George Hamilton out of Denver run of “La Cage Aux Folles”

George Hamilton and the company of “La Cage Aux Folles.” Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik

 

By John Moore

Sept. 14, 2012

George Hamilton, the 73-year-old star of the national touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” will not perform in any remaining performances of the run in Denver, which closes at the Buell Theatre on Sept. 16.

Todd Thurston

The Denver Center released only the following statement: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, Mr. Hamilton will not be performing September 11-16.No further information was forthcoming.

Hamilton’s understudy Thursday night was Dale Hensley, who normally plays Frances. Todd Thurston, who played Mr. Oleson in the touring production of “Little House on the Prairie, the Musical” that visited Denver last year, is listed as another possible replacement.

In an interview with The Denver Post on Sept. 5, Hamilton mentioned his injury history with the show, including a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) on the night of his very first performance as Georges a year ago. He had a knee replacement, “and my Achilles was torn in half,” he said.

“As you do this show each week, the fatigue level gets more,” Hamilton added, although there was no confirmation from the Denver Center whether those injuries had anything to do with Hamilton’s withdrawal this week.

Audience: “A Happy End,” a sobering lesson we need to learn

The cast of “A Happy End,” playing through Sept. 16 at Buntport Theater: Top, from left: Mary Cates, James O’Hagan-Murphy. Bottom: Zuzana Stivinova, Kevin Hart, Evan Duggan, Heather Taylor. Photo by Michael Ensminger

 

By John Moore
Sept. 12, 2012

Talkbacks following performances of Iddo Netanyahu’s family drama “A Happy End” have brought spirited response from audience members like Ralph Stern of Denver, to whom the sobering message of play is clear:

“I think it’s important for this play to be presented over and over and over again,” Stern said, “because it’s a lesson that we as Americans, as Jewish Americans, and non-Jewish Americans … we need to learn.”

“A Happy End,” which plays at Buntport Theater through Sept. 16, is the story of a Jewish German couple facing the decision whether to leave Germany in 1932 amid the imminent rise of the Nazi Party. Despite foreboding signs, they can’t know that to stay would almost certainly be to their eventual demise.

“A Happy End” actor Zuzana Stivinova and audience member Ralph Stern. Photo by John Moore.

“This play was the story of my family, so it is a real story for me,” said Stern, whose family arrived in this U.S. in December 1938 — six years after the play is set.

“I went back to Germany in 2005,” Stern added. “It was the first time I had gone back in 68 years. I had to wait that long because if I had walked into Germany earlier and seen a person old enough to have been a Nazi, I would want to walk up to them, grab him by the lapel, shake his head and say, “And what were you doing, you son of a bitch?”

Stern said the play is important primarily because it addresses a question that has lingered and even grown with time and distance. “People don’t understand why more Jews didn’t leave Berlin,” Stern said. “What they don’t understand is the Jews that were living there just could not believe that this was happening to them in this country.”

Much of the talkback conversation following the Sept. 9 performance centered on the natural human tendency to live in blissful ignorance of warning signs of impending change. Playwright Iddo Netanyahu addressed that question himself in this interview.

One audience member added: “Being Jewish, I always wondered what it was in the psychology of people that they couldn’t perceive the danger realistically, or they could deny it. There were so many Jews in Europe who did leave, and there were a lot of people who couldn’t believe it was happening.”

Here are more excerpts from the Sept. 9 talkback conversation, led by myself and lead actress Zuzana Stivinova, a Czechoslovakian now living in New York:

John Moore: Have you ever experienced the “wonderful chaos” the play describes in our present-day world?

Stivinova: I was lucky. I was born in Czechoslovakia during the totalitarian regime, so my parents had to make some touch decisions. But after the Velvet Revolution, thanks to Vaclav Havel and some other very brave people, we are in a free country. So my husband and I can decide to leave, and we can always come back, which is amazing.

Audience member: I think one of the major underpinnings here is the whole concept of choice. That’s something we as human beings hold onto for dear life. It’s a place that we have power. So even if there might be two not very good choices, we still like to know that we are standing strongly in that place of making a choice.

Director Ami Dayan: The playwright placed the story back (in 1932), but he is writing about now. He’s not interested very much in spelling out what the dangers are now, because he wants the play to speak for itself. But in these talkbacks, a lot of people have spoken about gay marriage, civil rights and other issues going on in this country and around the world. But the play talks about morality on an interpersonal level, and how we perceive reality in our own marriages as well. The playwright opens it up to the audience to take it to their own lives, wherever they may be.

Actor James O’Hagan-Murphy (he plays Dieter): There are plenty of us today who may fear the extreme wings of any political party, whether it be the far left, or Tea Partiers. Right now you might say, “Oh, they’re extreme — don’t worry about it. Yes, they’ve got a couple of senators in there, but it’s not a big deal.” That’s like saying, “Well there are only a couple of Nazi Chancellors right now. It’s not a big deal.” Where is that line?

John Moore: And as the play makes clear, it wasn’t like the Nazis suddenly became the most powerful party in Germany. They came into power because they built coalitions. Very dangerous coalitions.

Ralph Stern: I think Iddo wrote it very much as an Israeli Jew, and what Iddo is saying to the Israeli is the necessity to realize that when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says, “I am going to destroy you” — he means it. And when the new president of Egypt (Mohamed Morsi) refuses to come to a meeting in Israel, there’s a statement that’s being made,  and we had better learn to listen to those statements.”

Additional comment from retired Denver theater producer Henry Lowenstein:
“ ‘A Happy End” tells the story of a Jewish physicist and his family as they vacillate in the face of the coming Nazi threat. Should they leave everything behind, or might it all be a passing phase that will soon blow over?

“I was 7 years old in Berlin in 1932 when I heard the very same discussions as many family friends decided to leave Germany. It became my quick lesson in survival and the end of being a child. My mother saw the coming danger, whereas my father, who had been highly decorated for his service as an Army doctor during all four years of World War I, would not believe that his beloved Germany could allow Hitler to rule for any length of time.

“Iddo Netanyahu’s play brilliantly catches the conflicting emotions of the time. Ami Dayan’s direction is eerily reminiscent of Erwin Piscator’s 1920s epic-drama style, and the cast is terrific.”

More on Zuzana Stivinova:
The talkback also was an opportunity for audiences to get to know Stivinova, who is married to a microbiologist and living in New York, where they are raising two boys.

Stivinova played a leading role in former Czech president Vaclav Havel’s final play, “Leaving,” presented at the Czech national theater, and was directed by Milos Forman (director of the films “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Amadeus” and “Hair”) in a jazz opera there called “A Walk Worthwhile.”

Havel  died last year, and “I still haven’t really recovered, because I wasn’t in Prague when it happened,” Stivinova said. But I still have him inside.”

As is typical in European countries, many actors  work in repertory theaters where they perform in, say, six plays for five years or more. “This was the first time I was totally focused on one piece,” Stivinova said of “Leaving.” “Vaclav was there almost every day. He told us many funny stories. He was quoting from “King Lear” and “The Cherry Orchard” and his own plays, because somehow he felt it would be his last play.

“Working with him was amazing. I think I saw the happiest Vaclav Havel because he had been very worried whether people would understand him. But at the first preview,  people were laughing. We went outside after to have one drink, and I still remember his face. In that moment, he was no longer a politician. He was no longer a president. He was back to being a playwright. He was almost like a small boy, he was so happy.”

As for Forman, “he allowed himself to be sentimental in his older age,” Stivinova said.  “The Jazz Opera” is such a funny opera. We were working on it for over six  months, and it was such fun. He he has double twins: He has small twins, and big twins — with different women, which is rare. But his older sons were there working with him, and so he felt protected. He was very tough, but he is always protecting actors. He lives in Connecticut mostly, but he is always preparing something.”

Forman and others of his generation were like many of immigrants who came to America: They didn’t have a return ticket. “They only had a way to get there,” Stivinova. People like (Roman) Polanski and Milos Forman, they didn’t have any relatives. And they couldn’t go back. So they had to survive. And they had to make it to survive.”

That reminded Stern of a famous Hebrew expression. “Going back to the 1940s, when the Israelis were first asked, ‘How could you be such a powerful fighting force? You are so outnumbered.” Their response was always: “No alternative.”

“That is a tremendous boost to make you achieve what you want to achieve, because there is no alternative.”

Contact John Moore at 303-953-9907 or moore433@comcast.net

———————————————-

“A Happy End”

  • Sept. 1-16 (previews Aug. 30-31)
  • At Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., Denver.
  • 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays.
  • Tickets: $25 ($18 Aug. 30-31); seniors and students $15.
  • 720-289-6451 or ahappyend.com

Photos: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”

A look at the Arvada Center’s  2012- 13 season-opener, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” running through Sept. 30.

Photos by P. Switzer, Arvada Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Principal cast: Dennis Parlato (Lawrence Jameson); Ben Nordstrom (Freddy Benson); Laura E. Taylor (Christine Colgate); Gary Lynch (Andre Thibault); Susie Roelofsz (Muriel Eubanks) and Lorinda Lisitza (Jolene Oakes). Ensemble members are: Piper Lindsay Arpan; Heather Doris; Alicia Dunfee; Maddie Franke; Valerie Hill; Kitty Hilsabeck; Mercedes Perez; Katie Ulrich; Matthew Dailey; Daniel Herron; Robert Hoppe; Brian Jackson; Matt LaFontaine; Mark Rubald; Travis Slavin and Hayden Stanes.

In addition to director Rod Lansberry, the creative team includes David Nehls (musical director), Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck (choreographer), Brian Mallgrave (scene design), Clare Henkel (costume design) and Shannon McKinney (light design).

Performances are Tuesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesdays at 1 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets:  www.arvadacenter.org or call 720-898-7200.

 

Bonus pic:

Opening night of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” was the first night of comfy new seats in the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities’ mainstage theater. Showing ’em off: Eden Lane, host of Channel 12’s “In Focus.” Photo by John Moore.

 

 

 

Video: “Bloody Bloody” announces new opening date: Sept. 27

By John Moore

Sept. 11, 2012

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” producer and star Ben Dicke, injured in a serious fall just before the opening performance was to begin on Sept. 7, has announced that the regional premiere of the emo-rock political history lesson will now open at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, in the studio theater at the Aurora Fox.

The show now will be performed on Thursday through Sunday nights through Oct. 28, with Dicke back in the starring role as Andrew Jackson, and with the entire original cast intact.

Dicke broke four ribs, lacerated a lung and took a gash to the back of his head when he fell down a trap door at the Aurora Fox. Doctors originally estimated it might take Dicke 6-to-8 weeks for a complete recovery, but they now believe Dicke’s peak physical condition as a trained ultra-runner will speed his recovery time.

The role of Jackson is a physically demanding one, but Dicke believes with slight modifications, his injuries can be accommodated on stage.

“We are moving forward,” Dicke said in the video statement embedded above. “This will be a limited run, and it’s definitely, definitely going to be an exciting one … although hopefully slightly less exciting than the last one,” he joked.

In the video above, Dicke also addresses those who reached out to him from around the world while he was hospitalized.

New performance information:

Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”

A comedic, Wild West emo-rock musical about the founder of the Democratic Party, who was either one of the greatest U.S. presidents, or America’s Hitler. Or both.

