Monday, April 13, 2015

The Cherry Orchard
Germinal Stage Denver: 4/3 – 5/3
Left to Right: Stephen R. Kramer, Eric Victor, Lisa Mumpton and Leroy Leonard

      Anton Chekhov’s "The Cherry Orchard" is the current offering of Germinal Stage Denver. The playwright wrote "The Cherry Orchard" after having been diagnosed with Tuberculosis and originally intended it to be seen as a comedy. However, Constantin Stanislavsky directed it as a tragedy when it debuted at The Moscow Art Theatre. 
     Some directors lean into the tragic and some the comic aspects of Chekhov’s work. We’ve seen Ed Baierlein lean each way in differing productions of such plays   as "Uncle Vanya."  This production of "The Cherry Orchard" is a truly balanced one.  There is great humor in the portraits of these Russians as well as all the pathos associated with the uprooting deep change of aging, death and social upheaval caused by revolution.

       Lisa Mumpton portrays Lubov, the mistress of this aristocratic mansion with its magnificent cherry orchard.
Her ability to communicate dignity and sophistication in the midst of this vulgar and ignorant rabble as well as profound sorrow at the loss of her childhood home anchors the production.

     Ed Baierlein is achingly funny as the doddering family servant, Fiers. Baierlein, who also directs, focuses on the damage - physical, mental and emotional - done to all of these characters by the passage of time… and the revolution. The way in which he self-directs Fiers’ moment at final curtain speaks volumes.

     It’s a joy to see Eric Victor onstage again.  As Pischik he is hilariously natural dozing on the setee or rambling on and on about his accomplishments and short-comings.

     Stephen R. Kramer portrays Lopahin, a peasant’s son who has acquired the home and cherry orchard of his aristocratic masters at an auction.  Kramer delivers this character’s elation at this victory as a two-edged sword. Out one side of his mouth comes the self adulating praise that he is now"the boss." Out the other comes the sobering awareness that he does not have the education to handle things the way educated people do nor does he have the slightest idea of what he's going to do with his newly won status. Kramer also did the admirable lighting design.

     Leroy Leonard’s intentionally choppy delivery accentuates his character’s mental decline. As a result of his inability to deal with the social changes along with loss of the estate he lapses into self-talk around billiard shots and chats with the antique furnishings.

    The sound design is thoroughly well done and sounded so good this reviewer inquired as to whether there were a totally new sound system that had been installed. There wasn’t. However… someone has discovered how to use the one they’ve got! 

     The well-appointed set design complete with crystal chandelier, antique furnishings and samovar, speaks of a once grand aristocratic life. This scenic design gives the illusion of far more depth than usual at this venue and allows for multiple entrances and exits that give the general effect of a bustling household.
     Sallie Diamond created the wonderful costumes. The dusty rose gown for Ms. Mumpton is an eye-popper.

The cast also includes: Sandra Prestia-Turner, John W.B. Greene, Karin Carr, Caitlin Conklin, Laura Booze David L. Wygant and Jeremy MacNichol.

THE CHERRY ORCHARD By Anton Chekhov plays Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from April 3rd through May 3rd, 2015. Germinal Stage Denver is located at 2456 W. 44th Avenue, Denver, CO. For tickets call:303.455.7108 or go online at: 

Marlowe's Musings

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Lion in Winter
Firehouse Theater Company: 4/4 – 5/2

  L-R: Andrew Uhlenhopp and Emma Messenger (Photo credit to Ed Berry)

