Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I Love You! You're Perfect! Now Change!

I Love You! You’re Perfect! Now Change!
The Garner Galleria Theatre: 2/11 – 6/24

Denver Center Attractions’ record breaking “I Love You! You’re Perfect! Now Change!” is back and well on its way to a second long term love affair with the Denver audience. There are three new actors and one vet in the cast. Shannan Steele is the only actor cast in both incarnations of this hilarious musical comedy. Her tragi-comic performance of the very first dating video of the newly widowed- I mean divorced- Rose Ritz is by turns funny, sad and soul shredding. If your eyes are still dry at the end of this scene your heart is no longer functioning. Call the paramedics. Mostly though the show is filled with bright music and witty situational comedy mirroring the dating, mating and nesting habits of the young and the nestless. The three newbies in the cast are phenomenal talents one and all. They are: Robert Michael Sanders, Daniel Langhoff and Lauren Shealy. Robert Michael Sanders’ delivery of the show’s most heart-breakingly tender song, ”Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love With You?” is of the unforgettably brilliant variety. Mr. Langhoff’s performance as a hen-pecked husband who gets his mojo back while driving “On the Highway of Love” is a stitch. Ms. Lauren’s “He Called Me” and “Always a Bridesmaid” give her a chance to go all out with her outrageously brilliant comic acting and awesome set of pipes. Sanders’ and Steele’s singing and hilarious acting of “A Stud and a Babe” provides high contrast comedy as a couple of delusional daters, who are giving themselves a dose of reality therapy. Langhoff and Shealy are funny and touching as an elderly couple of lonely-hearts finding a second go at love on the viewing and funeral circuit singing, ”I Can Live With That.” Musical Director Troy Schuh on piano and violinist Rebecca Burchfield provide a thoroughly enjoyable accompaniment to the proceedings. As always Ray Roderick has given us the angel in the details of the show. His attention to those pesky moments when we feel most vulnerable pays off with directorial gusto. Besides his pacing the show at a fine directorial clip Roderick also choreographs. Charles R. MacLeod’s lighting design enhances the show by illuminating Lisa Orzolek’s attractively understated scenic design with a chroma key of festive hues. Meghan Anderson Doyle’s costumes are spot on.
If you are a Love! Perfect! Change! virgin you will fall in love at first sight with this show, these actors and the twenty characters they portray. This reviewer has seen the show five times at The Garner and three times in other venues throughout the city.  The jokes in this production are as fresh and funny as the first time around and you will still choke up where it’s called for.
This is the perfect date show.
Run to see it.

Denver Center Attractions presents I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE, at the Garner Galleria Theatre through June 24. I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE opened to rave reviews on June 29, 2000 becoming Denver’s longest running musical by 2005. Tickets are now on sale at or by calling 303.893.4100.

