• Sweeney Todd will return to Denver with 'Fun Home' tour

    by John Moore | Aug 16, 2016
    Robert Petkoff Sweeney Todd


    Robert Petkoff, who recently headlined the DCPA Theatre Company's critically acclaimed production of Sweeney Todd, will return to Denver in January with the first national touring production of the groundbreaking 2015 Tony-winning Best Musical, Fun Home.

    The tour will stop at Denver's Ellie Caulkins Opera House from Jan 10-22, 2017.

    Petkoff, also celebrated for his performances in Broadway’s Ragtime, All The Way and Anything Goes, will play the troubled patriarch, Bruce.

    Fun HomePetkoff, who was nominated for a Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award for his performance in Sweeney Todd, also played Colonel Brandon in the DCPA's 2013 world premiere of Sense & Sensibility. Before that, he played the knife-wielding Achilles in the DCPA's Tantalus back in 2000. That was a massive, 10-play co-production between the DCPA Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company that is billed to this day as the largest undertaking in theatre history.

    "I was aware of the possibility of doing Fun Home when I was finishing the run of Sweeney Todd at the Denver Center and was quite pleased with the prospect of returning to Denver," Petkoff said from Paris in an exclusive interview with the DCPA NewsCenter. "I really love the city and have had such great theatrical experiences there at the DCPA. I can't wait to be back in Denver with Fun Home. It's such a wonderful and moving show."

    Susan Moniz (Broadway’s Grease) will play Helen in Fun Home, and Kate Shindle (Broadway’s Legally Blonde, Cabaret and Miss America 1998) will play Alison. Joining them will be Abby Corrigan As medium Alison, Alessandra Baldacchino (Broadway’s Fun Home) as Small Alison, Karen Eilbacher as Joan, Robert Hager as Roy (and others), Lennon Nate Hammond as John and Pierson Salavdor as Christian. At certain performances, Carly Gold will play Small Alison. Additional cast members will include Anthony Fortino, Amanda Naughton, Sofia Trimarchi and Michael Winther.

    More Robert Petkoff recalls his time on 'Tantalus'

    Fun Home won raves from critics and audiences alike, winning five 2015 Tony Awards and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It made history when it became the first show written exclusively by women to win theater’s highest achievement, the Best Musical Tony Award. 

    Based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir, Fun Home introduces audiences to Alison at three different ages as she explores and unravels the many mysteries of her childhood that connect with her in surprising new ways. Fun Home is a refreshingly honest, wholly original musical about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes.

    Robert Petkoff TantalusFun Home features music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by Lisa Kron and direction by Sam Gold, who won Tony Awards for Best Score, Best Book and Best Direction. Kron and Tesori also made history by becoming the first female writing team to be awarded the Best Score Tony Award.
     

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Broadway production of Fun Home opened on Broadway on April 19, 2015, and is currently playing at Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theatre through September 10.

    Tickets for the Denver engagement start at $30 and are on sale now. Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for the Denver engagement of Fun Home.

    Pictured above: Robert Petkoff in the DCPA's 'Tantalus.'

    Fun Home
    : Ticket information

    • Jan. 10-22, 2017
    •  The Ellie Caulkins Opera House
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829
    For more information on the production, please visit FunHomeBroadway.com.


    Fun Home Broadway. Joan Marcus
    The original Broadway cast of 'Fun Home' included Sydney Lucas, Colorado native (and Tony-nominated) Beth Malone and Emily Skeggs. Photo Credit Joan Marcus.
  • Reinvented 'Cabaret' returns as a seismic warning

    by John Moore | Aug 15, 2016

    Cabaret 800

    Randy Harrison as the Emcee and the 2016 national touring cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s 'Cabaret.' Photo by Joan Marcus.


    By Sheryl Flatow
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    The audible gasp followed by the deafening silence that often greets the final shattering moment of the national tour of Cabaret is a testament to the force of the invigorating Roundabout Theatre Company’s new touring production.

    Written by John Kander (music), Fred Ebb (lyrics), and Joe Masteroff (book), Cabaret has long been recognized as one of the best and most important musicals of the 20th  century. But if the original production was groundbreaking, Roundabout’s version, directed by Sam Mendes and choreographed and co-directed by Rob Marshall, is seismic.   

    Regardless of how well you think you know Cabaret, nothing quite prepares you for this decadent, riveting, devastating production, which Todd Haimes, Roundabout’s artistic director, calls a “reinvention” of the classic musical.       

    First presented by Roundabout in 1998, the Mendes-Marshall staging won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, ran for 2,377 performances and made a star of its Emcee, Alan Cumming, much as the original Hal Prince production made a star of Joel Grey. And the show’s directors caught the attention of Hollywood. Mendes would go on to win  the 2000 Oscar for Best Director for his first film, the Academy Award-winning American Beauty, and Marshall was nominated as Best Director in 2003 for his first film, the Academy Award-winning Chicago.

    In 2014, a decade after Cabaret’s final à bientôt,” Roundabout brought the production back to Broadway and then sent it on the road as part of the company’s 50th anniversary celebration. “This production changed musical theater,” says Haimes.It gave us actors doubling as the orchestra and an environmental musical. I brought the show back because I thought a new generation should see the work that Sam and Rob did, which is truly seminal.”

    Willkommen to Berlin, 1929, and to the  Kit Kat Klub, a cabaret that serves as a reflection of the Weimar Republic as it plunges toward Nazism. The downward spiral is mirrored in the show’s two doomed love stories. The first is between Sally Bowles, a British singer with limited talent who performs at the club, and Clifford Bradshaw, a bisexual American writer. The other romance is between Fräulein Schneider, who runs a boardinghouse, and Herr Schultz, a German-Jewish shopkeeper.

    "I first knew Cabaret from the movie, and I was astonished to discover the stage  show is quite different,” says Mendes. “It was a much more complex piece of work than the movie, and it had many more songs. In fact, it has one of the greatest scores in the history of musical theater, with songs such as ‘Cabaret,’ ‘If You Could See Her Through My Eyes,’ and ‘Willkommen.’ However, a score with nothing to say is only half a musical. What Hal Prince did was to create a great piece about the rise of Nazism and the rise of any kind of repressive regime. Cabaret is a great piece of theater because it says something about racism, about the intersection of politics and private life – how it’s impossible for Sally Bowles to live the way she attempts to live in that political environment. It refutes the people who think like she does, who say about politics, ‘What does that have to do with us?’ The truth is, it has everything to do with us.”

    Mendes initially directed the show in 1993 at the 250-seat Donmar Warehouse in London, which he turned into a nightclub. He chose to have the ensemble double as musicians, unsure at the outset how that concept would work.

    “Making the ensemble the musicians helped the notion that it was the nightclub putting on the show,” he says. “Everything is done contained within the framework of the Kit Kat Klub. It’s not just that the actors sing and dance and act and play instruments.  They also move the furniture and watch the show. It’s suffused with a kind of home-made energy that comes directly from a multi-talented cast, which you can only get in the theater. It’s not spectacle in the traditional sense, but I think it proves how little spectacle you need to put on a great show.”   

    Like the characters in the show, the audience has so much fun for most of the first act that their eyes are closed to the tawdriness and unseemliness in front of them. That is due to the aforementioned great score – which includes three songs that were written for the film: “Mein Herr,” “Maybe This Time” and “Money” – the inspired staging, and the Emcee, who, Mendes says, “governs the entire show and dictates the rhythm of the evening.” The character has been completely revamped, vamp being the operative word. He invites members of the audience to come onstage and dance with him. He’s a pansexual seducer; insidiously charming, sexy, raunchy, impudent, flirty, mischievous and unsettling. He’s onstage for most of the show; when he’s not in a scene, he’s often lurking in the shadows.  

    And the shadows truly begin to descend at the end of the first act, with the disturbing “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” The numbers in the second act acknowledge the bigotry, the demagoguery, and the ignorance that are permeating Germany. “If You Could See Her” is sung by the Emcee to a performer wearing a gorilla suit, and contains the chilling last line, “If you could see her through my eyes, she wouldn’t look Jewish at all.” There is also the haunting “I Don’t Care Much,” which was unused in the original production but added to a 1987 Broadway revival and sung by the Emcee. It’s the only number that gives the audience a glimpse of the person behind the façade, who is aware that the roof is caving in. And when that collapse occurs, it stuns the audience.

    Roundabout Theatre Company's Cabaret
    Photos from the new national touring production of 'Cabaret.' To see more, click on the image above. Photos by Joan Marcus.


    “Even this time around, when many people in the audience were already familiar with the production, it was like they were in shock after the final moment,” says Haimes. 

    Cabaret is based on Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories and the play it inspired, I Am a Camera by John Van Druten. Prince wrote in a memoir that what attracted him and his colleagues to the material was “the parallel between the spiritual bankruptcy of Germany in the 1920s and our country in the 1960s.”  On the first day of rehearsals, Prince showed the cast a photo of a group of angry, young, Aryan-looking men, “snarling at the camera like a pack of hounds.” He asked the actors where and when the photo was taken. Although the image appeared to be a snapshot in time from 1928 Germany, it was, in fact, a picture of students in Chicago protesting school integration that appeared in Life magazine in 1966.

    The theme of the show is as timely and urgent now as it was 50 years ago, and probably will be 50 years from now. “The world today is such a mess,” says Masteroff. “And when you understand what one man did to a sophisticated, intelligent country like Germany, then you wonder what could happen anywhere. It’s really kind of a warning.”

    Cabaret: Ticket information

    CabaretCome hear some of the most memorable songs in theatre history, including "Cabaret," "Willkommen" and "Maybe This Time." Leave your troubles outside — life is beautiful at Cabaret.
    • Sept. 27-Oct. 9
    • Buell Theatre
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

  • Video, photos: A 'Beautiful' Opening Night in Denver

    by John Moore | Jul 26, 2016



    Denver welcomed the national touring production of Beautiful — The Carole King Musical on June 19, and we spoke with stars Abby Mueller (Carole King), Becky Gulsvig (Cynthia Weil), along with DCPA Broadway Executive Director John Ekeberg after the opening-night performance about what makes the Tony Award-winning musical so much more than a revue of pop hits from the 1960s and 1970s.

    Beautiful is the empowering, true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, but at a great personal cost to her family. Along the way, King wrote the soundtrack to a generation. Watch the video above, and read more from our conversation below:

    A BeautifulOpening QAuoteAbby Mueller: Beautiful is such a fun journey through the pop era of the 1950s and ‘60s. Carole and her first writing partner (and later husband) Gerry Goffin started writing songs when she was a teenager. And then they met Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and you get some of their songs as well. So this is a really is a deep, deep catalog of music that everyone knows - but perhaps they don’t know that Carole wrote this song, or Cynthia wrote that song. It’s a fun journey the audience goes on. We hear these gasps of recognition when they hear songs they know, but have never attributed to these writers.

    John Moore: Becky, tell us more about Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

    Becky Gulsvig: Becky and Cynthia are amazing. They wrote so many songs that everyone knows and loves. Songs like, You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling, which is still the most-played song on the radio - ever. They wrote On Broadway and Rockin’ in the Rain and We Gotta Get Out of This Place and Uptown and so many more. You don’t necessarily know Cynthia and Barry as well as you know Carole King, but you really know a lot of their music. And they provide a balance to the love story because as Carole and Gerry fall apart, they come together. You also get to hear some of the back stories that tell you what was going on in their lives as some these songs were created.

    John Moore: John, what do you think makes Beautiful a different kind of musical?

    John Ekeberg: Our Denver audiences don’t always have the opportunity to go to New York to see Broadway shows, but the production I saw tonight was Broadway quality. It was just top-notch across the board. And to hear the audience’s reaction, I think, was really powerful.

    Read the Denver Post review of Beautiful

    John Moore: Abby, people might presume all they are going to get are these hit songs, but there is a pretty compelling story being told here as well.

    Abby Mueller: It is such a challenging and rewarding journey. People come to this show knowing they love these songs, but maybe they didn’t totally anticipate the emotional journey that everyone goes on. There is a lot of humor; there is some drama, some pathos and ultimately triumph. I think it’s a really satisfying night at the theatre.

    John Moore: You both play real people. Talk about the additional responsibility of portraying characters who are still very much among the living.

    Beautiful Opening Becky Gulsvig Abby MuellerBecky Gulsvig: I think there is definitely a different level of obligation when the person you are playing might come to see your show and either love you or hate you. That is daunting. They have casting approval, so we know they wanted us in the show, which is always nice. But you want to be respectful of their story and be truthful to what they did in real life. It’s an honor, to be honest, because all of these people are musical icons, and they did such amazing work. It’s great get to stand on their shoulders and share their stories with even more people. So many people grew up with this music, but it’s still reaching more new people every day.

