Photos: Opening night at the Avenue Theater’s ‘Minimum Wage’

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By John Moore
June 26, 2013

Opening No. 85: The Avenue Theater’s “Minimum Wage”: The Happy Burger Boys of “Minimum Wage” are, from left, Damon Guerrasio, Michael Bouchard, Carter Edward Smith and Keegan Flaugh. Denver’s own Smothers Brothers — Charlie and Jeff LaGreca — created a hit on the New York fringe circuit with this endearing original musical comedy that takes you into the training ground zero for happy-time burger-flipping … Jim Jones style. The result is a cross between “Fast Food Nation,” “Saturday Night Live” and “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” — with a lot of fun a capella music thrown in. The LaGrecas have turned the reins over to iconic local director Nick Sugar — but you also know Charlie as the man who has turned Comic Con into a big-time Denver happening. Also featuring Abby McInerney. And if you are hungry, The Avenue is offering a “Burger & Fries” discount ticket in partnership with the burger-flippers next door at Park & Co. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; plus 2 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 17 at 417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or the avenue’s home page. Thanks: Steven Neale, Colin P. Elliott, Brian Freeland, Nuri Heckler and Bob Wells.

 

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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):

Photos: My night at Town Hall Arts Center’s ‘Hair’

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If you are on Facebook, you can see the cast portraits above as individual photos by clicking here.

 

By John Moore
May 20, 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 copyright 2013 for www.CultureWest.Org.

Opening No. 70: Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair: The rock musical that created history by bringing experimental theater to Broadway is having a love-in in Littleton. “Hair” defines the fringe element of the ’60s generation by examining a group of young hippies struggling for personal identity wile dealing with the Vietnam War, drugs and teenage pregnancy. Songs include “Let the Sunshine In,” “Aquarius” and “Good Morning Starshine.” Brief nudity. Don’s freak; it’s like, 15 seconds. And tastefully done. Adult themes and content. Directed by Nick Sugar. Matt LaFontaine stars as Berger, with Casey Andree as Claude, Rebekah Ortiz as Jeanie, Burke Walton as Woof and Norrell Moore as Sheila. Featuring Tyrell D. Rae, Ashlie-Amber Harris, Lauren Cora Marsh, Rob Janzen, Abby M. McInerney, Tim Howard, Alejandro Roldan, Carter Edward Smith, Faith Goins, Jacob Villarreal, Jessica Evans, Noah Jordan, Rae Klapperich, Shena Mathew and Taylor Nicole Young. Through June 16 at 2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or town hall’s home page Thanks: Steven Neale, Cheryl McNab, Leslie Rutherford, cast and crew.

The following gallery is just one chapter in my ongoing photo series called “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” bringing you iconic snapshots from behind the scenes all over Colorado theater. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the actual, official photo series featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 71 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

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Matt LaFontaine … Berger … Hair.

 

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Each cast member received a gift and a note from Town Hall executive director Cheryl McNab. Rebekah Ortiz, the recipient above,  plays the pregnant Jeanie. The show features one brief nude scene at the end of the first act.

 

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Casey Andree (Claude) and Tim Howard (Tribe) are still getting used to … all … that … (fake) … hair.

 

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During the show, Rebekah Ortiz and her castmates hand out flyers asking the audience to attend a “love-in.” Backstage, the flyers have been slightly altered into opening-night afterparty invitations at Ortiz’s house.

 

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Before the show, the cast signs cards marking castmate Jessica Evans’ opening-night birthday.

 

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At pre-show musical warmups, Noah Jordan presents Jessica Evans with a birthday cake.

 

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(Please click “Page 2” below to go to the next page of our photos from our visit to “Hair”)

Anatomy of a theater director: A daily Q&A with Colorado’s creative minds

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By John Moore
May 3, 2013

My return to directing (“Always … Patsy Cline,” which closed April 27 at the PACE Center), had me revisiting a story idea I always wanted to do for The Denver Post, but never got around to: The anatomy of the theater director. So I am doing it now, while shamelessly cribbing off all the wonderful advice I am getting.

I asked some of the most prolific and respected directors in town one individual, tailored question about the craft, process and problem-solving of directing for the live theater. And two quick follow-ups for the entire panel.

Each day, I added a new director to this report. I didn’t get everyone I wanted but am so grateful for those that I did. I hope you enjoy this insight into one of the most important but seldom-discussed aspects of the creative process.

There is now a new addendum to this series to share with you. Think of Day 40 as a post-mortem on our “Anatomy of a Theater Director” series. It features a testy journalist named John Moore interviewing a churlish theater director named John Moore.

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Director No. 39: Kent Thompson.

KentThompson Most recent directing project: Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Other Desert Cities”

Upcoming directing project: World premiere of “Just Like Us,” opening Oct. 10 at the Denver Center Theatre Company.

Your question: What are one or two valuable lessons you have learned about directing over the course of your career that you wish you could go back and whisper into the ear of the young Kent Thompson who was directing his first few shows out of the gate?

