Thursday, November 27, 2014

She Loves Me

Book by:  Joe Masteroff, based on a play by Miklos Laszlo
Music by:  Jerry Bock
Lyrics by:  Sheldon Harnick
VenueArvada Center for the Arts & Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada CO, 80003.
Running Time:  2 hours, 45 minutes (includes 20 minute intermission).
Date of Performance:  Tuesday, November 25, 2014 (Opening night performance.)

There is nothing quite as simple and charming as a music box.  You wind it up, open it, and, like magic, beautiful, melodious music starts playing.  And it's a box; it's functional.  You can put your most precious, and most delicate items inside.  
She Loves Me is much like a music box.  The elements (characters, story, and setting) are precious.  The music is melodic, the voices are beautiful, the characters have the charm, and the set is exquisite.  It's almost as if you could wind up the stage, shake it like a snow globe and hear the music start.  Inside, you'll find a most precious and delicate piece of musical theater.
The show is set in a perfume shop in Budapest, Hungary in the 1930's, and a music box drives part of the story.  It's a tale of how people met, courted, and found love before there was an internet.  It involves "pen pals," a "lonely hearts club," and other quaint but now mostly forgotten traditions.  
The playwright lets the audience in on the secret; the pen pals who have never met actually know each other.  Of course, despite the obvious, the characters are clueless; they don't suspect that the other is the "Dear Friend" they correspond with.  For those who have endured an awkward blind date, the plot is liable to stir up the anxiety of meeting a stranger for the first time to learn if he or she is suitable partner material.  
If all this sounds vaguely familiar, that may be because you've seen another version of Miklos Laszlo's script (originally called The Parfumerie).  It was reworked into the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner, with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, and again in the 1998 film You've Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
Set by Benjamin Whitmore.  L-R:  Julia Jackson (Amalia), Andrew Russell (Georg), Jennifer Lorae (Ilana), and Rob Costigan (Ladislov Sipos).
Benjamin Whitmore's set is truly a music box set in every tiny detail.  The Parfumerie recreates every intricate detail of the shop.  The clever set pieces morph from the interior to the exterior of the store in seconds.  Whitmore has given the stage a music box/snow globe/1930's look that is as dazzling as it is functional.
Julia Jackson (Amalia) and Andrew Russell (Georg).
The "Dear Friends" are both extremely lovable.  Georg Nowack (Andrew Russell) and Amalia Balash (Julia Jackson) are convincingly annoyed with each other at work, but in love with each other on paper.  Russell has the looks and the charm to woo any woman, although he is a sensitive guy who can't take rejection.  His character, Georg, sees Amalia as an annoying interloper in his otherwise satisfying work environment.  Jackson plays Amalia with a mix of cunning and sweetness; she's a suitable foil for the bossy but intriguing Georg.  Both Russell and Jackson have marvelous voices to go with their considerable acting skills.  Their talents are on full display in the second act on the song Where's My Shoe?, one of my favorite moments in the show.
While Russell and Jackson are the leads here, they are far from the only talent on the Arvada stage.  Jennifer Lorae as Ilona Ritter is the flirty, feminine, and fabulous Parfumerie employee who is a remarkably contemporary woman for the 1930's.  Ritter clearly enjoys strutting and posing for the guys in the shop.  The focus of her attention is Steven Kodaly (Gregory Gerbrandt), who is willing and able to juggle two women in his off duty affairs.  Gerbrandt is sufficiently annoying as the pilfering, philandering Kodaly, and nobody sheds a tear when he gets fired in the second act.
Rob Costigan plays Ladislov Sipos, the middle aged clerk and family man at The Parfumerie.  Costigan is both proper and mischievous, but always charming.  He seems above the fray at the shop, yet a true friend to Georg.  He has an unusual stage presence that he uses to maximum effect here. 
While there is no music in She Loves Me that will have you humming as you leave the theater, there is one musical scene that you will not soon forget.  The scene in the Cafe Imperial is hilarious.  I would not want to be Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck trying to choreograph the chaos that occurs at the Imperial.  It's a joy to watch, as Tim Howard (Busboy) and Stephen Day (Waiter) take the place over.  
This is a familiar plot done by a great cast, crew, and orchestra.  The climax is foreshadowed long before it happens, but it's still an engaging and lovable story.  She Loves Me is not profound, nor does it try to be.  It is, however, great holiday family fun.  The music, the voices, the choreography, the direction, and the acting are all focused on delivering an exceptional musical theater experience.  That focus pays off; She Loves Me is a great evening of entertainment.