Entertaining Mr. Sloane

Entertaining Mr. Sloane
Germinal Stage Denver: 2/10 – 3/18

Prick up your ears!
There is an excellent production of Joe Orton’s “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” now onstage at Germinal Stage Denver. You know. The play by that bad boy of 1960’s British theatre who shocked and scandalized the British public with such plays as “Loot” and “What the Butler Saw.” As the lights came up at the top of Germinal’s “Mr. Sloane” this reviewer thought that it might be a black comedy. It’s black all right. However, about the only funny thing in the show is Pamela Clifton’s brilliant and inimitable comic reading of the delusional landlady, Kath. There is not another actor in town, who can carry off this kind of low comedy with such hilarious brio. Her seduction of Sloane while wearing a diaphanous black nightie is hilarious. Clifton’s aura of humor infuses her character’s dialogue with a sardonic underpinning that is brilliant. Her personal gift for comedy allows us as audience a great clarity in being able to see the cynical honesty playwright Orton lends Kath’s crass vulgarity. A singularly strong performance by Augustus Truhn as Ed, Kath’s sexually repressed brother, solidly anchors the production. Nattily dressed in the fashionable suit created by Diamond, Truhn commands the stage. This artist is one of Denver’s finest actors and it is to be hoped that he will be seen again soon upon the stage at Germinal and elsewhere throughout the city. Seth Palmer Harris’s Sloane communicates bratty delinquency, cavalier sluttishness and vacuous narcissism better than any actor in memory. The color of his coif is that of the yellow cake seen on some Betty Crocker cake mix boxes. Harris is quite striking, in a manner of speaking posing idly in his head to toe Carnaby Street leather. His charming and cunning Sloane is a profligate wastrel (essentially a good-looking mannequin with homicidal tendencies) who is manipulating Kath and Ed as much as they are him.  As per Mr. Orton’s play we are given that exploited by both the lower and upper classes the double-dealing youth of Britain have their own special treat reserved for both of them - and their DaDa, too. Pathetically and dismally correct, Randy Diamon brilliantly portrays DaDa –Kath’s and Ed’s father-as one of the shuffling wounded. One might describe his whimpering decrepitude as tragedy in shoes. Sallie Diamond’s costume for this elderly character speaks volumes. His mismatched gardening outfit complete with hedge clippers that dangle dangerously close to his crotch let us know from the get go that his fate will be rotten awful. The savaging done by Mr. Sloane is enabled not only by the smarmy lust of Kath, but by the haughty and repressed homosexuality and exaggerated moral significance of her brother Ed. So observing the disregard of morality in both cases Mr. Sloane is able to play one against the other and have his proverbial bread buttered on both sides. Not only that but he can now have his homicidal habit enabled by the two of them as well. The play includes multiple jabs at the judicial system and many of the other facets of that sullied diadem Orton saw as “that great whore, society.” Directed and designed by Stephen R. Kramer, the proceedings take place in what one might think of as a respectable English living room. Having studied under Baierlein for all these years it is impossible for director Kramer to not have fallen heir to the Maestro’s command of all things theatre. His casting is impeccable. His method is both studied and disciplined. One supposes that if this play happens to be your cuppa tea, you may wish to check out the movie entitled “Prick Up Your Ears.” The film describes Joe Orton’s and Kenneth Halliwell’s tragic gay relationship. See if you can’t find a scene in “Educating Mr. Sloane” that may be seen as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy of the way Orton would die at the hands of his lover. Orton’s play caused quite a stir at its opening resulting in a theatrical scandal non-pareil. In that respect “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” was a bit like its cousin Edward Bond’s  “Saved” which changed the censorship laws in Britain forever. “Saved,” in which a band of thugs stones a baby to death in its pram, had a harsh truth to relate to Great Britain. What playwright Edward Bond was saying was that the only ones who are “saved” after having been born into the lower class in England are those who are indeed stoned in their cradle.
Orton’s play has teeth and guts.
Go see it.
Germinal Stage Denver is located at West 44th Avenue and Alcott Street in Northwest Denver. Performances are Friday (8:00, $21.75), Saturday (8:00, $23.75) and Sunday (7:00, $19.75) through March 18. Friday, February 17th Germinal Stage is offering two for one tickets. For reservations call the box office at 303-455-7108.
                                     Augustus Truhn as Ed and Seth Palmer Harris as Mr. Sloane
                                                              Pamela Clifton as Kath
                                 Seth Palmer Harris as Mr. Sloane and Randy Diamon as Da-Da

