scott Severtson, Scott Beyette and Bob Hoppe duel-it-out as to which one might be Sophie’s father. Everyone on stage is in fine form – displaying technical perfection in sound and in movement.

The show goes from one musical highlight to the next, taking the audience along on this unusual journey of long-lost love and newly found joy, exhibiting perfection at every turn.

Mamma Mia!
Where: Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage.
5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder
When: Through February 22, 2020
Tickets: Box Office (303) 449-6000
For more information: www.BDTStage com

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“Bright Star” Illuminates Arvada Stage

Award Winning Musical Is Set In The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina

Reviewed by Tom Jones
September 7, 2019

Near the end of the show Merideth Kaye Clark takes central stage as Alice Murphy, providing the audience with one of the most thrilling and poignant moments in local stage history.  Her character’s life has just taken a turn for the better and everyone is in awe.  “Star” isn’t just “bright.”  It is dazzling.

Several months ago listening to Sirius XM Satellite radio while driving, I heard a delightful song, “Bright Star.” When I returned home I tracked it down on the internet to find it was written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell and was part of a show with the same name.  I bought the CD and have become enchanted with the music.

Matt Gale Photography 2019

When I learned the show was to be produced at the Arvada Center, I was eager to see it.

I had no idea that a chance encounter with a song on the radio would result in one of my finest theatrical experiences in recent memory.

Alice Murphy is an enthusiastic young girl in the Blue Ridge Mountains, believing she might be in love with the local town mayor’s son, Jimmy.  They are a mis-matched pair – the bright but lowly daughter in a rural town, the bright but down-trodden son of a pompous, too powerful mayor.

Matt Gale Photography 2019

They court.  They love.  Alice becomes pregnant and her life and those of many in the area are to “pay the price for sin.”  This is a beguiling story, portrayed with great conviction by a team of talented performers, set to the wonderful blue grass/country music.  Inspired by a true story (maybe folklore?), the show shifts between 1923-4 and 1945-6 in North Carolina.

The true “Star” of the show is Merideth Kaye Clark as Alice.  She is given enormous support with an especially interesting cast of characters.  Jake Mendes has his own spark as Billy Cane, the young man, a wannabees writer, just back from the war. Steph Holmbo is charming as Billy’s local girlfriend, Margo. Dieter Bierbrauer portrays Jimmy Ray Dobbs, the handsome son under the finger of his father (the mayor), heartlessly and convincingly portrayed by Larry Cahn.

Matt Gale Photography 2019

Families spar over what should be done with the new baby, and the dreadful Mayor decides he will take ruthless charge of the situation.  This is a horrific and heartless moment. The audience is aghast; and the soulful, enchanting music goes on.

Alice goes on with her life, becomes a highly respected writer and editor in Asheville.  Billy Cane is eager to become an established writer and submits some of his writings to Alice who is not impressed.  He is not easily deterred however, and when she finally accepts one of his creations, he becomes delightfully delirious to rush back to his rural town to tell is girlfriend Margo that he is just about famous and that they should get married.

The plot takes some wondrous turns.  The music is continually warm and loving.  This is a story not to be missed.

Matt Gale Photography 2019

“Bight Star” the musical premiered at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in 2014 and ran for a couple of months.  It opened at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. a year later and began preview on Broadway in February of 2016.  Despite receiving substantial critical acclaim, New York audiences didn’t rush to see it.  The production ran for only 30 preview and 109 regular performances, closing in June of 2016.  That December a reunion concert was held in New York’s Town Hall with members of the original Broadway cast and Steve Marina and Edie Brickell both hosting and performing.

I cannot accurately explain my attraction to this wonderful show.  The music is excellent.  The performances are believable.  The set is charming.  Director Rod A. Lansberry is a brilliant director.  And there is Merideth Kaye Clark in the performance of a lifetime.  Perhaps not her lifetime, but my own!  I cannot remember ever having been so mesmerized by a performance such as she provides as Alice Murphy in “Bright Star.”

“Bright Star”
Where: Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003
When: To September 29, 2019
Box Office 720/898-7200
Online: arvadacenter.org

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“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!” 

Ethan Knowles as Quasimodo Photo Credit RDG Photography

Victor Hugo wrote “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” nearly 200 years ago.  The story has been presented in 13 films, five television productions, five non-musical dramas, eight musicals, six operas, five ballets and even a video game.  The current production’s printed program notes: “This universal story of unrequited love and a yearning for acceptance resonates as powerfully today as it did when Hugo created it.”

Two brothers have become estranged.  One has gone far away from his Catholic upbringing, has become involved with a gypsy who gives birth to a hopelessly deformed child.  When both parents die, the unfortunate child in left in the care of his uncle, Dom Claude Frollo, archdeacon of the Notre Dame Cathedral.  

David L. Wygant as Dom Claude Frollo Photo Credit RDG Photography

Frollo has named the child, Quasimodo, and has kept him a virtual prisoner as the bell ringer in the tower of Notre Dame. Quasimodo knows only what the somewhat deranged Frollo wants him to know.  His only “contacts” are with the stone statues in the cathedral, with whom he converses on a regular basis. He can see humanity far below him on the streets of Paris but is never permitted to leave his cathedral sanctuary.

His life changes dramatically at the annual “Festival of the Fools,” when the city is “open” to the dangers of gypsies, the antics of free-roaming animals, and all manner of foolish mayhem permitted for the specific days of the Festival.  Quasimodo ventures outside the cathedral, is harassed because of his deformity, but defended by a beautiful outcast gypsy, Esmeralda.  

Sarah Grover as Esmeralda Photo Credit RDG Photography

What ensues is sheer drama as three stars in the show (Quasimodo, Frollo and Captain of the Guard Phoebus) want Esmeralda as their own.  This is not theatrical comedy, but a serious test of wills, friendship, and longings to belong. I have not seen the Walt Disney movie musical, but understand that this stage version is somewhat darker, as it does not end up with an “everyone-is-happy” conclusion.  The Disney movie, although pegged for a more-adult audience, went on to receive enormous financial success and critical acclaim. This live production includes songs from the Disney film, as well as new music. Music is very good and is interestingly mood-setting.

Ethan Knowles as Quasimodo, Sarah Grover as Esmeralda, Scott Hurts, Jr. as Phoebus, and Scotty Shaffer as Clopin are all very good and with excellent voices.  David L. Wygant, however, is so very evil that he nearly “steals” the show as Dom Claude Frollo.

Director Richard Cowden comes to Candlelight with long list of successful shows — more than 50 productions over a 25-year-career.  Music Director Phil Forman has enjoyed great success with Candlelight and other venues worldwide. Excellent choreography is provided by Heather McClain, and the remarkable set is the work of Ranae Selmeyer, Dave MacEachen, and Joel Adam Chavez, with bells designed and built by the The Stampede Troupe.

This musical stage version was first produced in Germany in 2014, and has not yet appeared on Broadway

With all my enthusiasm for the excellence of the production, there remains something unsettling about it.  There is a bit too much obvious “drama!” At the conclusion of the first act, everyone is searching for Esmeralda who seems to have disappeared.  It became somewhat farcical. I wanted to run to the lobby, to the outside parking lot, and even to the gentlemen’s restroom to see if I could “find” Esmeralda. 

Despite the sometimes overly-dramatic obvious clichés there is so much to be enjoyed.  Director Cowden notes, “This classic source material is as relevant to us today as it was when published 1831.  It contains profound messages of tolerance, morality, and what it truly means to be human.” 

The creative team has worked wonders.  The powerful voices are remarkable. The liturgical choral work, some sung in Latin, is especially rewarding. The show currently at Candlelight is a masterwork of sight and sound.  Opening Night audience awarded the company an unusually-enthusiastic standing ovation.

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, CO
When: To November 17, 2019
Box Office: 970/744-3747
Online: coloradocandlelight.com

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“Matilda” Is A Mini-Miracle On Stage At Midtown Arts Center

Award Winning Musical Hits All The Right Notes With Youthful Cast!

Reviewed by Tom Jones
July 26, 2019

How does it happen?  Mini-miracles are happening this summer in Divabee productions of “Matilda” and “Tarzan.”  What magical charm do persons involved with Divabee possess to produce four completely separate full-length musicals, using students from the Academy – with only three weeks of rehearsal?

When Midtown Arts Center opted to provide James Taylor “Highway” instead of “Matilda”  to close their current season, I was somewhat discouraged. So, it was with interest that I ventured back MAC this past weekend to see a student production of the show that I missed.  And what a production!

“Matilda,” based on the 1988 children’s novel by Roald Dahl, opened on Broadway in 2013 after receiving incredible acclaim in Stratford-upon-Avon and London.  In reality it is a somewhat involved story of an incredibly bright and incredibly unhappy young girl in England, who discovers (late in the show) that she has powers that can actually improve her situation, and that of those around her.

Matilda, as portrayed by Naomi Roberts, is a spunky but likeable little girl who realizes her parents basically want nothing to do with her.  They ignore her interest in reading every book she can find, and delight in the dullness of their son whose sole interest is watching television.  Alden Vieira and Shelby Baker portray the deranged parents, and they are a marvel to watch. I’ll look forward to see Baker stop shows in years to come, as she just plain dazzles.  Alden Vieira has an unusual attraction on his own, as he can be daffy and deceptive, as needed.

Much of the charm in seeing this production of “Matilda” is the realization that the performers are all young persons in junior and senior high school!  Most appear very comfortable on the stage. The cast includes substantial talent in dancing, singing, as well as being emotionally convincing.

Very good in supporting roles are Corina Hedahl as the imposing and very mean Trunchball, Maggie Bishop, as the financially impoverished but morally rich teacher, Miss Honey, and Emma Terpstra as the kind and welcoming Mrs. Phelps.

The Academy offered four productions this summer.  Three of “Matilda” with various age groups, and one of “Tarzan” (on stage at Candlelight).  It is hard to believe that these groups for 30 to 40 young persons can be coached and trained in just three weeks to put together an entire two and one-half hour musical – complete with acting, sets, lights, costumes, and very effective choreography.  Director is Michael Lasris, with, musical direction by Jalyn Courtenay Webb and Emily Erkman, and choreography by Abbie Hanawalt and Taylor Marrs.

These productions are not Broadway-quality transplants, but are delightful.  And extremely worthwhile when considering how quickly the young performers can be guided to provide such pleasant entertainment in just three weeks of preparation.  It will be interesting to see how many performers return to local stages in future shows.

“Matilda” is the last youth production taking the stage at Midtown Arts.  The Academy, under direction of Jalyn Courtenay Webb offers classes beginning this fall, in a building near to the current MAC.  Further information is on line — Divabee Productions.

“Matilda”
Where: Main Stage of Midtown Arts Center, July 2019


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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

Then Tarzan grows to manhood.  The adult Tarzan, as portrayed by Barrett Harper, rides on a zip line from the back of the audience to the top of the stage where he grabs a vine to swing into action. What an entrance.  What a find! Barret has been performing in the area for a few years, but appears to come out of nowhere to command attention as the super athletic and super singing Tarzan. It is as if he has actually been raised by gorillas, as he moves with enormous skill though the jungle, jumping on and off rocks, walking on his hands, and swinging with his gorilla friends.  

Jane – Katie Jackson Photo Credit – RDG Photography

Edgar Rice Burroughs put “Tarzan” on the map through a series of 24 adventure novels beginning in 1912 and continuing through 1965.  His Tarzan tales have been the source of several films, including the 1999 animated musical produced by Walt Disney Pictures. The stage musical, based on that film opened on Broadway in 2006 and is now being seen worldwide.

This production now on stage at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is quite a show.  Director and choreographer Piper Lindsay Arpan had the wisdom and skill to put the cast through tough training as wild beasts in the jungle.  Now, surrounded by great scenery, she lets them swing on vines to the great amusement of the audience. Then she tones down the action to reflect a mood of courage, familial love, and acceptance of others.  She succeeds with great success.

The production in Johnstown this summer stays close to the original story of the English couple and their infant son surviving a shipwreck and temporarily finding safety off the coast of Africa.  A leopard is on the prowl, however, and kills the English couple as well as the young son of a gorilla mother, Kala. The heartbroken Kala hears the sound of the orphaned human and decides to love and raise him as her own.

Kerchak – Scotty Shaffer Photo Credit – RDG Photography

Kala’s gorilla mate, Kerchak, is the group leader, and strongly disapproves of Kala’s action, but protect the young human.

While Barret Harper as Tarzan is the star of the production, he is in very good company.  The scenery nearly becomes a character of its own. Musical direction by Phil Forman is excellent.  Choreography is terrific, and the vine-swinging is enormously entertaining. Director and choreographer Arpan has a great challenge in directing actions of gorillas as well as humans, showing their similar inbred animosities, as well as inherent abilities of loving and caring.

Heading the supporting cast are Harmony Livingston, convincing as the gorilla mother Kala; Katie Jackson, as Jane, the daughter of the English scientist whose expedition to the Congo results in their finding Tarzan living among gorillas; and Scott Shaffer, as Kala’s gorilla mate, Kerchak.  Shaffer is well known to local audiences as a talented and versatile performer. He is more interesting than ever as the gorilla leader, unwilling to let harm come to the human while realizing his gorilla tribe is in immense danger.

Terk – Tim Howard Photo Credit – RDG Photography

While Tyler Fruhwirth is excellent as the young Tarzan, Gabriel Waits is impressive as Tarzan’s young gorilla friend, Terk.  Tim Howard comes into his own with equal conviction as Terk when a few years older.

Music and lyrics are by Phil Collins and include the beautiful and haunting “You’ll Be in My Heart.”

This is a show for the entire family.  I did have difficulty from time to time understanding everything the gorillas had to say.  But then, I don’t speak gorilla — nor does anyone I know. That, however, did not hamper my appreciation for the entire production.  It makes for a wonderful night out!

“Tarzan”
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, CO
When: To August 25, 2019
Information or Tickets: Box Office: 970/744-3747 or online at
ColoradoCandelight.com

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“Harvey” Is Back In Town, But Only A Few Can See Him!

David Siever and Kathy Leonard Shine As Siblings Who See Life Differently.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
June 2, 2019

Hard to believe that the classic Broadway comedy “Harvey” has been around for 75 years!  The play is due to celebrate its 75th birthday this fall – but how does one honor a tall white rabbit that only a few can see?

David Siever is a wonder as the confused brother, now in his 70s.  He is incredibly amicable to everyone he meets, and is eager to introduce the six-foot-tall Harvey, to everyone he meets.  His sister, Veta Louise, (convincingly portrayed by Kathy Leonard) however, is at loose ends. She is an avid social climber, horrified of what society might “think” of the family where one’s best friend is a rabbit. Veta Louise decides everything would be just fine if Elwood was out of the house, confined to a mental hospital.

Photo Credit William A. Cotton

When the mother of Elwood P. Dowd died, she left ownership of the comfortable home to her unusual but kindly son.  This resulted in problems for Dowd’s sister, Veta Louise Simmons, who now lives in the home along with Elwood and her nearly-spinster daughter, Myrtle Mae. They are not a close-knit family.  Elwood has a best friend, a tall invisible rabbit named Harvey. Elwood takes Harvey with him wherever he goes, searches for him when he becomes lost; and the two are evidently great drinking buddies.  Harvey is evidently actually a pooka, conjured from Irish folklore.

Insanity reigns under direction of Morris Burns. Veta Louise is erroneously admitted to the sanitarium instead of Elwood.  Staff cannot believe that someone as kind and caring as Elwood might need psychiatric care, when his sister appears to be completely nuts! Many appear to be a tad loony in this look at normal, next-to-normal, and just plain abnormal behavior.

Photo Credit William A. Cotton

Comedies and dramas of the 1950s were usually two and one-half hour productions.  Social media has subsequently changed interest of many theater-goers who want more action and less word-play.  This is apparent in “Harvey,” as there appears to be too much “talk” in the second act. That said, however, realizing that Harvey is seeing his tall white furry, friend, is highly entertaining. The set is terrific – a rotating look at the Dowd home and the mental hospital office.  David Siever and Kathy Leonard are near-classics on their own as Elwood and Veta Louise.

Mary Chase wrote this daffy but poignant tale which has become one of America’s best-loved plays.  She received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1945 for her “hare” raising story. Chase has Colorado roots, having graduated from Denver’s West High School and later studying at the University of Denver and University of Colorado Boulder.  When the story was transferred to film in 1950, James Stewart played the affable Elwood.

