Monday, April 30, 2012


“Il Trovatore”

Bel Canto non pareil!

 Giuseppe Verdi composed this opera in 1853.  A few of his other operas are: “Aida,”La Traviata,” “Rigoletto” and “Nabucco.” “Il Trovatore” (The Troubadour) includes some of the most beloved and well-known music in the repertory. The famous Anvil Chorus is just one of the many exhilarating moments. The libretto is quite complex in its storytelling. However… if you pay close attention to Ferrando’s narration at the top of the show the mystery unravels with ease. This is aided in no small measure by the superb work done by Jeremy Sortore, who translated the libretto to the subtitles illuminated on the back of the seat directly in front of you. This opera was a huge success when it opened in 1853 and remains one of the most popular. The central character is Avucena, the gypsy whose mother was burned at the stake by the present Count di Luna’s father. The Count is in love with Leonora, who is also loved by Manrico, who is believed to be Avucena’ son. Duels, executions and suicides are all part of the story. Greg Carpenter, the General Director of Opera Colorado, has said, “If one were to reduce the story to one word it would be REVENGE.” Mr. Carpenter announced just before curtain on opening night that this production cost eight hundred thousand dollars to produce and it shows every penny. The production, directed by Tara Faircloth and conducted by Alexander Polichianko, is aesthetically delicious. The production values are magnificent. Alan Moyer’s scenery is astounding. The scenic architecture is all done on the slant to give those in attendance an enhanced visualization of the twisted nature of Count di Luna and the vengeful events in the story. Diva Michele Capalbo, who plays Leonora, has an incredible instrument, and exploits it to the full here. Her soprano is powerful and yet is able to deliver some of the most exquisite pianissimo moments one may ever expect to hear upon the opera stage.

                                                        Michele Capalbo as Leonora

These are breathtaking musical moments that you will never ever forget!  Wayne Tigges (basso) is superb in the role of Ferrando. Mezzo Nancy Maultsy gives us a gutsy Avucena. Baritone Robert Hyman’s Count di Luna is exceptional. Tenor August Amonov portrays Manrico with passion. The scrumptious Opera Colorado Orchestra and Chorus stun! The reason this opera has been absent from the last several seasons is due to the fact that it is difficult to find opera singers who are capable of singing this daunting work. Opera Colorado has succeeded on every count in giving us a balanced production that is a feast for the ear as well as the eye. The show is auditory champagne.
Run to see it!
Ellie Caulkins Opera House Tickets
14th & Curtis Streets,  Denver,  CO  80204
Box Office Numbers
For Opera performances, please contact the Opera Colorado Box Office: (303) 468-2030
TTY numbers for Ticketmaster: 800-755-6244, 877-474-4833, or 877-475-4833

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Jack Wefso and Karen Erickson

