• For one day in Denver, 'Hamilton' makes students the stars

    by John Moore | Mar 23, 2018

    The video above offers a full recap of 'EduHam' day in Denver, complete with interviews and performance excerpts. Separate videos of each individual performance below. Videos by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk and Senior Arts Journalist John Moore.

    Education program allows underserved students to rise up and have their voices be heard before thousands of peers 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Wednesday was no ordinary day at the Buell Theatre.

    The decibel was higher, the shrieks were louder, the ages were younger and the faces were distinctly more varied in color. 

    EduHam Mathenee TrecoThis was “EduHam,” the innovative educational program developed by the Broadway musical phenomenon Hamilton. On Wednesday, 2,700 students and teachers from 38 Denver-area high schools participated in morning activities followed by a matinee performance of the sold-out, Tony Award-winning musical. 

    You knew this performance would be different before it even began when the students in the mezzanine started a wave. You knew it during the show as they finger-snapped in affirmation of lines that connected with them and roared at the end of songs as if this were a rock concert. Which, in many ways, it was. You knew it as the show was ending when one voice pierced the silence with a scream of “Oh my God!” as, onstage, one of history’s most infamous bullets was piercing Alexander Hamilton’s heart.   

    The students were not only watching a piece of history. They were part of it. Because there has simply never been another pop-culture phenomenon quite like Hamilton. And, to shamelessly quote the show's anthem: They were in the room where it happened.

    “There are moments that the words don’t reach … “ 

    Hamilton, winner of 11 Tony Awards, is the story of Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary.  With book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it features a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway.

    Cast member Mathenee Treco calls Hamilton the story of America then, as told by America now.

    Lin-Manuel Miranda on theatre's power to eliminate distance

    Hamilton changes lives,” said Treco, who attended Eaglecrest High School in Aurora. And EduHam was perhaps recalibrating the lives of many of the students who spent the day at the Denver Center participating in the show’s innovative educational program that debuted on Broadway in 2015 and has continued in every city it has visited since.

    The participating students prepared by spending up to three months in their classrooms studying American history through a special integrated curriculum about Hamilton and the nation’s other Founding Fathers. On Wednesday morning, select students performed original works based on their studies – songs, rap, poetry, scenes and monologues – on The Buell Theatre stage, in front of their peers. Afterward, they had a Q&A with six cast members.

    “Immigrants … we get the job done”

    Treco, like Hamilton and many of the students in Wednesday’s audience, is an immigrant himself, having been born in the Bahamas and moving to Aurora with his family at age 6. “Today they saw a representation of themselves on the stage," he said. "Their energy was tangible. I could feel their excitement. And I think it's going to propel them.”

    Hamilton is performed by an almost entirely non-white cast. That the audience on Wednesday was almost entirely students of color, Treco said, was overwhelming — in the best possible way. “I want to see children of color feeling empowered and feeling uplifted,” said Treco. But it was not a coincidence, said Hamilton Education Program Manager Amy DiChristina of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

    It was the point. 

    “The goal of this program is to reach Title I schools across the country, and those schools are very often underserved,” DiChristina said. Title I schools have high percentages of children from impoverished families, many of which speak English as a second language. “They don't have the resources they need. And they don't normally have access to field trips like these, or tickets to a show like this.”

    DiChristina’s research indicates more than 65 percent of students who participate in EduHam  have never before attended a Broadway-level show in their lives. “So to be able to offer them both access and educational resources is the goal,” she said.

    Cast member Sabrina Sloan, who plays socialite Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton and volunteered to emcee the morning program at The Buell, said “it was incredible to see this group of students, specifically being mostly kids of color. I remember the first show my parents took me to was West Side Story, and seeing people who were brown onstage and seeing people who looked like me meant the world. It told me that theatre was something that was accessible to me. So knowing that Hamilton might be their first show ever really gives me chills.”

    (Story continues after the video playlist below.)

    Click the video above to see all 14 of the Denver 'EduHam' student performances in one video playlist. Each one plays after the other. Videos by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    “I wrote my way out…”

    Grace Padilla, a junior at Vantage Point High School, was one of the students who applied for — and won — a chance to recite from her poetry on The Buell stage. She has been writing since she was 7 years old, and self-published her own book at 14. She was inspired to bridge Hamilton’s story with her own by penning a variation on a song from the Broadway musical called “Wrote My Way Out.” It’s the story of how Hamilton, born out of wedlock on the Caribbean island of Nevis, was abandoned by his father, orphaned at 13 and came to the American colonies two years later to further his education. Padilla can relate.

    “I was born of dirt, but I will live of redwoods,” Padilla read, bringing her peers to their feet.

    “Growing up, I had to deal with being very poor in an abusive, broken home,” she said afterward. “Hamilton wrote his way out, and that is what I have been doing with my life, too. I really wanted to touch other people and be their voice and let them know they are heard, too.”

    Noah Thomas, a junior at Atlas Preparatory High School in Colorado Springs, opened the program by reading a poem called “Remember the Ladies,” written by his best friend, Laci Caballero. It's about Abigail Adams, wife of the second president, John Adams.  “While her husband was off building the country, he forgot the ladies," he said afterward. "This was Laci’s way of saying, ‘Remember them.’

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Performing for thousands of peers, Thomas said, made him feel emboldened. 

    "Even though I'm just a 17-year-old kid from Colorado, I felt like my voice was heard, and Laci's words were heard, and the message behind them were heard," he said.

    That, DiChristina said, is the point. “We want these students to go out into the world and feel empowered to use their voices for whatever they feel is important.”

    Four students from West Leadership Academy used their voices to perform a full scene called The Story of Peggy, about Hamilton's wife, in their native Spanish.

    "I’m young, scrappy and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot."

    Padilla said Miranda’s spoken-word writing style is the biggest attraction to Hamilton for students  “because you just can't connect with the younger generation today without a little hip-hop and rap,” she said.

    Treco said Miranda isn’t telling a different story than what is already being told in history books. He’s just telling it in a more exciting way.

    Sloan says presenting constitutional debates and personal disputes as rap battles is not only a clever variation on a Broadway theme — it is an essential way of reaching younger theatre audiences. “And it doesn’t just reach students,” she said. “It reaches everyone across generations, color lines, social, economic backgrounds. There is a truth to it. There is a humanity in how he speaks."  And the way he speaks, Treco added, "makes history sound really, really cool.”

    Life doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints…”

    The Hamilton Education Program is one of several history education programs funded by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. “This project is transformative," said president James G. Basker — who devised the education program in New York in tandem with Miranda, Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller, The Rockefeller Foundation and the New York City Department of Education.

    "Hamilton has struck a chord with students because it embodies what great history education is all about: Bringing the past to life, and fostering connections with the exceptional individuals and moments that have made us who we are. This program empowers students to reclaim their own narrative and empowers teachers to bridge classroom learning with the stage.”

    (Story continues after the video below.)

    The response to EduHam on social media was rapturous. On Twitter, Jill Williams called the Hamilton “the best history lesson ever.” A sample of others:

    • “One of the best things about Hamilton is that every person in the room is excited about art and music and collectively vibrates with good energy,” a woman named Jennifer Tweeted. “We need more of that.”
    • Wrote Lois Rapport on Facebook: This was so fabulous. I am so happy to be a part of a group that encourages learning and helps kids fall in love with the theater. I was lucky that my parents took me to the theater at a young age, and I immediately was hooked.”
    • West Early College posted: We are so proud of our very own Josiah Blackbear, who was selected as one of the students to perform on stage for EduHam Keep an eye on our rising star. He is going places.
    • "That was amazing for those students. I hope the felt as inspired as I did," posted Matt Carnes.

    This is not a moment, it is a movement

    Treco said for it took guts for the high-school students to bare their souls before their peers on the Buell Theatre stage, but he’s sure the experience laid seeds of courage left that are already now germinating.

    "They killed it," Treco said. "Honesty is scary. But at the end of the day, they spoke their truth, and I promise you some of those kids just got really addicted to that feeling. … And some of them will be performing in Hamilton someday.”

