Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Buell Theatre: August 7 -August 18

                  Lila Coogan and Stephen Brower (Photo credit:Evan Zimmerman)

             ANASTASIA is "a journey to the past" well worth the taking!"
     Terrence McNally, the playwright who just received a Life Achievement Award at the last Tony Awards celebration, is a master of the craft of writing the book for a musical. Anyone having seen RAGTIME knows that. However... although McNally's adaptation of the script for the 1997 animated film is a good one, it never quite rises to the brilliance of his work on the aforementioned Tony Award winning musical.  (It is to be noted that this critic did not see the animated film on which this musical is based.)
     Eschewing most of the disturbing events and individuals of the era (Rasputin isn't mentioned.) the book presents us with a mostly upbeat fairy tale about the myth that Anastasia survived the slaughter of the Tsar and his family.
     It's no surprise that the tuneful score and lyrics by the artistic team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens intoxicate us when one considers their other successes: "Ragtime,"" Seussical" and "Once on This Island."
     As Anya, Lila Coogan does a superb job in the acting and singing of the title role.
     Both Jason Michael Evans (Gleb) and Stephen Brower (Dimitry) present us with dynamic stage presence and powerful vocals.
     Edward Staudenmayer as Vlad leads the ensemble in "Paris Holds the Key (to your Heart)" at the top of Act Two. It's a rousing and uplifting number that leaves the audience cheering. Mr. Staudenmayer anchors the show with a commanding stage presence  of the triple threat variety. 
     Tari Kelly, whom you may remember for her brilliant work as Judy Garland in Arvada Center's "End of the Rainbow," is  hilarious as Countess Lily.  Her Carol Burnett-like schtick in the number "The Countess and the Common Man," is indelible.
     Just a couple of the successful offerings in Aaron Rhyne's breathtaking projection design  are: dizzying ascents through such Parisian landmarks as the Eiffel Tower and thrilling train rides through northern European landscapes. Rhyne has gossamer spirits of the dead Romanoffs haunt the proceedings like steam and smoke.
     The costumes are eye-popping indeed! From the magnificent white gowns of the Romanoff family to the frocks of Ms. Coogan as Anya, Linda Cho's costume design shimmers and sparkles in such a way as to delight.
        The orchestra sounds great under the baton of conductor Lawrence Goldberg.
     The flashes of vermillion in Donald Holder's lighting design accompanied by the approaching explosions in Peter Hylenski's sound design give us as audience all we need to know about the oncoming Bolshevik revolution.  Alexander Dodge's scenic design is flawless.
        Peggy Hickey's choreography charms. Nevertheless ... one might wish for a bit more realism in the execution of the stage combat in the scene in which Anya and her Dimitry fight off the street thieves.
        ANASTASIA is a crowd-pleaser that is not to be missed!Marlowe's Musings
      For tickets call: 303-893-4100 or go online at

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

                 VINTAGE THEATRE: 7/12 – 8/18
                Sara Risner and Stephen Krusoe

Sara Risner is luminous as EMMA in this romantic comedy by Rachel Atkins, which is based upon the novel by Jane Austen. Whether her character’s advising those around her on social manners or playing and singing at the piano, one can simply not take his eyes off her.
     One can always depend upon director Craig A. Bond’s eye for impeccable casting.
     Damon Guerrasio is as amusing as Mr. Elton as Victoria Pace is irritating as his wife. Ms. Pace leaves one and all breathless as she steals a number of scenes just by being the most off-putting character in memory.
     Stephen Krusoe anchors the piece with a solid portrayal of Mr. Knightly.
     Bethany Luhrs is a total delight as Emma's  naive young friend, Harriet Smith.
      It’s a joy to see Wade Livingston onstage once again as Mr. Woodhouse, Emma’s father.
      Chip Winn Wells adds much to the proceedings as the aged mother of Miss Bates, a winning Christine Kahane.
     Director Bond has also created an eye-pleasing set which manages to give us the illusion that the intimate Bond-Trimble theatre contains a sprawling playing space. Even though it's not. Bond’s design allows for a fluid progression of scenes that does not require the constant black-outs less talented directors might have chosen. As a result, the show moves at a steady clip and the audience remains engaged throughout. The set is beautifully appointed with antique furniture and art work of the era.
    Susan Rahmsdorff-Terry provides us with elegant costuming for the cast. The ladies’ frocks, especially those designed for Ms.Risner, dazzle.
     Rick Reid’s sound design embellishes the proceedings with the sounds of the horses and carriages arriving and departing.

Vintage Theatre presents
Jane Austen’s determined matchmaker falls into her own entanglements!
July 12 – Aug. 18
Fri/Sat and Monday, July 29 at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
$16 - $32 or 303-856-7830. 
Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora 80010.

