Sunday, September 16, 2012

August Osage County
Abster Productions: 9/7 – 9/30

     If you wish to have a closer more intimate look at the Weston household and its progeny than you got when the touring company came to town you should get on over to The Dairy in Boulder.
                          The cast of "August Osage County" at The Dairy in Boulder

     Abster Productions’ version of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize winning play does a great job of making these characters our intimate acquaintances.  (One must rush to qualify this by saying that the tour, which was initiated by Denver Center Attractions at The Ellie Caulkins Opera House, was truly magnificent on a grand scale.)
     Peter Hughes’ direction of this production, now on view at The Dairy in Boulder, is superb. In his production the opening scene is paced more in real time than the quickly paced one done by the touring company’s director. As a result we get a better handle on who Beverly Weston (played here by Wade Livingston) really was in relation to the relatives who are soon to come pouring back into his Oklahoma farmhouse.

                                             Anne Oberbroeckling as Violet Weston

    Annie Oberbroeckling’s performance in the role of Violet Weston is a tour de force. The Denver audience has never before seen this actor as such a seething cauldron of rage. Awesome work! 

     Abby Apple Boes really cuts loose in the role of Barbara Fordham letting us see how powerful she can be in a serious dramatic role. Brava!

     Missy Moore turns in yet another stunning performance in the role of Karen Weston. It’s great to see that this actor is as adept at serious drama as she is at comedy.

     Matt Maxwell’s portrayal of Steve Heidebrecht is intentionally slimy. I’m sure that the “edginess” of this character’s creepy pedophilia becomes more off-putting with every performance.

     Shane Delavan is brilliant as Little Charles, the dim bulb of the family.

     Ken Paul turns in some of his best dramatic work to date as Sheriff Deon Gilbeau.

     Kerry Beebe, a native Oklahoman herself created a very credible Mattie Fae Aiken.

     Luke Allen Terry’s sound design is superb.

     Ann Piano’s lighting design is an example of her finest!

     This three-act play is rather long, but the metaphor it presents will give you plenty to grind your teeth about concerning the karma built up by this country as it pursued its Manifest Destiny.

     Amanda Kowalski plays Johnna Monevata, the only Native American character, with observant compassion and patience… and one notable exception.

          Not to be missed!

7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 30; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18,The Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
The Arvada Center for the Arts: 9/11 – 9/30

The opener for The Arvada Center’s 2012-2013 season is based on a 1988 film that starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine as two con men on the French Riviera. One is suave and debonair and the other is a small-time swindler. The movie was good. The Broadway musical is AWESOME!


     Dear reader, you have to know right from the get go that this is going to be a long list of accolades. 
     Rod Lansberry’s direction of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is Scrum Diddly! 
     Kitty Skilman Hilsabeck’s choreography divine. Breathtaking!
     The lighting by Shannon McKinney is outstanding. 
     Brian Mallgrave’s scenic design is so grand and so well crafted that we are in complete awe. 
     Clare Henkel’s costumes are as always, spot on! 
     The performances are so brilliant this reviewer was in heaven all evening. 
     David Nehls made that glorious music sound utterly celestial.
     The supporting cast of local stars stuns in every number. Among them are such stars as: Matthew Daley, Matt LaFontaine, Brian Jackson, Bob Hoppe, Mark Rubald, Katie Ulrich, Mercedes Perez, Daniel Herron, Alicia Dunfee, Valerie Hill, Heather Doris and  Piper Lindsay Arpan! WOW!

     The leads were good,too! 
     Dennis Parlato played Lawrence Jameson, the part that John Lithgow did on Broadway, brilliantly. 
    Ben Nordstrom is a sensationally funny Freddy, the role that won Norbert Leo Butz the Tony for Best Supporting Actor
on Broadway. 
     Susie Roelofsz is musical theatre dynamite as Muriel Eubanks. One must thank her again and again for her superbly sung"What Was a Woman To Do?" 
     Laura E Taylor's portrayal of Christine Colgate is thoroughly well sung.
     Gary Lynch’s performance as Andre Thibault is superb.
Not to be missed.

