• Video: The 'Pippin' Personalities: 5 Questions with Stephen Schwartz

    by John Moore | Sep 12, 2014


    Last week, we launched "The Pippin Personalities," a fun video series where we posed several personality questions to the cast and creative team behind the national touring production of Pippin The Musical, which launched in Denver on Sept. 6, 2014.

    But then on Sunday, composer Stephen Schwartz flew to Denver for one day to check in and work with the cast in advance of the official opening tomorrow night (Sept. 10). We had to take the opportunity to pose the same questions to him.

    Our favorite piece of advice from the composer of Pippin, Wicked, Godspell and more: "Follow you bliss ... but not to the point where it kills you." 

    Here is a link to our in-depth, written interview with Stephen Schwartz

     
    The ‘Pippin’ Personalities video series:
    Video 1: What makes YOU extraordinary?
    Video 2: If you could run off with the circus …
    Video 3: What was the first big show you saw?
    Video 4: What has ‘Pippin’ taught you about yourself?
    Video 5: First impressions of Denver
    Video 6: Stephen Schwartz takes the quiz

    Our guests include Director Diane Paulus, Sasha Allen (Leading Player), Matthew James Thomas (Pippin), John Rubinstein (Charles), Lucie Arnaz (Berthe), Circus Creator Gypsy Snider and Choreographer Chet Walker. 

    Videos by John Moore and David Lenk for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

    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' interview series:
     


    Our previous Pippin coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

    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!

  • The 'Pippin' Profiles: Kristine Reese on keeping up with the Jones

    by John Moore | Sep 10, 2014

    Pippin_Kristine_Reese_5

    For many audience members, Catherine (played by Kristine Reese), walks away with the show, even though she doesn’t even show up in the story until the second act. Photo by Terry Shapiro. Photo below by Peter Hurley Photography.



    Pippin_Kristine_Reese_4Kristine Reese went to see the Broadway revival of Pippin and, like pretty much everyone else in the audience …  she fell in love with Rachel Bay Jones.

    Jones was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as Catherine, the quirky widowed mother   who awaits young prince Pippin at the end of his quest to find meaning in his life like a curvaceous, open-armed human grail. 

    She was, by composer Stephen Schwartz’s assessment, nothing short of “amazing,” “heartbreaking” and “transformative.”

    Boy. And you thought Sasha Allen had a tough task trying to follow in the magic footsteps of Ben Vereen in the role of the Leading Player.

    Reese has been cast to play Catherine in the national touring production of Pippin now launching in Denver. She is doing her best to keep up with the Jones … by not trying to keep up with the Jones.

    “Obviously, what Rachel has done with the role is really amazing, and I think she has made it really special,” said Reese. “But whenever you take on a role (that you didn’t originate), you have to be true to who you are. I want to honor what Rachel did, but I also want to be me.”

    Reese must be doing something right. Schwartz’s first impression of Reese: “I have to tell you that we have found a really wonderful young woman to play Catherine on the tour who brings a lot of the same qualities that Rachel brought to the role," Schwartz  said. "I am really enthusiastic about our new Catherine.”

    How great is it to hear that?

    “That makes me want to actually cry with happiness,” Reese said. “That means so much to me. All I've ever wanted is for Stephen and (Director) Diane Paulus and everyone involved with the show to be enthusiastic about what I bring to the role. To have him say that is really amazing, so, thank you. You made my day.”

    Reese hails from the Midwest and graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. She’s played Nessarose on the national touring production of Wicked and Sophie in Mamma Mia.

    Pippin_Kristine_Reese_1


    Here are excerpts from our conversation with Reese, who plays a character many audiences think walks away with the show, even though she doesn’t even show up in the story until the second act:

    John Moore: So I have seen Pippin many times and in many shapes and sizes …  and I have to say, I think Catherine is almost always my favorite character.

    Kristine Reese: Yeah, a lot of people say that, actually. A lot of people.

    John Moore: How do you see this woman’s place in the story?

    Kristine Reese: She is genuine and she is pure and she is natural. And yes, she’s got a quirk to her -- especially in this production -- and I think I do as a person, too. When you play Catherine, I think you have to find that quirk inside you, because that's part of why Pippin falls in love with her. And I think that is actually the essence of who Catherine is. Even though she says in her song, ‘I'm just a plain, ordinary girl …’ she’s actually not. I think that's the point of all that silliness for the actor (who gets to plays her). She’s so special and so different, and she's not coloring in the lines like almost every other character in the play.

    John Moore: I know we can't tell people specifically about the new ending in this version of Pippin, but your character is certainly a key part in it. I think if you’ve ever seen the original Pippin, it's possible to misconstrue what the writers are actually trying to say about Pippin's ultimate choice -- in my opinion. I talked to Diane and (Circus Creator) Gypsy Snider about this, and part of their point, as mothers themselves, is to say that society needs to look again at how we perceive a young man who, after a life of pure adventure, sees marriage and fatherhood as an extraordinary life choice. … Which actually doesn't even give anything away about the new ending, I am happy to say! What's your take?

    Kristine Reese: I think that's a great way of saying it. I got married a couple of years ago, and I wasn't all that young when I did. But people would say to me, 'Why are you settling down?' No. I don't see it that way. When you live in New York and you work as a performer, some people see marriage as being tied down or restricting you -- and I  think it's the opposite. When I saw Pippin the first time, I think that's why the Catherine character resonated with me. It’s because of the connection she has with Pippin, and because of the choice he makes. I can relate so much of that to my real life, and how much my relationship means to me. I don't have children yet, but when I do, I would imagine the same thing for myself. That's the life I want.

    John Moore: What I like about the new ending is that it really takes the focus off of our looking at Pippin's choice as the ultimate point of the show and shifts it ... shall we say ... onto something different for us to chew on.

    Kristine Reese: Absolutely.

    John Moore: But I think it makes sense to acknowledge how family has changed as in institution in this country over past 40 years. When you look at all of our social problems, there is something kind of odd about a man who chooses family being seen as a bold choice.

    Kristine Reese: It is very interesting. You wouldn't think that would be a controversial thing still. But it is.


    kristineQ2Pippin_Kristine_Reese_2


    John Moore: OK, so here is your really hard-hitting, important question: What do you do for the whole first act while waiting for Catherine to enter the story?

    Kristine Reese: Actually, I am a Player in the circus troupe, and not actually Catherine. So in the first act, I am playing a silent clown. And in the second act, my job is to play Catherine in the story of Pippin that we are putting on for the audience. You may not really notice me in the first act, or know, 'Oh, she’s going to be Catherine' -- but I think that's the point.

    John Moore: We think of Pippin as this quintessential coming-of-age story about a boy becoming a man. But I see so much female empowerment going on with this production. What it's like for you to be in the room with all of these strong women?

    Kristine Reese: I am so glad that you asked me that, because that is really important to me. Like you said, Diane is a mom, and Gypsy is a mom, and Nadia DiGiallonardo, who is our music supervisor, is a mom, as are many others. I am not a mother myself, but I think that is a really special thing to have around you. I remember when Diane won the Tony Award (for best direction), and how much that meant to me as a female watching. Here was this woman up there who has this great career, but she also has children and a family. That means so much to me. And it means so much to her. I have really wanted to work with her. Not to take away from (Choreographer Chet Walker) or anyone else on the team, but I think there is something about being able to speak with a woman director about motherhood and love and family, and what those things mean. Not to say that if I had a male director the show would not be good, but I think the connection that women share is special, and I am so honored to be working with these respectful, strong women who have children and have love in their lives. They understand what my relationship means to me, and how I can use that as an actor.

    Pippin_Kristine_Reese_8


    John Moore: Many who see Pippin in Denver will be seeing it for the first time. And for those who have seen it before, it will in many ways be new for them as well. Help me to articulate what kind of a theatrical experience they are in for.

    Kristine Reese: The story is told through the circus lens, and you haven't really seen a lot of Broadway shows that have that aspect to it. I think what makes it so magical is the excitement that the circus element brings to it, contrasted with these really intimate, grounded, emotional scenes. For all the spectacular, dangerous things these performers do in these beautiful, sparkling costumes, you also have these almost naked acting moments. This show has everything. And that's why I fell in love with it when I first saw it. It was so special when they sang Simple Joys and they started jumping through hoops. But then to see this beautiful connection between these two actors playing Pippin and Catherine, I thought, 'That's really what this play is about.' I think people can take both of those things away from it. 


    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' interview series:
     


    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

    Our previous Pippin coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

    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!

  • The 'Pippin' Profiles: John Rubinstein, the first prince, is now his father

    by John Moore | Aug 29, 2014

    Pippin_John_Rubinstein_1

    John Rubinstein originated the title role in 'Pippin' on Broadway in 1972. When the new national touring production launches in Denver 42 years later, he will be playing Pippin's father, King Charlemagne. Photo by John Moore.


    Stephen Schwartz talks about it like a giddy teenager.

    “Isn’t that the best? I mean, isn't that the best ... ever?” he asks rhetorically.

    The legendary composer is talking about one of those wonderfully quirky little creative coincidences that come around once in, oh, about every 40 years.

    John Rubinstein was the first actor ever to play Pippin in the iconic 1972 Bob Fosse-Stephen Schwartz musical of the same name. Remarkably, he is now performing in the new national touring production of Broadway’s 2013 Tony Award-winning revival that launches in Denver on Sept. 6.

    Rubinstein is no longer a kid acting out the young prince’s search for meaning in his existence. Now, he is a seasoned pro playing Pippin’s disapproving father, King Charlemagne.

    Isn’t that the best … ever?

    “We would not have done it if we didn’t feel that John was the best choice for the role,” Schwartz said. “But the idea of it was irresistible.”

    Gypsy Snyder, one of the key creators of this new version of Pippin, said watching Rubinstein audition for the role of Charlemagne was like ... maple syrup. “It was just so sweet and so right and so juicy to see,” she said.  “It was incredible. It was mind-blowing."

    The new Pippin is significantly changed from the 1972 original also starring Ben Vereen, Jill Clayburgh and Irene Ryan. The story is now a yarn being told by a troupe of circus performers who impart it while performing death-defying acts of aerial and acrobatic skill. Vereen’s dynamic, enigmatic Leading Player is now being played by a woman. And the  ending of the show has been changed to better illuminate universal truths about any young person’s quest to live an extraordinary life.

    “The feeling of the show is bigger and brighter and faster,” Rubinstein said.

    He compares revisiting Pippin at this stage of his life to revisiting a childhood home.

