Showing posts with label Theater Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Theater Review. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

You're Invited to a Party, a Psycho Beach Party!

By Mona Lott

“Come stoned to this show,” Krystal Jackson yells out as the cast enthusiastically discusses what makes Psycho Beach Party worth coming to and responds to my question about how to sell it. The answers leading up to that comic outburst were more practical, telling me that the show is a “great laugh” and full of wonderful characters and “gender bender fun.” Admittedly that’s enough to get this drag queen to buy a ticket, but as I got to chat more with the director Stephen Tangedal and his lively, charming cast I was impressed at just how many other reasons there are to go see this show when it opens at The Crossroads Theater on Thursday, July 9.

Psycho Beach Party is a play by Charles Busch that spoofs those Gidget-led movies of the 1960’s and then tosses in some Hitchcock type thrills on top. Chicklet as played by Anthony Adu in this production is the leader of this romp on the beach and sports a very blonde wig as if to say "Barbie has arrived!" Of course this Barbie has multiple personalities and issues that Gidget never had to face. Tangedal, with a wink, remarks that every one of the cast members was typecast in this show even though that remark was followed by several, “not me” utterances from the cast. Truth be told though, when I walked into the room and was asked by Adu, “What character do you think I’m playing?” I immediately answered, “I’m guessing Chicklet.” 

I can spot a drag performer from a mile away! 

I’m assuming anyone could spot Hektor Munoz who plays Chicklet’s mother, Mrs. Forrest. Munoz stands (and I’m guessing) at six feet five inches and is desperately trying to get his hands on a pair of women’s size 18 pumps! When asked about how the drag roles have influenced this show, the cast was quick to reply that it’s just like playing any other character. Adu made a point of explaining that he has tried to find the truth in the character and is playing her as a real woman and working at not just being a boy in drag.

I knew after that answer that this cast is not just having fun, but are truly putting a lot of heart into the show. It was easy to see that they have a love for the characters and for each other with an assortment of answers to the question of who they would like to play if they weren’t playing the character that they are cast as. In true “Show Girls” fashion Daniel Wheeler who plays Yo Yo pointed a rigid finger at Adu and blurted out how he wanted to play Chicklet and had previously auditioned for the role several times. I warned Wheeler not to take the stairs when Adu is around. Ironically, the only male member of the cast who has never tried drag, Todd Moore, who is cast as Star Cat, was at ease with the honesty of admitting that he would like to play Mrs. Forrest. With a list of characters as diverse as the actual cast of this show, I could imagine them all spinning a wheel to determine just who they would play each night and an audience that would come back every time to see the mix.

Tangedal previously directed this show over twenty years ago and in his cast then was Shelly Bordas. Bordas, as Tangedal fondly remembers, was a much-loved member of the Denver theater community who lost her battle with breast cancer last January. Bordas’ young son will benefit from two added performances on July 24th and 25th with proceeds going towards his college fund. When asked why he decided to direct this show again, Tangedal mentioned Bordas and stated that he thought it was time to laugh again and to just have fun. It was obvious that this show holds a special memory of Bordas for Tangedal and her presence is sure to be felt during these added performances.

The remaining performances benefit the The Denver Element a part of Mile High Behaviorial Healthcare. The Denver Element states on their webpage that, “Our work, while building community, is to reduce the transmission of HIV through education of the gay and bi men in Denver on HIV stigma, Status Disclosure and Intimacy.” 

Cast member Anthony Fay spoke very eloquently detailing all the added services that The Denver Element includes, like social events and assistance for gay men with drug habits. Fay is doing double duty in the show as the assistant director and the character, Provoloney and was quick to add to the discussion of why people should come to this show, “It’s only ten bucks!”

Considering all the people who will benefit from this campy delight and the sheer evening of summertime joy and laughter that Tangedal and his cast are sure to deliver, the reasonable price point is only a small part of why people should come to this show. A bigger part of why to see this show is the camp and fun of reliving those beach blanket romps and the over the top, bigger than life characters being played out in gender bender style and the opportunity to try and figure out the mystery of “whodunnit.” And it that doesn’t influence you, there is an Opening Night luau on Friday July 10th with food and the possibility of getting lei’d! 

Psycho Beach Party runs Thursday, Friday, Saturday at Crossroads Theatre, 2590 Washington Street July 9th through the 25th with a special Cast Benefit Night on Tuesday July 21st. Tickets can be purchased in advance at here or at the box office.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Urinetown: The Musical - Pee Before You Go

By Mona Lott

Why didn't you go before we left? That's going to be the question of the night if you attend Urinetown: The Musical at The Bug Theater. Not because there aren't toilets, but because you have to pay to use them and the attendants can be a little surly, if you know what I mean.

Luckily, Equinox Theater provides you with your own bathroom token at the box office, knowing that the joke will only go so far, even though that very joke sustains a full two act show with infectious music and toilet humor that kept me smiling to the very finale!

Urinetown was the brainchild of Greg Kotis who was inspired upon encountering a pay toilet during his European travels as a student on a budget in the late nineties. He went on to write the book and the lyrics with Mark Hollmann, who also wrote the music. The show hit Broadway at The Henry Miller Theater in September of 2001.

A musical about a drought that makes peeing in private a luxury that no one is allowed due to corporate greed and laws that require the poor and downtrodden to pay at public toilets was definitely a hard sell for Kotis, but thanks to the New York Fringe Festival, Urinetown got it's break and went on to be nominated for a Best Musical Tony in 2002.