    Abby Mueller: It is an honor to play Carole - and there is a responsibility that comes with that. That helps me focus on the fact that this is not about me. My responsibility is to Carole and to bring the most truth to her story that I can. It’s been a gift. People come and they just love Carole and Cynthia and Barry and Gerry so much, and we can feel that coming from the audiences. We get to borrow that for a little while. I feel like I am stealing love. It’s really special.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: I was surprised by how much of an empowerment story Beautiful turns out to be for women of all ages.

    Abby Mueller: I really find Carole inspiring on so many levels. At a time when women were not doing what she was doing, she was writing songs and raising a family and having a career on her own terms, which is really admirable and enviable. That’s something I really look up to.

    John Moore: You both have connections to our favorite daughter of Denver, Annaleigh Ashford (pictured right).

    ASHFORD_ AnnaleighBoth: We love Annaleigh!

    Becky Gulsvig: Yes, I was in the original Broadway cast of Legally Blonde, The Musical, and I adore every inch of that magical unicorn. I love her.

    Abby Mueller: Yes, and I was a replacement swing in Kinky Boots, and she made me feel so welcome. She is a marvelous human being, and I love her. 

    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist. 

    Beautiful – The Carole King Musical: Ticket information
    • Through July 31
    • Buell Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. July 31
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829



    Photo gallery: Beautiful in Denver

    'Beautiful' in Denver

    Our photos from opening night of 'Beautiful - The Carole king Musical' in Denver. To see more, click the arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. Video at top of page by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

  • Mann and Weil: How 'Beautiful' bloomed 'On Broadway'

    by John Moore | Jul 26, 2016


    By Sylvie Drake
    For the DCPA NewwCenter

    Beautiful is subtitled The Carole King Musical and contains many unforgettable Carole King songs (“Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Up on the Roof,” “A Natural Woman”). But this show is a musical anthology that King had little to do with beyond agreeing — kicking and screaming — to let the producers base it on her life and songs. Crazy?

    The other players in this jaunty evening of musical comedy — a breezy mix of nostalgia, great songs, spirited dance and romance from the 1960s and 70s — are Cynthia Weil (words) and Barry Mann (music), good friends of King and King’s then-husband and collaborator, the late Gerry Goffin.

    The Manns’ own romance and marriage is prominently featured in it, often as comic relief. So are some of their compositions (“On Broadway,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”), along with snippets by others and including that 1929 anthem, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” used by Franklin Roosevelt as his 1932 presidential campaign song, but offered here with reinvented Weil-d new lyrics.

    So, what gives…?

    Enter sunny producer Paul Blake, strongly suspected to be the mastermind behind this Beautiful gambit.

    “Yes…! No,” he said, quickly reversing himself. “The phone rang one day and it was the president of EMI music who said, ‘Paul, we own these songs and I think there’s a show in there.’ Why call me? ‘Well, you got the [Irving] Berlin sisters to give you the rights to “White Christmas.” You’re the most persistent producer I know.’ ”

    Beautiful – The Carole King Musical: Production photo gallery

    Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
    Photos by Joan Marcus. To see more, press the forward arrow on the image above.


    It was a comment Blake had to live up to. But when he approached Carole King, she demurred. A musical? About her? Too personal! Too private! Too invasive! He pleaded, she hemmed; he begged, she hawed; persisting, he made a commitment: “You say no,” he told King, “I say yes. And if you don’t like it, I’ll kill it.”

    It was reassurance enough to get King to relent, but when invited to a first reading, she walked out. What?! When Blake caught up with her, she said she had to leave; the musical, which prominently features her break-up with Goffin, was too emotional for her to watch. But, she added, she could see “people loved it, it was very well written and performed” and, while she didn’t want to get any closer to the production, she would allow it to go on...

    beautful-barry-mann-cynthia-weil-3Time to exhale.

    It took another couple of years to pull it together. The bookwriter Blake wanted, Doug McGrath, also kept saying “no,” but Blake told him what he’d told King: “That’s the first no; we’ll eventually get to yes,” for which he smartly enlisted the help of McGrath’s wife. Bingo.

    “Once we really got going,” said the persistor-in-chief, “it worked!” By then, Weil and Mann were on board and the messy collaboration was underway. McGrath wrote the book, made decisions and song choices, with the others — except King — chiming in, disagreeing or not.  

    Interviewed at their Los Angeles home in June, Mann and Weil said the idea for this musical had started with Carole’s manager at the time.

    “She thought it should be a story about all four of us,” offered Mann, “Cynthia, me, Carole and Gerry.”

    “Because we were best friends and also fierce competitors, we were to have equal weight,” Weil clarified. “Then Paul came in and we interviewed writers with him. When we settled on Doug [McGrath], the first version was about the four of us. But after that first reading, which ended with us getting married and Carole going off to California, everybody felt cheated that they hadn’t heard a single song from Tapestry, which is Carole’s big album.”

    “We saw this was a problem,” Mann added. “Of the four of us, she was the famous one. It was her album. People wanted to hear that story.”

    a-beautiful-800
    Ben Fankhauser as Barry Mann and Becky Gulsvig as Cynthia Weil in Beautiful - the Carole King Musical. Photo by Joan Marcus


    King, meanwhile, continued to insist the show should be about the four of them, but by then everybody knew better. “We kept telling Doug that Carole and Gerry were Lucy and Desi and we were Fred and Ethel,” Mann deadpanned, “and it kind of worked out that way.”    

    How difficult was this to sort out?

    “You can imagine,” said Weil, “four people, all with different ideas of what the show should be…” Less difficult, Mann insisted, because McGrath is “a great guy and real talent who was very sensitive to us.”

    Ben Fankhauser (“Barry Mann”) and Becky Gulsvig (“Cynthia Weil”)_Photo by Joan Marcus.

    Weil and Mann have seven songs in Beautiful to King’s 14, and while they would have loved to have more, “we had to go home with it. Carole is a terrific talent and she’s family,” said Mann. “If she were a lousy person, it might have been hard, but Carole is so wonderful, we took the realistic view.”

    “Carole is not someone who seeks to be the center of attention,” Weil affirmed. “The show is what it was meant to be. That Carole walked out of that first reading saying ‘I don’t want to relive that,’ tells you everything.”

    “The musical zips along,” Mann concurred, “and we did get to approve the actors who play us.”

    Beautiful had a pre-Broadway try-out in 2013 at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre selling out its run. It opened on Broadway in January 2014.

    Fearful of her emotions, King did not attend. When Beautiful was declared a hit, recouping its investment in a dizzying eight months, and when her friends told her how much they loved it, King again relented.

    “She sat in the audience in full disguise,” said producer Blake, chuckling at the memory. “No one knew she was there! She couldn’t stop crying. ‘I wasn’t ready for Cynthia and Barry getting married,’ she told me.”

    They got her out of her disguise, up on stage and eventually joining in song with the show’s star and King impersonator, Tony Award-winner Jessie Mueller. It was the joyous capper to an exhilarating evening.

    Some kind of wonderful.

    Sylvie Drake was Director of Media Relations & Publications for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts 1994 – 2014. She is a former theatre critic and columnist for the Los Angeles Times and current contributor to culturalweekly.com

    Beautiful – The Carole King Musical: Ticket information
    • July 19-31
    • Buell Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. July 31
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829
  • Meet Max of 'The Sound of Music'

    by John Moore | Jul 26, 2016
    This week, we are  introducing you to selected members of The Sound of Music national touring company visiting Denver from Tuesday through Sunday (June 21-26). We begin with the actor playing Max Detweiler:

    Meet Merwin Foard:

    • merwin-foard-400Your role: Max Detweiler
    • Where you grew up: Charlotte, N.C.
    • Where you call home: Mount Kisco, about 35 miles north of New York City
    • Training: BFA from
    • Most recently: 

    1 PerspectivesWhat’s your first remembrance of anything Sound of Music? I remember seeing The Sound of Music at the movie theater when it first came out.  I was so impressed by the children in the cast. I thought Charmian Carr, the actress who played Liesl, was DREAMY! Also, it was so cool that there was an intermission at a movie.

    2 PerspectivesWhy do you think this musical continues to resonate in the hearts of musical and movie fans worldwide? I think resonates today for very different reasons than it did back in the 1960s - our current political climate being chief among them. It will always ring true to the hope of a better tomorrow and the strong family dynamic that's represented in this classic story.

    (Pictured at right: Merwin Foard as Max in the national touring production of 'The Sound of Music' opening in Denver on June 21. Photo by Matthew Murphy.)

    3 PerspectivesFavorite bit of Sound of Music trivia? I love the fact that during the filming of the movie, Julie Andrews and Christopher Plumber were so punchy during the song "Something Good" that director Robert Wise had to film them in silhouette to disguise their giggles.

    4 PerspectivesWhat's one thing about you that can’t possibly be true of anyone else in your cast? I am the only father in our entire touring cast! I have two daughters:  Phoebe, who is 22, and Bailey, who's 17. 

    5 PerspectivesHow well do you know Colorado? I love Denver and the state of Colorado. I love that that you can see mountains from almost anywhere. The first time I played Denver was on a national tour of Show Boat starring Donald O'Connor of Singin' in the Rain fame. More recently, I was in Denver appearing in the pre-Broadway run of Disney's The Little Mermaid. I am thrilled to be back here in this fine production of The Sound of Music.


    READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH R&H PRESIDENT TED CHAPIN


    The Sound of Music:
    Ticket information

    June 21-26
    Buell Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Groups: Call 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, Audio Described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m., June 25

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Sound of Music

    The Real Von Trapps and the sound of freedom
    The 'President of Theatre' on the enduring popularity of The Sound of Music
    Meet Liesl, Paige Silvester
    Visit the official show page

  • Meet Liesl from 'The Sound of Music'

    by John Moore | Jul 26, 2016

    Paige Silvester and Dan Tracy in the national touring production of 'The Sound of Music' opening in Denver on June 21. Photo by Matthew Murphy.


    This week, we will be introducing you to selected members of The Sound of Music national touring company visiting Denver from Tuesday through Sunday (June 21-26). We begin with the actor playing Liesl:

    Meet Paige Silvester:

    • liesl-300Your role: Liesl VonTrapp
    • Where you grew up: Sacramento, Calif.
    • Where you call home: New York City
    • Training: BFA from The University of Michigan
    • Most recently: Evita first national tour

    1 PerspectivesWhat’s your first remembrance of anything Sound of Music? My family had a VHS tape of the movie that we'd recorded while it was playing on TV, complete with '90s commercial breaks. I watched it so many times that the commercial jingles still pop into my head like they are part of the show. I used to watch with my little brother and make him play "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" with me. We'd jump around our house from couch to couch pretending it was the gazebo in the movie.

    2 PerspectivesWhy do you think this musical continues to resonate in the hearts of musical and movie fans worldwide? What I love about The Sound of Music is that each time I revisit the story, I see it in a new light. The themes are universally relatable, and cross-generational. You can enjoy it at any age. I loved it when I was watching as a little girl. I was enraptured when I played Liesl in high school. And I see it in a whole new light now that I'm in my 20s.  I know that pattern will continue throughout my life. The show's messages are positive and inspirational. You will leave uplifted and thinking - about what is really important to you, about family, about overcoming hardships.  It is a story that sticks with you because the questions it raises are universal.

    3 PerspectivesFavorite bit of Sound of Music trivia? Though the song "Edelweiss" has become one of the most well-known in the show, and is often mistaken as being the real national anthem of Austria, it was in fact written for The Sound of Music as a last-minute addition to the show during their out-of-town tryout in Boston. Oscar Hammerstein II was suffering from cancer and was not in Boston, so Richard Rodgers sent him the sheet music, and he filled in the lyrics remotely. It was the last song he ever wrote.

    4 PerspectivesWhat's one thing about you that can’t possibly be true of anyone else in your cast? I have a blog for aspiring performers. It's called "Theater Cats," and it's full of information about the business and reality of a career in theater. Things I wish I'd known at a younger age. If you're a young actor/singer/dancer who is passionate about performing, I would love if you visited at paigesilvester.com/blog.

    5 PerspectivesHow well do you know Colorado? This will be my first time in Colorado, but I can't wait to explore - I have always wanted to go.


    READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH R&H PRESIDENT TED CHAPIN


    The Sound of Music:
    Ticket information

    June 21-26
    Buell Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Groups: Call 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, Audio Described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m., June 25

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Sound of Music

    The Real Von Trapps and the sound of freedom
    The 'President of Theatre' on the enduring popularity of The Sound of Music
    Visit the official show page

  • Broadway's 'Hamilton' is heading to Denver

    by NewsCenter Staff | Jul 06, 2016



    By Heidi Bosk
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    The national tour of the Broadway musical Hamilton will play the Buell Theatre as part of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ 2017-18 Broadway subscription series, it was announced today by producer Jeffrey Seller and the DCPA.
     
    On Sunday, Hamilton won 11 2016 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, after having set the all-time record with 16 nominations.

