• The 'Pippin' Profiles: Matthew James Thomas on being shot out of a cannon

    by John Moore | Sep 20, 2014
    Pippin_Profiles_Matthew_James_Thomas_CirclePlaying prince Pippin for a year on Broadway in the contorting, spinning, death-defying world of the circus took its toll on young Matthew James Thomas. When it was over, he needed time to regain his physical and mental strength.

    Four months later, Thomas arrived on the Island of Malta 50 miles south of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea. His parents have a modest farmhouse there. Thomas, 26, was poised for a few days of relaxation, jet-skiing and writing music.

    Then, his phone rang. It was Barry Weissler, who had hired Thomas to star in what turned out to be the 2013 Tony-winning Best Musical Revival: Pippin The Musical. It was eight days before the national touring production was to launch in Denver, and Kyle Selig, the actor hired to play Pippin, had just been put on vocal rest.

    Thomas hails from Buckinghamshire in the southeast of England, so he’s not familiar with the American cartoon character Mighty Mouse. But like that iconic animated rodent whose theme song was “Here he comes to save the day!" here came Thomas to save the day. All the way from Malta - 6,000 miles from the Mile High City.

    “That is very kind of you, but I don't see it that way at all,” Thomas said last week, after joining – and opening – the first national tour of Pippin to enthusiastic standing ovations in Denver.  “I think it's more that I probably relieved some stress for the production in some way. All I could think about was how lucky I was to play the show in a new environment.”

    Thomas moved to the United States four years ago to split the role of Peter Parker in one of the most infamous productions in Broadway history: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which was cursed by multiple accidents and scathing reviews but was hugely popular with audiences, running for more than three years in the largest theatre in Broadway history.

    He’s now developing a concept for a British TV series while working on his first CD of original music. He spent Tuesday at a Denver studio laying down piano and vocal tracks for a song he’s since shipped off to an engineer in New York.

    “I have gone through some tough moments in my personal life in the last couple of months, and I have been very inspired to write some new music,” said Thomas, who begins work on his next musical theatre project in November.

    We got a chance to sit down for an extended conversation with Thomas, who was starring in a West End production of Oliver by age 8, appeared in the hit film Billy Elliot at 11, and has been so much on the move throughout his life, he feels like he’s run off with the circus. Kind of like Pippin.

    “Somebody recently asked me, ‘Where do you live?’ and I said, ‘Hah, I have no idea. I am a Gypsy," Thomas said."Oh God: I am.’ ”

    Here are excerpts from our illuminating, in-depth conversation:

    Pippin_Profiles_Matthew_James_Thomas_Quote_1


    John Moore: So, hey: You were in Billy Elliot.

    Matthew James Thomas: The movie? Yes, I was.


    John Moore: You've probably grown an inch or two since that movie came out in 2000 … but what did I miss?

    Matthew James Thomas: You missed me get punched in the face!

    John Moore: That was you?

    Matthew James Thomas: Yes, but I was quite smaller then. I was 11.

    John Moore: Well, it’ll be worth re-Netflixing just to see that again.

    Matthew James Thomas: I think you should. If you want to giggle at me, I mean.

    John Moore: How would you describe the last two weeks of your life?

    Matthew James Thomas: Well, being shot out of a cannon is one way to describe it. It really does kind of feel like that. It just feels nuts. But it's great. It's wonderful.

    John Moore: The differences between your Broadway opening and your tour opening could not be starker. You were with the Broadway production from the beginning. You were called into join the national touring production just eight days before you opened. What’s that like?

    Matthew James Thomas: It was such a whirlwind for me mentally because when I set foot on the soil here, I wasn’t prepared for it. I have been in a completely different mindset. I have been working on other projects, and I have been really detached from Pippin for such a long time. And so it was really confusing. I am being completely honest here. I have lived in America for four years now, but it's still a new surrounding. And on top of that, I knew I'd be stepping into a company for somebody else they have been rehearsing with for a very long period of time. That was daunting because I have to walk into this family, and I'm the new guy who nobody knows really. I did know a couple of the cast members from Broadway company, which was … softening. But still, I knew I had a lot to live up to with the Broadway production being such a huge success, and me being the lead. So yes, it was quite daunting.

    Pippin_Profiles_Matthew_James_Thomas_800_1
    Matthew James Thomas in the national touring production of Pippin that launched in Denver. Photo by Terry Shapiro.


    John Moore: It just seems strange to think of you as ‘the new kid’ when you’re the guy who originated the role.

    Matthew James Thomas: And yet, that's very much what it is. I do know the show back to front, upside down. We've done it every single way we possibly could. And yet here I am actually going into a new show with new people and new scenery and a whole new environment. There are a couple of moments on stage where I just feel my feet go a little wonky and I am like, 'Where am I? Oh, wow. OK, great. OK, no, yes. Now … Go!’ It’s scary … but that also lovely for the character of Pippin.

    John Moore: So no one expected to see you – or need you – on this tour. So do you feel a bit like the knight in shining armor here?

    Matthew James Thomas: You know I am very thankful for you to say that, but I think it's more that my being here probably relieved some stress for the production team in some way.

    John Moore: Take me through getting the call.

    Matthew James Thomas: I was in New York about two weeks before I left for Malta. My parents got a modest farmhouse out there a couple of years ago. It's a very old house that dates back to the 1400s, and I have since wanted to go but I've always been preoccupied with work. So I found a little window in my schedule and thought, 'Well, I'm starting work on another show in November, so why not take this opportunity to get away?' So I jump on a plane. I get with my parents. We do a bit of jet-skiing and a bit of pasta eating. We do some catching up and some discussing of the future and the past  … and my phone rings. And it's (Pippin producer) Barry Weissler, whom I have not spoken to since I left the production in March. I thought, 'Why is Barry phoning me?' But in this industry, you get used to being surprised every single day by quite bizarre, profound things. So he says, 'What are you up to?' and I say, 'I'm in Malta.' And it was quiet. I guess he was hoping I was in New York.

    John Moore: Your plane ticket to Denver just got a lot more expensive.

    Matthew James Thomas: Right. He was probably like, (Bleep!) (Laughing.) And so he went on to say he was wondering if I would be available to come to Denver and step in to the role of Pippin for a while. And I said, ‘Sure, I'll come.’ I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to give Pippin one last go, because the role is so great.

    Pippin_Profiles_Matthew_James_Thomas_Quote_2

    Matthew James Thomas: I saw you come out wearing shorts for the talkback after your final preview performance in Denver, and you had a few gnarly fresh scabs on your legs. It made me wonder about the physical toll this show has taken on your body.

    Matthew James Thomas: It's hard to explain, really, but I like it. Back when I was talking my stage fighting exam in the U.K., my friend Rob and I were so passionate about getting it right and getting it real that we ended up just beating the crap put of each other. I came away from that with a bloody nose. But I'm all for realism and authenticity. This might sound crazy or stupid but after doing Pippin again and again and again, the proof is in the pudding. And that’s the audience. If you do something properly, the audience responds properly. If you are authentic with your character ... I always want to pull off the fall or the trip or whatever as realistically as possible, without hurting myself too much. The fact is, I really enjoy it if John (Rubinstein, who plays Pippin’s father Charlemagne) trips me and I really fall. I think it’s just funnier. So I end up getting cuts and bruises and snags and whatever else. Thank God I have those breaks in between shows to recover. So that’s the way I see it. If I'm here, I might as well give it everything I've got.

    John Moore: When the time came for you to leave the Broadway production in March, did your body need some recovery time?

    Matthew James Thomas: Oh my goodness, yes. And my mind, too. You know, eight shows a week for any show is an impossible task. It really is something that shouldn't be humanly achievable. It's hard vocally, physically, mentally. But on a show like this, you're working out more than a pro athlete. Take soccer, for example. They train every day for a good two hours, and then they have one big match a week. It’s very physical, but … I wake up. I go to the gym for an hour and a half. I go for a run for 20 minutes. I warm my vocals up for one hour. And then we do the show eight times a week. You know, it’s almost more work … and you only get one day off a week.

    John Moore: That's nice of you to call it "soccer" for my benefit.

    Matthew James Thomas: Yeah, of course. I'm getting more used to it now.

    John Moore: And now, a very hard-hitting question:

    Matthew James Thomas: Mmmm … OK.  

    John Moore: I saw you play Pippin on Broadway, and I would swear that you had black hair.

    Matthew James Thomas: Oh yes, The Hair Question. At first I mentioned it to my press team and they were like, 'Well, people aren't going to recognize you.' And I was like, 'Well, I think that's kind of a great thing.' Actually, when I changed my hair color, I was still in the Broadway production of Pippin, and I didn't tell the cast. So when I jumped through the hoop, everybody looked at me like, 'Who the (bleep) is that?'

    John Moore: I have a feeling that if anyone other than the star of the show had changed his hair color without telling anyone, there might have been a problem.

    Matthew James Thomas: Well, I ran it by the director and the producers. But I asked them not to tell anyone in the cast, because I thought it would be interesting for that one night just to have a very different Pippin show up on the stage. I'm actually just starting to get my real hair color back, which is an ashen blond. But it's hard to get that color back when I've had so much black and blue put through it. I went black for Spider-Man previous to Pippin, and I just didn't have time between the two shows to change it back. But eventually I had to, because my hair started to fall out.

    John Moore: So you’re saying the reason Pippin had black hair on Broadway is because Peter Parker had black hair in Spider-Man?

    Matthew James Thomas: Yeah.

    John Moore: OK, so I had no intention of talking about your hair this much but now I am remembering your entrance in the first scene in Pippin. You're saying no one in the cast found out you changed your hair color until you jumped through the hoop in the opening song?

    Matthew James Thomas: It's how all of them found out, yes. Specifically, Patina Miller (The Leading Player) looked at me with very wide eyes because she was in the middle of her line, and she was like,  ‘... Who are you?’ It was great. But I'm a little bit of a trickster. I take any opportunity I get to play a prank on the cast.

    John Moore: So when you left, you said your body and your mind needed to recover. But did you also then go through any withdrawal? When the show goes on but without you … that had to be a little weird.

    Matthew James Thomas: Yeah, for sure. You always do. Leaving a company is like leaving a long-term relationship. It’s something maybe you need to do for yourself, but you probably could stay there and be very happy and content for the rest of your life. But you have to keep moving. I left some great friends behind, but in the same sentence, you never really leave it. It's hard to say goodbye to all of that hard work. You leave it for somebody else to take over and they will take over your track but the core of your work is being left behind. It is very traumatic. But as actors, we live within a business within a business within a business. Change is continuing, and it is very important for us to grow.

    John Moore: So all you have to do is look at John Rubinstein to see that the original actor who played Pippin is now white-haired and playing your father. I mean, the show is old. Even with the new circus aspect, why should a 40-year-old show like Pippin matter to your friends in 2014?

    Matthew James Thomas: That's an interesting way to put it, actually. What people have to understand is the original Pippin is incredibly different from this version of the show. Of course the people who saw the original version of the show will deeply appreciate this version of the show as well because the fundamental structure that was so impressive and daring and innovative and sharp is still intact. (Director Diane Paulus) has done nothing but clarify everything that needed clarifying with the old production. That said, a lot of my friends aren't involved in musical theatre at all. A lot of my friends will never see me in shows because they are being a ferrier in Buckinghamshire or working as a DJ in London. But when a friend of mine has come and seen they show, they really are entering into it with a fresh mind. I, in my own life have desperately tried to get rid of my opinion about things – and my generation of friends have become less and less opinionated with me as we have grown up. I spoke to a lovely young chap the other day who had seen the show in Denver. He described himself as a young American who generally thinks of things in terms of, 'I know this,’ or, ‘I like that,’ or, ‘My favorite color is blue.' But he came in and saw the show and was like, 'Oh my God, my whole opinion of everything has just shifted because of the profundity of what I just saw. I was wrong. Now I have to re-think everything.’ That’s why I think this show is so clever, because he came out knowing something greater about his deeper self.

    Pippin_Profiles_Matthew_James_Thomas_John_Rubinstein_800-
    John Rubinstein, left, played the first Pippin on Broadway in 1972. He now plays father to Matthew James Thomas' Pippin. Photo by Terry Shapiro.


    John Moore: So what was it like when you first had that moment on stage with John Rubinstein, when Pippin says, 'Time has passed you by, father,' and Charlemagne's line back is, 'And YOUR time has come, my son?' 

    Matthew James Thomas: There’s a very real thing happening on the stage between us that goes beyond the acting and the music and the dancing. That is two actors on stage who have probably experienced a very similar transformative and probably very painful journey with the same production. Because I know any show of this depth and greatness is painful to create. My journey with it from Boston, as fantastic and as brilliant and as wonderful as it ended up being for everybody, was incredibly painful and hard. And I know from all of the wonderful stories John has that it was hard for him, too. There is an unspoken bond there between John and me because we are the only two people who really have created the role from a fresh palate.


    Pippin_Profiles_Matthew_James_Thomas_Quote_3

    John Moore: Can I ask you about Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark?

    Matthew James Thomas: Yeah, sure.