She Loves Me is suitable for all ages, with one caveat.  There is an offstage simulated suicide attempt, which may be disturbing for young children.
There is ample free parking at the Arvada Center.  
This show closes on December 21, 2014. 
Photo Credit:  Bill Wheeler

Pre or post show dining suggestion:  
Silvi's Kitchen, 7600 Grandview, Arvada CO, 80002 (formerly Udi's Restaurant) features casual dining with a variety of internationally inspired entrees and wood fired pizza in Olde Town Arvada.  We had the Hawaiian pizza, notable for including jalapenos here.  The bacon bits were large and done extra crispy, providing a flavor explosion in nearly every bite.  Silvi's Happy Hour is from 3:00-6:00 PM daily, but in the bar and patio only.  Silvi's is a 5-10 minute drive to or from the theater.

Photo Credits: Unless otherwise noted, credit for photos belongs to the  Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities,and to Patricia Switzer Photography.  
Tickets HERE.

Creative Team:
Artistic Producer:  Rod A. Lansberry
Director:  Gavin Mayer
Assistant Director:  Pat Payne
Music Director:  David Nehls
Choreographer:  Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck
Stage Manager: Lisa Cook
Scenic Design:  Brian Mallgrave
Lighting Design:  Vance McKenzie
Sound Design:  David Thomas
Costumes:  Liz Jasperse
Wig and Makeup Design:  Diana Ben-Kiki

Arpad Laszlo:  Parker Redford
Ladislov Sipos:  Rob Costigan
Ilona Ritter:  Jennifer Lorae
Steven Kodaly:  Gregory Gerbrandt
Georg Nowack:  Andrew Russell
Mr. Maraczek:  Mark Rubald
Amalia Balash:  Julia Jackson
Mr. Keller:  Brian Jackson
Busboy:  Tim Howard
Waiter:  Stephen Day
Shoppers/Carolers:  Maddie Franke, Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, Piper Lindsay Arpan, Rachel Turner (Nurse/Shopper), Megan Van De Hey, Jean-Luc Cavnar.

Ensemble:  Piper Lindsay Arpan, Jean-Luc Cavnar, Maddie Franke, Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, Tim Howard, Brian Jackson, Andrew Keeler, Michael Ochoa, Rachel Turner, Megan Van De Hey.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Love, Marriage, and Other Natural Disasters: a new Stephen Sondheim Revue!

Book by:  Janine Gastineau and Paula Jayne Friedland
Music by:  Stephen Sondheim

Director/Choreographer:  Piper Lindsay Arpan
Venue Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret, 1601 Arapahoe Street, Denver CO, 80202.
Running Time:  1 hours, 50 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).
Date of Performance:  Sunday, November 23, 2014 
Lana's Clocktower Cabaret (Photo Credit:
It's a very short run:  a single performance, in a tiny venue.  Runs don't get shorter than a single performance, which in this case, is unfortunate.  
If you love Sondheim, if you love musical theater, or if you just love the concept of love itself, Love, Marriage, and Other Natural Disasters (hereafter abbreviated as LMOND), you missed a very good time.  Ask anyone in the fully packed house.  Marvelous music, beautiful voices, and compelling commentary on the current state of love created a "not to be missed" event. 
Paula Jayne Friedland, Janine Gastineau.
Created and performed by Paula Jayne Friedland and Janine Gastineau, with Eric French on the keyboards, the all Sondheim score is stitched together with Friedland and Gastineau's commentary on love, dating, marriage, breakups, and all other things love related.  
The show begins with "Fantasy #1," dealing with the probability that there's a perfect match out there for all of us.  It's a fantasy, and the backdrop duet on Who Could Be Blue/Little White House is the perfect Sondheim song to make the point:

"Who...who could be blue, knowing there's you, somewhere nearby...when anyone feels your glow, their low has to get high..."
"We'll have a little white house, with a little white fence, made of pickets, a house on a hill where nature comes in, we'll have crickets..."