    Hamilton. Daveed Diggs. The best way to guarantee tickets to Hamilton is to purchase a 2016-17 Broadway subscription. Broadway subscribers who renew their 2016-17 Broadway subscription packages for the 2017-18 Broadway season will guarantee their tickets for the DCPA's premiere engagement of Hamilton.

    Hamilton will be on the 2017-18 Broadway subscription package. Information regarding engagement dates and how to purchase groups and single tickets will be announced at a later time.
     
    DCPA's 2016-17 Broadway subscription package features the pre-Broadway debut of Frozen, The Phantom of the Opera, Roundabout Theatre Company's Cabaret, An Act of God, Finding Neverland, Fun Home, An American in Paris and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Subscriptions for the 2016-17 Broadway season start as low as eight payments of $51.25 and are available at DenverCenter.org.  Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for the Broadway touring productions in Denver.

    (Pictured above right: Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette the Broadway musical 'Hamilton.')
     
    With book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical direction and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

    Subscription information for 2016-17 Broadway season

    Hamilton is the story of America's Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary.  Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway, Hamilton is the story of America then, as told by America now.  
     
    Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowa, Anthony Ramos and Lin-Manuel Miranda in 'Hamilton.'
    Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos and Lin-Manuel Miranda from the Tony Award-winning Broadway cast of 'Hamilton.'

    Hamilton
    's creative team previously collaborated on the 2008 Tony Award-winning Best Musical In the Heights.
     
    Hamilton features scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Paul Tazewell (DCPA Theatre Company's The Unsinkable Molly Brown), lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Nevin Steinberg, hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe, and casting by Telsey + Company, Bethany Knox, CSA.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Hamilton is produced by Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Jill Furman and The Public Theater.
     
    The Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording is available everywhere nationwide. The Hamilton recording received a 2016 Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album.
     
    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA's News Center.
     
    For more information on Hamilton, visit:
    HamiltonOnBroadway.com
    Facebook.com/HamiltonMusical
    Instagram.com/HamiltonMusical
    Twitter.com/HamiltonMusical

    Hamilton’s 2016 Tony Awards:
    Best Musical: Hamilton
    Best Book of a Musical: Lin-Manuel Miranda
    Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theater:
    Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Leslie Odom Jr.
    Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Daveed Diggs
    Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Renee Elise Goldsberry
    Best Costume Design of a Musical: Paul Tazewell
    Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Howell Binkley
    Best Direction of a Musical: Thomas Kail    
    Best Choreography: Andy Blankenbuehler
    Best Orchestrations: Alex Lacamoire

    Related DCPA NewsCenter coverage:
    Tony Awards offer powerful response to Orlando massacre
    The HamilTony Awards: What Denver’s voter has to say 
    Colorado's ties to the 2016 Tony Award nominations
    Lin-Manuel Miranda on the power of theatre to eliminate distance
    Why Lin-Manuel Miranda's father is obsessed with The Unsinkable Molly Brown




    Hamilton. Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Gold, Cephas Jones.
    Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones.


    The Broadway company of Hamilton.
    The Broadway company of 'Hamilton.'

  • Bobby G Award winners' Road to the Jimmy Awards

    by John Moore | Jun 19, 2016

    This YouTube playlist will be updated all week with more dispatches from Charlotte Movizzo and Curtis Salinger for BroadwayWorld. Bookmark it here.


    Today, Denver’s representatives for the 2016 National High School Musical Theatre Awards – “The Jimmys” – arrived in New York and immediately began their eight-day immersion into workshops and rehearsals, all leading up to their appearance on Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre stage on June 27.

    Charlotte Movizzo of Ponderosa High School and Curtis Salinger of Durango High School were chosen to represent Colorado at the DCPA’s recent Bobby G Awards, which celebrate Outstanding Achievement in high-school theatre.

    We spoke with each of them on their way to the Great White Way:

    Meet Charlotte Movizzo:

    1 PerspectivesHow has your life changed since the night of the Bobby G Awards ceremony? I have had some incredible opportunities. I was invited to sing to perform before the DCPA board, and at the Randy Weeks Memorial Golf Tournament, which raised more than $91,000 for the advancement of musical theatre for Colorado high-school students. Both events showed me what incredible people there are supporting the program, and high-school theatre. Otherwise, I have been very busy practicing and preparing music for New York.

    2 PerspectivesTell us about your family connection to the local theatre community. My mother performed at the former Country Dinner Playhouse alongside some big names in the local and Broadway theatre communities. Having a mom with a background in the performing arts has influenced me since Day 1. I grew up singing showtunes in the car, and performing for anyone who would listen. My mom has made sure that I have had every opportunity to grow in the arts, from driving me theatre camps to staying up until midnight listening to me sing the same two measures over and over. She is my vocal coach and acting coach, and she has done everything she can to teach me her knowledge of the performing-arts world. The two of us often can be found doing tap combinations while washing the dishes, and attempting to harmonize to Annie Get Your Gun in the car.

    3 PerspectivesWhat’s the one thing you are looking forward to most in New York? Having the opportunity to work with the amazing teachers and professors there, as well as meeting other high-school students from around the country who share my passion. The theatre world is a very supportive place, so I can’t wait to see what relationships I form there.

    4 PerspectivesHow do programs like the Bobby G Awards and the Jimmy Awards help the reputation and respect of your high-school theatre program? This experience will help the theatre program at Ponderosa make a name for itself within the school, as well as within the community. The Bobby G Awards have allowed our theatre program to say that we have people going to the equivalent of “state” or, “nationals” - titles usually claimed by the sports teams.

    5 PerspectivesSierra-BoggessWho do you most hope to encounter on the streets of New York? Sierra Boggess, star of School of Rock. is a guest speaker at the Jimmy Awards. Not only is she a Denver girl, but she is so incredibly versatile and talented. She has been a huge inspiration to me. I saw her perform in The Little Mermaid at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House before it went to Broadway, and I have been dying to see her perform ever since.

    Last words: I am so honored to have been allowed this enormous opportunity. I already have learned so much in a very short amount of time, and I know I have so much more learning ahead of me.

    READ MORE ABOUT CHARLOTTE AND THE OTHER NOMINEES

     Bobby G Awards Road to the Jimmy Awards Montage

    Clockwise from top: Curtis Salinger and Charlotte Movizzo shortly after winning their Bobby G Awards on May 26 at the Buell Theatre; Charlotte performs before the DCPA Board, Charlotte and Curtis appear on Fox's 'Daybreak' with Chris Parente; Charlotte and Curtis on their first day at the Jimmy Awards in New York; Curtis turned 16 on June 18, and he found the perfect place to mark the rite of passage on Denver's 16th Street mall.

    Meet Curtis Salinger:

    1 PerspectivesHow has your life changed since the night of the Bobby G Awards ceremony? My life has been surreal. I still don't believe I won. Walking around town is a mess of congratulations and word has spread through a front-page newspaper story in my hometown of Durango. It's an indescribable feeling when someone you don't know congratulates you on the street for winning this award. It's also been a mad dash preparing material and forms and packing for a theatre camp to then leave right away for New York.

    2 PerspectivesTell us about your interesting family connection to the Bobby G Awards. My brother, Evatt, won the Bobby G Award for Outstanding Actor last year. He was the one who really inspired me to continue and pursue theatre, and I've been watching him on stage for as long as I can remember. Watching him have so much fun and get so much support was something that really gave me the ‘oomph’ it took to join in, and I'm so glad I did. Our family was so, so excited and blown away when he won. For me, it became my dream. I'm so fortunate that this dream came true.

    3 PerspectivesWhat’s the one thing you are looking forward to most in New York? While watching the show On Your Feet! is going to be very exciting, I'm looking forward to meeting the other actors and the professionals the most. I love making new friends and learning new things, and there's no better place to do that than with the nation's best. I'm also really looking forward to singing the opening and closing numbers with the guest artists because it will be a chance to sing with this enormous group of absolutely amazing peers and professionals all doing what they love. I think that'll just be flat-out awesome.

    4 PerspectivesHow do programs like the Bobby G Awards and the Jimmy Awards help the reputation and respect of your high-school theatre program? I think my winning the award gives my school fresh perspective when it comes to the arts. Sports offers the opportunity to compete in tournaments and make the playoffs and there's a goal of winning first place. And that is impressive. However, with theatre, a show usually opens and closes - and that's it. This award tells students they can take their art further and get recognition for their talent. The Bobby G Awards gives you the chance to extend the experience – to Denver and New York. And, no two of the four Outstanding Actors have come from the same school. And they happen to be brothers - and one of them happens to be me! One of the Outstanding Actresses came from our school, and last year our show was named Outstanding Musical at the Bobby G Awards and the Colorado Thespian Conference. This is a huge success from our school. It will help our community and our school board recognize that we have some amazing talent in Durango and theatre is something that should not get looked over.

    5 Perspectivesleslie-odom-jrWho do you most hope to encounter on the streets of New York? Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. … OK, basically the entire cast of Hamilton. I am thrilled that Zachary Levi is hosting the Jimmy Awards in New York, because I've seen his TV show Chuck and I loved it. I used him in a TED-x talk I gave about promoting theatre in the schools because he was a childhood actor. He's someone I really look up to, and it will be awesome to have him host.

    Last words: The mom of a kid I'd worked with in a show last year came up to me on the street and congratulated me on winning. She told me her son looked up to me, and that I was setting a really good example for the younger kids. That was one of the most rewarding things that's ever happened to me. I have a goal to help promote theatre – especially for guys - and to hear that was amazing. That was something I’ll never forget.

    READ MORE ABOUT CURTIS AND THE OTHER NOMINEES

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of the Bobby G Awards:
    Video, story: Kinship and camaraderie at 2016 Bobby G Awards
    Video: 2016 Bobby G Awards in 60 seconds
    Video: Outstanding Musical nominee performances
    Photos: 2016 Bobby G Awards (Download for free)
    Mountain View scales Bobby G Awards' 2016 peak
    Meet your 2015 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actor Finalists
    Meet your 2016 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actress Finalists
    2015-16 Bobby G Award nominations: The complete list
    Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'

    Check out the 2016 Nominated Performers' Medley:


    The 2016 Bobby G Awards, which celebrate outstanding achievement in Colorado high-school theatre, were held May 26 at the Buell Theatre. Each of the 10 nominated Outstanding Actors and Actresses took part in an original medleys before the crowd of 1,700. They were joined by last year's winners, Emma Buchanan and Evatt Salinger of Durango High School. The featured students are:

    Garrett Charles, Arvada West High School
    Abbie Cheney, Glenwood Springs High School
    Keala Fraioli, Steamboat Springs High School
    Michael Kosko, Denver School of the Arts
    Danny Miller, Arvada West High School
    Charlotte Movizzo, Ponderosa High School
    Jacob Pearce, Fairview High School
    Curtis Salinger, Durango High School
    Sienna Sewell, Fairview High School
    Savannah Wood, Mountain View High School

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk
  • 'President of Theatre' on enduring popularity of 'The Sound of Music'

    by John Moore | Jun 19, 2016
    The Sound of Music. Ben Davis. Kerstin Anderson. Photo by Matthew Murphy

    Ben Davis and Kerstin Anderson from the national touring production of 'The Sound of Music' opening in Denver on June 21. Photo by Matthew Murphy.


    Ted Chapin’s official title is President of the R&H music publishing company. But Broadway producer Ken Davenport once suggested simply calling him “President of Theater," for greater accuracy.

    Chapin was born into a powerful New York family whose patriarch was the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs under Rudolph Giuliani, and whose matriarch was daughter of the founder of Steinway pianos.

    Sound of Music Ted Chapin quoteChapin was just 31 when he was handpicked by the daughter of Richard Rodgers to oversee the library of Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, which only begins with the songwriting duo many consider the best of all-time. R&H wrote nine musicals for Broadway, one movie and one TV show over 17 years. But the R&H library (now owned by Imagem Publishing Group) now licenses about 2,500 productions by composers ranging from Irving Berlin to Andrew Lloyd Webber to Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

    The jewel in the R&H crown is, of course, The Sound of Music, which comes to Denver in a new touring production starting Tuesday (June 21). The franchise born in 1959 continues to enjoy extraordinary popularity. Chapin was one of the key figures behind NBC’s bold move to bring musicals back to live television after 50 years, starting with Carrie Underwood starring in The Sound of Music in 2013. The broadcast drew 44 million viewers. “Part of the magic of Rodgers and Hammerstein is how their work has adapted itself to so many different incarnations,” Chapin said.

    Chapin estimates The Sound of Music averages about 700 productions a year worldwide. And 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the film version, which continues to be the most successful movie musical in history.

    As President of Theatre, er, R&H, Chapin has personally overseen more than 20 Broadway and West End revivals of R&H classics. He’s the past chairman of the American Theatre Wing and author of the book Everything Was Possible – a bird’s-eye view of the birth of Stephen Sondheim’s seminal musical Follies from Chapin’s perspective as a 22-year-old production assistant.

