• What a wonderful world it was with Daniel Langhoff

    by John Moore | Nov 12, 2017

    Video above: Daniel Langhoff sings 'What a Wonderful World' at an April benefit concert for the Denver Actors Fund. Video provided by Eden Lane and Sleeping Dog Media.

    The busy actor, husband and father fought cancer like the errant knight he played in Man of La Mancha. He was 42.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    When award-winning Denver actor Daniel Langhoff was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in 2015, the first-time father dreamed what most every doctor told him was an impossible dream: To beat an unbeatable foe. And yet, over the next rocky and remarkable two and a half years, he reached star after unreachable star.

    Daniel LanghoffThe cancer was discovered just a few months after Langhoff and wife Rebecca Joseph welcomed daughter Clara into the world. Langhoff then fought the disease with the same earnest fortitude and blind optimism as Cervantes, the playwright who defends his life through storytelling in the classic Broadway musical Man of La Mancha. That's a bucket-list role Langhoff somehow found the mettle to play last year during a brief cease-fire with his disease, which would make a raging comeback only a few months later.

    In April, doctors discovered a second, more virulent form of cancer in Langhoff’s abdomen, and it was everywhere. The Langhoffs were told it would be a matter of months. Not that the diagnosis changed Langhoff’s attitude one bit. He fought on with grit, optimism and no small share of Quixotic delusion.

    “Dying never entered his mindset,” said Langhoff’s best friend, Brian Murray. “He always thought he would beat it.” It was only recently in the hospital, when Langhoff was no longer able to eat and fluid was filling his lungs that the impossible dreamer offered Murray this one slight concession to his adversary: “The prognosis is not good,” he told Murray.

    DanielLanghoffFacebook“Daniel fought the cancer by trivializing it — like it was just this little thing to be taken care of,” Murray said.

    Rebecca Joseph, known as R.J. to friends, gave birth to a second daughter, Naomi, on Nov. 2. It happened that day because Joseph made it happen that day. She had doctors induce labor to make certain Langhoff would be alive to see Naomi born. A few days later, Langhoff was admitted to Denver Hospice, where he again defied experts' expectations by fighting on for days until there was no fight left in him.  

    Langhoff died at precisely midnight today, peacefully and as his wife held his hand. He was 42.

    When he left, he was different from the man who married R.J. in 2015. During the ensuing years, as cancer gradually robbed his life, life in turn gave him everything to live for: A wife, two daughters, and the seminal roles of his acting career.

    (Story continues below the photo.)

    Daniel Langhoff Find an extensive gallery of Daniel Langhoff photos at the bottom of this report.


    A punctilious punster

    Langhoff was born in Denver on Nov. 8, 1975, and has been a performer since the third grade. He graduated from Cherry Creek High School and the University of Northern Colorado, and has been working steadily at theatres all over Colorado since 1999.

    He was known as a consummate actor with a quirky sense of humor; a way with a guitar, a song and a terrible pun; a geeky affinity for sci-fi films ...  and a massive collection of inappropriate T-Shirts.

    One of his favorites said: “When I die, I am going to haunt the (bleep) out of you.”

    "That was Daniel," his wife said.

    "Daniel was into weird science fiction, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, anything counter-culture and all manner of useless knowledge," said his frequent co-star and sometimes director, Robert Michael Sanders. "We had a shared love for underrated big-hair metal bands and Alien movies." 

    In the dressing room, Langhoff was a serial punster who was known for running exasperated castmates out of the room with his wit. But on stage, Sanders describes Langhoff as an intelligent, steady actor who could only be distracted from his task by perhaps, say … a random reference to Ridley Scott (maker of Alien).

    He was also one of the most dependable and pragmatic friends you could ever have, said Murray, who has been friends with Langhoff since appearing in Company together at the Town Hall Arts Center in 2008. 

    “I always called him my Vulcan,” said Murray, currently starring in Town Hall’s Seussical. “He was Spock, and I was Kirk. I was the emotional one, and he was the logical one."

    Ironically, Langhoff was the human being Murray turned to when he needed one most.

    "When I was going through a divorce in 2009, the only thing that helped me get by was playing video games with Daniel until 3 in the morning and telling him the same stories all over again," Murray said. "He would say to me, 'Brian, this thing happened. It was outside of your control. Now what you have to do is move through it and move on from that." 

    Perhaps the greatest testament to any man's character, Murray said: "Daniel was kind to everyone — even to the people who annoyed him." (Although, to be fair, Langhoff also loved to quote Tom Waits' life philosophy: "Champagne for my real friends ... and real pain for my sham friends.")

    Traci J. Kern was a real friend. For 22 years, Langhoff has been her constant. "Soon after our meeting, Daniel proclaimed himself the little brother I never wanted," she said. "Anytime I needed him, he was there. No questions asked, because it didn’t matter. Dan lived his life full of passion. Whether it was talking about music, theatre, movies, Stephen King novels, sports, his family, his babies or his wife — he spoke with such enthusiasm, you couldn’t help but be drawn in."

    A life on every stage

    Daniel Langhoff was, simply put, “the most consistent actor ever,” said Sanders. He was also just about the most consistently working Denver actor ever. The list of area theatre companies Langhoff has performed with reads essentially like the list of all area theatre companies. You would be hard-pressed to find a person or company whose path has not, at some point, crossed with Langhoff's on a Colorado stage.

    Dan Langhoff DCPA Love Perfect Change Shanna Steele Robert Michael Sanders Lauren Shealy“Once Daniel got it right, he went out and nailed it at that level every night," Sanders said. "You never had to worry what he was going to do, whether it was for one person or 100. Even for dumb stuff like Guys on Ice – he would find moments that mattered.”

    Langhoff made his Denver Center debut in 2010 in the musical comedy Five Course Love at the Galleria Theatre, followed by a stint in a revival of the longest-running musical in Denver history, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. He also performed in the DCPA Theatre Company’s seasonal stagings of A Christmas Carol in 2014 and 2015. The latter staging was right when Langhoff was starting his cancer fight. He had surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding lymph nodes – then immediately joined the cast, fitting rounds of chemo into 10-show weeks at the Stage Theatre.

    Langhoff’s substance and versatility put him in an elevated class among local performers: He was a nuanced dramatic actor with a rich singing voice — and an uncommon knack for comedy and children’s theatre. He could glide from playing the conflicted pastor fomenting the Salem witch trials in Firehouse’s The Crucible, to Coolroy in the Arvada Center’s children’s production of Schoolhouse Rock Live, to the long-suffering husband of a bipolar housewife in Town Hall’s Next to Normal.

    Langhoff’s breakout year was 2016, which began in triumph and ended in terror. It started with Performance Now's Ragtime. As Langhoff was continuing his initial chemotherapy, when he called Director Kelly Van Oosbree to express his interest in playing Tateh.

    “I remember thinking, ‘How in the hell is this going to happen?’ ” Van Oosbree said. “I couldn’t wrap my brain around it because if were in the same situation, I wonder how I would even cope. But Daniel did not let cancer stop him from doing anything.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Langhoff had strong sentimental and professional reasons for wanting to play Tateh. He had played the homegrown terrorist known as “Younger Brother” in a remarkable production of Ragtime for the Arvada Center in 2011, and he wanted to complete the circle by playing Tateh — also a dreamer, also a new father — for Performance Now. “Tateh was a role that spoke to him,” said Van Oosbree said.

    Dan Langhoff Sunglasses project. Photo by John MooreIn the summer of 2016, doctors declared Langhoff cancer-free. He celebrated by performing for the Arvada Center (40th anniversary concert), Firehouse (The Crucible) and Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (Every Christmas Story Ever Told). He began 2017 by reuniting with Van Oosbree to play the chivalrous and insistent dreamer in Man of La Mancha. These were perfect bookend roles, said Van Osbree: Both Tateh and Cervantes are kind, inventive men who see the world not as it is, but how it should — or could — be. “They are both Daniel,” she said.

    But just as Man of La Mancha was to begin rehearsals, Langhoff noticed another abnormality in his abdomen, and doctors soon discovered a new, more prevalent and more vicious strain of cancer in his abdominal walls. Langhoff began a second round of chemo just as he had been cast to perform in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Arvada Center, followed by Ring of Fire at Vintage Theatre. This time, he would not be well enough to play either role. And he again downplayed the challenge. “I am just more physically compromised than I was before,” he conceded at the time.

    The great work of helping others

    Langhoff was known for helping out any company or cause that needed a hand — or a voice. Back in 2010, he joined the volunteer cast of Magic Moments' The Child. That's an annual musical revue where up to 200 disabled and able-bodied performers perform together, many for the first time. Langhoff played a war veteran opposite a devil character played by Drew Frady, his castmate back in the Arvada Center's 2008 staging of Les Miserables. Langhoff had been recruited as a late replacement for another actor. On his first day, the stage manager ended her introduction of Langhoff by saying, to his horror, “He loves hugs.” And, he later said with a laugh, “I didn’t really have the heart to correct her.”