    “It's like you lived in a house," he said. "You were there when they built it; you were the first family to live in it, and you grew up in it. Then you go back to that house 40 years later, and there it is: Same house. Same place. Same birds singing in the trees outside. But it's all different now. They've redecorated the living room, and they have added a more modern feel to the old dining room where you all spent so many years eating together. Outside the window, they have added a swimming pool where there used to be a flower garden. You don't feel like you are in the same place. But you are. That's sort of what it is like. On the hot days, we used to have to turn on the hose and pour it over our heads. Now we can jump into this beautiful new swimming pool. But you sort of miss the old flower garden, too."  

    Rubinstein has enjoyed a steady career in TV and film, but the son of internationally acclaimed pianist Arthur Rubinstein is also an accomplished composer himself. He scored the music for the iconic 1970s Robert Redford films Jeremiah Johnson and The Candidate.

    “One of the great thrills of my life, still to this day, was watching the Oscars when The Candidate won for best screenplay,” Rubinstein said. “I was watching on the TV, and when Jeremy Larner walked up to the podium, they played my theme. I almost fainted.”

    Rubinstein won the 1980 Tony Award for his portrayal of James Leeds in Children of a Lesser God. Other Broadway appearances include Hurlyburly, M. Butterfly and Fools. His films include 21 Grams, Someone to Watch Over Me and The Boys from Brazil. His 150-plus TV credits include Family (as Jeff Maitland), Crazy Like a Fox, Star Trek: Enterprise, and the series finale of Friends. (He played the doctor who delivered Monica and Chandler's babies.)

    But Pippin, Rubinstein said, will always be one of the seminal moments of his career.

    “Doing your first Broadway show, at a time when I was having my first two kids? It was absolutely a gigantic moment in my life ... one that lasted 2 1/2 years."


    Pippin_John_Rubinstein_2


    Please enjoy the following excerpts of our expansive conversation with John Rubinstein just before the cast shifted its base to Denver, where the national touring production of "Pippin" opens in the Buell Theatre on Sept. 6. Rubinstein had been temporarily added to the Broadway cast as part of his preparation for the tour:

    John Moore: So you have been rehearsing all day with the touring cast, and then performing at night with the Broadway cast. How weird is that?

    John Rubinstein: Well, it's a little weird. I have been doing the show for nine weeks now, so I have a rhythm going with the Broadway cast. And we're all developing our rhythm together as a touring cast. It's not as hard as it seems. It's just long hours. It will be lovely to get out there to Denver and just focus on that.

    Pippin_John_Rubinstein_4John Moore: OK, but let's be honest: You have been doing this show for a lot more than nine weeks.

    John Rubinstein: Ha-ha, yes … but with a very substantial break in between.

    John Moore: Yes, like 40 years.

    John Rubinstein: Exactly.

    John Moore: Why was this something you wanted to do at this point in your life?

    John Rubinstein: Well, it doesn't take a lot of convincing for me. I have a lot of children. I had my first child a week after I learned that I got the part in the first Pippin. My second child was born during Pippin on a matinee day. And I've had three other kids since. I now have two kids in college. And my youngest is now 8. So pretty much anybody who wants me, gets me (laughs).

    John Moore: When you heard Pippin was coming back, take me through the audition process. Were you thinking, ‘What a perfect way to complete a circle of life?' Or did someone from Pippin call you and say, 'You have to come in for this'?

    John Rubinstein: It was a little bit of both. I live in Los Angeles, but I happened to be in New York to speak at my 50th high-school reunion. I delivered this big speech on that Friday. Rather late that day, my agent called and said, 'Hey, John, is there any way you can get yourself to New York?' And I said, 'Hey ... I'm here!' And then he said, ‘On Monday morning, they want you to audition to take over for Terrence Mann as King Charlemagne in Pippin.' And I thought that would be really fun. I hadn't been on Broadway since I did Ragtime in 1999. I had been looking for a reason to spend some time in New York again, so I said, sure. On Monday morning, I went in and auditioned, and there was good old Stephen (Schwartz) and (Book Writer) Roger Hirson and (Choreographer) Chet Walker and a bunch of old friends. I met Gypsy Snider for the first time and (Director) Diane Paulus and some of the other people involved. So I auditioned for them. Then they made me wait around for an hour or so while they got (Producer) Barry Weissler to come down. Then they made me do it all over again, and I flew happily back to California. The next week or so, they called and offered me the tour. And I thought, 'Gee, I haven't toured since 1968.' That was for On a Clear Day, You Can See Forever, a bus-and-truck tour with Howard Keel and John Raitt. Good people. But it was grueling. I remember we went went through Denver on that tour.

    John Moore: May I read you a quote from Stephen Schwartz about your audition?

    John Rubinstein: Sure.

    John Moore: He told me:

    ‘There was this one moment when John read the chapel scene. There is a line where Pippin says, 'Time has passed you by, father,' and Charlemagne's line back is, 'And YOUR time has come, my son?'  I mean, hearing that from John? I can't even talk about it. It was just so emotional to hear John Rubinstein say that line. I know it doesn't have the same resonance for people who are just seeing the show for the first time, but for Roger Hirson and me? That was a pretty emotional moment.'

    John Rubinstein: Oh, that's so moving. Those are very well-written scenes by Roger Hirson. Very actable. To me, the chapel scene is the best actor scene in the play. Now, keep in mind: I was not reading opposite the actor who is now playing Pippin. I was reading with a young lady from the audition team. But nonetheless, yes, to be looking at Pippin and saying that? I felt that resonance, too. When I said that line in the audition -- ‘And YOUR time has come, my son?' with that heavy sarcasm and that feeling of the inevitability of the passage of the baton, yeah, it was a thrill. When I do that scene in the show every night now, I get the chills just kneeling down and talking to Pippin about it.

    John Moore: You can't take a thing from the great Terrence Mann. But for audiences who hear you say that line, it's just got to be different, given that you were the first Pippin.

    John Rubinstein: Well, for audiences who are old enough to have either seen the original production or listened to the original cast album, maybe. I would say that only about 3 percent of the audience has any inkling about that. I'm just the old guy in the beard.

    John Moore: Well, we're going to singlehandedly make it ... 6 percent then.

    John Rubinstein: OK, then.


    Pippin_John_Rubinstein_3


    John Moore: We can't tell people specifically how the ending has changed in this new version of the show, but I think having the original Pippin performing as the new Charlemagne just makes the new ending that much more perfect.

    John Rubinstein: Yes, that's true. Those little magic similarities are beautiful. And they are there for the finding in this show …  if you find them.

    John Moore: How different has it been for you as a creative team putting together this new Pippin together without Bob Fosse in the room?

    John Rubinstein:  Well, there is a lot of Bob Fosse in the room. No doubt about it. The show was certainly created by Bob and Stephen and Roger, but when you originate a show, whether you are one of the dancers or playing the title role, as I was, you are all creating it together as a team. That may sound ostentatious, but it is not entirely false to say that we all made that show. Bob Fosse was clearly the driving force, and the vision, and the boss. There's no way, not even 42 years later, that I don't carry a lot of the inner workings, and the subtext, and the background with me still. They are just there. When I hear the music, I feel them. When I say the words, I am living still with Bob Fosse in the rehearsal studio.

    John Moore: In what ways does it feel different to you then?

    John Rubinstein: This is a completely new re-imagining of the entire staging. When we first did it, there was plenty of entertainment value in it, for sure -- but it was a darker show. What made it spectacular were the dancing and the dancers -- every one of them hand-picked by Boob Fosse. And certainly Ben Vereen's performance as the Leading Player. Not to minimize the work of anyone else, but what really made that staging was the difficult choreography and how amazingly it was executed and interpreted by that particular group of dancers.

    Do you still cross paths with Ben Vereen?

    John Moore: John Rubinstein: Oh, sure. We're brothers. He has visited me a bunch of times while I have been doing the show in New York. We've eaten together. We've cried and laughed together. We love each other.

    John Moore: I am curious how he feels about a woman now playing the Leading Player.

    John Rubinstein: We haven't talked about that particular detail. We have just said to each other: 'This is a different show. It's not our Pippin revamped and re-mounted. It's Pippin reconceived and re-presented. It's a different show. And there are some poignancies about that, for sure.

    John Moore: OK, so when you are sitting in rehearsal, how do resist the urge to tap the new Pippin on the shoulder and say, 'Let me tell you how it's done, kid.'

    John Rubinstein: No, never, never. I would never dream of doing it. It would be contrary to all etiquette. Aside from that, I don't need to. These guys are way better playing this part than I ever was.

    John Moore: I would think that from the young actor's vantage point, you would be an incredible resource in the room.

    John Rubinstein: He doesn't need to ask me anything. He really doesn't, and therefore … he doesn't. He's great. He's amazing. He's a wonderful actor. He's full of sensitivity. And he sings like an angel.

    John Moore: But wouldn't that be a little like, say, if you did Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970, and now, 40 years later, Ben Vereen is back playing ... Pontius Pilate? There's a new kid playing Judas and Ben Vereen is right there in the room. I don’t know. I might have to ask him about the hanging scene.

    John Rubinstein: You know what? I had that very experience. I'm talking to you by phone from the Union Square Theatre, where we are rehearsing for this tour. And it is in this very same theatre that, back in 1987, I played Guildenstern in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. That is a very difficult, challenging, wonderful masterpiece written by Tom Stoppard in 1966. And the third character in the play is, get this … the Leading Player. That's no coincidence. Certainly they (Stoppard and Schwartz) got that from Hamlet. The Leading Player brings the acting troupe. And I believe that when Stephen first wrote Pippin, the Leading Player was not supposed be a song and dance person -- man or woman. It was supposed to be an old fuddy-duddy, Shakespearean actor, just like he is in Hamlet. The head of a troupe of players. An older guy with a huge repertoire and a big, booming voice. I think it was the combination of Bob Fosse and Stephen and Roger working together that changed that concept, and the Leading Player became … Ben Vereen.

    John Moore: Awesome. But back to 1987.

    John Rubinstein: I am playing Guildenstern and Stephen Lang is playing Rosencrantz. In the room with us, playing the Leading Player,  was the great British actor John Wood, who had originated the role of Guildenstern on Broadway 20 years earlier -- and he won a Tony Award for it. Now he is 20 years older and playing the Leading Player in our show, and he is watching me struggle to put Guildenstern together, day after day in rehearsal. So I definitely lived that experience, and it was very daunting. I was like, 'How do I do this?' And there is John Wood, standing there watching me do it. But he never said a single word to me -- and I never asked him, because that's just not what's done.

    Pippin_John_Rubinstein_4


    John Moore: Stephen Schwartz and I talked about the 1972 production being a real reflection of its times. So I am curious what the original Pippin thinks about why it is still relevant for a teenage boy or girl to experience the message of this show now.

