• 'The Who's Tommy': By the headbanging numbers

    by John Moore | Jun 17, 2018
    Tommy cast by the numbers John Moore

    The cast and crew for the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Who's Tommy.' Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Here's a fun taste of what a major feat it was to make a 95-minute rock opera run like a finely tuned ... pinball machine

    Kate ColtunBy Kate Coltun (pictured at right)
    DCPA Theatre Company Production Manager

    The production process is an often-invisible machine humming away under the unforgettable storytelling we realize onstage. I’d love to pull back the curtain a little on one specific pinball-wizard project — The Who’s Tommy — and share some numbers.

    TOMMY NUMBERS HUMANS

    58 Theatre professionals who showed up every night to make our little skit happen, on stage or off. Broken down, that’s:

    • 20 Actors (including two understudies)
    • 8 Band members
    • 3 Stage managers
    • 1 Production assistant
    • 1 Light-board operator
    • 3 Spotlight operators
    • 1 Audio engineer
    • 1 Onstage audio crew member
    • 1 Video operator
    • 8 Stagehands running deck, rail, traps and automation
    • 5 Dressers 
    • 2 Wig assistants
    • 1 Child supervisor
    • 1 House manager running the front of house 

    (This does NOT include the dozens of artisans, carpenters, artists, designers, support staff, administrators, marketers, dramaturgical staff, fight directors, dialect coaches, music directors and other specialists who touched this play at some point from inception to its realization.)

    TOMMY NUMBERS JASON SHERWOOD. PHOTO BY ADAMS VISCOMTHE SET

    • Our set, designed by Jason Sherwood, was made up of 4 lifts, 2 concentric turn tables, 2 flying drops, a house that explodes, and a remarkable ballet happening in the trap room to achieve the flawless dance of lifts, turns and magical deliveries that we make look easy. We even engaged our fabulous engineering department to do regular checks on our show-stopping hydraulics system to which we are so grateful. Jason, who was just nominated for a Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award for his work, imagined an idyllic dollhouse to represent Tommy’s childhood that turned into an electrified, abstract pinball machine the moment he learned he could play. Every panel, doorknob, picture frame and detail was electrified to glow and change color as this “deaf, dumb, and blind kid” finally came to life.

    TOMMY NUMBERS 2PROPERTIES

    • Our props team realized a variety of magical pieces, including 3 highly detailed scale-model dollhouses the cast sit on, stood on, danced on, crawled in and out of, lit up, and showed projected video, along with two period-correct pinball machines that lit up, rolled around and played.

    COSTUMES AND WARDROBE

    • 113 Costume changes (in a 95-minute play)
    • 30 Wigs that needed to be switched, maintained and dressed
    • At 1 point we had 5 actors wearing 3 costumes at once to facilitate quick changes

    TOMMY LIGHTING FIXTURES. PHOTO BY ADAMS VISCOMLIGHTING

    • 1 Light-board operator
    • 2 Computers running in sync
    • 3 Spotlight operators
    • 32 Universes of DMX control
    • 36 Different types of lighting fixtures
    • 46 Color scrollers
    • 55 Discreet effects
    • 70 Radio-controlled channels
    • 500 Feet of LED tape
    • 709 Lighting fixtures
    • 831 Lighting cues
    • 16,140 Highest DMX address. (DMX stands for Digital Multiplex Protocol. It is an accepted industry method that allows a lighting console to talk to other things like lights and effects. So what does that number mean? Think of each control channel as a switch in your house. So that would be 16,000 switches in your house to control your lights!

    SOUND

    • 1 Giant, 3D-mapped special audio processor just for this production
    • 40 Microphones 
    • 64 Individual outputs from the sound console
    • 150 Fired sound cues (separate from the ongoing live mix of mic levels) 

    PROJECTIONS

    • 1 LED mapping system that talked to our lighting console
    • 1 Live camera feed
    • 6 Video outputs 
    • 7 Artists who created content
    • 140 Total number of cues
    • 101,125 minutes: The amount of time it took to render the animation we used across multiple computers — just in the opening prologue alone. That’s almost 1,700 hours. (If you don't know what rendering is, well ... it's complicated. Click here for a helpful explanation.)

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    TOMMY NUMBERS 6STAGE MANAGEMENT
    They are the captains of this mighty ship, and we couldn’t do a show without any one of them. 

    • 761 Called cues, which averages about 1 cue every 7 seconds (though they often came in clumps, with much less time between). 
    • 70 hours of tech time before we were ready to preview. (This is time spent in the theatre with actors, designers and technical staff. On a daily basis, our artists, support staff and crew would start at 8 a.m. to be ready for rehearsal by 11 a.m., and finish their day at around midnight throughout the tech process. This does not include the 186 rehearsal hours before we hit the stage. 

    I just wanted to give you all a taste of what a significant feat it was to make this 95-minute show run like the awesome well-oiled machine it was. To everyone involved with the production: Job well done.   

    Production photos by Adams VisCom.

    TOMMY BY THE NUMBERS 3


    Video: A 360-degree scene from 'The Who's Tommy' at the Denver Center


    Prepare to have your mind blown: We filmed a scene from 'The Who’s Tommy' using a 360-degree camera. 'The Who's Tommy.' Use the arrows to get the full effect. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

    Selected NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:

    Cast:

    • Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les Misérables, Spring Awakening, NBC’s “Smash”) as Tommy
    • Joe Beauregard (Kinky Boots first national tour) as Ensemble
    • Charl Brown (Broadway’s Motown The Musical) as Captain Walker
    • Katie Drinkard (DCPA’s The Wild Party) as Swing
    • Carson Elrod (Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher, Noise’s Off) as Uncle Ernie
    • Lulu Fall (Broadway’s Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Hair) as Acid Queen/Ensemble
    • David Hess (Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd) as Minister/Specialist/Judge/Ensemble
    • Sara Kapner (Broadway’s Hollywood Arms) as Sally Simpson/Ensemble
    • Gareth Keegan (CBS’ Instinct) as Cousin Kevin/Lover
    • Charlie Korman (DCPA’s Frankenstein) as Young Cousin Kevin/Ensemble
    • Betsy Morgan (Broadway’s The King and I) as Mrs. Walker
    • Corbin Payne (The Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as Swing
    • Terence Reddick (Broadway’s Les Miserables) as Ensemble
    • Tristan Champion Regini (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Understudy
    • Timothy John Smith (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) as Hawker/Ensemble
    • Olivia Sullivent (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Ensemble
    • Erin Willis (Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Ensemble
    • Owen Zitek (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Tommy.
    • Samuel Bird and Radley Wright will share the role of Young Tommy at age 4

    Creatives:

    • Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
    • Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
    • Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
    • Directed by Sam Buntrock
    • Choreography by Katie Spelman (Oklahoma at Goodspeed Opera House)
    • Musical direction by Gregg Coffin (DCPA’s Sweeney Todd)
    • Scenic design by Jason Sherwood (DCPA’s Frankenstein, Off-Center’s The Wild Party)
    • Costume design by Kevin Copenhaver (DCPA’s Frankenstein)
    • Lighting design by David Weiner (Stephen King’s Misery on Broadway)
    • Sound design by Ken Travis (Broadway’s Aladdin)
    • Projection design by Alex Basco Koch (Broadway’s Irena's Vow)
    • Fight direction by Geoffrey Kent (DCPA’s This Is Modern Art)
    • Vocal and dialect coaching by Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D (DCPA’s The Secret Garden)
    • Stage Management by Kurt Van Raden
    • Assistant Stage Management by Corin Ferris and Michael Morales.

    The orchestra:

    • Angela Steiner: Conductor/Keyboard 1
    • Dan Graeber: Keyboard 2
    • Matthe Scheffelman: French Horn
    • Guitar 1: David DeVine
    • Guitar 2: Daniel Schwindt
    • Bass: Jason Tyler Vaughn
    • Drums/Percussion: Shawn King
    • Music Conductor: Jim Harvey

    DCPA Theatre Company Artistic team:

    • Chris Coleman: Artistic Director
    • Nataki Garrett: Associate Artistic Director
    • Charlie Miller: Associate Artistic Director
    • Douglas Langworthy: Literary Director/Director of New Play Development
    • Melissa Cashion: Artistic Producer
    • Grady Soapes: Associate Producer/Director of Casting
    • Chad Henry: Literary Associate

    Production:

    • Jeff Gifford: Director of Production
    • Kate Coltun: Production Manager
    • Matthew Campbell: Assistant Production Manager
    • Julie Brou: Production and Artistic Office Manager

    Scenic Design:

    • Lisa M. Orzolek: Director of Scenic Design
    • Kevin Nelson, Nicholas Renaud: Scenic Design Assistants

    Lighting Design:

    • Charles R. MacLeod:  Director of Lighting
    • Lily Bradford: Lighting Design Assistant
    • Reid Tennis: Production Electrician

    Multimedia:

    • Gregory W. Towle: Projection Supervisor
    • Topher Blair: Multimedia Specialist

    Sound Design:

    • Craig Breitenbach: Director of Sound
    • Alex Billman, Frank Haas, Tyler Nelson: Sound Technicians

    Stage Management:

    • Kurt Van Raden: Production Stage Manager
    • Christoper C. Ewing: Senior Stage Manager
    • Kailey Buttrick, Rachel Ducat, Heidi Echtenkamp, Corin Ferris, Rick Mireles, Kristen O’Connor, D. Lynn Reiland: Stage Managers

    Scene Shop:

    • Eric Moore: Technical Director
    • Robert L. Orzolek: Associate Technical Director
    • Albert “Stub” Allison: Assistant Technical Director
    • Louis Fernandez III: Lead Technician
    • Tyler Clark, Brian “Marco” Markiewicz, Wynn Pastor, Kyle Scoggins, Kyle Simpson, Mara Zimmerman: Scenic Technicians

    Prop Shop:

    • Robin Lu Payne: Properties Director
    • Eileen S. Garcia: Assistant Properties Director
    • Jamie Stewart Curl, David Hoth, Georgina Kayes, Katie Webster: Props Artisans

    Paint Shop:

    • Jana L. Mitchell: Charge Scenic Artist
    • Melanie Rentschler: Lead Scenic Artist
    • Kristin Hamer MacFarlane: Scenic Artist

    Costume Shop:

    • Janet S. MacLeod: Costume Director/Costume Design Associate
    • Meghan Anderson Doyle: Costume Design Associate
    • Carolyn Plemitscher, Jackie Scott: Drapers
    • Cathie Gagnon: First Hand
    • Sheila P. Morris: Tailor

    Costume Crafts:

    • Kevin Copenhaver: Costume Crafts Director
    • Chris Campbell: Costume Crafts Assistant

    Wigs:

    • Diana Ben-Kiki: Wig Master

    House Crew:

    • Doug Taylor: Supervising Stagehand
    • Jim Berman, Jennifer Guethlein, Stephen D. Mazzeno, Miles Stasica, Tyler Stauffer, Matt Wagner: Stagehands
    • Kyle Moore: Assistant Stagehand

    Wardrobe:

    • Brenda Lawson: Director of Wardrobe
    • Taylor Malott, Jessica A. Rayburn: Wig Assistants
    • Robin Appleton, Amber Donner, Anthony Mattivi, Tim Nelson, Lisa Parsons Wagner, Alan Richards: Dressers

     

  • Andy Mientus: That deaf, dumb and blind kid is anyone who's been marginalized

    by John Moore | May 10, 2018

    Video excerpts from Andy Mientus' conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore about playing the title role in 'The Who's Tommy' for the DCPA Theatre Company through May 27.  

    Stage and TV star sees Tommy as a traumatized boy who is 'looking at his life through the wrong end of the telescope'

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Who’s Tommy is a rock opera that tells the sad story of a traumatized little boy who's beaten, exploited and molested — and comes out of it a madly adored pop star. But while to some Tommy's operatic ordeal might sound a tad close to a tilt (to use pinball parlance), it all feels very real to actor Andy Mientus.  

    “I think Tommy becomes a stand-in for anybody who feels marginalized in any way — anyone who isn't seen or heard or felt or touched,” said Mientus, who plays the adored and idolized and ultimately discarded Tommy in the DCPA Theatre Company’s acclaimed new production playing through May 27 in The Stage Theatre.

    Sam Buntrock quote. Andy Mientus“When we get to see how that kind of upbringing affects him into adulthood, I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to,” said Mientus, who has starred on Broadway in Spring Awakening and Les Misérables, and had a featured role on NBC’s “Smash.”

    “It's definitely something I can relate to: That feeling of being an ‘other’ in your own community. Feeling you're the one who doesn't quite fit in, or you’re the one people don't see. That definitely speaks to me.”

    Director Sam Buntrock said Mientus fundamentally understands the fame aspect of Tommy’s story from his own experiences with celebrity.

    “I think what Andy brings — and I mean this as the utmost compliment —  is a simplicity and an innocence, but without being childlike,” Buntrock said. “His Tommy is very clear and very charismatic. But also, when Tommy has experienced the effects of being famous, Andy is playing that with an honesty and a brutality that's really, really arresting. And it's real.”

    Mientus has had a remarkable but indirect ascent in his performing career, having risen from a Spring Awakening groupie in Michigan to having a featured role on "Smash."

