Pages

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.  



NOTES:

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.  


CREATIVE TEAM:

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*

PIANISTS

Ian LeRoy



CAST:

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.

The Syringa Tree





Playwright:  Pamela Gien


Venue:  Ruth Humphreys Brown Theatre, 120 South Main Street, Creede, Colorado.

Running time:  2 hours, 25 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).

Date of Performance:  Saturday, June 24, 2017.

Syringa Tree:  A genus of woody shrubs and trees, commonly known as lilacs.  Native to southeastern Europe and Eastern Asia but widely and commonly cultivated in temperate areas elsewhere.  (From the program glossary.)

Segregation in South Africa under apartheid.
Playwright Pamela Gien’s syringa tree is a childhood memory, part of the natural beauty of her native South Africa.  More importantly, though, is the syringa tree’s power to connect Elizabeth, or "Lizzie," (Caitlin Wise) to the people in her life.  It is under the syringa tree that Gien tells Lizzie’s story of growing up white in the last years of apartheid in South Africa. 

Make no mistake.  The Syringa Tree is a challenging script for any audience.  It’s non-linear, spoken with a heavy South African accent, and the two actors play multiple roles.  That challenge is a foreseeable result of telling a story through the eyes of a child.  Like all challenges, however, there are substantial rewards for accepting it.  It may not be your cup of tea, but if it is, it may be the sweetest tea you’ll ever taste.

I couldn’t help but think, as I watched Lizzie’s story unfold, what a difficult script The Syringa Tree must be for the actors.  Caitlin Wise and Portland Thomas (Salamina) carry the entire weight of the production on their shoulders for nearly 2.5 hours.  With a few props and a couple of swings attached to the syringa tree, they have to transport the audience to a foreign land in a troubled time to tell a fractured story.  Wise and Thomas are professionals, and they make their difficult task appear effortless.

Caitlin Wise (Elizabeth and others).
Early in the first act, I was searching for words to describe Caitlin Wise's young Lizzie.  I settled on childish, innocent, and in particular, exuberant.  I needn’t have bothered.  Lizzie could have saved me the trouble; after I pondered a description, she announced that she’s “HYPERACTIVE!”  

Hyperactive is unquestionably the correct term.  Wise's Lizzie bounces around the stage, narrating in a stream of consciousness that could only come from a child.  She learns Scottish dancing.  She loves ballet.  She loses her underpants.  She swings on the syringa tree.  She blurts out whatever she’s thinking (“South Africa has no fucking water!”).  Wise's polished South African accent, her exaggerated facial expressions, and her charming childish demeanor are irresistible.  Even when the story becomes difficult to follow, you cannot look away from her.

Wise becomes an adult in the second act, and despite the years, she still has a lot of “little girl” left in her character.  Elizabeth the adult is married, a mother, and living in the United States.  “Free.”  “Brave.”  But she's still full of the fire of her childhood.  

Caitlin Wise's performance as Lizzie/Elizabeth is a rare theater experience.  It was just a few minutes after the curtain went up that it dawned on me.  I was in the presence of excellence.  Not just talent.  Not just skill.  I was witnessing theater at the level of "art."  Sometimes theater entertains, but at its best, it surpasses entertainment and becomes a profound artistic experience.  Wise surpasses entertainment.  She is an artist.  I can offer no higher praise.

Portland Thomas (Salamina and others).
None of which is meant to diminish Portland Thomas’ performance.  Her Salamina is a nuanced, complicated delicate woman.  She’s a victim of apartheid, but not vengeful.  Thomas’ grief at losing her daughter to the revolution is one of the best moments in the production.


Thomas provides an understated dignity to the story, creating a sharp contrast to Lizzie’s exuberance.  There’s an enduring bond between the two women who couldn’t be more culturally different.  Thomas transcends those differences with a basic humanity that we all share.


Director Tosin Morohunfola pushes his actors to their limits, and they respond with unforgettable performances.  His staging of the final scene is stunning.  It’s a wordless, dreamy aerial ballet; the actors float by, synchronized souls under the syringa tree.  It is one of the most powerful and memorable scenes I have seen on any stage. 