    He says the version of The Sound of Music coming to Denver this week is more emotionally layered, much as the first Broadway revival of South Pacific was in 2008. The idea to revisit The Sound of Music came from the Hairspray team of director Jack O’Brien and producer Margo Lion, who saw the first authorized production of The Sound of Music in Russia a few years ago. O’Brien described it as “a fairly abstract Euro-trash production” that made very little literal sense. “But as I watched how an untried young soprano related to the children, and when she faced her remarkably young and vigorous Captain von Trapp,” O’Brien said, “I found unexpected tears of joy and happiness running down my face. What on earth was I to do with this nearly embarrassing reaction?” 

    When O’Brien later saw what he called a “deeply intelligent and carefully crafted” new script by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, “it felt as it some lost vault was opening up,” he said. And so, the revival was on.

    We talked to Chapin this week about a variety of topics, starting with his job title. What exactly does it mean to be President of R&H? Davenport equivocates the job to someone standing outside Fort Knox and deciding who goes in and what goes out. Chapin takes his stab at the same question below: 



    Ted Chapin: Believe it or not, I have never had a job description. That's the fun of it. Only because my job came to be a year after Rodgers died. The only reason there is even an office is because Rodgers and Hammerstein, uniquely among their peers, held onto all of their rights. They didn't have Samuel French or Music Theatre International license their shows. Over the years, as they started making movie versions of their shows, it even got to the point where R&H ended up owning the movies themselves. That was unheard of. To adopt this mentality of keeping all their eggs in one basket showed an extraordinary confidence. They didn't build theatres. Irving Berlin built a theatre. For R&H, it was all about the material they created, and wanting it performed in the best way possible. When I was approached about coming to work here, the two families didn't quite know what to do next. I found out in subsequent years they had talked to a couple of fancier people about coming to run it, but I think the fancy people had fancy ideas about what the job would be. But Mary Rodgers (Richard’s daughter) knew me, she knew my parents and she knew my work. It was Mary who suggested the best move might be to go with the young person to help them figure out what the hell the job should be. I thought the job should be keeping these properties in the family, and keeping these songs out there in circulation in the best way possible. That meant figuring out how to self-manage copyrights in a new era, and as things change. So that basically became the job. And that has been the fun, frankly.

    John Moore: So were their contemporaries being exploited in terms of royalties at the time?

    Ted Chapin: It starts with royalties but was more about managing their own fate.
    John Moore: The R&H name has come to mean so much more than just R&H because of the expansion of your catalog to include names like Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

    Ted Chapin: Yes, I certainly hope for that. Early on, I kept saying, 'People know Tiffany's as a place that has high-class stuff. But many people who go into Tiffany's today don't know that Louis Comfort Tiffany made stained glass. The Tiffany’s name has morphed into something that means quality in turquoise boxes. If we can make people think of us as a house that has good stuff, that's fine by me.

    John More: So if you’re the Tiffany’s of music publishing, How picky are you in terms of who you will allow in?

    Ted Chapin: Rather than being 'picky,' I would say we try to be selective. We look for properties we think will be good for both of us. Early on, we had some things that we could not sell in any way. Richard Adler, may he rest in peace, wrote The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. He also wrote a bunch of concert works, and he very much wanted us to publish them. I went to school with one of his sons, so I knew him, and I finally had to tell him: ‘The people who call us for pops concerts only want what they know. We can't seem to get them interested in anything else. So I don't think we're the right fit for these.' But I've always tried to find things like In the Heights. And having faith that Lin-Manuel Miranda was devoted to the theatre, it stood to reason that he might write more shows that are interesting. That was a good call.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: In the Heights was revolutionary in its way, but we don't necessarily think if R&H as revolutionary. Why was that the right property for you?

    Ted Chapin: To be honest, the first time I met Lin-Manuel was because he is a huge fan of my Follies book (Everything Was Possible). That was a nice way for me to meet him. There was a mutual respect. But at the end of the day, it comes down to people. Yes, some people like Adam Guettel (Richard Rodgers’ grandson) came with the family. But Andrew Lloyd Webber is a huge fan of Rodgers' music, and he will speak about that at the drop of a hat. They needed somebody to take care of their shows here. So we made an arrangement with him to represent all of his shows in this territory. That was very good arrangement.

    John Moore: So we have The Sound of Music coming to Denver, and I'm wondering: We as a nation, especially now, seem to have the attention span of a gnat. But somehow or another, The Sound of Music has managed to live on in the collective consciousness of subsequent generations of Americans. How did you do that?

    Ted Chapin: Well, No. 1: I think it's really good, and in the end, good wins the day. It’s a really good story. The songs are really good. People are captivated by it. The interesting challenge with The Sound of Music was it was written as a star vehicle for Mary Martin on Broadway, and it did just fine. She won a Tony Award away from Ethel Merman (Gypsy). Then it was made into a movie and suddenly some very, very smart decisions were made in the film adaptation of this stage show. There are three songs in the stage show that were completely reconceived for the movie - and they work. That's very rare. Usually when people play around with stage productions, something falls on its face, and it doesn't work. But the film people who made that movie were really, really smart. So now these two very different versions of The Sound of Music now exist in a parallel universe, and they are equally good.

    John Moore: What’s new about the touring production coming to Denver?

    Ted Chapin: First of all, it has a major director: Jack O'Brien, who saw the original Broadway production with Mary Martin, and he still remembers it vividly. Well, Jack also saw a more recent production in Moscow with Margo Lion a, producer of Hairspray. Jack realized what's in this story that people overlook: It’s a love story between a girl who has no experience whatsoever in love, and a man whose wife has died and has shut love out completely. They are total opposites, but they have that in common. The way Jack has directed this, audiences are like, 'Whoa. Wow. OK. I hadn't realized that.’

    John Moore: How are the songs different?

    Ted Chapin: Movie fans think of Do-Re-Mi as that lovely song where they romp all around the Alps and ride on bicycles by the side of the lake. But in the stage show, these kids are unhappy. They don't like having new governesses, and they are going to test this one. So the song Do-Re-Mi starts with these kids ready to destroy Maria, just like they have destroyed them all. But instead, in te stage show, this is the moment when the kids bond with Maria. So you need to start with the kids as little monsters, and slowly, by the end of the song, they are actually getting along. That’s when you start to think this could actually work out. I am telling you, Jack has been so smart about he decisions he made for this production.

    John Moore: So I want to get your take on this story: It’s more than 10 years ago. I am the theatre critic at The Denver Post, and I review a production of The Sound of Music at a local dinner theatre. I mention that, for whatever reason, they skip over the wedding scene entirely. And I mentioned that, for potential audiences who might be expecting one. So a day after the review is published, I am told, this theatre had receives a letter from R&H attorneys essentially saying: “Put the wedding back in, or you lose your rights. And within 24 hours, they rehearse the scene and get new more costumes and the wedding scene is back in. Tell me from the R&H point of view about the need to stay true to the story as written – and licensed?

    A Sound of Music Ted Chapin quote 2Ted Chapin: Well, first: I honor you for having said what you did in the review. I don't like doing that. But if people don't behave right, that’s something you have to do. There are theatres around the world that feel whatever script you get from a licensing house is just a blueprint for you to go off and create whatever you want. I always say to these companies from the very beginning, 'Please - no surprises.' If that theatre had called me, that would at least have started a dialogue. We got a request just last week from a production of The King & I that said they do not want a child to play the Buddha in  The Small House of Uncle Thomas ballet because the choreographer feels it's disrespectful to have a child pretending to be Buddha. Their position was so clearly stated and passionately expressed that it was a very easy thing for me to say, 'By all means. Don't have a child play the Buddha.' In the big picture, that is not going to take anything away from anything. I would so much rather be in that situation than be surprised. I grew up in the theatre. I respect what goes on there. But it's our reputation on the line there.

    (Pictured above right: Kerstin Anderson as 'Maria Rainer' in 'The Sound of Music.' Photo by Matthew Murphy.)

    John Moore: I want to ask you about R&Hs commitment to high-school theatre, which is obviously a huge part of your operation.

    Ted Chapin: Yes. I am a firm believer that the earlier you can ‘get’ people, the better. We have embraced the ‘Broadway Junior’ program that MTI started. There was a fear when we started doing student versions that if people can do these shows in grade schools, they won't be interested in doing the full production later on. But exactly the opposite has happened. It has proven to be really interesting. People want to know what was cut - and then they want to do the uncensored version as soon as they can.

    John Moore: So for people who hear The Sound of Music is coming town and say, 'I love that show, but I don't need to see it again’ … why do they need to see it again?

    Ted Chapin: Because it is the best-directed production of The Sound of Music you are ever going to see. When this tour started in Los Angeles, one critic pointed out that when Maria sang the lyric, 'I come to the hills when my heart is lonely' ... in the very first song, that critic wrote: 'She looked troubled.' And for the first time I thought, 'Oh, wait a minute. There is reason this young postulant is alone on the top of a hill. In the stage version, she doesn't twirl. Because while the twirl is all about a helicopter effect. And while that is a brilliant way to begin the movie, it’s not a brilliant way to open the stage production. Because that’s not the kind of emotion she's in. Every decision Jack makes is simply to make clear what's going on in the story. So people who know and love it are in for a bit of surprise, because there are things to be discovered that are kind of wonderful. It’s like revisiting an old friend whose clothes are different. 


    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

    Our The Sound of Music Photo Gallery:

    The Sound of Music
    Photos by Matthew Murphy. To see more, click the forward arrow in the image above.


    The Sound of Music:
    Ticket information

    June 21-26
    Buell Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Groups: Call 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, Audio Described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m., June 25

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Sound of Music

    The Real Von Trapps and the sound of freedom

  • Tony Awards offer powerful response to Orlando massacre

    by John Moore | Jun 12, 2016
    Lin-Manuel Miranda's sonnet to Orlando.


    The 2016 Tony Awards were not overshadowed by the worst mass shooting in U.S. history earlier in the day in Orlando, Fla. They were instead underscored by a powerful message of inclusion and human resilience. Fitting, then, that the winner of the 2016 Best New Play is called The Humans.

    As expected, Hamilton the Musical was coronated as one of the most celebrated new musicals in Broadway history, winning 11 Tony Awards. That's one fewer than the record of 12 won by The Producers in 2001 - largely only because Hamilton had multiple nominees in several categories (16 in all).

    But of all the moving acceptance speeches, it was creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, quickly becoming the conscience of the new America, reciting a "thank you sonnet" he wrote in the wake of the massacre that left 50 people dead in an Orlando nightclub. He delivered it after winning for best book of a musical:

    My wife’s the reason anything gets done
    She nudges me towards promise by degrees
    She is a perfect symphony of one
    Our son is her most beautiful reprise.
    We chase the melodies that seem to find us
    Until they’re finished songs and start to play
    When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
    That nothing here is promised, not one day.
    This show is proof that history remembers
    We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
    We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
    And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
    I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story
    Now fill the world with music, love and pride.

    Added Tony Awards host James Corden: "Our hearts go out to all of those affected by this atrocity. All we can say is you are not on your own right now. Your tragedy is our tragedy. Theater is a place where every race, creed, sexuality and gender is equal, is embraced and is loved. Hate will never win. Together, we have to make sure of that."

    Diane Paulus quote Tony AwardsDiane Paulus, acclaimed director of Best New Musical nominee Waitress, called the Tony Awards "a deeply moving and emotional evening" because of what happened in Orlando. "It made us all think about what our purpose is, and how precious time and life are," she said. But the response of the New York theatre community on display at the Beacon Theatre on Sunday, she said, made plain what makes theatre special among art forms. 

    "It made me appreciate what the theatre can be as a community: A place of tolerance and kindness that is embracing of diversity and freedom of expression," Paulus said in an exclusive interview for the DCPA NewsCenter. "Our role as artists is to do whatever we can to give people courage and resilience at times like this, through music and song and dance or drama."

    Our interview with DCPA Broadway Executive Director John Ekeberg

    Hamilton, the improbable hip-hop musical about America’s first Treasury Secretary, picked up Broadway’s highest honor, for best new musical. The show is sold out through January 2017. That almost everyone in the cast is non-white punctuated these as the most diverse Tony Awards in history.

    "Think of tonight as the Oscars, with diversity,” Corden joked in his opening monologue. By night's end, 2016 made history as the first Tony Awards where all four awards for acting performances in musicals went to black actors. (Pictured below right: Leslie Odom Jr., Cynthia Erivo, Daveed Diggs, Renée Elise Goldsberry. Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions.)

    Additionally, Waitress became the first Broadway musical with an all-female creative team. And the powerful political drama Eclipsed was the first Broadway play written by, directed by and starring women.

    Tony Awards. Cynthia Erivo. Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images. "This was landmark season for women in so many ways," said Paulus, who launched the national touring production of Pippin in Denver in 2014, and also helmed Finding Neverland, opening here on Dec. 20. "But I have said this time and time again - every artist is in their position on Waitress because they were the best person for the job.

