Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Death Takes a Holiday
Arvada Center: 4/26 – 5/15

      A tip of the hat to the powers that be at Arvada Center for bringing us this little known sparkler of a musical theatre gem. Composed by Maury Yeston, who gave us “Titanic, the Musical” and “Nine,” the score for “Death Takes a Holiday” is melodious and often breath taking. The Book by Peter Stone and Thomas Meehan is based upon the Italian play, “La Morte in Vacanza” that was set in the 20s and later made into a film in 1934 starring Frederic March. The musical has more than a little in common with the contemporary film, “Meet Joe Black” in which Death takes on a human form to experience life with all its wonders and emotions.
    More I will not tell you about this enthralling evening of theatre. You need to experience it for yourself.
              L-R: Kristen Hahn & Peter Saide
    (Photo credit: P. Switzer Photography)

     The leads, Peter Saide (Prince Nikolai Sirki/Death) and Kristen Hahn (Grazia), are both glamorous,multi-talented musical theatre actors. Ms. Hahn has a soaring soprano one wishes he could listen to forever.  Mr. Saide’s vocals are outstanding! 
     The supporting cast is full of Denver’s brightest and best!
      Megan Van De Hey is luminous as Duchess Stephanie. Her mellifluous vocals and brilliant acting are, as always, formidable!
L-R: Erica Sarzin-Borrillo & James Van Treuren
(Photo credit: P. Switzer Photography)

     Erica Sarzin-Borrillo portrays the Contessa Evangelina Di San Danielli with consummate patrician elegance and poise. Her singing of “December Time,” a number recalling such musical moments as “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Any More” from “Gigi” and “Liaisons” from “A Little Night Music,” mesmerizes.
     Andrew Diessner stuns us with his magnificent singing of “Roberto’s Eyes.” One must ask the local producers why this great talent is not featured more regularly upon the Denver stage!
       Mark Rubald, Emily Van Fleet, Barb Reeves, Gregory Price and Paul Curran are also featured.  
     The technical work is sublime. Shannon McKinney’s lighting design is exemplary. Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck’s choreography is her usual professional excellence. Brian Mallgrave’s scenic design for the Villa Felicita in Northern Italy is remarkable. Clare Henkel’s costume design is spot on. David Nehls' music direction is superb. 

Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
6901 Wadsworth Blvd.
Arvada, CO 80003

Call 720-898-7200 for tickets or go online at

Monday, April 25, 2016

     Catch the stars, both new and old, at BDT Stage as they unfurl the tale of a miserable orphan who becomes Peter, the boy who never grows up!
L-R: Jack Barton and Sarah Grover

     “Peter and the Star Catcher” is to James Barrie’s “Peter Pan” what “Wicked” is to Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz.” Both shows are prequels in which we get to see the former lives and evolution of the famous characters.
     This show won 5 Tony Awards in 2012 and was named one of the top ten shows that year by The New York Times.
     Sarah Grover(Marlowe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for “Addams Family, the Musical”) plays Molly, the only female member of this male-driven cast. Molly is independent, resourceful and resilient through all the sea-going adventures in her journey that leads to Neverland.

     Scott Beyette (Marlowe Award for Best Actor in a Musical for “Addams Family, the Musical”) plays Black Stache, the pirate who will become the infamous Captain Hook. Beyette does an awesome job with this plum role. His big scene in Act Two - I’m not telling! - will have you roaring with laughter.
     Wayne Kennedy plays a Smee to be with deliriously funny and nerdy glee. Bob Hoppe adds his signature brand of humor to the character of a somewhat over protective sea-going Nanny named Mrs. Bumbrake. Brian Jackson is a swashbuckling Captain Jack. Brian Burron portrays Lord Aster, Molly’s father.
     Jack Barton does a great job playing the boy who will soon become that famous lad we all know and love who never wants to grow up.
      Amy Campion gives us a minimalist scenic design set in a glorious storybook golden frame.
     Nick Sugar (multiple Marlowe Awards for both direction and choreography) directs and choreographs the proceedings with a lively pace and an eye to those things which will spark the imaginations of children and adults alike.
     It’s a show to which you can take the whole family without worrying about having to shield the kids from the brutality and insanity so prevalent on the evening news. In fact, it may be just the ticket to get your mind clear of the political incivility that seems to be  everywhere in this election year.
      Somewhat of a radical departure for BDT STAGE, “Peter and the Star Catcher” isn't a full-fledged musical. It does have music though, played superbly by maestro Neal Dunfee from his musical island in the auditorium where we can all see and appreciate his and Nick Gnojek’s musical wizardry. 
     And there are songs! Just not as many as usual. The musical number at the top of Act Two is bright, colorful and one of the most hilarious to have graced this stage in memory.
     The inventive stagecraft is everywhere in evidence as the actors create an entire ship-full of magical illusions using such props as a simple coil of nautical rope.
  A few of the wonderful new faces in the cast you can look forward to seeing are: Ben Griffin, Matt Gnojek, Chas Lederer, RJ Wagner and Joel Silverman.

