Photos: My night at the Denver Center’s ‘A Christmas Carol’

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By John Moore
Dec. 5, 2013

Welcome to my ongoing, 2013 labor-of-love photo series bringing you iconic snapshots from behind the scenes on opening nights in Colorado theater. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the official “Opening Nights” photo series to date (these ones are the “Over the Tavern” outtakes), click here.

OPENING 142
You know what I was thinking before the opening performance of “A Christmas Carol”? It’s too bad these poor kid actors are so darned shy. Clockwise from center, that’s Max Raabe (nephew, I found out Thursday night, of longtime Denver Post reporter Steve Raabe), Sam Modesitt, Edwin Harris and Connor Nguyen Erickson

Opening No. 143: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “A Christmas Carol”: The Denver Center Theatre Company’s holiday tradition turns 21 this year with a return to its opulent musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel. Twenty-one? That’s older than, like, every kid in this picture combined. The story, of course, traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s overnight journey to redemption. This timeless tale illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations. Again starring Philip Pleasants as Scrooge, with Phamaly Theatre Company’s Leonard E. Barrett as the Ghost of Christmas Present, John Hutton as Marley, Jeff Cribbs as Cratchit, Stephanie Cozart as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Douglas Harmsen as Fred, M. Scott McLean as Young Ebenezer, Michael Fitzpatrick as Fezziwig, Leslie O’Carroll as Mrs. Fezziwig, Leslie Alexander as Mrs. Cratchit and Charlie Korman as Tiny Tim. (Check out our short video interview with Charlie here. It’s worth the two minutes, I promise). They are backed by a huge ensemble that includes Colin Alexander, Benjamin Bonenfant, Michael Bouchard, Kathleen M. Brady, Courtney Capek, Jenn Miller Cribbs, Connor Nguyen Erickson, Michael Gaessler, Tanner Gardner, Edwin Harris, Gabe Koskinen-Sansone, Kyra Lindsay, Amelia Modesitt, Sam Modesitt, Gabriel Morales-Gonzalez, Tricia Moreland, Mackenzie Paulsen, Jeffrey Roark, Christine Rowan, Thomas Russo, Maggie Sczekan, Lauren Shealy, Jake Walker and Christopher Wells. Showtimes: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays; 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. Also: 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 24. No performance on Wednesday, Dec. 25. No evening performance on Sunday, Dec. 29. At the Stage Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or the denver center’s home page

 

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Colorado theater schedules, however you like them:

All currently running theater productions

All theater listings by company
All theater listings by opening date

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Photos: My night at the Denver Center Theatre Company’s ‘The Most Deserving’

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By John Moore
Oct. 23, 2013

Opening No. 122: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Most Deserving: The Denver Center’s new world premiere is a comedy about amateur art and amateur politics in a tiny West Kansas town. The local arts council has $20,000 to award to a hometown artist with an “under-represented American voice.” Should they choose the son of a town big-shot, thus guaranteeing their continued funding; or the mentally unstable, self-taught “Trash Man” who creates religious figures out of rubbish? Gregory, believe it or not, is NOT playing the unstable Trash Man. Rather, he’s a ponytailed British beatnik on the lookout for a shag. (And a member of the town arts council.) The play explores how gossip, politics and opinions of art can decide who is “the most deserving.” Featuring Sam Gregory, Jeanne Paulsen, Judith Hawking, Rebecca Miyako Hirota, Craig Bockhorn and Jonathan Earl Peck (who once played Othello at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival). Written by Catherine Trieschmann. Directed by Shelley Butler. “The Most Deserving” runs through Nov. 17 at the Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets. Showtimes: 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. Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org. Thanks: Rachel Ducat, Mariah Becerra.

To see the official “Opening Nights” photo series to date (these are outtakes), click here: www.culturewest.org/?p=6068. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org.

OPENING 122sm
Hold that tiger! (Or should I say, “Hold that, Tiger?”) Sam Gregory wants you … to see him (very nearly ALL of him) in “The Most Deserving.”

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Colorado theater schedules, however you like them:

All currently running theater productions

All theater listings by company
All theater listings by opening date

How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

In case you are wondering where the rest of my stuff is …

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By John Moore.

In case you are wondering where the rest of my stuff is … I got this job, you see. Maybe you heard about it — as a journalist for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. It’s kind of a dream job. And the best part is, the fine folks at the Denver Center are encouraging me to keep up as best I can with covering the rest of the Colorado theater community as well. Including my duties as Executive Director of the new Denver Actors Fund.

But not all of my coverage is being posted here anymore. I have a new home in the Denver Center ether-world called Denver CenterStage. It is intended to complement, not replace, CultureWest.Org.

We’ve been fast out of the gate. It occurs to me that we have already posted 44 pieces of new content about Colorado theater on Denver CenterStage in the first three weeks of its existence. And that doesn’t include additions to our ongoing “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theater” photos series that is moving merrily along.

Some very interesting things have been happening around this theater town. Below are links to some of the highlights. But I’d be ever so grateful if you might bookmark Denver CenterStage and check in there regularly as well — just to make sure you aren’t missing anything.

John Ashton deployed by FEMA on eve of his starring role in Boulder Ensemble Theatre’s “Seminar”

Kidney update: Erin Rollman’s gift saved nine lives

Denver School of the Arts honors Helen Thorpe


Panel: “Death of a Salesman” is the most important American play ever written


Kim Staunton: Truth trumps race in “Death of a Salesman”

Doors Open Denver Center: It’s a banner year for local actors

Meet the cast video series: Short, 2-minute interviews with all of the actors appearing in the Denver Center’s fall plays. Here is where to find all of them that have been posted to date.

Matthew Morrison to headline 2014 “Saturday Night Alive” gala


Denver Center launches statewide youth playwriting initiative

“Caveman” Cody Lyman comes home to defend his turf

“I Believe” … that you can win the “Book of Mormon” ticket lottery, just like I did … twice!

Luciann Lajoie’s Denver-born “*Date” opens in Austin, Texas

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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund
If you could not attend your fundraiser tomorrow, you can still help get us off the ground with your donation. Just send your tax-deductible check (ith our humble thanks) to:

Denver Actors Fund
4594 Osceola St.
Denver, CO 80212

Photos: My night at the Denver Center’s ‘Death of a Salesman’

To see caption information on any photo above, or to see the gallery on a mobile phone, click here. (It will be on the lower-left corner.) Or just click “show info” on any photo. If you prefer see this feature in its previous format (with each new photo stacked on top of the last), click here.

By John Moore
Oct. 1, 2013

Opening No. 119: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Death of a Salesman”: Some call this the most important play ever written. Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning drama is the story of an aging, deluded and failing salesman who cannot accept that his dreams for his family are no match for the sad realities of their ordinary lives. This heartbreaking indictment of the American Dream is an actor’s dream. It stars real-life husband and wife Mike Hartman and Lauren Klein through Oct. 20. Directed by Anthony Powell. Starring Mike Hartman and Lauren Klein, with John Patrick Hayden, M Scott McLean, Anthony Bianco, Michael Santo, James O’Hagan-Murphy, Brian Shea, Kate Gleason, Kyra Lindsay and Adrian Egolf. Showtimes: 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 at the Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the complete “Opening Nights” photo series to date (these are outtakes), click here: www.culturewest.org/?p=6068

IMG_2969
After actors Mike Hartman and Lauren Klein conquered the iconic roles of Willy and Linda Loman on opening night, the real-life married couple deserved a party. Though they settled for a seat.

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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund
If you could not attend your fundraiser tomorrow, you can still help get us off the ground with your donation. Just go to our fundraising page here to contribute — with our humble thanks.

Video: Shout-outs to 2013 Henry Award nominees

By John Moore
July 18, 2013

Members of the local theater community give their shout-outs to this year’s field of 2013 Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award nominees. One comes all the way from Poland. The ceremony is July 22 at the Arvada Center.

Video by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Running time: 7 minutes.

Shouters and the shouted at include: Colin Alexander, Joanie Brosseau, Rhonda Brown, Chris Campbell, David Cates, Matthew Dailey, Jennifer DeDominici, Ben Dicke, Terry Dodd, Michael J. Duran, Jonathan Farwell, Deb Flomberg, Brian Freeland, Ronni Gallup, Rachel D. Graham, Josh Hartwell, Tim Howard, Peter J. Hughes, Michelle Hurtubise, Wendy Ishii, Rebecca Joseph, Chris Kendall, Chris Kitchen, Madison Kitchen, Carla Kaiser Kotrc, Rod Lansberry, Sue Leiser, Lauren Cora Marsh, Matt Maxwell, Gavin Mayer, Melanie Mayner, Norrell Moore, Josh Nelson, James O’Hagan-Murphy, Anne Oberbroeckling, Jessie Page, Paul Page, Pat Payne, Max Peterson, Robert Michael Sanders, Steef Sealy, Megan Van De Hey, Jason Tyler Vaughn, Vintage Theatre, Burke Walton, Bob Wells, Chris Wiger, Kathi Wood and Ryan Wuestewald.

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Direct link to the YouTube video above: http://youtu.be/5NzFbxsfxVg

2013 Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards
Monday, July 22
Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.
Tickets: $25; available only through the Arvada Center box office, 720-898-7200
Info: Go to the Colorado Theatre Guild web site

 

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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

2013 theater photo series: It’s Opening Night in Colorado

By John Moore
Jan. 1, 2014

Welcome to my 2013 labor-of-love photo series bringing you iconic snapshots from behind the scenes on opening nights in Colorado theater. This series includes one representative shot from 151 of the performances we saw 2013. The intent was to allow the reader a window into a part of the creative process they are not often allowed to witness. The result was awide swath of public and private moments backstage, onstage and outside of the stage entirely. In addition to this primary series, we dedicated a gallery of outtakes to most every production we visited as well. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To inquire about reprints, email culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

Most recent entry:

OPENING 151
At the end of their final performance last night, it was only fitting that, from left, Scott Koop, Alex Crawford, Amie Rau, Johnette Toye, Annie Dwyer, Rory Pierce, T.J. Mullin (and, unseen, musicians Randy Johnson and Eric Weinstein) had no choice but to stand silently while the overflow cheering crowd stood for several minutes  thanking them not just for an evening of entertainment, but for a quarter century of laughs, songs, terrible puns  and heart-tugging moments.

Opening No. 151: Heritage Square Music Hall’s “Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Goodbye”: It seems only appropriate that the final entry in our “opening nights” photo series was, in fact, a closing night. And what a closing night it was for the Heritage Square Music Hall: A New Year’s Eve celebration, followed by a midnight toast, live band and dancing into the wee hours. For this wasn’t just the end of a show for the Golden institution. That was closing night … period. And not just for T.J. Mullin and his venerable cadre of triple-threat performers. No, this was the end of the kind of entertainment Heritage Square has been providing audiences since Mullin bought the Heritage Square Music Hall from the legendary Bill Oakley in 1988. The Music Hall stopped being an old-fashioned house of melodrama long ago. It evolved into a place that offered blue-collar, comfortable, throwback fun. Clean, family entertainment (the hardest kind of comedy to pull off) that was both ridiculous and impeccably delivered at once. The Music Hall became best-known for its “Loud” shows, a series of pop radio hits performed by a cast that never got the credit it deserved for being among the most talented performers on any Denver stage. That final cast was Alex Crawford, Johnette Toye, Annie Dwyer, Rory Pierce and T.J. Mullin, with musicians Randy Johnson, Eric Weinstein and Crawford, with help from the booth from Scott Koop and Amie Rau. Merry Christmas indeed, Heritage Square Music Hall. And to all of you: Goodbye. Until we see you again. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Connie Helsley. Look for a full photo gallery from the final night in the coming days, as well as a video podcast that will include cast and audience interviews, and some performance highlights.

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Previous entries:

OPENING 148

Opening No. 150: Vintage Theatre’s “Young Frankenstein”: The final opening night of our 2013 series has Mark Shoney jumping for joy. Actually Shonsey, who plays Igor, was pumping himself up during warmups for Friday’s opening-night performance in Aurora. This wickedly inspired re-imagining of the classic Mel Brooks movie follows young Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (“that’s Fronkensteen!”) as he attempts to create a monster, just like his uncle Victor – but not without comic complications. The brains behind the laughter is the mad genius himself – Brooks wrote the music and lyrics and co-wrote the book. This production is the first since renovations to the Vintage Theatre stage that lowered the playing area, allowing for greater vertical playing space. There is also increased wing space that allows for larger sets and larger live orchestras. Musical director Hunter Hall sports a merry band of 11 for “Young Frankenstein.” Starring Seth Maisel (Frederick Frankenstein), Mark Shonsey (Igor), Kristi Siedow-Thompson (Inga), Mike Keinker (The Monster), Shahara Ostrand (Elizabeth), Barbara Porecca (Frau Blucher), Patrick Brownson (Hans Kemp), Chris Gallegos (Victor), Richard-Curtis Simpson (Harold the Hermit) and Zach Nick (Ziggy), with an ensemble of Matt Cantwell, Matt Davis, Steffan Scrogan, David Ballew, Teig Stanley, Preston Britton, Kathi Wood, Kaitlyn Althoff, Bianca Hinchley and Nicole Giordano. Directed by Deb Flomberg. The show plays through Feb. 2. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays at 1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintage’s home page . Photo by John Moore for CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Aran Peters, Deb Persoff and Craig Bond.

 

OPENING 149

Opening No. 149: Starkey Theatrix’s “Home for the Holidays 2013″: For theater audiences, and the actors who perform it, a play or musical is an everyday, scheduled, temporary escape. But there are days when there is no escape from the unexpected barbarities the real world has been visiting upon Colorado with cruel regularity over the years: Chuck E. Cheese. Columbine. Platte Canyon. Aurora Century Cinemas. Multiple award-winning actor Margie Lamb (“Next to Normal”) sang and danced in the opening performance of Starkey Theatrix’s “Home for the Holidays 2013″ in Lone Tree on Thursday night. Now just try to imagine her horror when, at 12:36 p.m. the next afternoon, she received the text pictured above from her son, Blake. He’s a junior at Arapahoe High School. That text came in just a few minutes after fellow Arapahoe student Karl Pierson allegedly sought revenge against a teacher by opening fire with a shotgun at the school before taking his own life, police believe. What does a son do in those first few moments of inescapable, indescribable panic? Blake took out his phone and wrote his mom to make sure his parents knew, no matter what might happen next, that he loves them. Lamb immediately rushed from her downtown job to the school in Littleton, where she was reunited with her son, who by then was safe. Together, they became part of the lockdown that kept them both at the school for several more hours. And then, because the clock never stops, there was another show scheduled for Lamb to perform that night. And Lamb, being the pro that she is, went on. The show is a talent-laden bouquet to family audiences, a high-energy trifle meant to lift the community’s spirits during the holiday season. So what better way to stand up to violence and fear than to sing and dance? The musical revue offers some of the most popular holiday music from the past and present, much of it recast with cleverly altered lyrics to suit any given situation. And a wide variety of dancing styles, including gymnastics and a pulse-racing break-dance segment. The narrator is an elf played by Sarah Rex, alongside a deep ensemble made up of some big names in the local theater community including Lamb, Kenny Moten, Randy St. Pierre, Stephen Bertles, the very busy young Alejandro Roldan (“In the Heights” and “Next to Normal”) and Starkey’s founders, Chris Starkey and Ronni Gallup. The ensemble includes Rae Klapperich (who made the more than 100 costumes with her mother, Laurie Klapperich), Wyatt Baier, Hula-Hooper extraordinaire Ambrosia Brady, Olyvia Beyette, Cole Emerine, Erica Lloyd, Britni Girard, Jennifer Lynne Jorgensen, Anne Terze-Schwartz, Kristi Vogel and Tess Williams. In addition, there are special appearances by — I kid you not — members of the Denver Broncos Stampede Drumline, a competitive jump-roping team called the Jumping Eagles, and a dance company called Hip Hop Theatre. Not to mention 14 children and a live orchestra of six. Directed by Paul Dwyer, best known from his days as an actor at the now-closed Country Dinner Playhouse. The music director is Trent Hines; the Choreographers are Matthew D. Peters and John Gilette. Modifications have been made to make this show more accessible to individuals on the autism spectrum, who have learning disabilities or a variety of sensitivities. The show ran from through Dec. 22 at the Lone Tree Arts Center, 10075 Commons St. That’s just west of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue, 720-509-1000, or go to Lone Tree’s home page. Thanks: Heidi Echtenkamp.

 

OPENING 148
At its best, live theater in schools empowers young student performers with self-confidence and a sense of both camaraderie and shared accomplishment. At any level, live theater at its best moves audiences … and these two young audience members were clearly moved to, well, move during the Willow Creek Elementary School’s musical, “Dear Edwina Junior.”

Opening No. 148: Willow Creek Elementary School’s “Dear Edwina Junior”: This middle-school fave follows the adventures of plucky advice-giver Edwina Spoonapple as she directs the neighborhood kids in a series of production numbers as part of the latest edition of her weekly “Advice-A-Palooza” extravaganza. Written in the episodic style of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “Dear Edwina Junior” takes turns showcasing different members of its young cast. In the case of the fifth-grade musical at Willow Creek Elementary School, one of those cast members was my nephew, Aiden, who played a vampire named Frankenguest. It must be in the (vampire) blood. Aiden his made his stage debut with the school’s “Madd Hatters” group two days shy of his 11th birthday.

 

OPENING 147Young Catamounts cast member Quinn Hirschland jumps for joy – and casts a long shadow – during a pre-show rehearsal for Feed.”