Equinox's production is tiny, crammed onto the small stage at The Bug Theater, but it doesn't stop the rather large cast from making the most of every inch on the stage. Especially striking is some very clever choreography created by Colin Roybal who also directs this exuberant production. The ensemble is excellent, especially when they join together in harmony on "Look At The Sky." Most notable is Tim Luoma as Hot Blades Harry, who brings great conviction and energy to the second act in "Snuff That Girl."

Bobby Strong, the young protagonist who becomes a rebel leading a free pee uprising, is played by Kalond Irlanda.Though he brings a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to the part of Bobby, he is almost swallowed up by the sheer magnificence of the character; a character named by the New York Theater Monthly as one of the 100 greatest roles in musical theater. Also on the list is the role of Hope Cladwell, the daughter of the evil corporate mastermind controlling the public urinals and the girl who steals Bobby's heart. Carolyn Lohr plays Hope with a keen sense of comedy, making sure every note of humor is played with reckless abandonment, though it is obviously very well controlled by a competent actress.

Officer Lockstock, in the hands of Dave Gordon, is the narrator of the story doing double duty as the policeman on the prowl for felony urinaters who he sends to the sinister sounding Urinetown. Gordon, who possesses a gorgeous deep bass of a voice, is accomplished in the role though he didn't quite make the sly, winking connection with the audience that the character demands.

The veterans in the show are Jim Hitzke as the corporate creep, Caldwell B. Cladwell, and Shahara Ray as the hapless, hard-as-nails Penelope Pennywise who is relegated to managing Public Amenity #9 in a sort of self preservation. Hitzke is sleazy in all the right ways, making you love to hate him and Ray commands the stage from the instant she appears. Both bring grit and antagonistic goodness to the show with excellent voices and strong characterizations.

Equinox has a hit on it's hands with Urinetown, masterfully directed and choreographed by Colin Roybal. It runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 through June 6th. The songs are full of joy and the show contains enough jokes to keep you laughing till you have to pee, though you'll need a token to do so!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Theatre Review: 'HAIR' Is A Trip Worth Taking

By Philip Doyle

Before the show began, I listened to two older ladies talk about what a “happening” is. Was it something that hippies did? Is it an art thing? Is it like a flash mob? They decided to just wait and watch the show, and see what happens.

Here is what is happening at Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center- A perfect storm of talent, direction and technical creativity that is Hair: The American Tribal Love-RockMusical.

In its day Hair was, and still is, a revolutionary expression of peace, love, freedom and happiness. More than a hippie musical, it transcends from an anti-war protest into a frolicking, hallucinogenic challenge to reach beyond ourselves.

Hair is scattered with music that we grew up listening to. Most notibly “Aquarius” and “Good Morning Starshine” have earwormed their way into our collective musical lexicon. But for me, the heart of this show is the way the lyrics bring up race and sexuality in numbers like “I’m Black”, “Colored Spade”, “Sodomy”, “Black Boys”, and “White Boys”. It does more than just address themes of free love and racism- Hair celebrates them.

Hair relies on the strength of its cast, and in this case the cast, or “tribe” is pretty damn flawless. From the start, as they weave rhythmically on to the stage, this tribe is an all encompassing kaleidoscope of talent.

From the dawn of the first act, Dionne played by the gorgeous and exceedingly gifted Ashilie-Amber Harris, plants a spectacular seed from which the rest of the play grows.

Matt LaFontaine throws down an attention grabbing performance as Berger, a free-loving, psychedelic, teddy bear of a man. LaFontaine is brimming with a jubilant energy, and has the full attention of the audience until curtain call.

Tyrell D. Rae as Hud flows around the stage with a confident strut. Rae has an innate stage presence that is smart and beautiful to behold. (If you want to see Nick Sugar’s inspired choreography manifest itself brilliantly on the stage, watch Rae.)

Casey Andree is endearing as Claude. He possesses a gentle innocence that is sweet and vulnerable. Like a little brother that you want to shield and protect, Andree’s performance garners the audiences love.

I could go on singing praises to the gifted cast. Burke Walton is fantastic as Woof. Norrell Moore is great as Sheila, as is Rebekah Ortiz as Jeanie. Do you see where this is going? They are all very, very good. I could ramble on, but you get my point. Talent abounds.

The intimate space transforms with the use of vibrant color, projections, and visual effects. Thanks to the efforts of skilled designers and technicians, and helmed by stage manager Steven Neal, the stage comes alive. (This show has got a lot of life.)

Music director Donna Kolpan Debreceni fills the production with the essential vibe that only a live band can provide.

Director/Choreographer Nick Sugar is a blessing. I could toss a myriad of praises his way. The love and joy that embodies Hair flows from Sugar’s creative soul. Within a span of minutes he can present a musical number with the bouncing frivolity and spectacle of a Muppet’s musical; groove you into a Motown doo-wop; take you on a magical mystery tour; and shake things up with the heart-breaking reality of war. Sugar gathers the abundant talent that surrounds him, and coalesces the elements into a fantastic happening.

It would be very difficult for me to conjure up anything critical to say about this production. I could probably mention a few little things, a few nit-picky minor details, but to do so would be a lie. I loved this show.