The reality is never as good as the fantasy, and often it's considerably worse.  
Gastineau and Friedland cover all the relevant topics, with a beautiful, melodic Sondheim sound track.  And yes...they dare to go there.  The Sondheim classics, including Tonight from West Side Story, and Send in the Clowns, from A Little Night Music, masterpieces of music, are lovingly covered for LMOND.  No one can dispute Sondheim's genius; that his music is used in a new way for LMOND is ample proof.
Paula Jayne Friedland.
Friedland's version of Send in the Clowns was magical.  I think I saw tears in her eyes, evidence of how personal the music is to her.  The pair team up on most of the songs, and the duo is in full, beautiful harmonic balance. There Won't Be Trumpets from Anyone Can Whistle and Marry Me A Little from Company are only two of the many fabulous musical moments you'll hear in LMOND.
Musical theater is a special genre; the music is not just critical to the entertainment.  It is also a device to advance the plot.  Sondheim's music does exactly that; it entertains while moving the story along.  However, it does so much more in the process.  His music stands alone in LMOND, stripped of its context, but its universality and timelessness are in full blossom.  It is perhaps a better listening experience standing alone, as the power of Sondheim's music is the entire focus.
While Sondheim's music is central to LMOND, this is not just a musical revue.  It's a very personal statement by Gastineau and Friedland on the subjects at hand:  love, dating, marriage, relationships, and breakups.  Just before their final tune, they will enlighten you on why love is worth all the effort.  You may be surprised by the insight and examples they have for the audience.  I was...and I was moved by that moment.  This is a special duo, with a an obvious love of Sondheim, giving their audience both entertainment and a dose of wisdom gained through sometimes painful personal experiences.  
Janine Gastineau, Paula Jayne Friedland.
If and when LMOND is back on the calendar at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret, do NOT miss Love, Marriage, and Other Natural Disasters.  It's a unique and rewarding musical experience you will long remember.
Love, Marriage, and Other Natural Disaster is suitable for all ages.  However, it is a cabaret setting, and alcohol is served.
Lannie has tentative plans to bring Gastineau and Friedland back for an encore in March, 2015.  You can get details when they are available at the Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret website.
Links to music in this review do not include any performances from LMOND.  The links are to samples of Sondheim's music done by other performers.  
Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret is located on the 16th Street Mall at the corner of 16th and Arapahoe.  On street parking is sparse.  While you might find a nearby meter, it's best to look for a surface lot or garage.  We parked at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, a 3 block walk to the the Cabaret.  Cost:  $12.00.  We probably could have done better, but it's covered parking and we had driven through a fair amount of snow south of Castle Rock.  I didn't want to scrape windows before heading home.

Lannie's recommends the Lawrence Street Garage Parking (between 15th & 16th Street on Lawrence on your RIGHT).

Directions: Take Speer Blvd. to Lawrence Street.  Head downtown.  Go 2 blocks, once you cross over 15th Street there is a parking garage entrance on the right hand side. This is underground parking.  Take the elevator to the lobby, exit onto the 16th Street Mall. The D&F Clock Tower is across the mall.  Safe, covered, convenient.

Pre or post show dining suggestion:  
Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, 1001 16th Street Mall.  I think this is the original location for the now sprawling Rock Bottom empire, and it's still the best.  When I worked in downtown Denver (2003-2009), RB was a frequent and favorite watering hole.  We stopped there before the show (it's only a block from Lannie's), and it's still as I remembered:  good food AND good beer.
We were going to order a pizza; half veggie and half pepperoni.  Don't do that.  They won't split ingredients on a pizza.  Bummer.  Roxie had the roasted veggie pizza; I had the Tillamook (cheddar) bacon burger.  We were both happy with our choices.
Photo Credits:  Janine Gastineau,

Creative Team:

Director/Choreographer:  Piper Lindsay Arpan

Keyboards:  Eric French


Janine Gastineau

Paula Jayne Friedland

Monday, November 24, 2014

1940's Radio Hour

Book by:  Walton Jones (based on an idea by Walton Jones and Carole Lee).
Music by:  Various Composers
Venue:  Lake Dillon Theatre, 176 Lake Dillon Drive, Dillon CO, 80435.
Running Time:  2 hours, 10 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).
Date of Performance:  Saturday, November 15, 2014 