Opening No. 147: The Catamounts’ “Feed: Short and Sweet”: Boulder’s The Catamounts performance collective reference food in their slogan: “Theatre for the Adventurous Palate.” So it’s feeding, I mean fitting, that Amanda Berg Wilson’s young team has turned its unique “Feed” series into its signature offering. “Feed” offers audiences professional storytelling paired with specialty beer and locally sourced food. In this case: A roster of Sanitas beers paired with hand-crafted desserts from Kim and Jake’s Cakes; Sweet Cow Ice Cream; and pastry chefs Dorian O’Connell and Kathy Moore.) They perform while you nosh in the back brewing room at Sanita’s Brewing Company. The food and the theater fare serve as equal partners in creating a cohesive narrative here. The common ingredient for this round of stories: Each evokes sweet moments that arise from The depths of the coldest and hardest times of year, when the days are shortest and challenges the biggest. The Catamounts’ aforementioned Amanda Berg Wilson, Joan Bruemmer-Holden, McPherson Horle and Jeremy Make are joined by guest storytellers Heather Grimes (from Boulder’s “Truth Be Told” story slam) and a boy named Quinn HIrschland to perform a mix of monologues, adapted short stories and real stories from Boulder’s recent floods. There’s some A.A. Milne (“A House is built at Pooh Corner for Eeyore”) in there, with a taste of former Colorado Mines engineering student turned celebrated fiction writer George Saunders (“Tenth of December.”) A second “Feed” has been scheduled to accommodate demand at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m. at Sanitas, 3550 Frontier Ave. (off Foothills Parkway and Pearl Street). Tickets are $30. Call 720-468-0487 or go to The Catamounts’ home page.

 

OPENING 146
Introducing one of the lesser-known Knights of the Round Table: Sir Fabio. Scott Severtson, who’s not normally this … maned … plays Sir Dennis, a k a Galahad.

Opening No. 146: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Monty Python’s Spamalot”: Monty Python has come to Boulder to taunt poor King Arthur, the principled if idiotic leader of the quest for the Holy Grail. Why God the all-knowing has misplaced a cup is anyone’s guess. “Spamalot,” the Tony Award-winning best musical of 2005, lovingly rips off the beloved, warped source film, with its full allotment of dancing divas and knights, flatulent Frenchmen, killer rabbits and that one snickeringly legless fightin’ knight. While the plot loosely follows the same course of events as the film, the stage equivalent is very much its own sacrilegious thing, so do not come expecting a carbon copy. We open in Finland, after all. I mean, this is a bona fide Broadway musical, so it’s got to have some actual women too. And here those women are Laker Girls. For real. Starring Wayne Kennedy as the utterly guileless King Arthur, with Alicia Dunfee as his Lady of the Lake. The ensemble includes Brett Ambler, Scott Beyette, Brian Cronin, Barrett Harper, Jessica Hindsley, Bob Hoppe, Brian Jackson, Norrell Moore, Brian Norber, Joey Revier, Scott Severtson, Burke Walton, Tracy Warren, Tracey Zimmerman and … STG … Jerry Lewis (the real Jerry Lewis) as the Voice of God. Directed by Piper Lindsay Arpan, who appeared in the Broadway production of “Spamalot.” Showtimes: 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 7:45 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 1:30 and 7:45 p.m. Sundays (dinner service 90 minutes before) through March 1 at 5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or BDT’s home page Thanks: Michael J. Duran, Seamus McDonough, cast and crew.

 

OPENING 145
Noal Blessing, left, and Everett Ediger show off their varying flying machines backstage on opening night. Noal sports a Lego spaceship; Everett sends his paper airplane aloft just as the shutter is snapped. Noal, who has Spastic Cerebral Palsy and a progressive hearing deficit, and Everett, who has Spina Bifida, play the sons of George Bailey. The Phamaly Theatre Company prides itself on adding new levels of complexity and meaning to any production it takes on by virtue of the evident disabilities its actors incorporate into their stage characters. So what we have here is a George Bailey driven to the brink of suicide, only here he’s leaving behind four handicapped kids, two of them young boys in wheelchairs. That certainly adds layers to the emotion-laden issue of suicide. There are those who intractably believe that any act of suicide, for any reason, is inherently selfish and/or sinful. So the very idea of George leaving a wife behind to care for four (adorable) handicapped children here no doubt makes actor Jeremy Palmer’s challenge in playing him sympathetically that much more difficult. But young Jeremy is up to the task. It should be noted that directors Steve Wilson and Bryce Russell Alexander do not have Palmer utter the second half of Jimmy Stewart’s most chilling line of the famous source movie, which he blurts when George is at the depth of his anger and despair: “You call this a happy family? Why do we have to have all these kids?”

Opening No. 145: Phamaly Theatre Company’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”: This is the acclaimed local handicapped theatre company’s first-ever holiday presentation. The story of George Bailey and his not-so-wonderful life in Bedford Falls (he thinks) remains a timeless fable of dreams, disillusionment and, ultimately, the power of love. The cast includes Jeremy Palmer (George Bailey), Lyndsay Palmer (Mary Bailey), Trenton Schindele (Clarence), Michael Leopard (Mr. Potter) and an ensemble that includes Daniel Traylor, David Wright, Lucy Roucis, Edward Blackshere, Ashley Kelashian, Jaime Lewis, Twanna Latrice Hill, Kim Jackson, Cassie Ferro, Amber Marsh, Tammy Davison, Noal Blessing, Everett Ediger, Lily Blessing, Harper Ediger, Shannon Wilson, Alicia Young, Eric Richerson and Edric Richerson. Co-directed by Steve Wilson and Bryce Alexander. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; plus 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16 and Thursday, Dec. 19. Through Dec. 22 at the Aurora Fox, 9900 E. Colfax Ave., 303-575-0005 or phamaly’s home page. Thanks: Gloria Shanstrom, Chris Silberman, Grace Hartke and Danielle Rankin.

 

OPENING 144
Pssst …. Look who’s REALLY playing the Baby Jesus bundle of joy in Su Teatro’s holiday pastoral? Yes … It’s Minnie Ratón! I think that kid’s got a future in show biz. That’s Jessica Portillo as Proud Mary.

Opening No. 144: Su Teatro’s “La Pastorela”: “The Shepherd’s Play” recounts the epic battle between the dark angel Luzbel (Jesse Ogas and minions) and the sword-swinging San Miguel (Amy Luna). Luis Valdez’s retelling of this centuries-old folktale is a family friendly comedy that follows the trek of humble shepherds as they encounter the Angel of the Lord, who announces the birth of the Redeemer in Bethlehem. Embarking on their spiritual journey in search of the Holy Child, the scruffy shepherds find themselves beset by the demonic followers of Lucifer and Satan, who waylay them with obstacles born of their own human frailties. This adaptation is no sleepy drummer-boy version of the Nativity: it is a pageant of passion, excitement, action, adventure, music and comedy. Valdez, considered “the father of Chicano theatre,” attended Saturday’s performance. It was`his first visit to Su Teatro, though his brother, Daniel, has contributed original music for Su Teatro productions for years. Daniel is the music director of “La Pastorela.” He is in residence at Su Teatro for the next two years, to develop new work with artistic director Anthony J. Garcia as part of a two-year innovation grant from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation. In the fields of rural California, without financial backing and using farm laborers as actors, a 25-year-old Luis Valdez singlehandedly created a movement that has since become international in scope. “La Pastorela” is also performed as part of the St. Cajetan’s Reunification Project, an annual event in which Su Teatro and the community recognize the Chicano residential community that was displaced in 1972 for Auraria to be built. Also featuring Lorenzo Gonzales, Charlie Romero, Jaycee Sanchez, an ensemble of dozens and a live band of six. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. matinees (Dec. 15 is reserved solely for AARP members and their families). Through Dec. 22 At the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or su teatro’s home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Mica Garcia de Benavidez.

 

OPENING 142
You know what I was thinking before the opening performance of “A Christmas Carol”? It’s too bad these kid actors are so darned shy. Clockwise from center, that’s Max Raabe (nephew, I found out last night, of longtime Denver Post reporter Steve Raabe),Sam Modesitt, Edwin Harris and Connor Nguyen Erickson

Opening No. 143: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “A Christmas Carol”: The Denver Center Theatre Company’s holiday tradition turns 21 this year with a return to its opulent musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel. Twenty-one? That’s older than, like, every kid in this picture combined. The story, of course, traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s overnight journey to redemption. This timeless tale illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations. Again starring Philip Pleasants as Scrooge, with Phamaly Theatre Company’s Leonard E. Barrett as the Ghost of Christmas Present, John Hutton as Marley, Jeff Cribbs as Cratchit, Stephanie Cozart as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Douglas Harmsen as Fred, M. Scott McLean as Young Ebenezer, Michael Fitzpatrick as Fezziwig, Leslie O’Carroll as Mrs. Fezziwig, Leslie Alexander as Mrs. Cratchit and Charlie Korman as Tiny Tim. (Check out our short video interview with Charlie here. It’s worth the two minutes, I promise). They are backed by a huge ensemble that includes Colin Alexander, Benjamin Bonenfant, Michael Bouchard, Kathleen M. Brady, Courtney Capek, Jenn Miller Cribbs, Connor Nguyen Erickson, Michael Gaessler, Tanner Gardner, Edwin Harris, Gabe Koskinen-Sansone, Kyra Lindsay, Amelia Modesitt, Sam Modesitt, Gabriel Morales-Gonzalez, Tricia Moreland, Mackenzie Paulsen, Jeffrey Roark, Christine Rowan, Thomas Russo, Maggie Sczekan, Lauren Shealy, Jake Walker and Christopher Wells. Showtimes: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays; 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. Also: 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 24. No performance on Wednesday, Dec. 25. No evening performance on Sunday, Dec. 29. At the Stage Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or the denver center’s home page

 

OVER THE TAVERN
Bas Bleu Theatre co-founder Wendy Ishii, right, greets the cast in the dressing room before they face their first audience, a sold-out house in Fort Collins. From left, Thomas Borrillo, Billy Dean Allen and Ailie Holland.

Opening No. 142: Bas Bleu Theatre’s “Over the Tavern”: This bittersweet period comedy looks back at family living over a blue-collar bar in 1959. Four children are caught between the claustrophobic authoritarianism of the Roman Catholic Church and an emotionally abusive father. Only their mother keeps this family afloat. At the center of the piece is precocious 12-year-old rebel named Rudy, who goes knuckle-to ruler-with his formidable teacher, Sister Clarissa, in the questioning of his beliefs. The cast features Thomas Borrillo as Chet (revisiting the bad-dad role he played at the Arvada Center in 2006) Ailee Holland as embattled wife Ellen and Deb Note-Farwell as old-school nun Sister Clarissa, a character who bears a striking resemblance to battleaxe Sister Aloysius in “Doubt.” Director Jonathan Farwell (he won the recent Henry Award for his performance in “Amadeus”) has gathered some fine teen and teen(ish) actors in August Slaughter (perhaps the greatest not-even-fake stage name in stage history), Billy Dean Allen as Georgie, Miles Chandler Horne as Eddie and Erin Johnson as Annie. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through Jan. 5 at 401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or bas bleu’s home page. Thanks: Wendy Ishii, Tricia Navarre and Amy Mills. More “Over the Tavern” photos will be posted in the coming days.

 

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Among this lovely crowd of sock-puppets and do-gooders are “Balls” cast members GerRee Hinshaw, Melanie Owen Padilla, Mare Trevathan and Jim Ruberto, as well as staff members from the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, including executive director Erin Jemison and program manager Karen Moldovan.

Opening No. 141: “Balls V! A Holiday Spectacular”: For the fifth straight year, a trio of “Balls Babes” and a standing bass player joined forces to present a rollicking benefit variety show that included audience sock puppet sing-alongs, spontaneous haikus and worthless prizes. “Balls” is slightly bonkers, mostly heartwarming with an emphasis on fun. It played Dec. 1 and 2 this year at Lannie’s ClockTower Cabaret. It again starred GerRee Hinshaw (host of The Bug Theatre’s “Freak Train”), Melanie Owen Padilla (of the Cedar Avenue Blues Band) and local actor Mare Trevathan of Boulder’s Local Theatre Company. Musical accompaniment by Jim Ruberto. Rotating special guests included John Common and Jess DeNicola, Lannie’s emcee Naughty Pierre, comedian Matt Monroe, singing comedian Shayna Ferm and juggler Reid Belstock. This year, proceeds went to the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a non-profit promoting safety, justice and healing for survivors of sexual violence. If you missed this year’s “Balls,” you can still make a donation to CCASA here.

 

OPENING 139

Opening No. 140: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “The SantaLand Diaries”: National Theatre Conservatory graduate and Wheat Ridge native Matt Zambrano has constructed a dressing-room tribute to all of the recent Denver actors who have played Crumpet before him. That’s Geoff Kent’s head on the golden reindeer, and a Bille Holiday-ish Gary Culig with an elfin Bernie Cardell atop the clock radio (surrounded by, you know, Merlins and action figures). Zambrano is donning the candy-cane tights for a second straight holiday season telling David Sedaris’ real-life story of working as an elf in the New York Macy’s SantaLand display. Kent preceded Zambrano for three Decembers at the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company; Culig played the caustic elf for 10 straight years at the Vintage Theatre; and Cardell starred for Vintage Theatre. This staging is a co-production with Denver Center Attractions, which is presenting the show in its Garner-Galleria cabaret bar. Directed by Stephen Weitz. Contains adult subject matter and explicit language. Photo by John Moore for CultureWest.Org. (Look for a full, dedicated gallery of “SantaLand” opening-night photos to come). Thanks: Heidi Bosk, Anja Hose Jess Buttery and Maxie Beth Bilyeu. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Tuesdays; also 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. No performances on Wednesdays. No performance on Tuesday, Dec. 3. At the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or the Denver Center’s ticketing page

 

OPENING 138

Opening No. 139: Arvada Center’s “A Christmas Carol”: Emily Ann Luhrs accepted two marriage proposals on Tuesday. First, as herself, she agreed to marry longtime boyfriend and “A Christmas Carol” castmate Ben Dicke, mutton chops and all. Ben (star of the self-produced “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson last year at the Aurora Fox), presented the ring at a private dinner before last night’s opening performance. Just an hour or so later, Emily, playing a character named Emily (!), accepted another marriage proposal from young Ebeneezer Scrooge. One not being played by Ben Dicke. Nervy! (In her defense, she does give THAT ring back.) The Arvada Center’s version of “A Christmas Carol,” back after a year off, is the 1994 musical adaptation of Dickens’ classic story, written by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens, featuring music by Alan Menken (Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”). The cast features Richard White as Ebenezer Scrooge — he was the voice of Gaston in the “Beauty and the Beast” animated film), Cole Burden (Bob Cratchit), Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck (Ghost of Christmas Future), Megan Van De Hey (Ghost of Christmas Past), Stephen Day (Ghost of Christmas Present) and Brad Nacht (Jacob Marley). The ensemble members also include Joanie Brosseau-Beyette, Stephen Cerf, Rob Costigan, Jennifer DeDominici, Maddie Franke, Kaden Hinkle, Tim Howard, Hannah Katz, Charla Mason, David Miller, Julia Perrotta, Katie Phipps, Gregory Price, Parker Redford, Vincent Rodriguez, Mark Rubald, Robert Michael Sanders, Nate Patrick Siebert, Jacob Lewis Smith, Ron Tal, Rachel Turner, Kira Vuolo and Sharon Kay White. Directed by Gavin Mayer. Showtimes through Dec. 22 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 1 p.m. Wednesdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1. No performance on Thanksgiving (Nov. 28). At 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or the Arvada Center’s home page. Thanks: Melanie Mayner, Rod Lansberry, Pat Payne, Lisa Cook, Lisa Kurtz, cast and crew.

OPENING 137

 

Opening No. 138: Equinox Theatre Company’s “Carrie: The Musical:” This musical takes a legit stab at adapting Stephen King’s novel for the musical stage. Carrie White is a misfit. At school, she’s an outcast who’s bullied by the popular crowd, and virtually invisible to everyone else. At home, she’s at the mercy of her wacko, overprotective mother. But Carrie has just discovered she’s got a special power, and if pushed too far, she’s not afraid to use it… And you already know she does: When Carrie is humiliated at the prom, she wreaks havoc on everyone and everything in her path. Audiences should know that unlike recent stagings of “Night of the Living Dead” and “Evil Dead” at the Bug Theatre, “Carrie” is not a campy satire. It is written very much in the vein of traditional Broadway fare. “Carrie” stars Haley DiVirgilio, Terra Salazar, Shahara Ray, Dana Hart Lubeck, Devin Bustamante and Ember Everett; and features Chris Arneson, Joseph Graves, Savannah Lake, Chelsea Winslow, Ashley Brown, Taylor Sommer, Chris Riney, James L. Crapes and Zach Nick. Directed by Colin Roybal and Hunter Hall. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 30 at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page. Thanks: Lauren Meyer, Deb Flomberg, Leticia Bisgard, cast and crew.

 

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Opening No. 137: Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Misérables”: This production closed on Saturday night, but the buzz on it was so strong all the way down from Fort Collins, I wanted to see it — and represent it in our photo series — before it was too late. And it lived up to its billing. They may have been prodded, but it didn’t take much cajoling to get the screaming dinner patrons to wave their red napkins at the curtain call in support of the rebellion — and the production they had just seen. In all, more than 9,000 attended “Les Misérables” during its 12-week run, making it the second-most attended show in Midtown (formerly the Carousel Dinner Theatre) history. No. 1: “Shrek, the Musical.” “Les Misérables” featured a cast made up of both established local actors and a few who were brought in from New York. It starred David Ambroson as Jean Valjean and featured Brandon Schraml as Javert, Amy Madden Copp as Fantine, Nigel Huckle as Marius, Colleen Johnson as Eponine, Lisa Carter as Cosette, Colin Morgan as Enjolras, Michael Lasris as Thenardier and Jalyn Courtenay Webb as Mrs. Thenardier. The directors were Kurt Terrio, Jalyn Courtenay Webb (vocals) and Casey Cropp (orchestra). Thanks: cast and crew.

