• Video: Highlights, interviews from Randy Weeks celebration

    by John Moore | Nov 12, 2014


    Friends, family and dozens of industry executives were among the 1,500 who attended a celebration of Randy Weeks' life at the Buell Theatre on Nov. 3.

    This video captures highlights, excerpts from musical performances and interviews afterward. Guests include David Turner (The Book of Mormon), Hal Luftig (Kinky Boots), Nancy Gibbs (Peter and the Starcatcher) and Anita Dloniak (Pippin The Musical) on why their entire national touring production has been dedicated to the late DCPA President.

    Also: Denver Post Chairman William Dean Singleton; Director Ray Roderick; actors Kris Andersson (Dixie Longate), Shannan Steele and Michael Gold; and Denver School of the Arts students Jimmy Bruenger and Madison Kitchen. Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Run time: 12 minutes.

    To read our full report or access downloadable photos from the event, click here.


    To watch videos of complete, individual songs performed at the celebration:
    I Love a Piano
    Old Cape Cod
    Give My Regards to Broadway
    One (Singular Sensation)

    Our coverage of the death of Randy Weeks:

    Celebration draws 1,500 to recall a singular friend in story and song
    DCPA president Randy Weeks dies at London conference
    Video: Randy Weeks honored with dimmed lights, moments of silence
    Randy Weeks photo gallery
    DCPA to celebrate Randy Weeks' life on Nov. 3
    A look back at Randy Weeks' 'It Gets Better' video
    'Pippin' dedicates entire tour to Randy Weeks

    Randy_Weeks_Celebration_Video_800
     
    Linda Klein, left, and Barbara Gehring of "Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women" left their current road stop in Rochester, N.Y., to attend the Nov. 3 celebration of DCPA president Randy Weeks, who was represented, in a way, by a Brooks Brothers mannequin stand-in. Photo by John Moore


    TO SEE OUR COMPLETE GALLERY OF DOWNLOADABLE PHOTOS FROM THE RANDY WEEKS CELEBRATION, CLICK HERE.

    Memorial Contributions:
    Memorial gifts can be made to The Randy Weeks Memorial Fund for the Bobby G Awards, which supports the advancement of musical theatre for Colorado high school students. Please make checks payable to Denver Center for the Performing Arts and mail to: DCPA Development Office, 1101 13th Street, Denver, CO 80204.
  • Randy Weeks celebration draws 1,500 to recall a singular friend in story and song

    by John Moore | Nov 05, 2014



    A month before Randy Weeks died in a London hotel room, he mailed his godson a random greeting card that said: “Life is not measured by how many breaths we take, but in the number of moments that take our breath away.”

    That was but one of many poignant remembrances peppered between showstopping musical numbers at a bittersweet public celebration on Monday afternoon for the President of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, who died in his sleep Oct. 9 while attending a conference of theatre presenters. He was 59.

    It was delivered from the Buell Theatre stage by Jimmy Calano, who was Weeks’ pledge son 40 years ago at the Kappa Sigma fraternity at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Later, Calano asked Weeks to be the godfather to his own son.

    “Although Randy was cheated out of his fair share of breaths, he took our breath away by the power of his friendship, by the way he made us feel special, and by how he flat-out took care of us,” Calano told a crowd that was estimated at 1,500 by the city of Denver.

    Video: Cast members from 'Kinky Boots' sing 'Give My Regards to Broadway' to honor the late Randy Weeks. To see our entire downloadable photo gallery from the Randy Weeks celebration, click here.

    Attendees included family and friends; DCPA employees past and present; theatre audiences; more than 100 fraternity brothers; and members of the local and national theatre communities including theatre owners, producers, presenters, booking agents, press agents and representatives from both The Broadway League and the Independent Presenters Network.

    Dean Singleton, chairman of The Denver Post and a member of the DCPA’s Board of Trustees, said, “We have lost one of the greatest minds in theatre. Not only did Randy bring Broadway to Denver, but he made Denver the first stop for some of the greatest productions leaving New York. Randy had the unique ability to convince people that Denver was the right place for a first stop -- and he delivered.”


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    In his 23 years as the Executive Director of the DCPA’s Broadway division, Weeks presented more than 400 shows that served 11.6 million patrons. In his tenure, Denver hosted the launches of 10 national touring productions, including The Lion King, The Book of Mormon and, most recently, Pippin. Representatives from those shows and more flew to Denver to attend Monday’s classy send-off. The program culminated with University of Northern Colorado freshman Abby Noble singing “One (Singular Sensation)” from A Chorus Line alongside nearly 30 members of the Denver School of the Arts’ recent production of Hairspray.

    Randy _Weeks_Celebration_800_1

    Abby Noble of Grandview High School and the University of Northern Colorado, right, performing with students from Denver School of the Arts. Photo by John Moore. To see more photos, click here.

    In May, Noble was named Outstanding Actress in a Musical at the Bobby G Awards, which honor achievements in Colorado high school theatre. The program was spearheaded by Weeks in 2012 and quickly became his greatest professional joy. He also served on the Friends Foundation at Denver School of the Arts.

    Two of Monday’s performers were DSA students Jimmy Bruenger and Madison Kitchen, who fell in love with Broadway musicals by watching productions that Weeks brought to the Buell Theatre stage. Monday’s celebration afforded both the opportunity to perform on that same stage for the first time. Even in death, Bruenger said, Weeks was making dreams come true.

    “When I found out we were being asked to perform here, I started hyperventilating,” Kitchen added. “Both of us saw Kinky Boots here just last night. And so to be on that stage for the first time today? It’s incredible.”

    Video: Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actress Abby Noble sings "One" with students from Denver School of the Arts.


    The Pippin tour has recently bestowed upon Weeks what is believed to be an unprecedented honor: The entire tour has been dedicated to Weeks, who will now be acknowledged in programs in every city Pippin visits. The idea was suggested by Kathleen O’Brien, Weeks’ counterpart with the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

    “This has been the best tour-opening experience in my 27 years out on the road, and Randy is the reason,” said Pippin national press rep Anita Dloniak, citing the camaraderie and professionalism he inspired in his staff. “And he throws the best parties,” she added. Honoring Weeks, she said, was one way for the Pippin family to grapple and cope with their grief over his sudden death. 

    “He is just a wonderful force to be reckoned with,” Dloniak said. “A giant ... but a gentle giant.”

    Nancy Gibbs attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver and has since produced many major theatricals including Wicked; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (the longest-running show in Denver theatre history); Traces; Next to Normal, and Peter and the Starcatcher, which launched its first national tour in Denver in August.

    “Randy was a leader,” Gibbs said. “Once he stepped up to the plate, he knocked it out of the ballpark.”

    David Turner, General Manager for The Book of Mormon, said it was Weeks who convinced producers that Denver was the only place for that tour to launch.

    “Randy was the one who knew that the writers (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) were from here, and he really wanted us to make that connection,” Turner said.

    The Book of Mormon launch in Denver sold all 51,000 available tickets in less than five hours. Turner called that an “extremely important” validation of the show.

    “For everybody who wasn’t sure how The Book of Mormon would be received outside of New York, that was an incredible vote of confidence,” Turner said. 

    Weeks was respected by his colleagues for his uncanny ability not only to maximize blockbuster, popular fare, but to predict the next big thing. One of the most poignant moments in Monday’s celebration came when seven members of the 2013 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Kinky Boots took the stage to sing “Give My Regards to Broadway” in Weeks’ honor. The show is currently playing in Denver through Sunday (Nov. 9).

    “During a very early preview performance of Kinky Boots, Randy ran up to me at the intermission and said, ‘Promise me this show will play Denver,’ ” said Kinky Boots’ Hal Luftig. “To a producer with a show still in previews, that meant the world to me. And now, here we are in Denver, playing to packed houses every night.”

    Weeks also was credited for his willingness to take risks both large and small. Weeks could have responsibly passed on important, challenging musicals with questionable commercial road potential, like Next to Normal (about a mother’s suicidal depression) and Spring Awakening (about 1890s German teens experiencing puberty in the complete absence of information). But when Weeks came across shows that had the potential to change audiences’ lives, he felt a deep obligation to schedule them.

    “He was so clearly willing to take risks here,” said The Book of Mormon’s Turner, “and over time, he developed an audience that was willing to take risks with him. That combination is very rare.”

    Randy _Weeks_Celebration_800_2
    Actor Shannan Steele and director Ray Roderick banter with an aptly dressed Randy Weeks stand-in at Monday's celebration. Photo by John Moore. To see more photos, click here. 

     

    Added Ray Roderick, who directed large world premieres like I Love a Piano in the Auditorium Theatre and small cabaret shows in the Garner Galleria: “Randy saw the Denver community as one that was going to embrace good work no matter what it was. Denver is a very big demographic, and a very smart demographic, and Randy managed to please a lot of different kinds of people.”

    Weeks was remembered on Monday for far more than just his many professional successes. He was remembered as an uncommonly compassionate friend … and a most decidedly uncommon dresser.

    Weeks was known for wearing argyle sweaters and golfing pants adorned with animal prints only Rodney Dangerfield could love. The sweaters were a tribute to his late mentor, Robert Garner. “But the pants were all Randy,” said his longtime assistant, Claudia Carson, who directed the musical portion of Monday's celebration. Family members confessed that Weeks left seven pair of Brooks Brothers animal-print pants behind in his closet at home.

    “We’re going to miss Randy because he was always there with outstretched arms and a sweater that looked like something out of 1962 Paris Vogue,” joked Kris Andersson, otherwise known as Dixie Longate, whose Dixie’s Tupperware Party has played in the Garner Galleria Theatre four times. “It was so vogue that you probably wouldn’t want to dress that way. You’d look at it and go, ‘Really?’ But Randy owned it.”

    Andersson’s longtime manager Michele Helberg credited Weeks for “reinvigorating the Dixie brand” five years ago when he first brought the Tupperware Party to Denver. And Andersson credited Weeks for green-lighting last summer’s mouthful of a sequel, Dixie’s Never Wear a Tube Top While Riding a Mechanical Bull and 16 Other Things I Learned While I was Drinking Last Thursday.

    “He used his influence with other people in the industry to take a new artist and a new piece of work and move it forward further than if we had to do it on our own,” Helberg said. “If it hadn’t been for Randy and his Denver Center family, I don’t think we would be where we are right now.”