If you like memory plays that are strong on character and that have a dynamic sense of place you will love “Amateur Night at the Big Heart.” The play, penned by Terry Dodd, is currently on view on the main stage at Aurora Fox Arts. Dodd is at his best with this play filled with what he does best: Homespun Americana. Playwright Dodd spent a lot of time as a young man going along with his father who was a cop in Pueblo assigned to a beat that involved “all things alcohol.” The characters and their activities and the bar itself, feel like a composite of a lot of mostly happy memories from that time. Dodd has said that the play was inspired by his viewing of a production of William Saroyan’s “The Time of Your Life” that he saw at The Denver Center a number of years and then spiked with a nod to “Cheers.” Shaun Albrechtson has designed a gorgeous replica of a bar right onstage. It’s the genuine article and it’s the first thing you’ll fall in love with upon entering the auditorium. Lighting designer Shannon McKinney provides the professional work Denver audiences have come to expect from her. Likewise El Armstrong gives us his usual ear-pleasing sound design. What you will fall in love with most though is the cast. Jack Wefso’s portrayal of Stacker, the birthday boy who is just turning 35 and thinks he’s hit middle age is thoroughly engaging. Jack Casperson plays the world’s oldest busboy, whose intentionally unfortunate ventriloquist act is charming.  It’s a treat to get to see Karen Erickson back onstage again. Her portrayal of cook and accountant Jo (hopefully she’s not cooking the books!) lights the place up. Erickson's slow dance with Mr. Casperson at final curtain is the perfect emotional night-cap after this rowdy night of drinkin’ and reminiscin’ at The Big Heart. Rhonda Brown is most memorable as bar owner Marge. Her character is as close as it gets to the voice of reason in this play and she gets to nail some of the funniest lines. Nils Swanson is fine as an early evening drunk who crawls in already soused before the party has even begun. Brian Brooks turns in his best work to date as an honorable guy whose identity is mistaken to be that of a shady character on the lamm by these rustic characters. Lisa Rosenhagen sparkles as Shirley, a woman who has just lost her boy friend to a woman “who collects lighters.” Rosenhagen’s acting duet with Kurt Brighton, who plays Shirley’s ex boyfriend, Ron is one of the best moments of the evening. Another is a tete a tete involving Jack Wefso as Stacker being stricken by Diana Dresser’s mysterious Marie. Seein’ this play is kind of like going into a bar you’ve never been to before. It’s a little uncomfortable at first, not knowin' anybody there. Then you sit back and start getting to know these characters. In very short order everyone’s kind of like family. You laugh at their cornball jokes and cry with em over their heartbreaks. Dodd’s heartfelt country western memories could just get to you with a big heartbreak. As you take this journey with playwright Dodd and his characters you could just find that leaving them behind is kind of sad.  To paraphrase a song once sung by Burl Ives, “A little bitty tear might let you down.”

Not to be missed.

April 20 – May 13, 2012

TICKETS: 303-739-1970 or

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Left to right above: Brandon Keller, Kia Chapman, Margie Lamb and Patrick Brownson
Left to right below: Maggie Tisdale, Stephanie Hancock and Alix Brickley

If you are lookin’ for good old-fashioned white trash entertainment with lotsa music and singin’ and dancin’ then you should get on over to see Ignite’s fine production of “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” It’s at Armadillo Acres aka Aurora Fox Arts. It’s got great tunes all written by David Nehls and played by a great in-trailer band led by Music Director Midge McMoyer-Smith. The in trailer décor looks like they have shopped til they dropped over to Army Navy Surplus and the like. I think I even saw one of those singin’ wall fish. You can only get them at Army and Navy. Benjy Schirm has done the scenic décor for this piece with an eye to the eyesore. Some of the folk who wandered in from off the strip there on East Colfax didn’t know what realism looked like until they got a gander at this show. The show works just fine in the intimacy of the black box studio there at Aurora Fox. You do not need no doublewide stage to perform the likes of Mr. Nehls’ masterwork. No sir! I would recommend this to every redneck cowpoke or stripper off the strip without havin’ qualm one. And let me just tell you that when you see what director Pam Clifton has gotten these degenerates to do onstage you will be wantin’ to audition for her next travesty right now. Never in the history of theatre on East Colfax have so many had so little on and shaken it so well. They must have been drinkin’ a lot of hooch during rehearsal as there are piles of Bud cans rollin’ around outside those lovely mobile homes. These are characters ripped from the pages of low life literature such as could only be prepared by those street hacks of yesteryear and their literary progeny. All seriousness aside this is fun, fun fun! If you are a connoisseur (thank God for spell check!) who likes Larry, The Cable Guy you are gonna love this show. The costumes are of the tacky and tawdry variety with the emphasis on hilarious! Since nobody is named as being responsible for these - were they afraid someone might call the fashion police? - one may assume that they can be attributed to director Clifton. All seriousness aside this is a laugh-riot of a show with a cast that is adorable.  Alix Brickley, Stephanie Hancock and Maggie Tisdale provide superb solos and a great trio as long time members of this community. The multi-talented Margie Lamb (Best Actress in a Musical for her role in "Next to Normal") and Patrick Brownson (the superb Cookie Monster in Vintage Theatre’s “Avenue Q”) portray two trailer park married folk whose marriage is going down the tubes faster than you can say Pippi. Kia Chapman (Pippi) is gorgeous and has a superb soprano. Her stage movement is stupefyingly deelish.  Ms. Lamb plays Jeannie, an agoraphobic woman who has not left her mobile home since her little boy was kidnapped years ago. Her husband, Norbert IS able to leave the mobile home and finds, well …  you’ll see. Brandon Keller plays Duke, a jealous dude who sniffs Magic Markers. Stephanie Prugh’s choreography is outstanding! Without giving any spoilers out I just would like to add that this is one of the most entertaining shows to come down the pike in quite a while. If you love to laugh run to get tickets.
Not to be missed.

