2019 Theatre Reviews

Theatre Review Archive


Welcome to my archive of Denver-area theatre reviews. Current play reviews are posted on my blog, but after they close, I move them to this page.

2019 Theatre Reviews

==========


==========

REVIEW: ‘Our Town,” through April 28, Miners Alley Playhouse, Golden


March 23, 2019


Photos by Sarah Roshan Photography

Thornton Wilder won a Pulitzer Prize for “Our Town,” a nostalgic and sentimental depiction of life and death in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the 20th century, while also introducing revolutionary staging and storytelling styles to the American stage. Miners Alley Playhouse’s heart-warming production, playing through April 28 in Golden, captures the innocence and moral center of the play, but some of the choices meant to bring the script into the present day actually work against the play’s charming tone.

Jim Hunt
 
Guided by an omniscient Stage Manager (Jim Hunt), the audience becomes immersed in the poetic, pastoral rhythms of rural, small-town America. Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs (Rory Pierce, Lisa DeCaro) and their children George and Rebecca (Laurence Katz, Ella Matheo) live next door to Mr. and Mrs. Webb (Josh Hartwell, Shauna Earp), and their two children Emily and Wally (Hannah Haller, Sam Charney). George and Emily’s friendship evolves into courtship in Act One, they get married right out of high school in Act Two, and life in Grovers Corners, New Hampshire takes a fateful turn in Act Three.

Other citizens contribute immeasurably to our appreciation of life in a slower lane, where people could gaze at the moon instead of their phones for hours, where milk was delivered daily to your screen door, and church choir practice was the week’s most anticipated social event.

The town gossip Mrs. Soames (Amy Arpan) unequivocally LOVES weddings. The sour-spirited town drunk (Simon Stimson) is given a pass because he’s suffered so much in life. The town constable (Tim Fishbaugh) walks his beat, checking to make sure doors to family-run businesses are locked at night, even though burglary is something that happens somewhere else. Maybe in the city.

There’s never been a world war or an influenza epidemic, immigrants are readily assimilated, and until recently, a dog could sleep in the middle of Main Street all day without being disturbed.

All the performances are outstanding. The play could have been about any one of the characters, all of whom embrace the life they have been given and live it to the best of their ability until they die and begin waiting for the moment when that which is eternal arises.

Director Len Matheo has an uncanny talent for eliciting layered, varied, genuine performances from his actors, even the kids. There are countless inspired “moments,” many of them funny because they are so recognizably and universally human. The audience is swept away into the world of the play, even if some actors play several roles. The show is performed “in the round,” and there is no scenery other than a few sticks of furniture.
Rory Pierce & Lisa DeCaro

The values and moral center of “Our Town” are diametrically opposed to our current failing culture, and I can’t help but wonder if the choices we are free to make now aren’t making us happier. In the first decade of the 1900s, men were men and women were women (who voted “indirectly”), marriage was the lifelong norm for nearly everyone, a woman would die in childbirth rather than consider abortion, everyone attended the church of their choice, home was where the heart was, people worked hard, saved their money, and took pride in their heritage and community.

When did these things become offensive?


Except for the few pieces of furniture, the audience is left to imagine the various locations, aided by consistently exceptional pantomime from the actors, and the richness of the language. In a play that relies exclusively on “a plank and a passion,” costuming becomes especially important. Unfortunately, the costume choices didn’t work for me, especially in the first act. I wasn’t looking for crinoline and corsets and period-perfect costumes, but women wearing blue jeans as if in rehearsal, caused them to move differently. For example, straddling a bench to pull string beans just wouldn’t happen, and it drew me out of my willing suspension of disbelief.

Further, several other anachronistic choices, especially the music and behavior of the cast during the second act intermission worked against the play’s tone. Yes, we are always aware we are watching a play, that these are actors, but breaking character makes it all the harder to get us back where they’d worked so hard to take us.

“Our Town” is a time capsule, filled with wisdom and insight. It’s not played for laughs like “The Andy Griffith Show,” and not simplistic like “The Waltons,” but is filled with warmth and profound understanding of our fallen but redeemable human nature.

Miners Alley Playhouse presents the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Our Town" through April 28 in Golden. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m; Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $17 - $32 and available by calling 303-935-3044 or online at www.minersalley.com. Miners Alley Playhouse is located at 1224 Washington Avenue. Golden, CO 80401.

----------

 CLICK HERE to rent or buy the 1940 film version of "Our Town," starring William Holden and Martha Scott.

