• Sheryl McCallum on the search for something more real than real

    by John Moore | Apr 17, 2018
    Sheryl McCallum. Passing Strange

    Sheryl McCallum passes from The Lion King to The Wild Party to the unusual odyssey of Passing Strange

    MEET SHERYL McCALLUM
    Sheryl McCallum, who played Delores last year in Off-Center's The Wild Party, appeared on Broadway in Disney's The Lion King. Denver credits include Marcus: Or the Secret Of Sweet for Curious Theatre; and Jesus Christ Superstar and I'll Be Home for Christmas at the Arvada Center. She was a featured singer in the first European tour of Blackbirds of Broadway. TV credits include "Law & Order" and "Golden Boy."

    • Sheryl McCallum. Photo by Christine Fisk. Hometown: Denver
    • Home now: Denver (although I lived in New York for 20 years)
    • Training: B.S. in Telecommunications from Texas Southern University
    • Website: None — shame on me!
    • Twitter-sized bio: Denver native, best Auntie, wanna find my beach, ZPhiB💙. Creator and host of The Source Theatre's monthly Monday!Monday!Monday! cabaret at Su Teatro. ❤Spain, 13.1 coming soon.
    • What would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would pursue sports reporting or TV travel hosting. I have always enjoyed sports of all kinds. My take would be more commenting than reporting. You should hear me in my living room! For travel, my focus would be on best lounge chairs and beach or pool bar service.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: Sister Hubert in a particular production of Nunsense 2. Who knew?
    • Bucket-list role: At one time, I wanted to be an opera singer. So I guess my bucket list-role would be to sing "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana" at the Metropolitan Opera.
    • What's playing on your Spotify? Kid Astronaut and Bruno Mars. I also recommend Air Dubai. They are a local band and they don’t perform live as often as they used to.
    • What's one thing most people don't know about you? I direct my church choir.
    • viola-davis-fencesOne time you saw greatness play out in front of you: I had a chance to witness Viola Davis (pictured right) perform on Broadway in Fences and King Hedley II. Enough said!
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? One simple thing would be to expose them to theatre early. Not just expose them to acting or singing, but expose them to set and lighting design, to playwriting, to music composition, to stage management and to front-of-house operations. The elementary-school play or musical goes a long way toward fostering future theatregoers.
    • What is Passing Strange all about? It opens as a concert with a rousing funk band led by a showman named Stew who takes us back to the tumultuous 1970s where we retrace young Stew’s epic journey from the suburban comforts of Los Angeles to Amsterdam and Berlin in search of “something more real than real." It’s a tough and meaningful odyssey about cultural identity and family that culminates as young Stew comes face-to-face with present-day Stew — and to terms with the cost his youthful narcissism has exacted on those he left behind.
    • What does the title mean? The phrase "Passing Strange" was coined by William Shakespeare in Othello when he says, "My story being done, she gave me for my pains a world of sighs. She swore in faith 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange;     'Twas pitiful." Stew once said in an interview that the quote reminds him of a rock musician who tries to attract a girl with his on-the-road stories. "Passing" also refers to the history of African-Americans passing as white, as well as to the passage of time.
    • Why does Passing Strange matter? It offers another perspective of a black man's journey to find himself. Before I saw this show, I never would have thought of a black man writing a rock musical about moving to Amsterdam and Berlin to find himself. It’s an amazing story that everyone can see a little of themselves in.
    • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing Passing Strange? I hope they  feel challenged to find what is real in your life. I love this line in the show: ”The only truth of youth is grown-up consequences.” Also, to look at those places where you may be “passing."
    • What do you want to get off your chest? Denver, please find your civility again. When I lived in New York, I would brag about how nice the people in Denver were. When I moved back about four years ago, I was shocked at the rudeness. Of course, the natives blame all the other people who moved here. It doesn’t matter. We all live here now. Please be nice.

    John Moore's 2008 review of Broadway's Passing Strange

    Sheryl McCallum. The Wild Party. Photo by Adams ViscomSheryl McCallum in Off-Center's 'The Wild Party' last year at the Stanley Marketplace. Photo by Adams Viscom.


    Passing Strange: Ticket information

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:
    • Meet Brynn Tucker of This is Modern Art
    • Meet Gustavo Márquez of Native Gardens
    • Meet Gia Valverde: Native Gardens
    • Meet Jake Mendes of This is Modern Art
    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Meet Jordan Baker of Native Gardens
    • Meet Candy Brown of Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

  • 2017 True West Award: Kenny Moten

    by John Moore | Dec 07, 2017
    2017 True West Award Kenny Moten. Photo by John Moore

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 7: Kenny Moten

    Motones vs. Jerseys
    Miscast 2017
    Aurora Fox Cabaret Series
    Owner, Narrative Creative Consulting

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    If you think being a performer is hard, try being a performer and the owner of your own entertainment and consulting company. Kenny Moten makes the transition from actor to producer to businessman and back again in same manner that often describes his rich singing voice: Smooth as silk.