It's the Holiday Season, and 1940's Radio Hour is one of the best holiday scripts out there.  The show takes place at radio station WOV in New York City on December 21, 1942, with "The Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade" show as it goes live on the air.  The cast and crew at WOV Radio take us back to a different time and a different place, with all the music, the conflicts, and the charm of that era.
As the show opens, there is a sense of chaos; producer Clifton A. Feddington (William Lucas) is desperately trying to organize the talent for the show for a final rehearsal before going live on the air.  The chaos is scripted, but the effect is one of unplanned, unexpected, and unwanted events, one after another in quick succession.  I have to admit that I was somewhat taken aback, as there is no narrative or character development for the first 10 minutes or so.  One has to experience the chaos with little grasp of who the characters are and what exactly is going on.
L-R:  Nina Waters (Geneva), Diane Huber (Ann), Brittany Jeffrey (Ginger)
We learn that WOV Radio is staffed by stock characters, including Johnny Cantone (Christopher Alleman), the Frank Sinatra look alike with a drinking problem, Ginger Brooks (Brittany Jeffery), the gum chewing blonde bimbo, and Wally Ferguson (Grant Haralson), the delivery boy trying to break into show business.  Alleman, Jeffery, and Haralson all excel at being a drunk, a bimbo, or naive, but each brings a sincere charm that makes their characters three dimensional and lovable.
There are two marvelous elements in the Lake Dillon production of the 1940's Radio Hour: 1) authentic performances of the music of the early 1940's, and 2) the acute sense of the cultural period.  
The music here is marvelous, and familiar to at least familiar some of us.  (It's before my time, but it was definitely the music of my parents.)  You will hear some standards, including Blue Moon, Black Magic, and Stormy Weather, as well as a couple of holiday songs including Jingle Bells and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  My personal favorite from the show, though, is a smoking, bluesy At Last, belted out by Geneva (Nina Waters).  Zoot (Cameron Kinnear) at the keyboards is all the instrumental backup the cast needs.  The voices are strong, clear, and beautiful, making 1940's Radio Hour a musical feast.  
As for the period for the 1940's Radio Hour, the country is at war, and that changes everything.  The folks on the home front are doing what they can to support the troops, and unlike current conflicts, this war hits very close to home.  Everyone knows someone who is in harm's way.  One character, B. J. Gibson (Frank Sansone) is appearing in his last "Variety Cavalcade."  He has enlisted and will be leaving to fight for our freedoms.  Sansone plays Gibson with a naive innocence.  He understands the risks of volunteering, but is still drawn to serve.  Sansone's performance is crucial to the period theme, and he doesn't miss a beat.  He is perfect as the sincere, dedicated, and innocent volunteer who risks becoming cannon fodder for his country.  Sansone can be proud of his performance, representing the best in hundreds of thousands of men his age who volunteered for all the right reasons.
Benjamin Whitmore's set design is full of authentic period details, including a basket for donated metal scraps to support the troops.  It's a small stage, and the cast uses every square inch of it.  Nicholas Kargel's lighting design keeps everyone fully lit no matter where they wind up on stage.  Nicole Harrison has dressed the cast in authentic 1940's outfits, adding just the right images for the period. 
Wendy Moore's direction puts precisely the right touch on the contrasting moods of 1940's Radio Hour, from the chaotic opening scene to the delicate loneliness of the last scene.  She brings the central message to the audience with mood instead of dialogue:  it's the season to remember the family, the friends, and sometimes even the strangers who don't have a place to go at the end of the day.  Moore delivers that message, even though those words do not appear in the script. 
It was a different time, a different place, and a different war.  Still, there is a compelling relevance in 1940's Radio Hour.  We have somehow lost touch with the volunteers who are thousands of miles from home fighting for us.  1940's Radio Hour is a reminder of what's best about America, and the sacrifices necessary to preserve our ideals.  Most of us now sacrifice little, but a few of us still sacrifice everything.  That's worth remembering during the holidays...and every day all year long.
This is a crackerjack production of a fun, relevant, and engaging script.  The Lake Dillon Theatre is a small intimate venue, and for 1940's Radio Hour, the audience feels like it's part of the action. This is first class holiday entertainment in the mountains.  If you don't have the holiday spirit yet, you will after you see 1940's Radio Hour done by the Lake Dillon Theatre Company.

1940s Radio Hour is suitable for all ages.
Parking is available on Lake Dillon Drive and surrounding streets.  Dress and drive for the weather conditions; high country snow can make I-70 a parking lot.  If you plan on staying overnight, make room reservations early.  Dillon is centrally located for several front range ski venues, including Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, and Breckenridge.
This show closes on December 14, 2014. 
Pre or post show dining suggestion:  
The Dillon Dam Brewery, 100 Little Dam Street, Dillon CO.  We've dined here on other occasions, and I can honestly say we have never been disappointed.  This trip I had a "build your own burger."  Not that a BYO burger should be a difficult task for the kitchen, but based on my experience, it's harder than it sounds.  Not at the Dam.  It came EXACTLY as ordered, and beyond delicious.  Paired with a marvelous "Otto's Octoberfest," it was a great experience from start to finish.  
Roxie had the award winning (Gold, North American Beer Awards 2012, 2011;
Gold World Beer Cup, 2010;Silver, Great American Beer Festival, 2010) Irish Stout.  I tried it.  Wow...even better than the Octoberfest.  I hear the Dam Straight Lager is very good too.

Photo CreditsLake Dillon Theatre Company
Tickets HERE.

Creative Team:
Director:  Wendy Moore
Music Director:  Cameron Kinnear
Stage Manager:  Nikki Lalonde
Set/Sound Design:  Benjamin Whitmore
Lighting Design:  Nicholas Kargel
Costumes:  Nicole Harrison

Johnny Cantone:  Christopher Alleman
Wally Fergusson:  Grant Haralson
Ann Collier:  Diane Huber
Ginger Brooks:  Brittany Jeffery
Zoot Doubleman/Keyboards:  Cameron Kinnear
Clifton A. Feddington:  William Lucas
Pops Bailey:  Bob Moore
B.J. Gibson:  Frank Sansone
Lou Cohn:  Andrew Tebo