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

“Harvey”
Where: Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524
When: To June 9, 2019
Information: basbleu.org, or call 970/498-8949


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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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“Red” – More Than Just A Color

Award Winning Drama Opens At Bas Bleu

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 29, 2019

“What do you see?”  Painter Mark Rothko is looking towards the audience, as if looking at his recent artwork, asking the audience what we see.  He is an egotistical man, believing that he just might be the only living painter with such talent.  Owners of the then-new Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City have commissioned the painter to complete a set of very large murals for the restaurant in the 1950s, providing him with more than $30,000 for his efforts.

No matter what our response may have been to his question of “What do you see,” he would have found it to be just folly.  Only he can see what he believes is in the abstract painting.  Only he can determine what is good or bad.  Only he knows everything.

Photo Credit William A. Cotton

Such is this semi-historical look at a point in the painter’s life, on display this season at Bas Bleu Theatre in Fort Collins.  Playwright John Logan has taken some liberties in his quick look at the creative giant whose ego has taken over his ability to function in society.  Jeffrey Bigger is nearly “bigger” than life in his portrayal of the painter at work on the restaurant murals in his studio. 

He has hired Ken (played by Nick Holland) as his assistant, whose primary responsibility is to answer to every demand of his tormented and tormenting boss.  Holland is excellent as the hired hand, a painter on his own right, hoping to learn something from this famous artist.  Ken’s kindness and mild-manner are the total opposites of the bombastic personality of painter Rothko.  Ken hopes to gain creative input from his famous employer.  He receives nothing but unrelenting opinions about what is art.  What is not?  And who knows the difference?  Rothko is dismissive of everyone who sees his paintings, feeling they are somehow unworthy of viewing his work.  He is also dismissive of new artists of the time such as Andy Warhol who had the gall to think that a painting of a soup can could be “art.” And of Ken.

What about color?  Is black only for death?  Is the white of snow really a depressing nothing?  And red?  What is red?  Is it joy, love, lust?  What is life?  Whoa! Too difficult to get into.

Photo Credit William A. Cotton

Rothko’s rantings provide an interesting 90 minutes of exploring the mind of a creative genius, at the expense of his cautious and curious assistant who exhibits surprising strengths of his own.  By the show’s end, Rothko questions his own choices and motivation.  Should he consider cancelling his contract for the murals that he feels are too wondrous to be appreciated by restaurant patrons?

Wesley Longacre has directed the local production with great skill.  Although there is minimal actual action, he has maintained a high level of tension and interest.  Intense conversations between Rothko and Ken are the nuts and bolts of the script.

Artist Mark Rothko was an American of Russian descent who rose to fame in New York art circles in the last century.  He refused to claim identification with any art movement, but is generally considered to be an abstract expressionist.  His tortured mind resulted in his suicide about ten years after working on the Four Seasons Restaurant murals.

Photo Credit William A. Cotton

“Red” was first produced in the Donmar Warehouse in London in 2009, starring Alfred Molina as Rothko, and Eddie Redmayne as Ken.  It transferred to Broadway for a limited engagement in 2010 with the same actors.  The show received the Tony Award that year for Best Play with Redmayne receiving the award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play.

There is much fascination in watching the overbearing painter and his wise assistant exchange ideas.  Not much action, but always-interesting takes on the world of creativity — why people buy and sell art, what is art.  And what is “red?”  At show’s end, Rothko (again looking at the unseen mural) asks, “What do you see?”   

“Red”
Where: Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524
When: To April 14, 2019
Information: basbleu.org, or call 970/498-8949

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Mirth On The Moors?

Arvada Center Provides Zany Tale Of Life In The Bleakness Of The Yorkshire Countryside.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 27, 2019

Regina Fernandez is naively cheerful as Emilie, the young English woman who arrives at a home in the Yorkshire Moors as the family’s newly hired governess.  Although she knows no one in the family, she was impressed with the kindness and love she felt in letters she received during the application process.  She is eager to be of service to the family.

Regina Fernandez (Emilie) and Emma Messenger (Agatha) Matt Gale Photography 2019

Governess beware!  The two sisters, Agatha and Huldey, who greet her, are a duo to behold.  Agatha is stern and tough as nails with no apparent kindness.  The other, Huldey, is an overly-outgoing woman eager to find some cheerful companionship in her dreary life. She wants to have someone in the house with whom she can create a diary of their lives, someone who can make her feel important.  The brother who hired Emilie via the mail is nowhere to be found.  The “child” the nanny has come to take care of is nowhere to be found.  Two unfriendly housekeepers, Marjory and Madeline, want nothing to do with this new governess.

Annie Barbour (Marjory) Matt Gale Photography 2019

Emilie is undaunted, however, and cheerfully asks what she might do for amusement in the area.  She learns that a possible activity might include, “Taking a long walk in the dreary Moors, to be sucked up in quicksand or to be savagely attacked by wild animals.”  Welcome to the Moors.

Fans of the literary works of the Bronte Sisters (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) may have a field day with playwright Jen Silverman’s take on what the sisters’ lives might have included.  Early in her life, Silverman became hooked on the writing of the Bronte Sisters, especially “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre.”  Somewhere along the way she began to fantasize what life might have been like for the sisters in their isolated childhood.  Her imagination has gone rampant, and the very quirky and clever “The Moors” is a result.

Geoffrey Kent (The Mastiff) and Emily Van Fleet (The Moor-Hen) Matt Gale Photography 2019

Announcement about the show claims “Wuthering Heights meets The Addams Family, with a romantic twist.” Well said.  There is unabashed lunacy at every turn.  The entire cast works wonders.  Emma Messenger and Jessica Robblee are both convincing as the two sisters, Agatha and Huldey.  Daniel Crumrine and Annie Barbour are wildly odd as the two housekeepers, Madeline and Marjory.  Come to think of it, “Madeline” played by Daniel Crumrine doesn’t say a word.  On the other hand, Annie Barbour’s housekeeper role is known as “Marjory” when she is handling some tasks in one room, as “Mallory” when working in another room.   She has a lot to say, even suggesting that Huldey might just be happier if she killed her sister, Agatha.  The maid convinces Huldey that if she got rid of Agatha, she would find the world-wide acclaim she so desires, noting.  “Imagine the publicity of being a murderer?” So Huldey lurks around the house, meat cleaver in hand, eager to get Agatha out of the way.

Jessica Robblee (Huldey) Matt Gale Photography 2019

Then there are the two animals: a family dog, and a fallen Moor-Hen.  The dog is wondrously portrayed by Geoffrey Kent who quickly obeys every command given.  He finds a fallen crow (a Moor-hen or a Mud-hen), who was injured in her tumble onto the property.  He wants only to take care of her, and for her to love him in return.  Emily Van Fleet is a near riot in her portrayal of the ditsy Moor-Hen who has no sense, and is cautious of the dog’s wanting to take her under his “wing.”

Regina Fernandez (Emilie) Matt Gale Photography 2019

This is crazy.  A bewildered new nanny, dreadfully unpleasant household employees, a bird and a dog that talk and have ideas of their own, two house-bound sisters – one being especially unpleasant, the other being too eager to find a friend.  And a never-seen brother, and a never-again-mentioned child.  The brother is reportedly locked up in the attic of the home, fed through an opening in the wall’s bricks. And did the stern Agatha plan Emilie’s arrival to provide her with someone to love?  There are some adult themes here not suitable for young audiences.

Director Anthony Powell has done great work in putting together this mélange of activity created by playwright Silverman.  Powell lets Jessica Robblee pull out all the stops as Huldey, finding her ten minutes of fame – not in the English countryside, but as a rock star performer.  The tables are turned on most of the cast, and the audience is kept wondering just what might happen next.

Emma Messenger (Agatha) Matt Gale Photography 2019

No clues given here to “what happens,” but a suggestion that “the Moors” has more going for it than craziness.  There is some clever insight on what makes us tick.  Why do we want to feel important?  Why do we long for friendships?  Why do we need to find love?  Why do we want to be in charge?   And ultimately, what is life truly all about?

“The Moors”
Where:
Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003
When:
To May 18, 2019
Information:
Box Office 720/898-7200
Online www.arvadacenter.org

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“The Waverly Gallery” Is A First-Class Telling Of A Difficult Subject

Wendy Ishii “Becomes” A Bewildered Alzheimer Victim In Lonergan Drama

Reviewed by Tom Jones

February 8, 2019

            Gladys Green is on the cusp of old age, and is often bewildered with what is going on around her.  Her hearing is impaired.  Her mind is progressively deteriorating.  Wendy Ishii is a marvel as she portrays Gladys Green, a victim of Alzheimer disease.  Her eyes become wide and wild, as she looks with despair to figure out what she has become.  This is a bravura performance.  Ishii has portrayed a variety of roles, and this is one of her finest productions.  She gets into the skin of the art gallery owner, and holds the audience spellbound.

Photo Credit William A. Cotton.

            Gladys Green owns a small art gallery in Greenwich Village, New York City.  There are very few customers, as it is located in an obscure street-side entrance to a hotel.  The landlord wants to use the space for a hotel café, and is closing the gallery which has been Green’s “life” for many years.  She is alone most of the time.  Alone in the gallery.  Alone in her nearby apartment.  Her contact with the world is limited and she clings to “family” to provide some connection with life in general.  Her family now must tell Gladys that she no longer has the gallery.

Photo Credit William A. Cotton.

            Author Kenneth Lonergan has created a memory play, based in part on his own experiences watching his grandmother deteriorate.  He has cleverly used Green’s adult grandson, Daniel Reed, as the show’s voice. Daniel is portrayed by Galen Trine-McMahan who is new to Colorado audiences.  He is a very natural actor, terrific as the adult grandson, watching in horror as his grandmother decays.  He tries to give her some support, but realizes that there are limits in what care he can provide.

Photo Credit William A. Cotton.

Also terrific is Katie Cassis as Ellen Fine, Gladys’s adult daughter.  With minimal “hope” on the horizon, Ellen’s memory of happier times with her mother sustain her in this helpless situation. The audience is in awe, realizing that many may face similar challenges in the years to come. 

Gladys’s hearing is minimal.  Her mind can’t quite grasp what she is being told, repeating the same questions she asked just moments ago.   She appears to have a need to be joyful, to revel on times passed, but feels that even her family is “against” her.  She does not comprehend that they are incredibly self-sacrificing caregivers.  This is difficult stuff.  The performances are so convincing that the audience temporarily believes that they are watching real life, not just characters in a play.

Photo Credit William A. Cotton.

Laura Jones has skillfully directed the production.  The set is an interesting look at the gallery, at the family apartments, and the hallway connecting Gladys’s apartment with that of her grandson.  Ishii, Cassis, and Trine-McMahan are stars of the show, but are given good support from Kevin Christopher as Ellen’s husband, and from Steven Fox, as an artist who happens into the Gallery and becomes part of everyone’s lives.

“The Waverly Gallery” opened Off-Broadway in 2000 and received several awards.  It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2001.  A Broadway production premiered in 2018.

This is a remarkable evening of theatre.  It is not a “happy” play.  Playwright Lonergan has shown wisdom in showing the trials faced by those with deteriorating minds; and great empathy for caregivers who do everything they can to be of help, and even some moments of fun.  At show’s end the narrator grandson gives especially thought-providing insight.  He comments that through all of the heartbreaks and sorrows, the value of life is so precious that we fight hard to maintain it.  The human spirit remains proud and intact.

“The Waverly Gallery”
Where: Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524
When: To February 24, 2019
Information: basbleu.org, or call 970/498-8949

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Michael Lasris Choreography Provides Great Fun In “Dames At Sea”

Off-Broadway Delight Is Two-Hour Treasure At Midtown Arts Center

Reviewed by Tom Jones, February 1, 2019

Ruby is the standard naïve talent traveling alone to New York to find fame and fortune on Broadway.  Sound familiar?  “Dames at Sea” currently on the Midtown Arts Stage in Fort Collins is the tried and tested Broadway fable that flashed onto movie screens in the ‘30s and ‘40s.  This delightful little show plays homage to those stories, with every cliché possible.  Michael Lasris provides excellent direction and choreography for this heartfelt look at the past.  Seeing it this season just might be the remedy we need to face mid-winter blahs.

Image by Dyann DIercks Photography

Paige Smith is a newcomer to MAC audiences, and she is terrific as Ruby, the Broadway star wannabe – with nothing going for her except raw talent.  Alisa Metcalf is the ever-threatening diva, Mona, who will stop at nothing from preventing anyone taking stardom from her hands.  Sarah Ledtke McCann is in great shape as the “friend to all” chorus girl.

Image by Dyann DIercks Photography

Every Broadway fable includes guys with over-the-top talent, taking on roles of friend, talented performer, and all around good (or bad) guy.  In this show Joe Callahan takes on the role of a sailor song-writer, “Dick.”  Callahan is well known to MAC audiences.  He sings.  He dances.  His comedic talents are very well-honed.  And his timing is impeccable.  Giving him a run for his money are Tyler Baxter and Tezz Yancey.  Baxter plays another talented sailor, Lucky.  Yancey switches caps to play two roles, the show-within-a-show director, and that of the ship captain.

All six are involved in staging a little review called “Dames At Sea” set to open that night, only to find the theatre bulldozed out from under them.  They desperately try to find a place to stage the show. 

Image by Dyann DIercks Photography

The world holds its breath:  Will Ruby replace Mona as the show’s star?  Will the show find a place to open?  Will Joe Callahan wow the stage with his every scene?  Will Sarah Ledtke McCann radiate charm and talent?  Will the audience leave the theatre with great smiles? 

This is not a “big” show, but one with enormous empathy and fun.  Book and lyrics are by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller.  Music is by Jim Wise. It originally opened Off-Broadway in 1968 starring Bernadette Peters as Ruby, and has subsequently found nationwide audiences.  Local theatre-goers enjoyed a very good production of it a few seasons ago at University of Northern Colorado.

The six performers are all very good.  Michael Lasris’s excellence as director and choreographer is obvious throughout, and particularly with the “Raining in My Heart” antics in Act II.  Musical accompaniment is also excellent.  Musical director and pianist is Victor Walters, with Dean Vlachos on percussion, Phillip Kramer, on bass.

“Dames at Sea” is a joyful, midwinter pick-me-up!

“Dames at Sea”
Where: Main Stage of Midtown Arts Center
3750 South Mason Street,
Fort Collins, CO 80525
When: To March 17, 2019
Information: Box Office: 970/225-2555
Tickets: www.midtownartscenter.com

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Impeccable Direction And Impeccable Cast Combine For A Wondrous “A Little Night Music”

Stephen Sondheim Award Winner On Stage In Denver

Reviewed by Tom Jones

January 27 2019

Fredrik Egerman and Desiree Armfeldt have reached middle age.  They are at the crossroads, neither completely content with their lives. They have no plans to change anything. A summer weekend in the Swedish countryside with a sun that won’t set is about to change all that.

Photo by Olga Lopez

Stephen Sondheim, America’s most respected living composer of musical theatre, provided audiences with “A Little Night Music” on Broadway in 1973.  The show has gone on to worldwide acclaim.  Some productions boast lavish sets and large casts.  The show arrived this month in Denver with minimal set, but more than makes up for that by providing excellent costumes, excellent voices and excellent direction.  Director Kelly Van Oosbree’s clever staging even includes a rotating stage – power-operated by the performers.

Photo by Olga Lopez

 Brian Merz-Hutchinson and Susie Roelofsz are sensational as Egerman and Armfeldt.  Fredrik Egerman is a Swedish attorney, a year into his second marriage – this time with an 18-year-old girl who prefers to remain a virgin.  Desiree Armfeldt is a highly respected actress who spends her time touring the country, leaving her young daughter, Fredrika, in the countryside estate of her ageing mother. This all takes place in a Swedish summer around 1900 when the sun lingers so long in the sky that some claim “It just won’t set.” 

 Everyone in the cast is in top form as they take on the show’s roles. Egerman is a somewhat stuffy lawyer with great memories of a liaison many years ago with the actress Armfeldt.  He takes his young wife to a local performance of the touring company.  Seeing Desiree on stage renews memories of his past love for her, and he succumbs to her allure.  Their lives are about to change, but not without affecting several others – some deliciously bizarre.