     “The Lion in Winter,” James Goldman’s melodramatic medieval soap opera, is one of my favorite plays. The playwright’s wordplay is delightful to the ear and often devastating to the funny bone. Beyond that it all boils down to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine duking it out over which of their three sons will be the eventual successor to the throne of England. Henry wants John and Eleanor wants Richard. Geoffrey, the middle son, tries with all his calculating heart to get noticed and fails miserably.
     Director Rick Bernstein gives us a production that’s a real theatrical treat.
     Emma Messenger’s Eleanor commands the stage with a fiery passion and sparkling wit. This actor, who took the Henry for her portrayal of Mag in “The Beauty Queen of Linnane” last season, is Emma-nently watchable.
     Andrew Uhlenhopp’s Henry is brash and bullish and bellows from curtain to curtain. Mr. Uhlenhopp is one of the local actors who is not afraid of the grandeur of his voice onstage. That’s a good thing. One does, however, wish that the volume be modulated a bit at first. Otherwise there’s nowhere to go when the amperage needs to be turned up as subsequent scenes require it.

L-R foreground: Andrew Uhlenhopp and Jeff Jesmer. 
L-R background: Danielle Vivarttas and Emma Messenger with Photo Credit to Ed Berry

     Besides his strong and memorable acting in the role of Richard, Jeffrey Jesmer also created the very fine set describing the castle at Chinon in which this leonine pride is celebrating Christmas. Jonathan Hallowell does well appearing intentionally pathetic as John. Thomas Jennings’ Geoffrey is appropriately cool and conniving.
     His Nordic good looks aside, Drew Hirschboeck’s portrayal of the French Prince Philip as consummate strategist is delicious. Danielle Vivarttas pouts beautifully as Henry’s mistress, Alais.
     The costumes by Lisa DeVeux are some of the best to have been seen so far this season.
Firehouse Theater Company presents
“The Lion in Winter”
King Henry II goes head-to-head with wife Eleanor in a battle to secure England’s next King.
Apr. 4 - May 2
Fri./Sat. @ 7:30 p.m.; Sun., @ 6:30 p.m.
John Hand Theater/Colorado Free University, 7653 East First Place, Denver, CO      Marlowe's Musings                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Friday, April 3, 2015

             The Buell Theatre: 3/31 - 4/19

     “Motown, the Musical” is a huge blast from the past that’s musically about as entertaining as anything to hit the Buell Theatre in a long time. It’s got tremendous vocalists, awesome dancers and an explosion of colorful costumes by Esosa. The book, however, suffers.
     Supposedly it’s the 25th anniversary of the beginning of Motown and Berry Gordy, Motown’s legendary creator, is trying to decide if he wants to go to the party or not. By the time things ended there was a lot of bad blood and some pending lawsuits as well. Gordy was feeling betrayed and let down. This is the fragile armature on which the book for one of the longest and most exhilarating jukebox musicals hangs its hat.
     If you can get past the fact that story-wise there ain’t much there, and just enjoy the flash and flair of fantastic choreography, singing, costumes and that glorious Motown beat, you’re gonna have an evening to remember for a long time.
     Now there are are a lot of tunes in this jukebox! The down side is we want to hear them all the way through. Unfortunately the show is a little over three hours with intermission and it’s just not possible to do anything but a non-stop auditory taster.
     Clifton Oliver is a great Berry Gordy. Too bad they didn’t shore up his dialogue with more creative bits. Jesse Nager is a tremendous presence as Smokey Robinson. Allison Semmes is a fetching Diana Ross. Leon Outlaw, Jr. nearly stops the show as the young Michael Jackson.
     The Supremes, The Temptations, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips! These are just a few of the artists featured in over 60 songs which take us all on a great journey down memory lane. The historical framework of the show is told visually in projections of vintage video.
     Motown the Musical is filled with the music that has made our lives sing! These artists leapt over racial boundaries uniting us all with the universal language of music. Both the history and the artists are resurrected for this production…but most especially their songs.