    "Randy used to say, 'It’s all about the fun,' ” Andersson added. “We get to have fun every day of our lives, and a really big part of that is because Randy looked at our show and said yes. And then, when the opportunity came along to do the new show, Randy put tickets on sale before I had even written it. He had that much faith in me.”

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    Randy _Weeks_Celebration_Quote_1



    Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein are two other performers whose lives were forever changed when Weeks decided to move their two-woman sleepover Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women from the Avenue Theatre to the DCPA.

    And here’s the thing: “He picked up our show without ever even seeing it,” Klein said. In those days, the title was truth in advertising: No men allowed.

    “He had heard about it, and he knew that women loved it, and so he just said, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’ ” Klein said.  

     That came as no surprise to Ekeberg, Weeks' protege and successor.

     “Randy led with his heart, and he put his heart into everything,” Ekeberg said.

    Girls Only played at the Garner Galleria Theatre for two years and has now been seen by 250,0000 women … and a few men. “That’s not something Linda and I could have done on our own,” Gehring said.

    Girls Only is currently playing in Rochester, N.Y., but the Denver-based duo came home for Monday’s celebration.  “We had to,” said Klein. “We needed to grieve with our friends.”

    DCPA Chairman Daniel Ritchie welcomed Monday’s crowd, and the master of Ceremonies was CBS-4 Critic-At-Large Greg Moody. Speakers included all three of Weeks’ siblings -- Pam Weeks, Joel Weeks and Stephanie Gamble. Others included Al Nocciolino, representing the Broadway League and the Independent Presenters Network. He was with Weeks at the London conference. He told Monday’s crowd that Weeks spent his final day shopping, and bought a deck of cards adorned with vintage fighter planes for his history-buff dad. That night, Weeks attended a performance of the controversial new play King Charles III in London's West End. Afterward, Nocciolino said, “Randy was holding court and telling everyone he had just seen the best performance he had ever seen.” 

    Video: "I Love a Piano" performed by Shannan Steele, Lauren Shealy, Randy St. Pierre, Michael Gold, Sarah Rex and Jordan Leigh.

    The musical program included performers from some of Weeks’ favorite shows, including I Love a Piano and Forever Plaid. The first show Weeks ever presented in the Garner Galleria Theatre was Forever Plaid, and on closing night in 1992, cast members sang “Old Cape Cod” as a gift to him in honor of his New Hampshire roots. Michael Gold, Drew Frady, Randy St. Pierre and Scott Rathbun sang the song at Monday’s celebration.

    Shannan Steele credited Weeks for hiring local actors, citing the upcoming opening of Forbidden Broadway in the Garner Galleria Theatre, which has an all-local ensemble.

     “I think most of my career wouldn’t exist without his efforts and his vision for the local community,” Steele said. “If you ever got to work under Randy, it was always a huge employment opportunity – and a huge artistic opportunity.”

    Gold, who performed in Roderick’s I Love a Piano, has known Weeks since he joined the DCPA box-office team as a college student in 1978. “I remember seeing him run credit cards over carbon paper; it was that long ago,” Gold said.

    When Joel Weeks took to the podium at the Buell, he referenced Weeks’ eulogy to his mentor, Robert Garner. “In it, he said, ‘How can you know someone for such a long time and never fully comprehend how much they have become a part of your life?’ ” Joel Weeks said.

    “My journey will be an amazing one if I can just try to emulate a fraction of what my brother was.” 

    Ekeberg, the final speaker, said his boss’ true strength lay in one-on-one relationships. “He made you feel special; he made you feel heard, and he made you feel important,” Ekeberg said. To honor that spirit, he urged the crowd to heed the message of Pippin:

    “Find the simple joys,” Ekeberg said.

    Our coverage of the death of Randy Weeks:
    DCPA president Randy Weeks dies at London conference
    Video: Randy Weeks honored with dimmed lights, moments of silence
    Randy Weeks photo gallery
    DCPA to celebrate Randy Weeks' life on Nov. 3
    A look back at Randy Weeks' 'It Gets Better' video
    'Pippin' dedicates entire tour to Randy Weeks



    Video: Randy St. Pierre, Michael Gold, Drew Frady and Scott Rathbun sing 'Old Cape Cod.'

    MORE PHOTOS:

    Randy _Weeks_Celebration_800_3


    Randy _Weeks_Celebration_800_4

    TO SEE OUR COMPLETE GALLERY OF DOWNLOADABLE PHOTOS FROM THE RANDY WEEKS CELEBRATION, CLICK HERE.
          

    Memorial Contributions
    Memorial gifts can be made to The Randy Weeks Memorial Fund for the Bobby G Awards, which supports the advancement of musical theatre for Colorado high school students. Please make checks payable to Denver Center for the Performing Arts and mail to: DCPA Development Office, 1101 13th Street, Denver, CO 80204.

  • Video and photos: Opening Night 'Pippin' festivities in Denver

    by John Moore | Sep 13, 2014


    Denver hosted the launch of the national touring production of Pippin the Musical on Sept. 10, 2014, at the Buell Theatre. It marked the 11th national tour launch by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' Broadway division.

    The video above includes video and photo highlights from the celebration that followed the opening performance in the Seawell Grand Ballroom.

    Pippin, which won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival, features choreography in the style of Bob Fosse and breathtaking acrobatics. The "Pippin" tour runs in Denver through Sept. 20. Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore, David Lenk and Emily Lozow.

    To go to our full gallery of free, downloadable photos from the evening, click here.

    This video features a montage of scenes from the national touring production that just launched in Denver.


    Pippin
    : Ticket information

    Sep 6-20, 2014 • Buell Theatre
    Accessible Performances • Sep 20, 2pm
    Tickets: 303.893.4100 • Toll-free: 800.641.1222 • TTY: 303.893.9582
    Groups (10+) • 303.446.4829
    Online • www.DenverCenter.Org


    'The Pippin Profiles' interview series:
     


    Our previous Pippin coverage on Denver CenterStage:

    Video: 5 questions for Composer Stephen Schwartz

    9News anchor Cheryl Preheim has a walk-on cameo on Sept. 16
    Video: Audience testimonials reacting to seeing the show
    Video series: The 'Pippin' Personalities: Five questions with creatives
    'Pippin' meets Denver: Media Day photos
    Broadway's Matthew James Thomas to play Pippin in Denver
    Hello, Denver! 'Pippin' cast and crew arrive

    Photos: Pippin loading in Denver, rehearsing in New York

    My three Pippins gather at Sardi's to honor John Rubinstein
    Photos: Exclusive look at first 'Pippin' rehearsal
    Lucie Arnaz joins Denver-bound ‘Pippin’ as Berthe

    From Pippin to Pappa: Denver tour launch will feature John Rubinstein
    2014-15 season: ‘Pippin,’ ‘Kinky Boots’ are Denver-bound!

    Pippin_Opening_Night_800

    Photo by John Moore. To go to our full gallery of free, downloadable photos from the evening, click here.
  • Photos: Hello, Denver: 'Pippin' cast and crew arrive

    by John Moore | Aug 28, 2014

    Pippin_828_1_Allen

    The cast and crew of Pippin The Musical arrived in Denver on Thursday night to prepare for the launch of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical's first national touring production opening Sept. 6 at the Buell Theatre. Among the actors who got their first look at the set were Sasha Allen (above), Lucie Arnaz and John Rubinstein.

    To see our complete gallery of photos, click here. Photos by John Moore.

    More photos:

    Pippin_828_Lucie Arnaz
    Lucie Arnaz.

    Pippin_828_Full_Cast_2

    A panorama of the first cast meeting in the 2,830-seat Buell Theatre.


    Pippin_828_Theo
    Our two Theos.


    Pippin_828_Full_Cast_1

    Wait, there's more:
    To see our complete gallery of photos, click here. Photos by John Moore.

    Pippin: Ticket information
    Sept 6-20, 2014 • Buell Theatre
    Accessible Performances • Sep 20, 2pm
    Tickets: 303.893.4100 • Toll-free: 800.641.1222 • TTY: 303.893.9582
    Groups (10+) • 303.446.4829
    Online • www.DenverCenter.Org


    'The Pippin Profiles':
     


    Previous Pippin coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

    Photos: Pippin loading in Denver, rehearsing in New York
    My three Pippins gather at Sardi's to honor John Rubinstein

    Photos: Exclusive look at first 'Pippin' rehearsal
    Lucie Arnaz joins Denver-bound ‘Pippin’ as Berthe

    From Pippin to Pappa: Denver tour launch will feature John Rubinstein
    2014-15 season: ‘Pippin,’ ‘Kinky Boots’ are Denver-bound!

  • Time-lapse video: 'Pippin' set goes up in Denver

    by John Moore | Aug 25, 2014


    The upcoming launch of the national touring production of "Pippin The Musical" was an opportunity for a combination of national and Denver-based crew members to install the circus-themed set for the first time, creating a blueprint for how it will be installed in every city to follow. Denver Center for the Performing Arts Video Producer David Lenk created this time lapse that shows the "Pippin" set being installed in Denver's Buell Theatre over a four-day period. Thanks to this team's work in Denver, this same high-flying "Pippin" set will be able to be installed in other cities in a matter of hours. "Pippin" opens Sept. 6 and plays through Sept. 20. Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org/shows

    Click here to see our complete gallery of photos from the load-in.


    Pippin: Ticket information

    Sept 6-20, 2014 • Buell Theatre
    Accessible Performances • Sep 20, 2pm
    Tickets: 303.893.4100 • Toll-free: 800.641.1222 • TTY: 303.893.9582
    Groups (10+) • 303.446.4829
    Online • www.DenverCenter.Org


    'The Pippin Profiles':
     


    Previous Pippin coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

    Photos: Pippin loading in Denver, rehearsing in New York
    My three Pippins gather at Sardi's to honor John Rubinstein

    Photos: Exclusive look at first 'Pippin' rehearsal
    Lucie Arnaz joins Denver-bound ‘Pippin’ as Berthe

    From Pippin to Pappa: Denver tour launch will feature John Rubinstein
    2014-15 season: ‘Pippin,’ ‘Kinky Boots’ are Denver-bound!

