Opening No. 101: The Edge Theatre’s “The House of Blue Leaves”: The zoo isn’t just onstage at the Edge Theatre for John Guare’s 1966 savagely black comedy about delusion and mediocrity in the form of a Queens zookeeper itching to pursue his dream of scoring Hollywood films. Things get a little carnal backstage at the Edge as well, as evidenced by the fur flying in the photo above between Zachary Page (Ronnie) and Kelly Uhlenhopp (Bunny). The cast is led by a remarkable Tom Auclair as Artie — he learned how to piano just to play this Piano Man role, and Missy Moore as his overmedicated cuckoo’s nester of a wife, Bananas. The cast also includes Leroy Leonard, Samara Bridwell, Betsy Grisard, Natalie Carter, Rachel Graham, Stefin Woolover and Peter Marullo. Directed by Scott Bellot. Showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays, through Aug. 11 at 1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or the edge’s home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Lauren Meyer, Rick and Patty Yaconis, and Gloria Shanstrom.
Opening No. 100: Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias” This annual summer play staged right in the lobby of the downtown Barth Hotel is a fundraiser that helps the organization provide housing and services to 700 low- or no-income seniors. Before Saturday’s performance, resource development coordinator Jane Prancan showed the crowd the new emergency preparedness backpacks that have been distributed to all 700 residents. (She’s joined by a Barth resident named Scott, who thanked the crowd for their support). The packs were purchased from the Red Cross with proceeds from last summer’s production of “Driving Miss Daisy,” which netted $50,000. This year’s production is Robert Harling’s ubiquitous Southern weeper that focuses on the camaraderie between six Louisiana women who talk, gossip, needle and harangue each other through the best of times – and comfort and repair one another through the worst of times at Truvy’s Beauty Salon. Featuring an all-star cast of Rhonda Brown, Rachel Fowler, Adrian Egolf, Devon James, Billie McBride and Patty Figel. Directed by Ashlee Temple. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays through Aug. 24 at the Barth Hotel, 1514 17th St., 303-595-4464, ext. 10, or senior housing options’ home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Jane Prancan, Kat Valentine King, Frank Haas.
No. 99: “Divas, Dammit!” Two formers mainstays of the Denver musical theater community, the L.A.-based Lise Simms and Jennifer Winkler, came home over the weekend to reunite with their Loretto Heights college friends and debut their new gal-pal musical at the Heritage Square Music Hall. Joined by Anita Boland, Dawn Dickson, Annie Dwyer, Anna Wheeler and Wysandria Woolsey, the damn divas put on a show that many observers believe could be the next “Menopause, the Musical.” The story was inspired by a reader quiz in O magazine about finding your passion. They call it “part therapy, part love-fest, part creative inspiration” — and apparently Dwyer tore the roof of the soon-to-be-closed Music Hall with “I’m Still Here.” Which is a lovely thing right now on several levels. Monday’s performance was a benefit for Denver’s handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company. It was choreographed by Nick Sugar and music-directed by Michael Gribbon. The photo above shows many of the principals being photographed by Eric Weber. The one-night performance brought a litany of past-and-present stalwarts of the Colorado theater community back together, including Wayne Kennedy, Mark Rubald, Joanie Beyette, Maryanne Leuschner, Bren. Eyestone Burron, Brian Burron, Rory Pierce, T.J. Mullin, Lee Dailey, Jerry Lantz, Michael Gold, Walker Williams, Melissa McCarl, RJ Wagner, Terri Ducker and I am sure dozens more.