    John Rubinstein: It’s a very universal tale. It’s an everyman's story. It's got elements of Huck Finn and Candide. The framework is this callow youth who is born into privilege and he has all these choices. He’s slightly narcissistic and slightly arrogant. He’s easily displeased and even spoiled, you could argue. But then he goes on this journey of discovery and self-discovery. And what he discovers is humility and being peaceful and feeling satisfied with a life that is relatively commonplace and relatively mundane. That's a very moving story, because we all go through this as we are growing up. When we are children, we all want to be a policeman or a fireman; an astronaut or a movie star. We want to be a great athlete or a rich tycoon. We want to be glorious and amazing and accomplished, And then when we hit a certain age, if we are lucky, we realize that we are really happy to have a woman who loves us … and a child who doesn't hate us …  and a dog who is happy to see us when we come home. And maybe that's our greatest  accomplishment.

    John Moore: Bigger than all of those other things.

    John Rubinstein: In this country, we are taught from birth that money is the only thing that matters. When they say the United States is about democracy and freedom, they really mean it's about money. Your worth as a person is only really measured by the amount of money you make, or that you have. It doesn't matter if you are the Koch brothers, and you never did a lick of work in your life, and you inherited everything from your father. You are still considered a driving force in this country. Because you have money. You are listened to, and you are respected. Now if you are a great human being and you have done amazing things but you don't have a big bank account? Not so much. Pippin is a story that says your biggest accomplishment is how you find happiness in the little things. In the commonplace. In what we all have within our reach.

    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.

    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' interview series:
     


    Previous Pippin coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

    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!

  • The 'Pippin' Profiles: How Stephen Schwartz ran off with the circus

    by John Moore | Aug 19, 2014
    Pippin_Stephen_Schwartz_400

    Stephen Schwartz likes to joke that somewhere, “Bob Fosse is surely looking up and laughing.”

    He kids about the direction. But not the director. Fosse was Schwartz’s legendary collaborator on the musical Pippin, which in war-torn 1972 brought a surreal collision of violence, innocence and sexuality to the Broadway stage.

    Fosse, known for his provocative choreography and fiery temper, died in 1987. Last year, a significantly reimagined Pippin won the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival, and its new national touring production is launching in Denver on Sept. 6.

    “I think Bob would be thrilled with this,” said Schwartz, the composer who 40 years ago openly questioned the darkness and overindulgence that Fosse brought to Schwartz’s sweet story of a naïve boy searching for meaning in his life.

    “There were specific choices Bob made that I honestly thought were heavy-handed and crude, and not in a good way,” Schwartz said. But now at age 66, Schwartz added, “I joke that I have ironically become the defender of Bob's vision.” 

    Schwartz and book writer Roger O. Hirson have been approached dozens of times over the years by artists wanting to revisit Pippin.

    “Frankly, I think merely reproducing the original -- if that were even possible --  would have felt quite dated,” Schwartz said. “And none of the new approaches made much sense to us.”

    Any revival would bring big challenges. “The Fosse choreography is so iconic, and the performance of Ben Vereen (as the Leading Player) was so indelible, even to people who didn't actually see it,” Schwartz said. “So it really would need a concept that was going to overcome all that without obliterating the show. And that would be quite difficult to come by.”

    Enter Diane Paulus, the groundbreaking director who brought the Vietnam musical Hair back to explosive life on Broadway in 2009. Her new idea? The original mysterious troupe would now be a circus family performing the story of Pippin. Now the young prince’s quest for meaning would be a death-defying one, set against live and often breathtaking acrobatics.

    Schwartz and Hinson were apprehensive at first. “But I think I can speak for Roger when I say we have been totally won over,” Schwartz said. “Frankly, I think Diane is a better director of scenes and actors than Bob Fosse was. And consequently, I think the story is better told.”

    Pippin began as a 17-year-old Schwartz’s spin-off of The Lion in Winter, a play about the foibles of King Henry II in 1183. Over the next seven years, the Pippin project came to reflect Schwartz’s own journey as a young man in his 20s.

    Fosse, then 47, agreed to direct and choreograph Pippin on Broadway if allowed to make the story more dark and sophisticated. Fosse brought in Ben Vereen, fresh off his electric performance in Jesus Christ Superstar, to play the Leading Player, a narrator of sorts who leads Pippin down many dangerous roads.

    Schwartz says it’s “absolutely accurate” to suggest that, essentially, he is Pippin, “particularly in talking about me at age 24,” he said. “I think more and more that the character of Pippin became a great deal like me at that time.”

    But what became intriguingly clear to Circus Creator Gypsy Snyder, who had never seen Pippin before the recent revival, is that Fosse is the Leading Player.

    “When you look at the sexuality and the seduction and the violence and the eroticism of the piece,” Snyder said, “then you are really looking at a retrospective of Fosse's life. And then you have the ‘Corner of the Sky” Pippin, the loving family man. That was absolutely the Stephen Schwartz I got to know through this production. He's just so positive and so hard-working and he keeps an innocent eye. That’s Pippin.”

    Schwartz concurs.

    “Bob’s was the more worldly-wise point of view,” Schwartz said. “And Roger Hirson, who was in his 40s when we opened, may have been the Charlemagne character.”

    Read more about this and more in this exclusive, expansive interview with one of the leading figures in American theatre history. Schwartz, who has contributed to Wicked, Godspell, Children of Eden and many more, is a member of the Theatre Hall of Fame and president of the Dramatists Guild. He has three Academy Awards, four Grammy Awards, four Drama Desk Awards and, shockingly, no Tony Awards.

    Pippin_Stephen_Schwartz_Quote_1

    John Moore: So where did I find you today?

    Stephen Schwartz: I am getting ready to visit Trumbull, Conn., because a high school there has a drama troupe run by a girl who last year very bravely resisted censorship on their production of Rent. And The Dramatists Guild, of which I am president, has honored her with a courage award. Now her troupe is doing Children of Eden, so it’s kind of come full circle. And so, in appreciation for what she has done, I am taking myself to Trumbull.

    John Moore: It meant a lot to the students attending last month’s Jimmy Awards in New York when you stopped by to speak to them.

    Stephen Schwartz: Well, Music Theatre International, which represents most of my shows, is very active with the Jimmy Awards, and they asked if I would come and talk with them. And pretty much anything MTI asks me to do, I do --  because they have been very good to me over the years.

    John Moore: Well, I  think you have been pretty good to MTI, too.

    Stephen Schwartz: (laughing): Well, thanks. I really enjoyed getting a chance to talk to the kids. They were amazing. It was really cool to spend a little time with them. 

    John Moore What was your message of encouragement to them?

    Stephen Schwartz: I am a big believer in -- and living proof of -- the theory of ‘follow your bliss.’ This is a very difficult and often very mean business. But if this is your dream, and you persevere at it, it is possible for people to make a living, and make a life, in this profession. My advice to them is the same as my advice to my own children: If you pursue what you want to do, you may not wind up where you thought you were going to, exactly, but it will take you somewhere you are more likely to want to be than if you made the ‘safe,’ or perhaps the ‘sane’ choice. If you think, 'I'll wait, and at some point I'll pursue what I actually want do do' ... then I don't think that necessarily works out for the better.

    John Moore: Wait, I didn't think we were talking about Pippin yet. But apparently we are.

    Stephen Schwartz: Well yes. There we are... You know, Pippin, in the end, makes the sane choice.

    Manson_Trio_Pippin

    John Moore: I am sure you have been told over and over about how your music has changed the course of young peoples' lives. But for my generation, it was Godspell and Pippin doing the life-changing, and now you have this whole new generation of theatre kids all geeked out because, hey: You're the guy who wrote Wicked.

    Stephen Schwartz: It is sort of strange, isn’t it? But obviously it's nice that at my … advanced … age, if you will, that I have come up with something – along with my collaborators -- that has spoken to people of all ages, but particularly to a young generation.

    John Moore: So whose idea was it to revisit Pippin now?

    Stephen Schwartz: It was really (Director) Diane Paulus, who had been wanting to do it for quite a while. I was an admirer of her work, particularly on (the Broadway revival of) Hair, which I thought was excellent. I felt Diane had managed to both honor the original but also make it fresh, and that is a quite tricky line to walk. After I really got to see her way of thinking, and her creativity, in a show called Blue Flower at her (American Repertory Theatre) in Boston, I became enthusiastic that she was someone who might be able to pull this off. And, of course, she has proven that in spades.

    John Moore: So what did you think when Diane said, 'I want to put this in a circus'?

    Stephen Schwartz: I had actually heard the idea of a circus before. And it wasn't something that I thought was a great idea, to be honest, because I was picturing a different kind of circus. But then Diane, who has done work with Cirque du Soleil, told me about this troupe from Montreal called Les 7 doigts de la main, or ‘The 7 Fingers of the Hand.’ I went to see a show of theirs that happened to be touring the States. We discussed it further and I began to have a glimmer of what Diane was talking about. But I have to say that until I saw it, I really didn't truly understand what she meant, and what her vision was. I just didn't. I think that's one of the things about someone who is as gifted and as visionary as Diane. She had these ideas in her head that are difficult to express verbally -- but then when you see them, you get them.

    Pippin_Stephen_Schwartz_Quote_2

    John Moore: And so now that you have lived in it, how do you articulate to people that this is the winning formula?

    Stephen Schwartz: That is a good question. Other than by assertion, I'm not sure that I know how to do that. It’s important for you to understand that Diane did not just overlay circus performance on top of the show as some kind of gimmick. First of all, she integrated the idea of the circus performances into the storytelling. It's not as if the show grinds to a halt and they do a circus trick, and then the story starts up again. Secondly, the way that she and Gypsy Snider did the circus part of the show, and the way Chet Walker did the choreography, is very special, I think. In some instances, the choreography is a very faithful re-creation of Bob Fosse's work. And in other places, I think what Chet has done is a very creative interpretation of what Bob might have done under these new circumstances. So it really is a complete re-envisioning of Pippin. This is a revisal as well as a revival of the show -- on all levels.

    John Moore: How do you think Bob would have liked this new approach?

    Stephen Schwartz: I think Bob would be thrilled with this. I think if we had been able to think of some of these changes together, he would have been extremely enthusiastic about them. Just the sheer sort of theatricality of the staging and this presentation, I think would have pleased him very much.

    John Moore: You have said the inspiration for Pippin actually comes from James Goldman’s play The Lion in Winter.

    Stephen Schwartz: That’s true. It started as a sort of a medieval court intrigue musical melodrama.  And then it gradually transmogrified into being semi-autobiographical. And then it turned into the story of my generation -- as I saw it.

    John Moore: So here’s a quick Lion in Winter story: I was reviewing a production by a venerable community theatre for The Denver Post. And as we are leaving, an older audience member sees my notebook and stops me. She says, ‘Now you be sure to put in your review that that was the most understandable Shakespeare play I have ever seen!’

    Stephen Schwartz (laughing): That is so great. And you know what? She is right. That is absolutely the best description of The Lion in Winter I have ever heard. I hope you put it in your review. That is perfect.