Sept. 27-Oct. 28, 2012

7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays; also 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8

Ticket prices: $25-$30

At the Aurora Fox Studio Theatre, 9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora

Tickets: 303-739-1970 or online at  www.bloodydenver.com. The very end of the video says “.org,” but “.com” is correct.

Ben Dicke’s head, three days later: By comparison … not so bad. Photo by John Moore.

 

 

Ben Dicke, out of the hospital: “We’re moving forward,” he says (even with hospital bracelet intact). Photo by John Moore.

 

 

Robert Garner given Lifetime Achievement Award at memorial

CultureWest.Org video from the Garner ceremony: Click here

By John Moore

Sept. 8, 2012

Longtime Denver theater producer Robert Garner was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Broadway League of New York at a celebration Saturday honoring Garner, who died July 19.

The award was presented via videotape by Nick Scandalios, chairman of the board for the Broadway League and executive vice president of the Nederlander organization.

“Bob put Denver on the map, making it a must-stop for any tour,” Scandalios said. “And at the same time, he was instrumental in opening up many road markets in the West for Broadway touring.”

He added: “Bob was always plugged into Broadway. In fact, we always used to say, ‘If you wanted to know something about Broadway, call Bob Garner in Denver.’

“My boss, Jimmy Nederlander, always said, ‘You could always count on Bob Garner to be loyal and a friend. And friends in this business are the most important things. You can count them on one hand, and you could do things with a friend on a handshake.’ ”

The afternoon culminated with a tribute from Denver Center president Randy Weeks. “Bob was my Peter Pan,” he said. “He didn’t want to grow up — or he did not want to grow old.”

More coverage:

Here’s my look back at the man for all ages

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Project Angel Heart.

To read several tribute pieces to Bob, click here

Bill Husted, Judi Wolf and Donald Seawell at Saturday’s celebration of the life of theater producer Robert Garner. Photo by John Moore.

 

Injury cancels “Bloody Bloody” opening night at Aurora Fox

Ben Dicke at University of Colorado Hospital tonight.

 

By John Moore

Sept. 7, 2012

Friday night’s opening performance of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” at the Aurora Fox was canceled because of a backstage accident that sent director, producer and star Benjamin Dicke to the nearby University of Colorado Hospital.

Dicke fell about 8 feet down an open trap door at about 5 p.m., just 2 1/2 hours before the first performance was scheduled to begin. It took paramedics about an hour to safely extract him from below the stage.

Dicke broke four ribs, punctured a lung and has a cut on the back of his head that took three staples to close. He is not expected to require surgery, Doctors estimated a complete recovery will take six to eight weeks.

Scheduled performances for Sunday and Monday (Sept. 9-10) have been canceled. Opening night will now take place Sept. 14. If Dicke is unable to resume performing, the role of Andrew Jackson will be played by Andrew Diessner. The acclaimed emo-rock history musical is scheduled to run through Oct. 28.

The open trap door is located directly behind the Aurora Fox’s main stage, part of a pathway that also leads to the adjacent studio theater, where “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is to be performed.

Dicke was carrying a large box of  newly arrived foam fingers that serve as props in the show, so he could not have seen that the floor before him had opened up.  Another Aurora Fox technician had dodged into the trap area to retrieve one missing letter that was needed to complete the “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” title on the outside marquee. It was estimated that the door was only open for 30 seconds before Dicke fell in. The technician was still down below when Dicke fell.

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is a being produced by Dicke, who formed his company specifically to bring the metro area its first staging of the popular populism Broadway musical that tells the story of the nation’s seventh president with both irreverent and cutting undertones. By presenting Jackson as the equivalent of a modern-day rock star, the show draws both political and cultural parallels that make plain things are not all that different now than they were nearly 200 years ago.

Last week,  CultureWest.Org ranked it No. 2 on its list of the 11 most intriguing fall theater titles.

Patrons whose reservations have been affected by the cancellations can reschedule by calling 303-739-1970.

 

Video: Actor Christopher Sieber on Broadway’s support for bullied Colorado teen

By John Moore

In 2008, Adrian Ulm made national news when it was learned that the 14-year-old middle-schooler from Centennial, Colo., was being beaten up for, among other reasons, taking part in theater. He endured taunts including “Nazi,” “Jew” and “gay” for two years until an inevitable confrontation left him with a broken collarbone and facial bruises.

When actor Christopher Sieber heard about Adrian, the “Spamalot” actor invited the boy and his father to New York, where the Broadway community treated them to a weekend of shows, backstage visits, friendship and support.

Read the whole Denver Post story here: Actors support bullied boy

While Ulm, now 18, has returned to his native Germany, Sieber is in Denver performing in the national touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles” with George Hamilton.

In the video above, Sieber talks about why it was important for him to reach out to Adrian.

More video: “Three Minutes with George Hamilton.”

“La Cage Aux Folles” plays through Sept. 16 at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. For tickets, call 303-893-4100 or go to the Denver Center’s web site.

Video: Three minutes with … George Hamilton

In this new web series, journalist John Moore interviews prominent visitors to Denver. George Hamilton, star of the national touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” talks along with co-star Christopher Sieber. Episode 2.

“La Cage Aux Folles” plays through Sept. 16 at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. For tickets, call 303-893-4100 or go to the Denver Center’s web site.

Public invited to celebrate theater producer Bob Garner on Saturday

Robert Garner with Chuck Morris. “Two old show-biz pals,” Garner wrote on Facebook. Photo via Joanne Davidson, The Denver Post

 

By John Moore for CultureWest

Friends of legendary Denver theater producer Robert Garner know the last thing the tireless bon vivant would probably want is a memorial party on his behalf to be held in a classy ballroom, but … I’m guessing, that will be just the start of a party to celebrate a true Denver original on Saturday, Sept. 8.

You know him, and if you don’t, here’s my look back at the man for all ages, who died July 19, no doubt very much against his will.

The fun begins at  3 p.m. in the Seawell Grand Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, at the corner of 13th and Arapahoe streets.

Being an intrepid reporter, I have interrogated several sources who have confirmed on the condition of complete anonymity that there will be an open bar and hors d’oeuvres for this event.

Anyone and everyone is welcome to attend. You are asked only to RSVP to this page, so that organizers know how much food to get.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Project Angel Heart.

To read several tribute pieces to Bob, click here

I can’t tell from the information I have been given just how long this party is expected to last, but the goal is for it to outlast the Ballroom stage and spill over into some other gathering place in the immediate vicinity. Check back for updates on that vital information.

60-Second Review: “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”

Michael Lopez as Mace in Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.” Photo by Michael Ensminger.

 

By John Moore

CultureWest.org

You might think it’s a gimmick — “the wrestling play” that offers up live theater as a violent, full-contact sport.

Oh, it is, how “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” whips the Curious Theatre crowd into a frenzy worthy of Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

The way the opening-night crowd was hooting and hollering — live theater should (always) be so lucky.

The set is a wrestling ring, and in it, a remarkable cast of actors and real-life wrestlers deliver their share of clotheslines, butt drops and cannon balls. But the real body-slam is how playwright Kristoffer Diaz’s wholly original, Pulitzer-nominated story explores the underbelly, artifice and undeniable childlike appeal of professional wrestling with its simple, caricatured characters and predetermined storylines that crassly tap into its fans’ primal nationalism, bloodlust and ignorant fear of the unknown. Like, say, Muslims.

As they sing in “Avenue Q,” “everyone’s a little but racist,” and in a post-9/11 America, we might be more than a little bit racist when it comes to Muslims — America’s bogeyman for the 21st century.

Patrick Byas as Chad Deity. Photo by Michael Ensminger

It’s all told in a sweet, seductive way. Our endearing narrator is “Mace” Mendoza. His childhood dream was to grow up to be a professional wrestler, and now he is. But not the way he dreamed. Instead he’s an essential but lowly piece of the wrestling corporation food chain – he’s paid to lose, so that others might win. Others as in champion Chad Deity, a god-like rock of a man modeled after that ultimate modern wrestling cartoon, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  Exploitative promoter Everett K. Olson is a cutting iteration of real-life wrestling magnate Vince McMahon. E.K.O.’s  only concern is making money, even if it perpetuates the basest of racial stereotypes. And his ultimate opportunity  comes when he uses Mace to transform Vigneshwar Paduar — a brash, hip-hop Brooklynite of  Indian descent — into “The Fundamentalist,” a Middle Eastern terrorist costumed in a full robe, turban and beard. His wrestling m.o. is to hide in the shadows, showing himself only long enough to deliver a signature kill move called “The Sleeper Cell.” This too, is based on one of McMahon’s most controversial, real-life wrestling inventions. Several times during the night, we are encouraged to go home and google Muhammad Hassan, a.k.a Mark Magnus.

It’s a lucrative but reprehensible scheme, sure to whip up harmful anti-Arab prejudices. And suddenly we have a real play on our hands.

“Lets get ready to rumble!”

Even though the play, and the sport it satirizes, are unapologetic gimmicks, this work is a significant commentary on ingrained and inflamed racial bias in 2012 America. And coming from the theater company that brought you “Nine Parts of Desire,” “Homebody/Kabul” and “Clybourne Park,” it’s not far-fetched to suggest that “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” is the next logical extension of those conversations. Only it’s a lot more fun.

Seriously: “Nine Parts of Desire” introduced audiences to the suffering and resilience of Iraqi women both before and because of “Bush’s War.” “Chad Deity” uses women in burkas as ringside props like boxing uses sexy round-card babes. “Homebody/Kabul” laid out a means for the global understanding of an Afghan landscape that, as “Chad Deity” makes plain, remains stubbornly unfamiliar to Western eyes. “Clybourne Park” talked about how far we have perhaps not come in terms of race in America. “Chad Deity” shows how the E.K.O.’s of the world profit from it.

There is some remarkable work in every corner of the ring, from director Chip Walton’s casting of proven vet William Hahn as the promoter to the chiseled and magnetic Patrick Byas in the title role to Akshay Kapoor as the Indian-turned-Fundamentalist to — emphatically — the warm and welcoming Michael Lopez as our narrator, Mace. There are distinct roles in the theatrical canon, such as the lugubrious Barfee in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” that are so specific to certain actors’ innate charm and physical characteristics that those actors could play them from town to town for the next 10 years. Byas and Lopez live in the skins of their characters in that kind of way. It’s all the more remarkable that Byas, from New York, and Lopez, from California, are creating their roles for the first time here.
This is also just the latest monumental technical achievement for Curious, including scenic design (Charlie Packard), costumes (Ann Piano), lighting (Shannon McKinney) and, most especially, sound and video design (Brian Freeland and Mitch Dickman), who effectively create a big-arena, rock-concert setting in a relatively small theater.

There is one inherent and unavoidable conflict of (our) interest here. We in effect are double-cast as both audience to the play and audience to the live, made-for-TV wrestling spectacles our smarmy promoter stages. Realizing the full, “turn the mirror on ourselves” intent of the playwright is dependent on the need to manufacture a full audience frenzy in favor of all-American patsies like Billy Heartland and  Old Glory, a couple of saps who serve as roadkill on The Fundamentalist’s road to a title bout with Chad Deity. But by then, the playwright has delivered a “testicular claw” upon us. We’re so solidly in the corner of the “foreign wrestlers,” we’re cheering for The Fundamentalist — or, more specifically, on the side of the Indian character named VP who plays him.