Hair plays May 17-June 16 at the Town Hall Arts Center. The Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton is a short 20-25 minute drive from central Denver. If you have never been there, or if you’re looking for a reason to go again- this is your chance. Hair is a trip worth taking.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Theater Review: The Doyle & Debbie Show

By Philip Doyle

As the usher decked out in tight jeans and country duds, led me to my seat, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of The Doyle & Debbie Show. Aside from my unadulterated love of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, country music is not my cup of moonshine. So I am pleased as punch to let y’all know that The Doyle & Debbie Show is a hilarious, toe-tappin’, heck of a good time. 

Sheltered under the glass arches of the Denver Center for Performing Arts, the Garner Galleria Theatre is presenting the knee slapping, original sensation that is The Doyle & Debbie Show.

Doyle Mayfield is a former country star trying to get his career going again. This time he has a new singing partner, Debbie, who follows in a long line of previous Debbies. Anxious to bring some attention to his long, and possibly washed-up career, Doyle brings some extra baggage with him that when opened is pretty damn funny.

The D&D Show playfully lampoons country music, while respectfully tipping its hat to classic Nashville. Songs like “Barefoot and Pregnant” and “Stock Car Love” may get some folk’s necks redder than usual, but rest assured that the joy of this show is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. There is magic happening on stage, and a good time is had by all.

I was particularly fond of “I Ain’t No Homo (But Man You Sure Look Good to Me)”, that had me laughing, and admiring the proficient, well paced delivery of material. 

The brilliance of the show shines through its creator, the hilarious Bruce Arntson, who plays Doyle. Arnston brings together a mastery of comic delivery and a staccato singing prowess, the result of which is rather sublime. Denver audiences should relish in the chance to witness his performance, that is a delightful and sincere homage to the country genre.

Debbie is played by Jennifer Blood, and throws down a performance that is enduring in its demure, dimples for days, sweetness, coupled with a raucous, bouncing, sensuality.  

Matthew Carlton plays Buddy, who is one of those actors who can exude funny from every pore. In fact, all three actors can simply stand there and not say a word, and have the audience giggling and wanting more.

Now just as a heads-up to true-blue fans of country music, The Doyle & Debbie Show is a sharp, toe-tapping parody. It does not tread softly in its mockery of country music, but rather two-steps boldly into a satirical world of country greatness. So you best bring your sense of humor and expect a grand ol’ time.

The Doyle & Debbie Show

Plays through July 14th at

The Garner Galleria Theatre

Monday, February 25, 2013

Theater Review: Dangerous Theatre's 'Dark Wood' Transcendent, Captivating

By Philip Doyle

At the Dangerous Theatre on Friday night, I had the pleasure to sit next to a handsome, well spoken, and buck ass naked man. This guy, I’ll call him BJ, was as friendly as he was exposed. BJ seemed to be an outgoing, seize the day kind of guy. He had enjoyed the boundless freedom of nude horseback riding, twister, and even bowling, and this was his chance to mark “attend the theatre nude” off of his bucket list. I admire people like that, and BJ wasn’t the only member of the audience who chose to attend Winnie Wenglewick’s inspired production of Dark Wood sans clothes.

I was in the small minority of clothed theatregoers on the sold out, one night only, clothing optional for everybody experience. Perhaps next time Winnie offers a nude audience night, my sense of adventure will conquer my modesty. But in the meantime, Dark Wood continues its run and this time just the actors are going au natural.   

Dark Wood tells a rather brilliant tale of three apes in a cage that is a fresh and insightful foray into the human psyche. Peter McGarry’s provocative script is layered with existential themes that address concepts of free will, consciousness, and identity. It grapples with confinement and quest to understand what lies beyond. Reminiscent of Sartre’s No Exit, and Becket’s Godot, McGarry’s Dark Wood evokes meaningful thought while keeping the audience thoroughly entertained. 

Okay now…  Let’s talk about the… um… elephant apes in the room.  The actors are unabashedly nude.  While this could serve as an ever-present distraction, the actors overcome the challenge of being upstaged by their junk swinging to and fro with focused delivery and intent.

I haven’t been around naked men in a rather long time, and frankly I was nervous that I would not be able to focus on the script. So I give mad props to the cast, and Winnie Wenglewick’s direction that never gave me the chance to giggle like a nervous schoolgirl. Dark Wood transcends the flesh.

The cast includes some great performances that weave characteristics of human and primate. Brainard Starling is Mbwane, the wisest and eldest ape.  Mbwane is broken down by age and trial, and is fueled by hope and longing.  Starling is controlled and reserved, delivering a cathartic revelation that had my full attention.

Ben Pelayo portrays the ape named Strong Arm, who challenges the pecking order of the group with brute force. Pelayo is a tough guy, playing on levels that range from violently aggressive to restrained empathy.

Patrick Call plays Rico, the ever inquisitive and constantly horny ape.  Now I have sung the praises of some fantastic performances in the past, but Patrick Call drives this show. Please indulge me while I crack my knuckles and type out an inch or so of accolades for Patrick Call: He is an actor brimming with a joyful enthusiasm for his craft that will engage you. Any actor blessed with the ability to deliver the lines of a script with an authentic conversational grace, with an energy and timing that raises the bar of his fellow cast members, is my flippin’ hero.  Bravo, Mr. Call… Brav-f**king-o.