L-R:  Portland Thomas, Caitlin Wise.
The Syringa Tree reminds us that revolutions always have innocent victims.  Good people on both sides are always caught up in the chaos of social and cultural change.  It’s a message we need to remember.  Today's "Muslim ban" is yesterday's "Pass Law."  Black Lives Matter is the new Defiance Campaign.

Don’t expect to just sit back and be entertained at The Syringa Tree.  You need to engage with the story, the actors, and the script to find the beauty and wisdom of the experience.  I can guarantee that you will be richly rewarded for the effort.  Just as I did, you will find yourself in that rarest of events: undeniable artistic excellence.  

The Syringa Tree is not just a show I’ll remember for a long time.  Rather, it’s a show I will never forget.




NOTES:

The Syringa Tree is suitable for teens and older. 

For more information on apartheid in South Africa, see these links:









This show closes on August 26, 2017. 

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

Tickets HERE.  


CREATIVE TEAM:

Director:  Tosin Morohunfola

Scenic/Lighting Design:  Matthew Schlief

Costume Design:  Asa Benally

Sound Design:  Becca Pearce

Dialect Coach:  Rebecca Bossen

Trapeze Choreographer:  John DiAntonio

Dance Choreographer:  Bethany Eilean Talley

Stage Manager:  Aaron McEachran

Dance Captain:  Nia Sciarretta*

Asst. Stage Manager:  Lucas Bareis-Golumb

CAST:

Elizabeth and others:  Caitlin Wise*

Salamina and others:  Portland Thomas*

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


Pants On Fire: A Totally Made Up Musical for Kids




Created by: John DiAntonio, Jessica Jackson, Brian Kusic, Graham Ward, Caitlin Wise, Renee Prince, and Joe Montelione


Venue:  Ruth Humphreys BrownTheatre, 120 S. Main Street, Creede Colorado.

Running time:  60 minutes (no intermission).

Date of Performance:  Friday, June 23, 2017.

Pants cast, L-R:  John DiAntonio, Graham Ward, Caitlin Wise,
Brian Kusic, Jessica Jackson.
They say we all have an inner child, no matter our chronological age.  Pants on Fire:  A Totally Made Up Musical for Kids (hereafter Pants), is, well, definitely for kids.  Assuming, however, that we adults actually do have an inner child, this show gives our inner kids a chance to come out and play too.  

I’m too old and cynical to give much thought to MY inner child, but the artists at Creede Repertory Theatre took him (and me) to the playground today.  I’m here to tell you we both had a delightful time.

Pants has no detailed script; the lines are largely improvised by the cast.  The show starts with the actors collecting ideas from the audience for names, objects, jobs, and monsters.  The submissions were sprinkled randomly into the story of “Splatty,” one of the entries in the “Names” bucket.  The kids were immediately engaged; there are probably few times when adults take their imaginary input seriously.

No two performances are the same due to the improvisation, but the variable story lines contain some consistently important messages for kids.  

1.  Use your imagination.

2.  Make friends.

3.  Share what you have.

Kids take the stage after the show to sign
the chalkboard floor.  Photo credit:  Bill Wheeler.
This cast definitely knows how to engage an audience, from leading them in a “START THE SHOW!” chant to encouraging them to swarm the stage at the final curtain.  You’ll rarely see an audience as appreciative as those at Pants.  

As we left the theater, I ran into a gaggle of children who were in the audience.  I asked several if they liked the show.  The verdict was unanimous.  They loved it.

I could go on about the wit, charm, and the poignance of Pants, but that would be much too adult of me.  This is a show for kids.  They don’t need me to overanalyze Pants.    They just need someone to recognize that it beautifully captures the joys of childhood.  I’ll volunteer for that task…with pleasure.



NOTES:

Pants on Fire:  A Totally Made Up Musical for Kids is suitable for all ages.  

Theater is magical for kids.  You can see it in their eyes.  Theater mirrors their own imaginary world, and makes it ok to pretend to be someone else.  In fact, the very name of a performance describes their favorite activity:  it’s a “play.”  Shows like Pants are a beautiful gift to the local community.  Creede Repertory Theatre (CRT) is inspiring a new generation to carry on the legacy that CRT has bestowed on it’s tiny host city.