    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 participating schools:

    ·    Alameda International High School
    ·    Arapahoe Ridge High School
    ·    Atlas Preparatory School
    ·    Bruce Randolph High School
    ·    Denver School of Science and Technology
    ·    Green Valley Ranch High School
    ·    Denver South High School
    ·    DSST: College View High School
    ·    Early College Academy
    ·    Emily Griffith High School
    ·    Global Leadership Academy
    ·    Harrison High School
    ·    High Tech Early College
    ·    John F. Kennedy High School
    ·    Justice High School
    ·    KIPP Denver Collegiate High School
    ·    KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy
    ·    Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy
    ·    Legacy Options High School
    ·    Manual High School
    ·    Mapleton Early College High School
    ·    Moffat School (K-12)
    ·    Monte Vista High School
    ·    Noel Community Arts School
    ·    North High School
    ·    Northglenn High School
    ·    Overland High School
    ·    RiseUp Community School
    ·    Sheridan High School
    ·    Sierra High School
    ·    STRIVE Prep RISE
    ·    STRIVE Prep- SMART
    ·    STRIVE Preparatory Schools - Excel Campus
    ·    The New America School Thornton
    ·    Vantage Point High School
    ·    Venture Prep
    ·    West Early College
    ·    West Leadership Academy
    ·    York International 

    The student performers (with video links):

    Noah Thomas, Atlas Preparatory School
    “Remember the Ladies”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/0v1stGZo7po

    Esteban Gallegos and Madis, on RustEmily Griffith High School
    “Hypocrisy of America”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/fys9vkwFyWc

    Eduardo Gonzalez and Sydney Hernandez, Global Leadership Academy
    “Boston Tea Party”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/VEbqfxspC58

    Erin JonesHarrison H, igh School
    “My Father”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/mrk_pIx_-7U

    Albert Ortega, High Tech Early College
    “George Washington at Valley Forge”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/dXjmAHPVTAw

    John Le, Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy
    “Aaron Burr”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/-hT17DgOelU

    Luis Castro and Jesus Villa, Mapleton Early College High School
    “Hamilton v. Jefferson Constitution”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/xNR2vJ226_4

    Ryker Poor and Sabian Storm, Moffat School
    “Jefferson v. King George”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/wh1Af6pU5s0

    Precious Allen, Sierra High School
    “Common Sense”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/hAe-INcmJ2k

    Issak Lucero, Strive Prep - SMART
    “Benjamin Franklin"
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/KQBBuj94vxo

    Isabel Aguilar, Jaqueline Garcia and Brandon Garcia
    The New America School at Thornton
    “Boston Massacre”
    Direct video link:  https://youtu.be/xIv7YatWQfE

     Isabel Aguilar, Jaqueline Garcia, Brandon Garcia, The New America School at Thornton
    “Boston Massacre”
    Direct video link: https://youtu.be/bWk5j00QsGc

    Grace Padilla, Vantage Point High School
    “Wrote My Way Out”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/wMlT6NmvrPE

    Josiah Blackbear, West Early College
    “Alexander Hamilton”

    Zehydi Chaparro-Rojas, Jose Torres-Andazola, Rossy Martinez-Sanchez and Alexandra Andazola-Chavez, West Leadership Academy

    “The Story of Peggy”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/sRfGFcMZjC8

  • Videos of all 'EduHam' student performances in Denver

    by John Moore | Mar 22, 2018

    Watch students from 14 schools perform original songs, rap, poetry, scenes and monologues based on studies

    EduHam” is the innovative educational program that Hamilton debuted on Broadway and continued in Denver on Wednesday, March 21, when 2,700 students and teachers from 38 Denver-area high schools attended an all-student matinee performance of the hit musical at The Buell Theatre

    The students spent several weeks in their classrooms studying American history through a special integrated curriculum about Alexander Hamilton and the nation’s Founding Fathers. Before the special performance, students representing various Title I schools performed original works they created based on their classroom studies – songs, rap, poetry, scenes, monologues – in front of their peers on The Buell stage. Title I schools have high percentages of children from low-income families.

    The Hamilton Education Program is one of several history education programs at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. “This project is transformative," said president James G. Basker — who devised the education program in New York in tandem with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, producer Jeffrey Seller, The Rockefeller Foundation and the NYC Department of Education.

    "Hamilton  has struck a chord with students because it embodies what great history education is all about: bringing the past to life, and fostering connections with the exceptional individuals and moments that have made us who we are. This program empowers students to reclaim their own narrative and empowers teachers to bridge classroom learning with the stage.”

    The emcee in Denver was cast member Sabrina Sloan. Later Thursday, you can read more about “EduHam” in Denver on the DCPA NewsCenter, MyDenverCenter.Org

    Click here to see all 14 of the student performances in one video playlist, where each one plays after the other. 

    Noah Thomas
    Atlas Preparatory School
    “Remember the Ladies”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/0v1stGZo7po

    Esteban Gallegos and Madison Rust
    Emily Griffith High School
    “Hypocrisy of America”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/fys9vkwFyWc

    Eduardo Gonzalez and Sydney Hernandez
    Global Leadership Academy
    “Boston Tea Party”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/VEbqfxspC58

    Erin Jones
    Harrison High School
    “My Father”
    Direct link https://youtu.be/mrk_pIx_-7U

    Albert Ortega
    High Tech Early College
    “George Washington at Valley Forge”
    Direct link https://youtu.be/dXjmAHPVTAw

    John Le
    Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy
    “Aaron Burr”
    Direct link https://youtu.be/-hT17DgOelU

    Luis Castro and Jesus Villa
    Mapleton Early College High School
    “Hamilton v. Jefferson Constitution”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/xNR2vJ226_4


    Ryker Poor and Sabian Storm
    Moffat School
    “Jefferson v. King George”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/wh1Af6pU5s0


    Precious Allen
    Sierra High School
    “Common Sense”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/hAe-INcmJ2k

    Issak Lucero
    Strive Prep - SMART
    “Benjamin Franklin”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/KQBBuj94vxo


    Isabel Aguilar, Jaqueline Garcia and Brandon Garcia
    The New America School at Thornton
    “Boston Massacre”
    Direct link:  https://youtu.be/xIv7YatWQfE


    Grace Padilla
    Vantage Point High School
    “Wrote My Way Out”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/bWk5j00QsGc


    Josiah Blackbear
    West Early College
    “Alexander Hamilton”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/wMlT6NmvrPE

    Zehydi Chaparro-Rojas, Jose Torres-Andazola, Rossy Martinez-Sanchez and Alexandra Andazola-Chavez
    West Leadership Academy
    “The Story of Peggy”
    Direct link: https://youtu.be/sRfGFcMZjC8

  • Tickets for 'Hamilton' in Denver go on-sale Jan. 22

    by John Moore | Dec 29, 2017
    Mathenee Treco, Jordan Donica, Ruben J. Carbajal & Michael Luwoye - HAMILTON National Tour (c) Joan MarcusFrom left: Aurora native and Eaglecrest High School graduate Mathenee Treco with Jordan Donica, Ruben J. Carbajal and Michael Luwoye in the 'Hamilton' national touring cast. Tickets for the Denver engagement go on-sale Jan. 22. Photo by Joan Marcus.

    Tickets go on-sale to the public next month with a caveat: Buy only from the Denver Center or risk overpaying 

    Producer Jeffrey Seller and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts announced today that single tickets for Hamilton at the Buell Theatre will go on-sale to the public at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 22, at hamilton.denvercenter.org. Tickets will be available for performances Feb. 27 through April 1.  

    There is a maximum purchase limit of four (4) tickets per account for the engagement. Prices vary by date and availability. There will be a lottery for forty (40) $10 orchestra seats for all performances. Details will be announced closer to the engagement.

    Helpful tips for when Hamilton tickets go on sale in Denver

    Seller said anyone buying tickets to Hamilton anywhere other than hamilton.denvercenter.org runs the risk of overpaying.


    “It's tempting to get tickets any way you can," said Seller. "There are many web sites and people who are selling overpriced, and in some cases, fraudulent tickets. For the best seats, the best prices and to eliminate the risk of counterfeit tickets, all purchases for the Denver engagement should be made through hamilton.denvercenter.org.”



     Hamilton Tickets

    Tickets will also be available by phone at 303-893-4100 or in-person at the DCPA Box Office in the lobby of the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby, located at the northwest corner of the Denver Performing Arts Complex at Speer Boulevard and Arapahoe Street.

    Hamilton is the story of America's Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway, Hamilton is the story of America then, as told by America now.

    To receive alerts related to Hamilton in Denver, click here

    With book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton is based on Ron Chernow’s biography

    The Hamilton creative team previously collaborated on the 2008 Tony Award-winning best musical In the Heights. Hamilton  features scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Paul Tazewell (DCPA Theatre Company's The Unsinkable Milly Brown), lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Nevin Steinberg, hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe, and casting by Telsey + Company, Bethany Knox, CSA. The musical is produced by Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Jill Furman and The Public Theater. The Hamilton original Broadway cast recording is available everywhere nationwide. The Hamilton recording received a 2016 Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album.

    For more information on Hamilton, visit:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Related NewsCenter coverage:

    SoleaPfeifferEmmyRaver-LampmanAmberIman-HAMILTONNationalTour(c)JoanMarcusSolea Pfeiffer, Emmy Raver-Lampman and Amber Iman in the 'Hamilton' national' touring production of 'Hamilton.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

  • After Albee: America's 10 leading, living playwriting voices

    by John Moore | Feb 26, 2017
    Tony Kushner. Steven Barclay Agency.
    Photo: Steven Barclay Agency.

    When Edward Albee died last year, USA Today and Time Magazine were just two major publications that referred to the three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner as “America’s greatest living playwright.” Which begged the question: America now turns its lonely eyes to … whom?”

    That’s the wrong word, of course – “greatest.” Playwriting is not a competitive sport. Substitute the words “most important” or “most influential,” and you have the seeds for a subjective dialogue on those voices who now bear the opportunity – and the burden – to tell the stories that will help audiences make sense of these newly unstable and uncertain times.  Nataki Garrett Quote

    The DCPA NewsCenter posed the “After Albee” question to a swath of local and national playwrights and industry professionals, and it should surprise no one that they believe the leading, living voice in the American theatre today is Tony Kushner. Not  even close.

    But the Top 10 names the survey yielded is a welcome indication that “the status quo is shifting,” said Nataki Garrett, the DCPA’s incoming Associate Artistic Director. The list, which not long ago might have consisted of nearly all white men, is evenly divided between male and female playwrights - even at a time when studies suggest as few as 25 percent of the plays staged in America today are written by women.

