Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Adaption:  Josh Hartwell (based on the Charles Dickens novella).

Venue:  Miner’s Alley Playhouse, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden CO.

Running time:  1 hour, 45 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).

Date of Performance:  Friday, November 24, 2017.

If there’s a classic Christmas script for Colorado stages, Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is the hands down heavyweight champion.  There are a lot of good reasons for that, not the least of which is Scrooge’s transition from a miserly curmudgeon to a generous, charitable model citizen.  Dicken’s tale perfectly captures the seasonal tension between capitalism and altrusim.  

Dicken’s tone is somewhat creepy and scary, but then it is, at it’s core, a ghost story.  His central character’s name, Scrooge, has become a derogatory term for misers.  As many times as we see A Christmas Carol, it is the rude, crude, cheapskate Scrooge we remember.  He is seldom remembered for his transformation to a generous patron to the poor.  

I’ve seen many productions of A Christmas Carol.  Miner’s Alley Playhouse’s version is unique in my experience.  Josh Hartwell’s adaption is a full fledged embrace of the Dickens story, but enhanced with a clever "play within a play twist."  Hartwell and director Len Matheo inject humor into the characters, giving Dicken’s message a much warmer delivery.  

L-R:  Jason Maxwell (Martha), Meredith Young (Emily), Josh Hartwell
(Bob Cratchit), Ella Matheo (Tiny Tim), Jim Hunt (Scrooge), and
Lisa DeCaro (Ghost of Christmas Present).
Hartwell opens his story with a spirited discussion of which story is more “Christmassy:”  A Christmas Carol or Dylan ThomasA Child’s Christmas in Wales?  With the family gathered around him, Jim Hunt has just finished reading the Thomas work.  Despite his unwavering support of Thomas’ prose, Hunt is reluctantly convinced to follow the Thomas reading with a dickens of A Christmas Carol.

The effect is important.  We first see Hunt as a gentle, thoughtful patriarch…before we see him as Scrooge.  Our first impression of Hunt tempers our later impression of Scrooge.  We see him not so much as a villain, but as a misguided soul hiding a gentle heart.  Hunt doesn’t hold back as Scrooge, but we are always aware that he’s just playing a role in the play within the play.  We know he’s not really a scrooge.

Even when he’s sticking closely to Dicken’s script, director Len Matheo manages to take much of the creepiness out of the ghost story.  Matheo uses physical comedy (it’s a REALLY big turkey), eye popping costumes and appropriate overacting to make the story more accessible and entertaining.  This is A Christmas Carol that the whole family will enjoy.

Josh Hartwell (Young Scrooge), Lisa DeCaro (Belle).
If you've seen A Christmas Carol, you may remember the dance scene.  It’s the one where the young Scrooge waltzes with Belle.  He’s not yet the cynical, mean miser he will eventually become.  Matheo’s touch is as tender as I’ve seen in any production of A Christmas Carol.  Josh Hartwell and Lisa DeCaro float across the stages, eyes locked.  They convey the blossoming of their love for each other with every step, every glance, and every touch.  The scene is beautifully staged by two gifted actors and a laser focused director.

Meredith Young (Ghost of Christmas Past).
The entire cast plays multiple roles, sliding seamlessly between their various characters.  Meredith Young is resplendent as Christmas Past in a glitter encrusted costume.  Lisa DeCaro’s Christmas Present could well be mistaken for a Christmas “present.”  She glides across the stage like a legless ghost.  Jason Maxwell is a show stopper in drag as Martha.  Ella Matheo’s debut as Tiny Tim was flawless and promising.  She’s ready for bigger roles.

Jason Maxwell (Fred) & Jim Hunt (Scrooge).
Jonathan Scott-McKean’s set is detailed and functional.  Except for a somewhat awkward bed/table piece, it all works.  Elizabeth Scott-McKean’s costumes are all imaginative, but the ghost costumes are especially splendid.   In addition to the above mentioned waltz, Angie Simmons choreographs the cast through a toe tapping Irish jig.  

A Christmas Carol at Miner’s Alley Playhouse is a fresh take on a timeless classic.  It respects Dickens' message but updates it with a new and entertaining tone.  You may leave the theater remembering the generous Scrooge instead of his anti-social alter ego.  If this show doesn’t put you in the Christmas spirit, well, “Bah.” “Humbug.”  You probably won’t be getting much under your Christmas tree this year.


For those interested in the Charles Dickens backstory on A Christmas Carol, check out a new film on the subject:  The Man Who Invented Christmas.  I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy of the film, but accuracy aside, it looks entertaining.