    “My story really goes to show that there is no set path,” he said with a laugh. (More on that path below.)    

    “As somebody who has been trying to make a living in performing arts for almost 10 years now, yes, it is very true that people are quick to lift an artist up, and quick to forget them and drop them,” he said. “That’s the fickle nature of fame. When finally you are heard and seen by masses of people, it becomes an addiction. It becomes a drug. And it can lead to some really destructive behavior. And then what happens when those people go away? That’s definitely something that I continue to feel.”

    Here are more excerpts from Andy Mientus’ conversation with Senior Arts Journalist John Moore:    

    John Moore: I'm guessing you have one of the most mispronounced names in show business.

    Andy Mientus: I do. Mee-en-tas. It's weird because it's not an actual name from an actual cultural heritage. There are a lot of consonants in our family name, and when my ancestors got to Ellis Island they kind of hacked it in half. So no one knows where to place its origin.

    John Moore: And where does it actually come from?

    Andy Mientus: It’s Polish. So it had lots of Cs, and Zs and other excitement in there. And now … it doesn't.

    John Moore: Tell us when we have seen you before in Denver.

    Andy Mientus: I was here in 2009 doing the first national tour of Spring Awakening at the Buell Theatre. I remember that it was the dead of winter, so I didn't get to see much of Denver. I'm very happy to be back and able to explore.

    Our deeper dive with Director Sam Buntrock

    John Moore: What was it about this show, this production and this director that made you want to come to Denver to do this?

    Andy Mientus: Tommy is definitely a bucket-list show and role for me. I really didn't grow up in a household where we listened to a lot of musicals. But our house was filled with music. There were always classic rock albums playing, soul records, country. So I grew up with “Tommy,” the album. I loved the tunes, and my family loved the tunes. It’s one of the things that bonded us. That’s one reason I’ve always wanted to play the role. But also because this genre of music is more my actual wheelhouse than some of the things I've done in my musical-theatre career. This is the kind of music I like to sing in the shower. So just to get to do the role is really exciting to me. And then, when I saw that Sam Buntrock was directing, I said, ‘Absolutely.’ Being aware of his other work, I just knew this was going to be unlike any production of Tommy I had ever seen before. When you think of Tommy on stage, you think of that iconic Des McAnuff Broadway production: Tommy, the wig, the white costume, the geometric shapes — just the sheer scale of that production. I just  knew that Sam was going to do something completely different. He is, and it's really thrilling.

    (Story continues below the photo.)

    Andy mientus quote. Photo by John Moore.

    John Moore: Recount for us how you went from a Spring Awakening groupie to being on national TV in Smash?

    Andy Mientus:  When I was a theater student, I fell in love with Spring Awakening, and I made a Facebook fan group for the show — back in the days when you could do that. A bunch of my friends had seen it over the summer and we were just buzzing about it, and making that page was just something I did one Saturday. And then a bunch of people started following it. And then one of the producers reached out and said they were exploring using social media, which was a very new concept for a Broadway show at the time. I already had all these Spring Awakening followers, so they said: 'Why don't we just make your page the show page?' And so I became one of the first-ever Social Media Managers for a Broadway show.

    John Moore: Did they know then that you could sing?

    Andy Mientus: They knew that I was a performer. So when (auditions) were coming up for the first national tour, they said, ‘Oh, you should go audition.' There's one in Chicago, and you're in Michigan. It's not that far.’ It actually is kind of far, but I drove there. I waited in line at 5 o’clock in the morning. I still know the guys who stood on either side of me in line — and we are all still in the business. Many callbacks later, and after many more twists and turns, I was cast in the national tour.

    John Moore: That's storybook.

    Video bonus: Andy Mientus sings acoustic 'Sensation'

    Andy Mientus: It was a really big, auspicious first gig to have. And so naturally I thought, ‘OK, you're in the national tour of a Broadway show — so, next you'll be in a Broadway show. And it will just sort of continue from there. And ... that's not how it works. I had some very quiet years when that was done. I was really hitting the pavement, doing little gigs, getting my name out there, playing any concert, working for free, seeing casting directors. But I just could not get cast in a Broadway show. But then I did get cast by NBC for "Smash" — which oddly enough was a show about Broadway. It took being on a TV show about Broadway to get cast, finally, in a Broadway show. That was Les Misérables in 2014. And it's just gotten weirder since then. I mean, there really is no linear path.

    John Moore: It’s crazy to think that one episode of Smash was seen by more people than could probably ever see you perform live on a stage over your whole lifetime.

    Andy Mientus: That’s true.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: Can you relate any of the lessons learned through all of that to your performance now in Tommy?

    Andy Mientus: Oh, gosh, yes. I really relate to the part about Tommy growing up feeling isolated, feeling unseen, feeling unheard — and then suddenly, because of this one weird little talent he possesses, all these people want to be around him. I was so young during the Spring Awakening tour. I was away from home for the first time, and I was going through a really crazy time in my personal life. And suddenly there are all these people looking at you, and you think it's genuine. They've seen you on stage being vulnerable in front of an audience, and they are following what you're doing, and so they think that they know you. But they don't actually know you at all. There's this moment in Tommy where he brings all these people into his home and he thinks, ‘Oh, now I've filled the gap. I have this family.’ And then based on something Sally Simpson says, he quickly realizes that he had it all wrong. They don't really want to be around him — They want to be around the idea of him. That’s something I have encountered, that hunger for attention because of deep personal struggle. Yeah.

    John Moore: So here’s a practical actor question: How does one actually rehearse playing deaf, dumb and blind? Do you put on a blindfold and go, or do you go full-on Daniel Day-Lewis?

    (Story continues below the photo.)

    Tommy. Photo by Adams VisCom
    Andy Mientus and the cast of 'The Who's Tommy' for the DCPA Theatre Company, playing through May 27. Scenic Design by Jason Sherwood. Photo by Adams VisCom.


    Andy Mientus: I really just try to lock into Tommy's inner life. I can relate to what it feels like to be marginalized, so that's what I try to feel when I'm doing all of that. But there is one practical way: I actually have terrible vision if I take my contacts out. So I rehearsed without them for the first few days —  just to really get into that ‘Tommy Stare.’ In my head, I'm thinking that I'm in one of those horror stories where the anesthesia has kicked in just enough for you to be paralyzed and numb, but not enough to be unconscious. Tommy's in there watching it all. It's a bit like the movie Get Out when they go to the Sunken Place. Tommy’s looking at his life through the wrong end of the telescope. He's seeing it all. He’s taking it all in — but he has no control over it. I just try to think about the terror of that and the isolation of that and the sadness of that. And that's a lot to think about — so then it's easy to just go numb and catatonic.

    John Moore: What do you want to say to those people who already are familiar with Tommy, either the album or from seeing a local stage production of The Who's Tommy, and think they may already may know what they are in for when they come to see this show?

    (Pictured below and right: Andy Mientus with the other three actors who portray Tommy for the Denver Center: Samuel Bird, left, and Radley Wright play Tommy at age 4; Owen Zitek, front, plays Tommy at age 10. Photo by Bamboo Booth.)

    Andy Mientus Tommy. Bamboo Booth.Andy Mientus: I think that no matter what experience you bring into our production — whether you're a huge fan of the album or a huge fan of the Des McAnuff Broadway production — I think you are going to be incredibly surprised and, I hope, pleasantly surprised. I think the album fans will be surprised because we are telling a fully realized visual story based on this music that you already know and love. And the film fans will see it all in a way that's different from the movie, which is very much ‘of its time.’ Our version tells a more human story and a more relatable story and a much more realistic story. For all of its fantastical elements, we really have found a way, I think, to make the story feel plausible and realistic. If you were a big fan of the Broadway production, you think scale. You think of a large cast, the dancing, the lights. This is not like that. I feel audiences today are hungry for a more chamber, intimate, authentic experience like Next to Normal or Dear Evan Hansen — shows that really strip everything away and focus on storytelling. Our production's feels a lot more like that. And I think that’s going to let you hear a lot of these lyrics, in a new way.

    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.

    Bonus coverage: Andy Mientus, author of 'The Backstagers and the Ghost Light'

    John Moore: Tell us about your book.

    Andy Mientus: I have been tasked with writing a series of books based on this incredible comic series called The Backstagers and the Ghost Light. The publisher was looking to expand the original eight-comic arc into a series of books for 10- to 14-year-olds. And they hired me to do so. I've never written a novel before, but I've just turned in the first installment, which is called The Backstagers, and it comes out on Sept. 25 from Chronicle Books, which is an imprint of Abrams Books. It's available for pre-order now. And I'm already working on the second one, which am writing while I'm here in Denver. So I think it's going to be influenced by my experiences here, definitely.

    John Moore: What’s it about?

    Andy Mientus: It's about a group of kids who come together and make magic behind the scenes. And I think that's a really important story to tell.

    John Moore: Who is your target audience?

    Andy Mientus: I think the readers for this book are theater kids. It's a book I wish that I had growing up as a theater nerd. Because not only is it about theater and what makes theater cool and fun and exciting, it's about friendship and inclusivity.

    John Moore: What about theatre nerds who are older than 14 … like me?

    Andy Mientus: I've written it to be appropriate and clear for 10- to 14-year-olds. But if you're into any kind of whimsical, sci-fi magic stories that also have jokes about Hello, Dolly! in it, you'll love this. So middle-aged theater nerds shouldn't feel embarrassed to read it.

    Pre-order 'Backstagers and the Ghost Light' now


    The Who's Tommy:
    Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:

    Video: Your first look at The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center

    Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk,

  • Director Sam Buntrock on 'Tommy' and riding the rock 'n roller coaster

    by John Moore | May 04, 2018


    Our video takes you behind-the-scenes with the making of the DCPA Theatre Company’s 'The Who's Tommy, Interviews include Director Sam Buntrock, star Andy Mientus and choreographer Katie Spelman. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk.

     

    A deeper drive with the director: What happens when we discover our fallen gods are merely human beings? 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Who’s seminal rock opera Tommy is Pete Townshend's semi-autobiographical story of a kid who was molested, abused, exploited and grows up to be internationally celebrated. And then it becomes a commentary on the fickle nature of pop idolatry, which could be seen as two very different things.

    “Well, it is two different things, but it's the same thing,” said Sam Buntrock, who is directing the DCPA Theatre Company’s vibrant new look at the 1994 Broadway stage adaptation through May 27.  

    “That’s the Amy Winehouse story. We’ve seen it a thousand times, and we’ve seen it end tragically a thousand times. The notion of somebody whose stardom is made through their past, whose unique abilities and charisma and enigma is their past, and the idea of them becoming a star and then falling from grace — it's all the same thing. It’s the vicious cycle of stardom.”   

    In his story, Townshend turns a deaf, dumb and blind kid named Tommy into an iconic — and ironic — hero of a sport that no one actually fan-follows. And just as quickly, he’s yesterday's news.

    “That is why this is such a surprisingly rich piece,” Buntrock said. "He’s talking about how we love to lift up in order to tear down. You see it happen again and again in the British tabloids, almost on a daily basis: A star is either on their way up or being pulled back down again. It's this idea that because we have made their lives news, then every intimate thing about them must be known. And then we find out that they're just people. We find out that they're not gods. We find out that they're just human beings. And then they disappoint us. And that disappointment is the moment the elevator stops to go back down again.”

    Buntrock first came to Denver for the 2012 Colorado New Play Summit that would lead to his direction of Michael Mitnick’s world premiere Ed, Downloaded. He returned in 2016 for an innovative staging of the National Theatre’s Frankenstein, in which the actors playing both God and Monster switched each performance.

    Ed, Downloaded introduced me to the capacity and the ability of the Denver Center as a house for making sensational and world-class theater,” Buntrock said. “And then Frankenstein was essentially making a movie on stage.”

    Here is more of Buntrock’s conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore:   

    Sam Buntrock The Who's Tommy. Photo by John Moore.


    John Moore: How did the idea to take a fresh look at The Who's Tommy come about?

    Sam Buntrock: When I was invited to come back and direct Frankenstein, I remember sitting on the steps of The Stage Theater with (former DCPA Theatre Company Artistic Director) Kent Thompson when he asked me what I wanted to do next. I said “Tommy,” because it was a piece I'd always dreamed of having a chance to do. And I realized that the only place I could do a version with my vision and of this ambition is at a place with the multi-departmental excellence of the Denver Center.

    John Moore: Your cast is smaller than the original Broadway production by half — but I have a feeling your vision is no less grand.

    Sam Buntrock: This one is gargantuan in its own way, but also tiny. I mean, that's the challenge — making an intimate version that's also huge.

    John Moore: You have said that as a theatregoer, you don't particularly like musicals. So is this then a musical for people who don't like musicals?

    Sam Buntrock: I, by default, don't like musicals because musical theater at its worst is a series of conventions unchecked. I've learned over decades of working in the development of musical theater that so much of the conversation is about how we have to do certain things because that's the way it is always done. It's almost like a factory. A production line. I'm drawn to musicals that don't do that. The work of Stephen Sondheim has been incredibly influential on me because he reinvents the form each time he does a show. He looks at what the story needs and he reinvents.

