• Dirty Dancing: The Time of Your Life

    by NewsCenter Staff | Jan 15, 2016
    Dirty DancingChristopher Tierney and Gillian Abbott star in the national touring production of "Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage." Photo by Matthew Murphy.


    In August 1987, every teenage girl in America had a crush on the same actor — Patrick Swayze. His portrayal of Johnny Castle in the hit film Dirty Dancing catapulted him to superstardom. Johnny was from the wrong side of the tracks, but he had a heart of gold (and, let’s face it, he could move).

    Enter Frances “Baby” Houseman, on vacation with her overprotective parents and annoying older sister at Kellerman’s, a lavish vacation resort.

    “That was the summer of 1963. When everybody called me ‘Baby’ and it didn’t occur to me to mind. That was before President Kennedy got shot, before the Beatles came, when I couldn’t wait to join the Peace Corps and I thought I’d never find a guy as great as my dad. That was the summer we went to Kellerman’s,” says Baby at the opening of the movie-turned-stage musical.

    Introduce one idealistic, sheltered teenager to an older, experienced dance instructor and you’ve got the sizzle of fireworks that tests loyalty, questions worthiness and sparks passion in audiences across the nation.   

    There’s just something about the story that doesn’t quite go away. In fact, ABC announced in December that it will film a three-hour adaptation of the movie for network broadcast starring Abigail Breslin. Perhaps it’s the “diamond in the rough” story of Johnny or the “coming-of-age” plot of Baby. Or it may be that soundtrack. Winner of a Golden Globe, Academy Award and Grammy, the soundtrack has sold more than 44 million copies and, in addition to number one hits from the 1960’s, includes such songs as “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” “Hungry Eyes” and “She’s Like the Wind.”

    Now the national touring production of Dirty Dancing  - The Classic Story on Stage comes to the Buell Theatre from Jan. 26-31.

    In fact, the music served as the backbone of the original script development. Scriptwriter Eleanor Bergstein selected the songs she wanted to use and then wrote the story against them. She wanted the music to function as the soundtrack of the story and of the characters’ hearts.

    It may be nearly 30 years later, but we’re all sure to await that singular moment at the end of the musical when Baby flies atop Johnny’s arms, asserting her love, her loyalty and her independence.

    Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story On Stage
    Click the forward arrow to see more production photos by Matthew Murphy.


    Dirty Dancing  —  The Classic Story on Stage

    Jan 26-31
    Buell Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Groups: 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, Audio described and open-captioned performance: 2 p.m. Jan. 30

  • Katie Phipps makes her 'A Christmas Story The Musical' debut

    by John Moore | Dec 23, 2015
    Kaden Hinkle and Katie Phipps, two young but seasoned Denver stage professionals, were chosen from a local audition to perform as part of the ensemble while the national touring production of A Christmas Story, The Musical plays The Buell Theatre.

    In the video above, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore and Video Producer David Lenk followed Katie in the hour before she made her big entrance, through her actual appearance on the Buell Theatre stage on Dec. 22. Includes comments from young castmate Caroline Howard.

    Watch Kaden Hinkle's opening night video

    Kaden's week with the show is over. Phipps, 11, performs from Dec. 22-27 (the matinee performance only on Dec 27; no appearance on Christmas Eve).



    Katie Phipps runs through a number in the dressing room just before appearing in 'A Christmas Story, The Musical' for the first time. Photo by John Moore. More photos below.


    A Christmas Story, The Musical: Ticket information

  • Performances through Dec. 27
  • Buell Theatre
  • 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.
  • More new photos from A Christmas Story, The Musical in Denver:

    'A Christmas Story' in Denver


    Previous NewsCenter coverage of A Christmas Story, The Musical:

    Video: Denver friends wish Katie and Kaden well
    Denver, meet your Ralphie Parker
    Two young local actors join tour in Denver
    Video highlights from the show

  • Kaden Hinkle makes his 'A Christmas Story The Musical' debut

    by John Moore | Dec 22, 2015


    Kaden Hinkle and Katie Phipps, two young but seasoned Denver stage professionals, were chosen from a local audition to perform as part of the ensemble while the national touring production of A Christmas Story, The Musical plays The Buell Theatre.

    In the video above, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore and Video Producer David Lenk followed Kaden in the hour before he made his big entrance, through his actual appearance on the Buell Theatre stage. The segment includes comments from castmates Christian Dell’Edera (Flick) and Seth Judice (Grover Dill).

    Kaden's week with the show is now over. Now Phipps, 11, performs from Dec. 22-27 (the matinee performance only on Dec 27; no appearance on Christmas Eve).

    Kaden Hinkle runs through a number in the dressing room just before appearing in 'A Christmas Story, The Musical' for the first time. Photo by John Moore.
    Kaden Hinkle runs through a number in the dressing room just before appearing in 'A Christmas Story, The Musical' for the first time. Photo by John Moore. More photos below.


    A Christmas Story, The Musical: Ticket information

  • Performances through Dec. 27
  • Buell Theatre
  • 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.
  • More new photos from A Christmas Story, The Musical in Denver:
    'A Christmas Story' in Denver 

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of A Christmas Story, The Musical:
    Video: Denver friends wish Katie and Kaden well
    Denver, meet your Ralphie Parker
    Two young local actors join tour in Denver
    Video highlights from the show

  • Best Wishes Kaden and Katie in 'A Christmas Story, The Musical'

    by John Moore | Dec 18, 2015


    Kaden Hinkle and Katie Phipps, two young but seasoned Denver stage professionals, were chosen from a local audition to perform as part of the ensemble while the national touring production of A Christmas Story, The Musical plays The Buell Theatre in Denver. Hinkle, 12, will perform from Dec. 18-21. Phipps, 11, will perform from  Dec. 22-27 (the matinee performance only on Dec 27; no appearance on Christmas Eve).

    In the video above, friends from previous productions wish the pair well. Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Katie Phipps and Kaden Hinkle Phipps and Hinkle have previously performed together twice on metro stages. They both appeared in the Arvada Center's 2013 holiday production of A Christmas Carol, and just recently they played siblings Jane and Michael Banks in Mary Poppins for BDT Stage.  

    Guests on our video include cast members from the DCPA Theatre Comany's A Christmas Carol (through Dec. 27), and BDT Stage's current staging of The Addams Family (through Feb. 27). Also: Ben Dicke and his wife, Emily, offer a song of support. Dicke directed and starred in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at the Aurora Fox; Hinkle played Jackson's son.

    A Christmas Story, The Musical, which played on Broadway in 2012, follows young and bespectacled Ralphie Parker as he schemes his way toward the holiday gift of his dreams, an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle (“You’ll shoot your eye out kid!”).



    Video on the casting of Katie Phipps and Kaden Hinkle by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    A Christmas Story, The Musical: Ticket information

  • Performances through Dec. 27
  • Buell Theatre
  • 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.
  • Previous NewsCenter coverage of A Christmas Story, The Musical:
    Denver, meet your Ralphie Parker
    Two young local actors join tour in Denver
    Video highlights from the show

    BDT Stage The Addams Family
  • Go backstage for a tour of 'The Lion King' costumes in Denver

    by John Moore | Nov 20, 2015


    How do the actors in Disney's The Lion King negotiate the 220 costumes that are used in every performance? With a lot of help!

    The Lion King Assistant Wardrobe Supervisor Gretchen Heidenreich. Photo by John Moore. We went backstage at the Buell Theatre during the the national touring production's latest Denver stop to learn more. Our guests are Assistant Wardrobe Supervisor Gretchen Heidenreich and ensemble dancer/singer Amyia Burrell, who has 10 costumes and 14 costume changes in every performance.