==========


REVIEW: ‘Oliver!’ through May 26, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, Johnstown




Kent Sugg. Photo Credit: RDG Photography

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s production of the Broadway musical sensation “Oliver!” looks and sounds great. But more than that, it has heart, and that makes all the difference. The show runs through May 26 in Johnstown.

Since 1960, “Oliver!” has been a crowd-pleaser, but when you think about it, a lot of really scary things happen to that little orphan boy in just a few days. By comparison, “Annie” seems cloyingly cynical on her easy street from rags to riches. While Oliver isn’t much more than a sheep destined to be fleeced, sacrificed, or slaughtered before he’s fortunate enough to become a rescue pet, he nevertheless manages to survive several harrowing ordeals, thanks to acts of kindness from unlikely people.

The musical, based on the Charles Dickens novel, with book, music, and lyrics by Lionel Bart, begins with a dying woman handing off an infant and perishing in the street. That’s about as sobering an opening as you could ever hope to see. Flash forward to young Oliver (Eli Emming) in an orphanage workhouse, where the “haves” get plenty and the "have nots" do without.

Instinctively recognizing that he belongs to a higher class, Oliver speaks up and asks for more gruel, setting into motion a chain of events that will see the lad sold by a human trafficker (George Lemmon), apprenticed to an undertaker (Scotty Shaffer), join a gang of pickpockets led by a crafty villain (Kent Sugg), awaken the maternal heart of a harlot (Charlotte Campbell), and bring him into the sights of a murderous psychopath (David L. Wygant), never realizing that his wealthy grandfather (T.J. Mullin) is searching for him.

Eli Emming
There are plenty of musical numbers, some with the poorest excuse for a lead-in imaginable. But what does it matter? Most of the songs are familiar and beloved classics like “Food Glorious Food,” “Where Is Love,” “Consider Yourself,” “You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two,” and the standalone power ballad “As Long As He Needs Me.”

Candlelight spared no expense in this attractive and appealing production, which was capably directed by Shannan Steele, ingeniously choreographed by Bob Hoppe, and features a dozen live musicians in the pit, under the direction by Phil Forman.

Emming is really good as Oliver. He has a lovely voice and was never whiny or annoying, just the person to bring out the best in people who still retain a modicum of goodness despite their station in life. 

Sugg is likewise wonderful as the wily Fagin, who takes pity on starving street urchins but is always watching out for his own well being, and tragically wonders if it’s possible for a villain to change his ways at the end of a misspent life.

Campbell boldly belts out her ballad and pub songs, but melts at the sight of innocent Oliver, and willingly protects him though she die for it. Mullin is spot on perfect as the compassionate and courageous aristocrat. Wygant is appropriately menacing as Bill Sikes, and Lemmon is a marvelous basso profundo Bumble. In fact, there are several members of the ensemble with truly outstanding voices.

There’s also a chorus (technically two, alternating performances) of kids to play orphans, pickpockets, and other ensemble roles, along with many of the Candlelight regulars and a few new faces.

Charlotte Campbell
The sets, lighting, costumes and even sound design are just what you’d hope for in a professional dinner theatre production.

All in all, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s “Oliver!” earns high marks all around. It has been produced with care and is performed with skill and devotion. They don’t shy away from the theme of choosing compassion, mercy, courage, and determination in a world otherwise filled with meanness, poverty, selfishness, misery, and cruelty.

An innocent boy sings through the slums of Victorian London, searching for love and finding it in unlikely people, then is given new life. That’s something we can all sing about.

Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, & Saturday Evenings: Dinner Seating at 6:00 PM, Show at 7:30 PM. Saturday Matinee: Dinner Seating at 12 noon, Show at 1:30 PM. Sunday Matinee: Dinner Seating at 12:30 PM, Show at 2:00 PM, through May 26. Tickets are Adult Dinner & Show Tickets: $52.95 - $64.95 (based on day of the week). Child (5-12) Dinner & Show Tickets: $29.95 (any performance). Student (13-18) Dinner & Show Tickets: $39.95 (any performance). Adult Show-Only Tickets: $33.95 (any performance, seating restrictions).

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is located at 4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, CO 80534.


Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, & Saturday Evenings: Dinner Seating at 6:00 PM, Show at 7:30 PM. Saturday Matinee: Dinner Seating at 12 noon, Show at 1:30 PM. Sunday Matinee: Dinner Seating at 12:30 PM, Show at 2:00 PM, through May 26. Tickets are Adult Dinner & Show Tickets: $52.95 - $64.95 (based on day of the week). Child (5-12) Dinner & Show Tickets: $29.95 (any performance). Student (13-18) Dinner & Show Tickets: $39.95 (any performance). Adult Show-Only Tickets: $33.95 (any performance, seating restrictions).

