• Reviews: 'Jesus Christ Superstar' sets new standard for televised musicals

    by John Moore | Apr 02, 2018
    john-legend-jesus-christ-superstar Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC
    John Legend's standing as a pop-culture superstar added credibility to his titular performance in NBC's rock-concert reimagining of 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' which presents Jesus in a similar celebrity light. Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC.

    'What could have felt like a dated rock opera was more like an uproarious arena concert filled with screaming fans'

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The reviews are in on NBC's live broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar last night, with many critics saying the high-energy staging sets a new standard for live theatrical broadcasts. Noel Murray of The New York Times called the effort "genuinely thrilling — both a conceptual and artistic triumph."

    Directors David Leveaux and Alex Rudzinski presented the musical in the atmosphere of a rock concert, which appropriately underscored creators Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's original vision of Jesus as, yes, a pop-culture superstar. And the directors put a genuine pop-culture superstar in the role — Oscar, Grammy and Tony Award-winning John Legend.

    Murray said Legend delivered where it counted — "putting his rich, soulful voice to work in seamless performances of his well-loved songs" — but that Legend was less impressive as an actor. He also said the crowd’s passionate whooping highlighted one of the musical’s central themes: "the dangers of uncritical celebrity worship."

    Most of the critics were generous in their praise, saving the greatest accolades for Broadway veteran Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas Iscariot. "Given what Jesus Christ Superstar ultimately says about idols and the people in their shadow, it is appropriate that this production was dominated by a Broadway veteran best known for replacing Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr in the Tony-winning smash Hamilton," Murray wrote. "This show has always been less about the titular 'superstar' than about the people surrounding him."

    Download and listen to the Superstar soundtrack

    Here's a roundup of what some of the other critics said. Add your thoughts as a comment at the bottom of this story:

    Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times: The show was a collision of religion and theater and pop culture that could have been one holy mess. But by the grace of God, or maybe a great cast and lots and lots of expert staging, a great musical became a great TV production.

    sara-bareilles-jesus-christ-superstar-liveMatt Zoller Seitz, CultureVulture:
    NBC’s live production of Jesus Christ Superstar was pitched to audiences as a live concert, which led some to expect a straightforward performance of the songs. It turned out to be an inventively staged production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock-and-roll gospel, so passionately imagined that it set a new standard for this type of event.

    Dino-Ray Ramos, Deadline: When it comes to NBC live musical events, Jesus Christ Superstar ranks at the top. What could have felt like a dated rock opera was more like an uproarious arena concert filled with screaming fans, frenetic lights, blaring speakers, pyrotechnics and a group of musicians and performers fueled with the spirit of a chaotic electric guitar wildly flailing about — just how Jesus would have wanted it.

    David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: "Hats off to the producers for making astute choices in the breakdown of seasoned pop performers and stage actors with the dramatic chops to back up their vocal talents. While John Legend's gentle charisma and honeyed pipes made him an affecting Jesus, and Sara Bareilles' soulful way with a song proved a superb fit for Mary (pictured above and right), enlisting Brandon Victor Dixon — last seen on Broadway as Aaron Burr in Hamilton — was the crucial piece of casting. But here's the thing: This was a phenomenally balanced production of Jesus Christ Superstar, in which star power was equaled by depth of feeling and characterization in all the principals. And the immediacy of television, with close-ups capable of bringing us in tight on the performers' faces, gave Jesus and Mary Magdalene a complexity that often is missing from conventional productions.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Verne Gay, Newsday: Jesus Christ Superstar is one of those musicals that demands to be re-interpreted. It’s not about the Bible. It’s about the box office. We live in the age of “Hamilton,” and whatever “Hamilton” magic “JCS” director David Leveaux could mine he did: Mostly that sense that history isn’t “history,” or the “past” isn’t the past, but right here, right now, right in front of our nose, or TV screen. JCS began with someone tagging a wall with “Jesus” — a dated gesture, yes, but you get the idea. This is Brooklyn, or a gentrified Williamsburg, and the revolutionary spirit of Jesus is right here, right now.

    Linda Holmes, NPR: Musical theater at this level is hard to share with a lot of people in live settings, for economic reasons and lots of other reasons, too. Putting productions on TV doesn't precisely scratch the same itch, but the more of these they do, the more they'll learn. There's already a shift toward theater talent and theater styling. Who knew the best way to put on a show was to just put on a show?

    The ratings race:
    Overnight ratings indicate NBC's live broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar drew 9.4 million overall viewers, winning the ratings race for the night but landing in the middle of the pack compared to previous live theatrical broadcasts. 
     
    According to NBC, the broadcast lifted the network to its most-watched Easter Sunday in 12 years. This was NBC’s first musical broadcast on a Sunday evening — the previous four aired on weeknights.

    The best ratings for a televised musical were NBC’s The Sound of Music Live in December 2013. Here's how some of the shows have compared:

    • The Sound of Music, NBC, 2013, 18.6 million viewers
    • Grease, Fox, 2016, 12.2 million viewers
    • The Wiz, NBC, 2015, 11.5 million viewers
    • Jesus Christ Superstar, NBC, 2018, 9.4 million viewers
    • Peter Pan, NBC, 2014, 9.2 million viewers
    • Hairspray, NBC, 8.9 million viewers
    • The Passion, Fox, 2016, 6.6 million viewers
    • A Christmas Story, Fox, 2017, 4.5 million viewers
    NBC is still planning to air an oft-delayed live broadcast of Bye Bye Birdie, produced by and starring Jennifer Lopez, in 2019. Fox is planning a 20th-anniversary broadcast of Rent.


    The cast:

    Jesus Christ Superstar
    starred Grammy and Tony-Award winner John Legend as Jesus Christ, two-time Tony nominee Brandon Victor Dixon (Hamilton) as Judas, Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles (writer of Waitress) as Mary Magdalene rock star Alice Cooper as the flamboyant King Herod. The cast also featured Norm Lewis as Caiaphas (King Triton in original Denver cast of The Little Mermaid), Jin Ha (M. Butterfly) as Annas, Tony nominee Ben Daniels (Les Liaisons Dangereuses) as Pontius Pilate, Jason Tam (If/Then) as Peter, and Swedish rock star Erik Gronwall as Simon Zealotes.