    Moten is among the very few performers who also knows how to run a business.

    Kenny Moten“It’s rare because owning an entertainment business is brutal in a way that is very different from the way performing is brutal,” said Moten’s frequent creative partner — and employee — Jalyn Courtenay Webb. “When you’re the boss, you are not only responsible for yourself, but for the people you hire and the team you put together. But Kenny has just the right temperament for it. He does everything with integrity. He’s a solid human being.”  

    Moten is the creator and owner of Narrative Creative Consulting, which presents entertainment events and uses various art forms to help clients ranging from National Jewish Hospital to Snooze Eatery to the Denver Center shape their narratives, customer service, employee training and brand strategies.  

    Moten is also the co-creator, director, writer and a featured performer of a clever new musical form called Motones vs. Jerseys. In July, it was up for three Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards, including Outstanding Musical, for its nearly sold-out run at the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins.

    In September, Moten lent his support (and that smooth-as-silk singing voice) to the Denver Actors Fund by appearing in Miscast 2017 as one of the three Fionas singing I Know It’s Today from Shrek the Musical. In October, the Aurora Fox turned to Moten to launch its risky new monthly cabaret series with 12 O’clock Tales: An Evening of Songs and Stories. Both shows sold out, which Webb said is further indication of Moten’s popularity as a performer — and his business acumen. Both come from more than 20 years as a professional performer, Webb says.

    Kenny Moten Miscast 2017“Kenny’s name is synonymous with excellence, and people know that in our community and beyond,” she said. “He was not going to do his show in an empty house — and he certainly did not.”

    Moten caps a remarkable 2017 with a return next week to Motones vs. Jerseys as part of a unique new creative partnership with BDT Stage in Boulder. "MvJ," as the kids call it, is a feel-good, nostalgic evening featuring the music of Motown and The Four Seasons — along with their many ancestors and descendants — in a good-natured competition. After two teams of four performers each rock out a playlist spanning Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Bruno Mars and many more, the audience chooses a winning team using their cell phones to vote.

    (Pictured right: Kenny Moten with his 'Miscast 2017' co-stars, Margie Lamb, left, and Hope Grandon. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter,)

    It’s a concept Moten first developed with Chris Starkey, now of Imprint Group DMC. After several refinements, Moten unveiled a slick new version of the show last year at the Midtown Arts Center, where it received a standing ovation “every single night,” said Webb, who is both the show’s Music Director and nightly emcee. “And let me tell you, I’ve never seen that happen at any dinner theatre before in my life.”

    Motones vs. Jerseys opens on Dec. 10 and will play on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights through Jan. 23, playing in rep the rest of the week with BDT Stage’s holiday staging of Annie.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Moten, who is originally from Hagerstown, Md., graduated from Highlands Ranch High School and the University of Colorado Denver. He transitioned from Barnstormer to leading man with a remarkable 2005 performance in Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the late Country Dinner Playhouse opposite now Denver First Lady Mary Louise Lee. Westword’s Juliet Wittman called Moten not only “a wonderful singer with a voice full of poignancy and power,” but also “a charming and seductive performer who brings impressive precision and a smooth, lean elegance to the stage.”

    Other major credits include Swing at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse and Altar Boyz at the Clocktower Cabaret, but it wasn’t long before Moten was off to New York. He re-settled in Fort Collins a few years ago and has since been on a roll that has not only furthered his personal and professional interests, but has gainfully employed dozens of local actors and crew members on his many public and corporate projects.

    “The thing I love about Kenny is that he’s so fun, but he’s also completely no-nonsense when it comes to the work,” said Webb. “He expects the highest quality and the highest level of performance possible from his performers, and we respect that. He knows what he wants — and he goes out and gets it."

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

    Motones vs. Jerseys: At a glance

    • Dec. 10-Jan. 23
    • BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
    • Performances Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. Dinner seating begins at 6:15, with the show to follow at 7:45
    • Featuring Brian Cronan, Will Hawkins, Brian Jackson and Jacob Villareal as The Jerseys, and Christian Mark Gibbs, Anthony McGlaun, Kenny Moten and Alejandro Roldan as The Motones.
    • Call 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com


    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS: '30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS'

    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

    Video bonus: Motones vs. Jerseys at the 2017 Henry Awards

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

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