• 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


    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 productions:
    Death of a Salesman
    Just Like Us
    Jackie & Me
    The Most Deserving
    A Christmas Carol
    black odyssey
    The Legend of Georgia McBride
    Animal Crackers
  • 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.

    : 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!


    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 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

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

    by John Moore | Sep 10, 2014

    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

    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

    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.


    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."


    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.


    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:

    : 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!

  • Costume Designer Paul Tazewell on Molly Brown's fashion sense

    by John Moore | Sep 08, 2014

    Molly_Brown_Paul Tazewell_800

    Acclaimed Costume Designer Paul Tazewell shows off one of his 14 distinct looks for Molly Brown in the Denver Center's premiere staging of the new The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Photo by John Moore.

    By John Moore

    Award-winning costume designer Paul Tazewell sees a little bit of Molly Brown in Kim Kardashian.

    Wait, what?

    Well, when you think about it  … Brown was a blue-collar Missouri factory worker by age 13 who rose to international celebrity after a sensational ocean disaster. Kardashian achieved notoriety only after a sensational sex tape. Both nouveau personalities then struggled to fit in within the day’s fashion standards.

    But no matter how hard they tried, they never got it quite right.

    “It was lovely what Kim had on at the (2013) Emmys,” Tazewell said. “She was trying, but it was a little too tight and a little bright. She turned up the volume a little bit, and she didn’t get it quite right for what was appropriate for the event.”

    Welcome to Molly Brown’s world.

    At first, Brown made her own dresses, Tazewell said. And some of her choices were questionable at a time when taste left no room for individuality.

    “There were many more rules that were applied within society then,” Tazewell said. "Since Molly Brown’s time, we have become a very casual fashion community. Our modern fashion style has a lot of casual elements, like jeans and sneakers. You would never think of wearing flip-flops to a wedding back then. So I think how we see fashion is much different thing than the rigors of what it took then to put yourself together. That required staff and all kinds of underwear,”

    In designing the Denver Center’s new look at The Unsinkable Molly Brown, the five-time Tony Award-nominee’s goal was to communicate Brown’s relationship to any given community -- from Leadville to Paris -- through her sometimes ostentatious fashion choices.

    “The other women’s clothes will always set the appropriate year and tone,” Tazewell said. “And when Molly comes into it, you’ll be able to see what she didn’t get right. The strength of her color choices will pull her out of the more staid fashion sense of the Denver community. So we are using a lot of strong jewel tones like red and emerald green. We use a coral color and an aqua teal tone for her as well.” 

    The fun will be showing Molly’s evolution through her clothing choices. "Over time, she does need to mature in her fashion sense," Tazewell said. "So within her idea of what tasteful is, she becomes more tasteful.”  

    Tazewell has more than 14 years of experience designing for theatre, dance and opera, both in the United States and internationally. He said his biggest challenge in designing Molly Brown was making the costumes feel accurate to the story, while staying true to the Broadway musical genre.

    “The color and scale is part of it, but it’s also about making choices that feel emotionally true to the characters and the story they are telling," Tazewell said. "That's how I approach all my pieces. As a costume designer, at the end of the day, it needs to be true for the character."

    Unfortunately for some of the women in the Molly Brown cast, the story’s period will require many hourglass corsets, petticoats, layers, boots “and all kinds of underwear,” Tazewell said. “But we are going to use elastic insets in the corset so that the actors don't pass out.”

    Molly_Brown_Paul Tazewell_Collage

    Sidebar: Debbie Reynolds' Molly Brown dress is

    Molly_Brown_Debbie_Reynolds_Dress As part of the festivities in Denver, the DCPA has arranged for one of Debbie Reynolds' famous dresses from the 1964 film adaptation of The Unsinkable Molly Brown to be brought to Denver. It will showcased in the lobby of The Stage Theatre throughout the run of the show. The featured dress is shown at right.

    Paul Tazewell/At a glance

    Graduate of North Carolina School of the Arts and NYU ‘s Tisch School of the Arts. 

    Selected credits:
    Broadway: Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk (Tony Nomination), On the Town, Def Poetry Jam, Elaine Strich at Liberty, Fascinating Rhythm.
    Off-Broadway: Flesh and Blood, Harlem Song, Dina Was, City Center Encores! Li’l Abner, Once Around the City, Before It Hits Home, Playboy of the West Indies (Lincoln Center Theatre). Joseph Papp Public Theatre: Boston Marriage, One Flea Spare, Henry V, Venus, Blade to the Heat.

    Award and honors include:
    Lucille Lortel Award for On the Town, two Helen Hayes Awards for Outstanding Costume Design (The African Company Presents Richard III and Peer Gynt), a Michael Merritt Award, and the AUDELCO Award for Harlem Song. The TDF Irene Sharaff Young Master Award and a Princess Grace Fellowship.

    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

    Previous Molly Brown coverage on  MyDenverCenter.Org


  • Video: The 'Pippin' Personalities: Five questions with cast and creatives in Denver

    by John Moore | Sep 06, 2014

    In this fun video series, we will pose several personality questions to the cast and creative team behind the national touring production of Pippin The Musical, launching in Denver this very night: Sept. 6, 2014.

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

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

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

    Video 2: If you could run off with the circus …

    Video 3: What was the first big show you ever saw? 

    Video 4: What has ‘Pippin’ taught you about yourself?


    Video 5: The ‘Pippin’ Personalities: First impressions of Denver

    : Ticket information

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

    'The Pippin Profiles' interview series:

    Our previous Pippin coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

    '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!