 

OPENING 136SM

Opening No. 136: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Jackie & Me: Linda G. Alvarado, co-owner of the Colorado Rockies baseball team, congratulates 22-year-old actor Aaron Davidson for his opening-night performance by allowing him to wear her 2007 World Series ring. Davidson, a Colorado native and graduate of the Denver School of the Arts, plays Joey Stoshack, a 12-year-old boy who is bullied because of his Polish descent. When the boy goes back in time to 1947, he not only witnesses Jackie Robinson break the baseball color barrier, his own skin color changes in the process, giving him a whole new perspective on prejudice and discrimination. Alvarado is president and CEO of Alvarado Construction, Inc., which built Sports Authority Field at Mile High. She is also a member of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame and was named one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in America by Hispanic Business Magazine. When the Rockies were awarded a franchise, Alvarado became the first Latino owner, male or female, in Major League Baseball history, and the second female owner in the big leagues. “Jackie & Me” is written by Denver native Steven Dietz, who also wrote “Rancho Mirage,” which is presently being performed by the nearby Curious Theatre Company through Dec. 7. “Jackie & Me” is directed by Stephen Weitz. Also starring William Oliver Watkins (top right of photo) and featuring Michael Santo, Kristen Adele, Ryan Wuestewald, Diana Dresser, Timothy McCracken, Leigh Miller, John Jurcheck and Justin Walvoord. It runs through Dec. 22 in the Space Theatre. Showtimes are variable because of a preponderance of student matinees during the week. Generally there are public performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 1:30 p.m. Sundays. Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site. Thanks: Lyle Raper, Alexandra Griesmer.

Video: Watch as the cast of “Jackie & Me” takes a field trip to a Lakewood batting cage, and gets a tour of Coors Field.

 

OPENING 135SMBW
Pictures of pictures of cast members arranged on a lit lobby tree. Not pictured: Kevin Lowry.

Opening No. 135: Betsy Stage’s “The Travesty of Lear”: There’s a new theater sheriff in town, and she’s doing things a little differently. Shannon McAndrews is the general manager of the Betsy Stage (not to be confused with Boulder’s BETC, also colloquially referred to as “Betsy”) and get this — the shows are all free. Always. And the actors get paid. Decently, even. How do they do it? There’s a benefactor, McAndrews says. A Lear with a kingdom, apparently, to partition out, only for the making of art. The company’s mission is to “adapt Elizabethan theater for a new audience.” Here, Shakespeare’s “King Lear” is set in the Old West. Lear is the owner of the Scarlet Slipper Saloon. Here he divides his kingdom by putting his three favorite prostitutes to the test. The script is rife with one-liners, but sticks to the Shakespeare in tone. They call in “Shakespeare spiked,” but it’s more like Shakespeare with a “Deadwood” ear. You may recognize some of the names — Phil Luna and Kevin Lowry, for example, but even those you might not recognize make for a pretty decent ensemble. Starring Michael Vasicek as Lear and also featuring Patti Murtha, Brooks Mullen, Michal Andrea Meyer, Jacob Abbas, Todd Simmonds, Elinor Reina, Jeannie Saracino, Jim Hitzke and R.J. Harris. Directed by Samantha McDermott. Again, all tickets are free … really … the bar is even run on an honor system. But please call for reservations, or email Lear@Betsystage.com (though you won’t be turned away if you don’t). “The Travesty of Lear” plays through Jan. 25. Showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays at 1133 S. Huron St., 720-328-5294 or go to betsy’s home page. Thanks: Jennifer McCray.

 

OPENING 134
Erik Edborg, left, and Andrew Horwitz backstage before Buntport’s “Electra Onion Eater.” Some photos … some completely candid photos … require no explanation.

Opening No. 134: Buntport Theater’s “Electra Onion Eater”: “Hilarious. Squeamish. Incorrigible … Sunburnt.” Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have stumbled upon Buntport Theater’s new slogan. Buntport kicks off its 13th season of innovative, organic and original collaboration with a modern adaptation of Sophocles’ classic yarn. Set in the kitschy pop-culture world of the 1970s, Electra waits patiently for her studly, sunburned brother (a hybrid of Selleck, Reynolds, Hasselhoff and Hutch, to return home in order to enact revenge on their mother for killing their father (who had killed their sister — you know, just the usual family dynamic). With nothing but time on her hands, Electra watches soap operas, cuts patches in her scalp and makes onion pies as offerings to the gods. Also featuring Erik Edborg, Hannah Duggan and guest star Drew Horwitz as … Bruce. And Samantha Schmitz pushing all the right buttons. Showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 23 at 717 Lipan St. Call 720-946-1388 or go to Buntport’s web page.

 

OPENING 132
Brian Landis Folkins puts one of his core performing skills — juggling — to useful use before a performance of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at the Edge Theatre.

Opening No. 133: The Edge’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”: Brian Landis Folkins plays the boozy, brutal and broken Brick, who is tormented by the death of his best friend (and the incriminating inferences made about that friendship) in Tennessee Williams’ uncompromising tragedy, presented here in its ugly, unedited glory by director Angela Astle. In the tradition of O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” the play follows one long day of a Southern family in inebriated crisis. (But which came first? “Long Day’s Journey” was written 13 years earlier, but wasn’t published until a year after “Cat” won Williams a Pulitzer Prize in 1956.) The story is set on the night of a gathering at the family estate in Mississippi to celebrate the birthday and apparent good health of patriarch Big Daddy Pollitt (Russell Costen). Much like “Death of a Salesman,” the story is a constant joust between appearances and delusion and the malleable, elusive truth. And starving in the corner of this house of malice and death is a wounded, feral alleycat named Maggie (Maggy Stacy). Also featuring Emma Messenger, Marc Stith, Kelly Alayne Dwyer, Ryan Goold, Bob Byrnes, Geri Crawley, Banji Osindero, Sonsharae Tull, Amelia Modesitt, Sam Modesitt, Aliza Fassett and Pace Becker. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 17 at 1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or the edge’s home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Amelia Retureta, Rick Yaconis, Patty Yaconis. To see the entire “Opening Nights” photo series, click here: www.culturewest.org/?p=6068.

 

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Dawn Bower, left, and Sasha Fisher put the dancing in the “Dancing at Lughnasa” during a pre-show “dance call.”

Opening No. 132: 11 Minutes’ ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’: 11 Minutes Theatre Company’s “Dancing at Lughnasa”: The 11 Minutes may be one of the area’s newest theater companies, but they perform in the historic and cozy Arvada Festival Playhouse, believed to be the oldest building in Arvada. The company is the work of Janine Ann Kehlenbach, who has put together a tight and talented “Dancing at Lughnasa,” Irish playwright Brian Friel’s answer to “The Glass Menagerie.” It’s a memory play told intermittently through a narrator (a wonderful Andrew Uhlenhopp) as he remembers one summer in 1936 with his mother and four aunts. As he recounts the story, we go back in time and watch as these five feisty women confront their loves, hardships and a society whose customs are not changing fast enough. Also featuring Margaret Amateis Casart, @Sasha Fisher, Janet Mylott, Sara Michael, Dawn Bower, Kevin R. Leonard (“Sordid Lives”) and Charlie Ault as the uncle missionary who has just returned from an African leper colony with malaria. Ault’s family started the Festival Playhouse’s resident company (the Festival Players) nearly 80 years ago. Their next offering is “Somethin’ Special for Christmas,” opening Nov. 19. “Lughnasa” plays through Nov. 16. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; also 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14 at 5665 Olde Wadsworth Blvd., 303-422-4090, or go to the Festival Playhouse’s home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Janine Ann Kehlenbach, Amy Hanselmann and Donna Ault.

 

OPENING 131
“It’s been a year … did you miss me, Denver?” “Rancho Mirage” marks oft-honored freakyman actor Bill Hahn’s return to the stage since last appearing at Curious in “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.” Here, he plays a freakily normal-seeming suburban husband. Which, for Bill, is, you know … freaky.

Opening No 131: Curious Theatre’s “Rancho Mirage”: Colorado native Steven Dietz’s latest play continues Curious’ entire season of evident if perhaps unintentional looks at dysfunctional family relationships. Here, six longtime “friends” (?) gather for one final dinner party. The evening unfolds with comic surprises, alarming secrets and near-farcical bombshells. Also featuring Erik Sandvold, Emily Paton Davies, C. Kelly Leo, David Russell, Karen Slack and Devon James. Directed by Christopher Leo. Dietz is now the most produced playwright in Curious history. Dietz also wrote “Jackie & Me,” which will be performed by the Denver Center Theatre Company, opening Nov. 15. “Rancho” showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 7 at 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or Curious’ web page. Thanks: Sean Cummings, Kate Marie.

 

OPENING 130
Oooh, Edgar Allan Poe, he’s so scary, can’t you tell? From left: Nancy Flanagan, Seth Maisel, Kristin Mair and Michael Gurshtein yuk it up before one of the Byers-Evans House Theatre Company’s final performances before the troupe moves to RiNo as the new Ripple Effect Theatre Company.

Opening No. 130: Byers-Evans House Theatre Company’s “Evermore”: Maggie Stillman’s company, which specializes in the period macabre, is presenting its final show in the environs of the Byers-Evans House. She’s renaming her troupe the Ripple Effect Theatre Company and moving into a bona-fide theater in RiNo that is about to be vacated. (We’ll leave it to you to connect those dots.) Her goodbye to the museum tells the romantic whims and publishing difficulties of Edgar Allan Poe. We open October 1849. Poe has recently died, and his literary executor is compiling Poe’s works for posthumous publication. Memories of Poe’s final years full of love, hate, loss, and literature are played out through the memories of Dr. Griswold and Poe’s mother-in-law, Maria Clemm. Poe’s best-known tales and poems are woven into the dialogue. Featuring Seth Maisel, Kristin Mair, Michael Gurshtein and Nancy Flanagan. Directed by Ed Berry. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 16 at 1310 Bannock St., 303-620-4933. Thanks: Dana Huss, Orianna Keating and Maggie Stillman. Click here to see the complete “Opening Nights” photo series.

 

OPENING 129
Burke Walton works hard for your money … so you better treat him right.
Opening No. 129: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Full Monty”: The photo above shows a side of working the dinner-theater circuit that most audiences don’t see: The actors settling up at the end of each performance. (Most times they don’t do it in robes, but most times, it’s not “The Full Monty,” hah.) Most actors also bus tables for the tips that, combined with their acting stipends, help make for something approximating a liveable wage doing what they love to do on the stage. It’s a good opportunity to remind readers that when you attend theater that involves personal service, the performers are primarily working for your gratuity. OK, so back to “The Full Monty”: Based on the popular British film, this now ubiquitous tale has five unemployed steelworkers (moved for the stage to Buffalo) who come up with a bold way to make some quick cash: By taking off their clothes. In the process, they find renewed self-esteem and the importance of friendship. “The Full Monty” stars Seth Caikowski as Jerry, the gruff but well-meaning dad who’s desperate to make some cash to keep visitation rights with his son. Also featuring Joel Adam Chavez as Dave; Scott Beyette (also the director) as Harold, Burke Walton as Ethan, Brett Ambler as Malcolm, and longtime big-time vocalist Robert Johnson (17th Avenue All-Stars) as Horse. The cast also includes Alicia Dunfee, Shelly Cox-Robie, Amanda Earls, Jason Vargas, Joanie Brosseau, Scott Severtson, Tracy Warren, Jessica Hindsley, Norrell Moore, Bob Hoppe (alternating with Matthew D. Peters), and young Thomas Russo as Nathan (alternating with Kaden Hinkle). Showtimes: 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 7:45 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 1:30 and 7:45 p.m. Sundays (dinner service begins 90 minutes before) through Nov. 9 at 5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or go to BDT’s home page. Thanks: Michael J. Duran, Seamus McDonough, Neal Dunfee and Brian Jackson.

 

OPENING 128
The cast of the Evergreen Players’ “All My Sons” circles up for one last bit of bonding before taking the stage. Joe Wilson, left, had just left the pre-show ritual to take a final solitary moment in the dressing room before the play began. He plays Joe Keller.

Opening No. 128: Evergreen Players’ “All My Sons”: Arthur Miller wrote “All My Sons” as a final attempt at writing a commercially successful play. If the play failed to find an audience, he had vowed “to find some other line of work.” What resulted was perhaps his masterpiece. “All My Sons” is based on a true story a child who informed on her father who had sold faulty parts to the U.S. military during World War II. Asked in a TV interview what about the story had inspired him, Miller said, “I was fascinated by the idea that a child could have this kind of moral courage.” When asked why he changed the gender of the character for his play, Miller said, “At the time I didn’t understand women very well.” The cast features Joe Wilson, Jacquie Jo Billings, Jennifer Condreay, Jordan Crozier, Cindy Laudadio Hill, Brandon Palmer, Ken Paul, Eric Ritter, JR Cody Schuyler, and young Spencer Coffey as young Bert. Directed by Len Matheo. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 10 at Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or go to the Evergreen Players’ home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Rachael Henney. To see the entire “Opening Nights” series to date, click here.

 

OPENING 127
Among the many ridiculous tasks contestants must endure is having a salad tossed … onto your head. For starters.

No. 127: Off-Center @ The Jones’ “Wheel of Misfortune”: This new theatrical adventure from is billed as “the scariest game show ever.” It invites audience members to compete in everyday tasks that Vanna’s … er, Bruce’s magic Wheel of Misfortune makes terrifyingly difficult. Competitors must master trivia, solve puzzles and surmount ridiculous physical obstacles — all for your enjoyment. (If you are not one of the contestants). The two finalists will go head-to-head in a lightning round designed by the LIDA Project’s Brian Freeland. (He’s not only the purveyor of some of the freakiest theater in town, he’s moving to New York after all of this is over — so he has nothing to lose.) To maximize the contestants’ humiliation, “Wheel of Misfortune” is being videotaped, as any game show should be, for later airing as an online web series. They are touting “Wheel of Misfortune” as “the show that everyone might one day be possibly raving about.” The hosts are Bruce Montgomery, Mark Sonnenblink and Emily K. Harrison. The second of two initial tapings is at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 at The Jones, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 1101 13th St. (Speer Boulevard and Arapahoe Street), 303-893-6090 or off-center’s home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Jane McDonald, Charlie Miller, Emily Tarquin. To see the entire “Opening Nights” series to date, click here. Read my profile of game-show host Bruce Montgomery here.

 

OPENING 126

Opening No. 126: Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Vox Phamalia: G.I.M.P. Nation”: Who’s a douchebag? According to the Disability News Team (Daniel Wheeler, left, who has Crohn’s Disease, and Stewart Caswell, who has cerebral palsy), it’s the CEO of Goodwill Industries, who lobbied for legislation that allows businesses to pay the handicapped a fraction of minimum wage based on their performance on a test that measures their ability to complete ordinary tasks against able-bodied people. That’s one example of the cutting but good-natured comedy that director Edith Weiss gets out of her cast for this annual sketch-comedy revue. This year’s show features all-new material including “Sex and the Pity,” “Suicide Hotline” and “Your Own Private Hell.” Plus, they explore the subject of dwarf-tossing. Vox Phamalia is the result of an annual writing-to-performance development workshop with Weiss, designed for Phamaly members. The cast includes 15 actors with disabilities, including veterans Lucy Roucis, David Wright, Amber Marsh and James Sherman, along with new or near-new faces Harper Liles, Dominique Frary, Daniel Wheeler, Jeff Zinn, Khea Craig, Paul Migliorelli, Stewart Caswell, Kim Jackson and Naomi Morrow. Intended for audiences 16 and older. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m.; also 7:30 p.m. tomorrow (Monday, Oct. 28) at the Laundry on Lawrence, 2701 Lawrence St., 303-575-0005 or phamaly’s home page. Thanks: Jean Egdorf and Gloria Shanstrom.

 

OPENING 125SM
There’s nothing elder about A.J. Holmes and Nic Rouleau, the young actors who play the idealistic Elders Cunningham and Price in the national touring production of “The Book of Mormon.” They are pictured here after the official opening night of the Tony-winning musical’s second national touring stop in Denver on Oct. 23. The party location was Pizza Republica.

Opening No. 125: National touring production of “The Book of Mormon.” When the first “Book of Mormon” national touring production debuted in Denver last year, the 51,000 available seats moved in five hours. By the time the longer return engagement opened here on Tuesday, nearly all of the 111,506 seats already were snatched up. Broadway’s 2011 Tony-winning best musical has moved from the Ellie Caulkins Opera House into the Buell Theatre, opening up about another 600 seats per performance. Like the first national company a year ago, the Denver engagement launches the second national tour with a new cast headed by Nic Rouleau, who plays Elder Price, and A.J. Holmes, who plays Elder Cunningham. The musical tells the story of two young Mormon missionaries sent to a remote village in northern Uganda, where a brutal warlord is threatening the local population. Naive and optimistic, the two missionaries try to share their scriptures – which only one of them knows very well – but have trouble connecting with the locals, who are more worried about war, famine, poverty and AIDS than about salvation. This profane, witty religious satire lampoons organized religion and traditional musical theater. It was written by Colorado natives Trey Parker and Matt Stone (“South Park”) with Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q”). The cast includes Tallia Brinson, who appeared in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Ruined.” Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker. There are scattered single tickets remaining, and a daily lottery for 24 discounted, front-row seats will be held 2 1/2 before every performance. Contains explicit language. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Fridays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 24. At the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or the denver center’s home page. Photo by John Moore. Thanks: Heidi Bosk.

 

OPENING 124
Pals and co-stars Steve Emily, left, and Matt Radcliffe enjoy a lighthearted backstage moment (Matt is pretending to toss scalding coffee in his partner’s face) before a recent performance of “A Steady Rain” in Colorado Springs.