Photo by Olga Lopez

Rachel Turner is in delightful form as the young wife – happy to be married and have nice clothes and to go to elaborate balls; but horrified about losing her virginity.  Jeremy Rill is enormous fun as the over-the top self-assured Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, the military man currently dallying with the actress.  His character has an ego as big as all outdoors, but reportedly has the “brain of a pea.” Sparring toe to toe with this army dragoon is his wife, Countess Charlotte Malcolm, brilliantly portrayed by Megan Van de Hey.

Photo by Olga Lopez

Susan Long is the Armfeldt family matriarch – Desiree’s mother, and Fredrika’s grandmother.  The country weekend takes place on her estate.  She hasn’t much use for her actress daughter, dotes on her granddaughter, and lives in a dreamworld of the past, recounting her various “liaisons” with the rich and famous. Adding even more craziness to the goings-on are Frid and Petra played by Ryan Belinak and Lindsey Falduto, both worldly-wise servants. They are well acquainted with the upper crust, but appear to accept their roles in the lower echelons of society.  Lindsey Falduto’s “The Miller’s Son” is especially poignant, as Petra realizes that she can serve the wealthy, but will end up marrying someone in her level of society.  On the other hand, Lawyer Egerman’s adult son, Henrik, is a seminary student, with no idea of where he fits into the life of his family, or life anywhere for that matter.  Barret Harper is superb on his own, as the bewildered, cello-playing Henrik.

 Excellent accompaniment is provided by Deborah Fuller (violin), David Short (cello) with Trent Hines and Angela Steiner (piano) — Hines for first three weekends, Steiner for final weekend.

The musical was inspired by an Ingmar Bergman 1955 movie, “Smiles of a Summer Night.”  Playwright Hugh Wheeler wrote the book, with Stephen Sondheim providing music and lyrics. The music is written as waltzes in three-quarters time.

Sondheim was in peak form as a composer and as a lyricist when writing “A Little Night Music.”  This is especially evident in the “Weekend in the Country” scene where various persons are looking at attending a weekend party on the Armfeldt estate – some invited, some not.  The lyrics include the Count and Countess thinking about going (without an invitation), singing: 

“A weekend in the country…
How I wish we’d been asked.
A weekend in the country
Peace and quiet. We’ll go masked.”

This is beguiling production.  Everything about it is first-rate.  As the theatre is small, the audience can hear nearly everything said or sang, and becomes infatuated with the characters, their foibles, their frolics, and is with them every step of the way.  The show even includes the classic, “Send in the Clowns.”

“A Little Night Music”

Where:  The Pluss Theatre, Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia Street, Denver, CO 80246

When: Through February 17, 2019

For more information:  Cherry Creek Theatre, 303/800-6578, cherrycreektheatre.org

        

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“Nunsense” is Loony Delight At Candlelight”

Samantha Jo Staggs Is Truly Superior As The Mother Superior

Reviewed by Tom Jones

January 20, 2019

            Caution.  Finding great fun in “Nunsense” just may become habit forming. (Sorry, but I just could not stop myself).   Did you ever look at nuns with suspicion and perhaps with caution that they just might be an overly-stern and pious group of somewhat “older” women.  Forget all that.  Those on stage this season in Johnstown are a merry band, providing pure entertainment.  It would be interesting to meet the show’s creator, Don Coggin in person. He is the chap that put the show together. The book, music and lyrics are all due to his unique ideas.  He has excellent help with this production, under the skilled direction of Pat Payne, with choreography by Stephen Bertles.  They must be clever drill sergeants, as the entire cast is a whirlwind of energy, precision, and talent.

Photo by RDG Photography

            The musical, as performed, is supposedly a benefit performance to raise money to bury four deceased sisters from the Little Sisters of Hoboken religious order.  I may have the details slightly confused as to how this came about.  Something about the nuns running a leper colony on an island south of France.  Their cook (Sister Julia, Child of God) accidently killed 52 of the sisters by cooking up an ill-fated vichyssoise.  Only five nuns remained healthy after the food poisoning.  They now live in Hoboken, NJ, and were able to find financial resources to bury 48 of the deceased.  They have kept the remains of the final four in the freezer, and the health officials are becoming suspicious. Now they are trying their darndest to come up with funds to “plant” the remaining four.  Thus the benefit.

Photo by RDG Photography

            What a benefit they put together.  The five nuns are a whoop and a holler, under the stern direction of the over-the-top Mother Superior, superiorly portrayed by Samantha Jo Staggs.  This woman has no bones in her body.  At the conclusion of Act I she has a tour-de-force rendition of a naïve sister becoming high while sniffing a little bottle of “Rush.” She is a former circus performer who can’t resist the spotlight.  In reality, the spotlight just can’t resist her.

Photo by RDG Photography

            Each of the five sisters is given a moment to shine. Lisa Kay Carter is sensational as Sister Amnesia, with no idea who is she or where she is. She lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head.  Before she became a nun, her name was “Sister Mary Paul,” destined to be a country western star.  Now she wanders around the convent with wide-eyed oblivion, and provides great delight with her foul-mouthed puppet.

Sarah Grover is Sister Robert Anne, a streetwise nun from Brooklyn, continually regretting that she is never “first” in anything.  She laments with great offerings of “The Biggest Ain’t the Best” and “I Just Want to Be a Star.”

            Abigail Hanawalt dazzles as Sister Mary Leo, a novice whose desire is to be the world’s first ballerina nun. Heather McClain becomes Sister Hubert, the dignified, but competitive second-in-command – always causing the Mother Superior to watch her back.  Sister Hubert is waiting.

Photo by RDG Photography

            These are five enormously talented women who completely lose themselves in the lunacy of the moment.  They can sing.  They can dance.  They can whoop.  They can holler.  They can completely enthrall the enthusiastic audience.

            “Nunsense” turned up off Broadway in 1985 and ran for 3,672 performances, becoming the second-longest running Off-Broadway show in history, second only to “”The Fantasticks.”  It became an international sensation and reportedly 25,000 women have played in the show’s productions worldwide.

            Patrons at Candlelight are in the “habit” of enjoying excellent shows.  “Nunsense” keeps this tradition alive and well with five zany Little Sisters of Hoboken.

 “Nunsense”

Where:  Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

              4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown

To: March 3, 2019

For Tickets:  Box Office:  970/744-3747

Online:ColoradoCandlelight.com

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“My Way – A Musical Tribute To Frank Sinatra”

Midtown Arts Features Music Of “Old Blue Eyes”

Reviewed by Tom Jones
January 18, 2019

Frank Sinatra became a legend. Beginning as a scrawny teen crooner from Hoboken, New Jersey, he subsequently ruled the musical world until his death at 82 in 1988. He was virtually adored by music-lovers, looked at with dismay by some others — because of his personal life. He didn’t write his own music; but gave voice to a host of songwriters. He reportedly recorded something like 1,500 songs – some over-the-top wonderful.

About four dozen of the songs he recorded are featured this season at Midtown Arts Center production of “My Way – a Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” on stage in Fort Collins.

Photo Credit Dyann Dierks

Jalyn Courtenay Webb stars in and directs this tribute. She, too, has become a legend in her time, as the vocal stylist and director of many productions in the area. This year she received the prestigious Colorado Theater Guild Henry award as best performance by an actress for her work at MAC in “Always, Patsy Cline.” But as in the world of sports, even the world’s most successful baseball player doesn’t hit a home run every time he comes to bat.

I am an unabashed theatre fan. I usually get an adrenaline rush each time I await the beginning of a show. Some have criticized me, noting “Oh, he likes everything he sees.” Unfortunately “everything” does not include this current Sinatra tribute.

The Sinatra songs are there; such great memories provided with “Fly Me to the Moon,” “My Way,” “It Was a Very Good Year,” “Summer Wind,” and the list goes on and on. The instrumental background is flawless. The four vocal performers are talented. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be participating in the same show. There is minimal chemistry between then. Some of the Act One vocal harmonies are wondrous. As the show continued, however, either the performers could not find the pitch, or the sound system let them down. I could understand very little of the spoken tidbits of Sinatra history.

Productions in the MAC Ballroom setting are always problematic as there is no one center of focus. The Sinatra tribute is staged as if in a 1950s nightclub, with the cast sometimes mingling with the audience, with a drink in hand. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it is distracting.

“My Way — A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” has become a phenomenon of its own, currently playing in dozens of venues worldwide. If you are eager to hear such standards as “All of Me,” “My Kind of Town,” “Young at Heart,” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” rush to Midtown Arts Center this season.

If not, don’t cross the theater off your list of places to go. While the Sinatra tribute is playing in the MAC Ballroom, the terrific “Dames at Sea” is on the main stage.

I saw Bernadette Peters tap-dancing her way to stardom many, many years ago when she created the leading role in New York. I was delighted with a production of it at University of Northern Colorado a few years ago, and already have my tickets to see the MAC version. I’m not going to let my unhappiness with the current “Tribute” dampen my enthusiasm for the theatre. The adrenalin rush will always be there for me.

And all is not lost with “Sinatra.” Old Blue Eyes provided more than one generation happy memories with his incredible styling of some wonderful music. Many in the audience appeared to be enchanted with the memories brought to life on stage at MAC. I learned that the performance I attended was rife with subsequently-repaired technical problems, and that earlier audiences have given the show standing ovations.

“My Way – a Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra”
Where: Midtown Arts Center, 3750 South Mason Street, Fort Collins, CO 80525
When: To March 17, 2019
Information: Box Office: 970/225-2555
Tickets: www.midtownartscenter.comFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Midtown Arts Center Provides the “Heart Of The Holiday”

Choreography & Excellent Voices Bring New Story To Life!

Reviewed by Tom Jones

December 15, 2018

The Second Act of “Heart of the Holiday” provides one of the most satisfying musical offerings this holiday season,  JC McCann, Anne Terze-Schwarz, Taylor Marrs, and Jalyn Courtenay Webb are a quartet of perfection singing a terrific combination of “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night.”  While some parts of the performance may be a tad plodding, this specific number is worth the price of admission. And worth the effort of getting out of the house on a wintry night to see a show.

This is the final Holiday Season for Midtown Arts Center, as it is joining forces in 2019 with Candlelight Dinner Playhouse.  For this final Holiday show, Kenny Moten and Jessica Hindsley have put together homage to theatre performers everywhere. Emphasis is on those whose lives have been affected in providing entertainment to Fort Collins audiences for many years.  Musical arrangements are the work of John Seaberry who plays bass/guitar in the accompanying band under direction of Victor Walter. The band is especially good.

Photo Courtesy MAC

The show’s writer joined forces with Joseph Callahan to provide the namesake song, “Heart of the Holiday,” performed late in the show.  That song is very nice, but just can’t compare with the “O Holy Silent Night” opening the Second Act.

Moten and Hindsley have leaned heavily on Michael Bennett’s original Broadway direction of “A Chorus Line” in 1975.  In that landmark musical, dancers are auditioning for a show, and are asked to tell about their lives and what dancing means to them.  They strike dancers “poses” which have become Broadway trademarks. In “Heart of the Holliday” Jalyn Courtenay Webb is auditioning dancers for a holiday show.  The final cast is chosen. But before they can relax, she quizzes them on what “The Holidays” mean to each of them. She is especially interested in memories of the performer’s past shows.  This is a clever precept, as the MAC performers strike the “Chorus Line” poses — interesting at first, but becoming a bit tiring by show’s end.

Photo Courtesy MAC

The cast has interesting reports about their love of dancing, with some tidbits of past shows.  One especially zany sequence is a review of a 40-performance run of a show that included non-stop syncopation to “A Sleigh Ride” music.  The choreography is great fun, as the dancers become more and more exhausted with each performance. By the run’s final night, they have expelled all energy and fall into an immoveable heap.

Sometimes the “true meaning of Christmas” becomes trite.  This is cleverly countered when a vignette of going “home for the Holidays” turns out to be a “hate for the Holidays” adventure.

Everyone in the cast has extensive musical experience.  They are excellent dancers and singers. Jalyn Courtenay Webb leads the cast. She also provides musical direction for the production.  She has a wonderful voice. Charlotte Campbell, Anne Terze-Schwarz, Sarah Ledtke McCann, Taylor Marrs, JC McCann, Tezz Yancey, Tyler Baxter, Delany Garcia and Stephanie Garcia are all on stage for nearly the entire show – with each having an opportunity to “shine” as they recall holiday memories.

Stage set includes impressive snow trees on both sides of the stage.  Costumes are very good. The entire production includes excellent choreography, excellent voices, and excellent band support.  The “heart” of the Holiday is felt throughout. It reminds us that even the “wondrous” Holidays can provide some challenges. Sounds like life in general.

And there is that Act Two wonder of “O Silent Holy Night” that leaves the audience thunderstruck.

“Heart of the Holiday”

Midtown Arts Center

3750 South Mason Street, Fort Collins, CO 80525

To December 24, 2018

Telephone 970/225-2555

ONLINE: midtownartscenter.com

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“The Flea and the Professor” Is An Event Of Delightful Fantasy.


Hans Christian Andersen Tale For Children Lights Up The  Bas Bleu Stage.

Reviewed by Tom Jones,

June 22, 2018

            With guileless delight six talented performers take stage this season having great fun explaining why they are NOT“The Greatest Show on Earth.”  No, there is nothing “great” or even “showy” in this charming silliness recounting of a Hans Christian Andersen tale.  “The Flea and The Professor” is reportedly his last creation.  He was nearly 70 when he came up with this story that few have read.  I wonder what he might have been smoking at the time, as there is neither rhyme nor reason why this should ever see the light of day as a story, let alone as a stage musical.  That said, Bas Bleu has produced a beguiling evening of fun.  The cast has no worries about staying on key or in step, allowing the audience to have as much fun as they appear to be having. 

The Bas Bleu Theatre Company rehearses its production of “The Flea and the Professor,” November 21, 2018. Photo by Bill Cotton

            Graeme Schultz has a gee-whiz charm that grabs the audience from the outset as The Professor.  He has big ideas, but nothing that can amount to much.  He longs to follow in his father’s footsteps in the air as a hot air balloonist.  But first must find some means of employment, trying his luck as a carnival magician without much talent, and without much magic. His story is told by Sarah Paul-Glitch who begins the show as the story teller and ends up as The Professor’s wife.  They are quite a pair.  As his magician’s assistant, she is not willing to always disappear on stage or be sawed in half, so disappears from his life.

            When The Professor’s luck and abilities have completely vanished, he scratches himself to find he has a flea.  Not just any flea, but a flea with great ideas and a desire to be “a friend.”  John Kean is probably six and one-half feet tall, and he emerges as the flea in The Professor’s life.  He is a goofy wonder on his own.  They develop an incredible friendship, making a pinky-pact to be lifelong buddies.  They even develop a stage act that becomes unbelievably popular.

            No, it makes no sense.  But that is the charm of the entire 80-minute show of friendship and acceptance.  And it is a musical.  No melodies to carry you home, but they do provide winsome joy on stage.   The show is a charmer.


The Bas Bleu Theatre Company rehearses its production of “The Flea and the Professor,” November 21, 2018. Photo by Bill Cotton

            Joining the three are Jennifer Brayas a 12-year-old spoiled and pouting Cannibal Princess, Kelly Forester as an over-the top Cannibal Queen, Michael Anthony Tatmon as the Cannibal King, and showing up everywhere doing everything is Paul Brewer as the Sea Captain, Loyal Subject, and everybody else.  It is quite a troupe of rag-tag players, dressed in fashions that befit no one, but exuding delight at every silly moment.  The Professor and his flea take their popular “show” around the world. They end upin an out-of-the-way island inhabited by cannibals – including the crazed cannibal royal family hungry for a human meal.

            The total production is bizarre, and I found myself immersed in the infectious delight of the cast. Jordan Harrison wrote the script, and Director Jeffrey Bigger has done an amazing job of presenting the off-the-wall story. The show provides a sense of wonder, rarely found in current society.

            Andersen was born in 1834 and became Denmark’s most famous author.  His fairy tales include “The Emperor’s New Clothes, “The Little Mermaid,” “The Snow Queen,”  “The Ugly Duckling”, “Frozen.”  And the list goes on and on“The Flea” is rarely mentioned, but came to light as a stage musical written by Jordan Harrison.  It received acclaim in 2011 receiving Barrymore Awards as Best Production of a Musical and Best Leading Man in a Musical.             In the current Bas Bleu delight the“Not the Greatest” tackiness theme is apparent everywhere – the set, the costumes, the story.  But the production itself is a real winner.  Not the “Greatest,”but a real heartfelt winner.