    Over the next few months, Langhoff said, he learned to love hugs.

    “This is the kind of place where you can still be 5 minutes late for rehearsal, even if you show up on time, because there is a 5-minute gantlet of hugs to navigate,” he said.

    Daniel Langhoff, Laura Mathew Siebert and Nate Siebert. Photo by John Moore. Throughout his cancer ordeal, Langhoff was both a beneficiary of, and great champion of, The Denver Actors Fund, which in three years has made $133,000 available to Colorado theatre artists in situational need. Between direct aid and targeted donations, the theatre community has so far made more than $14,000 available to help the Langhoff family with medical bills, along with practical volunteer assistance. And Langhoff has given back at every opportunity, performing at five DAF fundraising events over the past three years.

    In April, a weakening Langhoff made a galvanizing appearance at United in Love, a benefit concert staged by Ebner-Page Productions that raised $40,000 for the Denver Actors Fund at the Lone Tree Arts Center. (See video at the top of this page.) 

    Dan Langhoff. Annaleigh Ashford. RDG PhotographyLanghoff sang a heart-rending version of What a Wonderful World to acknowledge the support and love he has received from the theatre community throughout his medical ordeal. “All of these performers, this stunning audience, all of these donors make me feel like my fight ahead is just a matter of logistics,” he said.

    (Photos at right, top: Photographer Laura Mathew Siebert, with son Nate Siebert, raised money for Langhoff's cancer fight in 2016 by taking portraits and donating the proceeds. Photo by John Moore. At right: Broadway's Annaleigh Ashford with Langhoff at Klint Rudolph at the April 'United in Love' concert for the Denver Actors Fund. RDG Photography.)

    His final performance was on Sept. 25 at Miscast, a popular annual fundraiser for The Denver Actors Fund, and it was one for the ages. Langhoff, Jona Alonzo and Norrell Moore, all actors in the midst of their own cancer journeys, performed a variation of the song Tonight, from West Side Story, that was written by Langhoff and his (pregnant) wife, who also choreographed. It was essentially a rousing declaration of war against cancer, and it brought the Town Hall Arts Center audience to their feet. The trio were immediately dubbed "The Cancer Warriors."

    (Story continues below the video.)

    Daniel Langhoff, Jona Alonzo and Norrell Moore perform Sept. 25 at 'Miscast,' a benefit for The Denver Actors Fund, at the Town Hall Arts Center.


    The impact of family


    Everyone close to Langhoff says the courage and unyielding optimism he has shown since his diagnosis can be explained in three simple words: Rebecca, Clara and Naomi. "Those three were everything to him," Murray said. "They were his life."

    He met his R.J.  in a theatre, but Langhoff wasn't on the stage; he was a member of the audience. Joseph caught Langhoff's eye after a performance of Vintage Theatre’s Avenue Q. Langhoff noticed the assistant stage manager — usually one of the most invisible jobs in all of theatre. She eventually agreed to a late-night date at the Rock Bottom Brewery that almost didn’t happen because she was running late. Langhoff was appearing in, ironically, the dating comedy I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change at the Denver Center's Galleria Theatre. She was attending Red at the Curious Theatre, which ran longer than she was expecting. Luckily, he waited. Sanders later married the couple in a ceremony at the Town Hall Arts Center.

    Langhoff recently helped Sanders in a profound creative way when the singer-songwriter went into production on his second solo album (under the name Robert Michael). In 2013, Sanders was the victim of a botched shoulder surgery that partially paralyzed his arms and left him unable to play the guitar. Sanders now writes new music through the help of friends who act as his fingers. Langhoff co-wrote the lyrics and music to a track called Forever that Sanders says is informed in part by their own personal experiences:

    You found your forever. You put your hand in his.
    He pulled you close to him, gave you that forever kiss.
    You found your forever, now you'll wake up every day.

    With him smiling back at you, and you have no words to say.

    And that's OK.
    You found your forever. 

    (To listen to 'Forever' on Spotify, click here. Backing vocals by Daniel Langhoff and Norrell Moore.)

    As the theatre community struggles to process the news that Langhoff is gone, his friend Murray was asked what Langhoff himself might say to bring comfort to those he leaves behind. His response:

    "I think the Vulcan in Daniel would say to us exactly what he said to me: 'This thing happened. It was outside of everyone's control. I did everything I could to make it not happen, but it still happened. Now what you have to do is move through that and try to move on from that.' "

    In addition to his wife and daughters, Langhoff is survived by his parents, Jeannie and Charlie Langhoff, and his sister, Amy Langhoff Busch.

    After an intimate family service later this week, a larger celebration of Daniel Langhoff's life will be announced in the coming weeks.

    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.

    Here's how to help Daniel Langhoff's family:
    The Denver Actors Fund is accepting targeted donations that will go 100 percent to Rebecca Joseph to help with medical, funeral and expenses. Any eventual excess funds will go toward the future educational needs of daughters Clara and Naomi. Here's how it works: Click here. When prompted, "Where do you want your donation directed?" choose from the pulldown: "For the family of Daniel Langhoff." The Denver Actors Fund will absorb all transactional fees.) If you prefer to mail a check, the address is P.O. Box 11182, Denver , CO 80211. Separately, if you are motivated to start your own campaign to proactively raise additional funds for the Langhoffs, you can create your own personalized fundraising page on the Langhoffs' behalf. To do that, just click on this (different) link. Choose "Start a fundraiser." Follow the instructions from there.

    Photo gallery: A look back at the life of Daniel Langhoff

    Daniel LanghoffTo see more photos, click on the photo above to be taken to our full Flickr album.


    Daniel Langhoff/Selected shows and companies

    • High School: Cherry Creek
    • College: Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley
    • Denver Center for the Performing Arts: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Five Course Love at the Galleria Theatre; A Christmas Carol for the DCPA Theatre Company
    • Arvada Center: A Man of No Importance (Breton Beret), Ragtime (Younger Brother), A Man for All Seasons, A Wonderful Life, The Crucible, Man of La Mancha, Miracle On 34th Street Les Miserables. Children's shows: Charlotte's Web, Lyle the Crocodile, Schoolhouse Rock
    • Town Hall Arts Center: Next To Normal (Dan), Annie (Daddy Warbucks), 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Company, Batboy! The Musical
    • Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company: Every Christmas Story Ever Told
    • Firehouse Theatre Compay: The Crucible (Rev. Hale)
    • Miners Alley Playhouse: Pump Boys and Dinettes
    • Performance Now: Man of La Mancha (Cervantes), Ragtime (Tateh)
    • Aurora Fox: Spamalot (King Arthur)
    • Vintage Theatre: Hamlet, Prince of Pork, 18 Holes (Lyle)
    • Next Stage: Assassins (The Balladeer)
    • Magic Moments: The Child
    • Hunger Artists
    • Film: Bouquet of Consequence, Why There Are Rainbows

    Video: Daniel Langhoff presents Community Impact Award to Denver Actors Fund:

  • Dear Evan Hansen, You will be found ... in Denver

    by John Moore | May 16, 2017
    Dear-Evan-Hansen-You-Will-Be-Found-4645-Photo-Credit-Matthew-Murphy 800Director Michael Greif says 'Dear Evan Hansen' 'is going to give people the opportunity to talk about some really important and healing things.' Photo by Matthew Murphy

    The Denver Center will launch the acclaimed
    new musical’s first national tour in October 2018

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Dear Evan Hansen, one of the most celebrated musicals of the current Broadway season, will launch its first national touring production in Denver in October 2018, it was just announced, continuing a trend that has recently included Denver premieres of If/Then, Pippin and The Book of Mormon.

    Dear Evan Hansen, which is nominated for nine Tony Awards including Best Musical, is the story of a lonely boy who perpetuates a lie that earns him Internet fame. Director Michael Greif, who also helmed the groundbreaking musicals Rent and Next to Normal, says Dear Evan Hansen “is a cathartic story about a kid who comes to love himself. And it's about a grieving family that gets healed.”

    And Greif could not be happier that the show’s hopeful message will be going out into the heartland, starting in Denver.

    Michael Greif quote“This show has such a beautiful and generous and important message,” Greif said in an exclusive interview with the DCPA NewsCenter. “I am thrilled that the universal appeal of this story is going to continue to touch and move people throughout the country. It’s going to give people the opportunity to talk about some really important and healing things, and I can’t wait to share that with as many people as possible.”

    Dear Evan Hansen, which will open DCPA Broadway’s 2018-19 season in the Buell Theatre, was greeted by overwhelming critical and box-office success when it opened in December. The New York Times called it “a gorgeous heartbreaker of a musical for anyone with a beating heart.” The Washington Post called it historic.

    The plot turns when a misunderstanding over a teenager’s death inadvertently turns Evan into a social-media celebrity. Greif says he knew the unlikely story would work on a Broadway stage before he even finished reading the earliest draft of Obie Award-winner Steven Levenson’s script. The score is written by the songwriting team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who just won Academy Awards for La La Land.