Opening No. 124: “Springs Ensemble Theatre’s “A Steady Rain”: If you loved “The Shield” on FX, you are certain to get Vic Mackey flashbacks while watching the equally round-headed rogue cop played by Steve Emily in this uncompromising crime drama by Keith Huff. In the story, two cops are longtime partners, best friends since childhood … and seriously flawed human beings. One is single, a recovering alcoholic and lonely. The other is married with children, but there are clearly … shades of Mackey. What begins as a routine domestic disturbance call snowballs into an uncompromising downfall that tests their loyalties. For mature audiences. Through Oct. 27. Starring Steve (Vic Mackey) Emily as Denny and Matt Radcliffe as Joey. Directed by David Palmbeck. Remaining showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, plus 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, at 1903 E. Cache La Poudre in Colorado Springs. Call 719-447-1646 or go to springs ensemble’s home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org.. Thanks: Keri Pollakoff and Keegan Jenney.

 

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Opening No. 123: The Catamounts’ “Failure,” A Love Story”: Meredith C. Grundei, playing one of the fated Fail Sisters, goes for a pre-show swim practice safe in the arms, er, feet, of castmates Ed Cord, front, and Ryan Wuestewald. Her character swims the Chicago River. “Failure” is a fanciful musical fable about the triumphs, aspirations and untimely demises of three Chicago sisters who never saw death coming. Set in 1928 in a clock shop on the edge of the Chicago River, this wistful comedy that tells the stories of all three sisters, and the one man who loved them all. “Failure” also features Joan Bruemmer, Ed Cord, Crystal Verdon Eisele, Michelle Hurtubise, Trina Magness, Jeremy Make and Jason Maxwell, with Nina Rolle providing live various music (which includes a bell on her head). There are four remaining performances, at 8 p.m. tonight (Oct. 21, all ticket sales will go toward flood relief in Boulder County), Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Oct. 26) at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder. The Saturday performance will be preceded by a community meal from a menu inspired by the play. Call 303-440-7826, or go to the The Catamounts’ home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org.. Thanks: Andy Bakehouse

 

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Opening No. 122: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Most Deserving”: Hold that tiger! Or should I say, “Hold that, Tiger?” Sam Gregory wants you … to see him (very nearly ALL of him) in the Denver Center’s world premiere comedy about amateur art and amateur politics in a tiny West Kansas town. The local arts council has $20,000 to award to a hometown artist with an “under-represented American voice.” Should they choose the son of a town big-shot, thus guaranteeing their continued funding; or the mentally unstable, self-taught “Trash Man” who creates religious figures out of rubbish? Gregory, believe it or not, is NOT playing the unstable Trash Man. Rather, he’s a ponytailed British beatnik on the lookout for a shag. (And a member of the town arts council.) The play explores how gossip, politics and opinions of art can decide who is “the most deserving.” Also featuring Jeanne Paulsen, Judith Hawking, Rebecca Miyako Hirota, Craig Bockhorn and Jonathan Earl Peck (who once played Othello at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival). Written by Catherine Trieschmann. Directed by Shelley Butler. “The Most Deserving” runs through Nov. 17 at the Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets. Showtimes: 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. Call 303-893-4100 or go to the denver center’s home page. Thanks: Rachel Ducat, Mariah Becerra.

 

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Julia Hemp as Belle and Mateo Correa as Belle and Lumiere in the Denver School of the Arts’ no-holds-barred fall musical, “Beauty and the Beast.”

Opening No. 121: Denver School of the Arts’ “Beauty and the Beast”: Denver School of the Arts is an arts magnet school that serves grades 6-12 in the Denver Public Schools. It regularly produces such top-notch theater kids that recent graduate Gabriel Ebert just won the Tony Award as best supporting actor in a Broadway musical (for “Matilda”) — and he never even did musicals back at DSA. Saturday’s first-ever DSA Friends Foundation gala showed off students in every discipline, but centered on a no-holds-barred performance of “Beauty and the Beast.” Sporting a cast of more than 80, an orchestra of 25 and production values professional companies would theatrically die for, the students managed to produce a staging that, while still very much educational theater, managed to meet or exceed any reasonable professional expectations in several areas. DSA teacher Shawn Hann directed the spectacle (her first at the school in three years), and the endlessly creative choreography was by Brandon Becker. (“Be Our Guest” pulled a mid-show standing O — and it deserved it.) The results were so stirring, we can forgive the director for her absolutely adorable sucker-punch: Casting her cutey-pie 5-year-old daughter Tihun Hann as the Dinner Bell. The show starred Julia Hemp as Belle, Austin Marquez as the Beast, Logan D. Snodderly as Gaston, Jimmy Bruenger as Lefou (he played the spunky, doomed Gavroche in the Arvada Center’s “Les Mis” back in the day), Mateo Correa as Lumiere, Jeremy Willis as Cogsworth, Taylor Bowman as Mrs. Potts, Madison Kitchen as Bebette, Randy Ho as Maurice, Jackie Smook as the Wardrobe, and dozens more. Saturday’s performance was preceded by the presentation of the school’s first Community Arts Leadership Award, which went to “Just Like Us” author Helen Thorpe. The stage adaptation of Thorpe’s book opens for previews on Oct. 4 by the Denver Center Theatre Company. The award presenter was Susan Daggett, an environmental attorney, DSA mom and wife of Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. (Their daughter made a video appearance in the Denver Center’s production of “The Giver” last season.) Also in attendance was Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Read more about that here.

 

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Opening No. 120: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Seminar”: John Ashton capped a crazy week with a triumphant opening performance on Friday night. Three days before the opening performance, Ashton was deployed by his day job, FEMA, to working 12-hour daily shifts in response to the flooding in Boulder. The extra busy-ness didn’t seem to affect his performance. He’s pictured above before the show, running through a tense scene opposite stage manager Maxie Beth Bilyeu. In Theresa Rebeck’s latest exploration of nasty human behavior, four aspiring young novelists find themselves in over their heads when they sign up for private writing classes with Leonard, a force of nature and washed-up international literary figure (Ashton). Under his reckless instruction, the wordplay is not the only thing that turns vicious. Recommended for 16 and older. Featuring Matthew Blood-Smyth, Devon James, Mary Kay Riley and Sean Scrutchins. Directed by Stephen Weitz. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; plus 4 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 20 at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or betc’s home page. Thanks: Maxie Beth Bilyeu, Rebecca Remaly Weitz.

 

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Opening No. 119, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Death of a Salesman”: Some call this the most important play ever written, and after actors Mike Hartman and Lauren Klein conquered the iconic roles of Willy and Linda Loman on opening night, the real-life married couple deserved a party. Though they settled for a seat. Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning drama is the story of an aging, deluded and failing salesman who cannot accept that his dreams for his family are no match for the sad realities of their ordinary lives. This heartbreaking indictment of the American Dream is an actor’s dream. Showtimes: 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 through Oct. 20 at the Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org.

 

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Opening No. 118: National touring production of “Sister Act”: Kingsley Leggs plays bad-guy Curtis Jackson on stage, but in real-life, nice guy Kingsley makes the painfully early morning rounds with local radio stations, pictured here with KOOL 105’s Kris and Kelly, and later with KEZW’s Rick Crandall. Denver audiences know Kingsley from the extended world premiere of “Almost Heaven: Songs and Stories of John Denver” with the Denver Center Theatre Company. Now he’s playing in the movie-turned-musical that Whoopi Goldberg made famous. “Sister Act” tells the story of Deloris Van Cartier, a wannabe diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a crime and the cops hide her in the last place anyone would think to look — a convent. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Fridays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 6 at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org.

 

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Opening No 117: The Wit Theatre’s “Edges: A Song Cycle”: The Wit Theatre Company executive director Kristin Honiotes congratulates the cast of “Edges, A Song Cycle” with a toast before the opening performance. That’s Alex Evert and Blake Nawa’a to her left. This non-traditional musical follows burgeoning adults sorting through classic coming-of-age questions. The songs cover universal issues such as love, commitment, identity and meaning. Characters confront emotions, escaping expectations and deciphering complicated relationships. Written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, recipients of the 2006 Jonathan Larson Award. Directed by Valerye Rene and featuring Marissa Romer, Blake Nawa’a, Tyler Nielson, Alex Evert, Erica Trisler, Nancy Begley, Juliet Garcia, Christopher Galinski and Chris Arneson. Showtimes: 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 5 at the Crossroads Theater, 2590 Washington St., 303-296-3798 or wit’s ticketing page at http://thewittheatrecompany.ticketleap.com/edges. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the complete “Opening Nights” photo series to date, click here: www.culturewest.org/?p=6068

 

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Opening No. 116: Starkey Theatrix’s “Bingo, the Musical”: This audience-included musical comedy is about a group of die-hard Bingo players who let nothing get in the way of their weekly game. Best girlfriends Vern, Honey and Patsy brave a terrible rainstorm (life imitating art?) to get to their game. As the storm knocks out power at the Bingo hall, audiences learn of an another ominous night 15 years before that created a still-unresolved conflict. In-between the number-calling, superstitious rituals and fierce competitions, long-lost friends reunite. Audiences play three games of Bingo along with the cast. Directed by Ben Dicke and featuring Jona Alonzo, Sarah Grover, Lacey Connell, Jennifer Lynne Jorgenson, Alannah Moore, Laura Presley Reynolds and Josh Nelson. This special engagement runs this weekend only. Remaining showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Friday (Sept. 13); 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 14); 2 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 15). At the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Ave., Parker, 303-805-6800 or PACE’s ticketing page. Thanks: Shaun Albrechtson and Ronni Stark.

 

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Opening No. 115, Arvada Center’s “Camelot”: A shy young Nate Patrick Siebert, one of two boys who play Tom of Warwick, prepares to present castmate David Bryant Johnson, who plays King Arthur, with flowers at the cast party following Tuesday’s opening performance. This classic Lerner and Lowe musical focuses on the love triangle between King Arthur of England, his feisty Queen Guenevere; and the invincible French knight, Sir Lancelot. With one glimpse at the lovely Guenevere, Lancelot falls hopelessly in love, and the story becomes one of tragic consequence. Numbers include “The Lusty Month of May” and “If Ever I Would Leave You.” Directed by Rod Lansberry. Musical director David Nehls. Starring Johnson, Melissa Mitchell (Guenevere), Glenn Seven Allen (Lancelot), William Thomas Evans (Merlyn, Pellinore), Aaron M. Davidson (Mordred), Jennifer DeDominici (Nimue), Jeffrey Roark (Sir Dinadan), Michael Bouchard (Sir Sagramore), Matt LaFontaine (Sir Lionel) and Megan Van De Hey (Morgan Le Fey). Ensemble members are Stephen Day, Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, Karen M. Jeffreys, Heather Lacy, Daniel Langhoff, Ian McCauley, Rebekah Ortiz, Parker Redford, Lauren Shealy, Jacob Lewis Smith, Bethany Swiontek, Rachel Turner and Benjamin Wood. Young Brady Dalton and Nate Patrick Siebert alternate as Tom of Warwick. Their show only just opened and it already has been extended to Oct. 6. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Matinees 1 p.m. Wednesdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or the arvada center’s home page. Thanks: Melanie Mayner, Pat Payne, cast and crew.

 

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Is it Flash — ah-ah — savior of the universe?! Or Todd Black just being a big (non-strip) tease backstage before Monday’s performance of “Next Fall?”

Opening No. 114: Firehouse Theatre’s “Next Fall”: Luke is devoutly religious. Adam is an atheist. This Broadway play by Geoffrey Nauffts recounts the ups and downs of an unlikely gay couple’s five-year relationship, leading to an explosive familial confrontation following a critical accident. Starring Mark Lively and Todd Black, featuring Michael Leopard, Judy Phelan-Hill, Brian J. Brooks and Johanna Jaquith. Directed by Steve Tangedal. Co-produced by Theatre Out. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 6:30 p.m. Sundays Through Sept. 28 at the John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehouse’s home page . Thanks: Andrew Hunter, Helen Hand.

My review of the Broadway production of “Next Fall”

Quote: “You don’t have to believe in hell to walk around believing that you are going to burn in it.”

This riveting, familiar family tragedy starts with a car accident that leaves a strapping young man comatose and clinging to life. But the real collision is about to come down between his lover and the encroaching fundamentalist family who never knew — or at least acknowledged — that their son is gay. Rife for the possibility of cliche, Geoffrey Nauffts’ drama instead deftly weaves one of the hot-button social issues of the day into an understandable and achingly unwinnable conflict between flawed, knowable characters on both sides of the family tree. Zigging from past to present (as most new plays now seem to do), we see how this unlikely romance bloomed between a spiritual (yet still closeted) southern Christian hunk and the jaded — and refreshingly kind of jerky — older New Yorker he somehow fell in love with.

The playwright raises fair points about the inherent contradictions of fundamentalism and the sadly nonexistent place a gay man has in making critical medical decisions for a loved one. But it’s flawed — it’s too long and gets ideologically confused by the unnecessary presence of one support character. It’s most compelling because the two immoveable forces here — the young man’s racist, homophobic father and his intractable lover — are both obstinately set in their ways. Still, I can’t remember the last new play I’ve seen that had audiences openly sobbing by the end. My main misgiving: The story ends in the only way you can imagine it might, and I was hoping the playwright might instead invoke his right to mess with our minds. That might have changed the questions we’re left with after an ending that, as written, leaves little doubt about who was right all along.

 

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Opening No. 113: Curious Theatre’s “After the Revolution”: Sisters! Lauren Bahlman, right, tries to get a rise out of Jessica Robblee before the opening curtain. In this new play by Amy Herzog, a passionate young woman named Emma Joseph proudly carries the torch of her family’s long-held Marxist ideals by devoting her life to the memory of her legendary, blacklisted grandfather. When a stunning revelation uncovers a dark secret, she and her entire family must reconcile everything they thought they stood for with the shadowy truth of history. Featuring Lauren Bahlman, Anne Oberbroeckling, Jessica Robblee, Mark Collins, Dee Covington, Jim Hunt, Matthew Block and Gordon McConnell. Curious Theatre has a resident company of more than 30 actors, but director Chip Walton has always had an open-door policy, and he proves it again here: Five of the eight actors are making their first appearances for Curious in “After the Revolution.” Showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; also 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 19 at 1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or Curious’ home page.

 

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This theatergoer, surrounded by cast members Chris Arneson, Jason Lythgoe and Patrick Brownson (and presumably, a friend!), looks like she’s not completely sure where the play ends and the real world begins.

Opening No. 112: Equinox Theatre’s “Evil Dead, the Musical”: The bloodletting spills out onto the streets in front of the Bug Theatre following every performance of “Evil Dead.” Meaning the eviscerated cast joins departing theatergoers for photo opportunities with chain saws and all manner of fake gore. This campy musical is based on Sam Raimi’s 1980s cult classic film. The story is the one you remember: A boy and his friends take a weekend getaway at an abandoned cabin. The boy expects to get lucky, but instead unleashes an ancient evil spirit. When his friends turn into Candarian Demons, the boy fights until dawn to survive. The score features comic numbers like, “All the Men in my Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons,” “Look Who’s Evil Now,” and “Do the Necronomicon.” (Take THAT, “Rocky Horrow Show.”) The show stars Jason Lythgoe as the smoldering Ash, with help from Chris Arneson, Erica Trisler, Savannah Lake, Natasha Gleichmann, Preston Adams, Ember Everett, Eli Stewart, Patrick Brownson, David Ballew and Aran Peters. The director is Deb Flomberg; musical direction by Hunter Hall. Just two performances remain, and they’ve been selling out: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13-14, at 3654 Navajo St. 720-984-0781 or Equinox’s home page. If you can’t get in, you’ll have a second, and third chance to get your taste of blood. Next up at the Bug is “Night of the Living Dead” (Oct. 4-26), followed by “Carrie, the Musical” (Nov. 8-30). Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the complete “Opening Nights” photo series to date, click here: http://www.culturewest.org/?p=6068. Thanks: Kate Blair.

Click here to see our full gallery of “Evil Dead” photos.

 

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Opening No. 111: National touring production of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”: Well, with some photos, black-and-white is just not an option. Sept. 3 wasn’t just opening night of the national touring production of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” at the Buell Theatre. It was also Drag Night, with many of Denver’s top entertainers attending, bringing both vibrant color and the same air of freedom and tolerance the popular film, and now stage musical, espouses. Audiences were invited to have make-up makeovers. Audience members stopped some of Denver’s very tallest tall Drag Queens (in heels, many reach 6 1/2 feet in height) asking for everything from photos to make-up tips for advice on how to talk to loved ones. One Denver Drag said afterward she never felt more validated as an entertainer than she did in the lobby chatting with friendly, curious “Priscilla” audiences. The musical is the uplifting story of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus to cross the Australian outback. It features more than 500 Tony-winning costumes. All the songs are familiar dance-floor hits, including “It’s Raining Men” and “I Will Survive.” Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Fridays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 15. Also: Special Thursday matinee: 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12. Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or the Denver Center’s home page. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the complete “Opening Nights” photo series to date, click here: http://www.culturewest.org/?p=6068. Photo by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Heidi Bosk, Emily Lozow. Click here to see the complete “Opening Nights” photo series to date.

 

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Bonus photos: My night at the Denver Center’s “Grace, Or the Art of Climbing”

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By John Moore
Jan. 26, 2013

Here are some bonus images from my night visiting the cast of the Denver Center Theatre Company’s world-premiere staging of “Grace, or the Art of Climbing” on Jan. 24. In the story by Lauren Feldman, rock climbing serves as both metaphor and call-to-action for a reluctant young athlete named Emm. It stars Julie Jesneck with John Hutton, Christopher Kelly, Alejandro Rodriguez, Emily Kitchens, M. Scott McLean and Dee Pelletier. Directed by Mike Donahue. Through Feb. 17 at the Space Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or the denver center’s home page. All photos by John Moore of www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Kent Thompson, Paul Behrhorst, Stephen D. Mazzeno, Alexandra Griesmer, Brianna Firestone, Rachel Ducat, Bruce Sevy.