    When you add in understudies, the tour travels with as many as 450 costumes. Disney's "The Lion King" is visiting Denver through Nov. 29 (Photo at right: 'The Lion King' Assistant Wardrobe Supervisor Gretchen Heidenreich backstage at the Buell Theatre. Photo by John Moore.)

    Video: Meet The Lion King Puppet Master in Denver

    Video: Go backstage with The Lion King in Denver

    Remaining seats for the Denver run of The Lion King are very limited (information below), but Disney's next brings Broadway to Denver when Newsies visits The Buell Theatre from March 23 through April 9, 2016.

    Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. To download any photo, click "View original Flickr image."


    Disney’s The Lion King: Ticket information

  • Through Nov. 29 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.
  • Accessibility performance: 2 p.m. Nov. 28

  • Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for Disney's 'The Lion King.'

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Lion King:
    Gareth Saxe's Lion King homecoming
    For South Africans, Pride Lands are the land of opportunity 
    Circle of Life: The Lion King tour returns to Denver birthplace
    Technical director David Bencken on hanging 12 tons of equipment
    Original The Lion King orchestra member plays 15 different flutes
    Official show page

  • Video: Go backstage with 'The Lion King' in Denver

    by John Moore | Nov 19, 2015


    We went backstage to gain some insight into how the many mammoth set pieces come and go in the national touring production of Disney's The Lion King, which is performing in Denver through Nov. 29 at the Buell Theatre.

    The Lion King, Matthew Shiner. Our guest is Production Stage Manager Matthew Shiner, who explains the backstage choreography that is required to make signature effects like Pride Rock come to life. There are more than 10 tons of equipment that hang from backstage grids.

    Look for an additional video in the coming days showing our tour of the backstage costumes. (Photo at right: Production stage Manager Matthew Shiner. Photo by John Moore.)

    Video: Meet The Lion King Puppet Master in Denver

    Go backstage for a tour of The Lion King costumes in Denver

    Remaining seats for the Denver run of The Lion King are very limited (information below), but Disney's next brings Broadway to Denver when Newsies visits The Buell Theatre from March 23 through April 9, 2016.

    Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. To download any photo, click "View original Flickr image."


    Disney’s The Lion King: Ticket information

  • Through Nov. 29 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.
  • Accessibility performance: 2 p.m. Nov. 28

  • Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for Disney's 'The Lion King.'

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Lion King:
    Gareth Saxe's Lion King homecoming
    For South Africans, Pride Lands are the land of opportunity 
    Circle of Life: The Lion King tour returns to Denver birthplace
    Technical director David Bencken on hanging 12 tons of equipment
    Original The Lion King orchestra member plays 15 different flutes
    Official show page

  • Video: The 'If/Then' interview series from Denver

    by John Moore | Nov 19, 2015

    David Stone, If/Then. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenterPart 7 of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' interview series with the cast and creative team from the Broadway musical "If/Then," which launched its first national tour in Denver in October 2015 and starred Broadway headliners Idina Menzel, LaChanze, Anthony Rapp and James Snyder.

    Next up: Producer David Stone, whose credits include "Wicked" and "Next to Normal," talks about what he feels is his obligation to develop challenging and risky new musicals for the American theatre. Stone said it was encouragement from late DCPA President Randy Weeks that planted the seeds for an If/Then national tour, which he had not been planning. He said his success has made developing new work for the American theatre his obligation. 

    "I think Wicked has given me a gift," he said, "and I have to repay that gift (by working) with living, breathing writers on new work.”

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    If/Then played in Denver from Oct. 13-25.

    (Photo above right: David Stone hosted a conversation in Denver with 'Razzle Dazzle' author Michael Riedel. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter)

    Read our complete interview with David Stone


    The video series to date:
    Part 1: The cast talks about The Tour Reunion
    Part 2: Is The Butterfly Effect a real thing?
    Part 3: Favorite line or lyric
    Part 4: On writing original music for Idina Menzel
    Part 5: Mark, Maureen and Michael (Greif): The Rent reunion
    Part 6: Cast: Final thoughts from Denver
    Part 7: Final thoughts from Producer David Stone
    Bonus: Our Opening Night video from Denver

    Bonus: Our Opening Night Photo Gallery:

    To download any photo for free, in a variety of available sizes, click "View original Flickr image." All photos by Emily Lozow and John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.



    Our previous NewsCenter coverage of If/Then and Idina Menzel:

    SCFD
  • Meet 'The Lion King' Puppet Masters in Denver

    by John Moore | Nov 16, 2015


    We went backstage to learn how some of the 230 puppets come to life in the national touring production of Disney's The Lion King, which is performing in Denver through Nov. 29 at the Buell Theatre.

    Puppet Master Michael Reilly and Scar from 'The Lion King.' Photo by John Moore. Our guests include Puppet Master Michael Reilly and actor Drew Hirshfield, who explains what makes the persnickety red-billed hornbill Zazu tick. And flap, and talk, and blink those beady eyes.

    The puppets range in size from a mouse to an elephant. Each one is inspected before every show.

    Hirshfield talks about what creator Julie Taymor calls the "double event," which means allowing the audience to see openly both puppet and puppeteer. "You can look back and forth between the puppet and the performer operating the puppet and notice that they are both having the same experience," said Hirshfield, who has been playing Zazu for about a year. "There is a magic in that, because you see the mechanics. You can see that it's actually just a bird made of wood and paper and glue. But it comes alive through a connection with the actors."

    (Photo above right: Puppet Master Michael Reilly with the Scar mask from 'The Lion King.')

    Remaining seats for the Denver run of The Lion King are very limited (information below), but Disney's next brings Broadway to Denver when Newsies visits The Buell Theatre from March 23 through April 9, 2016.

    Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    Video: Go backstage to see how the set pieces work

    Go backstage for a tour of The Lion King costumes in Denver


    Photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter. To download any photo, click "View original Flickr image."


    Disney’s The Lion King: Ticket information

  • Through Nov. 29 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.
  • Accessibility performance: 2 p.m. Nov. 28

  • Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for Disney's 'The Lion King.'

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Lion King:
    Gareth Saxe's Lion King homecoming
    For South Africans, Pride Lands are the land of opportunity 
    Circle of Life: The Lion King tour returns to Denver birthplace
    Technical director David Bencken on hanging 12 tons of equipment
    Original The Lion King orchestra member plays 15 different flutes
    Official show page

    'The Lion King' Puppet Master Michael Reilly and actor Drew Hirschfield (Zazu). Photo by John Moore.
    'The Lion King' Puppet Master Michael Reilly and actor Drew Hirshfield (Zazu). Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • CSU grad David Benken is the pride of Pride Rock

    by John Moore | Nov 02, 2015


    Technical Director David Benken has been fitting 'The Lion King' into theatres all over North America for 20 years. Photo by Joan Marcus.



    David Benken takes understandable pride in Pride Rock.

    Benken, who graduated from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, will celebrate his 20th year as Technical Director for The Lion King in 2016. In a career spanning more than 50 Broadway and international productions, he counts among his greatest accomplishments solving how to take that iconic moment when Pride Rock rises up from the Broadway stage – and recreate it out on the road, where no two theatres are alike.

    The Lion King left home in 2002, launching its first national touring production in Denver. Benken faced a litany of technical challenges making the then-record $15 million Broadway spectacle road-ready. Not because Denver’s massive Buell Theatre – larger on and off stage than most Broadway theatres – presented any of its own spatial challenges. Because other theaters would be much smaller. When you go on the road, you actually have to plan your entire tour to accommodate your smallest theatre.

    Most theaters, for example, would not have room under the stage for Pride Rock to rise up from underneath, as it does on Broadway. Basements don't exist that are deep enough to accommodate it, Benken said.