  • Introducing: DCPA Crossword Puzzle No. 1

    by John Moore | Sep 05, 2014

    Introducing Triple-Crossed: A unique crossword puzzle related to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and the first three shows of this new theatre season: Pippin, The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Lord of the Flies.


    We turned this puzzle into a party  game for employees to play at the company-wide "welcome back" party last month. No surprise: The team headed by Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson, above, was the first to correctly complete the entire puzzle. (Photo by John Moore).

    We hope you will print out the puzzle and give it a try. Look for a new puzzle in each edition of our Applause Magazine, which also serves as your program at our shows. The answer key will always be posted here in the Denver Center's online News Center. We call it Denver CenterStage.

    Here are the answers:


  • Photos, video: Your first look at 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' rehearsal

    by John Moore | Sep 04, 2014

    Here is your first look at rehearsals for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company's season-opening production of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

    With a new book, and both new and reworked songs by Dick Scanlan, this exhilarating adaptation of Meredith Willson's 1960 musical directed by Kathleen Marshall tells the rags-to-riches story of Colorado's own heroine, Molly Brown, one that survived the Silver Boom, Gold Rush and sinking of the Titanic. Starring Beth Malone and Burke Moses.

    To see our complete gallery of downloadable rehearsal photos, click here.


    Beth Malone as Molly Brown. Video by David Lenk and John Moore. Photos by Emily Lozow.

    Previous Molly Brown coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

  • The 'Pippin' Profiles: Sasha Allen finds her voice in the raw art of live theatre

    by John Moore | Sep 02, 2014

    Pippin_Sasha_Allen_400It’s not like the prospect of performing in front of nearly 3,000 people in Denver to launch the national touring production of Pippin doesn’t make Sasha Allen a little nervous. But intimidated? Hardly.

    “Try sitting there calmly when they are you counting you down from 5, 4, 3… and that, 'Oh, by the way, 30 million people are watching,' ” said Allen. “That’s scary.”

    The Harlem-born Allen has sung backing vocals for Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, John Legend and Usher. She rose to fame in her own right last year as a finalist on the fourth season of NBC’s singing competition, The Voice. (Photo right by Matthew Murphy.)

    The pressure to perform on live TV, she said, “is out of control.” By comparison, taking to the stage as the Leading Player in Pippin feels positively intimate. Still, she gets something out of performing on a theatre stage that TV just can’t match.

    “There is a serious transfer of energy when you are performing in front of live people,” said Allen, who in Pippin is taking on the iconic (and now feminized) role of the Leading Player, head of a troupe of circus performers who relate the story of a young prince’s search for meaning in his life.

    “On TV, when your eyelash falls off, they yell, ‘Stop.’ Someone comes on and fixes your eyelash, and you do it again. There is something organic about being on stage and everybody with you is there to take care of each other. Because nobody is going to come running on and fix your lash if it falls off. We can't yell, ‘Cut!’ It just doesn't work like that.

    “We are all sweating. Your shoes are stabbing you in your feet. Live theatre is a raw art, and I think you have to completely love it to want to do it.” 

    Allen loves it – stabby shoes and all. She made her Broadway debut in 2010 when Director Diane Paulus cast her to join another signature revival American revival, Hair, as Dionne.

    What will make Allen a bit nervous is when you point out that she’s following in the footsteps of the great Ben Vereen.

    I saw his performance on tape, and I was I was like, 'Oh my God, he is just so electric,' " she said. It is intimidating. But I am thankful to be a female playing that role. It's just so different. It has to be.”


    What follows are excerpts from our extensive conversation with Pippin’s leading Player:

    John Moore: How is rehearsal going today?

    Sasha Allen: I have been sweating like a crazy person all day long. I smell like the gym. But it is going really, really good. For a second there, I thought I was going to jump off the cliff, because it’s a lot of hard work. But then it finally starts to click, and your body finally does what it is supposed to do.

    John Moore: It seems like all of you just jumped off the cliff together on this one.

    Sasha Allen: When you take on a project like this, you just know it’s going to be good in the end. That’s why you continue to do the work, but … man, it's hard.

    John Moore: Well, congratulations for the opportunity.

    Sasha Allen: Thank you. I know this is a life-changing moment. I just know that if I continue on my path, then I will be labeled as something better than I was yesterday.

    John Moore: It sounds as if you are on a Pippin-esque journey of your own.

    Sasha Allen: I definitely am. I called my mom after I crashed and burned during one rehearsal. I was like, 'Well, that didn't go the way I wanted it to go. And she was like, 'Well, now you know where you stand. Now, work it out. Moving on ... ' 

    John Moore: Gotta love moms.

    Sasha Allen: Absolutely. I was like, 'Right. Exactly. Now -- get back to rehearsal.'
    John Moore: When was the first time you ever saw Pippin?

    Sasha Allen: I had seen Ben Vereen on tape. Just as a fan. I was like, 'Oh my God, he is so amazing. Let's rewind and watch that again.' But when I knew I was going to be auditioning (to join the Broadway cast), I went to see it (with Patina Miller playing the role of the Leading Player). It’s a strange feeling. You’re like, 'I can conquer this' … but it becomes intimidating at the same time. I was thinking, 'Damn. She never leaves the stage. She never takes a break.' I do know that when that show was over, I stood on my feet … and I meant it.  There was a real feeling of, 'Get your butt up and clap for this production, because they just rocked the house.’

    John Moore: So what is your take on the role of the Leading Player now?