    “I knew right away - which I don't often say, and I don't often believe,” said Greif. “As soon as I got to talk to these three brilliant writers, I knew that this was a very special project. I knew it because of the incredible, complicated way they were going at this material. I just think it's so smart and beautifully crafted. I love it because the real theme of the play is not lying or fabrication - it's actually generosity."

    The score is built around a celebrated anthem called “You Will Be Found.” And as was the case when he directed Rent and Next to Normal, Grief is being reminded nightly of live theatre’s power to save lives.

    “It’s really unbelievable what we are hearing from kids and from parents and from families in crisis,” Greif said. “They are telling us that they are seen. They are telling us that things they didn't feel they could talk about – yes, they can talk about them. They are telling us that the redemption and the catharsis and the forgiveness in Dear Evan Hansen is helping them to get through whatever they are going through, and to forgive and to accept themselves.

    “Evan coming to terms with himself in our story is a proxy for our audiences being able to come to terms with their own issues."

    Listen to the anthem 'You Will Be Found'

    The Associate Director of Dear Evan Hansen is Adrienne Campbell-Holt, who last year directed the world premiere of the DCPA Theatre Company’s The Nest, by Theresa Rebeck. The producer is Stacey Mindich.

    DEH-Mike-Faist-Ben-Platt-0104-Photo-Credit-Matthew-Murphy 800The original Broadway cast recording of Dear Evan Hansen was released on Atlantic Records in February 2017 with the highest Billboard Chart debut of any cast recording in the past 50 years. 

    This is just the latest coup for Denver, which is quickly rising among the country's elite touring cities.

    “I am thrilled and honored the Dear Evan Hansen team has chosen Denver for their upcoming tour launch," said John Ekeberg, Executive Director for DCPA Broadway. "Bringing new voices and artistically powerful work to the stage is a primary goal of the DCPA, and this compelling new musical embodies all of these qualities and more.” 

    Information regarding on-sale dates and tickets will be announced at a later time. To sign up to receive alerts, click here or visit DearEvanHansen.com. Please be advised that the Denver Center for the Performing Arts – denvercenter.org – will be the only authorized ticket provider for Dear Evan Hansen tickets in Denver.

    (Pictured above and right: Mike Faist, left, and Ben Platt from the original Broadway company of 'Dear Evan Hansen.' Photo by Matthew Murphy.)

    Here's more from John Moore’s interview with Michael Greif:

    John Moore: Do you think we've ever seen a protagonist quite like Evan Hansen in a Broadway musical before?

    Michael Greif: When I first met this play and started to get to know it, it felt like we were doing the Natalie and Henry story from Next to Normal. It was really profound for me to be able to think, ‘Oh, what's so wonderful here is that the focus has shifted, and this here is a musical about Henry.’

    John Moore: I think with the advent of social media, we have created a generation of teenagers who are both more connected and more isolated than ever before. Now that you have been through this experience, what do you think are the pros and cons of growing up in the world of today’s social media?

    Justin Paul, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek - Photo Credit Jenny Anderson 800Michael Greif: I have a 22-year-old and an 18-year-old, so I have really watched it through the eyes of a parent, which has been very helpful in developing this musical with these three fantastic writers. What's remarkable about our story is how organically the role of social media informs both plot and characters. This particular story could only take place because the mechanism of Evan's fame is so credible to us in this moment. The germ of Benj's original idea had to do with how one high-school kid's identity changes through the various things that people say about him on social media. From the very beginning, the interaction of a very domestic plot in relation to access to the bigger world has always been a really, really important part of this musical. Like everything, my thoughts about social media relate to monitoring and understanding. It would be backward and conservative and wrong for me to say that it's not wonderful to be able to be in touch with the world the way social media allows us today. It's spectacular to have that kind of access to the rest of the world.

    (Pictured above, from left: 'Dear Evan Hansen' writers Justin Paul, Steven Levenson and Benj Pasek. Photo by Jenny Anderson.)

    John Moore: Why are you particularly attracted to the kind of theatre like Rent, Next to Normal and Dear Evan Hansen that can have such a profound impaMichael Greif quotect on the lives of their audiences, as opposed to the safer escapism of other musicals? 

    Michael Greif: I think everyone is attracted to great stories. I am really fortunate that I have some sort of a track record, so that I actually get the opportunities to work on these kinds of projects. The opportunity to recognize yourself, or someone you know, or some of the pain or struggles that you feel or have felt, in someone else’s acting, is both powerful and profound. And I think all three of those terrific musicals you mentioned share that. All three have incredible music and compelling characters and great stories. But what I think Dear Evan Hansen has that Next to Normal and Rent do not is an extraordinary duality. You are able to completely give your heart over to Evan and to the grieving Murphy family. And at the same time, your mind is racing because there is this whole other level of mistrust about the whole thing. So while your heart is feeling one thing, your head is feeling another. I think that’s just remarkable.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: Are you watching 13 Reasons Why, which also addresses similar issues?

    Michael Greif: Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal, If/Then) wrote that, and so I am very interested in it, but I have not yet had the opportunity to watch it. I have a great regard for Brian Yorkey, as you know, and I am excited to be able to dive into that series when I have a little more time.

    John Moore: Speaking of If/Then, which also began its national tour in Denver, what are your thoughts about Denver as the launch pad for Broadway touring productions?

    Michael Greif: I am looking forward to spending time in Denver again because I had such a wonderful time there with If/Then. It's a great walking town, and that is fantastic for me. The audiences are open and interested and interesting, so I think Denver is a wonderful place to launch it.

    John Moore: Several years ago, producer David Stone told me it was the encouragement he got from late Denver Center Broadway President Randy Weeks that even got him thinking that a national touring production of Next to Normal might work.

    Video: Watch the NBC News report on Dear Evan Hansen

    Michael Greif: I know that there was the concern about touring that show. I feel so happy about the great success of that tour. I think the Fun Home tour also tells us that these are great stories and people around the country are hungry for them. I think it's wonderful when you can really integrate the play-going and the musical-going audiences. I don't think they should be two different kinds of audiences. I always love it when people who say, 'I generally prefer plays,' get so much out of musicals like Dear Evan Hansen and Rent and Next to Normal.

    John Moore: Speaking of Rent, the 20th anniversary tour is also coming to Denver, in November. After two decades, do you feel this is now a nostalgia piece for the original fans, or can Rent still be a musical for the Dear Evan Hansen generation?

    Michael Greif: It's certainly a wonderful opportunity for a new generation of people who love Dear Evan Hansen to see an ancestor. I think Rent remains profound because it's a musical about a group of people who learn to take care of one another.  And they have seen both the cost and the reward of taking care of one another.


    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.


    Video: Dear Evan Hansen:



    Ben Platt and Laura Dreyfuss from the original Broadway company perform 'Waving Through a Window' on 'Late Night with Seth Meyers.'

    Dear Evan Hansen: Denver information

    UntitledOctober 2018
    • The Buell Theatre
    • Tickets: An on-sale date will be announced at a later time. For more information, 303-893-4100 or sign up for EMAIL ALERTS
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    Dear Evan Hansen: Creative team

    • Book by Steven Levenson
    • Score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

    • Directed by Michael Greif
    • Music direction by Ben Cohn
    • Choreography by Danny Mefford
    • Scenic design by David Korins
    • Lighting design by Japhy Weideman
    • Costume design by Emily Rebholz
    • Sound design by Nevin Steinberg
    • Projection design by Peter Nigrini
    • Hair design by David Brian Brown
    • Music supervision, orchestrations and additional arrangements by Alex Lacamoire
    • Vocal arrangements and additional arrangements by Justin Paul




  • Brian d’Arcy James: 'The confetti is still falling'

    by John Moore | Mar 04, 2016
    Brian Darcy JamesBrian d'Arcy James will perform with Kelli O'Hara at the annual Saturday Night Alive concert on March 5 to raise money for the DCPA's arts education programs. Photo by Joan Marcus.


    Broadway favorite Brian d'Arcy James, now a conqueror of TV and film as well, has had a whirlwind week like no other in his professional career. On Sunday, James was among the ensemble accepting the Academy Award for the Best PIcture of 2015, Spotlight. The next day, he was offered the leading role on a new CBS-TV pilot based on Tracy Letts' 2008 stage comedy, Superior Donuts. The next day, James was back on Broadway starring as Nick Bottom in the ongoing hit musical comedy Something Rotten!

    Three medium in 48 hours. "I feel like I've got all my bases covered," James said with a laugh. And his week will not end with a nap.

    Kelli O'Hara On Saturday, James will be here in Denver headlining the annual Saturday Night Alive concert alongside Broadway royalty Kelli O'Hara (right). The old friends will be performing together in concert for the first time, helping to raise nearly $1 million for the Denver Center's arts education programs.

    How does he sum it all up? How can he possibly? "The confetti is still falling," James told the DCPA NewsCenter on Thursday. The moment Morgan Freeman announced that Spotlight had won the Oscar, he said, felt like "being shot out of a cannon."