It is no surprise that I’m a big fan of the Dangerous Theatre. Winnie Wenglewick provides original works with the opportunity to be staged in Denver that would otherwise go unseen. Her emphasis is on originality and not on costly high tech spectacle. There is something inherently beautiful when a good script is presented without the distraction of high polish sets and opulent velvet curtains. It’s a happening, all about the art, low budget, and absolutely invaluable.   

If you’re looking to see an excellent example of what The Dangerous Theatre is all about, or a great example of innovative existential theatre, this is your ticket.

Just remember that Dark Wood is not about the nudity. The flesh is simply a cage that confines us all.
Dark Wood plays through April 26 at The Dangerous Theatre. For reservations call 720-233-4703.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Theater Review: Arvada Center's Blithe Spirit Sophisticated, Funny

By Philip Doyle

Oscar Wilde, Noël Coward, Truman Copote. Three men graced with social super-powers of impeccable timing, fine tuned vocabulary, and a keen sense of perception.  These men hold a place in my gay history playbook for two reasons:  

1. They could really keep a party going.  

2. They no doubt elevated the demand placed on everyone around them to simply keep up.  When playing with the big boys of rapier wit you better bring it, or don’t show up at all.  The Arvada Center steps up, and meets the challenge.

Blithe Spirit is a fanciful comedy that was quite a sensation when it premiered in London’s West End in 1941.  Written by Noël Coward, it is a comedy that embraces a level of social discourse that rises above today’s over simplified communication.  A sophisticated and funny foray into an endearing place and time.

The play begins with a round of martinis.  Charles Condomine, a novelist looking for material for his new book, has invited some friends over for drinks, dinner, and a séance.  More martinis are served, and soon the libation flows as freely as wit.

Things go awry when medium Madame Arcati, breaches the astral plane and summons the ghost of Charles's first wife, Elvira. Charles is the only person who can see Elvira, and his second wife, Ruth, is none to pleased. Ruth thinks her husband has lost his marbles, until she realizes the haunting is for real.

What develops from that point is clever and fun, as Ruth demands that Charles get rid of Elvira, but Elvira has plans of her own.

Director Rod A. Lansberry has dutifully constructed a production of Blithe Spirit that really works.  Scenic designer Brian Mallgrave and costume designer Chris Campbell provide the play with perfect atmosphere of time and place. 

The entire cast should be commended.  Steven Cole Hughes is dashing and has a voice that is a delight to listen to.  Kate Berry plays the scorned second wife, Ruth.  Berry approaches her character as a devoted and doting wife, who finds herself backed into an impossible otherworldly corner.   

Leslie O’Carroll instills the clairvoyant Madame Arcati with grand idiosyncratic zeal.  O’Carroll is a comedic force of nature, a perfect storm where an actor’s ability is a perfect match for a character. 

It’s always a great pleasure to see the charming Mark Rubald and the talented Alex Ryer.  Boni McIntyre as Edith the maid, makes her character an audience favorite.

My highest praise for this production goes to Heather Lacy as the ghostly Elvira, for possessing the stage with enchanting presence and beauty.  Lacy’s performance is grand and graceful.  She flutters about the stage as if she is lighter than air.

I have had the opportunity to see a few productions of Blithe Spirit, and this current incarnation is the best yet.  If you believe in ghosts and the occult, you will sense the presence of Noël Coward in the house; gratified that proper attention has been paid to his work.  

Supported with a sure hand by the Arvada Center’s skilled directors, designers, actors and staff, Blithe Spirit will haunt you in the spirit in which Coward intended. 

Blithe Spirit at The Arvada Center’s Black Box Theatre runs through February 17th
For tickets or information call  720-898-7200 or visit

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Theater Review: 'Comfort in the Arms of the Damned' troubling but important

By Philip Doyle

"Comfort in the Arms of the Damned" is a hard show to like, but I sure want to.  It delves into a man’s struggle with mental illness and it is troubling.  He is taunted and bullied by voices in his head.  He suffers.  He explores suicide.  That makes this show a bit of a rough ride.

It’s kind of like supporting a strung out friend through a manic episode of neurotic banter, patiently rooting for a solution, but being annoyed that it is happening in the first place.  Is it fun?  Nope.  Is it important that you be there?  You betcha.

Winnie Wenglewick is a driving force at Denver's Dangerous Theatre, which presents regional premieres and original works that would otherwise go unseen in Denver.  Winnie has a knack for prioritizing a production budget, stripping away the technical shock and awe and focusing on originality, and the art of playwriting.  The result, regardless of popularity, is a creative effort that scores in nobility.  It may be a dangerous way to run a theatre, but it’s damn courageous as well.

Back to the task at hand, “Comfort in the Arms of the Damned” is a challenge.  Anyone who has ever been touched by mental illness or has lost a friend to suicide will no doubt feel uneasy with this play.  It will task you with emotional conflict.  In fact, I’m still conflicted.  On one side, this production is to be commended for presenting an intense and dark struggle in a uniquely provocative way.  On the other side, “Comfort in the Arms of the Damned” battles itself with too much dialog and too many scenes.

Tobias is a young man haunted by demons. As a boy, the monster hiding in his closet manifests itself, becoming Xavier, who constantly reminds the lad that nothing is real, not even love.  Twisting and distorting reality, the demon writhes in delight.  Tobias grows up knowing nothing but dreams, and the possibility that reality is nothing but maggot-ridden flesh, covered up in carnival make-up.