“The Flea and The Professor”

Where:  Bas Bleu Theatre Company

 401 Pine Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524

When:  To December 23, 2018

For Information: Telephone 970/498-8949

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“Educating Rita” – Student And Professor Switch Roles

Arvada Center Black Box Theatre Hosts British Favorite

Reviewed by Tom Jones
October 11, 2018

Rita wants in. John wants out. This is Liverpool, England in the 1980s. Class distinction is at its peak. The upper class holds all the cards. The working class struggles to stay afloat. Frank is an upper crust, cranky professor, disillusioned with the education system. He accepts a tutoring job just for the money. Rita is a minimally educated 26-year-old hairdresser in an unhappy marriage, eager to improve her social status. The two are just about as opposite as two persons can be.

Photo courtesy McLeod9 Creative

Rita has an insatiable desire to learn. Learn everything. She is outgoing, cheerful, optimistic and chatty. Frank is a solemn curmudgeon, consigned to his office, no longer writing poetry, and unhappily awaiting the arrival of the student he has been assigned to tutor. Rita wants to get in to the world of the educated, and out of her common worker status. She hopes to improve herself under the direction of a tutor. Frank wants to get out of the educational world, but does not make any effort to do so – just spending his days feeling sorry for himself and drinking and drinking and drinking.

Photo courtesy McLeod9 Creative

John Hutton and Emily Van Fleet play the two characters this season in “Educating Rita” on stage at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. John’s dismal existence is disturbed when the delightful Rita arrives, to “be taught.” She is miles below the professor’s social status, and finds the failed poet to be the most interesting person she has ever met. Frank is initially appalled by the new student in his charge. Beguiled by her naivety, he becomes interested in actually turning her into a British woman of status. She has no self-esteem. This is similar to Henry Higgins trying to make a duchess out of the flower market girl (Eliza Doolittle) in “My Fair Lady.”

British playwright Willy Russell lives in Liverpool. His “Educating Rita” “Blood Brothers,” and “Shirley Valentine” were international hits. “Rita” became a 1983 movie starring Michael Caine and Julie Waters. His idea about educating Rita is loosely based on the Pygmalion myth, which was also the inspiration for George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” as well as the musical “My Fair Lady,” the “Pretty Woman” movie, and even the “Frankenstein” story. They all have in common the notion of a mentor-student/creation relationship.

Photo courtesy McLeod9 Creative

The Arvada Center has an amazing record of providing terrific sets. This excellence continues with Brian Mallgrave’s creation of Frank’s office. The cluttered desk, the stacks here and there and everywhere. The hidden bottles of his Scotch. The plants that die from having no care. Jon Olson has again excelled with his lighting design.

Director Lynne Collins’ credentials are impeccable. The two leads are both very convincing. The story evolves into a switching of roles. Frank becomes concerned that perhaps he has taught the delightful Rita too much, resulting in her becoming a somewhat unpleasant upper class woman. Rita perceives that she needs to help Frank get back to his poetry writing, give up the booze, and turn his life into something happy and productive. There is much of value in the lessons playwright Russell develops. The suggestion that everyone makes some effort to reach his/her potential and the value of helping others are always desired goals.

The total experience is an interesting look at British class distinctions of 40 years ago, as well as a study of how we perceive ourselves and others. I did find the production too long, and did have difficulty understanding everything the delightful fast-talking Rita had to say. However, I came away with a great appreciation of the acting effort, the time that was spent learning the roles, and the total “look” of the show.

The play’s worldwide acclaim strikes chords with audiences, as everyone needs a “nudge to action” sometime in life. The Arvada audience gave the performers a standing ovation at show’s end.

“Educating Rita”
Where: Main Stage Theatre, Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities.
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003-9985
When: Through November 11, 2018
Tickets: 720/898-7200
For more information: Arvadacenter.orgFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Mary Poppins Flies & Bert Turns Things Upside Down in Johnstown

Disney’s Delight Lands Onstage at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Reviewed by Tom Jones
September 9, 2018

That ever-efficient nanny, Mary Poppins, is flying in and out of Johnstown this season. Harmony Livingston is delightful as the ingenious Poppins who proclaims that she is “Practically Perfect” in every way as she arrives at the George Banks household in London. The family has not been successful in finding a good nanny, as the two children have run off a string of would-be-governesses. Mary is a no-nonsense dynamo that knows just what children need, and how to make them enjoy the transformation.

Photo Credit: Matthew Gale

Livingston is given great help by Bert, her longtime friend in fantasy. Cole Emarine is super as the mysterious friend who turns up here and there and everywhere as a friend to all. We originally meet him as an artist displaying paintings in a public park. He then turns up at a local fair, and finally as a chimney sweep who promises good luck to anyone who shakes his (dirty) hand.

Photo Credit: Matthew Gale

Livingston as Mary and Emarine as Bert make a very impressive duo. They are both multi- talented, have great singing voices and can dance up a storm. Emarine’s athletic skills have him performing a maneuver that needs to be seen to be believed, dancing with his chimney-sweeping friends late in Act Two.

The action takes place in London, on Cherry Tree Lane, at a local park, and at the bank where George Banks works. There is a bit of mysterious magic permeating the show, mostly due to Poppins’ extra-ordinary abilities. When the show begins to lag, a mind-blowing evil Miss Andrew turns up. Referred to as “The Holy Terror,” when serving as George Banks’ childhood nanny years ago, she continues to be an evil and brutal tyrant. When the now-adult George sees her, he immediately flees the home. He has never fully recuperated from being under her care. Victoria Pace briefly steals the show in her performance as the dreadful Miss Andrew, appalled that Poppins’ kindness can have any effect on the home.

Photo Credit: Matthew Gale

Everyone in the cast is skillful. Scott Hurst is believable as George Banks, the family head who has virtually traded his family for his job. Alisha Winter-Hayes is convincing as the ever-suffering kindly wife who is not pleased with the way her husband treats her and the children, but doesn’t know how to do anything about it. Scotty Shaffer and Annie Dwyer are the household servants whose jobs appear to entail ignoring anything unpleasant going on, and merely do their work. The roles of the two Banks children are double-cast, with Julia Gibson and Gwyneth Bohl trading places as Jane; and Ryan Fisher and John Miley portraying Michael. I saw Bohl and Miley. They both appeared to be at ease on the large stage, mixing well with experienced performers.

Photo Credit: Matthew Gale

A well-designed and crafted set displays great detail of the buildings and park. Costumes and lighting are also excellent. Choreography is by Kate Vallee who excels with the chimney sweepers “Step in Time” and with everyone in incredible synchronization for “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (twice!). Director Pat Payne has assembled a spirited cast of performers and has carefully used the talents of set designers, costumers, lighting and technicians. He appears to have figured out how to cast a magic spell on the entire show.

Photo Credit: Matthew Gale

“Mary Poppins,” as seen this season in Johnstown, has music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and his brother Robert B. Sherman, with additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Script is by Julian Fellowes. The musical is based on children’s books by P. L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film, using various elements from both sources.

The original West End production opened in London in December of 2004, and subsequently transferred to Broadway two years later. It received numerous awards on both sides of the Atlantic and has been performed world-wide. The music has become classic Disney: “Practically Perfect,” Jolly Holiday with Mary,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Feed the Birds,” Chim Chim Cherr-ee,” “Step in Time,” and the forever challenging “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” (Can you spell it backwards?)

Just like the nanny portrayed, the musical “Mary Poppins” is “practically perfect in every way’”

“Mary Poppins”

Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, CO
When: To November 11, 2018
For Tickets: Box Office: 970/744-3747
Website: ColoradoCandlelight.comFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

“Mamma Mia!” At Its Best As Live Theatre!

The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities Hosts Delicious ABBA Treat

Reviewed by Tom Jones
September 8, 2018

Sophie is in a bind. She is about to be married, and wants to invite her father to walk her down the aisle. Problem is that she does not know who her father is. Raised by a single parent mom who runs a guesthouse on a tiny Greek island, Sophie finds her mother’s diary, learning that her mother had liaisons with three different men who just might be her father.

What to do? Invite all three to the wedding!

Mariah MacFarlane (Sophie) and Shanna Steele (Donna)
Matt Gale Photography 2018

Such is a premise of the delightful “Mamma Mia!” on stage this autumn at The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. It is a joy from beginning to end. Mariah MacFarlane and Shannan Steele are both excellent as Sophie, and her mother, Donna Sheridan. Worth billing as a “cast” member is the incredible set designed by Brian Mallgrave. It is as sunny and inviting as a sunny day on a Greek island, and as warm and comfortable as a guest bedroom in a charming vacation villa.

Mariah MacFarlane (Sophie) and Shanna Steele (Donna)
Matt Gale Photography 2018

The Arvada Center was honored this past July as the Colorado Theatre Guild for Outstanding Season for a Threatre Company. Included in its list of recent wonders are “Sense and Sensibility,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Sunday in the Park with George,” and “All My Sons.” What to do for an encore? Have Director Rod A. Lansberry put together a production of “Mamma Mia!”

“Mamma” burst onto the stage in London in 1997 and was an instant success. The idea was interesting. Take some of the Swedish group ABBA’s already-existing hit songs, weave them into a basic story of young love, and magic pops out of the magician’s hat! Music and lyrics are by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, with book by Catherine Johnson. It premiered in London in 1999 and became a worldwide sensation. It opened in New York City in 2001 and played 5,773 performances before closing 14 years later. The 2008 movie version is reportedly the most successful movie ever shown in England.

Glenn DeVar (Sky) and Mariah MacFarlane (Sophie)
Matt Gale Photography 2018

As wedding guests arrive, we meet several young friends of the engaged couple, two of Donna’s longtime “best friends,” and the three possible fathers, not realizing why they are invited, and not realizing they may have fathered a beautiful daughter – about to be wed.

Then there is the ever-welcome music – “I Have a Dream,” “Thank You for the Music,” “Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen,” “The Winner Takes All,” “I Do, Do, I Do,” and many more.

MacFarlane and Steele headline the always-entertaining cast, with additional sensational performances by Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck and Piper Lindsay Arpan as Donna’s friends, Rosie and Tanya, with Daniel Robert Sullivan, Mark Devine and Jeffrey Roark as the unsuspecting potential father of the bride. Hilsabeck also provided the highly appreciated toe-tapping choreography.

The set, direction, and performances are not the only marvels. The orchestra, lighting and costumes are all equally impressive.

If the thunderous applause from the opening night Arvada audience is any indication, tickets to “Mamma Mia!” are going to be difficult to find. This is a joyful experience, and the audience was hesitant to let the performers leave the stage.

“Mamma Mia!”
Where: Main Stage, Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities.
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003-9985
When: Through September 30, 2018
Tickets: 720/898-7200
For more information: Arvadacenter.orgFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Award Winning “Equus” Arrives At Bas Bleu

Peter Shaffer Masterwork is a Marvel of Acting and Direction

Reviewed by Tom Jones,
June 22, 2018

There should be a sign outside the stage of Bas Bleu this month – “Quiet, Genius at Work.”

On stage is a spell-binding production of Peter Shaffer’s masterwork, “Equus,” a tour-de-force production of excellent acting and direction.

© 2018 William A. Cotton

The Tony Award-winning drama looks at the turmoil of an emotionally disturbed young man and the tired and bored psychiatrist who is trying to treat him. There are strong wills at work, as the doctor tries to reach the heart of the boy’s mental suffering. By show’s conclusion, I felt as if the audience should carry David Siever and Koby Adams aloft, showering them with accolades for their performances as the boy and the psychiatrist. They did receive a standing ovation.

For nearly three hours the audience is treated to a production so cleverly staged that the audience is mentally transferred out of the bounds of normal theatre. There are the concerned doctor and his patient, the bewildered mother, the horrific father, the doctor who has brought her patient to the psychiatrist, the young girl infatuated with the disturbed boy, the attending nurse, and five amazing horses that come to life with the clicking of their hoofs and impressive stature.

© 2018 William A. Cotton

We learn from the outset that a very disturbed young man has blinded five horses in his care in a stable in England. A psychiatrist is contacted with the hope that he can find the cause of the emotional suffering, and bring the boy some kind of relief. Koby Adams is a revelation as the tormented Alan Strang, with equally excellent David Siever, as Dr. Martin Dysart. They are given great support from Jim Valone and Gale McGaha Miller as Alan’s bewildered (and bewildering) parents, Hesther Salomon as a magistrate and close friend, Teal Jandrain as the charming young girl in the village, Steven Wright as Harry Dalton the stable owner. And those horses – they have personalities of their own – portrayed by Ryan Volkert, Blake Roberts, Cas Landman, Sheppard Braddy, and Brett Sylvia.

Director Robert Braddy worked as Scenic Designer for the production of the play at CSU in 1976, and has long been interested in directing the show.

© 2018 William A. Cotton

Playwright Shaffer’s production was introduced to the London stage in 1973 and arrived on Broadway in 1974, where it ran for more than 1200 performances and received numerous honors. Several issues turn up – religion, ritual sacrifices, sexual attraction, conflict between personal values and social mores. There is “a lot going on” in the telling of the young man’s torment. Wikipedia notes that Alan Strang has” a pathological religious fascination with horses.” The characters surrounding him have issues of their own, some bewildered by where they personally belong.

© 2018 William A. Cotton

Caution is required. This is not a play for young persons. Subject matter is mature. There is nudity. There are some scenes that become tiring.

Late in Act 2, the doctor makes a breakthrough in reaching the tormented Koby. In that scene, it is as if all the air has been sucked from of the theatre. The audience barely breathed — realizing they were witnessing brilliance on the stage.

“Equus”
Where: Bas Bleu Theatre Company
401 Pine Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524
When: To July 1, 2018
For Information: Telephone 970/498-8949
Online: www.basbleu.orgFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Another Opening – Another Show! 17 days until Disney’s “Newsies” sweeps into Johnstown!

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse Offers Acclaimed Show “Newsies” For Summer Run.

Reported by Tom Jones
June 12, 1018

I am an unabashed theater fan. I continue to get an adrenalin rush each time I sit in an audience, waiting to be amazed as the lights go down and the show begins, especially musicals. I take for granted the extensive work that has usually gone into making a play or musical succeed.

This has been an especially rich season for Colorado theatre, including such wonders as “Ragtime” at Midtown Arts Center, “The Little Mermaid” at Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage, ”Sunday in the Park with George” at Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, and the upcoming “Grease” at Midtown Arts. I decided to look into the “making” of a show, and received permission to attend a rehearsal of Disney’s “Newsies,” now in preparation at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse.

Tuesday, June 12, the entire cast of “Newsies” assembled for what looked to be a marathon rehearsal. The show doesn’t open until June 29, but cast and crew were in full preparation of what has potential of being a seasonal winner.

Photo Courtesy of Tom Jones

I arrived at the theatre’s rehearsal hall to spend a couple of hours watching the cast go through their paces. There were about 15 ensemble dancers – 12 guys and three girls, plus about ten other performers, all acting, singing, and dancing. “Five, six, seven, eight. Again — one, two, three, four….” Choreographer Matthew D. Peters was counting as the dancers went through the steps time and time again. He knows what he is looking for. He appeared to be a patient man. And no one seemed to complain when he said, “Ok, let’s try it again.” He choreographed, directed, and is in the cast of the currently-running “The Little Mermaid” in Boulder.

I did not see the”Newsies” movie on which the theater production was based. Nor did I see the original Broadway production or subsequent touring company. I did see a version of the show last summer at Tuacahn in Southern, Utah, and was thunderstruck by the ten minutes of opening-scene dancing.

The current “Newsies” director, Pat Payne advised me a few weeks ago that the dancers were going through a couple weeks of “dancing boot camp.” He noted, “The show is so physical that the dancers must have great stamina to make it through the full two and one-half hours each performance.”

Matthew Peters, Choreographer
Photo Courtesy of Tom Jones

We are aware that professional athletes train unmercifully, but seldom realize the theater performers have similarly arduous training. The performers I saw rehearsing had already passed the “tryout” period and had been cast for the show. Everyone was doing his or her darndest to hit the steps correctly as Peters counted, “One, two, three, four…” The rehearsal was set to continue for possibly eight more hours that day.

The first scene I saw being rehearsed consisted of just a few bars of an Act Two song and dance, “King of New York.” The routine was being rehearsed as a “soft shoe.” The floor of the rehearsal room cannot withstand the strain of tap shoes which will be featured when the show opens on stage. Visibly helpful during the rehearsal was Stage Manager Malia Stoner who appeared to be everywhere, when needed.

