Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Spitfire Grill
Vintage Theatre Productions: 6/26 – 8/18


       L-R: Megan Van De Hey, Anne Oberbroeckling and Kelly Watt (Photo credit DenverMind Media)
    
     Sometimes it takes an ex-con newly released from prison to unlock the private self-inflicted confinement of those “on the outside.”
     Based upon the 1996 movie of the same title, “The Spitfire Grill” won the Richard Rodgers Production Award in 2001. Some of the judges for this competition include: Stephen Sondheim, John Guare and Richard Maltby, Jr.
      “The Spitfire Grill” is an homage to the simple life of small town America and the redemption it affords. The central character in this ‘play with music’ by James Valcq and Fred Alley is Percy Talbott, a woman newly released from prison who seeks refuge in starting a new life in rural Gilead, Wisconsin. Joe Sutter, the local sheriff suggests that Percy apply at The Grill to secure work and a room to call home. There Percy meets Hannah, the Spitfire’s cantankerous proprietor. When Hannah is injured in a fall her somewhat overprotective nephew, Caleb bristles when she asks Percy to manage things while she’s laid up. Caleb’s wife Shelby assists in the kitchen to keep the local gathering place afloat.
       Megan Van De Hey’s performance as Percy Talbott is the main reason to go see and hear this show. Van De Hey dazzles us with her sensational vocals and exuberantly expressive acting.
     Kelly Watt portrays Shelby, a young woman suffering the smothering and sometimes abusive love of Tom Auclair’s Caleb. Watt was the exquisite Luisa of the final production of “The Fantasticks” at The Denver Victorian Playhouse.  Auclair, who is just coming off his fine performance as the boy friend in “UNMarried in America” provides the requisite menace.
     Ann Oberbroeckling gives Hannah a homespun charm that’s hidden at first under her cranky fa├žade.
     Mark Lively is in fine voice portraying Joe Sutter, the local sheriff.
     Nancy Van Fleet plays Effy, the postmistress who delivers as much gossip as she does mail.
     Clint Heyn does good work portraying a silent visitor of whom one can say no more without attaching a spoiler alert.
     The music direction by Trent Hines is steady and keeps the atmosphere humming with piano and strings.
     Jen Orf’s lighting design is of special note. One scene is luminescent beyond words. Watch for it.
     Describing the quaint rustic gathering place and its sylvan setting Laura K. Love’s scenic design is memorable. The exquisite hand painted trees surrounding the grill put one in mind of Robert Frost’s famous poem, “Birches.” One might add that a number of audience members were clamoring to buy sections of the scenic design after the show closes. It’s that good!
   
     Director Bev Newcomb-Madden has given the show a fluid pace that eliminates the black-outs that ordinarily make the show a patchwork quilt of rural snapshots. As a result we as audience see the play’s action as a continuous flow.

Vintage Theatre Productions
"The Spitfire Grill"
The musical journey of three women in small town Wisconsin.
June 26 - Aug. 16
Fri/Sat @ 7:30 p.m.; Sun. @ 2:30 p.m; Thurs., July 2 & Aug 13 @ 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 15 @2:30 p.m.
No performances July 3 & 4.
$32 ($28 advance)
303-856-7830 or online at www.vintagetheatre.org
Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora 80010.

Marlowe's Musings

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mary Poppins
BDT STAGE: Through September 5


                       Tracy Warren 


BDT STAGE'S "MARY POPPINS" IS UTTERLY ENCHANTING!!!!!

    Every child will adore BDT Stage's "Mary Poppins and every adult in attendance will return to the age of nine by the time the first chords of Neal Dunfee’s just offstage orchestra begins to play.

    Tracy Warren is ‘practically perfect’ as the nanny with all that magic. She’s adorable, sings like a lark and is a fine actor into the bargain.

Shelly Cox-Robie adds an endearing portrayal of  Mrs. Banks to a long list of indelible performances including Mrs. Anna in “The King and I” Mother in “Ragtime” and Eliza in “My Fair Lady.”

    The amazing Joanie Brosseau treats us to such diverse supporting roles as Mrs. Brill, the Bird Woman and Queen Victoria. 

     Wayne Kennedy is a very fine Mr. Banks. Kennedy, who has done knock-out portrayals of everything from the King in “The King and I” to “Tevye” in the recent smash “Fiddler on the Roof” has got the Midas touch that turns anything he does into musical theatre gold.

     Amanda Earls is intentionally (and deliciously) repulsive in the role of Miss Andrews, the tough-as-nails nanny that horrified Mr. Banks when he was a boy. Finally Ms. Earls gets to show off those incredible operatic pipes with her devastatingly brilliant rendition of “Brimstone and Treacle.”