    John Moore: I was writing for The Denver Post at the time, and I got to see it when it was in previews for its re-opening. Meaning after it had been ostensibly fixed. My take was that this was a musical that was like its anti-hero: Caught between two worlds. But it had an energy that was unmatched by any other show on Broadway. The crowd ate it up. The crowd's response was more genuine than anything else I’ve ever seen on Broadway. And if the idea of live theatre is to make a connection with an audience, well, this show did that.

    Matthew James Thomas: I don't know how to say how lucky I feel I am that I got to work with that creative team on Spider-Man. Oftentimes, in interviews, people just want the dirt, and yeah, there's plenty of it. However, Spider-Man was actually tragic. The show itself -- even the original show -- I thought was just so special, because you didn't just have a bunch of brilliant creatives waltzing around pretending they knew everything. Everybody on that creative team wanted to do something impossible. I alternated in the lead role, which meant that I did the show four days a week, and I would watch the rest of the time. So I used to go up to the fly booth and watch down and see the show from there. I would watch how all of these things had to happen for that little 5-year-old's excitement, or that 80-year-old's bewilderment. All those things were invented by a crew of people ... It was God's work, really. I was thinking, 'How the hell did somebody make all of these things work together? Things happen on shows that are trying to test extraordinary boundaries. Spider-Man was certainly trying to do that. That was very, very, hard for all of us. People got injured. But let me tell you: People get injured on every show. And Pippin is far more dangerous than Spider-Man will have ever been.

    John Moore: Pippin does seem far more dangerous. I mean, in Spider-Man, you were tied to cables. There are no cables, no nets, no safety hooks in Pippin.

    Matthew James Thomas: Yeah, and you know what? I like wire. I like an 8,000-pound tension wire between me and the 30 feet to the floor. As much as I would happily jump out of a plane -- and intend to, at some point in my life -- I like having a parachute. I trusted those people on that team more than I have ever trusted anyone, and boy, did they care about our safety. The more people who are involved, the more the politics just go askew and everybody scrambles like a dog to try and fix it, and they are never going to, and it’s just a tragic situation when it starts to happen that way because once the ball goes in that direction, you know it’s lost. People said things they shouldn't have said. So the show fell apart.

    John Moore: So can you see yourself playing Charlemagne in 40 years?


    Matthew James Thomas: Oh, sure. Of course. I hope so, anyway. I always, always want to be that guy with the white beard and the wisdom behind his eyes.

    John Moore: Well, you’re 26. You've got a ways to go there.

    Matthew James Thomas: That's true. I can't even really grow a beard yet. So we'll see.

    John Moore: Do we know how long you will be with this national touring production?

    Matthew James Thomas: It's been confirmed that I will be going through to San Francisco next. Then it’s on to Los Angeles, but that hasn’t been decided.
     

    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:

    Photos, video: Opening-night festivities in Denver
    Video: 5 questions for Composer Stephen Schwartz

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

    Photos: Pippin loading in Denver, rehearsing in New York

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

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

  • Meet the cast video series: Donna English

    by John Moore | Sep 19, 2014


    In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 63: Meet Donna English, who is returning to the DCPA for the first time since performing in the Theatre Company's production of Company in 1989. English, who is playing Baby Doe Tabor and other roles in the launch of a newly reimagined The Unsinkable Molly Brown, says, "I don't know if the people of Denver realize it but it's unusual to have this amount of space and that many people dedicated to building the incredible sets that you have in these productions." Molly Brown plays through Oct. 26 in the Stage Theatre. Call 303-893-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore and David Lenk.e. Run time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

    And, hey: Check out our new media outlet at MyDenverCenter.Org

    Previous "Meet the Cast" episodes:

    From The Unsinkable Molly Brown:
    Patty Goble
    Paolo Montalban
    Linda Mugleston
    Donna English (today)
    Burke Moses (coming next)
    Beth Malone (coming up)

    Previous Theatre Company "Meet the Cast" playlists by shows:
    Death of a Salesman
    Just Like Us
    Jackie & Me
    The Most Deserving
    A Christmas Carol
    black odyssey
    The Legend of Georgia McBride
    Hamlet
    Shadowlands
    Animal Crackers

    The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Ticket information
    Performances run through Oct. 26
    Stage Theatre
    303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

    Our Previous Molly Brown coverage on Denver CenterStage:



    Molly_Brown_Donna_English_800Donna English and John Hickok as Baby Doe  and Horace Tabor in 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown.' Photo by John Moore.


  • Introducing DCPA's groundbreaking News Center media outlet

    by John Moore | Sep 19, 2014
    newscentertop800

    There's a new media outlet in town, and it is our very own. Check out our News Center on the new www.DenverCenter.Org. We call it Denver CenterStage. It has been in the works for a year -- and we think it is already one of the most active and vibrant sources for news and information about local theatre you will find anywhere on the web.

    This is a groundbreaking new professional journalism initiative headed by respected local arts journalist John Moore and Video Producer David Lenk, who are bringing you fresh theatre stories every day from the Denver Center and throughout the Colorado theatre community using words, photos, audio and video.

    Our News Center is a cornerstone of the new DenverCenter.Org. It's another major reason to visit our new web site -- ­ and stay awhile. With stories being added several times a day, we hope you visit often. For those of you who have followed our coverage while the News Center has been under construction for the past year, the previous MyDenverCenter.Org URL will now take you to our new home.

    STAY INFORMED
    The DCPA hired John Moore, the former longtime theatre critic at The Denver Post, to report news, tell feature stories and keep readers informed about all things happening not only here at the DCPA, but in the Colorado theatre community and around the nation. Working alongside award-winning Video Producer David Lenk, our team will make sure you know about all the varied happenings at one of the nation’s leading arts centers, and in the neighboring community.



    News_Center_Pulldown

    START ON THE HOME PAGE
    When you come to the new home page at www.DenverCenter.Org, you will see the NEWS CENTER tab at the top of the page. Click on it and you will get a pulldown featuring our two most recent stories. (See above.)


    News_Center_800

    FEATURED VIDEO, PODCAST AND PHOTOGRAPH:
    YOUTUBE

    We produce creative and fun videos that bring you the personalities and show you the process behind the magic we make on our stages. We also chronicle the vital work being done by Denver Center Education in area schools and throughout the community. Find out why our YouTube Channel has drawn more than 1 million visits.

    RUNNING LINES PODCAST
    "Running Lines" is John Moore’s award-winning audio podcast that lets you listen in on conversations with emerging and leading figures in the local and national theatre communities.

    FLICKR PHOTOS
    We try to capture everything that is happening under the arch and beyond with our cameras, and then show them to you on our Flickr account. We will always feature a compelling recent photo on the News Center's home page.


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    SORT YOUR NEWS HOW YOU WANT IT SORTED
    At Denver CenterStage, you will find our content neatly organized according to your interests. Easily find coverage specific to our Theatre Company, Broadway or Education divisions. Or go straight to our coverage of Other Theatres or the Community. For now, with so much attention on our season-opening staging of The Unsinkable Molly Brown, we've created a temporary tab to make it as easy as possible for you to find all of our coverage of the show to date in one place. We also have a highly efficient search engine located at the top of any page on our new web site. Just enter the show, actor or term of interest, and your selection should pop right up. 


    News_Center_Meet_The Cast

    MEET THE CAST VIDEOS

    One of our most popular innovations is our "Meet the Cast" video series. In the past year, we have produced more than 60 brief video introductions that allow you get to know our actors in a much more personal way than ever before. These videos are posted individually on the News Center, but they are also available on our unique "Cast and Crew" pages that we produce for every show we stage. To find them, click "Shows and Tickets," choose your show and then click "Cast & Crew."  To play the video featured above, just click here and enjoy.


    News_Center_PopularMOST POPULAR STORIES
    We list what your hits tell us are our most popular, compelling or engaging stories and keep them available to you for easy access long after they might otherwise be replaced on the home page by newer stories. 

    MORE ABOUT THE EDITOR:
    John Moore is the DCPA’s award-winning Senior Arts Journalist. He was The Denver Post theatre critic for 12 years, and in 2011, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre Magazine. He is also the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. He is also the instigator of one of the largest ongoing public arts projects in Denver: The Denver Sonnets Project is his three-year attempt to film all 154 of Shakesepare's sonnets as mini films. John is a native of Arvada who attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

    JOIN IN
    We want you to think of Denver CenterStage as an active, vibrant new media outlet that you will want to check every day (or more!) for news and other stimulating content that is sure to spark a conversation. Bookmark Denver CenterStage on your browser and join in.

    Please Bookmark Denver CenterStage ... and tell all your friends!

    And please email all feedback to jmoore@dcpa.org
  • Stage of Healing: Martin Moran revisits Denver, trespass and 'Rage'

    by John Moore | Sep 18, 2014

    Martin_Moran_Tricky_Part_1In February 2004, Denver native Martin Moran was about to open his intimate one-man play at an off-Broadway theatre in New York. It was aptly titled The Tricky Part. It told the story of how a pedophile preyed upon him in the Colorado mountains when Moran was only 12. The tricky part would be his struggle to come to terms with his own complicity in allowing one stolen sexual moment to grow into a three-year relationship with a sex offender.

    Moran's play made a profound impact on audiences who were coming to see preview performances. But Director Seth Barrish was having trouble convincing major New York theatre critics to take notice of what might otherwise have been just another one-man play lost in the most crowded theatre city in the world.

    Back then, I wrote about theatre for The Denver Post. Moran's story was of particular interest to me. Like Moran, I, too, had spent summer retreats at Camp St. Malo, where the alleged abuse first took place. Like Moran, I too had attended Regis Jesuit High School. Moran bravely allowed me to delve into the story and report about both the trespass and the play that finally was born after nearly three decades of struggle.

    My report was published as a front-page story in the March 4, 2004, Sunday Denver Post, taking up two full inside, broadsheet pages. Moran's producer hand-carried the print edition of that paper to New York Times chief theatre critic Ben Brantley and essentially made the point: "This is how big of a story this play is in Denver -- and it's 2,000 miles away." Brantley must have been impressed. He agreed to see the play and reviewed it a month later. He called The Tricky Part "a translucent memoir" with "disturbing immediacy." 

    Moran's life hasn't been the same since. The Denver Post story caught the attention of Curious Theatre  Company Producing Artistic Director Chip Walton, who brought Moran out to Denver to perform the play in the backyard of where he was violated years before. I have witnessed the lives of many abuse victims transformed for just sitting in Moran's audience. He has since performed the play around the world. A book followed. I was involuntarily assigned to review that book by my editor, and an uncomfortable but sincere question I raised in it understandably wounded Moran. But he admits in his subsequent sequel that it was the asking of it that actually fueled its writing:

    "Where's the anger?"

    That sequel is called All the Rage, and in January 2013, Moran drew another positive review from Ben Brantley of The New York Times, who called it "a soulful show that leads you into thought- and emotion-stirring territory that you don’t often visit at the theater."

    Westword critic Juliet Wittman, who saw the play last weekend at Curious, said the play succeeds "in evoking the capacity for forgiveness in all of us." 

    The official description of the show says:

    All the Rage is a globetrotting quest for the answer to the question, "Where's the Anger?" spanning from Manhattan to the Rockies to Johannesburg, South Africa. The people Moran meets along the way — his estranged stepmother, a guide who can’t read maps, and an African refugee seeking asylum in the U.S. — help him as he charts his own course through rage and compassion.

    For your perspective and benefit, I present to you now the story I wrote that first wove me in some small part into the evolution of The Tricky Part. This piece originally ran on March 4, 2004, in The Denver Post:

    Stage of Healing

    By John Moore
    The Denver Post

    Martin_Moran_Tricky_Part_2NEW YORK - Martin Moran was like a lot of altar boys in 1972. He had just received the sacrament of confirmation, welcoming the Holy Spirit into his life as an adult Christian, and everywhere he looked he saw God - in his Denver neighborhood, at his Christ the King grade school, even in the mirror.

    He relished placing calls on behalf of his grade-school student council. "Hello," he would proclaim to an unsuspecting recipient, "This is Christ the King calling!"

    "And right here in my breast I'd get this little burst of ... 'Maybe I am!' " he would later recall.

    That same year, seconds after his first sexual experience of any kind, 72 miles removed from the protection of his church or family, Martin was filled with nothing approaching the Holy Spirit. Instead guilt and pleasure battled for his soul as the boy lay naked in a sleeping bag, his back perched in the arms of a 27-year-old man, wondering,

    "God, oh God. Is that you?"

    Martin pleaded for God's presence, but deep down, he suspected he "had just entered into a compact with the devil." Martin looked down at his forbidden place, that place where his priest had repeatedly told him, "There's nothing down there to be toying with," and what he saw spilled before him was "the sacred seed of God." A million murdered Catholics.

    It would be years of confusion, two suicide attempts, therapy and now an upcoming off-Broadway play about his "journey toward grace" before he would embrace a fundamental truth about a man who still affects his life, 32 years later.

    "I was 12, Bob. I was a child. I did not have consent to give."