Geneva Lee Brown:  Nina Waters

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thoroughly Modern Millie

Book by:  Richard Morris & Dick Scanlan
New Music by:  Jeanine Tesori
New Lyrics by:  Dick Scanlan
CompanyFirst Company
Venue:  First United Methodist Church, 420 North Nevada, Colorado Springs CO, 80903.
Running Time:  2 hours, 20 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).
Date of Performance:  Sunday, November 9, 2014 
Never let it be said that First Company lacks ambition.  Their current production, Thoroughly Modern Millie, is a bona fide Broadway musical hit, and it's a very BIG project.  One that First Company has tackled with passion and talent, resulting in a toe tapping feast of music and dance.
Thoroughly Modern Millie was a breakout winner on Broadway, taking home six Tony Awards in 2002, including Best Musical.  It's the story of a girl from Salina, Kansas who moves to New York City in the "roaring 1920's" to meet a husband (preferably a rich one).  She's modern, meaning that marriage is a business transaction, entered into for the economic benefits rather than for love.  Ironically, she finds love first, and discards the modern notion of marriage for money, with surprising results.
This show is a huge undertaking for First Company.  The program lists 11 principal actors, and a total of 33 individuals appearing onstage at some point in the show.  If nothing else, such a large cast creates severe traffic problems backstage, getting actors and set pieces on and off stage at the right time.  Stage Manager Lisa Erickson must have some kind of magic wand; the audience sees a seamless, smooth transition for every scene.
The talent on display is considerable, and that goes for Trudy Fennewald's 10 piece orchestra as well as for the actors.  Lacking a suitable sound system, there is a significant risk that the orchestra will occasionally overcome the actors; Fennewald is careful to keep the volume at a level that doesn't disrupt the singers.
It's a musical, and it requires some very strong voices, especially for Millie (Malerie Jo).  I'm here to tell you that Jo delivers the goods.  Her voice is marvelous, her range is impressive, and her energy is infectious.  And she's not alone; co-stars Nicholas Madison (Jimmy Smith), Anne Stewart (Miss Dorothy Brown), and Greg Farinelli (Trevor Graydon) all have strong, impressive voices.  
Megan Rieger (Mrs. Meers) is impressive as the evil proprietor of the Hotel Priscilla, a crash pad for actresses and a launch pad for white slavery (that would be a euphemism for prostitution).  Rieger is diabolically two faced, gladly helping the women who come to her establishment, while picking out the weakest for sale to the highest bidder.
The real showstopper tune here is "Forget About The Boys," early in the second act.  It's a huge production number, featuring The Tappers (by my count, 10 women in tap shoes) and Miss Flannery (Annaliese Higgins).  I thought tap dancing was a bit of a lost art, but it's been found: it's on the First Company stage.  The dancers are marvelous fun, and Higgins does a brief tap solo to top it all off.  Spontaneous applause ensues.  
Lisa Townsend's set is functional and flexible; it serves as numerous locations seamlessly.  There was one minor malfunction with the jail set piece, but otherwise, the entire set was well designed to convey both the period and the place.
The music, the choreography, the voices, the acting are all of high quality.  And what better way to show off that quality than with eye popping costumes?  Linda Laird dressed a huge cast in 1920's garb, in bright, beautiful colors, to dazzling effect.  The costumes were simply amazing.  If Laird made a half dozen copies of each of the costumes and offered them for sale in the lobby at intermission, she'd sell out in the allotted 15 minutes.  It was like a fashion show for flappers.  
It's a short run.  If you don't have a ticket for Thoroughly Modern Millie, get one as soon as you can.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is suitable for all ages.
Parking is available on Nevada and surrounding streets.  The parking lot across the street from the church (on the north side) is available for parking as well.
This show closes on November 16, 2014. 
First Company recently joined The Colorado Theatre Guild as a member company, and proudly displays the Theater Guild logo on the back of the program.  Joining the Guild will definitely increase First Company's visibility in the Colorado theater community.

I don't usually do this, but I'm going to offer some free, unsolicited advice to First Company.  I would have done so in an email or other communication, but I could find no way to contact First Company directly on the First United Methodist Church website. 
You've demonstrated with Thoroughly Modern Millie that you can (and want) to compete with other venues in the area.  Joining the Colorado Theatre Guild is a great first move to increase your profile.  Here's a few other suggestions:
1.  Invest in an upgraded sound/light system.  The theater doesn't have the best acoustics; musicals require careful control of sound.  Current lighting is barely adequate; there were dark spots on both the left and right sides of the stage.  I understand the investment is substantial.  Try getting a couple of corporate sponsors for the project.  I think the Theatre Company of Lafayette in Boulder county has IBM chipping in to upgrade their systems.  There might be a local enterprise that would be willing to help with such a project.
2.  Use social media.  That's what your competitors do.  First Company should have it's own Facebook page.  Not only can you reach further into the community with a Facebook presence, but you can also advertise with frequent postings, video, photos, and information about productions.
3.  Nominate your productions for Henry Awards with the Colorado Theater Guild.  They will provide six judges (you will provide 2 complementary tickets to each one) to judge those productions.  Even if you don't win an award, the judging data will be available to you at the end of the year.  It can be valuable feedback from individuals with a good knowledge of theater.
I suspect that you are already aware of what you need to do to succeed; these suggestions may have already been considered and rejected for a variety of reasons.  Regardless, you have shown with Thoroughly Modern Millie that you're ready to move up in the theater world.  
I, for one, wish you success, and the best of luck, in that endeavor.