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is located at 4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, CO 80534.

For more information or to purchase tickets online visit ColoradoCandlelight.com or call the Box Office at 970-744-3747. http://www.coloradocandlelight.com/shows/oliver/

----------

https://www.amazon.com/Oliver-Ron-Moody/dp/B001IWUZYK/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&qid=1548535060&sr=8-2&keywords=Oliver&linkCode=ll1&tag=patdorplaautt-20&linkId=604f6e4cfe2ebd149c8a2b355d7e1918&language=en_US Rent or purchase the 1968 film version of Oliver! featuring Ron Moody and Oliver Reed. CLICK HERE.
==========


REVIEW: '1984," through April 13, Benchmark Theatre, Lakewood

March 19, 2019

Chris Kendall and Sean Scrutchins. Photo by McLeod9 Creative.


















There’s a tendency to endow George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” published seventy years ago, with some kind of prophetic portent. Now, more than thirty years after the dreaded date of doom has passed, readers and audiences are still looking for signs that the end is near.

Benchmark Theatre’s riveting, visceral production of “1984,” playing through April 13 in Lakewood, suggests we have a long way to go before things get THAT bad.

And that’s a good thing.

The play, adapted from Orwell’s book by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, and keenly directed by Neil Truglio, is performed without intermission in a theatre space entirely transformed into an authoritarian, utilitarian space where intimacy and privacy are an illusion, language is a weapon, and the conveniences of technology are a trap.

Winston, played in varying levels of sustained agony by Sean Scrutchins, condemns himself to torture, death, and annihilation the moment he decides to write a journal expressing his private thoughts. He can’t trust his co-workers. He can’t even rely on his own memories. Paranoia, fear, and oppression are facts of his life, and for everyone he knows, until they disappear.

Winston finds fleeting respite with a female comrade (Rebecca Buckley), a kindred spirit in a quirky antique dealer (Chris Kendall), and an unlikely ally in his upper tier boss (Dan O’Neill).

But how can one man stand up to a society where the Party rules with an iron fist by declaring individualism to be selfishness, then systematically and mercilessly putting it to death?

Benchmark Theatre’s “1984” has more in common with the nihilistic Theatre of the Absurd and even Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty than the political theatre of Bertolt Brecht. It’s not prophecy, but it does serve as a warning about how dangerous a godless ideology can become.

We regularly embrace Orwell’s genius concepts like “newspeak” and “thought police,” enforced by instant and violent censure, applying them to contemporary power struggles.

If you want to become a Winston-esque martyr in our own brave new world, simply point out the anarchically insane logic behind “Women have penises,” “Abortion is health care,” or “No borders, no walls, no country at all,” and see what happens.

And contrary to what some universities would like their snowflakes to believe, there are no “safe spaces” from people whose ideas differ from their own.

Because every cell phone conversation, every internet search or social media comment ever posted, every purchase, every traffic cam and orbiting satellite, and even the cameras in our doorbells remind us that Big Brother really is watching.

And not watching only.

Benchmark Theatre’s powerhouse production of “1984” is a brutal, yet aesthetically astute wake-up call, the antithesis to it’s most recent uplifting, individual-affirming production of “Wakey, Wakey.”

Get on Benchmark's mailing list. See everything they do, because this company has guts and talent to spare.

Performances of “1984” are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 pm and Sunday evenings at 6 pm, through April 13. Industry Night is scheduled for Monday, April 1st ($12 tickets). Additional performances on Thursday, March 21st, March 28th, April 4th, and April 11th.

General admission is $30 and $25 for students/seniors/military with Thursdays offering half-priced tickets. The Bench at 40West is in the 40West Arts District in Lakewood at 1560 Teller Street. Visit www.benchmarktheatre.com to purchase tickets and send any inquiries to info@benchmarktheatre.com.

*Warning: This production contains graphic and adult content. Strongly not recommended for children under the age of 15.*

----------



Rent or buy the 1984 film version of 1984, starring John Hurt and Richard Burton. CLICK HERE.
==========


REVIEW: ‘As You Like It,’ through March 24, The Upstart Crow at the Dairy Arts Center, Boulder

Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” is a comedy best remembered for several spectacularly sublime speeches, and a handful of memorable characters. As large ensemble romantic comedies go, it’s rarely laugh-out-loud funny, and the cast, including no fewer than four couples wrangling their way to matrimony, is bloated with what amounts to a series of guest-star cameos and pitifully underdeveloped subplots.

