Sunday, April 19, 2015

Performance Now Theatre Company: 4/10 – 4/26

     Performance Now’s production of “42nd Street” is a thoroughly entertaining show full of the requisite high-energy tap dancing and singing that everyone expects at a viewing of this old chestnut.
     Director Bernie Cardell has cast the key roles with superb actors! Keegan Flaugh (John in Vintage Theatre’s “Miss Saigon” and Mack in their “Mack and Mabel”) is one of Denver’s finest musical theatre actors. Here Flaugh plays producer Julian Marsh with a strong stage presence and superb vocals.
     The incomparable Shahara Ray, who’s toured with “Les Miserables” and played everything from Grizabella in the German company of “Cats” to the Witch in Ignite Theatre’s “Into the Woods,” lights up the stage as Maggie.
     Lee Ann Scherlong plays aging diva Dorothy Brock with gusto. Her vocals are as great as one would expect from a lady who has music directed everything from “Titanic, the Musical” to “ My Fair Lady.”
     Andy Sievers (Billy Lawlor) does a great job with: “I’m Young and Healthy” and “I Only Have Eyes For You.”
     The real find though is Rachel Whyte who as Peggy Sawyer steps in to save the show when Diva Dorothy takes a dive just before opening. Ms. Whyte can dance and sing with the best of  ‘em and is perhaps the most acrobatic of all the actors this reviewer recalls seeing in this famous role.
    Andrew S. Bates has done a smashing job with the choreography of this toe-tapping extravaganza. The big numbers are well tapped by a cast of mostly young actors who really know how to hoof it.
     Ken Goodwin’s music direction of the orchestra in the pit is superb.
     This reviewer’s main complaint was wishing to see more of NYC’s colorful marquees “on the Avenue they’re takin’ you to…42nd Street.”

The Lakewood Cultural Center is located at 470 South Allison Parkway, Lakewood, CO. 80226. For tickets call 303-987-7845 or go online at performancenow.orgMarlowe's Musings

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Stage Theatre: 3/27 – 4/26
     “The 12” rocks!
      It’s the best world premiere of a musical The Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company has produced. "The 12" is the musical that has evaded them through all the birthing pains of such wannabe musicals as “Sense and Sensibility,” and the recent transmogrification of Meredith Willson’s “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”
     The collaboration of Robert Schenkkan (book and lyrics) and Neil Berg (music and lyrics) together with Michael Mancini’s music direction of the above- stage band conspire to create a thunderous, ear-pleasing miracle. Enhanced by Connor Gallagher’s muscular choreography and Lap Chi Chu’s stunning lighting design, this is a powerhouse of a production.
     The effect of these artists’ collaboration with the phenomenal actors cast by director Richard Seyd allows Act One to be honed to such a pitch of perfection that this reviewer was breathless by intermission. 
     Gregory Treco(Simon), Colin Hanlon(Pete) and Christina Sajous (Mary Magdelene) turn in unforgettable performances as the apostles try to decide what’s next after their beloved Teacher’s crucifixion.
      Teacher’s grieving Mother, portrayed byJeannette Bayardelle, blows the roof off the upper room at the end of Act One with a vocal performance (“Rain”) that is quite simply soul-shattering!
     This is exactly the kind of musical that The Denver Center has been hoping for and with the right shepherding could easily have a successful run on Broadway.
     However… since the entr’acte fails to do anything but tell us the show’s about to resume and since there is no rousing dynamic number to sweep us back into the story at the top of Act Two there should be no intermission. And although Tony Vincent’s Tom is mostly well acted and sung, one sometimes has to strain to understand his ‘articulation’ of the lyrics.
     Small criticism for an otherwise mind-blowing evening of theatre!
     With just a few nips and tucks to this show, a must-have recording of “The 12” could soon fit on your shelf right next to that of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” 
     In case you missed something… I LOVED IT!

For tickets call: 303-893-4100  or go online at denvercenter.orgMarlowe's Musings

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