    James grew up in Saginaw, Mich., the son of a mother who sold children’s books, and graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago. He has received Tony Award nominations for his performances in Something Rotten!, Shrek and Sweet Smell of Success, and originated the role of the harried husband in Broadway's breakthrough musical Next to Normal. He also was in the original workshop cast of Broadway's biggest hit, Hamilton. TV credits include Smash (created by The Nest playwright Theresa Rebeck), The Big C and The Good Wife.

    Spotlight is the story of how four dogged investigative reporters from The Boston Globe exposed the Boston archdiocese priest sex-abuse scandal in 2001. James played journalist Matt Carroll alongside Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams.

    Superior Donuts follows the relationship between the owner of a donut shop, his new young black employee and their patrons in a gentrifying neighborhood of Chicago. The comedy is based on the 2008 play by Tracy Letts.

    Something Rotten is an original musical set in 1590s. Brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are desperate to write a hit play but, stuck in the shadow of Shakespeare, they instead set out to write the world’s very first musical.

    We asked James what to expect from his concert appearance with O'Hara, his castmate in Broadway's Sweet Smell of Success. She is a six-time Tony Award nominee and the winner in 2015 for The King & I. (Watch her acceptance speech here.) One morsel: The pair will sing a never-before-heard song by Marvin Hamlisch that was cut from the Sweet Smell of Success score.  



    Here are more excerpts from our conversation with Brian d'Arcy James:


    John Moore: How do you even describe your life right now?

    Brian d'Arcy James: Well, there was a 48-hour window where I was on the stage at the Dolby Theatre winning an Oscar for best movie, and then the next day I was auditioning for a new television show. By the end of that 48 hours, I found out that I got it. And the next day, I was back in New York performing in my Broadway show.

    John Moore: Let’s start with Spotlight. What was it like for you to go on stage with everyone to accept the Oscar?

    Brian d'Arcy James: It was stunning. I was sitting next to (sexual abuse victim) Phil Saviano, who is portrayed in the film by Neal Huff. We just bolted up there. It was bizarre walking up that aisle, knowing that you're walking past all these luminaries and icons and you're receiving acknowledgement for being in this film that has gone the distance. It's an amazing feeling.

    John Moore: What do you think the film says about the need for the continuation of real, funded, enterprise journalism at a time when the industry seems to be dying from a lack of reader curiosity?

    Brian d'Arcy James: Well the answer is in your question. And all of those things you say are true. It rings an alarm bell. Hopefully, it will let people know in a loud and clear way that without funded and supported long-lead investigative journalism, stories like these won’t be told. I've heard Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, who wrote the movie, speak much more eloquently on the subject about how curtailing reporters on a local level invariably leads to fewer people covering local government. But in those cracks - that's where the grass grows. If no one's minding the store, that's when institutional power tends to get away with abuse. So it takes an informed citizenry and a supportive citizenry to allow for this kind of work to happen. That comes from digital subscriptions and buying papers and reading a paper. Long answer short: Buy a newspaper. 

    Mike Hartman in 'Superior Donuts.' Photo by Terry Shapiro. John Moore: There was a production of Superior Donuts here at the Denver Center in 2011, so we know the story well. (Pictured at right: Mike Hartman in the DCPA Theatre Company production.) Playwright Tracy Letts (August: Osage County) is as good as it gets. And yet, I can’t think of another play being turned into a TV sit-com since maybe The Odd Couple. What's the plan?

    Brian d'Arcy James: That's an interesting point; I don't think I've ever thought about that, either. The plan is to basically use Tracy Letts’ play as a starting-off point to delve deeper, and let these characters explore their community, and all the issues that Tracy wants to address, on a weekly basis. I'm very grateful that it happens to be Tracy Letts. I'm a very big fan of his. He's an extraordinary writer and a great actor. I think my background in the theatre makes me feel like I'm crossing the chasm between television and theatre in a very natural way. How it plays itself out remains to be seen, but the idea is a smart one, and an interesting one, and it is rife for exploring all kinds of themes concerning what's going on in America today. 

    John Moore: So with all of these changes, how long will you be able to stay with Something Rotten! on Broadway?

    Brian d'Arcy James: I am working that out right now. My hope is to stay for an extended period of time. The confetti is still falling right now, so I'm trying to figure that all out. But needless to say, if it's one day more than I thought, that would be a luxurious thing. I want to stay with the show as long as I can because it's funny, it's joyful and it's so well done. It's got great music. It's just everything you want in a Broadway show. The audience leaves happy, and the company leaves happy. That's a pretty good way to end the day.

    Brian d'Arcy James in 'Something Rotten.' Photo by Joan Marcus. John Moore: You have done a lot of musicals based on existing source material, and you’ve done many that have been completely original. Is there an additional joy in bringing a show like Something Rotten! to life that isn't piggybacking on a previous audience base?

    Brian d'Arcy James: Yes, I do feel a certain pride in that. (Doing a show based on existing material) is a formula that works, and for good reason. And just because something works doesn't necessarily mean it should be dismissed, obviously. But to take on something like Something Rotten, which is a completely original idea, is courageous. It speaks to the potency of the idea, and the execution of it, and the way it was written and drawn up and produced and directed. So I feel very happy and proud to be a part of that. We have to encourage each other to embrace the things we don't know. By doing that, we make room for new things that become the new norm. Again, I'm not dismissing the things that are familiar because there's room for that. But I think we should be mindful that we can't put all our eggs in that basket. We have to be diligent in breaking new ground when we can.

    (Photo above right: Brian d'Arcy James in 'Something Rotten.' Photo by Joan Marcus.) 

    John Moore: Last year I heard you speak about seeing your first Broadway show. What did Dreamgirls mean to you at the time?

    Brian d'Arcy James: I would have been 14 years old, I think. It was a remarkable experience because I was already very interested in theatre. But there was something about seeing this mythical world – Broadway – and what that meant, in the place where it lives. I was  struck that the theatre was a lot smaller than I would have imagined. But it had an impact in terms of the energy, and the impression that something in a Broadway theatre can make on a young person. It was pretty astounding. At least it was for me.

    John Moore: Let's talk about arts education, which is the primary reason you are coming to Denver on Saturday night. How do you think growing up with a mother who was a bookseller set you on the path to becoming a storyteller yourself?

    Brian d'Arcy James quoteBrian d'Arcy James: My mother has a Library Science degree, and so books and reading were always a part of her natural reflexes. She was an educator as well, so it was always a natural thing to be surrounded by books. My grandmother was an avid reader, too. She had books all over the place when we would visit. Reading was just something we saw as a necessary part of life. So I guess my mother's love for reading, and her interest in the significance that she saw in reading, were passed on to me in that I see that to be fruitful ground in terms of storytelling. Not so much as an author but rather as an interpreter of words. 

    John Moore: What are the consequences of the continuing diminishment of arts education in schools today?

    Brian d'Arcy James: Well, my sister is an art educator. She is a theatre administrator for New Trier High School in Wilmette, Ill. Her whole job is teaching kids about the theatre. Thankfully - and luckily - they have a healthy budget to do that. That's not the norm. These days schools move money around to take care of issues that may appear to be more pressing, and oftentimes it is arts and music that get cut. It's my belief that those are just as important, if not more, in any budget, in order to pass along the chance to awaken a young person's mind to see what a creative life can be. Not only as a possibility of a profession but, more important, as a chance for someone to find their own voice. And a chance for a person to have an opportunity to express themselves when perhaps they were afraid to, or weren't allowed to. Those are just a few ways arts education can give young people a new sense of themselves, and help them find new dimensions of their own personalities. That's invaluable. And that pays itself forward in terms of how we as a society grow and become more healthy. 

    John Moore: People are obviously very excited that you will be performing here with Kelli O'Hara at Saturday Night Alive, which will raise as much as $1 million for arts education programs here at the Denver Center.  How far back do you go with her?

    Brian d'Arcy James: We met doing Sweet Smell of Success on Broadway. We had an extraordinary experience doing that because it was a really big deal for both of us at that time in our lives.

    John Moore: Congratulations on your Tony Award nomination for that.

    Brian d'Arcy James: Thank you. That was thrilling. We haven't had many chances to work together since, but we're good friends. And we thought it would be fitting to honor that time when we worked together by singing something from that show. It’s a beautiful song by Marvin Hamlisch that was cut from the score of Sweet Smell of Success. That's a part of our personal history that we thought would be fun to share with the Denver audience, because that's something that's very rare that we get to do.

    John Moore: Is this show something you're doing for multiple cities or is Denver getting a one-and-only performance?

    Brian d'Arcy James: Well, let's see how it goes. I think the latter is mostly true. These types of shows are often very unique. In this case, Denver had what I think is a great idea, which was to invite both of us to come and do this. It would be lovely to think this is the beginning of many more times doing this show. But I would say it's a work in progress. And that Kelli and I are excited about the chance to sing for this incredible organization that is raising a great deal of money for a great cause. That's exciting. And then, just to be able to share that experience with each other, with our history, and maybe bring a little bit of New York City to Denver - that sounds like a lot of fun to me. 