    The Top 10 includes not only Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Paula Vogel, Sarah Ruhl and avant-garde off-Broadway pioneer María Irene Fornés, but they are all writers who have in their own ways abandoned old-school literalism in their storytelling.

    Read John Moore's 2005 interview with Edward Albee

    “This list lets us know we’ve entered the 21st century, but we still have much work to do,” Garrett said. “There is not a trans writer in the Top 10, and there are not enough people of color. There is a greater complexity of voices in the American theatre out there.”

    It is notable that while an equal number of male and female theatre professionals were invited to participate in this survey, more men than women actually responded. And yet, the Top 10 still yielded five women. The panel includes playwrights Robert Schenkkan, Caridad Svich and Jason Grote; American Theatre Magazine editor Rob Weinert-Kendt; Eugene O'Neill Theater Center Artistic Director Wendy C. Goldberg, and resigning Denver Center Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson.

    The response to Albee’s death last year seemed to acknowledge a storytelling void in his wake. "But I believe us to be in a Golden Age of American playwriting,” said Goldberg, who championed, among others, Annie Baker and the emerging, 32-year-old African-American Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon).

    How I learned to Drive. Curious TheatreThe Top 10 also acknowledged established names that have dominated the American playwriting landscape for the past five decades - a wide range of voices and tones that spans the bittersweet nostalgic comedy of Neil Simon to the gleeful cruelty of David Mamet, who inspired a generation of followers who have reveled in the worst in human behavior. On the other end of the spectrum is Vogel, best known for her deeply human examination of family incest in How I Learned to Drive, but whose legacy will include her influence as a playwriting professor who has unleashed the boundary-bending creative freedom in two generations of students.

    Read John Moore's 2011 interview with Tony Kushner

    Simon’s place on the list, while obvious and necessary, surprised even some of those whose votes put him there. “I went back and forth over a 24-hour period and was actually very surprised to land on Neil Simon at the top,” said Denver playwright Jeffrey Neuman (Exit Strategies.) “But when you look at the depth, scope and breadth of Simon's career, his plays have had enormous impact and an immeasurable reach. Simon's plays are a part of our cultural consciousness in a way that virtually no other American playwright can claim today.”

    Angels in America. Bas Bleu OpenstageMost of those who placed Kushner at the top of the list did so in acknowledgement of his epic, angry, six-hour masterpiece Angels in America. Written in two parts and now, shockingly, 25 years old, Angels in America “put gay men at the center of American politics, history and mythology at a time when they were marginalized by the culture at large and dying in waves,” wrote Isaac Butler and Dan Kois for slate.com.

    In a 2011 interview, Curious Theatre founder Chip Walton told me what Kushner does better than anyone else is make the personal the political, and the political the personal. “So rather than sitting in a theater and listening to an ideological argument, he tells this deeply human story that is intricately interwoven with the politics at play,” Walton said, referring to Kushner's Homebody/Kabul. Kushner has always embraced the role of the playwright in the political discourse. Even back in 2011, he said, “I don’t think I’ve ever read about a time in human history as dangerous as this.”

    In that interview, which preceded a public appearance in Colorado Springs, I asked Kushner to assess the importance of the playwright, and he looked to the inherent, ephemeral nature of theatre itself. “When a production is done, it’s gone forever,” he said. “You can take pictures of it. You can make a film of it. But it’s not the production. It’s not the same thing. And yes, you can describe it, and you can read hopefully good criticism about it. But the thing itself is gone, and the only thing that remains behind is the Bible. The play. It’s what begins and it’s what endures. It’s the only fixed thing – to the extent that it is fixed.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Stephanie Prugh, recently the dramaturg for the DCPA Theatre Company’s The Glass Menagerie, said Kushner belongs at the top of her list because of his ability to create beautiful and epic plays that capture how humans struggle with prejudice, fear, longing and an innate need for love and acceptance in such an intimate and personal way.

    Tony Kushner Quote“I think sometimes I walk into the theatre longing to be reminded of our collective humanness, especially during these tumultuous times," said Prugh. "Kushner's body of work is challenging us on the most important topics. He never avoids difficult conversations, and he's asking that we not only remember what we are capable of as individuals, but as a collective - defined by the humanness he actively puts on the stage.” 

    Curious Theatre announced last week it will stage Kushner's The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures next year as part of its 20th anniversary season.

    Asked his own opinion on America’s leading playwriting voices, Kushner pointed to Suzan-Lori Parks, calling her Top Dog/Underdog “completely in the tradition of a play like Eugene O’Neill’s Long Days Journey Into Night."

    While this survey specifically sought “writers of plays,” it should be noted that several voters believe lyricists Stephen Sondheim and Lin-Manuel Miranda deserve their places on the list - “by a factor of 10 billion,” said playwright Michael Mitnick (Ed, Downloaded).

    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.


    Tony Kushner

    NUMBER 1Born: New York
    Age: 60
    Best-known work: Angels in America
    Published plays: 30
    He said it: “We’re living in an age right now where there is a problem in general with serious dramatic criticism, which I think is largely gone and has been replaced by a lot of consumer advocacy-type writing. It’s a problem because theater, given how cash-starved it is, is more vulnerable to the effects of newspaper criticism than something like film. Theater really gets damaged when there is a paucity of good criticism around.”
    Comment: "To me, the title of 'greatest living American playwright' should go to an artist whose work combines structural daring with rhetorical heft. His or her plays should be aesthetically thrilling and intellectually stimulating in equal degree, and they should also be possessed of something mysterious - some pulse of life that we can feel without quite being able to name. Tony Kushner's plays [and musical books] epitomize all those qualities. His work can be savored purely for its aesthetics, yet for anyone trying to think big thoughts about America, it's also an indispensable companion. Plus, one always gets the sense of something bigger lurking just outside his scripts, waiting for us to grasp it. It's exhilarating." – Mark Blankenship, Theatre Development Fund


    Sam ShepardSam Shepard

    NUMBER 2Born: Fort Sheridan, Ill.
    Age: 73
    Best-known work: Buried Child
    Published plays: 62
    He said it: “The funny thing about having all this so-called success is that behind it is a certain horrible emptiness.”
    Comment: "Shepard’s dramatic world often takes on the struggles of manhood and is peopled with derelict, disappointed somnambulists: Unmoored souls who form a kind of tribe of the living dead, deracinated men trying to escape a sense of shame that they only vaguely understand. They recede from family, from society, and, through drink, from themselves.” John Lahr, The New Yorker (from his essay here)

    lynn nottageLynn Nottage
    NUMBER 3Born: Brooklyn
    Age: 52
    Best-known work: Ruined
    Published plays: 22
    She said it: "I always thought of my mother as a warrior woman, and I became interested in pursuing stories of women who invent lives in order to survive."
    Comment: “For 30 years, Lynn Nottage has written quality plays from an African-American perspective that are socially important and appeal to wide audiences. I would say she is the successor to August Wilson in that regard.” - DCPA Director of New Play Development Douglas Langworthy. Playwright Michael Mitnick calls Nottage “the inheritor of Paula Vogel and John Guare.”

    Suzan-Lori ParksSuzan-Lori Parks
    NUMBER 4Born: Fort Knox, Ky.
    Age: 53
    Best-known work: Top Dog/Underdog
    Published plays: 19
    She said it: “I don't care what anybody says. Stick to the spirit of the play and you're doing it right. It's about embracing the spirit of the text instead of noodling some idea about things.
    Comment: “As with Caryl Churchill, one doesn’t know what to expect next from her. She can be playful, serious, and theatrical all at the same time. She is bold. She has a lot of plays left to write and she has remained loyal to the theater.” Playwright Rogelio Martinez.
    And another: "Parks brilliantly and unapologetically revises history, revealing the ways in which the personal truly is political. Her plays are delightfully irreverent, keenly subversive, radiant, hilarious, heartbreaking and ultimately very, very important." Emily K. Harrison, founder, square product theatre company

    Neil SimonNeil Simon
    NUMBER 5Born: The Bronx, N.Y.
    Age: 89
    Best-known work: The Odd Couple
    Published plays: 34
    He said it: “All comedy is based on hostility.”
    Comment: “Neil Simon. Yeah, I said it. (Bleep) everyone who disagrees. Comedy is an art, and he is the most popular artist of his generation and beyond because his comedy is foundational and spot-on. Humans love it. Not snobby-smart humans. Humans. That is my statement.” Denver actor Michael Bouchard

    Paual_VogelPaula Vogel
    NUMBER 6Born: Washington, D.C.
    Age: 65
    Best-known work: How I Learned to Drive
    Published plays: 15
    She said it: “The theatre is now so afraid to face its social demons that we've given that responsibility over to film. But it will always be harder to deal with certain issues in the theatre. The live event - being watched by people as we watch - makes it seem all the more dangerous.”
    Comment: “The woman is a lot like her plays: Fun to listen to, tough, relentlessly friendly, and more than a little bit twisted. Paula also holds something back, as her plays do so brilliantly. An unreadable smile, a demon or two, a voice that cracks from pain and then recovers; enigmas, left for her audience to explore or not.” – Actor Mary Louise Parker (in an interview here)

