Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Enchanted April

Playwright: Matthew Barber, from the novel by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Venue:  John Hand Theater, 7653 E 1st Pl, Denver, CO 80230

Running Time:  2 hours, 15 minutes (includes15 minute intermission).

Date of Performance:  Sunday, March 14, 2015.  

I admit it.  I had never seen Enchanted April before, and I really had little idea what to expect.  Now I know what a lovely script this is, and I can honestly say that It blew me away.  From start to finish, this is a charming, endearing, and yes, even enchanted show.  

We often tend to return to shows we’ve seen before and loved, like Forever Plaid or Syvia.  There’s little risk in sticking with the standards, and the entertainment rewards are substantial.  However, when we venture into unknown territory and try something new, we are often surprised and pleased with the results.

Such is the case with Enchanted April.  I was surprised, pleased and delighted.  It’s a gem of a show, set in 1922 London, with the second act moving to a castle in Italy (that’s the “enchanted” part).  The story line starts with Lotty Wilton (played by the pesky Chloe McLeod) asking a virtual stranger (Rose Arnott, played by Kelly Uhlenhopp) to read a classified ad in the London paper.  That ad is offering readers to rent a castle in Italy for the month of April for the sum of £60.  (Approximately $90 for the month in current dollars.)
Chloe McLeod (Lotty), Kelly Uhlenhopp (Rose), Erica Fox (Lady Caroline).

Lotty barely knows Rose, but she insists that they would both enjoy a month in Tuscany at a castle, complete with a cook.  Rose predictably declines to participate in such a crazy idea, but Lotty is both persistent and persuasive.   The two decide to take out their own classified ad to find 2 more women to spend April in Italy with, and to help defray the costs.  Rose is actually hoping they won’t get any replies and the whole scheme will fall through because of the cost.  It doesn’t; they find two other women (Lady Caroline and Mrs. Graves) to join them on the adventure.

The set up here is that the castle in Italy represents a true holiday; a break from the boredom and gloom of life in London.  The four women set off on this enterprise, which at the time was probably as shocking as Thelma and Louise was 70 years later.  

Chloe McLeod (Lotty), Jason Green (Mellerish).
Matthew Barber’s script has three males, Mellersh Wilton (played by Jason Green), Frederick Arnott (Jeff Jesmer) and Aaron Lade (as Antony Wilding).  With a name like “Mellersh,” you would be correct to assume that he’s a self-absorbed neanderthal with control issues.  Frederick is a writer, and in his spare time, he’s a womanizer.  Neither Mellersh nor Frederick will be getting the Male Role Model of the Year award.  Wilding hosts the ladies at his castle, and Lade brings his best charming, debonair persona to the mix.

Mellersh, Frederick, and Antony notwithstanding, this show is for and about the ladies.  They dream, they scheme, and they pull off a magical holiday at a castle in Mezzago, Italy.  The Tuscan trip is exactly what they need:  an escape from the bleak London lives they in which they are trapped.  

The charm in Enchanted April comes from the transition from gloomy, rainy London to
Anne Myers, Aaron Lade, Chloe McLeod, Kelly Uhlenhopp. 
bright, sunny Italy.  Bernie Cardell’s bucolic Italian set is eye popping, with abundant flowers, colors, and soft sunlight.  It is a magical place, where London is but a distant memory.  

Those distant memories, though, have a way of breaking into the new holiday reality.  The Italian castle is the perfect holiday venue to refresh, relax, and reassess goals and relationships.  The appearances of Mellersh and Frederick in Italy provide some comedic plot twists and romantic conflict to the Italian utopia.  

For the fans of happy endings, Enchanted April reminds us of the power of hope and love.  The ladies are reborn, and Frederick and Mellersh have a new perspective and renewed love for their spouses, despite their crazy Italian diversion.

Chloe McLeod is a marvelous Lotty.  She’s got an endearing energy, peppering the conversations nonstop with her romantic but flawed logic.  McLeod’s British accent was spot on, and her delivery was a beautiful blend of naïveté and sincerity.  She turned a crazy idea into a crazy reality through the force of her personality.

Kelly Uhlenhopp’s Rose is proper and abundantly skeptical.  She is not given to darting across the continent without her husband.  Uhlenhopp is a hard sell, which is obvious not just from the script but also from her ability to look down her nose at Lotty without saying a word.  Even after she agrees to buy a classified ad and go to Italy, Uhlenhopp exudes skepticism at every turn.

Katie Mangett (Costanza), Anne Myers (Mrs. Graves).
Erica Fox is on holiday as Lady Caroline, and she is the most contemporary woman in the show. She knows how to relax, and lets no one deter her from enjoying her stay.  Costanza (Katie Mangett) speaks only Italian, but no one can misunderstand her.  Her gestures and facial expressions speak louder than her Italian.

Anne Myers is the proper, sheltered, and judgmental Mrs. Graves, and she steals nearly every scene she is in.  She takes a dim view of nearly everything and everyone, playing the curmudgeon to the hilt.

Director Rachel Bouchard has put together a talented cast, and given them the freedom to use that talent.  That cast soars with the romance, the rhythm, and the beauty of Barber’s script.  There is one scene in particular that needs a woman’s touch, and Bouchard handles it with skill and taste.  There is fleeting male nudity (from behind) in that scene, and Bouchard manages to make it real for the audience and abundantly awkward when the bath towel drops to the floor.  In the hands of a male director, I’m pretty certain this scene would have been less real and less awkward.  Bouchard gets it right, and it's as funny as it gets, unless you're the poor guy standing before the world in his naked glory.

Enchanted April is one of those rare and beautiful surprises.  It sneaks up on you, grabs you by the lapels, and makes you smile, giggle, and laugh…a lot!  Spotlight Theater Company has a charming, entertaining, and poignant hit with Enchanted April.  It probably won’t change your life, but it will definitely improve your outlook on life.  It may also get you to finally book that trip that you’ve always dreamed about.  An Italian holiday may be just what we all need to refresh, reboot, and review our lives.


This show contains adult situations and brief nudity.  Recommended for adults and mature teens.  

There is ample parking behind the theater, as well as on surrounding streets (no meters).

PHOTO CREDITSSpotlight Theater Company.


This show will close on March 21, 2015.

Pre or Post Show Dining Suggestion:

Since Act 1 of Enchanted April is set in the UK, you might like a to stop at Casey’s Bistro and Pub in the Stapleton Town Center, 7301 E 29th Ave #100, Denver, CO 80238.  The menu includes Shepherd’s Pie and Banger’s and Mash, but the selections are probably more Irish than British.  Happy Hour is 3:00-6:00 and 10:00-Midnight daily, with half off all appetizers and selected drink specials.  PBR cans are $3.00 all day, every day.  


Director: Rachel Bouchard

Lighting Designer:  Vance McKenzie

Sound Designer:  Luke Allen Terry

Set Designer:  Bernie Cardell

Costume Designer:  Rosemary Smith

Stage Manager:  Keegan Jennney


Lotty Wilton:  Chloe McLeod

Rose Arnott:  Kelly Uhlenhopp

Mellersh Wilton:  Jason Green

Frederick Arnott:  Jeff Jesmer

Caroline Bramble:  Erica Fox

Mrs. Graves:  Anne Myers

Antony Wilding:  Aaron Lade

Costanza:  Katie Mangett

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