    John Moore: You bet I did.

    Stephen Schwartz: That is just hilarious.

    John Moore: So getting back to of Bob Fosse ... I've noticed over the years that whenever you are interviewed, you are so disarmingly honest in your answers. One might even say Pippin-esque --

    Stephen Schwartz: Yes, and that gets me into trouble a lot of the time.

    John Moore: Well I respect how you’ve openly discussed your initial, honest discomfort with how far Mr. Fosse was taking things. So I am wondering how you feel about this new version in those terms.

    Stephen Schwartz: I do feel quite honestly that there were some choices Bob made that I thought were just – well, overindulgent is the best word. That went beyond the concept of the sexuality that he injected into it.

    John Moore: And here’s where I think the real danger lies: It's not whether Broadway gets it right, or the national touring production, because you control that. But you can’t know how that indulgence expresses itself in local productions across the country that might not have someone to reign it in. I have seen productions of Pippin where they take that Bob Fosse element and they times it by 10.

    Stephen Schwartz: Yes, I know -- and that's so not the show. And it really misses the tone that Bob was going for, and I think largely succeeded with. What I like about this new production, is that, yes, it is still a very sexy show. And a lot of those elements that Bob created remain in the show intact. But I think Diane, with her intelligence -- and frankly with her taste -- never lets it go over the line. Even in the famed ‘sex ballet’ section, it doesn't go over the line, I feel.

    Pippin_Stephen_Schwartz_Quote_3

    John Moore: You may get a kick out of the headline of my essay after having seen the new revival on Broadway last October. It read: "Broadway wins over a Pippin pessimist."

    Stephen Schwartz: Well you know what? That could MY headline on this one, too.

    John Moore: You’re kidding … Really?

    Stephen Schwartz: Oh, yeah. Because Roger and I resisted for so long going forward. I don't know if we were pessimistic, but we certainly had trepidation about it. And I think I can speak for Roger when I say we have been totally won over. I am just a huge fan of this production.

    John Moore: I never had any question about Pippin the character, or his story, because it's so clearly universal. I wrote, 'You don't have to be 17 and coming of age to feel this show in your open heart and rambling bones. You just have to have come of age.’ That has to be somewhat true of any 17-year-old of any century. But my first Pippin was a very small community theatre production in 1986, and I remember thinking that it felt like this was a signature work for its time – which was the 1970s, and already had passed. So at first, I wasn't sure how revisiting it in 2012 could really work, or why it was even necessary – not without turning it into a whole new modern, hipper theatre experience. But I think what impressed me the most about this new version was how muscular it was. I mean, this show is a true physical display of athletic and acrobatic skill.  I also thought it was just charming in how self-deprecating it was in its telling.

    Stephen Schwartz: I agree with all of that. So much of Pippin was of its time. It was written in the time of the Vietnam War and the Generation Gap and 'Don't trust anybody over 30.' And in that whole context, frankly, I think merely reproducing the original -- if that were even possible --  would have felt quite dated. That's one of the reasons I was optimistic when Diane approached me, because that's one of the things she achieved with Hair. It was of its time, but it had a contemporary sensibility. It was like living in the moment, and then looking at the moment at the same time -- and I thought that was a pretty remarkable achievement. Pippin is certainly less specifically of its time than Hair was of its, but I still think that's part of what Diane has achieved here.

    John Moore: I'm glad you brought up the Vietnam War, because I am of the generation that just missed most of that, so I did not grow up thinking of war as a universal. But now, everyone who is Pippin's age in America has lived their entire conscious lives with their country in a state of military conflict.

    Stephen Schwartz: Exactly.

    John Moore: … So maybe young people today will take a perspective into this new Pippin that's more in line with the young people who saw Pippin in 1972. War is a universal for this generation – because, for them, it’s always been there.

    Stephen Schwartz: Well, that's unfortunately a “for sure.” And in that same kind of controversial and divisive way that the Vietnam War was. It’s not like World War II, where everyone was united in thinking this was something that we had to do as a country. Iraq was extremely polarizing and divisive, so … yeah.

    John Moore: Let’s touch on a couple of other key elements. First, you have changed the ending. What can we say about that without giving anything away?

    Stephen Schwartz: Now, that is something I have no doubt Bob Fosse would have been happy with, if only we had thought of it back then. There are reasons we couldn't have – reasons that go beyond just that we weren't smart enough to think of it. But I will say this new ending is so clearly the right ending for the show.

    John Moore: Why do you say you two could not have eventually come up with this new idea the first time around?

    Stephen Schwartz: It has to do with the fact that, in the original show, the character of Theo was a little boy. He was 6. In this cast, he is a bit older than that.

    John Moore: OK, I am going to leave it at that.

    Stephen Schwartz: And so will I.

    Pippin_Stephen_Schwartz_Quote_4John Moore: You mentioned Ben Vereen. Obviously a huge change is having your Leading Player be played by a woman.

    Stephen Schwartz: I knew one of the problems we would have to overcome in doing any big, commercial revival of Pippin would be memory of Ben Vereen everybody would bring into it. You’d start out with people wanting to see that. And, of course, that's impossible. So we had to either somehow break that -- or overcome that. So when Diane said, 'Well, what if the character of the Leading Player is a woman?' -- that made us think, 'Well … then you can't be sitting there saying, ‘He’s no Ben Vereen!’ --  which is what I think any male performer would have encountered. Oddly enough, I feel like, now that we have done this -- If at some point in the future we wanted to go back to a male Leading Player, there are certain things about the way the show is written, and some of the new things that we have added -- particularly between the Leading Player and Catherine -- that I think would not go down as well if the Leading Player were male. It would seem a little brutal.

    John Moore: And before we leave: How great is it that you have John Rubinstein coming on board to play Pippin’s father after having originated the role of Pippin in 1972?

    Stephen Schwartz: Is that the best? I mean, is that the best ever? And this was not stunt casting. We walked into the auditions and John Rubinstein’s name was on the list. There were some other really good people, too. Of course, we were amazed and delighted that John was coming in to audition. But he was the best. Frankly, I don't think we would have done it if we hadn't felt that he was the best choice. But the idea of it was so irresistible. There was one moment in auditions, and it was only for Roger and me. John read the chapel scene and there is a line where Pippin says, 'Time has passed you by, father.’ And Charlemagne's line back is, 'And your time has come, my son?'  I mean, hearing that from John? I can't even talk about it. It was just so emotional to hear John Rubinstein say that line. I know it doesn't have the same resonance for people who are just seeing the show for the first time. But for Roger and me? That was a pretty emotional moment.

    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.

    Stephen Schwartz: Major works

    • Butterflies are Free, 1969
    • Godspell, 1971
    • Mass 1971
    • Pippin, 1972
    • The Magic Show, 1974
    • The Baker’s Wife ,1976
    • The Perfect Peach (children’s book), 1977
    • Working ,1978
    • Personals, 1985
    • Captain Louie (children’s show), 1986
    • Rags, 1986
    • Children of Eden, 1991
    • Pocahontas, 1995
    • The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996
    • Reluctant Pilgrim (CD of 11 songs), 1997
    • The Prince of Egypt, 1998
    • Geppetto 2000 (re-named My Son Pinocchio)
    • Uncharted Territory (CD of 11 songs), 2001
    • Wicked, 2003
    • Mit Eventyr/My Fairytale, 2005
    • Séance on a Wet Afternoon, 2009

     

    'The Pippin Profiles':  

    • Circus Creator Gyspy Snyder
    • Choreographer Chet Walker
    • Composer Stephen Schwartz (today)
    • Director Diane Paulus (coming next)
    • Actor John Rubinstein (Charlemagne)
    • Actor Kyle Selig (Pippin)
    • Actor Sasha Allen (Leading PLayer)
    • Actor Luci Arnaz (Berthe)
    • Actor Sabrina Harper (Fastrada)
    • Actor Kristine Reese (Catherine)

    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!

  • 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!

  • 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: Cherry Creek wins top honor; Grandview, Lakewood students New York-bound

    by John Moore | May 29, 2014

    The Bobby G Awards honor outstanding achievement in high-school musical theatre in the Denver metro area. And judging by the wide distribution of awards at Thursday’s second annual ceremony, great achievements are happening on high-school stages all over town.  

    The 18 awards handed out at Thursday’s Tony Awards-style ceremony went to 12 different area schools. Grandview High School of Aurora led the way with four Bobby G Awards for its production of Seussical. The award for Outstanding Production went to Cherry Creek High School for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Lakewood High School’s Young Frankenstein was honored with three awards, and Westminster High School’s High School Musical On Stage! earned two.

    [[MORE]]It was a big night for Abby Noble of Grandview High School and Conner Kingsley of  Lakewood High School. Noble was named Outstanding Leading Actress for playing Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical, while Kingsley was named Outstanding Leading Actor for playing Igor in Young Frankenstein.

    Their awards earn both students a week-long Broadway immersion as part of next month’s National High School Musical Theater Awards, which culminate in an awards ceremony affectionately known as “The Jimmys,” after Broadway producer Jimmy Nederlander. While in the Big Apple, the Outstanding Leading Actor and Actress honorees from 31 regional awards ceremonies around the country get to experience five days of private coaching, master classes and rehearsals with theater professionals administered by the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts.

    Their week will culminate with a special performance on a Broadway stage June 30 at the Minskoff Theatre. More than 50,000 students participate in the awards program nationally each year, and in the past six years, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been awarded in merit scholarships.

    The Bobby G Awards are Colorado’s regional representative within the larger National High School Musical Theater Awards program. They are named in honor of legendary producer Robert Garner and are hosted by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. This year, local adjudicators considered 20 public and private high-school stagings for awards consideration. And while nominees are determined by a strict numbered judging system, 15 high schools received at least one nomination this year, led by Westminster High School with 12.  

    The adjudicators were made up of professional working theatre artists in the Denver area. Using the standards set by The Bobby G Awards training and criteria, as well as their own professional experience, these adjudicators completed extensive evaluation forms, offering schools detailed feedback on various elements of their musical productions. Participating schools receive each adjudicator’s comments, praise and constructive criticism as a way of recognizing their accomplishments and motivating future growth.

    Thursday’s Bobby G Awards ceremony included performances by all five schools nominated for Outstanding Production.  The evening was emceed by Greg Moody of CBS4 and included special guests including actor Mary Louise Lee, who is married to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.  There was a performance by the 2013 recipients of the Bobby G’s for Outstanding Leading Actor and Actress, Chris Maclean and Nicki Seefried, as well as a medley by all 10 of the 2014 nominees.