To see the official 2013 photo series bringing you one intimate, iconic snapshot from more than a dozen Colorado opening nights (so far), click here.

Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter

 

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Video: The Skype Sessions: Angela Reed and Mat Hostetler of ‘War Horse’

By John Moore
Jan. 7, 2013
Introducing: The Skype Sessions. Fun conversations taped, on, yes, Skype. Episode 1: Coloradans Mat Hostetler and Angela Reed talk from Chicago about their return to Denver this week in the national touring production of “War Horse.” Run time: 9 minutes.
And here’s our 2009 feature story on Mat Hostetler, “Conservatory pushes actors to the limit.”

Here are your 2012 True West Award Winners

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By John Moore
Dec. 23, 2012

A diverse year on Colorado stages is reflected in the winners of CultureWest.Org’s 2012 True West Awards, with Curious’ red-hot art drama “Red,” the Arvada Center’s irresistible “Legally Blonde” and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s precision farce “Noises Off” winning for best drama, musical and comedy.

And the more some things change, the more some things stay the same. That’s the happy case for Curious Theatre, which only stages contemporary plays that are new to Denver. This year’s five offerings, book-ended by war plays and distinguished by a raucous collaboration with Colorado Springs TheatreWorks on a comedy looking into the real (fake) world of professional wrestling, earned Curious its seventh “best year by a company” designation in the 12 years of these awards, formerly known as the Ovation Awards.

In all, 18 companies won at least one True West Award. Curious leads the way with eight, including best actor and supporting actor awards for the only two members of its “Red” cast, Lawrence Hecht and Benjamin Bonenfant. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival was next with four.

It was previously announced that Boulder Ensemble Company co-founder Stephen Weitz has been named the 2012 True West Awards Theatre Person of the Year. Read more about that here.

Once again, readers were invited to weigh in to help determine their “reader’s choice” selections for 10 select categories. And in the two biggest, they chose Ben Dicke — director, producer and star of his own production of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” — as theater person of the year; and the Arvada Center for best season by a company. The survey accepted only one response per computer I.P. address, and, in all, 1,282 voted.

A note on the True West Awards
All True West Award winners are determined by former Denver Post theater critic John Moore. Winners were chosen from among the nearly 100 productions seen anywhere in Colorado 2012. Here is the complete list of nominees and eligible shows. Once again, the best of the Denver Center Theatre Company was determined in separate categories  that are listed at the end of the following results.
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Theater person of the year: Stephen Weitz, who founded the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company in 2006 with his wife, Rebecca Remaly, performed in five plays in 2012, directed three others and oversaw the Denver Center Theatre Company’s high-profile, community-wide staged reading of Dustin Lance Black’s “8,” a re-enactment of the federal trial that overturned California’s controversial Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage. Read our full story on Stephen Weitz here.

Readers’ choice voting (based on 1,282 reader responses):

  1. Ben Dicke, 23.7 percent
  2. Stephen Weitz, 19 percent
  3. Brian Freeland and Eden Lane, 14.3 percent

Best year by a company:
Curious Theatre Company

  • “9 Circles”
  • “Becky Shaw”
  • “Red”
  • “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
  • “Time Stands Still”

Readers’ choice:

  1. Arvada Center,  31.6 percent
  2. Curious Theatre, 26.3 percent
  3. Lake Dillon Theatre Company, 16 percent

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Best year by an actor (minimum three roles):
Jim Hunt: Boulder Ensemble’s “The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde”; Lake Dillon’s “Sylvia”; Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Noises Off”; Vintage’s “Becky’s New Car”; Backstage’s “A Christmas Carol”

Everyone should be as busy at age 69 as the affable Jim Hunt. This remarkably versatile veteran actor not only performed in five plays this year, he was employed by five different companies. Hunt, who worked alongside Nick Nolte at Greeley’s Little Theatre of the Rockies back in 1964, this year played a pervy academic, a bungling British actor, a dog-lover in the throes of a mid-life crisis, a wealthy car dealer and an iconic Scrooge humbugging in a land populated by life-sized puppets. While Hunt is now at an age when many of his contemporaries have earned the right to slow down, Hunt is out there reaching new heights and plumbing new depths with a cheerful sprightliness.

Readers’ choice:

  1. Brett Ambler, 27.6 percent
  2. Jim Hunt, 21.3 percent
  3. Benjamin Bonenfant, 19.1 percent

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Best year by an actress 
(Minimum three roles):
Rachel Fowler: Curious Theatre’s “Becky Shaw”; Local Theatre’s “Elijah: An Adventure”; Arvada Center/Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Twelfth Night”; Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Noises Off”

Rachel Fowler came to Denver in 2005 to log an award-winning performance in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s “All My Sons,” and that has been to the good fortune of Curious Theatre, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and several other local companies that have since benefited from her diverse repertoire. After her gut-scraping turn as a mother whose son has died in Curious’ “Rabbit Hole,” Fowler returned this year to play a wife whose questionable matchmaking skills go horribly awry in “Becky Shaw.” In the Arvada Center’s co-production of “Twelfth Night” with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Fowler fought against the comedy to bring real heartbreak to the role of Olivia, who pines for a boy she knows not is a woman. And she surprised again in Local Theatre’s world premiere of “Elijah: An Adventure,” as a 1922 Paris widow who proves to be far more complex than a mere grieving cougar. Fowler is the rare actor who stands both naked and strong on the stage at once, whether clothed or not.

Readers’ choice:

  1. Billie McBride, 38.1 percent
  2. Rachel Fowler, 27.5 percent

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Best drama:
Curious Theatre’s “Red”

When I saw “Red” on Broadway, I initially thought this was not so much a great play as a great oral argument,  the latest brilliant if didactic playwriting pontification on the compromises and contradictions of life as a tortured artist – however celebrated. The writing device was obvious: Put a fresh-faced student in the constant company of the great Mark Rothko, and let the famously self-absorbed abstract expressionist rant and rave on and on about a key transition in art history – that tipping point in the mid-1950s when Rothko’s generation, after having helped destroy surrealism and cubism, was now being superseded by the emergence of Andy Warhol and other pop-culture art revolutionaries. In the loving hands of director Christy Montour-Larson, this two-year dialogue between Rothko and his student came alive in unexpected ways, ebbing and flowing like brush strokes on a canvas, the actors infusing John Logan’s words with passionate and intelligent inspiration.

Readers’ choice:

  1. Curious Theatre’s “Red,” 33.8 percent
  2. Senior Housing Options’ “Driving Miss Daisy,” 28.2 percent
  3. Curious Theatre’s “Time Stands Still,” 24 percent

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Best musical:
Arvada Center’s “Legally Blonde”

In a year that left the best-musical field uncharacteristically wide open, this was the effort that remains vibrant, clever and — dare I say meaningful? — in my mind,  long after it has closed.  Smartly directed by Gavin Mayer, this effort was aided by a clever set design from Brian Mallgrave, costumes from red-hot Mondo Guerra and choreography from Kitty Skillman-Hilsabeck that by gave the storytelling a mile-a-minute pulse. A bi-coastal musical that plays out in a cramped dorm room, a men’s clothing store and in a courtroom has no business working on stage, but there is a giddy brilliance throughout this musical filled with surprisingly meaningful moments. Despite recent headlines about an Ohio high-school drama teacher who was fired for staging “Legally Blonde,” this is a girl-power musical the Arvada Center didn’t merely bleach over.

Readers’ choice:

  1. Arvada Center’s “Legally Blonde,” 32.6 percent
  2. Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “42nd Street,” 29.3 percent
  3. Town Hall Arts Center’s “The Who’s Tommy,” 23.5 percent

TWA07

Best comedy:
Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Noises Off”

Even though I didn’t feel I ever needed to see Michael Frayn’s tirelessly crafted, three (long) act British farce ever again, I am glad I did. Lynne Collins’ (near) perfectly cast production, staged inside on the University of Colorado mainstage theater, lives on in an era when new stage comedies rarely exceed 30 minutes anymore. Thirty years later, “Noises Off” just keeps coming, with a staging directed by Nick Sugar slated for the Lone Tree Arts Center in January, and a production by Fort Collins’ OpenStage opening in March.

Best new work:
Buntport Theater’s “Tommy Lee Jones Goes to Opera Alone,” written by ensemble

From Westword’s Juliet Wittman: “Part of Buntport’s mission is to make art transparent. There’s no attempt at illusion or concealment: All the transitions and manipulations happen right in front of your eyes. ‘Tommy Lee Jones’ is, among other things, a meditation on the process of creation, the relationship between artist and audience, and the fact that a great work of art changes over time and is therefore never finished.”

Best actor in a drama:
Lawrence Hecht, Curious Theatre’s “Red”

The former head of acting instruction at the Denver Center’s late National Theatre Conservatory simply put on an acting clinic as the overbearing Mark Rothko. By turns muscular and bullying, Hecht berated audiences and scene partner Benjamin Bonenfant alike with a barrage of references spanning Yeats to Nietzsche to Shakespeare to Aeschylus. But the play’s master stroke is in how the two roles, as they must, eventually reverse. Only here, the teacher doesn’t so much become the student. Instead, the student comes to the epiphany that his teacher has become artistic roadkill. From Lisa Kennedy, The Denver Post: “Hecht anchors ‘Red,’ capturing in his girth, his slouch, his high-minded riffs and low moods, the pained, necessary undertaking of the artist.”

Readers’ choice:

  1. Lawrence Hecht, Curious Theatre’s “Red,” 38.7 percent
  2. Michael Morgan, Curious Theatre’s “Time Stands Still,” 25.4 percent
  3. Dan O’Neill, LIDA Project’s “Auto-da-Fé,” 12.8 percent

Best actress in a drama:
Anne Oberbroeckling, Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”

This was an acting challenge fraught with potential perils. In taking on only the most daunting female character written for the stage since Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” — and for the first time by any local actress — Anne Oberbroeckling resisted the urge to merely imitate the brutally incisive portrayals you may have been lucky enough to see astonishingly delivered by Tony-winner Deanna Dunagan on Broadway, or by Estelle Parsons on the national touring production. Performing in the stiflingly intimate little Dairy Center, Oberbroeckling choose slow poison over the more venomous, quick-strike approach. In a role that also requires physical and verbal reactions to booze and pills like wobbling and slurring, Oberbroeckling delivered an unexpected performance that began with unsettling casualness and yet still left  everyone in her path just as cold and dead as if she had wielded a sledge hammer.

Readers’ choice:

  1. Rhonda Brown, LIDA Project’s “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins,” 33.9 percent
  2. Anne Oberbroeckling, Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County,” 25.2 percent
  3. Rachel Fowler, Curious Theatre’s “Becky Shaw,” 18.6 percent

Best actor in a musical:
Joshua Blanchard, Lake Dillon’s ”Kiss of the Spider-Woman”

Jailed on a trumped-up buggery charge and now being kept as a hapless prison pawn for a Machiavellian warden, Blanchard managed to capture both the horror of an inhumane incarceration along with the unbridled joy of movie escapism. His Molina recounts his fantastic love affair with a movie actress whose signature role was the embodiment of death. Here, her lethal kiss doubles as the savory sip of life.

Readers’ choice:

  1. Brian Norber, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone,” 36.4 percent
  2. Joshua Blanchard, Lake Dillon’s ”Kiss of the Spider-Woman,” 26.7 percent

Best actress in a musical:
Megan Van De Hey, Little Theatre of the Rockies’ “Next to Normal”

This multiple-award-winning actress returned to her alma mater at the University of Northern Colorado last summer, in effect to lend credibility and heft to a pared-down student production of this harrowing musical that recounts a bi-polar mom’s two-decade struggle with depression. I’m sure her castmates grew by leaps and bounds in Van De Hey’s  presence. But then again, anyone who saw her performance enjoyed a little clinic on just how this acting thing is done.

Reader’s choice:

  1. Brooke Singer, Ignite Theatre’s “Spring Awakening,” 28.2 percent
  2. Kathi Wood, Kathi Wood, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “The Little Shop of Horrors,” 22.4 percent

Best actor in a comic role:
Brian Colonna, Buntport’s “The Roast Beef Situation”

Colonna was at his blithesome best in this original period comedy that recounts the (sort of) true story of a British clown named Carlo Delpini, who was thrown in jail in 1787 for uttering the words “roast beef” on a stage without any music playing in the background. Seriously. But in this case,  jail became merely a playground for Colonna’s physical gifts.  From Westword’s Juliet Wittman: “In an inspired piece of mime, Colonna  demonstrates a comic bit in which he raises his right leg and uses it like a gun — not very effectively — and Erin Rollman promptly shows how it should be done, finishing with a loud and convincing gunshot. Colonna’s highly physical description of a traditional Punch and Judy show is also terrific.”

Best actress in a comic role:
Annie Dwyer, Heritage Square Music Hall season

For more than 20 years, there simply has not been a more consistently reliable funny woman on Denver stages than Annie Dwyer. And she is beloved by her longtime audiences accordingly. Maybe that has something to do with Dwyer’s long struggle with rheumatoid arthritis through more nearly 90 mainstage shows. But attributing her enduring popularity to that alone would do a disservice to Dwyer’s innate ability to make people laugh, whether playing a dim-bulbed gangster moll, a predatory sex villain or sending up pop-culture celebrities ranging from Cher to Mama Cass. She’s a true, one-of-a-kind Denver original.

Best supporting actor in a drama:
Benjamin Bonenfant, Curious Theatre’s “Red”

For a play that belonged from the start to Larry Hecht’s Mark Rothko, the fresh-faced Benjamin Bonenfant ultimately manages to wrest full possession of the proceedings the moment he utters the clarion line, “Not everyone wants art that actually hurts!” For a kid who just graduated from college in Colorado Springs, you might say Bonenfant is on a roll, having made his debuts this year on both the Curious Theatre and Denver Center stages. From Westword’s Juliet Wittman: “The self-effacing innocence Ben Bonenfant brings to the role of Ken makes the entire production sing, and the moment when he finds his voice is pure exhilaration.”

Best supporting actress in a drama:
Devon James, Curious Theatre Company’s “Time Stands Still”

There are just four characters in Donald Margulies’ contemporary story about a damaged couple of journalists just home from the Iraq war. And as Curious’ staging began, I was sure one of them would not survive the first scene. It was Devon James’ unsubtly named Mandy Bloom, a ditzy young blonde bimbo who is initially presented to us as the magazine editor’s prized possession of his cliched midlife crisis. You’re sure there is nowhere for this character to go. But thanks to James’ nuanced portrayal, greatly enhanced by her pairing with David Russell, the guileless Mandy comes to represent the real prize that so often eludes the cynical and jaded among us: That of the chosen, happy life.

Best supporting actor in a musical:
Seth Caikowski, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”

As a skunked-haired Latin lothario, Caikowski was this production’s shot of comic adrenaline. Caikowski is a naturally gifted and self-effacing physical comedian who turns his every turn of phrase or body limb into a laugh line. From Kateri McRae of the He Said/She Said Critiques: “Caikowski managed to take a character just as two-dimensional and flat as the others in (the source musical), and turn it into a cramp-inducing character who combined the best of both Hank Azaria and Pepe Le Pew.” Added McRae’s writing partner, David Cates: “Caikowski’s performance is the funniest thing I have seen in the longest time and damn near stole the entire show. His wig. His accent. His perfectly precise physicality. Every element of his performance was pure brilliance.”

Best supporting actress in a musical:
Mercedes Perez, Lake Dillon’s ”Kiss of the Spider-Woman”

This longtime local favorite is the real deal, with three big-time Broadway credits to her name. While she brought nothing fancy to her portrayal of the weary mother of a gay, imprisoned son, she brought more than enough: Aching, honest and natural pain — no to mention the voice of an angel.

Best supporting actor in a comic role:
Geoff Kent, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Noises Off”

He’s nationally recognized as a certified fight choreographer, but Geoff Kent has been honing his acting craft for years with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Denver Center Theatre Company. He’s a natural comedian, as he showed in high-profile Colorado Shakes stagings of  “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)” and “The Taming of the Shrew.” It all paid off for him here playing both deadpan British actor Garry Lejeune and the fictional lothario character Garry plays in a disastrous show-within-a show called “Nothing On.” Kent’s scene partner was Jamie Ann Romero as a ditzy actress playing what the Boulder Daily Camera’s Liza Williams hailed as “a glorious homage to dumb.” As Garry tries to react to the unplanned spontaneous combustion taking place on-stage all around him, Romero’s Brooke Ashton is utterly incapable of going off-script. These scenes between Kent and Romero are all you need to know why “Noises Off” is still considered the greatest farce of the past 30 years. Added Williams of Kent’s performance: “I stopped being able to breathe because I was laughing so hard at some of his bits.”

Best supporting actress in a comic role:
Leslie O’Carroll, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Noises Off”

Carol Burnett is a treasure. But if all you know of “Noises Off” is her performance as Dotty Otley in the lousy film version, you have no idea how funny funny can be. If you saw O’Carroll play Dotty in Boulder, you know what we know: That sardines have never been so funny. The New York Times once called the character of Dotty a thankless role — that of the actress who, while playing a hapless maid, can never quite keep track of the sardines. But Dotty is a very important woman, The Times wrote. “Without Dotty, and without a real-life actress playing her to the hilt, ‘Noises Off’ couldn’t rise to the heights.” In Boulder, thanks to O’Carroll’s comic precision, it rose to the top of the Flatirons.

