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Arvada Center’s 2011-2012 Season Breakdown

The much-anticipated 2011-2012 season for The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities has been announced and, as expected, it contains some big time musicals never before seen in the area. What, perhaps, is not as expected is the breadth the Arvada Center is bringing to their stages this year, enhanced by partnerships with several local companies to bring greater exposure of various productions and extend the range of the Arvada Center’s already impressive season.

The Arvada Center’s musical offerings include the recent revival version of Ragtime, the London version of Chess, The 1940’s Radio Hour, and the regional premiere of Legally Blonde. These selections showcase a wide range of design and performance talent, and we’re curious how the Arvada Center will transition from each to the next.

Ragtime, with hauntingly beautiful music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, tells three intersecting stories of America the early 20th century. The original production (1998) ran for two years, and was nominated for 13 Tony Awards and won several. The revival, produced only ten years after the original, was touted as a more streamlined version of its lengthy predecessor, with a simpler set and shorter running time. However, in spite of critical success, the show ran on Broadway for only 65 performances, due mostly to the large running costs required by the 28 piece orchestra and large cast/crew. It’ll be interesting to see if the Arvada Center will follow the same path or if they will be able to bring some of that streamlined quality into the orchestra/cast/crew without losing some of the fantastic power the revival version presented.

With music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe, Neil Benjamin and book by Heather Hach (CU alum), Legally Blonde is one of several recent musicals based on hit movies that turned into new productions in their own right. The Broadway production squashed concerns that the plot would not hold up without Reese Witherspoon in the title role with the spunky new interpretation of the character by Laura Bell Bundy, and the touring production was successful with other performers in the role, proving that the musical can stand alone without the boost of Hollywood or Broadway’s elite. A feel-good modern feminist tale, Legally Blonde is sure to have all the bounce of a sorority house before a formal, and the heart of every underdog story ever written. While the touring version was pared down from the Broadway version (as are most touring shows), the show was still a local favorite and without the restrictions of the road, we are sure the Arvada Center will make this show bend and snap.

The most interesting (and somewhat surprising) choice of the season is Tim Rice’s musical Chess. The score, composed by the all-star team of Rice, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson, is dynamic and stirring – contains songs that have been instant favorites of musical theatre vocalists since it first debuted. However, the show is plagued by a notoriously convoluted and alienating plot, which went through massive changes between the London and Broadway productions. In fact, recent productions have reduced Chess to a concert version, preserving the celebrated music while side-stepping the troubled book. The Arvada Center has chosen to produce a “new revision” of the original London version, and certainly look forward to another attempt for the story to emerge from the compelling vocal and orchestral moments, which the Arvada Center is sure to hit out of the park.

While a lot of people are focused on the powerhouse musicals the Arvada Center is known for, a great deal of excitement should be centered on the exapansion of the plays being offered next season. The Arvada Center itself is presenting The Importance of Being Earnest, which is currently enjoying its revival life in NYC. This comedy stands as somewhat of departure from their usual darker material placed in their yearly schedule. But in addition to their own productions, the Arvada Center will also play host to a number of other productions including shows from Creede Rep and PHAMALY, which have previously brought their productions to Arvada for a second run. Most interesting is perhaps the partnership production of Twelfth Night, which will be mounted in Arvada before heading over to take the stage at the yearly CSF.


Ragtime, Denver, Theatre, Theater, Musical, Arvada CenterMain Stage Theater
September 13 – October 2, 2011

Book by Terrence McNally
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty

Directed by Rod A. Lansberry

 Winner of 2 Tony Awards for Best Musical Score & Best Book; Drama Desk Award winner for Best Musical and Best Score

Based on the novel by E. L. Doctorow, this epic musical, set in early-20th-century New York City, shines the spotlight on the intersection of three families—all from completely different backgrounds—during a time in history when social mores, immigration, politics, and industrialization were clashing and undergoing immense and rapid changes. Making its regional premiere of the 2008 revival, this deeply moving and inspirational musical drama is replete with the rich and lyrical music of the time.

The Road to Mecca

presented by Creede Repertory Theatre
Black Box Theater

October 11 to November 6, 2011

By Athol Fugard

Directed by Nagle Jackson

Living in a white South African village on the verge of seismic change, folk artist Helen Martins is a woman adrift in a world suspicious of her independent and creative spirit. Miss Helen’s fragile understanding of her own self-worth and place in the village invites visits by two well-meaning helpers who surprise themselves by revealing their own dark secrets. A lively, sometimes humorous, always surprising drama unfolds in the midst of Miss Helen’s self-created “Mecca.”

The 1940’s Radio Hour

Main Stage Theater
November 29 – Dec 23, 2011

By Walton Jones

Directed by Bev Newcomb-Madden

It’s Christmastime in 1942. On a cold and snowy evening in New York, a close-knit group of entertainers at the WOV radio station—all heading somewhere else—are broadcasting the final holiday variety show for the troops overseas. Patriotic, sentimental, and overwhelmingly nostalgic, this holiday production—with songs including Strike Up the Band, I’ll Be Seeing You, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas—is reminiscent of an era long since passed but never completely forgotten.

The Importance of Being Earnest

Black Box Theater
January 24 – February 19, 2012

By Oscar Wilde

Directed by Rod A. Lansberry

A story of budding romance and feigned identity, this Oscar Wilde play is a humorous exposé on British society and pokes gentle fun at pretense, all in the context of well-crafted language and delightful repartee. Oscar Wilde’s classic period piece remains as witty, engaging, and relevant as when it first premiered in 1895 London.

Chess: A Musical

Main Stage Theater
March 27 – April 15, 2012

The London Version

Music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Based on an idea by Tim Rice

Directed by Rod A. Lansberry

Set against the backdrop of a chess tournament between an American and a Russian in the midst of the Cold War era, this rock opera uses the game of chess—with all of its power plays, manipulations, and sacrificial pawns—as a metaphor for love and life. With lyrics by Tim Rice, (JesusChristSuperstar and Evita) and music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, (Mamma Mia!), this regional premiere of a new revision of the London version is rich with dance, penetrating tempos, and the chart-busting pop hit One Night in Bangkok.

Twelfth Night, or What You Will,
a Comedy

presented by Colorado Shakespeare Festival
Black Box Theater
May 1 – 27, 2012

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Philip Sneed

What do you get when you mix a double shot of love triangle, an ambitious young woman disguised as her twin brother, a pair of buffoons, one amorous fool, and one wise fool? A marvelous cocktail of romance and pathos, silliness and laughter! Shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria, Viola, calling herself “Cesario,” pursues employment in the court of Duke Orsino, who is in love with the Lady Olivia. Comedy ensues when Viola’s “male” identity causes confusion of colossal proportions, and the fat Sir Toby Belch calls in the clowns.

Legally Blonde: The Musical

Legally Blonde, Arvada Center, Denver, Theatre, Theater, ReviewsMain Stage Theater
June 26 – July 15, 2012

Music & Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe & Nell Benjamin
Book by Heather Hach

Directed by Gavin Mayer

Perfectly pink and infused with fun, frivolity, and a come-from-behind, feel-good story, this upbeat musical comedy tells the tale of Elle Woods, a blonde sorority darling, who turns the “stereo type” upside down and heads to Harvard Law School to win back her boyfriend, a big case, and our hearts. Based on the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon.

Arvada Center, Denver, Theatre, Theater, Reviews



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