Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bill's Best...A Look Back at 2012

Bill’s Best of 2012.

I created my “Theater Colorado” blog in March 2012, so I’ve been writing reviews of Denver area theater productions for nearly a year.  I’ve posted 32 reviews, which is far short of all the available theater out there.  I’m shooting for 50 reviews in 2013, but even that number is only a sampling of the theater buffet in Colorado.

In any event, I thought (granted, not exactly an original thought) that I should summarize the best of the shows I actually saw and reviewed this year.  This should not be taken as the “best” of Denver theater this year; it’s the “best” of what I saw this year.  It’s one person’s opinion, hopefully as valid as the next person’s opinion.

So here it is…”Bill’s Best of 2012.”

Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Dramas

A very difficult category; three productions touched me deeply.  It’s like picking your favorite child.  It can’t be done.  So here are the three outstanding productions that I’ll never forget.  They are in no particular order.  Each could stand alone at the top of the list.

1.  “A Small Fire.”  The Edge Theater Company.

The script is a powerful statement about love, loss, and facing our mortality and preserving our relationships.  Kirsten Brandt’s performance, as she literally loses her senses before our eyes, was stunning.  Paul Page played her perplexed, compassionate husband with unusual delicacy.  “A Small Fire” was an unforgettable evening of theater.

2.  “The Laramie Project.”  Evergreen Players.

The tragedy of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder in 1998 is compelling; the Evergreen Players made it moving and heartbreaking.  Director Angela Astle put together a fabulous cast and made the most of their many talents.  Each actor seamlessly played multiple characters, using simple props and costume variations for each character.  They brought themselves, and the audience to tears as they told the story of an unforgettable hate crime.

3.  “9 Circles.”  Curious Theatre Company.

Bill Cain’s script takes us to the heart of darkness…the March, 2006 massacre at Mahmudiyah Iraq.  The horror of war is brought home in this dark look into the soul of each of us.  How can we endure, much less justify, the atrocities committed in our name?  We can’t.  And that is an ugly, repugnant reality we rarely have to acknowledge.  “9 Circles” delivered that repugnant reality to us.  And I, for one, was both horrified and grateful for the experience.

Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Musical

The Who’s Tommy.”  Littleton Town Hall Arts Center.

The perfect Pinball Wizard.  Where better to see a classic rock opera than in a small venue?  Think great music, played loudly, costumes ranging from flashy to trashy, and a talented cast of singers, dancers, and actors.  Mix in a smoking live band directed by Donna Debreceni, and you’ve got a rocking great evening of musical theater.

Honorable Mentions

Avenue Q,” Boulder’s Dinner Theatre. 

Spring Awakening,” Ignite Theatre.

Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Comedy

Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche.”  Square Product Theater Company.

Laugh out loud funny, “Five Lesbians” put on a comedy clinic at each performance.  Director Rebecca Easton managed to turn the tiny Wesley Chapel space into a 1950s era bomb shelter with pastries.  The cast not only played their roles to the “hilt,” but obviously had a great deal of fun doing so.  I’ll never look at quiche the same way again, and that’s a good thing.

Honorable Mention

The Misanthrope,” Germinal Stage Denver.

Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Actor
Sean Scrutchins, “9 Circles.”  Curious Theatre Company.

The script of “9 Circles” is a gem, and Sean Scrutchins role as Daniel Reeves is an actor’s dream.  Scrutchins put his entire being into the role. He became Daniel Reeves for an hour and half each night, and gave us an unforgettable, conflicted, and complicated character.  Reeves crimes were horrendous; the script is based on a true story.  Scrutchins gave us insight into why and how he went over to the dark side, and what it’s like to live with his reality.  This was a marvelous breakout performance for Scrutchins. 

Honorable Mention

Joey Wishnia, “Visiting Mr. Green.”  Cherry Creek Theater

Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Actress

Rhonda Brown, “Red Hot Patriot:  The Kick Ass Wit of Molly Ivins.”  The LIDA Project.

Molly Ivins was a liberal Texas journalist with a razor sharp wit and a penchant for pot stirring.  She skewered Texas politicians with a wink and smile.  Rhonda Brown brought her back to life in a one woman show for the LIDA project.  Brown’s Ivins is brilliant, complicated, and tragic.  Brown delivered flawless performances (I saw it twice) that entertained, enlightened, and endeared her to audiences.  

Honorable Mention

Kirsten Deane, “Bug.”  Devil’s Thumb Theater Company.

Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Ensemble Cast

The Laramie Project.”  Evergreen Players.

Twelve actors took on multiple roles to tell the story of Matthew Shepard’s 1998 murder.  They created all the characters seamlessly, moving from one to the next with ease.  Their performances were heartfelt, and the effect was stunning.  No one left the theater without leaving some tears behind.

Honorable Mention:  

Avenue Q.”  Boulder’s Dinner Theatre.

Bill’s Best of 2012:  Best Director.

Christy Montour Larson.  “9 Circles,” “Red” (Curious Theatre); “The Giver” (Denver Center Theater Company)

No contest.  No other director had a 2012 like Christy Montour Larson.  Many directors won’t have a career like Montour Larson’s 2012.  She challenged audiences and actors alike with her work at Curious Theatre.  She entertained and enlightened kids and adults alike with “The Giver.”  She had a truly marvelous 2012.

Honorable Mention

Angela Astle, “The Laramie Project.”  Evergreen Players.

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