    Sasha Allen: At first, I didn't like her so much. I really didn't. I was thinking, 'Well, then, so how do I get into a character that I don't like?' That's why (Director Diane Paulus) is so great. When she made us do character study, it was so necessary, because hating my character doesn't work for me playing her. I had to realize that everybody has a story. Everybody has something that has happened to them. I really do believe that everyone is born in innocence. I have children, so I know what innocence really looks like. So I thought, something must have happened to her. That’s why she is this strict, crazy, controlling, person. If you can understand where people come from, then you don't take it personally. As an actor, you can get joy out of a person's struggle. It's so real. You will find controlling people everywhere in the world, and I just wonder why. Me creating a pre-story for this character really helped me to understand where she's coming from.

    John Moore: I have talked to several people who have made the connection that (Composer) Stephen Schwartz is pretty much Pippin, and the Leading Player is really (original Director) Bob Fosse. Have you tried to tap into the Fosse context in any way?

    Sasha Allen: I don’t think of them as being the actual people. I know part of their inspiration for the Leading Player came from Charles Manson, and a lot of stuff in the script refers back to that. So I really watched Charles Manson. I think he's scary, but you know what? I didn't hate him. He made a lot of sense in a weird, crazy kind of way. I would never want to be in his presence because he would probably do a mind trip on me, but ... no, I never thought about Fosse being my character.


    John Moore: Love her or not, your character is such a necessary part of Pippin's journey. It might be tough love, but it seems to me that you're also his teacher.

    Sasha Allen: There are different moments throughout the show where I feel like his teacher. Then I feel like his mother. Then his friend. And then, in the end … I feel like his enemy. When Pippin doesn't do what I want him to do, she has a full-on meltdown. She will do whatever it takes to get him to feel what she is feeling. 'Oh, so you don't feel with me now? I am going to make you feel it this way.' A lot of people can relate to Pippin because we've all felt naive and innocent -- and now, someone is trying to take control of your life. But my character is also very human. Her antics are on the more dramatic side, but we can all relate to wanting to be in control of our lives.

    John Moore: You mentioned your appreciation for Ben Vereen.

    Sasha Allen: Oh, I love him.

    John Moore: In talking with Stephen about turning the Leading Player into a part for a female actor, he said no male actor would ever be able to live up to Ben Vereen's performance … or at least people's picture in their minds of Ben Vereen's performance. And Stephen didn't want to put that responsibility on any man. So they thought making the Leading Player a woman would be an opportunity to present the story in an entirely different way. But still, you are following in Ben Vereen’s footsteps. How does it feel to step into that lineage?

    Sasha Allen: I will say it is intimidating. But, as a woman, I am able to do make different vocal and creative choices. Stephen and Diane have really allowed me to do my own thing, and allow my signature to be put on it. And I am not sure if I could have done that if I were a male. And even if I weren’t a differently styled singer, I think it would feel disrespectful to change this great thing that has been made. As a female, I do feel lucky to be able to say, ‘Well, yes, Ben did that. And we all love him for that. But now ... look at me. I have a sexy outfit on!’

    John Moore: Have you ever met Ben Vereen?

    Sasha Allen: I have. I was doing Hair, and he did Hair as well. Afterward, he invited some of the cast to his hotel room. We had a whole in-depth conversation about Hair, and his experience, and the times, and te racism. We got so deep. He was really so special. But I think you have to be to be that much of a genius. He is a phenomenal "thing." I mean, it doesn't even feel human.

    John Moore: So I want to ask you about working with all of these awesome women. When we look back on the original Pippin, it's Stephen Schwartz and it's Bob Fosse and it's Roger Hirson and it's Ben Vereen. It’s such a “guy's show” in many ways. And now you have Diane bringing it back to life on Broadway, and she has brought in Gypsy Snider for the circus elements. They are both mothers. You are a mother. Pippin is still a guy’s story, but there is a whole lot of girl power going on in this new production.

    Sasha Allen: Oh, I feel it. Definitely. And I can tell you, I don't know if a man yelling at me the way Diane yells at me would work. Do you know what I mean? There is just a different energy with women. When Diane is getting revved up, she is literally transferring her energy to me. She is not holding back at all. When she tells me to do something,  you just do it. And if she pisses me off, that just makes it even better. It is a literal transfer of women power. She is truly inspiring.

    John Moore: That applies to new ending, too, doesn't it? We're not telling people exactly how it has changed. But there is something that was troubling, I think, about the way the original Pippin ended. After his period of adventure, there was this unintentional sense that Pippin was somehow settling for a family life. As if that's a bad thing. But it's an interesting thing when you put strong women in charge of the storytelling. Because I think they have brought some clarity to in terms of what we should consider to be extraordinary.

    Sasha Allen: I do not think that a young man choosing to be a husband and a father should ever be considered settling.  We all have choices to make, and having a family is not a bad choice. It's just not. I have one. I think anybody can do whatever they want with their lives and make it exceptional. If you are going to be a father, then be an exceptional father. I think we all can be extraordinary, however we choose to be.


    John Moore: So … do you mind if we talk about The Voice?

    Sasha Allen: Oh yeah, yeah ... come on!

    John Moore: OK, so I have been asked to ask: When you had to choose between Shakira and Usher to be your mentor, you picked Shakira. But you were once a backing vocalist for Usher. How did you come to that decision?