In case  you missed something... I ADORED THIS SHOW!

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels directed by Rod A. Lansberry on September 11 running through September 30 in the Main Stage Theater. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is written by Jeffrey Lane with music and lyrics by David Yazbek. Performances are Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30 pm, Wednesday at 1pm, Saturday and Sunday at 2pm.  Preview performances are September 7 - 9. Moderated talkbacks with the cast are offered on Friday, September 21 after 7:30 pm show and Wednesday, September 26 after 1:00 pm show.  For more information and to purchase tickets, go to or call 720-898-7200.Marlowe's Musings

Sunday, September 9, 2012

La Cage Aux Folles
Denver Center Attractions: Through 9/16

      The touring production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” which is now on view at The Buell Theatre, has much to recommend despite one flaw. Dashing star of stage and screen George Hamilton has a difficult time projecting one very important aspect of his character, Georges. This character is an impresario par excellence and Mr. Hamilton did not have much of that show biz energy and flair going for him on the night this reviewer was in attendance. Perhaps he was in poor health that evening. One hopes that his energy level improved by the following evening.


          Left to right: George Hamilton and Christopher Sieber
      Christopher Sieber is, however, brilliant as Albin. His acting, singing and dancing of this beloved character are formidable. Especially in the big numbers such as: “A Little More Mascara,” “I am What I Am” and “The Best of Times!” 
     Also memorable are the Cagelles, who first seen in silhouette backlit in Nick Richings’ sexy orange lighting design turn in some phenomenal dancing and singing. Their dancing is of the limber, athletic variety that sometimes even leans into that of the contortionist! Awesome work! 
     Gay Marshall is a brilliant Jacqueline full of sparkle and fizz! 
     If you are a “La Cage Aux Folles” virgin and have not seen it on Broadway then I would say run to get a ticket. The show is always the quintessential draw for the GLBT community. Tim Shartall’s Scenic Design worked superbly allowing the members of the orchestra to appear in two boxes flanking the proscenium of Georges’ and Albin’s St. Tropez nightclub. 
     Matthew Wright’s costume design is a fantasia of colorful fashion that is heightened by the Wig and Makeup design of Richard Mawbey. Nevertheless… if you, like this reviewer, have seen one or more of this grand show’s incarnations on Broadway you could just be a little disappointed in the uneven nature of the performances. Regardless, you’re going to be singing those great old Jerry Herman tunes for days!

Worth a peek.
Buy tickets at
Marlowe's Musings

The Three Penny Opera
Miners Alley: 9/7 – 10/21

     “The Three Penny Opera” by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht is a challenging work for any theatre. In spite of several flashes of brilliance Miners Alley Playhouse’s production disappoints.Let’s start with some of the “flashes of brilliance.”

                        Megan Van de Hey as Jenny
     Megan Van de Hey is outstanding! Whenever she is onstage the show rocks! When she is offstage one yearns for her reappearance. Van de Hey portrays Jenny, the role played by Lotte Lenya at “The Three Penny Opera’s” premiere. Ms. Van de Hey consistently delivers her vocals –especially “Solomon Song” –with a skill and brio, which is sometimes lacking or at least inconsistent in the performances of other members of the cast. When this actor is onstage it’s impossible to take his eyes off her. One feels cheated when she is shuffled-however correctly- into the back row of dancers. Whether she is walking the tightrope of the small wall separating the stage and the audience or telling a man in the front row, ”Don’t be shy,” while facing him upside down in a dip provided by the arms of Rich Cowden’s McHeath, this artist dazzles us.
     Don Deveux (Mr. Peachum) did well in his singing of the a cappella rendition of “The Song about Human Futility,” which was arranged by Music Director Boni McIntyre.
     Robert L. Gale’s Minstrel of Many Voices is exceptional. This musician accompanies the actors onstage playing everything from accordion to bassoon along with Donna Debreceni’s keyboards.    
     Rich Cowden’s McHeath is well sung and acted. One of the highlights of the show is “Cannon Song,” Cowden’s and Verl Hite’s (Jackie ”Tiger” Brown) exuberant duet.
     Mel Horton really unleashes her voice in the role of Mrs. Peachum in the scene in which she enlists Jenny’s aid in betraying McHeath.
               Left to right: Juliette Peterson, Rich Cowden and Erica Lyn Cain