Best ensemble in a play:
Buntport Theater’s “Tommy Lee Jones Goes to Opera Alone”

OK, so we’ve all enjoyed unexpected celebrity sightings. But only the Buntport Theater ensemble could turn an accidental spying of a solo Tommy Lee Jones standing in line for the Santa Fe Opera’s “La Bohème” into a full-length play — one with a life-sized puppet portraying Jones. Though mostly a monologue delivered by the puppet Jones, along with some occasional interaction with a diner waitress, you had to see Colorado’s most collaborative ensemble in fluid action to fully appreciate the stage grace they put on display here. While Hannah Duggan played the waitress, the puppeted Jones was brought to life by Erin Rollman (left hand), Evan Weissman (right hand) and Brian Colonna (head), with Erik Edborg sitting in full view voicing Jones’ words. It was amazing enough to see the puppet opening his pocket watch, eating a piece of pie, drinking coffee and rolling his eyes. But the ensemble’s coordinated communication of Jones’ signature stoic emotion was the kind of thing you can only expect from an ensemble that has been working together, side by side, for 11 years.

Best ensemble in a musical:
Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”

The definition of a great ensemble is malleable. But in a musical, surely it must mean that all the parts work well together, without a weak link from the largest role down to the smallest. “Chaperone”  is an odd little musical in that the lead actor never really sings. But Brian Norber brought real truth and heft to the role of the so-called “Man in Chair,” an endearingly reclusive fan of trifling  Broadway musicals of the 1920s. Thanks to the magic needle on his turntable, the man’s favorite musical comes to life right there in his apartment. Down the line, Norber is well-supported. The show allowed for a plethora of spotlight-stealing scenes from a deep cast that included Alicia Dunfee as the tipsy (hence the title) chaperone, Seth Caikowski as a Latin lothario, Katie Ulrich as gymnastic bride Janet, and longtime BDT producer Michael J. Duran making  his return to the stage after a five-year absence by playing half of a vaudevillian baker-gangster team (alongside Wayne Kennedy).

Best director of a play:
Edith Weiss, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Vox Phamilia: Cinco de Vox”

Whatever it says in the  playbook about what the duties of a director are, they can’t begin to encompass all that it must take Edith Weiss each year not only to cast a company of mostly novice handicapped actors, but also to train them in the difficult art of sketch comedy writing, as well as how to effectively perform it. For five years, Weiss’ annual sketch-comedy evenings have been the greatest form of theatrical escape for actors and audiences alike — they allow a group of handicapped actors to perform – by being themselves.

Best director of a musical:
Christopher Alleman, Lake Dillon Theatre Company, “Kiss of the Spider-Woman”

On the tiniest of playing spaces, Alleman managed to capture both the claustrophobia of  prison and the expansiveness of a Broadway musical by striking just the right tone of fantasy and fatalism. Alleman didn’t dwell so much on the geographic location of the story. Instead he used his deep ensemble to create an anywhere — and everywhere — account of political imprisonment. Whether by necessity or artistic choice, he ditched the live portrayal of the almost laughably written prison-warden character in favor of an ominous, unseen voice that breathed new, evil life into this manifestation of authoritarian power.

Best musical direction:
Donna Debreceni, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The Who’s Tommy”

To watch Debreceni conduct her live band to this quintessential, old-school concept rock album … Well, let’s just say you’d have to be a deaf, dumb and blind kid not to feel the complete, pure joy of it. Come to think of it, even if you were …

Best choreography:
Tracy Warren, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “42nd Street”

Let’s face it: People come to see “42nd Street” for the tap dancing. It’s no easy task both doing justice to Gower Champion’s signature choreography while also bringing new life to it, but Warren, who doubles as endearing gal-pal Anytime Annie in this staging, pulls it off. From Liza Williams of the Boulder Dairy Camera: “These early dance sequences demonstrated that the cast of this show has a high degree of technical achievement. The choreography was precise and complex and really highlighted BDT’s consistency in technical achievement, performance and overall production level.” As the song says, come and meet those dancing feet: You still can, as it runs through Feb. 16. 303-449-6000

Best use of multimedia:
Brian Freeland, LIDA Project’s “Add it Up”

Simply put, Freeland continues to change the game of theatrical storytelling by always upping the stakes with new multimedia innovations. His company’s “Add it Up,” an experimental freakout adaptation of Elmer Rice’s “The Adding Machine,” actually told the story of a condemned everyman we follow into the afterlife fairly faithfully. But Freeland’s unnerving intermingling of multiple live cameras projected onto angled, flowing bedsheets injected a haunting feeling into this telling that felt sort of like an alternate-universe “The Wizard of Oz.”

Best scenic design:
Peter J. Hughes, Drew Kowalkowski, Jeff Jesmer, Erika Kae and Katie Dawson, Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”

I don’t now whether or why it really took five people to design this tri-level house that somehow fell  just into place in the decidedly “not tall” Dairy Center for the Arts. But the design not only worked, the team managed to (appropriately) turn the Weston staircase itself into one of the most menacing characters in the entire family. And in this family, that’s saying something.

Best costume design:
Ann Piano, TheatreWorks/Curious’ “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”

One look at the professional wrestler Chad Deity’s skin-tight shorts adorned with gold dollar signs told you that fun was the order of the day for this most unusual and entertaining production. Expert opinion from award-winning costumer Kevin Copenhaver: “Ann’s work is funky and fresh, and the challenge of outfitting this piece had to have been a great one. Always good to step outside the box — or the ring.”

Best sound design:
Brian Freeland, TheatreWorks/Curious’ “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”

It’s futile to try to separate Freeland’s fist-pumping sound effects with his pulsing video and live-feed story enhancement. It all worked together to help create the feeling that you were not sitting in a staid theater but rather in a stadium attending a live sporting event.

Best lighting design:
Shannon McKinney, Curious Theatre’s “Red”
Thanks to McKinney’s moody effects, red was not the only color of the evening. Her work on this show has now swept every award available to it so far — an amazing testament considering the hundreds of theatrical options this year.

BEST OF THE DENVER CENTER THEATRE COMPANY
(Note: I did not get to see the following DCTC productions this year:  “Two Things You Don’t talk About at Dinner,”  “Fences,” “Taming of the Shrew” and “Ring of Fire”)

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Best year by an actor (Minimum three roles):
John Hutton: “Two Things You Don’t Talk About at Dinner,” “The Great Wall Story,” “The Three Musketeers,” “When We Are Married”

Hutton has proven there’s nothing he can’t (or won’t) do on a stage, but he’s been liberated in recent years from primarily playing dour, heavy roles such as the doomed father in “The Diary of Anne Frank” (to name one — of dozens). But since letting his hair down as Oberon in “a “Midsummer” a few years back, Hutton seems to be having much more fun. Whether playing the prototypically cynical yellow journalist Joseph Pulitzer (hey, why is it that journalism’s highest honors are named after him again?) to the unexpectedly unmarried silly fop of a Brit in “When We Are Married,” Hutton is really settling into his role as the company’s current, undisputed veteran leading man. Only, to our benefit, he’s hardly settling at all.

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Best year by an actress 
(Minimum three roles):
Kathleen McCall: “Heartbreak House,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “When We Are Married”

2012 was the year when everything came together for McCall, with just the right marriage of material and sensibilities. McCall got to show off at least three shades of comic grey in three very different but very endearing kinds of comedies.

Best production:
“The Giver”

“Heartbreak House” was just what the DCTC does best: A witty and weighty George Bernard Shaw parlor comedy. But “The Giver” gets the nod for the seeds it sowed for future generations of Denver Center audiences. At the performance I attended, the kids all had read Lois Lowry’s controversial book. They remained in rapt attention throughout the brief performance. And not only did many of them have salient discussion points to raise in the talkback afterward, many expressed controversial opinions about what the ending meant. This production proves once again that no one but no one gets the kind of effective performances out of child actors that director Christy Montour-Larson does.

Best new play:
Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Whale,” by Samuel D. Hunter

It takes courage to stage the world premiere of a story that features a dying, 500-pound protagonist, but that courage was rewarded with perhaps the most compelling  storytelling of 2012. The metaphor may be obvious — he’s a beached whale, this morbidly obese man who yearns to re-connect with his bratty daughter before he dies. That daughter character is the play’s downfall, but the sweet, sad protagonist and his loving relationships with his nurse and a Mormon stranger give the play real girth. Hunter’s play is further evidence that most every decent play is, in some way, a variation on “Moby Dick” — that pursuit of the one unattainable thing that might make our lives complete.

Best actor in a play:
Timothy McCracken, “The Giver”

McCracken was simply the most unnervingly sweet and paternal baby-killer you could ever hope to (not) run into … on stage or off. From Lisa Kennedy, The Denver Post: “McCracken gives a nice and therefore troubling turn as Jonas’ father. He has a gentle sing-song befitting his role as ‘Nurturer.’ And he appears boldly kind when he brings home a baby he names Gabriel and whom he hopes to protect from being released. And yet…”

Best supporting actor in a play:
Cory Michael Smith, “The Whale”

This is definitely the Mormon Age in the American theater, but Smith eschewed stereotype in playing the unlikely young missionary who appears on the front door of a home-bound man in the final few days of his life. Smith’s Elder Thomas becomes a surprisingly willing confidante to Charlie for reasons that get more compelling as the story goes along. I don’t mind telling you that Smith’s portrayal of the is-he-or-isn’t-he? Mormon prosthelytizer was my favorite performance by any actor in 2012. He had his role down to every muscle twitch, and so I was happy to see him hired to play the same role when the play was retooled by a new creative team for off-Broadway.

Best actress in a play:
Lise Bruneau, “Heartbreak House”

The company newcomer was here for a just a blink, but in her short time here playing Hesione, the decidedly bohemian daughter of a salty octogenarian, Bruneau made it plain that she is a sharp and ebullient actor who commanded the stage with twinkle and a smile.

Best supporting actress in a play:
Angela Reed, “The Whale”

Reed walked away with this award for her ferocious and loving work as a nurse with an undying loyalty to a dying patient. The Colorado native will be back next month starring in the national touring production of “War Horse.”

2012 SPECIAL ACCOMPLISHMENT TRUE WEST AWARDS:

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  • Bud Coleman: The chair of the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Theatre & Dance Department staged a remarkable production of “14” at the Kennedy Center College Theatre Festival in Fort Collins. The play recounts Brigham Young University’s use of  electroshock therapy in an attempt to change the homosexual desires of 14 young men in the mid-1970s. College or no, it ranks among my list of the best productions of 2012 anywhere.
  • Crystal Carter: The director staged the first-ever immersive, real-time adaptation of Quentin Tarantino’s bloody 1992 cult classic “Reservoir Dogs” for Theatre ‘d Art in Colorado Springs.
  • Ben Dicke: The producer, director and star of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson returned to perform just three weeks after a serious opening-night accident hospitalized him with four broken ribs, a head gash and a lacerated lung.
  • Cory Gilstrap: He designed a full menagerie of puppets that served as every support character in Backstage Theatre’s  “A Christmas Carol,” starring Jim Hunt as Scrooge.
  • Kevin Landis, TheatreWorks’ highly regarded Prologue series brings some of the nation’s most important theater artists, such as playwright  Sarah Ruhl, to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs each month. Coming in March: Michael Friedman, who wrote the “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” score, and New York’s Public Theatre artistic director Oskar Eustis, who is responsible for “Angels in America” ever being staged.
  • Eric Laurits: Ongoing excellence in stage photography.
  • The final class of the National Theatre Conservatory: The Denver Center’s 28-year old master’s program in acting closed, having graduated 255 alumni into the worlds of theater, film, television and theater education. The final grads were:
    Biko Eisen-Martin
    Courtney Esser
    Maurice Jones
    Amy Kersten
    ZZ Moor
    Chiara Motley
    Andrew Schwartz
    Matt Zambrano
  • Mackenzie Paulsen: Conceived the innovative shadow-puppet design for “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” at the Aurora Fox.
  • Philip Sneed and Tina Packer: Sneed brought the respected actor and director to Boulder to perform all five parts of her “Women of Will” cycle, which explored  all the women in Shakespeare’s canon. Packard unveiled a new hour-long episode each week for five weeks during the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 2012 season.

Here are your 2012 CultureWest.Org “True West” Award nominations

 

The 2012 True West "Theater Person of the Year" nominees.

The 2012 True West “Theater Person of the Year” nominees.

 

By John Moore
Dec. 16, 2012

One of the hardest things about leaving The Denver Post was leaving behind the Ovation Awards, which for 12 years was my annual salute to what we perceived to be the best in Colorado theater for any given year. Then I thought, “Why not?”

I can only judge what I saw, and this year I saw only about 100 productions, far fewer than the average of 165 I had established for the previous decade. But, then again, there was that whole “almost dying” thing that cut into my theatergoing time. Still, 100 shows, as they say … ain’t nothing. While some understandably think awards have no place in the creative process, I think it is important to properly acknowledge and archive the year just past, for posterity and history. Theater companies also benefit from awards nominations in their grant-writing and fundraising efforts.

So with great apologies to the many actors and shows I did not get to see in 2012 (the list of eligible shows is posted at the bottom), I humbly present my agonizing, loving look back at another great year in Colorado theater. I say agonizing because the theater community never gets to see these lists before the edits begin, when there are at times as many as 30 names up for legitimate consideration in any given category. That’s the hard part. The good part is the five names you get to keep.

But a new era calls for a new name, so welcome to the 2012 “True West” Awards nominations.

This year’s expanded list of “theater person of the year” candidates is the most varied yet. Dozens of companies again received at least one nomination. Curious Theatre leads the way with 27 nominations, followed by Boulder’s Dinner Theatre with 18, the Arvada Center with 14 and Buntport with 13.

You can again vote for “reader’s choice” designees in a limited number of categories through Dec. 20. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2VHXY2J

Winners will be announced here next Sunday, Dec. 23. Congratulations to anyone who wrote dialogue, got up on a stage, or played in part in creating theater in 2012.

THE 2012 CULTUREWEST.ORG TRUE WEST AWARDS NOMINATIONS:

Theater person of the year:
Rick Bernstein and Paige Larson: Announced the transition of the leadership of Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden to Brenda Billings and Len Matheo, ending a run of 24 years of storytelling in west Jefferson County.

Abby Apple Boes: Created Abster Productions, which became the first local theater company to stage the Pulitzer Prize-winning “August: Osage County.” She also played oldest daughter Barbara.

Craig Bond: The founder of the 11-year-old Vintage Theatre completed the nearly $1 million purchase of its new home in Aurora, and immediately expanded programming, adding a secondary studio theater and a cabaret stage. Vintage gave a presenting home to local deaf and Asian theater companies. Bond’s own offerings included the two-part epic “The Cider House Rules” and the large-scale musical “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” He also took over as president of the Colorado Theatre Guild.

Ben Dicke: Dicke created his own company to present the Colorado premiere of the smart off-Broadway musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” at election time. He waged a creative, year-long fundraising campaign that included him running for 24 hours on a treadmill on the downtown 16th Street Mall. The night Dicke was to open in the title role, he fell down a backstage trap door and was seriously hurt. Three weeks later, the show went on. As an actor, he also performed in the Arvada Center’s “Legally Blonde, the Musical” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Brian Freeland: The LIDA Project founder directed two original pieces for his own company, designed sound and multimedia for several other local companies, including Curious Theatre (“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”), Town Hall Arts Center (“The Who’s Tommy”) and Ignite Theatre (“Spring Awakening”). Just before the election, he took a sponsorship offer from the ACLU to produce “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins,” which sold out and had an extended run at the Aurora Fox.

Eden Lane: Entered her fifth season self-producing and hosting “In Focus,” a weekly television program covering arts and culture for Channel 12.

Christy Montour-Larson: Directed the Henry Award-winning “Red,” “9 Circles” and “Time Stands Still” for Curious Theatre, as well as “The Giver” for the Denver Center.

Mare Trevathan: A founding member of Local Theatre Company, Trevathan acted in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Richard III” and “Treasure Island,”  as well as Local Theatre’s “Elijah: An Adventure.” Trevathan, a member of Curious Theatre Company, is also the co-creator of the popular annual fundraiser: “Balls: A Holiday Spectacular,” at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret.

Jeremy Palmer: The Phamaly Theatre Company actor and writer won the Denver Foundation’s Minoru Yasui Volunteer Award, and Denver mayor Michael Hancock declared  Nov. 15, 2012, “Jeremy Palmer Day” in Denver. Palmer co-wrote and co-directed Phamaly’s sketch comedy “Cinco de Vox,” and he starred as the masochistic  dentist in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Stephen Weitz: The Boulder Ensemble Theatre co-founder performed in his own “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment”; in “Elijah: An Adventure” for Local Theatre;  as well as in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Twelfth Night,” “Richard III” and “Treasure Island.” He directed the Boulder Ensemble’s “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde,” “How the World Began” and “The SantaLand Diaries.” And he directed the Denver Center’s far-reaching staged reading of “8,” about the legal challenge to a bill preventing gay and lesbian couples from marrying in California.

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John Hutton on Spielberg, Denver’s “Lincoln” connections, and being invited to the party

John Hutton talks about his role in “Lincoln.” Photo by John Moore.

By John Moore
Nov. 15, 2013

John Hutton has only five or six lines in the Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln,” opening nationwide Friday (Nov. 16). But, hey, the veteran Denver actor’s girlfriend reminded him, “You could have been in ‘The Three Stooges’ movie. That could have been the call you got.”

Instead, the call he got was to be in the film starring Daniel Day-Lewis that is an immediate frontrunner for the 2013 best-picture Oscar. Hutton plays Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, who may be insignificant in the film, “but he was really significant in life,” Hutton said.

