Wednesday, September 13, 2023

 FIDDLER ON THE ROOF

BDT STAGE: 9/9 – 1/13

 

WAYNE KENNEDY IS A TEVYE FOR THE AGES!

 

“Fiddler on the Roof” is the final production of BDT Stage’s 46-year run of excellent theatre!  When the American Theatre Critics Association met in Denver several years ago, they all went to see “DAMN YANKEES” at what was then called Boulder’s Dinner Theatre. They raved that Boulder’s Dinner Theatre was as great as the best theatre on Broadway. 

     This final BDT STAGE production is, in this reviewer’s not so humble opinion, Better than Broadway!  

     Please be aware that the rest of this review is going to be a long list of accolades for a near perfect production.

      With music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein, Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway in 1964. It starred Zero Mostel as Tevye. 

     The book for the musical is based upon the writings of Sholom Aleichem which focuses on a Jewish milk man named Tevye, his wife Golde and their five daughters.  

     Winning nine Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book for a Musical, this production held the record for being the longest running show on Broadway for nearly a decade.

      Boulder’s Dinner Theatre has mounted an exceptionally well-crafted production of this musical for their final show.  

 

     Director Kenny Moten has cast the show impeccably.

 

     Wayne Kennedy’s performance in the role of Tevye is astonishing! Powerful and nuanced in every sense of the word, Kennedy’s portrayal of the Jewish milkman, will remain in your memory forever. His singing of “Tradition,” “To Life,” and “If I were a Rich Man” have his indelible, very personal stamp. It is to be noted that Kennedy is also responsible for the thoroughly well executed sound design.

      As Tevye’s wife Golde, Alicia K. Meyers’ strikes a perfect balance with Kennedy’s Tevye. Their duet, “Do You Love Me,?” is poignant indeed. Meyers, who has directed, choreographed and acted in countless BDT Stage productions, gives a stellar, heart-opening performance!

    Abigail Kochevar as Tzeitel , Jennasea Pearce as Hodel and Alei Russo as Chava enchant with their joyous version of “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.”

     Brian Cronan’s singing of “Miracle of Miracles” exhilarates! 

     As Perchik, Leo Battle’s duet of “Now I Have Everything” with Jennasea Pearce’s Hodel is mesmerizing. Denver favorite Tim Howard and BDT Stage Artistic Director, Seamus McDonough alternate in the role of Fyedka.

      Brian Burron is a masterful Lazar Wolf. Scott Severtson’s performance in the role of the constable is sobering indeed! Mary McGroary is delightful as Grandma Tzeitel! 

     Annie Dwyer’s Yente is Outstanding! 

     Anna High is a hysterical Fruma Sarah. A.K. Klimpke charms as the Rabbi. (BDT Stage favorite Brian Norber will take over the role later in the run.)

     Tracy Warren’s Fiddler is perfection!

     The ingenious creation of the scenic design for the shtetl of Anatevka is the excellent work of Amy Campion. Jessica Hindsley and Danielle Scheib share credit for the exhilarating choreography. Costume designer Linda Morken’s costume design is spot on.

     Lighting Designer Brett Maughan illuminates the proceedings with a touch of the poet.

     Under the baton of award-winning music director Neal Dunfee, the 19-piece BDT Stage orchestra delivers the beloved score to perfection.

                Run to get tickets!


Call 303-449-6000 or go online at bdtstage.com

 

Sunday, September 10, 2023

 SEUSSICAL, THE MUSICAL

PERFORMANCE NOW THEATRE COMPANY

September 8- September 24

 


Goofy and Silly and Way Too Much Fun

This Seussical Musical’s Really well done.

The set is a kid’s book with colorful pages

The seats inexpensive won’t take all your wages.

The chroma key brush strokes by this lighting man

Are vibrant paint splashes right out of the can.

The costumes are eye-popping playground apparel

And miracles happen whenever there’s peril.

Cartoonish and festive, this show is a winner.

It turns your small smile to a really wide-grinner.

 

     Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens based the book for this musical upon the works of Dr. Seuss. Flaherty composed the joyously upbeat music and Ahrens penned the lyrics. 

     The show is co-directed by Victoria Holloway and Kelly Van Oosbree, who also choreographs! These two artists pull out all the stops while allowing this outstanding cast to unleash all the lustrous fun with real panache.  

     Fresh from his outstanding work in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” Chris Boeckx oversees the proceedings as The Cat in the Hat. Boeckx even brings a smile to our faces during the entr’acte. ( No spoilers!)

      Josh Harris is adorable as Horton, the elephant!