Pre or post show dining suggestion:  
Our favorite downtown dining spot is Jack Quinn's Irish Alehouse & Pub at 21 S. Tejon Street.  You'll find a number of Irish/British items on the menu, and a very good variety of Irish draft beers.  

Photo Credits First Company.  (No production shots available.)
Tickets HERE.

Creative Team:
Director:  Martin J. Fennewald
Music Director:  Trudy Fennewald
Stage Manager/Assistant Choreographer:  Lisa Erickson
Choreographer:  Betsy McClenahan
Co-Production Managers:  Deb Woods/Mary Margaret Brummeler
Set Design:  Lisa Townsend
Lighting Design:  Mike Demaree
Costumes:  Linda Laird

Millie Dillmount:  Malerie Jo
Jimmie Smith:  Nicholas Madson
Miss Dorothy Brown:  Anne Stewart
Trevor Graydon:  Greg Farinelli
Muzzy Van Hossmere:  Paula Higgins
Mrs. Meers:  Megan Rieger
Ching Ho:  Landon Archuleta
Bun Foo:  Jon Reimer
Miss Flannery:  Annaliese Higgins
Honoria Rye:  Anna Hersey
Chorus/Muzzy Boys/Tappers:  

Joshua Carr, Levanna Davis, Zachary J. Engelman, Casey Fetters, Lisa Townsend, Heather Gannaway, Sarah Greenley, Mary Greenwood, Katie Harmon, Wayne Heilman, Kayleigh Hudson, Vance Kauffman, Eric Pridey, Nicole Louis, Hannah Alden McCullough, Danielle Romberg, Dan Russell, Stephanie Scheffler, Emily Wallace, Logan Wieland, Moriah Yeh. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sherlock Holmes and The Masters of Crime

Playwright:  C. P. Stancich (based on the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).
Venue:  Mary Miller Theater, 300 E. Simpson Street, Lafayette CO, 80026.
Running Time:  2 hours, 15 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).
Date of Performance:  Saturday, November 8, 2014 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic crime solver character, Sherlock Holmes, is a legendary master of his craft.  He made his debut appearance in Doyle's short story A Study in Scarlet, in 1886.  Doyle was paid 25£ for all rights to the story, perhaps one of the best literary bargains of all time.
Doyle is long gone (he died in 1930), but Holmes is very much alive, and he's currently appearing at the Theatre Company of Lafayette in Sherlock Holmes and the Masters of Crime (hereafter referred to as SHMC).  The script is the work of C.P. Stancich, who has borrowed the title character for his own work, done in the style of Sir Conan.  It's a seamless script, channeling Doyle and Holmes such that one could barely discern whether this is a product of Doyle or Stancich.  For those devoted fans of the original, fear not.  Doyle is gone but Stancich has given Holmes a new home on the contemporary stage.
Artemus Martin (Bradstreet), Brad Rutlege (Holmes).
Brad Rutledge has the honor of playing the title role here, and he has the look, the feel, and the gravitas of his distinguished predecessors.  (The list of predecessors is long, including John Barrymore, Raymond Massey, John Gielgud, Basil Rathbone, Roger Moore, and Peter O'Toole.)  Rutledge's role requires him to get beaten senseless in the first scene when he gets pounced upon by four goons.  Being the hero isn't always easy.  Rutledge, undeterred by the beating and the lingering black eye, calmly begins to solve the crime in which he is himself the victim.
Brad Rutledge (Holmes).
Stancich gives Holmes the usual obscure clues and leads; Rutledge sifts the wheat from the chaff, moving ever closer to the culprit.  It takes a credible, likable actor to play Holmes, and Rutledge is both, doing an excellent job with his role.
It's said that actors don't like to perform with animals or children; both are very tough competition.  It's true; competing with kids on stage can be a huge task.  SHMC is a perfect example of the reason why.   Rudy (Aidan Sockrider) and Rory (Sage Miller) are indeed tough competition for the adults on the stage.  
The two of them are the center of attention every time they appear, stealing scenes as they help save the day for Holmes.  Both actors are incredibly talented for their tender years; I estimate Sockrider to be about 11, Miller perhaps 13.  They never dropped a line, their British accents sounded native to the UK, and their boyish charm was entirely appropriate to their roles.  No wonder actors fear children.
Sage Miller (Rory).
Although Sockrider and Miller are tough competition, the rest of the cast definitely holds its own.  Douglas Brent Smith (Munton) is especially memorable, but to say more would give away too much of the story. 
Sarah Spencer's set design is functional and accurate for the period; the background (see photo below) is almost like a Claude Monet Impressionist painting.  Director Kirsten Jorgensen Smith has made a large cast (12 total actors) comfortable on a small stage.  She obviously rehearsed the stage hands as well as the actors, as the traffic between scenes and changes of set pieces is like clockwork.  Jorgensen Smith has paid careful attention to every onstage detail, bringing a new level of theater to the Mary Miller.  I've seen a number of performances here, and this one rates at the top of them.
Aidan Sockrider (Rudy).
I doubt anyone left the theater after SHMC without noticing Kim DeJager's costumes.  She has dressed her actors in period costumes, and those costumes are marvelous.  
My list of quibbles with SHMC is short.  There was a tendency for some actors to drift in and out of their British accents, which were otherwise credible.  For some reason, a yellow light filter was used that gave Anna Hersey's (Honoria Rye) face a strange hue.  The first act lagged somewhat.  Those are all minor quibbles.  As I mentioned above, SHMC is one of the best productions I have seen yet at Theatre Company of Lafayette.  They have raised the bar for their brand, and for that SHMC has my unqualified recommendation.  This is a family show, and if you're interested in showing your pre-teen or teenage kids what kids can do, you need to bring them to Sherlock Holmes and the Masters of Crime.  They will be impressed, and perhaps, inspired.
Brittany Strautman (Jane), Darcy Orrok (Mirriam).  Set by Claude Monet?  No.  Sarah Spencer.