When asked for a Christmas donation for the poor, Scrooge has a predictably cold reply:

'Are there no prisons?' asked Scrooge.

'Plenty of prisons,' said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

'And the Union workhouses?' demanded Scrooge. 'Are they still in operation?'

'They are. Still,' returned the gentleman, 'I wish I could say they were not.'

Still today, misers who value only the wealth they can accumulate disparage and demonize the less fortunate .  The comparison, though, is perhaps apples and oranges.  Scrooge had the capacity for redemption.

This is not the first time I’ve seen an exquisite dance scene involving Josh Hartwell.  He knows what he’s doing on the dance floor.  

This show closes on December 23, 2017. 

Tickets HERE.  


Director:  Len Matheo

Scenic Design:  Jonathan Scott-McKean

Scenic Carpentry:  Jonathan Scott-McKean, Alaina Beth Reel, Kenzie Kilroy

Scenic Dressing/Prop Master:  Elizabeth Scott-McKean

Lighting Design:  Jonathan Scott-McKean

Sound Design:  Len Matheo

Choreography:   Angie Simmons

Costume Design:  Elizabeth Scott-McKean

Production Assistants:  Brandon Brown, Kenzie Kilroy

Stage Manager:  Bryanna Scott


Scrooge:  Jim Hunt

Fundraiser/Belle/Christmas Present/Gertrude:  Lisa DeCaro

Christmas Past/Emily/Clara/Want/Riggs:  Meredith Young

Fred/Marley/Fezzwig/Martha/Dilber/Christmas Future:  Jason Maxwell

Marley/Marley Body/Young Scrooge/Bob Cratchit/Topper/Turkey Boy:  Josh Hartwell

Tiny Tim/Ignorance:  Ella Matheo

Saturday, July 15, 2017

[spectrum] lgbt short play festival

Playwrights:  David-Matthew Barnes (CO), John Bavoso (DC), Will Driscol/Billie Allor (CO), Donna Hoke (NY), Lezlie Revelle (KS), George Smart (MA), Jeffrey Strausser (TX), Jonathon Ward (NY), Nico Wilkinson (CO).

Venue:  Funky Little Theater, 2109 Templeton Gap, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Running time:  2 hours, 30 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).

Date of Performance:  Friday, July 14, 2017.

It’s like catching lightning in a bottle.  Funky Little Theater did its first [spectrum] short play festival (hereafter [spectrum]) in March 2016, and was inundated with scripts.  The second annual version is running through July 29, bringing the total number of scripts submitted in two years to more than 400.  Funky is now bringing the thunder with the lightning to its stage with the best of the latest [spectrum] submissions.

Scripts are limited to (approximately)10 minutes.  Funky provides directors, actors, and set pieces for (in their considered judgment) the best of the submissions.  This year, [spectrum] delivers nine thought provoking and entertaining bursts of new theater:

1.  Chaos Magic, by Nico Wilkinson (directed by Idris Goodwin/Lucy Houlihan, with Erica Erickson, Sophie Javna, Conner McCaslin & Sasha Nader).  

Wilkinson’s piece pits witches against parents who have secrets, with disturbing results for the newborn baby.

2.  Boxcar, by David-Matthew Barnes (directed by Chris Medina, featuring Alex Abundis & Pedro G. Leos).  

Boxcar is a dark (“Do you think we’ll be dead by morning?”  “No. By midnight.”) story of forbidden young love.  Spending a night in a boxcar with the love of your life is one way to avoid confronting your peers at a homecoming dance.

3.  What If Cliff, by Jonathon Ward (directed by Sallie Walker, with Megan Edwards and Josh Boehnke).  

Ward’s focus is a sexual sibling rivalry; a brother and a sister both love the same woman.  Can this complicated dilemma end well, or is it doomed from the start?

4.  My True Self, by Will Driscoll and Billie Allor (directed by Chris Medina, with Driscoll playing himself).

Driscoll’s story is his own.  My True Self is far and away the most personal and intimate entry in this year’s [spectrum].   Driscoll’s True Self is a compelling transgender story of truth and courage.

5.  Shel & Luce by Jeffrey Strausser (directed by Chris Medina, with Sophie Javna and Ambrosia Feess-Armstrong).  

Strausser’s love story doesn’t have a happy ending.  Not everyone has the courage to be true to his or her own feelings.

6.  Brokendown, by Lezlie Revelle (directed by Billie Allor, with Teri McClintock, Joanne Koehler, and Ambrosia Feess-Armstrong).

Revelle’s entry uses comedy to tell the touching story of a sensitive mother and her closeted daughter.  

