Magic Moments’ rotund roster includes some big-name local actors

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It is not uncommon for more than 200 people to participate in the annual Magic Moments pop-rock revue. This year’s crew includes some established names in the local theater community, including Amy Board, Sarah Rex, Ronni Gallup, Keegan Flaugh, Mark Shonsey, Dana Hart Lubeck, Donna Debreceni, David Nehls and others.

 

By John Moore
March 19, 2013

For 30 years, Magic Moments has presented an annual pop-music revue that integrates disabled and able-bodied cast members of all abilities, ages and experience levels. Those revues have now raised more than $200,000 for organizations that provide services for people with special needs.

The cast is made up of nearly 200 performers — and that is actually (and intentionally) down from an all-time high of about 250 a few years ago. But while Magic Moments is no longer an all-comers affair, it certainly remains open to most. It integrates a whole fleet of single-digit-aged moppets alongside some of the most respected members of the local acting community, as well as dozens of people with a wide variety of physical and mental challenges. Some of them might be detectable to the outside eye; others are quadriplegics. The belief at Magic Moments is that as long as you can move your eyes, you can act. And sing. And dance. That’s right — a team of up to eight choreographers make sure every cast member is included in at least four big group numbers, and here a wheelchair is no detriment to dancing. It is rather the tool that allows dancing to happen.

The rewards of participating in, or just attending, this completely singular theatrical experience, are both evident and manifest. But with a cast that is so varied and so large, it has been difficult for Magic Moments to find its place within the context of the larger Colorado theater community.

Magic Moments has much in common with the nationally recognized Phamaly Theatre Company, a troupe of all “differently abled” actors who present year-round musicals, dramas, stand-up comedy and, starting this year, a holiday offering. The companies share some of the same actors. Molly Nash has a big solo in this year’s Magic Moments revue, the Broadway showtune, “I’m Shy!” Phamaly audiences will again recognize longtime Phamaly favorite Ed Reinhardt and others.

But Magic Moments is different in at least two significant ways: Phamaly primarily presents known titles such as “The Elephant Man” and the upcoming summer musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.” The madman behind Magic Moments, who goes only by the name of K.Q., goes to great pains each year to thread the dozens of rock, pop and Broadway songs together with an original and recognizable narrative, some recurring characters and an occasionally discernible plot. This is the first year Magic Moments is reprising a title from the past. It is bringing back “Spirit and Soul,” which is set within the context of a traveling revival show where a terrible series of events tests the faith of all involved.

The score is always subject to tinkering and modernization. This year’s production features songs from “Spring Awakening,” “The Wiz,” “Evita” and rock artists Queen, Kenny Loggins, The Call, Bare Naked Ladies, The Who and Lyle Lovett. There is even a number by recent Grammy darlings fun. (yep, lower-case and period included). A few years ago, the indie-cool Decemberists made it into the show.

But the big difference between Phamaly and Magic Moments is that you see the able-bodied performing right alongside those who are not. And while Phamaly prides itself on producing some of the best theater by any company of any skill level, Magic Moments is peppered with housewives and middle-aged parents who have no greater theatrical ambitions than these. They just want to perform on the same stage with their kids. What really makes Magic Moments … well, magic, is what happens when you immerse all of these disparate people into a common creative cause over many months. That can’t help but change the lives of all involved. That’s what makes it, in my book, among the most legitimate theatrical experiences you can have on any stage … or from any seat.

Any while Magic Moments has battled against the “snob” factor for decades — “Is it real theater or not?” — it will be tough to argue against the many well-known and highly regarded actors from the “legit” theater community who are performing this year: We’re talking Amy Board, Sarah Rex, Ronni Gallup, Keegan Flaugh, Mark Shonsey, Ken Paul and Keith Hershman. This year’s musical directors are award-winning Donna Debreceni and Arvada Center hot-shot David Nehls. There isn’t a theater company in Colorado that wouldn’t take that group.

If you don’t know who those people are, no matter. You will after you see “Spirit and Soul.”

Spirit and Soul” ticket information:
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday (March 21 and 22); 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday (March 23); 2 p.m. Sunday (March 24) 
At the Anschutz Family Theatre at Kent Denver School, 4000 E. Quincy Ave., Englewood, 303-607-7555 or buy tickets here.

Some of my previous Magic Moments coverage:

My Magic Moments video podcast from 2011

2010: Magic Moments pays actors in a different kind of currency
2009: Wheelchair dancers ready for some rockin’ and rollin’
2008: Magic Moments is a stage for all

Photos from my visit to Saturday’s “Spirit and Soul” rehearsal:
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The mysterious director known only as K.Q. commands respect by wielding a soft … teddy bear.

 

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Sarah Rex (Arvada Center’s “Legally Blonde”) is one of the many respected actors in the Colorado theater community lending their services to Magic Moments’ annual fundraising revue.