    Sarah RuhlSarah Ruhl
    NUMBER 7Born: Wilmette, Ill.
    Age: 42
    Best-known work: The Clean House
    Published plays: 19
    She said it: “Theatre is, at its roots, some very brave people mutually consenting to a make-believe world, with nothing but language to rest on.”
    Comment: "Sarah Ruhl she knows that childhood shapes world events with a vengeance, even among the powerful. More, she is a deeply literary writer, and what this gentle literary pilferer peruses, she uses. She reads Shakespeare and re-dreams his romances; she reads Woolf and time travels with Orlando. She makes a play from the letters of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. – Todd London, Executive Director of the University of Washington's School of Drama (from his essay here)


    MariaIreneFornesMaría Irene Fornés
    NUMBER 8Born: Cuba
    Age: 86
    Best-known work: And What of the Night?
    Published plays: 45
    You should know: Fornés is a Cuban-American avant-garde playwright and director who was a leading figure of the Off-Off Broadway movement in the 1960s. Fornés' themes focused on poverty and feminism, and lesbian identity has been central to her art.
    Comment: “María Irene Fornés is a rough contemporary to Albee who created a new kind of visceral and feminist language for the stage, writing drama as if she'd just landed from another planet and was handed a few random pages of Ibsen and Chekhov.” – playwright Jason Grote, ‘1001’


    David MametDavid Mamet
    NUMBER 9Born: Chicago
    Age: 69
    Best-known work: Glengarry Glen Ross
    Published plays: 104
    He said it: “Nobody cares what you feel.”
    Comment: “The master provocateur is infuriatingly brilliant, having spent the majority of his career honing a peculiar, cruel adeptness for showing men and women at their most amoral and violent. His world is a vulgar wasteland devoid of ethics and compassion, but there is an undeniably rhythmic intoxication to his dialogue.” – DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore

    David Lindsay-AbaireDavid Lindsey-Abaire

    NUMBER 10Born: Boston
    Age: 47
    Best-known work: Rabbit Hole
    Published plays: 18
    He said it: “Look, writing Rabbit Hole came out of an interest in diversifying my portfolio, frankly.”
    Comment: “Rabbit Hole is the most perfect play I know of by a living playwright. It strikes the utmost balance between pathos and progress as it examines the relationships of all those left behind after the child's death.” – playwright Leslie C. Lewis

    (in alphabetical order)

    Lee Blessing
    “Lee Blessing is, in my opinion, the best-kept secret in American theatre. He has written more plays than Shakespeare and is produced all over the country. His plays are always about something. He has said, ‘The purpose of theater is to shake you up, not give you a warm glow. That's the job of the circus.’ His plays make me think, let me grow and develop as a human being.” - Director Christy Montour-Larson

    Stephen Adly Guirgis
    “I feel strongly that any ‘great’ American playwright should know how to capture the complex and vibrant voices of a diverse America. I fear that many great playwrights get overlooked because they don't consistently write stories from a cultural point of view that is shared by the theatre-patron majority. With Guirgis, I feel there's a vibrancy and cultural complexity to his work that captures America. And as an actor, I love the visceral tensions that fill the souls and words of his characters." - Regan Linton, Artistic Director and Acting Executive Director, Phamaly Theatre Company

    Arthur Kopit
    "He’s had a long career and written some incredible plays. What makes him special is you just don’t know what he’ll write next. Wings, Indians and Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad, are all classics. The Road to Nirvana has not been seen by enough people, but it’s funny and vicious as all hell. People forget that a lot of his plays are a response to the times he was living in when he wrote them." - ‘Blind Date’ Playwright Rogelio Martinez

    Tarell Alvin McCraney
    "I put Tarell on my list because he's doing something so new and different. He is telling important and intriguing stories for the African-American communities as well as the LGBTQ world. But he is still so young. I think, if he continues to be so prolific, he will be the greatest." - Josh Hartwell, Dramatists Guild

    Terrence McNally
    "My vote is for longevity, continuity, diversity of subject matter, openly addressing homosexuality and the AIDS crisis, working in both straight-play and musical genres, and general intelligence, wit and social criticism. But I vote for McNally especially for Master Class." - DCPA Literary Associate Chad Henry

    Lin-Manuel Miranda
    "Lin-Manuel Miranda is reinventing the American theatre in an unprecedented way. 'Greatest playwright since Shakespeare' is a bit premature, but I hope it ends up being true." - Steve Wilson, Mizel Arts and Cultural Center Executive Director 

    Stephen Sondheim
    “Time will accurately lump him with Mozart and Shakespeare. (And yet, Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize.)" - Playwright Michael Mitnick

    And another: "Sondheim is, in fact, the greatest theatrical voice alive today." - Blind Date playwright Rogelio Martinez


    • Mark Blankenship, Theatre Development Fund
    • Michael Bouchard, Denver actor and writer
    • Ben Dicke, Theatre Department Chair at The Chicago Academy for the Arts
    • Brian Freeland, New York writer and director
    • Wendy C. Goldberg, Artistic Director, Eugene O'Neill Theater Center
    • Jason Grote, playwright
    • Emily K. Harrison, square product theatre company founder
    • Josh Hartwell, playwright, Dramatists Guild
    • Chad Henry, playwright, DCPA Literary Associate
    • Douglas Langworthy, DCPA Director of New Play Development
    • Leslie C. Lewis, playwright
    • Regan Linton, actor, Phamaly Theatre Company Artistic Director and Acting Executive Director
    • Ina Marlowe, director
    • Rogelio Martinez, playwright
    • Melissa Lucero McCarl, playwright
    • Timothy McCracken, actor, DCPA Education Head of acting
    • Charlie Miller, DCPA Associate Artistic Director for Strategy and Innovation
    • Michael Mitnick, playwright
    • Christy Montour-Larson, director
    • Jeffrey Neuman, playwright
    • Bev Newcomb, director
    • Stephanie Prugh, dramaturg
    • Robert Schenkkan, playwright
    • Howard Sherman, Director at Arts Integrity Initiative at the New School for Drama
    • Philip Sneed, Arvada Center Executive Director
    • Octavio Solis, playwright
    • Caridad Svich, playwright
    • Kent Thompson, DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director
    • Diep Tran, American Theatre Magazine
    • Allison Watrous, DCPA Director of Education
    • Rob Weinert-Kendt, Editor, American Theatre Magazine
    • Edith Weiss, actor, director, playwright
    • Rebecca Weitz, Managing Director, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Stephen Weitz, Producing Ensemble Director, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder, playwright
    • Steve Wilson, Executive Director, Mizel Arts and Culture Center

    Selected previous coverage of the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit:
    Summit stands in thanks to departing founder Kent Thompson
    2017 Summit welcomes dozens for opening rehearsal
    Summit Spotlight: Robert Schenkkan on the dangers of denial
    Summit Spotlight: Lauren Yee lays it all on the free-throw line
    Summit Spotlight: Rogelio Martinez on when world leaders collide
    Summit Spotlight: Donnetta Lavinia Grays on the aftermath of trauma
    Summit Spotlight: Eric Pfeffinger on the fertile comedy of a divided America
    Record four student writers to have plays read at Summit
    DCPA completes field of five 2017 Summit playwrights

  • Denver's North High School gets real with 'In the Heights'

    by John Moore | Feb 20, 2017
    Video preview: In the Heights

    Video above: Rehearsal footage from 'In the Heights,' which will be performed Feb. 23-25 at Denver North High School. 

    Everyone from a Pulitzer Prize-winner to the Flobots are helping to launch a unique high-school collaboration.

    Long before Hamilton was a distant rhyme in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ear, his breakthrough Broadway musical In the Heights was changing the landscape – and the shade – of the Great White Way.

    In the Heights, the 2008 Tony Award winner for best musical, is the story of a close-knit Manhattan barrio where Latino immigrants struggle to eke out small pieces of the American dream as their neighborhood is gentrifying and splitting apart. Broadway hadn’t seen anything even remotely like it since perhaps West Side Story.

    For three nights starting Thursday, Denver’s North High School and Strive Prep Excel High School will collaborate on the work that changed the language of the American musical by bringing hip-hop and spoken-word rap to mainstream stage life.

    North High School. In The Heights. Photo by John Moore

    With a cast of 26, In the Heights is not only introducing many minority students to the joy of live theatre performance, it gives them a story to tell that most of them feel in their bones. Students like North High junior Maya Stone, who plays Nina, an overachiever who drops out of Stanford. “It is really amazing to be able to put on a show that the whole cast can relate to on a personal level,” she said.

    And students like Strive Prep Excel High School junior Alan Sanchez, whose first role on a stage of any kind will be starring as the narrator Usnavi – yes, the role same role that made Miranda a star. Usnavi runs a struggling bodega out of familial obligation but has dreams of a larger life.

    “This show is important to me because, as a fellow immigrant, I can relate to my character, and I'm sure many others can, as an immigrant not trying to make it to the top but to try to live a good and healthy life,” said Sanchez.

    Motown the Musical cast visits North High School

    Music Director Edwina Lucero of Strive Prep said her kids were born to play these roles. “I think Lin-Manuel has given us this art that students who are not white or particularly well-versed in musical theatre can step in and play so genuinely,” she said.

    In the Heights has only one featured character who is not Latino. The minority enrollment at North High is 90 percent - 85 percent of whom are considered economically disadvantaged. In other words: It’s a perfect fit.