    Martin had met Bob two years earlier at Camp St. Malo, since 1916 a holy retreat for Catholics at the eastern base of Mount Meeker northwest of Allenspark. Bob was not a priest. He was not even a Catholic. But he was in his third summer as a lay counselor there. Martin remembered him as the engaging Vietnam vet who had told "amazing campfire stories about jungle ghosts and war." Bob was now starting his own boys ranch just 15 miles east of St. Malo, and he had offered Martin 10 bucks to spend the weekend fixing up the place with him.

    Martin's unsuspecting parents gave their permission, provided he covered his paper route and the Sunday Mass he was scheduled to serve, because "everybody," he said, "trusted 'Bob from St. Malo.' " Neither Martin nor his parents knew then that Bob had since been fired from the camp (but never prosecuted) for engaging in sexual activities with at least three boys there in 1970.

    On April 8, 1972, the morning after their initial sexual encounter, Bob dropped Martin back at his middle-class home in the Virginia Vale neighborhood of Denver, and left him with a message that would resonate for decades.

    "Marty, our friendship is different, you know? In another time and place, what we shared is good. You know why? Because there's love ... and it's between us."

    At the most confusing moment of the boy's young life, Martin was now certain of only one thing:

    "God, please ... This has to be just ours. Top secret."

    The words above in italics come from Moran's one-man play, "The Tricky Part," which opens March 28 in New York's McGinn/Cazale Theatre.

    Martin Moran is the author of the play and book called "The Tricky Part," which recounts his time being molested by a camp counselor at Camp St.
    It traces his Catholic upbringing, his struggle to come to terms with his own homosexuality and his own complicity in allowing one stolen sexual moment to grow into a three-year relationship with a man who would one day become a convicted sex offender.

    In truth, there is no part of this story that is not "the tricky part."

    "In my allegiance to my memory and in trying to be as deeply genuine as I possibly can be, my purpose with this play is to render the profound complexity of this experience," said Moran, now 44 and living in New York City.

    "What rests at the core of it, for me, is an examination of the paradox. By that I mean, yes, what happened to me when I was 12 was horrifically wrong. A man committed a crime. He crossed the line and entered into a sexual relationship with a 12-year-old boy in a culture where that is instantly and automatically damaging. We are talking Denver in 1972, a Republican household, Catholic upbringing -- colliding with sex. And that collision is so rife with trauma and complexity.

    "But that was, in fact, my sexual awakening, and there was beauty in it. There was horror in it, too. This was a man who was screwed up and deficient and sick.

    "But in that man was a human being, and he wasn't violent, and he paid attention to me. And that love, which some people will bristle at hearing, was a life preserver, as well as a destroyer."

    On April 4, 2002, Moran stood before a white mop of hair inside a Los Angeles veterans hospital and saw what looked more like a 59-year-old diabetic woman in a wheelchair than the vigorous young man who taught him to drive a tractor, build a geodesic dome and took him glacier sliding. He barely recognized this as the man he had sneaked away to be with so many times so many years before.

    Playgoers will soon be introduced to this man as "Bob Kominsky."

    But in Colorado, he already is known in Catholic and legal circles as a problem named Robert C. Kosanke.

    "My first love," Moran said.

    'I don't have anything'

    Moran did not track Kosanke down to vilify or assail him.

    "It was important to me that he know I turned out all right, and that I've found something like stability and success in my life," he said.

    Kosanke's concern was elsewhere.

    "If you're thinking of suing me," Moran recalls Kosanke saying to him, "I don't have anything."

    Moran's psychological and artistic journey, which began in dark confusion and brought him to this California hospital, does not come to an end next month in the catharsis of a New York stage.

    "Sexual abuse is not like an infection where you treat the infection with medicine and it goes away," Boulder sexual-abuse expert Kitty Sargent said. "It's a process that will always be a part of the person's life."

    Sargent is an education-resource coordinator for Blue Sky Bridge, which works to prevent the sexual abuse of children. She does not know Moran, but she has known many Kosankes. She said pedophiles disrupt the ordered physical, psychological and social development of a child without regard to the consequences that can last well into adulthood, including isolation, distrust, shame, anger, grief, betrayal, fear of intimacy and hypersexual activity.

    Moran's case is an unsettling cautionary tale not only for parents but also for anyone who thinks they understand the psychology and pathology of how sexual abuse affects kids. It might be difficult for anyone to understand how it affected Moran.

    Like when he was in the seventh grade and he was assigned to write an essay about his living hero. Martin wrote about Kosanke. And that was more than a year into their relationship.

    "Talk about a double life," he said. "When I was in eighth grade, I was president of the student council at Christ the King. I often thought I might title my memoirs, 'The Altar Boy and the Slut.' "

    A life of questions

    When Moran tells his story in the public intimacy of a 110-seat New York theater, he is aware it will raise many questions with audiences: How could he have remained involved with this man for so long without telling anyone? Where were his parents through all of this? And the question his own father later raised.

    "When I finally told my father what happened between Bob and me," Moran said, "his response was, 'So, he's the man who made you gay?' "

    Sexual abuse, Sargent said, is more about sexual power than sexual orientation. But Moran knows his own homosexuality is a very "tricky part" of his story. Part of what kept him coming back to Kosanke was isolation and shame, but another was pleasure. Sargent said abusers prey on that confusion and contradiction.

    "When the abuse is not inflicting pain, any 12-year-old's body will respond positively to sexual stimulation, regardless," she said. "And the guilt and confusion that results from feeling pleasure is a common issue that haunts some of these kids for the rest of their lives."

    Moran believes he was born gay, "and I was always meant to be gay," he said. "But when I was 12, I knew nothing about sex of any kind."

    As he lay with Kosanke that first time, he remembers thinking, "This must be what a man does with a woman, and so what does that make me?"

    Part of the trauma for him became "trying to sort through a genuine notion of my own sexuality within the realm of a religion that told me this was a mortal sin."

    "For me it was double indemnity, and it was really painful.

    "And yet deep within was also this sense of truth that 'this is where my body is leading me. This is what I want. It's telling me something about myself."'

    But what he was hearing about homosexuality in sixth grade was another matter. That's just one reason he instinctively knew from that first sexual encounter that his life was a closed book.

    "I could no longer belong," he said. "And when your life is top secret like that, the only way you can find solace again, to a 12-year-old brain, is to return to what you crave, to the only person who knows your secret. That's destructive and complicated and bizarre, but you might find that's not unique in terms of sexuality between adults and children."

    Sargent said hidden, long-term relationships between pedophiles and children are more common than not.

    "And that not only points out just how strongly manipulative these older men can be when they prey on a child," she said, "it also points out how kids are not at all empowered in these situations. It's very difficult for them to break free. It's important to remember that a 12-year-old is not emotionally capable of entering into a consensual sexual relationship with a 30-year-old. It's just not possible.

    "That's why it's against the law."

    Three years of hiding

    Moran described his relationship with Kosanke as catch-as-catch-can: two weeks at summer camp, a weekend above Boulder here, a weekend at the ranch there.

    "But I always looked forward to it because every meeting had the promise of that connection, and that intimacy of being with the guy who knows my secret and shares it," he said. "I looked forward to that companionship."

    Moran's father, a former Denver journalist, was a typical dad in an era when the role of a father was primarily that of a financial rather than emotional provider.

    "He is such a good man, but he was distant," Moran said.

    Moran was the second oldest of four siblings, but his parents divorced when he was 15 - the same year his relationship with Kosanke came to an end.

    "My family was like a group of satellites floating around, each in our own orbit, and everyone was finding what they needed somewhere other than in the house," he said. "My parents are kind, good and responsible people who were going through a really tough time emotionally. And while the fact Bob came into my life via St. Malo does not excuse what he did, that did give him the aura of being someone my parents could trust.

    "It's deeply painful to them that this happened. If there is a lesson for parents today, it's that they have to be absolutely aware of what is going on at all times, and they need to be absolutely present."

    So when Moran grew consumed with guilt over the issue of homosexuality, the person he turned to was Kosanke.

    "I expressed to Bob my deep sadness at the fact that I may be turning out gay, and it was screwing with my head," Moran said.

    "Bob told me, 'Marty, homosexuals are really just troubled creatures who have no love in their lives. So you can't be homosexual, because you have love in your life. We have love. You and I. So what we share is not homosexuality."'

    Only in retrospect did Moran recognize the "odd and terribly twisted way" in which he was being led. He continued to assume that when he got to be 16 or 17, he would be OK because by then he would have a girlfriend. But as his relationship with Kosanke intensified, doubts about his sexuality continued to plague him. So Kosanke, whose 19-year-old girlfriend was a co-counselor at his ranch, took an extreme step to reassure him.

    "He began taking me to bed with both of them on occasion," Moran said. "It was strange and perfunctory, but I kept thinking, 'I am doing that thing that men are supposed to do with women, so now I know I am going to be OK.' And she was just lying there like a stone. The implicit message was, 'See? You're not gay. You are a guy."'

    But the boy knew next to nothing about female sexuality, and he woke up one day in horror. "Here was blood on the sheets, and I was terrified - until Bob explained to me it was her period," he said.

    His confusion led to a failed suicide attempt that involved an overdose with his mother's prescription medicine.

    In 1975, Moran's freshman year at Regis High School, he began to distance himself from Kosanke. Six months had passed since he had last seen him when word spread that Kosanke was going to jail.

    Moran didn't know specifics, but he was terrified he might be pulled into a public legal mess.

    Still not yet old enough for a driver's license, Moran jumped into his mother's car to confront Kosanke.

    "I was afraid I would never have another chance to tell him I was angry and ashamed, and I was sorry we ever met," he said.

    Moran would like to say it was only his fear of being exposed that compelled the break. But here, once again, is a tricky part: A big reason was jealousy.

    "As I got older - and we're still talking 15 - the sense of guilt and shame and chaos about being in any way involved with this man grew along with a more keen awareness that there were other boys," Moran said.

    "So we shook hands and Bob wished me luck."

    Years later, at the veterans hospital, Kosanke told Moran his rejection that day caused him to crawl into a shell for two months.

    Moran stopped attending Mass and transferred in 1976 from Regis to the public George Washington High School, where he would graduate in 1978. It was his way of trying to distance himself from the Catholic world that had not only formed him, but also had brought this man into his life.

    "Breaking away from Regis and going to a new school was all an effort to say, 'I am a different person. I am burying that whole chapter of my life,"' he said. "I wanted to get away from what felt oppressive. But I lived in terror that someone was going to come knocking on my door and say, 'We know what you did,' and I felt that would destroy me."

    Moran thought his breakup with Kosanke "would be the beginning of my getting better," he said. Instead it was the beginning of a long struggle with depression that brought a second suicide attempt, this time a wayward gunshot that landed in the banister of his basement steps.

    "That was wrapped up partly in the trauma of what happened with Bob, but it was also the complexity of owning up to being gay, and wanting very much not to be," he said. "I wanted to be an upstanding Catholic father, citizen and husband. I had dreamed about being a senator, and all I kept thinking was, 'I can't possibly be gay because then I will never amount to anything."'

    Moran was a junior when he heard Kosanke had been convicted of sexually assaulting another boy in Boulder County. The next year, Kosanke served four months in the Colorado State Reformatory in Buena Vista.

    The anger one might presume Moran harbors for Kosanke feels to him lost or buried somehow in complicity. It was as if the fact that he not only allowed this to happen but also at some level wanted it to continue squelched any right he had to feel wrath.

    "I felt the loss of the right to feel any anger by my own participation in the relationship because I did enjoy it, because I did go back," he said. "I don't think by definition a 12-year-old can be complicit, but that doesn't mean the 44-year-old man I am today can't still feel encoded in my bones a sense of being complicit. Did I somehow attract it?"

    Onstage redemption

    Moran's lifeline during his teen years was the discovery that he could sing, and he credits the opportunity to express himself artistically as the most important factor in his eventual happiness. He attended Stanford University with thoughts of becoming a lawyer, but a legal career lost out to his love for the stage, and he has been gainfully employed in the New York theater since 1984, including roles in "Floyd Collins" and on Broadway in "Titanic" and "Cabaret."

    "Finding the theater in high school was the beginning of a kind of redemption for me, though I didn't know it then," he said. "I always have felt the theater is a kind of church in which hopefully some kind of transubstantiation or epiphany takes place."

    In his late 20s, Moran started to express himself on paper, scribbling fragmented notes about his childhood, such as, "What happened when you were 12?"

    "I was in agony one way or the other, but the agony was slightly eased by trying to make sense of what happened to me with words," he said.

    That writing evolved slowly over 10 years. In 1999 he won a $7,000 New York Foundation of the Arts creative nonfiction grant to complete his story, and last year Beacon Press bought the rights to his memoirs, which will be released as a book next year.

    The work took the form of a play only after he read his notes to director Seth Barrish, who convinced Moran it should be performed onstage. Last summer, Moran was one of eight playwrights selected from a field of 1,000 for a place in the prestigious Sundance Summer Theatre Laboratory in Park City, Utah. Since then, "The Tricky Part" has been performed in Princeton, N.J.; New Haven, Conn.; and in Albany, N.Y., in preparation for its off-Broadway debut.