CENTRAL CITY OPERA: July 13 – August 2
         Joshua Hopkins as Billy Budd 
                          ( Amanda Tipton Photography)

Central City Opera’s current production of Benjamin Britten’s maritime masterpiece, BILLY BUDD, blows the roof off the opera house! It is in all ways exceptional!
     Director Ken Cazan must receive the highest praise possible from this reviewer’s desk. His impeccable casting and attention to detail, as well as his honoring of Britten’s stunning composition and E.M. Forester’s and Eric Crozier’s brilliant libretto, is simply the highest and best imaginable.
     The gorgeous Napoleonic period costumes by Jonathan Knipscher place us right in the middle of the maritime war with France.
     The surreal projections done by Sean Cawelti upon the sails of the ship enhance the exceptionally well- designed set created by Takeshi Kata and David Martin Jacques (also the lighting designer) in such a way as to give us as audience the illusion of being aboard a British man o’ war.
      It’s a memory piece in which the dying Captain “Starry” Vere, captain of the British war ship, Indomitable, struggles with his guilt about not having saved the indentured sailor, Billy Budd, from execution. The handsome young sailor, beloved by all except the master at arms, John Claggart, was brought up on charges of inciting mutiny that were cruel fabrication. Billy becomes agitated at his inquisition and his emotions cause him to stammer. In his unsuccessful struggle to speak and reject this false accusation, Billy strikes out at Claggart, accidentally killing him.
     Vere, a man of principle and philosophy, adheres to the letter of the law and allows Billy to be executed.
        Joshua Hopkins’ singing and acting of the part of Billy Budd is sublime.
      Daniel Norman's superb tenor delivers the part of Captain Vere from the haunting depths of a troubled conscience.
       Kevin Burdette's acting and singing of the heinous master-at-arms, John Claggart, is masterful indeed!
     The orchestra in the pit, conducted by Maestro John Baril, is the stuff of dreams.
   The choral work of this all-male cast is Powerful beyond words
     Sung in English with English supertitles, the work is easily accessible to one and all.
     I grieve for any lover of theatre or opera in Colorado who does not see and hear this wondrous work.

     There are only a few performances remaining. Do yourself a favor and run to see it.

For tickets call 303-292-6700 or go online at centralcityopera.orgMarlowe's Musings

Sunday, July 7, 2019

CENTRAL CITY OPERA: 7/6 – 8/4 (go online to see what dates have evening performances and/or matinees.)

    L-R  Cody Austin and Raquel Gonzales

     We in Colorado are truly blessed to have easy access to Central City Opera. It’s a consistently excellent opera company performing in the intimate jewel box of an opera house in historic Central City.
    Besides being up close and personal with the actors, audience members are regaled with outstanding acoustics. How does it get any better than that?
     You owe it to yourself to see and hear this dynamic production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly now on view at the historic Central City Opera house.

     Raquel Gonzalez portrays Cio-Cio San with a youthful ease and allure that’s accompanied by a voice that makes those well-known arias like “Un Bel Di” seem as if one is hearing them for the first time. Ms. Gonzalez’s voice is truly a silken ribbon of auditory champagne throughout. Brava!
     Cody Austin’s portrayal of Lieutenant Pinkerton blesses us with one of the more spectacular tenors to have been heard over the last several seasons. And there have been some superb ones!
     Troy Cook, whose great baritone we heard in his performances as Gaylord Ravenal in SHOWBOAT and Captain Von Trapp in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, delivers an outstanding Sharpless. 
     Mezzo Annie Rosen’s acting and singing as Suzuki is heart wrenching.
     Under the baton of conductor Adam Turner, the playing of Puccini’s glorious score by the Central City Opera orchestra in the pit is scrumptious to the ear.
      Once again maestro David Martin Jacques casts his magic spell enhancing the moods with the lighting design. 
     A stunning traditional reading of this emotionally moving work, the superfluous imaginings of the demise of Cio-Cio San’s father preceding the play in the 2010 production have been scrapped. This present director, Alison Moritz, focuses on the essence of the libretto with an eye to the influence of social change. She presents us with individuals caught up in the uncertainty of the moment in which Japan opened her doors to the West.In the previous decades only a few Dutch merchants had been allowed entrance into her ports. One of the ways in which Director Moritz summons this idea in visual terms is by having her scenic designer, Dany Lyne, present a number of scenes through a bamboo scrim or curtain. 
     This is Great Art that is unmissable for anyone loving Puccini. And who doesn’t?
So go and support the most consistently excellent opera company in Colorado. What could be better than driving up into the fresh mountain air and all that gorgeous Colorado scenery to listen to one of the greatest examples of Grand Opera in the repertoire?

p.s. and don’t forget… The regional premier of Benjamin Britten’s maritime masterpiece, BILLY BUDD, opens next week at the opera house in Central City. This is a once in a lifetime chance to see and hear this swashbuckling work based upon Herman Melville’s masterpiece. 