VP, it turns out, is a truly 2012, all-American character we kind of hope, in the end, will deliver a chair right across the head of his mercenary promoter. The playwright has something else in mind. But when the audience catches itself rooting for the fake terrorist, an intentionally uncomfortable feeling kind of prevails. It’s this notion of, “I know who I’m rooting for … but I don’t know if it’s OK for me to cheer for him out loud.”

This all makes for thought-provoking, blood-pumping, high-decibel theater that manages to deliver a “Sleeper Cell” of a punch. … Not to mention: Live wrestling at intermission.

 

Michael Lopez as Mace-turned Mexican rebel anti-American and Akshay Kapoor as VP (“The Fundamentalist”). Photo by Michael Ensminger.

 

More coverage: 

Fall 2012 most intriguing titles, No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”

 

Where: In Denver: Through Oct. 13 at 1080 Acoma St.

In Colorado Springs: Oct. 19-Nov. 11 at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Regent Circle, corner of Union and Austin Bluffs Parkway on the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus

 

Performance times: In Denver: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays in Denver

In Colorado Springs: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays;  4 p.m. Sundays

Tickets: In Denver: $25-$44
In Colorado Springs: $35 reserved; Children under 16 $15; UC-CS Students free
Contact: In Denver: 303-623-0524 or curious’ home page

In Colorado Springs: 719-255-3232 or theatreworks’ home page

Cast list:

Director: Chip Walton

Chad Deity: Patrick Byas

Patrick Byas: Chad Deity

William Hahn: EKO

Akshay Kapoor: VP

Michael Lopez: Mace

Bruce Rogers: The Bad Guy

Plus three real-life, local wrestlers: Ronin, Brian Keith Nelson and Brandon Morris.

 

Michael Lopez as Mace. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

Patrick Byas as Chad Deity. Michael Lopez as Mace. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

Akshay Kapoor as VP (“The Fundamentalist”). Photo by Michael Ensminger.

William Hahn as E.K.O. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

Patrick Byas as Chad Deity. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

Live wrestling at intermission! Photo by John Moore for CultureWest.Org

Fall 2012, No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”

“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” with Patrick Byas in the title role, is getting ready to rumble in both Denver and Colorado Springs. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

 
By John Moore

When: Sept. 1-Oct. 13 at  Curious Theatre in Denver (previews Aug. 30-31); Oct. 19-Nov. 11 at TheatreWorks in Colorado Springs

Written by: Kristoffer Diaz

The story: This rare intersection of sports and theater centers on a  frustrated Puerto Rican professional wrestler. It seems his lot in life is being the guy who loses to cocky megastar Chad Deity. But when he and his Indian-American partner reinvent their wrestling personas as Muslim fundamentalist enemies to America, his career suddenly becomes very interesting indeed. Diaz creates a unique theatrical experience (including live wrestling!) that forces one to question the disturbingly persuasive power of ethnic stereotypes in our popular culture. This is a high-decibel, audience-interactive theatrical event, with explicit language, sweet staged violence, thrashing music and all-around awesomeness. You have been warned.

Why it made the list:  This regional premiere marks the first co-production between Curious Theatre Company in Denver and TheatreWorks in Colorado Springs, both of which will be among the first companies in the country to present this groundbreaking play. “This collaboration has allowed our two theater companies to combine forces and produce a play that may have been beyond the scope of either company independently,” said TheatreWorks artistic director Murray Ross. “Plus, it’s a lot of fun to share ideas with our colleagues in Denver and work with them to make something really exciting.”

 

Cast list:

Director: Chip Walton

Chad Deity: Patrick Byas

Patrick Byas: Chad Deity

William Hahn: EKO

Akshay Kapoor: VP

Michael Lopez: Mace

Bruce Rogers: The Bad Guy

Plus three real-life, local wrestlers: Ronin, Brian Keith Nelson and Brandon Morris.

 

Where: In Denver: 1080 Acoma St.

In Colorado Springs: Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Regent Circle, corner of Union and Austin Bluffs Parkway on the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus

 

Performance times: In Denver: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays in Denver

In Colorado Springs: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays;  4 p.m. Sundays

Tickets: In Denver: $25-$44
In Colorado Springs: $35 reserved; Children under 16 $15; UC-CS Students free
Contact: In Denver: 303-623-0524 or curious’ home page
In Colorado Springs: 719-255-3232 or theatreworks’ home page

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

 

 

Fall 2012, No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”

Ben Dicke as an emo-rocking, Indian-slaying seventh U.S. president in his self-produced, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” He’s shown with music director Jason Tyler Vaughn.

 
By John Moore

When: Sept. 7-Oct. 28

Written by: Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers

The story:  This inventive ensemble piece, developed by a bunch of talented smart-alecks,  is a comedic, Wild West rock musical about the founder of the Democratic Party, who was either one of the greatest U.S. presidents, or America’s Hitler. Or both. It presents Andrew Jackson, America’s seventh president, as a modern-day emo rock star who stumbles into populism, Indian removal and tremendous power. The musical is both a treatise on  America’s pop-culture celebrity obsession (then and now) and a compelling (and occasionally even factual) historical account. This underdog show briefly transferred to Broadway, not because it had any chance of fitting in on the Great White Way, but because producer Oskar Eustis wanted to increase  its exposure so that renegade artists like Denver’s Ben Dicke might be daring enough to start a theater company just to put his little skit on for metro theater audiences.

Why it made the list:  Because, along with “Spring Awakening” and “The Book of Mormon,” this is among my favorite  three musicals of the millennium. Because, when it came out in 2009 at the off-Broadway Public Theatre, I thought it blew the lame and lazy Green Day vehicle “American Idiot” out of the water. Because it’s both smart and satirizing, and perfectly timed for the distressingly relevant 2012 political campaign season. And because theater at large desperately needs more musicals with rock music like this one that will invite younger audiences in like no other.

Cast list:

Andrew Diessner

 

Director: Ben Dicke
Musical Direction: Jason Tyler Vaughn
Choreographer: Piper Arpan

Chris Arneson: Henry Clay/Black Fox
Joel Chavez: John Quincy Adams
Ben Dicke: Andrew Jackson
Andrew Diessner: Bandleader
Kaden Hinkle: Lyncoya Jackson
Traci Kern: Storyteller
Kenzie Kilroy: Female vocalist
Cora Marsh: Female vocalist
Norell Moore: Rachel Jackson
Josh Nelson: Martin Van Buren
Alejandro Roldan: James Monroe
Steffan Scrogan: John C. Calhoun

Where: Aurora Fox studio theater, 9900 E. Colfax Ave.

Performance times:  7:30 Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays
Tickets: $25-$30

Contact: 303-739-1970 or the aurora fox’s home page

 


 

My review of the original “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” in New York

Quote: “Sometimes, you have to shoot the storyteller in the head.”

Call it the antithesis of “American Idiot.” This hormonally charged new off-Broadway musical also employs driving emo-punk rock — only ingeniously. This is a hysterically funny history lesson on a man who was either America’s greatest expansionist, or its Hitler. Or both. Emerging in tight jeans and eye liner, one hand on his holster and the other on his mic, our seventh president is presented here in the same way some see President Barack Obama: as a brooding, smoldering rock star. If you are familiar with the irreverent intelligence of Denver’s Buntport Theater, you have a good bead on this audacious mash-up of fact and tomfoolery.

We meet A.J. as he’s just become an orphan at 14. “Life sucks,” he says with deadpan timing, “. . . and my life sucks in particular.” But through catchy ditties like “Populism, Yea, Yea,” you can’t help but come out with a surprisingly sharpened understanding of a dusty chapter in American history — including the part about the (first) stolen presidential election.

This musical comes from the same company that took Hell House out of Colorado and introduced it to New York audiences as theater. Originally intended to run for only a month, it’s been extended three times at the Public Theatre.

Photo: Benjamin Walker strikes an Ashton Kutcher-like “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” (Photo by Joan Marcus)

 
The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox studio theater
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

Fall 2012, No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”

Clockwise from left: Missy Moore, Abby Apple-Boes, Anne Oberbroeckling, Kerry Beebe and Lisa Kraai  are the women of “August: Osage County.” Photo by Rachel Graham.

 

By John Moore

When: Sept. 7-30

Written by: Tracy Letts

The story:  Letts’ 2008 Pulitzer-winning play is perhaps the most savage American family drama in 50 years. When the patriarch of an Oklahoma town disappears, three generations of Westons gather to bicker and attack one another. At the center of this modern Dust Bowl is the poisonous pill-popping matriarch, Violet. She has cancer of the mouth – medically and metaphorically. Violet has no switch to prevent her from blurting the most vicious things that come to her mind. Be prepared: The evening includes two intermissions, more profanity than there is soap to chew and, all told, it lasts 3 1/2 hours. But it speeds by, if it’s done right — and it’s both funny and devastating.

Why it made the list:  Both the Denver Center Theatre Company and Curious Theatre had right-of-first-refusal on this modern masterpiece, but the sheer size and cost of producing it professionally no doubt conspired to prompt both of them to pass. That leaves this audacious, brand-new amateur company with no established artistic reputation whatever to take on what others its size can’t, won’t or are too afraid to themselves. OK, Abster, you’ve got our attention … Now show us what you’ve got.

My review of the 2009 national touring production: The only thing missing is Willy Loman driving into a tree at the end. http://www.denverpost.com/theater/ci_12939453


Cast list:

Anne Oberbroeckling

 

Director: Peter Hughes

Wade Livingston: Beverly Weston
Anne Oberbroeckling: Violet Weston
Abby Apple-Boes: Barbara Fordham
Lisa Kraai: Ivy Weston
Missy Moore: Karen Weston
Jay Louden: Bill Fordham
Christine Sharpe: Jean Fordham
Matt Maxwell: Steve Heidebrecht
Kerry Beebe: Mattie Fae Aiken
Gary Leigh Webster: Charlie Aiken
Shane Delavan: “Little” Charles Aiken
Amanda Kowalski: Johnna Monevata
Ken Paul: Sheriff Deon Gilbeau

Where: Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder

Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Tuesday, Sept. 18; 2 p.m. Sundays

 

Tickets: $20-$23 ($18 on Sept. 18)

Contact: 303-444-7328 or the dairy’s home page

 

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox studio theater
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

Fall 2012, No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”

Midtown Arts Center will become the first Colorado company to stage the 2008 Tony-winning best musical, “In the Heights.” From left: DeVon Bucanhan, Cassidy Cousineau, Darius Anthony-Robinson, Tim Olivar, Chasdan Mike, Jessica Guerrero, Hector Flores Jr., Ryan Alvarado. Photo courtesy Nicole Yost.

 

By John Moore

When: Sept. 13-Nov. 11

Conceived by: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Written by: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes

The story:  The 2008 Tony Award winner for best musical integrates beat poetry, hip-hop and spoken word into the traditional musical-theater form to tell the story of a gentrifying Upper Manhattan barrio, a place where “the coffee is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music.” It’s a story about what it takes to make a living, and what it costs to have a dream.