    Moran would love to bring his piece to a Denver theater one day, but it's unlikely any performance anywhere could be more powerful than the one he delivered last year in the Park Hill living room of his high school pal David Fine.

    "I flew to Denver and performed it for 16 childhood friends," Moran said. "It was deeply important for me to do that. It was like coming home. The folks who came were friends I made after I left Regis who didn't know anything about this part of my life.

    Their reactions were really deep and difficult, but it turned out to be pivotal in the development of the piece."

    Fine said the monologue left the group in stunned silence.

    "It was like being pasted to the back of your chair," said Fine, a Denver lawyer. "None of us ever knew the extent of what had happened to him while we were in high school, and I think there was horror and sadness in the room at the realization that he basically had to go through this alone."

    Moran broke the tension in typical fashion - with a joke.

    "But that's just Marty," Fine said. "Only Marty could tell this story in such an incredibly intimate and in-depth way that is not angry or hateful at all. And when this opens in New York City, Marty will be telling a story that is shared by many people. I mean, you read about these things, but you never really learn much about who these people are and how it affected their lives. I think this will have a profound and hopeful effect on anyone who has been affected by sexual abuse."

    When the play opens in New York, Moran's mother will be in attendance. His father, who lives in Las Vegas, "is not ready for this yet, but he is extremely proud of what I am doing as a writer," Moran said. "And I loved my mom's reaction. She said, 'Martin, you must honor your own memories and tell your story." '

    The Archdiocese of Denver could not comment on Kosanke's case because its personnel records for Camp St. Malo were destroyed in a 1979 fire. But Moran does not want his play to bring further condemnation to either Kosanke or the archdiocese, though he thinks the church bears some responsibility for what happened.

    "What started at St. Malo was frighteningly pervasive, and yes, there was institutional complicity and covering up," Moran said. "But I think a lot of that has to do with a basic and profound terror of the human body that exists in a Catholic upbringing. There is a complete inability to discuss these things.

    "When you are talking about a bunch of 12-year-olds running up to Camp St. Malo, you're talking about a place that is steeped in the gorgeous metaphors and mysteries of the Catholic Church, but an institution that is also profoundly naive about matters of the body. And then when you suddenly collide that with the naked reality of sex, and you don't have a coping mechanism in a cultural atmosphere that allows no outlet to discuss it, it's a recipe for disaster."

    But Moran remains a man who still has the teachings of the Catholic Church encoded in his bones.

    "Being raised Catholic was filled with grace and brilliant people who cared about education and yearned to understand a deeper reality. The Catholic Church formed me. And this play is the construct of a Catholic man. I don't enter into a church that often now, but the church is in me. It is a part of my being. And what do I ultimately turn to now, when I come up against the ultimate paradox? I turn to the notion of grace, something that is a part of the very fiber of my being as a Catholic man.

    "What happened to me happened in the context of a Catholic upbringing, and that was part of what made it violent, and was part of what ultimately helped me to sort it out."

    Kosanke, who was convicted a second time in 1983 for third-degree assault on a child, is now 60 and believed to be living in Southern California. But Moran cannot retroactively categorize him as evil.

    "It's so easy to turn the man into a monster and not see the child of God within," Moran said. "Opening my eyes about what was good about him was actually part of the process of forgiving the 12-year-old in me. Rather than saying, 'You bad kid,' it was saying, 'Oh, I understand. He taught you how to drive a tractor.' It's like looking at that child that is you and saying, 'Hey, I understand. You went toward a certain kind of light, and I feel compassion for you for having done that. You weren't an idiot. You weren't a bad kid."'

    Picture of innocence

    At a recent workshop performance of "The Tricky Part" in New York City, Moran drew his audience in with his warm humor and gentle nostalgia before entering the trickiest part of his life story. His only onstage prop is a framed photograph of a smiling, blond-banged boy standing in a canoe on the bank of a pond. The boy wears a swimsuit and a life preserver while raising a paddle in triumph.

    The boy is Martin Moran, age 12. It is a haunting visual reminder for the audience of just how young and innocent he was when the abuse against him started.

    "In a sense, that photograph says everything, and in a sense, it has become my scene partner," he said. "It's important for the audience to see that these aren't the words of a 44-year-old; they are the thoughts and choices of that 12-year-old with the cherubic face.

    "I do not want to be seen as a victim. I have a fantastic life with my partner of 19 years, Henry. But clearly this thing still has a hold of me. I mean, here I am at 44 and I am still writing about it."

    But that fingerless grip Kosanke held for so long from a distance started to loosen moments after that 2002 encounter at the veterans hospital.

    "As I left, I kept hearing in my head this prayer, a plea repeating: 'OK, grace, please, let it go. Let him be. Let him rest.' I mean Bob, of course, but then I realize I'm really talking about the 12-year-old, the sweet kid caught in the photo ... still talking his way out."

     
    All The Rage/The Tricky Part: Ticket information
    Presented by Curious Theatre Company
    1080 Acoma St.
    Through Oct. 5
    For exact performance schedule, call 303-623-0524 or go to CuriousTheatre.Org

  • The 'Pippin' Profiles: Callan Bergmann on juggling knives ... and driving a stick

    by John Moore | Sep 18, 2014
    “I dance, I sing, I tumble, and I smile a lot. Currently touring the country with 'Pippin the Musical.' Living the dream!”

    Pippin_Callan_Bergmann_400
    That’s how Callan Bergmann describes himself on his Instagram profile ... and truer words were never spoken. 

    Bergmann is playing Lewis, the boy who would be king -- if only his nasty mother, Fastrada, had her way. But half-brother prince Pippin stands in both their ways, so the dim-witted soldier is pretty much relegated to daddy’s battles and mama’s knee.

    And Bergmann couldn’t be having more fun. When Director Diane Paulus and Circus Creator Gypsy Snider decided to tell the story of Pippin in the context of a traveling circus, they pretty much turned Lewis into a part that Bergmann was born to play.

    “I was in a gymnastics class when I was 4 years old, and my teacher told me then, 'You should be stretching every day; every chance that you get,’ ” Bergmann said from Denver, where the new revival of the 2013 Tony-winning best musical launched its national tour last week. 

    “She told me to stretch whenever I was watching TV at night. Instead of sitting on the couch, she told me to sit on the floor and stretch and do my straddles and my splits. So that's what I did.”

    Bergmann, whose credits include Cinderella on Broadway and Smash on TV, grew up in the Buffalo (N.Y.) area and attended Point Park University in Pittsburgh. He spoke with Denver CenterStage two days after Pippin had its opening night in Denver.

    Pippin_Callan_Bergmann_Quote_1


    John Moore: So I imagine you must be pretty beat right now.

    Callan Bergmann: Yes. It was a long tech process, as they always are. But now that that’s all over, it's nice to be able to breathe a little bit. But what am I saying? We start understudy rehearsals today. So no rest ... yet.

    John Moore: When you get through that - then what are you going to do with all of your free time?

    Callan Bergmann: I have toured before, and what I like to do in each city is get out and do something that’s related to the city I'm in. On our last day off, I went out to Red Rocks Amphitheatre and went hiking. That was awesome. I am hoping to make it to a few of the museums here in Denver. I like to take tours of state capitols.

    John Moore: What did you think of Red Rocks?

    Callan Bergmann: Oh, it was breathtaking. Beautiful. It was fun to get out there and just take in all that fresh air.

    John Moore: So you came to Pippin directly from performing on Broadway in Cinderella. But many of your Pippin castmates had direct experience with the Broadway production. So what was it like for you to step into this incredible new world completely fresh?

    Callan Bergmann: All the Broadway people really helped us jump into that world faster. We only had four or five weeks to learn the show, and so having those people there, like John Rubinstein and Sabrina Harper, was great. They just took everyone under their wings and helped us to really dive into the material faster.

    John Moore: What appealed to you most about going after this opportunity in Pippin?

    Callan Bergmann: I saw Pippin on Broadway when it was in previews, and I loved it. I thought it was so amazing. What really appealed to me was the circus aspect of the show. I grew up as a gymnast, so I like to flip around and do all that fun stuff. I have always had this dream of running away and joining the circus. So when I was cast in Pippin, I was so excited. I said, 'I want to learn every circus skill in the show.’ That’s my goal. The creative team has been so wonderful because they have kind of catered the part around me, and have even changed it a little bit so that I get to show off some of what I do. I get to dance. I get to tumble. I get to sing. I get to act. It’s the best of every world.

    John Moore: So what all have you learned so far? Are you juggling knives?

    Callan Bergmann: No, but I do tumble through knives being juggled.

    John Moore: I think that is even more impressive.

    Callan Bergmann: One day in rehearsal, Gypsy (Snider) grabbed me and said, 'We are going to add you into this part. You are going to be tumbling through the knives that are being juggled.' I just stopped and was like, 'Um, Gypsy? I know I said that I wanted to tumble in the show … but I didn't say I want to tumble through knives!'

    John Moore: And what was her response?

    Callan Bergmann: She said, 'Oh, it will be fine, it will be fine. We're going to practice.'

    John Moore: Well, I should hope so.

    Callan Bergmann: She's so great, and she is so safe. You go step by step. You start by running through the knives, and you learn what to look for. And then you start doing a cartwheel through the knives. And then you start doing your whole tumble pass-through. So that was fun. I also play on the Chinese poles a little bit. I jump onto one from what we call ‘the chute.’ Honestly, from the audience, it doesn't look very scary. But when you're up there, and there is a gap between you and this pole? It’s a little bit scary.

    John Moore: That gap is real.

    Callan Bergmann: That gap is real.

    Pippin_Callan_Bergmann_800
    That's Callan Bergmann as Lewis, far right. Photo by Terry Shapiro.


    John Moore: That must be fun just messing around backstage with all those circus professionals.

    Callan Bergmann: Oh, yeah. I've already started working with some of the acrobats on hand-balancing. Nothing major. It really just starts with practicing handstands. You have to start by getting so good at doing handstands on the hard ground. But they can literally hold a handstand for 10 minutes. There is a technique to it, and they have been helping me out with that. They are so nice.

    John Moore: I noticed that on your resume, you list your special skills as 'basic contortion, stunt doubling ... and driving a stick shift.' I wonder: Which of those three should we be most impressed with?

    Callan Bergmann: That's funny. Driving a stick shift is definitely a dying skill.

    John Moore: I'm surprised Gypsy didn't work that into the show.

    Callan Bergmann: Me, too.

    John Moore: So let's talk about contortion.

    Callan Bergmann: I think I'm just more flexible than the average person. But I'm not as crazy as some of the people in our show, though.

    John Moore: Before you saw the Broadway performance of Pippin, had you ever been involved with a previous production of Pippin?


    Callan Bergmann: No, I had not. But I saw Pippin at a local school when I was in high school.

    John Moore: What did you think of it then?

    Callan Bergmann: It was actually a very good production, and I loved the show. The part of Pippin has been on my radar ever since. Just getting the chance to play Lewis and understudy Pippin now is so exciting for me.  

    John Moore: But Pippin is now a 42-year-old musical. Why you think it feels  contemporary for your generation of friends who might be seeing it for the first time in 2014?

    Callan Bergmann: What I like about this show is that it's really simple when you think about it. Yes, there is all this stuff going on, like all those great acrobatics. But really this show follows Pippin on his journey to find himself. It comes down this: All of our lives are extraordinary, even doing everyday, normal things like falling in love and choosing to lead a small-town life. I think that's good for people to know. Be content with the life you choose. The journey that you are on is where you are meant to be.

    John Moore: So do you find that the show resonates with your friends who are seeing it for the first time?

    Callan Bergmann: It does, and I think that shows how timeless the piece is. Life now is really just the same as it was back in 1972, and just as it was hundreds of years ago. We’ve just added some modern technology.

    John Moore: That modern technology here is really just human skill and physical prowess.

    Callan Bergmann: But what I love is that the acrobats are not just up there doing circus acts. They are acting and performing just like the rest of us.

    Pippin_Callan_Bergmann_Quote_2


    John Moore: So after all this time learning the show; building trust with your castmates; refining your timing and precision, what was it like for you to be up on that Buell Theatre stage for your opening-night curtain call knowing that that you all had just pretty much nailed it?

    Callan Bergmann: Oh it was thrilling. The energy was so exciting. We have spent the past six weeks finessing things and getting it ready -- but it‘s not over. This really is a never-ending process, because we have to keep up with safety and with all of these skills. This show is not something that you can just settle into, ever.

    John Moore: So you are going to have audiences come who have a deep and abiding affection for Pippin going back to the beginning. But I suspect most people who come -- especially young people -- will be seeing it for the first time. How do describe to them what kind of theatre experience they are in for?

    Callan Bergmann: It’s a theatre experience like they have never had before. Maybe they have seen a Cirque du Soleil show, or maybe they have seen a Broadway show.  But this combines everything. And that's why I think it’s so memorable.

    John Moore: Well, you said you wanted to run off with the circus, and you pretty much have. Because you are going to blink and you will be folding up the tent in Denver and you will be off to another city.