Needless to say, Tobias is dark.  Oh sure, on the outside he can seem like a nice guy, but on the inside, he is a tormented, suicidal, possibly a homicidal, mess.   His challenge is to be free of his demon, and discover the real warmth of a loving embrace.

Five women surround the character of Tobias. In most cases, they are voices and manipulations within his dreams.  His mother, Tessa (Teresa Champion), tries to maintain a sense of warm dignity.  Savannah (Corinne Denny), Lisle (Allison Murray), and Maryssa (Stacia Gordon), all exist in Tobias’s world, a place thrown askew by the monster, Xavier (Brittany Lacour).

Brian McDonell (pictured), who portrays Tobias, is reserved and at times too restrained.  McDonell has an interesting challenge, playing an innocent child thrown into a state of mania, so perhaps approaching the part on the timid side is a wise choice.

It was a pleasant surprise to find the part of Xavier being played by Brittany Lacour.  I have grown to admire Lacour’s fearless commitment to a role.  She plays a manipulative monster, but she’s still kind of fun to watch.  I have thrown her some high praise in the past, so I’ll hold back a bit now.

“Comfort in the Arms of the Damned” was written by Jonathan M. Vick.   I won’t kid you, it’s wordy.  For my taste, some lines seemed to be overwrought with alliterative description and metaphor, which brought me out of the moment.  The constant flow of dialog is no doubt a challenge for some of the actors.

It is difficult to watch “Comfort in the Arms of the Damned” and not be reminded of recent headlines.  Of what happens when person surrenders to the taunting voices, and their distorted reality collides into the real world.

It’s the brave producer/director Winnie Wenglewick who deserves great accolades for having the brass and chutzpah to present this dark and conflicted play.  Her raw technical approach and appreciation for playwrights and actors, becomes an art form on to its own.

After a brooding 97 minutes of “Comfort in the Arms of the Damned,” the proud director thanked her cast and the audience.  She then invited everyone to attend “Mafia Macbeth”, an improv show that was starting in fifteen minutes.  The lobby was bustling with energetic, beautiful people and Denver's Dangerous Theatre was serving tragedy and comedy, like a courageous theatre should.

Denver's Dangerous Theatre presents
Comfort in the Arms of the Damned through November 17.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Theater Review: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

By Philip Doyle

My only comfort this time of year, before the brilliant fall colors decay into the dead gray and beige pallor of winter, is Halloween.  There are few things better than to let go and surrender into the haunted atmosphere of ghosts, ghouls, and stories of the macabre.
So how do you get your goblin on?  You could track down one of the local haunted houses.  That might be good.  But for those of you who have grown weary of standing in the cold for an hour and handing over a Jackson to attend a fifteen-minute, hit-and-miss creep show, here's better option - check out Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the John Hand Theatre.  Immerse yourself into this psycho (slash) bad-boy love story that is cleverly presented with a dash of Victorian charm.

Originally published in 1886, the “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was written by Robert Louis Stevenson.   The story is often labeled a kind of allegory; a morality tale of what happens when the devil wins over the better angels of our nature.  It has been adapted numerous times, usually as kind of monster story about a doctor with a split personality.

The Firehouse Theatre Company's presentation of  “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” embraces the original novella.  Adapted by Jeffery Hatcher, this is a dark exploration of the human psyche.

Trying to discover the aspects of consciousness that cannot be found by physical empirical dissection, Jekyll is driven to madness by his use of potions and tinctures.  He is a protagonist who also serves as the antagonist, from man into monster.  It is a classic horror story that is being served up at the perfect time of the year.

The utterly charming Nils Swanson portrays Dr. Henry Jekyll.  He is a suave and smart actor.  Swanson is able to convey the tenuous balance of the brilliant doctor’s quest for knowledge, and collapse into madness and addiction.  This is a performance that grabbed my attention, and created a sense of time and place that made the real world disappear.   

This time around, one actor plays the good doctor, and four actors play Mr. Edward Hyde.  This adds many dynamic possibilities that director Brian J. Brooks weaves on stage.  The various incarnations of Mr. Hyde range from tortured, seductive, and just plain sadistic.  

The actors playing Mr. Hyde run the gamut of the performance scale, from quietly confident, to borderline manic.  These actors also play other supporting characters in the story.  It’s fun to watch an actor switch from one physical stature to the next, from proper English dialect to a broken Scottish brogue. 

One example to mention is Clint Heyn, who throws down a diverse array of characters.  He can play a snippy and comical professor dissecting a corpes, and then play a version of Hyde that is downright creepy.  As Hyde, his offer to Dr. Jekyll to go out on a “ramble” was delectable. 

Kristen Mair has an interesting challenge playing Elizabeth Jelkes, who falls in love with Edward Hyde.  Why would anyone fall in love with such a fiend?  Mair proves to be quite capable at providing the answer to this question.

All of the actors seem to enjoy putting order into Dr. Jekyll’s personality disorder.  They are supported in their effort by Sarah Coughlin’s original music, which seems to sneak its way into a scene, enhancing the moment without being intrusive.  I applaud director Brian J. Brooks, who artfully put all of the pieces together. 

If you’re looking for something to put you into the Halloween mood, this should do the trick!