    The ensemble included Christina Sajous and Heath Saunders, who both appeared in the DCPA Theatre Company's The 12 back in 2015; and Billy Lewis Jr., who was the Arvada Center's very own Jesus in its Jesus Christ Superstar just last year. The costumer was multiple Tony-winning Paul Tazewell, who costumed the DCPA Theatre Company's The Unsinkable Molly Brown in 2015. Oh, and Hamilton.

    The rest of the ensemble included Melody Betts, Felicia Boswell, Abby Corrigan, Micaela Diamond, Rory Donovan, Christine Dwyer, Mike Evariste, F. Michael Haynie, Charissa Hogeland, Bre Jackson, Mykal Kilgore, Joel Perez, Justin Gregory Lopez, Angel Lozada, Vince Oddo, Kyle Taylor Parker, Jonah Platt, Conor Ryan, Justin Matthew Sargent, Joey Taranto, Syndee Winters, and Lauren Zakrin, with dancers Chloe Davis, Timothy Edwards, Shelby Finnie, Bahiyah Hibah, Juel D. Lane, Terk Lewis, Mayte Natalio, Sarah Parker, Tre Smith, and Maleek Washington.

  • 2017 True West Awards: Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill

    by John Moore | Dec 30, 2017
    2017 True West Awards The Breakouts  Jeremy Rill Steven J. Burge

    2017 TRUE WEST AWARDS  

    Day 30: The Breakouts

    Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill


    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Steven J. Burge and Jeremy Rill are very different performers. Think Sean Hayes and Frank Sinatra. Burge will shock you into gut-busting laughter, while Rill will make you swoon. If Burge is the flamboyant life of the party, then Rill is more, say … sunset on the beach.

    “If there is a spectrum,” said director and actor Robert Michael Sanders, "those two are on the opposite ends of it.”

    The comedian and the crooner.

    Steven J Burge and Jeremy Rill But these two emerging actors have far more in common than you might think. Both had big-time breakout years on Denver stages in 2017 — and both were separately described as “the nicest guy in Denver theatre” in interviews for this very story.

    Something's gotta give.

    Steven Cole Hughes, Burge’s castmate in the Denver Center’s extended hit comedy An Act of God, goes so far as to declare with dead-on eye contact that “Steven Burge is the nicest guy working in the American theatre today. Period.”

    Even Hughes’ 2-year-old daughter, Birdie, backed her father up.

    “Hey Birdie, who is this?” Hughes said, pointing to a poster for An Act of God. The child’s face immediately lit up. She pointed to a photo of Burge playing no less than God Himself, and she declared enthusiastically: “Steven!”

    “She’s 2,” Hughes reiterated. “Even the 2-year-olds love Steve Burge.”

    That’s high praise (or short praise, come to think of it) for Burge, who has been working his way up to this moment with one joyful performance after another since moving from Iowa in 2003, most often in extroverted comic roles. Highlights have included playing Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors and conquering the epic challenge of playing 40 roles in the one-man comedy Fully Committed. In 2012, Westword’s Juliet Wittman flatly declared, “Steve Burge is one of the funniest actors anywhere.”

    Says his friend and fellow actor Shannan Steele: “I love watching him delight in making others happy.”

    But Burge’s body of work has revealed far greater range and uncommon emotional honesty in stagings such as Dog Sees God at The Avenue Theater (I called him "triumphant" in The Denver Post) and Curious Theatre’s Speech and Debate. No matter how big the character Burge is called upon to play, “you always know there's a real and very interesting person underneath," Wittman wrote.

    (Story continues after the photo.)

    Steven J. Burge United in Love Photo by John Moore
    Steven J. Burge co-hosted the 'United in Love' benefit concert with Eden Lane that raised $40,000 for The Denver Actors Fund.  Photo by John Moore.


    But Burge’s steady career trajectory took a turn for the skyward late last year when he was hired by Director Geoffrey Kent to be the understudy for An Act of God, a pointed social comedy in which God comes down to Earth in human form to set the record straight about the misguided ways in which we sometimes act in God’s name. When Broadway and TV star Wesley Taylor’s contract expired, the Denver Center did not seek out a similarly big-named national replacement. It already had Burge, who smoothly ascended to Almighty status for what turned into an extended run at the Galleria Theatre. The role called on all of Burge’s comic skills, as well as his uncommon gift to make people listen and laugh, even when they might not like what he is telling them. Burge had An Act of God audiences eating out of his holy goblet.

    To say that Burge made an impression in his Denver Center debut would be an understatement.

    “Steven has spot-on comic timing, a fantastic voice and the best rehearsal attitude and esprit de corps I know of,” said Kent. “He improves the quality of everything he touches.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    A few months later, Director Ray Roderick punched Burge's ticket for an immediate return trip to the Galleria Theatre in the musical comedy First Date. Gigs at the Galleria are considered jackpot jobs among local actors because they generally come with a minimum six-month contract.

    Burge plays many characters in First Date, most notably the quintessential gay best friend of a young woman who’s just starting to brave the dating pool. The reason Burge succeeds at taking such a stock character and making him meaningfully connect with an audience, says Steele, is his willingness to bring his authentic self to all his roles.

    “The thing you need to know about Steven is that just beneath his hilarious and charming exterior is a beautifully tender, vulnerable, compassionate and generous person,” she said.

    “Steven is the opposite of an old soul. He is brand new to his world ... and his childlike wonder and joy are palpable.”

    800 Red Hot and Cole Cherry Creek Theatre Jeremy Rill Phot by Olga LopezHe’s now being rewarded for paying his many dues, and everyone agrees — it could not be happening to a nicer guy. For years, Burge has been known for saying yes to anyone who asks for his time and talents. This year, he co-hosted a benefit concert at the Lone Tree Arts Center that netted $40,000 for the Denver Actors Fund, and Miscast 2017 at the Town Hall Arts Center, which raised $7,000 more. He also has kept the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards buzzing along since 2012 with his unpredictable comic energy as co-host with GerRee Hinshaw.

    "To me, Burge encapsulates the heart and soul of the Denver theatre community,” Kent said. “He volunteers for almost every arts organization I can list. If Denver were to elect a ‘Theatre Ambassador,’ he would have my vote.”