    Callan Bergmann: It's true. I am living my dream.

    '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:

    Photos, video: Opening-night festivities in Denver
    Video: 5 questions for Composer Stephen Schwartz

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

    Photos: Pippin loading in Denver, rehearsing in New York

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

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

  • Photo retrospective: A look back at Burke Moses' year at DCPA

    by John Moore | Sep 18, 2014

    Molly_Brown_Burke_Moses_Carousel_1

    Molly_Brown_Burke_Moses_Circle_3When The Unsinkable Molly Brown opens tomorrow, longtime local audiences might recognize Burke Moses, the actor playing J.J. Brown, from one powerhouse season with the DCPA Theatre Company in 1988-89. 

    Moses was a struggling young actor when then Artistic Director Donovan Marley cast him to play Billy Bigelow in Carousel and Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

    “The Denver Center was the first regional theatre that took a chance on me as a musical performer,” said Moses, who many stage and screen credits since include originating the role of Gaston in Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast.

    You can read our entire interview with Burke Moses here, including his memories of performing here at the same time that John Cameroon Mitchell was playing Peter Pan on an adjacent Theatre Company stage.

    In the meatime, here is a look back in photos of Moses performing in Carousel and  Cat on a Hot Tin Roof ... and a little sneak peek at him in The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Archive photos by T. Charles Erickson. Molly Brown photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

    More photos from Carousel:

    Molly_Brown_Burke_Moses_Carousel_2

    Molly_Brown_Burke_Moses_Carousel_3


    Photos from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof:

    Molly_Brown_Burke_Moses_Cat_On_A_Hot_Tin_Roof_1



    Molly_Brown_Burke_Moses_Cat_On_A_Hot_Tin_Roof_2

    Molly_Brown_Burke_Moses_Cat_On_A_Hot_Tin_Roof_3

    Sneak peek at The Unsinkable Molly Brown:


    Molly_Brown_Burke_Moses_Molly_Brown_3
    Burke Moses and Beth Malone. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.
  • Meet the cast video series: Linda Mugleston

    by John Moore | Sep 17, 2014


    In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 62: Meet Linda Mugleston, a returning DCPA favorite (Quilters, A Christmas Carol). Mugleston, who is playing Mrs. Cavendish and the maid Mary Nevin while also understudying Molly Brown, talks about Denver, Russet potatoes and her Potter-esque name. "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" plays through Oct. 26 in the Stage Theatre. Call 303-893-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore. Run time: 2 minutes, 10 seconds.

    And, hey: Check out our new media outlet at MyDenverCenter.Org

    Molly_Brown_Linda_Mugleston_800

    Linda Mugleston in 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown.' Photo by John Moore.



    Previous "Meet the Cast" episodes:

    From The Unsinkable Molly Brown:
    Patty Goble
    Paolo Montalban
    Linda Mugleston (today)
    Donna English (coming next)
    Burke Moses (coming up)
    Beth Malone (coming up)

    Previous Theatre Company "Meet the Cast" playlists by shows:
    Death of a Salesman
    Just Like Us
    Jackie & Me
    The Most Deserving
    A Christmas Carol
    black odyssey
    The Legend of Georgia McBride
    Hamlet
    Shadowlands
    Animal Crackers

    The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Ticket information
    Performances run through Oct. 26.
    Stage Theatre
    303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

    Our Previous Molly Brown coverage on Denver CenterStage:
  • Writer Dick Scanlan on his eight-year courtship with the real Molly Brown

    by Doug Langworthy | Sep 17, 2014

    Molly_Brown_Beth Malone_JK_800Dick Scanlan says the new "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," starring Beth Malone, is true to the essence of who Molly Brown was. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.


    Lyricist and librettist Dick Scanlan kept turning down a request to revise The Unsinkable Molly Brown, the first time from Richard Morris, the original book writer, who collaborated with Scanlan on Thoroughly Modern Millie. When the third call came from Freddy Gershon, CEO of Musical Theatre International, he turned him down as well. Scanlan lamented to his writing partner, “I feel like Molly Brown is always hanging over my head.” She reached over his head and took a photo off the wall of Richard Morris in front of the marquee for Molly Brown. “You hung it over your own head.”

    Doug Langworthy: When you seriously considered taking on this rewrite of The Unsinkable Molly Brown, where did you start?

    Dick Scanlan: I began to research Molly Brown’s life. Very early on in that process I discovered two things. I discovered the legend of Molly Brown in Gene Fowler’s [1933] Timberline, which is a book about Denver lore that contains a four-page chapter on “The Unsinkable Mrs. Brown” that’s all apocrypha, pure myth. The other thing that I discovered was the historical Molly Brown through a [1999] biography written by Kristen Iversen [Molly Brown: Unravelling the Myth]. When I tracked Iversen down, she told me something that really touched me. All those years that J.J. Brown and Molly were separated and counter-suing each other, they were writing each other tender and intimate love letters. So this complicated relationship between these two strong people began to interest me.

    Doug Langworthy: Were there aspects of Margaret’s life that you definitely wanted to include? Myths that you wanted to dispel?

    Dick Scanlan: I surely wanted to dispel the myth that she was in any way stupid. It is true she was from Hannibal, Mo., and her father really was a ditch-digger for the coal company, and she really did leave school when she was 12 to work in a cigar factory. And she moved out to Leadville when she was 18 thinking there would be opportunity for her, which there turned out to be. But her parents were very big on educating yourself, and also very big on raising their kids to believe they could make something of their lives. I wanted her to be smart from the beginning of the play. I also wanted to add context to the idea that she was shunned by The Sacred 36, which isn’t untrue; she was shunned, but she wasn’t sitting alone in her house waiting for their acceptance. She was out there using her money to fund all sorts of progressive causes, which by the way was part of why she was shunned.  

    Doug Langworthy: How historically accurate would you say your adaptation is?

    Dick Scanlan: I think that you try to evoke historical accuracy, as opposed to rendering it in a slavish way. In earlier drafts there were chunks of scenes that were about the gold standard, and other things, which we pruned back. But some of it, like the way J.J. solved the problem of how to get to the gold [by using bales of hay to staunch the flow of sand], you do have to spend a little bit of time explaining what the problem is and what his solution was and why it was so risky.

    Molly_Brown_Dick_Scanlan_quote1

    Doug Langworthy: Where have the new songs for the musical come from?

    Dick Scanlan: It was a strange process, because once Rosemary Willson [widow of Meredith Willson, the original composer] agreed to work with us, it took awhile for her to open up Meredith’s trunk. Initially she just said, “No, there are no songs.” I knew that couldn’t be true, but I just charged ahead and wrote a draft of the script…. Over time, singer Michael Feinstein [who has been dubbed the “Ambassador of the Great American Musical”] took Rosemary to dinner and said “Rosemary, why aren’t you letting Dick Scanlan into the trunk? How is it serving Meredith’s legacy to not let songs of his be heard that no one knows?” And so he asked her where it was, and she said in the basement, and so he stood up and said, “Come on.” And they went downstairs and she opened a filing cabinet, and there in perfect alphabetical order was every song he had ever written. Shortly after that I was able to go down to the basement and digitally photograph any song I thought could ever be used. And I came out with a catalog of about 60 songs.

    Doug Langworthy: How would you prepare people who have seen the original musical for this new version?

    Dick Scanlan: I think it’s a very new version from a narrative perspective. It’s a very, very different story, but I think that what people remember and take away from the original musical is the essence of the character Molly Brown. She is this indomitable, fundamentally American character who has an enormous impulse to affect the world, which is a good thing, and also has an enormous need for attention, which isn’t always a good thing. We’ve not changed the essence.

    Molly_Brown_Dick_Scanlan_800Director Kathleen Marshall and Writer/Lyricist Dick Scanlan on the first day of "Molly Brown" rehearsals in Denver. Photo by John Moore.



    Doug Langworthy: How much has this adaptation changed since you presented it at the Colorado New Play Summit five years ago?

    Dick Scanlan: The first act has undergone the natural progression of a play in development — it’s a tighter, better, sharper, funnier version of what we had at the Summit. The second act, however, has been radically re-conceived. When we did it at the Summit, I felt that Act One and Act Two were two different plays. I felt in Act One we made a promise, and then in Act Two we kind of broke that promise and turned it into something else.

    Doug Langworthy: What does it mean to you to premiere this show in Denver?

    Dick Scanlan: I’d never worked at [or seen a show at] the Denver Center, but it was beyond a desire -- it was a certainty -- that this is where the show should start. And then our experience at the Summit was so positive. Kathleen Marshall, our director, Michael Rafter, our music director, and I were astonished at how well-run the theatre was. We rehearsed a week in New York, and then came to Colorado, and that worked beautifully. Then the audiences showed up in droves, and they were lively and engaged. So we felt, boy, is this a no-brainer that we do this here.

    Molly_Brown_Dick_Scanlan_Quote2


    The songs: How the new Molly Brown score breaks down:

    • 19 songs in the show
    • 4 songs are "new" (Meredith Willson music, sometimes culled from more than one Willson song; Dick Scanlan lyrics)
    • 3 songs are interpolated (Willson songs with additional lyrics by Scanlan)
    • 4 songs come  from the original Unsinkable Molly Brown (stage show and movie, with additional lyrics by Scanlan
    • 6 songs from the original Unsinkable Molly Brown with all Willson lyrics
    • 2 songs are interpolated Willson songs with all Willson lyrics

    The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Ticket information
    Performances begin Sept. 12
    Stage Theatre
    Runs through Oct. 26.
    303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

    Our Previous Molly Brown coverage on Denver CenterStage:




  • The 'Pippin' Profiles: Original cast member Candy Brown's place in The Manson Trio

    by John Moore | Sep 16, 2014

    Pippin_Candy_Brown_Manson_800Candy Brown, left, Ben Vereen and Pamela Sousa made up 'Pippin's' first Manson Trio. Photo courtesy Candy Brown.


    Candy circleDenver actor Candy Brown has five Broadway credits, but her indelible place in theatre lore is linked, alas, to one of the most reviled cult leaders in history.

    Brown was part of the first Manson Trio, a signature Bob Fosse moment in the original Broadway production of Pippin. Brown can be seen in famous photographs stepping alongside Pamela Sousa with top hats and canes wearing white faces and exaggerated smiles just behind their Leading Player, Ben Vereen.

    In the show, the young prince Pippin has leapt fully into the world of war. During a clever vaudevillian battle scene intended to expose the charade of war, the Leading Player and his two dancers perform “The Manson Trio” during the song “Glory.” Pippin sours on the whole combat thing and flees to the countryside.

    “I always see Candy Brown when I think about the original production,” composer Stephen Schwartz said. “Candy was part of that iconic, weird dance. Hers is one of the faces that people associate with their memory of the original Pippin.”

    But people often ask: Why is that “iconic, weird dance” called “The Manson Trio”?

    “It’s because Charles Manson was in the news at that time,” Brown said this week from Denver, where she now works for Denver School of the Arts as a Guest Artist in the theatre department teaching professionalism and body awareness.

    “It was very chilling, because here we are doing this 'vaudeville-style' dance against limbs being thrown out on stage,” Brown added. “The Vietnam War was still going on, and I believe there was a voiceover during that song where they were reading off the number of people who had died in the war. I don't even know who first said that term, but it was something like, 'Oh, that's creepy. Sort of like Charlie Manson.' And from then on, it became known as The Manson Trio.

    “It was similar to what (Choreographer) Bob Fosse did in Cabaret when he had the young Aryan sing “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” while the war was going on. He liked to juxtapose the entertainment side and the dark side of life at the same time.”

    Candyquote3

    Brown performed in the Pippin company for two years and has remained remarkably close to her family there.

    “Candy Brown is one of my dearest friends,” said John Rubinstein, who played Pippin in the original Broadway company and is now playing the boy's father in the revival that launched last week in Denver.

    “She came to New York a few weeks ago to see me do a performance of Pippin on Broadway, and she and Ben (Vereen) and I all went out together and reminisced and cried and laughed.

    "I so miss her on stage. I watched her do that show for two full years, and she gave 150 percent every single performance. She never, ever gave any less. And given what she had to do in that show -- that is saying a lot. She is amazing, and I revere and adore her."

    Since moving to Denver, Brown has performed for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, most recently in the Colorado New Play Summit staged reading of Zenith. She was part of the Curious Theatre’s company’s world premiere piece on homelessness called The Denver Project. She choreographed Melissa Faith Hart’s world premiere staging of The Scarlet Letter in Parker, and is now directing the ambitious Lyn Ahrens musical Once on This Island (a calypso retelling of The Little Mermaid) through Oct. 5 at the Aurora Fox. Her cast is led by the rising vocalist known as SuCh. Or, as Brown calls her, “The Amazing SuCh.”

    “I’ve got the best voices in town,” Brown said. “These are some singing mama-jamas.”

    Here are more excerpts from our expansive conversation with Candy Brown:

    Pippin_Candy_Brown_Zenith_CNPS_800
    Candy Brown in the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit reading of 'Zenith,' about a mother who intentionally drives her children down the wrong side of a highway. Photo by John Moore.