       The show only plays through May 14 so get on the horn now for tickets.

BDT STAGE is located at 5501 Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder,CO.
For tickets call the box office at 303-449-6000 or go online at www.bdtstage.comMarlowe's Musings

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Stage Theatre: 4/8 – 5/15

The DCPA Theatre Company’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” is OUTSTANDING!
Powerful and Unforgettable, the show is sensationally well cast.
     Robert Petkoff’s mesmerizing performance as Sweeney Todd, rivets.
     Linda Mugleston’s Mrs. Lovett is to die for. This artist’s performance is full of such diabolically funny nuance that one can’t take his eyes off her. Mugleston’s singing of songs such as “By the Sea,” “A Little Priest” and “The Worst Pies in London” is delicious … to the ear.
     Kathleen McCall is brilliant as the pitiably mad Beggar Woman.
     Kevin Mcguire’s Judge Turpin, Dwelvan David’s Beadle Bamford and Kevin Curtis’ Tobias Ragg are all gloriously well put forth. 
     Director Kent Thompson’s choice to have Grammy Award-Winning Devotchka orchestrate Sondheim’s work paid off big time. Zach Williamson’s sound design has done a great job placing us in 19th century industrial London with its screaming, steaming whistles.
      This production immerses theatregoers in the dark world of vengeful depravity engendered by the unjust incarceration of Sweeney Todd and the subsequent ill fates of his wife and daughter. Although this production doesn’t indulge in the gore so omnipresent in Tim Burton’s film, this is the most ‘red-blooded’ version of the Sondheim classic in this reviewer’s memory.
     Kenton Yeager’s lighting design is impressive. Greg Coffin’s music direction of Devotchka’s spin on Sondheim’s classic rocks the house.
     The costumes designed by Kevin Copenhaver are eye-popping. Those worn by Ms. Mugleston and Ms. McCall recall the magnificence of those of a previous era at the DCPA when costumes such as those for “Life is a Dream” left the theatregoer thunder-struck!
     James Kronzer’s gothic industrial set design is awe-inspiring. Nevertheless… one might have wished that the free standing oven which rolls in and out could have been situated beneath Sweeney’s barber chair so that the victims could find their final resting place more easily. Perhaps that might not have been as easy as pie? (Sorry!)

     This is the best musical production to have been mounted by The DCPA Theatre Company in memory. Run to get a ticket.

Call the Box Office at:   303-893-4100 or go online at denvercenter.orgMarlowe's Musings

Saturday, April 23, 2016


“It’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else!”
     I had the great good luck of getting to interview Central City Opera’s General/Artistic Director Pelham(Pat) Pearce the other day and I have never seen Pearce so fiery in his description of the upcoming Central City Opera festival season. He was so stoked and animated that what has been in the past a quick half hour interview became one lasting just over two hours. Perhaps it goes without saying that the time flew by.
In the two decades that Pearce has been here, the impresario has allowed us to see American premieres such as that of Benjamin Britten’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” premieres of Chinese operas such as “Poet Li Bai” and American operas such as “Gabriel’s Daughter” and “Susannah.” Pearce has done wonders mixing the classics in the repertoire with contemporary works.

     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.
Pearce pointed out that “one of the reasons the shows always sound so excellent at CCO is that they have a training program for young opera singers. Where else can you find a chorus made up of thirty-one soloists?” 
Here’s what Pearce had to say about this season.
                            (Photo credits: Preston Utley)