    Also receiving votes for Nicest Guy in Denver Theatre would be Jeremy Rill, an Arkansas native who already was a big deal in the lofty Chicago theatre scene when he moved to Colorado for love. And it didn’t take long for people to notice.

    “It's that voice,” said his frequent director, Kelly Van Oosbree. “The richness and his absolute control of it is remarkable. The first time I heard Jeremy open his mouth, I said, ‘This guy is going to be big.’ You just can’t deny that voice.”

    Coming Sunday: 2017 Colorado Theatre Person of the Year

    The Performance Now Theatre Company in Lakewood was the first Colorado company to catch wise, casting Rill in the regional premiere of Jane Eyre (Edward Rochester), Guys and Dolls (Sky Masterson) and Ragtime (Younger Brother). By then it was becoming pretty obvious to anyone within earshot that Rill was going to be a man in demand this year.

    Jeremy Rill Miscast Photo by John MooreA lot more people know “that voice” after it opened up and sang for the first time on four different metro stages this year. Rill started out playing no less than Cole Porter himself in the Cherry Creek Theatre Company’s Red, Hot and Cole at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, landing quite cozily among a star-filled cast that included Steele alongside local big-shots Seth Dhonau and Lauren Shealy (both now co-starring with Burge in First Date), Damon Guerasio, Stephen Day, Matt LaFontaine, Sharon Kay White and several others.

    Rill then earned karma points for life when he was asked to join the ensemble of the Arvada Center’s Jesus Christ Superstar after the actor playing Judas had to leave the show for medical reasons. That set off casting dominoes that ended with Rill stepping onto one of the biggest theatre stages in the state a mere four hours before the first performance in front of an audience.

    There’s a reason Arvada Center director Rod Lansberry turned to Rill, whom he had never before cast, when the chips were down, Van Oosbree said. It’s that Sinatra cool.

    “If someone ever asked me to do something like that, I would have said, ‘No, thanks,’ ” Van Oosbree said. “But Rod knew Jeremy could handle the pressure. And he did.”

    That may be one reason karma has smiled back on Rill, who will return to Performance Now to play Cinderella’s prince in Into the Woods opening Jan. 5 at the Lakewood Cultural Center. He then joins the cast of the Arvada Center’s Sunday in the Park with George — and on the first day of rehearsal this time. Rill will play Louis, fiancé of the model who attracts the eye of an artist based on Georges Seurat.

    Superstar led to the 2017 performance that will put Rill on every director’s radar – and wish list — for years to come. Van Oosbree tapped Rill to head another dauntingly loaded ensemble in Stephen Sondheim’s Company for the Aurora Fox that included Shealy, Heather Lacy, Lindsey Falduto, Carolyn Lohr, Rebekah Ortiz, Heather Doris and many others.

    (Story continues below the video.)


    Video bonus: Jeremy Rill performs 'Everybody's Girl' at Miscast 2017:




    You knew going in that Rill would bring any production of Company to a thunderous finish with his take on the forceful ballad “Being Alive.” But what separates a good Company from a great one is an actor who understands that Bobby’s journey is a serious rumination on the relative pros and cons of choosing a married or solitary life. Rill allowed himself to get fully lost in his journey — which at times meant going inside and checking out from the Aurora Fox audience altogether.

    Turns out, as Van Oosbree plainly puts it: Jeremy Rill is not just another pretty voice.

    “He’s also a really good actor,” she said. “He found the vulnerable in Bobby and the underlying pain that I think sometimes goes missing in other performances. The easy thing would be to make Bobby a fun, jovial bachelor, but that’s just not who this man is. Jeremy was clever and he was sexy and he was charming and he was cynical and he was sad. He was all the things. He just killed it.”

    Wrote Ramsey Scott for the Aurora Sentinel: “Jeremy Rill nails the mix of aloofness and emotional despair that plagues his character throughout the show and matches it with a voice that deserves to be the center of attention.”  Added Wittman for Westword: "Jeremy Rill has a richly melodious and supple voice that’s sheer pleasure to listen to."

    Norell Moore by Jeremy RillAnd Rill’s artistry, by the way, is not limited to the stage. He’s also a disarmingly effective portrait photographer who is known for bringing out an astonishing clarity of character in a single frame. Look no further than his revealing portrait of fellow actor Norrell Moore (right) soon after she started chemotherapy for breast cancer.

    “I mean this as no disrespect to any other photographer,” said Sanders. “But if you put 100 random actor headshots in a pile in front of me, I could easily pick out the ones taken by Jeremy because he has such a distinctive style behind the camera. He just has a way of making actors look their best. Maybe it’s because he’s one of them. But somehow he manages to put a sparkle in the eye of every single person he photographs.”

    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 

    Steven J. Burge: 2017
    • The Almighty in DCPA Cabaret’s First Date
    • Co-Host, United in Love benefit concert
    • Co-Host, Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards
    • Co-Host, Miscast 2017
    • Multiple roles in DCPA Cabaret’s First Date

    Jeremy Rill: 2017
    • Man 1 (Cole Porter) in Cherry Creek Theatre’s Red, Hot and Cole
    • Ensemble in Arvada Center’s Jesus Christ Superstar
    • Aurora Fox’s Company
    • Emile de Becque in Platte Valley Players' South Pacific (concert version)
    • Performed in Miscast 2017 for the Denver Actors Fund

    Steven J Burge GerRee Hinshaw 2017 Henry Awards BLF Photography
    Steven J. Burge and GerRee Hinshaw co-hosting the 2017 Henry Awards. BLF Photography.


    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's 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 (to date)

     

  • Video, photos: At 40, BDT celebrates its just desserts

    by John Moore | Aug 13, 2017
    Video by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The venerable Boulder dinner theatre will soon mark 150 productions after Technicolor bookends of Joseph

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    BDT Stage celebrated its past and looked forward to its future on Monday when the enduring dinner theatre marked its 40th anniversary with a special performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

    Generations of past and present BDT cast, crew and staff were invited back, along with friends and original investors. Fitting that the title was Joseph: The aerobic Andrew Lloyd Webber dance musical christened the then-named Boulder’s Dinner Theatre back in the Jimmy Carter administration.