Opening No. 98: Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Fiddler on the Roof”: Colorado’s renowned professional handicapped theater company has a pre-show ritual called “Zap.” As if there weren’t enough energy in the air already, the group circles up and begins to buzz. Literally. Group leader (and leading actor) Mark Dissette yells variations on, “This is our dream – get a little louder” …. And they do. “Bzzz.” “This is our vision – get a little louder.” And they do. “BZZZ.” After more exhortation, the vibration builds to a deafening climax. “1-2-3 …” Dissette shouts, and 40-plus voices scream in unison, “ZAP!” That’s followed by sudden, solemn silence. The next spoken word is not to be uttered by anyone until the actors hit the stage. Though I am hardly a digital stitcher of panoramas (obviously), this photo is my attempt to circle the circle. This summer, “Fiddler” takes on the famous musical about the small town of Anatevka, rooted in its tradition, as it comes together to celebrate life, mourn death, rejoice in marriage, and care for each other. Tevye and his wife Golde have to make difficult decisions in the face of new ideas coming from the outside world. You can bet Phamaly director Steve Wilson chooses apt moments that make plain Phamaly tells these classic stories like you’ve never seen them before. Just wait till you see the chair dance. I am always made aware each summer how many people are seeing Phamaly productions for the first time. After the opening number, pretty much the whole audience could hear an incredulous man in the audience sort of whisper-shout his epiphany: “I think that rabbi dude is BLIND!!!” “Fiddler”features a cast of 32 and stars Dissette as Tevye; Kathleen Traylor as Golde; Rachel Van Scoy, Kenzie Kilroy and Lyndsay Palmer as the daughters whose names I can never keep straight; Trenton Schindele, Jeremy Palmer and Daniel Traylor as their matchless matches; Ashley Kelashian as Yente, Kevin Pettit as Lazar Wolf; and the tag-team of Leslie Wilburn and Sophia Hummell as the fiddlers. Speaking of Phamaly singular Phamaly moments, keep an eye on the oversized dress that drapes the dream-demon Fruma-Sarah. Sometimes the magic of Phamaly is most evident in its transparency. “Fiddler” plays through Aug. 11 at the Space Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-575-0005 or phamaly’s home page. Thanks: Gloria Shanstrom, Erin Leonard, cast and crew.
Opening No. 97: Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”: Quintessential Texas playwright Del Shores, above left, came to Denver to help launch the new Illumination Theatre with Shores’ most popular cross-dressing comedy, “Sordid Lives.” It’s aptly billed as “a black comedy about white trash.” Todd Black anchors a large ensemble playing a Texas family that must bury the good Christian philandering matriarch who hit her head on the sink and bled to death after tripping over her lover’s wooden legs in a motel room. Shores spoke to the cast before the show (above), and donated many signed pieces of memorabilia for auction items to help the new theater company off the ground. The next day, he taught two acting classes to members of the public at the Colorado Free University on the former Lowry Air Force Base. That’s also where “Sordid Lives” plays, at the John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, through Aug. 17. “Sordid Lives” is directed by Bernie Cardell and features Todd Black, Patrick Brownson, LuAnn Buckstein, Dale Haltom, Kevin Leonard, Mathew Link, Kelly Mann, Boni McIntyre, Emma Messenger, Shahara Ostrand, Gracen Porreca and Luke Allen Terry. Call 303-475-5825 or go here for tickets. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Dale Haltom, Andrew Hunter, Andy Anderson.
Opening No. 96: Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards: The Town Hall Arts Center’s best ensemble-winning cast of “Hair” brought the 2013 Henry Awards to a close on Monday at the Arvada Center. The Henrys must know a good moment when they see it. Lake Dillon’s cast of “Hair ended the 2009 Henrys with a similar, crowd-engaging medley at the Denver Center. That’s Tyrell D. Rae and Tim Howard in the photo above. More than 500 packed the Arvada Center for the eighth annual awards celebration. Read (and see) more about it here: Newly eligible companies take emphatic bow at 2013 Henry Awards.
Opening No. 95: Rising Star Productions’ “Krazy Kamp” at the Heritage Square Music Hall: Heritage Square Music Hall veteran Annie Dwyer also co-owns her own youth theater company called Rising Star Productions. And at Sunday’s opening performance of “Krazy Kamp,” she taught her students the same pre-show backstage “circle” ritual she learned from her mentor Fr. Dennis Dwyer, more than 30 years before when she was a girl learning theater in Denver. This youth musical loosely inspired by “I Know What You Did Last Summer” tells the story of two summer camps — one for boys, one for girls — separated by a lake. When the boys’ camp faces closure by the health department, the girl agree to share their space. “Kraziness” ensues. The ditty, directed by Annie Dwyer, music directed by Eric Weinstein and featuring a cast of 28, serves as a fitting introduction to live theater for many of the student actors, ages 7 to 17. It stars Miles Goeglein as boys ringleader Adam Apple, Katherine Henshaw as a spoiled resort camper Vivian Vandersnap and Madi Walker the girls camp director, Eve Hunnicutt. The snooty old camp owner is a character named Mrs. Thistlemist, and don’t hold it against me that I kept thinking back to 24 hours earlier watching “Avenue Q,” which has a snooty old character named Mrs. Thistle — never mind. I can’t say it. The final performance of “Krazy Kamp” is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, at 18301 W. Colfax Ave., Golden, 303-279-7800. Thanks: Lisa Port and Gina Weinstein.