The performance at which this reviewer was in attendance featured Katie Phipps and Kaden Hinkle in the roles of Jane and Michael Banks. Rylee Vogel and Max Eugene Raabe play these roles on alternating evenings.

     Eric Ellis is terrific as Neleus, the statue that becomes animated by Mary Poppins’ magic while Jane and Michael enjoy their “Jolly Holiday" in the park.

     Scott Beyette has done yeoman’s work in directing this opus. Not only has he been able to draw in all the requisite theatrical talents for this colossal endeavor, they all work! Beyette paces the show in such a way that the evening flies by. If that's not enough, he also plays Bert!

  Troy Trinkle’s aerial choreography doesn’t just send actors up into the air. He also somehow manages to send our hearts up there, too. Awesome flying!

     Amy Campion’s scenic design for this show is perhaps the most complex ever to have been attempted- and successfully executed -upon the BDT Stage. It's a character all in its own rite in which things break and self-mend and items appear out of nowhere and return there by sheer theatre magic. Magnificent!

     Brett Maughan’s lighting design is stunning. Manipulating mood and atmosphere with what seems to be complete ease, Maughan proves himself once again to be a master.

     The Audio Design by Wayne Kennedy allows this glorious music to be heard and enjoyed with clarity and balance.

      The costume design created by Linda Morken is so varied and so fantastical that the term eye-popping really doesn’t do it justice. The bedazzlement she has invented for the “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” scene leaves one sitting mouth-open 'like a codfish' in rapt amazement.


     Matthew Peters’ choreography is breathtaking!!! The Supercalifragilistic…oh you know… scene is done with so much inventive movement and exuberant verve we are swept into what one can only refer to as choreographic heaven. The same is only slightly less true of Peters’ work on “Step in Time.”


You’re gonna be over the moon when you attend this production. It's the perfect tonic for the depression brought on by the 5:00 news. 

      BDT Stage's "Mary Poppins" will send you soaring out into the summer evening with a grin that’ll last for days.

And don’t forget that there’s a great menu! The Prime Rib gently mooing is this reviewer’s favorite. There’s also great Salmon and Chicken Cordon Bleu. There’s even British Bangers and Mashers this time! The Guacamole made fresh in house and the new Bosco Mozzarella bread sticks with Marinara are now competing in this reviewer’s taste bud memories with the excellent shrimp cocktail for appetizers. And the desserts! Go online and check out the array of sweets that include their award-winning Key Lime Pie and Pecan Turtle Cheesecake. 

   All of these contain at least one "Spoonful of Sugar."(Sorry!)



Boulder’s Dinner Theatre is located at 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, CO.

For tickets go online at www.bdtstage.com or call the Box Office at 303-449-6000,ext.4

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lucky Guy
The Edge Theatre: 6/12 – 7/5

                                                     The cast of "Lucky Guy"
                                               
     “Lucky Guy” is the final play written by Nora Ephron before her death in 2012. The Broadway production starring Tom Hanks received six nominations for the Tony in 2013. Ephron, who is best  known for her writing of romantic comedies had already received nominations for the Oscar for best screenwriting for “Sleepless in Seattle,” “When Harry Met Sally” and “Silkwood.”
     Married to journalist Carl Bernstein who, played a key role at the time of the Watergate scandal, it’s no wonder her fascination with the world of journalism led her to write a play about the ups and downs of the career of Pulitzer-prize winning columnist Mike McAlary.
     
     Director John Ashton, who is no stranger to the world of the daily news himself, has cast this production with actors you will believe are journalists. It’s a fast-paced testosterone-driven production, which may put one in mind of Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
     It’s the end of an era. The final gasps of a time of ink-stained fingers and tapping typewriters as electronic media upstage the news scoops with super cyber swiftness.
                         
                                                        Andrew Uhlenhopp

    Andrew Uhlenhopp delivers a powerful high-octane performance in the role of famed tabloid columnist Mike McAlary. This lucky guy, who always wanted to write a newspaper column in NYC from the time he was a boy, goes from newsroom nobody to the winner of a Pulitzer Prize with all the requisite hard knocks along the way.
                          
                                                               Kevin Hart

     Kevin Hart is outstanding in the role of the slick, smooth, well-dressed lawyer Eddie Hayes who represented Macalary when he made some bad judgment calls. Hayes’ famous quote to all the reporters he represented was: “I can get you outta anything.”
L-R: Abby Apple Boes and Andrew Uhlenhopp

     Abby Apple Boes delivers a poignant and convincing portrayal of McAlary’s wife, Alice.


Tupper Cullum


                                       Wade Livingston
                       (All photo credits: Rachel D. Graham)

     Tupper Cullum (Michael Daly) and Wade Livingston (John Cotter) stand out in a very fine supporting cast. 