    And compromise was not an option.

    “The idea was that if you are going to do a tour, you are going give people on the road the same show that you gave them on Broadway,” Benken said. “And that was fairly radical for its time. Back then, there were some seriously reduced versions of shows going out on the road.”

    Not The Lion King.

    Lion King Quote David Benken

    “We were not going to give people some pared-down version of The Lion King," Benken said. "We were going to give them the whole thing. And we did. I think the national tour that started in Denver set a very high bar for all shows after it.”

    Benken began adapting the Broadway version of The Lion King for the road more than two years before it opened in Denver. His revised technical plans were due 16 months before the show opened here in April 2002.

    After several months and several attempts, the design team hit on the solution: Pride Rock, itself an 18-foot set piece, would not ascend from below. Rather it would slither onto the stage and slowly rise as Simba and his father climb to its top.

    “From a technical standpoint, the effect is actually much more complicated on the road than it is in New York,” Benken said. “For Broadway, we just built a staircase on top of an elevator. Except for building the elevator, that was pretty easy.”

    And by creating new circular movements, this solution, Benken said, further enhances Director Julie Taymor’s original vision that everything should come back to central theme of a "Circle of Life."

    “I think the solution we came up with in Denver worked out quite well, and it is used all over the world now,” he said.

    The unseen part of this story is what happens when Pride Rock has to slither back off the stage.

    “This 18-foot set piece has to be able to collapse down to about 7 feet because in most theatres, there is just no room to store something that big in the wings,” Benken said. “That’s technically the most complicated and impressive part of the whole Pride Rock technical design -- and no one ever sees it." 

    That is just for starters. The Lion King is a show with 500 lighting cues, 100 sound speakers, dozens of puppets and set pieces, and 60 automated effects. It requires a lot of heavy equipment to make them run like they should. A lot. And because space is always  the primary obstacle, Benken simply hangs most of that equipment in the air.

    “We have literally 10 or 12 tons of equipment up there,” he said. "The funny thing is the theatre in Denver (The Buell) had plenty of space on the sides to accommodate it, but the problem is we knoew we would soon be moving on to much smaller spaces. So on both sides of the stage, we hung a 28-foot by 4-foot truss that contained all of the automation control panels, all the dimmers for the lighting, and the consoles for all the sound amplifiers."

    “All told, including scenery, The Lion King actually hangs more than 100 tons of equipment from the ceiling.

    "So whenever we go to a new theatre," Benken said, "one of the biggest questions always has to do with the grids: 'How much weight they can handle?' Because we definitely push it.

    But he promises he has never taken a ceiling down.

    “No, and I don’t intend to start now,” he said with a laugh.

    Lion King Quote David Benken

    From theater to computers and back

    Benken learned about theatrical lighting in high school back in Cincinnati, but he went to college in Fort Collins to learn computers instead. But given how computerized technical theatre has become, "one very much informed the other," he said, and after graduation, he was hired as the Technical Director at the Lexington Opera House in Kentucky. He was lured back to Colorado to work for Hewlett Packard and US West as a computer programmer.

    He found his true calling in the theater in 1996 when he was hired to work on The Lion King, which would open on Broadway the next year. Benken’s credits have since included the Denver-born The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins, The History Boys, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Boy from Oz. Cirque du Soleil, and the upcoming Misery, opening Nov. 15 on Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and Bruce Willis in starring roles.

    The bulk of Benken’s work as a Technical Director is getting a show up and running, or, in the case of a tour, out the door. From there, he continues to supervise all personnel and technical matters from a distance, usually while working on other projects. That means he doesn’t visit the show every tour stop, even though it takes five full days to load the show into any new city it visits. With The Lion King's fourth Denver stop opening Nov. 4, there is no pressing need for him to be here. But he was certainly here in 2002 when The Lion King national tour launched, and he will never forget it.

    “It was so exciting for everybody. You could feel it with the stagehands. There is that opening night lift you get when the audience sees your show for the first time. It’s why theatre is so wonderful from my point of view. You have just spent six or seven weeks in the theatre working 8 a.m. to till midnight most days, and it all pays off when you hear the response from that first live audience.

    “And the response from Denver audiences was just phenomenal. People really loved it. Standing ovations, the applause, everything. It was pretty amazing.  After the show opened, everyone was looking for tickets.

    “You could definitely feel that this was something special for Denver. It was definitely special for us.”


    Disney’s The Lion King

  • Nov 4-29 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.
  • Accessibility performance: 2 p.m. Nov. 28

  • Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – is the only authorized online ticket provider for Disney's 'The Lion King.'

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Lion King:
    Circle of Life: The Lion King tour returns to Denver birthplace
    Original The Lion King orchestra member plays 15

    Official show page
  • 'If/Then': How the set was installed for Denver launch

    by John Moore | Oct 06, 2015
    Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    We previously showed you our time-lapse video showing how crews over four days installed the set for the launch of the national touring production of If/Then at The Buell If/Then load-in. Photo by John Moore. Theatre in Denver.

    Here, Production Technical Supervisor Jake Bell talks about the particular challenges of readying the set not only for Denver, but for theatres of various sizes throughout the country. One thing that is new to this particular production is a wall of video that is used in the show. "We did not use the video element in New York," Bell said.

    If Then, by the creators of Next to Normal, follows two distinct storylines in the life of Elizabeth, a modern woman who woman faces the intersection of choice and chance. It plays in Denver from Oct. 13-15.

      If/Then load-in. Photo by John Moore.

    Photo by John Moore.

    If/Then:
    Ticket information
    Oct. 13-25
    At the Buell Theatre
    Call 303-893-4100, buy in person at the Denver Center Ticket Office located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby, or BUY ONLINE
    ASL interpreted, Audio described & Open captioned performance: 2 p.m. Oct 25,
    Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    (Please be advised that the DCPA's web site at denvercenter.org is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for 'If/Then' performances in Denver)



    Our previous NewsCenter coverage of If/Then and Idina Menzel:

    Look for additional coverage of If/Then, including our expanded interviews with Idina Menzel, LaChanze, David Stone, Brian Yorkey, Tom Kitt and other members of the cast and crew, at denvercenter.org/news-center


    More photos of If/Then in Denver:


    All photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

  • 'The Book of Mormon' breaks another Denver record

    by NewsCenter Staff | Sep 14, 2015
    'The Book of Mormon' Company. Photo by Joan Marcus.
    The Book of Mormon national touring production completed its third visit to Denver on Sunday. Photo by Joan Marcus.

    The national touring production of The Book of Mormon has broken its own house record in Denver for the week ending Sept. 13 at the Ellie. The production, which completed its third visit to Denver in three years on Sunday, grossed $1,585,945 for a standard eight-performance week. The Book of Mormon first broke the record the week of Aug. 16, 2015.

    The various national The Book of Mormon tours have broken 86 house records in 44 venues across the country.  At Broadway’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre, The Book of Mormon has broken the house record 50 times.

    The Book of Mormon
    broke house records during the last Denver engagement in 2013 and currently holds the all-time record at The Buell Theatre for the highest weekly gross (for an eight-show performance week) for the week ending Nov. 24, 2013, during which the show grossed $1,993,690.

    In addition, The Book of Mormon currently holds the all-time single ticket on-sale record for the DCPA with more than 38,000 tickets sold on June 10, 2013. The record was previously held by the 2012 on-sale for the national tour launch in Denver. 


    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of The Book of Mormon:
    Gabe Gibbs' anthem day with the Denver Broncos
    Q&A with The Book of Mormon creators
    Announcing the daily Book of Mormon ticket lottery
    The Book of Mormon breaks all-time Buell box-office record

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is a not-for-profit organization.