I would tell young Kent: ‘Every actor works a different way. As does every designer, playwright, etc. Articulacy and persuasion are just as important as directing’ — which a lot of people underestimate in thinking that it’s telling actors what to do. The hardest part of directing most shows is ‘bringing the ship into port.’ Forcing yourself to zoom back from the intimate, imaginative and deeply personal process of rehearsal (and all your brilliant ideas!) so you can see the show anew during dress and previews. Then finding the courage to change things that are not working — even if it unsettles everyone and is risky.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Vision. Curiosity.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Know why you must direct this particular play now; inspire everyone else with your vision; describe how we will get there; then persuade everyone to collaborate, contribute, and improve the vision.
Director No. 38: Chip Walton.

chipwaltonportrait Most recent directing project: “God of Carnage,” running through June 8 at Curious Theatre (303-623-0524).

Your question: Say you just don’t like the way an actor is delivering a key line. Does a good director tell the actor exactly how you want the line delivered, so he/she knows exactly what you mean … or should the director give him/her something to think about in the hope that they will arrive at your way of thinking over time?

A good director never gives a line-reading, but always tries to help the actor get to where they think they need to be, including line delivery. I’m a big believer in technique -— so I tend to give a lot of notes about inflection, emphasis, playing through the end of lines, etc. — because I think the delivery of a line can be instrumental in how an audience receives it. This requires actors with a certain amount of training and technique, but with those tools in place, these questions of “line readings” become much easier to address. For example, I am currently working on ‘God of Carnage,’ and the last few lines of the play are very tricky, both in terms of tone and message. As we have worked on it, we have talked very little about ’emotion,’ and a lot about words like ‘feeble,’ or ‘slower,’ or ‘feathered.’ Given that we have such a strong company of actors who share a very common vocabulary, this is very common to how we work here at Curious.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Vision.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: My directing philosophy is to arrive at the rehearsal room with a strong vision, leave plenty of room for good collaborative ideas from others, and never be afraid to embrace questions, rather than always feeling like you need answers.

 

 

Director No. 37: Geoff Kent.

geoff Most recent directing project: “You Can’t Take it With You,” for TheatreWorks in Colorado Springs

Upcoming projects: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” opening June 7 at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
 in Boulder, and “Metamorphoses,” opening Aug. 16 at the Aurora Fox

Your question: “According to the Institute of Outdoor Drama, overall paid attendance at outdoor Shakespeare festivals is down more than 60 percent since 1994. So how should a director approach directing a Shakespeare play in 2013 in a way that will be true to the text, but also capture the imaginations of an audience that is drifting away?”

Tough question. We’ve been running the bard across the theater boards for more than 450 years. I think we have all heard the adage that his stories are timeless and resonate today. And I wholeheartedly agree. But cracking him open to today’s audiences is still a mean feat. I suppose on one hand, we can liven it up with technology: Ariel as a hologram projected on mist; epic scenic transformations, the ‘Macbeth’ witches chanting via Tweets. Hell, even the Royal Shakespeare Company is currently collaborating with Google for an online, interactive ‘Midsummer’ experience.

Framing the play in a setting that illuminates the themes to a modern audience helps to erase the feeling that it is outdated and stuffy. I once staged ‘Macbeth’ in the Wild West. You might set ‘The Tempest’ on the moon, or ‘The Comedy of Errors’ … with pirates! This summer, we are certainly aiming for a ‘ “Downton Abbey” meets “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” ‘ atmosphere. And next fall, I will be acting in a ‘Taming of the Shrew’ that is being billed as ‘ “Showboat” meets “Maverick” meets “Gone with the Wind.” ‘ Gimmicks, maybe. … But sexy gimmicks.

However, when the rubber hits the road with Shakespeare, it is still all about the language. And if a director and the cast can crack it open, and speak the speech clearly so that you don’t need footnotes or a cheat-sheet to follow it, the plays stand on their own merit. They still make an audience bust a gut … or weep openly.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Passion.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: To create an atmosphere in the rehearsal room where any idea can be fearlessly pursued.

 

 

Director No. 36: Robert Kramer.

kramer Most recent directing project: “Race,” the inaugural show at the new space for the Edge Theater

Upcoming projects: “Collected Stories,” with Billie McBride and Devon James; “Wonder of the World” and “It’s A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play,” all at Miners Alley Playhouse

Your question: Once rehearsals begin, what are the time-sucking traps that directors should be on the lookout for that can distract you from using your valuable time in the best possible way?

Time management is vitally important; not just because there is a limited amount of it in the rehearsal process, but also so your actors feel valued. The most popular thing a director with a big cast can do is make an incredibly specific schedule that calls actors only at the times they are needed, and then STICK TO IT! I also never run cue-to-cues with actors and always separate out the time spent with designers so that they can have my full attention and feel valued as well. In the actual process, the most dangerous derailing element is also a valuable one — conversations with actors. If you dismiss these during rehearsal, it can alienate an actor. and cause them to both share and collaborate less. But the flip-side is just as costly. So I tend to allow for a certain amount and then budget time after every rehearsal for extended talking time with actors. Then the impetus to triage these concerns falls on the actor — if it is truly important, they will stay and chat. If not, it typically was a minor or momentary issue they can work out on their own.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Vision.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: My job as a director is to show everyone at their best: The actor, the playwright, everyone.

 

 

Director No. 35: Warren Sherrill.

WARREN Most recent project: Acted in “The Seafarer” for Ashton Entertainment at the Aurora Fox.