Firehouse Theatre Company presents Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the John Hand Theatre, October 5th –November 3rd.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Theater Review: The Three Musketeers

By Philip Doyle

A swashbuckling romantic adventure, I would argue that the live stage is the best way to present The Three Musketeers. And I can’t think of anyone better suited to the challenge than The Denver Center Theatre Company.

This is the story that exemplifies the bond of friendship that is forged by standing side-by-side, bravely defending the noble principles of dignity and honor.  Alexandre Dumas’ widely popular novels were released serially in 1844, and his stories seem to be as relevant as ever.

The Musketeers have been represented in every conceivable format for decades.  Novels, radio shows, countless movies (and sequels), television, and even comic books.  Usually, these are a bastardization of Dumas’ most popular work.  Watered down versions, hastily produced to sell children’s toys and collectible knickknacks.  Film versions have been blessed with the likes of Douglass Fairbanks; while other versions seem cursed with the celebrity de jour, (Charlie Sheen springs to mind. Ugh).

Adapted by Linda Alper, Douglas Langworth, and Penny Metropulos, this incarnation of The Three Musketeers retains the flamboyant charm of the heroic swordsmen, and includes layers of political intrigue, sexual maneuvering, and unwavering camaraderie.  Director Art Manke has staged and choreographed a production that will appeal to your fanciful sense of romantic adventure.

Initially, The Three Musketeers is a familiar adventure.  The young and impetuous D’Artagnan wants to join the King’s Musketeers.  D’Artagnan joins forces with Athos, Aramis and Porthos, and together they defend the honor of the King, Louis the Just, and his Queen, Anne of Austria.  Along the way, D’Artagnan discovers love, loss, and the virtues of becoming a man.

There are raucous drunken brawls, charming sexual flirtations, battles of wit, and sword fights aplenty.  There is the foppish King, who is easily influenced by his chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu.  Acts of evil are disguised and masqueraded under a veil of religious righteousness.  Hmm, that is still going on today.  Touché, Monsieur Dumas. Touché.

It’s the production power that gives The Three Musketeers integrity.  What could be a drab and predictable story is lifted high by outstanding technical design and support, which seems second nature to the Denver Center.

Dazzling costume design by B. Modern.  Light and sound that saturates the stage with wonderful energy.  Competent fight direction and staging that swiftly moves a large and talented cast from one scene to the next.  This is top-notch theatre production.

As the audience enters The Stage Theatre, they are welcomed by an exquisite visual prologue to the play.  The gorgeous set, designed by Tom Buderwitz, immediately engages the audience.  With multiple levels, stairways, gates, nooks and crannies, that presents all sorts of dynamic possibilities of the adventure to come.

All of the elements join together, breathing new life to a familiar classic.  The Three Musketeers shines because of competent direction and choreography, the skill of gifted actors, and a profound level of technical design and craftsmanship.  All for one, and one for all.

The Denver Center Theatre Company presents The Three Musketeers through October 21, 2012.
For tickets call 303-893-4100 or visit

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Theater Review: STOMP

By Phil Doyle

I have a confession… As a person who claims to be a lover of all things creative, I have allowed assumptions to govern my patronage of the arts.  Regretfully, for the past twenty years or so, I have avoided the worldwide sensation that is STOMP.

It is a shameful prejudice that I have held toward STOMP, and the productions that have followed in its lineage.  Fortunately for me, I have found redemption, and I believe it’s my duty to make up for my years of blind misjudgment.  It is time to testify to you, my brothers and sisters… Bare witness to the errors of my ways, and join the celebration of life called STOMP.

If you haven’t had the chance to see it live on stage, it is high time that you go.  Here are the reasons why:

STOMP is a tribal affirmation.  If you have ever danced at a club, been to a rave, or unabashedly rocked out to a favorite tune in the car, you will understand the blissful joy that music provides.  There is something magical about surrendering to a percussive beat.  An intense rhythmic expression of creative rage, that when shared with others, is like a big primal group hug.

STOMP is way more than people banging on things.  Oh yes, make no mistake it gets pretty loud, but not like an auditory assault.  Precisely orchestrated and artfully choreographed- a dazzling blend of the senses.  There is a nuanced arrangement of light and sound using Zippo lighters.  Performers dancing with 50 pound barrels strapped to their feet.  Spectacular.

STOMP is fun for all.  Like the clever, tongue-and-cheek, humor of a Charlie Chaplin film, this is a show that appeals to the young and old alike.  The actors playfully engage the audience, and the audience returns the favor.  With such wide appeal, this is the most financially successful show in Off-Broadway history.

STOMP is a big boost to the libido.  If the idea of beautiful men and/or women, at the physical peak of their lives, sweat glistening from their muscular bodies doesn’t appeal to you... I suggest that you check your pulse and seek medical attention.   Eight attractive performers, exuding assertive confidence and phenomenal skill, is just dayum sexy.

STOMP’s performers work their asses off.  This show demands maximum effort, and the calories that are burned on the stage boggle the mind.  These men and women are literally swinging from the rafters.  I don’t know where they find people who have such boundless energy and ability in dance, percussion, and performance.  The resulting standing ovation was well deserved.

After the show I noticed the heightened vigor of the crowd.  A transfer of energy had taken place.  People were smiling, tapping a rhythmic beat on their programs, and the steps exiting the Buell seemed easier to climb.  Live theatre at its best.  (I extend mad props to everyone involved in this production for giving me the inspiration to get off my lazy Irish ass, and clean my garage.)