For tickets call the box office at 303-292-6700 or go online at

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

                VINTAGE THEATRE: 6/28 -8/4

                          Sonsharae Tull 

In Vintage Theatre’s production of Regina Taylor’s CROWNS, based upon the novel by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry, a young black woman takes a trip to the South to spend time with her aunt. 
     CROWNS is a gospel musical in which hats become a metaphor for just about every conceivable occasion. There are special hats for baptisms, weddings and funerals. There are nods to hats recalling the days of African rituals and of the time of slavery as well. Hats even figure into the memories of Biblical times.  It’s a musical that celebrates black history and identity.
      Betty Hart, who directed last year’s musical hit, “Lady Day at the Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” provides deft direction for playwright Taylor’s insightful play.
     The music direction by Trent Hines is his usual professional work.
     Christopher Page Sanders’ choreography – and the dancing thereof – is a delight throughout.
      In Director Hart's casting of this ensemble  there is no weak link. The cast includes Michaela Murray(Yolanda),Mary Louise Lee(Velma),Rajdulari(Mother Shaw),Jasmine Jackson(Mabel),Sonsharae Tull(Wanda), Adrienne Martin-Fullwood(Jeanette) and Michael Peters(Man). The vocals performed by each and every one of these very talented actors are ear-pleasing indeed. 
     Phil Cope’s scenic design gives us the beautifully appointed interior of a southern Baptist church, complete with gorgeous stained glass windows illuminated by Kevin Taylor’s excellent lighting design.   
     The Sunday frocks created for these ladies by costume designer Erika Daun are eye-popping. Likewise, Milliner Sarah Havens has created a stage full of hats that are works of art all unto themselves. Truth be told, Ms. Daun and Ms. Havens give the show the eye-pleasing allure of a fashion show.
      Playwright Taylor has an impressive body of work that has garnered four Washington D.C. Helen Hayes awards as well as a Golden Globe, an NAACP Image Award and two Emmy nominations.Marlowe's Musings

Vintage Theatre presents
Hats to tell tales about family, love, and life!
June 28** – Aug. 4
Fri/Sat at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
$19 - $38 or 303-856-7830. 
Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora 80010.

Monday, May 27, 2019


Abby Apple Boes and Damon Guerrasio 
(photo credit: Rachel D. Graham)

     Playwright Josh Hartwell has done an admirable job with his intriguing new play, QUEEN OF CONSPIRACY.  More than just an homage to conspiracy theorist Mae Brussell, the play is an exhortation for us as individuals to pay attention to our politics and to take action when we begin to connect the dots. No matter which president or political official has been assassinated the government commissions never tell the people the truth. We never get a valid explanation of which individual or group of individuals committed the crime. So even if a conspiracy theorist makes a few errors, it’s heartening when one like Ms. Brussell strikes a bulls eye with something as important as Watergate.
      Denver favorite Abby Apple Boes turns in a brilliant performance as Mae Brussell. 
     Bill Hahn delivers a sober intellectual and a hilariously quirky airhead professor with consummate skill.
     With his curly black wig and rocker swag, Damon Guerrasio is a superb dead ringer for Frank Zappa.
    Heather Lacy plays Olivia, a devotee of Ms. Brussel, whose daughter,Rachel, played by Chloe Mcleod, gradually emulates. Ms. Lacy stepped in at the last minute to take the place of an injured actor, who was prevented from appearing due to her injury. Ms. McLeod played Joan in Miners Alley's critically aclaimed production of "FUN HOME."
    You will remember Sinjiin Jones, who portrays Carson, Chloe’s boy friend, for his fine performance in "DISTRICT MERCHANTS."
    Jonathan Scott McKean did his usual magic with the scenic design. He is aided in no small part by Elizabeth Scott-McKean’s scenic dressing, which places us solidly in the 1970s.     
     Scott McKean also did the dynamic sound design, which accompanied by Vance McKenzie’s dramatic lighting design, conspire (sorry) to create explosive snapshots that rivet.
     Director Len Matheo has cast the show impeccably.
    Conspiracy theory is all over the internet, yet this is the first this reviewer has heard of Ms. Brussell. Always interested in this phenomenon, one wishes to know more about her.
    This play will send you racing for your computer to learn more about Ms. Brussell. In the process you may run across Nancy Lieder, a contemporary conspiracy theorist who channels a race of aliens known as the Zeta Reticuli. Ms. Lieder discusses connections to everything from national elections to an upcoming planetary collision with an asteroid on            

                          Truth or fiction? You decide.
     QUEEN OF CONSPIRACY deserves your attendance. Don’t miss it.