    BDT Stage. Joseph. 1977 castWhen Joseph closes Sunday (Aug. 19), it will be followed by Rock of Ages, an homage to 1980s big-hair bands. That will mark BDT’s 150th production at 55th and Arapahoe streets in Boulder. Producing Artistic Director Michael J. Duran estimates the company has given 13,000 performances in that time.

    (Pictured right: Eleven members of BDT Stage's first production, 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,' in 1977, returned Monday. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    BDT has defied all the industry odds by surviving for four decades while all but one other metro-area dinner theatre (the Adams Mystery Playhouse) has fallen by the wayside. Back in 1977, the cast and creatives weren’t sure BDT would survive its first night.

    “It was a disaster,” said Dee Height, one of eight original investor families who put up $17,000 each to buy the land and start the business up in 1977. That’s a total of about $136,0000 in startup money. Crews were still laying down the carpet when it was time to open the doors for opening-night patrons. That first performance did not begin until 10 p.m. as the kitchen struggled to feed the crowd.

    The opening cast included Duran in the title role and two others who would go on to become longstanding professional BDT performers: Barb Reeves and John Scott Clough. Although the ensemble, 11 of whom returned for Monday’s party in Boulder, isn’t so sure just how professional that first show was back in the footloose and fancy-free 1970s.

    “For one thing, none of us could dance,” said Duran, who would nonetheless go on to a 23-year career as a theatre performer in New York before returning to run BDT in 2003. Duran was a late addition to that first Joseph cast. “He joined us two weeks before opening, and he saved our butts,” said castmate Jim Robb.

    So was that first show any good? “It’s all relative,” Duran said with a smile. “It was a small production, but for the very first show at a brand-new dinner theatre in Boulder? It was fantastic.”

    BDT Stage. John Moore

    The theatre used prerecorded music in its early days, and original investor (and current co-owner) Gene Bolles remembers being rallied to record a small trumpet part for that first show. “Our sound booth was the bathroom,” Bolles said. “So I sat on the toilet with the microphone in front of me, and we did about a hundred takes.”

    That first cast ranged in age from 17 to 25. Clough was the youngest.

    “We tried our best, but I was 17, and I was doing what 17-year-olds do, which is get into trouble,” said Clough. Two years after Joseph, Duran played Jesus in BDT’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar. “On the final night, we put peanut butter on Mike’s crucifix, and he had to sit in it,” Clough said. Duran said he will never forget the night Jesus died with peanut butter in his crotch.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The founder and mastermind of BDT Stage was Ross Haley, who was not at Monday's party in person but was very much present in the thoughts of those gathered. Haley was the theatre director at nearby Boulder High School in 1976, and his production of Jesus Christ Superstar there was so well-received, parents and others encouraged him to found Boulder’s first professional dinner theatre.

    “Ross always encouraged us to take it very seriously,” said Reeves. Duran said Haley’s “vision and tenacity really helped keep this thing moving through the years.” Clough, likewise, said Haley “took great pride in this building. This was his baby.

    "And we … didn’t as much.”

    Clough mentioned a gigantic backstage fake-blood fight that left the men’s dressing room covered in corn syrup and red food coloring. “Ross was not happy,” Clough said with a smile.  

    BDT Stage. RagtimeBDT has now presented Joseph three times in its history, and all three Josephs were present Monday: Duran (1977), Scott Beyette (2004) and Jack Barton (2017). Beyette, who has been regularly performing with BDT for nearly 28 years, is now playing Joe’s ageless oldest brother, Reuben. He’s been at BDT so long that Barton remembers seeing him in BDT’s celebrated co-production of Ragtime with the late African-American Shadow Theatre Company (pictured above). He was 13. Barton, not Beyette.

    “In fact, I made my parents take me here to see Ragtime for my 13th birthday,” said Barton. “I have wanted to perform here since I was a little kid. That’s why I just feel super lucky to have been a part of this tonight.”

    Beyette is one of about a dozen local actors who have essentially performed at BDT for their entire careers. And the ties are multi-generational. The cast of Joseph includes four children whose parents have worked for BDT Stage onstage and off through the years. One of them is Beyette’s daughter Olyvia, who will star in the upcoming production of Rock of Ages.

    In the Spotlife: Meet Jack Barton of Joseph

    “I truly have been blessed to be able to do what I love to do, and live in this beautiful state, and raise a family,” said Beyette. “It’s been fantastic. Not a single day here has ever felt like work.”

    As he addressed the crowd on Monday, Duran acknowledged that many talented BDT performers have gone on to have successful careers in New York and Los Angeles, including Oscar winner Amy Adams, Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford and Tony nominee Beth Malone. “A lot of other people have come to work here and stayed, and we are ever so grateful to them as well,” Duran said.

    BDT Stage. Jack Barton. John Moore. The closest BDT ever came to closing was in 2003, when Haley was in ill health and the future of the theatre was uncertain. That’s when Bolles and his wife, Judy, bought the theatre and hired Duran to come home and run it. The Bolleses are the unlikeliest of theatre owners. Gene Bolles is a now-retired military neurosurgeon who worked on soldiers injured in Iraq. He has dedicated more than two decades to providing medical care in dozens of impoverished countries.

    Joseph is about dreaming, and I think we’ve all been dreamers, because being in the arts is a dream,” said Judy Bolles.  

    Forty years in, Duran said the reason BDT is still here is because “dinner theatre or not, we present some of the best theatre in the area. Our production values are high. The level of our talent is very high. People like working here and want to work here, and our food has gotten so much better.”

    Reeves says the impact BDT has had on audiences and the local theatre community is huge. “I can’t tell you the number of people this place has touched,” she said.   

    Duran also announced the release of a new book covering the history of the theatre, Remember the Magic, by Brandon Palmer. It is available through the theatre by calling 303-449-6000.

    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.

    BDT Stage's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: Ticket information
    Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
    • Directed by Matthew D. Peters
    • Through Aug. 19
    • 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder < MAP IT
    • Tickets $35-$55
    • For tickets, call 303-449-6000 or go to bdtstage.com


    Performance schedule:
    • 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 7:45 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 1:45 and 7:45 p.m. Sundays (dinner service 90 minutes before).