    John Moore: Is the song list primarily show tunes or will there be some pop as well?

    Brian d'Arcy James: Yeah, there will be some pop. I've always been a pop-music fan. The great thing about the era I've grown up in is that popular music is well-represented on Broadway in a pretty interesting way in terms of Elton John and Billy Joel and Sting and now Sara Bareilles and just a variety of different musical singer/songwriters who are on the radio and are Grammy Award-winning musicians and singers. They're finding an interest and a home in representing themselves on Broadway.  For someone like me, that is fantastic, because I can justify the idea of singing a song by Sting and legitimately say that he was represented on Broadway (in The Last Ship). It's not going to be all pop tunes. We're definitely going to sing some classics, too. It will be a nice mix of Broadway and a bit of pop.

    John Moore: I wanted to ask you about Hamilton and Next to Normal and Smash and Theresa Rebeck and the apostrophe in your name and everything that is happening in Flint, Mich., and about 10 other things. But I am going to exercise a tiny bit of restraint and thank you for your time and end it here.

    Brian d'Arcy James: Well, why don’t you pick one of them. I’d be happy to talk about any of them.

    John Moore: Well, thanks. We just had Theresa Rebeck out here in Denver for the world premiere of her newest play, The Nest. What are your thoughts on working with her on Smash, and the voice that she brings to the American theatre?

    Brian d'Arcy James: Oh, that’s great. Smash was a great experience, and I had an amazing time. She chose me to be in her television show, and I'm forever grateful for that. She has a very unique voice, a very funny voice, and a very strong voice. She's obviously proven herself as someone who's prolific, and she just has a great sense of story and dialogue. I love her writing. The experience of doing Smash was a dream come true for me because I was doing a television show that shot in New York City, and it was about my profession. It was a complete no-brainer that I wanted to be a part of it. I'm very proud to be a part of that tapestry. I love what she did, and the bold vision she had to make that show happen.


    Saturday Night Alive: At a glance
    Annual fundraising gala for DCPA Education
    Saturday, March 5, at the DCPA's Stage Theatre
    Headlining concert: Broadway stars Kelli O'Hara and Brian d'Arcy James
    Five intriguing auction items, from Denver Broncos to African safari
    More information
  • 'If/Then' composers: Writing for Idina Menzel is like learning to drive a Porsche

    by John Moore | Oct 14, 2015
    Brian Yorkey quote. Photo by Joan Marcus. The direction of 'If/Then,' and the lives of composers Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, below left, changed when they learned they would be writing their new musical for Idina Menzel. Photo above by Joan Marcus.



    When Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey won the Pulitzer Prize for writing the Broadway musical Next to Normal in 2010, they already were looking ahead to their next project. It was to be the story of a 25-year-old woman finding her way in New York.

    And that’s when producer David Stone dangled the most mellifluous bait in musical history before them: Why not make the character a little more seasoned, with some wear and tear?

    In other words: Why not write the character for Broadway superstar Idina Menzel?

    Hook, line and singer. If/Then was re-born, and the star of Rent, Wicked and the film Frozen would become both its face, and its biggest champion.

    Brian Yorkey, left, and Tom Kitt. This week, the first national touring production of If/Then launches in Denver with Menzel again taking center stage alongside principal castmates LaChanzeAnthony Rapp and James Snyder.

    “To be able to write for someone like Idina is a privilege,” said Yorkey, the musical’s lyricist. “It's also a challenge, because you have what will ultimately be considered one of the legendary instruments of the American musical theatre. So you better make it worth her while if you are writing songs for her.”

    In an era of larger-than-life Broadway spectacles, If/Then is an ambitious but deeply human story of a modern woman whose carefully designed plans for a new life collide with the whims of fate. The musical shows two parallel paths of how her life might unfold after she makes one seemingly ordinary choice.

    It’s The Butterfly Effect – the chaos theory that says the flapping of a butterfly’s wings on one side of the world can eventually build up to a hurricane on the other. Or, in this case, it's that one small decision really can change the entire course of your life, and of those around you.

    Yorkey believes in it.

    “I do. I read Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance when I was 17, and James Gleik's Chaos when I was 25. Those books blew my mind,” he said with a laugh.  

    Many of us, he added, would like to believe that there is a path chosen for us, or fated for us. “But I do know very small variations in the paths we take can lead to very great differences in the outcome,” he said.  

    “We can't know all of the implications of the choices great and small that we make today. Because we don't know which choices are going to end up looming large. I think that's terrifying and also kind of wonderful.”

    Kitt also believes everyday decisions can have huge, unknowable effects on other parts of your life.

    “I know that I got into Columbia, and that I am writing musicals, and that I have the family that I have because of a number of circumstances I couldn't even begin to plan out or fathom,” Kitt said. “But they happened, and here I am. Is that fate, or just the natural order of life? I think we all contemplate where we are at a certain point and wonder how we got there - and If/Then really lives there.”



    Here are more excerpts from DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore’s conversation with writers Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics):

    Tom Kitt quote. Photo by Joan Marcus.
    Photo by Joan Marcus.


    John Moore: I know you two got into this business to write new musicals for the American theatre. And when you were classmates at Columbia, I am sure you were told there is a certain formula that will most likely result in the production of marketable new musicals. I am wondering how you got the courage to not follow those rules?

    Tom Kitt: Certainly when you are a young writer and you are just looking to make your way in the world, you have to make your own opportunities and follow your own instincts and inspirations. For both Brian and me, Next to Normal felt like something really gargantuan to tackle. It felt like it was firmly in the world of shows like Hedwig and Rent and Tommy. Those shows were having an enormous influence on us when we started writing Next to Normal. 

    Brian Yorkey quote. Brian Yorkey: OK, let's let the truth be told: For a number of years, Tom and I were trying to write a musical version of Jerry Maguire. But we would get distracted by Feeling Electric - which was the working title of Next to Normal at the time. Part of us was primed to do something we thought would be commercial, but Next to Normal just kept pulling us back. You hear writers say things like this and it smells like (bleep), but Next to Normal really did kind of demand that we write it. But initially, I don't know if we were courageous ... or procrastinating. 

    John Moore: Can you promise me that somewhere in a trunk there is a song called “Show Me the Money”?

    Brian Yorkey: As a matter of fact, John, there is a song called "Show Me the Money." And when we see you in Denver, I will have Tom play a little bit of it to you. It totally exists.

    John Moore: That completes me.

    Tom Kitt: We were just trying to figure out how to pay the bills and find the writing time that we needed back then. Once the spark for Next to Normal happened, we just didn't look back, and we never questioned. We just felt like this was the thing we were supposed to be working on. 

    Brian Yorkey: And we were really lucky to have some very key allies along the way, like (producer) David Stone and Peter Askin. He directed the original production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

    John Moore: How do you wrap your head around the impact that Next to Normal has had, and the lives that it has saved?

    Brian Yorkey: Tom and I set out to write a show that was very personal to us, and for many years we didn't know that it would matter to anybody else. But it told a story that many people hadn't seen before in the musical theatre. Music has a way of digging in and seeping into your subconscious, which is perfect for a story like ours. We learned over time that the show doesn't just belong to us. It belongs to all of those people who respond to it and claim it in some way as their own. We always find it very humbling when people tell us the show has touched them, because we didn't set out to do that. And the opportunity to touch people in that way doesn't come along very often.

    Tom Kitt: Next to Normal was a labor of love, and it never gets tiresome to hear the effect that it has had on people. 

    READ COMPOSERS' WORDS OF COMFORT AFTER COLORADO SUICIDE

    John Moore: When I had my first opportunity to write about Next to Normal in The Denver Post, I said that if we’re lucky, Next to Normal and Spring Awakening were going to redefine normal when it comes to the new American musical. Do you think that's happened?

    Tom Kitt: The wonderful thing about musical theatre as an art form is that it keeps evolving and changing. And we keep getting hit, luckily, with these huge, impactful shows that change the game. They spark young writers who keep challenging the art form. I got to see Spring Awakening while I was working on Next to Normal, and that was hugely impactful for me. And then I got to go work on American Idiot with (director) Michael Mayer, and that show has had a huge effect on people. You can go back further and talk about Sondheim, and Kander and Ebb, and on and on. They are all linked. These shows happen, and they affect people, and what they all say is, 'Oh, this is possible.'

    Brian Yorkey: Look, I would love to believe that the success of Next to Normal gave courage to other writers and producers, just as I hope the success of Fun Home gives courage to other writers and producers. But nothing ever completely changes. Tom and I wrote Next to Normal, but we are also working on adaptations right now that we're very excited about. So I think adaptations and movies-turned-into-musicals will be part of our landscape forever. But I also hope shows like Fun Home and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson are part of our landscape, too. The fact that Next to Normal actually earned its money back and paid its investors off and then some, that is thrilling.

    Tom Kitt: We are seeing that again right now with Hamilton. Everyone is talking about how game-changing that is. I knew that as soon as I saw it.