It’s the Elizabethan equivalent to “Love, Actually.”

The Upstart Crow, my favorite classical community theatre, is now in its 39th season, and I adore the company for the abiding respect it shows the texts of great works of dramatic literature.

There’s minimal “concept” interference in the current production, directed by Christopher Shelton, and running through March 24. There’s no attempt to be edgy or woke, and when women play men’s parts, I got the feeling that he simply cast the best people he could find and made adjustments only when absolutely necessary. His biggest innovation is an audience participation "sing along."

The result is a straightforward production, without a lot of flash or dazzle, and I’m so grateful. The approach reveals the strengths of the play but also exposes its weaknesses.

I almost get the feeling, which is entirely possible, that Shakespeare threw “As You Like It” together as a slapdash rush job, inserting some speeches he actually spent some time on, and linking it together with this couple, then that couple, and adding a fourth one later on for good measure. And don’t even worry about one main lover’s complete inability to recognize his paramour simply because she exchanged a dress for a doublet.

Several performances stand out in The Upstart Crow’s production. Jack Janzen’s Orlando is repeatedly disdainful of attempts by a youth (Rosalind in disguise) to give him boyfriend lessons. Valerie deGroot’s Rosalind is often brooding and petulant, easily angered. There’s little trace of playfulness or teasing, so their convoluted courtship loses a lot in the rom-com silliness department, but gains depth and gravitas, even when Orlando refuses to take “Ganymede” seriously. 

Jeffrey William Hill is less of a clownish jester-type Touchstone, and his romance of the clueless Audrey (Deb Conley) is more about affection than satyr-like lust. Susie Matthews is a delightful Celia, turning a confidante role into a wry observer of bizarre human mating habits. Particularly exciting and entertaining was Kelly Diana MacLeod as the “Duchess” Frederick, turning what could have been a Queen of Hearts “off with his head” role into a richly complex, powerful woman.

Dan McNellan is a good-natured noble with buoyant cockeyed optimism, and Danice Crawford is a more reclusive than melancholy Jacques. She’s amused by the hijinks, but a little goes a long way for the natural introvert, so she’s always excusing herself and going off to her safe space cave.

Marcus Cannello does a great job as the mustache-twirling evil older brother who sleeps through a lion attack and suddenly makes an abrupt character change into an awesome good guy with an eye for a certain lady.

One thing I consistently love about Upstart Crow productions is how they work intergenerational casting into the mix. This becomes especially handy for Jacques’ classic “All the world’s a stage” speech.

“As You Like It” not only has a little bit of everything, it has perhaps a little bit too much of everything. Still, it’s a spritely three hours well spent, especially if you love the Bard as much as The Upstart Crow clearly does.

“As You Like It” performs at 7 pm Thursday-Saturday, 2 pm Sunday, through March 24 at The Dairy Arts Center 2590 Walnut St, Boulder. Tickets are on sale at bit.ly/theupstartcrow or by calling 303-444-7328. Tickets start at $25. Seniors and Students (with ID) $21. Thursdays are Name-Your-Price Night. For more info email info@theupstartcrow.org or visit www.theupstartcrow.org

----------

 CLICK HERE to download the 1936 film version of "As You Like It," starring Lawrence Olivier and a merry Elizabeth Bergner.










==========

REVIEW: 'Dames at Sea,' through March 17, Town Hall Arts Center, Littleton
February 16, 2019

There's a fine distinction between parody and homage, and Town Hall Arts Center's production of "Dames at Sea," playing in Littleton through March 17, has plenty of both. Directed with over-the-top, pie-in-the-face comic genius by Bob Wells, the laughs, especially in the first act, are inspired and nearly non-stop.

Serving up pretty much every cliché of the many Broadway-bound, boy-meets-girl backstage musicals, "Dames at Sea" feels at once familiar and fresh. The delightful songs are all reminiscent of more famous versions, often with similar titles. The continuous musical jokes are just as funny as the slapstick and corny gags, especially if you're familiar with the original shows being lampooned.
The cast, which includes Chrissy Keane-Schmidt and Matt LaFontaine as the starry-eyed, not terribly bright young lovers, John Mackey and Carie Millard as the more experienced comic secondary couple, the incomparable Mary McGroary as the petulant diva, and Stephen Turner as the harried director/producer and a jealous battleship captain, are all outstanding singers and dancers.