     


  • 'Matilda': Meet the man behind the worst woman in the world

    by John Moore | Sep 08, 2015

    Matilda The Musical


    Miss Trunchbull is such a legendarily loathsome teacher, the late author Roald Dahl himself described the beastly woman as "a gigantic holy terror; a fierce, tyrannical monster who frightened the life out of pupils and teachers alike.”

    So what does it say about Bryce Ryness that when an actor pal saw the new Broadway stage adaptation of Matilda the Musical on Broadway, he immediately thought Miss Trunchbull was a role Ryness was born to play one day?

    Bryce Ryness“Hey, that’s a really good question!” Ryness said with a laugh. It’s a funny question because Ryness is an affable father of three who would not seem to conjure immediate comparisons to the most horrible head mistress in literary history.

    Miss Trunchbull is the antagonist in Dahl’s modern children’s classic Matilda, the story of an extraordinary little girl who decides her story is going to be an astonishing one despite rotten parents, a terrifying school and a vicious head mistress. It was adapted into a popular stage musical by the Royal Shakespeare Company that last week celebrated its 1,000th performance on Broadway. A new national touring production featuring Ryness as the aforementioned Miss Trunchbull visits Denver from Sept. 9-20 at the Buell Theatre.

    “It is so much fun to be in a position where I have the freedom and even the mandate from the creative staff to be funny and terrifying,” Ryness said.

    It was Kristoffer Cusick, Ryness’ castmate in the 2013 Broadway musical First Date, who encouraged Ryness to audition for the role.

    Bryce Ryness stars in the national tour of 'Matilda The Musical' as Miss Trunchbull.I think what Kristoffer probably saw was this character who has to be really intense and able to execute a joke,” Ryness said. “I am a pretty intense guy, and I am also able to run head-first into a joke. I am fearless in that regard. I tend to gravitate toward characters who say ridiculous things, but they have no idea that they are being funny.”

    Like when Matilda calls Miss Trunchbull a big, fat bully, and Miss Trunchbull responds: "You ought to be in prison. The deepest, dankest, darkest prison.”

    “I mean, come on!” Ryness said with laugh. “A 5-year-old should be in prison? That's ridiculous. But what makes it comical and what makes it scintillating and interesting for an audience is that the character is not joking.”

    On any given performance of Matilda the Musical, the collective audience reaction to Miss Trunchbull might be laugh-out-loud funny. At other times, viewers might recoil with uncomfortable stoicism. Either reaction is fine with Ryness, as well as his director, Matthew Warchus.

    “Mark told me, ‘Listen, if you go through this entire show and you are terrifying, that's totally OK. On the flip side, if you go through this show and you are very funny and only sort of terrifying, that's OK, too.' The primary challenge with this character is that she must not come across as a panto (or stock) character. They like to hire actors to do this role, not clowns. It just so happens that the role is perceived of as hilarious. But I am not setting out to make people laugh. So it's not slapstick or Borscht Belt or a Seth Rogen kind of comedy.”

    In order to play Miss Trunchbull meaningfully, Ryness needs to play her as a real, three-dimensional human being. Something awful must have turned innocent young Agatha into the feared Miss Trunchbull. And it's a doozy.

    “Part of the Matilda the Musical lore is that the story Matilda tells in the show is not just some fiction," Ryness said. "It's actually Miss Trunchbull’s childhood she’s talking about. And it goes that little Agatha grows up in the shadows of this sister who was a beautiful and brilliant acrobat in a circus family. But wherever Agatha goes, she is laughed at because she looks ridiculous. She's this massive creature who is mercilessly harangued by kids everywhere she goes.

    “But she finds, finally, the one place that she fits in, and the one thing in her life that she is actually good at - which is throwing the hammer. And so she takes all of that energy that she used to use to defend and protect herself, and she dives into discipline and training - and she wins. She is the hammer-throwing champion of 1969. And what do ex-Olympic athletes do? She becomes the phys-ed teacher at this school called Crunchem Hall. And over time, she becomes the Head Mistress. And her task is to right all of the wrongs that were levied against her when she was a little kid.”

    'Being scared is part of the human experience'

    Matilda The Musical may be a quintessentially British musical. But no matter how British the name sounds, Bryce Ryness is actually an All-American Boy from Danville, Calif. He grew up with aspirations of playing catcher on a major-league team until a broken finger made baseball’s loss theatre’s gain. At 34, Ryness already has four Broadway credits: Legally Blonde, Hair, Leap of Faith and First Date.

    He has a unique perspective on Matilda, given that he has three children under age 6. He knows that Roald Dahl became one of the world's most revered storytellers for children because of his affinity for unsentimental and dark humor (James and the Giant Peach, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)

    Ryness is aware some parents might naturally feel some trepidation about taking their kids to see Matilda The Musical if it might possibly frighten them. Ryness actually believes that is all the more reason to take them.

    “Being scared is part of the human experience,” he said. “That has never changed. I believe as a parent that we shouldn't run away from fear, and I don’t think we should shelter our kids from fear. Whatever scares our kids should be talked about.”

    Ryness’ kids are age 5 1/2, 4 and 18 months. The oldest celebrated her 5th birthday watching Matilda the Musical on Broadway. Later, when the tour opened earlier this year in Los Angeles, she brought her brother to see their father’s debut as Miss Trunchbull together.

    “They had been briefed, and they had listened to the cast recording, so they knew what they were getting into,” Ryness said. “My daughter totally took it in stride. She loved every second of it. What was interesting was that there were a few moments when my son was a little bit scared, but what was actually frightening to him were the lights and the sound. It wasn't the story. It wasn't seeing his father playing this tyrannical monster who is going around terrorizing these kids.

    “But I think that’s what Roald Dahl, as well as the creative people who crafted this piece, do so well: There is just enough humor that for every moment that could be terrifying, it never gets out of control. There’s a safety.

    Matilda the Musical is an excellently told story. It's theatre of the highest quality in terms of its composition, in terms of its formatting, and in terms of its execution. So if people are scared, or if kids are frightened for a moment, just know that will turn into satisfaction and joy. What is that line from Lord of the Rings where Sam is trying to encourage Frodo to keep going? He says, 'You actually want it to be hard, because it makes the end more satisfying.' For good storytelling, and a good, satisfying piece of theatre, you want the bad guys to be bad, so that when the good guys win, it is so much more satisfying.”

    “I am of the school that says the villain defines the hero,” he said. “And if you are laughing at the villain, the hero does not need to have as much substance. If I do a good job, then you are really satisfied when Matilda wins."

    Ryness suggested that parents use this pop culture icon as a litmus test: If you have shown the movie Star Wars Episode 4, A New Hope to your kids, he said, you can take them to Matilda the Musical.

    “I don't think anything that goes on on-stage is any more terrifying than anything that you would see in that movie," he said. "The character of Darth Vader … the fact that Obi-Wan Kenobi is killed right in front of you? There is nothing we do on-stage that is any more terrifying than what you see in that film.”

    And nothing has been more terrifying to Ryness than stepping into a woman's boots.

    "I definitely have a new empathy for anyone who is overweight  ... and for women with enormous breasts," he said. "I mean, anything that leads us toward more compassion is a good thing, isn't it?" 

    Matilda The Musical: Ticket information in Denver
    Performing Sept. 9-20
    At The Buell Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100, 800-641-1222 or  BUY ONLINE
    Kids Night on Broadway: 6:30 p.m., Sept. 10
    Accessibility performance: 2 p.m., Sept. 20

    Bonus: How do you say it?