 

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Amy Board, who won a Denver Post Ovation Award for her work in the Arvada Center’s “Les Miserables” as Eponine, was last seen starring in the Aurora Fox’s “Xanadu.” She plays a cancer patient in “Spirit and Soul.”

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For years, Ronni Gallup has both choreographed numbers for Magic Moments shows (along with her mother, Debbie Stark), and also provided sign-language interpretation at performances through her company, Hands on Productions. She played Lola in “Damn Yankees” and Nickie in “Sweet Charity” for the Town Hall Arts Center. But this year marks her first performance in a Magic Moments revue. She wanted to play alongside her two young sons.

 

(Please click “Page 2” below to go to the next page of photos from this year’s Magic Moments rehearsal)

Arvada Center joins Broadway bigshots, Perez Hilton on “Carols for a Cure” CD

By John Moore

Nov. 29, 2012

The Arvada Center has the distinction of being one of only two regional theaters in the country invited to join current Broadway companies performing on the 14th annual “Carols for a Cure” double-CD, a mix of holiday classics and original material benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Right alongside the likes of Ricky Martin, Cyndi Lauper and Perez Hilton, there is the Arvada Center’s cast of the just-opened “Miracle on 34th Street” singing “Jolly Old St. Nicholas.”

The 2012 CD features the Broadway companies of “Newsies,” “Evita,” “Once,” “Peter and the Starcatcher” and “Jersey Boys,” among others. Perez Hilton is currently making his professional theatrical debut performing in the off-Broadway revue “NEWSical The Musical.”

“Carols for a Cure” can be purchased for $20 at any performance of “Miracle on 34th Street,” running through Dec. 23 at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. (720-898-7200 or the arvada center’s home page). Start times vary, but the show, a musical variation of the classic film with music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson (“The Music Man”),  generally begins at either 6:30 or 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; as well as 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. Check the web site for exact dates and times.

The CD also can be ordered for $23 online at broadwaycares.org or by calling 212-840-0770, ext. 238, from 8 a.m. -3 p.m. MST.

Lauper, who wrote the music for “Kinky Boots,” opening on Broadway this spring with Denver’s Andy Kelso and Annaleigh Ashford in the cast, sings “Blue Christmas” on the CD. Martin, who plays Che in “Evita,” is joined by Elana Roger (Evita), Michael Cerveris (Peron) and Max von Essen (Magaldi) singing “We Three Kings/Los Reyes Magos.” Broadway legend Chita Rivera joins Stephanie J. Block, Jim Norton, and others from “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” singing “Good Queen Wenceslas.” Hugh Panaro (“The Phantom of the Opera”) sings with his castmates on an original song titled “Outside the Box.”

The “Carols for a Cure” series has raised more than $3 million since 1999, providing support and care for those living with AIDS, as well as lending support to women’s health issues. A portion of the proceeds will go directly to Denver’s Project Angel Heart, which provides meals to homebound AIDS patients.

“Carols for a Cure” song list:

Disc 1:
LOS TRES REYES MAGOS- Evita featuring Ricky Martin and Elena Roger
CALL YOUR MOM- Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE ALONE ON CHRISTMAS- Chaplin
FOR MY CHILD’S FIRST CHANUKAH- Lisa Yaeger
GOD REST YE, MERRY GENTLEMEN- Newsies
GOOD QUEEN WENCESLAS- The Mystery of Edwin Drood
THE WEXFORD CAROL- Once
DOMINICK THE DONKEY- Peter and the Starcatcher
OUTSIDE THE BOX- The Phantom of the Opera
THE WREATH OF KINDNESS- The Lion King
BLUE CHRISTMAS- Kinky Boots featuring Cyndi Lauper

Disc 2:
ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH- Bring it On
A PEREZ HILTON CHRISTMAS – featuring Perez Hilton, NEWSical The Musical
NYE@THE VENUS CLUB- Rock of Ages
THE BIRTHDAY OF A KING- Mary Poppins
SOUL CAKE- Mamma Mia!
KEEP THE HOME FIRES BURNING- Rebecca
O HOLY NIGHT- Wicked
HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING- I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change at the John W. Engeman Theatre
JOLLY OLD ST. NICHOLAS- Miracle on 34th Street at The Arvada Center
HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE BABY/GLORY TO THE NEWBORN KING- Jersey Boys

Another way to support those in need this holiday season:

Support KUSA entertainment reporter Kirk Montgomery’s second CD benefiting 9Cares/Colorado Shares: “Opie Gone Bad – Another Christmas.”

The CD featuring Grammy winner Dianne Reeves, American Idol’s Ace Young and Dianna DeGarmo, as well as Chris Daniels, Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee, actor Pam Grier, members of Phamaly Theatre Company and Kirk himself.

The CD is available at all King Soopers stores.

 

 

 

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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