Hutton is part of a considerable Denver connection in “Lincoln,” including former Denver Center Theatre Company stalwarts Jamie Horton, Dakin Matthews and big-time Broadway actor Byron Jennings. On the same day the film is to be released, Hutton will bow in a starring role in the Denver Center’s “When We Are Married,” a British comedy about three small-town couples who discover they’re not legally married after all.

For Hutton, the road from Denver to filming “Lincoln” in Richmond Va., goes all the way back to a phone call taken in 2001 by Anthony Powell, then the Denver Center Theatre Company‘s associate artistic director. Now he’s the artistic director of Stories on Stage.

“Somebody on Spielberg’s team realized they were going to need a lot of actors who could talk all high-falutin’,” said Powell. Meaning … classically trained stage actors. Powell recommended Denver Center company actors Hutton and Horton (now a professor at Dartmouth).

“He’s been one of the great benefactors of my life,” Hutton said of Powell, who says in return, “John has given me way too much credit.”

Hutton was asked to tape a Shakespeare monologue as his audition. “I did the St. Crispin’s Day speech from ‘Henry V’ because I love that speech, and because I’ll never be cast in that play, so here’s my shot to do it,” Hutton said with a laugh. “And who cares, anyway, because nobody is ever going to notice this.”

But someone did. A few weeks later, Hutton called Spielberg’s office to ask if his tape had been received. A nice woman replied that why, yes, Mr. Spielberg had taken a look at it. “And I went, ‘Woah, woah, woah — he actually looked at it himself? Doesn’t he have people to look at it?’ ”  Hutton said. “And she replied, ‘No, he looked at it himself.’ And right then I thought, ‘Well, if nothing else happens, that’s … pretty … cool!”

Though the film project officially entered “pre-production” status in 2001, nothing else did happen for many years. Except perhaps for the coincidence that Hutton played Lincoln himself in a Denver Center production of “John Brown’s Body” in 2004. Then, in the spring of 2011, a different casting team contacted Powell and other Denver Center contacts, asking all over again, “Do you know anybody who’s really good who looks like Lincoln?”

Powell – and everyone else they asked – said, “John Hutton.”

“But here’s the joke: John hates to be told he looks like Lincoln,” Powell said with a laugh. He got over it.

Hutton was sent script excerpts (called “sides” in the biz) of a scene between Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward, a role eventually played in the film by David Strathairn.

Local casting director Sylvia Gregory filmed Hutton and company mate Robert Sicular performing the audition scene, and sent it off. From that, Hutton was cast as Senator Charles Sumner, a leading slavery abolitionist from Massachusetts. Horton, by then long-moved to New Hampshire, was cast as Giles Stuart, a member of the House of Representatives. Dakin Matthews plays Secretary of the Interior John Usher. Byron Jennings has the largest role of the four, as U.S. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair.

“As an actor, it was an honor to be involved with this picture, no matter how minor my role,” Horton said from Hanover, N.H. “And as a citizen of this country, I was equally proud to step into this nation’s past and revisit one of its proudest moments.” Horton will be back in town Dec. 15-16 to partake in Stories on Stage’s holiday-themed “Making Merry” program in Denver and Boulder.

“Lincoln,” which largely focuses on the 13th Amendment that forever outlawed slavery, is a who’s-who of Hollywood, including Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Hal Holbrook, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Kevin Kline, John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson, Jackie Earle Haley, Walton Goggins, James Spader and Lukas Haas. The screenwriter is Tony Kushner, known for his many sprawling stage epics like “Angels in America,” and with whom Spielberg previously teamed on the film “Munich.”

Hutton’s big moment comes when he quotes a lovely little sonnet to Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln as they go into a celebratory party at the White House after the passing of the amendment. “So we’re rehearsing it, and I was giving it as much fullness as I could,” said Hutton. “And just before we’re going to shoot it, Mr. Spielberg comes by and, just in passing, he says quietly, ‘Oh, hey, Senator … the poetry? … Just move it along a little bit, OK?’ And I just said, ‘Yes, sir!’ ”

Hutton did a lot of sitting around that month, but he had the time of his life. “There are so many great people in this film,” he said. “You look around and there are all these guys sitting around in their period costumes. A lot of us who never even considered getting involved in something of this scale are just sitting around going, “Wow. … Isn’t it great to be invited to the party?”

And here’s where we pick up our conversation with Hutton about all things “Lincoln”:

John Moore: So at least you were cast on the right side of history. What do we need to know about Charles Sumner?
John Hutton: He was a leader of the Radical Republican movement in the United States Senate, and a rabid abolitionist. He was almost beaten to death in the Senate chamber (in 1856) by the nephew of a South Carolina senator who took offense to a speech he gave (arguing for the immediate admission of Kansas as a free state). He had to go to Europe to recover for a couple of years. He never really regained his health. But he and Mary Todd were socially very close. Sumner was something. He was a great orator.

Moore: Clearly he needs to have his own movie.
Hutton: He needs to have his own movie, dammit. And I’ve got the wig already. It’s gonna be great.

Moore: So at the time of filming in October 2011, you were starring here in Denver as Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” And I remember some concern whether were going to have to miss the final week of performances to accommodate the film.
Hutton: There was some concern, but it all worked out perfectly. The Spielberg people were so organized. They told me back in July or August that I would start shooting on Nov. 1, and that’s when I started shooting. “Mockingbird” closed on Oct. 31; I flew out that night to Richmond; and we started the next day.

Moore: So what was all that concern about?
Hutton: There was some talk I might have to fly out a week early. My understudy was John Arp, and he was at the ready. I told the (film team), “Boy, I would really love to finish this run,” but I was thinking, “I have five lines in this entire movie. They don’t care about my conflicts.” But they did actually care. And they made it work.

 

That’s John Hutton second from the far right with Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones. Photo by Dreamworks.

 

Moore: How long were you under contract?
Hutton: For five weeks, and I was there for four. (Note: The entire film was shot in just two months).

Moore: What was it like filming with your good friends from Denver?
Hutton: Jamie, Byron and I were all there at the same time, so we just had a great time because you never worked on the weekends, and you never worked past 8. So we would meet at the bar and have oysters and beer. Jamie had a very interesting time because he was directing a play up at Dartmouth at the same time, so the schedule would change and he thought for a time they might fire him. But it all worked out. Byron had a really good time, too, I think.

Moore: Were you here in Denver at the same time Byron was?
Hutton: I was here for two shows with him in the mid-1980s. The (Denver Center)  company had a very difficult time in those days. What a great company it was … but they just couldn’t get a toehold (in the community) with the way things were then.

Moore: So what was it like being surrounded by all those stars for a month?
Hutton: You walk by a restaurant and there is Tommy Lee Jones having dinner, and you are thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?” But that was the thing: Everybody was happy to be there.

I was having lunch with John Hawkes one day, and I had just seen his movie, “The Winter’s Bone,” and all I could say was, “Man that was genius.” And he was such a nice guy about it.

I knew Hal Holbrook from doing “King Lear” together in New York way back in 1989, I think. So I’m sitting in the makeup chair one day, and I know he’s somewhere on the set, and I can’t wait to see him. But I haven’t seen him in 10 years, and I don’t know if he’ll remember me. So he comes in and he sits down on the chair next to me. He turns to me and he says, “Good morning, John.” Just like that. Isn’t that great? Such a classy guy. He missed a couple of days of filming because, guess what? He’s doing “Mark Twain Tonight” somewhere in Pocatello, Idaho. He said to me, “Johnny, I gotta keep working. I gotta keep working.” When I saw Hal perform last time at the Buell Theatre, I sat there and thought, “There are 2,800 seats, every one of them is filled for two shows — and there is just one guy on the stage. And all he’s got are a carpet and a cigar. I have been looking at that guy on TV since I was 5 years old. And he’s been doing it since he was 25. (Note: Holbrook is now 87).

Moore: Every time you turned around, you were probably bumping into somebody who has won an Oscar.
Hutton: All the time. One day, Tommy Lee Jones comes back to the set from a break, kind of grumpy, and he says, “I gotta tell somebody this …” There are four or five of us who happened to be there at the time, and we are like, “Anything you want to say to us, Mr. Jones … we will listen to.”  And so he says to us, “It’s raining. … It’s raining on my ranch in Texas.” That just made his day, because the drought has been very serious there. That was great. I mean, you want to engage these people, and yet you don’t really know how. Because what you really want to say to Tommy Lee Jones is, “Your performances have changed my life.” But you can’t say that because everybody’s an actor, and everybody’s being all professional, and so instead you just sort of go, “Good morning, Mr. Jones.” And that’s it.

Moore: Where did you do most of your shooting?
Hutton: Much of the film centers around the debate over the 13th amendment.  The senate has passed it. So much of it takes place in the House of Representatives. The (present day) statehouse in Richmond stood in for the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. So most of the time, we’re up in the viewing gallery — me and other supporters of the amendment. That includes Sally Field (as Mary). Jamie Horton is downstairs on the floor below, where they are fighting it out. We just sat there looking out over this huge room. There are 200 guys down there, and they all looked like they just stepped out of 1865. It was truly amazing to look at. I thought, “Man, this is going to look great on film.”

Moore: Was this your first time doing Kushner?
Hutton: Yeah. They never did let us read the whole script. But when I got the sides for the audition, I’m like … “Wow, look at all these parenthetical phrases.” You start off with one thought, and you reinforce that thought later on in the speech, and then you re-cap it at the end, and when it’s over … it’s all of three sentences.

Moore: I’m guessing that’s why Spielberg wanted stage actors.
Hutton: Yeah.

Moore: My concern when I heard Kushner wrote it is that it might turn out to be a 14-hour movie.
Hutton: It may have been at one point.

Moore: So how big is Jamie’s role?
Hutton: I know they are trying to persuade people to vote in a certain way, and there are various ways they do that throughout he film. There’s a scuffle. He’s involved in that.

Moore: Hmmm, so a little voter coercion?
Hutton: Yes, there is a little voter coercion.

Moore: And you have not yet seen the finished product?
Hutton: No.

Moore: When are you going watch it?
Hutton: We’re going to try on Sunday night or Monday night, because those are the only nights I have off (from the Denver Center).

Moore: So Spielberg secured the rights to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s source book, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” in 1999 — six years before she even published it. Why do you think it took so long to get it done?
Hutton: I think it may be one of those things where script, actor and director were finally all in the same place at the same time. (Note: Liam Neeson was originally slated to play Lincoln.) Steven Spielberg has obviously been thinking about doing it for a long time. I think about (the Denver Center Theatre Company’s 2008) “Plainsong” in that way, where these really disparate elements come together fortuitously. It’s a moment in time. It doesn’t happen before. It doesn’t happen after. It happens then. And maybe that’s what this is. But I also think he’s interested in political mechanics too, and, of course, what are we dealing with all the time now in Washington?

Moore: I was surprised the movie didn’t come come out a few months earlier for what it might have to say about the election. Because one of the questions that keeps coming up on conservative radio in the aftermath of the election is how something like 94 percent of blacks voted for Barack Obama, and how did the Republican Party — the party that freed the slaves — ever lose the black vote? I thought this movie might serve as a reminder of what the Republican party stood for at one time in history.
Hutton: And they lost them almost completely. Several million people can’t be wrong. Maureen Dowd said it: Romney is president — of all the white people.

Moore: Romney did win 72 percent of the white vote. And it wasn’t enough.
Hutton: I think that’s a good thing for (the Republicans) to think about.

Moore: But everybody’s nerves are so frayed from the divisiveness of the election right now, I thought it might be interesting for moviegoers to more calmly reflect back on America at that particular point in history, and who it was that was getting (bleep) done.
Hutton: Getting (bleep) done, exactly. And he was surrounded by enemies. He had these people around like Seward who were his competition. These were really bright,  aggressive guys, and yet, Lincoln was able to get it done anyway. I played him in “John Brown’s Body” (at the Denver Center in 2004), and I think I really understand why Daniel Day-Lewis works so well in the role. He was the guy that everyone loves. And if he walked into the room right now, you would feel something like, ‘Wow, there is hope. Somebody is here who knows how to do it. He’s intelligent; he’s contemplative; he’s a serious fellow; he has moral standing. He’s that man. He’s part-myth … but he’s close enough in history to us that we know a lot about him, too.’

Moore: That’s interesting because I think everything you just said about Lincoln also applies exactly to Obama in two ways: One is that what you said is only true for the 50 percent who loved Lincoln. And, to be blunt, both of them knew, or know, that there is a possibility they might not survive their presidencies because of those who hate them.
Hutton: Oh, yes … he was reviled.

Moore: So when you consider all the anti-Obama violence we’ve seen just this month, like two churches burning him in effigy in Florida, and protests at Ole Miss —
Hutton: We’re not out of the woods.

Moore: These two men seem to be alike in that they are rock stars to some — and hated by just as many.
Hutton: Yes, both terrifying to some people, and adored by others. Lincoln was trying to wrap this war up, but then he also had all of these other terrible problems at home. His young son dying, and trying to keep his other son out of the war. Not to mention that it looked for a long time like they might lose the war.

Moore: It will be interesting to see if audiences draw a connection between the two, which would be ironic because the film has been in the works since long before most Americans had ever heard of Barack Obama. But I think it’s going to be impossible not see some similarities.
Hutton: And that’s why Steven Spielberg refused to release the film until after the election — he did not want to have any influence on it. He didn’t want it to be part of the pros and cons at all.

Moore: So how do you sum up the totality of your experience?
Hutton: You got a sense pretty early on that this was going to be something special. We all felt that. And that same thing happens here (in Denver) on a smaller scale. When everybody is happy to be there, really good stuff starts to happen. That is not something you can just create. You can only hope that the room is good. That’s what that film was like.

Moore: So are you going to make it your policy now to only perform in Oscar-worthy films?
Hutton: Oh yeah. Only the big stuff. But seriously, when you see it … it’s blink … and I am gone.

I am guessing Jamie Horton is somewhere in that mass of House of Representatives humanity. Photo by Dreamworks.

 

John Hutton’s audition monologue
The St. Crispin’s Day speech
from “Henry V,” by William Shakespeare

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Colorado theater companies join forces for military families

Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.

 

By John Moore

Oct. 18, 2012

A new national initiative will be announced tomorrow that will recognize “the profound contributions of military service families,” and seven Colorado theater companies are helping to lead the way.

The Blue Star Theatres program, founded by the national Theatre Communications Group service organization, will team 57 of its member companies around the country, offering creative ways for military personnel and their families to engage in the creative arts, and seeks to build stronger connections between theaters, military families and their communities.

Representing Colorado the Arvada Center, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Creede Repertory Theatre, Curious Theatre, Denver Center Theatre Company, TheatreWorks of  Colorado Springs and Theatre Aspen. That’s second only to California, with eight.

According to a TCG statement:

“Blue Star Theatres will build on the work already occurring at many theaters nationwide, including: playwriting classes to empower creative expression for veterans; community discussions on plays whose themes resonate with military families; free or discounted ticket programs; job postings and casting notices on military bases; and much more. TCG and Blue Star Families will connect theaters with local bases, and develop and disseminate best-practices for engaging with deployed personnel, veterans and service families.”

 

At 2:30 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 19), a press conference will be held at the Ricketson Theatre in the Denver Performing Complex as part of this week’s  League of Resident Theatre’s (LORT) annual conference. It will be conducted by TCG executive director Teresa Eyring, along with Sheri Lapan, senior director of  Blue Star Families LORT president Tim Shields and Denver Center Theatre Company artistic director Kent Thompson.

Representing the military will be Colonel Loren “Skip” Johnson of the Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.

“We’re grateful that so many LORT and TCG member theaters  have stepped up to give back to our service members and their families,” Eyring said in a statement.  “Theater can provide an invaluable means of integrating military families into our communities while helping us process the consequences of these long years of war.”

Added Shields, who is also managing director of the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J.: “I’m honored to represent the 39 LORT theaters that have signed on to participate. Theater remains a place in our communities where all can gather to have a common experience; to participate in an art form that through the stories it tells provides such deeply felt emotion and entertainment.

Participating Blue Star Theatres:

2nd Story (Rhode Island)
Actors Theatre of Louisville (Kentucky)
Alliance Theatre (Georgia)
American Conservatory Theater (California)
American Repertory Theater (Massachusetts)
Arena Stage (Washington, D.C.)
Arkansas Repertory Theatre
Artists Repertory Theatre (Oregon)
Arvada Center
Asolo Repertory (Florida)
Barter Theatre (Virginia)
Berkeley Repertory Theatre (California)
Burning Coal Theatre Company (North Carolina)
California Shakespeare Theater (California)
Center Theatre Group (California)
Childsplay (Arizona)
Cincinnati Playhouse
Cleveland Play House
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
Coterie Theatre (Missouri)
Court Theatre (Ilinois)
Creede Repertory Theatre
Curious Theatre
Dallas Theater Center
Denver Center Theatre Company
Florida Studio Theatre
Folger Theatre (Washington, D.C.)
Ford’s Theatre (Washington, D.C.)
Gamm Theatre (Rhode Island)
Geffen Playhouse (California)
Geva Theatre Center (New York)
Goodman Theatre (Illinois)
Hartford Stage (Connecticut)
HERE Arts Center (New York)
Kansas City Repertory Theatre
La Jolla Playhouse (California)
Lincoln Center Theater (New York)
McCarter Theatre Center (New Jersey)
Old Globe (California)
Penobscot Theatre Company (Maine)
People’s Light and Theatre (Pennsylvania)
Pittsburgh Public Theater
PlayMakers Repertory Company (North Carolina)
Portland Center Stage (Oregon)
Seattle Repertory Theatre (Washington)
Signature Theatre (Virginia)
South Coast Repertory (California)
Stages Theatre Company (Minnesota)
Syracuse Stage (New York)
TheatreWorks (Colorado Springs)
Theatre Aspen
Trinity Repertory Company (Rhode Island)
Two River Theater Company (New Jersey)
Virginia Stage Company (Virginia)
William Inge Center for the Arts (Kansas)
Wilma Theater (Pennsylvania)
Yale Repertory (Connecticut)

 

Germinal mourns death of actor David Kristin

The late David Kristin, right, starring in “The Well of the Saints” at Germinal Stage-Denver in 1979.