Why it made the list:  Midtown Arts Center has made scoring the first Colorado stagings of big-time Broadway musicals part of its mission. Previous firsts include “Cats,”  “Miss Saigon,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Altar Boyz,” “The Producers,” “Rent,” “Next to Normal” and  “Avenue Q.” For this staging, Rogelio Douglas Jr., a member of original Broadway cast
and a member of the first national touring production, is serving as director and choreographer.

My review of the 2010 national touring production: “In the Heights” is a “Fiddler” for modern America http://www.denverpost.com/entertainment/ci_14986331


Cast list:

Tim Olivar

 

Directors: Rogelio Douglas Jr.
Usnavi: Tim Olivar
Abuela Claudia: Deb Farwell
Vanessa: Alyssa Chiarello
Nina Rosario: Alyssa V. Gomez
Benny: Steven Charles
Sonny: Ryan Hazelbaker
Daniela: Ryane Studivant
Carla: Jodi Watson
Kevin Rosario: Alexander Casasnovas
Camila Rosario: Jasmine Romero
Piragua Guy: Hector Flores, Jr.
Graffiti Pete: DeVon Buchanan
Female Ensemble: Cassidy Cousineau, Jessica Guerrero
Male Ensemble: Chasdan Mike, Darius Robinson, Ryan Alvarado

Where: 3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins

Performance times: 7:15 p.m. select Thursdays through Saturdays; 1:15 p.m. Sundays (dinner service 90 minutes before).

Tickets: Starting at $49 (more for dessert, drinks and menu upgrades)

Contact: 970-225-2555 or midtown’s home page

Additional comments: ‘In The Heights’ is a beautiful piece of theater that speaks to generations of Americans. Coming from a Cuban family, this show has a special place in my heart and is dedicated to my grandmother, Abuela Regina.” Actor Tim Olivar

‘In the Heights is the next chapter in the story of the American family. It’s timely considering the ever-present immigration debate. The themes of hope, change, and the struggles of the middle class that frame this election season play out in this energetic, positive and powerful state premiere.” Artistic director Kurt Terrio

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 


Fall 2012, No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”

“The Giver” opens Oct. 4 at the Denver Center’s Ricketson Theatre.

 

By John Moore

When: Oct. 4-Nov. 18 (opens in previews Sept. 28)

Written by:  Lois Lowry, adapted by Eric Coble

The story:  Lowry’s beloved and oft-challenged dystopian children’s novel comes to the stage in a new version by Coble, whose “Bright Ideas” and “The Dead Guy” have been staged at Curious Theatre.  The story follows a boy named Jonas through the 12th year of his life. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to “Sameness,” a plan that has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of “Receiver of Memory,” the person who stores all the past memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. When Jonas meets the previous receiver — The “Giver” — he discovers the power of knowledge. The people in his community are happy because they do not know of a better life, but the knowledge of what they are missing out on could create major chaos. He faces a dilemma: Should he stay with the community, his family living a shallow life without love, color, choices, and knowledge  — or should he run away to where he can live a full life?

Why it made the list:  Though the novel sold 5.3 million copies and is read by many middle schools,  it also made the American Library Association’s  list of the most-challenged books of the 1990s. I’m excited by this being the first Denver Center Theatre Company production to be made up of an all-local cast since I don’t know when. Billie McBride, Diana Dresser and Timothy McCracken are among those joining DCTC veteran Philip Pleasants in the title role. Young Alistair Hennessy starred in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 2011 “The Little Prince.”


Cast list:

Philip Pleasants

 

Director: Christy Montour-Larson

The cast:

Father Timothy McCracken
Mother Diana Dresser
Lily: Aliza Fassett and Amelia Modesitt
Jonas: Jackson Garske and Alistair Hennessy
Asher: Gabe Koskinen-Sansone and Evan Sullivan
Fiona: Brynn Gauthier and Isabel Sabbah
Chief Elder: Billie McBride
The Giver: Philip Pleasants

Where: Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets

Performance times: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 1:30 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets:  $37-$47 (previews $27-$37)

Contact: 303-893-4100 or the denver center’s home page

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

 

Fall 2012, No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”

From left, the women of Local’s “Elijah: An Adventure”: Rachel Fowler, Leah Watson, Mare Trevathan, Lauren Dennis and Barbra Andrews. Photo by Michael Ensminger.

 

 

By John Moore

When: Sept. 21-Oct. 7 (previews Sept. 19-20)

Written by: Michael Mitnick

The story: “Elijah: An Adventure” is Mitnick’s 16-character, multimedia, epic romp about a broke piano student from Brooklyn who becomes an accidental Don Juan in 1920s Paris. This is a story fit for most audiences, but particularly those caught up in the rush of the American life.

Why it made the list: The company, and the playwright, are young and on the rise. Mitnick may look like he just stepped off the set of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” but he’s already established himself as one of the most successful new playwrights in the nation. He’s writing the much-anticipated book for the upcoming Broadway musical “Animal House: The Musical” (featuring music by Bare Naked Ladies); and his new play “Ed, Downloaded” will get its world premiere at the Denver Center Theatre Company in January 2013. And he’s a nice guy. Everybody wins.

Cast list:

Benjamin Bonenfant


Director: Pesha Rudnick

Benjamin Bonenfant: Elijah
Barbra Andrews: Helen Roux
Matthew Blood-Smyth: Nicholas Stoughton
Lauren Dennis: Rivka Feinberg/Telegrapher
Rachel Fowler: Elisa Broussard
Chris Kendall: Father/Georges Deruet
Mare Trevathan: Frieda Hoch/Piano Teacher
Leah Watson: Zoe Benoit/Sarah
Stephen Weitz: Otto Hoch/Tailor

 

Where: Carsen Theater at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder

Performances:  7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays

Tickets: $25 at the door; $22 for tickets purchased in advance, or $18 for tickets bought in advance by students or members of the Colorado Theatre Guild

Contact:  303-440-7826, or thedairy.org

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

Fall 2012, No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”

Jose Zuniga and Paul Page in “The Cider House Rules,” playing in two parts on alternating nights at Vintage Theatre. Photo by Ellen Nelson.

 

By John Moore

When: Sept. 7-30

Conceived by: Tom Hulce, Jane Jones and Peter Parnell.

Written by: Pete Parnell, adapted from the novel by John Irving.

The story: “The Cider House Rules” is a two-part stage adaptation of the John Irving novel. Spanning eight decades of American life, it tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch, founder of the St. Cloud’s, Maine, orphanage and hospital, and of the complex father-son relationship he develops with the young orphan Homer Wells. In Part One (“Here in St. Clouds”), Homer is born at the orphanage and returned so many times by so many foster families that he becomes the “boy who belonged to St. Cloud’s.” His medical education begins when he finds out that Dr. Larch saves not only babies, but mothers, too — by performing illegal abortions when necessary. Homer becomes Larch’s brilliant medical apprentice, but the arrival of the handsome Wally Worthington and his beautiful girlfriend, Candy Kendall, sets Homer’s mind and heart spinning. In Part Two (“In Other Parts of the World”), Homer leaves St. Cloud’s to experience the world beyond the orphanage. Dr. Larch discovers that life’s joys and sorrows are neither black nor white, and the choices we make determine whether or not we become “the hero of our own lives.” Warning: Strong sexual language and adult situations.

Why it made the list:  This massive creative undertaking has never been taken on before by any Colorado theater company. And the presentation of both parts in alternating fashion will mark the first stagings in Vintage’s new 40-seat studio theater. This expansion of programming is hoped to help establish Vintage as a true performing-arts complex, like the neighboring Aurora Fox.

 


Cast list:

Paul Page

 

Director: Sheri Davis

The cast:
Paul Page: Dr. Wilbur Larch
Jose Zuniga: Homer Wells
Eric Wahlberg: Wally and Young Larch
Linda Swanson Brown: Candy
Sonsharae Tull: Rose Rose
Kelly Reeves: Melony
Anne Smith Myers: Nurse Angela
Julie Kaye Wolf: Nurse Edna
Amy Michelle Collins: Billy Winkle, ensemble
Jacqueline Garcia: Mrs. Eames, ensemble
Tim Johnson: Mr. Rose, ensemble
Stephanie Schmidt: Eames, ensemble
Chip Winn Wells: Mrs. Grogan, ensemble
Linnea Scott: Orphan, Fuzzy Stone
Skye Bach-Davis: Orphan
Alexa M. Downing: Orphan
Kameron Warnecke: Orphan
Brad Wagner: Angel, ensemble
John Barnes: Ensemble

Where (note new address): 1468 Dayton St., Aurora

Part One performance times: 7:30 p.m. Sept 7-8; 2:30 p.m.  Sept. 9. Also 2:30 p.m. Sept. 15-16, 22-23 and 29-30

Part Two performance times: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 15-16, 22-23, 29-30

Tickets: $25 on Fridays and Saturdays; $21 on Sundays ($18 and $20 if bought in advance)

Contact:  303-856-7830 or vintage’s home page

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

Fall 2012, No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”

Two-time Henry Award-winning best actress Megan Van De Hey makes her Miners Alley Playhouse debut in “The Three Penny Opera.”

 

By John Moore

When: Sept. 7-Oct. 21

Written by: Bertolt Brecht, music composed by Kurt Weill

The story: Brecht’s milestone musical is a biting satire of the post-war rise of capitalism, wrapped up in Weill’s jazzy score and the tale of Macheath (Mack the Knife), a debonair crime lord on the verge of turning his illegal empire into a legitimate business.  When Macheath marries Polly Peachum, her father (Jonathan Peachum) is greatly angered.  He controls the beggars of London, and he strives to get Macheath hanged.  Peachum exerts considerable political influence, and eventually Macheath is arrested and imprisoned.  At the point of execution, in an unrestrained parody of a happy ending, a hard-riding messenger from the Queen dramatically arrives at the last minute, and Macheath is both pardoned, and elevated to the title of Baron.

Why it made the list:  Miners Alley Playhouse, which isn’t known for musicals, is branching out by taking on a difficult piece in an election year. And by landing Megan Van De Hey, winner of the past two Henry Awards for best actress in a musical, it’s not messing around. It’s worth noting that director El Armstrong has cast three members of the local handicapped theater group PHAMALy (Lyndsay Palmer, Daniel Traylor and Briana Berthiau). Not for any poltical or creative point — only because they have killer singing voices.


Cast list:

Richard Cowden

 

Director: El Armstrong

The cast:
Briana Berthiau
Erica Lyn Cain
Richard Cowden
Don DeVeux
Rob Gale
C.J. Garbo
Kris Graves
Dana Hart Lubeck
Verl Hite
T.J. Hogle
Michael Ingram
Lisa Morse-Moore
Lyndsay Palmer
Juliette Petersen
Daniel Traylor
Megan Van De Hey

Where: 1224 Washington St., Golden

Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays (except for the closing matinee on Oct. 21, which begins at 2 p.m.)

Tickets: $30.50-$34.50; senior, student and group rates available

Contact: 303-935-3044 or map’s home page

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

 

Fall 2012, No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”

Kate Wenner

 

By John Moore

When: Sept. 13-23

Written by: Kate Wenner

The story: Set in a university brain trauma clinic, five vets injured in IED explosions in Iraq confront the truth that their lives will never be the same again. Josephine Fitch, the passionate, tough-minded doctor treating them, decides to expose the Pentagon’s indifference to the epidemic of brain injuries that she believes will turn out to be the Agent Orange of the Iraq War.