    Brian Yorkey: (Hamilton writer and star) Lin-Manuel Miranda is someone we have always adored and respected. Hamilton is not only inspiring to us, it is also a little bit of a kick in the tush that says, "Hey, don't sit around and use old forms. See what you can do to take this thing we love and make it into something new. Lin is clearly doing that. Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years) is doing that. It seems like a great time for all of us to be inspiring and galvanizing and challenging each other to so something new and exciting.  

    Tom Kitt: Certainly the ambition behind If/Then was this: "What's possible in the musical theatre?" ‘How do we keep challenging ourselves to tell stories that seem like they could only happen on stage in a musical?"

    John Moore: So you essentially wrote If/Then for Idina Menzel. What was it like for you to write for someone of the magnitude?

    Brian Yorkey: As a songwriter, it's like being a race-car driver having the most brilliant Porsche to take out on the track. But you had better well know how to drive it. That's part of the great challenge of it.

    Tom Kitt: First and foremost, to be writing for Idina Menzel is a gift. I wanted to utilize Idina's enormous, gargantuan instrument, but I also wanted to vary it and really explore a number of different places for her to sing.

    John Moore: What was she like to work with?

    Brian Yorkey: It sounds like I am doing a con job on people whenever I talk about Idina, but for someone with such gifts and such stardom, she is generous and loving. She will try anything that we write for her, and she will do her damndest to make it work. We would cut songs that we felt just weren't good enough to have Idina and Anthony (Rapp) and LaChanze sing them - and Idina would argue with us to try to save them. She's got an amazing heart as well an amazing talent, and that combination is more rare than you would think. More than anybody, she is the one who has put this show on her back from Day 1 and carried it forward. It's been an absolute joy to work with her, and couldn't be more in awe.

    John Moore: Can you help describe her voice to a layman?

    Tom Kitt: Her range is so huge that she can really go anywhere. She sings as high as the highest people can go. And then she has a hugely wonderful richness to her low notes as well. There is just nothing that she can't do. Really, "Always Starting Over" and "You Learn to Live Without" is a great example of that because the former sits much more in her low tones, and the latter challenges her skyward. So that's a great way of saying you can write anywhere for this person and she can do it. That's why she is who she is.

    John Moore: How important is it that Idina Menzel is here in Denver to launch the national tour of If/Then?

    Tom Kitt: It's hugely important. The show was written for Idina Menzel. It is thrilling to see what has happened for her career since Frozen. But even with all that, she has remained a fierce champion of If/Then. And the fact that she is now doing this tour when she has a million things pulling her in all different directions - it just means a great deal. And it goes without saying how helpful it is to have Idina Menzel to raise interest in the show.

    John Moore: And how did feel about getting all four principal actors back for the tour?

    Brian Yorkey: It’s insane, right? It's kind of brilliant. But that also comes right down to Idina. I mean if she’s in, I’m sure it would be kind of hard for anyone else to say no.

    John Moore: So it’s really just peer pressure, pure and simple.

    Brian Yorkey: Exactly right.

    Brian Yorkey quote. Photo by Joan Marcus. Pictured: Idina Menzel and James Snyder. Photo by Joan Marcus.


    John Moore: This is history in the making. No Broadway musical of the modern era has ever managed to re-gather its entire principal cast for a national tour before.

    Brian Yorkey: To me, having Idina and LaChanze and Anthony and James - as well as our Musical Director, Carmel Dean - heading out for the first leg of the tour is absolutely essential because they are paving the way for the people who will follow. They are helping to build this thing for tour the way we built it for Broadway. And they are also showing the world once again that they believe in this kind of quirky, not-entirely-traditional new show of ours. To me, that means everything.

    John Moore: So what do you say to fans in the cities that come after the first leg?

    Brian Yorkey: Nobody is Idina Menzel. She is not replaceable. But they said the same thing about Alice Ripley, and Next to Normal is still playing all around the world, and it has flourished in the regional theatre. My great hope is that If/Then will go beyond this national tour. I hope many great actors will want to play Elizabeth and bring their own artistry to the role. I can tell you that people will see a gargantuan performance at the center of this show wherever the show is playing.

    LISTEN: COMPOSERS INTRODUCE YOU TO IF/THEN SCORE SAMPLES

    John Moore: If touring audiences only know you two from Next to Normal, how will the If/Then score both satisfy and surprise them?

    Brian Yorkey: I think it depends on the person. What I think If/Then has in common with Next to Normal is that Tom writes really emotional music. The music wears its heart on its sleeve. It doesn't necessarily prioritize complexity and sophistication in the way a lot of modern music does. Tom is really interested in getting to the heart of the matter musically, and I try to do the same lyrically. I try to be conversational, be human, to have lyrics that speak the way people speak and get to the heart of things. If/Then is certainly not as tensely emotional at every moment as Next to Normal, because it's telling a broader story.

    Tom Kitt: If/Then is definitely not trying to be Next to Normal in any way. The nature of the orchestrations, and the size of the orchestras, are very different.

    Brian Yorkey: Next to Normal is often referred to as a rock musical. It’s not just rock music, but the basic instrumentation is the same as a rock band. If/Then has a 13-piece orchestra. So I think there are more orchestral colors, both musically and lyrically.

    Tom Kitt: The thing that never goes away for Brian and me is that there is always a strong rhythmic quality in our songs. I think the people who come to see If/Then will definitely recognize us in the score.

    Brian Yorkey: I think the people who know and love Next to Normal will certainly find things to know and love in If/Then. And I hope they will also find colors that maybe they didn't hear in Next to Normal.   

    John Moore: How would you say the theme of the show is best reflected in your writing?

    Brian Yorkey: I don't want to be a (jerk) and quote my own lyrics, but at the end of the show, Elizabeth says, "You learn how to love the not knowing." I think a big part of life is learning how to be present in this moment and trust that we make decisions as our best self, and that the life that follows will be one worth living.

    John Moore: Denver has developed a reputation as a launching pad for national tours including The Lion King and The Book of Mormon and Pippin. Does it mean anything to you that the If/Then tour is launching here in Denver?

    Tom Kitt: Absolutely. Certainly to be in the company of all the shows you mentioned is meaningful. But when I have had other shows visiting Denver - Next to Normal, for example - the support and the reception have been wonderful. This is a city that has welcomed me as a writer into its collective heart. So the news that this is where we would begin the tour was really gratifying to me. 

    Brian Yorkey: For those of us on the creative team, you want to start at a place that is going to feel like a home away from home. You don’t want to be in a city that takes great pride in knocking things over. There are a few of those, if you know what I mean. You very much want to start in a city that is both sophisticated and theatre savvy, with people who are going to help you know what tweaks you need to make before you head out into the world. You want someplace that is going to feel welcoming. Denver fits that to a T, and I imagine that has a great deal to do with why it has become such a launching pad. And it is such a beautiful city. There couldn't be a better place for us to kick the tour off, as far as I am concerned.

    John Moore: Do you have any Colorado connections?

    Brian Yorkey: I have tons of cousins in the metro area, so I was really thrilled to hear we would be starting in Denver. I'm always very proud to show my relatives that what I do for a living is actually a real thing. One my cousins is studying musical theatre at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, so I am excited to have him and his classmates see the show. I visited him earlier this summer and I got to see him in a production of Godspell that was just fantastic. It knocked my socks off.

    Tom Kitt: My father used to work for NERA: National Economic Research Associates. They used to have annual conferences in Aspen, so I spent a lot of time there as a kid.

    John Moore: OK, so I am going to end with a really hard-hitting personal question.

    Brian Yorkey: Bring it.

    John Moore: Where do you keep your Pulitzer Prizes?

    Tom Kitt: I am moving, so my Pulitzer is going to be in a box soon.

    Brian Yorkey: I have a great story about the Tony Award (for Best Original Score).

    John Moore: Bring it.

    Brian Yorkey: So I met Warren Leight, who wrote Side Man, the night before the Tony Awards, and he said we were going to win. And I said, "Oh, I don't know about that." But he said, "No, you are going to win the Tony Award, and when you do, whatever you do, don't (bleeping) put it in your office." I asked why, and he said, "Because it will sit there staring at you every day saying, 'You will never write anything this good ever again.' " So I took him at his word, and I kept it in a bag on the floor of my office for about six months."

    John Moore: But you also won the Pulitzer Prize.

    Brian Yorkey: The funny thing about the Pulitzer is that you go to the ceremony and you meet all these reporters who risked their careers and their lives to report on this company that is poisoning this river. And then people ask you, 'Well, what did you write?' and I am like, 'Um … I wrote a play?'

    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.



    If/Then
    :
    Ticket information
    Oct. 13-25
    At the Buell Theatre
    Call 303-893-4100, buy in person at the Denver Center Ticket Office located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby, or BUY ONLINE
    ASL interpreted, Audio described & Open captioned performance: 2 p.m. Oct 25,
    Groups: Call 303-446-4829
    (Please be advised that the DCPA's web site at denvercenter.org is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for 'If/Then' performances in Denver)



    Our previous NewsCenter coverage of If/Then and Idina Menzel:

    Look for additional coverage of If/Then throughout the next two weeks at denvercenter.org/news-center

  • 'Next to Normal' composers' words of comfort following actor's suicide

    by John Moore | Oct 14, 2015
    Brian Yorkey, left, and Tom Kitt.
    Brian Yorkey, left, and Tom Kitt, are the composers of 'Next to Normal' and 'If/Then.'