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Peter Pan

Peter Pan
Ellie Caulkins Opera House: 2/24 – 3/4
The Colorado Ballet has produced an exhilarating new ballet for children of all ages. Thanks to Gil Boggs, Artistic Director of The Colorado Ballet, youngsters get to experience a ballet that soars. Michael Pink, the choreographer of the much-loved ballet, “Dracula,” has succeeded once again in giving the ballet audience a work that is cinematically inspired. Where Pink was evoking memories of the horror genre with the Count, here he leans into the world of the cinematic fairy tale. Thanks to Pink the repertory is expanding to include images and characters recognizable to young audiences set to music that feel and sound familiar, too. Philip Feeney composed the enchanting score for this ballet. It’s as light and freeing, as his music for Dracula was ominously dark. David Grill’s lighting design illuminates the proceedings with a touch that brings out all the magic in the story. Rick Graham’s scenic design allows this return to childhood to be as simply delightful as turning the pages of a child’s storybook.  Both the children’s bedroom and Hook’s ship are superbly envisioned. Adam Flatt’s conducting of the Colorado Ballet Orchestra paced the proceedings in such a way that youngsters – and those of us who are simply young at heart - would be able to lose themselves in the story. There are a few changes one might wish to see. Captain Hook could be directed to be much more hilariously flamboyant. When he makes his final belly flop off the plank one wishes to know that he was Crock-bait, too. That was unclear. Also the reprise of the Indian maidens with the blankets was de trop. Once was enough. It was very creative to have the crocodile swimming along over the pit. However… besides the fact that it was hard to see the crocodile sitting in the orchestra, it would also be more impactful to the story and the characters therein if it were upon the stage. The flying effects provided by ZFX, Inc. are astounding! The circling of the top of Big Ben a dizzying feat of artistry! Maria Mosina is a goddess! Her terpsechoric portrayal of Mother is studied and accomplished. Brilliant! Alexei Tyokov’s performance as Father is magnificent and hilarious all at once. Shelby Dyer’s Wendy is superb. Sharon Wehner turns in yet another fine performance as Tinker Bell. The show as a whole is simply breathtaking!

My dear friend and colleague, Holly Bartges passed away this week. She will be greatly missed. Holly had one complaint about productions of “Peter Pan” and made no bones about it. “Peter is a boy,” she would say. It didn’t matter how many Mary Martins there were in the world … “Peter Pan is a boy!” Well finally someone got it right, Holly. And as you soar off into your Heaven of a Neverland we salute you with love and gratitude for having had the honor and the pleasure of your company here on earth. Here he is, Holly. A masterful artist of dance and flight! His name is Adam Still. You would love him.
Fly to the box office!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew
The Stage Theatre: 1/27 – 2/26

The Denver Center Theatre Company is to be commended for its fine production of “The Taming of the Shrew.” Director Kent Thompson has done a superlative job in casting this show. From the leads to the walk-ons, nearly everyone is stellar. Thanks to Thompson’s eye for talent, the cockiest Petruchio since Richard Burton is now onstage in this hilarious production. John G. Preston is a magnificent swaggering swain of a Petruchio. Kathleen McCall does well in translating Shakespeare’s Kate to the 1950s. She first appears as a cook whipping up some unknown Italian dish in her father’s Italian Ristorante. If Mr. Preston’s brash conceited Petruchio brings up pictures of the swaggering cowboys of the silver screen in the fifties, McCall’s Kate may remind you of Debbie Reynolds’ feisty performance of  “I Ain’t Down Yet,” in the film version of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” McCall’s portrayal differs, however, in that it’s all swinging and no singing. Though McCall’s onstage brawl with Mr. Preston is feisty, it never quite reaches the zenith of mayhem Taylor and Burton did in the film directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Nevertheless, once McCall arrives at her reconciliation speech in the play’s denouement she is nothing short of brilliant. She lands somewhere north of Elizabeth Taylor’s sensual reading of Kate giving it a heartfelt poignancy that touches us. Christy McIntosh’s portrayal of Kate’s younger sister, Bianca, draws upon the memory of such actresses of the fifties as Sandra Dee. You know. An annoyingly cheerful airhead. Drew Cortese is brilliant as Lucentio. Matt Zambrano is quite simply the best character actor now onstage at the Denver Center. His performance could translate quite effortlessly to Broadway. Andrew Schwartz’s portrayal of Petruchio’s groom, Grumio is wildly entertaining. In the sensing that you may never see a better Petruchio than that of Mr. Preston, you also may never see as engaging and entertaining a Grumio as Schwarz’s. Bravo! Robert Sicular is hilariously endearing as Kate’s father, Baptista. There is also some fine funny work by Mike Hartman first as Petruchio’s servant, Nathaniel, and then as Vincenzio, father to Lucentio. Thompson has engaged the superb talents of costumer Susan Branch Towne, sound designer Craig Breitenbach, and scenic designer David M. Barber. Mr. Barber has created a sort of panoramic set featuring Baptista’s Ristorante in Act One and Petruchio’s man cave in Act Two. Brilliantly designed mock fifties billboards flank the stage advertising products with tongue in cheek referencing of Shakespeare’s other plays. A few examples are: “Portia Face Soap,” “County Paris Quality Ties” and “Puck Cola.” Controversial to the max by today’s standards with regard to its vision of the inequality of the sexes, director Thompson’s setting the play in the 1950s is a directorial coup. This Kate however tries awfully hard to not wind up another June Cleaver. However… since the roles of men and women were vastly different in the late sixteenth century, the chauvinist pig wins hands down.  As a result male patrons may leave the theatre in a bit more arrogant mode and the ladies bristling.
Not to be missed!
                                   Kathleen McCall and John G. Preston as Kate and Petruchio 
                                                            photo by Terry Shapiro