Upcoming project: The Paragon Theatre co-founder will direct “Dust Storm” for Theatre Esprit Asia, opening May 30 at the Vintage Theatre in Aurora (303-856-7830).

Your question: Directing has moved past the rehearsal room and into your actors’ e-mail boxes. Now that technology has made communicating with your cast and crew so much easier, some directors use every second in the rehearsal room for work, and then later send out long, specific overnight notes via e-mail. I’m not so sure this is the best way to be communicating the finer points of your production. There’s no dialogue, just a directive to “change this,” or “try something else.” It seems much could be misinterpreted in the absence of tone or direct response. Do you ascribe to “notes by e-mail,” or do you prefer direct dialogue, even if that cuts into your rehearsal time?

There’s no doubt about it: E-mail has certainly changed the way we do theater. I think those of us who have day jobs can relate to the fact that e-mail has taken over a large part of everyday communication. Time-saving? Definitely. Effective? Meh.

The way I like to use e-mail when directing a show is for communication that really isn’t dialogue driven … most of this happens with the tech crew, not with the actors. Communications that can happen without having to call a special production meeting but need to be addressed, such as lists, basic “how to’s” or instructions, answers, or even questions that require a simple answer. This is where e-mail helps in the birth of a production — and I always make sure to include the WHOLE team in every email, as this ultimately saves a lot of back-tracking during crucial production meetings.

With actors, I do my absolute best not to e-mail directing notes. There will always be the little e-mail here and there, such as, “Don’t forget to take that suitcase off after scene 2” — things that can be addressed simply and quickly. To me, face-to-face communication AND DIALOGUE with your actors is the key to a good production … especially during the last few rehearsals. There is no time for misinterpretations. I want opinions, I want feedback and ideas … and from everyone involved in the show. It makes it much more of a team effort and creates the mutual sense of “ownership” that is so crucial in the end.

As for time concerns? My theory always has been that you should give yourself enough time to end on time. If rehearsal is scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m … then finish at 10 p.m. … with notes. It can be done. No excuses.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Honesty.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: My attitude is that director should eventually become an invisible character on the stage. … Only the actors and crew can see him, and that character can make or break the show.

 

Editor’s note: The following entries offer two perspectives on the same (volatile) topic.

Director No. 34: Scott RC Levy.

Scott Most recent directing project: “Other Desert Cities” for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Upcoming project: Making my Colorado acting debut as “Man in Chair” in “The Drowsy Chaperone” here at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, ooening May 9.

Your question: Acting is an inherently vulnerable endeavor. What do you do if, in the normal course of rehearsing, your actor has some kind of a breakdown. Your show hangs in the balance. How do you salvage things, and quickly?

If my work as a director brings out an “emotional breakdown” from an actor, then the actor has more serious problems that need to be dealt with, and I probably shouldn’t have hired them in the first place. I would probably tell them to suck it up — and immediately try to find a replacement. We don’t have time to deal with that nonsense, nor is it my job to serve as the actor’s babysitter.

But yes, sometimes the work is emotionally raw and honest — and sometimes what appears to be a meltdown is actually a breakthrough of some sort. If there were a situation in which an individual actor were exhibiting signs that made the piece need to be salvaged, I would simply have a private conversation with the actor to get to the root of the issue, give them some time to regroup, and then move on. Especially in a drama, what I try to remind actors is that if and when they are successful at having an emotional release, when we rehearse or perform the scene next, they can not go back and look for that same emotion, because chances are they won’t be able to access it again, as it won’t be of the moment and on the breath.

For actors, use your emotion. If you speak the words on the emotion and breathe on the emotion (instead of trying to exhale breath and throw away the emotion before speaking), then your emotion will transform into something else. It’s basic human nature. We don’t stay in one emotion for very long.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Chutzpah.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Honor the collaboration; create a fun and trust-filled room (rehearsal and performance); tell the story that has been written with thought and feeling; and never forget the audience.

 

 

Director No. 33: Jennifer McCray Rincon.

rincon Most recent directing projects: I am working on building up Visionbox, an actors’ studio and production Company in the Santa Fe Drive the arts district. Projects in development are: The American Chekhov Project; an adaptation of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”; and Crisis Actors, a new company developing training videos and live re-enactments of emergencies in schools in Colorado.

Your question: Acting is an inherently vulnerable endeavor. What do you do if, in the normal course of rehearsing, your actor has some kind of a breakdown. Your show hangs in the balance. How do you salvage things, and quickly?

So if an actor has a meltdown, I suppose I would try to remind them that personalization is about the life of the character, and that their ability to walk in someone else’s shoes is the real truth in acting. Not what is going on in their own experience. And that by putting attention on the other character on stage, their work will be more intuitively true and free. Self is paradoxically our worst enemy onstage. All attention goes on to the others, other character’s on stage. It is not about you.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Humility.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: The director is responsible first and foremost for the spine of the play. This is Harold Clurman: the spine is the human need that propels the play. Everything comes from that. The other characters’ journey or spine or superobjectives must connect to the spine of the play. This is the directors’ responsibility to define and organize. Also as Elia Kazan has said, the director translates the psychology of the play into behavior on stage. Nikos Psacharopoulos, my first teacher who convinced me to direct instead of act, always focused on the behavior of the play.