    Sasha Allen: It was excruciating. It looks pretty easy when you are watching the show on TV. But when you are up there, you are sweating bullets. I was shaking inside. They put this weird music on, and the lights changed. It really is intimidating. Usher is an amazing singer. He's an amazing performer. But he is a technical dancer. You know, here we are talking about the strong women in Pippin: I felt like what I needed most was a strong woman to tell me what I needed to do as a woman to get this done. And that went down to everything from, ‘How do I wear my hair?’ to, ‘How do I wear my make-up?’ to, ‘What shade of lipstick?’ to, ‘What outfit should I wear?’ I know that sounds really off-topic, but these things are crucial in how people look at you. I was just talking to one of our costume designers, and she said, 'What I love is looking at how people dress. There is always a whole story behind it.' Well, there is a whole story behind what I wore on The Voice.

    John Moore: Did you learn any dance moves from Shakira?

    Sasha Allen: You know, we really didn’t really work on dance moves. I mean, I will never be able to dance like her. She's born and bred to dance. It was really the small details that I got from her. Shakira would tell me, 'Smile here, and then seduce the camera there.' She gave me a valuable lesson on brightening up a room, or seducing a room. If I am going to crawl, then it better be a good crawl. If you are going to do it, then make it sexual, or else don't even do it. Those are women tricks.

    John Moore: So The Voice wasn't that long ago, and now you are only a couple of days away from opening the tour of Pippin. Can you put your life into any kind of perspective right now?

    Sasha Allen: It's a blessing. It really is. I didn’t realize how much I was going to learn from The Voice, to tell you the truth. Because you look at the show and you're like, ‘Well, yes, it's corny and it’s cheesy. But I learned so much. I learned a lot about myself. I learned how hard I am willing to work. And I really learned how to practice.

    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.


    Sasha Allen on her first night in Denver. Photo by John Moore.

    'The Pippin Profiles' interview series:

    : Ticket information

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

    Our previous Pippin coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

    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!


  • Denver Sonnets Project: Sam Gregory delivers a love letter to his wife

    by John Moore | Sep 01, 2014

    CultureWest.Org, a web site founded by Denver Center for the Performing Arts Senior Arts Journalist John Moore, is endeavoring to make short films out of all 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets, each featuring actors with Colorado connections.

    For Sonnet 91, acclaimed actor Sam Gregory uses his dream vacation in Hawaii as an opportunity to deliver a Shakespearean love letter to his wife, Sylvia. "Thy love is better than high birth to me," says Sam, an homage made all the more poignant by her recent successful battle with cancer.

    Denver_Sonnets_Project_Sam_GregoryGregory just completed a varied season at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival playing Barrymore in the comedy "I Hate Hamlet" and King Henry IV in "Henry IV," Parts 1 and 2.  Sam is a multiple Denver Post Award winner who has performed in 42 plays with the Denver Center Theatre Company. He'll star next in Christopher Durang's 2013 Tony-winning best play, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," running Oct. 10-Nov. 16 in the Ricketson Theatre (303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org).

     Here's a link to the YouTube playlist that hosts the entire series to date.

    The Denver Sonnets Project is an ongoing public art project, open to a variety of volunteer actors and filmmakers, with limited eligibility requirements for participation. For information, email your interest to John Moore at culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

    A new short sonnet film is posted every Monday. Videos by John Moore.

    Completed episodes to date (in numeric order):

    Sonnet 1, Cast of "Cult Following": "From fairest creatures we desire increase ..."
    Sonnet 2, Josh Robinson, "See thy blood warm ..."
    Sonnet 6, Joe Von Bokern: "Make worms thine heir!"
    Sonnet 10, Augustus Truhn: "Thou art so possessed with murd'rous hate ..."
    Sonnet 17, Anne Sandoe: "If I could write the beauty of your eyes ..."
    Sonnet 23, Gabra Zackman: "As an unperfect actor on a stage ..."
    Sonnet 31, Sean Scrutchins and Devon James: "Thou art the grave where buried love doth live ..."
    Sonnet 36, Rachel Fowler, "I may not evermore acknowledge thee ..."
    Sonnet 44, John Carroll Lynch, "Thought kills me that I am not thought ..."
    Sonnet 47, Adrian Egolf, "Thyself away are present still with me ..."
    Sonnet 73, Jim Hunt: "Love that well which thou must leave ere long ..."
    Sonnet 74, Lowry Elementary School: "Thou hast but lost the dregs of life ..."
    Sonnet 90, Adam Stone: "If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last ..."
    Sonnet 91, Sam Gregory: "Thy love is better than high birth to me ..."
    Sonnet 94, James O'Hagan-Murphy: Sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds ..." Sonnet 124, Cast of Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 'The Tempest'
    Sonnet 131, Josh Nelson, "In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds ..."
    Sonnet 136, Lyndsay and Jeremy Palmer, "Make but my name thy love ..."
    Sonnet 144, Cailin Doran, "Two loves I have, of comfort and despair ..."

    Please consider supporting the Denver Actors Fund at www.DenverActorsFund.Org

  • Broadway's Matthew James Thomas to play Pippin in Denver

    by John Moore | Aug 30, 2014
    Matthew James Thomas. Photo by Felix Kunze. Matthew James Thomas, who originated the title role in Broadway's 2013 Tony Award-winning revival of Pippin, will play Pippin again when the show launches its tour in Denver on Sept. 6, it was announced today. 

    Kyle Selig, who was previously announced to play Pippin, will be taking a medical leave of absence from the tour for vocal rest. Thomas will play the entire Denver engagement, which runs through Sept. 20.
    Thomas created this incarnation of prince Pippin at the American Repertory Theater, and later in the acclaimed Broadway production, which is still running in New York.