  • The 'Pippin' Profiles: Diane Paulus on directing without a net

    by John Moore | Aug 22, 2014

    Diane_Paulus_Pippin_400Director Diane Paulus’ mantra as an artist is to always expand the boundaries of theatre ... or why bother?

    “As a director,” she says, “one of my biggest interests is creating a visceral experience for audiences.”

    Audiences will be feeling visceral come Sept. 6, when the national touring production of Paulus’ Tony-winning musical revival Pippin launches in Denver. They will be witnessing death-defying flips, tight-rope walks, knife-juggling and more. And “those acrobatic tricks you see are real, “ she said, “and they are real every night."

    That means be no protective cables. No safety nets.

    "With every performance, those are real, extraordinary achievements happening on that stage. It's live. It's happening there. And the audience witnesses it in the moment. And that makes the production so immediate.”

    It is that kind of theatrical daring that earned Paulus spot on Time Magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. … In the world.

    Paulus is the Artistic Director of the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University in Boston, where she debuted Pippin on its way to Broadway; and where she just opened a pre-Broadway run of a new Peter Pan musical based on the film Finding Neverland.

    Diane_Paulus_Pippin_Quote_1

    Paulus brought the London theatrical phenomenon Sleep No More to America in 2011 on its way to New York. That’s an immersive version of Macbeth that plays out on multiple floors of a warehouse in the meatpacking district of Manhattan. Paulus calls that kind of thing “adventure theatre.”

    The same can be said of Pippin. Paulus got the green light to mount the first major revival of Pippin in 40 years when she told composer Stephen Schwartz she wanted to set his story of a young man search’s for meaning in the dangerous world of the circus.

    “It wasn’t about layering something on that didn’t need to be there,” Paulus said. “It was about the theme of the story: How far are we willing to go to be extraordinary in our lives? That question is at the heart of Pippin’s journey. That question is also at the heart of every circus performer’s life. And it’s a literal one: How far will I go? Will I jump and land upside down on someone’s hand? Will I leap through a hoop on fire? How far can I push my human body to aspire to be extraordinary?”

    What follows are excerpts from our expansive interview with one of the leading figures in the American theatre.

    John Moore: We’re talking to you as you are just days away from opening the Broadway-bound Finding Neverland at your American Repertory Theatre in Boston.

     
    Diane Paulus: Yes, we are in the middle of previews right now.

    John Moore: Well, then, I can't imagine how you can be in any kind of a Pippin headspace, so thank you for making time.

    Diane Paulus: It's a little crazy, but I have my Pippin T-shirt on right now, so I am already in Pippin land a little bit. It's all good.

    John Moore: What was your introduction to Pippin?

    Diane Paulus: I saw Pippin as a little girl growing up in New York City. I was 8 years old, and seeing it on Broadway marked me. It made such a huge impression. I remembered those characters. I remembered that world that (Director and Choreographer) Bob Fosse put on stage. I remembered Ben Vereen and all those players. And of course, I grew up on the score. I wore out my album. I played Corner of the Sky on the piano. I also sang With You at my brother's wedding -- not really understanding that, in the show, that's a song about Pippin getting together with a lot of different women. I sing No Time at All with my college friends at our reunions. So I've been living that Pippin score my whole life. I have always wanted to touch this show again.

    John Moore: What appealed to you most about revisiting it?

    Diane Paulus: A lot of people remember the Fosse and they remember the music, but you don't have a lot of people saying to you, 'Oh, what an amazing story.’ But I have always felt there was a very powerful and important story there. To me, Pippin is almost a pageant play, like a trial of the soul in all these different stages of a man’s life that are theatricalized -- going to war, the temptation of the flesh, the ordinary life. Pippin is the son of King Charlemagne, but he could stand in as an everyman. I got very excited about trying to make the meaning of his story viscerally felt.

    John Moore: And what does it mean -- to you?

    Diane Paulus: For me, the theme of Pippin is this: How far do we go to be extraordinary in our lives? Right now, that is such a relevant question -- more than ever. Just how far do we push ourselves? What is glory? What is it to be extraordinary, and what are the choices that we make in our lives? Ultimately, what I love about Pippin is that it's not a moralistic story. It doesn't say, 'Well, here's the right answer.' It really puts the question out to the audience. When we first did Pippin up at A.R.T. (in Boston), we’re in a college town, and there were young college kids coming to see the show who were completely relating to Pippin. They were asking questions like, 'What am I doing with my life?' 'What is my purpose in life?' 'What am I going to be, and who am I, and why am I here on the planet?' And you know what? I am a mom in my 40s, and I am thinking about things like, 'What are the choices I've made, and how do I negotiate a career and a family, and what does it mean to be extraordinary in my life?' Over the course of this production, I have seen entire generations of people affected by it. I saw an elderly man in his 80s weeping at the end of the show, and I just thought, 'Cleary, this show pushes you to think about the choices you are making, or the choices you have made in your life.’

    Diane_Paulus_Pippin_Quote_2

    John Moore: So what was your biggest directorial challenge?

    Diane Paulus: My biggest directorial challenge was determining what the world of this play was going to be.

    John Moore: (Composer) Stephen Schwartz told me you weren't the first to come to him wanting to put Pippin in a circus. But he did say that your concept was the best. How did you came up with your idea, and what was the pitch?

    Diane Paulus: I really got interested in this idea of circus because, to me, the show has to have an identity for the troupe of players. And the circus has such a strong identity. It's a traveling family that pitches their tent from town to town. They transform the lives of the people who dare to enter that tent. And then they pick up and leave, and they go somewhere else. So you don't ever really know a lot about who those circus people are. You don't think about them doing ordinary things like going to the supermarket and cooking. They just sort of come alive for you for as long as they are in that tent. It's a fantasy world. That was the hook for me: What if this group is a circus troupe, and they have come to town, and they have pitched their tent, and the Leading Player is literally standing outside that tent seducing you, the audience, to come inside and ‘join us.’ And if you dare to enter that tent, who knows what you will experience? Who knows how you will be transformed? You might be so transformed that you might even decide that you want to run away with the circus. That's another metaphor for me: How many of us in our lives have wanted to run away with the circus? Either literally, or metaphorically? When in our lives have we decided to take that leap—and when have we decided, "No," because, for any number of reasons, I can't run away with the circus right now. I have to choose other things. That was the metaphor me.

    John Moore: Your goal is always to expand the boundaries of theatre, and that certainly seems to be what the circus achieves in Pippin.

    Diane Paulus: I have been a great admirer of Les 7 doigts de la main (The 7 Fingers of the Hand). So when I met (Circus Creator) Gypsy Snider, I asked if she would ever want to work on a musical. And then we started talking about Pippin, and the theme meant so much to her. That's when I knew this collaboration would work. Because it wasn't about layering something on that didn’t need to be there. It was about the theme of the story: How far are we willing to go to be extraordinary in our lives? That question is at the heart of every acrobat and circus performer. That’s the first thing Gypsy said to me: ‘That is the life of an acrobat.’

    Diane_Paulus_Pippin_Quote_4

    John Moore: And how does that translate into the theatre experience?

    Diane Paulus: I am always interested in embracing theatre for what I think it should be, which is the absolute, live experience that is witnessed by each audience member. It’s not something we can later replay on our telephones or computers. As an audience member, you are seeing it, and what you are seeing can only be experienced right then and there, and it will be different every night.

    John Moore: How did you decide how you would go about replicating the Fosse choreography – and how much?

    Diane Paulus: There is no one like Bob Fosse. I have always worshipped at the altar of Fosse for what he did as an artist, and for his unique vision. I knew if we were going to bring back Pippin, we had to bring back the Fosse. It's just too connected. Chet Walker was part of that original Broadway production of Pippin. He had worked with Fosse for years, and so having Chet on the team was so important to me. When I first met Chet, he said to me, 'Bob Fosse would never want to re-create something. He never wanted to repeat himself. He and Stephen Schwartz also told me that Fosse loved Fellini. And when you look at it, this fascination with Fellini and clowns is all over even the original choreography. It's almost inside the DNA of the original production. But we had an opportunity with our production to take it further.

    John Moore: When you approached Gypsy, she had never seen Pippin before. She said the first thing that became obvious to her was that the Leading Player was Bob Fosse, and Pippin was Stephen Schwartz. When I mentioned that to Stephen, he just kind of paused and said, ‘That's exactly right.’ What do you think of the comparison?

    Diane Paulus: I am such a huge fan of both of those artists. It was so interesting to work with Stephen because here it was, 40 years later, and he was no longer the young college kid who wrote the show. He's now a mature artist looking back on his life. And I think now he had an appreciation for what Fosse saw in it when they made this in the '70s. So I think Stephen really helped me understand what the brew was back in the '70s between he and Fosse. Looking at it now for this revival as a mature artist, I think Stephen was able to identify more with Fosse. It was so edifying and inspiring for me to really understand the original production and everything that made that birth happen. A lot of people think of Pippin from having done it at their camp, or at their community theatre, or at their college. And so, for a lot of people, they know it as The Kumbaya Pippin. And this is not The Kumbaya Pippin. This story is deep, and it is profound, and it has really intense meaning. I think that was there in the original collaboration between Stephen and Bob Fosse. I remember that heat from when I was a kid, and I wanted to re-create that heat and take it even further.

    John Moore: Obviously a big change with this production is that a woman is playing the Leading Player. Stephen felt no male actor could possibly follow in Ben Vereen’s footsteps.

    Diane Paulus: Well, you know, in the script, it just says, "Leading Player." It doesn't say anything about race or gender. There is no other information, aside what is in the text. So I sent Stephen a note saying, ‘Tell me about this Leading Player. What do I have to know?' Just give me some details.' And he said back, 'The Leading Player can be anyone. Male. Female African-American, white, whatever demographic or ethnicity you want.' The only thing he said is that the Leading Player has to feel different from Pippin. The Leading Player has to represent everything Pippin has not experienced in life. So, with that … I agree with Stephen. The specter of Ben Vereen is huge, and for me that meant we had to have someone who could sing as well as Ben, who could dance as well as Ben, and who could act as well as Ben. So that was really the gauntlet that was thrown down. We had to find someone who is a true triple-threat. I knew Ben could do everything, and I knew we had to find someone who could deliver in all those departments. And, in our case -- maybe also someone who is willing to get on a trapeze and be a little fearless with some of the circus stuff.