Sherlock Holmes and the Masters of Crime is suitable for all ages.
This show closes on November 22, 2014. 
Pre or post show dining suggestion:  
Walnut Street Brewery and Restaurant, 1123 Walnut Street, Boulder, Colorado 80302.  We've been meaning to check the WSB for a while.  We had ample time to get there and eat before heading to Lafayette.  It was happy hour, so we tried the Ball Park Pub Pretzel appetizer and a couple of reduced price drafts.  The pretzel is huge, and comes with queso.  Yummy.  The beers were also excellent; I had the Saint James Irish Red Ale while Roxie tried the current specialty dark.  Both were tasty, cold, and at $3.50/pint, a great bargain.  Food was less spectacular; I'd rate my Pepperoni Pizza as average.

Photo Credits:  Theatre Company of Lafayette/Brian Miller.
Tickets HERE.

Creative Team:
Director:  Kirsten Jorgensen Smith
Assistant Director/Stage Manager:  Tina Kruse
Producer:  Madge Montgomery
Lighting Design:  Brian Miller
Sound Design:  Howard Lee Smith
Scenic Design:  Sarah Spencer
Costumes:  Kim DeJager

Sherlock:  Brad Rutledge
Bradstreet:  Artemus Martin
Simms:  Madge Montgomery
Mirriam Cray:  Darcy Orrok
Betty:  Victoria Goodgion
Jane:  Brittany Strautman
Rudy:  Aidan Sockrider
Rory:  Sage Miller
Bateson:  Michael Samarzia
Honoria Rye:  Anna Hersey
Munton:  Brent Douglas Smith

Monday, November 10, 2014

Awaiting the Apocalypse

Cast:  L-R, back:  Stacia Gordon, R. Scott Croushore, Winter Maza.  Front L-R:  Patrick Call, Dan Davis, Marq Del Monte, Winnie Wenglewick.

Playwright: Jonathan M. Vick
Company:  Denver's Dangerous Theatre
Venue:  Denver's Dangerous Theatre, 2620 W. 2nd Avenue, Denver CO, 80219.
Running Time:  2 hours, 5 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).
Date of Performance:  Friday, November 7, 2014 

"If tomorrow should lead us to tears, let them be for what we have lost, and not for what we have missed altogether."

Awaiting the Apocalypse by Jonathan M. Vick.

If you're facing the Apocalypse, that would be some very good advice.  Cry not for what we lost, but for that which we never experienced.  Whether you believe in a Biblical Apocalypse, or no apocalypse whatsoever, it is undeniable that we will each face our own personal "end of days."  No one gets out of this life alive.
Awaiting the Apocalypse presents a non-Biblical version of the end of days; it's not about the end of the world, but the end of living.  It's not famine, it's not pestilence, it's not war.  Nor is it death.  It's the choices we make that prevent us from actually living our lives.
In fact, the entire play takes place in a diner ironically called "Smithereens."  The irony is that this apocalypse is not the one that destroys the planet (perhaps by blowing it to "smithereens").  