     Sarah Atkinson’s JoJo is a total delight!

     Brekken Baker dazzles us as Mayzie, the profligate Mom who thinks parenthood is 'for the birds.' Or maybe not!!!

     Marlowe Award winner Nancy Evans Begley belts gorgeously as Sour Kangaroo!

     Sarah Forman is outstanding as Gertrude McFuzz! 

     Music Director Heather Iris Holt succeeds brilliantly with this fantasia of ear-pleasing music and mind-boggling verse.

      If you ever had the ecstatic pleasure of riding your bike with your grade school buddies following a bandwagon with calliope when the circus came to town, you’ll start to get the energy. It’s a whirlwind of childlike fantasy come to life and the perfect antidote to the evening news. It will leave you smiling from ear to ear!

     “Seussical, the Musical,” is the kind of show in which renowned costume designer Nicole Harrison must have been up to her armpits in sequins and feathers creating  the eye-popping costumes. 

     Vance McKenzie’s lighting is sensational!

     The show is a mash-up of Dr. Seuss favorites including “Horton Hears a Who,” “Gertrude McFuzz,” and “Horton Hatches the Egg.”  It reminds us all to be our true selves regardless of what ‘thinks’ others may think of us.

     Run to see this show!   You won’t believe “HOW LUCKY YOU ARE!”

 

 

For tickets call 303-987-7845 or go online at www.performancenow.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

 OTELLO

CENTRAL CITY OPERA

(playing in repertoire with Gounod’s "Romeo and Juliette" and Cole Porter’s "Kiss Me, Kate" through August 6)

 

 


 

     If you’re a purist regarding Shakespeare’s play, be aware that "Othello, The Moor of Venice," is the Moor of Rome in this production of Rossini’s opera. 

     Rossini’s librettist, Francesco Berio de Salsa based this version on an adaptation by French playwright Jean Francois Ducis. In following Ducis’ lead with his libretto, de Salsa takes numerous liberties with Shakespeare’s characters as well as the text. The handkerchief is replaced with a misdelivered and unaddressed letter.  Iago is made far less prominent, and Rodrigo much more central to the plot. What does remain in place is the patriarchal bigotry of Desdemona’s father, Elmiro, and society in general.  And finally, the “green-eyed monster, jealousy,” annihilates faithful feminine goodness and innocence by means of treachery and deceit.    

      Premiering in Naples in 1816, Rossini created the piece as a vehicle for tenor voices for the three prominent male characters.

    An excellent opera, Rossini’s "Otello" came seven decades prior to Verdi’s masterful "Otello," and was overshadowed not only by Verdi, but by Rossini’s own huge successes with “Cenerentola” and “The Barber of Seville.”

     Cast well by director Ashraf Sewailam, this season’s production is given a profoundly deliberate pacing.

     Mezzo-soprano Ceciiia Violetta Lopez sings Desdemona’s famous third Act aria “Salce” or “Willow Song” magnificently. 

     Hilary Ginther delivers an Emilia with a soprano that soars.

     Whether receiving the highest accolades of the Doge for his conquests abroad at opening or committing the final violent act(s) of the opera, Kenneth Tarver is most memorable as the noble Othello with the tragic flaw of jealousy.

     Bernard Holcomb’s Iago is very well sung.

     As Rodrigo, Christopher Bozeka received massive applause for his superb rendition of some of the more difficult musical passages.

     Federico de Michelis delivers the basso of Desdemona’s father, Elmiro, with power. One might have wished however, that he be wigged to give us the illusion of advanced age.

     Conductor John Baril and Chorus Master Brandon Eldredge conspire to bring the choral and orchestral elements together with  true artistry.

     The lighting is fine, but oh how one misses the artistic expertise and genius of the last two decades of David Martin Jacques’ exquisite luminescence magic.

     Go and support Central City Opera. It’s the fifth oldest opera company in the country. 

 

 

     After reading today of the change that has just now taken place regarding the management of CCO , one is hopeful that a new president/artistic director of the caliber of John Moriarty and Pelham (Pat) Pearce can be found to return this venerable company to its Glory Days.    

       Thanks to the late John Moriarty’s influence Colorado has been blessed by being introduced to great American operas: “The Ballad of Baby Doe,” “Susannah,” and “Gabriel’s Daughter” among them. Hopefully our growing appetite for the wonders of American opera will be reflected in future seasons. 

     How lucky we were to have been blessed with Maestro Moriarty’s genius in the world of opera. He is forever in our hearts. We miss him greatly.