    Thomas was born in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, in the United Kingdom. He debuted on Broadway as Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark before "re-originating" the role of Pippin and playing it for a year. His debut EP of original music is called No Sound At All, and is available online by clicking here.
    This all-new production of Roger O. Hirson and Stephen Schwartz’s Pippin is directed by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus, features choreography by Tony nominee Chet Walker in the style of Bob Fosse, and circus creation by Gypsy Snider of the Montreal-based circus company Les 7 doigts de la main (also known as 7 Fingers).

    The cast includes Lucie Arnaz as Berthe, Sasha Allen (a finalist on the fourth season of  NBC’s The Voice) as the Leading Player, Sabrina Harper as Fastrada and Kristine Reese as Catherine.

    Tony Award winner John Rubinstein, who created the role of Pippin in the original 1972 Broadway production, is now playing Pippin's father, King Charles, in the tour. That means this new touring production will feature the original Pippin playing opposite the revival's original Pippin -- 42 years apart -- as father and son.


    Matthew James Thomas in the Broadway production of Pippin. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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

    'The Pippin Profiles' interview series:

    Previous Pippin coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

    Hello, Denver! 'Pippin' cast and crew arrive
    Photos: Pippin loading in Denver, rehearsing in New York

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

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

    Photo credit, top of page: Michael James Thomas, by Felix Kunze.
  • The 'Pippin' Profiles: John Rubinstein, the first prince, is now his father

    by John Moore | Aug 29, 2014


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

    Stephen Schwartz talks about it like a giddy teenager.

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

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

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

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

    Isn’t that the best … ever?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

    John Moore: Yes, like 40 years.

    John Rubinstein: Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

    John Rubinstein: Sure.

    John Moore: He told me:

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

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

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

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

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

    John Rubinstein: OK, then.


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

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

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

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

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

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

    Do you still cross paths with Ben Vereen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    John Moore: Awesome. But back to 1987.

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


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

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

    John Moore: Bigger than all of those other things.

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

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

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

    'The Pippin Profiles' interview series:

    Previous Pippin coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

    Hello, Denver! 'Pippin' cast and crew arrive
    Photos: Pippin loading in Denver, rehearsing in New York

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

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

  • Photos: Hello, Denver: 'Pippin' cast and crew arrive

    by John Moore | Aug 28, 2014


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

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

    More photos:

    Pippin_828_Lucie Arnaz
    Lucie Arnaz.


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

    Our two Theos.


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

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

    'The Pippin Profiles':

    Previous Pippin coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

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

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

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

  • 'Lord of the Flies': A 'morality thriller' opens rehearsals

    by John Moore | Aug 27, 2014
    Photos from the first day of "Lord of the Flies" rehearsal by John Moore.

    To see our full gallery of photos from the first day of rehearsal, click here

    Anthony Powell remembers watching Peter Brook's 1963 black-and-white film adaptation of Lord of the Flies. He was a high-schooler, alone in the house, watching a group of well-behaved schoolboys who survive a plane crash slowly turn into a bloodthirsty tribe on a deserted island they are convinced is ruled by a terrifying beast.

    And it scared the living daylights out of him.

    Now, Powell is directing the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company's new stage adaptation of Lord of the Flies, opening Sept. 26 in the Space Theatre. And rest assured, Powell said, "One of our goals is to scare our audiences as much as that movie scared me."

    Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson said he chose Lord of the Flies for the 2014-15 season because it is one of the great 20th-century novels. He calls it a "morality thriller," this story of young boys discovering how hard it is to adhere to what they have been taught. "It teaches an awful lot about how we behave with each other socially and culturally," Thompson said, "and how we get off track."

    He calls Lord of the Flies both fascinating and terrifying. Not only for what happens in the story, but looking back at the story now, as a father himself. "And as a father, it means completely different things to me now," he said. "It makes me think, 'Oh my gosh, what did I teach my own son? What would happen if he and his friends were suddenly on an island and they had to reconstitute the world?' "    

    Powell sees Lord of the Flies as a spectacularly written cautionary tale about how hard it is for human beings to remain human. And how better to tell that story than to show basically decent boys put in an environment, Powell said, "where they actually degenerate into adults"?

    "There is a wonderful moment in the book where Ralph says, 'I wish the grown-ups could send us a message, so we would know what to do.' And a couple of pages later, the dead parachutist falls into the tree. There's your message from the world at large."
    Tuesday was the first day of rehearsal for Powell's cast and crew. In his introductory remarks, Powell talked about the story's well-studied themes, such as its political through-line of fear. "It shows how nameless, amorphous fear is used by individuals and by governments to manipulate us," Powell said. "I think all you have to do is look at weapons of mass destruction that don't exist as 'The Beast,' and, boom, you are right in the middle of The Lord of the Flies.

    But Powell also told his team that their job is to put on a "cracking good adventure story."

    "I say it's The Swiss Family Robinson on meth," Powell said. "And that's really the way I want to approach this production. The big ideas in the play are there. In a sense, they take care of themselves. But our challenge is to grab the audience by the throat in the first moments of the story, and just give them the most exciting, visceral experience of this play that we possibly can, using all of the all the stage magic that we have at our disposal."

    Powell is looking to stage the show within n the creative context of an inescapable fever dream.

    "The play begins kind of easily, and then begins to hurtle toward the ending," he said. "Time is telescoped. It just goes. We're on the beach. Then four lines later, suddenly we are halfway up the hill. Then we are on Castle Rock. Then we are in the jungle. Then we are here. Then we are there. So it has this  incredible, fluid movement to it."