    Michael, Melinda and Jeremy 'Jammer' DeJeanIn August, the Denver theatre community was left reeling from the suicide of Melinda Moore DeJean, a local actor and mother who had said she could not face another birthday after the death of her 24-year-old son.

    Because DeJean's story bears striking similarities to the lead character in the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal, we asked writers Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt if they had any words comfort for the DeJean family, or to anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide.

    Yorkey and Kitt are in Denver for the launch of their latest Broadway musical, If/Then, which follows the divergent paths one modern woman's life might take based on the outcome of one seemingly ordinary decision. Here is what they told us:

    Brian Yorkey: First of all, that is just heartbreaking news. I grew up in Seattle, and I was just directing a show up there this spring when a beloved member of the theatre community there committed suicide. The first thing that you often think about is the responsibility we feel to the person who is struggling. Often I think that when someone goes through with suicide, we feel that there was one thing that we must have not done. That we just didn't do enough. The fact is the monster, the disease, the condition that she was fighting can be stronger than all of us. That’s a terrible thing to contemplate, but it's important that those of us who are left behind know that we can do everything we possibly can and yet still lose to the darkness. I know that might not sound like words of comfort, but it is an important thing to keep in mind. The second part of it is that somehow the rest of us have to keep pushing forward, because I think moving forward, God willing, will help lift those people who are still engaged in the battle. It's not the fault of any one thing. It's a mighty struggle, and even when we lose along the way, we have to keep fighting."

    READ THE FULL STORY OF MELINDA MOORE DEJEAN

    Tom Kitt: Brian and I were met with reactions to Next to Normal that were really quite varied, from some people feeling like this was their life, to others saying they had seen things even worse than we showed in our play. And then there were those who said we didn’t go nearly far enough. So it's a very loaded topic. I can never begin to truly understand what someone else is feeling. There are just things that are really horrible that happen in the world, and we continually ask why and try to make sense of it, and we can't. But what we can do, I find, is come together. We can make music. We can make art. We can just be in each other's grace and be comforted to know that there are people who care. There are people who want to find the humanity in the world. So I would just say that concerts and conversations and organized talkbacks are a good thing. Anything that brings people together and allows people to air out their feelings and feel the support and love from their communities, families and friends is a good thing. And if my writing in shows like American Idiot and Next to Normal and If/Then can contribute to that, then I am doing something good.” 

    READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH TOM KITT AND BRIAN YORKEY

    Photo above: Michael DeJean, left, Melinda Moore DeJean, and Jeremy DeJean.

                  

     

  • 'If/Then': Choosing Between Two Roads Diverged

    by John Moore | Sep 24, 2015
    Idina Menzel in the Denver-bound Broadway musical 'If/Then.' Photo by Joan Marcus.
    Idina Menzel in the Denver-bound Broadway musical 'If/Then': This show "is especially meaningful for me because I had the opportunity to develop it for several years with the creative team." Photo by Joan Marcus.


    Broadway superstar Idina Menzel chose to star in the national tour of If/Then in Denver and perform in the first six cities that follow. Castmates LaChanzeAnthony Rapp and James Snyder then signed on as well.

    If/Then is a contemporary new musical that explores how vastly changed one woman’s life might have turned out if fate and her own choices had been different. We all make decisions every day that have the potential to impact not only the course of our lives, but of those closest to us.

    Case in point was Menzel’s consequential decision: “If Idina didn’t choose to launch the tour, then it wouldn’t be touring,” producer David Stone said flatly. “It’s as simple as that.”

    But because she did, If/Then is now believed to be the first musical of the modern Broadway era to be launching a national tour with all of its major principal cast reassembled.

    And Menzel wouldn’t want it any other way.

    If/Then quote“What’s so exciting about this for me is that it is completely brand-new material,” Menzel said. “But the best thing about If/Then is the people who are involved with this project. I’m smart enough to know to work with smart people."

    Some of those smart people include Director Michael Greif, who discovered Menzel when he cast her as wild-child Maureen in the landmark 1996 production of Rent; Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics), whose Next to Normal in 2010 became the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama since…well, Rent; and her Wicked producer, David Stone, who also produced Next to Normal.

    “To me, it’s absolutely essential that we have Idina and LaChanze and Anthony and James heading out for the first leg of the tour,” Yorkey said, “because they are paving the way for the people who will follow. And they are showing the world once again that they believe in this kind of quirky, not-entirely-traditional new show of ours. To me, that means everything.”

    Next to Normal was significantly boosted when Broadway star Alice Ripley chose to go out on the road with the show, Stone said. But it’s incredibly rare. And even less likely with Menzel, given the rocket ship her career has been on since she sang the ubiquitous anthem “Let it Go” for the hugely popular animated film, Frozen.

    “The fact that Idina is now doing this tour and bringing this story to Denver and beyond when she has a million things pulling her in all different directions…” Kitt said. “It just means a great deal.”

    She’s doing it because there is no understating how important If/Then has become to Menzel, who has remained fiercely committed to the show from the very beginning.

    If/Then is especially meaningful for me because I had the opportunity to develop it for several years with the creative team, whom I have come to consider family,” Menzel said.

    If/Then follows two distinct storylines in the life of Elizabeth, a city planner who moves back to New York to restart her life in a city of infinite possibilities. But when her carefully designed plans collide with the whims of fate, her life splits into two parallel paths. If/Then follows both stories simultaneously as they intersect at the meeting of choice and chance.

    Many women can relate, Menzel said. Starting with Menzel, who started over herself last year as a single mother in her 40s. “Shows come into your life when you need to learn something about your life that they have to teach you,” she said. “If/Then put its arms around me and taught me about choices. It has taught me that you have the opportunity and the power to wake up and start your life over every single day.”

    But If/Then wasn’t always Menzel’s story. In the writers’ inaugural treatment, Kitt and Yorkey imagined their protagonist to be a 25-year-old woman from Denver who moves to the Big City. The story would explore all the different paths her life might take.

    It was Stone who suggested, “Well, wouldn’t it be more interesting if she were older and coming back to New York with some baggage?” he said. The writers loved the idea — and so did Menzel. Suddenly Kitt and Yorkey found themselves writing If/Then for a singular performer “who ultimately will be recognized as one of the legendary instruments of the American musical theatre,” Yorkey said. “So you better make it worth her while if you are writing songs for her.”

    No pressure.

    “To be able to write for someone like Idina is a privilege and a thrill and also a challenge,” Yorkey said. “As a songwriter, it’s like being a race-car driver and getting to take the most brilliant Porsche out on the track: You better well know how to drive it.”

    Kitt says that Porsche of a voice has a range so huge, “She can really go anywhere. She sings as high as the highest people can go. And then she has a wonderful richness to her low notes as well. There is just nothing that she can’t do."

    Including, apparently, taking her Porsche out for a few months on the open road.

    “I’m so thrilled to launch the show’s national tour and to send it off across the country and around the world,” Menzel said. “I am very much looking forward to sharing this original musical with Broadway fans who weren’t able to travel to New York and see it there.”

    If/Then production photos by Joan Marcus:




    If/Then:
    Ticket information
    Oct. 13-25
    At the Buell Theatre
    Call 303-893-4100, buy in person at the Denver Center Ticket Office located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby, or BUY ONLINE
    ASL interpreted, Audio described & Open captioned performance: 2 p.m. Oct 25,
    Groups: Call 303-446-4829

    (Please be advised that the DCPA's web site at denvercenter.org is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for 'If/Then' performances in Denver)



    Our previous NewsCenter coverage of If/Then and Idina Menzel:
    Look for additional coverage of If/Then, including our expanded interviews with Idina Menzel, LaChanze, David Stone, Brian Yorkey, Tom Kitt and other members of the cast and crew, at denvercenter.org/news-center
  • Guest columnist Margie Lamb on the Henry Awards: Something doesn't add up

    by John Moore | Jul 10, 2015

    Editor's Note: The DCPA NewsCenter offers a weekly guest column from a variety of local and national voices covering a wide range of theatre topics. To submit a proposed guest column, email your name and topic to jmoore@dcpa.org.


    By Margie Lamb
    Denver Actor

    Margie Lamb quoteI have been a part of Colorado’s theater community for almost 25 years. I trained for 10 of those years under the direction of Bill McHale, a well-known and respected director at the Country Dinner Playhouse. Bill taught me the basics of theater both on stage and off: How I should not question the outcome of auditions or the dreaded reviews that followed every opening weekend. So, out of respect, I never did. 