Box Office: 720-362-2697
$25 Adult -- $20 (Groups 6+) -- $18 Students

April 20th - May 6th
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 2:30 pm

Sunday, April 22, 2012


            Left to Right in back: Timmi Ann Lasley, Teresa Reid and Lauren Bahlman
            Left to right in front: Cathy Washburn and Cassidi Leigh Parker

Michael Emmitt and Spark Theatre are to be praised for creating the only twenty first century theatrical ‘salon’ in Denver. It’s up close and personal in-your-face drama that, in this case, puts you front and center in the living room of the Prozoroff sisters. With his entirely female-driven reworking of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” Emmitt elicits superb performances from a mostly new (to this reviewer anyway) cast. The absent male characters are seen – and voiced – by the three sisters. Sometimes they are present in the form of a prop such as a military cap and there is one male voice briefly voiced over an in-theatre speaker. Led by Denver favorite Teresa Reid in a sublime portrayal of Olga Prozoroff, this cast brings to life a poignant and layered production of this Russian masterwork. Ms. Reid displays a classical control in her expression of the character, which is brilliant. In Emmitt’s tight, almost claustrophobic staging in the upstairs room used by Spark Theatre, one can feel the heat of the conflict between the rising proletariat and the declining nobility in personal as well as societal terms. Timmi Ann Lasley’s portrayal of Natalya is powerful indeed! Seldom in the experience of this reviewer has an actor playing this role been able to swing realistically from the downtrodden humiliation of her character at the top of the play to the shrill, domineering shrew later with such brilliant aplomb. One feels a sort of pity for her early on, amidst the degradation of Olga’s sometimes veiled and nearly always disgusted glances. By the second act one wishes to bitch slap her (Olga) for her horrifying abuse of the old servant, Anfisa, played here by Cathy Washburn. Cassidi Leigh Parker and Lauren Bahlman play Irina and Masha respectively. Both of these young actors turn in worthy performances making one wish to see them soon again at Spark and elsewhere throughout the Denver theatre scene. And even if this production is successful in its radical risky nature – and it is! – it makes one hungry for a fully orbed production involving the waltz of both sexes, and the smoke from Chekhov’s pipe wafting in from the other room. (One is still able to smoke offstage. Right? ) One must add that the costumes by Melinda Lacy are truly divine. The sound design created by Gabriel Walker was by far the best to have been experienced at this venue. Emmitt has appointed the room beautifully with a sitting area and dining room table which provide a balanced, ordered and harmonious setting for the Prozoroff sisters to long and long and long for their own personal Moscow. It’s a good thing they didn’t get a chance to see “Waiting For Godot.” It would have only depressed them. This is a worthy production that is… 

Not to be missed!

April 21st thru May 19th
Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays
Shows Start at 7:30pm
240 South Broadway
Denver, CO 80209