    Here are more excerpts from Director Anthony Powell's greeting to the cast and crew:

    "William Golding, the author, resisted giving away the rights to do a stage adaptation for years. The book was published in 1954. His publishers were on him from that time on, because there was money to be made. Apparently Golding enjoyed the 1963 Peter Brook film, but in 1990, someone else got the film rights. They made a movie where it's American military cadets who crash-land on the island -- and Golding hated it. Because of that, he gave Nigel Williams permission to do the stage adaptation. He basically told him, 'Please save the ideas of my book.' The first performance of the play was at a British boys' school. The playwright's son attended there. He played Simon. Golding saw it, and he loved it. And he died shortly after that.

    "It's a remarkable adaptation. There is no narration in it. It tells the entire story through dramatic action. And somehow, the playwright has managed to get inside the heads of all of these characters. But maybe best of all is this gift of humor in this play. Because in the book, humor doesn't jump off the page at you. Williams has given us characters whose foibles make us laugh -- and thank God for that, because seeing this story, live and in color, the audience needs it. We will be mining that in this production as much as we can.

    "The book's reputation is as being this dystopian view of society. It's all about man's inherent evil, and original sin, and our irredeemability and, well ... sure. That's in there. That's what people focus on when they talk about this book. But re-reading it, I don't think that's entirely true. And it's even less true about the play. I'm not suggesting that Lord of the Flies is rainbows and unicorns. It certainly is ironic. It certainly takes a very tough and a very realistic view of human nature.

    "Golding was a naval officer during World War II. He served in D-Day. He saw a lot of friends killed in the fighting, and he later admitted that it affected him. He said, "Man is drawn to evil like bees to honey," which I kind of love.

    "But I see the possibility of redemption as being part of the story, too. If this were not the case, then why are three of the four lead characters -- Piggy, Ralph and Simon -- inherently good? They're flawed, but they are all trying to keep their humanity alive. Critics will say Jack is evil incarnate. No. He is a kid on an island where things happen. It's awful and it's sad but ... evil incarnate? No, I don't think so. Here's another Golding quote:

    'The human spirit is wider and more complex than the whole physical evolutionary system. The changes in politics, religion, art and literature will come because they must come; because the human spirit is limitless and inexhaustible. Just around the corner are the St. Augustines, the Shakespeares, the Mozarts. Perhaps they are growing up now.'

    "That's the same writer who said, 'Man is drawn to evil like bees to honey.' How do you square those two? I think the play goes a long way toward doing just that. For me, it comes down to that amazing ending, when Ralph -- almost beheaded by Jack and the guys, is saved:

    'For a moment he had a fleeting picture of the strange glamour that had once invested the beaches. But the island was scorched up like dead wood - Simon was dead - and Jack had ... The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.'

    "For me, there is a recognition at the end that our actions have consequences. And I believe that a recognition of our own character flaws and our own cruelties is our own angels talking to us. You cannot become another person without recognizing that the problem in society begins from within. So I see the possibility that these young men on the island are going to go off and lead a different life. And that's part of the story I want to tell."

    Cast list:

    Ralph: Charlie Franklin
    Jack: Gregory Isaac Stone
    Piggy: Matthew Gumley
    Roger: Jack DiFalco
    Sam: Ben Radcliffe
    Eric: Noah Radcliffe
    Simon: Kurt Hellerich
    Henry: Skyler Gallun
    Maurice: Benjamin Griffin
    Bill: Allen Dorsey
    Perceval: Charlie Korman
    Ensemble: Geoffrey Kent

    More photos:

    To see our full gallery of photos from the first day of rehearsal, click here



  • The 'Pippin' Profiles, Lucie Arnaz: At 63, it's time to start livin'

    by John Moore | Aug 25, 2014

    Lucie_Arnaz_Pippin_1Lucie Arnaz is, of course, the daughter of arguably the world’s most famous female comic of all time: Lucille Ball. But she has carved out her own persona in both life and in 45 years in the entertainment industry. In her greeting to fans on her web site, she is quick to point out that she’s Lucie, all right – “spelled with an IE.”

    She is her own woman.

    But Arnaz is also quick to credit her mother for her bravery, for her sense of risk-taking and her comic timing. “It’s absolutely in the blood,” she said.

    Arnaz is putting all three of those gifts to work in the first national touring production of Pippin the Musical, which launches in Denver on Sept. 6. Arnaz is playing Berthe, the free-spirited grandmother who urges the wayward prince to have some fun and live a little. Only in this Tony Award-winning reimagining of Stephen Schwartz's beloved 1972 musical, Arnaz gets to sing the crowd-pleaser No Time At All while hanging from a trapeze, without  a net or a cable to keep her safe.

    And did we mention she’s 63? It's OK ... she will. To Arnaz, Pippin is an opportunity to celebrate her life up till now.

    “The last thing I say in my program bio is: 'This show is a gift I am giving to myself,’ ” she said.

    Arnaz got her start on TV opposite her mother on The Lucy Show. By 15, she was a series regular on Here’s Lucy, which led to her own series, The Lucie Arnaz Show. Her film credits include The Jazz Singer opposite Neil Diamond and Sir Laurence Olivier and, most recently, in the Sundance darling The Pack, opposite Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men). That’s about a young man who sues his mother for killing his father with second-hand smoke.

    She made her Broadway debut in 1979 in the Marvin Hamlisch/Neil Simon musical They're Playing Our Song, creating the role of the wacky and impertinent Sonia Walsk. She's a would-be songwriter based on Hamlisch’s then girlfriend, Carol Bayer Sager. 