It's obvious which performers have found some truth in their ridiculous characters, and which simply screw their faces up and mug their way through their roles. This is a small-scale cabaret show that isn't meant to be taken seriously for a second, but I especially appreciated the performers who invested in going a little deeper and thus seemed to have more fun. Their comic choices were invariably more surprising, seasoning my laughter with genuine appreciation. It's nice to know we're all in on the joke.

There's a lot of singing and dancing, and not just tap dancing. Choreographer Kelly Kates deserves kudos for her amazing and varied choreography. All that's missing is the trademark Busby Berkeley "top-down" kaleidoscopic geometric routines. The band, consisting of music director/keyboards Donna Debreceni, Scott Alan Smith on bass, and Larry Zheil on percussion, bring a surprisingly full sound to the show.

"Dames at Sea" was created in the late 1960s as an Off-Broadway parody of the Busby Berkeley musical stage and film extravaganzas of the 1930s and 40s. Ironically, Berkeley, who lived until 1976, was capitalizing on the younger generation's "camp craze" and directing shows of his own at the same time he was being spoofed.

It's been more than forty years since "Dames at Sea" launched Bernadette Peters' career. But the show still holds up. The Town Hall Arts Center's production is smart, sassy, a musical delight, and very, very funny.

"Dames at Sea" plays through March 17, 2019. Showtimes are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. (also 2 p.m. on 3/2) and Sundays at 2 p.m. (also 6:30 p.m. on 3/10). Ticket prices are $24.00-$44.00. Contact the Town Hall Arts Center box office, 303-794-2787 ext. 5 (Monday - Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 1 Hour prior to Shows) or online at townhallartscenter.org/damesatsea. In a continuing effort to make plays at Town Hall Arts Center accessible to all, ten value seats at $10 each will be made available on a first-come-first-served basis one-hour prior to each published curtain time.
----------

To stream, download, or purchase a CD of the original 1968 Off Off Broadway Cast Recording of Dames at Sea, CLICK HERE.


==========


REVIEW: "The Diary of Anne Frank," through May 17, Arvada Center

February 04, 2019

Photo Credit: Matthew Gale Photography
Following shocking results from a recent study about young Americans' lack of knowledge about The Holocaust, and close on the heels of Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27), the Arvada Center's nearly perfect production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" couldn't come at a better time.

I only hope the drama, inspired by the journal of a Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis with her family in Amsterdam for a year and a half before perishing at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, can still affect audiences in a meaningful way.

Current culture has stacked the deck against the pledge, "Never again." After all, there were 42 million babies destroyed worldwide last year alone. There are five current genocides, including Christians in the Middle East, Nigeria, and Central Africa, ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Myanmar, and more. 

What difference do another six million murders that were committed seventy or eighty years ago make in the larger scheme of things?

How do you make people care anymore? How do you soften hardened hearts inured to murder on a massive scale?

For Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, and Wendy Kesselman, who dramatized Anne Frank's diary, and in the Arvada Center's production directed by Christy Montour-Larson, the goal is to create fully human, easily-relatable characters, and subject them to extreme stress.

It's the humanity of the individual that puts a face on global suffering and persecution.

Montour-Larson has assembled a capable professional cast, including Darrow Klein as Anne, Larry Cahn and Emily Paton Davies as Anne's parents, Annie Barbour as Anne's big sister, Emma Messenger and Abner Genece as additional adults thrust into a trying intimate relationship with the Franks, Daniel Crumrine as their son who becomes a potential first-love interest for Anne, and Zachary Andrews as a quirky later addition that disrupts the tenuous equilibrium. Regina Fernandez and Lance Rasmussen play the "outsiders," non-Jews who try and help their hidden neighbors.

Eight people share cramped quarters, a single lavatory, diminishing food supplies, crushing boredom and lingering dread for an extended period of time. All the while they anticipate the day when they are discovered and denounced, then follow so many of their friends and neighbors to certain death at the Nazi death camps.

This is the stuff of compelling drama, laced with humor and insights into the human condition, and the Arvada Center's production brings it all close to home.

Except that I couldn't help but wonder about a younger generation raised on popular dystopian fiction that capitalizes on the same trope: "a group of survivors take refuge in an unreliable sanctuary while a relentless, malevolent force lurks outside".  Like "racist," "Nazi" has become an epithet bandied about indiscriminately. It might as well be zombies out there. Or aliens. Or evil white Purge predators. "Don't go outside or you'll die." "Don't make a sound or we'll all die."

And it doesn't help that no one in this group has any inclination to fight back. They are counting on far away foreigners, the British of all people, to care enough to come and rescue them. So they sit in an intolerable situation with no agency except to try and get along with each other and maintain basic human decency.