    Photo gallery from Monday's 40th anniversary celebration:

    BDT Stage's 40th anniversary

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos may be downloaded and shared with photo credit. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • In the Spotlife: Napoleon M. Douglas of 'Jesus Christ Superstar'

    by John Moore | Mar 20, 2017
    NAPOLEON M. DOUGLAS. Photo by John Moore. Napoleon M. Douglas gave audiences a sneak peek of his upcoming performance as Judas Iscariot at last week's benefit screening of the 1973 'Jesus Christ Superstar' film for The Denver Actors Fund at Alamo Drafthouse. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    (EDITOR'S NOTE: On March 22, it was announced that vocal issues will prevent Napoleon M. Douglas from performing the role of Judas in this production. He has been replaced by Matt LaFontaine.) 

    MEET NAPOLEON M. DOUGLAS

    Napoleon M. Douglas, who has appeared in the DCPA Theatre Company's 'A Christmas Carol' and is a DCPA Education Teaching Artist who performs at area high schools as part of the 'Shakespeare in the Parking Lot' program, will play Judas Iscariot in the Arvada Center's 'Jesus Christ Superstar.'  from March 24 through April 16.

  • Hometown: Washington D.C.
  • Home now: Denver
  • NAPOLEON M. DOUGLAS High School: Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa
  • College: BA in Theatre Arts from Drake University in Des Moines; MBA in Entrepreneurship from Southern New Hampshire University (in progress)
  • What have you done for us lately? I played T.J. in Sister Act at the Arvada Center
  • Twitter-sized bio: I am a black kid named Napoleon, which makes me unforgettable. My spirit animal is the Energizer Bunny, which makes me unstoppable.
  • What was the role that changed your life? Playing Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Ragtime. When I was a senior in high school, I had a serious knee surgery that ended my not-too-promising athletic career. I always loved to sing and had recently become involved in the drama department, so I decided to audition for the ensemble in our school production of Ragtime. When I saw my name next to Coalhouse’s name, I promptly quit. I told my director: 'I am not fit to lead a musical. I don’t even know what that means.' She responded, 'Well, you will find out.' I was thrown into a situation I was very unfamiliar with, but I came out of it understanding what it is like to share a powerful story with audiences. I realized that performance art is something I can't live without. Not because of the praise we got at the end of each performance, but because it is an opportunity to affect how people look at the world. 
  • Ideal scene partner: One from my long list is Heath Ledger. His performances were always beyond captivating. Working with him would have pushed me as an artist, both in terms of my technical skills and my emotional being. Although his career got the best of him, the dedication he had to his roles is admirable. I would have loved seeing his work habits up close and personal.
    Napoloeon Scene
  • What is Jesus Christ Superstar all about? The story surrounds what happened in the final week of Jesus’ life, while highlighting the political and interpersonal struggles between Judas Iscariot and Jesus of Nazarath that are not present in the Bible.
  • Tell us about the challenge of playing Judas: First, this is a sung-through musical – meaning there is no spoken dialogue – and Judas has a very difficult vocal line to carry throughout the show. Beyond that, Judas is the antagonist because he opposes the direction Jesus has taken his ministry during the three years preceding where our story begins. Judas believes that if Jesus doesn’t regain his humility, severe consequences will happen. It is hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that that every other character on stage is not on my side. I have to be the brick wall – the purest definition of the bad guy. Just like in real life, Judas just wants someone to understand and relate to him. But Judas has no one rooting for him but Judas.
  • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing this play? I hope they understand that there is always more than one way to look at a story. If you take the time to look at the same issue from multiple angles, you will have a better foundation to really stand for what you believe in.
  • More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • What's one thing most people don't know about you? I hate warming up my voice. So instead, I play basketball and run for up to five miles before every performance. By working up a sweat, my 'vocal folds' warm up along with the rest of my body. (And, yes, they are called 'vocal folds,' not 'vocal chords.')
  • What’s one thing you want to get off your chest? America will never be 'great again’ until we stop with all the labels and respect and love one another for who we are. Until all sides come together and remember that we are already the greatest country on this planet, we will always be as troubled as we are now.
  • Instagram handle: Napoleonic.code
  • Twitter handle: _napoleoniccode

  • From left: Jenna Bainbridge, Billy Jewis Jr. and Napoleon Douglas. M. Gale Photography.
    From left: Jenna Bainbridge (Mary Magdalene), Billy Jewis Jr. (Jesus of Nazareth) and Napoleon M. Douglas (Judas Iscariot) in the Arvada Center's 'Jesus Christ Superstar.' M. Gale Photography.


    Arvada Center's Jesus Christ Superstar: Ticket information

    • Written my Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics)
    • Directed by Rod Lansberry and David Nehls (music)
    • March 24 through April 16
    • Performances 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and 1 p.m. Wednesdays
    • 6901 Wadsworth Ave.
    • Tickets $53-$77
    • Info: 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    Cast list:
    • Jesus of Nazareth: Billy Lewis Jr.
    • Judas Iscariot: Napoleon Douglas
    • Mary Magdalene: Jenna Bainbridge
    • Caiaphas: Stephen Day
    • Annas: Joe Callahan
    • Pontius Pilate: Markus Warren
    • King Herod: Wayne Kennedy

    • Men's Ensemble: Adam Estes, Aaron M. Davidson, Michael Bouchard, Reace Daniel, James Francis, Barret Harper, Tyler Nielson, Damon Guerrasio, Drew Horwitz, Brett Ambler, Rob Janzen, Matt LaFontaine, Daniel Langhoff
    • Women's Ensemble: 
    Norrell Moore, Satya Chavez, Sheryl McCallum, Rae Leigh Case, Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, Sarah Rex, Piper Arpan