    Arnaz’s extensive theatrical resume also includes roles in Seesaw, Annie Get Your Gun, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, The Guardsman, Cabaret, The Witches of Eastwick, Vanities, Lost in Yonkers, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Master Class. Her CDs include Just in Time and Latin Roots, a big-band tribute to her Cuban father, Desi Arnaz.

    She has been married to writer and Broadway actor Laurence Luckinbill since 1979, and they have three children.


    Here are excerpts from our expansive interview with Arnaz:

    John Moore: I have a feeling your morning was more blood-pumping than mine.

    Lucie Arnaz: Well, I did my trapeze routine for the first time all the way from the beginning – and at the actual height – so that's good.

    John Moore: Are you sore?

    Lucie Arnaz: I am getting less sore, but I certainly was hurting for the first two weeks. My body is actually getting really strong. All the girls who have done this part before me – Andrea Martin, Tovah Feldshuh, Annie Potts and Priscilla Lopez – they all said, 'You are going to be in the best shape you have ever been in your life.' And it’s true. It's like they are paying you to get really pumped. The first few weeks, this old body of mine was saying to me, 'You are trying to do what right now? You could have done this 35 years ago, you know. You don't want to do this now.' But the body adjusts. You pull this and you hurt that, but pretty soon you learn how to use it. It's fantastic exercise. My core strength is better than it has ever been.

    John Moore: I am guessing you have some pretty early memories of Pippin. 

    Lucie Arnaz: Oh, yes. I knew the album by heart.

    John Moore: Do you remember your first impression of Pippin?

    Lucie Arnaz: I totally remember my first impression of Pippin. Bizarrely enough, I was in New York to see a friend of named Jim Bailey, the impressionist, open his show at the Empire Room at the Waldorf Astoria. And while I was in town, he said, 'Let's go see Bob Fosse’s new hit show, Pippin. So he took me, and wouldn’t you know, John Rubinstein was out that night.

    John Moore: He's the actor who originated the role of Pippin in 1972, and is now is performing alongside you in this revival as Pippin’s father, King Charlemagne.

    Lucie Arnaz: And I didn't get to see John! But his standby was named Walter Willison, and I got to meet him after the show. I ended up going someplace for dinner with him and a bunch of other people. And do you know what? He stayed my friend for the next 45 years. He is still one of my dearest friends. So it's interesting that now I am getting to finally work with John.

    John Moore: It’s such a small world.

    Lucie Arnaz: Oddly enough, John was the original person cast in They're Playing Our Song to play Vernon Gersh. But his agent at the time completely screwed up the deal by asking for way more money than John told him to ask for. But Neil Simon isn't fond of negotiating. He just moved on to the next name on the list, and Robert Klein was it.

    John Moore: So how cool is it that John Rubinstein is completing this circle by now playing Pippin's father? You say on your web site, ‘The history alone associated with his presence on stage with us is palpable.’ 

    Lucie Arnaz: It's spooky crazy, isn't it? It's all very eerie and wonderful.
    John Moore: Can you talk about why you wanted to do this role?

    Lucie Arnaz: They called me just a few weeks before we went into rehearsal, because I was out doing some concerts. (Producer) Barry Weissler called me himself and asked. At first we were talking about my doing a short period of time in the Broadway show. I had seen the show and loved it. I was actually a Tony Award voter in 2013, and I voted for Pippin for Best Revival of a Musical. So I am a big fan, and especially of this version of the show. It's just killer. But I also had just moved my entire life after 37 years on the East Coast. My husband, Larry Luckinbill, and I had just moved into our new house in Palm Springs, Calif. And we could not be happier living there. I mean, we were dancing around in joy. So then the call comes, and I was like, ‘What? I don't want to go back to New York now. But jeez, it's such a great show.' So Barry said, 'Well, how about if you do the tour? Because the tour goes to a lot of Western cities, and it will be easier on you.' But it's really not. When you are not home, you are not home, no matter if it's Vegas or Denver or wherever. So I said, 'Let me talk to Larry about it.' And I am telling you, it was hard. At one point, I was in tears, and I actually said, 'No, I, really can't do this.' I couldn't leave Larry. You know, he's no spring chicken. He is celebrating his 80th birthday this year (Nov. 21), and I want to be there for that. But then Barry said, ‘Maybe we can work it out if it's not for very long.’ Plus, it’s more fun to be a part of a tour that is just beginning. Everybody is learning it together. It's not like going into a Broadway show that's going full-steam and you have to learn everything from a stage manager and a dance captain in a rehearsal space somewhere and then boom – one night you’re on. That's how I went into My One and Only with Tommy Tune, and that's how I went into Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The shows were great, but I haven't started from scratch with a company and headed out on the road like a circus troupe in years.

    John Moore: So how did you come to terms with taking the job? 

    Lucie Arnaz: I said, 'You know what, Larry? I really want to do this.' And he goes, 'I know you do, and we'll be fine.’ My husband is an actor's actor. He totally gets it. So we’re doing it. And we're going to get through it. And I am going to enjoy it.

    John Moore: But it won’t be easy.

    Lucie Arnaz: It's never been easy. When I did My One and Only, it was the best show I had ever been in in my life. I was so proud of myself, especially with all of the tap dancing. But I had three young children at the time. I had two sons ages 3 and 5 back at home, and I actually traveled with my baby girl. Poor Larry had to schlep the kids back and forth all around the country to visit me. It was really hard. And yet, I was having a fantastic time on stage every night. There's always that push-pull.