    Our interview with The Who's Tommy star Andy Mientus

    John Moore: How is Tommy an exception to the rule?

    Sam Buntrock: Tommy isn't a musical; it's a collage. It's a song cycle. It's an album written by a man in his early 20s that is a form of self-expression about his childhood. And he is talking about the childhoods of a whole generation of people who experienced the second World War and its repercussions as children. And therefore, it's about the birth of the '60s because those people went on to make the '60s. Pete Townshend is writing about his own personal experience through the filter of a grand metaphor, and somehow that manages to be about all of us. Our childhoods make us the people we are, for good or ill. Every single one of us. Tommy is about how these incredibly damaging things made him who he is — and also happened to make him a star. There's this line when his fan, Sally Simpson, says she wants to be more like him. But all he wants to be is more like them. He just wants not to have had his past. Not to have had those things that made him who he is. But if he doesn't have those things, he stops being the star.

    John Moore: The film version of Tommy was released the same year as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. In some ways, they seem to be the same story.

    Sam Buntrock: Well, Jesus's biggest crime was that he was just a man. That's what made his downfall. People aren't interested in any nuance. I mean, you look at that in the world we live in right now: People would rather just be told the simplified version of the truth and not deal with the fact that things aren't simple. And the moment you start to find out the reality of any human being — that they are contradictory, and that they are flawed, you start to lose sight of the mythology.

    Tommy-home-slide
    Scenic design by Jason Sherwood. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    John Moore: In what ways are you changing the framing of the storytelling in your version of Tommy?

    Sam Buntrock: We present the beginning of the story as Tommy's mythology, as what he understands the story of his parents to be. So his father is a god. His father is this entity who created him and left, and never came back. And so when his father does arrive back home, the first thing he does is commit a brutal act of violence. And so the man is flawed and scared and human. And that’s the biggest crime of all — to be human.

    John Moore: What can we know about what Jason Sherwood is up to with the scenic design for this production?

    Sam Buntrock: Well, what isn’t Jason Sherwood up to in this production? This is the most ambitious thing we've ever done together, and we went through more iterations on this than any of our other shows combined because we knew we had to get it just right. It's not a literal space, it is a beautifully conceived abstract space that helps, I hope, the audience to see the whole show through an expressionist lens. This space is fragments and memory. I think he's done something extraordinary. But then again, he always does.

    andy-mientus-as-tommy-photo-by-adamsviscom_26827050207_oJohn Moore: You created some of your own animations for this production.

    Sam Buntrock: Yes, I have a history and an interest in combining projection and animation with live performance. And that was a lot of fun.

    John Moore: What do you want to say about the pedigree of your cast?

    Sam Buntrock: Well, casting for this show was a white-knuckle-ride, but we have collected a cast the caliber of which I couldn't have dreamed of across the board. They do extraordinary things on a vocal level, but they're also really good actors. It's been so rewarding with these actors to unearth all of the emotion and pain and truth inside of what Pete was playing with.

    John Moore: For fans of the film, will there be baked beans?

    Sam Buntrock: Ann-Margret's not here, but there will be baked beans on that stage at some point in the show, yes.

    John Moore: Let’s talk specifically about what Andy Mientus brings to the role of Tommy.

    Sam Buntrock: Andy fundamentally understands what fame is about from his own experiences. All of us in the Broadway community watch people get launched into the stratosphere. We see how people handle it, and some do it better than others. I think what Andy brings — and I mean this as the utmost compliment —  is a simplicity and an innocence, but without being childlike. He's very straightforward in the way he performs. His Tommy is very clear and very, very charismatic. Which he has to be, because he's the person who takes you on the journey. But also, when he’s experienced the effects of being famous, Andy is playing that with an honesty and a brutality that's really, really arresting. And it's real.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: You show more of young Tommy throughout than any previous staging of the show.

    Sam Buntrock: In this production, we meet the 4-year old at the very beginning of the show, and he takes us through his understanding of who he is and how he came to be. It's his story. The parents are incredibly important, but it's not their story; it's his story. Their story is only there because it makes his story.

    John Moore: What made you think you could take two 4-year-old kids off the street to share the role and know they could handle so much responsibility?

    Sam Buntrock. Photo by John MooreSam Buntrock: It was hairy initially, because first we had to find these kids who could really carry the show. And that was important to me because I think there's nothing like seeing a real 4-year old on stage to understand who Tommy was when all of this happened to him. To connect that frailty and vulnerability. Having any child on the stage is inherently fragile because you don't know what's going to happen next. And when Samuel Bird and Radley Wright are on the stage, it's incredibly fragile. As an audience member, you see a child on the stage and you wonder, ‘Well, how is it going to run?’ For me, the most unsatisfying part of seeing this show in the past has been that we only meet the 4-year old Tommy for about 90 seconds before the moment of violence that changes the course of his life. Everything that is his childhood gets internalized, and he goes into his stasis. And he’s gone. Now, if we've only seen that for 90 seconds, it's impactful, but it's not profound. If we see the whole story through his eyes, through his imagination, through his exuberance and innocence and hope, then the moment it gets internalized, I think that's a stomach punch.

    John Moore: What do you want to say to people who might be on the fence about coming to see a rock opera about a traumatized and exploited pinball wizard?

    Sam Buntrock: I've been approaching this show like Shakespeare. My goal is presenting a story that is clear on a visual level. This is a piece that has required every skill set; every part of what I can do and want to do. I believe that we are presenting this in a fresh way, in a very authentic way, that I hope has strong emotional resonance. But it also is really bloody entertaining, you know? This is rock and roll — and it goes up to 11.

    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: Your first look at The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

    Your first video look in video at scenes from the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of 'The Who's Tommy.' Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    The Who's Tommy
    : Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
    Photo gallery: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

    The making of 'The Who's Tommy'
    The photos above are from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, spanning the first day of rehearsal on March 13 to the Opening Night performance on April 27.To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of photos.
  • The Who's Tommy: Opening night photos and celebration

    by John Moore | May 02, 2018
    Photo gallery: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

    The making of 'The Who's Tommy'

    The photos above are from the making of the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, spanning the first day of rehearsal on March 13 to the Opening Night performance on April 27, including behind-the-scenes photos backstage and the celebration afterward in the Seawell Ballroom.

    To see more images, click on the image above to be taken to our full gallery of downloadable photos. All photos may be downloaded and shared with credit: Photo booth images by Bamboo Booth. All other opening-night photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The Who's Tommy, based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, runs through May 27 in The Stage Theatre.

    Tommy Opening. Photo by John Moore
    That’s Radley Wright, who plays 4-year-old Tommy, off playing pinball while the openong-night party was going on in the Seawell Ballroom upstairs. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 
     
    Cast list:
    • Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les Misérables, Spring Awakening, NBC’s “Smash”) as Tommy
    • Joe Beauregard (Kinky Boots first national tour) as Ensemble
    • Charl Brown (Broadway’s Motown The Musical) as Captain Walker
    • Katie Drinkard (DCPA’s The Wild Party) as Swing
    • Carson Elrod (Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher, Noise’s Off) as Uncle Ernie
    • Lulu Fall (Broadway’s Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Hair) as Acid Queen/EnsembleDCPA_TheWhosTommy-800 Bamboo Booth
    • David Hess (Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd) as Minister/Specialist/Judge/Ensemble
    • Sara Kapner (Broadway’s Hollywood Arms) as Sally Simpson/Ensemble
    • Gareth Keegan (CBS’ Instinct) as Cousin Kevin/Lover
    • Charlie Korman (DCPA’s Frankenstein) as Young Cousin Kevin/Ensemble
    • Betsy Morgan (Broadway’s The King and I) as Mrs. Walker
    • Corbin Payne (The Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as Swing
    • Terence Reddick (Broadway’s Les Miserables) as Ensemble
    • Tristan Champion Regini (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Understudy
    • Timothy John Smith (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) as Hawker/Ensemble
    • Olivia Sullivent (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Ensemble
    • Erin Willis (Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Ensemble
    • Owen Zitek (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Tommy.
    • Samuel Bird and Radley Wright share the role of Young Tommy at age 4

    (Pictured above and right, our four Tommys: Andy Mientus holding Radley Wright (left) and Samuel Bird. Owen Zitek in front. Photo by Bamboo Booth.) 

    Creatives:

    • Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
    • Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
    • Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
    • Directed by Sam Buntrock
    • Choreography by Katie Spelman (Oklahoma at Goodspeed Opera House)
    • Musical direction by Gregg Coffin (DCPA’s Sweeney Todd)
    • Scenic design by Jason Sherwood (DCPA’s Frankenstein, Off-Center’s The Wild Party)
    • Costume design by Kevin Copenhaver (DCPA’s Frankenstein)
    • Lighting design by David Weiner (Stephen King’s Misery on Broadway)
    • Sound design by Ken Travis (Broadway’s Aladdin)
    • Projection design by Alex Basco Koch (Broadway’s Irena's Vow)
    • Fight direction by Geoffrey Kent (DCPA’s This Is Modern Art)
    • Vocal and dialect coaching by Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D (DCPA’s The Secret Garden)
    • Stage Management by Kurt Van Raden
    • Assistant Stage Management by Corin Ferris and Michael Morales

    Video: Your first look at The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

    Your first video look in video at the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of 'The Who's Tommy.' Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    Photos: Your first look at the production photos:

    The Who's Tommy The first production photos for 'The Who's Tommy' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our Flickr gallery. Photos by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    The Who's Tommy
    : Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
  • Photos, audio: Broadway's Alex Brightman sings praises of 'Tommy'

    by John Moore | Apr 29, 2018

    Here is a short audio excerpt from singing the beloved "My Fair Lady" ballad "On the Street Where You Live" — as a serial killer. Audio by John Moore.

    At the Aurora Fox, Tony-nominated star of School of Rock, says it all began at 8 watching Michael Cerveris as Tommy

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Safe to say, if Alex Brightman doesn't see the Broadway production of The Who's Tommy when he was 8 years old, he does not go on to become a Broadway star, and he does not headline the Aurora Fox's annual gala last week.

    "That is literally my favorite show of all time," Brightman told the DCPA NewsCenter last Saturday before delivering a 50-minute musical set for an audience celebrating the announcement of the Aurora Fox's upcoming 34th season. And, appropriately enough, the event raised about $34,000 for the cause.

    Alex Brightman Aurora Fox. Photo by John Moore. Down the road, the DCPA Theatre Company was just beginning preview performances for a now-open staging of The Who's Tommy, and it was killing Brightman that he would not have the chance to see it.

    Brightman, 31, loved The Who growing up in California. "But then I saw Michael Cerveris blow the roof down on Broadway in 1995, and that is legitimately what started me in musical theatre," he said. "I was saying to myself, 'Wait a minute. That can be a thing? That's what I want to do.'”

    Brightman was well-aware of the new Denver Center production directed by Sam Buntrock, designed by Jason Sherwood and starring Andy Mientus. "It looks amazing,” he said. “I saw one screenshot of that set and I said, 'This is glorious.' Plus, I love Andy.”

     

    Aurora Fox ushers in new era with Caroline, Or Change

    Brightman, who was nominated for a Tony Award for originating the role of Dewey Finn in the Broadway adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock and will return to Broadway this fall starring in an as-yet unannounced new musical, knows how lucky he is. He tells a great story about how he got his first agent off a recommendation from Lin-Manuel Miranda, who dropped a dime after randomly seeing Brightman perform in a show. He is featured on two songs of a massive new, four-CD collection of Lloyd Webber songs along with the likes of Barbra Streisand, Lana Del Rey and Madonna.

    “And now I'm friends with Michael Cerveris,” he said. “We just sang together at a concert. I told him, ‘I was at the stage door for Tommy when I was 8 years old, and you shook my hand and said, “Thanks for coming to my show.” And now here we are onstage together.’ And he told me, ‘I'm not kidding you: ‘I want to be Alex Brightman when I grow up.' And I choked up. I couldn't believe it.”

    Graduating from School of Rock

    Brightman, whose Broadway credits also include Wicked, Matilda the Musical and Big Fish, has crossed paths with all sorts of Colorado-connected Broadway actors. In School of Rock, he starred opposite Sierra Boggess, who graduated from George Washington High School before the Denver-born The Little Mermaid launched her to international stardom (Love Never Dies, The Phantom of the Opera.) “I love Sierra,” Brightman said. “She is one of the coolest people of all time. And she is coming to my wedding next month.”

    The first national touring production of School of Rock visits the Buell Theatre from May 29-June 10, with Rob Colletti starring in the role Brightman originated on Broadway. “I know the dude, and he's fabulous,” Brightman said. “He’s a great amalgam of a lot of the guys who came before him.”

    (Story continues below the photo gallery.)

    Photo gallery: Aurora Fox gallery and Alex Brightman headlining concert:

    Aurora Fox Gala with Alex Brightman

    Photos from the Aurora Fox's 2018 season-announcement gala on April 21, and Alex Brightman's headlining concert. To see more, click on the photo above to be taken to our full, downloadable Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Based on the hit Jack Black film, School of Rock follows a wannabe rock star who turns a class of straight-A students into grade-A rockers. The show features all new songs from Lloyd Webber, and is the first on Broadway to ever feature a live kids rock band.