 

 

Director No. 32: Nick Sugar.

sugar2 Most recent directing projects: “Forever Plaid” for the Town Hall Arts Center, and “Noises Off” for Starkey Theatrix at the Lone Tree Arts Center

Upcoming projects: “Hair,” opening May 17 at the Town Hall Arts Center; “Minimum Wage,” opening June 21 at the Avenue Theater.

Your questions: As a director, what are some of the most common, deal-breaker mistakes you often observe actors make at an audition? As an actor, what is the most annoying thing you have observed a director do at an audition?

First question, common actor mistakes:

Perception is key. An actor needs to learn how they are perceived at an audition, as well as onstage. Several times a very talented actor will audition with the wrong material. Perhaps a song choice that is not appropriate for the style of show they are auditioning for, or auditioning for a character they would not be right for. As a director, it makes me question how they perceive themselves, and if we see don’t see eye-to-eye on a character, it could make the process of creating that character a challenge for both of us. An actor really captures my attention when I know they have researched the show, the character and the music style that I am looking for, ALL in 24 to 36 bars of music! Also, if an actor is truly not willing to accept any role in the production, they should not say they are willing. Honesty is always appreciated. An actor-and-director relationship begins at the audition process. Honesty saves a lot of time in the casting process, and it is something I remember from one audition to the next.”

Second question, common director mistakes:

The audition process is very challenging for all! I try not to focus on the director’s energy at an audition. You can’t know what is going on in his or her head. I practice the same thing I tell my students: It’s your time to do what you love. If you truly love it, and have spent a lot of time and money studying this craft, then just come into an audition as if you are walking on stage for a performance: Prepared, confident and professional. It’s your three minutes … Own it!”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Trust. I need to trust the people I cast. I need them to trust my vision.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Tell the story!

 

Director No. 31: Brian Freeland.

freeland Most recent directing project: The LIDA Project’s “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins.”

Upcoming directing project: “The Hairy Ape,” opening May 10 at the LIDA Project work | space,
2701 Lawrence St., 720-221-3821 or LIDA’s home page.

Your question: What are the most important attributes in a director who is creating a devised, original piece of theater along with an ensemble over a longer period of time than normal?

Being a director of devised work is more akin to drawing the short straw on a taser test. You are placed in the almost impossible task of pushing an ensemble to create theatrical work in new and often incredibly risky ways, while always providing a stable, grounded, environment to create. In the void of a formal theater structure, the role of director in devised work is equal parts playwright, dramaturge, audience, producer and critic. There is no “answer” to devised work, no previous performance, no “right way.” Being able to remove the fear is the most important attribute.

Working with an ensemble on devised work over a sustained period of time only can make the language of the work stronger. From a director’s eye, the ensemble only shows its strengths, proclivities, bad habits, etc., over time. It is only from creating a long and sustained body of work that an ensemble can truly work together and a director of such work can get at the true core.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Devotion.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Artists can never expect growth from an audience if they have not made a dedication to their own growth.

 

Director No. 30: Anthony Powell.

Anthony Powell 0910 B&W Most recent directing project: For the last few years, I’ve been operating in full-tilt “Jack-of-all-Trades” mode with Stories on Stage, which is a joy.

Upcoming project: In August, I’ll begin directing “Death of a Salesman” for the Denver Center Theatre Company. The offer came not too long ago like a bolt out of the blue, and needless to say, I am one unbelievably grateful puppy.

Your question: It’s tech week: The hours are long. The work is tedious. You’re being asked to make major decisions every 10 seconds. Everyone wants a piece of you. You seem to be doing everything except what you really want to be doing, which is working with the actors on the play. From mindset to what food you pack … What is your tech week survival strategy?

I’ve always been a bit of a weirdo among my peers because I actually love techs. They’re a hoot. You get a whole slew of cool new toys to play with (like sets and lights and sound); members of the artistic team who haven’t been in the rehearsal hall on a daily basis are suddenly running around all the time, infusing the show with their vision and energy and excitement; and — best of all — as director, you get to take a little vacation from the play and the actors and concentrate on other things for a while. Even more importantly, the actors get to take a little vacation from YOU. Techs can be goofy fun and a refreshing time for everybody.

Which is not to say that I don’t experience those idiotic tech moments when one starts thinking like Captain Queeg, obsessing about strawberries and duplicate keys, and wondering why everyone is trying to “RUIN MY PLAY?!?” That kind of ego-driven nuttiness is a function of not getting enough rest, and my only solution for it is to take some deep breaths and remember that this isn’t my play, it’s the team’s play, and that now might be a good time to concentrate on helping other people instead of worrying about oneself.

Besides, rolling those silver ball-bearings around in my hand all the time has a way of freaking people out.

Whenever I start heading down to Crazytown during techs, I try (… TRY!) to recall something my mentor Donovan Marley was always fond of saying: “The best idea in the room is the best idea in the room is the best idea in the room, whether it happens to be your idea — or someone else’s.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Openness.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: Whenever possible, say, “Yes, let’s try that,” to members of your team — instead of, “No, that won’t work,” because when you can hazard saying “yes” on a fairly regular basis, the good ideas begin to flow, and the less effective ones commence falling out of orbit under their own weight.

 

Director No. 29: A. Lee Massaro.