    (Pictured: Actress Cynthia Erivo accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical in 'The Color Purple.' Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for The Tony Awards.)

    "This was not about a casting agenda. It's just a reflection that women are at the top of their field in composing, in writing, in choreography. This is the 21st century. We all have benefited from generations of women behind us who actually were told they couldn't be directors or writers. I hope we can provide that example for the next generation of artists wherever they are across America. To say, 'If you work with integrity and you tell important stories, this is not a closed door.' We have a long way to go for women, especially in leadership roles in the musical theatre. So yes, this is a  landmark year - but let's hope it's not a one-off, and that this continues."

    Paulus noted that Eclipsed, Blackbird, Waitress, The Color Purple and Spring Awakening all have one very powerful commonality: "These are all shows about women who are encountering some sort of abuse or violence," she said. "And it's not because that's all we care about as women. It's because 1 out of 3 women in the U.S. experiences some sort of intimate partner domestic abuse. This is a crisis in our time." 

    A practical example of change: CBS did not pull the plug on the Tony Awards telecast at exactly three hours, as it did last year. (The historic win for the female composing team of Fun Home came after the live cutoff.)

    Perhaps both the Hamilton hype and the Orlando massacre played a part, but the telecast posted its highest overnight rating in 15 years, growing 33 percent from last year. The CBS telecast drew 8.7 million viewers, largest since 2001.

    The Humans, by Stephen Karam, won for best new play, best featured actress (Jayne Houdyshell) and featured actor (Reed Birney), who played a married couple struggling to love and cherish a family under stress. The cast features frequent Denver Center actor Lauren Klein, who recently starred with her husband, Mike Hartman, in the DCPA Theatre Company's Death of a Salesman.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Tony Awards included Denver Center founder Donald R. Seawell in its memoriam segment, alongside names such as Roger Rees, David Bowie and Patty Duke. Seawell was first to bring the Royal Shakespeare Company to America, and he produced more than 65 Broadway plays, including the RSC's The Hollow Crown.

    In the aftermath of Orlando, the night ended with a poignant parting message from Producer Jeffrey Seller, accepting the Best Musical for Hamilton: "How lucky we are to be alive right now." It is a song from the show, and its meaning was all the more resonant given the events of the day.

    Donald Seawell Tony Awards

    News and notes: 

    • Keri Russell, who grew up in Highlands Ranch, introduced the live performance by the cast of Waitress, which is based on the movie she starred in from 2007.
    • Josh Groban shouted out arts education when introducing the Fiddler on the Roof performance. "Thank you very much, arts education," said Groban, who will make his Broadway debut this fall in The Great Comet
    • Best Director Ivo Von Hove said he first came to the U.S. specifically to see David Bowie perform in The Elephant ManHere's our story on how that production began in Denver.
    • Celebrity presenters included Carole King, Barbara Streisand, Carole King Cate Blanchett and Jake Gyllenhaal.
    • One of Hamilton's wins went to Costume Designer Paul Tazewell, who also designed the DCPA Theatre Company's new look at The Unsinkable Molly Brown in 2014.


    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

    News services contributed to this report.
     

    2016 Tony Award winners:

    Best Musical: “Hamilton”

    Best Play: “The Humans”

    Best Book of a Musical: Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hamilton”

    Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theater: “Hamilton”

    Best Revival of a Play: “Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge”

    Best Revival of a Musical: “The Color Purple”

    Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Frank Langella, “The Father”

    Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Jessica Lange, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”

    Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Leslie Odom Jr., “Hamilton”

    Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Cynthia Erivo, “The Color Purple”

    Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Reed Birney, “The Humans”

    Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Jayne Houdyshell, “The Humans”

    Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Daveed Diggs, “Hamilton”

    Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Renee Elise Goldsberry, “Hamilton”

    Best Scenic Design of a Play: David Zinn, “The Humans”

    Best Scenic Design of a Musical: David Rockwell, “She Loves Me”

    Best Costume Design of a Play: Clint Ramos, “Eclipsed”

    Best Costume Design of a Musical: Paul Tazewell, “Hamilton” 

    Best Lighting Design of a Play: Natasha Katz, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”

    Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Howell Binkley, “Hamilton”

    Best Direction of a Play: Ivo Van Hove, “Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge”

    Best Direction of a Musical: Thomas Kail, “Hamilton”

    Best Choreography: Andy Blankenbuehler, “Hamilton”

    Best Orchestrations: Alex Lacamoire, “Hamilton”

    Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre: Sheldon Harnick, Marshall W. Mason

    Special Tony Award: National Endowment for the Arts, Miles Wilkin

    Regional Theatre Tony Award: Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, N.J.

    Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award: Brian Stokes Mitchell

    Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre: Seth Gelblum, Joan Lader, Sally Ann Parson

  • June 2016: Applause crossword puzzle

    by John Moore | Jun 11, 2016
    With each new issue of Applause Magazine, we offer readers a crossword related to our current shows. Here is the most recent puzzle, covering NETworks Presents Beauty and the Beast, The Sound of Music and the recently completed once - along with the solution at the bottom. Print and play!

    Crossword Puzzle answers June 2016


    NETworks presents Disney's Beauty and the Beast: Ticket information

  • Through June 12 at the Buell Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Accessibility performance: 2 p.m. June 11


  • The Sound of Music:
    Ticket information

  • April 8-May 15 (opens April 15) at the Stage Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Accessibility performance: 2 p.m. on June 25
  • Kids Night on Broadway: June 22
  • 'Phantom of the Opera' tickets go on-sale

    by NewsCenter Staff | Jun 06, 2016



    By Heidi Bosk

    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Tickets for Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera go on sale today, June 6, at 10 a.m. for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' engagement playing The Buell Theatre Aug. 25-Sept. 11.  With newly reinvented staging and stunning scenic design, this new version of Phantom is performed by a cast and orchestra of 52, making this one of the largest productions on tour in North America. Tickets start at $20.

    BUY ONLINE

    Please be advised that the DCPA is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for the Denver engagement of The Phantom of the Opera.

    “It’s wonderful to have a new production of Phantom touring America now that the show has celebrated 28 years on Broadway," said Lloyd Webber. "Director Laurence Connor has done an amazing job and this production has received huge critical acclaim in the U.K.”

    Connor co-directed the new production of Les Misérables currently running on Broadway and around the world, as well as the award-winning new London production of Miss Saigon coming to Broadway in 2017 and national tour in 2018, and the stage version of the movie School of Rock now playing at Broadway’s Winter Garden.

    Added Mackintosh: "With Phantom still the reigning champion as the longest-running production on Broadway after 28 phenomenal years, with no end in sight, I’m delighted that this spectacular new production of Phantom has been as well-received in the U.S. as the brilliant original and has already been seen by over 2 million people across North America since it opened in November 2013. With an exciting new design and staging, retaining Maria Björnson’s amazing costumes, the new Phantom is thrilling audiences and critics alike all over again – the music of the night is soaring to dazzling new heights.”

    Phantom of the Opera

    The Company performs "Masquerade." Original tour cast photo by Alastair Muir.


    Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera
    Aug. 25-Sept. 11, Buell Theatre

    • Presented by Cameron Mackintosh, The Really Useful Group, and NETworks Presentations
    • Directed by Laurence Connor
    • Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
    • Lyrics by Charles Hart
    • Additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe
    • Book by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber
    • Orchestrations by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber
    • Choreography by Scott Ambler
    • Set design by Paul Brown
    • Original costume design by Maria Björnson
    • Lighting design by Paule Constable
    • Sound design by Mick Potter
    • Musical supervision by John Rigby
    • The production is overseen by Matthew Bourne and Cameron Mackintosh

    Based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it.  He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Mackintosh’s brilliant original production of Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera continues performances at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London and in its recording-breaking run at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway and many other cities around the world.

    Photo gallery:

    The Phantom of the Opera

    'The Phantom of the Opera' photos by Matthew Murphy and  Alastair Muir. To see more, click the forward arrow above.

    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter

  • How Disney turned a Beast into a Beaut

    by NewsCenter Staff | Jun 02, 2016
    NETworks presents Disney's Beauty and the Beast

    Photos by Matthew Murphy. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. 


    Even on your very best day, chances are you’ve never danced with your dinnerware. Oh, you may have talked things out over a good cup of tea from time to time, but rarely with the teapot itself. You even may have warbled in your wardrobe, but with it? Ah, but perhaps you’ve never visited an enchanted castle.

    Fear not. Here’s your chance, as NETworks presents Disney’s Beauty and the Beast rolls into town for a return run in Denver. As usual, it’s the love of a good woman that turns a beast into his best. Then again, this timeless tale of redemption brings out the best in everyone.

    Based on the traditional fairytale first published in France in the mid-18th century, Beauty and the Beast has been translated into hundreds of versions worldwide. When Walt Disney Pictures released the animated feature film in 1991, it was hailed as an instant classic with critics praising its “songs worthy of a Broadway musical.”

    With two Academy Awards (Best Song and Best Original Score), Disney set out to turn that praise into reality. The transformation of evil into good is hardly the only transformation in this show. To the tune of $13 million dollars, give or take a few, the Disney folk transformed their very successful film musical into an equally successful stage musical. Linda Woolverton adapted her screenplay for the stage complete with new scenes and seven new songs. The show opened at the Palace Theatre on April 18, 1994, ultimately playing 5,461 performances on Broadway in 13 years.

    With 580 costume pieces, 81 wigs and spectacular staging effects, people become household utensils such as teapots and wardrobes and candelabra and feather dusters and clocks right before your eyes.

    Since its Broadway debut 22 years ago, more than 35 million people in 21 countries have enjoyed the eyebrow-raising effects and sleight-of-hand that are worthy of David Copperfield. Keep your eyes open for some of the sensational elements — 67 LED lights on the magic mirror, the 450-pound “star drop” curtain, the 1,700-pound West Wing set piece and the 1 ton — ONE TON — plate rail featured in “Be Our Guest.” Plus, pint-sized audience members will want to look closely at the tavern set backdrop, where, much like at its famous parks, a “Mickey” is carefully hidden in plain sight.

     

    This article is compiled from the materials provided by the production company and an article written by Teri Downard, former Deputy Director of the DCPA’s Media Relations and Publications Department.

    NETworks presents Disney's Beauty and the Beast
    June 7-12
    Buell Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Beauty and the Beast 800
    Brooke Quintana as Belle and Sam Hartley as the Beast in NETworks presents"Disney's Beauty and the Beast." Photo by Matthew Murphy.
  • Twice is nice for a Denver return of 'once'

    by NewsCenter Staff | May 17, 2016



    In 2007, the seductive, off-beat Irish film once opened to glowing reviews and quickly developed a fervent following. This lyrical musical tells the story of two down-on-their-luck musicians: an angst-ridden Dublin street singer/songwriter who works as a vacuum cleaner repairman, and a Czech immigrant who sells flowers to support herself and her family.

    A Once quoteGirl (as she is known) initiates a friendship with Guy (as he is known), and in the course of a week they make music together, fall in love and part, but not before changing each other’s lives.

    Once is both graceful and gritty. It has a naturalism and intimacy that are generally best achieved in film, which explains why the Irish playwright Enda Walsh was less than enthusiastic when he was asked if he would write the book for a Broadway-style musical based on the movie.

    “I guffawed when my agent called and asked me to speak to the producers,” says Walsh. “I said, ‘What a stupid idea.’ It’s a two-hander with very little plot. It’s delicate. I called the producers and told them it wasn’t for me. There’s no tradition of musical theatre in Ireland. Then they told me John Tiffany was attached to it as director.”

    Walsh and Tiffany are longtime friends, and although Tiffany also had doubts at first as to the viability of the material as a musical, he convinced Walsh not to reject the idea outright.

    Says Walsh, “John said, ‘Let’s just take two days, and we can read the screenplay and listen to the songs and talk about it.’ I said, ‘Okay, we’ll do two days — and that’s all we’ll do.’ ”

    Well, not quite.

    “Those two days convinced us that we wanted to do this show,” says Tiffany.

    The musical became such a critical and commercial success that it spawned a London production, a Broadway show and a U.S. national tour — a journey that saw this modest undertaking win no fewer than eight 2012 Tony® Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book (Walsh), and Best Direction of a Musical (Tiffany).

     “I never think about adapting films for the stage. That’s not the way I work,” insists Tiffany. “When I was approached about once, I hadn’t even seen the film. But one of my best friends said, ‘You will love the music.’ So I downloaded the soundtrack — and I absolutely loved it. I’d never heard music like that. [It’s] the reason I wanted to do the show. Not just the music itself, but the fact that it’s a story about creating music, the healing power of music.”  