    John Moore: How hard was that to find all in one performer?

    Diane Paulus: We auditioned everyone. We auditioned men and women. Every possible ethnicity came through our door. We had no agenda about who we were going to cast. However, I have to confess that Patina Miller was secretly in my brain, because I had worked with her on Hair. And then she helped create this stamp on this role of a powerful woman and leader. She proved that a woman could tell this story in such an interesting way for a modern, 21st-century audience. So now, the female Leading Player is integral. We’re looking forward to what Sasha Allen does with the role now.

    Diane_Paulus_Pippin_Quote_3

    John Moore: Speaking of Hair, I have to ask you about your Jeannie, who was played by Colorado’s sweetheart, Annaleigh Ashford.

    Diane Paulus: Oh my gosh. She is such a joy, and, as everyone knows, so hysterically funny. There is not one word that can come out of that women's mouth that doesn't make you laugh. I loved working with her on Hair. She was so quirky and funny and such a pro. And she is so committed as an artist. I felt really lucky to have had that experience with her.

    John Moore: It looks like Finding Neverland is going to be the next big thing. Can you give us a sneak peek into what kind of a theatrical experience we're in for?

    Diane Paulus: What I love about the show is that it's the story of the power of the imagination through the life of J.M. Barrie. Speaking of expanding the boundaries, he took a leap of faith and created something that everyone felt was crazy back in 1904. I mean, this was a story with boys who could fly and fairies and mermaids and crocodiles. Everybody thought he was nuts. He created Peter Pan -- something we all now think of as a brand of peanut butter. And if people have seen it, they say, ‘Oh, yeah, I've seen it a thousand times, and it’s the most mainstream, accessible musical you could point to.’ But it wasn't in its creation. 

    John Moore: This must be fun for you, having daughters.

    Diane Paulus. Yes. Because at the heart of it, this is about is seeing the world through the eyes of a child. I am making Finding Neverland for my two daughters. What does it means to have spirit of a child in your life?  What kind of worlds can we see through their eyes? I love the show. The heart of it is very strong.

    John Moore: Before we go, I am curious what you think about the new ending for Pippin. Without giving anything away, why do you think this new ending is the right ending?

    Diane Paulus: Our ending now makes perfect sense. This show is about all the trials we have to go through in our lives, and everyone goes through them. And so when Pippin ends, you have this sense that it is all going to begin again. I tell you, when we were making this production, there were kids all over the place, because so many of us have children, and I let everybody watch rehearsal. It was like a circus of children. Every time we finished rehearsal, all of the kids would rush on to the stage and try to climb the poles and try to do all the acrobatic tricks. It was sort of primal. I looked at them one day and I thought, ‘That's the story!’ Even though we know we are going to fall, a kid will always want to climb a tree. A kid will always want to try to climb a pole. It’s a part of human nature, and that to me is what we get in this new ending.

    John Moore: And also looking at it from Pippin’s perspective. He has to make a decision. And I think Stephen was always a little uncomfortable that people might interpret the original ending of a man choosing to be a responsible husband and father as somehow settling. In this day and age, we really should be celebrating those men who choose fatherhood and family, should we not?

    Diane Paulus: Every individual has to face certain decisions at some point in their lives. And you make your choice for a reason. And I think each choice is extraordinary, if you really get in touch with yourself. To me, that's the story. Stop doing what people tell you to do. Identify what's in your heart. That might mean running away with the circus. That might mean choosing a family, and to love someone, which means you can't run away with the circus right now. It's all about the choice. It’s all about the risk of the choice. It's not about which choice you actually make. Can you hear your heart and follow your heart and the truth inside yourself? That is the journey of Pippin. That’s your journey. And that’s my journey, too.


    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.


    'The Pippin Profiles':  

    Pippin: Ticket information

    Sept 6-20, 2014 • Buell Theatre
    Accessible Performances • Sep 20, 2pm
    Tickets: 303.893.4100 • Toll-free: 800.641.1222 • TTY: 303.893.9582
    Groups (10+) • 303.446.4829
    Online • www.DenverCenter.Org


    Previous Pippin coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

    Photos: Pippin loading in Denver, rehearsing in New York
    My three Pippins gather at Sardi's to honor John Rubinstein

    Photos: Exclusive look at first 'Pippin' rehearsal
    Lucie Arnaz joins Denver-bound ‘Pippin’ as Berthe

    From Pippin to Pappa: Denver tour launch will feature John Rubinstein
    2014-15 season: ‘Pippin,’ ‘Kinky Boots’ are Denver-bound!

  • 'Pippin' pics: Loading in Denver, flipping in New York

    by John Moore | Aug 21, 2014
    Pippin_Loadin_820_2

    Above: Crews prepare the Buell Theatre to host the launch of the national touring production of Pippin The Musical, opening Sept. 6. The cast, meanwhile, is rehearsing in New York in advance of their arrival in Denver for additional preparations beginning Aug. 26.

    Click here to see our complete gallery of photos from both sites. 

    Denver photos by John Moore. New York photos provided by Pippin The Musical.

    Pippin_Loadin_6_820


    Pippin_Loadin_8_820

    Denver photos by John Moore. To see more, click here to see our complete gallery of photos from both sites.

    This just in: The time-lapse video of the load-in:
  • The 'Pippin' Profiles: Circus Creator Gypsy Snider

    by John Moore | Aug 09, 2014

    To lifetime circus performer Gypsy Snider, "circus is like eating and sleeping and family." Photo courtesy Gypsy Snider. 

     

    Note: "The Pippin Profiles" is a series of interviews by Arts Journalist John Moore with the "Pippin The Musical" cast and creative team leading up to the launch of the first national touring production in Denver on Sept. 6. First up: Circus Creator Gypsy Snider.

    In Pippin the Musical, a family of circus performers defies death to tell their story with every flip, tumble and mid-air spin.

    The same is true of those actors performing in Pippin the Musical.

    And the same has been true of Pippin Circus Creator Gypsy Snider since she began her career as a circus performer at the tender age of 4. 

    With all respect to Stephen Schwartz, composer of Wicked and Pippin, Snider was defying gravity long before Elphaba was a green twinkle in his orchestral eye.

    Snider’s parents are the founders of San Francisco’s pioneering Pickle Family Circus, an acclaimed alternative circus often cited as a primary influence on the creation of Cirque du Soleil. Snider is the co-founder of Montreal’s 7 Fingers (Les 7 doigts de la main), a pioneering form of live entertainment that has twice brought Traces to Denver. That innovative show used astonishing displays of athletic skill to tell the real-life stories of seven street teens.

    Snider embraces circus as its own narrative storytelling form. Her brand of physical theatre requires strength, agility and grace.

    Her upbringing was like no other. She grew up around the likes of circus legends Bill Irwin and Geoff Hoyle. She appeared among an entire town of street performers in Robert Altman's 1980 film Popeye. By 18, she was attending a physical-theater school in Switzerland.

    She co-founded 7 Fingers in 2002 and, for her first foray into Broadway, she was called upon by Pippin Director Diane Paulus to help re-tell Schwartz’s iconic story of a young prince’s quest for meaning in life set within the world of circus. Pippin won the 2013 Tony Award for best musical revival. Its first national touring production launches at Denver’s Buell Theatre on Sept. 6.

    Modern audiences who have a familiarity with circus generally think of Cirque du Soleil. But while Snider toured with Cirque and has a deep love for it, she says Pippin should not be mistaken for it. If anything, she said, it should evoke the old days of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

    “This is old-school, hard-core circus,” she said.

    We’re talking juggling knives and swallowing fire.

    “I would say that Cirque du Soleil is like the grandfather, and we are the rebellious teenagers,” she said.

    Pippin culminates with a boy becoming a man, having to choose between a life of adventure or family. Snider has never had to pick  between the two – her small children are also embracing the circus life. But Snider’s life turned upside down in 2008, when she were diagnosed with advanced-stage colon cancer.

    “It was definitely a life-changing experience,” she said. Much surgery, chemotherapy chemotherapy and radiation followed.

    “Suddenly, my work felt trivial and my family became more important than ever before,” Snider said in a previous interview with Broadway Buzz. “I began to question how taxing show business can be and wondered if I should just move to the country and raise my two daughters in a stress-free environment, instead of in the glory of this wonderful but all consuming lifestyle. It was during this difficult time that Diane Paulus reached out to me about the possibility of collaborating on a new production of Pippin.”

    And when she did, her charge to Snider was simple:

    “Come make this thrilling.”

    Here are more excerpts from our recent conversation with Snider for MyDenverCenter.Org. It took place just before rehearsals were to begin for the national touring production of Pippin as Snider and her family were visiting her parents' family retreat in the Berkshires.

    The Broadway cast of "Pippin," above. The first national touring production of the iconic musical, with circus creations by Gypsy Snider, launches in Denver on Sept. 6. Photo by Joan Marcus.

     

    John Moore: When you brought Traces to Denver in 2011, could you have even imagined what your immediate future had in store for you?

    Gypsy Snider: Actually, Denver plays a semi-big part in this. When I was working in Denver, I saw all of the other productions that were being staged there at the time. I remember sitting there watching the (Denver Center Theatre Company’s) A Midsummer Night's Dream. That’s when I knew that I wanted to get back to the States, that I wanted to work in the English language and that I wanted to work in the theatre. I remember saying that to (Denver Center for the Performing Arts President) Randy Weeks afterward. I got really excited about the possibilities from Denver on.

    John Moore: How did the Pippin opportunity come about?

    Gypsy Snider: My first conversation with (Director) Diane Paulus and (Producer) Barry Weissler coincided with Traces being in Denver. She had just done a Cirque production called Amaluna, so she was really starting to be familiar with the Montreal circus scene. She had already seen tons of videos of things we had done. Barry had been following us for several years. At my first meeting with him in New York, I was like, 'What am I doing? How did I end up here?’ But Barry said, ‘Look, I don't know what to do with you. But I know that I love what you do.’ And so, he continued to follow our shows. Later on, when Diane said, ‘I think we need to put circus into the Pippin story,’ Barry said, ‘How about Gypsy? And she said, 'I totally know who you are talking about.’ And so then they sent me the script.

