The Arvada Center opens one of the most well-known Broadway musicals tonight with Man of La Mancha. Brian Mallgrave, who is in his seventh consecutive season designing for the Arvada Center, was the scenic designer for the production. Man of La Mancha musically tells the story of Don Quixote – not directly, but as performed by prisoners during the Spanish Inquisition. Challenged with creating a scenic design that supports a play within a play, Mallgrave was excited to think about a non-traditional take on the scenic design. Luckily, the unique configuration of the Arvada Center’s mainstage, paired with a highly talented and collaborative technical team, made joyful work out of this challenge.
The first national tour of Catch Me If You Can, the musical that tells the story of legendary con man Frank Abagnale, Jr. cruises into Denver this week. Sharing the same name as the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the musical version equally embraces nostalgia for 1960’s America and the musical theatricality of Broadway. Stephen Anthony plays Frank Jr., the infamous charlatan pursued by federal agent Carl Hanratty over the course of the musical. Continue reading
In Jekyll & Hyde, the conflict within the central character is mirrored in the two women vying for his affection. Jekyll’s fiancee Emma, who is all sweetness and purity, stands in contrast to tough-spirited Lucy, with both women hoping to capture the best of the man they adore. In the current national tour, Emma is played by Teal Wicks, who made a name for herself as Elphaba in Wicked, in LA, San Francisco, and on Broadway.
The special bond between a child and an animal has been the basis for many powerful stories. War Horse takes several variations on the boy-bonds-with-horse plot line. The currently touring production has made headlines for its gorgeous, innovative puppetry designed by Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa. But in addition to the breathtakingly realistic depictions of the horses, this story is unique because of it takes place during a time of war. Patrick Osteen, an ensemble member who rotates through roles as a puppeteer for two of the horses, as well as other roles, is most struck by the powerful messages about war told in the piece.
When We are Married is a British comedy in which three couples who believe they are jointly celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary learn that none of their marriages have ever been legally legitimate. Written by J.B. Priestley in 1938, the play moves beyond the initial scandal of pre-marital behavior being conducted under the assumption that it was post-marital to the heart of the three relationships on display. The Denver Center Theatre Company’s production, which opens this week, features Jane and Larry Paulsen. The Paulsens have been a couple for more than 30 years, but play husband and wife to other actors in this production.
Denver is a town of many theatrical opportunities. Audiences can attend the next big tour coming through the Denver Center, or pick up a season subscription to their favorite smaller company. What I find to be the most exciting element of this theatre community, though, is the large number of new and emerging efforts to spread the love of the arts. ALoFT Theatre Company is one such company hitting the scene with their first show this summer.
Bad Habits is a comedy by Terrence McNally, split into two acts, each centering around a separate – and very unique – medical treatment facility, intended to cure people of their “bad habits.” Founding member of the company, Tami LoSasso says, “It’s about two separate retreats where people go to cure themselves of their vices. At the first one, [Dunelawn], the doctor is a marriage counselor. He helps married couples work through their issues, and his philosophy in helping people is to let them fully indulge in whatever their weakness is. In act two, in Ravenswood, it’s basically the exact opposite. People check themselves in and the doctor believes in drugging them out of their desires and temptations.” LoSasso tells us, “Acts one and two can be performed independently of each other, but we are choosing to do both. I think together, it gives the audience a fuller experience and can leave more contemplative about human nature and how we deal with our issues.”
Director Guillermo Gomez explains about the characters in the show, “Everyone is going to Dunelawn or Ravenswood to get better and get rid of their vices, but they’re just replaced with a serum, replacing one bad habit with another.” Technical director Tim Campbell informs us, “Everyone will be able to relate to at least one thing. It’s relatable because it points out human flaws, but at the same time, it turns around and makes fun of them.”
The first act of the play takes place at Dunelawn a marriage couples’ retreat run by a man named Doctor Pepper. Actor Michael Greening plays the role, saying “Dr. Pepper insists that the lake they front is the only thing they have in common. He refers to Ravenswood as the tenth circle.” He goes on to say, “Dr. Pepper tends to lay his vices on all the patients. He definitely believes in drinking, smoking, sex; and so when the patients come in, if they aren’t already imbibing that vice, he promotes it.”