 

By John Moore

Sept. 25, 2012

Germinal-Stage Denver is mourning the death of actor David Kristin, who was also one of the early members of the Denver Center Theatre Company.

Kristin died March 31 in Massachusetts after a long bout with cancer, but word of his death has only recently reached Germinal founder Ed Baierlein, who employed Kristin back when his company maintained an ongoing company of actors. “He performed in just about every play we did from 1979 to 1982,” Baierlien said.

Kristin, who was 62 and a native of Boston, was under contract with the DCTC for one season, Baierlein said. He also starred in “The Well of the Saints,” “In the Boom Boom Room,” “Inadmissible Evidence,” “Candida,” “Moon for the Misbegotten” and more than a dozen other plays at Germinal, located on 44th Avenue just east of Federal Boulevard in northwest Denver. He was the first actor to ever play Stanley in a Germinal staging of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“He was just the nicest guy,” said Baierlein, who is himself preparing for hip-replacement surgery on Nov. 1. “He was a fun guy to be around and a good guy to work with.”

Kristin once appeared on the Bruce Willis TV series “Moonlighting,” but Baierlein said his sip of (uncredited) big-screen glory came as the young punk rocker who offers his jacket to a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator.”

Here is more on Kristin from his death announcement that appeared in the Winthrop (Mass.) Transcript.

David Kristin, a lifelong poet, avid theatergoer, photographer and passionate lover of music, was also an actor who was known for his unique, humorous, and powerful roles on local stage, national screen – and in life. Whether he was intensely delivering his poetry at the Winthrop Public Library, directing/acting in productions like “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” at the Winthrop Playmakers or silently surrendering his punk-rock jacket over to a nude Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator,” David radiated with a fullness of character, a raw sense of humor and an emotional honesty that was admired and cherished by everybody who knew and loved him. From Brooklyn to Denver to L.A. to Boston, he carried himself with the gentle swagger of an accomplished eccentric and the warmth of a sensitive extrovert with a penchant for stopping to read a poem he knew by heart to a stranger. Above all, he was a compassionate and loving father.

David is survived by his mother, Bea Krivulin of Brooklyn, NY, his three children, Wil, Jesse, and Sarah, their mother, Virginia Land, and his partner Kathy. He is peacefully buried at New Montefiore Cemetery on Long Island, N.Y. Friends and acquaintances are encouraged to send any  stories or anecdotes by email to jeskris@gmail.com

Fall at the Denver Center: No big breakthrough for local actors

Billie McBride, who will star in “The Giver,” performed with Dwayne Carrington and Sam Gregory in “Driving Miss Daisy” at the Barth Hotel this summer. Photo by Michael Ensminger

 

By John Moore

Sept. 22, 2012

The Denver Center Theatre Company on Thursday opened its 33rd season, eighth under artistic director Kent Thompson, and first since its National Theatre Conservatory grad program closed down.

The end of that highly regarded masters training program – and free talent pool for Thompson’s company – has resulted in more new faces than ever. There are 20 first-time DCTC actors in the first three shows of the 2012-13 season, which has just begun with “Fences,” “The Three Musketeers” and “The Giver.”

But while there are many recognizable local actors in those three shows,  the closing of the NTC has not resulted in the trampling-down of the doors to the local acting community as many (OK, me) had hoped. The one good thing that might come from the loss of the masters students was to have been an overdue infusion of proven local actors who wouldn’t require airfare or accommodation. But most of the newcomers this fall have come in from out of town.

There are only three local actors performing in their first official roles for the DCTC this fall, notably the long-overdue Billie McBride, who stars in “The Giver,” along with castmate Diana Dresser, who has worked at Creede Rep, the Arvada Center and elsewhere. Both have had previous understudy work with the DCTC, and Dresser appeared in the Galleria Theatre’s “Girls Only,” but neither has had a role to call her own at the DCTC before. The other new local is Samantha Long (“The Three Musketeers”), who has previously worked at Spark Theater. That group doesn’t include the many local child actors appearing in “Fences” and “The Giver,” most recognizably Alastair Hennessy, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Little Prince” in 2011. That list includes Caroline T. Bennet, the 12-year-old daughter of U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.

The cast of “The Giver,” directed by Christy Montour-Larson, is made up entirely of local actors.

The list of local first-timers is expected to grow a bit with the second cycle of plays in November. Cast lists aren’t finalized, but the two most recent Henry Award winners for acting in a drama – Benjamin Bonenfant and Jake Walker – are expected to appear in the DCTC’s “When We Are Married.”

Members of the local acting community who are returning to the DCTC this fall include Beniah Anderson, Zachary Andrews, Anthony Bianco, Jamie Ann Romero and Geoff Kent, who are all for one in “The Three Musketeers.” Bryce Alexander is a first-time assistant director (“Musketeers”).

The only new first-time local understudy is Logan Ernstthal (“The Three Musketeers), a veteran of the Creede Repertory Theatre. Returning understudies include Laurence Curry, donnie l. betts and Jada Roberts (“Fences”), as well as Mackenzie Paulsen (“Musketeers”).

The NTC’s presence still will be felt with the returns of alums Hilary Blair (a voice in “The Giver”), Richard Liccardo (“Musketeers”), Timothy McCracken (“The Giver”) and Chiara Motley (“Musketeers”). Larry Hecht, their former head of acting, will star in “Musketeers” as Captain de Tréville.

But what’s perhaps most surprising about the newly issued cast lists is how few actors you could consider core DCTC company members will be performing this fall: Sam Gregory, John Hutton and Jeanne Paulsen (“Musketeers”), as well as Kim Staunton (“Fences”) and Philip Pleasants (“The Giver”). No Kathleen Brady, Mike Hartman,  Kathleen McCall, Drew Cortese or Jeanine Serralles, for varying reasons.

One of the most intriguing names on the cast lists below is  J. Paul Boehmer, who plays the Duke of Buckingham in “Musketeers” after having performed here last season in “Heartbreak House.” Boehmer is best known for his numerous appearances in the “Star Trek” universe.

CAST LISTS

“Fences” (through Oct. 14)
Director: Lou Bellamy

Troy Maxson: DAVID ALAN ANDERSON
Jim Bono: MARCUS NAYLOR
Rose: KIM STAUNTON
Lyons: JAMES T. ALFRED
Gabriel: JEROME PRESTON BATES
Cory: CALVIN DUTTON
Raynell: NADJA BROWN/EMMI GRACE SULLIVAN (alternating)
Understudies: DONNIE L. BETTS, JADA ROBERTS AND LAURENCE CURRY

 

“The Three Musketeers” (Sept. 27-Oct 21)
Director: Art Manke

Soldiers and Citizens:
Captain de Tréville: LAWRENCE HECHT
Athos: JAMISON JONES
Porthos: MIKE RYAN
Aramis: MARTIN YUREK
D’Artagnan: BEN ROSENBAUM
Planchet: RICHARD LICCARDO
M. Bonacieux: LARRY PAULSEN
Constance (Mme. Bonacieux) SOFIA JEAN GOMEZ
Mme. de Cocquenard: JEANNE PAULSEN
Abbess: JEANNE PAULSEN
Milady, the Countess de Winter: KATIE MACNICHOL
Kitty, servant to Milady: JAMIE ANN ROMERO
The Count de Wardes: BENAIAH ANDERSON
Lubin, servant to de Wardes: JOHN TOURTELLOTTE
Jussac, a member of the Cardinal’s Guard: GEOFFREY KENT
Biscarrat, a member of the Cardinal’s Guard: BEN REZENDES
Grimaud, keeper of the Pineapple Inn: DONNY REPSHER
Bazin, keeper of the Golden Lily Inn: ANTHONY BIANCO
Executioner: J. Paul Boehmer

The Court in France:
King Louis: CHARLES PASTERNAK
Queen Anne: SARAH NEALIS
Cardinal Richelieu: JOHN HUTTON
Count de Rochefort: SAM GREGORY
Mlle. D’Astrée: SAMANTHA LONG
Mme. Chevreuse: CHIARA MOTLEY

In England:
The Duke of Buckingham: J. PAUL BOEHMER
Patrick, servant in Buckingham’s court: ZACHARY ANDREWS
Reilly: LARRY PAULSEN
John Felton: CHARLES PASTERNAK
Ensemble:
BENAIAH ANDERSON, ZACHARY ANDREWS, ANTHONY BIANCO, SOFIA JEAN GOMEZ, GEOFFREY KENT, SAMANTHA LONG, KATIE MACNICHOL, CHIARA MOTLEY,SARAH NEALIS, CHARLES PASTERNAK, JEANNE PAULSEN, LARRY PAULSEN, BEN REZENDES, DONNY REPSHER, JAMIE ANN ROMERO, JOHN TOURTELOTTE

UNDERSTUDIES
BENAIAH ANDERSON (Count de Rochefort, Jussac), ZACHARY ANDREWS (King Louis, Musketeer, John Felton, The Duke of Buckingham), ANTHONY BIANCO (D’Artagnan, Planchet), LOGAN ERNSTTHAL (Captain de Tréville, Bonacieux, Reilly, Cardinal Richelieu), GEOFFREY KENT (Porthos, Athos, Aramis), SAMANTHA LONG (Mme. de Cocquenard, Abbess), CHIARA MOTLEY (Queen Anne, Milady, the Countess de Winter), MACKENZIE PAULSEN (Mme. Chevreuse, Kitty, Mlle. D’Astree), ARTIE RAY (The Count de Wardes, Lubin, Biscarrat, Patrick, Bazin, Grimaud), JAMIE ANN ROMERO (Constance)

 

“The Giver” (Oct. 4-Nov. 18)
Director: Christy Montour-Larson

Father: TIMOTHY MCCRACKEN
Mother: DIANA DRESSER
Lily: ALIZA FASSETT/AMELIA MODESITT
Jonas: JACKSON GARSKE/ALASTAIR HENNESSY
AsherGABE KOSKINEN-SANSONE/EVAN SULLIVAN
Fiona: BRYNN GAUTHIER/ISABEL SABBAH
The Chief Elder: BILLIE MCBRIDE
The Giver: PHILIP PLEASANTS
Rosemary: CAROLINE T. BENNET
Voice of Speaker: HILARY BLAIR
(There are no understudies for Ricketson Theatre shows)

Neck injury ends Thompson’s son’s football career at Drake

From left, Alex Thompson, then 11, with Kathleen McCall and Kent Thompson as they prepared to leave Birmingham, Ala., and move to Denver in 2005. Photo by Phil Scarsbrook, Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

 

By John Moore

Sept. 21, 2012

Except for perhaps opening nights, nothing made Kent Thompson’s face light up like watching his son play football.

Check that: Nothing made Kent Thompson’s face light up like watching his son play football.

The Denver Center Theatre Company artistic director and proud papa loved talking about Alex Thompson’s progress at Cherry Creek High School, and sneaking away on weekends to catch his games. In four years, he never missed one.

Alex was a highly sought recruit, and Thompson chronicled their recruiting adventures on Twitter from Florida to Northwestern to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where Alex ultimately decided to attend college and play Division I football as a linebacker.

Thompson’s most recent Tweet remains the one he sent during a recruiting visit to Drake with Alex on Jan. 15, 2011: “Des Moines. Visiting football program at Drake with Alex. Very cold. Good school. Good program.”

Alex Thompson. Photo courtesy Drake University.

Alex suffered a career-ending neck injury during the opening kickoff of the Bulldogs’ game at Indiana State last Saturday (Sept. 15). The 6-foot-1, 230-pound sophomore linebacker lay on the field for more than 10 minutes as medical personnel attended to him. “He lost sort of all feeling,” head coach Chris Creighton told the Des Moines Register. “In his words, he thought he was paralyzed.”

Drake assistant athletic director Ty Patton told the Register’s Tommy Birch that Thompson was diagnosed with a disk slide under his C3 vertebra, effectively ending his football career. On Monday, the Register reported, Thompson returned to practice standing, wearing a neck brace, and became emotional while  addressing coaches and teammates before practice.

Kent Thompson opened his seventh season as DCTC artistic director last night (Sept. 20) with August Wilson’s “Fences.” Productions of “The Three Musketeers” and “The Giver” open in the next two weeks.

Kent Thompson, son of a Baptist minister, lost his first wife, Carol, in 1997, after a five-year battle with cancer. The couple adopted Alex from a Korean woman in 1993, when Carol was in remission. “There is always something around the corner that seems to be just kind of a miracle,” Thompson said of Alex in a 2005 interview.

Since his son was 4, Kent Thompson has raised Alex  with his second wife, DCTC actress Kathleen McCall.

McCall hails from a line of Colorado high-school football legends. Her father, Don McCall, was a coach for 34 years at Douglas County High School. Her brother, Mick McCall, is the offensive coordinator at Northwestern; and her other brother, Randy McCall, is an NCAA basketball referee and former athletic director at Cherry Creek High School.

At Cherry Creek High School, Alex received 34 “Bruin Awards” for Performance Recognition during games.

“I’m outgoing, competitive, pretty passionate person and a leader,” Alex Thompson told www.nationalunderclassmen.com in 2010. He was also very active in the community. He volunteered with the Denver Rescue Mission and The Crossing (a halfway house for homeless families) and worked to make Cherry Creek High School a hate-free zone.

“We work to make our school a no-hate school; no hate, no discrimination. I’m a facilitator, teaching and sharing leadership skills and activities on how to get to know each other,” he told the web site.  “People are scared of things that are not like them and things they don’t understand.”

For as important as football is to Alex Thompson, he let the web site know his priorities were clear.

“First  is education,” said Thompson, who aspires to be a writer.  “I plan to use football to get the best education I can. Second is football. Third is the environment.”

Kent Thompson talked about life as a football father with The Denver Post’s Bill Husted in 2009.

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

 

 

Video: Three minutes with … Pam Grier

In this new web series, journalist John Moore interviews prominent visitors to Denver. Pam Grier, graduate of Denver East High School and star of such films as Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown,” talks about her roots, women’s rights, Vietnam, working at the Denver Center Theatre Company, the work of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and more. This is … Episode 1.

Broadway series in Denver: There’s a lot to catch if you can

Joey the War Horse, and his human handlers, made an appearance with Denver Center president Randy Weeks at Thursday’s season-announcement celebration. “War Horse” comes to Denver in January 2013. Photo and video by John Moore.

By John Moore

Some years, when it comes to selling whatever New York has to offer cities across America, Denver Center president Randy Weeks must take on the unwilling role of Harold Hill: He’ll sell it, with gusto, a smile and gritted teeth — but some years that’s no easy task.

And other years, “the stars align,” said Weeks, who was positively giddy on Thursday while announcing an extended, expanded 2013-14 season that has a whopping 17 offerings, including just about every major title from the past two Broadway seasons.

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2012 Henry Awards paint the town “Red”

By John Moore

The Henry Awards painted the town “Red” on Monday night, giving the Curious Theatre  Company’s must-see staging seven awards among its eight nominations. The haul included best play, best director (Christy Montour-Larson), supporting actor (Benjamin Bonenfant) and even best ensemble, even though that play is an ensemble of two (Bonenfant and Larry Hecht).

John Logan’s charged dialogue between the manic — and egomaniacal — abstract expressionist Mark Rothko and his young whipping-boy of an assistant (Ken) was the 2010 Tony Award-winner for best play, and Curious proved to be up to the challenge of introducing the work to Denver audiences.

Sean Scrutchins’ win for best actor in ”9 Circles,” about a war vet on trial for heinous crimes committed in Iraq, brought Curious’ haul to eight awards at the Colorado Theatre Guild’s annual celebration of the best theater in the Denver metro area by its member companies.  That represented  a huge reversal from last  year, when Curious was shut out despite eight nominations.

The Arvada Center and Denver Center each won four awards Monday. The Arvada Center is well-known for its professional, Broadway-scale musicals, and its top-flight stagings of “Hairspray,” “The 1940s Radio Hour,” “Chess” and “Ragtime” helped it land the prestigious best-season award, along with plays such as “The Importance of Being Earnest” and a co-production of “Twelfth Night” with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.

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Handicapping the Henrys: Who got snubbed (“Hairspray!”)

 

 

 

By John Moore

There seems to be more grumbling than ever before about this year’s list of Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards nominations, and for some understandable reason — five companies hoarded a combined 78 percent of this year’s noms. The CTG is a member-based, dues-paying service organization, and when only 14 of your 60 members get even a single nod (23 percent), you can bet there’s going to be some pushback.

But c’mon, what is this … Field Day?

To look at the list of 106 nominees (of which I saw 102 first-hand), I’ll just come out and say that I think the 30-plus Henrys judges mostly got it right. Mostly. What they got wrong, they got really wrong, but when it comes to singling out the best of what was staged in metro Denver theater in the past year, we really are a land of haves … and those with widely varying distances yet to go.

I love the Henry Awards. But I’m not here to defend their specific nominations. The goal for any awards program, however it is devised, is to come up with a list that fairly represents the quality of work presented on local stages in the previous year. And an easy case can be made for all 106 nominees. It’s solid.

And yet, every year there are big-name companies that are inexplicably wiped off the Henrys’ nominations map – this year, that’s most evidently the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, the handicapped company PHAMALy and that perpetual Henrys doormat, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. The CSF snub particularly stings this year given that “Romeo and Juliet” and “Comedy of Errors” helped make 2011 perhaps the fest’s best season in Boulder since Philip Sneed became producing artistic director in 2006. And for the second straight year, the Henrys gave him nothing for it.

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