    Juliette Peterson (Lucy) sports a superb soprano. So does Erica Lyn Cain (Polly.) “Jealousy Duet,” their operatic catfight, gives both artists a chance to show off their fine set(s) of pipes.
     Michael Ingram and Daniel Traylor turn in good performances in supporting roles.
 Although no one is credited with the choreography in the show, there is some and it is sometimes too big for the stage. In one moment Mr. Deveux was unable to complete a move because he had come to the end of the playing space and simply had to drop the intended stage movement.
     The show succeeds in its garish depiction of the underbelly of society, which is well established visually with the tawdry costuming (Erin Leonard), grave-digging choreography and eye sore of a poster-splattered brick and corrugated steel scenic design (Richard L. Pegg.)
    Director El Armstrong nails the play’s core concept, that ‘the lack of money’ is the root of all evil’ superbly. One might, however, wish for a quicker pacing of the relentlessly vulgar proceedings.
     Brecht and Weill’s works are intended to put forth philosophical ideas about society’s flaws more as simple straightforward polemic rather than any kind of an entertainment. One goes to this work knowing that Weill’s and Brecht’s “opera” is the antithesis of most of today’s musicals that wish only to be the most popular ‘entertaining’ fluff.  Whether one is a fan of this show or not – and I must confess to not being one of its greatest aficionados- the vocals need to be well sung. Those of Ms. Van de Hey are such a banquet of brilliant virtuosity that the other cast members’ acting and singing suffer by comparison. One must admit to a longing for the operatically trained voices in Central City Opera’s production of this work several seasons ago as well as of their 2011 production of “The Seven Deadly Sins,” which was the last collaboration of Weill and Brecht. 
     Marlowe's MusingsThe lighting design done for Miners Alley’s production by Karilyn Pytel and Jonathan Scott-McKean is good for the most part. However … one wishes that there were more of an effort to create the look of those distorted faces in the paintings of the German expressionists of this period such as James Ensor. Possibly that could have been achieved as it was some years ago at Central City Opera with the use of footlights.
     Although older theatergoers may find flaws, “Three Penny Opera” virgins will be enthralled.
Sept 7 – Oct 21
Fri. and Sat. @ 7:30 and Sun @ 6pm (Sun. Oct. 21 @ 2pm only, no 6pm that day)
Miners Alley Playhouse, 1224 Washington Avenue (13th and Washington 2nd floor entrance on 13th) in Golden, CO.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