    Bryce Ryness has a tip for how to correctly pronounce the author who wrote Matilda, Roald Dahl. Says Ryness: "You know how you can pronounce it and sound really cool? Think of it as R-O-L-L-E-D. As in, 'I rolled it down the hill.' "

    Bryce Ryness stars in the national tour of 'Matilda The Musical' as Miss Trunchbull, the evil, sadistic headmistress of the school Matilda's ridiculously boorish parents force her to attend. (Photo courtesy Matilda The Musical.)
    Bryce Ryness stars in the national tour of "Matilda The Musical" as Miss Trunchbull, the evil, sadistic headmistress of the school Matilda's ridiculously boorish parents force her to attend. (Photo courtesy Matilda The Musical.) 

  • Q&A with 'The Book of Mormon' creators

    by John Moore | Jul 15, 2015

    'The Book of Mormon' Company. Photo by Joan Marcus.
    'The Book of Mormon' Company. Photo by Joan Marcus.


    The Book of Mormon
    returns to Denver Aug. 11 through Sept. 13. Here is a Q&A with creators Trey Parker, Bobby Lopez and Matt Stone answering frequently asked questions: 

    Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Book of Mormon?

    Trey Parker: Matt and I went to see Avenue Q when it opened in 2003, and we were like, "Wow, this is actually really good." When it was over I was thinking, "This is exactly the kind of thing I’ve always dreamed about doing."

    Matt Stone: During intermission, we saw that we were thanked in the Playbill. "Well," we thought, "that's weird."

    Bobby Lopez: That's because I saw the South Park movie when it open in 1999, and I just thought, "Oh my God, this is exactly what I want to be doing." A week after that, the idea came to me for Avenue Q.

    Trey Parker: It happened purely by coincidence that Bobby showed up that night. He introduced himself and we went across the street for a drink.

    Matt Stone: Bobby is younger than Trey and me, so he looked at us like elder statesman and asked what he should do next. We asked, “What did he want to do?” And he said, "I want to write something about Joseph Smith and the Mormons."

    Bobby Lopez: When I said Joseph Smith, they were like, "We’ve wanted to do that, too!" They had it in their heads to do some kind of Joseph Smith musical, but never did. I said, "If you guys want to do that, that’s fine, because I’d really love to see what you do, more than what I would do."

    Trey Parker: It just became ridiculously obvious that we should team up and do something about Mormons. So we said, "No, let’s do it together."

    Q: What came first, the story or the score? Can you tell us about some of the songs?

    Trey Parker: "Hello" was literally the first thing we wrote. As soon as we figured out the show was going to be about missionaries, we realized that it would be a great introduction to just ring a massive amount of doorbells and somehow work them into a musical number. This symphony of doorbells and white boys with good haircuts and white shirts and black ties ‐ saying "hello" and offering you a free book ‐‐ seemed very much an opening number to us. It is totally Disney in sensibility, and totally Mormon in attack.

    Bobby Lopez: There’s this idea that Mormons are these very naïve, hopeful, smiling, trusting people from the Midwest. In "Hello" and "Two by Two," we used the energy and optimism, and the relentlessly hopeful and sunny feeling. It’s a great way to start because we go to the opposite in a few scenes.

    Q: Did you have any musical theater influences in writing the show?

    Trey Parker: There’s a lot of Rodgers and Hammerstein references in the show, because that’s what it feels like to me. When you’re doing this sort of happy‐go‐lucky, optimistic Mormon, it just plays right into it. For the second act pageant, "Joseph Smith American Moses," we always thought it would be so awesome to do our own version of "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" from The King and I. We did this improv where we put on African drum loops and started singing African melodies. We had such a great time doing it, it was ridiculous. But then we realized we should make it a bigger number. We went back and actually watched the "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" sequence. It was really long but it told such a huge story, and our number didn't. So we were like, "Let's follow The King and I, and really make it clear that the story has a much deeper and profound meaning to the Africans."

    Bobby Lopez: When we were writing "Making Things Up Again," the first number in the second act, we had just seen Sunday in the Park with George. I think Trey was sort of influenced by it, which is weird because I consider myself the Sondheim freak out of everyone. Trey just sat down and started plunking out this Georges Seurat‐like rhythm, which became the whole motif for "You’re making things up again, Arnold."

    Trey Parker: There’s just nothing more perfect in the universe to me than a good musical. And a bad musical makes you want to kill yourself. A good musical is to me so much more moving and powerful than a great movie or a great book, or anything.

    Q: The Book of Mormon is provocative, in the same way that South Park is provocative. Are there boundaries?

    Matt Stone: There's a catharsis in being able to really laugh at some of the goofier ideas of religion without necessarily laughing at the people practicing them. We never like to make a "point," per se. We want to give you room to feel what the show is saying to you. We don’t want to tell anybody what the point is, or what the politics are. It’s up to you to figure out what it meant.

    Q: Are there boundaries in what you can do or say on stage?

    Trey Parker: There is a line that you can cross all you want as long as you have a reason for doing it. If it has a point and it has a story and it has genuine, real character and emotion, then you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as you’re being truthful.

    Q: How would you describe the show to someone who is a traditional musical theater fan?

    Bobby Lopez: The musical is a machine that's designed to bring you down and raise you up, and to give you a positive, uplifting experience. I want the musical to show people the nadir of human experience. For this musical, it's about faith. It's about religious feeling. And I think we show a character that loses his faith, and we give his faith back to him in a better way at the end. And I hope that the experience of the audience mirrors that, whether it's a religious experience or just feeling entertained.

    The Book of Mormon: Ticket information in Denver:
    Performing Aug. 11 through Sept. 13
    At The Ellie
    Tickets: 303-893-4100, 800-641-1222 or  BUY ONLINE
    Accessibility performance: 2 p.m., Aug. 30

  • Witches' Night Off: 'Wicked' cast raises $12,000 at Denver benefit

    by John Moore | Jun 25, 2015


    Cast members from the national touring production of Wicked took their night off on June 15 to perform in a unique cabaret show called Witches' Night Off, and they raised more than $12,000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Doctors Without Borders and, locally, Project Angel Heart and Rainbow Alley.

    Kristine Zbornik, who plays Madame Morrible, performs at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver. Photo by Emily Lozow. The actors performed at the downtown Hard Rock Café Denver. Our video above and photos below show some of the highlights. Wicked continues to perform at the Buell Theatre through July 5. Video and photos by Emily Lozow and David Lenk.

    Over the years, Wicked has raised more than any other Broadway show for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The Wicked touring company alone has raised more than $2.8 million. To read more about Witches' Night Off, click here

    (Pictured above and right: Kristine Zbornik, who plays Madame Morrible, performs at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver. Photo by Emily Lozow.


    Our Witches' Night Off photo gallery:
    Witches' Night Out at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver. Photos by Emily Lozow.


    Wicked: Ticket information in Denver:
    Through July 5
    Buell Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100, 800-641-1222 or  BUY ONLINE
    Accessibility performance: 2 p.m., June 27

    Our recent NewsCenter coverage of Wicked:
    Video: Our busy day busking with John Davidson of Wicked
    Video: Exclusive interview with Wicked composer Stephen Schwartz
    Wicked witches stirring up an evening of cabaret on June 15
    Daily Wicked lottery makes $25 tickets available to lucky winners
    Video, photos: Wicked arrives in Denver: Load-In Day
    Interview with the two stars on the show's 'Popular' appeal
    Wicked a show for the green girl in all of us
    Wicked has bonded mothers and daughters for a decade in Denver

    'Wicked' cast members perform at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver. Photo by Emily Lozow.

    The crowd lines up outside the Hard Rock Cafe Denver before Witches Night Out. Photo by Emily Lozow.
    'Wicked' cast members perform at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver, top. The crowd lines up outside the Hard Rock Cafe Denver before Witches' Night Out, above. Photos by Emily Lozow.