      Pat Pearce’s legacy was immense!  Over the last two decades his leadership garnered critical acclaim internationally for productions of such operas as Benjamin Britten’s “Gloriana,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “Billy Budd.” Pearce introduced Colorado operagoers to almost all of Benjamin Britten’s catalog! His  awareness of the need to introduce more people to great opera has, in this reviewer’s interesting point of view, been incalculable in its vision and scope. His inclusion of Jake Hegge’s operas such as "Dead Man Walking," "Three Decembers" and "Two Remain" added greatly to the treasure trove of new works here in Colorado.  

     Hopefully some of the other faithful employees who left during 'the interim' will return as well. Gail Bransteitter was highly professional in the marketing and publicity arenas. And at the risk of being redundant, David Martin Jacques will hopefully return as company lighting designer.

 

For tickets call 303-292-6700 or go online at centralcityopera.org

Sunday, July 9, 2023

  

 

IN THE HEIGHTS

VINTAGE THEATRE: JUNE 23 – JULY 30



Teej Morgan-Arzola and the cast of In the Heights (photo credit: RDG Photography)

 

     Before there was HAMILTON, there was IN THE HEIGHTS.

 

    With music and lyrics by Lin Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, the show is set in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.  It was nominated for thirteen Tony Awards in 2008, winning four, including Best Musical.

     Teej Morgan-Arzola portrays Usnavi de la Vega, the narrator, who introduces us to the barrio and the people who live there. His close attention to the clear articulation of Miranda’s rap is enhanced with his skillful use of its bright cadence.


Alicia "Lisa" Young and the cast of In the Heights (photo credit: RDG Photography)


     Abuela Claudia, who raised Usnavi after his parents died shortly after immigrating from the Dominican Republic, is played with warmth and sensitivity by Alicia “Lisa” Young. This actor’s singing of “Paciencia y Fe” (“Patience and Faith”) is magnificent!

     Daniela Castorena is stunning as Nina Rosario. Returning from college, she fears having to tell her parents she flunked out due to having to work two jobs to pay for her tuition. 

    George Zamarripa and Ali Chung (Photo credit: RDG Photography)

     George Zamarripa is remarkable as Nina’s concerned papa, Kevin.   His singing of “Inutil” and “Atencion,” bring back memories of his fine work as Mr. Feldzieg in Vintage’s “Drowsy Chaperone” and as Georges in the recent Town Hall Arts production of “La Cage aux Folles.”

     As Nina’s Mama, Camila, Ali Chung is powerful singing “Enough!” as she struggles to keep the family together in a crisis.

     Recently seen in THAC’s “Memphis” and in Vintage Theatre’s “Sophisticated Ladies, origin does a great job as Usnavi’s best friend, Benny.

    Vanessa is Karen Gonzalez, seen recently as Mary Elena in BDT Stage’s “Buddy, the Buddy Holly Story.”

   Castarena and origin shine in their duet, “When the Sun Goes Down.”

     Karen Gonzales and Teej Morgan-Arzola are at their best singing “Champagne!”

      This musical is all about the celebration of the barrio.  Heritage and ancestry are central to the themes of this play, and one is always aware of the sense of family in this vanishing neighborhood.

     As Daniela, Emily Diaz is a whirlwind of joy as she leads the ensemble in “Carnaval del Barrio.”

      The Piragua Guy is acted and sung with gusto by Romy Lopez.

     A gift to your visual and auditory senses, you will be treated to some radiantly colorful lighting by Emily Maddox as well as Jessica Jewell’s crystal-clear sound design. 


The set for In the Heights (photo credit: RDG Photography)
   

     The backdrop for the set, painted by Megan David, Bernie Richard and Emily Dyer Wolf, and the bodega and salon de belezza, designed by set designers Robert Janacek and Jeff Jesmer, are visual delights. The costumes shine, sparkle, and shimmer thanks to the costume design of Alicia “Lisa” Young.

     The exuberance of the salsa dancing in Kebrina Josefina de Jesus’ choreography is pulse-pounding!

     The divine Donna Kolpan Debrecini’s music direction and musical tracks are spectacular!

     Peppering the show with a few excellent veteran actors, director Jonathan Andujar has cast the show with a stellium of fantastic new actors that one hopes will be seen again soon upon the Denver stage.

     One would be remiss not to mention the tireless efforts of Biz Schaugaard, Company Manager/props and Jennifer Schmitz, stage manager extraordinaire, for all their incredible work on this and countless other productions. 