 A Happy End
AHE Development

     Iddo Netanyahu’s new play “A Happy End” is currently being showcased at the Buntport Theatre at 8th and Lipan. Kent Thompson was the first to present Netanyahu’s work in this country in May 2011 as a staged-reading at the Denver Center Theatre Company. The playwright is the younger brother of the Israeli Prime Minister. Besides being a writer Netanyahu is also a physician. He studied at South High School when his father was a professor at D.U.
     The play is directed by renowned actor/director Ami Dayan, whose work in the past includes the critically acclaimed adaptation of  “A Tale of a Tiger” by Dario Fo. The Denver Center Theatre Company, The Colorado Shakespeare Festival and the Roe Green Foundation have commissioned Dayan. His directorial credits In New York City include: “The Man Himself,” “Conviction” and “Masked.”
                Left to right above: Mary Cates and James O'Hagan-Murphy
                Left to right seated: Kevin Hart, Zuzana Stivinova, Evan Duggan and Heather Taylor
     The play deals with a Jewish family’s dilemma in 1932 Berlin just after the elections that put Adolph Hitler into power. Should they leave their home in Germany to go to Paris or the United States or stay? It asks us as audience what would we do in a similar situation. We all know the tragic events, which occurred shortly thereafter. Still it is a provocative and disturbing question. How can one know when a corrupt political figure will choose to create a horror such as the Holocaust?
     Zuzana Stivinova portrays Leah Erdmann, a wife and mother, who like her physicist husband and young son cannot imagine that any election could result in such a heinous and inhuman outcome as what would soon occur. Ms. Stivinova has been nominated three times for the Czechoslovakian Film Academy Award. Her range as an actor is astounding and she delivers the lines in Mr. Netanyahu’s play as if it were classical music. Few actors in this country can move from pianissimo to forte or fortissimo with such aplomb and grace. Likewise her facial expressions, physical stage movement and vocal tonality create an impression that is utterly congruent.  

                                Left to right: Kevin Hart and Zuzana Stivinova

     Kevin Hart is superb in his portrayal of  physicist Mark Erdmann, Leah’s husband.
     James O’Hagan-Murphy’s portrayal of Dieter Kraft, Erdmann’s colleague, is some of his best work to date.
                       Left to right: James O'Hagan-Murphy and Zuzana Stivinova

     Mary Cates, Heather Taylor and Evan Duggan round out the cast with very fine supporting work.
     The characters are ordinary people like you and me. They are going about their lives in the way they always have, working hard, playing hard and using their God-given talents to create as much of a beautiful legacy as they can. So there are more questions than answers here. People live in a world of quotidian pleasures, pains and problems.
     Often what is really going on in our world is not even carried in the media. Many times government owned media provides us with propaganda and smoke screens at just those moments when one most needs to know the truth. The play is very honest in its approach to the subject. It is always tempting to put forth a bit of creative deceit in order to promote a holy cause. This is never the case in Netanyahu’s play.
     The characters in his play do not include the beasts that will soon devastate the world. We only hear the bestial rhetoric via radio or see intimate mirror images of the vast tsunami of anti Semitism about to inundate through small incidents of bigotry and exclusion.
     The characters of the play see only the incremental changes leading up to the Holocaust. True, we as audience have the ability to look into the rear view mirror of history. But one must never be too arrogant or smug while thinking this will never happen to me. In a not so esoteric way the playwright asks us as theatergoers “What would you really do in such circumstances?”
     Without spoiling your discovery of this fine artistic work this reviewer will just say that the playwright engages the playgoer at the top of the play in a rather unusual fashion. When you go, and you must, you will see what I mean. It’s always refreshing to see new avenues for setting up a story onstage.
     This is a cautionary tale told in retrospect with chutzpah and zeal by a team of very fine artists. The songs sung by Ms Stivinova in bridging the scenes evoke the era in auditory terms. The visuals provided in projections are random and generic. Perhaps this is best, making one feel the quotidian aspect of life in Germany in 1932. In many ways the looming horror is kept just far enough at bay so that the characters in the play are not able to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
     Netenyahu, Stivinova and Dayan wield their theatrical sword with a powerful and energetic grace.
     We are privileged to live in a free country. We pray that religious fanaticism, political interference and media brainwashing never rise up creating times of persecution in future. Playwright Netanyahu admonishes us all to be constantly alert, aware, and zealous in the protection of the freedoms that keep all of humanity safe.
     This show cries out to be seen.

AHE Development presents
“A Happy End”
Berlin 1932, a Jewish couple must decide on an unknown future outside Germany or to stay put when Hitler comes to power.
September 1 -- 16
(Previews Aug 30 and 31)
Thursdays - Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m.
Buntport Theater, 717B Lipan Street, Denver
Tickets: $25; previews: $18; seniors and students $15
Group rates available
720-289-6451 or online at