     The set design by Christopher M. Waller gives us a realistically cluttered newsroom and neighborhood bar(s) in which the reporters carouse after work.
     Ren Manley’s sound design bridges the scenes with moody laid-back jazz.
   Cancel whatever you have on your calendar for Saturday night and get a ticket while you still can.       Marlowe's Musings


The stellar cast includes Andrew Uhlenhopp (Mike McAlary), Dwayne Carrington (Hap Hairston), Kevin Hart (Eddie Hayes), Tupper Cullum (Michael Daly), Abby Apple Boes (Alice McAlary), Wade Livingston (John Cotter), Matthew Blood-Smyth (Jerry Nachman, Stanley Joyce), Lara Maerz (Louise Imerman, Debby Krenek), Sam Gilstrap (Bob Drury, John Miller), Michael O’Shea (Jim Dwyer, Jimmy Breslin), Jacob Abbas (Dino Tortorici) Editor #1, Reporter #1, Doctor), Max Cabot (Reporter #2, TV Crew, Editor #2) and Andre Hickman (Reporter, Abner Louima).

The Edge Theater presents
"Lucky Guy" 
June 12 - July 5
Thurs./Fri./Sat. @ 8 p.m.; Sun. @ 6 p.m.
Tickets: $26
303-232-0363 or online at www.theedgetheater.com.
The Edge Theatre, 1560 Teller Street, Suite 200, Lakewood CO 80214. Free Parking.






CENTRAL CITY OPERA SEASON 2015 PREVIEW
“It’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else.”
                     
                   
                                                 Pelham "Pat" Pearce

General /Artistic Director Pelham “Pat” Pearce took time out of his busy schedule recently to tell the readership of Marlowe’s Musings about the upcoming season. Since his arrival in 1996 Pearce has done wonders with the eighty-three year old company by mixing the classics with contemporary works. Some of the unforgettable productions produced by Pearce are: “Gloriana,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Poet, Li Bai” and the transcendent “Madama Butterfly” of five seasons ago.

     Central City Opera is the fifth oldest opera company in the country and has been in operation since 1932. Besides enthralling Colorado audiences it has attracted national and international attention with its operatic offerings. The press from Europe and South America was huge for both “Gloriana” and “Poet Li Bai."

     The 2015 Festival will open with Verdi’s “La Traviata,”playing July 11 through August 8. It’ll be followed with this year’s nod to the canon of the American Musical, “The Man of La Mancha.” The regional premiere of  Boismortier’s “Don Quixote and the Duchess” (July 28 and August 1) and Britten’s “The Prodigal Son” (July 29 and August 5) will complete the season. It is to be noted that “Don Quixote and the Duchess” will also play Fort Collins on August 6 and there will be a performance of “The Prodigal Son” in Colorado Springs on July 30.

     Pearce spoke about The Power of Women (POW) events that have been created for this season. “The Power of Women in the Arts Roundtable” will point up the challenges and triumphs of Colorado’s leading ladies on Thursday, June 25 at Colorado Ballet in downtown Denver from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. The point and purpose of this gathering is to celebrate the power of women and their evolving role in society as inspired by the leading lady Violetta in Central City Opera’s production of  “LA TRAVIATA.”  Although its production of Verdi’s masterpiece is somewhat of a remount of the 2007 production, this time it’s directed with a woman’s touch. Elise Sandell will direct Ellie Dehn as Violetta, Ryan MacPherson will portray Alfredo and Troy Cook will take on the role of Alfredo’s father, Germont.

                               
                  The cast of CCO's  "La Traviata"(2007) Photo credit: Cory Weaver

     Ellie Dehn will be remembered for her outstanding Dona Ana in Opera Colorado’s recent “Don Giovanni.” Troy Cook was the indelible Marcello of Central City Opera’s recent “La Boheme.” (Troy was also the Captain in SOUND OF MUSIC last year and Ravenal in SHOW BOAT (2013)). Ryan MacPherson was the unforgettably hilarious Pluto in Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld” a couple of seasons back also at Central City Opera.

     When I asked Pearce why the shows always sounded so excellent at CCO he admitted that the fact that they “have a training program for young opera singers helps. Where else can you find a chorus made up of thirty-one soloists?”  Then there’s that fantastic live orchestra in the pit conducted by such superb conductors as John Baril (“La Traviata”), Adam Turner (“Man of La Mancha”) and Christopher Zemliauskas (“The Prodigal Son” and “Don Quixote and the Duchess.”)
     One of the other reasons the shows are so good at Central City Opera is that the stage direction is outstanding.
     This year “La Traviata” will be stage directed by Elise Sandell. This artist has directed everything from the Robinson production of Mozart’s “The Abduction from the Seraglio” to “Cosi Fan Tutte”(also a Robinson production.)  A number of seasons ago Sandell directed “The Face on the Barroom Floor “ for Central City Opera as well.
     Paul Curran, the Artistic Director of Norwegian National Opera and Ballet will direct “Man of La Mancha”. Curran is well known in Colorado after he directed the stunning productions of “The Tales of Hoffmann” (2004) and “The Rape of Lucretia”(2008). Having worked as an assistant to Baz Luhrmann in the nineties on a production of Benjamin Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Curran brought his own stamp to the production when he directed it here.