    John Moore: I read somewhere that you had never seen Pippin before.

    Gypsy Snider: No, I had not. Maybe I had remotely heard the music, but I didn't associate it with the story. So I read the book and … it’s a very strange piece of literature. But I fell in love with it. I instantly knew what I wanted to do with it. I read it in one hour in my bed and I just … knew. When I met with Diane, I rambled on and on. I had no idea what I was getting into. But she was sold.

    John Moore: Sounds to me like you are the rambling river in that story.

    Gypsy Snider: Oh, Diane Paulus is a big river instigator. She saw my enthusiasm. And when she feels someone has an idea that is flowing, she does an incredible job of pushing that flow and guiding that flow.

    John Moore: What specifically did you bring to the creative conversation?

    Gypsy Snider: At 7 Fingers, we have a way of bringing emotion and texture into acrobatics. In a way, I think the passion and the theatricality that circus brings to it quickly became the backbone of this new project. Of course, Bob Fosse and Stephen Schwartz are the backbone of Pippin. But in terms of rejuvenating it, the circus became the backbone of doing it this way. 

    John Moore: What was it like high-flying into the world of the original Pippin choreographer, the late Bob Fosse?

    Gypsy Snider: I was fascinated to learn the extent to which Bob Fosse was a huge influence on my career -- unbeknown to me. There is a kind of sexuality and a violence in his artwork that I always need whenever I am creating a show. I know that sex and violence sells TV shows, but Fosse really criticized the entertainment industry for the addictive and seductive nature of sexuality and violence in entertainment. I don't mean to go off on a crazy tangent, but if we are talking about seducing Pippin into a living a more extraordinary life by luring him into something that could be potentially fatal … that’s the entertainment industry. In that way, we are really looking at a retrospective of Fosse's life. That's what I found so, so fascinating about it. And then there is the innocent side of Pippin: The loving family man, the “corner of the sky” Pippin. That was absolutely the Stephen Schwartz that I got to know, amazingly, through this production. He's just so positive and so hard-working.

    John Moore: How do you think Bob Fosse would have liked the idea of setting Pippin in a circus?

    Gypsy Snider: I feel like Bob Fosse would have wanted us to do this, and that he would have done it himself if this were available to him at the time. Maybe not to this extent, but …  it was there. It was already there in the words.

    John Moore: With this reimagined version of Pippin – both setting it in the circus and, more tellingly, in consideration of the life choice Pippin faces in the end – it seems to me as if maybe Diane Paulus is saying that Pippin is you.

    Gypsy Snider: I think so. Diane and I are both the same age, and we both have two daughters. We have discussed on a very personal level the seduction of the business and this balance you try to achieve, being professional women who have families. It’s really like we are the Catherines -- but we are also being seduced like the Pippins.  It was interesting for both of us how we connected on an emotional level to this musical. Pippin has this choice to make, and one of them it to embrace this simple home life with an older woman and her child living out in the country where there is no magic and there is no makeup -- which is something Fosse presented in a very boring, very pejorative manner. And yet here I am talking to you right now while I am out here in the country with my children -- and I love it. But I also love my work. I feed on it so much, and I am proud to show my children how passionate I am about my work.

    John Moore: For 40 years, both audiences and writers alike have argued whether the ending to Pippin is a tragedy ... or a compromise ... or a perfect, happy ending. I imagine, given your life story, that you are split right down the middle.

    Gypsy Snider: I am split down the middle. For me, circus is like eating and sleeping and family. It's my brother; it's my mother; it's my father. Just talking about it makes me so emotional. There were maybe a few moments in my life when I felt like walking away from it, or perhaps trying something totally different. Circus is a very physically demanding life. It's a very itinerant life. And when my kids started going to school, I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ But circus is my family, too. Sometimes I like to think of it as the mafia because it's a very closed, tight-knit circle. But the reason is because there is so much danger and risk and sacrifice involved. True circus people know each other, and there is a whole sort of respect and value system to it that is so honorable and so genuine and so truthful. To true circus people, there is no nonsense. There is no competition. There is no, 'I am better than you are.' There is no, 'I am going to be a star, but you are not going to be a star.' Each individual circus performer is absolutely unique, and that uniqueness is valued. There is no one way to do anything. Unfortunately, it's not like dance. To survive in the dance world, you have to sacrifice so much of your individuality and soul. Everyone wants to play Romeo, for example. In circus, that is not ever an issue. People don't compare themselves. There is somehow a place for everyone.

    John Moore: How do you feel about getting the whole Pippin creative team together and doing this all over again with a new cast?

    Gypsy Snider: Diane, (Choreographer Chet Walker) and I have been talking about how exciting it is going to be to get back in the room.  I am feeling like this is going to be an incredible reunion for all three of us.

    John Moore: Well, then … welcome in advance to Denver.

    Gypsy Snider: I am so excited.  There is a place in Denver that sells poutine (gravy fries with cheese curds), so I am definitely looking forward to that.

    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.

    Coming up on the Pippin Profiles:  

    • Choreographer Chet Walker
    • Director Diane Paulus
    • Composer Stephen Schwartz
    • Plus ... select members of the acting company

     

    Pippin: Ticket information

    Sept 6-20, 2014 • Buell Theatre
    Accessible Performances • Sep 20, 2pm
    Tickets: 303.893.4100 • Toll-free: 800.641.1222 • TTY: 303.893.9582
    Groups (10+) • 303.446.4829
    Online • www.DenverCenter.Org

     

    Previous "Pippin" coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

    My three Pippins gather at Sardi's to honor John Rubinstein
    Photos: Exclusive look at first 'Pippin' rehearsal
    Lucie Arnaz joins Denver-bound ‘Pippin’ as Berthe

    From Pippin to Pappa: Denver tour launch will feature John Rubinstein
    2014-15 season: ‘Pippin,’ ‘Kinky Boots’ are Denver-bound!

  • My three Pippins gather at Sardi's to honor John Rubinstein

    by John Moore | Aug 02, 2014

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    From left: Kyle Dean Massey (Broadway's current Pippin), John Rubinstein (original Pippin and Charlemagne for the national tour) and  Kyle Selig (national tour Pippin).

     

    Cast members from the  Broadway and national touring productions of Pippin The Musical gathered on July 31 to celebrate the unveiling of John Rubinstein’s caricature at the famed Sardi's restaurant in New York's theatre district.

    Rubinstein originated the role of Pippin in 1972. He will be playing Pippin's father, Charlemagne, when the national touring production launches at Denver's Buell Theatre from Sept. 6-20.

    Sardi's, located on 44th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, has been famous for hanging  more than 1,300 caricatures of  show-business celebrities since it opened at its current location in 1927.

    The artist who caricatured Rubinstein was Richard Baratz. The gathering drew cast members from both the current Broadway and upcoming national touring casts, including three Pippins: Kyle Dean Massey (Broadway) and Kyle Selig (national tour).

    Tickets for the Denver stop are on sale now at 303-893-4100 or go to www.DenverCenter.Org.

    Photos provided by Pippin national touring production.

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    A photo of John Rubinstein's caricature at Sardi's.

    image

     

    Rubinstein poses with  cast members of the "Pippin" Broadway and tour casts.


     

    Previous "Pippin" coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

    Photos: Exclusive look at first 'Pippin' rehearsal

    Lucie Arnaz joins Denver-bound ‘Pippin’ as Berthe

    From Pippin to Pappa: Denver tour launch will feature John Rubinstein

    2014-15 season: ‘Pippin,’ ‘Kinky Boots’ are Denver-bound!

  • Fan video: 'The Book of Mormon' comes to South Park

    by John Moore | Jun 17, 2014

    Ever wonder what might happen if the boys from The Book of Mormon visited South Park? A fan named Simon Ching took the opening number from the hit musical written by Robert Lopez and Colorado natives Trey Parker and Matt Stone and imagined the young elders ringing their doorbells in the Colorado mountains. The real Book of Mormon returns to the Denver Center's Ellie Caulkins Opera House from Aug. 11 through Sept. 13, 2015. To purchase tickets, call 303-893-4100 or go to the Denver Center ticketing page.

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  • 2014 Bobby G Awards: All our video coverage

    by John Moore | Jun 01, 2014

    The Bobby G Awards, hosted by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, honor achievements in local high school theatre. Enjoy our video coverage:

    2014 Bobby G Awards Video: Individual Honoree Announcements:
    ​ 

    In this first video in our series, we show you the announcements of all honorees in supporting roles and non-acting categories. Among the many featured are Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee, Entertainment Anchor Greg Moody and Denver Center Lighting Designer Charles Macleod. Video by Topher Blair, edited by David Lenk.

    Our complete coverage of the 2014 Bobby G Awards:

     

    Awards show highlights at a glance:

    This brief video that captures the fun and excitement of the 2014 Bobby G Awards, Guests include emcee Greg Moody, Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee, Denver Center Academy Teaching Artist Allison Watrous, and participating students including Abby Noble and Conner Kingsley, who were named Outstanding Leading Actor and Actress and will advance to the National High School Musical Theatre Awards ("The Jimmys") later this month. in New York. Video by Topher Blair. Interviews by John Moore.

    Video: A look at the nominated Outstanding Musicals:

    Here, we take a look at the five shows nominated for Outstanding Musical. Interviews include Cherry Creek director Jim Miller and students from the nominated shows. Video by Topher Blair, edited by David Lenk. Interviews by John Moore. The nominees:

    • The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School
    • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School
    • Seussical, Grandview High School
    • Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School
    • High School Musical On Stage! Westminster High School

    Video: Nominated Actors Medley Highlights: 

    Here, the 10 Outstanding Actor and Actresses nominees perform a medley at the ceremony, held on the Buell Theatre stage. Video by Topher Blair, edited by David Lenk. Medley directed by Claudia Carson. Featured are: 

    • Stephanie Bess, The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School
    • Amelia Jacobs, City of Angels, Littleton High School
    • Abby Noble, Seussical, Grandview High School
    • Lorelei Thorne, Annie Get Your Gun, Faith Christian Academy
    • Kira Vuolo, Damn Yankees, Pomona High School
    • Conner Kingsley, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School
    • James Marsh, Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School
    • Danny Miller, The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School
    • Dylan Ruder, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School
    • Chris Salguero, High School Musical On Stage! Westminster High School

    Video: Outstanding Actor and Actress Medley: 

    Here, 2013 Outstanding Leading Actor and Actress Chris Maclean of Chaparral High School and Nicole Seefried of Denver School of the Arts perform a medley at the ceremony. They also talk with John Moore about their whirlwind year, along with Chaparral theatre teacher David Peterson. Maclean and Seefried advanced to last year's National High School Musical Theatre Awards ("The Jimmys") for a training immersion, performance and awards ceremony  in New York. This year's honorees are Conner Kingsley of Lakewood High School and Abby Noble of Grandview. Video by Topher Blair, edited by David Lenk. Medley directed by Claudia Carson.