    Our coverage of the 2014 Bobby G Awards to date:

    For information on signing up for next year’s Bobby G Awards, as it become available, bookmark the home page here

    We are covering the 2014 Bobby G Awards using words, photos and video:

    For information on signing up for next year’s Bobby G Awards, as it become available, bookmark the home page here

    2014 BOBBY G AWARDS RECIPIENTS

    Recipient’s name in bold:

    Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical

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    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School (highlights above the photo)

    The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

    Seussical: The Musical, Grandview High School

    Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Direction

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    Tami LoSasso & Delaney Bohlen, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Brianna Lindahl, Seussical, Grandview High School

    Kurt Muenstermann and Micah McDonald, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Jim Miller and TJ Donahue, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    André Rodriguez, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Musical Direction

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    Chris Maunu and Craig Melhorn, The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

    Adam Cave and Tim Libby, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Don Emmons and Jim Farrell, City of Angels, Littleton High School

    Shawn Funk and Kelly Parmenter, Fiddler on the Roof, Arapahoe High School

    Bill Welsh, Annie Get Your Gun, Faith Christian Academy

    Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

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    Abby Noble, Gertrude McFuzz, Seussical, Grandview High School

    Stephanie Bess, Christine Daaé, The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

    Amelia Jacobs, Bobbi/Gabby, City of Angels, Littleton High School

    Lorelei Thorne, Annie Oakley, Annie Get Your Gun, Faith Christian Academy

    Kira Vuolo, Lola, Damn Yankees, Pomona High School

    Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

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    Conner Kingsley, Igor, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    James Marsh, Lord Farquaad, Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Danny Miller, The Phantom, The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

    Dylan Ruder, Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Chris Salguero, Troy Bolton, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

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    Lizzie Plender, Frau Blucher, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Lauren Chew, Miss Sandra, All Shook Up, Legacy High School

    Alex Garramone, Hodel, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

     Desirae Maldonado, JoJo, Seussical, Grandview High School

    Lea Schoengarth, Sharpay Evans, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

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    Ryan Degnan, Dennis, All Shook Up, Legacy High School

    Jesse Aaronson, Pharaoh, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Jairo Guerrero, Ryan Evans, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Ricky Her, Chad Danforth, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Adam Lundy, The Monster, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Rising Star

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    Taylor Lewis, Featured Thespian, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Paul Cherubino, Lazar Wolf, Fiddler on The Roof, Evergreen High School

    Elleon Dobias, The Fiddler, Fiddler on The Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Rose Lucas; A clapper boy, Carla’s stand in and featured dancer; City of Angels; Littleton High School

    Allie Putze, Mr. Smee, Peter Pan, St. Mary’s Academy

    Outstanding Performance by an Orchestra

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    Seussical, Grandview High School

    The Phantom of the Opera, Arvada West High School

     Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Outstanding Performance by a Chorus

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    Fiddler on the Roof, Arapahoe High School

    Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Fiddler on the Roof, Evergreen High School

    High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Choreography

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    Heather Westenskow, Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Beau Bohlen, Delaney Bohlen and Angela Dryer, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Jamie Geary and Nicole Toscano, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Ronni Gallup, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Rachel Ilk, Chris Salguero and Lexie Thammavongsa, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Scenic Design

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     Chloe Carr, Taylor Dykstra, Matthew Shinnick and James Yeon, Seussical, Grandview High School

    Dean Arniotes, Shaye Evans and Andrew Montesi, Fiddler on the Roof, Evergreen High School

    TJ Donahue and Jack Hagen, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Matt Marchal, Mackenzie Montano and Anna Tiberi, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Erin Ramsey, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Design

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    Shaye Evans, Ryan Kleist, Colin Riebel and Dillon Riebel, Fiddler on the Roof, Evergreen High School

    Dave Avery, Mike Lanning and Justin Yu, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    John DeYoung, Kurt Muenstermann and Richard Spomer, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

    Alex Groce, Shrek The Musical, Chaparral High School

    Reid Mather, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design

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    Kathryn Demolli and Naomi Sanchez, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    EB Bollendock and Connor Jones, City of Angels, Littleton High School

    Taylor Gammel, Claire Goodwin, Brooke Herzog and Julianna Small, Annie Get Your Gun, Faith Christian Academy

     Evin Harris and Alaina Haworth, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cherry Creek High School

    Mary Murray and Quiana Torres, Xanadu, Mountain Range High School

    Outstanding Achievement in Hair and Make-Up Design

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    Sam Lee, Seussical, Grandview High School

    Francesca Arniotes and Michelle Schrader, Fiddler on the Roof, Evergreen High School

    Tim Campbell and Emma Sargent, Young Frankenstein, Lakewood High School

    Rachel Jeffries, Haley Nicas, Trisha Rouleau and Kelsie Saupe, Fiddler on the Roof, Valor Christian High School

     Rebecca Maestas and Fatima Rodriguez, High School Musical On Stage!, Westminster High School

    Special Achievement Award Recipients

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    Andy Becker, City of Angels, Littleton High School

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    Destiny Humrich, Damn Yankees, Pomona High School

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    Jackson Warnock and AJ Winter, Xanadu, Mountain Range High School

  • Video: 'American Idiot' serenades at the Colfax Guitar Shop

    by John Moore | May 23, 2014

    The cast of American Idiot, a rock musical based on the music of Green Day, arrived in Denver late Thursday after being diverted by weather to Colorado Springs. That didn't stop  show's stars, Jared Nepute, Dan Tracy and Casey O'Farrell, from visiting the Colfax Guitar Shop on Friday morning to browse, check out East Colfax (the shop is just across the street from the Bluebird Theatre) and chat with CBS-4's Lauren Whitney. American Idiot has a three-day run at the Buell Theatre from Friday through Saturday. There's a buzz of activity here because Denver is the final tour stop before the company disbands. Based on Green Day’s groundbreaking rock opera of the same name, American Idiot tells the story of three lifelong friends, forced to choose between their dreams and the safety of suburbia, and features the smash hits Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Holiday and 21 Guns.For ticket information, call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center's web page. Photos and video by John Moore. Thanks: Dave Dougherty, Colfax Guitar Shop.

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    Jared Nepute, Dan Tracy and Casey O'Farrell of "American Idiot" outside the Bluebird Theatre. Photo by John Moore.

  • "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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  • Photo: Our president is more fun than your president

    by John Moore | May 06, 2014

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    Yes, that is Denver Center for the Performing Arts President and Chief Operating Officer Randy Weeks on the set of Dixie's Never Wear a Tube Top While Riding a Mechanical Bull and 16 Other Things I Learned While I was Drinking Last Thursday. The theme of the show could be said to be, "Wear Your Own Crown" ... and Randy certainly is here. Photo by John Moore. You can see Dixie Longate's solo comedy through Sunday, May 11, at the Garner Galleria Theatre. Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org.

  • '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

     

  • 'Chicago' star Bianca Marroquín to students at Denver's La Academia: 'It can happen to you'

    by John Moore | Mar 21, 2014

    Bianca Marroquín, star of the national touring production of 'Chicago,' visits Denver's La Academia School, telling inner-city students how she became the first Mexican to land a starring role on Broadway. Filmed on March 18, 2014. Video by David Lenk and John Moore.

    Bianca Marroquín was an admittedly sensitive, insecure teenager who would cry at the drop of any finger against any ivory piano key. She also has the distinction of being the first actor born in Mexico ever to land a starring role in a Broadway musical. It’s a story worthy of … Broadway.

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    Marroquín, who grew up in Tamaulipas, Mexico, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas, is in Denver through Sunday playing Roxie Hart, the star-driven killer with a heart of cold in the national touring production of “Chicago.” She’s starring opposite Billy Flynn veteran John O’Hurley, who calls Marroquin “the best Roxie I have ever seen.” Next week, she’ll be playing Roxie in Toronto alongside Canadian national figure-skating champion Elvis Stojko before returning to the same Broadway stage where she made history in 2002.

    How did she do it? With a fierce dedication to her dance, her training and being true to her desire to perform. Even if that meant disobeying her parents.

    “I was fulfilling not only my dream, but a lot of other people’s dreams,” she said of making Broadway history.

    The morning after opening in Denver on Tuesday, Marroquín visited La Academia. That’s a small, private, inner-city school for 7th-12th graders who have been underserved in the schools they have previously attended. It promises a safe and structured learning environment for students of all ethnicities, economic backgrounds and sexual orientations.

    Marroquín’s message to students, some of whom were moved to tears: “It can happen to you.” How? “It’s up to you.”

    I was asked to moderate a conversation between Marroquín and the La Academia students. Here are some excerpts. (And in case you were wondering, the legendary Rita Moreno was born in Puerto Rico.)

     

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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.

    John Moore: So … you're the first actor born in Mexico to play a leading role in a Broadway musical. Why do you think you are you the one?

    Bianca Marroquín: First of all, I have to say that I am so thrilled to be here. I wish they had this school when I was a kid. I went to a bigger high school, and I was very shy, and very anxious, and I had lots of problems connecting and paying attention and having confidence. The only thing I felt comfortable in was my dancing.  I’ve been dancing since I was 3. Luckily, I always knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. I knew that I wanted to be on the stage; that I wanted to tell stories through music or dancing or singing. But dancing always came first for me. If dancing was ever involved with anything in my school, I was always the one who was choreographing. I did well in school because my parents told me, ‘You can keep dancing as long as you pass your classes" I just knew they could never take dancing away from me, so I thought that was a good deal. I found a way to keep (my studies) fun and interesting.

    John Moore: So how did that turn into your becoming a Broadway star?

    Bianca Marroquín: Life is about how opportunities present themselves. And I believe opportunities will always present themselves to every human being. It’s up to you if you take them. It’s up to you if you are ready and prepared when they come. It’s up to you if you take the risk. It’s up to you if you decide to take the more difficult path.

    John Moore: What was it like living a dual life in a way, growing up in Tamaulipas, Mexico, and going to school in Brownsville, Texas?

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    Bianca Marroquín: Yes, definitely. I grew up between two worlds. I was born in Monterrey, but when I was a baby, my parents moved to the border. And across the Rio Grande River was Brownsville, Texas. It’s at the most southern tip of Texas. So I would cross the bridge every morning to go to school in Texas. My mother used to say, “You are very privileged kids to be able to go to school over there,” but I didn’t know any different. Later in life, when I graduated from high school, of all the dance disciplines that I took – ballet, jazz, tap – flamenco was my passion. For the rest of my life, I wanted to be a flamenco dancer. I had the school that I wanted to go to all planned out. It was in Madrid. I was going to room with my friend Sharon. But one month before all this was to happen, my father said, “No, no, no! You are going to Monterrey like your brothers and study for a career. After that, you can jump around.” He said that in Spanish. I was like, “What?” He thought I was kidding. But I had to listen to my father. And so I had no choice. I went to the most prestigious college in Mexico, but I was back in the city where I was born. And I was miserable. But again, my father said, “If you pass your classes, you can keep dancing.” One day I was walking on the campus, and I saw this big poster on a tree. It said, “Flamenco auditions,” and my heart just started racing. "What is this?" So I went in, and most of the girls who were auditioning for this company were jazz dancers. The teacher saw that I had been taking flamenco since I was 8, and that it was in my blood, so I became the soloist of the company. I started going to rehearsals behind my parents’ backs. But then we opened, and it made the newspapers the next day. My parents saw me on the front cover, and they got really angry because I disobeyed them. But I said, “We have one more show, please drive up" – it was 3 hours from Monterrey – "and you can ground me afterward.” I had this 14-minute-long solo. When it was over, I stick out my head from the curtain and I can see my father is crying. My father said to me, “OK. You can continue to dance – as long as you pass your classes. That was second semester. In my fifth semester, “Beauty and the Beast” comes to Mexico City from Broadway to open the first Spanish-speaking production. I auditioned, and I got it …

    John Moore: Let me guess: You got Belle?