    School of Rock is a pure family show,” Brightman said. “That doesn't mean it’s all smiles and rainbows. But everyone who is age 8 to 80 can find something in it — and thankfully, we have good source material that everybody loves.” 

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Brightman still calls Lloyd Webber “The Boss,” and he still laughs about the coincidence of his having the same last name as British songbird Sarah Brightman, who was Lloyd Webber's wife from 1984 to 1990. "We were in a Page 6 article!" Brightman said of the New York Post’s gossip page. "People were sniffing around thinking I might be the hidden love child of Sarah Brightman and Andrew Lloyd Webber. I do fit the timeline. I totally could be. Maybe I am!

    He's not. Not even close. Alex Brightman (no relation, repeat: no relation) was born in 1987 to an American mother also named Brightman in Saratoga, Calif., who worked at a dialysis clinic. Still, Brightman and “The Boss” have enjoyed toying with the press' fascination with the name.

    "When Andrew officially announced me for Broadway, it was a full press event the Grammercy Theatre. He said: ‘Not only am I thrilled to say that Alex Brightman will be leading our show on Broadway, I am doubly exited to say that I have no intention whatsoever of marrying him!’ I was backstage freaking out because the whole thing was just so insane." 

    From Sweeney Todd to 'Sweet Baby James'

    Brightman was asked to headline the Aurora Fox gala by new Executive Producer Helen R. Murray, who previously directed him in a one-man play called How I Paid for College at The Hub Theatre in Virginia. “Helen is a great hire for this theatre,” he said. “There is just something about her being in the room that makes everybody else want to step up and make things happen.”

    Passing Strange. Aurora Fox. Photo by John Moore. Brightman began his set by urging everyone in attendance to come back for the theatre’s current production of Passing Strange, running through May 13. He had seen the show the night before.

    “I loved the show on Broadway and was so thrilled to watch it re-created here in such a way that was different and interesting,” he said. “If you haven't seen it, you need to re-prioritize your entire schedule just to see it."

    (Pictured, from left: 'Passing Strange' Director Nick Sugar with actors Joseph Lamar, Shane Franklin, Katherine Paynter, Randy Chalmers and Sheryl McCallum. Not pictured: Trent Armand Kendall and Faith  Angelise Goins-Simmons. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Aurora Fox leaders Beau Bisson and Helen R. MurrayHe then launched into an eclectic set of mostly contemporary musical-theatre songs and pop standards that all had one thing in common. “These are songs that I like singing in the shower,” he said. “Tonight, I'm just clothed.”

    Familiar tunes included Billy Joel's “I Love You Just the Way You Are” and James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” along with Broadway standards “Johanna” from Sweeney Todd and “I Don't Care Much" from Cabaret. But mostly Brightman introduced the audience to up-and-coming young off-Broadway songwriters he likes.
    (Pictured: Aurora Fox leaders Beau Bisson and Helen R. Murray.)

    The arguable highlight of the night was Brightman singing the beloved My Fair Lady ballad "On the Street Where You Live" — as a serial killer. He credited the idea to one of his vocal students. “When you think about it, you don't even have to change any of the lyrics,” he said. (Click here to hear a short audio excerpt.)

    John Moore's original report on closing of Glory Days

    Brightman spoke of his humbling, sorta Broadway debut in the ill-fated Glory Days, which in 2008 became the first Broadway musical in decades to open and close on the same day. The cast included Denver's Jesse JP Johnson, who did make his Broadway debut by virtue of 17 previews and an opening (and closing) performance. Brightman was the swing, so he never actually got to step on the stage. But things turned out OK for both of them — they both landed in Wicked, and away they went.

    Brightman ended the evening by thanking the audience for indulging him in what he calls his compulsion to perform.

    “This is all I have ever wanted do since as I was 8 years old, so thank you,” he said.

    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.


    Set list: Alex Brightman performs at the Aurora Fox

    • "Scratch-Off" (about a guy who bought a lottery ticket)
    • "Johanna," from Sweeney Todd
    • "Hey Man, This Place is Beautiful"* (about a friend who moves to Alaska)
    • "Nothing New to Do in Brooklyn Anymore"*
    • "Just the Way You Are," by Billy Joel
    • "Perfect, finite," by Chris Miller, from the 2005 song cycle Songs from an Unmade Bed
    • "After All" from the Broadway musical Glory Day
    • "Lost Horizon" from the Michael Friedman musical Gone Missing
    • "On the Street Where You Live" from My Fair Lady
    • "C Major " by Adam Gwon
    • "I Don't Care Much," from Cabaret
    • "A Little Bit" from Crazy, Just Like Me, by Drew Gasparini
    • "Sweet Baby James" by James Taylor

    *Unconfirmed titles

    Aurora Fox 2018-19 mainstage season at a glance

    • Sept. 14-Oct. 14, 2018: Songs for a New World
    • Oct. 31, 2018: Killer Wigs from Outer Space
    • Nov. 23-Dec. 23, 2018: Twist Your Dickens
    • Jan. 18-Feb. 10, 2019: Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies
    • Feb. 22-March 17, 2019: Life Sucks
    • March 8 - March 24, 2019: The Happiest Place on Earth
    • April 5-May 12, 2019: Caroline or Change
    Aurora Fox. Photo by John Moore.

    The Aurora Fox. Photo by John Moore.

    Recent NewsCenter coverage of the Aurora Fox:
    Aurora Fox ushers in daring new era with Caroline, Or Change
    Passing Strange: Sheryl McCallum on the search for something more real than real
    April theatre openings: Don't pass on Passing Strange
    Colorado Fall Theatre Preview. Aurora Fox presents Hi-Hat Hattie
    Colorado Fall Theatre Preview: Aurora Fox presents Company
    Aurora Fox amping up musicals, diversity in 2017-18
    Charles Packard leaving Aurora Fox after 19 years


  • Video: Your first look at 'The Who's Tommy' at the Denver Center

    by John Moore | Apr 27, 2018

    Your first video look in video at the DCPA Theatre Company's new production of The Who's Tommy, running though May 27 on The Stage Theatre. Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, 'Tommy' is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive. 'The Who's Tommy' is directed by Sam Buntrock and features Andy Mientus, Charl Brown and Betsy Morgan. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.  For information, call 303-893-4100 or go to denvercenter.org.

    Cast:

    • Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les Misérables, Spring Awakening, NBC’s “Smash”) as Tommy
    • Joe Beauregard (Kinky Boots first national tour) as Ensemble
    • Charl Brown (Broadway’s Motown The Musical) as Captain Walker
    • Katie Drinkard (DCPA’s The Wild Party) as Swing
    • Carson Elrod (Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher, Noise’s Off) as Uncle Ernie
    • Lulu Fall (Broadway’s Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Hair) as Acid Queen/Ensemble
    • David Hess (Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd) as Minister/Specialist/Judge/Ensemble
    • Sara Kapner (Broadway’s Hollywood Arms) as Sally Simpson/Ensemble
    • Gareth Keegan (CBS’ Instinct) as Cousin Kevin/Lover
    • Charlie Korman (DCPA’s Frankenstein) as Young Cousin Kevin/Ensemble
    • Betsy Morgan (Broadway’s The King and I) as Mrs. Walker
    • Corbin Payne (The Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as Swing
    • Terence Reddick (Broadway’s Les Miserables) as Ensemble
    • Tristan Champion Regini (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Understudy
    • Timothy John Smith (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) as Hawker/Ensemble
    • Olivia Sullivent (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Ensemble
    • Erin Willis (Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Ensemble
    • Owen Zitek (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Tommy.
    • Samuel Bird and Radley Wright will share the role of Young Tommy at age 4
     

    Creatives

    • Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
    • Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
    • Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
    • Directed by Sam Buntrock
    • Choreography by Katie Spelman (Oklahoma at Goodspeed Opera House)
    • Musical direction by Gregg Coffin (DCPA’s Sweeney Todd)
    • Scenic design by Jason Sherwood (DCPA’s Frankenstein, Off-Center’s The Wild Party)
    • Costume design by Kevin Copenhaver (DCPA’s Frankenstein)
    • Lighting design by David Weiner (Stephen King’s Misery on Broadway)
    • Sound design by Ken Travis (Broadway’s Aladdin)
    • Projection design by Alex Basco Koch (Broadway’s Irena's Vow)
    • Fight direction by Geoffrey Kent (DCPA’s This Is Modern Art)
    • Vocal and dialect coaching by Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D (DCPA’s The Secret Garden)
    • Stage Management by Kurt Van Raden
    • Assistant Stage Management by Corin Ferris and Michael Morales

    Photos: Your first look at the production photos:

    The Who's Tommy The first production photos for 'The Who's Tommy' by the DCPA Theatre Company. Photos by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our Flickr gallery. More photos will be added later this week. Scenic design by Jason Sherwood. 'The Who's Tommy' opens today.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    The Who's Tommy
    at the DCPA: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
    Photos: The making of The Who's Tommy at the Denver Center:

    The making of 'The Who's Tommy'

    Photos from the making of 'The Who's Tommy' by the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our Flickr gallery. More photos will be added later this week. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

  • Photos: Your first look at 'The Who's Tommy' at the Denver Center

    by John Moore | Apr 25, 2018
    The Who's Tommy Production photos for 'The Who's Tommy' by the DCPA Theatre Company. Photos by Adams VisCom for the DCPA NewsCenter. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our Flickr gallery. Scenic design by Jason Sherwood. 'The Who's Tommy' opens Friday.

    Cast:

    • Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les Misérables, Spring Awakening, NBC’s “Smash”) as Tommy
    • Joe Beauregard (Kinky Boots first national tour) as Ensemble
    • Charl Brown (Broadway’s Motown The Musical) as Captain Walker
    • Katie Drinkard (DCPA’s The Wild Party) as Swing
    • Carson Elrod (Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher, Noise’s Off) as Uncle Ernie
    • Lulu Fall (Broadway’s Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Hair) as Acid Queen/Ensemble
    • David Hess (Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd) as Minister/Specialist/Judge/Ensemble
    • Sara Kapner (Broadway’s Hollywood Arms) as Sally Simpson/Ensemble
    • Gareth Keegan (CBS’ Instinct) as Cousin Kevin/Lover
    • Charlie Korman (DCPA’s Frankenstein) as Young Cousin Kevin/Ensemble
    • Betsy Morgan (Broadway’s The King and I) as Mrs. Walker
    • Corbin Payne (The Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as Swing
    • Terence Reddick (Broadway’s Les Miserables) as Ensemble
    • Tristan Champion Regini (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Understudy
    • Timothy John Smith (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) as Hawker/Ensemble
    • Olivia Sullivent (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Ensemble
    • Erin Willis (Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Ensemble
    • Owen Zitek (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Tommy.
    • Samuel Bird and Radley Wright will share the role of Young Tommy at age 4
     

    Creatives

    • Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
    • Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
    • Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
    • Directed by Sam Buntrock
    • Choreography by Katie Spelman (Oklahoma at Goodspeed Opera House)
    • Musical direction by Gregg Coffin (DCPA’s Sweeney Todd)
    • Scenic design by Jason Sherwood (DCPA’s Frankenstein, Off-Center’s The Wild Party)
    • Costume design by Kevin Copenhaver (DCPA’s Frankenstein)
    • Lighting design by David Weiner (Stephen King’s Misery on Broadway)
    • Sound design by Ken Travis (Broadway’s Aladdin)
    • Projection design by Alex Basco Koch (Broadway’s Irena's Vow)
    • Fight direction by Geoffrey Kent (DCPA’s This Is Modern Art)
    • Vocal and dialect coaching by Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D (DCPA’s The Secret Garden)
    • Stage Management by Kurt Van Raden
    • Assistant Stage Management by Corin Ferris and Michael Morales.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    The Who's Tommy
    at the DCPA: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances through May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
  • 'Tommy': How The Who went from smashing guitars to blowing people's minds

    by John Moore | Apr 16, 2018
    Sam Buntrock. Photo by John Moore
    Performances of the DCPA Theatre Company's staging of 'The Who's Tommy' begin Saturday. Photo of Director Sam Buntrock by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Director Sam Buntrock says 50 years on, Tommy's true wizardry remains its emotionally authentic storytelling

    By Sylvie Drake
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Remember The Who’s Tommy? Remember when it played Denver’s Buell Theatre in 1994? Maybe you were too young.

    The show was very young then too, known mostly by hearsay or from the 1969 rock concept album on which it is based. It had made waves by elevating the life of a deaf, mute and blind boy whose prodigious talent at pinball makes him a celebrity. By applying what was then a lot of new technology to his fertile imagination, director Des McAnuff’s 1992 transfer of that iconic album to the La Jolla Playhouse stage in San Diego took musical theatre to a whole new level of innovation.

    At the time, The Who was a British rock group seeking broader recognition, so the album’s breakthrough in London — and the rock opera created in La Jolla — became sensations. Rock operas were still uncommon. There had been Hair (1968) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), both huge, to say nothing of The Rocky Horror Show that exploded on several London stages in 1973 before spreading across the globe with its enduring popularity.