    More 'In the Spotlife' profiles:
    Meet Lauren Bahlman of Wide-Eyed West's theMumblings
    Meet Mark Collins of And Toto Too's Lost Creatures
    Meet Carley Cornelius of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Constellations
    Meet Emily Paton Davies of Miners Alley Playhouse's God of Carnage
    Meet Kelsey Didion of Curious Theatre's Constellations
    Meet Denise Freestone of OpenStage's August: Osage County
    Meet Sam Gregory of the Arvada Center's Tartuffe
    Meet John Hauser of Curious Theatre's Hand to God
    Meet Jim Hunt of Buntport's The Zeus Probem
    Meet Jeff Jesmer of Spotlight Theatre'sThe Crucible
    Meet Wayne Kennedy of BDT Stage's Mid-Life 2
    Meet Seth Maisel of Town Hall Arts Center's The Firestorm
    Meet Tim McCracken of Local Theatre's The Firestorm
    Meet Angela Mendez of Beauty and the Beast
    Meet Joelle Montoya of Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres
    Meet Anne Oberbroeckling of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ripcord
    Meet Jessica Robblee of Buntport Theatre for All Ages' Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey
    Meet Cory Sapienza of Miners Alley Playhouse's Hir
    Meet Sean Scrutchins of the Arvada Center's Bus Stop
    Meet Jane Shirley of Santa's Big Red Sack
    Meet Petra Ulyrich of Germinal Stage-Denver's Johnny Got His Gun
    Meet Megan Van De Hey of the Arvada Center's Sister Act
    Meet Sharon Kay White of the Arvada Center's I'll Be Home for Christmas
  • March: Colorado theatre listings

    by John Moore | Mar 04, 2017
    A March Openings ODDVILLE

    NOTE: At the start of each month, the DCPA NewsCenter offers an updated list of upcoming theatre openings, spotlighting work being presented on stages statewide. Companies are encouraged to submit listings and production photos at least two weeks in advance to the DCPA NewsCenter at jmoore@dcpa.org.

    Five intriguing titles for March:

    NUMBER 1Jesus Christ Superstar and Drowning Girls. The Arvada Center's new "black box" repertory company goes into full gear for the first time when the new play Drowning Girls joins the ongoing Bus Stop in alternating performances in the studio theatre through May 21. It's a surreal true-crime story that explores the deaths of three women murdered by the same man. As if that weren't enough, Rod Lansberry's highly anticipated take on the Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar opens on March 24. 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    NUMBER 2LOCAL LabThe Local Lab. Now in its sixth year, Boulder's premier new-play festival will feature readings of urgent new plays about a Syrian refugee, Jason Grote's riveting biographical look at prolific Soviet-era composer Dmitri Shostakovich, and Colorado's first taste of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s massive controversial Play On! project - updated "translations" of every Shakespeare play. The new The Merchant of Venice will be read here, The festival runs March 17-19. A full breakdown of events is listed at the bottom of this page. Call 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org,

    NUMBER 3Athena Project Arts Festival. This 5th annual, month-long celebration of women in the arts is centered around the fully staged world premiere of local playwright Ellen K. Graham's The Wave That Set the Fire,
    running March 10-April 8 at the University of Denver's Byron Theatre, 2344 E Iliff Ave.Set in the near future, the play explores what constitutes justice in a damaged world. A full breakdown of events is listed at the bottom of this page. Information and tickets: AthenaProjectFestival.org


    NUMBER 4Mas. Su Teatro's fact-based story by Milta Ortiz is about a community's battle to hold onto their history, identity and humanity after the Tucson Unified School District's decision to end its Mexican-American Studies program. Watch how Comedy Central covered the story in the video above. March 9-26 at 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or go to suteatro.org

    NUMBER 5Magic Moments. Since 1983, Magic Moments has produced a massive annual pop-music revue that integrates persons with physical and developmental disabilities with able-bodied actors both amateur and professional. Shows often feature 200 or more cast members of all ages. Each year the show threads a loose, original story with covers of showtunes and contemporary pop songs. This year's show is called Step Right Up and runs March 23-26 at the Kent Denver School, 4000 East Quincy Ave., Englewood. Call 303-575-1005 or go to magicmomentsinc.org

    March Openings DCPA


    THIS MONTH'S THEATRE OPENINGS IN COLORADO:

    (Submit your listings to jmoore@dcpa.org)

    Disenchanted_Glenn_Ross BDTMarch 3-May 6, 2017: BDT Stage's Disenchanted
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    March 3-April 2: The Edge Theatre's The Nance
    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or theedgetheatre.com

    March 3-25: Theatre Company of Lafayette's Blood Privilege
    Mary Miller Theater, 300 E. Simpson, 720-209-2154 or www.tclstage.org

    March 4-April 2: BiTSY Stage's The Lass Who Went Out With The Cry Of Dawn: A Celtic Yarn
    1137 S. Huron St., 720-328-5294 or bitsystage.com

    A March Openings BLOOD PRIVILEGEMarch 8-19: National touring production of An American in Paris
    Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    March 9-26: Su Teatro's Mas
    721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org

    March 10-April 8: Athena Project Arts Festival's The Wave That Set the Fire
    At the Byron Theatre in Newman Center for Performing Arts at the University of Denver, 2344 E Iliff Ave., AthenaProjectFestival.org

    March 11-April 15: Curious Theatre's Constellations
    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org

    March 12-April 30: Denver Children's Theatre's The Jungle Book
    Elaine Wolf Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., 303-316-6360 or maccjcc.org

    A March Openings LassMarch 16-April 23: Off-Center's Travelers of the Lost Dimension, with A.C.E.
    At the Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St., Aurora, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    March 16-April 2: Millibo Art Theatre's The Crucible
    1626 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321 or themat.org .

    March 17-May 21: Arvada Center's The Drowning Girls
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    March 17-April 9: The Avenue Theater's Oddville
    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or avenuetheater.com

    March 17-26: Longmont Theatre Company's Other Desert Cities
    513 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-5200 or longmonttheatre.org

    March 17-26: PACE Center's Steel Magnolias (at the Schoolhouse Theater)
    20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker, parkerarts.org

    March 18-19: National touring production of Shaping Sound: After the Curtain
    The Ellie, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    March 21-26: National touring production of Kinky Boots
    Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    March 23-June 4: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s 42nd Street
    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970-744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com

    March 23-26: Magic Moments' Step Right Up
    At Kent Denver School, 4000 East Quincy Ave., Englewood, 303-575-1005 or magicmomentsinc.org

    March 24-April 16: Arvada Center's Jesus Christ Superstar
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org

    March 24-April 9: Aurora Fox's Chinglish
    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org

    March 24-April 30: Miners Alley Playhouse's A Skull in Connemara
    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com

    March 24-April 9, 2017: Performance Now's Hello, Dolly!
    Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway, 303-987-7845 or performancenow.org