Why it made the list: This will be a workshop production of a new work by an award-winning news producer of ABC’s “20/20,” who began her research for the play at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs. But why this play? In an era of a voluntary military, our civilian and military communities are separated as never before by a huge divide in experience and understanding. This will also be be the FAC Theatre Company’s first offering in its new studio theater space. “This is the perfect play to initiate our second-stage series,” said producing artistic director Scott RC Levy. “The piece is topical and connected to our community. I look forward to workshopping it and getting valuable feedback from our audiences, which will help Kate continue to develop the work.”

Cast list:

Jason Lythgoe

 

Dr. Jo Fitch: (University brain-trauma specialist): Ashley Crockett
Marine Lance Corporal Kevin Daniels: Jason Lythgoe
Sue Daniels (Kevin’s mother): Sallie Walker
Army Staff Sgt. Mike Ames: Emory Collinson
Sandy Ames  (Mike’s wife): Jen Lennon
Army Staff Sgt. Mano Rodriguez: Hossein Forouzandeh
Angel Rodriguez (Mano’s wife): Christine Vitale
Lt.  Colonel  Banks (Department of Defense): Mark Cannon
Army Staff Sergeant Annie Nichols: Marisa Hebert
Navy Corpsman Jackson Cantrell: Chris Medina


Where:
FAC Music Room in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St., 719-634-5583 or the fac’s home page

Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays.

Prices: $15

Contact: 719-634-5583 or the fac’s home page

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

 

Fall 2012, No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center

Caitlin Wise and Steven Cole Hughes in Creede Repertory Theatre’s “Is He Dead?” Photo by John Gary Brown

 

By John Moore

When: Oct. 2-28 (previews Sept. 28-30)

Written by: Mark Twain, adapted by David Ives

The story: In this newly discovered Mark Twain comedy (and recent Broadway hit), the original master of American humor dishes out a sly critique of the art world with acerbic wit and social commentary well ahead of his time. Cleverly adapted for modern audiences by David Ives, “Is He Dead?” is a fast-paced farce about a struggling artist who stages his own death to drive up the price of his paintings. As the riotous scheme unfolds, Twain poses daring questions about fame, greed and the value of art, and pokes his signature, mischievous fun at everyone involved.

Why it made the list:  A “new” play from Mark Twain? Bring it. Plus, it’s another chance for Denver audiences to see old favorites like John Arp and Steven Cole Hughes, with other actors who help make the Creede Rep, located 250 miles southwest of Denver, one of the state’s best theater companies. This is Creede’s third straight fall to bring one of its summer productions to the metro area. It’s a fine tradition. And if you just can’t wait till October, you can still see it performed in Creede through Sept. 20 (719-658-2540 or 1-866-658-2540).


Cast list:

Director: Michael Perlman
Agamemnon Buckner (“Chicago”): Tosin Morohunfola
Hans Von Bismark (“Dutchy”): Patrick Du Laney
Marie Leroux: Caitlin Wise
Cecile Leroux: Adrian Egolf
Papa Leroux: John S. Green
Jean-Francois Millet: Steven Cole Hughes
Bastien Andre: John Arp
Madame Bathilde: Annie Butler
Madame Caron: Christy Brandt
Phelim O’Shaughnessy: Chad Afanador
Basil Thorpe/Claude Riviere/Charlie/King: Graham Ward

Where: Arvada Center studio theater, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.

Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, also 1 p.m. Wednesdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays (no Saturday matinee on Sept. 29)

Prices: $42-48

Contact: 720-898-7200 or the arvada center’s home page

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

 

Fall 2012, No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Roger Simon, Lisa Rosenhagen and Dave Ufford in Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names.” Photo by Michael Ensminger.

 

By John Moore

When: Sept. 8-Oct. 14

Written by: Jeffrey Sweet

The story: A drama about an aging actor, Benny, who was blacklisted during the 1950s and was unable to find employment for years before finding success in television.  His actress daughter, Norma, is cast in a play directed by his old friend who testified against him before the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Now Norma wonders whether the two can reconcile.

Why it made the list:  According to playwright Jeffrey Sweet: “The play keeps getting done because the blacklist keeps mutating and re-inventing itself in every political era, so the story stays relevant.” As for the name of the theater company, “Or” is the Hebrew word for “light.”


Cast list:

Roger Simon

Director: Richard H. Pegg
Roger Simon as Benny
Lisa Rosenhagen as Norma
Dave Ufford as Leo

Where: At the Pluss Theater in the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., Denver

Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays (half-price preview 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6; no performances Sept. 16 or 27)

Prices: $20-25

Contact: 303-316-6360 or www.maccjcc.org

 

The Fall 2012 theater preview countdown:

No. 1: Curious Theatre’s “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
No. 2: Ben Dicke Presents’ “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
No. 3: Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”
No. 4: Midtown Arts Center’s “In the Heights”
No. 5: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Giver”
No. 6: Local Theater Company’s “Elijah: An Adventure”
No. 7: Vintage Theatre’s “The Cider House Rules”
No. 8: Miners Alley Playhouse’s “The Three Penny Opera”
No. 9: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “Make Sure It’s Me”
No 10: Creede Rep’s “Is He Dead?” at the Arvada Center
No. 11: Theatre Or’s “The Value of Names”

Among the many other shows to watch:

Sept. 1-16, 2012: Ami Dayan Presents “A Happy End,” at Buntport Theater Read my interview with playwright Iddo Netanyahu
Sept. 4-16, 2012: National touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” at the Buell Theatre
Sept. 7-Nov. 3, 2012: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
Sept. 7-22, 2012: Germinal Stage-Denver’s “A Kind of Alaska”
Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2012: Spark Theater’s “Rebecca” (note new address: 985 Santa Fe Drive)
Sept. 11-30, 2012: Arvada Center’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (and Oct. 4-14 at the Lone Tree Arts Center)
Sept. 13-16, 2012: PACE Center’s “Scarlet Letter, The Musical” (Parker)
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Sweet Charity” (Littleton)
Sept. 14-Nov. 10, 2012: The Avenue’s “Murder Most Fowl”
Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2012: Ashton Entertainment’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” at the Aurora Fox
Sept. 15-Oct. 14, 2012: Bas Bleu’s “The Love of the Nightingale” (Fort Collins)
Sept. 20-Oct. 14, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Fences” (Space Theatre
Sept. 21-Oct. 21, 2012: The Edge’s “Boom” (Lakewood)
Sept. 27-Oct 21, 2012: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers” (Stage Theatre)
Oct. 2-24, 2012: And Toto Too’s “Pardon My Dust” (at Laundry on Lawrence)

Complete Denver Post theater listings:

By company

By opening date

Capsules of all currently running productions

 

Iddo Netanyahu: Is there “A Happy End” for our troubled world?

 

Kevin Hart plays an acclaimed Jewish physicist who can’t see the writing on the wall in 1932 Berlin. Photo by John Moore
 

By John Moore

  • When tropical storm Isaac promised to a score a direct hit on Haiti last week, thousands of earthquake victims chose to ride it out in exposed, shanty tents. At least eight people have died.
  • It turns out the Aurora theater gunman made threats months before the July massacre that went unaddressed.
  • When Adolf Hitler became German dictator in 1934, it did not spark an immediate exodus of Jews.

That’s the flawed goodness of human nature, says Iddo Netanyahu. We ignore warning signs — often to our own peril.

“If people tell us there might be some impending disaster, our natural tendency is not to believe it,” said Netanyahu, a doctor, historian, soldier, playwright … and, yes, brother of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Playwright Iddo Netanyahu is in Denver to debut the U.S. premiere of his new play, “A Happy End.” Photo by John Moore

He’s in Denver to stage the U.S. premiere of his ironically titled new play “A Happy End,” the story of a Jewish German couple facing the decision whether to leave Germany in 1932 amid the imminent rise of the Nazi Party. The mother of Netanyahu’s wife did. The minute Hitler took power, Jewish children were no longer allowed to go to school in Germany, so her family left for Switzerland.

But virtually no one else did. And a dozen years layer, the Nazis were responsible for 6 million deaths.

“The fact is that even up to 1939 — we’re talking six years after Hitler was elected — only 50 percent of the Jews decided to leave Germany,” Netanyahu said. “They were deluded. They were in love with their lives. They were in love with German society. Remember, this was the first country that had given the Jews full rights. And they could not bear to think, after hundreds of years there, that this country would want not only to expel them, but to liquidate them.”

“A Happy End” might be set 80 years ago, but Netanyahu had no interest in writing a historical play. “I think any playwright’s interest, including Shakespeare, is in his own times,” he said. So it may be impossible for anyone watching Netanyahu’s story not to hear the ominous drumbeats currently percussing around the world. The U.S. economy still teeters on a cliff. A nuclear Iran is threatening to erase Israel from the map. Netanyahu’s brother has warned in response: “Time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out.”

The idea that we live in a safe world is becoming more and more absurd by the day. We hope for the best, and yet we do nothing.

Who’s missing the signs in 2012? That’s up to individual playgoers, Netanyahu said. When “A Happy End” was performed in Israel, he said, “two of the actors were thinking the danger was from the leader of a certain right-wing party … and it’s not my brother.” To Americans, it might be the economy fully collapsing. To Netanyahu, there is no question. “In Israel, the danger is the Iranian bomb,” he said. “Are you going to wait until they have a bomb or are you going to bomb them and take the chance that you might not succeed? That is an unbelievably hard decision to make. Thank God it has to be made not by me. It has to be made by other people.”

Meaning his brother.

 

It can be intimidating to meet a Netanyahu. Especially when you are an actor who is asked to audition long-distance via Skype. And he will be your scene partner. Oh, and he’s playing your female lover.

“That was my first conversation with the brother of a world leader,” joked “A Happy End” actor James O’Hagan-Murphy, who plays a man having an extramarital affair with the wife of a celebrated German atomic physicist in “A Happy End,” opening Sept. 1 at the Buntport Theater in Denver. But Netanyahu made him feel at ease.

“He’s very down to earth and has a great sense of humor,” O’Hagan-Murphy said. “The other night we discussed ‘Angels in America.’ He wasn’t familiar with the plot, and I described my character as a closeted, married gay Mormon lawyer. He replied, ‘Oh, and then he runs for president against Obama?’ ”

Netanyahu says he lives a surprisingly ordinary life divided between Israel and the United States, where he is a radiologist when he wants to be, and a playwright when he needs to be.

Netanyahu spent his final year of high school here and graduated from Denver South while his father was a history professor at Denver University. “I had spent the previous two years on my own in Israel, but for my final year of high school, I decided to be with my parents,” he said.

Being the brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, who was Israel’s prime minister from 1996-99 and again starting in 2009, “strangely doesn’t affect me very much,” he said. “It might affect me more as an artist in terms of whether people want to read what I have written or not because of who I am.”

Acclaimed Czech actress Zuzana Stivinova stars as an avid consumer of Berlin’s rich cultural life in “A Happy End.”

He submitted “A Happy End” to a major theater company in Tel Aviv anonymously. “They accepted it without knowing who wrote it,” he said, “and to their credit, when they found out who did, they went ahead and staged it.”