I'm afraid many people have become too fatalistic about their futures to fully embrace the desperately important reality behind this play. Nowadays, audiences don't expect the characters in these kinds of stories, even true ones, to survive. In "The Diary of Anne Frank," we're surprised that one person does, and he isn't much better off than those who died.

Performances of "The Diary of Anne Frank" are Wednesdays at 1:00 pm, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 pm, through May 17. "The Diary of Anne Frank" is performed in repertory – for specific performance dates, consult the Arvada Center website at www.arvadacenter.org. Audience engagement events, pre-show chats with members of the cast, and audience talkbacks are held nearly for every performance. To purchase tickets, and for additional details, visit https://arvadacenter.org/the-diary-of-anne-frank or call the box office at 720-898-7200.

----------

Purchase the 50th anniversary DVD/Blu-Ray release of The Diary of Anne Frank HERE.

 
==========


REVIEW: "Lost in Yonkers," through March 3, Miners Alley Playhouse, Golden

January 26, 2019

Photo by Sarah Roshan




















Neil Simon's not-particularly-funny 1991 play "Lost in Yonkers" can't decide who the story is supposed to be about. 

Miners Alley Playhouse's current production, running through March 3, is beautifully staged by Warren Sherrill, with an eye to achieving the most powerful impact possible. The show, with perfect casting and outstanding performances, packs an emotional wallop. But since Simon couldn't decide on and stick with a protagonist, the various scenes and character arcs progress without really accomplishing anything.

Two teenage brothers (Dee Jimenez, Ben Feldman) are stuck staying with their relentless and unrepentantly cruel grandmother (Deborah Persoff) while their father (Rory Pierce) works out of town earning money to pay off debts incurred when their mother got sick and died. Living with them is their mentally challenged and volatile aunt (Haley Johnson). The boys' misery is tempered by fear when their on-the-run criminal uncle (Damon Guerrasio) hides out with them in the apartment situated above grandma's candy store. Another aunt (MacKenzie Beyer) appears in the final scenes as a convenient afterthought.

Without a clear thematic or story through-line, each of the actors must assume that the play is about their character, and each makes the most of their scenes until their plotline is dropped in favor of another. Haley Johnson and Deborah Persoff have the most spectacular roles, offering nuanced and compelling performances. Pierce's scenes bookend the rest of the play, but he's great when he's onstage. Guerrasio is smooth and menacing as the man who turned his own abusive childhood into feigned "moxie." Jimenez and Feldman are terrific young actors who more than hold their own.

Mostly, this play is about miserable people who can't escape each other because they're family. All are emotionally wounded and permanently damaged by the hateful, despicable granny, who is the literary descendant of the child-devouring witch with the gingerbread house in "Hansel and Gretel." 

This is Neil Simon at his darkest. He's purging something deeply troubling in this play and doesn't sugarcoat a thing. Although he's often called the "American Anton Chekhov," with "Lost in Yonkers" he's taken a page from Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey Into Night" playbook. 

Miners Alley Playhouse presents "Lost in Yonkers" through March 3. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m; Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $17 - $32 and available by calling 303-935-3044 or online at www.minersalley.com. Miners Alley Playhouse is located at 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, CO 80401.

----------

Rent or buy the 1993 film version of "Lost in Yonkers," starring Mercedes Ruehl, Richard Dreyfuss, and Irene Worth on Amazon. CLICK HERE.






==========


REVIEW: 'Motones vs Jerseys,' through Feb. 25, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, Johnstown

January 21, 2019




For those of us who grew up listening to and singing along with the chart-toppers of the 1960s through the '80s, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's staged concert production of "Motones vs Jerseys" is an upbeat, high-energy blast from the past.

The rest of you will just have to catch up on the amazing hit parade of songs that came out of Hoboken, NJ and Detroit, MI during that tumultuous era. Trust me. It'll be fun.

"MvJ" boasts 46 hit songs, complete with authentic behind-the-mic choreography, performed by two teams of singers who are supposedly competing against each other, though the stakes are strictly points only. In a bit of interactive genius, the audience awards the points to the singers via the magic of smartphones and real-time online voting.

There are no folk or protest songs here. Actually, most of the hits offer examples of the human male (and sometimes female) mating call, complete with hypnotic, stylized, and seductive motions. How else can you describe titles like "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You," "Under the Boardwalk," and the less than subtle "Give it To Me Baby" and "Let's Get It On."