    North High School In The Heights. Photo by John Moore“My goal has been to create a comprehensive drama program at North that is not only sustainable but open to all students, no matter their experience or social-economic status,” said director Megan Gilman, who is in her fourth year at North. (Pictured: Edwina Lucero, left, and Megen Gilman. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Choosing to do In the Heights, Gilman said, was a simple decision.

    “The show speaks to the gentrification that several North Denver neighborhoods are facing,” she said. “It also gives voice to students who are not used toIn the Heights quote seeing characters like themselves on a stage. The talent in North Denver is astounding, and I am proud to be a small part in bringing it to the larger community.”

    That larger community has lent its support as well, helping to raise $15,000 to stage the play. Quiara Alegria Hudes, who wrote the speaking portions of In the Heights, recently beamed in for a 30-minute Skype conversation with the Denver cast to offer encouragement and answer questions. Hudes won a Pulitzer Prize for writing the play Water by the Spoonful, which recently was performed at Curious Theatre. 

    “She was amazing,” Lucero said. “She talked about her process in writing the show, about the role that storytelling plays in her life, and about the importance of authenticity in musical theatre.”

    Photo gallery: North High/Strive Prep's In the Heights

    'In the Heights' at North High School
    Photos from rehearsal for Denver North/Strive Prep's upcoming production of 'In the Height.' To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. All photos may be downloaded for free by clicking. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Among the 10-person live orchestra will be Stephen Brackett and drummer Kenny O of the Flobots, a Denver-based band that is committed to social justice and global betterment. (Brackett is the co-founder of Youth on Record.) The creative team includes choreographer Ricardo Changeux, Set Designer Allan Trumpler, Sound Designer Michael Cousins, Music Advisor Erin Cisney and Costume Designer Mona Lucero. Former North High School drama director Antonio Mercado has helped raise funds.

    Michelle Alves and CJ Wright of Motown the Musical at North High SchoolMichelle Alves, a Puerto Rican-born actor in the national touring production of Motown the Musical, stopped by North High School last week to offer words of encouragement. And the students, in turn, performed a song from the show for her. (Pictured right.)

    In the Heights is one of my favorite musicals because it represents my culture in such a beautiful way, and to know that a high school in Denver is doing the show makes me so happy,” Alves said. “If I can be honest, it’s really hard to find In the Heights in performance because it is so culturally specific. It’s really hard to find the people you need to do the show. So I think this production at North High School is going to be phenomenal. Magnificent.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The support the students have gotten from all over, says Stone, “has been absolutely inspiring.”

    For everything new that In the Heights represented when it burst onto the Broadway landscape in 2008, Miranda told me in an interview at the time that the musical should also feel as familiar to audiences as Fiddler on the Roof, with nods to Our Town, Rent and West Side Story. Listen closely, and you’ll pick up Miranda’s references to Cole Porter and even Lord of the Rings.

    North High School In The Heights. Fiddler on the Roof really was our template,” said Miranda, who won 2016 Tony Awards for writing and starring in Hamilton. “For the story we wanted to tell, about a community in the face of change, there’s really no better example to look to. We saw the parallel where Anatevka is a community where everything has been the same way for hundreds of years, and now the world is changing around it. They had to decide, ‘What do we take with us, and what do we say is non-negotiable?’

    “In the Heights’ is almost the inverse of that,” he continued. “When everyone is from everywhere, and we all have our disparate traditions, coming from so many different Latin American countries, we have to decide: What do we pass on?”

    As for the language of hip-hop, which seemed like such a novelty to Broadway audiences at the time, Miranda said it was never a novelty to him.

    Why Lin-Manuel Miranda's father is obsessed with Molly Brown

    “I never existed in a time when hip-hop didn’t exist,” he said. “It’s how any character my age who grew up in this neighborhood would express himself.”

    For Alan Sanchez, the young actor playing the starring role at North High School, the experience of putting on this play has been not unlike his character’s search for a place to belong.

    “With all the things that have been happening with the economy and politics, escapism should be something we value,” he said. “And this musical shows people this is our home.”

    There couldn't be a better place or time to put on In The Heights, added his castmate. “I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this huge accomplishment for the North Denver community," said Stone. "This is only the beginning for us.”

    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.

    In the Heights posterIn the Heights: Ticket information
    • Feb. 23, 24 and 25
    • 7 p.m.
    • 2960 Speer Boulevard
    • Main entrance located on West 32nd Avenue at Eliot Street
    • Adult tickets are $10; students and seniors $5
    • Tickets available at the door.

  • Broadway's 'Hamilton' is heading to Denver

    by NewsCenter Staff | Jul 06, 2016

    By Heidi Bosk
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    The national tour of the Broadway musical Hamilton will play the Buell Theatre as part of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ 2017-18 Broadway subscription series, it was announced today by producer Jeffrey Seller and the DCPA.
    On Sunday, Hamilton won 11 2016 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, after having set the all-time record with 16 nominations.

    Hamilton. Daveed Diggs. The best way to guarantee tickets to Hamilton is to purchase a full 2016-17 Broadway subscription. Broadway subscribers who renew their 2016-17 Broadway subscription packages for the 2017-18 Broadway season will guarantee their tickets for the DCPA's premiere engagement of Hamilton.

    Hamilton will be on the 2017-18 Broadway subscription package. Information regarding engagement dates and how to purchase groups and single tickets will be announced at a later time.
    DCPA's full 2016-17 Broadway subscription package features the pre-Broadway debut of Frozen, The Phantom of the Opera, Roundabout Theatre Company's Cabaret, An Act of God, Finding Neverland, Fun Home, An American in Paris and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Subscriptions for the 2016-17 Broadway season start as low as eight payments of $51.25 and are available at DenverCenter.org.  Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for the Broadway touring productions in Denver.

    (Pictured above right: Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette the Broadway musical 'Hamilton.')
    With book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical direction and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

    Subscription information for 2016-17 Broadway season

    Hamilton is the story of America's Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary.  Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway, Hamilton is the story of America then, as told by America now.  
    Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowa, Anthony Ramos and Lin-Manuel Miranda in 'Hamilton.'
    Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos and Lin-Manuel Miranda from the Tony Award-winning Broadway cast of 'Hamilton.'

    's creative team previously collaborated on the 2008 Tony Award-winning Best Musical In the Heights.
    Hamilton features scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Paul Tazewell (DCPA Theatre Company's The Unsinkable Molly Brown), lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Nevin Steinberg, hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe, and casting by Telsey + Company, Bethany Knox, CSA.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Hamilton is produced by Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Jill Furman and The Public Theater.
    The Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording is available everywhere nationwide. The Hamilton recording received a 2016 Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album.
    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA's News Center.
    For more information on Hamilton, visit:

    Hamilton’s 2016 Tony Awards:
    Best Musical: Hamilton
    Best Book of a Musical: Lin-Manuel Miranda
    Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theater:
    Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Leslie Odom Jr.
    Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Daveed Diggs
    Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Renee Elise Goldsberry
    Best Costume Design of a Musical: Paul Tazewell
    Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Howell Binkley
    Best Direction of a Musical: Thomas Kail    
    Best Choreography: Andy Blankenbuehler
    Best Orchestrations: Alex Lacamoire

    Related DCPA NewsCenter coverage:
    Tony Awards offer powerful response to Orlando massacre
    The HamilTony Awards: What Denver’s voter has to say 
    Colorado's ties to the 2016 Tony Award nominations
    Lin-Manuel Miranda on the power of theatre to eliminate distance
    Why Lin-Manuel Miranda's father is obsessed with The Unsinkable Molly Brown

    Hamilton. Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Gold, Cephas Jones.
    Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones.

    The Broadway company of Hamilton.
    The Broadway company of 'Hamilton.'

  • The HamilTony Awards: What Denver’s voter has to say

    by John Moore | Jun 09, 2016

    Colorado Tony Awards Connections Kyle Malone 
    Graphic above by DCPA Art Director Kyle Malone.

    Click for an expandable version of the graphic

    DCPA Broadway Executive Director John Ekeberg has been a Tony Awards voter since 2006. And while it would be professional bad form for him to express a preference for one musical over any another, he is among the few, the bold, and the brave who are going out on a limb and calling this year’s awards “The HamilTonys.”

    “I would say Ross Perot has a better chance of winning the Democratic presidential nomination than Hamilton has of losing the Best Musical Tony Award,” Ekeberg said, adding with a wink: “But you never know until all the votes are counted.”

    Hamilton Hamilton (pictured right) is the rare piece of live theater to cross over into the mainstream popular culture. But it is perhaps the first to do so before anyone outside of Broadway has even seen it. Interest in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop-infused musical about the founding fathers is approaching what Variety calls “stratospheric levels.”

    Hamilton is nominated for 16 Tony Awards, more than any other show in Broadway history. It can’t break The Producers’ all-time record with 12 wins on Sunday night (7 p.m., CBS), but it’s a mathematical impossibility only because the show has so many multiple nominees in the same individual acting categories. Still, Hamilton is nominated in every category of theatremaking — acting, writing, directing, dancing, music and design.

    John EkebergHamilton is sold-out on Broadway through January 2017. It is regularly propped and promoted on daytime and late-night television. But if you really want to know how deep Hamilton Fever runs, consider that officials at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo have named a new camel born there last month “Alexander Camelton.”