  • Video: 2015 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actor Performances

    by John Moore | Jun 23, 2015



    The fourth in our series of five videos covering the 2015 Bobby G Awards on May 28 at the Buell Theatre is a brief montage showing highlights from the live medley performed by all Outstanding Actor and Actress nominees.

    Opening the number are 2014 winners Abby Noble and Conner Kingsley. The nominees are:

    • Emma Buchanan, Eponine in Durango High School's Les Misérables
    • Raegan DeBord, Amneris in Mountain View High School's Aida
    • Ty Eatherton, Puck in Chaparral High School's Puck's Potion
    • Sam Hulsizer, Nathan Detroit in Rock Canyon High School's Guys and Dolls
    • Charlie Kolbrener, Moonface Martin in Fairview High School's Anything Goes
    • Taylor Lang, Aida in Mountain View High School's Aida
    • Dylan Ruder, Beast in Valor Christian High School's Beauty and the Beast
    • Alei Russo, Reno Sweeney in Fairview High School's Anything Goes
    • Evatt Salinger, Jean Valjean in Durango High School's Les Misérables
    • Lea Schoengarth, Mimi Marquez in Westminster High School's Rent
    TO WATCH THE FULL, UNEDITED MEDLEY, CLICK HERE

    Medley produced by Claudia Carson and Ryan Durfee for the the DCPA.

    The video culminates with the announcement of the winners.

    Video by David Lenk and John Moore.

    2015 Bobby G Awards: Outstanding Actor and Actress nominees. Photo by John Moore

    2015 Bobby G Awards: Outstanding Actor and Actress nominees. Photo by John Moore


    Our 2014-15 Bobby G Awards coverage to date:

    Bobby G Awards a triumph for Durango High School
    Video: Bobby G Award winners sing National Anthem at Rockies game
    Video: The Acceptance Speeches
    Video: A look at Durango's Outstanding Musical, Les Misérables
    Photos: The 2015 Bobby G Awards. (Download for free)
    Video: The 2015 Bobby G Awards in 60 seconds
    Andre' Rodriguez's stirring Bobby G Awards speech
    Video: See how we introduced all 30 participating schools
    Video: Page to Stage highlights with Bobby G Awards winners
    Meet your Bobby G Awards nominees, in their own words Video: Coloradans on Broadway to high-schoolers: 'Be relentlessly yourself'
    2014-15 Bobby G Awards: Complete list of nominations 
    2015 Bobby G Awards announces list of participating schools
    Annaleigh Ashford raises $735 for new Bobby G Awards memorial fund
    Denver Center establishes Randy Weeks Memorial Fund for The Bobby G Awards
  • Breaking: Idina Menzel will launch 'If/Then' national tour in Denver

    by John Moore | May 07, 2015

     
    Tony Award-winner and Broadway superstar Idina Menzel will launch the national touring production of If/Then in Denver, it was announced today. In all, Menzel will reprise her critically acclaimed, Tony-nominated performance in seven select cities.

    Menzel is best known for her Broadway 
    performances in Wicked and Rent; voicing Elsa in the global hit animated film Frozen; and her recurring role on the FOX TV series Glee.
     
    If/Then is an original Broadway musical that reunites composer Tom Kitt, book writer/lyricist Brian Yorkey, and director Michael Greif, the creative team behind the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical Next to Normal.

    The national touring production launches at 
     the Buell Theatre from Oct. 13-25. Menzel  will then appear in the following cities only: 
    • Seattle, Paramount Theatre, Nov. 3-8
    • San Francisco, SHN Orpheum Theatre, Nov. 10-Dec. 6
    • Los Angeles, Hollywood Pantages Theatre, Dec. 8-Jan. 3
    • San Diego Civic Theatre, Jan. 5-10
    • Tempe, Ariz., ASU Gammage, Jan. 12-17
    • Costa Mesa, Calif., Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Jan. 19-24

    Tickets for all of these  engagements are only available at present to season subscribers. If/Then is a part of the DCPA's 2015-16 Broadway Season. Subscriptions are available by calling 303-893-4100 or visiting denvercenter.org. A single ticket on-sale will be announced at a later date.

    Idina Menzel Quote If/Then is especially meaningful for me because I had the opportunity to develop it for several years with the creative team, whom I have come to consider family,” said Menzel.  “I’m so thrilled to launch the show’s national tour and to send it off across the country and around the world. I am very much looking forward to sharing this original musical with Broadway fans who weren’t able to travel to New York and see it there.”  

    The Hollywood Reporter called Menzel "a blazing supernova" in If/Then. The Associated Press said Menzel "tears the rafters off the theatre." The Toronto Star called If/Then "the bravest new musical in a long time." 

    The Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones called If/Then "a thoroughly fascinating, intellectually and musically rich new musical."

    It is not an adaptation of anything, but a very compelling and involving idea," Jones wrote. "Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s beautiful score hits an especially sweet spot, keeping the audience in its pocket. It is a zesty, savvy and ambitious original.”

    Additional casting for the national tour of If/Then will be announced at a later date.

    “I am thrilled that Idina will be playing these select cities in the time-honored touring tradition established by Broadway’s leading stars like Angela Lansbury, Yul Brynner, and Ethel Merman,” said producer David Stone.  “I look forward to having audiences discover and embrace IF/THEN and to give Broadway fans across the country the unique opportunity to see a genuine superstar at the height of her powers, in a role that was literally tailored for her.”

    If/Then is a contemporary new musical that follows two distinct storylines in the life of Elizabeth, a city planner who moves back to New York to restart her life in this city of infinite possibilities. When her carefully designed plans collide with the whims of fate, Elizabeth’s life splits into two parallel paths. If/Then follows both stories simultaneously as this modern woman faces the intersection of choice and chance.

    If/Then features choreography by Larry Keigwin, set design by Tony Award-Nominee Mark Wendland, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Tony Award-Winner Kenneth Posner and sound design by Tony Award-Winner Brian Ronan.

    The original Broadway Cast Recording of If/Thenis produced by Sony Masterworks and is available on iTunes.

    If/Then played its final Broadway performance on March 22, having played 29 previews and 401 performances.

    For more information about If/Then, please visit IfThenTheMusical.com.

    Menzel's Colorado fans also will get a chance to see her this summer when she performs live at the Red Rocks amphitheater on Aug. 11


    DCPA Broadway 2015-16 subscription information:
    The DCPA's 2015-16 Broadway subscription packages start at eight payments of $26.13. Restrictions apply. To purchase a subscription, please call Denver Center Ticket Services: 303-893-4100 or toll-free at 800-641-1222. Or visit the ticket office located in the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex at Speer Boulevard and Arapaho Street. Subscription packages also may be purchased online at denvercenter.org/bwaysubs. For groups of 10 or more, please call 303-446-4829.

    Please be advised that the DCPA's web site at denvercenter.org is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for these productions in Denver.

    Related NewsCenter coverage:
    DCPA's If/Then show page
    A Gentleman's Guide to the 2015-16 Broadway season in Denver
    John Moore's 2011 interview with Idina Menzel in The Denver Post 
    John Moore's review of the Red Rocks concert with Idina Menzel and Marvin Hamlisch

     If/Then

    Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp in 'If/Then.' Photo by Joan Marcus.Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp in the original Broadway cast of 'If/Then.' Photo by Joan Marcus. Menzell will perform the show in Denver in October. Further casting will be announced at a later date. 

  • Photos: Family Night at 'Annie' in Denver

    by John Moore | May 06, 2015

    All our photos are free and easily downloadable from our Flickr site by clicking here.