ALM Most recent directing project: “On an Average Day,” at Curious Theatre

Upcoming directing project: “Dividing the Estate,” opening Tuesday at the Arvada Center

Your question: What’s one practice or method or exercise or advice or anecdote you ever personally observed from a director you learned from, and it affected you so greatly, you incorporated it into the way you have directed ever since?

I assisted the wonderful director James Nicola when I first came to town 20 years ago. (Is that possible?) I remember an actor getting emotional and dropping his head. James asked the actor to look up instead so that the audience could see “the symphony in his eyes.” I find actors have a tendency to focus downward and go “internal” when we most need to experience that symphony, so I often quote this advice. It’s a simple thing, but it often makes the difference between the audience merely watching the action — and being moved by it.”

In one word: What’s the most important personal attribute a good director should have? Humility.

In one sentence, describe your directing philosophy: I like to collaborate with great people, and strike a balance between rigor and play in the pursuit of truthful moments.

 

 

(Please click “Page 2” below to go to the next page of our series, “Anatomy of a Theater Director”)

Photos and video podcast: Re-opening of Equinox’s ‘Bat Boy, the Musical’

Here’s our video podcast reporting from the “re-opening” of “Bat Boy, the Musical” on March 8, 2013.

 

By John Moore
March 5, 2013

Opening No. 38, “Bat Boy, the Musical”: Let’s call this one a “re-opening.” On Feb. 20, after a sold-out opening weekend at the Bug Theatre, the cast and crew of the Equinox Theatre Company’s “Bat Boy” learned that their star, Adam Perkes, had died in a Glenwood Springs hotel room. Within 10 days of this devastating turn of events, and with the blessing of Adams family, “Bat Boy” re-opened on March 8 after award-winning actor Nick Sugar agreed to step in and “fill in,” allowing the show to go on.  Remaining performances at 7:30 p.m. March 15 and 16 at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinoxtheatredenver.com. Also featuring Emily Macomber, James O’Hagan-Murphy, Rachelle Wood, Tom Auclair, Devin Bustamante, Tim Campbell, Lauren Cora Marsh, Abby McInerney, James Crapes, Dylan Phibbs, Arthur Pierce, Alex Ambard, Chelsea Winslow, Savannah Lake and Linda Swanson Brown. Photo by John Moore for CultureWest.Org. Thanks to Deb Flomberg, Colin Roybal, Ryan Mattingly, Alex Weimer, cast and crew. Read more on the story here.

Here’s our story on the death of Adam Perkes
Here’s our story on the company’s decision to re-open the show with Nick Sugar
Here’s our video podcast visiting the re-opening night of “Bat Boy”

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 39 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

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

 

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The rest of the “Bat Boy” run has been dedicated to late actor Adam Perkes.

 

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Nick Sugar describes himself as Adam Perkes’ “fill-in.” Here, he is shown having his Bat Boy make-up and prosthetics applied by Evan Cannon amid the chaos of the cramped Bug Theatre backstage.

 

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Busted: I caught actor James O’Hagan-Murphy putting water — water! — in drunk vet Dr. Parker’s flask. There are no method actors anymore.

 

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Rachelle Wood prepares to go on as Shelley Parker.

 

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The scene from the stage as the cast gathers for warm-up exercises.

 

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There are higher-quality images from my evening with the Equinox crew, but none that better capture the love and camaraderie that was evident in the moments before the first audience was let into the Bug Theatre since their original Bat Boy, Adams Perkes, passed away.

 

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 Director Colin Roybal.

 

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Devin Bustamante, Abby McInerney and Lauren Cora Marsh.

 

(Please click below to go to the next page of photos from our night with “Bat Boy, the Musical.”)

Equinox, Sugar to honor Perkes by resuming “Bat Boy” performances

Nick Sugar starred with Jenny Hecht in a 2004 production of "Bat Boy, the Musical" for Theatre Group.

Nick Sugar starred with Jenny Hecht in a 2004 production of “Bat Boy, the Musical” for Theatre Group.

 

By John Moore
Feb. 26, 2013

Adam Perkes was expected to star in the irreverent musical "Bat Boy," through March 9 at the Bug Theater opposite Rachelle Wood.

Adam Perkes died after the opening weekend of “Bat Boy.” He is shown with Rachelle Wood.

No one can ever know for certain what the “right” thing to do is when faced with sudden and unexpected tragedy. But after a period of reflection, the Equinox Theatre Company has decided the best way for it to honor Adam Perkes, the late star of its current staging of “Bat Boy, the Musical,” is to resume the production that opened just four days before Perkes’ death.

And in a remarkable display of communion within the Colorado theater community, acclaimed theater artist Nick Sugar has agreed to join the aggrieved cast and step back into one of his signature roles.

“I think it is important to honor Adam, and his struggle,” said Sugar. “I don’t think anyone should ever have that much pain.”

Sugar won a 2004 Westword Best of Denver Award for his performance with Theatre Group as the misunderstood half-human, half-bat boy named Edgar. Five years later, Sugar directed an irreverent staging of the tabloid-inspired musical for Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center, starring Mark Lively.

Perkes was found dead Feb. 20 in a Glenwood Springs hotel room, after what authorities say appears to have been an overdose of drugs and alcohol. The production was placed on indefinite hiatus, but the cast and creative team have decided to return with performances on Fridays and Saturday nights March 8-9 and 15-16.