    We are having a pop-culture moment, said Ekeberg (pictured right).

    “I think where Hamilton really succeeded was the gestalt of it all,” said Ekeberg. “When a piece of theatre works, there is something about it that is larger than the sum of its individual parts. Hamilton succeeds at all of the things that make theatrical storytelling great.”

    Here is our complete list of 2016 Tony Awards nominees

    Ekeberg said the musical is resonating with audiences on multiple levels. “Some of the issues the story touches on regarding diversity and immigration and our country’s values at its beginning are revealing meaningful truths about where we are as a country today,” he said.  

    But if Hamilton is going to run the table on Sunday night, is there any reason to even watch on Sunday night? “Absolutely,” Ekeberg was quick to say back. Since CBS began broadcasting the awards in 1978, the annual telecast has become an essential opportunity to introduce to heartland American audiences the musicals that will be visiting their cities in the coming years.

    “It is incredibly important that as many TV viewers tune into the Tony Awards as possible,” said Ekeberg. And with interest in Hamilton skyrocketing, Ekeberg believes the often ratings-challenged broadcast could get a boost.

    Hamilton is a fantastic show, no question, and I expect it to do very well in terms of awards,” Ekeberg said. “But it was a great season on Broadway all around, and a lot of shows will be featured on that broadcast. I am excited that whatever attention Hamilton brings to the broadcast means more people will see other shows like Shuffle Along and Waitress as well.

    “The Tony Awards are a celebration of all things Broadway, and if Hamilton means more people will tune into the celebration because of it, then all the better. I like to believe the old saying that a rising tide floats all boats.”

    What strikes Ekeberg most about the Broadway theatre season just passed was its unprecedented diversity. Of the 40 acting nominations, 14 went to black, Hispanic and Asian-American actors. Contrast that with the controversy the Academy Awards faced in February over the lack of nominations for nonwhite performers.

    “From Hamilton to Shuffle Along to The Color Purple to On Your Feet, it’s been an amazing season for diversity on Broadway,” said Ekeberg. But the open-door policy goes far beyond skin color. This season brought Deaf West’s acclaimed production of Spring Awakening, which included not only hearing-impaired actors, but the first non-able-bodied actress to appear on Broadway in a wheelchair (Ali Stoker).

    Tony Awards Trivia TONY AWARDS 3

    Additionally, Waitress became the first Broadway musical with an all-female creative team. And the powerful political drama Eclipsed was the first Broadway play written by, directed by and starring women.

    “It’s been a pretty amazing year,” Ekeberg said.

    We talked to Ekeberg further about the Tony Awards, who votes for them, and what else to look for on Sunday’s broadcast, which will be hosted by Broadway actor, film star and now, late-night TV host James Corden.

    James Corden Tony Awards John Moore: So, who are the Tony Awards voters, anyway?

    John Ekeberg: There are approximately 846 eligible voters, the vast majority of whom are New York theatre professionals. Tony voters include full members of The Broadway League as well as the board of directors and designated members of the advisory committee of the American Theatre Wing, which is comprised of theatre professionals, general managers and those of us from out-of-town who oversee touring Broadway programming in those communities.

    John Moore: Why is it important that the touring community has a voice in determining the winners?

    John Ekeberg: Broadway is first and foremost a New York-centric business. But I actually think that as the years go on, the lifespan of any piece of commercial theatre is only expanded by its increased exposure on the road.

    John Moore: How much do the Tony Awards directly affect what shows we eventually see in Denver?

    John Ekeberg: I take the results very seriously. If the profession-at-large has determined a show to be the best musical of any given season, there would be no reason I would prevent the Denver community from seeing that show. I feel like part of our role here is to keep our local community at the forefront of the pulse of Broadway theatre, and certainly winning the Tony Award for best musical qualifies a show as being a part of that heartbeat.

    Tuck Everlasting Cynthia Settje. Sketches by Gregg Barnes
    Cynthia Settje's Boulder shop Redthreaded was called upon to build some costumes for the Tony Award-nominated 'Tuck Everlasting.' Sketch by Gregg Barnes.

    John Moore: Still, it must takes some courage to book underdog or controversial Best Musical winners such as Fun Home and Spring Awakening.

    John Ekeberg: I don’t know that it takes courage. When I heard the name “Fun Home” announced as last year’s Best Musical, my immediate reaction was, “When is it getting to Denver?” I never gave it a second thought. I just can’t imagine getting a call from John Q. Public asking me, ‘Why didn’t you book the Tony Award-winner for Best Musical?’ - and not having a good answer for that.

    John Moore: But your predecessor Randy Weeks said it took some real soul-searching for him to eventually book Spring Awakening.

    John Ekeberg: Things have changed.  I go back to how freaked out people were about Avenue Q. I feel like our Denver audiences, time and time again, have proven to us that challenging material is valuable to their lives, and they want it to be seen onstage here in Denver. I think we’re in a really exciting time where we have a lot of shows that are telling important stories from interesting points of view.

     Tony Awards Trivia

    Tony Awards telecast information

    • The Tony Awards will air on a one-hour delay at 7 p.m. MDT on CBS-4.
    • Host: James Corden
    • Watch the pre-show, red-carpet special live online at tonyawards.com
  • Photos: Brenda Billings' Life Celebration brings Ashford home

    by John Moore | Apr 20, 2016
    Brenda Billings Life Celebration
    Photos from Brenda Billings' Life Celebration. To see more, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by Sarah Roshan and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. (Read Roshan's accompanying blog here).

    On April 19, an overflow crowd gathered at Denver School of the Arts to honor Brenda Billings, who was the co-Artistic Director at Miners Alley Playhouse, President of the Denver Actors Fund and a longtime contributor to Colorado’s non-profit community. Brenda Billings died April 13 of complications from a sudden brain hemorrhage. She was 57.

    Billings will be remembered as an intuitive director, a ferociously free spirit and a mother to hundreds. She was feted with stories and songs from family and friends, including Tony-winning actor Annaleigh Ashford, who considers Billings a second mother. Ashford sang both "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz and "For Good" from Wicked.

    Read our tribute to Brenda Billings

    Another surprise came when a video was shown featuring members of the cast of the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton. Much was made of not only Billings' love for the show, but also for her personal directing mantra: "Are we telling the story?" 

    Several Hamilton cast members made a selfie video singing "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?" from the show. Its lyrics include: "But when you’re gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame?"

    The evening ended with "Song of Purple Summer," from Spring Awakening, led by Billings' daughters Jacquie Jo and Jamie, as well as nephew Tucker Worley, family and friends.

    Annaleigh Ashford They were backed by the cast of Denver School of the Arts' Spring Awakening, which soon will travel to a national high-school competition as one of only two invited productions. 

    Look for video highlights in the days to come.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    The Denver Actors Fund also announced an upcoming tribute evening in partnership with the Denver Hard Rock Cafe.

    "Be Brave," on Tuesday, May 10, will be a night of songs from musicals directed by  Billings featuring returning cast members from Hair, Hairspray, The Fantasticks, Godspell, Songs For a New World and more. The Emcee will be Paul Dwyer and the Musical Director will be Mitch Samu. Detals below. Tickets $25 and advance purchase is strongly recommended: Maximum capacity is 150.

    Highlights from the Brenda Billings memorial concert

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda on the power of theatre to eliminate distance

    by John Moore | May 20, 2015
    Lin-Manuel Miranda Quote 4

    NEW YORK - Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer and star of the big-buzz, Broadway-bound hip-hop musical bio Hamilton, had a message for attendees of the Broadway League conference last week:

    When life tells you it's time to go... it's time to go.

    Keynote speaker Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Broadway League's 2015 Spring Road Conference. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.The Caribbean-born Alexander Hamilton had his epiphany working for a rum- and slave-trading company in New Jersey. Luis Miranda, father of the Tony-winning rapper, lyricist, and actor of In The Heights fame, had his moment watching West Side Story at a cinema in a small Puerto Rican town in 1961.

    Read more: Why Lin-Manuel Miranda's father is obsessed with 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown'

    Hamilton, of course, went on to become chief aide to George Washington and took up residence on the $10 bill. Luis Miranda left Puerto Rico for New York and rose to prominence as a New York political consultant who has served in three New York City mayoral administrations. And he's a self-professed musical theatre geek.

    In a powerful keynote speech before the nation's leading theatre presenters, producers and theatre owners on May 12 at the Hudson Theatre, Miranda spoke of the two epiphanies that everyone who finds a life in the theatre has: Transcendence and action.

    Photo above: Keynote speaker Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Broadway League's 2015 Spring Road Conference. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

    Photo below: Lin-Manuel Miranda stars as Alexander Hamilton, which opens for Broadway previews on July 13. Photo by Joan Marcus.


    Here is an excerpt from Lin-Manuel Miranda's keynote address:

    There are two moments that happen to everyone who has a life in this business: The moment where the theatre first transported us. And as Moss Hart says to George Abbott in Act One, we have the moment where we say, 'I mean to have a life in this business.'

    I want to talk about those two moments for me. I want to talk about transcendence and action.