Miners Alley Playhouse 
The World Premiere of
"Queen of Conspiracy" 
The compelling, untold, and true story of Mae Brussell, considered to be the one-time Queen of Conspiracy.
May 17 – June 23
Thurs./Fri. /Sat. at 7:30 p.m.; Sun. at 2 p.m.
$17 - $32 
Miners Alley Playhouse, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, CO 80401
303-935-3044 or online at

Saturday, May 25, 2019



   I had the great good luck of getting to interview Central City Opera’s General/Artistic Director, Pelham (Pat) Pearce the other day and the excitement  was palpable as  he described the upcoming season at Central City Opera.
      In honor of the 200thanniversary of Herman Melville’s birth, Central City Opera is presenting the Colorado Premiere of Benjamin Britten’s maritime masterpiece, “Billy Budd.” (It is this critic's not so humble opinion that this production of "BILLY BUDD" will be the piece de resistance this summer. Do not miss it!)
          Pearce has focused on bringing the works of Britten to Central City Opera over the last 22 years. In fact, his intention is to bring the entire Britten canon to this historic 500-seat jewel box opera house.
     Starting with “Gloriana” and ”A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Pearce went on to produce “Paul Bunyan,” “Curlew River,” “The Rape of Lucretia,” “The Turn of the Screw”, “The Prodigal Son,” and “The Burning Fiery Furnace.”
     “Billy Budd” is based upon the novel by Herman Melville, and the libretto was written by Eric Crozier and E.M. Forster. This production will be conducted by John Baril with stage direction by Ken Cazan.
     Daniel Norman will sing Captain Vere, John Claggart will be sung by Kevin Burdette and Joshua Hopkins will perform the role of Billy Budd. 
    Pearce said, “since the stage at the Central City Opera House is not large enough to contain a British man o’ war, co-set designers, David Martin Jacques and Tahishi Kata are being required to use all kinds of modern technology to create the look of the show. They’ve spent a small fortune on rope to create the climbable rigging.” 
     Set in the time period of the Napoleonic wars, the costumes will be time specific.
     Performances of Billy Budd will run from July 6 through August 4. (Exact dates and times may be found on the Central City Opera website.)

(Hopefully you've already got your tickets. Word on the street is that BILLY BUDD is going to blow the roof off!!) 

    One of the best loved operas in the repertoire, Puccini’s exquisite “Madama Butterfly” was last performed by Central City Opera in 2010.
     This year Cio-Cio San will be sung by Raquel Gonzalez, Suzuki by Annie Rosen and Pinkerton by Cody Austin. Sharpless will be performed by Troy Cook. 
    Pearce said that “director Alison Moritz puts her own spin on this classic by allowing us as audience to see the proceedings through a sepia-toned palette, recalling the photographs of the time when Japan opened its doors to the West.”
     Adam Turner, who was recently named Artistic Director for Virginia Opera, will conduct.
     There will also be a double bill: “The Blessed Damozel” by Claude Debussy and “Litanies to the Black Virgin” composed by Francis Poulenc. These two exquisite works will be sung by an all-female cast in French and semi-staged at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. They both feature the women of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program. Pearce said that “those who wish to experience these beauties had better call soon as tickets are selling like hot cakes.”
     Central City Opera is also featuring “ENCORE,” an evening of sensational Broadway tunes at the Opera House on August 3rdand 6th, featuring Colorado favorite, Jennifer De Dominici. CCO debuted this ear-pleasing evening last season and it’s back by popular demand.
     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 Central City Opera House was built in 1878 by Robert Roeschlaub, the architect who also built the Trinity United Methodist Church in Denver.
 It’s graced by the magnificent trompe l’oeil murals by San Francisco artist, John C. Massman. This venue provides an intimacy that’s 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. Walter Huston played Othello with his wife, Nan Sunderland as Desdemona at the opera house in 1934.
     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 discover 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 from an upper level into an office on the first floor. Luckily no one was injured.
      I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the intimacy of the Central City Opera house provides an up close and personal delivery of the repertoire of Grand Opera as well as the very best gems of American Opera. 
     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. 
     In an interview some fifteen or sixteen 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. And don’t forget to check out Herndon Davis’ stunning 1936 painting now known as “The Face on the Barroom Floor” while having your own cocktail at The Teller 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 operatic 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. Get your rezzers early because they fill up early on opera evenings.
      Pearce concluded by saying, “We’re going to make magic this summer. Come up and experience the unforgettable! It’s a good eclectic season with something for everyone.”     
             See you at the opera!

For more information, visit or follow CCO on Facebook, Instagram (@ccityopera) and Twitter (@ccityopera). Use the hashtag #CentralCityOpera to engage. For tickets,
email or call (303) 292-6700. 
Marlowe's Musings