    Rommy Sam Buntrock Andy Mientus. Photo by John MooreTommy was different. Its La Jolla opening with its flashy tech effects, its combination of heartbreaking story and unrestrained flamboyance, was a big surprise. The tools were the same, but watching the astonishing fall and rise of a traumatized child on stage offered a deeper and deeply thrilling experience. The subsequent 1993 Broadway run set box-office records, and the show traveled to Denver the following year on the wings of great press and five Tony Awards.

    (Pictured: Sam Buntrock with Andy Mientus (Tommy) on the first day of rehearsal in Denver. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Today’s DCPA Theatre Company revival is a homegrown incarnation, with a live band and reinvented staging by director Sam Buntrock, whose Frankenstein at the DCPA and whose West End direction of Sunday In the Park With George scored high marks.

    “I’ve never directed Tommy before,” he said by email earlier this spring. “In the ’60s, Townsend wrote the score to be performed in concert. In the ’90s he worked with Des McAnuff to transform it into a big and brilliant stage musical. I suspect mine will be a more emotionally driven, intimate version of the show. I’m approaching that version through the lens of contemporary theatrical conventions.

    “Audiences have become accustomed to simpler, more distilled storytelling, the sort whose thrills are precise and unexpected. With Tommy, I’m excited to stage a fantastical show that has, at its heart, a rich and emotionally authentic story.”

    Video: Andy Mientus, Lulu Fall sing for Denver Actors Fund

    Among the new ideas Buntrock brings to his staging is younger casting, including that of Andy Mientus (of TV’s “Smash” and Deaf West Theatre’s Spring Awakening) as Tommy.

    “Of course, there are children written into the fabric of the show — 4-year-old and 10-year-old Tommy,” Buntrock said. “These two are givens, though our 4-year-old may play a larger part than people expect.

    Sam Buntock Tommy“The only other child is a teenaged Kevin. The story spans some 20 years, and Kevin is one of the characters who features through most of the timeline. So if he interacts with 10-year-old Tommy, and then adult Tommy, it’s powerful to see him grow up too. How that doubling works and what the payoff is, are both things conceived in service of creating a credible family on stage.” 

    (Right: 'Tommy' artwork by DCPA Theatre Company Director Sam Buntrock.)

    Pete Townshend, The Who’s lead guitarist, composed most of the score for Tommy. He told Applause magazine in 1994 “that story is, in a sense, my life brought up-to-date. I didn’t quite realize how autobiographical it was. Not just of me, but of the people around me at the time … everybody in the group. Not only was it an important step for us artistically, it also was the critical financial breakthrough for a group that, up to that point, had been known for wearing funny clothes and pop-art outfits and smashing guitars.”   

    Almost 50 years on, the Tommy story, and especially its score, still resonate.

    Four-year-old Tommy is thrown into a catatonic state after he witnesses a traumatic family event reflected in a mirror. It makes him instantly deaf, dumb and blind. This triple whammy brings him the wrong kinds of attention; he struggles through childhood, badgered and abused — until he discovers he has a freakish talent for winning at pinball. 

    In late adolescence, when he’s accidentally present as his mother, in a moment of despair, smashes the same mirror that caused his catatonia, Tommy is magically healed. The revitalized pinball wizard becomes an international star before evolving into a sentient, responsive and compassionate human being. All this melodrama, married to its stunning musical score, results in a rock opera whose alchemy is practically addictive.

    When asked if he agrees that what continues to make the show so gripping
    is this melding of music, magic, mystery, mysticism and melodrama,
    Buntrock demurred.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “Yes. In part. It remains so gripping because it is one of the greatest musical scores ever written,” he said. “It’s not faux musical theatre rock and roll, it’s … rock and roll. All those ‘m’s are intrinsic to what Townshend was exploring when he wrote it.

    “Ultimately,” he added, “it’s a deeply honest exploration of Townshend’s own childhood. With Tommy, with his prone passivity, we have a hero we can all project ourselves upon. Yes, it’s magnified and melodramatic, but it’s rock and roll, so what do you expect? And despite this, I think it has something profound to say about our relationship to our childhood selves.”

    Theatre, being a primary champion of human understanding, often takes the lead in reversing secretive old-fashioned attitudes. Tommy is an example of art shining a light into the darkness and, in former theatre critic Frank Rich’s words, “spreading catharsis like wildfire through the cheering house.

    Sylvie Drake is a former theatre critic and columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a translator, a contributor to culturalweekly.com and American Theatre magazine, and a former Director of Media Relations and Publications for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

    Tommy cast Photo by John MooreThe cast of 'The Who's Tommy' at its first rehearsal in Denver. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    The Who's Tommy
    at the DCPA: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances April 21-May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
  • Game on: Ten things we learned at 'Tommy' first rehearsal

    by John Moore | Mar 20, 2018
    The making of 'The Who's Tommy'


    Photos from the first rehearsal of the DCPA Theatre Company's production of 'The Who's Tommy.' To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr photo gallery Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The appeal of Tommy: The Who's adapted rock opus proves musical theatre can be both dangerous and entertaining

    By John Moore
    SenIor Arts Journalist

    Staging The Who’s Tommy has been a dream of Director Sam Buntrock’s since 1995, when the wiry young Brit saw one of the first performances of The Who's theatricalized tale of the deaf, dumb and blind kid at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London. And Buntrock doesn't even like musicals.

    But this wasn't any musical. It was The Who. And it wasn't a musical — not really. It was an unprecedented rock opera directed by the legendary Des McAnuff. "That extraordinary production showed me that musical theatre could be dangerous as well as entertaining," Buntrock said on the first day of rehearsal for his own upcoming DCPA Theatre Company production. "And I have harbored a desire to approach it myself ever since."

    Kevin Copenhaver. Tommy. Photo by John MooreSince is now, 23 years later.

    Tommy — the record and the stage adaptation — is Pete Townshend's psychedelic trip down memory lane. It tells the story of a boy who retreats into a world of darkness and silence after witnessing a traumatic incident and emerges as a rock-star pinball wizard. It is based largely on Townshend’s boyhood story, when he was sent away by his parents because London had become unsafe during the second world war. “He went to live with a grandmother who was severely mentally ill, and a number of terrible things happened to him,” Buntrock said. “He wrote this piece from the heart.”

    The Who had released three records by 1969, and by then Townshend was wanting to progress beyond the standard three-minute pop-single. So he wrote the trippy pinball opus that changed rock forever.

    (Pictured above and right: Costume Designer Kevin Copenhaver.)

    "I want to tell Pete’s story as authentically as possible," Buntrock said. "I want to tell the story of the repercussions of a moment of violence on this family, and how that cascades down over time and lasts for decades.”

    The Who's Tommy cast list includes Broadway stars

    Buntrock says The Who’s Tommy is about parents failing. “It's about growing up and realizing parents are just people. They are not gods anymore,” he said. “What Pete tapped into, as all geniuses do, was taking something deeply personal and finding a way to explode it into this fantastical story.”

    And, Buntrock added, “No one else in the world will be able to tell that story like we are telling it — and that is a testament to how great Denver is. This is a phenomenal theatre. This particular building is magical to me."

    Here are 10 more things we learned at first rehearsal of The Who’s Tommy:

    Sam Buntrock. Tommy. Photo by John Moore

    NUMBER 1I’m a sensation. There should be a moratorium on saying this, Buntrock admitted, “but Tommy was a sensation,” he said. “It became something more than itself.” He recalled a great story about when the band performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1971. “At the end of that concert,” Buntrock said, “Leonard Bernstein ran up to Pete Townshend, grabbed him by the lapels and said, 'Do you know what you have done?' That's Tommy. That album caused a huge shift in how rock music was considered.”

    NUMBER 2

    Throw the book at them. Buntrock has encouraged every member of his creative team to read Townshend's autobiography Who I Am. (The title is a variation on the band's anthem “Who Are You?”). At age 50, Townshend wrote an undelivered letter to his 8-year-old son. In it, the father advises the son to be a pessimist. “It is the safest, most pragmatic way to be,” Townshend wrote. “Being an optimist may enrich the lives of others … but it leads you unaware to danger.” Says Buntrock: “It’s one hell of a read. It's so generous and open and profound.”

    NUMBER 3The watered-down truth. Many of Buntrock’s out-of-town cast members are still adjusting to life — and singing — at a mile high. Music Director Gregg Coffin has encouraged them to drink plenty of water. But how much is enough? "Take your weight and divide it by two,” he said. “That’s how many ounces of water you should drink every day. "

    NUMBER 4

    See me … at age 4. Expect to see more of 4-year-old Tommy in Buntrock’s show than you ever have before, he said. The whole point is for us to see the story of Tommy’s parents through the 4-year-old’s eyes, Buntrock said. But in most stage productions, you only see the 4-year-old for about a minute before he’s gone for good. Not here. “We get to live in the 4-year-old’s head for about 15 minutes, right up until the moment of violence and everything gets taken away,” Buntrock said. “This approach will allow us to see the world the way he sees it until he literally hands the story over to his adult self. That way, when we get to the end, we know how extraordinary the journey has been — because we have been inside the mind of the 4-year-old. We know how beautiful that is. How untouched that is. How pure and how limitless that is. And hopefully, you know, everyone will be in tears by then.”

    NUMBER 5Clap on, clap off. This will make pretty much anyone who grew up with The Who’s music feel old, but here it is: The Who’s Tommy is a period piece. Hard as that might be for anyone still breathing to accept that, it’s true. The story begins when Tommy is a child in the 1940s and runs through the 1960s. Period piece.

    Mientus scheduled to appear at Alamo screening March 26

    NUMBER 6Well, that’s Smash-ing. Young Broadway and screen star Andy Mientus (Smash, Spring Awakening, The Flash) is starring as Tommy at age 18. And he has agreed to spend his only day off over a 13-day span entertaining the audience before Monday’s (March 26) screening of the film Tommy at the Alamo Drafthouse near Sloan’s Lake. The screening raises money for The Denver Actors Fund, which has made $218,000 in medical relief available to Colorado theatre artists over four years. Mientus will sing at least one song from the show, take questions, and help with trivia and ticket giveaways before the Alamo screens the movie that inspired the stage adaptation. Tickets are $20. Choose your preferred seats here.

    Andy Mientus and Charlie Korman. Photo by John Moore
    Charlie Korman and Andy Mientus. Photo by John Moore

    NUMBER 7Intimacy issues. As the legacy of The Who has grown larger over the years, the stage musical has continued to get smaller. Music Director Gregg Coffin (A Christmas Carol, Sweeney Todd with DeVotchKa) said that when The Who’s Tommy bowed on Broadway in 1995, the principal adult cast was 18 people. “It was down to 10 when it toured, and we're taking it down to eight,” he said. “I’m really excited about that because we are bringing it back to that 1969 sound when it was just the four guys in the band performing it. We are going to get small and iconic and authentic very, very quickly.” 

    NUMBER 8David Hess as Sweeney TossWho are you? David Hess, who plays three roles including the minister, was playing Sweeney Todd at the late Country Dinner Playhouse in south Denver (pictured right) long before he played the Demon Barber on Broadway. Hess had many triumphant moments at the beloved dinner theatre from 1991-93, but one of his favorite memories was playing Curly in Oklahoma. “I was supposed to throw a rope over this hook, but one night I kept missing it,” he told me in a previous interview. “The audience roared with laughter, so I told them, ‘Hey, it’s not as easy as it looks.’ I only found out later that the whole house had been bought out that night — they were all cowboys and cattlemen.”

    NUMBER 9Sound? Check. The sound designer for The Who’s Tommy is former rock engineer Ken Travis (Disney’s Aladdin, coming to Denver April 7) and he will be introducing sound techniques in Tommy that have not yet been heard on any stage before. “He’s a genius,” Buntrock said. “He invented a sound system for Aladdin I'll never understand. This machine physically knows where an actor is onstage at any time, so it can pan the sound. When it was confirmed that I would be doing Tommy, I said to myself, ‘I have to ask Ken to do sound’ — but it got announced right away, and I immediately got an email from Ken saying, 'I am doing this without you even asking me.’ Ken has developed this sound system in Germany that is capable of things that are really rather extraordinary, and we are going to be the first to use it in this production. I’ll just say you are going to feel like you are inside the music — without it being too much. So, that will be fun."

    NUMBER 10Jason Sherwood 160Where's Jason? The Scenic Designer of record is the uber-hot Jason Sherwood, who has designed Macbeth, The Wild Party and now The Who’s Tommy for the Denver Center this season alone. He also designed the sets for The Chainsmokers and Sam Smith’s appearances on Saturday Night Live. Sherwood was not present at Tommy’s first rehearsal, Buntrock said, because he is in Wakefield (in the U.K.), designing the set for Sam Smith's upcoming world tour (Which stops in Denver on Aug. 21). But Buntrock and Sherwood are in lockstep on Tommy. “He's the yin to my yang,” Buntrock said. “He augments how I think. He makes everything I do better, and what he has done for this show is remarkable.”