To wrap things up, I would like to address the overbearing shmuck that was sitting directly behind me.  (I have incredible disdain for theatre patrons who lack self-control and social decorum.)  Anyway, this guy sat down and threw out a challenge to the decent, well-mannered people around him asking, “Yep, I’ve seen this show before, and if any of y'all know what it’s about, I’d like to know.”  My response, other than a dirty look and some shade, is to please refer to the five points I have made above.

STOMP is a jumpin’ and thumpin’ party that appeals to the best parts of human nature.  Go join the celebration.

STOMP plays at The Buell Theatre through September 30. For tickets or more information visit

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Theater Review: The Threepenny Opera a delicious treat

By Phil Doyle

Bertolt Brecht's ground breaking influence is often *gasp* forgotten by modern day lovers of traditional musical theatre.  The Threepenny Opera exists in a desperate, eat or be eaten, exploit or be exploited, corrupt world. This is a show that stands in sharp contrast to the glossy notion of what the musical became. Before Roger's and Hammerstein wrote songs about surrey's with fringes on top.  The Threepenny Opera is a brisk dip in ice water, after wallowing in a hot tub for too long.  

The Threepenny Opera (1927) by Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill, is based on John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. The title indicated the ticket price, and was originally meant to appeal to lower class theatregoers, leveling out the disparity of the theatre patron.

Brechtian theatre provides a didactic approach that often demonstrates hypocritical and polarizing themes of society. For example, the dichotomy of the rich and destitute is presented in such a way that may shock and alienate the observer, and then provokes reaction. 

YIKES!  Listen to me!  Are you still with me?  If you are, I bid you congratulation. You have passed my test.  Allow me to brush off all of this historical theatre gobbledygook … 

So, to sum things up in a metaphorical nutshell:  The works of Bertolt Brecht gleefully wallow into hardcore filth and debauchery that makes the Tournament of Roses Parade look like the Folsom Street Fair.

The Threepenny Opera is a love story set amongst beggars and prostitutes.  Macheath, aka Mack the Knife, is a successful criminal who captures the love of Polly Peachum, and they quickly decide to marry.  Polly's father, Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum, doesn't take kindly to the engagement and sets a plan in motion to have Macheath arrested and hanged.

We quickly discover that all of the characters are corrupt and desperate opportunists.  From the chief of police, to the women who Macheath has manipulated to meet his own needs.

The action comes to a head with the hangman’s noose around Macheath’s neck.  At that vital moment, TA-DA! A miracle.  The execution is called off, and Macheath is awarded a lifetime of wealth (and thus power).  Perhaps this epic moment of financial salvation was originally made to appeal to the poor patrons in the audience.  It is an act of a deus ex machina that would make Euripides proud.

Director El Armstrong brings to the stage a production of The Threepenny Opera that is utterly approachable.  Armstrong proves to be a very good storyteller, and skilled at providing this cleverly staged production. 

This version tends to lean on the safe side.  Sure it tosses out the occasional four-letter word, and social taboos are addressed, but it feels like it has been watered down.  Which brings me to an interesting point.  This production still works, especially for Brecht newbies, or the more traditional theatre attendee.  

Though not as stark and shocking as many fans of Brecht would expect, this production is driven by the talents of gifted actors. 

The first reason to go see this show:  Richard Cowden as Macheath (Mackie the Knife).  Cowden gives a powerful performance that embodies the imposing presence of Macheath.  He has a commanding vocal range, and an exquisite ability to communicate his character’s intent.

The second reason to see this show:  Mel Horton as Mrs. Peachum.  Her skilled vocal talent raises the bar of this production.  Horton performance is a delight to behold.

My third reason to see this show:  Megan Van De Hey as Jenny.  A stunning performance, and a voice that gives The Threepenny Opera its momentum.  For me, this show really began once Van De Hey hit the stage.  Have I mentioned stunning?  Oh yeah, I did … and the third time is a charm. Stunning.

There are other reasons to see this show.  There are other standouts.  Personally, Cowden, Horton, and Van De Hey are gems.  The rest of the talented cast sometimes fluctuate in ability and performance.

I applaud and give mad props to any theatre company delivering Brecht.  I am a proud theatre geek, and loved some stand out performances in this incarnation of The Threepenny Opera.  The rest of the show felt kind of safe.  Brecht served a la mode, (albeit with vanilla ice cream), is still a delicious treat.

Miners Alley Playhouse presents "The Three Penny Opera" through October 21. For more information visit or call 303-935-3044.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Theater Review: boom

By Phil Doyle

“boom” begins as a one-night stand situational comedy and evolves, quite literally, into an apocalyptic survival tale. 

Suzanna Wellens plays Barbara, the bouncy facilitator of “boom”.  Apparently her job is to run the show, standing upstage, pulling levers and pushing buttons, stopping the action in its tracks to interject narrative.  Barbara also acts as a Greek chorus of sorts, emphasizing key moments with bells and punctuating important dialog with percussive timpani.  She sets the scene and introduces us to the play’s two characters.