    I sat by and watched as actors, directors, designers and musicians were nominated for the coveted Denver Drama Critics Circle Awards – or, conversely, went unrecognized for their work. I never questioned the outcome because at the time, I felt deep down inside that the Critics Circle Awards were in good hands: The good hands of experts who were highly respected in the theater community. Although I didn’t always agree with the outcome, in the end I trusted their opinions because of their experience.

    But those awards went away in 1999. And now the closest thing we have left resembling a traditional awards program are the Colorado Theater Guild’s Henry Awards. On July 20, the Guild will host its 10th annual awards honoring the best in Colorado theatre among its member companies. But the outcome of these awards is not in the hands of the dwindling number of remaining legitimate theatre critics. Now, 46 Henry Award judges with a wide range of theater experience consider the participating shows. The judges are made up of former and current writers and reviewers, retired educators, artistic directors and, making up the largest group by far: Citizen judges whose primary qualification is that they are avid theatregoers.

    Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's 'Stupid F##king Bird' got a four-star review from The Denver Post - but was shut out of the Henry Award nominations. Pictured: Luke Sorge and Jaimie Morgan. Photo by Michael Ensminger. Now I watch the Henry Awards each year as productions that received outstanding reviews by respected critics are not even being nominated by the Henrys in any category. This year, that list includes Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s Stupid F##ing Bird, Grounded and The Aliens. The Aurora Fox’s She Kills Monsters and Beets. Creede Repertory Theatre’s The Last Romance. All My Sons by Cherry Creek Theatre. Ham McBeth by Square Product Theatre. Curious’ In the Red and Brown Water. Vintage’s Harold and Maude, and Mack and Mabel. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. Colorado Springs TheatreWorks’ As You Like It. Equinox’s Bug. Mizel’s Kindertransport.

    All of these shows received 3½ or 4-star reviews from The Denver Post. None of them got a single Henry Award nomination.

    My question is this: Were the critics wrong … or the Henry Award judges?

    (Photo above: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's 'Stupid F##king Bird' got a four-star review from The Denver Post - but was shut out of the Henry Award nominations. Pictured: Luke Sorge and Jaimie Morgan. Photo by Michael Ensminger.)

    The cats of Town Hall Arts Center's 'Next to Normal' (clockwise from left): Jared Ming, Margie Lamb, Daniel Langhoff, Jacquie Jo Billings, Josh Bess and Ethan Knowles. Photo by Michael Ensminger. Last season, I was part of an ongoing passion of mine called Next to Normal, which I performed for a third different company: The Littleton Town Hall Arts Center. My work in this show has been recognized by the Ovation, Marlowe and Westword awards, so I consider myself abundantly blessed. But my heart breaks for the many other artists on and off stage whose work on those very special productions has never been acknowledged by the Henry Awards.

    I would and can accept this, if I knew for certain that all of the Henry Award judges have real and practical experience in the theater field. But I don’t. And I question how someone who simply has a history of merely sitting in an audience watching theatre has earned the credibility to be a judge. I don’t doubt that the judges all love theatre. But how can they possibly know the complexities of acting, or of executing a vocal track? How can they know the intricacies of sound and set design; of orchestration, direction or choreography?

    (Photo above: The cast of Town Hall Arts Center's 'Next to Normal' (clockwise from left): Jared Ming, Margie Lamb, Daniel Langhoff, Jacquie Jo Billings, Josh Bess and Ethan Knowles. The Director was Nick Sugar. Photo by Michael Ensminger.)

    READ MORE: OUR INTERVIEW WITH THE HENRY AWARDS' GLORIA SHANSTROM

    The Next to Normal score is incredibly difficult. And I can’t help but wonder if that fact is easily recognizable to the untrained ear. A successful production should make it look easy. That doesn’t mean it was easy. Year after year, I see newer and cutting-edge musicals passed over by the Henry Awards, and I can’t help but think the judging pool might benefit from an infusion of younger (while still qualified) judges who might be more receptive to less traditional material.

    I’m also concerned at how the voting process actually occurs. In order for a show to qualify for awards consideration, six judges must attend the show during the course of the run. Judges are allowed to choose which shows they want to see, as long as they don’t go to the same venues every year. If only five judges make it during the run, the show does not qualify. If 12 judges attend, all completed ballots are then turned upside down on a table, and six are blindly selected as that show’s official scores. The other ballots, some of which might have been filled out by qualified, professional critics, simply don’t count. Luck of the draw.

    Perhaps the Guild should take the bull by the horns and simply assign a considered mix of six judges to every show – no more, no less. If there aren’t enough interested judges, reach out to our community of vocal and acting coaches, choreographers, sound designers and former music directors. They are out here, and they are more than willing to be a part of this process. They might just need to be found and asked.

    This is what has raised my eyebrows in the past. And after 10 years of sitting back and watching the Henry Awards process unfold, this is what now makes me want to speak out. 

    The Henry Awards wisely distinguish between large-budget and small-budget productions in considering the nominees for its design categories because, as the thinking goes, money matters in those areas of production. There is no distinction in the acting categories, because acting is acting. And I agree.

    But judging is not just judging. If the Colorado Theatre Guild wants the Henrys to be truly seen as “Colorado’s Tony Awards,” as it advertises, listen to our voices. Together let’s make a credible awards program we can all respect - whether an individual or a production is nominated or not.

    About Our Guest Columnist:
    Margie Lamb was most recently recognized by Westword as 2015 Best Actress in a Musical for her work in Next to Normal at Town Hall Arts Center. Her work has been seen across Colorado, including The Aurora Fox, Boulder’s Dinner Theater, The Arvada Center and Breckenridge Backstage Theater. She will be appearing at the Miners Alley Playhouse in Pump Boys and Dinettes from July 17-Aug. 23.

    Previous Guest Columns:
    Bryan VanDriel on Lloyd Norton: A name that will live on in Greeley
    Jessica Jackson on Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
    Susan Lyles on 10 years of staging plays for women in Denver
     
    Be Our Guest (Columnist)
    The DCPA NewsCenter offers a weekly guest column from a variety of local and national voices covering a wide range of theatre topics. To submit a proposed guest column, email your name and proposed topic to jmoore@dcpa.org.

    2014-15 Henry Awards
    6 p.m. Monday, July 20
    Arvada Center. 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.
    Tickets: $23 for CTG members, $30 non-members or $50 VIP. Tickets go on sale July 6 through the Arvada Center website or by calling 720-898-7200. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door for $35.

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2015 Henry Awards:
    The Henry Awards: The complete list of nominations
    Duck and cover: Gloria Shanstrom takes your Henry Awards questions

  • DCPA to launch national tour of 'If/Then' in October

    by NewsCenter Staff | Jan 29, 2015
    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts announced today that the national tour of If/Then, which was named best musical of 2014 by New York Magazine, will launch in Denver in October 2015.

    Performances begin Oct. 13 at the Buell Theatre and run through Oct. 25. If/Then will be part of the 2015-16 Broadway season. The remaining shows on the upcoming season will be announced at a later date.

    'If/Then'If/Then is a contemporary new Broadway musical written by Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics), and directed by Michael Greif, the creative team behind the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical Next to Normal. 

    “The Denver Center is proud to bring this hugely entertaining and deeply moving new American musical to Denver," said John Ekeberg, Executive Director for DCPA Broadway. "If/Then caught the attention of (late predecessor) Randy Weeks and me very early on, given the stellar producing and creative team behind it.

    "The producer, David Stone, is committed to bringing new musicals to theatre audiences around the world, including such titles as Wicked, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Next to Normal and now, If/Then. The DCPA continues to be committed to supporting new work. So to be able to launch the tour of this thrilling musical here in Denver is a privilege for all of us here.  I’m so excited that our audiences will be the first to experience this show straight from Broadway.”

    If/Then follows two distinct storylines in the life of Elizabeth, a city planner who moves back to New York to re-start her life in that city of infinite possibilities. When her carefully designed plans collide with the whims of fate, Elizabeth’s life splits into two parallel paths. If/Then follows both stories simultaneously as this modern woman faces the intersection of choice and chance.

    The Washington Post called If/Then “a smart, deeply touching and big-hearted new musical. Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s score is invested with melodic urgency, bringing you to tears or breathlessness.”

    If/Then
    features choreography by Larry Keigwin, set design by Tony Award nominee Mark Wendland, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Tony Award winner Kenneth Posner and sound design by Tony Award winner Brian Ronan.

    Casting for the national tour of If/Then will be announced at a later date. The original Broadway Cast recording is available on iTunes. For more information about If/Then, please visit IfThenTheMusical.com.

    Ticketing information:

    If/Then will be a featured production on the 2015-16 DCPA Broadway season, which is not yet announced or available at this time. Subscriptions for the 2014-15 Broadway season are currently on sale and start as low as four payments of $26.81. Restrictions apply. To purchase a subscription, please call Denver Center Ticket Services at 303-893-4100 or 800-641-1222, or visit the ticket office located in the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex at Speer Boulevard and Arapahoe Steets. Purchase online at denvercenter.org/bwaysubs.

    Follow theDenver Center for the Performing Arts on Twitter @DenverCenter, or on Facebook.  

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

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