On hand to watch the initial dance routine were Harmony Livingston and Logan Traver who are the production’s leads. When they took their places in the rehearsal for the Act Two run-through, they stunned the viewing cast. Their voices are excellent, and their physical chemistry is dynamic.

Pat Payne, Director
Photo Courtesy of Tom Jones

Director Pat Payne has impeccable credentials. He appears to be as patient as choreographer Peters, and the two seem to have utmost respect from the assembled cast. Payne and Peters have put together an incredibly talented group of performers of many ages for this based-on-an actual event show. I didn’t see the set, which is to be a replica of lower Manhattan in 1899. The “orchestra” consisted of a man at a keyboard, and another hitting a soundbox for some recording helps.

Lack of scenery, costumes, or orchestra, did not appear to affect the rehearsing performers, who acted, sang and danced as if they were on a stage in front of a large audience. I was in awe of the natural talent in evidence. Some of the faces (and dancing feet) were familiar to me, including Leo Battle, Elliot Clough, Sarah Grover, Eric Heine, Sara Kowalski, Heather McClain, Kent Sugg, Broc Timmerman, and David Wygant. Many have extensive experience at Candlelight and in other theatres in the area.

No one appeared to be trying to outdo others in the cast. That afternoon it was as if I was attending a large family reunion where everyone was actually happy to see each other and share their talents! Tempers may have flared later in the day; but while I was watching, the experience could not have appeared more pleasant and normal. And extremely interesting.

“Newsies” began as a Disney movie in 1992 based on a real-life newsboys strike in New York City. The musical stage version arrived on Broadway in 2012 receiving great acclaim, including Tony Awards for choreography and original score.

Photo Courtesy of Tom Jones

While choreographer Mathew D. Peters and his assistant Cole Emarine were counting dancing moves with “five, six, seven eight,” the entire group was counting down the 17 days prior to the show’s opening night at Candlelight.

Colorado’s theatergoers’ percentages rank among the nation’s highest. In 2015, 59% of all Coloradoans attended a visual arts event, vs. 39% nationwide. I will be interested to see how I and the thousands of Colorado theatre fans respond to the based-on-reality and soaring choreography of “Newsies,” opening at the Candlelight June 29.

An incredible amount of work and extensive rehearsals have already gone into the production. I’ve seen some of it, meticulously counted out – “Five, six, seven, eight. Again, one, two, three four…….”

“Newsies”
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown
To: June 29 to August 26, 2018
For Tickets: Box Office: 970/744-3747
Online: www.ColoradoCandlelight.comFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

“The Little Mermaid” Is Feast Of Sight & Sound!

Hans Christian Andersen’s Underwater Tale Surfaces With Great Beauty

Reviewed by Tom Jones
June 10, 2018

Roll out the adjectives. Last night I saw opening night of “The Little Mermaid” at the Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage. I don’t know quite how to adequately report the wonders of that five-star theatrical feast without sounding sappy in my affection for the show.
Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the mermaid who longs to be human remains intact, but the “telling” becomes a wonder of talent and stagecraft. The staging is nothing short of amazing. The entertainment “feast” has so many courses, that it is hard to know what to include and what to leave out, to further surprise the audience.

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

For starters, there is the underwater sequence where mermaid Ariel swims up to rescue the drowning Prince Eric who has fallen overboard from a storm-tossed ship. There is the continuing story shift from land above the ocean, to a ship on the ocean and to the sea beneath. The underwater scenes are incredible, as the cast continually move their “fins” enough to remind the audience that we are seeing something under the sea, while not becoming annoying with the movement.

There are the puppets portraying underwater delights, again moving as if with the flow of the tide. The Act One “Under the Sea” production number is one of the most visually dazzling sequences in memory. I did not want the scene to conclude, as the stage was alive with the excitement of being beneath the sea’s surface. Not to be outdone is an Act Two “Kiss the Girl.” This time the action is on a lagoon above the water, with puppet birds and creatures coming to enchant Ariel and Eric in a rowboat.

I am in awe at what the entire creative team at BDTS has accomplished. The direction, choreography, music, scenic design, audio, costumes and wigs, lighting, puppetry, projections, and flying design are impeccable. I can’t fathom what producing this production has entailed. Matthew D. Peters is the show’s director and choreographer who put together this wonder, produced by Michael J. Duran, with Alicia K. Meyers as assistant director.

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

Lillian Buonocore is charming as the confused Ariel. It is her voice the sailors hear when she emerges from the water. Buonocore’s background in classical ballet is on full display, as she is the continually moving fish under the sea, and the woman who can’t initially figure out how to use her legs when such becomes a possibility. Cole LaFonte is equally charming as Prince Eric. His voice and stage presence are impressive, and the audience and assembled cast encourage him to “Kiss the Girl” to hopefully end the evil spell cast upon her by the witch of the sea.

Supporting roles include the over-the-top evil Ursula, played by Alicia K. Meyers. Ursula is the evil witch of the sea, sister of King Triton, who will stop at nothing to win the kingdom’s title for herself. Chaz Lederer becomes Flounder the fish in love with Ariel. Bob Hoppe is non-stop delight as he taps and swims and flies as Scuttle. Scott Severtson is the underwater King Triton, with Brian and Jackson and Matthew D. Peters portraying the underwater Flotsam and Jetsam. Scott Beyette has his moments to shine as Chef Louis the above-ground chef preparing a fish meal for Ariel, without realizing that the mermaid has no desire to “eat her own.” Brian Burron is excellent as the ever-present servant Grimbsy who tries to make some order out of chaos. Sometimes stealing the show is Sebastian, the puppet crab played by Anthony P. McGlaun in the performance I saw. He is eager to help Ariel whenever possible, not so eager to be her meal when the palace chef prepares fish for dinner.

Ariel’s visits to the seashore have encouraged her to sing to the waters, with her voice beguiling many. She is also fascinated by “humans” and has created an underwater display of everything she has found in the ocean, including discarded forks that she assumes must be hair combs. Her father King Triton, is dismayed with his youngest daughter’s interest in humans, and refuses permission for her to “surface.”

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

Hans Christian Andersen’s original story appeared in an 1837 collection of his fairy tales. The collection also included “The Princess and the Pea,” “Thumbelina,” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” The collection was not immediately successful, as Andersen’s prior successes had been as a travel writer and novelist. His fairy tales, however, resulted in his becoming the best known Danish writer. He was only 32 when “The Little Mermaid was published in the series of stories.

The animated movie version of “The Little Mermaid” was created by the Disney Corporation and released in 1989. The stage musical came to life in Denver in 2007 prior to opening on Broadway the next year. It ran for nearly 700 performances on Broadway and has subsequently been produced worldwide. The Broadway version was adapted for the touring company in 2015, with that version now being seen on stage in Boulder.

And what a sight to see! The sets, the lighting, the costumes, the flying, and the incredible beauty of the entire production. Seeing it nearly becomes gluttonous. I had visually consumed so much that I was somewhat overfull. Act Two is too long, and a slightly-reduced offering would be preferred. It took me a few post-show hours to properly digest and reflect on what I had seen, appreciating the wonder of it all.

“The Little Mermaid”
To September 8, 2018
BDT Stage – Boulder’s Dinner Theatre
5501 Arapahoe Avenue
Boulder, CO 80303
Telephone: 303/449-6000
Online: BDTStage.comFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Arthur Miller’s First Triumph Arrives in Arvada

“All My Sons” Packs Emotional Wallop

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 11, 2018

At the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities performance’s conclusion, there were a few seconds of stunned silence before the audience jumped up to provide thunderous applause. The audience was in complete awe and could not immediately respond to the magnificence of the performance.

Arthur Miller was still a struggling playwright when he completed his first success, “All My Sons.” He had decided to abandon writing if that work did not succeed. His worry was unnecessary. Subsequent to the January 1947 opening of “All My Sons,” Miller went on to complete a string of successes including “The Crucible,” “A View from the Bridge,” “Death of a Salesman,” “An Enemy of the People,” “After the Fall,” “Incident at Vichy,” “The Archbishop’s Ceiling,” and “The Price.” He is considered to be among the greatest American playwrights of the 20th Century.

L-R: Emma Messenger (Kate Keller) and Sam Gregory (Joe Keller)
Matt Gale Photography 2018

The characters he created for “Sons,” are on brilliant display this season at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. Front and center are Sam Gregory and Emma Messenger as Joe and Kate Keller, a couple in their early 60s. Joe’s business has survived the transition from World War II wartime to peacetime. He is an arrogant, confident, and wealthy man. His wife, Kate, has remained in wartime distress of never accepting the possibility that her son, missing in action, may never return.

Pictured L-R: Regina Fernandez (Ann Deever), Abner Genece (Dr. Jim Bayliss), Emma Messenger (Kate Keller), and Lance Rasmussen (Chris Keller). Photo – Matt Gale Photography 2018

The ravages of war have become the ravages of peace where the family appears to be unable to accept the post-war American Dream. Neighbors believe that Joe and his partner overtly provided malfunctioning supplies to the military effort, supplies that ultimately resulted in the deaths of at least 21 pilots. Joe’s partner, and former next-door-neighbor, Mr. Deever, is currently in prison for the crime, whereas Joe claimed innocence and has remained a free man.

He is the father of two sons, Larry, who has never returned from the war, and Chris, who has returned and is working at his father’s business. He is still single and living at home two years after the war ended.

Pictured L-R: Geoffrey Kent (George Deever) and Emma Messenger (Kate Keller). Photo – Matt Gale Photography 2018

Chris has carried on communication with Ann Deever, daughter of the former neighbor who is now in prison. She was Larry’s girlfriend before the war, and Chris is in love with her. He invites her to visit the Keller home with the plan to propose to her. Regina Fernandez and Lance Rasmussen are in excellent form as Chris and Ann, apparently smitten with each other, with neither wanting to confront the past. When Ann’s attorney brother, George, arrives from New York, there is incredible malice in the air – anger on George’s part for the role he believes Joe Keller played, resulting in his own father becoming imprisoned. George is horrified with the idea that his sister may want to marry the son of the man whose actions put their father in jail.

It would be difficult to imagine a cast as talented as those on stage this season at the Arvada Center. The cast is part of the theatre’s current repertory company. They are stunning audiences not only with “All My Sons,” but also in “The Electric Baby” and “Sense and Sensibility.” To add to the amazement is the realization that Lynne Collins directed both “All My Sons” and “Sense and Sensibility” — two plays this season of entirely different focus and genre.

The set is a thought-provoking image of what might be in store for the audience. A home is completely topsy-turvy behind a well-maintained outdoor patio. It is clear that the Keller household may be in complete disarray, while trying to maintain a sunny appearance of normality.

This is a stunning display of incredible talent. It is rare that I am not ready to leave a theatre after two and one half hours. I was in no rush this time, however, as “All My Sons” kept me spellbound. The show is more than about just a family in distress. It touches on themes of guilt and innocence, right and wrong, greed, morality, and actions of those who served in the war and those who chose not to. It comes back to being able to move on, taking responsibility for our own actions.

“All My Sons”
Where: Black Box Theatre, Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003-9985
When: Through May 3, 2018
Tickets: 720/898-7200
Online at Arvadacenter.orgFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Loveland Opera Theatre Is A Winner As That “Merry Widow” Waltzes Onto Rialto Stage

Terrific Voices, Lavish Costumes & New Libretto Combine For Delightful Production of Lehar’s Famous Operetta!

Reviewed by Tom Jones,
February 20, 2018

More than 100 years ago Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow” premiered in Vienna. Audiences and critics were quick to realize the charm of the operetta, and productions quickly spread across Europe, and ultimately throughout the world. It just might be the most popular operetta in history.

Photo Courtesy of D. St. John Photography

This winter Loveland audiences were becoming aware that something special was happening with the arrival of the show. Stage Director Timothy Kennedy has worked on various productions of The Merry Widow” for many years, and went to work writing a new libretto for this production, adding to the wonders of the Lehar music. The result is a winner. Costuming is excellent, as Davis Sibley designed them specifically for this production.

Tale is very loosely based on a real situation, although names and locations have been changed. Pontevedro, an imaginary country near Paris is in a financial crisis. The country’s most wealthy citizen has died leaving his fortune to his widow, Hanna. If she should marry someone outside the country, Pontevedro would be in financial ruin.

Photo Courtesy of D. St. John Photography

This problem comes to a head when the Pontevedrian Ambassador to Paris is giving a ball at the embassy in Paris to celebrate the birthday of his king, and the arrival in Paris of the widowed Hanna Glawari. The Ambassador learns that he must do everything in his power to keep the widow from marrying anyone not a local Pontevedrian.

Mayhem ensues. The Ambassador’s wife is smitten by the charm of a Frenchman who just might be on the lookout to marry the wealthy widow. The Pontevedrian king’s nephew, Count Danilo, is on the short list of possible candidates and is currently working in the Parisian embassy. Danilo had been in love with Hanna many years ago. His uncle refused the request for the two to marry, and sent Danilo away. He is embittered by what happened to him and refuses to be party to the idea of marrying the now-wealthy widow. There is comic relief as the Ambassador goes through a ritual of calling the roll each time he meets with his goofy three-man staff.

Photo Courtesy of D. St. John Photography

This is all going on to the lilting Lehar music. “The Merry Widow Waltz” is front and foremost, instantly recognizable. Equally charming, however, is “Vilja Song” which is so beautifully performed that I wanted the audience to stop the show with a standing ovation. That didn’t happen, but the sequence remains rich in my mind as the show’s most brilliant scene. “You’ll Find Me at Maxims,” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” are also familiar songs. The operetta is performed in English.

Some of Colorado’s most powerful voices are front and center for this production. Leads are Phoenix Gayles as Hanna, Josh DeVane as Danilo Danilovitsch, Emily Morris as The Ambassador’s wife Valencienne, Nathan Snyder as Camille de Rosillion, and Rob Hoch as the Ambassador.

The cast is large, nearly 50 performers on stage plus an orchestra of 13 plus keyboard. Set is designed by Noel Johnston, lighting by Peter F. Muller. Orchestra is conducted by Adam Torres with choreography Sarah Wilhelm.

Director and libretto writer Timothy Kennedy has assembled a very talented ensemble, with standout performances by the lead performers, chorus, and orchestra at every turn.

Dr. Juliana Bishop Hoch, Executive and Artist Director of the Loveland Opera Theatre is to be applauded for her work, not only providing excellent productions to Northern Colorado, but for making it possible for school-age students to go to the shows. “The Merry Widow for Kids” is a one-hour instructive introduction to opera and what goes on behind the scenes. Families are invited to attend performances of this abbreviated performance Saturdays February 24 and March 3 at 2:30 p.m. In addition, many schools in the Loveland and Fort Collins area bring students to one-hour versions of the show in late February and early March during school hours.

“The Merry Widow” is a Loveland look at the “lost and found” of love, highlighted by incredible individual, orchestral, and choral talents. The show is a somewhat naïve look at romance of a century gone by, displayed with great charm. And that brilliant music.

“The Merry Widow”
Where: Presented by Loveland Opera Threatre, on the Rialto Theatre Stage
228 West 4th Street
Loveland, CO 80537
When: February 23, 24, and 25, March 2, 3, and 4
For information: www.lovelandopera.org, 970/593-0085
Rialto Theatre Box Office: Telephone 970/962-2120Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

“Waiting For The Parade” Provides Very Good Theatre At Bas Bleu

Five Canadian Women Are Poignantly Portrayed On The “Home Front” During World War II

Reviewed by Tom Jones,
February 6, 2018

“Waiting for the Parade.” What is this? I was not aware of this moving story. This was my loss. Canadian playwright, John Murrell, was commissioned by the Alberta (Canada) Theatre Projects to write a play about Canada’s involvement in the Second World War. The result was his 1977 look at the war through the eyes of five women in Calgary who saw the conflict from a variety of prospectives.

Murrell’s play was not an instant hit, but went on to become probably the most-produced Canadian play in history.

The Bas Bleu Theatre Company rehearses their production of “Waiting for the Parade,” January 31, 2018.
© 2018 William A. Cotton

We meet five women who gather as volunteers to work for the war effort while Canadian men are away, fighting in the war. They are not a gaggle of best friends, but five women who have ended up together rolling bandages, preparing sanitation kits, and other items they hope will help sustain the far-away soldiers.