Jules, played by Royce Wood, is a post grad marine biologist.  Driven by a hunch, and a methodical scientific observation of coral fish, he knows that the world is about to end.  A comet is going to strike, and cause a massive extinction event.  So, in an attempt to save the human species, he places an ad on Craigslist that promises “Sex to change the course of the world!”  Jules plan is to lure and keep a woman in his bomb shelter/apartment/lab, where they will be safe, and become the modern day Adam and Eve. 

Enter Jo, played by Samara Bridwell.  Jo is an energetic undergrad looking for a quick sexual tryst, and ends up an unwilling captive.  She is also prone to mysterious episodes of dropping dead, and then springing back to life.   

Jules is bewildered by Jo’s fatal narcoleptic fits and resurrections, but that isn’t the only obstacle in his plan.  It turns out that Jules is gay.   But he is still determined to do what it takes to propagate the species.  What follows are moments of hilarity where all the actors shine.  When asked how do you know that you’re really gay?  Jules replies, “The non-randomness of the erections.”  “boom” is bejeweled with moments of astute and witty dialog.

Suzanna Wellens is brimming with spunk and enthusiasm as Barbara, the play’s cruise director of sorts.  Wellens does a good job of focusing the attention of the audience, particularly in the beginning. She expedites the play’s action, addressing the audience from time to time, reminding us of the remarkable importance of what we’re witnessing. 

I would like to mention that I have a qualm with plays that break the fourth wall. If an actor is actively engaging the audience, address them directly.  Grab our attention, make eye contact with us, and do not focus on an empty chair, or an imaginary balcony.   

Samara Bridwell proves great ability to shamelessly commit to a character’s extremes.  She is a fearless actor.  Bridewell’s Jo can move to and fro, from ruthlessly horny to hopelessly disappointed, from bounding around stage to passing out dead.
My highest commendation goes to Royce Wood, an actor possessing great skill and reckless abandon.  He confidently seizes a moment, and joyfully has his way with it.  Wood embodies his character Jules as if the part was written for him, which is one of the best reasons to go see “boom”.  He is likeable, smart, and comfortable on stage.

The challenge of this play is maintaining energy and building momentum toward its clever conclusion.  “boom” begins with skillful purpose.  It nabs the audience’s attention and promises a rewarding reveal.  But, the journey becomes detoured and loses some speed along the way.  My experience as an observer became challenged by the predictable interruptions of the action.  The staccato stop and go’s labored my initial enthusiasm, instead of building it up.  

Still, this play appeals to my inner-science nerd ... and as a lover of all things theatre, I greatly appreciate Royce Wood's performance.  boom” is a witty apocalyptic comedy with an evolutionary twist.   

"boom" plays The Edge Theatre in Lakewood, Colorado through October 21. For tickets or more information visit or call 303-232-0363.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Theatre Review: It's Just Sex

By Philip Doyle

I am in a constant state of gratitude to the community of producers, directors, actors, and crews, who work tirelessly to provide live theatre.  The good people of the Denver metro area should thank their lucky stars for companies like The Edge Theatre

What happens when three domesticated married couples surrender to their wild sexual desires?  It’s Just Sex is a fun and thought provoking exploration of trust, lust, and fidelity. 

Some friends gather for an evening of drinks and social small talk.  What begins as a party game of “tell the truth” becomes a swinging husband and wife swap.  The ensuing uninhibited sexual romp is cleverly staged and extremely funny to witness. 

The post coitus action grapples with some pretty deep questions.  What constitutes cheating?  What is trust?  But not to worry, It’s Just Sex doesn’t get too bogged down with the issues that pop up when the sex stops.  This play is more fun than serious.  The sex is more playful than raw and raunchy.  And what could be an evening of couple therapy is an enjoyable, seductive game of wit and reckoning.  Seeing these characters bargain to discover their goal is a good time.  

The three couples come to the party harboring personal resentments and neuroses that can challenge their marriage.  Phil (Scott Bellot) has taken drastic measures to rekindle the sexual spark with his wife Joan (Patty Ionoff).

Lisa (Kirsten Deane) is frustrated by her husband’s failure to man-up.  Her husband Greg’s (James O’Hagan Murphy) assertiveness is crumbling under Lisa’s critical nitpicking.  I threw some extra applause to Kirsten Deane for her confident and well articulated performance. 

Kelly (Smara Bridwell) has been keeping a secret from her constantly horny husband Carl (Brock Benson).  Benson has become one of my favorite Denver actors.  He embodies his characters with sincerity and an appreciation that is a joy to watch.

In what could be a thankless albeit brief role, I acknowledge Rebekah Shibao for bringing some class and beauty as a hooker.

It’s Just Sex begins with three short scenes that had me surprised and a bit perplexed.  It was as though the show was rewound ten minutes before the real action started.   Part of me felt grateful to witness what occurs before the party starts.  The other part of me felt a bit robbed, like I had been prematurely clued in.  All is forgiven as the party starts, when the quick episodic pace that started the play, shifts to a more comfortable momentum. 

Almost all of the action takes place with six actors in one room.  Thanks to director Bill Smith, for his ability to keep the staging fresh and focused throughout. 

Playwright Jeff Gould has constructed a play that is much more than its eye-catching title.  It’s Just Sex is a swinging party where the guests share drinks, laughs, and themselves.

The Regional Premiere of It’s Just Sex by Jeff Gould
Presented by The Edge Theatre
9797 W. Colfax Ave, Lakewood, CO 80215
Runs June 29 – July 22
For tickets and more information visit or call 303-232-0363