Saturday, April 21, 2012


                   Left to right: Lisa Finnerty, Russell Mernagh and Markus Warren

                   Russell Mernagh and the ensemble of Tommy at Town Hall Arts

Russell Mernagh as Tommy
The Who’s “Tommy” has never been a huge favorite of this reviewer. However …
Master magician and miracle worker Nick Sugar can turn what a reviewer considers dross into gold in a heartbeat. What Nick Sugar proves over and over again is that no matter how much a theatergoer may feel he dislikes a certain musical, his (Sugar’s) direction can turn that theatergoer into a raving fan thereof in a nanosecond. He’s done it with countless shows, and he’s done it again with “Tommy.” Often the big touring companies present this rather slim and intimate story in the grandiose framework of a multitude of television screens complete with interminable visuals of a robotic martial choreography. Prior to seeing Sugar’s production of The Who’s “Tommy” the CD for this show had been relegated to the dusty back row of the musical CD shelf. Afterwards it has returned to an honorable place of the top-drawer variety. Like Sugar’s outstanding production of “Rent” at Town Hall this show had me and my guest for the evening turning to each other and whispering: “I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE THIS SHOW AGAIN!” (The caps indicate intensity not loudness.) Sugar paces his outrageously successful show at a gallop that makes it seem like it’s over WAY too soon. Director Sugar seems to be telling his audience: “Slam, bam! You’re welcome, Ma’am.” What’s more exciting is that unlike The Arvada Center and the theatres downtown in the Plex; Sugar does it with hot, young, local talent! Indeed this production delivers an explosion of talent!

Russell Mernagh’s outstanding performance in the title role is filled with outrageously well-sung vocals that are absolute knockouts. It is to be hoped that after Mernagh’s tours de force in “Rent” and “Tommy,” this fine young artist will continue to be cast in many musicals throughout the region.

Matt LaFontaine turns in a performance of the sadistic bullying Cousin Kevin that is so studied and intensely powerfully delivered you can’t take your eyes off him. Mr. LaFontaine is an actor of consummate artistry whose work is brilliant and breathtaking. 

Ashlie-Amber Harris is mesmerizing as the Gypsy.
Lisa Finnerty is superb as Mrs. Walker.
Markus Warren (Enjolras in Arvada’s “Les Mis” and The Phantom in BDT’s production of “Phantom”) turns in a flawless portrayal of Captain Walker.
Rob Janzen’s smarmy abusive creep of an Uncle Ernie is character work nonpareil.
Keegan Flaugh sounds spectacular as a Specialist brought in to treat Tommy.
 Dakoda Hubert delivers a genuinely fine performance as the Young Tommy.

The choreography by Nick Sugar is utterly unbeatable. Here even the fluid moving of Tina Anderson’s sensationally well-crafted fragmentary scenic design is done in a near balletic style that is smooth as buttah.

Musical director Donna K. Debreceni, the most animated conductor in Colorado, delivers the rock em sock em instrumentals from her above stage band with ear-pleasing professionalism. How lucky can we get?!!!!!!!!!

Jonathan Scott-McKean’s lighting design creates a DAZZLING array of visuals to enhance the constantly shifting moods of the piece. This light show is astounding!

John Rivera’s sound design is his usual excellent professional work.

Hopefully you can still get a ticket.

Not to be missed.
 Town Hall’s production opens April 6, 2012 through May 6, 2012. Show times are Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. (& 2:00 p.m. on 4/21) & Sundays at 2 p.m. ( & 6:30 p.m. on 4/22).
Ticket Information:
Reserved seat tickets are currently on sale, priced $21.00-$38.00 at the Town Hall Arts Center box office, 303- 794-2787 ext. 5 (M – F, 1 – 5 pm) or on-line at . 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.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"WICKED" is totally BEWITCHING!!!!!!!!


What you can expect:
Elphaba (Mamie Parris) and Glinda(Allie Mauzy) in "Wicked"
(Courtesy Denver Center Attractions)
Ear-boggling vocals and orchestrations!
Mind-blowing technical work in lighting and sound!
Costumes that are eye-popping!
The entire ensemble is of the impeccably cast variety!
Alli Mauzey is the Very Best Glinda you may ever see onstage. Her comic timing and superbly tuned soprano are both exquisite.
Mamie Parris’s performance in the role of Elphaba is Outstanding! Remarkable! Entrancing!
Andy Kelso’s Fiyero is quite simply Magnificent!
I’m sure most of the Denver audience has seen this show at least once.
However … whether you are a “WICKED” virgin or not you must run to get tickets now.
Not to be missed.