Ravenswood is an individual patient treatment retreat, run by Doctor Toynbee. Played by Nick Schmid, this doctor believes in sedating his patients in order to eliminate their habitual tendencies. He administers a serum to each of his patients by injection in order to bring them all down to a slow, dreary level. Schmid says, “It was fun for me to see the duality in the different approaches to medicine.”
Actor Austin Hill explains, “A lot of the fun of acting in the show is just bouncing off everyone’s goofiness. These are some of the crazier parts I’ve played in a long time and those are the most fun plays, I think. There’s definitely a character for everybody here. One of the most wonderful things about this show is the fantastic characters. They’re so extreme and I think everyone is going to have a favorite, but no single person is going to ‘steal the show;’ and the audience is going to laugh: guaranteed.”
LoSasso tells us, “I think humor is found in the extremes of truth, and in that we would like the audience to walk away with a better understanding that we’re all human.” This show is bound to entertain, while at the same time giving us “an easy way to look at our own faults because the show is a mirror to society,” as Campbell puts it.
Come support ALoFT Theatre Company, opening Terrence McNally’s Bad Habits on Friday, August 3 and playing through August 25. Purchase tickets at https://tix6.seatyourself.biz/webstore/webstore.html?domain=aloft&event=.
Colorado is a beautiful state full of wonderful theatrical talent and potential. It is also a state that has been hit by a few difficult tragedies this summer. But through the midst of them all, theatre artists in particular have banded together through their art to bring the light and love of our world out through their productions. CenterStage Theatre Company’s production of Songs for a New World is bound to be a striking example of that effort. Continue reading
written with the help of Cheyenne Michaels
The Physically Handicapped Actors & Musical Artists League (better known as PHAMALY) brings Little Shop of Horrors to the Denver community this summer. A horror comedy rock musical, Little Shop tells the story of unlucky Seymour, a worker in a florist shop who finds and raises a Venus Fly Trap that feeds on flesh and blood. According to director Steve Wilson, the show itself has “this fun balance between the cheeky, farcical funny and pathos,” but Wilson also makes one guarantee about PHAMALY’s production of the show: “You’re never going to see a production of Little Shop like this.”
by Brandon Palmer
Silhouette Theatre Company’s motto is “Be challenged. Be changed.” In this spirit, Silhouette is producing the regional premiere of Deirdre O’Connor’s Jailbait, the company’s third show since its founding by Paul and Johanna Jaquith in 2011. This show promises to both challenge and change all audience members who see it.
Since its inception in London in 1982, Noises Off has been wildly successful due to its typically chaotic comedy. A hysterical farce, full of slapstick gags and fast face action, the play looks at a theatre company’s production of a play, but centers the focus backstage. Standing as a favorite of professional and community theatres across the country, CSF has chosen to serve up this offering as featuring Geoffrey Kent, Jamie Ann Romero, with direction from Lynne Collins.
by Brandon Palmer
The Edge Theatre at Colfax and Kipling has been running for two years now and this summer, aims to bring you what director Bill Smith refers to as “the hot, sizzling comedy of Denver, Colorado.” It’s Just Sex is a new play by Los Angeles playwright Jeff Gould, about three married couples who get together and decide to swap partners.
by Brandon Palmer
A brand new group, The Wit Theatre Company, is breaking into the Colorado theatre scene with a production of the powerful, in-your-face script of Martin McDonagh’s Pillowman. The play follows Katurian, who is interrogated by the police over a disturbing similarity between his short stories and a rash of child murders that has been occurring. With a show referred to as ‘a dark comedy,’ ‘brutal,’ ‘violent,’ and ‘gratuitous,’ you might wonder if it is a show that’s appropriate for all audiences. However, both Director J Murray D’Armand and lead actor Josh Holcomb claim, “This is a show that people really need to see.” Holcomb elaborates, “With this show, I think it’s something that even teenagers, 17 and 18 years old, really need to see. It’s a play for the current generation who often sees themselves as misunderstood or voiceless.”
Xanadu is a musical based on the 1980 movie of the same name starring Olivia Newton John. The defining movie of the rare fantasy/disco genre, Xanadu tells the a love story between Sonny, a down-on-his-luck artist and Clio/Kira, a greek goddess and muse who springs to life out of a local mural. An additional conflict puts a unique twist on the “let’s put on a show to save the theater” device — let’s turn the theater into a roller disco to save my artistic integrity. The period-peice stands to remind us all of a simpler time, when the only thing standing between true love was the success of a roller disco and mortal vs. immortal status.