    March 24-May 27: Midtown Arts Center's Sister Act
    3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    March 24-April 15: Evergreen Players' Enchanted April
    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreenplayers.com

    March 24-April 15: Equinox Theatre Company’s Stage Kiss
    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinoxtheatredenver.com

    March 30-April 30: Bas Bleu's Blue Kitchen and The Blue Kitchen Craic
    417 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org

    March 30-April 23: Cherry Creek Theatre Company’s The Baby Dance
    Pluss Theatre at the the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St., Denver, 303-800-6578 or cherrycreektheatre.org

    March 30-April 29, 2017: OpenStage's Don't Dress for Dinner
    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org

    March 31-May 7: DCPA Theatre Company's Disgraced
    Ricketson Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org

    March 31-April 30: Town Hall Arts Center's The Robber Bridegroom
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or town hallartscenter.org

    March 31-April 23: Benchmark Theatre's The Nether
    At Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., benchmarktheatre.com

    March 31-April 23: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Bye Bye Birdie
    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    March 31-May 21: Vintage Theatre’s The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintage’s home page

    CONTINUING CURRENT PRODUCTIONS:

    Through March 18: OpenStage Theatre & Company’s August: Osage County
    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org READ MOREMarch Openings And Then There Were None

    Through March 18: Breckenridge Backstage Theatre's The Toxic Avenger
    121 S. Ridge St. 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org

    Through March 18: Spotlight Theater Company's Sabrina Fair
    At the John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or thisisspotlight.com

    Through March 18: Midtown Arts Center's Million Dollar Quartet
    3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Through March 18: Midtown Arts Center's Forbidden Broadway (Studio Theatre)
    3750 S. Mason St., Fort Collins, 970-225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com

    March Openings Bonnie and ClydeThrough March 19: Town Hall Arts Center's Bonnie & Clyde
    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or town hallartscenter.org

    Through March 19: Vintage Theatre Productions' Billy Elliot, The Musical
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintagetheatre.com

     

    Through March 26: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Junie B. Jones: The Musical
    Second Stage, 30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or csfineartscenter.org

    Through April 8: DCPA Cabaret's An Act of God
    Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org READ MORE

    Through May 14: Arvada Center's Bus Stop
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org READ MORE

    Through May 19: Arvada Center's A Year With Frog and Toad
    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org


    ONGOING, MONTHLY or ONE-TIME PROGRAMMING:

    ADAMS MYSTERY PLAYHOUSE
    Ongoing productions
    2406 Federal Blvd., Denver, 303-455-1848 or adamsmysteryplayhouse.com

    THE ATHENA PROJECT ARTS FESTIVAL
    March 10-April 8: World-premiere play The Wave That Set the Fire
    At the Byron Theatre in the Newman Center for Performing Arts at the University of Denver, 2344 E Iliff Ave. ticket info

    Saturday, March 18: Evening of Dance at Armstrong Center for Dance
    At the Armstrong Center for Dance, 1075 Santa Fe Drive, athenaprojectfestival.org

    March 23 and 24: Mini Music Festival and Panel Discussions
    Swallow Hill Music, 71 E. Yale Ave., athenaprojectfestival.org

    Saturday, March 25: Girls Create Celebration
    At the Byron Theatre in the Newman Center for Performing Arts at the University of Denver, 2344 E Iliff Ave.athenaprojectfestival.org

    2017 Plays In Progress Series
    April 1 at 1 p.m. and April 8 at 4 p.m.: Beating a Dead Horse by Jennifer Stafford
    April 1 at  4 p.m. and April 2 at 7 p.m.: Famous Last Words by Katherine Millett
    April 8 at 1 p.m. and April 9 at 7 p.m.: Handcrafted Healing by Nancy Beverly
    At the Byron Theatre in the Newman Center for Performing Arts at the University of Denver, 2344 E Iliff Ave. ticket info

    Special Table Reading
    April 2 at 9:30 a.m. and April 3 at 7 p.m.: Honor Killing by Sarah Bierstock
    At the Byron Theatre in the Newman Center for Performing Arts at the University of Denver, 2344 E Iliff Ave. ticket info

    BDT STAGE
    March 21: Tommy Dorsey Orchestra Cabaret Performance
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com

    BUNTPORT THEATRE

    Saturday, March 11: Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey (Monthly theatre for young audiences at 1 and 3 p.m. the second Saturday of each month, through May 13)
    Wednesday, March 15: The Narrators (a live storytelling show and podcast)
    Tuesday, March 21: Buntport Radio Hour (live recording of a radio show) Tickets here
    Friday, March 31: Untitled (in the freight elevator at the Denver Art Museum)
    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport.com


    THE CATAMOUNTS
    Saturday, March 18: Jason Craig
    The playwright of Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage will be on-site for a pre-show meet-and-greet (6:30 p.m.) and post-show talk.
    The Dairy Arts Center, Carsen Theater, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or the dairy.org

    THE CLOCKTOWER CABARET

    Friday, March 24: The Jerseys sing the Four Seasons and more
    D&F Clocktower, 16th and Arapahoe streets, 303-293-0075 or clocktowercabaret.com

    Superstar


    DENVER ACTORS FUND PRESENTS FILM SERIES...

    Monday, March 13: Screening of the film Jesus Christ Superstar, with live pre-screening entertainment for the cast of the Arvada Center's upcoming stage production of the stage musical. Entertainment 6:30 p.m.; film at 7.
    Alamo Drafthouse Littleton, 7301 S Santa Fe Drive, drafthouse.com

    LOCAL THEATER COMPANY'S LOCAL LAB 2017
    March 17-19: Workshop: "Pain Management" (Devising original theater pieces)
    2-5 p.m. March 17; 12-4 p.m. Saturday; 12-1 p.m. Sunday
    At 311 Mapleton Ave., Boulder

    Friday, March 17: Reading: Wisdom From Everything, by Mia McCullough
    7 p.m. at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder

    Saturday, March 18: Playwrights Panel, moderated by Megan Mathews
    4:30 p.m. at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder

    Saturday, March 18: Reading: Shostakovich, or Silence, by Jason Grote
    6 p.m. at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder

    Sunday, March 19: Reading: The Merchant of Venice, translated by Elise Thoron
    2 p.m. at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder
    Information: 720-379-4470 or localtheatercompany.org

    LONE TREE ARTS CENTER

    Sunday, March 26: Aquila Theatre’s The Trojan War: Our Warrior Chorus
    10075 Commons St., just west of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue, 720-509-1000, lone tree’s home page

    THE SOURCE THEATRE COMPANY
    Every third Monday: Monday! Monday! Monday! Cabaret
    At Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 720-238-1323 or thesourcedenver.org

    STORIES ON STAGE
    Saturdays March 11 and 18: Storybooks on Stage
    Stories will be performed by John Jurcheck, Erin Rollman and Anthony Powell
    March 11: 10:30 a.m. at the McNichols Civic Center Building, 144 W. Colfax Ave., Denver, 303-494-0523 or storiesonstage.org
    March 18: 10:30 a.m. at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St. Boulder, 303-444-7328 or www.thedairy.org
     
  • Final offering of Theatre Company season: Rock musical 'The 12'

    by John Moore | Aug 15, 2014

    Kent quote

    The12_300The 12 rises up where the iconic rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar leaves off: Just after the crucifixion of Jesus that left his closest friends and followers facing powerful crises of faith.

    The world premiere of this highly charged and highly sought new musical by the powerhouse duo of Robert Schenkkan and Neil Berg will be the final offering of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company’s 2014-15 season, Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson announced today. The 12 will open March 27 and run through April 26 on the Stage Theatre. The announcement completes a 2014-15 lineup that begins on Sept. 12 with the new The Unsinkable Molly Brown and will now feature three world premieres.

    Thompson said comparisons to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s JCS will be understandable. But while The 12 shares some similarities, it is different in many ways. Mainly in that Jesus has died and not yet been resurrected. So the focus here is instead on his disciples, working-class men (and women) who have returned to the scene of the Last Supper.

    “It’s similar to Jesus Christ Superstar in that it’s a rock musical -- although it also has R&B, soul and the influence of rock music after the time of Andrew Lloyd Webber,” Thompson said. “However, it’s about a very different moment in the story — after the crucifixion of Jesus and up until the opening of his tomb. And the central characters are the 11 remaining apostles and Mary Magdalene.

    "It focuses on the chaotic and dangerous time after the killing of Christ when his followers are trying to deal with their guilt in abandoning Jesus, (and also) their doubts, fears and promises. Plus, they are in tremendous danger of being caught and killed.”

    In the midst of great chaos and violence, The 12 addresses fundamental questions of faith. “In the face of tragedy,” Thompson said, “Do you abandon your purpose, or do you renew your purpose?”

    Schenkkan won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for The Kentucky Cycle, and his acclaimed LBJ drama All The Way just won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Play, with Bryan Cranston in the title role on Broadway. Schenkkan has been commissioned to write a future play for Thompson through the Steinberg Commission in American Playwriting, named for administrator - and DCPA Trustree - Jim Steinberg. 

    The score for The 12 is written by acclaimed composer/lyricist Neil Berg, whose The Prince and the Pauper ran for two years off-Broadway. He is currently working on the new Broadway­-bound musical Grumpy Old Men.  (That features John Rubenstein, who will be appearing in Denver next month in the launch of the national touring production of Pippin.)

    Berg is known by Denver audiences for writing the musical Heidi, which was commissioned by Douglas Love and premiered at the former Walden Family Playhouse in Lakewood.  Heidi ran for more than 80 performances in its regional premiere here, and has been staged around the country since. Thompson calls his music in The 12 "exciting," and his songs "very compelling and well-written."  

    Schenkkan is one of the most chameleonic writers of the day. Like Matthew Lopez, who wrote the seemingly anachronistic The Whipping Man and The Legend of Georgia McBride, Schenkkan has shown a remarkable breadth in the scope of his work. All The Way traces LBJ’s passing of the landmark Civil Rights Bill of 1964. By the Waters of Babylon follows the steamy romance between a Texas widow and her Cuban gardener. The Kentucky Cycle is a series of nine plays that examine the myths of the American past as they play out for three families in eastern Kentucky over 200 years. What appeals to Thompson most is the epic nature present in all of Schenkkan’s storytelling.

    “Because of his deep research and amazing grasp of history, politics, society and culture, he brings to life indelible characters that feel authentic," Thompson said. "He is endlessly curious, and has great compassion.”

    The 12 will mark the third straight season the Theatre Company will finish with a musical, following Sense & Sensibility and Animal Crackers. Thompson said he was not searching for a musical to fill this last slot, but found The 12 to be the best available project. “It’s not a major change in artistic vision,” he said, “but it fulfills my larger goal to create unforgettable experiences for audiences and artists.” 

    Thompson expects The 12 to be an invitation to a new kind of live theatre audience.

    “I think it will appeal to wide range of audiences, from teens to baby -boomers and beyond,” Thompson said. "Given Robert's script and Neil's music, I believe this show will appeal people of all faiths and backgrounds. Rock is now embedded in our world — we hear it every day. It is more contemporary and vital than classic Broadway music. I also think the journey of the characters will prove very compelling to many, many people, no matter what their faith.”

    The official show description for The 12 reads, in part:

    Thrilling, heart-pounding music and one of the most influential stories of all time unite in The 12, which enacts the ultimate test of faith faced by the disciples in the wake of their leader’s unthinkable death with an original, authentic classic rock music score. The 12 is a rockin’ and profoundly honest journey of fear, doubt, and ultimately, love.

    The 2014-15 Theatre Company season, at a glance:

    Sept. 12-Oct. 26: The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Stage Theatre
    Sept. 26-Nov. 2:William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies, Space Theatre
    Oct. 10-Nov. 16: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Ricketson Theatre 
    Nov 28-Dec 28: A Christmas Carol, Stage Theatre
    Jan. 16-Feb. 22, 2015: Appoggiatura, Ricketson Theatre
    Jan. 30-March 1, 2015: Benediction, Space Theatre
    March 20-April 19, 2015: One Night in Miami, Space Theatre
    March 27-April 26, 2015: The 12, Stage Theatre

    Individual tickets to all Theatre Company shows are available at 303-893-4100 or  click here. Subscriptions start at $278 and are available here.

     

     

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

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