Other songs seem just silly today, but you can't get the melodies (and sweet, sweet harmonies) out of your head: "Sherry," "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," "My Girl," and "Workin My Way Back to You." And then there are the power anthems: "Eye of the Tiger," "Living in America," "Dancing in the Streets," and "Proud Mary." There's a sampling of British Invasion hits, and ample opportunities to sing along to "Help Me Rhonda," "Sweet Caroline," and "Love Potion #9". 

Honestly, describing this show feels like one of those K-Tel or Time/Life greatest hits collection infomercials. 

For the complete song list of all 46 titles, visit http://www.mvjshow.com/.

The Motones include four singers of color (Randy Chalmers, Rakeem Lawrence, Alejandro Roldan, and Tezz Yancey). The Jerseys are less so (Joe Callahan, Will Hawkins, Brian Jackson, and Jacob Villarreal). Their costumes separate them black and white as well, but in this show, and despite the differences in musical styles, there is no trace of racial tension. This is a friendly competition, like black and white chess pieces. The performers frequently congratulate the opposing team on their vocalistic and stylistic mastery. They even exchange songs and styles, and frequently, both groups sing together.

Nearly all the cast are first-rate soloists, and all blend well with the period's distinctive harmonies. None of them were even born when these songs first hit the airwaves, but they clearly love singing the tunes and often sound like the real deal.

The emcee for the evening is Jalyn Courtenay Webb, who pumps up the audience by screaming into the microphone like a WWF referee, makes a few off-color comments about the handsome male cast, and also sings a few numbers, including a fantastic "Son of a Preacher Man," then brings us home with "Stand By Me".

"Motones vs Jerseys" was co-created by Kenny Moten and Chris Starkey, directed by Kenny Moten, and choreographed by Jessica Hindsley. The cast is backed by a terrific band of six or seven musicians.

The show, which is not part of the season ticket package, has a very short run, performing on the "off nights" when CDP's production of "Nunsense" is dark. Tickets are selling fast, but not as fast as time has flown, when I realized some of these pop songs are nearly sixty years old.

Thanks to "Motones vs Jerseys," they're still alive and kicking.

Performances are Sunday and Monday evenings, through Feb. 25. Sunday evenings are $35, which includes dessert and show (no dinner available). Monday evenings are $50 and include the full dinner theater experience. Call the box office at 970-744-3747 or visit http://www.coloradocandlelight.com/motones-vs-jerseys/.

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is located at 4747 Marketplace Dr, Johnstown, CO 80534. Located right off I-25 at Exit 254 – halfway between Denver, Colorado, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. The theatre is visible from I-25 immediately south of Johnson’s Corner and directly east of Lazy Days RV.
==========

Review: 'Wakey Wakey,' through Feb. 16, Benchmark Theatre, Lakewood

January 19, 2019



Benchmark Theatre's regional premiere of Will Eno's "Wakey, Wakey" begins its 2019 season with a bang...and a whimper.

Eno's funny, sad, wise, and inspiring play offers an "elegy for the eulogist," as a dying man (Augustus Truhn) humbly and gently presents his thoughts on the meaning of life and how to make the most of the time we have, complete with slides, short video clips, and the loveliest language I've heard on stage in a long, long time.

Even with his crumpled 3x5 cards, Guy occasionally loses the thread of his unraveling thoughts. He appears to ramble and drift off, but as the audience leans in and pieces together the often comical fragments of wry observations, hard-won lessons, and the sheer poetry of expressing a life lived from the point of view of one who has nothing and everything left to lose, the treasures begin to reveal themselves.

Guy is both unencumbered and uncomforted by any faith systems, even eschewing the trite proverbs found in fortune cookies. He faces the abyss of his own mortality with humor and gratitude, finding inestimable value in the simplest of easily ignored but nevertheless precious moments. And he nudges us in that direction, too.

Augustus Truhn
Truhn gives an utterly authentic, fully invested performance. He is alone on stage for almost the entire play, and only once raises his voice, yet his range of emotions is impressive and compelling. This is a complex script, with layers of meaning, abrupt changes in focus, and all the while depicting a slow, inexorable demise. Later, Arlene Rapal appears as Lisa, who isn't a nurse per se, perhaps more of well-meaning end-of-life doula.

Director Rachel Rogers employs deceptively simple staging. What can you do with a man in a wheelchair in a bare room full of unopened cardboard boxes? And yet she finds a way to keep the action interesting and surprising. More importantly, she has dug deep into the text and found brilliant and lasting images, not to mention helping Truhn to achieve the performance of a lifetime. Somehow, something so simple as a pair of empty slippers can convey the devastating fact of our universally-shared bereavement.