    A young audience member gets her hair glittered during family activities before 'Annie.' Photo by John Moore. Wednesday was Family Night at the national touring production of Annie, playing through May 10 in Denver. Youngsters got to meet the cast and participate in theatrical activities in the Buell Theatre lobby before the performance, which was followed by a talkback. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Annie
    Through May 10
    Buell Theatre
    ASL interpreted, Audio described & Open Captioned performance: May 10, 2pm
    Tickets: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    800-641-1222 | Groups (10+): 303-446-4829

    A young audience member, left, meets the actor who plays Annie after the show. Photo by John Moore.
    A young audience member, left, meets the actor who plays Annie after the show. Photo by John Moore.


    'Annie' cast members sign autographs before Wednesday's performance. Photo by John Moore.
    'Annie' cast members sign autographs before Wednesday's performance. Photo by John Moore.

  • 'Wicked' bonds mothers and daughters over a decade in Denver

    by John Moore | May 04, 2015

    Erin Ostrin and her daughter, Abby, are shown in 2005 and 2015. They have seen 'Wicked' together every time it has played Denver. Erin Begeman and her daughter, Abby, are shown in 2005 and 2015. They have seen 'Wicked' together every time it has played Denver.


    When Erin Begeman and Carolyn Toth Bartels took their young daughters to see the hit Broadway musical Wicked during its first visit to Denver back in 2005, little did they know the national touring production would become like a theatrical growth chart of their mother-daughter relationships over the next decade.

    Begeman and Bartels are among a handful of moms who will be taking their daughters to Wicked for a fifth time when the musical returns to Denver from June 3 through July 5. Denver will become the first city in the country to host the beloved Stephen Schwartz prequel to The Wizard of Oz five times.

    And these moms, and their daughters, have seen them all.

    Abby Begeman was a second-grader in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 2005. Now she is a 17-year-old senior at Cheyenne East High School. She is on the debate team and is the clarinet section leader for her school’s marching band. Hannah Bartels was a self-described insecure fifth-grader in 2005. She’s now a 20-year-old psychology major at Metropolitan State University of Denver. And she is still determined to one day play Elphaba on stage.

    Both young women found personal strength – and maternal bonding – watching the story of how the ostracized young girl of color (green) became the Wicked Witch of the West the world so universally loathes in The Wizard of Oz. The cackling dog-snatcher with the flying monkeys makes for an easy common enemy. But Wicked asks us to consider that she may be an enemy of our own making. Young Elphaba is labeled evil so often, she finally succumbs and simply becomes exactly what people expect her to be. Wicked audiences see the injustices done to her, and come to root for her.

    Both moms say they knew Wicked would become a lifelong mother-daughter ritual after seeing it for the first time in 2005.

    “I think it’s because the themes of Wicked grow along with you,” said Carolyn Bartels, of Wheat Ridge. “I know that Wicked is one of the reasons Hannah is studying psychology at Metro State. She has always been fascinated by this idea that wickedness is not something that you are born with - that it can be thrust upon you.”

    Both moms say Wicked has enhanced their relationships with their daughters over the past decade.

    “Each time we go, we make a night of it,” Erin Begeman said. “It’s time just for her and I to spend together. And this year will be extra special since I know Abby is heading to college after we see Wicked."

    Carolyn Bartels says she and daughter Hannah have always been very close. “But Wicked is one of the brightest spots in our relationship,” she said. ”It is the perfect mother-daughter outing.”

    But she admits, over the passage of coming time, Carolyn expects one essential part of the ritual to change.

    “If it ever comes to Denver, we will go, absolutely. But at some point, Hannah is going to start paying for the tickets,” she said with a laugh.

    We asked our two moms and daughters, who have not met, to talk about their common experiences watching Wicked in Denver in 2005, ’07, ’09 and ’12.

    Carolyn Toth Bartels and her daughter, Hannah, received a framed photo from Victoria Matlock after writing the 'Wicked' actor in 2007.

    Carolyn Toth Bartels and her daughter, Hannah, received a framed photo from Victoria Matlock after writing the 'Wicked' actor in 2007.


    SETTING THE STAGE: WICKED in 2005:

    The first time Wicked played Denver in September 2005, it sold 69,000 tickets, grossing $3.5 million in a three-week run that could have easily sold out for a run twice as long. In a precedent-setting move, tickets for a 2007 run were then immediately put on sale - 20 months in advance - and most of the 90,000 available seats went fast.

    Neither Erin nor Abby Begeman had seen a Broadway musical before Wicked in 2005. Not so for Carolyn Bartels, a former concierge at the Hotel Teatro. She grew up in a musical theatre environment, and she took Hannah to the Buell Theatre for the first time to see Beauty and the Beast – when she was just 2.

    Wicked QuoteErin Begeman had a friend in Wyoming who had seen Wicked in Chicago. She told Erin she loved it so much, she she would drive the seven hours to Denver just to see it again. Erin was convinced.

    “I grew up loving The Wizard of Oz – with the exception of those freaky flying monkeys,” she said.

    And what did they think of the show?

    “From beginning to end, Abby and I were mesmerized by the storyline, music, actors and costumes. We just loved it all,” Erin Begeman said. “While walking out after the show, Abby and I agreed we needed the soundtrack so we could learn every song to sing along the next time we saw it.”

    Carolyn Bartels, now the development director for the Aurora Cultural Arts District, was blown away. “I knew right then Wicked was going to become our mother-daughter ritual,” she said. “It was one of the most phenomenal theatrical concepts I had ever seen. And seeing it that first time led to my daughter reading the (Gregory Maguire) source books in middle school.”

    A young Hannah Bartels found her first viewing of Wicked production to be amazing. “I was in middle school, and despite the insecurities that come with that difficult time, Elphaba was my inspiration to be myself,” Hannah said. “There was great comfort with that, and I carried it with me from the theater into my life every time we saw it.”

    After that first Wicked, Erin and Abby Begeman immediately agreed they would see it again, whenever that was. “And in the meantime, we started enjoying other shows that came to Denver like The Little Mermaid and My Fair Lady,” said Erin, a political consultant. “I recognized that these were special times, and that they were precious. Memories were being made that we could both relive and always reminisce about.”

    ON SEEING WICKED TOGETHER IN 2007:

    The second time around, Denver audiences saw University of Northern Colorado graduate Victoria Matlock play Elphaba. A few days after the performance, Carolyn Bartels wrote Matlock a letter telling her of Hannah’s passion for the musical. Matlock sent back a framed photo of Elphaba on her broomstick with the message: “Hannah. Keep dancing through life! Love, Victoria.” 

    “When mom surprised me that framed photo, I was in shock,” Hannah said. “It is still on our wall.” 

    ON THE CONTINUING RELEVANCE OF THE RITUAL:

    Hannah Bartels said the passing of years has brought different revelations with each new Wicked viewing, both for her mother and herself. “It’s always relatable to what one or both of us are maybe going through or dealing with,” she said. “And we always laugh - a lot.”

    As she has grown older and is now off living on her own at college, she finds it a meaningful tradition to keep up with her mother. 

    “And the story continues to give me faith in humanity and the belief that no one is truly born wicked,” she said.

    Abby Begeman now thinks of Wicked as something “that’s just for my mother and me,” she said. “It’s our girls’ night out. That little extra time together is a special thing I look forward to.  We get dressed up and go out for dinner at a fun restaurant in Denver.”

    Over the years, Erin says Wicked has helped her to communicate with Abby during hard times.

    “When I hear Abby play a song like 'Defying Gravity' or 'For Good,' I know it’s her way of telling me, ‘I’ve got something on my mind. Please ask me about it,’ " Erin said. “Parents can always find a way – even if it seems small or trivial – to connect with their kids. Wicked - and a love for theater – were two of ours.”

