It is not uncommon for more than 200 people to participate in the annual Magic Moments pop-rock revue. This year’s crew includes some established names in the local theater community, including Amy Board, Sarah Rex, Ronni Gallup, Keegan Flaugh, Mark Shonsey, Dana Hart Lubeck, Donna Debreceni, David Nehls and others.
By John Moore
March 19, 2013
For 30 years, Magic Moments has presented an annual pop-music revue that integrates disabled and able-bodied cast members of all abilities, ages and experience levels. Those revues have now raised more than $200,000 for organizations that provide services for people with special needs.
The cast is made up of nearly 200 performers — and that is actually (and intentionally) down from an all-time high of about 250 a few years ago. But while Magic Moments is no longer an all-comers affair, it certainly remains open to most. It integrates a whole fleet of single-digit-aged moppets alongside some of the most respected members of the local acting community, as well as dozens of people with a wide variety of physical and mental challenges. Some of them might be detectable to the outside eye; others are quadriplegics. The belief at Magic Moments is that as long as you can move your eyes, you can act. And sing. And dance. That’s right — a team of up to eight choreographers make sure every cast member is included in at least four big group numbers, and here a wheelchair is no detriment to dancing. It is rather the tool that allows dancing to happen.
The rewards of participating in, or just attending, this completely singular theatrical experience, are both evident and manifest. But with a cast that is so varied and so large, it has been difficult for Magic Moments to find its place within the context of the larger Colorado theater community.
Magic Moments has much in common with the nationally recognized Phamaly Theatre Company, a troupe of all “differently abled” actors who present year-round musicals, dramas, stand-up comedy and, starting this year, a holiday offering. The companies share some of the same actors. Molly Nash has a big solo in this year’s Magic Moments revue, the Broadway showtune, “I’m Shy!” Phamaly audiences will again recognize longtime Phamaly favorite Ed Reinhardt and others.
But Magic Moments is different in at least two significant ways: Phamaly primarily presents known titles such as “The Elephant Man” and the upcoming summer musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.” The madman behind Magic Moments, who goes only by the name of K.Q., goes to great pains each year to thread the dozens of rock, pop and Broadway songs together with an original and recognizable narrative, some recurring characters and an occasionally discernible plot. This is the first year Magic Moments is reprising a title from the past. It is bringing back “Spirit and Soul,” which is set within the context of a traveling revival show where a terrible series of events tests the faith of all involved.
The score is always subject to tinkering and modernization. This year’s production features songs from “Spring Awakening,” “The Wiz,” “Evita” and rock artists Queen, Kenny Loggins, The Call, Bare Naked Ladies, The Who and Lyle Lovett. There is even a number by recent Grammy darlings fun. (yep, lower-case and period included). A few years ago, the indie-cool Decemberists made it into the show.
But the big difference between Phamaly and Magic Moments is that you see the able-bodied performing right alongside those who are not. And while Phamaly prides itself on producing some of the best theater by any company of any skill level, Magic Moments is peppered with housewives and middle-aged parents who have no greater theatrical ambitions than these. They just want to perform on the same stage with their kids. What really makes Magic Moments … well, magic, is what happens when you immerse all of these disparate people into a common creative cause over many months. That can’t help but change the lives of all involved. That’s what makes it, in my book, among the most legitimate theatrical experiences you can have on any stage … or from any seat.
Any while Magic Moments has battled against the “snob” factor for decades — “Is it real theater or not?” — it will be tough to argue against the many well-known and highly regarded actors from the “legit” theater community who are performing this year: We’re talking Amy Board, Sarah Rex, Ronni Gallup, Keegan Flaugh, Mark Shonsey, Ken Paul and Keith Hershman. This year’s musical directors are award-winning Donna Debreceni and Arvada Center hot-shot David Nehls. There isn’t a theater company in Colorado that wouldn’t take that group.
If you don’t know who those people are, no matter. You will after you see “Spirit and Soul.”
Spirit and Soul” ticket information:
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday (March 21 and 22); 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday (March 23); 2 p.m. Sunday (March 24) At the Anschutz Family Theatre at Kent Denver School, 4000 E. Quincy Ave., Englewood, 303-607-7555 or buy tickets here.
Some of my previous Magic Moments coverage:
My Magic Moments video podcast from 2011
Amy Board, who won a Denver Post Ovation Award for her work in the Arvada Center’s “Les Miserables” as Eponine, was last seen starring in the Aurora Fox’s “Xanadu.” She plays a cancer patient in “Spirit and Soul.”
For years, Ronni Gallup has both choreographed numbers for Magic Moments shows (along with her mother, Debbie Stark), and also provided sign-language interpretation at performances through her company, Hands on Productions. She played Lola in “Damn Yankees” and Nickie in “Sweet Charity” for the Town Hall Arts Center. But this year marks her first performance in a Magic Moments revue. She wanted to play alongside her two young sons.
(Please click “Page 2” below to go to the next page of photos from this year’s Magic Moments rehearsal)