Rather, the diner is a sort of therapeutic confessional, where the "apocalypse" of lost opportunities has already sucked the life out of the regulars.  Their regrets are, sadly, for what they "have missed altogether."

It's an intriguing premise, giving rise to some deep philosophical discussions.  For example (from the script):
What is Armageddon, Cameron?  What is the Apocalypse?  Is it the Judgment Day?  The end of the world?  Is it the slow and deliberate destruction of souls by Famine, War, Pestilence and Death; the Four Horsemen?  Or is it just me and you; giving up?
Giving up your dreams, consciously choosing to let them be just dreams, is arguably "giving up" on life.  

Awaiting the Apocalypse reminded me of the lesson my late wife taught me.  She lived her
Linda.  November, 2001.
life with passion, and wasted not a second of it.  She had a dream to walk on the Great Wall of China by her 50th birthday.  I thought she was kidding...or at least just dreaming.  

One day in August, 2001, I casually mentioned to her, (even though she was only 48 years old at the time), that there was a great package deal in the newspaper.  It included 7 nights in Beijing and an excursion to the Great Wall for $999 from Boston.  I only mentioned it to her so that we would have an idea of costs and other details when she reached 50.  Her reaction:  "Book it."  

We went to China in November, 2001, and she stood on the Great Wall.  She was not one to cry someday for things that she had "missed altogether."  But that day she cried tears of joy, living her dream.
I mention this personal experience to illustrate that playwright Jonathan Vick is onto something here.  We all have dreams; we all need dreams.  But not everyone moves them from dreams to reality; in fact, some people, some might even say a lot of people, don't even try to live their dreams. Or, as Vick describes the Apocalypse:
"It is not the end of THE world; it’s the end of YOUR world." 
This is a script with big ideas, painted broadly across a small, deliberately restricted universe the size of the Smithereens Diner.  The result is a feast for the mind and the spirit.
Mort (Marq Del Monte).
If you thought Waiting for the Apocalypse might be a bit depressing, I have good news for you.  It's actually quite funny.  While all the characters have some laugh lines, it is Mort (Marq Del Monte) who gets the best ones.  Del Monte is marvelous as the whining, high maintenance cranky old codger.  In fact, all the performances are competent and sincere. 
Smithereens Diner.

Denver's Dangerous Theatre is a very small, intimate venue, which is to say, perfect for Vick's script.  They have turned the small room into a diner for Awaiting the Apocalypse, seating the everyone at small tables and serving chips, salsa, dip, and coffee to actors and to the audience.  It's not Broadway; you don't get pyrotechnics and the latest, state of the art technical gimmicks at Dangerous.  What you do get is cutting edge new theater, served with a big side of passion.   
Nora (Winnie Wenglewick).

Winnie Wenglewick is the director; she plays Nora, she sells the tickets, builds the set, and she probably cleans the rest rooms.  I'm giving her a hat tip here, not just because I totally enjoyed Awaiting the Apocalypse.  She also deserves the hat tip because she isn't waiting for her Apocalypse.  She's living her theater dream, and living it with passion.  She is exactly the kind of person who would recognize the wisdom of "Awaiting the Apocalypse."  
Awaiting the Apocalypse contains adult situations and adult language.  Discretion is advised for younger folks.
The ceaseless construction project at 6th Avenue and I-25 has impacted the access to Denver's Dangerous Theatre.  Currently, best access is from the south.    Take Alameda to Clay; go north on Clay.   After several blocks you will come to a T intersection; go right.  The parking lot for Denver's Dangerous Theatre will be on your right nearly immediately after that right turn.  Add 5-10 minutes to your drive time to allow for delays.
Before the show starts, you will be served an appetizer.  It's included in your ticket price, so come a little hungry.  
This show closes on November 21, 2014. 

Pre or post show dining suggestion:  
The Hornet, 76 S. Broadway, Denver CO.  It's very near to several downtown Denver theater venues, including, in this case, Denver's Dangerous Theatre.  

On street parking is difficult on Broadway; go 1 block east to Lincoln for a better chance to snag a spot.  The Hornet is a neighborhood pub/restaurant; I had a build your own burger that was probably the best I've had a in a very long time.  Roxie had the honey chicken entree, which was also very good.
Photo CreditsDenver's Dangerous Theatre.
Tickets HERE.
Creative Team:

Director/Scenic Designer:  Winnie Wenglewick

Cameron:  Patrick Call
Sylvester:  R. Scott Croushore
Mort:  Marq Del Monte
Solomon:  Dan Davis
Melissa:  Stacia Gordon
Dallas:  Winter Maza
Nora:  Winnie Wenglewick