    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 Who's Tommy: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Apr 20-May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of The Who's Tommy:
    Tommy to star Andy Mientus and other Broadway stars in Denver
  • Denver's 'Tommy' to star Andy Mientus and other Broadway stars

    by John Moore | Mar 13, 2018

    TOMMYCASTING

    From left: Charl Brown, Betsy Morgan, Owen Zitek, Carson Elrod and Charlie Korman.

    'Smash' star: 'I’m excited for the challenge and opportunity to show audiences who I am as a musician and an actor.'

    By John Moore
    Senor Arts Journalist

    Andy Mientus is known around the world for two iconic, music-infused projects — Broadway’s Spring Awakening and TV’s Smash. And he says the bloodline for both absolutely run straight  through The Who. Which makes it all the more perfect for Mientus to be coming to Denver to play Tommy in the DCPA Theatre Company’s star-studded production of The Who’s Tommy, based on the band’s 1969 concept album about a boy who retreats into a world of darkness and silence after witnessing a traumatic incident and emerges as a pinball wizard.

    AndyMeintusQUOTE“You can bet that The Who’s album, and then the original cast recording of Tommy, was in the library of all of the contemporary musical-theater writers you love,” Mientus told the DCPA NewsCenter today in the announcement of his first return to Denver since playing Hanschen in the 2009 national touring production of Spring Awakening.

    “That album was an absolute phenomenon when all of our current songwriting greats were coming up, and I think any fan of the contemporary musical canon will absolutely freak out for this score if they don’t know it yet.”

    Tommy will be directed by visionary British director Sam Buntrock, who last year directed the Denver Center’s U.S. premiere of Nick Dear's Frankenstein. Buntrock has been nominated for Tony, Olivier and Drama Desk awards for his innovative work in theatre, film and animation, including Broadway’s 2008 revival of Sunday In The Park With George. He also directed Ed, Downloaded for the Denver Center in 2012.

    Mientus will be joined by a cast that includes big-name Broadway veterans Betsy Morgan (The King and I) as Mrs. Walker, Tony Award-nominated Charl Brown (Motown the Musical) as Captain Walker, and Carson Elrod (Peter and the Starcatcher) as Uncle Ernie. Colorado Shakespeare Festival audiences may remember Elrod from the 1999 season, when he played Dromio of Syracuse in A Comedy of Errors, among other roles.

    Mientus called Buntock’s lineup “a visionary creative team and incredible company,” and called Tommy his dream role.

    “Growing up, my house was full of music but strangely, not musicals,” Mientus said. “I’m not sure where I caught that bug. Instead, my earliest musical influences were classic rockers, soul singers and folk balladeers. I was aware of The Who’s album long before I was aware of Tommy as a stage show. So, it’s a bit of connective tissue between my two worlds, and something my dad would have absolutely loved to see. I haven’t sung so much in a musical since Les Miserables in 2015, but the score of Tommy is much more in my wheelhouse, vocally, so I’m excited for the challenge and the opportunity to show audiences who I am as a musician as well as an actor.”

    Tommy is a musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of a boy who must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. The story was made into a trippy film in 1975 starring Roger Daltrey, and in 1993 debuted as a Broadway musical under the direction of Des McAnuff.

    “I think Tommy is, at its heart, a parable about feeling alien in your own family and community,” Mientus said. “Tommy escapes into the serenity of his own mind after a traumatic event and is treated terribly by almost everyone around him. I think we have all felt that way at some point.”

    Mientus scheduled to appear at Alamo screening March 26

    Four actors will play Tommy at different ages — two rotating local children will play Tommy at age 4. Owen Zitek (of DCPA Theare Company’s A Christmas Carol) will play him at 10, and Mientus at 18. In an unusual twist, Buntrock will also have Cousin Kevin age over the course of the story with age-appropriate actors. He will be played as a boy by Denver Center favorite Charlie Korman (Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol), who is now a high-school student at Denver School of the Arts but has been appearing on DCPA stages since he was 5. Kevin will be played as an adult by big-time Australian actor Gareth Keegan (TV’s The Good Fight.)

    Cast:

    • Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les Misérables, Spring Awakening, NBC’s “Smash”) as Tommy
    • Joe Beauregard (Kinky Boots first national tour) as Ensemble
    • Charl Brown (Broadway’s Motown The Musical) as Captain Walker
    • Katie Drinkard (DCPA’s The Wild Party) as Swing
    • Carson Elrod (Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher, Noise’s Off) as Uncle Ernie
    • Lulu Fall (Broadway’s Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Hair) as Acid Queen/Ensemble
    • David Hess (Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd) as Minister/Specialist/Judge/Ensemble
    • Sara Kapner (Broadway’s Hollywood Arms) as Sally Simpson/Ensemble
    • Gareth Keegan (CBS’ Instinct) as Cousin Kevin/Lover
    • Charlie Korman (DCPA’s Frankenstein) as Young Cousin Kevin/Ensemble
    • Betsy Morgan (Broadway’s The King and I) as Mrs. Walker
    • Corbin Payne (The Arvada Center’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as Swing
    • Terence Reddick (Broadway’s Les Miserables) as Ensemble
    • Tristan Champion Regini (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Understudy
    • Timothy John Smith (NBC’s “The Blacklist”) as Hawker/Ensemble
    • Olivia Sullivent (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Ensemble
    • Erin Willis (Off-Center’s The Wild Party) as Ensemble
    • Owen Zitek (DCPA’s A Christmas Carol) as Youth Tommy.
    • Samuel Bird and Radley Wright will share the role of Young Tommy at age 4
     

    Creatives

    • Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
    • Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
    • Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
    • Directed by Sam Buntrock
    • Choreography by Katie Spelman (Oklahoma at Goodspeed Opera House)
    • Musical direction by Gregg Coffin (DCPA’s Sweeney Todd)
    • Scenic design by Jason Sherwood (DCPA’s Frankenstein, Off-Center’s The Wild Party)
    • Costume design by Kevin Copenhaver (DCPA’s Frankenstein)
    • Lighting design by David Weiner (Stephen King’s Misery on Broadway)
    • Sound design by Ken Travis (Broadway’s Aladdin)
    • Projection design by Alex Basco Koch (Broadway’s Irena's Vow)
    • Fight direction by Geoffrey Kent (DCPA’s This Is Modern Art)
    • Vocal and dialect coaching by Kathryn G. Maes Ph.D (DCPA’s The Secret Garden)
    • Stage Management by Kurt Van Raden
    • Assistant Stage Management by Corin Ferris and Michael Morales.

    Even the house band will be filled with big names and local talent. DeVotchKa drummer Shawn King had so much fun playing (and having his throat sliced) each night during Sweeney Todd, he is coming back to play in the pit for Tommy. Other local rockers will include Jason Tyler Vaughn, David Devine, Dan Graber, Matthew Scheffelman, Daniel Schwindt and Angela Steiner.

    Mientus said he is especially happy for the chance to return to Denver since the Spring Awakening tour did not afford him much time to explore. “I loved the energy of the city, but it was too brief and too cold," he said. "This time, I’m going to do it all.”

    The first public preview performance of The Who’s Tommy is April 20, a fluke of the calendar that has not escaped Mientus. “If I may be so cheeky,” he said, “it’s not lost on me that we’re doing our first performance a psychedelic rock show in Denver on 4/20. I expect we may get a few audience members in who do not usually see live theater, and I think that is always something worth celebrating.”

    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 Who's Tommy: Ticket information

    Tommy_show_thumbnail_160x160Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive.
    • Presented by DCPA Theatre Company
    • Performances Apr 20-May 27
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Audition: Denver Center looking for two wee pinball wizards

    by John Moore | Feb 21, 2018

    Sam Buntock

    'The Who's Tommy' will mark the Denver Center return of Director Sam Buntrock (Frankenstein). Photo by John Moore.

    The tiniest version of The Who's traumatized protagonist will be played by two area youngsters. Here's how to apply.


    The DCPA Theatre Company is looking for two young pinball wizards to share the role of 4-year-old Tommy in its upcoming production of The Who’s Tommy, which runs April 20 through May 27 in the Stage Theatre.

    TOMMY_256x288This youngest version of the title role is seen several times throughout the show and includes one speaking line and minimal singing. Rehearsals begin on March 13. These two young actors are expected to attend all rehearsals after school and on weekends, in addition to all technical rehearsals, dress rehearsals and scheduled performances.
     
    The ideal boys for this role should be between the ages of 4 and 8 and be no taller than 4 feet, 8 inches.

    Parents of interested children should email a photo and resume including any previous acting experience to dcasting@dcpa.org with the subject line “Young Tommy Submission” by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27. 

    The Who’s Tommy is the stage adaptation of the famous 1969 concept album about a boy who is traumatized into catatonia after witnessing his father commit murder, and nonetheless goes on to become an international pinball superstar. The show contains some violence and sexual content.

    Related: Two local girls play LuLu in Waitress tour

    THE WHO'S TOMMY
    the-whos-tommy

    • Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
    • Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
    • Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
    • Directed by Sam Buntrock
    • April 20-May 27
    • Stage Theatre
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive. This production reunites director Sam Buntrock and scenic designer Jason Sherwood, the team behind last season’s audience favorite, Frankenstein.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company, Off-Center seasons

    by John Moore | Apr 03, 2017

     

    Macbeth, The Who's Tommy, four world premieres and
    "a deep dive into some truly exciting collaborations"

    By John Moore
    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist

    The DCPA Theatre Company’s 39th season will include vast and visceral reimaginings of two distinct cutting-edge classics, a record-tying four world premieres and the company's 25th staging of perennial favorite A Christmas Carol.

    The season begins in September with visionary director Robert O'Hara’s Macbeth to reopen the newly renovated Space Theatre, and builds to The Who’s rock musical Tommy, directed by Sam Buntrock (Frankenstein). And both directors promise ambitious stagings unlike anything audiences have seen before.

    Nataki Garrett QuoteThe DCPA has worked its way to the forefront of new-play development in the American theatre, and next season’s slate will include the comedy Zoey’s Perfect Wedding by former Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez; José Cruz González’s American Mariachi, the musical tale of an all-female 1970s mariachi band; Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap, about an American college basketball team that travels to Beijing in 1989; and Eric Pfeffinger’s timely comedy Human Error, which raucously explores the great American ideological divide through two vastly different couples - and one wrongly implanted embryo.

    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding will reunite Lopez and Mike Donahue, writer and director from the DCPA’s endearing world premiere The Legend of Georgia McBride (which makes its West Coast debut tomorrow at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.)

    American Mariachi
    was a favorite from the Theatre Company's 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. "Women of course had many challenges trying to play in such a male-dominated musical form," González said. "We interviewed a number of amazing women who were able to help us enter into that world, and we found an amazing group of artists who will play and sing in the piece."

    The Great Leap and Human Error emerged from the recent 2017 Summit in February.  In The Great Leap, Yee explores sport as a metaphor for how countries rub up against each other in terms of strategy, styles and priorities. "If you think of all the sports out there, basketball is the one in which you can really lay the ideals of communism on top of it. Everyone gets to touch the ball. Everyone is equal in their position,” she says.

    Human Error will set a precedent as the first Theatre Company offering ever to be staged in the cabaret-style Garner-Galleria Theatre.

    “The 2017-18 DCPA Theatre Company season represents the microcosm at the heart of the American experiment,” said Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. “These writers, spanning across generations, cultures, and genders, are exploring the ways in which our commonalities are more meaningful than our differences."

    2017-18 Broadway season brings Hamilton to Denver

    For the first time, the DCPA simultaneously announced the upcoming year of its adventurous and ambitious Off-Center line of programming. Off-Center is known for creating experiences that challenge conventions and expand on the traditional definition of theatre. Next season will be the largest yet for Off-Center. It includes Mixed Taste, a summer-long partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver; a 360-degree immersive staging of The Wild Party musical at the Stanley Marketplace. Also of great intrigue: Remote Denver, a  guided audio tour of the secret city; and This Is Modern Art, a controversial play by Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval that explores graffiti as modern art ...  or urban terrorism.

    “The expansion of Off-Center is a result of the incredible response of the Denver community,” said Off-Center Curator (and Theatre Company Associate Artistic Director) Charlie Miller. “We have seen that audiences are hungry for a broad range of experiences, and are eager for the unexpected.”

    Miller calls the upcoming year "a deep dive into some truly exciting collaborations." A continuing one will be the return of The SantaLand Diaries, in partnership with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and again starring Michael Bouchard

    Combined, the DCPA today announced 14 upcoming new productions that will be presented across eight different venues at the Denver Performing Arts Complex and beyond.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “Theater has the opportunity and the ability to help bridge our differences by offering performances that inspire us to seek deeper connections with one another,” said Garrett, who will make her DCPA debut directing Lydia Diamond's acclaimed race comedy Smart People. “We are honored to provide a space for conversations and connections to the Denver community this year through this season's offerings.”

    Lisa Portes Robert O'HaraMacbeth will be directed by Robert O'Hara, a rising playwright, director and screenwriter who won the 2010 NAACP Best Director Award and the 2010 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play. He was a young prodigy of original Angels in America Director George C. Wolfe and is perhaps best-known as a writer for Insurrection, a time-traveling play exploring racial and sexual identity. 