     Bianca Marroquín: No, which is the best thing. I was a little spoon. … A very proud little spoon! They were looking for dancers who could sing. At that point, I wasn’t a trained singer at all.  But I was always very musical. There was always a piano in my house, and I taught myself how to play by ear. That little voice got me my little place in the ensemble.  They only picked one girl from Monterrey and one girl from Guadalajara, and the rest come from the capital. So when I got it, I had to tell my parents, “Guess what? I got this job. It’s in Mexico City. It’s only enough to pay rent. I would love it if you supported me. But even if you don’t, this is my path. I’m have to do this.” I was 20 years old at the time. They flew with me to Mexico City. They had a meeting with the producers. They told my parents, “This is a huge thing for the country. It’s opening a new era of musical theatre. Your daughter was chosen from among thousands. You should be proud.” So they said, “OK.”

    John Moore: When you were 12 and you knew you had a passion for dance, did you believe that something like Broadway could happen?

    Bianca Marroquín: I have to say that I was always very different from my friends in high school. I was so sensitive. My friends made fun of me because I was always crying about everything. If there was a piano anywhere – they lost me. Anywhere. The mall. A friend’s house. My aunt’s house: Anywhere I saw a piano, it just called me. But I always felt out of place. I was always daydreaming and hearing music and writing poetry and fusing them together and making songs. But I never thought I would make it to Broadway. I didn’t even know what Broadway was. But I always knew that I was going to be on a stage dancing professionally one day, performing and connecting with audiences. On the stage was the place where I felt the most comfortable.  And I couldn’t explain why.

    John Moore: But before you can even start thinking about having a career in the real world, you have to get through high school first. If any of these students feel the urge to write or draw or paint or perform, can you talk about how important it is for them to just go and do it?

    Bianca Marroquín: First of all, when I was a little girl, my ballet class meant responsibility. That meant commitment. That meant discipline. Even if I wasn’t going to end up doing this, doing it at a young age leaves you with a very strong base. It gives you strong tools to take out into your life. I feel like we are all warriors. Life is about confronting yourself with all of these different obstacles and situations. What your teachers, and this school, are giving you are these amazing tools. Not a lot of people get those opportunities.

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    John Moore: So when you walked out on that stage in 2002 and made  history as Roxie Hart, were you feeling the weight of the significance of the moment?

     Bianca Marroquín: When Chicago came to Mexico City, it was tricky because the newspaper said they wanted women between 35 and 47 years of age -- I was 25 – and preferably famous. Nobody knew who the heck I was. So I went to the audition hoping to get my little place in the ensemble and maybe understudy one of the leads. Never did I dream that I was going to end up getting Roxie at 25 -- the youngest Roxie ever, at that point. After six months, I didn’t think it could get any better. I was getting recognition from the critics, and all these awards. And so I was invited to cross over from Mexico to Broadway. I was invited to do a three-week stint (in New York), and here is the script in English -- because of course we were doing all of the shows in Mexico in Spanish. At that moment, I went into what I call “responsibility mode.” I took it really seriously. I started studying the script in English during the day and doing the show at night in Spanish until the day came (to leave for the United States). I got to New York, and I only had four days of rehearsal. I was freaked out. It was a big responsibility. I was too serious. Too focused. When opening night came, I remember, I was in the dressing room. They had some press come backstage to do a quick little interview before the show. I think it was Telemundo or Univision. And that reporter, she was the one to tell me, half an hour before I went out onstage for the first time, that I was the first Mexican ever to cross over from Mexico to Broadway with a leading role.

     John Moore: No pressure!

     Bianca Marroquín: No pressure! But I blocked it so I could do my work the way they had taught me. At the very end of the show, there was a huge standing ovation. That didn’t happen in Mexico. The culture was very different there. When I went back to Mexico, I started to realize that it was this big role and responsibility that life gave me. I was fulfilling not only my dream, but a lot of other people’s dreams. Twelve years later, I still take that very seriously.

    (At this point we opened up the conversation for comments from students)

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    Student: I am sorry for my English but … I feel so close to you. I started modeling, and they gave me a contract, but my mom wouldn’t sign it. I was fighting for my dream like you did, but it went down.  

    Bianca Marroquín: For now. Know that it’s just temporary. It’s not the right timing for you.  There’s something else that you need to learn first … and it’s going to taste so much better later on.

    John Moore: Your mom may not necessarily want you to model. She may just want you in school for now.

    Student: She’s scared for me.

    Bianca Marroquín: She wants what’s best for you.

    John Moore: But your story is just starting. You don’t know where it is going. You kind of have to be Bianca to already see where your story is going.

    Bianca Marroquín: When I arrived in the United States, I was still a minority. My battle has been to open paths for other Hispanic women, so they can have a chance at different roles -- great roles, not just stereotypical roles -- for Hispanic women. My motto in life is, “I don’t settle.” 

    Student: I am going to keep fighting, because today you moved something in me.

    Bianca Marroquín: If you told me that I did that for you? That’s my mission. Lots of people along the way told me that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t have the right body type, or that I wasn’t star quality.

    John Moore: Didn’t the Chicago team change Roxie’s look just for you? Because every time I have seen Chicago, Roxie has been the blonde, and Velma has had black hair.

    Bianca Marroquín: Yes. They let me be me now.

    John Moore: So they didn’t try to change you to fit the role. They let you bring what you bring to the role.

    Bianca Marroquín: Yes. Finally. Finally, I have the respect. Finally, I can ask, “Will you let me be me now?” That is very important to me. (To students) And that’s what I think you are getting, also, from your teachers here. They are helping you to find out who you are. What is your mission? What is your goal? What are your dreams? What do you want to become?

    Chicago: Information

    "Chicago" plays in Denver through March 23. Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org.

  • 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

     

  • A man among women: My night at 'Girls Only'

    by John Moore | Feb 25, 2014

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    I am not afraid of the alternate uses for this feminine product as suggested to me by the women of "Girls Only." Looking forward to it, in fact. Photobombing: Carla Kaiser Kotrc.

     

    This doesn’t happen every night at the theatre: At intermission, a kindly female usher came up to me at my seat and asked if I intended to use the men’s room during the break. I did a quick mental bladder assessment and determined … OK, pretty sure I'm good. … Why?

     “Well, then -- with your permission -- we are going to open up the men’s room for the ladies to use,” she said.

    I never thought I would ever hold such power.  But I was raised by a good woman. I knew what was good for me. I gave my blessing.

    That’s just sensible strategy, I thought. After all, in a room with more than 120 audience members, I was the only one – presumably – sporting the anatomical equivalent of a caveman’s club.

    Sunday night was my first time seeing “Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women.” That makes me no different from almost every other man in the world. But for the longest time, this fact has separated me from the more than 110,000 women who have seen “Girls Only” since 2008.

    That made this a theatregoing night six years in the making.

    You have to understand that I was the theatre critic at The Denver Post when noted local improv comedians Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein debuted their modest little slumber-party comedy at The Avenue Theater. At the time, I tried to see just about every local production I could fit into my schedule, and certainly any original work created by local actors. It was an immediate hit that ran for an extended seven-week run. But, like feminine wiles, “Girls Only” remained largely a mystery to me.

    The exclusionary nature of the title aside, I did want to go. And I would have, but, in those early days at The Avenue, they weren’t kidding with that title. I was not allowed in. No guy was. Once again, here I was: A middle-aged white man on the wrong end of the discrimination and exclusion propagated by the women who have long controlled this country.

    But I relented.  I didn’t even try to dress up and sneak in. We sent a female staff writer to review the show for The Denver Post instead. Soon the show was building so much momentum, it was picked up for a run here at the Denver Center’s Garner-Galleria Theatre. That was a history-making moment. Denver Center Attractions had never before optioned a locally grown play for a full production in the big house. Or in this case … the big cabaret house. “Girls Only” ran continuously in The Garner-Galleria for more than two years. Additional productions have sprung up in Des Moines, Charlotte, Winnipeg, Minneapolis, Houston and others. The show has grossed more than $2.5 million in ticket sales.

    Now, I’m not the kind of guy who likes being kept in the dark. My brothers did that to me enough times as a kid whenever they got bored and locked me in a closet. I (and others at The Post) did due diligence by writing with regularity about the show and its progress. But still, I had not seen it for myself. Later on, I learned that the Denver Center, being much more mindful of, you know - the law - than my friends at The Avenue Theater, never actually forbid men from seeing the show. Some men, I hear told, have come back to see it several times.

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    Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein singing "Up With Puberty" from Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women." Photo by Terry Shapiro.

     

    Fast forward to the recent re-opening night of “Girls Only” at The Garner-Galleria (running through March 9). By now, I was long gone from The Denver Post. Last August, I was scooped up by the Denver Center like a limp body washed up on the shore. My job here is that of an in-house journalist. My delicious duties now include snapping photographs backstage before every Denver Center opening.

    Which brings us to “The Night of Jan. 16.” (That’s also the name of a play, you may know. I played the judge in a high-school production. The audience jury decides if the femme fatale is guilty of murder. But no matter how they voted, I got to scold the jury for making an obviously idiotic decision. That training well-prepared me for my future life as a theatre critic. But I digress …)

    So here I was in the cramped backstage dressing room with my camera and my Girls. I was trying to be a proper gentlemen despite the, shall we say … “casual nature” of my photo subjects. When Barbara and Linda began to undress right in front of me, I, of course, excused myself. They said they would call me back in when they were changed into their proper costumes. And they did just that. I walked back in to the sight of two women wearing nothing but bright, colorful bras and panties (with carefully hidden mic pacs!) … and grins from ear to ear. They snickered. I was blood in the water. My face was hot-pinker than Barbara’s bra.

    “OK, you got me,” I said. “Now call me back in when you put some clothes on.”

    But no. “This is what we really wear to start the show,” Linda told me.

    And it was!