CRT takes its commitment to the next generation seriously.  The KID Show program mentors kids from 10-17 through the process of creating an original show.  The Young Audience Outreach Tour (YAOT) has performed in rural and underserved communities in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma and Nevada since 1984.  Each kid gets a children's book after the show to encourage literacy. YAOT has reached over 24,000 kids in 97 schools.

This show closes on August 11, 2017.

Photo Credit:  Creede Repertory Theatre and John Gary Brown

unless otherwise credited.

Tickets HERE.  

Photo credit:  Bill Wheeler

CREATIVE TEAM:

Scenic Design:  Chris Winnemann

Costume Design:  Tamara Carruthers

Lighting Design:  Mandi Wood

Stage Manager:  Aaron McEachran


CAST:

John DiAntonio

Jessica Jackson

Brian Kusic

Graham Ward

Caitlin Wise

Kate Berry (swing)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Man of La Mancha





Written by: Dale Wasserman

Music by:  Mitch Leigh

Lyrics by:  Joe Darion


Venue:  SaGaJi Theatre, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs.

Running time:  2 hours (no intermission).

Date of Performance:  Friday, June 2, 2017.

I’ll get straight to the point.  Man of La Mancha at the Fine Arts Center is a crackerjack production, a visual and audio feast that mows down all windmills in its path.  This is a high energy show that rocks, rolls, and rules the Fine Arts Center stage.

Man of La Mancha is a play within a play based loosely on Miguel de Cervante’s 1605 novel Don Quixote.  Cervante’s classic portrayed Don Quixote (from whom the adjective “quixotic” is derived) as an aspiring knight totally devoted to the code of chivalry.  Dale Wasserman’s musical adaption won five Tony Awards in 1966, including Best Musical.  

Quixote’s quest is to fight evil everywhere and to promote his cause of virtue, manners, and honor.  Despite the lofty ideals, Cervantes and Wasserman both portray Quixote as untethered to reality.  Quixote has imaginary enemies, resulting in “tilting at windmills” when he mistakes one for a giant.

The Fine Arts Center production grabs your attention as soon as you enter the SaGaJi theatre and see the set.  Christopher Sheley’s designs never disappoint, and his Man of La Mancha work is splendid.  Anchored by huge classical columns, the set includes a reverse drawbridge stairway that descends on cue from the ceiling.  It provides a grand entrance for Cervantes (Stephen Day) and his sidekick Sancho (Sammie Joe Kinnett).  Benjamin Heston’s sound design is spectacular throughout, but never more so than when he makes Sheley’s stairs creak, clank and rumble onto the stage.  Costume designer Sydney Gallas has dressed the cast in an array of period perfect costumes, from a belly dancer to sexy wenches and especially to men in blousy pants.  Gallas’ attention to detail is notable; she emblazoned Cervantes’ knee high boots with gold crosses.  

Stephen Day (Cervantes/Don Quixote).
Stephen Day might well be a descendant of Cervantes and Quixote.  He’s that good.  There’s no daylight between Day and his 400 year old fictional character.  Day brings Cervantes/Quixote to life with the look, the sound, and the moral commitment of his sincere but confused character.  His acting is dazzling, but it is his stunning singing voice that defines his performance.  When he sang The Impossible Dream (The Quest), it’s as if I was really hearing the standard for the very first time.  Day’s performance, from curtain to curtain, is flawless.

Gina Naomi Baez (Aldonza/Dulcinea).
Gina Naomi Baez gets the plum female lead role as Aldonza/Dulcinea.  The role is a big stretch; Baez must transform from a sassy, saucy sexy wench to a true believer in Quixote’s purity of heart.  She is, without question, up to the task.  Her Aldonza takes no prisoners; she enchants and then dominates her male suitors.  She’s a modern woman in that she knows how to use her femininity to get what she wants.  When Baez  becomes Dulcinea, she lets her inner beauty outshine her demons.  Quixote makes Dulcinea a better person, and Baez does the same for all of us.  Baez distinguishes herself with her gorgeous voice; her reprise of “Dulcinea” near the end of the show is at once delicate and powerful.