Photos from Town Hall Arts' Brigadoon


                                        David Ambroson (Tommy) and Alison Mueller (Fiona)

                                                            Tim Howard (Charlie)

Town Hall Arts Theatre: 2/17 – 3/18

The production of Lerner and Loewe’s “Brigadoon” now on view at Town Hall Arts in Littleton is a charmer. Directed at a brisk pace by Christopher Willard, this old warhorse comes to life with freshness and vigor. Willard adds humor with a few additions of comments that bring Brigadoon up to date. (One of the hunters can’t find “Brigadoon” on his GPS for instance.) It’s by far the best production of this show that this reviewer has ever seen. This tale of the Scottish village that arises out of the mists for one day every hundred years is full of great tunes. True, upon arriving at the theatre I wasn’t sure if those old favorites of yesteryear would really hold up. One can’t help wondering if songs such as “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean” and “Come to Me, Bend To Me” would really be able to charm as they once did. And they do! Big time! Tim Howard’s glorious tenor and vital stage presence guarantee that they do. Alison Mueller’s Fiona is adorable and her vocals luscious. David Ambroson gives us vocal magnificence throughout. His “Almost Like Being in Love” is unforgettable. The sword dance by Harry (Ryan Buehler) is powerful. Joey Wishnia has never been better than he is here performing the role of the old sage, Mr. Lundy.  Wishnia doubles as dialect coach and has succeeded better than many in this fair city as far as creating the sound of the Scottish tongue in the mouths of this fine cast. Yet he doesn’t make it so authentic we can’t understand it. You won’t need to worry about hearing phrases such as “Lang may yer lum reek.” (Live long and prosper.) or “Yer bum’s out the windae!”(“You’re talking rubbish.)”Kelly Kates keeps the choreography lively by spiking the traditional with flashes of novelty. You will be glad to know that the lighting is by Jacob Welch and the sound design by John Rivera. Tina Anderson’s set design is successful in a simple visual description of Scotland. Mary Dailey’s music direction is outstanding. The very fine costume design by Jimmy Miller will make ya feel as though ye were viewin’ an early version of “Forever Plaid.” (Just kidding, Jimmy. Very nice work.) Donna Debreceni has created some superb orchestral tracks to accompany the stellar voices. Besides all this there are live bagpipers onstage. And you know what deep feeling can be roused by this instrument. Think “Brave Heart. ”Ronni Gallup’s (Maggie) dance of mourning is what stood out above all to my guest for the evening. It was deeply moving indeed. Only “The Chase” at the top of Act Two is a wee disconcerting. Everyone in the cast runs up and down the aisles and around in circles and out the exits until everyone is sweaty and out of breath and I felt I wasn’t so much spending an evening at the theatre as avoiding my exercise plan over at Bally’s. And glad I was for that as well, laddies.  
Not to be missed!
Town Hall Arts Center, 2450 W. Main St. in Littleton, 303-794-2787
Tickets start at $21; visit