Unlike his brother, Iddo is listed in the Israeli phone book, and he takes a phone call or two each month from random people complaining or wanting certain things. He spends time with his brother, he said, “but, look: He’s basically a prisoner with bodyguards,” and he has been ever since the 1995 assassination of Benjamin’s predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin.

“Every year it becomes worse and worse. Obviously you can’t go out on the town. So we sit, and we talk … and that’s about it.”

There was one other Netanyahu brother … Yonatan, or Yoni. He was the eldest son of Zila and Benzion Netanyahu, who was a prominent Israeli historian and taught at Cornell University, where Iddo and Benjamin attended. Yoni was a celebrated poet and soldier who died a national hero during Operation Entebbe, the 1976 counter-hostage rescue mission that freed more than 100 Israeli and Jewish passengers of an Air France flight overtaken by a Palestinian terrorist group.

Yoni (Jonathan) led the 29-man assault on the terminal where the hostages were being held, and he was the only Israeli soldier killed in action.

Military service is compulsory in Israel, and the Netanyahus were no exceptions. Benjamin fought on the front lines in the Yom Kippur War. Iddo left Cornell to fight in the same war in 1973. He was a member of a special commando unit that was dispatched to rescue a group of paratroopers who became stranded on a high, snowy mountain peak on what is now the border between Syria and Israel.

“We knew how to navigate in the snow, and we knew the terrain, so we were sent to rescue them,” Netanyahu said. “But believe it or not, on the way, one of us froze to death.” Netanyahu’s first short story was a cathartic attempt to come to grips with that trauma.

His first book was an attempt to answer lingering, troubling questions about brother Yoni’s death at Entebbe. Yoni, 30, already had become a local legend because of a book of poems and personal letters he had written late at night by candlelight while serving in the military. Author Herman Wouk (“War and Remembrance”) called Yoni’s writings “one of the great documents of our time.” Yoni’s funeral was televised, sealing his eternal place as a national symbol of Israel.

According to the official account of the operation, Yoni was accidentally shot by an airport sniper. “That was based on the testimony that a single officer gave, and it was pure fiction,” Netanyahu said. In 1976, the very idea that either an enemy or friendly bullet could have torn the young heart of one of Israel’s finest sons was simply unacceptable. So a lie was constructed. Ten years later, Iddo started to hear things that did not fit with the official version of events, and he set out to learn the truth. Why?

“Because it’s a philosophical question,” he said. “There is truth, and there is objective truth. I’m not a believer in postmodernism. Bereaved people always want to know the exact truth. They don’t want to hide from it.  When you have a brother that you loved who died, whether for good or for bad, you want to know what happened.”

But is there a difference between wanting to know the truth, and wanting the truth to be known?

“Look, you might find it strange coming from a brother but … it was not a matter of, ‘Is he a hero?’ ‘Is he not a hero?’ I was old enough to understand this famous Americans saying : ‘You can’t beat a dead hero.’ ”

Netanyahu soon discovered that, in the years following Yoni’s death, no other members of the secret unit his brother led that day had talked openly about the raid. And no one from the media, military or government had come asking.

“No one,” he said.

Netanyahu did, setting off an avalanche of new information – and controversy. He published 800 pages of testimonies taken over 10 years that easily disproved the sniper theory. He offers instead full arguments for both enemy and friendly fire. But does it really matter?

“No, that’s not the issue to me,” he said. “The issue to me was documenting what really transpired during the raid.  Being in medical school for six years, you come to appreciate trying to sort out facts from fiction. My goal was to describe the facts as well as you can. Raise conjectures. Did it do me good, this kind of analysis? I think so. I think so.”

 

Playwright and director Ami Dayan, who grew up on a secular kibbutz in Israel and found his way to Boulder pretty much through yoga, admits, “it was odd at first to envision a substantial artistic collaboration” with Iddo Netanyahu, given that Dayan is from the far left of the Israeli political spectrum. “But when we met,” Dayan said, “common tastes and artistic preferences quickly came to the forefront.”

Together they have staged “A Happy End” in Italy, Germany, Tel Aviv, and soon in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.  In Denver, the play will star acclaimed Czech actress Zuzana Stivínová and veteran Denver actor Kevin Hart.

Netanyahu could have chosen a dozen times and places in history to set his story, but he chose the Holocaust “because everybody in the world knows what their choice should be,” he said. “We are all sitting there in the audience rooting for them to make the choice of leaving Germany — otherwise they will find themselves in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.”

None of us can predict the future, but sometimes the obvious thing should be obvious, and you have to look reality in the face, Netanyahu said.

“But sometimes what is obvious is not so easy to decipher. We really are captives of our beliefs. We have a hard time accepting reality when they clash.”

The married couple in his play are not foreigners. They grew up in Berlin, and they are Jewish. Should they have known better? “A lot of this play has to do with how Jews see their place in society — and how do they want society to look at them?” Netanyahu said.

But he adds flatly,  “A Happy End” is not a story for Jewish audiences alone.

“If I wrote a play that is only for Jewish people, then I failed as a playwright,” Netanyahu said. He believes it is a story for anyone facing an uncertain future.

“The world is in turmoil, and you don’t know where it’s going,” he said. “American power is in decline, and other economic forces are emerging. There are times when you dread to think what will happen. We all like to think that the world is getting better, and we’re advancing. We like to think that the world is a calm place, basically, and we like to think that life, as it is, will last forever. Well, it won’t.

“But you cannot live without hope. You have to live with a certain amount of delusion. And that’s the great paradox of human existence. That’s what I’m showing in the play.”

Benjamin Netanyahu has read “A Happy End,” but he has not seen it in any of its live iterations. “As the prime minister of Israel — no, he can’t attend public performances,” Iddo said. “It’s just not doable.”

Well, he could come and safely see it here in Denver.

“Maybe,” Netanyahu said with a laugh. “Who knows? Maybe he will.”

———————————————-

Contact John Moore at 303-953-9907 or moore433@comcast.net

———————————————-

“A Happy End”

  • Sept. 1-16 (previews Aug. 30-31)
  • At Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., Denver.
  • 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays.
  • Tickets: $25 ($18 Aug. 30-31); seniors and students $15.
  • 720-289-6451 or ahappyend.com

Cast:

  • Zuzana Stivinova
  • Kevin Hart
  • James O’Hagan-Murphy
  • Mary Cates
  • Evan Duggan
  • Heather Taylor

 

Is “The Book of Mormon” a treatise on atheism?

Gavin Creel as Elder Price in the national touring production of “The Book of Mormon,” now playing through Sept. 2 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2012

 


Spoiler alert. The following essay examines what the ending of “The Book of Mormon” (the musical!), might really advocate. It talks about what happens in the final 10 seconds, so if you don’t already know, or you don’t want to know, then don’t read it (even though it’s given away on the cast recording!):

By John Moore

People who haven’t seen “The Book of Mormon” often presume, wrongly — but for understandable reasons — that the very funny new musical is a mean-spirited attack on Mormonism, perhaps the strangest and least understood among all Christian denominations.

Once they have seen it, they know this is a surprisingly traditional musical — well, for one that includes a “Little Mermaid” riff that cheerfully admonishes God, “(Bleep) you, in the (bleep), mouth and (bleep).”

But for all the gentle fun it pokes at fundamental tenets of the Mormon religion, the musical is really not an affront to Mormonism. It is instead a pointed spoof on religious literalism of any kind. It is a witty, heartfelt testament to anyone who has undergone a crisis in faith, and come out stronger for it.

Or is there more to it than that?

By the end, the story’s affable young Mormon Elders have tickled our sensibilities to such an adorable degree that you might not think too much on the very last line of the night … which, upon further review, just might be the most subversive line in a musical that’s filled with them.

Forget Mormons: Do writers Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Bobby Lopez have a much larger target in mind? Because that last line sounds a lot like an advocation of atheism. And if it is, this precocious little musical might be a whole lot more subversive than any of us have ever really given it credit for. Because it’s one thing to pick on Mormons. When you start talking atheism in America, there are a whole lot more hornets in the nest.

A recent Gallup poll found that 18 percent of all Americans say they would never vote for any Mormon for president, but a whopping 54 percent say they would never vote for any atheist. Talk about a hornet’s nest.

But is that what becomes of our two teen protagonists in “The Book of Mormon”? Let’s consider what happens:

(Last chance spoiler alert)

In the play, Utah teens Kevin Price and Arnold Cunningham are sent to Uganda for their two-year missions, where their primary charge is to baptize as many Africans into the faith as they can. To date, the Mormon branch has converted exactly zero in this  drought-, disease- and war-ravaged land where God seems remarkably absent. But Elder Cunningham, a portly teen with a penchant for making things up when he’s nervous, proves to be a wiz at winning over the natives — even though he’s never actually read the eponymous “Book of Mormon” (the New Testament sequel that Joseph Smith dug up from his upstate New York backyard in 1823).

Jared Gertner as Elder Cunningham in the national touring production of “The Book of Mormon,” now playing through Sept. 2 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2012

 

That’s because young Cunningham makes (bleep) up as he goes along, changing sacred Biblical stories and updating their messages with modern pop-culture references that give relatable relevance to Africans suffering from AIDS, dysentery and starvation under a warlord who orders that all woman’s genitalia must be mutilated. Some believe the organ that brings sexual pleasure to women is the root cause of AIDS. Others believe the cure for the plague is having sex with a virgin, even if that virgin is a baby. This is not the writers’ envelope-pushing creative license; this is present-day African reality.

So you can understand why the dusty pages of a strange and foreign scripture would have no urgency to these Ugandans. That is, until Elder Cunningham offers a desperate, embellished variation of the sacred story, one that  promises God’s wrath against anyone who commits genital mutilation or has sex with babies. And he uses  characters from “Lord of the Rings” and other pop-culture standards like “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” to spice the story up.

It’s hilarious stuff. But while Arnold’s story gets through to the natives and offers them hope for eventual delivery from their daily miseries, it also gets the Ugandan chapter shut down by Mormon leaders. The missionaries are, in effect, exiled. But while Elder Price still considers himself a Latter-Day Saint, his epiphany comes when he realizes it’s OK to change some things, and it’s OK to break the rules. “Even though we have complete doubt that God exists,” he says, “we can all still work together and make this our paradise planet.” Not exactly Mormon doctrine.

And that’s what they do: They commit to a new Ugandan mission focused on service. In the very funny final scene, the missionaries and the villagers alike come together for a new kind of door-to-door evangelism. But the book they are selling is (and here’s the spoiler) … “The Book of Arnold.” Take that and your golden plates, too, Joseph Smith.

In the end, Mormonism has been not just been gently tickled — it’s been pretty much repudiated. It’s out, replaced by a hip but clearly invented fable advocating a patently made-up god. And the idea of these boys embracing a self-created God? That’s … a whole lot more radical than just poking fun at Mormons.

But that’s nothing new. By embracing a hybrid, new-and-improved kind of Mormonism, these young missionaries are just following the historical evolution of Christianity.  For thousands of years, Christian faiths have splintered and mutated for the same reasons these boys splinter off from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Rebels didn’t like one aspect or other of the Catholic church — a belief in the absolute authority of the Pope, say, or differences of opinion on how man can attain salvation, and voila … we have the Protestant Reformation, Lutheranism, Calvinism, Episcopalians and so on.