It’s a large and very capable cast, but two stood out for me.  I’ve seen both Sammie Joe Kinnett and Michael Augenstein in other productions.  None of those productions involved any singing.  Kinnett and Augustein handled the music admirably here.  Kinnett’s “I Really Like Him” made me sit up and take notice.  Augenstein nailed his solo“The Psalm,” putting his heart and soul into the latin lyrics.

Director Scott RC Levy sets a quick pace; there’s not a wasted moment in the entire two hour production.  Although Man of La Mancha was originally written as a one act musical, the other productions I have seen were done in two acts.  Levy wisely uses the original one act script, making for a brisk, uninterrupted experience.  Casting Sammie Joe Kinnett as Sancho was brilliant; he’s the finest comedic actor working in Colorado Springs.  Levy’s Sancho is part Cervantes and part Kinnett, and it’s a marvelous combination.

There’s only one thing I would have changed in this Fine Arts Center production.  The gypsy dance scene is done with a lighted white sheet backdrop.  Setting it up was a little clunky, and the backdrop did little to enhance the dance.  If anything, it distracted somewhat from the otherwise spectacular set.

Wasserman’s interpretation of Don Quixote is, in his own words, “continuous collisions of illusion and reality” (from the program notes).  Man of La Mancha deems illusion as the more powerful force.  That’s a debatable concept…in fact, it’s arguably an “Impossible Dream:”

This is my quest, to follow that star
No matter how hopeless,
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause

Quixote runs headlong into his illusion, crashing into the reality of the Spanish Inquisition.  There’s a lesson here.  A righteous quest is noble, but reality requires one to temper the nobility of purpose with achievable goals.  It is unwise to “march into hell for a heavenly cause” without some understanding of the consequences.  Man of La Mancha celebrates the goodness that is sometimes buried in our souls, but it does not change the reality that evil is a very real and very powerful force.  Man of La Mancha is inspiring, but we need to recognize that there's a fine line between illusion and madness.



NOTES:

Man of La Mancha is suitable for teens and up, with parental discretion regarding violence and sexual situations.  It it were a movie, Man of La Mancha would likely be rated PG 13.

Even if you’ve never seen Man of La Mancha, you’ve probably heard some of the magnificent music.  “The Impossible Dream (The Quest)” has been recorded by nearly everyone: Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, Andy Williams, Cher, Roberta Flack, The Temptations, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, among many others, have released versions of the song.  “Dulcinea” is a beautiful ballad, while “Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote)” is a stirring, toe tapping anthem.

This show closes on June 18, 2017. 

Photo Credit:  Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Tickets HERE.  

CREATIVE TEAM:


Director:  Scott RC Levy

Musical Direction:  Sharon Skidgel

Scenic Design:  Christopher L. Sheley

Lighting Design:  Holly Anne Rawls

Sound Design:  Benjamin Heston

Choreography:  Mary Ripper Baker

Properties Design:  Emma Dean

Hair & Makeup Design:  Jonathan Eberhardt

Costume Design:  Sydney Gallas

Production Stage Manager:  Kaetlyn Springs


ORCHESTRA:

Conductor:  Sharon Skidgel

Guitar:  Mike Frederick

Bass:  Jay McGuffin

French Horn:  Lisa Smith

Flute & Piccolo:  Allison Gioiscia

Oboe: Joyce Hanagan

Trombone:  Rick Crafts

Trumpet:  Chris Walters

Bass Clarinet:  Ed Hureau

Percussion:  Richard Clark & Brian Hobson



CAST:

Cervantes/Don Quixote:  Stephen Day*

Sancho:  Sammie Joe Kinnett*

Aldonza/Dulcinea:  Gina Naomi Baez*

Governor/Innkeeper:  David Hastings

Duke/Carrasco/Gypsy:  Kyle Dean Steffen*

Pedro/Gypsy:  Michael Lee

Anselmo/Gypsy:  Drew Horwitz

Tenorio/Barber:  Randy Chronister

Paco/The Horse:  Alex Wood

Jose/Guitarist:  Joshua Owen

Padre:  Michael Augenstein

Antonia/The Mule:  Carmen Vreeman Shedd

Housekeeper:  Andra Burch

Innkeeper’s Wife:  Elizabeth Snyder

Fermina/Gypsy Dancer:  Joy Thea

Captain of The Inquisition:  Jonathan Eberhardt

*Member of Actor’s Equity Association