For tickets call the box office at 303-893-4100 or go online at Denvercenter.orgMarlowe's Musings

Thursday, April 2, 2015

“Godspell, (the Revival)”
Miners Alley Playhouse: 3/27 – 5/3
               Matt Kok and the cast of "Godspell,the Revival" with photo credit to Cody Schuyler

Matt Kok’s performance in the role of Jesus is the reason to see “Godspell", the Revival.”
     This role is seldom cast properly and almost never well acted. Director Brenda Bilings’ choice to put this actor in the role is golden, and I don’t mean the location. Kok’s portrayal of the main character in St. Matthew’s narrative is one of honest simple goodness. What’s so great about his performance is his ability to remain centered in a state of joyous acceptance in his interaction with the other cast members without resorting to saccharine sweetness delivered regularly by most actors in this role.
     Simplicity was the word for “Godspell” … initially. Now it’s been “revived” louder, and with a nod to the contemporary sounds of rock and rap. And although I vote for the original, there is much to praise about the Revival. The cast is uniformly good and the onstage musicians are all wonderful.
     Younger audiences may find this production right up their alley.  It speaks to their musical tastes and the graffiti adorning the stage looks just like that, which, is plastered, on building facades all over town.
Unfortunately the choice to bring audience members up onto the stage to portray Lazarus and others – as well as getting them back to their seats – breaks the momentum.
Some of the songs you may remember are: Day-by-Day, Beautiful City, Turn Back O’ Man and All for the Best.
Some of the wonderful actors are: Carter Edward Smith, Gabriel Morales Jackie Jo Billings, Leslie Randle, Jenna Haines, Ashley Brown, Felicia Tuttle and Drew Horwitz.
Miners Alley
“Godspell (The Revival)”
March 27 - May 3
A group of people helps Jesus Christ tell parables using a wide variety of techniques and songs.
Fri. and Sat. @ 7:30 p.m.; Sun @ 6 p.m. (2 p.m. on Sun., May 3)
$26 Adult - $23 Senior and Youth - $$15 Children under 12

Miners Alley Playhouse, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, CO 80401
303-935-3044 or online at minersalley.comMarlowe's Musings

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks
Vintage Theatre: 3/14 – 5/3

                                     L-R Dame Deborah Persoff & Preston Britton

     “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” is a two-character play set in  Florida.
     Deborah Persoff portrays Lily Harrison, a woman of a certain age who, widowed and lonely, wishes to experience a more fulfilling life.
     Preston Britton is Michael Minnetti, a gay dance instructor with attitude who appears at her door after Lily signs up for private lessons in her home.
     What begins as a decidedly incompatible relationship develops into a sometimes exuberant, sometimes graceful pas de deux.
Whether the dance is a romantic waltz or fast paced Hustle or Tango, Persoff and Britton move together with fluidity and charm. This duet has chemistry to go!
     Dame Persoff ‘s performance is revelatory. This artist exhibits a range of emotion from antagonistic disgust (contentious retaliation?) to animated joie de vivre to poignant self deprecation.
     Preston Britton’s hilarious portrayal of this flip, out-spoken gay man engages and endears.
Their repartee is laced with acerbic humor. At one point Lily says, ”If you say your age out loud your face hears it?”
     Christine Samar’s costume design provides us with real visual contrast. The wardrobe created for Dame Persoff is an array of dazzling gowns and ensembles while Mr. Britton’s outfits are mostly hilarious.
     Sharon Dwinnell, a professional dancer from New York, provides the varied choreography.

     Ever the champion of diversity in theatre it’s not surprising that director Craig Bond has chosen a script that addresses such issues as ageism and homophobia. Bond’s astute direction elicits performances that are as animated as his pacing is swift. His choice to have the scenes bridged visually by the cinematic expertise of Dan Rib's projections adds immeasurably to this evening of theatre.

     The play is a heartfelt work that speaks to the healing balm of friendship we all crave at every age.

Vintage Theatre Productions
“Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” 
March 13 – May 3
A widow, seeking to spice up her life, hires a young, private dance instructor.
Fri/Sat at 7:30 p.m.; Sun at 2:30 p.m.; Sat., May 2 at 2:30 p.m.
Vintage Theatre Productions, 1468 Dayton Street, Aurora, CO 80010