    Lin-Manuel Miranda stars as Alexander Hamilton, which opens for Broadway previews on July 13. Photo by Joan Marcus. My father was born in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, and his moment of transcendence happened in a family way. His uncle, Ernesto Concepcion, was the founder of the Actors Guild of Puerto Rico. His first memories were of his uncle playing John Merrick in The Elephant Man. One minute he is kissing his uncle hello backstage. The next he is seeing his uncle as John Merrick in a room full of crying people. And John Merrick isn't Puerto Rican. He is transformed. The man in front of him is both his uncle and not his uncle. And nothing is ever really the same for him again.

    My father was born in 1954; West Side Story came out in 1957. West Side Story did not send an Equity tour to Puerto Rico. My father had to see it at the movies. And back in 1961, there was just one movie theatre in Vega Alta, which was a town of 30,000 then, and it played just one movie every day at 8 o'clock.

    There is that moment where Maria is standing over Tony, and Schrank and Krupke are going to pick up the body. She screams, "Don't you touch him!" ... and the audience laughs. But my father is in tears. He is 7 years old, and he is balling.

    And why is my father the only one crying while everyone else is making fun of gang members dancing, and making fun of Natalie Wood's accent that sounds suspiciously like Marni Nixon when she sings?

    Lin-Manuel Miranda and his father, Luis. My father didn't see any of that, and it's because he had that early exposure to John Merrick. He had that thing that movies don't really have that can only happen in live theatre. When we're all in the same room together, and we all decide to believe the same moment. We see a man who is not disfigured. But he says he is disfigured, and so we believe him. And so when everyone else who is watching the movie laughs at this outburst of emotion, my father is a wreck. And it's because he grew up watching his uncle's shows in a live theatre. 

    This was my father's moment of action. He looked around at everyone laughing at the grieving Puerto Rican widow Maria and he said, 'I've got the get the (bleep) out of this town.' And he left the Caribbean. He met my mom, he moved to New York and he never went back. And I grew up here with my sister.

    Photo: Lin-Manuel Miranda and his father, Luis. Photo courtesy Luis Miranda.

    My first moment of transcendence and action was seeing The Phantom of the Opera. It was my first Broadway musical. I was 12 years old, and I’ll never forget: There’s Raul banging on the door, and Christine could go over and open the door for him. But instead, she goes into the basement with The Phantom, who is playing really cool music. And I realized - on the cusp of puberty - that I am never going to be the good-looking guy at the door. I am going to be the guy in the basement playing the cool music. I identified so deeply with that guy.

    My moment of action came a few years later when, for my 17th birthday, my girlfriend took me to see Rent on Broadway in its first year. 

    Again, I grew up loving musicals. My dad was a lifelong collector of cast albums. But I didn't think I had a way in. I had parts in the school musicals, but I knew was never really going to get to play the Modern Major General in The Pirates of Penzance - they are going to go for the standard white guy for that part. And then I saw Rent, which took place in my city, downtown. The notion that a musical could take place today was groundbreaking to me. And that these characters were struggling with the urgencies of life and death today, and with the conflict of, "Do I pursue what I love and make a life in this business - or do I make money?" I have friends who make money, and they are really happy. But I am choosing a much harder path.

    I started writing musicals after seeing Rent. There was a moment of transcendence, and there was a moment of action.

    Lin-Manuel Miranda Quote 1

    But this goes beyond transcendence and action: It’s empathy. When you create that moment between the audience and the people onstage, you’re asking the audience to live outside of themselves. You’re asking the audience to identify with people they might not normally ordinarily identify with.

    I went on vacation in 2008, and I grabbed a book at random from a bookstore – back when bookstores still existed. It was Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton. I grabbed it because I love reading biographies, and all I knew about Hamilton was that he died in a duel. So I thought, "This will have a good ending at least." 

    So I started to read the book, and I didn’t know that Alexander Hamilton was born in the Caribbean. He was born in Nevis (in the British West Indies) and later moved to St. Croix. By the end of the second chapter, this young man has seen every manner of hardship: His father leaves. His mother dies in bed with him when he is 12 years old. He moves in with a cousin who commits suicide. He works at a trading company - they're trading rum, spices and slaves.

    And Hamilton looks around and he says, “I gotta get the (bleep) out of this town."

    He writes a poem about a hurricane that had destroyed the island of St. Croix, and that poem was used in relief efforts. People took up a collection to send him off the island to get his education. And I thought, “I know this guy.” Ron Chernow's writing had eliminated the distance between me and the dead white guy on the $10 bill.

    And as I read the book, I kept finding moments of immediacy. Parallels between his life and my father's; and the life of any immigrant who comes to this country and creates themselves from whole cloth, and kills themselves to contribute so that their kids can have a better life. It was all of the stories of In the Heights, but even less diluted and even more concentrated into the first immigrant story.

    It's also the story of the founding of our nation. Alexander Hamilton saw one Unites States instead of 13 colonies because he didn’t have a colony to claim. He didn’t have anywhere to claim except for this place that he had adopted. And that’s what Hamilton is about.

    We create our own reality so much these days. You curate your Twitter feed. You unfriend your friend who has the racist or unpopular opinion off your Facebook page. We see the reality that we choose to see, and we have more power to do that than ever before. Theatre is one of the last things that eliminates that. Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton will go see the same show with 299 other people, and they are going to have the same experience. And they are going to have to reckon with that experience.

    My goal, and the goal of our creative team, was to eliminate any distance between the Founding Fathers and the fights we are still having and the struggles that are still happening as Americans. And when you go and sit in The House of Hamilton, it’s an incredibly powerful thing. It has been amazing to see that journey happen. 

    I will close with one more story, and it brings us back to West Side Story, because it all comes back around.

    So I had the good fortune to work with Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim on the last revival of West Side Story. The glorious thing about that was I got to work with the surviving creators of the show on Spanish lyrics for the Sharks. Again: Eliminating distance. And my father, who cried so hard when Maria pushed the police away, saying, "Don’t you touch him!” was the Anita to my Maria while we were writing Spanish lyrics for “A Boy Like That.” He was my thesaurus, because he came to New York at the age of 18 - the same age as the characters who were the Sharks. We got to write that together, and it was a real full-circle moment for him. The success of that tour has been a joy because, again, it creates more identification with even more people who maybe didn’t necessarily see themselves in the show.

    Lin-Manuel Miranda Quote 2

    I conclude with this: The first Equity tour to go to Puerto Rico was In the Heights. We went back to my dad’s hometown. Now, Puerto Rico is very economically depressed. We sold one performance at a time to make sure that we could sustain playing a full week there. But it all worked out.

    I will never forget the review that most moved me was in the main newspaper of Puerto Rico ... and I can’t not cry every time I think of it. It said: “The show is a letter from the people who left. And it is telling us that they struggled, but they did all right."

    That full-circle moment for my father and me is one of the greatest moments I have had in the theatre. That Puerto Ricans on the island saw this show about their cousins and their brothers and sisters and their sons and daughters and were able to see themselves in it means the world to me. 

    That’s what you do every time you mount a show. And every time you bring a student group to your show, there might be some kids who laugh at an outburst of emotion. But I promise you there is a kid balling his eyes out. He is not only being transported ... but he’s saying to himself, “I need to make a life in this business.”

    Read more: Why Lin-Manuel Miranda's father is obsessed with 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown'

    Lin-Manuel Miranda Quote 3

    Our New York report (to date)

    Broadway: The British aren't coming: They're already here!
    Colorado's Annaleigh Ashford and Beth Malone both nominated for Tony Awards Broadway League dedicates New York conference to DCPA’s Randy Weeks
    Idina Menzel will launch 'If/Then' national tour in Denver

    More in the coming days:
    Our New York report continues with videos featuring Colorado actors on Broadway.

  • Why Lin-Manuel Miranda's father is obsessed with 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown'

    by John Moore | Oct 08, 2014

    Luis_Miranda_Lin-Manuel_800_1Lin-Manuel Miranda, left, and his pops, Luis: "I never had a chance to be anything but a musical theatre guy." Photo courtesy Luis Miranda.

    You’re about to learn everything you need to know about how Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony- and Grammy-winning composer, rapper, lyricist, and actor of In the Heights, turned out the way he did:

    His padre is obsessed with The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

    No joke. Miranda’s 60-year-old father, who grew up poor in a small Puerto Rican town, remains, to this day, obsessed with The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

    “Every time people ask my son about his life in the theatre, he always says, 'I never had a chance,’ ” said Luis Miranda, a community activist turned political consultant who still lives in Inwood, the uptown New York City neighborhood that inspired his son’s 2008 Tony-winning Best Musical, In the Heights.  

    “He's always telling people: ‘If you have a dad whose favorite musical is The Unsinkable Molly Brown -- a title that is not at the top of everybody's list -- how can I have a chance but to be in musical theatre?’ ”


    Just how obsessed is Luis Miranda? He endured a troubled eight-hour flight to Denver to visit the Molly Brown House Museum and attend the opening performance of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ launch of a newly reimagined The Unsinkable Molly Brown helmed by Broadway royalty Kathleen Marshall and Dick Scanlan.

    Because of those flight problems – which included engine trouble AND a diversion to make way for another plane carrying Vice President Joe Biden -- Luis had to beg the museum staff to stay open late so he could zip through the home where Molly Brown lived on Pennsylvania Avenue (now Pennsylvania Street). Miranda made it to the museum, saw the opening performance, ran out of the Stage Theatre during the curtain call and hopped into a car that took him to the airport for his midnight return flight to Newark.

    And then there was … the birthday party.