Single tickets for WICKED at the Buell Theatre start at just $35. To charge by phone, call Denver Center Ticket Services at 303.893.4100.  TTY (for Deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons): 303.893.9582.  Groups of 20 or more, please call 303.446.4829.  Additionally, tickets may be purchased at the Denver Center Ticket Office, located in the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at

Sunday, April 15, 2012



                   Left to right: Michael Travis Risner, David Ambroson and Rachelle Wood

 Performance Now's "Camelot"must be seen for its superb cast! The principal characters are cast with actors who are all superb vocalists as well as being exceptional in the art of elocution. David Ambroson is an Arthur who wears the mantle of regency with strength, compassion and just the right touch of vulnerability required for this heroic and all too human king. Rachelle Wood is a ravishing Guenevere. Matinee idol Michael Travis Risner is a dashing Launcelot. One cannot overstate the fact that all three are excellent vocalists. The singing of those glorious Lerner and Lowe songs is magnificently intoxicating. One hopes to see and hear much more from all three of these actors in upcoming musicals throughout the realm, er, region. Glamorous in the casting, the glamoury of enchantment is nearly completely missing in this vision of Camelot except for an ethereal nymph named Nimue. (Mr. Cardell has kept his directorial vision focused with laser-like precision on the romantic triangle at the heart of this show to the exclusion of the element of magic.) Merlin suffers at the hands of the wig, beard and costume department. It was a mercy to have the fairy nymph Nimue - clad in a gown with gloriously diaphanous and spellbinding wings - sweep him away after his final line. This master magician is a character one wishes to be able to see and hear. If there is only the hope of a small flame of magical flash paper to illustrate his magical essence one might wish to have left it out altogether. As Mordred, Adam Perkes communicates an insidiously brilliant command of this mediaeval chessboard. Only once did he slip over the top with an unnecessary laugh of the heinous variety overstating an otherwise brilliantly crafted character. "The Seven Deadly Virtues" was miraculously well sung by Mr. Perkes. The orchestra for this production is in the capable of hands of Lee Ann Scherlong.   Remember her outstanding work on "Titanic, the Musical?"  Here, however, the sound from the orchestra pit is sometimes a bit thin. The choral work conducted by Ms. Scherlong is outstanding as exemplified by the unity and power of the ensemble in “The Jousts,” “Guenevere” and “Fie on Goodness.” One might have wished for a bit more steam in the bedroom. It is to be assumed that Mr. Risner’s family may have been in attendance upon opening - judging from the kisses blown from the stage at curtain call - and perhaps that was keeping Launcelot as “pure as a prayer” in la chambre a coucher de Queen Guenevere. Although we know this is a family production if Lance could at least have removed his shirt we could have understood why Guenevere nearly got burned. (Sorry!)The direction of the capture and near burning of Guenevere is most impressive in the swordplay and fight choreography. This type of scene is nearly always problematic due to the jaded nature of the audience’s exposure to big screen special effects and digital editing. The color and punch injected into the proceedings by the actors playing the roles of Pellinore and Mordred cannot be exaggerated. Both actors lifted the story into the realm of true mythic adventure. The character of Pellinore is so beautifully crafted, so hilariously and correctly enacted that one can only suppose that this awesome character work will be recognized when award time roll around. Rick Williams' performance is quite simply ripped from the pages of T.H. White's “The Once and Future King.” His studied English accent is the stuff of dreams! This company has grown by leaps and bounds in many ways. The scenic elements still suffer giving us a painted mountain for "The Sound of Music" and a cartoon castle for "Camelot." Turrets flanking the stage and a few more heraldic banners hanging from the proscenium would not have been that much of an outlay. The set pieces that are used more for functionality than aesthetics - one supposes due to economic restraints - sometimes took a little longer than one might have wished to get secured. Some aspects of the script were hard to address. There is little a director can do regarding having his scripted courtiers go up and or down the hill to meet a new queen when the stage, flat as a pancake, is not raked even slightly. One must give high marks to costumer Cindy Franke for all the costumes in "Camelot" save that of Merlin. The costumes for Guenevere are all outstanding. One robe of midnight blue shimmering with silver glitter is especially eye-catching. The armour for Pellinore is hilariously perfect as well.