7.  It Doesn’t, by George Smart (directed by Chris Medina, featuring Will Sobolik & Chris Medina).

If you’re familiar with the “It Gets Better” project, you need to also consider that maybe “It Doesn’t.”  If you’re 15 years old and your dick pic just went viral at school, it’s difficult to see how it will ever “get better.”

8.  Write This Way, by Donna Hoke (directed by Chris Medina, with Helena Hyde, Meghan Lastrella & Pedro G. Leos).

Hoke plays with gender roles as her “writer” tries to concoct a story about a female construction worker.  

9.  Kylie & Janet & Robyn & Cher, by John Bavoso (directed by Chris Medina, featuring Medina, Josh Boehnke & Nolan Lydolph).

Bavoso puts sexual stereotypes to the test; Medina is a straight guy reaching out for gay friends.  It’s all very funny, but also poignant.  Sometimes we need to escape from our straight and gay tribes and mingle with each other.

[spectrum] is a full plate, teasing with appetizers (What If Cliff, Write This Way), followed by hearty main courses (Brokendown, Shel & Luce, It Doesn’t), and a delicious dessert (Kylie & Janet & Robyn & Cher).  Throw in a personal story of gender transition (My True Self) and you literally have something for everyone at the second annual [spectrum] fest.

Funky includes a ballot with each program; the audience is encouraged to identify their favorite 10 minute entry as well as the best actor and actress.  Since I’ve already done the exercise, here are my favorites:

Best play(s):


The ensemble has chemistry, the script is funny, and the message is hopeful.

Kylie & Janet & Robyn & Cher

Chris Medina is spot on as the straight guy with a queer eye.  He also follows direction well (directing himself).


Alex Abundis and Pedro G. Leos shine as lost lovers in a well written script.

Best Actor(s)

Chris Medina in Kylie & Janet & Robyn & Cher.

Alex Abundis in Boxcar.

Best Actress(es):

Ambrosia Feess-Armstrong in Brokendown.

Joanne Koehler in Brokendown.

Meg Edwards in What If Cliff (her Funky debut).


[spectrum] lgbt short play festival is a striking success story.  Funky Little Theater is a chronic overachiever in bringing new works to Colorado Springs.  Chris Medina is the head overachiever, directing 6 of the 9 episodes.  If that’s not enough, he also appears onstage in two shows.  Medina’s commitment to Funky, to theater, and to the Colorado Springs arts community is remarkable.  With relatively few resources, he has put Funky and Colorado Springs on the theater map.  [spectrum] is ample proof that Medina/Funky have become a creative force for southern Colorado.

[spectrum] lgbt short play festival deals with mature subject matter.  Recommended for older teens and open minded adults. 

While most of the works submitted for [spectrum] are new, some (including Boxcar) have been performed elsewhere or have been published in some form.  If not already the case, Funky may want to make sure that new, unpublished playwrights are aware that they will compete with published and produced writers when submitting work to [spectrum].

Funky has partnered with Colorado Springs Pride and Club Q for the [spectrum] production.

This show closes on July 29, 2017. 

Photo Credit:  Funky Little Theater

Tickets HERE.  


Artistic Director:  Chris Medina

Sound Design:  Will Sobolik

Stage Management:  Sophie Javna & Casey Petty

Monday, June 26, 2017

She Loves Me

Book by: Joe Masteroff

Music by:  Jerry Bock

Lyrics by:  Sheldon Harnick

Based on a play by:  Miklos Laszlo

Venue:  Main Stage, 124 S. Main, Creede Colorado.

Running time:  2 hours, 30 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).

Date of Performance:  Friday, June 23, 2017.

At one time or another, we’ve all been looking for love.  For some of us, we’ve been looking in all the wrong places.  The quest to find a soul mate has morphed over the last century from pen pals in a lonely hearts club” or classified newspaper ads to email and finally to there’s an app for that.”  It won’t be long before there will be a “virtual reality” version of matchmaking.

She Loves Me is a musical romance based on Miklos Lazlo’s 1937 play The Parfumerie.  The story is based in a perfume shop where the aging owner’s marriage is failing and his staff is rattled by the hiring of a new sales clerk, fresh from their competitor.  The basic plot reappeared in 1940 in the Jimmy Stewart film The Shop Around the Corner, and again in the Judy Garland film In the Good Old Summertime (1949).  The most recent (1998) film adaption, You’ve Got Mail, starred Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.  