“If we walked away now, we would only look back on this whole experience with nothing but pain in our hearts,” said Equinox producer Deb Flomberg. “Instead, by coming together and creating art, we are finding a way to triumph over that pain.”

Perkes’ father, Brent, expressed both delight and relief today on hearing the news that “Bat Boy” will live on. “We were feeling bad about that, so my family will be happy to hear that,” he said after his son’s funeral service.

During the ceremony, Perkes’ uncle, David Bowman, read a message that Adam’s mother, Brenda, wanted delivered specifically to the “Bat Boy” family:

Adam’s family wants wants you to know, and he wants you to know, that he was totally committed to finishing the musical, and he was totally committed to everyone involved with it. He had every intention of seeing it through, despite the fact that he was really struggling with his illness. His trip to the Hot Springs was to try to relax and get a grip on the severe (panic) attacks that have been plaguing him. He simply made a poor decision in trying to stop an attack. Adam would be, and is, deeply sorry.”

Exiting the church, Brenda Perkes stopped and waved to the section of the church where Adam’s theater friends were seated. “Thank you for coming,” she silently mouthed as she walked out.

Flomberg and director Colin Roybal agonized over the decision to continue the show, then decided, with input from the cast, that if “Bat Boy” were to return, it would be best to have an accomplished actor with previous experience in the role. Sugar has won 10 Denver Post Ovation Awards and five Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards as actor, director or choreographer.

“He’s incredibly good at what he does,” Flomberg said.

sugarquote

Sugar understands all too well what the Perkes and Equinox families are going through. Sugar has lost three siblings, two in their 20s. His father died in 2000, his mother two months ago on Christmas day. And just last night, he had to put down his canine companion of nearly 15 years, Zucci.

“Anyone who has ever loved and lost knows that grief,” Sugar said. “I think it’s going to be a very healing process for all of us.”

Flomberg approached Sugar even though he has no personal affiliation with her small theater company. But Sugar, she said, understands the importance of the time-honored theater maxim: “The show must go on.”

“He doesn’t know us, and he doesn’t know me,” Flomberg said. “He’s used to working in bigger theaters with bigger budgets, so for him to step into our world and help us — it speaks to his giving nature, and it speaks to the giving nature of this community as a whole. The theater community has proven time and again that we are here to support each other.”

Sugar also expressed a desire to help in any way he can the two dozen or so cast and crew who are putting on “Bat Boy,” including Flomberg, who, as producer, had a significant financial investment in the show.

“This whole company of artists is hurting,” said Sugar, “and as a fellow artist, I feel an honor and a duty to do whatever I can to help them.”

Flomberg admitted it is with a sense of both awe and trepidation that she goes back into rehearsals tonight. No matter who assumed the role of Edgar, it will be impossible for anyone on her team to separate the character from the actor who originally played the role, if only for one weekend.

In the story, the town veterinarian brings the Bat Boy to his home, where he is accepted as a member of the family and taught to act like a “normal” boy. But in a wink at “Frankenstein,” the narrow-minded people of the small Virginia town eventually turn on him. The vet’s daughter (played by Rachelle Wood) sings the lyrics, “He never knew what he was worth. I could not stop his fall. But in his precious hours on Earth, he taught us all: Let go the fears to which you cling. And through your tears, you’ll hear him sing.”

Flomberg quoted those very words at Perkes’ wake on Saturday night.

“There are very close parallels between Edgar and Adam,” Flomberg said. “The message of the show is about a young man who is rejected by society and is ultimately very alone. In essence, that was Adam, too.”

Moving forward does not exactly feel right, she said. But moving forward with Sugar does not exactly feel wrong.

“It’s exciting, in a way,” she said. “It’s flattering that he would do this.”

Perkes will be buried beside his infant sister Natasha in Hyde Park, Utah, on Saturday, March 2.

The family has asked that memorial donations be made in Perkes’ name to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) at 1100 Filmore St., Denver, 80206.

Equinox’s “Bat Boy, the Musical”: Ticket information

Showtimes: No performances March 1-2; then 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays March 8-9 and 15-16

Location: At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St.

Information and ticket sales: 720-984-0781 or the Bug Theatre’s home page

Nick Sugar directed the Town Hall Arts Center's 2009 staging of "Bat Boy," starring Mark Lively.  A 2005 production in Dillon starred Joshua Blanchard.

Nick Sugar directed the Town Hall Arts Center’s 2009 staging of “Bat Boy,” starring Mark Lively. A 2005 production in Dillon starred Joshua Blanchard.

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Bobby G’s: Denver Center joins national awards program honoring high-school theater

Fairview High School's 2011 production of "All Shook Up."

Fairview High School’s 2011 production of “All Shook Up.”

 

By John Moore
Feb. 26, 2013

Robert Garner

Robert Garner

Denver Center Attractions has embarked on a major, ongoing commitment to honoring the best in Colorado high-school musical theater by joining up with the National High School Musical Theater Awards program based out of New York.

A team of local expert adjudicators is already scouring productions being staged this semester by more than 20 participating public and private high schools in the metro area. The highest score recipients will receive the first-ever Bobby G Awards, named after pioneering local theater producer Robert Garner, who died last year. The parent national awards program is known as “The Jimmys,” after Broadway impresario James M. Nederlander.