Opening No. 94: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s “Avenue Q”: K, so attending the second-to-last performance does not technically qualify as an “opening night” (does it?), but we wanted to include in our series this big-buzz staging from the newly remonikered Breckenridge Backstage Theatre because when a show — any show, anywhere — is selling out as frequently as “Avenue Q” has, as they say, “Attention must be paid!” This isn’t your typical Broadway musical. … Or is it? “Avenue Q” has the traditional, bells-and-whistles Broadway score and the ever-turbulent love story between the two likeable protagonists. It’s a story about life in a neighborhood – a ‘hood that has its own personality and character, like the East Village in “Rent.” But it also has puppets – “Sesame Street”-styled human and monster puppets are the heart of a story that is not for the youngsters. It stars Charlie Schmidt as Princeton and Rod, Carolyn Lohr as Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut, Arlene Rapal reprising her Henry Award-winning turn as Christmas Eve, Josh Nelson as Brian, Cory Wendling in a breakout turn as Nicky and the Trekkie Monster, Leslie Randle Chapman as “Mrs. T” and Tyra Dixon as Gary Coleman. (Yes, that Gary Coleman.) Directed by Christopher Willard. Closed June 14. For information, call 970-453-0199.
Opening No. 93: Town Hall Arts Center’s teen “Grease”: Robert Michael Sanders is the MacGuyver of the Colorado Theatre Community. Not even three months after a botched routine shoulder surgery left his arms and fingers partially paralyzed, the actor, musician, set builder and all-around good guy directed the Town Hall Arts Center’s teen “Grease” that opened Juy 12 in Littleton. Sanders has made both progress both incremental and monumental in his slow but determined recovery, which has included an intense program at the Craig Rehabilitation Hospital. What he can’t make his fingers do, he uses gadgets to find other ways to do things. On opening night he not only tied his own tie (it took eight minutes) — he drove himself to the theater (after being certified by his medical team and the local Department of Motor Vehicles). He admitted to his opening night audience that “Grease” … “is a terrible story with a terrible moral,” but it has good music, and audiences till enjoy it. His is a 70-minute, family friendly version with choreography by the lovely Shannan Steele. It performs again at 7 p.m. July 13, 19 and 20, and also at 10 a.m. July 15-18. It stars Amanda Staab as Sandy, Lenny Gilbertson as Danny, and … let’s just say several dozen others. (Keep an eye out for young Devon Erickson, who sings a pretty spot-on “Those Magic Changes” as Doody.) Tickets $5. At 2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or town hall’s home page. Thanks Ellen Shamas-Brandt, Seth Maisel, cast and crew.
Opening No. 92: LIDA Project’s “Watershed (Part 1): The Sea is Not Full”: The Blue Men (and Women) Group: From left: Ryan Wuestawald, Jaime Lujan, Allyx Townend, Miriam BC Tobin, Matthew Schultz, Michelle Hurtubise, Terry Burnsed, Rhea Amos and director Brian Freeland. The 18-year-old LIDA Project has never looked bigger — or more at home — than they do this weekend only at the Rawls Theatre on the Auraria campus. In partnership with Metro State, Denver’s venerable experimental ensemble is exploring global warming and the essential role of water in our lives, in two theatrical parts. This first deals with too much; the second (opening Aug. 23) will addresses the more imminently threatening sustainability problem of not enough. Our narrator/gods/lifeguards are Terry Burnsed and Jaime Lujan, who take us through three disparate tales, primarily that of Adamina (the name is the male form of “Adam,” meaning, not coincidentally, “the Earth.”) She is an outcast goddess who is dying of thirst in both real and metaphorical ways. We also are given a pseudo-comic demonstration of a drowning in a public pool and, the plight of a Dust Bowl farmer intermixed with statistics that make plain just how screwed really we are as a planet. This “modern performance fantasy” looks at water as both a finite resource and an essential element throughout our lives, from fetuses awash in amniotic fluid until our deathbed ointment. Despite the harsh reality it takes on,”Watershed” is one of the LIDA Project’s loveliest theatrical efforts to date — always viscerally and visually engaging if not always easily comprehensible. As a playgoing experience, it’s like water running over a rocky creek bed: The water creates soothing sounds and eases your passage, but there’s a violent undertow just under the surface. “Thousands have lived without love … not one without water.” we’re told. That’s from W.H. Auden, whose wisdom is “tapped” in this original piece along with that of Lewis Carroll, the Bible, ee cummings, Barbara Kingsolver, Shakespeare, Jean Giraudoux, Disney, Shakespeare, Celia Hinojosa … and Wikipedia. Starring those above as well as Tate Freeland and three Torbensons: Dane, Clio and Tian. Remaining showtimes: 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday (July 13) at the King Center, Metro State University on the Auraria campus, 720-221-3821, or lida’s home page, or the king center’s ticketing page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Kristen Littlepage, Erik Larsen, cast and crew.
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