Donovan Woods (Georg) and Emily Van Fleet (Amalia).
 "Where's My Shoe?
Creede Repertory Theatre’s (CRT) musical version sparkles with wit, charm, humor and the excellent vocal chops of Emily Van Fleet (Amalia Balash) and Donovan Woods (Georg Nowack).  The pair does a delicate dance, balancing their hostile veneer with a deeper and undeniable attraction.  Their chemistry is special.  Van Fleet’s Amalia works hard at disliking her co-worker Georg, only slowly realizing that her “dear friend” and Georg have much in common.  

Woods, for his part, is a master at conveying meaning without words.  His facial expressions are priceless, revealing the his true feelings despite his words.

The real magic here is the music.  Van Fleet and Woods both have strong singing voices, and when they sing together, the chemistry is powerful.  Their duet Where’s My Shoe?,” sung in Amalia’s bedroom, is my favorite moment in the show.  It’s the point where their mutual attraction becomes obvious, and the hostility starts to dissipate.  Woods and Van Fleet carry off the shoe caper with a modesty that we know will bloom into passion.
Pat Moran (Kodaly) & Kate Berry (Ilona).
The entire She Loves Me cast is strong.  Kate Berry (Ilona Ritter) delivers a beautiful duet with Van Fleet.  When Berry and Van Fleet team up for I Don’t Know His Name, they shoot an arrow into the heart of every woman in the room.  

Spencer D. Christensen is a hoot as the shop suck up (Ladislav Sipos).  If you’ve ever held a job with more than three coworkers, you know a Sipos.  There’s one in every office, and Christensen nails his character.  

Pat Moran (as Steve Kodaly) is equal parts charm and cad.  As with Sipos, you may know a Kodaly.  Moran’s version is an amoral hedonist seeking lust but not love.  

Scenic Designer Rick Reeves created a highly flexible eye popping set with rolling pieces that do double and even triple duty.  Asa Benally’s costumes are period perfect, from Maraczek’s (Logan Ernsthall) pin stripe suit to Arpad’s (CJ Salvani) short pants and delivery boy hat.  Benally puts the ladies in some stunning outfits; her blue dress for Ilona and Amalia’s pink ensemble to meet her “dear friend” are outstanding.

Spencer D. Christensen (Ladislav Sipos).
Ian Leroy provided the music, turning his own pages at the piano while delivering nothing but perfect notes for the soundtrack.  Eaton Sayler’s sound design flawlessly mixed Stuart’s piano with the actor’s microphones.  All the technical parts of She Loves Me mesh seamlessly with the high caliber talent on the stage.  Director Michael Perlman combines behind the scenes technical experts with his onstage artistic talent for a compelling rendition of She Loves Me.  

Perlman reaches for a contemporary message, and hits the target:  

“Sometimes, as these characters find, we have to be willing to sit across from someone we think we hate— with whom we think we share nothing in common, with whom we think there could not possibly be anything on which we agree or even ways in which we see the same world— and discover that there may be plenty to love after all.”

Perlman’s casting of Woods and Van Fleet makes his point perfectly.  When something seems as obvious as black and white at first glance, look again.  You may see a million shades of grey on closer inspection.  

There’s plenty to love about CRT’s She Loves Me.  Looking past our differences to find the qualities in each other is a message we need today.  Whether we’re looking for love or looking for peace, or just looking for something to give our lives meaning, we need each other to succeed.  


She Loves Me is rated PG by the Creede company.  

This show closes on August 10, 2017. 

Photo Credit:  Creede Repertory Theatre and John Gary Brown, photographer.

Tickets HERE.  


Director:  Michael Perlman+

Music Director:  Ian LeRoy

Choreographer:  Maddy Apple

Scenic Design:  Rick Reeves

Costume Design:  Asa Benally

Lighting Design:  Jacob Welch

Sound Engineer: Eaton Saylor

Stage Manager:  Devon Muko*

Asst. Stage Managers:  Nia Sciarretta*, Aaron McEachran, Alexandria Skaar

Dance Captain:  Emily Van Fleet*


Ian LeRoy


Amalia Balash:  Emily Van Fleet*

Georg Nowack:  Donovan Woods*

Ilona Ritter:  Kate Berry*

Steven Kodaly:  Pat Moran

Zoltan Maraczek:  Logan Ernstthal*

Ladislav Sipos:  Spencer D. Christensen

Arpad Laszlo:  CJ Salvani

Headwaiter & U/S Georg:  Josh Zwick

Butterfingers:  Brian Kusic

Pianist:  Ian LeRoy

Ensemble:  Christy Brandt*, Annie F. Butler, Claudio Venancio

Ensemble & U/S Ilona:  Bettina Lobo

Ensemble & U/S Amalia:  Gina Velez

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

+ The Director is a member of the STAGE DIRECTORS AND CHOREOGRAPHERS SOCIETY, a national theatrical labor union.