The categories will be patterned after Broadway’s Tony Awards, with honors going to best actors, actresses, directors, student designers and many more. The nominees will be announced in early May, and the winners at a gala awards ceremony May 30 that will include performances by all the nominated “best productions.” The students named outstanding actor and actress by the Bobby G’s will then move on to the Jimmys — otherwise known as the NHSMTAs (whew!), a week-long awards program that runs from June 26 through July 2 in New York. In all, more than 50,000 high-school students participate in the national awards program each year.

Denver Center for the Performing Arts president Randy Weeks said the Bobby G’s are a fitting way of honoring Garner, who founded what later became Denver Center Attractions (the Denver Center’s Broadway division).

“Sending two kids to New York for excellence in musical theater?” Weeks said, “I mean, how much would he have loved that?”

Normally, a newly added region must be phased in for one year before its winners advance to nationals. But Denver is being fast-tracked, Weeks said, in part because of the credibility that the Denver Center brings to its regional program. That is thanks in part, Weeks said, to local actor David Cates, who brought the idea to him when he moved here from California. Cates, one half of the “He Said/She Said” local theater critics team, had been a judge in California’s awards program, and proposed its expansion into Colorado via Denver Center Attractions. Weeks since has hired Cates on a contract basis to administer the awards locally.

David Cates

David Cates


“He has direct experience managing one of these programs,” Weeks said, “so he brings us right up to speed with everyone else relatively quickly.”

The launch of the Bobby G’s dovetails nicely with Denver Center Theatre Company artistic director Kent Thompson’s new playwriting program that he is bringing into area high schools. “This is all coming together rather nicely,” Weeks said. “We are doing what we are supposed to be doing: Promoting and exposing the high-school kids to theater.”

The first round of Bobby G adjudicators are made up of a wide variety of professional theater artists, including Weeks himself, as well as acclaimed area actors Nick Sugar, Barbra Andrews, Michael Stricker, Scott Rathbun, Matt LaFontaine and Thadd Krueger; Channel 12 arts host Eden Lane (“In Focus with Eden Lane”); the “He Said/She Said” team of David Cates and Kateri McRae; Northglenn Youth Theatre director Kim Jongejan; and myself (founder of the arts web site CultureWest.Org, former theater critic at The Denver Post and creator of a lamented web site dedicated to all things Colorado high-school theater called “Standing O”).

“With the arts in schools receiving less and less funding, the Bobby G’s can only help encourage those amazing students who are doing the extra work it takes to participate in the performing arts,” said Lane, who wishes there had been a similar program when she was in high school. “In my day, a program like this certainly would have solidified the idea in my mind that this can be more than a hobby — that you can have a career in the performing arts.”

That the new program is being administered by a major regional theater company such as the Denver Center — “and a Tony-winning company at that,” she said, “certainly gives this new program all the credibility it needs.”

A major component of the Bobby G’s program is feedback. Every adjudicator numerically scores each school’s achievement in various categories but also offers detailed, constructive reaction and advice on all aspects of every production, using standards set by the national program, as well as their own professional experience. Participating schools will eventually receive each adjudicator’s comments, praise and constructive criticism — all designed to recognize success and encourage future growth.

“This is serious stuff,” said Weeks.

It is hoped that the Bobby G’s will help counter the decades-old disproportion in attention and value our society has placed on those kids who excel in sports over those who pursue careers in the performing arts.

“That has been an ongoing consideration for decades, but I think things are changing,” Weeks said. “Because of social media, the kids in the drama department have the ability to find their own voices now. The Bobby G’s is just another way of supporting the kids who don’t always get the attention.”

National awards president Van Kaplan said Denver Center Attractions is a welcome addition to the National High School Musical Theater Awards. “As one of the country’s foremost professional theaters, it is uniquely positioned to be a leader in supporting young performers and the outstanding work taking place in high schools in Colorado,” he said.

While this year’s lineup of participating schools is set, interested high schools may apply for future Bobby G Awards consideration by going to www.BobbyGAwards.org. The registration fee is $200 per school. All fees go directly back into funding and growing the program.

 

(Please click below to go to the next page and read more about the national awards.)

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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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.

 

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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

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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“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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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 ‘Noises Off’ in Lone Tree

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 The opening night of “Noises Off” at the Lone Tree Arts Center had a well-known guest, and not just local actor Carla Kaiser Kotrc, left. Joining director Nick Sugar (center) was film and TV star John Carroll Lynch, a Denver native and Regis High grad who performed in plays and musicals with Sugar (and me) for a former citywide theater group called the Original Scene, which operated for 20 years near 19th Avenue and Logan Street. Lynch’s credits  include “Fargo,” “Shutter Island,” “Gran Torino,” “Crazy Stupid Love,” “The Drew Carey Show,” two summers with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and, now, the new NBC  drama “Do No Harm.”