    The Who's Tommy, the rock musical based on the classic 1969 concept album about the pinball prodigy, will reunite acclaimed British Frankenstein director Sam Buntrock and Scenic Designer Jason Sherwood (who also will create the world of Macbeth). Native Gardens will mark the DCPA return of playwright Karen Zacarias, who wrote Just Like Us in 2014. Zacarias has penned a very close-to-home border-war story: One that plays out between two neighboring couples in D.C. who have a dispute over their property line. The director is Chicago's Lisa Portes, who recently won the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation's 2016 Zelda Fichandler Award, which recognizes an artist who is "transforming the regional arts landscape through singular creativity and artistry in the theatre." She is head of the masters program in directing at DePaul University.

    Next year's A Christmas Carol will be the 25th season staging of Dickens' classic by the DCPA since 1990. Melissa Rain Anderson will return for her second turn at directing, and popular longtime DCPA actor Sam Gregory again will play Scrooge.

    DCPA THEATRE COMPANY SEASON AT A GLANCE:

    • Sept. 15-Oct. 29: Robert O’Hara’s Macbeth (Space Theatre Grand Reopening)
    • Oct. 13-Nov. 19: Smart People (Ricketson Theatre)
    • Nov. 24-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre)
    • Jan. 19-Feb. 25, 2018: Zoey’s Perfect Wedding (Space Theatre)
    • Jan. 26-Feb. 25, 2018: American Mariachi (Stage Theatre)
    • Feb. 2-March 11, 2018: The Great Leap (Ricketson Theatre)
    • April 6-May 6, 2018: Native Gardens (Space Theatre)
    • April 20-May 27, 2018: The Who's Tommy (Stage Theatre)
    • May 18-June 24, 2018: Human Error (Garner Galleria Theatre)

    DCPA OFF-CENTER 2017-18 SEASON AT A GLANCE:

    • July 5-Aug. 23 Mixed Taste, with MCA Denver (Seawell Grand Ballroom)
    • Oct. 12-31: The Wild Party (The Hangar at Stanley)
    • Nov. 24-Dec. 24: The SantaLand Diaries, with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (Jones Theatre)
    • March 22-April 15, 2018: This Is Modern Art (Jones Theatre)
    • Spring/Summer 2018: Remote Denver (on the streets of Denver)

    TC 2017-18 800

    And here is a more detailed look at all 14 newly announced productions, in chronological order:

    MIXED TASTE (Off-Center)
    mixed-tasteTag team lectures on unrelated topic
    Presented by Off-Center with MCA Denver
    Wednesdays from July 5 through Aug 23
    Seawell Grand Ballroom
    Even mismatched subjects will find common ground in a lecture series that can go pretty much anywhere. Two speakers get twenty minutes each to enlighten you on unrelated topics, but can’t make any connections to each other. Ideas start to blend afterward when audience members ask questions to both speakers and anything goes. READ MORE ABOUT IT



    MACBETH
    macbethBy William Shakespeare
    Directed by Robert O’Hara
    Sept. 15-Oct. 29
    Space Theatre (Grand Reopening)
    To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others, the people of Scotland or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. Shakespeare’s compact, brutal tragedy kicks off the grand reopening of our theatre-in-the-round in a visceral re-imagining from visionary director Robert O’Hara, who is “shaking up the world, one audience at a time” (The New York Times). This ambitious reinvention of the classic tale reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses the dagger must suffer the consequences. 



    THE WILD PARTY
    (Off-Center)
    the-wild-partyMusic and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
    Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
    Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
    Directed by Amanda Berg Wilson
    Oct. 12-31
    The Hangar at Stanley
    You’re invited to leave your inhibitions (and Prohibitions) behind for a decadent party in the Roaring Twenties. Indulge your inner flapper as you mingle with an unruly mix of vaudevillians, playboys, divas, and ingénues in a Manhattan apartment lost in time. Debauchery turns disastrous as wild guests becomes unhinged and their solo songs reveal the drama bubbling underneath the surface. Whether you’re a wallflower or a jitterbug, you’ll think this jazz- and booze-soaked immersive musical is the bee’s knees. Dress up in your finest pearls, suits and sequins – encouraged but not required.



    SMART PEOPLE

    smart-peopleBy Lydia R. Diamond
    Directed by Nataki Garrett
    Oct. 13-Nov. 19
    Ricketson Theatre
    Intelligence can only get you so far when it comes to navigating love, success and identity in the modern age. This biting comedy follows a quartet of Harvard intellectuals struggling to understand why the lives of so many people – including their own – continue to be undermined by race. But no matter how hard they research, question and confront the issue, their own problems with self-awareness make it difficult to face the facts of life. Fiercely clever dialogue and energetic vignettes keep the laughs coming in a story that Variety calls “Sexy, serious and very, very funny.”



    A CHRISTMAS CAROL

    christmas-carolBy Charles Dickens
    Adapted by Richard Hellesen
    Music by David de Berry
    Directed by Melissa Rain Anderson
    Nov. 24-Dec. 24
    Stage Theatre
    Essential to the holiday season in Denver, A Christmas Carol promises to “warm your heart and renew your holiday spirit” according to the Examiner. Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, this joyous and opulent musical adaptation traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations. Denver favorite Sam Gregory returns as Scrooge. READ MORE ABOUT IT

    (Note: 'A Christmas Carol' is an added attraction, not part of the Theatre Company subscription season.)



    SantaLand Diaries 2016. Michael Bouchard. Photo by Adams VisCom
    'The SantaLand Diaries,' 2016. Michael Bouchard. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    THE SANTALAND DIARIES
    (Off-Center)
    By David Sedaris
    Adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello
    Presented by Off-Center with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    Directed by Stephen Weitz
    Nov. 24-Dec. 24
    The Jones Theatre
    This disgruntled Macy's elf has the cure for the common Christmas show. Looking for a little more snark in your stocking? Crumpet the Elf returns for more hilarious hijinks in this acclaimed one-man show based on stories by David Sedaris. Crumpet’s twisted tales from his stint in Macy’s SantaLand are the cure for the common Christmas show. Release your holiday stress, get all of those obnoxious carols out of your head and check out even more late night options this year. READ MORE ABOUT IT



    ZOEY'S PERFECT WEDDING

    zoeys-perfect-wedding2By Matthew Lopez
    Directed by Mike Donahue
    Jan. 19-Feb. 25, 2018
    Space Theatre
    The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. From the team that brought you, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Matthew Lopez’s wildly funny fiasco destroys expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up. READ OUR 2015 INTERVIEW WITH MATTHEW LOPEZ



    AMERICAN MARIACHI

    american-mariachi2By José Cruz González
    Director to be announced
    Jan. 26-Feb. 25, 2018
    The Stage Theatre
    Lucha and Bolie are ready to start their own all-female mariachi band in the 1970s. The only things standing in their way are a male-dominated music genre, patriarchal pressure from inside their families and finding the right women to fill out their sound. As they practice, perform and strive to earn the respect of their community, their music sparks a transformation in the lives of those around them – especially Lucha’s parents. This humorous, heartwarming story about music’s power to heal and connect includes gorgeous live mariachi music played on stage. González writes a passionate story about families and friendships that you should share with yours. READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH JOSÉ CRUZ GONZÁLEZ


     

    THE GREAT LEAP
    the-great-leap2By Lauren Yee
    Director to be announced
    Feb. 2-March 11, 2018
    Ricketson Theatre
    When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for an exhibition game in 1989, the drama on the court goes deeper than the strain between their countries. For two men with a past and one teen with a future, it’s a chance to stake their moment in history and claim personal victories off the scoreboard. American coach Saul grapples with his relevance to the sport, Chinese coach Wen Chang must decide his role in his rapidly-changing country and Chinese American player Manford seeks a lost connection. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action in the stadium. Yee’s “acute ear for contemporary speech” and a “devilishly keen satiric eye” (San Francisco Chronicle) creates an unexpected and touching story inspired by events in her own father’s life. READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH LAUREN YEE


     

    THIS IS MODERN ART
    this-is-modern-artBy Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    Directed by Idris Goodwin
    March 22-April 15, 2018
    The Jones Theatre
    Graffiti crews are willing to risk anything for their art. Called vandals, criminals, even creative terrorists, Chicago graffiti artists set out night after night to make their voices heard and alter the way people view the world. But when one crew finishes the biggest graffiti bomb of their careers, the consequences get serious and spark a public debate asking, where does art belong? This Is Modern Art gives a glimpse into the lives of anonymous graffiti artists and asks us to question the true purpose of art. READ MORE ABOUT IT


    NATIVE GARDENS
    native-gardensBy Karen Zacarias
    Directed by Lisa Portes
    April 6-May 6, 2018
    Space Theatre
    Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virginia have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt comedy about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.



    Sam Buntock

    THE WHO'S TOMMY
    the-whos-tommyMusic and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
    Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
    Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
    Directed by Sam Buntrock
    April 20-May 27, 2018
    Stage Theatre
    Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive. This production reunites director Sam Buntrock and scenic designer Jason Sherwood, the team behind last season’s audience favorite, Frankenstein.



    HUMAN ERROR

    human-error2By Eric Pfeffinger
    Director to be announced
    May 18-June 24, 2018
    Garner Galleria Theatre
    Madelyn and Keenan are NPR-listening, latte-sipping, blue-state liberals, while Heather and Jim are NRA-cardholding, truck-driving, red-state conservatives. After an unfortunate mix-up by their blundering fertility doctor, Heather is mistakenly impregnated with the wrong child. Now the two couples face sharing an uproarious nine-month’s odyssey of culture shock, clashing values, changing attitudes and unlikely – but heartfelt – friendships. “Up-and-coming scribe Eric Pfeffinger has the vital nerve to explore the gaping communication gap between red America and blue America, liberal humanists and the conservative right” (Chicago Tribune). READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH ERIC PFEFFINGER


    REMOTE DENVER
    remote-denverBy Rimini Protokoll
    Concept, Script and Direction: Stefan Kaegi
    Research, Script and Direction Denver: Jörg Karrenbauer
    Spring/Summer 2018
    On the streets of Denver
    Join a group of 50 people swarming Denver on a guided audio tour that seems to follow you as much as you are following it. Experience a soundtrack to the streets, sights, and rooftops of The Mile High City as a computer-generated voice guides your group’s movements in real time. Discover a "secret Denver," exploring places like gathering spaces, back alleyways, dark hallways and public areas through a new lens. You’re not just audience members — you’re actors and spectators, observers and observed, individuals and hordes, all at the same time.

     

    TICKET INFORMATION:

    • Theatre Company: New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are available online at denvercenter.org/nextseason or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. Note: Plans for the new season are subject to change and benefit restrictions may apply.
    • Off-Center: The single-ticket on-sale date for all Off-Center productions will be announced at a later time. Subscriptions are not available for Off-Center shows.

     

     

  • 2016 True West Award: John Hauser

    by John Moore | Dec 25, 2016
    True West Awards John Hauser


    30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    Day 25: John Hauser

    If you were to call him Doogie Hauser, you would only be the latest. But given how well former child TV star Neil Patrick Harris’ career has turned out, John Hauser would surely take the compliment.

    We’re not saying Hauser is a kid. But his Biloxi Blues director Kate Gleason is saying that “as soon as John is potty-trained … he's gonna make a great actor.”

    True West Awards John Hauser QuoteSo he’s young. But there was nothing embryonic about his fully formed year on local stages: He starred in Biloxi Blues at Miners Alley Playhouse, and in Hand to God for Curious Theatre. He made a key appearance in Vintage Theatre's Rabbit Hole, and he performed as Romeo before 10,000 high-school students for DCPA Education.

    That’s a U.S. Army private who comes of age at Basic Training in Neil Simon’s 1943 Mississippi. A grieving, God-fearing teen in possession of (or possessed by) a devilish hand puppet. A guilt-wracked teen who plowed his car into a 4-year-old. And only the most famous lover in all of literature. Plus, he joined the cast of Off-Center’s immersive freakout Sweet and Lucky, and later understudied several roles in the DCPA Theatre Company’s Frankenstein.

    John Hauser may not be old. But as an actor, he grew up in 2016.

    “He’s so good, you forget how young he is,” said  Gleason, herself a 2014 True West Award winner. “I mean, he's barely teething, and yet he manages to find humanity in all his roles.”

    When DCPA Education Director Allison Watrous launched a new pilot program called Shakespeare in the Parking Lot in May 2015, she turned to Hauser first. A team from DCPA Education perform an abridged version of Romeo and Juliet on and around a beat-up old truck in school parking lots - sometimes four times a day. Meaning four times a day, students who otherwise might never be exposed to Shakespeare (or live theatre) crush on the Bard, crush on live performance and, invariably for some, crush on the actor who could win Prom King at just about every school he visits.

    “John is stunning as Romeo,” Watrous said. “He connects to the hearts and minds of the students through authenticity, vulnerability, humor, kindness and depth.” (Pictured below and right: John Hauser as Romeo. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Read our recent profile on John Hauser

    Hauser and his castmates, all skilled DCPA Education Teaching Artists, return to each school the next day for classroom workshops and ask students tough, ethically ambiguous questions that revolve around teenagers, their parents and issues of privacy and personal responsibility. The point is to help them better understand the issues at the heart of Romeo and Juliet. Because being a teen hasn't changed as much as you might think.