"Man of La Mancha": Credit Melissa Rick

     Baritone Robert Orth (Richard Nixon in Opera Colorado’s superb 2004 production of John Adams’ “Nixon in China”) will portray the famous knight and mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer (Erika in “Vanessa” and  “Cherubino in “The Marriage of Figaro”) will be his Aldonza. (These two also performed together in SOUND OF MUSIC last year as Max and Elsa, the Baroness.)
Sancho Panza will be sung by tenor Keith Jameson (the Novice in Britten’s Billy Budd at The Metropolitan Opera).
     Adelmo Guidarelli, recently dubbed “the clown prince of opera” because of his fine work in opera buffo, will sing the innkeeper. Early in his career this artist was told by Pavarotti to “make opera your Bible."

     The first of the two one-acts this season is Benjamin Britten’s “The Prodigal Son.” This opera will be performed in St. James United Methodist Church across the Street from the Opera House. Bille Bruley, who sang the part of the Solo Inmate in last season’s outstanding “Dead Man Walking,” will sing the part of the Tempter (Abbot). Bruley
Michael Kuhn, who has been praised for his “gorgeously clear and colorful tenor” will play the Younger Son. Kuhn will also sing the Padre in “Man of La Mancha.”
Baritone Nicholas Ward will sing the Older Son. You will remember him for his roles in such recent productions as “Dead Man Walking,” Bernstein’s “Trouble in Tahiti” and Rorem’s “Our Town.” Baritone Timothy McDevitt will sing the part of the Father. McDevitt received international acclaim with his debut as Le Mari in “Les Mamelles de Tiresias” at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. McDevitt will also sing Marchese in this season’s “La Traviata.”

     The regional premiere of “Don Quixote and the Duchess” features the music of Joseph Bodin de Boismortier and a libretto by Charles-Simon Favart that’s been translated into English by Thomas Getty. This opera puts forth an episode from Cervantes’ book not used in “Man of La Mancha.” This opera will be conducted by Christopher Zemliauskas and directed by Kyle Lang. James Dornier, who sang the part of Basilio in last season’s The Marriage of Figaro,” will portray Don Quixote. Coloratura Soprano Maya Kherani, who has sung everything from Rosina to Eurydice, will sing the role of Altisidore. Michael Kuhn will sing Sancho. This opera will be performed in the company’s rehearsal center.

     The opera house was built in 1878 and provides an intimacy that is hard to come by. When it first opened its doors there was no such thing as air conditioning. As a result many famous actors chose to leave the heat of New York City’s asphalt jungle to perform in plays in the fresh, cool atmosphere of Central City, Colorado.
     Lillian Gish christened the newly restored opera house with Camille; beginning the tradition of the annual summer festivals we have today. Some of the other stars who, have played at Central City summer festivals are: Beverly Sills, Helen Hayes and Samuel Ramey.

     There are numerous hauntings reported in the area; so if you happen to be a Ghostbuster you have a whole new world to explore when you’re not at the opera.
     If you’re a history fan there’s lots to learn about this town. After gold was discovered at Gregory’s Gulch in 1859 there was a gold rush that added 10,000 people to the little town.
     In 1871 the Republican convention found its way to Central City and the rowdy participants (200 of them) found themselves unceremoniously dumped into an office on the first floor. Luckily nobody was injured.

       In an interview some fifteen seasons ago Artistic Director Emeritus John Moriarty told me that Meredith Willson got the inspiration to write “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” while having a cocktail at the Teller House right next door to the Opera House.

    Ever since the Gold Rush of 1859, Central City, Colorado has been known as “the richest square mile on earth.”  Now however, the mother lode is Central City Opera. The gems are its glorious productions.

     There is the usual parking available in the Opera Company’s parking lot as well as free parking in the garage at Century Casino.
     Kevin Taylor is serving dinner upstairs next door to the opera house and there is the usual light fare at the Teller House and in the casinos.
Whether you’re an opera virgin or a jaded culture vulture, it’s this reviewer’s not so humble opinion that Central City Opera is the most consistently excellent producer of operas in Colorado.

 See you at the opera!

For more information regarding the specific dates and times of the operas and scheduling of the events go online to centralcityopera.org or call 303-292-6700.