By John Moore
Feb. 1, 2013

Here are some bonus images from my night visiting the cast of “Noises Off,” presented by Starkey Productions at the Lone Tree Arts Center. Michael Frayn’s celebrated farce (with its many, sardines) features Lauren Bahlman, Trina Magness, Michael Bouchard, Kurt Brighton, Evan Marquez, Ron Welch, Anna Gibson, Rachel Bouchard and Scot Cahoon. It is directed by Nick Sugar. Through Feb. 10 at 10075 Commons St., just west of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue in Lone Tree. 720-509-1000 or www.LoneTreeArtsCenter.org. Photo by John Moore of www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks to Lisa Rigsby Peterson, Mathew Kepler, Lindsey Benge and Katie Malties.

To see the full, official 2013 photo series bringing you one intimate, iconic snapshots from 18 Colorado opening nights (so far), click here.

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


 

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Members of the Lone Tree city council and other invited guests, below, are given a tour of the Lone Tree Arts Center facilities before the opening performance.

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Photo gallery: My night backstage at Town Hall’s ‘Forever Plaid’

By John Moore
Jan. 11, 2010

Here are some images from my night visiting the cast of the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center’s “Forever Plaid” just before their first performance in front of an audience. Starring Tim Howard, Barret Harper, Mark Middlebrooks and Jacob Villareal. Through Feb. 10 at 2450 W. Main St., 303-794-2787 or www.townhallartscenter.com. Photos by John Moore of www.CultureWest.Org. Thanks: Nick Sugar, Steven Neale, Leslie Rutherford.

To see the our full photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 27 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

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

 

Mark Middlebrooks, Tim Howard, Barret Harper  and Jacob Villareal do vocal warmups where they find the best acoustics - in a backstage stairwell art Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by John Moore of www.CultureWest.Org.

Mark Middlebrooks, Tim Howard, Barret Harper and Jacob Villareal do vocal warmups where they find the best acoustics – in a backstage stairwell at Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by John Moore.

 

The actors' entrance to the Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by John Moore of www.CultureWest.Org.

The actors’ entrance to the Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by John Moore.

 

Donna Debreceni and the crew prepare to take the stage. Photo by John Moore.

Donna Debreceni and the crew prepare to take the stage. Photo by John Moore.

 

Music director Debra Donnaceni. Er, Donna Debreceni. Photo by John Moore.

Music director Debra Donnaceni. Er, Donna Debreceni. Photo by John Moore.

 

Photo by John Moore.

Photo by John Moore.

 

The cast prepares for its first appearance in front of an audience. Photo by John Moore.

The cast prepares for its first appearance in front of an audience. Photo by John Moore.

 

Cast member Mark Middlebrooks has a pre-show shave. Photo by John Moore.

Cast member Mark Middlebrooks has a pre-show shave. Photo by John Moore.

 

Director Nick Sugar offers some pre-show advice. Photo by John Moore.

Director Nick Sugar offers some pre-show advice. Photo by John Moore.

 

Jacob Villareal, Tim Howard and Barret Harper go over a number before the audience is allowed into the Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by John Moore.

Jacob Villareal, Tim Howard and Barret Harper go over a number before the audience is allowed into the Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by John Moore.

 

The cast goes over a number before the audience is allowed into the Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by John Moore.

The cast goes over a number before the audience is allowed into the Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by John Moore.

 

Production stage manager Steven Neale. Photo by John Moore.

Production stage manager Steven Neale. Photo by John Moore.

 

Director Nick Sugar offers some final suggestions before the first audience is allowed into the Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by John Moore.

Director Nick Sugar offers last-minute suggestions before the audience is allowed into the Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by John Moore.

 

Director Nick Sugar offers last-minute suggestions before the audience is allowed into the Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by John Moore.

Director Nick Sugar offers last-minute suggestions before the audience is allowed into the Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by John Moore.

 

At the Town Hall Arts Center, patrons who can't take the stairs go up by elevator. They then enter the theater through the backstage area, sometimes encountering cast members such as Tim Howard of "Forever Plaid." Photo by John Moore.

At the Town Hall Arts Center, patrons who can’t take the stairs go up by elevator. They then enter the theater through the backstage area, sometimes encountering cast members such as Tim Howard of “Forever Plaid.” Photo by John Moore.

 

The first audience for Town Hall's "Forever Plaid" begins to gather. Photo by John Moore.

The first audience for Town Hall’s “Forever Plaid” begins to gather. Photo by John Moore.

 

Tim Howard makes some last-minute adjustments before taking the stage. Photo by John Moore

Tim Howard makes some last-minute adjustments before taking the stage. Photo by John Moore

 

Patrons depart the performance by elevator backstage at the Town Hall Arts Center, escorted by Drew Kowalkowski. Photo by John Moore.

Patrons depart the performance by elevator backstage at the Town Hall Arts Center, escorted by Drew Kowalkowski. Photo by John Moore.

 

Director Nick Sugar offers feedback after the first performance before an audience. Photo by John Moore.

Director Nick Sugar offers feedback after the first performance before an audience. Photo by John Moore.

 

Long after the audience has left, the cast decides to try one more run-though of the final number, "Love is a Many Splendored Thing." Photo by John Moore.

Long after the audience has left, the cast decides to try one more run-though of the final number, “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.” Photo by John Moore.

 

Long after the audience has left, the cast decides to try one more run-though of the final number, "Love is a Many Splendored Thing," with director Nick Sugar. Photo by John Moore.

Long after the audience has left, the cast decides to try one more run-though of the final number, “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” with director Nick Sugar. Photo by John Moore.

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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