For a somewhat short play, performed without intermission, both the comedy and tragedy masks of drama are in full bloom. It's a courageous and inspiring play, unlike anything I've seen or read since Eugene Ionesco's "Exit the King." (1962)

Neil Truglio and Susannah McLeod deserve special mention for the digital projection and video designs.

Plan to stay for the reception following each performance. Like the reception after a funeral or rather a celebration of life, it is an important part of the overall service and a gift of hope and life from one hurting loved-one to another.


Tickets are $30 for general admission and $25 for students/seniors/military with Thursdays offering half-priced tickets. The production will take place at the company’s home at The Bench at 40West in the 40West Arts District in Lakewood at 1560 Teller Street. Please visit www.benchmarktheatre.com to purchase tickets and send any inquiries to info@benchmarktheatre.com.


----------

 To purchase your own copy of 'Wakey, Wakey,' click HERE












==========

REVIEW: 'Nunsense,' through March 3, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, Johnstown

January 16, 2019




Dan Goggin's "Nunsense" franchise, a series of small-scale variety-show musicals with an all-female cast dressed as traditional nuns, now boasts nine titles. The first one, which is currently playing at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown through March 3, is my favorite.

It's not just a case of the diminishing returns common to sequels. The original has such a sense of innocence and spontaneity, it's easy to believe the surviving Little Sisters of Hoboken are as flabbergasted as the audience that their little fund-raising event to move four recently deceased nuns from the kitchen freezer into hallowed ground plays out as well as it does, despite numerous mishaps.

The genius of "Nunsense" is that these are supposed to be amateurs who love the "holy trinity" of God, the Roman Catholic Church, and Musical Theatre, in sometimes scandalous proportions.

There are two ways to go with this show, and director Pat Payne has chosen the wisest path for his venue. You can cast modestly talented, mostly middle-aged women who understand and appreciate the peculiar and dwindling world of professed religious, and put them in an intimate, thrown-together setting. Or, you can cast professionals on a big stage and bump up the musical comedy factor.

With a house seating 300+ dinner theatre patrons who are most likely either non-religious or members of a mega- or evangelical churches, it's best to downplay the "Catholic nostalgia" angle, cruise through the many subtle in-jokes, and go for big laughs and polished numbers with mega-watt entertainment value.

The cast of luminaries on the Colorado dinner theatre circuit dress up as nuns, but not for one second do we believe they spend more time on their knees praying or serving the poor than singing, dancing, and performing. 

Case in point: the winsome, sweet, slightly sad "Growing Up Catholic," which is about being a traditionalist who feels left behind by an increasingly progressive Church, is turned into a rafter rocking, virtuoso power ballad.

We're not surprised that a wanna-be ballerina nun for God dances en pointe like a pro. We laugh at how a ditzy nun with a concussion and memory loss after being bonked on the head with a crucifix gives every indication that with or without her identity, she's always been a bubblehead. Or how the Mother Superior can go from operatic to shrill, domineering to out-of-control in a heartbeat.

The cast includes Samantha Jo Staggs, Heather McClain, Sarah Grover, Abigail Hanawalt, and Lisa Kay Carter. Phil Forman leads the onstage band as "Father Phil," interacting with the cast and playing the piano.

Once the show discards the idea of suspension of disbelief, the "penguin" jokes don't work as well, but Payne has added plenty of inspired contemporary references, brilliant sight gags, and perfectly timed slapstick to more than compensate. Stephen Bertles' choreography is better than it needs to be, but the cast handles it like, well, pros.

Consequently, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse's "Nunsense" is loads of laugh out loud fun, a real crowd-pleaser, but perhaps not as edifying as it might be.

Nunsense at a glance

SHOWTIMES: January 10 - March 3, 2019; Thursday, Friday, & Saturday Evenings: Dinner Seating at 6:00 PM, Show at 7:30 PM; Saturday Matinee: Dinner Seating at 12 noon, Show at 1:30 PM; Sunday Matinee: Dinner Seating at 12:30 PM, Show at 2:00 PM

TICKETS: Adult Dinner & Show Tickets: $52.95 - $64.95 (based on day of the week); Child (5-12) Dinner & Show Tickets: $29.95 (any performance); Student (13-18) Dinner & Show Tickets: $39.95 (any performance); Adult Show-Only Tickets: $33.95 (any performance, seating restrictions)

WHERE: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, 4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, CO 80534

Purchase a DVD of the entire Nunsense Collection HERE.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

REVIEW: ‘Oliver!’ through May 26, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, Johnstown