    Wicked
    June 3 through July 5
    Buell Theatre
    Accessibility performance: 2 p.m., June 27
    Tickets: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    800-641-1222 | Groups (10+): 303-446-4829

     

  • 'Joseph ... ' brings Boulder native Ace Young home

    by John Moore | Apr 10, 2015
    Ace Young as Joseph and his wife, Diana Degarmo, as the narrator in the national touring production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.' Photo by Daniel A. Swalec
    Ace Young as Joseph and his wife, Diana Degarmo, as the narrator in the national touring production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.' Photo by Daniel A. Swalec


    Boulder native Ace Young was born to be on “American Idol.” Being the youngest of five boys, he says, “made me very competitive very early in life.”

    That life began in 1980 at Boulder Community Hospital. The Youngs bounced around Boulder from rented house to rented house because, Young says with a laugh, “no one ever wanted us in their house for more than a year.”

    Why not? Five boys, he said.

    “It was like a tornado.”

    Young Ace was a bit of a rough-houser, he claims, but he also was an Eagle Scout who sang choir, played sports and took International Baccalaureate classes at Fairview High School. To pretty much anyone but Ace…he was a good kid.

    “To my parents’ knowledge, I was a good kid,” he says with another chuckle. “But that didn’t mean everything I did was always parentally approved. Let’s just say my brothers got me out of a lot of trouble.”

    Ace YoungYoung started (parentally approved) voice lessons at age 9. His first paid performance was singing in front of the food court at Boulder’s Crossroads Mall when he was just 11. It was a family affair: His brothers carried speakers and his dad ran lights for a 30-minute show that included original songs and covers by the likes of Michael Jackson. There was even some 11-year old rapping in his set because, Young said, “Hey, Kris Kross was huge back then."

    Young has been huge ever since appearing on “American Idol” back in 2006. He is now starring in the title role of the national touring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and he is fulfilling a lifelong dream by closing that 15-month tour at his hometown Buell Theatre.

    “You have to understand: The first theatre show I ever saw was Phantom of the Opera at The Buell Theatre in 1992,” he said. Family outings meant a day at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre. “That was like going to church,” he added. “We got dressed up, we got a meal, and we watched an amazing show. I loved it.”

    Young is starring in Joseph... with his wife, Diana DeGarmo, playing the Narrator. She was the runnerup on Season 3 of “American Idol,” but Young is happy that’s not where they met. “That’s because she was only 16 when she was on ‘Idol,’” he said, “and that would have been weird.”

    No, Young met DeGarmo as a 22-year-old woman when they both were featured in the Broadway revival of Hair (he as Berger and she as Sheila). “That was a very challenging show, and we both jumped fully into it,” he said. “Not only did we become best friends, but we fell in love.”

    They are now performing together in a Joseph... that Young guarantees is different from any you have seen before.

    “We like to say this is not your mamma’s Joseph... ,” he said. “Andy Blankenbuehler, our director, is a Tony Award winner for a reason. We call him our modern-day Joseph. He has really pushed this production to a brand new level.”

    In this staging, every brother has a unique personality. There are no throwaway songs. Every moment matters. And that titular technicolor dreamcoat?

    “It has its own dressing room,” said Young – and he’s not kidding. “It is worth more than all of us.”

    The coat was hand-sewn and hand-dyed with all 29 of its lyrical colors. It was designed after Marc Chagall’s famous stained-glass windows. “It literally jumps off the stage,” said Young.

    Recent technological advances have allowed the creative team to push the visual limits of the show in other ways. Instead of just hearing about the troubling dreams Joseph interprets, for example, “You actually see the dreams happening onstage,” Young said.

    Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber approved a change to the ending of the show that allows Young and DeGarmo to sing a wholly reimagined reprise of the opening song as a duet played to an acoustic guitar. “We sing it with a Simon and Garfunkel harmony vibe,” said Young, “and it tears the roof off every night.”

    The couple is grateful for the growing trend of casting popular singers from competitive TV shows such as ‘'American Idol’' and “The Voice” into Broadway and touring productions. And Young’s wife started it all.

    “Diana was the first-ever 'American Idol' finalist to do a Broadway show,” he said of DeGarmo’s year with Hairspray in 2006. “If it weren’t for her paving the way, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make my Broadway debut in Grease in 2008.”

    He has advised anyone who follows in his TV footsteps to never take work that follows in TV, film or theatre for granted. “I let them know that the next thing you do after this has to matter, because so many of them don’t take it seriously and they think it is going to last forever,” he said. “But if you don’t do a good job, you are never going to be asked back.”

    Young can’t imagine a better place to close this chapter of his professional career than Denver. “To be able to finish in my hometown where I grew up for the first 20 years of my life is just going to be amazing,” he said. But he’s even happier for his parents.

    “My mom has about 170 friends coming to one performance — and I have known every single one of those 170 people my entire life,” he said. “I bet half of them changed my diapers.”

    Those diaper-changers will see a show, Young promises, “that shoots you out of a cannon from the very beginning.”

    And yet, what he loves most is the very end.

    “Every night, I see kids in the crowd that have the bug,” Young said. “They are feeling what I felt when I saw Phantom at The Buell Theatre as a kid. They are being inspired to be part of the arts. And when you are the one onstage giving that out, it feels like you are passing it forward.”

    Video: Ace Young proposes to Diana DeGarmo live on "American Idol'':

    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat:
    Ticket information

    April 22-26
    Buell Theatre
    Call 303-893-4100 or buy online
    Groups (10+): 303.446.4829
    Note: ASL interpreted, Audio described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. April 25
  • Video: Mayor declares 'Motown the Musical' Day in Denver

    by John Moore | Apr 06, 2015


    Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and his wife, Mary Louise Lee. Photo by John Moore. On Friday, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock declared April 3 to be Motown The Musical Day in Denver. He was accompanied by his wife, performer Mary Louise Lee.

    Hancock and Lee celebrated their 20th anniversary by flying to New York and seeing Motown The Musical on Broadway. The Hancocks already have attended the show three times in Denver. Hear what they have to say about the importance of Motown music not only for them, but for all music lovers.

    Lee made her professional debut at age 18 performing in the Motown inspired musical Beehive at what is now the Garner Galleria Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

    The national touring production of Motown The Musical will be visiting Denver through April 19.

    Read the entire proclamation at the bottom of this page.

    Video by John Moore and David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Mayor Michael B. Hancock and wife Mary Louise Lee declare April 3 to be 'Motown the Musical' Day in Denver. Phot by John Moore.
    Mayor Michael B. Hancock and wife Mary Louise Lee declare April 3 to be 'Motown the Musical' Day in Denver. Photo by John Moore.



    Motown the Musical: Ticket information
    Through April 19
    The Buell Theatre
    ASL, Open Caption and Audio Described performance: April 18, 2 p.m.
    Tickets: 303-893.4100 | buy online
    800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups (10+): 303-446-4829
    Click here to go to the show's official web site

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Motown, The Musical:
    Video: Our Little Michael Jacksons in Denver
    Video: Allison Semmes on channeling Diana Ross
    Video: Scott Shiller's first day as DCPA CEO is Motown's opening night
    How Berry Gordy turned a slogan into The Supremes
    Photos: Motown in Denver
    Official show page
    Video: Montage of scenes

    Photos of Motown the Musical's stay in Denver:


    Here are  photos from the national touring production of 'Motown The Musical' in Denver. Photos by John Moore and Emily Lozow.



    The proclamation:
    April 3 is 'Motown the Musical' Day in Denver.
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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.