     

     

    imageLeo Fox, right, of Grandview High School, with his proud little brother. Photo by John Moore.

    imageAJ Winter, left, and Jackson Warnock of Mountain Range High School's "Xanadu."

     
  • 'American Idiot' in Denver: Billie Joe Armstrong wishes cast a fond farewell

    by John Moore | May 24, 2014

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    Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong was a proud uncle in Denver on Friday night. His nephew, Andrew Humann, is an ensemble member in the "American Idiot" cast that performs at the Buell Theatre through Sunday. Photo by John Moore.

     

    TO SEE OUR FULL PHOTO GALLERY OF "AMERICAN IDIOT" PHOTOS IN AND AROUND DENVER, CLICK HERE.

    Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was in Denver on Friday to attend the opening performance of the final tour stop for the Tony-winning Broadway musical American Idiot. The show has been touring for three years. 

    Armstrong was joined by director Michael Mayer and Green Day drummer Tré Cool, among other luminaries. Mayer not only directed American Idiot but the original Spring Awakening, for which he won his first Tony Award. He is nominated again for directing this year's Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

    After Friday's performance, the bigwigs took turns thanking the cast and crew, and wishing them well as they disband after Sunday's closing in Denver.

    "I think there is something about being a part of what happens on that stage," Armstrong told them at a post-show party held at Pizza Republica. "It's very emotional. There's never a dry eye in the house - and by that I mean the house in my skull."

    American Idiot is based on Green Day’s groundbreaking rock opera of the same name. Armstrong not only wrote all the lyrics, for a time he played the role of St. Jimmy in the Broadway production of American Idiot. His nephew, Andrew Humann, is an ensemble member in the national touring production now here in Denver.

    "You can see the chemistry that happens between everybody," Armstrong continued. "You can feel it. And this cast: You looked like a bunch of friends. And that what was so beautiful about it. That's the kind of chemistry this show needs. So, thank you."

    American Idiot has just a three-day run at the Buell Theatre ending with two shows on Sunday, May 25. It tells the story of three lifelong friends forced to choose between their dreams and the safety of suburbia. It features Green Day hits such as Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Holiday and 21 Guns. For ticket information, call 303-893-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org.

    TO SEE OUR FULL PHOTO GALLERY OF "AMERICAN IDIOT" PHOTOS IN AND AROUND DENVER, CLICK HERE.

    Photos and video by John Moore.

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    "American Idiot" director Michael Mayer was in Denver on Friday for the closing of his touring production. He's up for his second Tony Award next month for "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." Photo by John Moore.

     

    The stars of "American Idiot," Jared Nepute, Dan Tracy and Casey O'Farrell, serenade CBS-4's Lauren Whitney at the Colfax Guitar Shop with "Wake Me Up When September Ends."

  • Green Day goes knock knock knockin’ on Broadway’s door

    by John Moore | May 15, 2014

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     "American Idiot": A song-and-dance entertainment it didn’t know it was meant to be. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

     

    By Rob Weinert-Kendt
    Once upon a time, composers and playwrights conceived musicals together, with some degree of simultaneity and shared understanding about the story they were striving to tell. From Daponte and Mozart to Rodgers & Hammerstein, teams teamed, toiling to marry music and theatre into a harmonious whole.

    That’s so last millennium, dude.

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    Today’s rock and pop musicals might start instead with a catalog of well-known songs, artfully woven into an evening of theatre (Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys) or with a club-seasoned troubadour whose story/cabaret songs seem to want to grow into something play-like (Passing Strange, Hedwig and the Angry Inch).

    Then there’s the concept-album-turned-Broadway-rock-opera, a unique hybrid form that began in 1969 with a pair of messianic double-LP extravaganzas, Jesus Christ Superstar and Tommy. Neither was written for the stage, though both were eventually theatricalized and filmed: Superstar on Broadway in 1971 and on film two years later, and The Who’s pinball allegory, first as a film in 1975 and then on Broadway in 1993.

    While the Superstar album looks in retrospect like an audition demo for its writers, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, The Who had no such ambitions, let alone theatrical know-how. Apart from its outré film adaptation by the late Ken Russell, Tommy seemed destined to be performed as a sort of rock oratorio — until the La Jolla Playhouse’s Des McAnuff came along in the early 1990s. With the help of Pete Townshend, The Who’s lead songwriter, McAnuff rethought Tommy for the stage, turning it into the song-and-dance entertainment it didn’t know it was meant to be.

    Director Michael Mayer played a similar role with American Idiot, the chart-busting 2004 album by the punk-pop band Green Day, which he helped shape into a Broadway show in 2010. But Mayer’s job proved a good deal more involved and interpretive than McAnuff’s had been — not least because, while Green Day front man and main songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong proved open and cooperative, the narrative threads holding together the American Idiot album were more tenuous.

    “It’s not easy to follow,” Mayer admits of the record. “The story is deliberately ambiguous. It’s almost more an emotional narrative than it is a literal narrative.”

    Its rough outline follows a sad sack described in the song suite as “Jesus of Suburbia” as he travels into the depths of a city nightlife, where he meets “punk-rock freedom fighter” St. Jimmy as well as an “Extraordinary Girl” later called simply “Whatshername.”

    “St. Jimmy is powerful and sexy and dangerous and possibly destructive,” Mayer explains, “and this girl, who’s a rebel, is someone with whom he has some real connection.” There’s not a lot else in terms of concrete story points, Mayer concedes. “What you glean from listening to the album a lot, and reading it in a particular way, is that Jesus returns home having experienced the suicide of St. Jimmy and the destruction of his relationship with the girl. It’s kind of a mock-heroic return. Billie Joe describes it as one step forward, two steps back.”

    That wouldn’t be enough to sustain an evening of theatre, in other words. Besides, Armstrong, though open to the idea of a stage version, wasn’t a playwright. That left Mayer — who had a background in shepherding both bracing new works and unlikely adaptations to the stage, from The Triumph of Love to Thoroughly Modern Millie to Spring Awakening — to embark on his first professional writing gig (he shares book-writing credit with Armstrong).

    “It was the conceit of the project that I would take the record and basically write a story onto it and from inside it,” Mayer says. “All the songs are intact and in order” (and there are a few bonus tracks, courtesy of Green Day’s follow-up album, 21st Century Breakdown). Though Armstrong’s lyrics are virtually the only text of the show, Mayer did invent characters and situations. “Jesus of Suburbia,” a.k.a. Johnny, now has two friends: Will, who stays home to molder in the small town, and Tunny, who escapes with Johnny but grows disaffected, enlists in the army and ends up wounded in Iraq.

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     Jared Nepute plays Johnny in "American Idiot." Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

     

    “I had great anxiety with the liberties we were taking, dramatically as well as emotionally, and I kept thinking we would cross a line that would be intolerable,” Mayer confesses of the writing process. “But Billie Joe kept encouraging me to go further. The amount of freedom I had to dream and imagine was unprecedented. For whatever reason, something alchemical happened when I spent time with these characters.”

    Such was the simpatico nature of this odd collaboration, Mayer says, that he recalls “the very cool feeling of hearing Billie Joe talk about characters I’d made up in a way that demonstrated his understanding of them—which he should, given that he’d written what they say.”

    So American Idiot may have enough narrative content to fill an evening. But it wouldn’t be a musical at all if the songs themselves hadn’t cried out for the stage.

    "The music has such buoyancy and authenticity,” Mayer effuses. “That’s what got my heart racing when I thought of putting it on stage and creating stories that would fulfill the promise of this rock opera they’d written. They play against the tragedy of the story. If the songs were all slow, mournful, dirge-like, minor-key hymns to destruction, you wouldn’t want to watch it at all.”

    This dramatic flair for contrast may be no coincidence; Armstrong had been a rosy-cheeked child performer before he became a spike-haired Berkeley punk rocker.

     “As far as I’m concerned, Billie Joe is a direct descendant of Al Jolson,” Mayer says. “Having seen him sing Rockabye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody at the Bowery Ballroom, I can say it’s in his DNA. He’s a real entertainer, and that comes through.”

    Ultimately, what comes through American Idiot — and the thing that made this ad hoc adaptation process work at all — is not only Green Day’s knack for show-stopping rock, but a sort of overarching coherence of attitude and tone. This quality, in turn, may be traced to some of this concept musical’s antecedents.

    “He was thinking of Tommy and Rocky Horror Show,” Mayer says of Armstrong’s Idiot templates. “He also thought about West Side Story, and I think he thought a little bit about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

    That Green Day had a template in mind may have helped Mayer feel his way to a story. But don’t ask him to pin down the punk lightning he’s caught in this musical-theatre bottle.

    “I’ve been trying very hard not to define it for anyone, because it is unusual and it is its own thing,” Mayer says. “Is it a musical? Is it an opera? Is it a rock opera? Is it a punk-rock opera? Is Green Day even punk?” (A seemingly simple question that can start a long debate, if you’re up for it.)

    Mayer throws up his hands and says, “I’m just committed to calling it a show.”

    Rob Weinert-Kendt is a senior editor at American Theatre and has written about theatre and the arts for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Variety, The Guardian and The San Francisco Chronicle.