(Note: Here’s a helpful interjection on this point from my childhood friend Matt Miller, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Sioux City, Iowa:)

First, if you’re charting the splintering evolution of the larger Christian church, the first comes with the Great Schism between East and West, Constantinople’s rivalry with Rome for primacy. Second, Luther and Calvin ARE the Protestant Reformation (no one outside the academy really talks about Zwingli, but he was in there too) … at least they started it. Luther mostly, who influenced Calvin. And you have to know that the Anglican church started as a power grab – Henry didn’t like the Pope. Their official story is that they are the “middle way” between Luther/Calvin and Rome. The interesting parallel to me from what you’ve written is that one of the hallmarks of the Reformation was the way in which the printing press made it possible for Christians to read the Bible (if they were literate) in their native tongue. Before that, most Christians were like Elder Cunningham – they had never read their own book. And of course the most recent evolution of Christianity is the rise of the Pentacostal movement. Phyllis Tickle posed a theory along these lines in her book “The Great Emergence,” about how every 500 years the church has a rummage sale.

The point is, we modify. We embellish. We tailor. And we have been bending sacred scriptures to suit our own purposes for centuries. When I was young, we were called “Salad Bar Catholics.” And we aren’t as welcome by the home base as we once were.

After now having seen “The Book of Mormon” three times — once on Broadway and twice since the first national touring production recently launched in Denver — I now can say that I know only these four things to be true:

  • The clitoris, as is often posited in “The Book of Mormon” (the musical, is a holy, sacred thing.
  • This is the funniest new musical of this century.
  • This national touring production isn’t even attempting to mask how much the lead actor, Gavin Creel, looks like a 19-year-old Mitt Romney, and …
  • I think this might really be a musical about atheism, after all.

Contact John Moore at 303-953-9907 or moore433@comcast.net

 

Previous “Book of Mormon” coverage:

Could “The Book of Mormon” determine your next president?

Broadway review: “Book of Mormon” place in history set in stone tablets

Is “The Book of Mormon” a treatise on atheism?

“Book of Mormon” scalpers: Score on for live theater

How Colorado’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone became the kings of pop-culture subversion

Broadway’s Rory O’Malley: On “Book of Mormon,” Turning it Off and Shutting the Closet Door

Follow “The Book of Mormon” on Twitter

Daily “Book of Mormon” ticket lottery: Do you feel lucky, punk?

 

The national touring production of “The Book of Mormon,” now playing through Sept. 2 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2012

“Glee” fans: Meet Melissa Benoist in photos, video

Patric Case and Melissa Benoist in Town Hall Arts Center’s “Footloose, the Musical,” in Littleton, Colo. Photo provided by Town Hall Arts Center.

 

By John Moore

Hey, “Glee” fans: The first episode of Season 4, airing Sept. 13, is titled, “The New Rachel Berry” … and the new Rachel Berry is named Marley … and she will be played by Arapahoe High School grad Melissa Benoist of Littleton, Colo.

Look for our exclusive interview with Melissa in  the Sept. 9 Denver Post. Yes, she has already been Slushied. And yes, she opens Season 4 singing a cross-country duet with Lea Michele to Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” Read more then.

Meanwhile, enjoy this look back at Melissa’s theatrical roots in the Denver metro area:

(And here’s our Denver Post feature naming Melissa one of Colorado’s “Can’t Miss Kids … in 2006!)

The Denver’s Post’s 2006 “Can’t Miss Kids,” from left: Max Posner, Noah Wilson, Akil LuQman, Melissa Benoist and Courtney Lorenz. (Photo by Lyn Alweis / The Denver Post)

 

Melissa Benoist, second from top right, as Brigitta with Annaleigh Ashford  (Liesl) in the Country Dinner Playhouse’s 2000 staging of “The Sound of Music.” Swanson is now in off-Broadway’s “Dogfight.” In front of them, Jesse Johnson is now in Broadway’s “Wicked,” and, far left, Christopher Sergeeff is in the national touring production of “Mamma Mia.”

Melissa Benoist as Kim MacAfee in the Town Hall Arts Center’s “Bye Bye Birdie,” with Jerry Cunningham, in Littleton, Colo. Photo by Brian Miller, provided by Town Hall Arts Center.  

 

 

On the day the Country Dinner Playhouse abruptly closed its doors in 2007, the cast of “Evita,” including Melissa Benoist (“Another Suitcase in Another Hall”) and Patric Case, gave one final performance of “Evita” in the rainy parking lot. (This was actually the pre-show medley promoting “Seven Brides,” which would have been the next show at the Playhouse.) Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post.


 

Melissa Benoist, top right with Markus Warren and the cast of the Country Dinner Playhouse’s “Evita” in 2007.

 

Melissa Benoist in the title role of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” at the Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton, Colo. Photo provided by Town Hall Arts Center.


Melissa Benoist in the title role of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” with Seth Caikowski as the Prince, at the Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton, Colo. Photo provided by Town Hall Arts Center.

 

Melissa Benoist as Kim MacAfee in the Town Hall Arts Center’s “Bye Bye Birdie”  in Littleton, Colo. Photo by Brian Miller, provided by Town Hall Arts Center.

 

Melissa Benoist as Kim MacAfee in the Town Hall Arts Center’s “Bye Bye Birdie” in Littleton, Colo. Photo by Brian Miller, provided by Town Hall Arts Center.

 

Melissa Benoist as Bebe in the Town Hall Arts Center’s “A Chorus Line” in Littleton, Colo. Photo by Brian Miller, provided by Town Hall Arts Center.

 

Melissa Benoist as Bebe in the Town Hall Arts Center’s “A Chorus Line” in Littleton, Colo. Photo by Brian Miller, provided by Town Hall Arts Center.

Melissa Benoist, 2006. Photo by Lyn Alweis, The Denver Post.

 

 

Could “The Book of Mormon” determine your next president?

Andrew Rannels from the original Broadway cast of “The Book of Mormon.” Gavin Creel plays Elder Price in the national touring production now playing in Denver. Photo by Joan Marcus, provided by Denver Center Attractions.

By John Moore

Pundits are already calling this the most negative presidential election in history. And pollsters are calling it one of the closest. At a time when any slip of the tongue could move the polls ever so slightly in either direction (Joe Biden), the question bears asking …

Could “The Book of Mormon” actually impact the outcome of the upcoming presidential election?

Not the guiding testament of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, exactly … the Broadway musical that is now taking its beliefs to snickering task from a theatrical pulpit  in Denver.

On the surface, the question is as silly as the sweetly subversive smash hit that turns out to be less a focused attack on Mormonism than a pointed spoof on religious literalism of any kind.

Surely a clever little story about two cheerfully naïve Mormon teens who set off on a mission to Africa, only to discover there are far greater social problems than any one book could ever solve, can’t affect the outcome of a presidential election?

Can it?

Continue reading

Broadway review: “The Book of Mormon’s” place in history set in stone tablets

 

 Josh Gad, Nikki M. James and Andrew Rannells of the Broadway “Mormon” cast. The New York Times.

 

By John Moore

Yes, the cheerful new Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon” is that funny. And outrageous. And profane. It is also a razor-sharp satire. But mostly it is a heartfelt testament to anyone who has undergone a crisis in faith, and come out stronger for it.

It opens with a clean-cut, all-American missionary-in-training named Kevin, who is determined to go out into the world “and blow God’s freaking mind!” But his destination is not Orlando, as he prayed – it’s drought- and disease-ravaged Africa.

“Africa is nothing like ‘The Lion King!’ ” realizes his shocked partner Arnold, an overweight, socially awkward kid who lies – a lot.

And here’s the heart of the story: Mission success is measured in converts, but, as the play positions it, the real Book of Mormon could put a crack baby to sleep, so Arnold embellishes its teachings with lessons from “The Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.” And in doing so, he captures the imaginations of the natives.

Yes, lying is wrong, but people have been bending sacred scriptures to suit their own purposes for centuries. And if that actually brings needed urgency and relevance to people’s lives, then what’s the harm?

While writers Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez break all the rules – their love for the rules of musical theater is evident in every joyous, witty note. This is a love letter to theater, with evident affection for everything from “Bye Bye Birdie” to “Godspell” to “The King & I” to “Little Shop of Horrors” to “Beauty and the Beast.”

Shocking? You bet. But the ultimate message is a wholesome one: Even if we question or doubt our beliefs, we can still work together to make things better.

I’m not sure how the savagely funny lines will hold up over time and repeated listens, but there’s no question “The Book of Mormon’s” place in history is set in stone tablets.

Quotable: “Jesus hates you, this we know, for Jesus just told you so” (from the song “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”).

 

Note: Press night for the national touring production’s debut stop in Denver is Aug. 19. But I’m not gonna lie: I’m not invited. The preceding comes from my Denver Post report: Broadway 2011: “Catch it if you can: From war horses to ‘War Horse,’ A roundup of a “season of substance”

 

Previous “Book of Mormon” coverage:

“Book of Mormon” scalpers: Score on for live theater

How Colorado’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone became the kings of pop-culture subversion

Broadway’s Rory O’Malley: On “Book of Mormon,” Turning it Off and Shutting the Closet Door

Follow “The Book of Mormon” on Twitter

Daily “Book of Mormon” ticket lottery: Do you feel lucky, punk?

 

 

 

 

Broadway’s Rory O’Malley: On “Book of Mormon,” Turning it Off and Shutting the Closet Door

Rory O’Malley of “The Book of Mormon” Broadway cast

 

By John Moore

Note: The following Q&A comes from an interview I conducted for The Denver Post in May 2011, for a front-page story on Colorado’s kings of pop-culture subversion, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. That was just before “The Book of Mormon” won nine Tony Awards, including best musical. With the Denver launch of the national touring production now just days away, readers might be interested to read more of what the Tony-nominated O’Malley had to say. O’Malley, who remains in the original Broadway cast playing Elder McKinley, is a co-founder of the gay rights activism group Broadway Impact. In “The Book of Mormon,” he sings the tap-dancing showstopper “Turn it Off.” It’s an irresistibly wide-eyed tune, sung in the same chipper vein as the classic toe-tapper “Put on a Happy Face.” It’s about how church leaders might advise a Mormon boy with conflicted sexual feelings: Just turn it off . . . like a light switch. (“Being gay is bad, but lying is worse. So just realize you have a curable curse . . . and turn it off!”) 

Listen to Rory O’Malley sing “Turn it Off”

John Moore: Hi, Rory. I wanted to talk with you about our local boys, “Book of Mormon” writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and how they have redefined pop culture subversion. No matter how hard they have tried to alienate people, it seems everything they’ve touched from TV to film to stage has turned to gold. Bill Maher makes a film about religion … and it polarizes and angers people.  But the “South Park” guys make a Broadway musical about religion … and everybody loves it.

Rory O’Malley: It’s true. Literally everyone from atheists to bishops, both spectrums of people have loved this show.

John Moore: So my question is, how do they keep getting away with it?