    John Moore: Can you take us back to a time when a young Candy Brown stepped into the Pippin auditions in 1972?

    Candy Brown: It's funny. I had just worked with Bob Fosse on a TV concert film called Liza with a Z. I was on the road with Applause when I got the call from his assistant saying that Bob would like to have me audition for this new show he was going to do called Pippin. I had never done a show from the ground up. I had always been a replacement. And so I just thought, 'Oh, so that's how it works. The choreographer calls you up and tells you what you are doing next.' I didn't know for three months after Pippin was open that I was the only one from the TV special that he had called.

    John Moore: Touch you!

    Candy Brown: I seriously had no clue. I knew I was not a strong singer, so I just went in and did my thing. 

    John Moore: I have enjoyed talking to people who were there in 1972 about 'the real Bob Fosse.' So … who was ‘the real Bob Fosse’?

    Candy Brown: Wow. Now that's a two-day conversation. Bob was very quiet-spoken. He loved his profession. What a lot of people didn't know is that he loved actors. Jill Clayburgh (the original Catherine in Pippin) was not a singer/dancer. John Rubinstein (the original Pippin) was not known as a singer/dancer. Even Irene Ryan (Berthe) was not known as a singer/dancer. She had done some vaudeville in her youth, but she was an actor. Bob even studied Sandy Meisner's acting technique so he could better communicate with actors. He always knew that he wanted to direct, and from some of the films he did, you can see how passionate he was about working with actors. He was the first choreographer I ever worked with who didn't just say, "… a 5-6-7-8." He told you where you were, and why you were doing what you were doing. I remember distinctively that opening number. We came through the curtain to sing Magic to Do, and then we started talking to the audience. He wanted us very specifically to do that sideways walking. He wanted us to talk to them; ask them questions -- but always act like you have a secret. I remember I was very uncomfortable in those very skimpy costumes, and I was scared to have my dad come see the show. (Laughing.)



    Pippin_Candy_Brown_Fosse_2

    John Moore: People talk about his legendary temper, but you strike me as the kind of woman who would not have stuck around and taken it.

    Candy Brown: Everybody had a different relationship with him. I did see him be very cruel to some people. He always seemed to have one whipping boy in the cast. He did come on to a lot of women. When he first started coming on to me, I was so naive, I didn't even know that's what was happening. I thought he was just being very nice to me. He asked me if I lived alone. And then another time, we were at a party and he asked me to stay. And I was like, 'No, I've got to go home and feed my dogs.' It took me a minute to realize that was a come-on. But c’mon: I'm 19 years old and had just come from Minnesota. He's a 45-year-old balding white guy. It never occurred to me that there would be anything between us. I was young and I didn't expect it, so I just didn't see it coming.

    John Moore: What does it mean to you to be a part of that whole Pippin/Manson Trio history?
     
    Candy Brown: How lucky can one person be? Seriously. I had a lot of friends who did flop after flop after flop. They did 10 times as many Broadway shows as me, but none that had the success of just the few that I did. I was in the right place at the right time. I had nothing to do with it.

    John Moore: I think you had a little bit to do with it.

    Candy Brown: I will say I came in with the right attitude. I had a strong work ethic, and I had versatility. Bob loved people who had ballet training. But he also had a specific style. He gave you a lot of opportunity to see if you could come up with the exact style that he wanted done. That's where a lot of people just couldn't quite do it. Everybody thinks it's where you put your hands, and where you put your knees, and where you put your toes. That has a lot to do with it, but it's more where it's coming from on the inside.

    John Moore: Whenever I talk to you about Pippin, you’re always saying how you just had lunch with John Rubinstein, or just saw Stephen Schwartz or Ben Vereen in New York. I think Pippin must have been like a high-school theatre experience for you, because 40 years later, no one stays in touch like you all do.

    Candy Brown: But that's because most of us did that show for two years. So we became a family. For example, when we did Chicago, even though I am still close to a few of those actors, that was a tougher time for all of us, because Bob was coming out of his heart attack, and he wasn't the same person he had been before. I didn't really how many medications he was still on. So we all kind of banded together -- but that was a different kind of holding on to each other. Now, Pippin? We all just had such a great time. We were all so young, and we meant a lot to each other. We supported each other. We took care of each other. I am grateful that I am still in touch with these people. I also still talk to Roger O. Hirson, the writer of the book.  He is in his mid-80s now. I adore him and also speak with him often.

    John Moore: Now tell me about how you know Lucie Arnaz. Because that can't have anything to do with Pippin.

    Candy Brown: Lucie was best friends with my New York roommate. They had done Sea Saw together and a couple of other shows. So I became a friend by association.  


    Pippin_Candy_Brown_Rubinstein_800

    Candy Brown with fellow original Broadway Pippin cast member John Rubinstein at the launch of the new national touring production in Denver on Sept. 10, 2014. Photo by Emily Lozow.



    John Moore: So what did you think when you heard that the new Pippin revival was going to launch its tour in Denver?

    Candy Brown: Oh my God, I couldn't be more excited. I said, 'No wonder I moved here.'

    John Moore: It does start to sound like this is all happening to some sort of preordained plan.

    Candy Brown: Yeah, isn't that crazy? But my life has always been like that. I got a fortune cookie a few months back and it said, 'You have spirit guides.' And you know what? I always have.

    John Moore: I am a former high-school theatre teacher myself, so this is a big, open-ended question, but: At this point in your life, why is teaching at Denver School of the Arts what you want to be doing?

    Candy Brown: Because since I was 5 years old, I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. That's what I went to college for originally. But life just took a different turn. And now, here I am, with the opportunity to teach. When my sister started kindergarten, she was already reading at a third-grade level, and that’s because I was in the third grade. I would come home and teach her. That's why she got to skip a grade. That's why she got a scholarship to Harvard. I would tell her, 'I made you!' (laughing).

    John Moore: So what happened?

    Candy Brown: Well, I started dancing when I was 2. But I had to stop when I was about 11. My father was in the Air Force, and we moved around. We got to Okinawa Island when I was in the sixth grade, and there wasn't anybody there who was dancing at the level I was. I had had a magnificent dance teacher in Queens. I would say there wasn't a Broadway show from 1950 to 1980 that she didn't have a student in.

    John Moore: What was her name?

    Candy Brown: Bernice Johnson. She had been a Cotton Club girl. She taught us everything. We had tap, ballet, acrobatics, African, interpretive -- you name it. That's where I learned professionalism. Most of the kids from there went to performing-arts high school, but I had to leave the country. That was always a big heartbreak of mine. But it turned out OK. 

    Candyquote2


    John Moore: How did you get back into it?

    Candy Brown: When I was in High school (in Minnesota), I took a dance class as a P.E. requirement and went, 'Wow. I forgot how much I love this.’ And that was it. 

    John Moore: How did you originally come to Colorado?

    Candy Brown: The first time I came was with the touring company of Applause. That was right before I started Pippin in 1972. I came back in the '80s for South Pacific and House of Flowers, and I just always liked it here. It's always had a nice vibe. I never really stayed more than a few weeks at a time, though, and I knew I couldn't make a living here as an actor, so I never thought about moving here. And then L.A. got to be just too much for me. It got too old and too tired. I wanted to have an easier life and live at a slower pace. My son was just starting at UCLA, and I thought, 'Denver is still close enough that I can get back.' I couldn't afford to go back east, and I can't do all that rain in the Pacific northwest. So I thought, 'Well, let me try Denver. It doesn't mean I am going to stay here for the rest of my life, but let's see what happens.' So I just showed up. And I had no plan. I didn't know what I was going to do. I figured if push came to shove, I could work at King Soopers or Frontier Airlines or whatever. That was in January of 2008.

    John Moore: What was it like for you to see this new incarnation of Pippin in Denver?

    Candy Brown: I liked it in Denver much better than when I saw it in New York, frankly. But I think that was purely because of the shock factor. When I saw it in New York, it was too much to absorb for someone who was there originally. You know, it's hard to divorce yourself from something you were so close to. But when you can finally put that distance between you and it, then it's all good. And now that I have seen it again, I can go, 'Oh, OK. I get it. Yeah, that's great.' The thing is: This is a different century. What excesses we had in the '70s look so small compared to the excesses we have available to us now. So I love the whole circus aspect, and that everything is done to excess. The storyline is still very clear. This is an everyman's journey; the story of a boy who is trying to make a mark in this society. That’s Pippin.

    John Moore: What was it like when you talked to Ben Vereen about the new show?

    Candy Brown: He just said, 'This is a show for the 21st century.'


    Candy Brown / At a glance
    Born in Northern California to an Air Force father
    Attended Kindergarten through Grade 5 at P.S. 123 in Queens
    Attended grades 6-7-8 on Okinawa Island (Japan)
    Attended grades 9-12 in Duluth, Minn.
    One year of college in St. Paul before moving to New York City

    ​Broadway credits:
    Hello Dolly
    (she played a replacement Horse!)
    Pippin
    (Player)
    Chicago (June)
    Grind
    (Kitty)
    Two Shirley MacLaine special engagements (Dancer)

    Film highlights:
    Ali (Mrs. Clay)
    Zebrahead (Marlene)
    Lost in America (Co-Star)

    TV highlights:
    E.R., Six Feet Under, Ellen, Chicago Hope, Nash Bridges, NYPD Blue


    Once on this Island
    Directed by Candy Brown
    Through Oct. 5
    Aurora Fox, 9990 E. Colfax Ave.
    303-739-1970 or www.aurorafoxartscenter.org


    '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:

      Photos, video: Opening-night festivities in Denver
      Video: 5 questions for Composer Stephen Schwartz

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

      Photos: Pippin loading in Denver, rehearsing in New York

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

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

    • Meet the cast video series: Paolo Montalban

      by John Moore | Sep 15, 2014

      In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 61: Meet Paolo Montalban, a native of the Philippines who grew up in Jersey City to play Brandy's Prince in a nationally televised performance of Cinderella that was seen by 63 million people. He's now playing Arthur in the Theatre Company's  The Unsinkable Molly Brown through Oct. 26 in the Stage Theatre. Call 303-893-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore. Run time: 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

      And, hey: Check out our new media outlet at MyDenverCenter.Org

      Meet_The_Cast_Paolo_Montalban_800

      Paolo Montalban in 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.


      Previous "Meet the Cast" episodes:

      From The Unsinkable Molly Brown:
      Patty Goble
      Paolo Montalban (today)

      Previous Theatre Company "Meet the Cast playlists:
      Death of a Salesman
      Just Like Us
      Jackie & Me
      The Most Deserving
      A Christmas Carol
      black odyssey
      The Legend of Georgia McBride
      Hamlet
      Shadowlands
      Animal Crackers

      The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Ticket information
      Performances begin Sept. 12
      Stage Theatre
      Runs through Oct. 26.
      303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

      Our Previous Molly Brown coverage on Denver CenterStage:
    • Video and photos: Opening Night 'Pippin' festivities in Denver

      by John Moore | Sep 13, 2014


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

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

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

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

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


      Pippin
      : Ticket information

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


      'The Pippin Profiles' interview series:
       


      Our previous Pippin coverage on Denver CenterStage:

      Video: 5 questions for Composer Stephen Schwartz

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

      Photos: Pippin loading in Denver, rehearsing in New York

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

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

      Pippin_Opening_Night_800

      Photo by John Moore. To go to our full gallery of free, downloadable photos from the evening, click here.
    • Molly Brown opens: The rags-to-riches story of Denver’s heroine

      by John Moore | Sep 12, 2014
      Molly_Brown_Beth Malone_JK_800

      Beth Malone as Molly Brown in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."  Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.



      “Colorado, My Home!” Molly Brown sings out in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ highly anticipated new staging of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

      It’s true of the title character. It’s true of the actor singing it. And, thanks to many forces coming together at just the right time, it’s also true of the musical itself.

      The Unsinkable Molly Brown is coming back to life right here in the Titanic survivor’s adopted home state. And it even stars Colorado native Beth Malone in the title role.

      That the public’s first look at the new Molly Brown is happening here in Denver, three-time Tony Award-winning Director Kathleen Marshall said, is perfect.

      “To do this story about one of the most famous residents in Denver history in what became her hometown?” she said. “There’s no better word for it.”

      Molly Brown tells the story of perhaps the most colorful woman in Colorado history. The original 1960 Broadway musical was beloved by some but was also problematic, and it has since drifted amiably toward the musical horizon.

      Enter writer Dick Scanlan, a three-time Tony nominee and a devotee of both composer Meredith Willson (The Music Man) and book writer Richard Morris (Thoroughly Modern Millie).

      Molly_Brown_Kathleen Marshall_Quote

      “One of the challenges of the original is that Molly was very inconsistent,” Scanlan said. “In one scene she is very bright, and in the next she will be … the opposite of that. It is still the story of a girl who grows into a woman, but now it’s the same person growing, and I think that can make the love relationship that much deeper."

      Scanlan's first incarnation of the new The Unsinkable Molly Brown happened as a staged reading at the DCPA Theatre Company's 2009 Colorado New Play Summit. He first got the idea to revisit the musical in 2006 and eventually earned permission from Willson’s widow to revisit both her husband’s score and Morris’ book, which has been completely rewritten.