    I promised to come back soon, see the show and write this manly first-person essay about the experience. They made me promise to bring women along. Lots of them. “You’ll need them for protection,” Barbara teased. Made sense. I didn’t want any women coming to the theatre to giggle about all things girly with their girlfriends to be made in any way self-conscious by the creepy old man sitting alone in the corner. I have my front porch for that.

    Which brings us to Sunday night.

    “Be afraid,” my friend Amy Board said on our way into the theatre, along with the rest of my distaff “Gaggle of Girls,” Carla Kaiser Kotrc and Sharon Kay White. I also had actor Amie MacKenzie, who understudies both women in the play, one row behind us, watching my back.

    To this point, I really didn’t know what the big deal was. Sure, the evening comes with a warning: “This show contains feminine subject matter including teenage diaries, breast feeding, tampons, shadow puppets, pantyhose, menstrual cycles, slumber parties, menopause and maxi pads.”

    What was on that list for ME to worry about?

    Turns out, not much. Because I think a few of the actual ladies in the house were more uncomfortable than I was with the prospect of using the sticky side of your maxi pad as the equivalent of a waxing agent.

    WAY more uncomfortable.

    But man, were those women giggling from the first line to the final bow, both for the evident comic agility on display by these two actors, but for the rabbit hole they sent the audience down, right back into their own girlyhoods.

    The night begins with the aforementioned bra-clad Gehring and Klein revisiting one of their childhood bedrooms. The women read for a bit from their actual journals, comically revealing the universal gawky, geekiness of being a teenager. Who can’t relate to a girl who formed her own one-woman club, but only had enough self-esteem to elect herself  vice-president? I once formed my own political party. I called it the Antisocial Party – “No Other Members Allowed” – but, jeez, at least I elected myself president.

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    Audience members are encouraged to leave their thoughts in a diary kept at The Garner-Galleria Theatre.

     

    The night soon turns into a series of relatable comedy sketches very much in league with Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy’s “Parallel Lives,” or a guy-less “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” These included sweet, sentimental and, occasionally, taste-boundary-pushing revelations that were not just for the women in the house. When Linda pulled out her childhood Walkie Talkies, I was right back patrolling my home street of Dudley Court.

    The audience loved a bit called “The History of Women,” as told by shadow puppets, and recoiled with a reminder of the way women were depicted in 1950s TV commercials. There was some soft political humor. While discussing our societal obsession with boobs, Barbara says, “We even elected one once.” To which, as if on cue, pretty much the entire audience answered back with incredulous spontaneity … “ONCE???”

    The ex-theatre critic in me appreciated “Girls Only” most for the truly improvised moments. In one sketch, the women snag the purses of two unsuspecting women in the audience, and then build an original story out of whatever objects they find inside. They also make up parody songs on the spot. I can tell you that of all the performing arts, there is nothing more painful to sit through than improv comedy that is tentative, unsure or unclever. “Girls Only” makes plain that these two women are among the best you will ever see at thinking on their feet.

    As the only man, I was occasionally called out for not comprehending the meaning of the words “Girls Only.” But, it turns out, I was not alone. Not really. After all, there was a poster of Sean Cassidy on the bedroom wall staring back at us like a little lost lamb. 

    “Girls Only” strikes me as gateway theatre. Not the kind of show that attracts a regular theatregoing crowd. But the kind of show that might help turn them into more regular theatregoers.

    I see about 160 plays a year, and I can tell you that I feel comfortable in any theater where people are laughing, engaged and having a good time. So rest assured, my dangling caveman club aside, I was one guy who felt right at home at “Girls Only.”

    John Moore is the Senior Arts Journalist for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

    READ MY Q&A WITH BARBARA GEHRING AND LINDA KLEIN

     

    Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women: Ticket information

    Now playing through March 9

    At The Garner-Galleria Theatre at the Denver Performing Ats Complex

    Tickets: 303-839-4100 or go to the show page on the Denver Center web site, For groups, call 303-446-4829

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    My Gaggle of Girls: Carla Kaiser-Kotrc (back), Sharon Kay White (left) and Amy Board. Photo by Randy Dodd.

     

     

     

  • Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee to jam with 'Million Dollar Quartet' cast

    by John Moore | Feb 22, 2014

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    Mary Louise Lee returns to the Denver Center on Tuesday night to sing with the cast of "Million Dollar Quartet."

    Mary Louise Lee regularly blew Denver Center audiences away 20 years ago. Tomorrow night, she will return to her professional roots when she joins the cast of Million Dollar Quartet onstage for a special encore jam session.

    The national touring production of the Broadway musical opens in Denver on Tuesday (Feb. 25). Afterward, Lee will join the cast on The Buell Theatre stage as part of a regular series of Million Dollar Quartet jam sessions.[[MORE]]

    Following select performances (usually only in New York and Chicago), a guest musician is invited to join the cast for an encore jam session. Previous invited guests have included Jerry Lee Lewis, Melissa Etheridge, Lee Rocker and Darlene Love, among others. The 1950s-style song is always chosen by the guest, and the entire cast joins in, hootenany style. This will be the only “Sittin’ in with the Band” session during the Denver engagement, which runs through March 9. The song Lee has chosen to perform will remain a surprise until she sings it.

    Lee has been a staple throughout Denver’s music and performing-arts landscape since long before husband Michael Hancock was elected mayor. Her lengthy theater resume includes work at the Denver Center, Arvada Center, Country Dinner Playhouse and theaters around the country. And her own top-40 blues band has been knocking out covers like "Chain of Fools" from military bases worldwide to the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

    Lee has been working professionally since she was hired to perform at the Denver Center while still a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School. In 1988, at just 18 years old, Lee auditioned for the popular 1960s musical revue Beehive, staged at what is now the Garner-Galleria Theatre. Lee was hired to understudy three meaty roles that Lee would go on to perform all over the country for much of the next eight years.

    At Hancock's mayoral victory party, Lee serenaded him with the song "If You Believe" from the Broadway musical The Wiz. Lee then ended a self-imposed five-year theater hiatus to perform the role of Glinda the Good Witch in that same show for the Afterthought Theater Company in Aurora.

    But most important to Lee were the 15 years she's worked at helping kids who made bad choices get back on track, including a five-year stint working in the city's youth-diversion office. Lee often arranged for first-time juvenile offenders to visit the Denver County Jail. Her focus as first lady remains getting music and theater back into the public schools. 

    In her new role, Lee  furthers her passion for the arts through her Bringing Back the Arts Foundation. From students to senior citizens, Lee is a committed ambassador for the arts whose mission is to expose and expand access to Denver’s vibrant arts and cultural community.

    On Thursday, Lee will host a "Bringing Back the Arts" fundraiser to benefit her foundation from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Helikon Gallery & Studios at 3675 Wynkoop St., in Denver. Guests will include her husband; former First Lady Wilma Webb; Denver City Councilman Chris Nevitt; Denver Center chairman Daniel L. Ritchie and Denver Center Education Director Tam Frye.

    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.

    Portraying these icons (and slated to join Lee onstage), are John Countryman as Jerry Lee Lewis, Lee Ferris as Carl Perkins, Scott Moreau as Johnny Cash and Cody Ray Slaughter as Elvis Presley.

     Single tickets for Million Dollar Quartet start at $20. To charge by phone, call 303-893-4100 or go to the Denver Center's web site. For more information on the show, visit: MillionDollarQuartetLive.com

     

    Video:Video:  Let's all play "Million Dollar QuarTrivia"!

     

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    "Million Dollar Quartet" revisits the night some of music's greats met for a recording session. Photo by Paul Natkin.

     

    Heidi Bosk contributed to this report.

  • Vince Nappo returns to Denver in 'Million Dollar Quartet'

    by John Moore | Feb 21, 2014

    Vince Nappo graduated from the Denver Center's National Theatre Conservatory in 2005. Now he's back in town for two weeks, playing Sam Phillips in Million Dollar Quartet, opening  Feb. 25 at the Buell Theatre. That's 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.

    But we just couldn't wait for them all to get here. So we asked Nappo  to answer a few questions and send us the video. Million Dollar Quartet plays through March 9. Call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org.

    I'll always remember the heartfelt testimonial Nappo sent me when the National Theatre Conservatory closed its doors. Here is an excerpt:

    I started my training at the NTC in 2002. I had a broken heart. My brother had died in 2000, and I was still very much in grief. When he died, I had thought about giving up acting. I realized that I didn’t want to give it up, but I knew that I needed to bury myself somewhere, to be hidden in work.

    I decided that place was grad school. I applied to several places and was accepted to Brown, The Old Globe San Diego, and the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver. I flew out to Denver for my callback audition, and I fell in love with the place.

    I was extremely excited by the faculty. I felt so welcomed by the current students. I couldn’t get over how professional the company seemed. I was blown away by the Denver Performing Arts Complex. And I knew, without a doubt, that the Denver Center was where I wanted to spend the next three years of my life.

    I chose the NTC. I have never regretted my decision. If I were to write a list of all the things my training has done for me, the list would never end. However, I can tell you the thing that would be at the top of the list, and that is healing. I felt myself heal at the NTC. And I think that was what I was seeking when I chose the NTC.

    I wanted to become a better actor. And I wanted an equity card. And I wanted to make connections. And I wanted to be on stage at the DCTC. And I wanted my faculty to like me. And I wanted to play Alan Berg in God’s Country. And I wanted to play Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story. And I wanted to play Malvolio in Twelfth Night. And I wanted to swing/sing/and dance my soul on a trapeze. And I wanted the other students to appreciate my work. And I wanted to be better because I was so inspired by the other students. And I wanted to get agents when I graduated. And I wanted lots of things.

    But mostly I wanted to work. And to be exhausted by doing what I loved. And to feel inspired by the artists around me. And to feel healing. And I did.

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    Vince Nappo, shown playing Alan Berg in “God’s Country”: “When you cut off a limb, you’ve given up a piece of who you are.” Photo by P. Switzer

  • Video: Hey, Denver: Let's play 'Million Dollar Quar-Trivia'!

    by John Moore | Feb 18, 2014

    Million Dollar Quartet is coming to Denver on Feb. 25, thankyouverymuch. That's 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.

    We just couldn't wait for them to get here. So we went ahead and asked their acting namesakes what they are looking forward to about Denver, and one thing they didn't know about their characters. We've sprinkled in a few trivia questions of our own to round out our brief video. (Guess what food dish Johnny Cash was known for preparing?) Thanks to Cody Ray Slaughter (Elvis), John Countryman (Jerry Lee Lewis), Scott Moreau (Johnny Cash) and Lee Ferris (Carl Perkins) for playing along.

    Later this week, we will hear from Vince Nappo, who graduated from the Denver Center Theatre Company's National Theatre Conservatory and performed in many plays here.  He plays Sam Phillips, the father of rock ’n roll, in Million Dollar Quartet.