Their “boss” is the incredibly unlikeable, Janet. She is well portrayed by Lou Anne Wright as a no-holds-barred taskmaster, more interested in being self-important than really helping her staff. Her military-age husband has opted to stay home, working for a news agency that reports the war news over the radio.

The Bas Bleu Theatre Company rehearses their production of “Waiting for the Parade,” January 25, 2018.
© 2018 William A. Cotton

Wendy Ishii is a jewel as Margaret, who openly remarks, “I can’t stand that Woman,” (Janet, the boss) as the bandages must be rolled again –if they are not “perfectly tight.” Margaret is a widow with a son in the military, and another son at home who opposes the war.

Lauren Scott is wonderful as Catherine, whose husband Billy is “somewhere” overseas, but she has minimal news of his whereabouts. He has been gone so long that she begins to wonder how much she cares for him – noting that she really can’t even remember what he looks like.

Eve is well-portrayed by Dominique Mickelson. Eve’s husband is older than she is, and is not currently serving in the military. She is a young school teacher who agonizes that her young male students are more interested in joining the army than completing their studies.

Rounding out the intriguing group is Ellen Badger as Marta. Marta is a near-outcast in the town, as her father was taken away to live in an internment camp after German propaganda was found in their basement.

Playwright Murrell has produced a moving story, keeping the audience enthralled with each revelation of the five women. Not one “of the five,” but every bit a “character” in the show is the music. Some of the music, such as “White Cliffs of Dover,” is familiar, and is effectively used to provide various moods of the war as seen from afar. The women even take time out from the conflict to dance together!

© 2018 William A. Cotton

Direction of the Bas Bleu presentation is by Ami Dayan and Lou Anne Wright. Together they have provided an evening of great entertainment. The set and lighting are very effective. The set has been designed to be a “home” for each of the five women, as well as the meeting place for their volunteer bandage-rolling. Set and props detail are especially effective.

“Waiting for the Parade” is a warmly moving and educational production. News of American citizens on the home-front has been depicted often. This is a rare look at the lives of our Canadian neighbors to the north. Wendy Ishii, who is very good as “Margaret,” notes, “Part of the fun of these characters is that their stories are laced with humor, pathos, and resiliency as they live in the uncertainty of the future.”

“Waiting for the Parade”
Bas Bleu Theatre Company
401 Pine Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524
When: To March 4, 2018
Telephone 970/498-8949
Online:  www.basbleu.orgFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Award Winning “Fun Home” On Stage At Midtown Arts Center In Fort Collins

Excellent Performances Highlight This Regional Premier

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 2, 2018

The last time I saw Vince Wingerter on stage, he was Bert, the affable chimney sweep in the heartwarming, “Mary Poppins.” He was very good in that role, but soars this season as Bruce, the tormented father in “Fun Home.” He rules the roost over a family in turmoil in their restored Victorian “House on Maple Avenue” that doesn’t quite fit into the All-American happy façade.

Image by Dyann DIercks Photography

This is a no-holds-barred look at a slice of the Americana dream that has rarely been so carefully dissected. Bruce, an English teacher in the local Pennsylvania town, took over the family funeral home (the “fun” home of the title) at the death of his father. He is confusion in motion, sometime playful and loving to the children, seen in fits of near rage the next, when the family doesn’t do precisely at he wants at the precise moment he desires.

The children are bewildered by him. His wife, Helen, unhappily endures what is happening, not wanting to cause further wrath. Bruce is a closeted gay man, in his personal hell of having no idea how to accept himself. His daughter, Alison has turmoil of her own. When she was very young she realized that she was attracted to women. She has no idea of where she fits in, until she goes to college and becomes aware of a society within a society which may actually accept her for who she is.

Image by Dyann DIercks Photography

This is a sometimes uncomfortable realization, but is very well portrayed by a talented cast. The story is based on the memories of the real Alison Bechdel. She is shown in three stages of her life: Small Allison (the young girl), a Middle Alison (college student), and as an adult, recording and drawing what has happened to the “House on Maple Avenue” in mid-Americana, USA. The young Alison is double cast, with Julia Gibson and Ella Sokolowski playing in alternating performances. The Small Alison I saw was Julia Gibson. She is a star in the making. It will be exciting to watch her develop over the years.

Photo Credit: Dyann Diercks Photography

Sarah Lewis is very convincing as the college-age Alison, carefully taking notes of what she sees in life, and transferring her ideas to artwork. She has the challenge of accepting herself as a lesbian, initially having no idea of what such a label entails.

Monica Howe is the protagonist, playing the adult Alison. “Fun Home” is basically her story, looking at the family life as she saw it. The real life Alison Bechdel created the comic strip “Dykes To Watch Out For” which ran in lesbian and gay publications for many years. She gained a wider readership with the publication of “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” a graphic memoir about her relationship with her gay father.

Alisa Metcalf is very good as the bewildered wife, having no idea of where to turn in the family confusion. She takes refuge with her piano. Her song, “Helen’s Etude” is one of the most memorable scenes in the show. Zulfiya Asquino is effective as the college-age Alison’s first lover. Corbin Payne is seen as the local handyman and other characters. Matthew Farley and Ryan Fisher are the family’s young boys. They are good dancers, and bring some comedy relief to the heavy story, climbing in and out of the “fun home” caskets.

Image by Dyann DIercks Photography

The musical was developed through several readings and performances, culminating with the Broadway opening in the spring of 2015. It is the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist, and the original New York run was extended several times. It was nominated for many awards, and was named as Best Musical in the 2015 Tony Awards.

Music is by Jeanine Tesori; book and lyrics by Lisa Kron. The Midtown Arts Center production was produced and directed by Kurt Terrio. The music is pleasant, with thought-provoking lyrics. The score received many awards.

This is a very well-acted production. It is NOT “The Sound of Music” or “Mary Poppins,” but a disquieting rendition of a family trying to come to terms with reality. The set is terrific. The cast is terrific. The show is an eye-opening glimpse into the challenging world of gay and lesbian persons coming to terms with themselves, their families, and society as a whole.

“Fun Home”
Where: Midtown Arts Center, 3750 South Mason Street, Fort Collins, CO 80525
When: To March 17, 2018
Box Office: 970/225-2555
Online at  www.midtownartscenter.comFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Jane Austen Heroines Are Alive & Well on Arvada Stage

“Sense and Sensibility” Is Whirlwind of Activity

Reviewed by Tom Jones
January 26, 2018

The Dashwood sisters are in unfortunate circumstances. They are suddenly poor and have no options other than finding a husband. This is England of the late 1700s. A woman without a dowry is a woman to be ignored. When Henry Dashwood died, he left a son, John, and John’s three half-sisters –Elinor, Marianne and Margaret. John’s self-centered and arrogant wife wants nothing to do with the three sisters and their mother — sending them from the family home to live in a tiny cottage with minimal means of support.

Regina Fernandez (Marianne Dashwood) and Geoffrey Kent (Colonel Brandon)
Matt Gale Photography 2018

Plight of the Dashwood sisters is Jane Austen’s novel published in 1813. It has gone on to become one of the world’s best-loved classics. The production on stage this winter at Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities is a visual comedy delight. Direction and acting are flawless. Not only the Dashwood family “moves” out of the home, everything on stage moves – continually. This is very clever chorography without music. Scenery (and people on furniture) rolls on and off stage, characters play a variety of roles including dogs and chickens. There are horse-drawn carriages and even a two-person clock with one actor to portray the minute hand, the other to display seconds. Genders are continually switched solely by changing the style of a hat.

L-R: Zachary Andrews, Jessica Robblee, Emma Messenger, Abner Genece, Geoffrey Kent, Jessica Austgen, and Emelie O’Hara.
Matt Gale Photography 2018

Amid this flurry of fun, the Dashwood sisters futures remain in jeopardy. There are two marriageable-age Dashwood daughters, Elinor and Marianne. They are very pretty and bright women – but without family money, they must rely on charm and charity of others to get by. Jessica Robblee is convincing as Elinor, the more orderly of the sisters. Regina Fernandez is very good as Marianne, a younger sister who appears to be delighted with everything around her, and susceptible to any advances from the opposite sex. In the space of a couple of hours, their persona switches from “sense” to “sensibility” and back, stopping somewhere in the middle each accepting traits from the other.

Robblee and Fernandez are the only cast members who do not play more than one role. There is a frenzy of entrances and exits played by everyone in the Arvada Repertory Company. They change their characters by the drop of a hat, by the swish or stagger in their walk, and by the tone of their voice. This is terrific theatre, but somewhat challenging to the audience trying to figure out just who is now who and how they now fit into the story.

Jessica Austgen, for example, plays two large roles to perfection. She has a distinct look, and moves with ease while portraying Lucy Steele, Fanny Dashwood, and several animals! At one point, with split-second timing, she has a frenzied fight with herself. The Company’s performers include Zachary Andrews, Abner Genece, Kate Gleason, Geoffrey Kent, Emma Messenger, Emelie O’Hara and Lance Rasmussen.

The performances are a miracle of movement. A woman sitting near to me in the theatre commented, “How in the world did the director get this show to work. It must have taken months and months of preparation.” Lynne Collins has directed this marvel.

Lance Rasmussen (Edward Ferrars/Robert Ferrars) and Jessica Robblee (Elinor Dashwood)
Matt Gale Photography 2018

Over the years, the novel has been transferred to movie screens and to the stage in a variety of telling. The version now on stage in Arvada is a playful adaptation by Kate Hamill. Her spinning of the tale, directed by Erik Tucker, opened in 2016 at the Bedlam Theatrical Troupe received great acclaim. On critic noted this is “the greatest stage adaptation of this novel in history.” The Arvada production is the Hamill play’s regional premiere.

While delightful in every respect, appreciation of the production is enhanced if threatre-goers take the time to read a synopsis of the story to refresh memories of the plot, and to better figure out which characters are being portrayed, as actors switch roles. The show is so very good, however, that the audience can follow along this wild and crazy whirlwind of the Austen tale.

“Sense and Sensibility”
Where: Black Box Theatre, Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities.
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003-9985
When: Through May 6, 2018
Tickets: 720/898-7200
For more information:   Arvadacenter.orgFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

“Waitress” Now Serving Patrons of Buell Theatre

First National Touring Company Is Delicious Entertainment

Reviewed by Tom Jones

December 29, 2017

Three waitresses working in a diner somewhere in America’s South have become good friends. They are the “Three Musketeers” of food service. They ignore their boss, and try to fix each other’s problems. Becky is a heavy-set woman who has a heart as large as her frame, and who claims her husband has not shown her sexual attention for 15 years. Dawn is a social misfit, eager to find romance but with no idea of how to go about it. Jenna appears to be the most challenged of the three. She is in an incredibly unhappy marriage, but is afraid of doing anything to change her situation.

Their woes are effectively brought to life this month in the national touring company of “Waitress” now on stage of the Buell Theatre.

Desi Oakley, Charity Angel Dawson and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of WAITRESS  Credit Joan Marcus

Whereas Charity Angel Dawson as Becky and Lenne Klingaman as Dawn are great fun, they basically provide the comedy relief to the concerns of Jenna played by Desi Oakley. Early in the show Jenna learns that she is pregnant by her louse of a husband, Earl, whom she intensely dislikes. Larry Marshall is so convincing as Earl, that the audience at curtain call were eager to boo him. His performance is so menacing that he sustains the threat of violence throughout the show.

Jenna is the product of a family with its share of unhappiness. She was helpless in protecting her mother from the abuses of her father. Her memories of her mother sustain her. Her mother taught her how to bake a pie, but not how to choose a man. Jenna is probably the best pie maker in the area, and is thinking about entering a pie-baking contest with financial rewards.

Desi Oakley as Jenna in the National Tour of WAITRESS  Credit Joan Marcus

She is also considering running away, leaving her husband and her job, when she learns that she is pregnant with Earl’s child. Her life appears to be in shambles. She has no idea what to do, and wants nothing to do with the forthcoming child. The results provide an evening of great interest. There are no high-kicking chorus girls, or glittering Broadway/Hollywood scenery. There is, however., thought-provoking courage in the making. The set is effective, and clever choreography of movement keeps the action flowing. Timing is flawless.

Jenna’s gynecologist, Dr. Pomatter, is new to the area. He is a new doctor, and provides an enormous innocence and insecurity which become wisdom and know-how, as the show (and Jenna’s pregnancy) progress. Bryan Fenkart is excellent as the bewildered and helpful Dr. Pomatter. His own marriage isn’t the greatest, and he finds enormous support just being with his patient, Jenna.

The development of their friendship is the basis of “Waitress.” Events in the lives of the other waitresses provide terrific counterpoint to the feelings shared by Jenna and Dr. Pomatter. Becky becomes physically interested in Cal, the diner boss. Dawn finds a date – and potential of a happy future with Ogie. Ogie, played by Jeremy Morse, is one of the show’s most energetic enjoyments. He is every bit as socially adrift as is Dawn, and they make a hard-to-resist couple. Ogie steals the first act with a delightful “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” after a five-minute first date.

The musical is based on the 2007 film of the same name, written by Adrienne Shelly. Music is good. No melodies become embedded in the brain for future humming. The second act, however, is particularly interesting as Jenna sings “She Used to Be Mine,” and is joined by the company for “Everything Changes.” Music and lyrics are by Sara Bareilles with the book of Jessie Nelson. The show’s director, Diane Paulus, was one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2014.

Paulus directed the original production at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge in 2015, and the Broadway opening in 2016. The show received several awards, and is the first musical in Broadway history to have four women in primary functions: Director, writer, composer, and choreographer. The national touring company on stage at the Buell this year began its tour this past October.

Pies are in abundance throughout the show. My first desire when leaving the theatre, was to find a slice of warm pie. Perhaps a-la-mode. “Waitress” provides a deep dish of wisdom and entertainment looking at Jenna and her friends in the diner.

“Waitress”
Where: Buell Theatre, Denver Center for the Performing Arts
To: December 31,2017
Online:  www.denvercenter.orgFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in Arvada

Aaron Young Struts and Sings Sensationally as the Favored Son of Biblical Fame

Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 19, 2017

“Yes,” he claims, “I look handsome. I look smart. I am a walking work of art, such a dazzling coat of many colors. How I love my coat of many colors.” So sings Aaron Young as Joseph, as he unabashedly taunts his 11 brothers with his new robe. Seems Joseph is the favorite son of his father, Jacob, and wears his new coat with great élan. Too much élan, as the brothers devise a plot to not only rid themselves of Joseph’s coat, but of Joseph himself. Joseph does more than annoy his brothers with his fancy coat, he sings about it with an “amazing” voice. Rarely has Joseph sounded so good.

Pictured: Aaron Young as Joseph
Photo M. Gale Photography 2017

Sound familiar? The story of Jacob and his 12 sons has been around since the Bible began. There were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Naphtali, Issachar, Asher, Dan, Zebulun, Gad, Benjamin, Judah, and Joseph – his father’s “favorite son.” The musical version, crafted by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, seems to have been around “forever.” But it has been less than 50 years since they worked on a little show for a boy’s school in London – a little musical fable which originally lasted about 20 minutes.

The “little show” has been expanded substantially and has become one of the most successful musicals in history. The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities has produced the show six times in previous years, but not since 2009. When I learned it was to be the Center’s Holiday Musical, my initial reaction was “Ho Hum. Not very Christmassy.” How wrong I was. No, it does not have a Holiday theme, but is perhaps the best “present” that the Center could provide to audiences this season. It is a joy to see and to hear.

Aaron Young (Joseph) and ensembe
M. Gale Photography 2017

The show has sometimes been stylized so severely to be hardly recognizable. Director Gavin Mayer has wisely gone back to the more traditional performance, and has provided a show for the ages. The excellent performer Aaron Young is in great company, as the entire cast is talent to be reckoned with. Sarah Rex played the Narrator several years ago in Arvada, and has returned to charm the socks off the audience and to raise the roof with her voice. Stephen Day is excellent in two roles – that of Jacob and as Potiphar. Norrell Moore is an alluring and temping Mrs. Potiphar. James Frances gets “all shook up” as the (Elvis Presley) Pharaoh.

Sarah Rex (Narrator) and ensemble
M. Gale Photography 2017

The crazy diversions of song and dance styles are more fun than ever. P. Tucker Worley is the country western voice as Levi in the “One More Angel in Heaven Hoedown.” Jake Mendes is Reuben as a French charmer looking back on “Those Canaan Days” while the family is on the verge of starvation. Emma Martin and Michael Russell give even more excitement to the French Cabaret of “Those Canaan Days” in a French Apache Dancers routine. Michael Canada is excellent as he rouses the brothers in Egypt with his “Benjamin’s Calypso.”

Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck provides the delightful chorography, with Roberto Sinha as Musical Director, and Brian Mallgrave as Scenic Designer. Lighting is by Sean Mallary, sound by David Thomas, and Costumes by December Mathisen.

The entire show is less than two hours, including intermission. The audience was having such a terrific time, however, that no one was eager to leave. But they could go home humming such great melodies as “Any Dream Will Do,” and remembering just how handsome and how smart was Joseph as a walking work of art in his “Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”
Where: Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities.
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003
When: Through December 23, 2017
Tickets: 720/898-7200
Click Here For More Information:Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Even Charlie Finds Himself To Be Magnificently Boring in The Foreigner

Sammie Joe Kinnett Is Brilliant As “The Foreigner”

Reviewed by Tom Jones
October 20, 2017

Charlie Baker is a well-meaning copy editor in London. He hasn’t had much of a marriage. His wife of many years has found him to be incredibly boring, so boring that he is beginning to agree with her. She is seriously ill in a hospital, but doesn’t care to have him around, and is glad to have him out of the way for a few days while he accompanies a friend on a trip to the USA.

Pictured L-R: Lance Rasmussen (Ellard Simms) and Sammie Joe Kinnett (Charlie Baker). Photo Matt Gale Photography

Charlie’s friend, Froggy, is an explosives expert in the British military and takes Charlie with him to Georgia, leaving him in a rural hunting lodge while he goes to on his explosive training assignment. Charlie is traumatized by the thought of being left alone, perhaps requiring him to engage in even minimal conversation. Froggy hatches a plan, telling the lodge owner that Charlie is a “foreigner,” does not speak or understand ANY English, and must be left alone.

Unfortunately, while pretending to not understand nor speak any English, Charlie overhears some conversations among the lodge’s guests that he should not have heard. The “foreigner” ruse is beginning to have serious implications. The ensuing two and one-half hours are a delightful, and sometimes-sobering look, at how we feel about foreigners amongst us. Charlie goes through the machinations of understanding nothing, and becoming involved in pantomiming what he needs, while the guests speak louder and louder, as if that will help him understand.

Sammie Joe Kinnett as Charlie Baker Photo credit Zachary Andrews 2017

Sammie Joe Kinnett is astonishing as the boring Charlie Baker. He becomes incredibly alert in his silence, and ultimately has positive effects on everyone around him. Josh Robinson is believable as Froggy, Charlie’s military friend who creates the “foreigner” image for his friend. A great foil for the speechless Charlie is Ellard Simms, the maybe-mentally-challenged brother of a guest in the lodge.

Lance Rasmussen is super as Ellard. Ellard and Charlie have great scenes together including an over-the-top breakfast when they try to outdo each other in figuring out what the other is trying to relate. Their hijinx end up with each holding a glass on their heads – for no apparent reason except to enjoy the incredible happiness of finding friendship. Ellard believes that Charles might just be smarter than he appears to be, and vice versa. Ellard decides to teach Charlie how to read English – in just three days! And while immersed in his own bubble of disbelief, Charlie realizes that he is not so boring – and that he actually has a personality.

Pictured L-R: Jessica Robblee (Catherine Simms), Sammie Joe Kinnett (Charlie Baker), Standing – Lance Rasmussen (Ellard Simms) and Edith Weiss (Betty Meeks).
Matt Gale Photography 2017

The entire cast is uniformly excellent. Edith Weiss is very good as Betty Meeks, the lodge owner who has no knowledge of anything outside her bit of rural Georgia. Greg Ungar is the mean-spirited county inspector, eager to condemn the lodge property. Zachary Andrews and Jessica Robblee are the Reverend David Marshall Lee and his pregnant girlfriend Catherine. Lee has designs to buy the lodge and turn it into a White Supremacy headquarters, using money from his heiress girlfriend. The girlfriend, Catherine, is accompanied by her half-witted brother Ellard, who just might be brighter than appears.

The clever play, written by Larry Shue, premiered at Milwaukee Repertory Theater and opened off-Broadway in 1984, directed by Jerry Zaks. Initial response was not overly-enthusiastic, but gained word-of-mouth momentum. It received Obie and Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Best New American Play. Playwright Shue died in a plane crash in 1985, not realizing the success the play would ultimately receive. The play has gone on to receive worldwide acclaim.

The Arvada production is directed by Geoffrey Kent, with the set designed by Brian Mallgrave. The mood of the production is in constant flux – from high hilarity to somber realization that evil remains among us. The ultimate result is one of inspiration and hope – with the understanding that each of us has potential of being an influence for good – often when we least expect it.

“The Foreigner”
Where: Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO 80003
When: Through November 18, 2017
Tickets: 720/898-7200
Online:  Arvadacenter.orgFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

“Elephant’s Graveyard’ Is Based On Actual Events Of 100 Years Ago

A small Tennessee town is witness to the tragic demise of a circus elephant.

Reviewed by Tom Jones,
September 9, 2017

“The circus is coming town” was usually the shout meaning an exciting event was about to make small-town life more interesting. Especially to a muddy Tennessee town whose main claim to fame was that they had a railroad station, where a trainload of circus performers and animals could stop for a day or two to provide entertainment from the outside world.

The Bas Bleu Theatre Company rehearses its production of “Elephant’s Graveyard,” August 30, 2017.

Such was the case in 1916 when a struggling circus arrived in Erwin, Tennessee. The circus prided itself on owning a few elephants, including the enormous “Mary” that lead the team in the parade and under the big top at every performance. Upon arrival in Erwin, however, a newcomer to the circus crew requested that he be “in charge” of Mary, not realizing that experience in elephant training was a basic requirement. This resulted in the death of the naïve animal trainer, and ultimately of the elephant itself – reportedly the only elephant to be ever lynched.

The play is a staggeringly interesting mix of the excitement of the circus arrival, the subsequent tragic events, and the resulting conflict of reactions of the local populous. This is a haunting tale, and the cast on the dirt-laden stage of the Bas Bleu Theatre is up to the task of providing 75 minutes of non-stop interest. There is no intermission, as various townspeople and circus performers relate what they believe transpired. The mood is amazing, with the feeling of being inside a circus tent, watching the performances of humans playing out their reaction to the tragedy.

The Bas Bleu Theatre Company rehearses its production of “Elephant’s Graveyard,” August 30, 2017.

There is more going on than the tragic tale told. The author is dealing with the “elephant” in each of our closets – how bigoted we are, how unwilling to overcome racial discrimination. Our lust for blood payment. Although not mentioned in the play, there was a situation in tiny Erwin, Tennessee two years after the elephant was lynched – the lynching of a black person. The “circus” in the play is used as a tool to show how insular we can become – whether it be to our “fellow performers” or our neighbors in insular situations.

The story begins with the Ring Master looking back (from the circus ring) as to what has happened. The show ends with him sitting in the circus ring on an upside-down pail, discussing what he thinks he has seen, and whether it has or has not changed him.

The Bas Bleu Theatre Company rehearses its production of “Elephant’s Graveyard,” August 30, 2017.

The 14-member cast is flawless, as they individually relate where they fit into the story – never speaking to one another, but always addressing the audience. Nick Holland is the Ring Master, Liam Kelley is the experienced animal trainer who has gained the confidence of the animals. Kate Lewis is the ballet girl, often announcing that she is a “ballet” performer, and not a tawdry novelty. Scott McCoppin is the tour manager, Ken Benda is the strongman who can’t lift much. Elizbeth Kirchmeier is the acrobatic clown who has probably the most challenging time in accepting the death of her dear animal friend. Greg Clark is the local marshal. Jim Valone, the local preacher, desperately wanting some member of his congregation to seek solace in the church. Kaya Rudolph, Tabitha Tyree, and Holly Wedgeworth are local townspeople. Wesley Longacre is a local shovel operator; Drew Cuthbertson, the engineer. Paul Brewer is the guitarist and drummer. The entire cast is on stage the entire time, except when the train engineer is confined to his office. We never meet the red-head youth whose lack of training resulted in his own death.

This is heavy stuff, with no one singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” The audience is left to figure out its own reaction to what has transpired, and how it may fit into our own life and world.

Author George Brant received the 2008 Keene Prize for Literature and the 2008 David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award. The writing is impressive. We do not see the lynching of the animal, but are told so vividly what has happened, that we feel as if we were present. The current production is directed by Garrett Ayers who notes ‘…the writer reaches inside the imaginations of the audience. What could be more theatrical and dramatic than that?”

The current art exhibit of Elephant Watercolors by Kimberly Lavelle and Bristlecone Photography by Brian Miller is a beautiful complement to the story being told on the Tom Sutherland Stage.

“Elephant’s Graveyard”
Bas Bleu Theatre
401 Pine Street
Fort Collins, CO 80554-2433
970/498-8949
Bas Bleu Website
To October 8, 2017Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is highly charged delight on stage in Boulder

BDT Stage

Joseph, Jack Barton, shows off his many-colored finery while his eleven brothers plot to get even.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
June 7, 2017

Jack Barton is in great form as Joseph when he flaunts the notion that he is the “favorite” son. He has a delightfully naïve superiority when he shows off the coat his dad (Jacob) has given him. He just can’t help himself when he struts around the stage noting, “I look handsome. I look smart. I am a walking work of art – in my coat of many colors.” The audience is joyfully ecstatic. His brothers on stage want to kill him. This is Joseph from the Bible’s book of Genesis. He and his brothers are terrific this spring in the Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

This has long been one of my favorite musicals. Upon arriving at the theatre in Boulder this week, however, I was dismayed to see the artwork for the show – not a bright colored coat from biblical times, but a poster of a Michael Jackson wannabe, complete with a white hat and glove. The basic story wonderful, and I was worried that this “fresh look” wouldn’t wear well with me. Once the show began, however, I tossed my concerns aside, and enjoyed one of the most delightful evenings this year. The “new look” at Joseph is great fun. It is a high energy show, highlighted with amazing choreography, generally not so prominent in other productions.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice brought this tale to the stage in 1968 as a 25-minute pop cantata in a London school. The show expanded to become a concert album in 1969, and opened in London’s West End in 1973. It was modified and performed in a variety of locations before arriving on Broadway in 1982. A version starring Donny Osmond was filmed in 1999, with the DVD becoming very popular.

Joseph and his famous coat have become one of the greatest hits of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice collaborations. They went on to create “Jesus Christ Superstar” and Evita.” Webber continued providing music, working with different lyricists, to give audiences a continual string of mega-successes: “Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats,” “Starlight Express,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Aspects of Love” and on and on and on.

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

“Joseph” in Boulder is wondrously portrayed by Jack Barton. He is a handsome young man with a remarkable voice, and with an awe-shucks appeal to the audience, while his brothers rage against him. They dislike him so intensely that they toss him into a pit, and finally sell him to a caravan of Ishmaelites heading for Egypt. Tracy Warren is equally excellent as the show’s narrator. She was a memorable “Mary Poppins” a few shows ago, and has great charm and a powerful voice.

The music provides a variety of styles. There is a crazed “One More Angel in Heaven” country western provided by Brian Burron as one of the brothers, dishonestly claiming how much sorrow the brothers feel when Joseph disappears. There is the French ballad “Those Canaan Days” later in the show when the starving brothers think of past wealth, and are amazed at how well life seems to be in prosperous Egypt. There is the Elvis Presley take with black-wigged, hip-grinding Scott Severtson as the Pharaoh singing “Song of the King.” “Go, Go, Go, Joseph” looks like at a disco hit of the 50s – a roaring finale to First Act. Near the show’s end there is “Benjamin’s Calypso” when the brothers are in Egypt, humbled and pleading for help.

The rest of the music is disarmingly memorable, including “Any Dream Will Do.” (While I continue to be enchanted by this song, I have no idea what it means.)

Photo Courtesy of Glenn Ross

The fresh look at the story is credited to director Matthew D. Peters and choreographer Alicia K. Meyers. They pay homage to Michael Jackson throughout. No mention is made of him, but the choreography is straight from Jackson “moonwalking” days, and the costuming is complete with the signature Jackson white hat and glove.

The supporting cast is flawless. Wayne Kennedy is a hoot as Potiphar, putting up with the antics of Mrs. Potiphar, played by Alicia K. Meyers. Scott Severtson is black-wigged to come across as the Elvis Presley Pharaoh. The eleven other brothers are unanimously super dancers and singers. The total music presentation, choreography and vocals, is brilliant. The cast includes many young persons who appear as “audience” initially to the narrator, then come back frequently, adding to the vocal delight of the production

The finale is complete with the high energy review of the major songs – an ending that has become standard with most productions of the show

Costuming, sets, and orchestra are extremely good. What is missing? Not much. Some of the show’s basic humanity has been lost by the sheer energy portrayed. Some of the lyrics are not as clearly understood as desired. The total effect, however, is dazzling. Yes, Joseph is handsome. He does look smart. He is a walking work of art — wearing his amazing coat of many colors. “It was red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and …… “

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”
Where: Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage,
5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, CO 80303-1391
When: To August 19, 2017
Information: Box Office: 303/449-6000,
Online: www.bdtstage.comFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is a display of genius

Award Winning Drama Amazes Denver Center Audience

Reviewed by Tom Jones
May 30, 2017

When the creative team was developing “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” the sign on their door must have read, “Quiet, Genius at Work.” The result is a triumph. For a couple of hours playwright Simon Stephens opens a window for the audience to glimpse what probably goes on in the mind of the young man. Christopher. He has genius math skills and is tormented with a form of autism. His social skills are trapped in a constrictive labyrinth with minimal entry possible.

Christopher, brilliantly played by Adam Langdon, is a 15-year-old boy living alone with his father in Swindon, England. His only friend is his pet rat, Toby. He was told that his mother died a couple of years ago, and he relies substantially on his teacher/mentor Siobhan for emotional support. Gene Gillette is excellent as the father, helpless to have so much contact with his son as the touch of a hand. Gillette is a Colorado native — born in Evergreen, and growing up in Frankton. Maria Elena Ramirez is equally impressive as Siobhan, the tireless teacher. Teacher and father want nothing more than to help the bewildered and bewildering young man. Felicity Jones Latta skillfully portrays the boy’s mother who has fled her marriage and family, and now lives in London.

Adam Langdon as Christopher Boone (c)Joan Marcus

The set looks like it could be the inside of a computer. Initially, all anyone sees is a large golden retriever-size dog lying mid-stage with the pitchfork that killed him still emerging from the corpse. When the lights come up, an illusion is created that might be the inside of Christopher’s brain – seeing much more than the dead dog. The neighbor’s dog, Wellington, didn’t mean much to Christopher, but he is intrigued with its death and begins a project to find out who killed him.

Adam Langdon, Maria Elena Ramirez (c)Joan Marcus

There is no end to the amazement lying in Christopher’s brain. Video projections are a maze of their own, transporting the young genius into a never-ending explosion of facts, space, and especially numbers. Christopher is a math wizard. When he thinks of becoming an astronaut, the set goes sky bound, taking him with it for a few moments of incredible celestial beauty. The visual effects were created by a British company, Frantic Assembly.

When Christopher learns that his mother has not died, but is living in London, he sets out on a journey to find her. Although he has no experience of going anywhere, he has her address, and his father’s (stolen) bank card. This journey results in one of the most harrowing visual experiences afforded to an audience. His step-by-step autistic skills are put to the test, as he must find the train station, find out how to buy a ticket, how to find and board a train, and how to maneuver the chaos of The London Underground.

Adam Langdon is nothing short of amazing, as he is center stage for the entire performance, routed in his autistic and calculated routine, but held aloft by other members of the cast, being physically passed from group to group. His athletic abilities are in full effect, and he moves with the grace of an experienced ballet artist.

Gene Gillette, Adam Langdon (c)Joan Marcus

There is no dancing per se in the show, but the choreography is brilliant – every gesture and move calculated to reflect the bustle of every-day life and the inner turmoil of the autistic brain. Choreography is credited to Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly.

The play is based on a novel by Mark Haddon. Playwright Simon Stephens modified the approach from the first-person narrative of the book to the stage production resulting in a play within a plan, mirroring the book Christopher is writing. The London success of the play has been record-breaking. It opened there in March of 2013. It is set to close June 3 of this year, after providing more than 1,600 performances. The play’s London run was hampered in December of 2013 when part of the Apollo Theatre’s roof collapsed, injuring nearly 80 people. The production re-opened several weeks later at the nearby Gielgud Theatre where its run has continued to this week.