      “Dick has kept the songs you love…and hopefully he’s gotten rid of the ones you don’t,” Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson said.

      In perhaps the most intriguing twist of all, Rosemary Willson also allowed Scanlan to add four previously unpublished Willson songs, making for a theatrical presentation that is at once old…and new again.

      Scanlan was gifted with a life story of near-mythic proportions. Molly Brown was a factory girl who transformed herself from a teenage illiterate into American royalty. She was a human-rights activist and philanthropist who famously survived the sinking of the Titanic. She and husband J.J. Brown moved to Denver after striking it rich when they discovered gold in one of Leadville’s silver mines. How rich? Try $20 million rich. Though snubbed by high society, Molly Brown raised money for children’s causes, fought for workers’ rights at her husband’s own mines, and twice ran for Congress before women even had the right to vote.

      In Molly Brown’s 1932 obituary, The Denver Post’s Jack Carberry wrote: “She was a pot rustler who, shamed by her ignorance, mastered music, literature and the arts to storm the portals and pass the barriers of society.”

      But while Scanlan promises audiences will see a much deeper Molly Brown than they did in the 1960 original, The Unsinkable Molly Brown remains very much a musical. And a musical comedy at that.  

      “This is not a documentary,” Marshall added. “This is a historical fiction. This is the journey of Molly Brown as a woman, and her marriage.”

      That means this is also a romance.

      “Oh it is very much a romance,” Scanlan said.

      Though Molly and J.J. signed a separation agreement after two children and 23 years of marriage, they continued to care for each other until J.J.’s death.

      “These are two people who can’t live with each other and can’t live without each other,” Marshall said. “They are both single-minded and pig-headed. That’s what thrills them about each other, but it also causes enormous problems between them.”

      Historians say the Browns never divorced only because the Catholic Church would never have allowed it, but Marshall thinks anyone who has been in a long-term relationship can identify with the bond that continued throughout the Brown’s lives.

      “I think that’s recognizable to audiences, and I think that’s human,” Marshall said.
       
      If we know anything about theatre audiences, we know this: They love strong women, they love stories they already know, and, more than anything: Audiences love love.  

      In all three of those areas, Marshall said, this new Molly Brown should be smooth sailing.

      “I love the fact that we have a strong female character at the center of it driving the narrative,” she said. “The score is Americana at its best. It’s big and strong and openhearted and optimistic. Those are the same qualities this show has, and Molly Brown has.”

      Marshall hopes she has created something “that entertains and delights and amuses audiences…and perhaps moves them as well.”



      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 Unsinkable Molly Brown

      Sep 12 – Oct 26 Stage Theatre
      Accessible Performance | Oct 18, 1:30pm
      Tickets: 303.893.4100 | denvercenter.org
      800.641.1222 | TTY: 303.893.9582 Groups (10+): 303.446.4829

      Molly_Brown_Kathleen Marshall_800

      Kathleen Marshall works out details with the orchestra in the pit below her at rehearsal for The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Photo by John Moore.


      The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Ticket information
      Performances begin Sept. 12
      Stage Theatre
      Runs through Oct. 26.
      303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

      Our Previous Molly Brown coverage on Denver CenterStage:

    • Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15

      by John Moore | Sep 12, 2014

      In this video interview with John Moore from the DCPA's 2014 Colorado New Play Summit, Matthew Lopez says what makes the new-play development program unique here is "the start-to-finish approach of the process."



      Matthew300Matthew Lopez has made a significant impact on the national theatre landscape in the past year, and probably nowhere more decidedly than right here in Denver. In January, he had simultaneous plays running: The world premiere of the human comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and an uncommon Civil War drama called The Whipping Man at Curious Theatre.

      The Colorado Theatre Guild bestowed nine Henry Awards on The Whipping Man, including Outstanding Production. That story followed a returning Jewish Confederate soldier in desperate need of help from his family's former slaves in the immediate aftermath of Civil War fighting. The Legend of Georgia McBride, about an Elvis impersonator who conquers his fears and preconceptions when he enters the vulnerable world of drag performance, won two Henry Awards, including Outstanding New Play.

      Today, the DCPA announced the appointment of Lopez as its first-ever Playwriting Fellow for the 2014/15 Theatre Company season.

      “I’m delighted to be returning to the DCPA this season to continue what has already been a happy and fruitful collaboration,” Lopez said. “The Theatre Company’s commitment to playwrights and new plays isn’t just boilerplate. Writers know the difference between companies who claim to support new work and those that actually do. The Theatre Company is most decidedly on the right side of that divide and I am excited by the opportunity to deepen my relationship with this wonderful theatre.”

      During his six-month fellowship, Lopez will serve as part of the Theatre Company’s artistic team. Lopez will bring the playwright’s voice into the production process for upcoming  world premieres of Benediction and Appoggiatura, assist with play selection for the 2015-16 season and serve as the Playwright Host for the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit.

      “We are thrilled to welcome Matthew back to Denver,” said Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. “He is a remarkable talent and was the perfect choice to serve as our inaugural playwriting fellow. We look forward to adding Matthew’s  unique voice to our artistic discussions throughout the season and know he will help us take the Colorado New Play Summit to new heights.”

      Read Matthew Lopez's interview with Denver CenterStage about The Legend of Georgia McBride: Playwright's trip down the straight and fabulous

      More about Matthew Lopez

      Matthew Lopez is the author of The Whipping Man, one of the most widely produced new American plays of the last several years. The play premiered at Luna Stage in Montclair, NJ and debuted in New York at Manhattan Theatre Club. That production was directed by Doug Hughes and starred Andre Braugher. The sold-out production extended four times, ultimately running 101 performances off-Broadway and garnering Obie and Lucille Lortel Awards. Matthew was awarded the John Gassner New Play Award from the New York Outer Critics Circle for the play. Since then, it has received over 40 productions worldwide. His play Somewhere has been produced at the Old Globe, TheatreWorks in Palo Alto and most recently at Hartford Stage Company, where his play Reverberation will receive its world premiere in 2015. His newest play, The Legend of Georgia McBride, premiered earlier this year at the Denver Theatre Center for the Performing Arts. His play The Sentinels premiered in London at Headlong Theatre Company in 2011. Matthew currently holds new play commissions from Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, Hartford Stage, and South Coast Rep. Matthew was a staff writer on HBO’s “The Newsroom” and is currently adapting Javier Marias’ trilogy “Your Face Tomorrow” for the screen.

      Matthew_Lopez_800_Georgia_McBride

      Matthew Lopez working on his script "The Legend of Georgia McBride" in the lobby of the Ricketson Theatre during the production process in January. Photo by John Moore. 

    • Meet the Cast video series: Patty Goble

      by John Moore | Sep 12, 2014

      In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 60: Meet Patty Goble, a Wyoming native and graduate of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. Goble, who is playing the snooty Mrs. Sneed-Hill and the maid Miss Lydia in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, performed at both Boulder's Dinner Theatre and the Country Dinner Playhouse - including a notable production of Baby co-starring Molly Brown herself, Beth Malone. She now has seven Broadway credits. The Unsinkable Molly Brown plays from Sept. 12-Oct. 26 in the Stage Theatre. Call 303-893-4100, or go to www.denvercenter.org. Video by John Moore. Run time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

      Check back here for more profiles of Molly Brown cast members.

      And, hey: Check out our new media outlet at DenverCenter.Org


      Previous "Meet the Cast" episodes:

      Kristen Adele

      John Arp

      Richard Azurdia

      Leonard E. Barrett Jr.

      Cynthia Bastidas

      Mary Bacon

      Anthony Bianco

      Kathleen M. Brady

      Gabriella Cavallero

      Aaron M. Davidson

      Stephanie Cozart

      Aubrey Deeker

      Diana Dresser

      Adrian Egolf

      Liza Fernandez

      Adriana Gaviria

      Michael Fitzpatrick

      Kate Gleason

      Fidel Gomez

      Sam Gregory

      Douglas Harmsen

      Mike Hartman

      Judith Hawking

      John Patrick Hayden

      Rebecca Hirota

      Steven Cole Hughes

      John Hutton

      John Jurcheck

      Michael Keyloun

      Lauren Klein

      Jacob H. Knoll

      Charlie Korman

      Kyra Lindsay

      Cajardo Lindsey

      Ruth Livier

      Eric Lockley

      Alma Martinez

      Timothy McCracken

      M Scott McLean

      Leigh Miller

      James O'Hagan-Murphy

      Yunuen Pardo

      Jeanne Paulsen

      Jonathan Earl Peck

      Amelia Pedlow

      Philip Pleasants

      Casey Predrovic

      Jamie Ann Romero

      Christine Rowan

      Michael Santo

      Brian Shea

      Jonathan Randell Silver

      Felix Solis

      Kim Staunton

      Tony Todd

      Justin Walvoord

      William Oliver Watkins

      Allison Watrous

      Ryan Wuestewald

    • Testimonials: Audiences react to 'Pippin' launch in Denver

      by John Moore | Sep 11, 2014


      The national touring production of 'Pippin' launched in Denver this week. Here is a video roundup of what some of the opening-night audiences thought of the first performance of the Stephen Schwartz-Bob Fosse classic outside of New York since Director Diane Paulus, Choreographer Chet Walker and Circus Creator Gypsy Snider re-imagined the story of the Prince's search for meaning as taking place under the Big Top. Some of the adjectives invoked: Breathtaking, phenomenal, colorful, spectacular and fantastical. Video by David Lenk for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.


      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

      Pippin_Testimonials_800


      '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!

    • Video: Off-Center's off-center parody of 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown'

      by John Moore | Sep 11, 2014


      Friday is a busy day at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, with the Theatre Company’s first preview performance of the new The Unsinkable Molly Brown in the Stage Theatre, and Off-Center @ The Jones hosting is fourth Season Release Party in, yes … The Jones.

      The shenanigans will include live trailers of all upcoming Season 4 Off-Center shows. Admission is as free as the beer. (Which to clarify, means free. Really.)

      Want a hint about what the evening has in store? This is your chance to find out what happens when you mix karaoke, pirates … and your deepest secrets.

      In honor of the big night, we present to you this silly/fun/inspired/stupid video of the Cult Following cast doing their own 2-minute improvised adaptation of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Our honored guests are Jessica Austgen, Sarah Kirwin, Nanna Sachiko Thompson and Chris Woolf.

      Unluckily, none of these accomplished improv comics have ever seen The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Luckily … they have seen Les Mis. (Probably one time too many.) 

      What’s Cult Following, you might ask? It’s Off-Center’s signature night of unscripted, unrehearsed theatre featuring the fast-talking and quick-thinking talents of some of Denver’s best improvisers. Each show is based around a theme and promises to be unforgettable and un-replicable. Join us for the next Cult Following on Oct. 10.

      Off-Center @ The Jones’ Season Release Party
      Friday, Sept. 12
      Bar opens at 7:30 p.m.
      Show starts at 8

      For more info about Off-Center @ The Jones, click here   
      To read our recent feature story on Cult Following cast member Jessica Austgen, click here
      To see the cast of Cult Following featured in the ongoing, citywide public art project called the Denver Sonnets Project, click here

      Improv_Parodies_Molly_Brown_3

      From left: Nanna Sachiko Thompson, Chris Woolf, Sarah Kirwin and Jessica Austgen. Photo by John Moore.
    • 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!

    • First rehearsal photos: 'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike'

      by John Moore | Sep 10, 2014
      Vanya_Rehearsal_4

      The cast of the Theatre Company's upcoming production of Christopher Durang's "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" gathered Tuesday for their first rehearsal. The play opens Oct. 10. Photos by John Moore.
      Click here to go to a link of our gallery of first-day rehearsals.


      Vanya_Rehearsal_4You know you have a great job, Director Jenn Thompson says, "when your daily task is to either read a Chekhov play, or a Durang play ...  which is what I've been doing for the past two months."

      Thompson (pictured at right) is helming the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company's upcoming production of Christopher Durang's Tony Award-winning comedy, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

      The play marks the first time the DCPA has staged a Durang play in its 36-year history. He's known mostly for absurdly funny (and hilariously titled) comedies such as Beyond Therapy, The Actor's Nightmare, Sister Mary Explains It All For You and Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them.

      Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is a chaotic Chekhovian mash-up, but it stands on its own as a very funny look at adult sibling relationships.

      The story takes place in the Bucks County countryside of Pennsylvania. Siblings Vanya and Sonia, who were named by their eccentric parents after Chekhov characters, are wiling their adult lives away without much purpose. (Sound familiar?). They live at their childhood home off the largess of their Hollywood star sister, Masha.

      When Masha and her boy-toy, Spike, arrive unannounced, the residents of the normally quiet household are thrown into comic  upheaval as they confront issues of sibling rivalry, regret, lust, love, and of course ... purpose.

      "This has been a special project, even in just researching it," Thompson told the cast, crew and guests who attended Tuesday's first rehearsal.