 Lakewood Cultural Center and Performance Now Theatre Company present Lerner and Loewe's Tony Award-winning “Camelot” at 7:30 p.m., April 13 - 29 on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $25 for adults and available by calling 303-987-7845, going online to or visiting  the Lakewood Cultural Center Box Office, 470 S. Allison Parkway (Wadsworth and Alameda). Senior, student, child and group discounts available.  Ample, free on-site parking available.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

FLORENCIA En El Amazonas

Pamela Armstrong as Florencia (above)

Keith Miller as Riolobo (right)

The recent success of Opera Colorado’s production of Daniel Catan’s “Florencia en el Amazonas” speaks (sings?) volumes for the need for new operatic works entering the repertoire. American audiences sometimes get stuck in the canon(s) of Verdi and Puccini and fear putting a toe in other operatic waters. Even so much as that of the American opera! Here the audience is swept away by a blissfully romantic score and a story that is romantic with touches of magic realism. The cinematic reality of the river and the storm on this journey in search of lost love provides a suitable feast for the eye to enhance the auditory feast provided by this talented cast and the Opera Colorado Orchestra. Led by maestro Ramon Tebar, the effect was one of a balanced and ordered unification of the vocals onstage and the orchestra in the pit. Led by the superb opera Diva, Pamela Armstrong as Florencia Grimaldi, and buoyed by the new star Keith Miller(one time starting fullback for the University of Colorado) as Rio Lobo, this is one of the most memorable operatic experiences in recent memory. Philip Lienau’s set design and Aaron Rhyne’s projection design get high marks as well. One must, however, mention the sad descent of production values at opera’s end. The descent of some sadly unappealing flowers and what must have been intended to be lily pads were not fit to be seen after the glorious work that came before. Small criticism for a magnificent work!

Be sure to get your tickets early for “Il Trovatore,” which plays April 28, May 1,4 and 6 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Tickets are available online at or by calling 303.468.2030.

Monday, April 2, 2012


It comes as no surprise that maestro Rod Lansberry has directed a near perfect production of Tim Rice’s “Chess, the Musical” for your enjoyment at Arvada Center For the Arts. He has cast the show impeccably. Gregg Goodbrod (Freddy) and Tally Sessions (Anatoly) are both outstanding as the American and Russian opponents in this rock opera game of chess. Mr. Goodbrod’s soaring rendition of “Pity the Child” is so superb you will simply have to hear it to believe it. In most productions this critic’s stomach is found kissing his backbone out of sheer embarrassment for the disastrous result of an aspiring singer with an unschooled voice attempting to sing this number. When an artist such as Goodbrod, who can ascend into the high octave required, sings it with passion, it is sheer auditory heaven. And this is it! Awesome! Tally Sessions’ Anatoly is an outrageously well-sung and acted performance. Sydney James Harcourt’s portrayal of the Arbiter stuns throughout. Harcourt is at his very best in “One Night In Bangkok” at the top of Act Two. Denver’s diva, Megan Van De Hey returns to the stage at Arvada Center (remember Mother in “Ragtime” and Luisa in “Nine?”) as Anatoly’s wife, Svetlana. Van De Hey stuns with her reprise of “You and I” with Mr. Sessions and her solo, “Someone Else’s Story.” Lisa Karlin is fine as Florence Vassy. Stephen Day turns in yet another brilliant performance as Alexander Molokov. Standing out in the very fine supporting cast are: Matthew Dailey, Daniel Herron, Ellen Kaye and Mercedes Perez.
What else can you expect?
Electrifying vocals from a uniformly brilliant cast!
Riveting choreography by the incomparable Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck!
Dazzling lighting design by Jacob M. Welch!
Magnificent scenic design by master craftsman Brian Mallgrave!
Glorious costumes by Clare Henkel!
Auditory heaven in David Nehls’ musical direction of the luscious Arvada Center orchestra!

In case you missed something… I LOVED “CHESS!”

The Arvada Center will open the regional premiere of a new restaging of  Chess, A Musical directed by Rod A. Lansberry on March 27 running through April 15, 2012 in the Main Stage Theater. Performances are Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30 pm, Wednesday at 1pm, Saturday and Sunday at 2pm.  Preview performances are March 23 – 25. Moderated talkbacks with the cast are offered on Friday, April 6 after 7:30 p.m. show and Wednesday, April 11 after 1:00 p.m. show.  Ticket prices range from $35 (previews) - $72. Group rates are available. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to or call 720-898-7200.