    Green Day’s American Idiot

    • May 23-25
    • At the Buell Theatre
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100
    • Toll-free: 800-641-1222 • TTY: 303.893.9582
    • Groups: 303-446-4829 • denvercenter.org
    • ASL interpreted, Audio Described and Open Captioned: 2 p.m. May 24
  • "Once, the Musical' in Denver: Talkback with high-school theatre students

    by John Moore | May 08, 2014

    Cast members from the national touring production of Once, the Musical stayed late on May 7 to give a private talkback filled with advice and insight to Colorado high-school theatre students. The event was hosted by the Denver Center's Bobby G Awards, which celebrate achievement in high-school theatre. Featured cast and crew included John Steven Gardner, Aaron Quintana, Matt DeAngeles, Dani De Waal and Benjamin Magnuson. Video by John Moore and David Lenk. Once plays in Denver through May 18. Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org.

  • Photos: 'Once' opening night in Denver

    by John Moore | May 07, 2014

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    'Once' stars Stuart Ward and Dani de Waal, who play Guy and Girl, meet 102-year-old Denver Center founder Donald R. Seawell, who was the first to bring the Royal Shakespeare Company to America in 1962, at Tuesday's opening performance in Denver. Photo by John Moore. 

    The Tony Award-winning best musical once tells the story of an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant drawn together by their shared love of music. Over the course of one fateful week, their unexpected friendship and collaboration evolves into a powerful but complicated romance, heightened by the raw emotion of the songs they create together. Once opened in Denver on Tuesday, May, 6 and plays through May 18 in the Buell Theatre. Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org. Photos by John Moore.

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    Opening night was a homecoming for 'once' Associate Company Manager Aaron Quintana (center), who worked at the Denver Center for several years and performed in many shows in the Denver area. After the opening performance, the cast posed with Aaron. More Aaron photos below. 

     

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    The scene outside the Buell Theatre on Opening Night.

     

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  • 'Once': Going from the big screen to the Broadway stage

    by John Moore | Apr 22, 2014

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    The national touring production of 'once,' the love story of two young musicians, comes to Denver starting May 6. Photo by Joan Marcus.

    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.

    Girl (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. The movie’s stars—Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova—also wrote much of the score and received an Oscar for their beautiful ballad, “Falling Slowly.”

    [[MORE]]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. Immediately I thought, ‘We’re going to be able to see actors create that music in front of us.’ That’s really exciting. Actors have played instruments onstage 
for years, but not always in a show about 
making music.”   

     

    In 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.

    “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.

    “They’re an ensemble of misshapen people who sing and tell the story. Watching them play the music and sing and find their voice is very beautiful and very strong. But in addition, we wanted the show to be hugely communal. So how do we do that? We allow the audience on stage.”

    Prior to the start of the show, the audience is welcome to come up on stage, buy a drink at the bar, mingle with the cast. There’s a bit of a jam session going on. This bonding ritual obliterates the fourth wall. “We wanted the audience to own the experience,” says Walsh.

    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.’ ”

    Casting the show wasn’t easy.

     “We needed actors who could act brilliantly, move and play instruments,” said Tiffany. They found them, “but it took ages,” he adds.

    “Casting the first production was easiest, because we arranged the music around the instruments the actors could play. We got used to having the bank manager play the cello, for instance, and a character named Baruska has to play the accordion because it fits who she is.”
    Because there are only a dozen performers on stage in once, they can’t hide. If they can’t play the piano, the guitar or the violin, they’re out. In addition, Walsh’s text is difficult to do and demands really good actors. Finally, Steven Hoggett’s choreography may look easy, but it requires a great deal of skill.   

    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.

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    The national touring company of 'once,'opening in Denver on May 6. Photo by Joan Marcus.

    once

    • May 6-18
    • Buell Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio Described & Open Captioned • May 18, 2pm
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100
    • Toll-free: 800.641.1222 • TTY: 303.893.9582
    • Groups (10+): 303.446.4829 To order 303-894-4100 or denvercenter.org

     

  • Bianca Marroquin talks to her 'Chicago' fans in English and Spanish from Denver

    by John Moore | Mar 19, 2014

    Bianca Marroquin, star of the national touring production of "Chicago," addresses her fans in both Spanish and English for her web page this morning (March 19), just before meeting students from Denver's La Academia. That's a private, inner-city school committed to providing the highest level of education to 7th-12th graders who have been under-served by the schools they have previously attended, and to provide a safe and structured learning environment for students of all ethnicities, economic backgrounds and sexual orientations. Check back tomorrow for footage of her talk with students. "Chicago" plays through Sunday, March 23. Call 303-893-4100 or go to the Denver Center's web page.

  • Interview: Father John O'Hurley has found a Hart of gold in 'Chicago'

    by John Moore | Mar 12, 2014

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    John O’Hurley has played Billy Flynn in three different Broadway runs, and is now headlining the current national tour.

     

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    John O'Hurley is known by some as the award-winning actor who not only immortalized real-life clothing entrepreneur J Peterman on Seinfeld -- he bought his company in 2001. O'Hurley calls it "one of the greatest acts of identity theft of all time." 

    Others know him as a best-selling author. Or as the host of the annual National Dog Show. Or as the former host of The Family Feud. Or as a champion contestant on Dancing with the Stars. John O’Hurley also has played win-at-any-cost lawyer Billy Flynn three different times in Broadway runs of Chicago, and he is now headlining the current national touring production that stops in Denver from March 18-23.

    O'Hurley took time this week to talk with MyDenverCenter.Org about his signature roles, his love for dogs, his love for Breaking Bad-boy Bryan Cranston, why Chicago remains topical 39 years after it debuted on Broadway, and his unabashed endorsement of his co-star, Bianca Marroquin. You may not have heard of the Mexican TV star, but O'Hurley, who has logged more than 1,000 performances as Billy Flynn, calls her simply, "the best Roxie Hart I have ever seen."

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    John Moore: Let's start with your writing career. What got you started down that path?

    John O'Hurley: I live by my imagination, and whatever my imagination tells me to do, I do. That's why I write books and I compose albums and  a lot of other things outside of theatre. My writing started when I was hosting The National Dog Show, which I have been doing for 13 years now on Thanksgiving Day. One year, I wrote a piece for the show Andy Rooney-style. It was called Five Great Lessons My Dogs Have Taught Me, and the darned thing turned out to be way too long, so we couldn't use it. But I expanded it to 15 things on the way home on the plane, and it occurred to me that it might make a good book. I had never written a book before. I didn't even know how to. But my agent sold it inside of a day, and the book was on The New York Times best-seller list. All of a sudden, I was a published author. My third book is a children's book that just came out this year.

    Moore: Is that The Perfect Dog?

    O'Hurley: Yeah, it's a Dr. Seuss-style poem that I wrote to my son in response to his question, "Is every dog perfect?" 

    Moore: What was your answer?

    O'Hurley: Well, the final statement is, "The dog is that is perfect is the one next to you." And it was his little stuffed animal named "Puppy."

    Moore: Nice. And is it true that everyone who listens to their imaginations and writes a book becomes an instant New York Times best-seller?

    O'Hurley: Not sure if that's the way it works. I never deal in results. I just deal in the necessities of doing what you imagine. 

    Moore: There was a story in The Huffington Post just today about the habits of highly creative people, and you already have described several of them. 

    O'Hurley: I do a lot of motivational speaking. Actually, I have this speech that is titled, The Peterman Guide to the Extraordinary Life. You'd be surprised. I speak to hedge funds on Wall Street, and I speak to university kids - a very diverse group of people. But it always resonates true that there are three elements to an extraordinary life, and one of them is imagination. If you live by your imagination, it takes you where you need to go.

    Moore: Well, now I have to ask you about your dogs. How many do you have?

    O'Hurley: I have two dogs right now, but those are not the ones I wrote about. Sadly, they have passed on. I now have a Havenese named Lucy, and a little Cavalier King Charles (Spaniel) named Sadie. They're great dogs.

    Moore: So is it weird for me to admit that I first became a fan of yours while you were on Loving with Bryan Cranston?

    O'Hurley: Oh, wow. Today is Bryan Cranston's birthday, too. I just got off the phone with him. ... Yeah. 

    Moore: As in, "Yeah, John, that is a little weird ..."?

    O'Hurley: No (laughing). That was one of my favorite shows ever. Mostly because Bryan and I got to send up every scene as a comedy. Daytime took itself very seriously, so it was easy to parody. Bryan and I probably learned more about comedy on Loving than on any show either of us has ever done.

    Moore: Are you saying those scenes weren't serious?

    O'Hurley: Well ... we had to do them seriously. Just not during dress rehearsal.

    Moore: So what did you think when your buddy ended up breaking out in Breaking Bad?

    O'Hurley: I remember when he showed me the script. He told me, "I am doing this pilot about a crystal-meth high-school teacher." I just laughed and said, "Well, well ... How about that?" That was just before cable really hit its niche audience. I think Breaking Bad was one of those series where people discovered it was OK to wander away from the networks - and even away from Showtime and HBO - and venture into the hinterlands of cable television. And they found great stuff going on. The network took a big chance doing Breaking Bad, and it rewarded them handsomely. And Bryan as well. It was a great role for him, and it was a great contrast to the role he had done on Malcolm in the Middle. A rather severe contrast. Bryan has always had that weight in him, and I think he really developed that weight doing that show.

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    Moore: I used to write about theatre for The Denver Post, and so I have been writing about Chicago, from local productions to Broadway to the film, since 2002. It's uncanny to me how every time I take a look at it, and several years have gone by, there is yet another celebrity trial going on that makes Chicago seem as current as this morning's headlines.

    O'Hurley: It's amazing that we hold the notion of celebrity to a different moral standard than we do if you just come up through the normal ranks of life. 

    Moore: And it doesn't ever seem to change. There always will be razzle-dazzle lawyers and celebrity obsession and a star-driven media. But in the 1990s, it looked like Chicago surely was written in response to the O.J. Simpson trial. Then there were Robert Blake and Martha Stewart and Michael Jackson's doctor. Now it's Oscar Pistorius. And most people would never know that the source story was written in the 1920s. Or that the Broadway musical debuted in 1975.

    O'Hurley: It never ends, and it gets more lunatic now when you figure that a lot of our celebrities now are not talent-driven celebrities. They are famous only for being celebrities. We are in the "Kardashian era" of notoriety. There are people who are willing to become the story rather than learn the infinitely more difficult task of trying to become one through art. And they are willing to take the dysfunction of their life and make that the core of an entertainment piece, rather than doing what Bryan or I do, which is to take these wonderful stories that have deeper and more beneficial meanings - and tell them. As opposed to the Lindsay Lohans of the world. 