Rory O’Malley: Because they are storytellers. At the end of the day, that’s it. They have no agenda. A lot of people come in thinking, “Oh, they are going to get those Mormons. They are going to tear them apart.” That’s not how they write. They write to tell a story, and they are so meticulous about making sure that story is right. If you are telling a good story, you can get away with anything because you’ve earned it. You’ve explained why you’re going down the road that you are going down, and the audience comes with you. That’s what’s different.

John Moore: I am totally with you, especially after having seen “The Book of Mormon.” But at the same time, we are not exactly at a time in human history when we are evolved enough to laugh together at anyone’s religion except (maybe) our own. We still kill people over religion. Even Matt and Trey had death threats over their episodes of ‘South Park’ about Muhammad.

Rory O’Malley: Sure.

John Moore: I saw this stat that said 85 percent of all Americans identify themselves as Christian. And these guys are on a stage saying, “(Bleep) you, God in the ass, mouth and (bleep).” So why is this different? Why do your audiences laugh when they sing, ”(Bleep) you, God in the ass, mouth and (bleep)”? when, if Chris Rock said the same thing on a stage, he’d be getting picketed?

 

Broadway cast of “The Book of Mormon.” Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

 

Rory O’Malley: I think the difference is that they’ve earned it. They have trust in their audience. That first episode of “South Park,” when Cartman, a child, gets an alien anal probe? That was a pretty big deal. People made a really big fuss about it. This was far beyond “The Simpsons,” or the other things that used to be controversial. I remember talking with Josh Gad (the original Elder Cunningham in the Broadway cast) early in the rehearsal process, thinking, “These guys have a license not to be on the cutting edge of comedy, but to be the cutting edge of comedy. They have proven themselves time and time again.  So that’s true. I don’t think just anyone could get on a stage and sing, “(Bleep) you, God in the ass, mouth and (bleep).” Even a lot of talented, funny people could not get away with doing that. But these guys have earned the respect of people who enjoy comedy. They are not just lowbrow people. They do not have an agenda. They have a great story to tell, always.

John Moore: How much does tone have to do with it? Trey grew up doing musicals in a mountain suburb west of Denver. Do you think part of the reason Broadway audiences are embracing what they are doing is because there is such an evident love for the form?

Rory O’Malley: Absolutely. You can’t even control the joy that you feel at the end of the (“Bleep”) song. There is so much joy and respect for the art form, and it is being celebrated on the stage, so you can’t help but be caught up in it. There was a conservative New York Times writer who wrote that, “I found myself just jumping to my feet and celebrating with everyone … but then I went home and after the next couple of days, I started thinking, ‘Well this isn’t really the case, and God should not be taught like this …’ ” And it’s just funny to me because when you are in that theater and you are having that moment, you can let yourself be caught up in the joy of it. That’s what theater is supposed to do. It’s supposed to inspire joy. And I was so sad for this guy who went back to his intellectual prison and tried to turn it into some kind of an agenda. It’s a celebration.

John Moore: Speaking of tone, I think it goes back to your song, “Turn it Off,” which I think is arguably the most celebratory song in the whole show. I saw “The Book of Mormon” right after seeing “The Normal Heart” …

Rory O’Malley: Oh, wow.

John Moore: … and before I brought up “Religulous,” by Bill Maher. Even if you are a Bill Maher acolyte, that’s a film that makes you feel smug and angry, even when you agree with it. You are sort of feeling vindicated by what he is pointing out, but you are also having your anger validated. “The Normal Heart” can’t help but get you incredibly fired up and angry — that’s the playwright’s intent. But then there’s your sweet song in “The Book of Mormon” called “Turn it Off,” and they are almost companion pieces in a weird way, because the song brings out the same kind of societal hypocrisy — in a much more loving way.

Rory O’Malley: Absolutely. I have seen both “Religulous” and “The Normal Heart,” and I think that’s true. It’s funny, especially what you are saying about tone, and getting the same kind of point across, but in a different way. Because to me, as someone who was in the closet, it is the most sad, dark, awful, depressing place to ever be, and a true satire can find the irony in that and make a joyous, amazing tap number out of it, and have it be all that much more funny because of what’s going on onstage. It really is a companion piece. I see what you are saying. It certainly gets to the same kind of points as that movie and that other play, but in a way that probably is a little more palatable. A lot of people are like, “These issues … should that be sung about on a Broadway stage?’ ” And I am like, “There are so many more people who are going to see and understand these problems in Uganda or these horrible things that probably did not see other great works.” So it’s bringing them up to a different kind audience and in a different tone, yeah.

John Moore: This brings up the question of how we as human beings receive comedy. If it’s George Carlin or Bill Maher, there is that inherent, polarizing factor: You are either with them or against them. But when Matt and Trey do it with a certain level of sweetness, then we as humans just seem to be more open to going along for that ride — as opposed to simply “turning off” the song.

Rory O’Malley: Really, when you are dealing with all of the things that we are dealing with in our show, we have to extend our hand to the audience and say, “Come with us.” If we were screaming and yelling and trying to tear our subject matter into pieces, I don’t think anyone wants to go on that ride for two hours. But by having a tone the way it is, I think people’s hearts are open to at least, “OK, I can go on this ride with them, and it’s not going to be a total negative thing. I have so much respect for all the different kinds of comedy, for the George Carlins and the Bill Mahers of the world. I love that so much. But I do think there is something to be said for a show that brings so many people into it who leave thinking … well, just thinking. I’ve had a lot of people say they have had religious conversations after the show that they’ve never had before because of it. If you slam the door and start saying from the first moment, “This is what we believe, and if you don’t like it, get out,” you aren’t going to get too far with that many people.

John Moore: Isn’t that the ultimate irony: That here is this profane musical that looks to many in middle America as an attack on Mormonism; and yet it is more likely to lead to a calm conversation about these polarizing issues than anything going on in any political forum because this is something we can sit through and laugh at together?

Rory O’Malley: Absolutely. To me, this is such a pro-faith show, and I think that really is what people are going away with. Matt and Trey say this show their “atheist love letter to religion.” I am a person of faith, and I am very skeptical of religion, too. I think that pride is a huge theme in our show. And to me, that pride, when it is entered in with faith, it distorts the faith and hurts it. To me, that is a common problem. It’s really trying to dissect what religion is in our culture. And to separate that pride from the faith, and the stories and the dogma, from what is really important. So, yeah, I think people are a lot more willing to have that conversation when it’s being sung – and when there are tap numbers involved.

John Moore: And who would have thought it would be the guys who brought “South Park” into the world who are facilitating that conversation?

Rory O’Malley: Right?

John Moore: You are from Cleveland, right?

Rory O’Malley: Yep.

John Moore: What impact did these guys have on you growing up?

 

Rory O’Malley: I watched every episode of “South Park,” but that was standard when you were in high school in the mid-to-late ‘90s. That was the coolest thing that ever happened to TV. I was a huge fan. I would say that “Team America” was the funniest movie of the past decade, and I was truly on a one-man campaign for it to win the Pulitzer Prize. It took the temperature of America in 2004 better than anything else. That’s when I realized that these guys have such a great voice and a way of articulating the absurdity of our culture, and I think that’s going to last for generations. I think their satire is important. I know they wouldn’t want me to say that it’s important. But to me, it is, because it makes us laugh at ourselves for how seriously we take ourselves, whether it is religion or politics or anything.

John Moore: I imagine the day a script was handed to you and you realized you were going to be singing that song, “Turn it Off,” you probably felt like you had just won the lottery.

Rory O’Malley: Oh yeah, absolutely. It was literally like, “Keep breathing … Pretend that this is NOT the greatest thing that has ever happened to you in your career.” We’ve done the show about 100 times now, and it’s still such a joy because we know the show, and we know how it got here. And being part of that journey with Matt and Trey and Bobby (Lopez), it’s the greatest creative experience that I will ever be a part of. I’m sure of that.

John Moore: Well, I know Denver is already atwitter about getting to host the launch of the national touring production next year in Matt and Trey’s hometown.

Rory O’Malley: That is so exciting. It’s so perfect.

John Moore: It is perfect. It just seems like a long, long time away.

Rory O’Malley: Yeah. Believe me, I remember saying that about our Broadway opening. It will be there before you know it, and when it gets there, it’s going to be such a big deal. It’s so, so exciting.

——————

This just in: 

The “Book of Mormon” tour launch will make 24 tickets available for all performances through a daily lottery. For the winners, tickets will cost $25 each.  For the losers, tears are free.

 

Fun with video:

Rory O’Malley takes a field trip with his fellow Broadway cast members to watch the first “Book of Mormon” national tour cast perform. Check out what the Broadway company had to say.

 

 

Video podcast: Creede Rep Says Goodbye to Maurice LaMee

The Creede Repertory Theatre said goodbye to Maurice LaMee on July 29, 2012, after 12 years as executive and artistic director. Video by John Moore. Interviews include Trary Maddalone, Christy Brandt, Steven Cole Hughes, Jeff Carey, Adam Bartley, Cat Auger, Tosin Morohunfola, B.J. Myers, Brian Kusic and John Gary Brown.

“Book of Mormon” scalpers: Score one for live theater

“The Book of Mormon” Broadway cast, 2011. Photo by Joan Marcus.

 

By John Moore

With the sold-out Denver launch of the first “Book of Mormon” tour just a week away, an uncommon spotlight is shining on our often-ignored local theater community. Everyone, it seems, wants in. And buyers are being asked by scalpers to pay upward of $1,700 a ticket for the hands-down funniest new Broadway musical in decades. Kind of makes the $125 face value seem reasonable by comparison.

Yes, scalping is awful, illegal, crass opportunism. But, in this one instance, can’t we also just concede that … it’s kind of cool as well?

For once, live theater is a tough ticket. Let me repeat that … Live theater is a tough ticket. When do we ever get to say that? It’s amazing what a few maggots in your scrotum can do for a vastly under-appreciated art form. And yes, here I am both quoting “The Book of Mormon” and describing ticket scalpers, all at once.

Continue reading

Daily “Book of Mormon” ticket lottery: Do you feel lucky, punk?

On Broadway, “The Book of Mormon” lottery typically draws upward of 300 hopefuls daily. Photo by John Moore

 

By John Moore

True to Broadway form, the national touring production of “The Book of Mormon” will make 24 tickets available to at least 12 members of the general public for all performances through a daily lottery, it was announced today. For the winners, tickets will cost $25 each.  For the losers, tears are free.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Enter the lottery at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House box office (promptly) 2 1/2 hours before the start of each performance. See start times below.
  • State your name and number of desired tickets (1 or 2) on provided cards
  • Two hours before each show, lottery winners will be chosen at random from among all entries.
  • There is no advantage to showing up more than 2 1/2 hours before the start time.

More rules, rules, rules: 

  • Limit one entry per person and two tickets per winner.
  • All entries will be reviewed prior to the drawing for duplicate entries.
  • Winners must be present at the time of the drawing and show valid ID to purchase tickets.
  • Tickets are subject to availability.

When to show up:

The show plays from Aug. 14 to Sept. 2, 2012, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Here are the performance times (so show up no later than 2 1/2 hours before the following times):

  •    Tuesdays through Sundays: 7:30pm
  •    Saturdays and Sunday matinees: 2 p.m.
  •    Added performance: 2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29

 

Good luck … you’ll need it.

Read more:

 My essay: “Book of Mormon” scalpers: Score one for live theater.