    John Moore: Ah, this will be a breeze compared to that.

    Lucie Arnaz: Oh my God, yes ... and no. Those three minutes up there in that high thing without a net or a wire or anything hooking you on is … pretty wild.


    John Moore: And so how is your decision working out so far?

    Lucie Arnaz: It’s been great. There is such a wonderful camaraderie. I think because this show is about a troupe of players, we have to become very close-knit -- and we have. This is a fantastic group of people who are uniquely talented in ways I could never imagine in my life. I am in such awe. I sit there and I think of how lucky I am to be on the same stage with these people.

    John Moore: When (Director Diane Paulus) talks about the theme of the show, she asks, ‘How far are you willing to go to be extraordinary?’ It sounds like that was the same opportunity Barry Weissler was offering you. When are you ever going to get a chance to do something like this again?

    Lucie Arnaz: Exactly, and that’s why I said yes. When opportunity comes your way, you have to take it. I just thought, 'OK, I am going to put my hands in these professionals. They took a chance on me, and I am taking a chance on them, and I am going for it. And it's going to be fabulous.'

    John Moore: So, about your character. How great is it to play this grandma who gets to tell Pippin how important it is to go out and enjoy life … while singing from a trapeze?

    Lucie Arnaz: Well, that's an interesting thing; because that's something different about the way the show is being done this time. In the original, Irene Ryan played Berthe, and she was in her late 70s. She really was a granny. I mean, she was the granny from The Beverly Hillbillies. She came out and sang her song every night and went away. She wasn’t in the rest of the show. Now the show has been reinvented, and it is set in the circus. So now are a troupe of players who are putting on a play this week called Pippin. Everyone has a role, and my character takeLucie_Arnaz_Pippin_3s the part of Pippin's grandmother. That song is still in the show, and there is a character called the Grandmother who sings it, but she's not actually that person. That said, it’s an incredible moment in the show just because eventually what I tell Pippin in this song is what he does eventually decide to do: Don’t expect fate to send you the perfect answer. Do something extraordinary that will make you happy. I say to him, ‘Enjoy life. It's short. Find somebody to love. Lie in the grass and eat the fruit.' And ultimately, that is what he chooses to do. But, oddly enough, I don't think that's what my character is trying to accomplish. I think her job as a troupe member is to convince him so we can get to the next scene, which is lying in the grass with the cute girl. It's all part of the plot. So she's actually part of the shenanigans that push him toward the big finish.

    John Moore: So you get a lot more stage time than Berthe did in the original production.

    Lucie Arnaz: It's still a cameo role, but yes, I am on stage a lot. It's plenty. It’s great.

    John Moore: You mentioned Irene Ryan and Andrea Martin and Annie Potts and Tovah Feldshuh. I mean, some pretty big names have preceded you. Is that in any way intimidating?

    Lucie Arnaz: Actually, I love the fact that so many people have wanted to do this before me. When they asked me, I sort of knew Tovah Feldshuh, so I called her and asked what it was like. And she said, ‘Oh my God, honey, you will love this. Grab it. Do it. You'll be in the best shape of your life. The company is fantastic.’ So I have no gumption about that kind of thing anymore. Show business is what it is.

    John Moore: I got to see Marvin Hamlisch play at Red Rocks with Idina Menzel and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra shortly before his death. I am just wondering what your feelings are about his legacy and his impact on your life.

    Lucie Arnaz: Humongous impact on my life. First of all, he was a personal friend. He was such a mentor. He helped me understand my voice. He helped me understand how to put a nightclub act together. How to do arrangements. Class act, all the way. I knew him from before They're Playing Our Song, but that show was just huge in my life. For the last seven or eight years of our lives together, Robert Klein and Marvin and I would go out and do symphony concerts, and we had the best time together. He was just the most generous, funniest man. He’s left a huge, gaping hole in my life.

    John Moore: He would have loved seeing you work the trapeze. I can’t wait to see it.

    Lucie Arnaz: I can't wait to see it myself. I am just trusting that each day will take care of itself, and 8 that o'clock will come on opening night, and I'll do it, and it'll be done, and it'll be great. And then I will look so much forward to it every day that I won't be able to wait to get to work.

    John Moore: I think it's in your blood.

    Lucie Arnaz: Awww.  It's absolutely in the blood. The bravery is in my blood. And the risk-taking and the comic timing is something that I hope I have learned from my mother … and so this is a good way to put it to use.  

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

    Pippin: Ticket information

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

    'The Pippin Profiles':

    Previous Pippin coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

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

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

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

  • Video: Beth Malone's big day singing at the Denver Broncos game

    by John Moore | Aug 24, 2014

    Colorado native Beth Malone lived out a lifelong dream on Aug. 23, singing  the national anthem before the Denver Broncos' 18-17 preseason loss to the Houston Texans at Mile High Stadium. In this fun video, we follow Malone through rehearsal, her interview with Cheryl Preheim of 9News, her game-day sound check, being joined by her family, and finally, her triumphant moment in front of 75,000 Broncos fans.

    Malone will play the title character in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' upcoming launch of the new The Unsinkable Molly Brown. It opens for previews on Sept. 12 and runs through Oct. 26. Tickets are on sale now at 303-893-4100 or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org.

    Video and photos by John Moore.

    Full photo gallery: Beth Malone's special day in photos.

    Another view: Here's the Denver Broncos' video of Malone singing the anthem. 

    To see our complete photo gallery from Malone's day at Mile High  Stadium, click here

    Previous Molly Brown coverage on MyDenverCenter.Org:

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

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