“The Ballad of Baby Doe” plays July 9 through August 6th. This work was commissioned by Central City Opera and premiered in 1956. “It’s the true riches to rags adventure of Elizabeth (Baby)Doe at the pinnacle of Colorado’s mining history. An intriguing epic of love and loss, boom and bust set to beautiful music by Douglas Moore.” This year Baby Doe will be played by Anna Christy. “She’s very effective dramatically and can really deliver the goods vocally. Over the last ten years she’s performed at La Scala, the Met, and London’s Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in such productions as: “Susannah,” “The Crucible,” “Tales of Hoffman” and “Lucia di Lamermoor.” Pat said that she sang the Zerlina in his favorite recording of Riccardo Muti’s “Don Giovanni.” Susanne Mentzner will sing Augusta Tabor.  Grant Youngblood will play Horace Tabor. The conductor will be Tim Meyers. (He’s the artistic director of Opera North Carolina and conducted the last “Carmen” presented by CCO.) David Martin Jacques, who has done most of the exquisite lighting designs for the past twenty years at CCO will do the lighting designs for “The Ballad of Baby Doe” and “Tosca.”( Go online and check out this master’s portfolio. It’s amazing!) Donald Hartmann will sing William Jennings Bryan. Sara Jean Tosetti will be creating the costumes for the principals as well as curating those for the ensemble from their 2005 production. 

“Tosca” will play from July 16 through 
August 7.  Composed by Giacomo Puccini and with libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, it’s based upon the play by Victorian Sardou. It’s an edge of your seat thriller full of passion and jealously and scandal that takes place in Rome during the Napoleonic era. Filled with your favorite Puccini arias, Alexandra Loutsion will sing Tosca. Pearce said, “She’s a previous apprentice whose career is moving very fast. Ms. Loutsion has a spectacular instrument and is a committed performer.” Cavaradossi will be played by Jonathan Burton. Scarpia, the most infamous villain in all of opera, will be sung by Michael Mayes, who stunned the opera world with his portrayal of Joseph de Rocher in “Dead Man Walking.” Donald Hartmann will play the Sacristan. The conductor will be John Baril. The sets will also be done by director Joachim Schamberger, whose projections were shot while he was in Europe last year.

"The Impresario"(Mozart’s “Der Schauspieldirektor”) has an original German libretto by Gottlieb Stephanie. “This is a charming comedy in which two divas scheme and squabble their way to opening night in a new opera.”
      “The Impresario” is set in 1948 New York and will be performed in Boulder on July 28 at 6pm and 8 pm at Nomad Playhouse.  It will also play in Central City on Wednesdays July 27 and August 3 at noon at the Gilman Studio at the Lanny and Sharon Martin Foundry Rehearsal Center.

“Later the Same Evening” will play Saturday July 30 at 8pm at The Denver Art Museum and on Friday, August 5 at Central City at 7pm in the Atwill Gilman Studio at the Lanny and Sharon Martin, Foundry Rehearsal Center, 212 Eureka Street.  A lullaby to New York inspired by Edward Hopper’s classic American paintings, this one act opera was written by contemporary composer, John Musto. The story reveals the hopes and dreams, longings and loves of characters in five Hopper paintings as they step out of their frames and come to life one night in 1932 New York. Music is by John Musto and libretto by Mark Campbell.

 This season we’re going to play in the realm of projections.

Pearce said “the first sets created for “The Ballad of Baby Doe” were drop painted sets in the 50s. It was really problematic because some operas had a godzillion scenes. The set for “Baby Doe” in ’96 and ’06 was a monster. There were a godzillion scene changes requiring moving scenery in and out on palettes. Trying to get the  magnificent Clarendon Hotel on and off required a Herculean effort.”
     Pearce went on to say, “Ken Cazan wanted to do set design using visual projections in order to allow the operas to be more cinematic.
Ken and David Jacques shot all these projections in the mountains last year for “The Ballad of Baby Doe.”  Joachim Schamburger shot the projections for “Tosca” in Europe.
     Both sets of projections were shot with an eye to the fact that although these are contemporary productions, we have to keep the time frame in mind. “Tosca” needs the Napoleonic period look to succeed and “The Ballad of Baby Doe” needs the feel of Gilpin County during the mining boom.
      Costuming will be period for both shows. The most important thing is that you have to tell the story in a flow that is easily consumed. The audience doesn’t need a road map.There will be a full orchestra for both.”

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 learn 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 into an office on the first floor. Luckily nobody was injured.
       In an interview some fifteen 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 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!
     “Nowhere on earth can you get the combination of the bracing Colorado fresh air, the gorgeous scenery, the experience of the once booming mining town and the very best of world-class opera.”
The intimacy of Central City opera 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.
 See you at the opera!
For more information regarding the specific dates and times of the operas and scheduling of the events go online to or call 303-292-6700.Marlowe's Musings