Adam Langdon and company (c)Joan Marcus

The Broadway production opened in October of 2014 and ran for nearly two years. It won virtually every award possible including 7 Olivier Awards (in London), The Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama League Award, and the 2015 Tony Award (all in New York). The UK National Theatre Production is on stage in Denver to June 18.

The son’s struggle for acceptance and survival is mirrored by the immense toll the mother and father face – as individuals, as a couple, and of the parents of a dear and talented son who is unable to accept the outward love offered to him. From the jolting loud noises of the first act, reflecting the extreme distress in Christopher’s mind, to his pleading with his teacher for a promise of success at the show’s end, “Curious Incident” is a marvel.

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time”
Where: The Ellie (Ellie Caulkins Opera House Stage of Denver Center for the Performing Art).
When: Through June 18, 2017
Tickets: Prices start at $30 at denvercenter.org. This is the ONLY authorized ticket provider for this
production in Denver.
Online:  denvercenter.orgFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Mary Lennox finds the key to “The Secret Garden” at DCPA

Artwork by Kyle Malone

Incredible Music And Sets Highlight The Enchanting Tale.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
May 18, 2017

The ultimate joy of overcoming adversity rules the stage in the enchanting “Secret Garden.” Finding redemption is given enormous help with incredible music and amazing sets. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book, written in 1911, has become a popular standard for young women worldwide. The story of loss of loved ones, at any age, has resonated over the years. The heartwarming tale includes the delight of a little robin helping a girl discover the door to a decaying garden, the excitement of teaching a bed-ridden young boy to walk, and the thrill of bringing a decaying garden back to life.

Emily Walton, Liam Forde, Sean Reda, Zoe Manarel. Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom

The musical version of the story opened on Broadway in 1971 and ran for more than 700 performances. When seeing the original show with friends while in previews, I was knocked out by the wonderful music, but had a reality check when a friend noted, “That show isn’t going to go anywhere. It’s just too confusing.” Some of the confusion concerning who is alive and who is portrayed as ghosts remains, but is vastly overshadowed by the beauty of the story, the amazing sets, and the unforgettable music.

Zoe Manarel. Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom

The story revolves around a young English girl, Mary Lennox, living with her parents in India, awakening one morning to find her parents and just about everyone else she knows has died in a cholera epidemic. She is sent to the Yorkshire Moors of England to live with two uncles she has never met. The uncles have grief of their own, and are initially unhappy with the arrival of the sad girl.

Liam Forde and Zoe Manarel. Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom

There isn’t much for the young Mary to do in the large ancestral home, and she has difficulty coming to terms with the idea that she is no longer living a privileged life in India. Mary, as portrayed by Zoe Manarel, does have enormous spunk, and substantial help from a chambermaid Martha, and Martha’s young brother, Dickon.

Martha, excellently portrayed by Emily Walton, offers encouragement with “Hold On.” Liam Forde, playing Dickon nearly steals the show with his insightful information about “Wick” – the joy of bringing life to everything. Forde is a marvel!
Sean Palmer and Michael Halling are both very good as Mary’s Yorkshire uncles, Archibald and Neville Craven. They have problems of their own, as they were both in love with the same woman, Lily, who the young Mary greatly resembles. Among the show’s memorable moments is the heartfelt duet the brothers sing, “Lily’s Eyes.”

The entire score is among Broadway’s best. In addition to the delightful “Wick,” and the moving “Lily’s Eyes,” and “Hold On,” there are “A Bit of Earth,” “Race You to the Top of the Morning,” “Where in the World,” “How Could I Ever Know,” and the brilliant “Come to My Garden.”

Carey Rebecca Brown and Sean Palmer. Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom

“A Bit of Earth” is a wake-up call to the two uncles, as they don’t know what to do with Mary, only to learn that all she wants is a bit of earth to bring plants to life. Archibald’s “Race You to the Top of the Morning” is sung to his sleeping young son, fearing that he cannot provide the boy with the emotional love required. “Where in the World” and “How Could I Ever Know” come near the show’s end as Archibald and the spirit of his deceased and beloved, Lily, share their feelings for each other.

The company of The Secret Garden. Photo Credit: AdamsVisCom

Marsha Norman wrote the book and lyrics, with Lucy Simon providing the music. The Denver production is directed by Jenn Thompson with music directed by Gregg Coffin, choreography by Patricia Wilcox, and scenic design by Wilson Chin.

The entire show looks sensational – the set, the costumes, the lighting. A word of caution – figuring out who is related to whom, who is alive and who is portrayed as ghosts can be a daunting task. Just relax and enjoy the beauty of the show, and everything will ultimately fall into place before the joyous conclusion.

“The Secret Garden”
Where: The Stage Theatre of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts
When: To May 28, 2017
Information: denvercenter.org
Box Office: 303/893-4100Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

OpenStage’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner” Is A Delectable Farce In The French Countryside!

Steller Cast Provides Laugh-Out-Loud Situations In This Bawdy Tale.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
April 2, 1017

Bernard, a successful Frenchman living with his wife, Jacqueline, in a country home, has taken careful precautions to plan the weekend to perfection. Jacqueline is set to go away by train for a few days to visit her mother. He has arranged with a catering service to provide a delectable dinner to share with his mistress, Suzanne, who is due to arrive for a blissful weekend of love making. Bernard learns that a longtime buddy, Robert, is also in the area, and can see no worry about also inviting him to the home, at least for dinner.

Bernard’s plans fall apart in quick order. When Jacqueline learns that the friend, Robert, is coming to stay the night, she cancels plans to visit her mother. Bernard does not know that his wife, Jaqueline, is Robert’s mistress. Continue reading OpenStage’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner” Is A Delectable Farce In The French Countryside! Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

“Jesus Christ Superstar” Leaves Audience Breathless at Arvada Center

Familiar Show Has Never Sounded or Looked Better!

Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 25, 2017

From the moment the audience sees the incredible set, until the story concludes, there is a reverent awe with the never-better production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Director Rod A. Lansberry has outdone himself with this brilliant show.

Ensemble and Jesus of Nazareth (Billy Lewis Jr.)
P. Switzer Photography 2017

Release of a single song, “Superstar,” in 1969 encouraged composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice to expand their work to a 1970 rock concert concept album which had an immediate following. The album ultimately resulted in a full-scale production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” opening on Broadway in October of 1971. The original Broadway show and subsequent productions met with enormous fan support, but were rejected by some religious groups. I saw the original New York production and was alarmed. My memory of that introduction is hazy, with my recalling that it was primarily “loud screeching.” What must I have been seeing? A few years ago, composer Webber appeared to agree with me noting that the original New York production was “a vulgar travesty” and opening night was “probably the worst night of my life.” Continue reading “Jesus Christ Superstar” Leaves Audience Breathless at Arvada Center Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

An American in Paris Is Right at Home in Denver

Flawless Ballet Performances Reign In Gershwin Musical Masterpiece
Reviewed by Tom Jones
March 10, 2017

When Mary Poppins arrives on stage, she is helped with wires holding her up. Dancers in “An American in Paris” need no wires, as sheer grace and athleticism have them literally flying through the air. Garen Scribner as Jerry Mulligan and Sara Esty as Lise Dassin are both incredible in the brilliant production now on stage at the Buell Theatre in Denver. Lots of adjectives are in order, as this performance is a must-see. Now known as “An American in Paris – a New Musical.”

Loosely based on the 1951 film, the stage version opened in New York in 2015 with tremendous reviews. It went on to win four Tony Awards including those for choreography, lighting, orchestrations, and scenic design. This is George and Ira Gershwin’s love letter to Paris. The movie starred Gene Kelly as the American serviceman who decides to remain in Paris following World War II. He meets and falls in love with a young French girl, Lise. Garen Scribner takes the role of Jerry in the touring company production, with Sara Esty as Lise. They are wonderful to watch and wonderful to hear.
Continue reading An American in Paris Is Right at Home in Denver Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Merry Wives of Windsor” have moved from England to Scarsdale, New York

Loveland Opera Theatre Provides Great Fun – Greatly Sung

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 27, 2017

Two neighboring wives in Scarsdale, New York, receive letters from the town lecher – John Falstaff, indicating his desire for rendezvous. He is a not very bright lecher, as the women receiving the letters live side by side in the community, and are most eager to share the silly request with each other. They decide to teach him a lesson by inviting him to their homes, with further plans to make him realize his foolishness.

PHOTO CREDIT: D. St. John Photography

So begins a delightful recounting of Shakespeare’s 1602 play, “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” now set to music. Shakespeare’s merry wives have seen many transformations. Italian composer Otto Nicolai wrote and conducted the music for a German language opera in 1849, with libretto by Salomon Hermann Munsenthal, first performed in Berlin. Forty-four years later, Italy’s Giuseppe Verdi took his turn with the play with his opera, “Falstaff,” premiering in Milan in 1893.
Continue reading The Merry Wives of Windsor” have moved from England to Scarsdale, New York Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Pulitzer Prize Winner “August: Osage County” triumphs at OpenStage

Denise Freestone is Flawless as Heavily-Flawed, Pill-Popping Family Matriarch

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 19, 2017

The sustained applause at the conclusion of “August: Osage County” was an unusual display of approval. The opening night audience had been in their seats for more than three hours, but was in no hurry to leave the theatre, as the cheering, standing ovation was endless. The play is one of the most interesting productions performed in northern Colorado in recent memory.

Denise Burson Freestone as Violet Weston in OpenStage Theatre’s production of August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, photography by Joe Hovorka Photography

Denise Burson Freestone and Bruce K. Freestone, Founders of OpenStage, took substantial risk in bringing the award-winning play to Colorado. Looking at a family in turmoil is not a particularly pleasant subject. The cast is large. The set is large. The play’s duration is long. The language is foul. And the show is a winner.

Bruce portrays Beverly Weston, a poet whose fame reached its pinnacle many years earlier. He is now an alcoholic, unhappy with life. Denise plays his wife, Violet, who is suffering from oral cancer and is trapped in her own world of pills and cigarettes. They live separate lives under the same roof of their home in Osage County, Oklahoma, not far from Tulsa. The father’s alcoholism and the mother’s addictions have driven two of their three daughters to move far away, leaving only a lonely unmarried daughter nearby.
Continue reading Pulitzer Prize Winner “August: Osage County” triumphs at OpenStage Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

“Million Dollar Quartet” – Incredible Music Based on Actual Event

Big Talent = Big Bucks as Presley, Cash, Lewis, and Perkins Get Together for Jam at Midtown Arts

Reviewed by Tom Jones
January 27, 2017

On December 4, 1956, some already-famous entertainers get together for an evening of conversation and a chance to record some music in the Sun Records studio in Memphis Tennessee. Headliners Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash were all put on the road to fame by producer Sam Phillips. They turn up at the studio to exchange pleasantries – hesitant to talk about the future, as some may have already made plans to leave Sun Records. New on the scene is an off-the-wall talent wild man by the name of Jerry Lee Lewis. Phillips sees his potential. The others aren’t quite so sure. Continue reading “Million Dollar Quartet” – Incredible Music Based on Actual Event Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Millie Goes Thoroughly Modern in New York City

thoroughly-modern-millie-mainstage-page-newSeles VanHuss shines in 1920s musical at Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage

Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 27, 2016

Millie Dillmount, delightfully played by Seles VanHuss, is the traditional mid-western young woman who arrives in New York City without fear, and with aspirations of a great change in her life. Some girls travel to the Big Apple to make it big in show business. Millie’s plans are much more defined. She wants to marry a rich man.
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Arvada Center Provides World Premiere of Christmas Season Musical

home-logoTalented cast and excellent choreography highlight “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”

Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 19, 2016

Based on the assumption that “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” a creative team has been working for nearly a year to bring “I’ll be Home for Christmas” to the stage at Arvada Center. This is the first time the Center has provided a world premiere of an original production. Book is by Kenn McLaughlin, with lyrics and original music by David Nehls. Some of the music includes familiar Christmas tunes – arranged to provide opportunity for excellent dancing. Gavin Mayer directed the show with Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck providing the choreography.
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OpenStage’s “The Flick” is heart-wrenching look at the staff of a movie theater on its last legs.

the-flickActing excellence keeps audience awake in longer-than-usual production.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 13, 2016

A dying Massachusetts movie theater is portrayed as an aging artifact, one of the state’s few remaining movie houses using 35mm projection. The “digital” age is taking over movie theaters across the country, and The Flick’s three staff members continue their boring work of keeping the theater alive. The three manage the box office, the refreshment stand, run the projector, clean messy restrooms, and most of the time are seen sweeping up spilled popcorn and discarding boxes, cups, and candy wrappers after each film. For nearly three hours the audience watches as two of the three sweep bucket after bucket of refuse while maintaining their sanity with mundane conversation, spiked with “tests” they provide each other about past movie memories. As they chat and sweep, and chat and sweep, they reveal how difficult it is for them to become close to anyone – each other included.
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Not much glitz and glamour working for high end fashion magazine in New York City.

ultimate_logo

Talented cast in OpenStage, etc. production of “Ultimate Beauty Bible”.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
October 15, 2016

Three young millennials, working for the same high-end fashion magazine, get together for cocktails; with the idea they are renewing friendships which began when they interned together at the magazine following college. They are an unusual trio: a blond, a brunette, and a redhead, sitting in a bar or cocktail lounge, dressed to the nines, and attempting to be gracious and loving while their friendship, if there ever was one, is shallow as a saucer.
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“Tartuffe” cons his way to high hilarity at Arvada Center

tartuffe-logoFamily has hilarious time in exposing plan to steal the families jewels

Reviewed by Tom Jones
October 9, 2016

Beware of scams. Hang up when a supposed IRS agent threatens to take away your home. Don’t offer your social security number or other information that could be used to defraud you. And be especially on the lookout for Tartuffe. He is the pious beggar at the doorstep with mystifying charm – promising eternal salvation. Orgon, the family patriarch, believed him, took him into his home; and the scammer soon had Orgon and his doting mother under his spell. The rest of the family was aghast.
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“Motones vs Jerseys” musicians are in fine form as Midtown audience cheers

mvjAbout 50 songs are included in the “war” of opposing performers at MAC

Reviewed by Tom Jones

It is “Fight Night” at Midtown Arts Center. All gloves are off, but two teams of amazing vocal cords are in combat as “Motones vs. Jerseys” offer the audience a grand duel for more than two hours of superb music.
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OpenStage’s “La Bete” is Two Hours of Bravura Acting on Lincoln Center Magnolia Theatre

la_bete_logoA knockout of theatre when an obvious bore becomes enchantment

Reviewed by Tom Jones
September 9, 2016

How long has it been since you’ve been “trapped” in the same room with someone who talks non-stop about himself, believes he (or she) is the center of wisdom, and stops talking only to stuff bits of food in his mouth, spewing much of it on the floor. This might be in classroom, a car, in a business environment, or (heaven-forbid) at a family reunion.
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Colleen Johnson Shines as “Practically Perfect” Mary Poppins

MaryPoppins“Mary Poppins” is great charmer at Midtown Arts Center

Reviewed by Tom Jones, June 20, 2016

Colleen Johnson is a wonder. From the moment she arrives on stage, umbrella on her arm, shoes pointing outward from the heels, she is completely in charge. I first became enchanted by Johnson when she dashed from the MAC stage through an exterior exit as the frenzied Fiona in “Shrek.” This time around she arrives at the Banks household on London’s Cherry Tree Lane after the recent Nanny has departed in great haste. She immediately announces that she is “Practically Perfect in every way!” And we believe her. She has great (pointed) shoes to fill. Julie Andrews received the Academy Award as Best Actress for the 1964 movie – which has become one of the most-loved movies of all time.
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The “Shrew” Becomes The “Tamer” at OpenStage Outdoors

Shrew-OSShakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” is Rollicking Tale

Reviewed by Tom Jones
June 11, 2016

Baptista is a wealthy gentleman of Padua whose younger daughter, Bianca, has many suitors. Unfortunately for the wooing young men, Baptista will not promise her to anyone until her older sister, Katherine is wed. Problem. Katherine, known as “Kate” is a semi-monster whose miserable temperament is well known throughout Italy. It is going to be a hard sell to wed her before allowing Bianca to follow suit.
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