Noises Off is a show that defines a genre: the backstage farce. More specifically, it’s an onstage, then backstage, then onstage farce. The inventive plot follows a company from their final dress rehearsal of the farce ‘Nothing On,’ to a performance of their fast-paced comedy early in its run, and then a performance on tour late in the run. The backstage drama is even more riveting than the onstage drama, but seeing the performance from multiple angles provides nearly endless opportunities for comedy.
Next to Normal has made one of the biggest Broadway splashes in the last decade. What makes it so unique? With complex, multi-faceted characters and a powerful score, it tells an incredibly poignant story about a family struggling through rock bottom in a way that is incredibly cathartic and artistically satisfying. Ignite’s production marks the Denver premiere, starring Margie Lamb, whose was highly praised for playing this same role in the Colorado premiere at Midtown Arts Center.
The stage version of the familiar movie White Christmas is a great blend of tradition, familiarity, and production value. The story follows Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, soldiers-turned-entertainers who become smitten with the Hayes sisters, and follow them to quaint Pinetree, Vermont for Christmas. As luck would have it, their old general is managing the very inn where the sisters are performing, and the two pairs of performers band together to try to save the inn, save Christmas, and save their relationships in one fell swoop. This recent stage version tells the story efficiently and well, making steady progress through several opportunities for gorgeous costume and scene design.
J.R. Priestley’s When We Are Married is a comedy that follows three very different couples as they deal with the same shocking news: they may not actually be married. In a world where respectability and class are paramount, this table-turning twist pays off over three acts as each couple grapples with new-found freedom from matrimony. As new information is revealed, it’s unclear which is least acceptable to to each couple — their public or private status change.
The Three Musketeers is best known in its original form, a novel by Alexandre Dumas set in the 17th century. The story of d’Artagnan as he journeys to Paris in hope of becoming a Musketeer Guard has proved so compelling that it has become worthy of several movie, musical, television, and comic adaptations. Elements of the story are timeless – d’Artagnan’s drive to fulfill his purpose in life and fit in with a group, the pursuit of love (well, if you forgive the fact that all but one of the women each Musketeer pursues is married to someone else), and the noble job of defending one’s country.
In the Heights was a Broadway sensation when it debuted in 2008, and it won four Tony Awards shortly afterward. It’s fresh story that focuses on a Dominican teenager (Nina) who returns to Washington Heights after her first year away at college, and how various members of the the first- and second-generation immigrant community grapple with multiple definitions of home. The score, by Lin-Manuel Miranda, incorporates rap, hip-hop and pop, and some pats of the show are in Spanish (or Spanglish) — which all combines to make for an incredibly novel, current, moving musical theater experience.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was turned into a Broadway musical in 2005, based on the popular 1988 film, based on the 1964 film. The story revolves around Lawrence Jameson, an established, charming conman, and his obnoxiously energetic protege, Freddy Benson. Lawrence and Freddy team to make their way into several hearts and wallets of women vacationing on the French riviera. Their schemes are interrupted by the charmingly naive Christine Colgate, whose reputation as “The American Soap Queen” has preceded her. Musicalized shenanigans ensue when the Soap Queen’s infectious charm rubs off on the dirtiest, rottenest con men in town.
After being the hottest ticket on Broadway for the last 14 months, The Book of Mormon is the hottest ticket in Denver right now, and will soon embark on a national tour that is sure to make headlines across the nation. Written and conceived by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (best known for the animated series South Park) along with Robert Lopez (known for Avenue Q), this irreverent, satirical story focuses on an unlikely pair of Mormon missionaries as they struggle to bring new members to the church on their unexpected mission assignment to Uganda. As you might expect, the show is R-rated and has a high shock value. But what has contributed to its record-breaking run is that it also has all of the elements of a fantastic Broadway show — well-choreographed production numbers, rousing and inspiring songs, and a central conflict that speaks to us all.
It is no surprise that Ignite Theatre, one of the most energetic companies in the greater Denver area, was the first local company to secure the rights to the provocative new musical Spring Awakening. Based on a book of the same name, this show uses an invigorating rock score to tell the story of adolescents in 1891 Germany who are struggling to understand themselves as adults and sexual beings in a stoic, cold, oppressive environment. The musical won eight 2007 Tony awards when it premiered on Broadway.
Little Shop of Horrors is perhaps the finest exemplar of the horror musical comedy genre, and tells the endearing story of the orphaned botanist Seymour Krelborn (whose role in the 1986 movie was played by Rick Moranis). Krelborn is a no-name assistant at a Skid Row florist shop when he unexpectedly encounters a strange an unusual plant. With this unidentified flytrap displayed prominently in the window, life is looking up for Seymour, until he realizes that his bloodthirsty plant can’t bring him fame and fortune without paying a hefty price.
Noises Off is the quintessential backstage farce. More specifically, it’s an onstage, then backstage, then onstage farce. The inventive plot follows a company from their final dress rehearsal of the farce ‘Nothing On,’ to a performance of their fast-paced comedy early in its run, and then a performance on tour late in the run. The backstage drama is even more riveting than the onstage drama, but seeing the performance from multiple angles provides nearly endless opportunities for comedy.
Hairspray is a musical based on the 1998 film Hairspray. This infectious and funny plot centers around bubbly Tracy Turnblad, whose tubby figure can’t slow her dream of dancing on a local TV program, and whose naive optimism about the divisions between black and white students leads to real social change in Baltimore. The musical was made back into a film in 2007, and both the movie and stage versions have won numerous awards.
If you think you’ve seen all of the small-number-of-actors-play-large-number-of-parts plays, you may be wrong. If you think you’ve seen all of the comic possibilities that arise from these types of plays, you’re most probably wrong. And if you doubt that these zany, fast-paced, audience-pleasing monstrosities make it hard to actually connect with the heart of the characters, you’ve never been more wrong. Love Child is a new play that got rave reviews off-Broadway, and for good reason. Two men play more than two dozen roles as they tell the story of an actor, struggling in both is personal and professional lives, as he tries to open a show with a cast of outrageous artist personalities, in an unconventionally dangerous venue, with his mother/agent in the audience. Continue reading