    Once 600In reading through John Carney’s screenplay, Walsh discovered there was much he could relate to. “I’m a big fan of the movie Brief Encounter, and I saw similarities,” he says. “There’s a bittersweet pang that really hurts. Very quickly I thought I was a good match for the material. I tend to write characters that are inarticulate and lonesome, and something comes into their life that changes them. From listening to the songs, I thought it might be good for me to do something about Ireland, which was so hurt in the recession. A little love letter to Dublin. 

    (Pictured right: Sam Cieri and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy from the 'once' tour company. Photo by Joan Marcus.) 

    “That was my way in. You start by bringing two people together and getting them to talk to one another. The tone shows itself quickly, so you step out of the way and allow it to write itself.

    “I knew all along that there were markers. I just had to unlock a stage language that was right. As soon as the Girl started talking, I thought, ‘That’s the swagger of it.’ She became the style of it and the force of the piece — and the central storyteller.”  

    The 12 adult members of the cast play at least one instrument and are onstage virtually throughout the show. “I didn’t want anyone on stage we didn’t get to know intimately,” says Tiffany. By individualizing each character, adds Walsh, “we built a community, and that became the heart of the piece.”

    As the show unfolds, the focus, of course, is on the relationship between Guy and Girl, but the audience also catches glimpses of the lives of the other characters.

    “We needed to be sure that there are all these other love stories in the air. Each person is riffing off a love that’s been lost, that got away. That was the key: for the audience to feel part of the experience, and look at the people on the stage and go, ‘They’re us.’ ”

    In the end, the material proved to be as powerful on stage as it is on film.

    “What’s very moving about the piece is how sometimes we meet people who we don’t necessarily stay with forever, but they give us the resources to move on to the next part of our life,” says Tiffany. “There’s something very truthful in that. People have said to me, ‘When I was sitting in the theatre watching once, I felt like I was watching it with everyone I’ve ever loved, whether or not they’re still in my life.’ ”  

    Portions of this text were provided by the show’s production company

     

    Once national tour photo gallery:

    once

     Photos from the 'once' tour company by Joan Marcus. To see more, hover your cursor over the image above and click the 'forward' arrow. 

    ONCE: Ticket information 
    May 24-29
    At The Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 (Groups: 303-446-4829 or BUY ONLINE
    ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. May 28

  • 'Legally Blonde' director on 'The Hair That Ate Hollywood'

    by John Moore | May 11, 2016

     A legally blonde quote 2

    Legally Blonde is not the kind of script you would expect an edgy and award-winning student director to want for his first major studio film. Robert Luketic certainly did not. 

    “I actually had to be talked into it,” said Luketic, who sat on the contract offer from MGM Studios for more than a year before pulling the pink trigger on the feel-good film of 2001. “I was  little gun-shy. You're thinking, 'OK, someone has given me my shot, right? But is this the one I want to be known for? Is this how I want to start my career?’ ”

    A legally blonde credtsBut Luketic is not your typical dark and rebellious art-house film director. He’s an uncommonly self-aware Aussie whose big break was a whimsical 10-minute musical he shot in Cinemascope about an Italian girl called Titsiana Booberini. “She has a hairy upper lip and she works in a supermarket where she battles the prettier girls for the affections of the handsome assistant manager,” he said.

    “I made it to rebel against all the darker stuff that was being made at the time. Because as film students, we tend to like black and white, and heroin addiction and incest. And so I said, ‘I am going to make a Technicolor musical set in a supermarket.’ People thought I was crazy, but I think the risk paid off.”

    Well, it led directly to Legally Blonde, a film that cost $18 million to make, and grossed $142 million worldwide. So you could say the risk paid off.

    Legally Blonde has been called a “bait and switch” movie that fooled even MGM when it turned out to be an uncommonly progressive and, dare it be said – empowering piece of fluffy pink feminism. “Initially, they thought it was going to be much more wet T-shirts and boobs than it actually turned out to be,” said Luketic.

    Turns out the script, written by the 10 Things I Hate About You team of Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith and Karen McCullah - was ahead of its time. So was Reese Witherspoon, who would win an Oscar four years later for Walk the Line. Over the years, Legally Blonde has grown in esteem from simple summer escapism in the halcyon days leading up to the 9/11 attacks, to a film the internet’s “Rogue Feminist” recently called “incredibly woman-positive and an important staple in feminist pop culture.”

    Read more about the Denver Actors Fund

    Luketic, Smith and McCullah will be in Littleton on Monday, May 23, for a special benefit screening of Legally Blonde. It’s the latest offering in the Alamo Drafthouse’s “Denver Actors Fund Presents …” a monthly film series that features films that either inspired - or were inspired by - stage musicals that are currently being performed by a Colorado theatre company. Cast members from the Town Hall Arts Center’s upcoming staging of Legally Blonde, the Musical will entertain the audience at 6:30, with the film screening, and a Q&A with the creative team, to follow.

    Protagonist Elle Woods, of course, is the severely underestimated sorority girl who manages to get into Harvard Law School to impress a former boyfriend - only to realize she’s far too good for him.

    Reserve tickets to Legally Blonde screening and Q&A

    Luketic was just 25 when he got the offer to direct Legally Blonde. But he quickly discovered the team of Smith and McCullah would be his perfect entrée into the worlds of Hollywood moviemaking – and college sororities.

    “He’s from Australia, so he didn’t know much about the Greek system,” Smith said. “I remember going with him to all these sorority houses at UCLA so he could get a sense of that world. His joie de vivre is something really special, and you can feel it in the film.”   

    Luketic put it more simply: “We just get each other. We love to hang out. We get drunk together. It just works for us.”

    Luketic knows who he is. More important, he knows what is expected of him. "Listen, I am not making fine art," he said. "I make a commercial product that sells tickets. I understand that."

    Here are six essential things we learned from Luketic and Smith about the making of Legally Blonde. Burning issues such as, "What is the origin of the bend-and-snap?" and, "Whatever happened to that dog?" Read on ...

    A legally blonde

    1 PerspectivesThe hair has a name. “Oh my God, it became known as ‘The Hair That Ate Hollywood,’ ” Luketic said. “It became all about the hair. I have this obsession with flyaways. It would annoy Reese a little bit because I would always have hairdressers in her face. But really the most time and research and testing on the set went into getting the color right, because ‘blonde’ is subject to interpretation, I found.”

    2 PerspectivesDespite her impeccable credentials, Reese Witherspoon was not MGM Studios’ first choice for Elle. Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alicia Silverstone, Katherine Heigl, Christina Applegate, Milla Jovovich and Jennifer Love Hewitt were all considered for the role. “But there was only one name that I was obsessed with, and it was Reese,” Luketic said. While Legally Blonde was his first feature, Witherspoon already had 15 major credits to her name, including American Psycho, Cruel Intentions and Pleasantville. “I had just seen Election, and I was all into this woman,” Luketic said. “She was perfect for the voice. Admittedly, she wasn't the first name that the studio wanted, but I wanted someone with gravitas and brains. There had to be more behind the face, and Reese just fit the bill.”

    3 PerspectivesThe now iconic “bend and snap” was the result of inspired desperation. “We had been instructed to add a (plot twist) into the second act by producer Marc Platt, and we were kind of wits end,” said Smith.  We’d come up with all these crazy ideas: “The nail salon gets robbed!” “Paulette gets deported and Elle has to use her knowledge of immigration law to get her out of it!” Nothing was clicking. Finally, we were in a bar one night in Beverly Hills and I said to Karen something like, ‘What if Paulette has a crush on a UPS guy who always comes in, and Elle teaches her one of her patented moves to get the guy? Like, "You should try the bend and snap." ' I demonstrated the move for Karen in the middle of the bar. She laughed - so we put it in,” Smith said. “Sometimes you can wrack your brain to find a solution. Then you have to take a break and be silly, and the right idea can come to you.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    4 PerspectivesLuketic owes his big break to two film festivals in Colorado, and today he even lives here. Sort of.  “I keep a residence at the Ritz-Carlton in Vail,” he says. Luketic started making movies in Australia at age 16. He entered his short film Titsiana Booberini for the Telluride Film Festival and it went on to win "Best Film" at the Aspen Shortsfest, landing Luketic his MGM contract. “When I entered my film into Telluride as a short, I had very little expectations,” he said. "It was through a program called Filmmakers of Tomorrow, and I heard there were going to be all kinds of fancy students and films. I was surprised that I got in, and I was even more surprised at the reaction I got after the screening. It was a life-changing moment. You get an agent and a manager and a deal with a major studio. This all happened within 40 minutes of my film screening.”

    5 PerspectivesA legally blonde heather hachLegally Blonde was made into a Broadway musical in 2007, and the script was written by Loveland native and University of Colorado grad Heather Hach (pictured right), who was nominated for a Tony Award. Smith, who met Hach briefly years ago, says she very much enjoyed the stage musical. “MGM flew us out to the opening night on Broadway, and it was so amazing to walk into the theater and see that they’d outfitted the whole place in pink — pink carpet, pink curtains. It was nuts,” said Smith. “It’s one thing to walk onto a movie set and see your screenplay coming to life with a film crew and actors. But it was a whole different thing to see your scenes and your dialogue turn into a full-blown rollercoaster of a musical with a stage full of Broadway singers and dancers.” Luketic has never met Hach, “but she did a great job," he said. Luketic loves the musical. He has seen it live in London, Australia and New York.

    Read John Moore's 2007 profile of Heather Hach

    6 PerspectivesOK, so most film critics did not love Legally Blonde. But AO Scott of the New York Times did concede that the film “made me and some of my dyspeptic colleagues laugh giddily and helplessly.” Something neither Smith nor Luketic were aware of (until now!). “Wow. I’d never read that,” Smith said. “AO Scott is a titan of film criticism, so that’s a huge compliment.” Luketic is a little more blunt. “I got burnt when the first reviews for Legally Blonde came out," he said. “I mean, I was excoriated. Most of my life I have gotten bad reviews, actually, and I am OK with that because I don't read them. I just know there’s a lot of bad stuff out there because a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘Oh, I am so sorry.’ You know, in that way like maybe someone has just died. But it makes me want to be better, I guess.”

    7 PerspectivesJust a few weeks ago, Bruiser died. Actually, the little Chihuahua was named Moonie, and he was 18. “Reese would joke that I thought Moonie was a better actor than she was,” Luketic said. “So for a wrap gift, she gave me this lovely little Tiffany’s silver frame with a picture of me and Moonie. In fact, I am sitting here at my desk looking at it right now as you brought that up.” It’s a sad passing, but is 18 a good, long run for a dog. “Are you kidding? That's a blockbuster of a life for a dog,” Luketic said.

    Bonus coverage: More from our interview with Luketic and Smith: 

    John Moore: So why did this underdog-of-a-movie work?

    Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith: Lots of reasons - the main one being Reese. She was so perfect in the role. MGM's marketing and PR for the movie was also incredible. They did so much creative stuff.  They created a National Blonde Day - in the pre-hashtag era.  They got Regis Philbin to dye his hair blonde.  They had a float at the Gay Pride Parade that Jennifer Coolidge rode on surrounded by a bunch of shirtless guys throwing out T-shirts. It was a perfect tumbleweed of good fortune that rarely happens in Hollywood: We gave our brilliant producer a script that attracted a great young director and an incredible actress who got the movie green-lit by a studio that left us alone to make the movie and then knew when and how to release it. 

    Robert Luketic: I think Elle was a young onscreen heroine women could feel positive about. For the first time, the woman in a movie wasn't just an accessory to a man. This was a film about being yourself in a world where we are meant to be cookie-cutter skinny things. The best version of ourselves is when we can be ourselves.

    John Moore: What are you working on now?

    Robert Luketic: I have an interesting project I am doing with Jaden Smith that's kind of edgy and different. More in the world of 21. And then I will be reuniting with the two girls, Kiwi and Karen, to make a killer, all female-driven action film called The Bells. It's sort of an inspired spin-off of The Expendables franchise - except this is all women. It's very exciting. And very empowering - so it takes me back to some familiar territory. I really think females drive the decision to go and watch a movie on a weekend. This is a segment of audience that my business has ignored for so many years, but I think now is a golden time when we are seeing films made for women. The only thing that is lacking is that not enough women are making films for women. But I think that will change.

    John Moore: It’s 15 years past Legally Blonde. What kind of groundbreaking story do you think young women need to hear now? 

    Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith: Let’s take a poll! I’d love to hear from young women what kinds of stories they’re burning to hear.  We’ll be at the Alamo Drafthouse on May 23 if they want to chat about it in person!

    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist. He is also the founder of the Denver Actors Fund.