      "I have had a wonderful time with this design team. We wanted to find a really cool way to incorporate this whole Chekhovian themes of the  play, so we looked at a lot of Russian countryhouses, the Russian countryside, and a lot of classic sets from Chekhov plays to draw an influence from."

      While the play is laced with Chekovian undertones, you don't need know the Russian master to approciate Durang's sublime sense of humor on its own, Thompson added. 

      "It's a jumping off point," she said. "It's just a way to have fun with that whole theme of the play.

      Click here to go to a link of our gallery of first-day rehearsals.

      Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike: Ticket information

      Oct. 10-Nov. 16
      Ricketson Theatre
      303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

      Cast list

      Vanya Sam Gregory
      Sonia: Amelia White
      Masha: Kathleen McCall
      Spike: Eddie Lopez
      Nina: Lesley Shires
      Cassandra: Socorro Santiago

      Insider Perspectives: 6 p.m., Oct 10, The Jones
      Talkback: 3:30 p.m., Oct 19, Ricketson Theatre
      Page to Stage Discussion: Noon, Nov. 4, Colfax Tattered Cover
      Higher Education Advisory Council Talkback: 3:30 p.m. Nov 9,
      Theatre & Theology: 8:30 p.m., Nov 11
      Book Club Discussion: 5:30 p.m., Nov. 12, Colfax Tattered Cover
      Theatre Thursday: 5:30 p.m., Nov 13, Ricketson Theatre
      Events information: Click here

      Vanya_First_Rehearsal_1
      DCPA newcomer Eddie Lopez plays boy-toy Spike. Photo by John Moore. Click here to see more photos from the first day of rehearsal.

    • Octavio Solis scores prestigious award for Denver-born 'Se Llama Cristina'

      by John Moore | Sep 09, 2014

      CNPS_Octavio_Solis_PEN_Award_4
      Octavio Solis, above, at the DCPA's 2011 Colorado New Play Summit where 'Se Llama Cristina' had its first life.


      Octavio Solis, whose powerful drama Lydia was presented by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company in 2008 and later nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, has won the prestigious 2014 Drama Award from PEN Center USA, which honors the best writing in the western United States.

      Solis’ winning play, Se Llama Cristina, was introduced as a staged reading at the DCPA’s 2011 Colorado New Play Summit. At the time, it was titled Cecilia Marie.

      Lydia is the story of an unusual maid charged with caring for a Mexican-American teenage girl severely injured in a car accident. Se Llama Cristina is not exactly a sequel, but it concerns one of the same characters: Misha, a grown man who was a little boy in Lydia.

      The reading of Cecilia Marie was directed by Ethan McSweeny, who described the play as living in a lyric, mysterious, dark world.

      “One of the things that is so incredible about Octavio is that he’s such a warm, generous, fun person,” McSweeny told me in a 2011 Summit interview, “and yet in his plays, things are very troubled, and the people are at the edge of their sanity.”

      The play opens with a young couple who don’t remember who or where they are, but there is a baby carriage in the room. Inside the carriage is not a baby, but rather a chicken drumstick. “From there, they have to go back and put together their lives and figure out how they have arrived at this place,” McSweeny said.

      The play was picked up by the National New Play Network, guaranteeing it three separate stagings by three different members companies across the country. Se Llama Cristina was staged at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, the Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas, and The Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena, Calif.

      Here’s an excerpt from what the L.A. Weekly said about the Pasadena staging:

      Solis started writing the play 20 years ago during his wife's pregnancy to purge himself of "night terrors" at the prospect of becoming a father. Two decades later, he rescued the unfinished script from a kill file, smoothing the rough edges with the benefit of wisdom and distance. Yet Se Llama Cristina, directed by Robert Castro, remains a raw, ragged journey that takes the audience through the disorienting logic of a fever dream, gradually intensifying before it breaks. A man and woman claw themselves awake from a bender in a fleabag apartment. Bereft of their identities, surrounded by drug paraphernalia and empty bottles - and a vacant bassinet in the corner - they start to recognize that they share histories, tragedies and, possibly, a child. As memories come into focus, we snap back and forth between past and present, to her abuse at the hands of an ex to his upbringing with an absent mother. Each fresh revelation produces another shift in the theatrical footing. Se Llama Cristina belongs to a school of theater that discomfits as much as it gentles. At once gritty and highly lyrical, Boston Court's handling keeps the audience almost permanently off-balance. Redemption doesn't come cheap for the characters or audience of Se Llama Cristina, but its victories are hard-won.

      Solis will be honored with the award, and a $1,000 cash prize, at the PEN Center’s 24th annual Literary Awards on Nov. 11 in Los Angeles.

      CNPS_Octavio_Solis_PEN_Award_3

      Paula Christensen and Justin Huen in Octavio Solis' 'Se Llama Cristina' at Boston Court in Pasadena, Calif. Photo by Ed Krieger. 



      Other 2014 PEN Center winners:

      Norman Lear (Lifetime Achievement Award)
      Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras (First Amendment Award)
      Jose Antonio Vargas (Freedom to Write Award)
      Gretel Ehrlich (Creative Nonfiction Award for Facing The Wave)
      Lindsay Hill (Fiction Award for Sea Of Hooks)
      Craig Malisow (Journalism Award for Deadly Charades)
      Victoria Chang (Poetry Award for The Boss)
      Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis (Research Nonfiction Award for Dallas 1963)
      Ben Coccio (Screenplay Award for The Place Beyond the Pines )
      ​Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham (Teleplay Award for Girls “Together”)
      Wayne A. Rebhorn (Translation Award for The Decameron)
      Margarita Engle (Young Adult/Children Award for The Lighting Dreamer, Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist)

      The winners were judged by distinguished writers, editors, critics and journalists.


      Our video from the 2011 Colorado New Play Summit

    • The 'Pippin' Profiles: Sabrina Harper on the joy of being conniving, clever and sexy

      by John Moore | Sep 08, 2014

      Pippin_Sabrina_Harper_1But Sabrina Harper seems like such a nice person.

      Yet there she is playing nasty Fastrada in the national touring production of Pippin the Musical. She’s the Queen, the conniving and manipulative wife to King Charlemagne. In other words: Pretty much the only person under the Big Top who wants to see poor Prince Pippin perish.

      “She is quite the clever one,” Harper says with a laugh. “She is the one where it all begins.” 

      From the musical's opening song, Magic to Do, “Fastrada is catapulting Pippin on his journey,” said Harper. “It’s a wonderful role because I get to be manipulative, conniving clever and sexy. I can’t see her as the evil stepmother. She just has a little bit of a … darker side.

      “But I am a very nice person,” I swear.

      To be fair, Harper doesn’t actually play Fastrada. She plays one member of a troupe of circus performers who tell the audience the story of Pippin -- meaning she's an actor who plays an actor who plays Fastrada. 

      Harper, born in Laguna Beach, Calif., is a triple threat: Classical ballet dancer, soprano and actor. And thanks to Pippin, you can add knife-juggler. “I have enjoyed picking up some new circus skills here and there,” she said. “I'm always looking to fill up my bag of goodies."

      Pippin_Sabrina_Harper_5

      Harper, granddaughter of noted California architect Tom Harper, trained with the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany. She performed with the Vienna Volksoper before being cast as Meg in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera at the Neue Flora Theater in Hamburg, followed by other musicals in Berlin, Austria and Switzerland. She played Peggy Sawyer in the first German production of the new 42nd Street in Stuttgart, and Ulla in the first German production of Mel Brooks’ The Producers. She also took on foxy Roxie Hart in the Swiss Broadway production of Chicago (like Pippin, originally choreographed by Bob Fosse). And she played Cassie in the Austrian version of A Chorus Line. Harper made her Broadway debut last year covering six roles in the Tony Award-winning revival of Pippin, and was cast as the first Fastrada in the national touring production that launched in Denver on Friday (Sept. 6) and plays through Sept. 20.

      Here are excerpts from our exclusive conversation with Sabrina Harper:
      (Note: Pippin production photos by Terry Shapiro) 

      Pippin_Sabrina_Harper_2John Moore: So where are you at in the process?

      Sabrina Harper: We're on a good track and heading in the right direction. It’s really exciting. We're training daily and I just feel really, fully involved right now. Full speed ahead.

      John Moore: I know you are a professional dancer, but I imagine this show has you in the best shape of your life.

      Sabrina Harper: That is true. It is very physically demanding for the whole team, especially when you consider the dancing and the aerial work and the acrobatics all together. We are all physically fit, but you still have to constantly continue to work. Like with any sport, you have to continue to push yourself to try new things, because when you are just doing the same thing over and over, it becomes a repetition, and your muscles just get used to it. So we continue to try new things and to advance ourselves.

      John Moore: So how do you go from dancing in a musical like A Chorus Line to something like this that's more high-flying? 

      Sabrina Harper: I would compare the role I play in Pippin to the Cassie dance in A Chorus Line. I have my one spectacular dance, and it has some magical illusion tricks to it. That’s full-force, beautiful choreography by Chet Walker in the style of (the late ) Bob Fosse. I also understudy the Leading Player and also the role of Berthe, so I am right there training on the trapeze, either alone or with a partner. It’s really quite exciting. In my spare time, I have taken to learning how to do some aerials, too -- but that's just for my own fancy.

      John Moore: I was talking with Lucie Arnaz (Berthe) about how you are all literally flying without a net. And I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, maybe there’s not a net, but surely something is in place to protect these people from falling. They aren’t really doing death-defying acts on the stage every night.’ But they really are, aren't they?

      Sabrina Harper: They really are performing death-defying acts on that stage every night. Pippin is the extraordinary character who is searching for spectacular moments in his life. And we are a company of extraordinary performers. I can promise you: We do not have a net. We do not have any security hooks on us.

      John Moore: Then how do you keep it safe?

      Sabrina Harper: If you are aware of your surroundings, you will be safe. We have an amazing team working with us, and everyone is trained to just be very, very aware. You can see them all around, especially when Lucie is doing her trapeze act. They all are there, and they are just like cats watching her. If at any moment something were to happen, they are trained to jump up and be there and protect her. These are highly skilled circus performers. Some of them have worked for Cirque du Soleil, and some come fresh out of the circus school in Montreal. When we first started rehearsals, we would do improv exercises designed for us to become aware of one another and our surroundings. We have been growing as a family and becoming a troupe. We've also been taught juggling with knives, and we have fire, and there are a lot of other dangerous elements. So you have to be focused. And if you are, then nothing bad will happen. Knock on wood: Nothing has happened.

      John Moore: Still, I have to wonder: How does the union ever let this happen?

      Sabrina Harper: Oh, I hear you. When I was working in Europe, I did a show where all I had to do was come down on a trapeze from the top of the proscenium. But even just from there, I had to have a harness. They would never believe what we get away with on Pippin. But we are so well-trained. Gypsy Snider, our circus choreographer, has been a wonderful partner on our team. She has been helping to get us ready. If we're ever not ready, then the tricks will not be done. Period.

      Pippin_Sabrina_Harper_3

      John Moore: So you’ve done some hard-core Fosse in your time. What’s the difference between doing actual hard-core Fosse -- and dancing ‘in the style of Fosse’?  


      Sabrina Harper: I have to say Bob Fosse was an amazing dancer. But if the general public knows ‘the Fosse style,’ they think of jazz hands; or the turned-in, pigeon-toed feet; or certain inverted hip movements. But he had so many other movements and choreographic elements. Long lines. Beautiful legs. Just very sexy; very sensual. You can watch YouTube videos of him dancing, and he will just turn and jump, and he just blows you away with his ability as a dancer. Now we have Chet Walker. And because Chet worked with Fosse, I want to say it’s really not that different. I love that there are numbers in the show and we are doing exactly the same choreography Bob Fosse did in the original in 1972. But I also love that Chet was able to incorporate his own choreography and add essential elements, too. He has created beautiful lines and beautiful movements that are fun and enjoyable to execute. The movements tell their own stories. They show strength, or they show passion. It’s storytelling with your body.

      John Moore: Chances are, most of the people who see Pippin in Denver have not had the opportunity to see this new incarnation in New York. If they have seen it, most likely they will have seen school or community theatre productions. They really have no idea what they are in for, do they?

      Pippin_Sabrina_Harper_4Sabrina Harper: They are in for a whole new theatre experience. This production is really extraordinary in all categories. We are the first to really to morph circus with dance, music and theatre, and pack it all into one amazing story. And it's just so honest and heartwarming. I hope that we will be able to touch all of you in Denver the way we have been able to touch the audiences who have come to see us in New York. It’s a just a wonderful, colorful theatre experience for all ages. I think you are going to enjoy it, and I think you are going to leave the theatre humming a song, and I think you are going to go home and think about your life. Pippin asks you to think about your journey: What is important to you in life? Finding that one moment … or finding true and lasting love? I think we are all faced with finding our own corner of the sky every day that we go through life. And that is what we are going to bring to Denver.

      John Moore: So … this is happening.


      Sabrina Harper: It is, and I am super excited. I have never been to Denver before, and I'm really looking forward to this experience. I have some friends in the Denver community from high school, so I'm looking forward to seeing them all.

      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!

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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.