 

For tickets call the box office at 303-856-7830                  or go online at vintagetheatre.org

Monday, July 3, 2023



 KISS ME KATE

CENTRAL CITY OPERA:

July 1 – August 5

(in repertoire with Gounod’s ROMEO AND JULIET and Rossini’s OTHELLO)

 

Jonathan Hays and Emily Brockway (photo: Amanda Tipton)


   DIRECTOR KEN CAZAN HAS DONE IT AGAIN!

 

     Cazan has directed all the Broadway shows that have been featured at Central City Opera over the last decade, as well as all but two of Benjamin Britten’s prolific canon.  (Cazan’s direction of Britten’s “Billy Budd” and “Gloriana” received critical acclaim internationally.)

    Regarding his direction of the American Musicals, Cazan has helmed productions of everything from “West Side Story” and “Oklahoma” to “A Little Night Music” and this year’s “Kiss Me, Kate.”

     With book by Bella and Samuel Spewack and music and lyrics by Cole Porter, KISS ME KATE won the first Tony Award for Best Musical, as well as for Best Score and Best Script in 1949.

   Some of the perennial favorites from the Cole Porter song book are: “Wunderbar,” “Another Openin’ , Another Show,” “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” “Always True to You in My Fashion,” “So In Love,” and “Too Darn Hot.”

     This musical involves a production of “The Taming of the Shrew” and a conflict onstage and off between the director and star of the show, Fred Graham, and ex-wife Lilli Vanessi. There is a subplot involving the actress playing Lois Lane/ Bianca and her boyfriend, Bill Calhoun/Lucentio.

      Emily Brockway and Jonathan Hays 

(photo: Amanda Tipton)

The book is inspired by the relationship of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontane, who were “real life battling actors in the 1936 production of “The Taming of the Shrew.”

     Emily Brockway is luminous as Lilli Vanessi/Katharine!  Her singing of “So in Love” is powerfully seductive and spellbinding!  The duets Ms. Brockway sings with Mr. Hays, “From This Moment On,” and “Wunderbar,” are both auditory champagne!

     Jonathan Hays portrays Fred Graham/ Petruchio with stunning panache and great good humor! His singing of “Were Thine That Special Face” and the hilarious “Where is the Life That Once I Led?” were crowd pleasers indeed!

Jeffrey Scott Parsons and Lauren Gemelli (photo: Amanda Tipton)
     Lauren Gemelli bewitches as a sexy, well-sung Lois Lane/Bianca. Her singing of “Always True to You In My Fashion” and “Why Can’t You Behave?” in tandem with Jeffrey Scott Parsons’ animated comic portrayal of Bill Calhoun/Lucentio, is dazzling.


L-R: Isaiah Feken and Adelmo Guidarelli(photo: Amanda Tipton)
     The two gangsters, played with broad strokes of humor by Adelmo Guidarelli and Isaiah Feken, give us the hilarious vaudeville hijinks of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” with polish and flair. Always a hysterical moment in this show, these two comics make it the genuine showstopper it was meant to be!

Jeffrey Scott Parsons and the Ensemble (photo: Amanda Tipton)

     The dancers of Nu-World Contemporary Dance Theatre stun in their sizzling delivery of “Too Darn Hot!” As the cast waits in the alley between acts, they perform a number you will never forget! Part ballet and part modern jazz dancing spiced up with a good deal of tap-dance, this scene is exhilarating beyond the beyonds!!!!

     The well thought out traditional set design by Matthew S. Crane and eye-popping costumes by Jeff Mahshie are spot on!

     Daniel Pelzig’s choreography is a breathtaking delight from start to finish.

     Conductor Adam Turner elicits the sweet sounds of Cole Porter’s award-winning score from the sensational Central City Opera orchestra to ear-pleasing perfection.

                      BRAVI TUTTI!!!!!

THIS SHOW IS NOT TO BE MISSED! RUN TO GET TICKETS!

 

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

Saturday, July 1, 2023

 ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE

Give 5 Productions (at Parker Arts Center)

June 23 – July 16

 



L-R: Sonshare Tull, the "outlaw shaker of salt," and Rick Long

 

Escape to Margaritaville, a production at Parker Arts Center by Give Five Productions, is a thoroughly enjoyable evening of ‘escape’ from the five o’clock news.

     If you’re as much a fan of Jimmy Buffett’s music as this reviewer, you’re going to love ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE!  My favorite music to listen to at Red Rocks in the 80s, this artist opened for The Eagles a few seasons ago at Coors Field. (Had it not been for completely inept crowd control, we all might have seen and heard his complete set. Nevertheless…what we got to hear was none too shabby!!!)