    Denver Actors Fund Presents ... Legally Blonde
    A benefit screening for the Denver Actors Fund
    Monday, May 23
    At the Alamo Drafthouse, 7301 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, 303-730-2470

    • 6pm Doors
    • 6:30p.m. Live entertainment from Town Hall Arts Center
    • 7pm film
    • 9pm Q&A with Director Robert Luketic and screenwriters Kirsten ‘Kiwi’ Smith and Karen McCullah

    Tickets $20 CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE

    Note: The Town Hall Arts Center will present Legally Blonde, the Musical onstage from May 20-June 19 at 2450 Main St., Littleton. The director is Nick Sugar. Call  303-794-2787, or go to townhallartscenter.org

  • Colorado's ties to the 2016 Tony Award nominations

    by John Moore | May 03, 2016


    With a Pulitzer Prize already under its bulging belt, the question this morning when the Tony Awards nominations were announced was just how historic of a morning this would be for the historical musical Hamilton.

    The answer: As historic as it gets. Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking musical earned 16 nominations, making it the most-honored production in Broadway history. Miranda's hip-hop-flavored biography about the first U.S. treasury secretary broke record of 15 nominations held by The Producers and Billy Elliot. Hamilton was nominated in virtually every category it could compete in.

    The other unfortunately timed productions nominated for Best New Musical are Bright Star, School of Rock, Shuffle Along and Waitress.

    The Humans. Photo by Joan Marcus(Pictured right: Stephen Karam's extraordinary family drama 'The Humans' earned six nominations. Photo by Joan Marcus.) 

    The Best New Play nominees are Eclipsed, The Father, The Humans and King Charles III.

    For the first time in many years, there appear to be no direct nominees with a considerable Colorado connection. George Washington High School graduate Sierra Boggess is headlining Andrew Lloyd Webber's Best Musical nominee School of Rock. That ensemble also features Tally Sessions, who starred in the Arvada Center's Chess.

    Sierra Boggess tweet
    Denver native Sierra Boggess tweeted out congratulations to her 'School of Rock' team for its Best New Musical nomination.


    Paul Tazewell, who designed costumed for the DCPA Theatre Company's The Unsinkable Molly Brown in 2014, earned his sixth Tony Award nomination, for Hamilton. Aisha Jackson, a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado, is an ensemble member in the nominated Waitress.

    Longtime DCPA Theatre Company actor Lauren Klein, wife of actor Mike Hartman, is an\ key player in the the celebrated Best Play nominee The Humans, but there had been some speculation she might be among the individual nominees for her acclaimed performance.

    Likewise, Colorado Springs native Jeremy Shamos is a member of the ensemble of Noises Off, a nominee for Best Revival of a Play, but he was not singled out. Several of his castmates were, including David Furr, who starred in the DCPA Theatre Company's production of All My Sons in 2005. He was nominated as Best Featured Actor.

    Colorado native Aaron Quintana, who performed often for the Performance Now Theatre Company, is the Associate Company Manager for the Best Musical nominee Shuffle Along ...

    Jessie Mueller, who co-headlined the DCPA's 2015 Saturday Night Alive fundraiser for its Education programs, was nominated for Waitress.

    The Tony Awards ceremony will be hosted by James Corden on June 12 and broadcast on CBS-TV.

    Nominations for the 2016 American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards®
    Presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing

    Best Play

    Eclipsed
    Author: Danai Gurira

    The Father
    Author: Florian Zeller

    The Humans
    Author: Stephen Karam

    King Charles III
    Author: Mike Bartlett


    Best Musical

    Bright Star

    Hamilton. Lin-Manuel MirandaHamilton 

    School of Rock—The Musical

    Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

    Waitress


    Best Revival of a Play

    Arthur Miller's The Crucible

    Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge

    Blackbird

    Long Day's Journey Into Night

    Noises Off


    Best Revival of a Musical

    The Color Purple

    Fiddler on the Roof

    She Loves Me

    Spring Awakening


    Best Book of a Musical

    Bright Star, Steve Martin

    Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda

    School of Rock—The Musical, Julian Fellowes

    Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, George C. Wolfe


    Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

    Bright Star: Music: Steve Martin and Edie Brickell

    Lyrics: Edie Brickell

    Hamilton: Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda

    School of Rock—The Musical: Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics: Glenn Slater

    Waitress: Music & Lyrics: Sara Bareilles


    Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

    Gabriel Byrne, Long Day's Journey Into Night
    Jeff Daniels, Blackbird
    Frank Langella, The Father
    Tim Pigott-Smith, King Charles III
    Mark Strong, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge

    Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

    Jessica Lange, Long Day's Journey Into Night
    Laurie Metcalf, Misery
    Lupita Nyong'o, Eclipsed
    Sophie Okonedo, Arthur Miller's The Crucible
    Michelle Williams, Blackbird


    Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

    Alex Brightman, School of Rock—The Musical
    Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof
    Zachary Levi, She Loves Me
    Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
    Leslie Odom, Jr., Hamilton


    Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

    Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
    Carmen Cusack, Bright Star
    Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
    Jessie Mueller, Waitress
    Phillipa Soo, Hamilton


    Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

    Reed Birney, The Humans
    Bill Camp, Arthur Miller's The Crucible
    David Furr, Noises Off
    Richard Goulding, King Charles III
    Michael Shannon, Long Day's Journey Into Night


    Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

    Pascale Armand, Eclipsed
    Megan Hilty, Noises Off
    Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
    Andrea Martin, Noises Off
    Saycon Sengbloh, Eclipsed


    Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

    Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
    Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
    Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress
    Jonathan Groff, Hamilton
    Christopher Jackson, Hamilton


    Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

    Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
    Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
    Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
    Jennifer Simard, Disaster!
    Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed


    Best Scenic Design of a Play

    Beowulf Boritt, Thérèse Raquin
    Christopher Oram, Hughie
    Jan Versweyveld, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge
    David Zinn, The Humans


    Best Scenic Design of a Musical

    Es Devlin & Finn Ross, American Psycho
    David Korins, Hamilton
    Santo Loquasto, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
    David Rockwell, She Loves Me


    Best Costume Design of a Play

    Jane Greenwood, Long Day's Journey Into Night
    Michael Krass, Noises Off
    Clint Ramos, Eclipsed
    Tom Scutt, King Charles III


    Best Costume Design of a Musical

    Gregg Barnes, Tuck Everlasting
    Jeff Mahshie, She Loves Me
    Ann Roth, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
    Paul Tazewell, Hamilton


    Best Lighting Design of a Play

    Natasha Katz, Long Day's Journey Into Night
    Justin Townsend, The Humans
    Jan Versweyveld, Arthur Miller's The Crucible
    Jan Versweyveld, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge


    Best Lighting Design of a Musical

    Howell Binkley, Hamilton
    Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
    Ben Stanton, Spring Awakening
    Justin Townsend, American Psycho

     

    Best Direction of a Play

    Rupert Goold, King Charles III
    Jonathan Kent, Long Day's Journey Into Night
    Joe Mantello, The Humans
    Liesl Tommy, Eclipsed
    Ivo Van Hove, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge

    Best Direction of a Musical

    Michael Arden, Spring Awakening
    John Doyle, The Color Purple
    Scott Ellis, She Loves Me
    Thomas Kail, Hamilton
    George C. Wolfe, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

     

    Best Choreography

    Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton
    Savion Glover, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
    Hofesh Shechter, Fiddler on the Roof
    Randy Skinner, Dames at Sea
    Sergio Trujillo, On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan


    Best Orchestrations

    August Eriksmoen, Bright Star
    Larry Hochman, She Loves Me
    Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton
    Daryl Waters, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

    Recipients of Awards and Honors in Non-competitive Categories 

    Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
    Sheldon Harnick, Marshall W. Mason

    Special Tony Award
    National Endowment for the Arts, Miles Wilkin

    Regional Theatre Tony Award
    Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, NJ

    Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award
    Brian Stokes Mitchell

    Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre

    Seth Gelblum

    Joan Lader

    Sally Ann Parsons

     

    Tony Nominations by Production

    Hamilton - 16
    Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed - 10
    She Loves Me - 8
    Long Day's Journey Into Night - 7
    Eclipsed - 6
    The Humans - 6
    Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge - 5
    Bright Star - 5
    King Charles III - 5
    Noises Off - 5
    Arthur Miller's The Crucible - 4
    The Color Purple - 4
    School of RockThe Musical - 4
    Waitress - 4
    Blackbird - 3
    Fiddler on the Roof - 3
    Spring Awakening - 3
    American Psycho - 2
    The Father - 2
    Dames at Sea - 1
    Disaster! - 1
    Hughie - 1
    Misery
    - 1
    On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan
    - 1
    Thérèse Raquin
    - 1
    Tuck Everlasting
    - 1
  • 'The Lion King' mourns original touring flutist Kay Ragsdale

    by John Moore | Apr 08, 2016
    Kay Ragsdale

    If you've ever seen The Lion King in Denver, you have heard Kay Ragsdale play not one but 15 signature flutes in the groundbreaking musical. The original member of the Denver-born national touring production passed away this week.

    Ragsdale was profiled in a DCPA NewsCenter feature article when The Lion King made its fourth visit to Denver last August. In it, she said:

    “Our opening night (in 2002) was an opening night for the entire city of Denver. It felt like everyone in the city was participating in this event with us.”

    Thursday's Broadway performance of The Lion King was dedicated Ragsdale. "She was the heart and soul of our production since joining the North American tour in 2002, and will be missed dearly," the show said in a statement.


    Read our interview with Kay Ragsdale

    Jim Ferris, known by Denver Center audiences for his work in the Groucho Marx role in the Theatre Company's 2014 production of Animal Crackers, posted these reflections:

    "I had the humbling privilege touring for three years with Kay Ragsdale on the first national tour of The Lion King. To call her the ultimate professional is an understatement. Jim FerrisTo say that she is passionate about her art seems somehow cheap. To say that she loved people ... well ... just look at the smile that never left her face. While on the road, I would always get the opportunity to sit with the orchestra whenever I wanted. And when I did, it was either in "the kit" with the drummer or right next to Kay. To watch her play and manipulate the 15 flutes she used during the show with the utmost of care, was not only a magic act but a truly religious experience. I will always remember, after watching her play a passage on the flute during the show, I noticed she placed her hand on the side of the flute (as if not to let any air escape) then she gently blew into the flute, not making any sound, then put the flute down. Later, I asked her why she did that. She said, "I am thanking God and the ancestors who made this beautiful instrument for allowing me the breath to make this music. At that moment, I give them back my breath". We lost this beautiful soul this week, and now our breath is taken away. Thank you, beautiful Lady for your magic, your music, your spirit and most important, your friendship. Please take out a few minutes to read this article and watch the video below.



    Read our interview with Kay Ragsdale

    Kay Ragsdale
  • How DeVotchKa and a man named Coffin made murderous music mischief

    by John Moore | Apr 05, 2016
    Gregg Coffin Sweeney Todd. John Moore


    Gregg Coffin promises the unprecedented alchemy of esteemed Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim mixed with Grammy-nominated gypsy-punk band DeVotchKa ensures Sweeney Todd will be a theatrical experience unlike anything DCPA Theatre Company audiences have seen before.

    Sondheim, author of Into the Woods, Company and Sunday in the Park with George, also wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy. Many feel his murderous masterpiece is Sweeney Todd, which first shocked Broadway audiences under the direction of Hal Prince in 1979. Since then, Sondheim has been uncommonly encouraging of young artists wanting to experiment with the score. When the Denver Center last year sought permission for a new collaboration with DeVotchKa, Sondheim said, "Bloody well."

    Denver's own DeVotchKa, named after a line in A Clockwork Orange, was deemed the local band most deserving of mainstream attention by The Denver Post all the way back in 2002. Since then, DeVotchka has reached international acclaim, landing in Billboard's Top 10 and opening for Muse before more than 80,000 in France.

    But how does anyone, much less an alternative rock band, even approach rearranging a complex Broadway score? Coffin, who has 30 years of experience as a theatrical Musical Director, had the joyful task of sheparding the band through the year-long process, which has resulted in a 943-page musical opus that three DeVotchKa members (Jeanie Schroder, Shawn King and Tom Hagerman) will perform live each night, along with Conductor Erik Daniells and six backing musicians.

    Coffin has essentially served as steward over DeVotchKa’s creative odyssey to revisit a score he calls the King Lear of the musical theatre. One that has been infused for this staging with an electric guitar, a drum set, toy piano and many other instruments original orchestrator Jonathan Tunick never imagined. For the record, there are 39 different instruments used in the Theatre Company's  new interpretation. It's too soon to say how it will all come out, but you would be hard-pressed to find a better match for a musical that leaves so much blood on the floor than a Music Director named Coffin and a band that penned beloved songs called Dearly Departed, Life is Short and How it Ends. Coffin, who has overseen many Theatre Company musicals including Animal Crackers, A Christmas Carol, White Christmas, talked with the DCPA NewsCenter about how it all went down:

    John Moore: What was your first exposure to Sweeney Todd?

    Gregg Coffin: I grew up in Maine, so my initial greeting came from hearing the cast album. Real musical theatre people get the cast album and then they run those grooves right into the wax.