    “I just turned 60 on Aug. 23,” said Luis, “and so I held a big party for several hundred people at an unbelievable theatre in Washington Heights called United Palace.”

    Guests were told Luis would screen the 1964 The Unsinkable Molly Brown film starring Debbie Reynolds to end the party. And because most of Luis’ friends know of his proud obsession with Molly Brown all too well, he anticipated many of them might simply slip out as soon as the film started.

    So what did he do? 

    “I lied to everyone,” he said. “I did it in a way that you had to see the movie before you could go into the party. So people had no choice but to sit through The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

    Diabolical. How did all of this happen?

    It turns out Luis Miranda, a prominent New York political consultant who has served in three New York City mayoral administrations, feels a tremendous kinship with the girl from Hannibal, Mo.

    Molly Brown left Missouri at age 18 with nothing and came to Leadville, Colorado. Luis Miranda left Puerto Rico at age 18 with nothing and came to New York City. But by then, Molly Brown was already in his blood … thanks to Debbie Reynolds.

    “I am from a small town of 3,000, but my grandparents lived in San Juan,” Miranda said. “Every Sunday, my family would visit my grandparents, and in the afternoons, my dad and I would go to the movies at a theatre called The Metro."

    And one day in 1965, he took Luis to see The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

    Not because he particularly liked it -- because he knew I liked musicals. I mean, I had seen The Sound of Music, like, 80 times. 

    “I was 10 years old when The Unsinkable Molly Brown came out, and I was captivated by the movie. Thinking back on it now, as an adult, I can see that I always thought there was something bigger for me than just being in my small town. And that's the theme of Molly Brown's life, too: ‘There is more to life than what I have. There is something bigger out there that I am called to do.’”

    And as quickly as Molly Brown came, she left.

    Eight years later, Miranda moved to New York with no plan, no job and no friends. But on his very first night in New York, he knew a larger plan was in action. And he believes its author was, if not Molly Brown, then certainly the woman he calls “Miss Debbie Reynolds,” who starred as Molly Brown in the 1964 film.

    "This was 1973. There was no cable in those times, so you actually had to look at the TV Guide,” Luis said. "And that night, they are showing The Unsinkable Molly Brown on the TV. When I saw that movie again, I knew that leaving my small town and coming to New York without knowing anybody was part of my plan. That is just fate. It is fate that the first day I am in New York, they are showing this movie that meant so much to me when I was 10, but I have not seen again for the last eight years.”

    Miranda rose through the ranks to become a successful businessman and influential player in New York City politics. He raised his family in a neighborhood similar to Washington Heights, one Lin-Manuel has described as similarly “made up of immigrants, Spanish speakers and urban decay softened by panoramic vistas.”

    Luis_Miranda_Lin-Manuel_In_The_HeightsBut in part because of his father’s success, Lin-Manuel went to an elite public high school on the upper East Side, then on to the playwrights’ breeding ground of Wesleyan University. When In the Heights exploded onto Broadway alongside Passing Strange, Lin-Manuel was credited with changing the color and language of the American musical by introducing hip-hop and spoken-word into a mainstream musical. In The New York Times, Charles Isherwood called Miranda “music personified; commanding the spotlight as if he were born in the wings.”

    Actually, he was simply born in the wings of a man who had subjected his son to “If I Were a Rich Man, “The Hills Are Alive” and “Belly Up to the Bar, Boys.”

    Several years ago, Lin-Manuel was hosting a live show for People en Espanol in San Antonio. The hosts gave Lin-Manuel 10 unexpected tickets upon his arrival, and he didn’t have anyone to give them to. So Lin-Manuel took to Twitter. His dad picks up the story from there.

    “He said the first person to name my dad's favorite movie gets the tickets, and the response was unbelievable,” Luis Miranda said. “At least 20 people said, The Unsinkable Molly Brown."

    How did they know?

    “Because every time a reporter ever asks my son about how he ended up this way, he tells them.”

    The Mirandas keep a home in Montauk, N.Y., in the East Hamptons of Long Island. Lin-Manuel hadn’t visited in years, so he took collaborator Tom Kitt (Bring it On) there to work on their hilarious opening number for the 2013 Tony Awards. Back home in the city, Luis checked his very active Twitter account, and chuckled.

    “I see this Tweet from my son saying that he’s taping several hundred musical LPs that I have left back in my place in Montauk,” Luis said. “He Tweeted out: 'I never had a chance to be anything but a musical theatre guy.’ ”


    It was Lin-Manuel who informed his father that the DCPA was going to launch a newly conceived iteration of the original 1960 Broadway The Unsinkable Molly Brown musical in Denver. Luis immediately wrote to Lin-Manuel’s agent and said, “You have got to get me invited to this.”

    Luis was told the DCPA would be delighted to have him at the opening performance on Sept. 19, as well as a guest. But this would prove to be a problem. Keep in mind, all of this was happening just a week or so after … the birthday party.

    “I tried to get everyone I know to come with me,” Luis said. “And the only one who had a real excuse was Lin-Manuel.”

    Lin-Manuel was deep into preparations for his highly anticipated new musical Hamilton, which explores the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton. It opens Jan. 20 at the Public Theatre in New York. Luis calls it “pure genius.” Lin-Manuel was off the hook.

    “So then I asked my wife, and she says, 'I just saw The Unsinkable Molly Brown with you on your birthday, honey, and you make us watch The Unsinkable Molly Brown every year!’ He said back to her: “But honey, this is a very different production.” And she responded: “I'll see it with you when it comes to New York.”

    In her defense, Luis’ wife took a vow to be with him in sickness and in health -- but not at every opportunity to see every incarnation of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

    “So then I asked my daughter, who is 40 years old and has three kids. She was sincere when she said, 'Dad, I would love to go with you, but I don't know if you remember this but I have three kids -- and you are asking me the week before you are going to Denver. No.' ”

    Next on the list was Luis’ 13-year-old nephew. “He has been with me since he was born, and I am his legal guardian, so I invited him. He was my last hope. He never says no.”

    He said no.

    “He’s like, 'Tio! We just saw The Unsinkable Molly Brown a week ago!' And so I gave up. I went by myself."

    Then came the troubled flight. But eight hours later, there he was in Denver dashing through Molly Brown’s house. Then came the performance on The Stage Theatre.

    “And the minute it ended, I ran out,” Luis said. “I didn't even stay for the applause.”

    The musical Luis saw in Denver was significantly changed from the movie he fell in love with. The book has been completely rewritten. Writer Dick Scanlan and Musical Director Michael Rafter were given permission to overhaul the original score. Only six songs remain untouched from the original Meredith Willson score, and Scanlan has introduced 11 “new" Willson songs.

     So … what was Luis’ assessment?

    “People have got to see this new version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” he said. “I was delighted that I did. I had a great time.” 

    Miranda had been prepared to expect something new from an article he had read in The New York Times.

    “I read about how the musical starts at a different place -- just as she was surviving the Titanic disaster,” he said. “Through the years, I have read enough about Molly Brown to know that the movie was a little bit of a fantasy. I knew she had parents -- but in the movie, there is only a surrogate dad. I knew Molly Brown had kids -- and in the movie, there are no kids.

    “Today, people want their stories to be a more faithful to real life. In the 1960s, the studios didn't care. So I knew that I would be seeing a more historically accurate production of the life of Molly Brown, and that did not bother me at all. The important thing to me was that I knew my favorite songs will continue.”

    Luis_Miranda_Lin-Manuel_Molly_Brown_800Beth Malone and Burke Moses in the DCPA Theatre Company's "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen

    Miranda also offered praise for Beth Malone, the actor who plays Molly Brown -- even though he admits she had an impossibly high bar to clear.

    “You have to understand … There is no other woman in the world to me like Debbie Reynolds … other than my wife,” Luis said. “She is my favorite. So I had to erase Debbie Reynolds from my head. 

    “One of the highlights of my life was spending a night with Debbie Reynolds at her home when Lin-Manuel did In the Heights at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. I literally flew out for the last night of the show, because I knew we were going to spend the night with Debbie Reynolds. She was so funny when I finally met her. She was like, 'Oh my God, your wife is going to be jealous.’ ”

    Reynolds sent Miranda home with a signed photo just for his wife. It said: "To a lovely lady who can put up with this man.”


    A smitten Luis Miranda meets Debbie Reynolds at her home in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy Luis Miranda.

    That said, Miranda added, “Beth Malone absolutely lived up to my expectations. I enjoyed her portrayal of Molly Brown very much.”

    While no one knows whether the new The Unsinkable Molly Brown’s future will take it to Broadway, Miranda certainly hopes that it does. “And if it does,” he said, “I will clearly be going to the theatre many more times to see it. But when I like something ... I sort of go a little bit overboard. I saw Wicked nine times.” 

    But as long as the show remains in Denver, Miranda has a message to those in the Mountain Time Zone:

    “I will not understand why anybody who is just a car ride away would not go to see The Unsinkable Molly Brown when I went in a plane for eight hours to see a two hour and 15-minute production,” he said. “It would be unthinkable to me that they would not go and see The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

    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
    : Ticket information
    The 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:
    'Molly Brown' Meet the cast videos:
    Beth Malone
    Burke Moses
    Patty Goble
    Paolo Montalban
    Linda Mugleston
    Donna English
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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