    Brought together in 1956 by said Sam Phillips, that legendary night comes to life with a tale of broken promises, secrets, betrayal and celebrations featuring timeless hits including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “That’s All Right,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hound Dog” and more.

    Video by John Moore and Heidi Bosk.

    Million Dollar Quartet plays Feb. 25 through March 9 in the Buell Theatre.

    For ticket information, call 303-893-4100 or click here to go to the Denver Center's web page on the show.

  • 2014-15 season: 'Pippin,' 'Kinky Boots' are Denver-bound

    by John Moore | Feb 10, 2014

    (To see video montages from many of the newly announced shows, click here)


    Denver Center Attractions' 2014-15 season kicks off Sept. 6 with back-to-back visits from the most recent Tony Award winners for best revival of a musical and best musical: Pippin and Kinky Boots.

    It was previously announced that Denver would launch the national touring production of Pippin, continuing the city's burgeoning reputation as a premiere location to christen new national tours. Pippin plays here from Sept. 6-20. Kinky Boots, featuring a score by pop star Cyndi Lauper, follows Oct. 29-Nov. 9.

    The six-show subscription package also will include Motown the Musical, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella and Annie in the Buell Theatre, as well as Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking! in the Garner Galleria Theatre.

    Subscriptions start as low as eight payments of $21.38 and are available online starting today at denvercenter.org. Presently, single-ticket sales are available only to subscribers (except for The Book of Mormon, which is already on-sale to all buyers).

    Additional offerings not included in the subscription package are Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Jersey Boys and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical.

    The 2014-15 season at a glance
    (*denotes shows on the subscription season)

    *Sept. 6-20, 2014: Pippin (Buell Theatre)

    *Oct. 29-Nov 9, 2014: Kinky Boots (Buell Theatre)

    *Nov. 15-March 1, 2015: Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking! (Garner Galleria Theatre)

    Dec. 10-14, 2014: Jersey Boys (Buell Theatre)

    Dec. 17-28, 2014: Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical (Buell Theatre)

    *Feb. 3-15, 2015: Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Buell Theatre)

    *March 31-April 19, 2015: Motown The Musical (Buell Theatre)

    *April 29-May 10, 2015: Annie (Buell Theatre)

    June 3-July 5, 2015: Wicked (Buell Theatre)

    Aug. 11-Sept 13, 2015: The Book of Mormon (Ellie Caulkins Opera House)

    *Denotes attractions included on the subscription season   

       

    MORE ON ALL OF THE SHOWS:

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    The original 2013 Broadway cast of ""Pippin." Photo by Joan Marcus.

    PIPPIN is back on Broadway for the first time since it thrilled audiences 40 years ago…and last year won the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival.  With a beloved score by Tony nominee Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked), Pippin tells the story of a young prince on a death-defying journey to find meaning in his existence. Will he choose a happy but simple life? Or will he risk everything for a singular flash of glory? Direct from an acclaimed run at Boston’s American Repertory Theater, this captivating new production is directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus (Hair, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess). It features sizzling choreography in the style of Bob Fosse and breathtaking acrobatics by Les 7 Doigts De La Main, the creative force behind the nationwide sensation, Traces. Join us for a magical, unforgettable new Pippin at the Buell Theatre Sept. 6-20, 2014.

     

    image The original Broadway cast of Kinky Boots. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

    KINKY BOOTS is the exhilarating Broadway musical that will lift your spirits to new high-heeled heights. Winner of six Tony Awards including Best Musical, this inspirational story follows a struggling shoe factory owner who works to turn his business around with help from Lola, a fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos. Together, this unlikely pair finds that they have more in common than they ever dreamed possible… proving that when you change your mind about someone, you can change your whole world. Inspired by a true story, Kinky Boots features a joyous, Tony-winning score by Cyndi Lauper, direction and Tony-winning choreography by Jerry Mitchell and a hilarious, uplifting book by four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein. Come join the sold-out audiences who’ve discovered why – sometimes – the best way to fit in is to stand out. Kinky Boots plays the Buell Theatre Oct. 29-Nov. 9, 2014.

     

    FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: ALIVE & KICKING!, the fall-down funny roast of Broadway that has picked up nine Drama Desk Awards, a special Tony Award, an Obie, a Lucille Lortel and Drama League Award, is back at last, and not a moment too soon! This New York sensation returns with an all-new, fresh view of the highs and lows of recent Broadway shows, including Porgy and Bess, Anything Goes, Spiderman, The Book of Mormon, Follies, Nice Work If You Can Get It and Death of a Salesman. It features outrageous costumes, hilarious rewrites of the songs you know and dead-on impressions by a stellar cast. Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking plays the Garner Galleria Theatre Nov. 15-March 1, 2015.

     

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    Original Broadway Company of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s "Cinderella." Photo by Carol Rosegg.

    Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA is the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical from the creators of The Sound of Music and South Pacific that’s delighting audiences with its contemporary take on the classic tale. This lush production features an incredible orchestra, jaw-dropping transformations and all the moments you love—the pumpkin, the glass slipper, the masked ball and more—plus some surprising new twists. Be transported back to your childhood as you rediscover some of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s most beloved songs, including “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible/It’s Possible” and “Ten Minutes Ago,” in this hilarious and romantic Broadway experience for anyone who’s ever had a wish, a dream...or a really great pair of shoes. Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella plays the  Buell Theatre February 3-15, 2015.

     

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    Sydney Morton, Valisia LeKae and Ariana DuBose of "Motown the Musical." Photo by Joan Marcus.

    It began as one man’s story…became everyone’s music…and is now Broadway’s musical. MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is the true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and many more. Motown shattered barriers, shaped our lives and made us all move to the same beat. With a book by Berry Gordy and directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, the musical includes some of Motown’s most beloved hits including “I Want You Back,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “I’ll Be There,” “My Girl,” “Please, Mr. Postman” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” Now, experience it live on stage in the record-breaking smash hit Motown the Musical at the Buell Theatre March 31-April 19, 2015.  

     

    Leapin’ Lizards! The world’s best-loved musical returns in time-honored form.  Directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin, this production of ANNIE will be a brand new incarnation of the iconic original. Featuring book and score by Tony Award-winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin, Annie includes such unforgettable songs as “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street,” “I Don’t Need Anything But You,” plus the eternal anthem of optimism, “Tomorrow.” Annie plays the Buell Theatre April 29-May 10, 2015.

    To purchase a subscription, please call Denver Center Ticket Services at 303-893-4100 or 800-641-1222. You may also visit the ticket office located in the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex at Speer Boulevard and Arapahoe Street.  Subscription packages may be purchased online at denvercenter.org/bwaysubs.  Groups of 10 or more, please call 303-446-4829.

    2014-15 season subscribers also may purchase these added attractions before they go on sale to the public:

    image Adam Zelasko, Hayden Milanes, Jason Kappus and Nicolas Dromard sing "My Eyes Adored You" from "Jersey Boys." Photo by Joan Marcus

    “Too good to be true!” raves the New York Post for JERSEY BOYS, the 2006 Tony Award-winning Best Musical about Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. This is the story of how four blue-collar kids became one of the greatest successes in pop music history. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide – all before they were 30! Jersey Boys winner of the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album and most recently, the 2009 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, features their hit songs “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll,” “Oh What a Night” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”“It will run for centuries!” proclaims Time MagazineJersey Boys plays the Buell Theatre Dec. 10-14, 2014.  

     

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    Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. Photo by PapparazziByAppointment.Com

     

    DR. SEUSS’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! THE MUSICAL is the record-setting Broadway holiday sensation which features the hit songs “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas” from the original animated special. Max the Dog narrates as the mean and scheming Grinch, whose heart is “two sizes too small,” decides to steal Christmas away from the Holiday loving Whos. Magnificent sets and costumes inspired by Dr. Seuss’ original illustrations help transport audiences to the whimsical world of Whoville and helps remind us of the true meaning of the holiday season. Don’t miss what The New York Times calls “An extraordinary performance! 100 times better than any bedside story.” Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical plays the Buell Theatre Dec. 17-28, 2014.

     

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    Jennifer DiNoia and Hayley Podschun of "Wicked."  Photo by Joan Marcus

    Back by “popular” demand. Variety calls WICKED “a cultural phenomenon,” and every time it plays Denver it breaks box office records. Winner of over 50 major awards, including a Grammy and three Tony Awards, Wicked is “Broadway’s biggest blockbuster” (The New York Times).  Long before that girl from Kansas arrives in Munchkinland, two girls meet in the land of Oz. One - born with emerald green skin - is smart, fiery and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. How these two grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good makes for "the most complete - and completely satisfying - musical in a long time" (USA Today). Wicked plays the Buell Theatre June 3-July 5, 2015.

    THE BOOK OF MORMON, which played two record-breaking engagements in Denver, will be back for a limited engagement Aug. 11-Sept. 13, 2015, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Ben Brantley of The New York Times calls it “the best musical of this century.” Entertainment Weekly says it’s “the funniest musical of all time.” From “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez, The Book of Mormon is an added attraction to the 2014/15 season and tickets to The Book of Mormon are already  on sale to the general public.

    For now, subscribers get first shot at buying tickets for all non-subscription shows. An on-sale date for single tickets to all 2014-15 shows (other than The Book of Mormon, which is already on sale) will be announced at a later date.

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  • Photos: Breaking all the rules on opening night of 'Girls Only'

    by John Moore | Jan 20, 2014

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    An opening night rallying-cry with cast and crew of "Girls Only."

    “Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women,” starring Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein, is the returning, original comedy by two Denver comics that celebrates the honor, truth, humor and silliness of being female. Borne out of the earnest and sweetly ridiculous writings the two authors discovered in their girlhood diaries, “Girls Only” has found popularity in its unique examination of all things girly. Now in its third Denver Center run, the show has played before more than 90,000 in Denver alone. It's a mix of sketch comedy, improvisation, audience participation, songs and videos. Men are not disallowed, but neither are they encouraged to attend. Not appropriate for under 13. Presented by Denver Center Attractions at the Garner-Galleria Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or the denver center’s ticketing page. Photos by John Moore. 

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    The originals: Linda Klein, left, and Barbara Gehring.

     

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    Cover actor Amie MacKenzie, who has performed in "Girls Only dozens of times, lends the A-Team some opening-night support.

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    Opening-night flowers.

     

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    The magic is happening ... right ... now.

     

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    There are no lengths Amie MacKenzie won't go to get her shot.

     

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    Ready for action, right?

     

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    A keepsake that goes wherever Barbara Gehring does.

     

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    Assistant stage manager Jennifer Schmidtz very gingerly places the actresses' body mics on their exposed persons.

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    Tag: You're it.

     

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    Are we not boys? ... Don't answer that.

     

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

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