    DeVotchka Sweeney Todd. John Moore


    John Moore: What did you think when you first heard that the Denver Center was not only doing Sweeney Todd, but with DeVotchKa?
     
    Gregg Coffin: I was incredibly excited because I know the wide musical berth Mr. Sondheim allows companies like ours in doing his productions. There was a production in Washington D.C. that used grunge guitars. Sondheim sent them a telegram that said: “Make it murderous.” He has a very open heart about these collaborations.

    John Moore: Has Mr. Sondheim asked to approve this new score?

    Gregg Coffin: We to have to present [the licenser] Music Theatre International with what we propose to do in the form of a printed score. But didn't know ourselves what this would really sound like until our first full orchestra rehearsal March 28.



    John Moore: What did you know of DeVotchKa then?

    Gregg Coffin: I knew they had done the music for the movie Little Miss Sunshine. That’s it. Then I met them, and we just dove in. 

    John Moore: DeVotchKa is known for collaborating with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, but they have never undertaken anything like this before. What is the one thing the DeVotchKa players most needed to know in transitioning to this musical world?

    Gregg Coffin: That the theatricality they connect with authentically in their own work is also present in what Tunick and Sondheim did originally in Sweeney Todd. It’s theatrical, and they are theatrical. Trust that authenticity.

    John Moore: What is the first thing you taught them about writing for the musical theatre?

    Gregg Coffin: The first thing we did was watch a recording from 1980 of the first national touring production under Hal Prince’s direction. It starred Angela Lansbury and George Hearn. We watched it in a conference room. I had the staff print off the piano vocal of the entire show and put it into binders for them. I think a lot of it was just them taking in what Sondheim and Tunick had done. I would tell them stuff like, “That person right there is going to be waiting for a ‘B’ to play, so someone in your nine-person pit is going to have to play it.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: Did you get any blank stares?

    Gregg Coffin: No. They are all alarmingly good musicians, and all of them had been in high school theatre. So they speak the language. And they are having so much fun.

    John Moore: But people do need to understand that this is not DeVotchKa "rewriting" the score. The notes are the same. It’s more a question of choosing which instruments are playing them, correct?

    Gregg Coffin. Sweeney Todd. John Moore. Gregg Coffin: Correct. This is Sweeney Todd, after all, and it’s going to sound very much like what Sweeney Todd sounds like. It’s not as if they just say, “We’re going to do that part with 20 banjos!” Instead, something that was written for a string section might be played here on an accordion. Or an oboe part might be played on a toy piano. Like the song “Johanna”: When you hear the Tunick score, it’s French horns and cellos, and it’s beautiful. Here, we’ve got it on a nylon string guitar, and it’s going to be beautiful, too. In the original orchestration, there has never been a guitar. There has never been a drum set. We will have a drum set, and that will be a real person sitting at a kit playing it: [DeVotchKa drummer] Shawn King.

    John Moore: What do you think the experience will be like for DeVotchKa fans?

    Gregg Coffin: I think people who come from the DeVotchKa camp will recognize and experience this band that they know and love as they interpret this classical piece of musical theatre. And DeVotchKa fans are already used to that part of it, because they play every year with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and I think they are going to be used to that kind of idea.

    John Moore: But this is DeVotchKa, so people are going to expect something of a rock element.

    Gregg Coffin: There will be moments when it rocks out, absolutely. And there will be moments that promote a completely different feel.

    John Moore: What should traditional musical theatre audiences expect?

    Gregg Coffin: I think this production of Sweeney Todd will be as eye-opening and rib-cage-opening for them as it was for them to see the 2005 Broadway revival where all of the actors played their own instruments. When it’s just Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney singing, you hear things with a nine-piece pit that you can’t hear when it’s a big, 23-person orchestra and a whole chorus singing behind you. Here I think you will be allowed to see both a simplicity and an authenticity in the work.

    John Moore: You hand the music over to your conductor, Erik Daniells, on opening night. What is that performance going to be like for you?

    Gregg Coffin: It’s going to be hard for me to have my eyes on the score because I am going to be watching the DeVotchKa players the whole time. It’s a great gift that I get to see a group of really talented musicians dare to open themselves up to another art form and flex their muscles.

    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

    No Small Parts: Gregg Coffin talks with DCPA CEO Scott Shiller:



    Sweeney Todd
    : Ticket information
  • 270x270-sweeney-toddMusic and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Book by High Wheeler (adapted by Christopher Bond); musical adaptation by DeVotchKa
  • April 8-May 15 (opens April 15)
  • StageTheatre
  • Grammy-nominated Denver band DeVotchKa takes on the legendary demon barber of Fleet Street, serving up a reinvention of Sondheim’s musical thriller. Hell-bent on revenge, Sweeney Todd takes up with his enterprising neighbor in a devilish plot to slice their way through London’s upper crust. Justice will be served — along with audacious humor and bloody good thrills.
  • Accessible performance 1:30 p.m. May 1
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of Sweeney Todd:
    Theatre Company giddily going down rabbit hole in 2015-16
    DeVotchKa frontman promises a Sweeney Todd that's 'loud and proud'
    DCPA announces DeVotchka-infused Sweeney Todd casting
    ​Where the band meets the blade: Rehearsals open
    Co-stars on bringing DeVotchKa’s fresh blood to Sondheim
    Video sneak peek with DeVotchKa
    Meet the cast: Danny Rothman
  • Time-lapse video: Watch the 'Newsies' set go up in Denver

    by John Moore | Mar 24, 2016



    John EkebergDCPA Broadway Executive Director John Ekeberg talks all things Disney's Newsies in the video above while Video Producer David Lenk shows you in time-lapse form the show's set rise into place Denver's Buell Theatre over two 8-hour days. 

    "You will see this amazing, three-story, 24-foot tower designed by Tobin Ost, which is made of steel and aluminum, that is actually 7 1/2 tons in weight," Ekeberg says. Interview by DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.

    The video below shows you the time-lapse by itself. Watch 16 hours of hard work come together in just more than a minute.

    Another look: Just the time-lapse:


    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Disney's Newsies: Ticket information

  • Through April 9 at the Buell Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • TTY: 303-893-9582
  • Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
  • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at DenverCenter.Org.
  •  Kids' Night on Broadway, Talkback with the Company: 7:30 p.m. March 24
  • Accessibility performance: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. April 3

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of Disney's Newsies:
    Extra! Read all bout Denver's real Newsies past
    Michael Gorman: The Oldsie of Newsies returns to Denver
    Stephen Hernandez: Dancer's paper trail runs from Wyoming to Newsies
    Photos: Newsies' Fansies hawk some papes around Denver
    Try our Newsies crossword puzzle

    Newsies set load-InThe early stages of the set load-in at the Buell Theatre in Denver on Tuesday. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. The photo below shows a little of how the set looks when it is completed. Photo by Deen van Meer.

    Newsies set load-In
  • Extra, Extra! A look back at Denver's own 'Newsies' past

    by John Moore | Mar 16, 2016
    Denver Newsboys Newsies
    A group of children, probably delivery boys and girls, pose outside of The Denver Post on 16th Street sometime between 1890 and 1910. A sign reads: “The Denver Post, Every Day in the Year.” Photo by Harry H. Buckwalter reprinted with permission of the Denver Public Library.


    If not for the spunky street urchins who peddled papers on Denver’s street corners in the early 20th century, Mile High Stadium might not be named after the Sports Authority retail giant today.

    Nathan Gart, patriarch of the Gart Brothers sporting-goods empire that has since morphed into Sports Authority, was an entrepreneurial Denver Post newsboy who owned the corner of 16th and Lawrence streets. He learned at age 12 how profitable it could be to buy watches and rings from his regular customers, mark them up and re-sell them. He opened his first store in 1928 selling fishing rods with $500 he saved from hawking one screaming headline at a time.

    Denver Newsboys NewsiesGart is just one notable character in the colorful history of Denver’s newsboys, whose plight was positively Dickensian. In 1901, The Denver Times claimed that most newsboys, almost all of whom were orphans, cripples or runaways, made 10 to 15 cents a day selling papers they sold for a nickel. The newsies looked on one particular boy who made 40 cents a day as “a bloated aristocrat,” the paper reported.

    America’s most famous champion of newsboys was Horatio Alger, whose stories presented newsboys as exploited young heroes who succeeded through a mixture of pluck and luck. That is until Disney released Newsies, the 1992 musical film that introduced Christian Bale. The story, inspired by the real-life New York newsboys strike of 1899, was made into a Broadway musical in 2012 with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein.

    But if legend is to be believed, Denver’s newsboys were
    a much tougher lot than those striking, high-stepping New Yorkers.

    Benny Bee, a crackerjack Denver Post newsboy in his time, was arrested while visiting New York and charged with “disturbing the peace and tranquility of Manhattan,” according to Bill Hosokawa’s history of The Denver Post, Thunder in the Rockies. His crime? “Demonstrating to New York newsboys how papers were sold in Denver.”
     
    (Photo above right: A portrait of Tom Payne, a Denver Post newspaper delivery boy, taken sometime between 1900 and 1920. Photo reprinted with permission of the Denver Public Library.)


    Benny Bee reportedly introduced the profitable practice of “bootjacking” to his Big Apple counterparts. That’s when newsboys would mix in outdated editions of the daily paper with those that were hot off the presses and sell them to unsuspecting customers as the latest news.

    Check out more Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    This was at a time when apocalyptic shouts of “Extra! Extra!” were ubiquitous on Denver street corners. Extras were special mid-day updates to the daily newspaper that would trumpet breaking and often trumped-up news scoops. According to Hosokawa’s book, Denver’s five competing daily newspapers would issue an “extra” at the least provocation, sometimes several times a day. Burning oil fields, the bubonic plague or stolen babies were all handy tools to help newsboys sell more papers. But as soon as any new edition was printed, hundreds of now dated editions were relegated to the trash heap. Until bootjacking.  

    Newsies Harry Tammen Quote

    The decade after World War I was a time when newspapers were Americans’ only source of reasonably real information. TV was unknown and radio was still a novelty. This was the golden era of yellow journalism, and Denver’s dailies were quick to embellish any story or stoke any flame to sell more papers. In the 1890s, The Denver Post’s downtown office became known as “The Bucket of Blood.”

    It may have been a period of contemptible journalism, but it also was the best show in town. The Post, co-founded by Frederick Bonfils and Harry Tammen, once hired comedian Charley Murray to jump off its 12-story building. A crowd of 25,000 gathered to watch what turned out to be a dummy thrown off the roof. Tammen’s mantra: “The public not only likes to be fooled — it insists upon it.”

    And newsboys were part of the show — literally. They regularly got together and staged corner minstrel shows for spare change.

    Denver’s newsboy tradition dates back to 1870, when young carriers would deliver copies of the Rocky Mountain News on horseback to houses that were considered far out on the prairie in those days — we’re talking what is now 7th Avenue and Broadway.

    “More than once, herds of antelope sped out of my way as I rode out,” Theodore De Harport once said of his earliest newsboy days.   

    On Oct. 14, 1925, Denver Mayor Benjamin Stapleton signed an ordinance making it illegal for newsboys to sell papers on the street. Newsboys over age 12 — “and newsgirls over 21” — would be permitted to sell papers, but only with a free license. And the practice of calling out headlines was made a criminal offense.
     
    In a 1959 retrospective, the Rocky Mountain News interviewed Edward J. Keating, presiding judge of Denver’s District Courts, about his days as a newspaperboy 35 years earlier. He claimed “the majority of judges in Denver and Colorado courts today earned their first dollars toward their educations by delivering newspapers.” Keating used his earnings to pay his tuition at Denver's Cathedral High School, which he parlayed into a college scholarship.
     
    “The newspaperboy of today has raised his work to such a high level of respect,” he said, “it has become a mark of pride for every prominent businessman and civic leader who can link his early career with the profession.”

    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

    Special thanks to Brian Trembath of the Denver Public Library.

    Disney's Newsies Photos from the national touring production of Disney's 'Newsies.' Photos by Deen van Meer.


    Disney's Newsies: Ticket information

  • March 23-April 9 at the Buell Theatre
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • TTY: 303-893-9582
  • Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
  • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at DenverCenter.Org.
  •  Kids' Night on Broadway, Talkback with the Company: 7:30 p.m. March 24
  • Accessibility performance: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. April 3

  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of Disney's Newsies:
    Michael Gorman: The Oldsie of Newsies returns to Denver
    Stephen Hernandez: Dancer's paper trail runs from Wyoming to Newsies
    Try our Newsies crossword puzzle

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    ABOUT THE EDITOR
    John Moore
    John Moore
    Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

    DCPA is the nation’s largest not-for-profit theatre organization dedicated to creating unforgettable shared experiences through beloved Broadway musicals, world-class plays, educational programs and inspired events. We think of theatre as a spark of life — a special occasion that’s exciting, powerful and fun. Join us today and we promise an experience you won't soon forget.