     Escape to Margaritaville is a 2017 jukebox musical that makes use of lots of your favorite Jimmy Buffet tunes.

     The plot concerns Tully, a part-time bartender and singer and his relationship with Rachel, a business-minded young woman experiencing the island for the first time.

     Jake Bell’s strumming and singing as Tully Mars keeps the proceedings right on key! His love interest, Rachel is well-sung by Jamie Molina.

     The sub-plot involves Chadd, a macho pig of a fiancée attempting to get his beautifully full-figured love Tammy, to diet herself into something that she’s not. Damon Guerrasio, (Marlowe Award for Best Actor in a Musical for Bullets Over Broadway) gets short shrift in this script. As always, however, his performance is top notch.

     Chadd’s fiancée Tammy is played with sparkling wit and lovely vocals, by Brekken Baker. Tammy’s triumphant success in finally giving herself her due as she sings “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” is magnificent!

     Tammy’s acquaintance with Nick Rigg Johnson’s Brick generates genuine sparks. Mr. Johnson is as animated and hilarious in his performance as his vocals are well-sung! One hopes to see both Ms. Baker and Mr. Johnson onstage again soon.

     Andrew Fisher (Jamal) brings us fully into Act Two with a rousing version of Volcano.

     Rick Long (Marlowe Award winner for his performance as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) is his usual talented and amiable self as J.D., a one-eyed beach bum, who hangs out and flirts with the ladies at the bar. Long’s singing of "Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw,” is one of the evening’s highlights!!!

     Sonsharae Tull’s performance in the role of Marley sparkles! Ms. Tull is one of Denver’s premier actors.

 It was so nice to see the beautiful and talented Jessie Page, who creates the excellent costumes, wigs and make-up for this show, in the lobby afterwards. Likewise, seeing Lara Maerz, stage manager extraordinaire, in the lobby after the show was a treat as well. 

    “ If you’re not sure if you’re gonna go,” let me just say “GO! GO! GO! ENJOY THIS SHOW!”

 

 

For tickets  go online at parkerarts.org or call 303-805-6800.

Monday, June 26, 2023

 ROMEO AND JULIET 

CENTRAL CITY OPERA: JUNE 24 – AUGUST 5



            L-R: Ricardo Garcia and Madison Leonard


Central City Opera’s production of Romeo and Juliet is a banquet for the ear and the eye. 

 

 

     "Romeo et Juliette" is an opera by Charles Gounod, with French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carre. Following the success of his “Faust,” the composer’s “Romeo et Juliette” was the most popular opera in the second half of the nineteenth century.

     Madison Leonard is a ravishing Juliet. Her acting stuns and her soaring soprano intoxicates!

     Juliet’s Waltz is sung and played with such joie de vivre it will make you rise out of your seat. 

          Ricardo Garcia is a dashing, well-sung Romeo. His duets with Ms. Leonard blend to ear-pleasing perfection. One is happy to report that there is undeniable chemistry between Mr. Garcia’s Romeo and Ms. Leonard’s Juliet. 

     Wei Wu is stellar in the acting and singing of Frere Laurent. 

     Shea Owens delivers a well-sung and credible Mercutio.

     Erroll-Wesley Shaw’s performance in the role of Le Duc is masterful. This artist’s basso cries out to be heard in larger roles.

     Adam Cioffari is most memorable in the singing of Juliet’s father, Comte Capulet.

     Although Sarah Neal’s Gertrude is delightful in the acting and the singing, one might wish the director had cast a more seasoned actress for the Nurse.

     The lush musical joie de vivre of Capulet’s party will sound in your ears for days. It’s almost as strong an earworm as ‘the dance of the knights’ in Prokofiev’s ballet about these same ‘star-crossed lovers.’ 

     Under the baton of Maestro John Baril, the scrumptious Central City Opera orchestra delivers Gounod’s melodious score to perfection. Baril’s music direction keeps the musicians in the pit and the singers onstage always in sync.

     Matthew S. Crane’s gray crypt of a set design, which plays host to both love and death, proves to be more than efficient in its construction.  

      Matt Herndon’s fight choreography is expertly on point. 

     The costume design by Robert Perdziola is eye-popping indeed.


"Romeo and Juliet" is sung in French with English surtitles.


(Gounod’s "Romeo and Juliet" is playing in repertoire with "Kiss Me Kate" - Tony for Best Musical of 1949 - and Rossini’s "Othello.")

 

For tickets call the box office at 

303-292-6700 or go online at centralcityopera.org