    Moore: The central tenet of Chicago is its cynical assertion that truth in America is malleable, and often even incidental. But when I see you perform as Billy Flynn when you come to Denver next week, I think what will be different for me is that Billy Flynn in 2014 might not be a lawyer but rather a politician -- if there were any money in it.

    O'Hurley: (Laughing) ... Listen, if Billy is willing to shake down Amos, he's willing to shake down anybody. 

    Moore: Yes, but this does seem to be a filibustering time in American politics, when you can create your own truth and shape it for your constituents, and they will tend to believe it. In part, I think, because of the continuing decline of the mainstream media. Congress would be a playground for Billy Flynn. He'd get away with anything. Everything.

    O'Hurley: And that starts from the top, really. We have been razzle-dazzled by ... (stops himself) ... time and time again over the last ... well, let's just say since time immemorial. But it's getting much worse now.

    Moore: We could say all the way back to Andrew Jackson.

    O'Hurley: Yeah, but I think it is much worse now because of the plethora of media. You can't escape scrutiny. Using Bryan (Cranston) as an example: The play he is doing now on Broadway (All the Way, in which he is playing LBJ), somebody as notorious as Johnson or as scandalous as JFK could exist then, because the media just wasn't there.

    Moore: When it came to personal lives, the media were conspirators in a way. It wasn't that they didn't know what was going on in private, but honestly, journalism ethics at the time held that it wasn't anyone's business. That has obviously completely changed.

    O'Hurley: But it's also the volume of media now. It's self-perpetuating, too. We have more media than we need, and it is all self-justifying, if you know what I mean.

    Moore: Well, depending on your definition, "the media" may be proliferating as a whole, but the credible and ethical traditional media is dying away. 

    O'Hurley: But we don't need 200 news channels, for example.

    Moore: True, but I have always defined media as really anyone with distribution. These days, that means anyone with a Twitter account is part of "the media," because you can say whatever you want, and it will be distributed. Therefore, you are by definition part of the media. But unlike trained journalists, you have no accountability. You can say whatever you want, and it surely will be taken as truth by someone. 

    O'Hurley: Yes. Yes. 

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    Moore: OK, so this is my favorite topic, but I want to bring it back to you. I know that you have played Billy Flynn in more than 1,000 performances. So as you go out on the road, the obvious question is, how do you keep it fresh?

    O'Hurley: I say one prayer as I go onstage every night. I really do. And that prayer is, very simply, "God, let me be surprised." What I mean by that is, I want to stay relaxed and open enough so that I know what I am going to say ... I just don't know why I am going to say it. That allows me to react differently every night. It makes me listen to what is being said to me, and what is going on around me. And more often than not, something new does happen every single night onstage to me -- and I don't mean to be trite about that. Genuinely, something brand new occurs to me every show. So to say I have performed the role a thousand times ... well, yes, and the role is a thousand times more interesting to me now than it was when I started back in 2006. It is infinitely more complicated and complex to me now than it was then. You compare that to Richard Gere (who starred in the 2002 film version of Chicago). He probably had six or eight weeks with Billy Flynn, and then moved on to something else. I have had eight years with him.

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    Bianca Marroquin as Roxie Hart, with Ryan Worsing and Michael Cusumano, in the national touring production of "Chicago." Photo by  Jeremy Daniel.

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    Moore: I imagine the cavalcade of female stars you have performed with over the years has had a lot to do with keeping it fresh for you as well.

    O'Hurley: Not fresh. I can keep it fresh without any problem. I mean, I can play against a piece of cardboard, and I will find something interesting about it. I would say that it does help in terms of trying to drive the rest of the show. You're lucky that Bianca (Marroquin) is coming out for the Colorado run. I would say -- and I don't think I am off the mark when I say this -- that I think she is the best Roxie I have ever seen.

    Moore: What makes her so?

    O'Hurley: I think she is one of the most engaging triple-threat performers I have seen come across the Broadway stage in a while. She's got something really extraordinary. She is Chita Rivera born again. She brings this wonderful, multicultural feel to her to this character. Her physical comedy is fabulous. And she is fearless in the role. Absolutely fearless. It's a real gift to have her.

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    Moore: You mentioned Richard Gere, and he is part of an astonishing and long list of actors who have played Billy Flynn, including everyone from Joel Gray to Tom Wopat to Usher. Do you think you have discovered one aspect of the character, one truth, one trait that you think is truly, uniquely yours?

    O'Hurley: There are probably a hundred. I just think I've spent more time with him, and I also think it's in my nature that I find things more deeply spiritual about the characters I play than most people are willing to explore.

    Moore: Interesting.

    O'Hurley: I'll give you an example: I think Billy Flynn has an enormous paternal quality to him. And most people who play Billy play him very mono-chromatically. They put the smile on and he doesn't change from one moment to the end. That's ultimately uninteresting to me, and it's ultimately uninteresting to the audience. I think if an actor appears onstage with everything they already need to survive, then they are not interesting. They are really just a piece of cardboard that is moving back and forth across the stage, and you can replace them with a flashing light and a tape recorder. But I think what makes Billy interesting is that he has an extraordinary paternal quality to him. I mean, these girls are his girls, and he manages them all. It's like his little harem of girls who are coming up on the court docket, and he will defend each of them with his life. I think that comes out shortly after Roxie has fired and then re-hired him. They've just had their latest shouting match, and she says to him, "Billy, I'm scared." And he turns to her and says, "You've got nothing to worry about. It's all a circus, kid." And when he says, "kid," he is choosing his words very carefully. 

    (Editor's note: John O'Hurley played a fictionalized version of catalog-company entrepreneur John Peterman on "Seinfeld from 1995-98. In 2001, O'Hurley became a part-owner of  The J Peterman Company.)

    Moore: As I wrap this up, you mentioned your Seinfeld alter ego earlier, and I have to ask: Where does J Peterman live in your pesona?

    O'Hurley: Listen, I wake up every morning and I embrace him. I love the lunacy. To me, he was a corporate Mr. Magoo. It was all about the writing and the literature. The fact that he was basically speaking literature made him so much more interesting than any other character I have ever played. I love him and I miss him. I really do. But I love very literal and very verbose characters who are urbane like that. Where language is extremely important.

    Moore: Are you still part-owner of the Peterman company?   

    O'Hurley: Oh, sure. 

    Moore: You once called this one of the greatest acts of identity theft of all time.

    O'Hurley: Yes. When Marshall McLuhan once said, "The message and the medium will eventually become indistinguishable," I am the living example of that.

    Moore: There seem to be strains of Chicago running underneath everything you just said.

    O'Hurley: Yes, indeed. (Laughing.)

    Moore: If this is not too personal, do you mind if I ask why you work so hard on behalf of The Epilepsy Foundation?

    O'Hurley: Oh, sure. I lost my sister to epilepsy back when I was 16 years old. And so it is out my reverence for her. Epilepsy just happens to be one of those things that still lives in the Dark Ages. Neurological disorders of any sort seem to be thought of as "other people's thing," sadly. It's just a matter of educating people and learning how to manage these disorders so that those who have epilepsy can have normal, working lives.

     

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    Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, right) worked as a copy writer for J Peterman, played by John O'Hurley, on "Seinfeld."

     

    Chicago in Denver: Ticket information

    • March 18-23
    • The Buell Theatre
    • 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
    • Call 303-893-4100 or go to the Denver Center's web site

     

    John O'Hurley: Denver book reading

    • John O’Hurley will read from and sign his picture book The Perfect Dog ($9.99, Grossett & Dunlap)
    • 10 a.m. Saturday, March 22
    • Bonfils Tattered Cover, 2526 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
    • More information: Click here

     

  • Video: 'Million Dollar Quartet' performs at the Hard Rock Cafe Denver

    by John Moore | Feb 26, 2014

    The cast of Million Dollar Quartet performs "Hound Dog" at the Hard Rock Cafe in Denver. Featuring Cody Ray Slaughter, Lee Ferris, John Countyman, Scott Moreau, Kelly Lamont, Patrick Morrow and Corey Kaiser. Video and photos by John Moore.

    The Quartet also will appear at noon March 4 for a free hour of music and mayhem at the Tattered Cover Book Store located at 2526 E. Colfax Ave.

    "Million Dollar Quartet" plays through March 9 at the Buell Theatre, Call 303-893-4100 or go to http://www.denvercenter.org.

  • Photos: Goin' retro with the cast of 'Million Dollar Quartet' at the Hard Rock Cafe in Denver

    by John Moore | Feb 26, 2014

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    It this a 2014 elevator ride ... or 1956?

    The cast of the national touring production of Million Dollar Quartet played an afternoon concert at the Hard Rock Cafe in Denver on Wednesday, and it felt all the world like 1956. Take a look at these photos of the performance by the Denver Center's John Moore.

    The performers included Scott Moreau (Johnny Cash), Cody Ray Slaughter (Elvis Presley), John Countryman (Jerry Lee Lewis), Lee Ferris (Carl Perkins), Kelly Lamont (Dyanne), Patrick Morrow (Fluke) and Corey Kaiser (Jay Perkins).

    Million Dollar Quartet is the Broadway musical that tells the true story of the one and only recording session between Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. It features timeless hits including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Ring of Fire,” “That’s All Right,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “See Ya Later, Alligator,” “Fever,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hound Dog” and more.

    It runs through March 9 at the Buell Theatre. Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org.

    Photos by John Moore. All rights reserved.

    imageJohn Countryman (Jerry Lee Lewis) warming up before the show.

     

    imageKelly Lamont as Dyanne, with the band.

     

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    Scott Moreau as Johnny Cash.

     

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    Cody Ray Slaughter as Elvis Presley.

     

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    Lee Ferris as Carl Perkins.

     

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    Scott Moreau as Johnny Cash (right) and Cody Ray Slaughter as Elvis Presley.

     

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    Cody Ray Slaughter as Elvis Presley with Kelly Lamont as Dyanne.

     

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    Cody Ray Slaughter as Elvis Presley with Kelly Lamont as Dyanne.

     

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    imageScott Moreau as Johnny Cash.

     

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    Patrick Morrow, Corey Kaiser, John Countryman and Cody Ray Slaughter.

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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.

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