    True West Awards John Hauser Shakespeare in the Parking Lot"I am so grateful for John's energy and impact,” Watrous said. “He is a true talent.”

    Next semester, the team will tackle A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

    Hauser did not just turn a finger up at his squeaky-clean image, but his entire right hand with Hand to God, Robert Askins’ profanely dark comedy about a troubled teen who is forced to join his mother’s church-led puppet group after his father dies. But when his foul-mouthed sock puppet Tyrone takes on a life of its own and begins to encourage all those around him to give in to their carnal desires, the teen starts to question everything he's been taught. 

    “John brings a true lightness to the room,” said Hand to God Director Dee Covington. “He is generous, reflective and tireless in his determination to not only conquer but totally devour the creative task at hand. He knew the mountain was steep and arduous, but I was so impressed by his ability to temper that slightly self-effacing inner critic with humor and fearlessness. His grit and heart are inspiring.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Westword theatre critic Juliet Wittman wrote: “Hauser does brilliantly in the schizophrenic role of Jason, fully inhabiting both the teen’s innocence and Tyrone’s savagery, skillfully manipulating the intransigent puppet.”

    True West Awards John Hauser Rabbit Hole In July, Hauser and his Rabbit Hole cast were honored with the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Outstanding Ensemble Henry Award (with Haley Johnson, Marc Stith, Maggy Stacy and Deborah Persoff). As the accidental grim reaper who devastates a family when their son runs in front of his car, “John Hauser manages to deliver a handful of wallops in his limited scenes,” wrote the Aurora Sentinel’s Quincy Snowdon.

    But perhaps the most impressive evidence of Hauser’s stellar year is simply his dream team of directors: Kate Gleason, Allison Watrous, Dee Covington, Bernie Cardell  (Rabbit Hole), Zach Morris (Sweet and Lucky) and Sam Buntrock (Frankenstein).

    “He is a lovely human being,” Covington said, “and he makes the world a more artful place.”

    And he's not slowing down in 2017. In January, Hauser will be playing Ken in John Logan’s acclaimed Red, the story of the temperamental genius artist Mark Rothko and his apprentice, at the Breckenridge Backstage Theatre.

    (Pictured above and right: Haley Johnson and John Hauser in Vintage Theatre's 'Rabbit Hole.' Photo by Denver Mind Media.)

    John Hauser/At a glance

    • Hometown: Cocoa, Fla.
    • Home now: Denver
    • High school: The Classical Academy in Colorado Springs
    • College: Adams State University in Alamosa
    • Selected additional credits: The Few and Ambition Facing West for Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company; Jerusalem for The Edge Theatre Company
    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
    The True West Awards, now in their 16th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2016 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center's Senior Arts Journalist. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    THE 2016 TRUE WEST AWARDS
    Day 1: Jada Suzanne Dixon
    Day 2: Robert Michael Sanders
    Day 3: After Orlando
    Day 4: Michael Morgan
    Day 5: Beth Beyer
    Day 6: Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski
    Day 7: donnie l. betts
    Day 8: Night of the Living Dead
    Day 9: The Killer Kids of Miscast
    Day 10: Jason Sherwood
    Day 11: Leslie O'Carroll and Steve Wilson
    Day 12: Jonathan Scott-McKean
    Day 13: Jake Mendes
    Day 14: Charles R. MacLeod
    Day 15: Patty Yaconis
    Day 16: Daniel Langhoff
    Day 17: Colorado Shakespeare Festival costumers
    Day 18: Miriam Suzanne
    Day 19: Yolanda Ortega
    Day 20: Diana Ben-Kiki
    Day 21: Jeff Neuman
    Day 22: Gabriella Cavallero
    Day 23: Matthew Campbell
    Day 24: Sharon Kay White
    Day 25: John Hauser
    Day 26: Lon Winston
    Day 27: Jason Ducat
    Day 28: Sam Gregory
    Day 29: Warren Sherrill
    Day 30: The Women Who Run Theatre in Boulder
    Theatre Person of the Year Billie McBride
  • 2016 True West Award: Jason Sherwood

    by John Moore | Dec 10, 2016

    True West Award. The Coffin. Frankenstein. Jason Sherwood



    30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    Day 10:
    Jason Sherwood

         Scenic Designer, DCPA Theatre Company's Frankenstein

     
    When the audience walked into the Stage Theatre before Frankenstein even began, they could see it: An enormous mud floor with a big, open grave dug into the middle of it. And in the epic opening moment of the play, a massive wooden coffin as big as a house is hoisted out from the ground and rises slowly to reveal the mad scientist’s newly animated Creature standing underneath it, dazed from the first stages of embryonic consciousness.

    “It said to the audience from the very beginning that is an unnatural act to pull this thing out of the ground,” said Frankenstein Director Sam Buntrock.

    This “thing” - a monster of its own kind created from the imagination of groundbreaking Scenic Designer Jason Sherwood - would serve as Ground Zero for the alchemy of life, death and re-birth in Mary Shelley’s decidedly unnatural world where the roles of God and man, creator and creature are blended into a kind of operatic chaos.

    Frankenstein video: The coffin in the scene shop:

     

    This monstrous coffin, a wooden amalgam of many disparate parts, was playfully hyperbolized not only to toy with the audience’s perspective, but more literally because it represented 10 coffins – one for each of the corpses from whom The Creature was assembled.  

    Frankenstein Coffin. True West AwardsAnd it never left the audience’s sight. When the action moved, the coffin morphed with it, serving as an ingenious projection screen with complimentary effects designed by Charlie I. Miller and lighting designer Brian Tovar.

    Breathing life into the Frankenstein set: 'It's alive!'

    “So when The Creature goes into the woods, the coffin grows greenery, and moss attaches to it,” Buntrock said. “When he sets fire to the cabin, it burns, too. And when we go to the Alps, which is where the central scene in the play takes place, the coffin becomes the Alps." In a stunning transformation, the coffin comes down from above and the climactic fight between the two men occurs on top of it. “And in the end, it engulfs them," Buntrock said.

    “This served not only as a constant reminder of Victor's act of obscene creation, but also of the death dance that it locked the two main characters into.”

    Frankenstein video: The coffin on the stage:

     

    It was breathtaking – a set piece worthy of its own curtain bow. And it was just one innovative way Sherwood played with perspective. For example, when The Creature murders Frankenstein's 6-year-old brother and leaves him in a small boat, Sherwood did not just have the boat float up to the doctor with a little body inside that an audience would not have been able to see. Sherwood instead had the boat shoot up vertically from below like a tectonic plate, allowing us to fully see the wee corpse at the same time Frankenstein does.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “Jason’s scenic design for Frankenstein was audacious in its simplicity, eschewing naturalism to allow a continuous and uninterrupted flow of action,” said Buntrock. Sherwood created fire, rain and snow. He was not safe, timid or even slightly subtle. “No, this was life and death. Big and bold,” said Buntrock.

    Just like Shelley’s gothic masterpiece.

    Jason

    ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
    The True West Awards, now in their 16th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2016 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center's Senior Arts Journalist. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    THE 2016 TRUE WEST AWARDS
    Day 1: Jada Suzanne Dixon
    Day 2: Robert Michael Sanders
    Day 3: After Orlando
    Day 4: Michael Morgan
    Day 5: Beth Beyer
    Day 6: Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski
    Day 7: donnie l. betts
    Day 8: Night of the Living Dead
    Day 9: The Killer Kids of Miscast
    Day 10: Jason Sherwood
    Day 11: Leslie O'Carroll and Steve Wilson
    Day 12: Jonathan Scott-McKean
    Day 13: Jake Mendes
    Day 14: Charles R. MacLeod
    Day 15: Patty Yaconis
    Day 16: Daniel Langhoff
    Day 17: Colorado Shakespeare Festival costumers
    Day 18: Miriam Suzanne
    Day 19: Yolanda Ortega
    Day 20: Diana Ben-Kiki
    Day 21: Jeff Neuman
    Day 22: Gabriella Cavallero
    Day 23: Matthew Campbell
    Day 24: Sharon Kay White
    Day 25: John Hauser
    Day 26: Lon Winston
    Day 27: Jason Ducat
    Day 28: Sam Gregory
    Day 29: Warren Sherrill
    Day 30: The Women Who Run Theatre in Boulder
    Theatre Person of the Year Billie McBride

    Frankenstein. Jason Sherwood. Mark Junek. Adams VisCom'Frankenstein,' designed by Jason Sherwood and featuring Mark Junek, above, who alternated with Sullivan Jones playing Frankenstein and The Creature. Photo by  Adams VisCom.
  • Photos: Opening Night of 'Frankenstein'

    by John Moore | Oct 11, 2016
    'Frankenstein' in Denver
    To see more photos from Opening Night of 'Frankenstein,' click the forward arrow on the image above.


    The DCPA NewsCenter takes you backstage before all DCPA Theatre Company opening nights, offering a glimpse of the actors in preparation, and following through to the post-show celebration.

    In the Theatre Company’s new staging of Frankenstein, which opened on Oct. 7, leading actors Sullivan Jones and Mark Junek alternate nightly playing the roles of Victor Frankenstein and his creation.

    Our backstage visit includes watching the actors being fit with their wigs, as well as Junek inserting the colored contact lens that makes it look as if the monster has one yellow eye. When Jones plays the Creature, he wears the yellow lenses on both eyes. In the source novel, author Mary Shelley makes mention of the Creature having yellow eyes.

    Photos by John Moore and McKenzie Kielman for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Frankenstein: Ticket information
    Frankenstein• Through Oct. 30
    • Stage Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Oct. 23
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829 

    Previous NewsCenter coverage:
    Video series: Inside look at the making of Frankenstein
    Five things we learned about Frankenstein at Perspectives
    Photos, video: Your first look at our montage of Frankenstein scenes
    Frankenstein
    : On the making of a two-headed monster
    Frankenstein and race: It IS a matter of black and white
    Breathing life into the Frankenstein set: 'It's alive!'
    A Frankenstein 'that will make The Bible look subtle'
    How Danny Boyle infused new life into Frankenstein
    Casting set for Frankenstein and The Glass Menagerie
    Introducing DCPA Theatre Company's 2016-17 season artwork
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    2016-17 season announcement

    More 2016-17 DCPA Theatre Company 'Meet the Cast' profiles:

    Meet Mark Junek
    Meet Sullivan Jones
    Meet Jessica Robblee


    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center.

    'Frankenstein' cast members, from left, Erin Willis, Brynn Tucker and Nellesa Walthour. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

  • Video series: Inside look at the making of 'Frankenstein'

    by John Moore | Oct 06, 2016

    For every Theatre Company production, the DCPA NewsCenter takes you backstage for an inside look at the making of the show. For Frankenstein, we have broken up our tour into four short videos:

    Part 1: Interviews with Director Sam Buntock and lead actors Sullivan Jones and Mark Junek

    Part 2: Bringing the scenic design to life with Technical Director Eric Rouse and House Foreman Doug Taylor

    Part 3: Touring the backstage scene shop

    Part 4: Costumes with Kevin Copenhaver

    Play the video above, and all four videos will play in succession. Or click on each individual link above.

    Videos by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Frankenstein: Ticket information
    Frankenstein• Through Oct. 30
    • Stage Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Oct. 23
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829 

    Previous NewsCenter coverage:
    Five things we learned about Frankenstein at Perspectives
    Photos, video: Your first look at the making of Frankenstein
    Frankenstein
    : On the making of a two-headed monster
    Frankenstein and race: It IS a matter of black and white
    Breathing life into the Frankenstein set: 'It's alive!'
    A Frankenstein 'that will make The Bible look subtle'
    How Danny Boyle infused new life into Frankenstein
    Casting set for Frankenstein and The Glass Menagerie
    Introducing DCPA Theatre Company's 2016-17 season artwork
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    2016-17 season announcement

    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center

  • Five things we learned about 'Frankenstein'

    by John Moore | Oct 05, 2016

    From left: Kevin Copenhaver (costumes), Topher Blair (projections), Jason Sherwood (scenic design), Brian Tovar (lighting), Sam Buntrock (director), Curtis Craig (sound), and actors Max Woertendyke, Molly Carden and Thaddeus Fitzpatrick. Photo by McKenzie Kielman for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    "Perspectives" is a series of free conversations with DCPA Theatre Company cast and crew on the evening of each show's first preview performance (except A Christmas Carol). On Sept. 30, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore was joined by nine members of the Frankenstein team. Here’s some of what we learned:

    1 PerspectivesThis is a stage play, but it might as well be an action film. Playwright Nick Dear's script consists of 30 scenes, but they take less than two hours to play out. "The first 20 scenes are over in the first half an hour," Director Sam Buntrock said. And why the eventual change in tempo? “At the beginning of the story, the Creature has almost no language skills, so the first five scenes have almost no dialogue. But as the Creature experiences more of the world, and as he learns to communicate better, the play elongates and becomes more conventional." 

    2 PerspectivesCostumer Kevin Copenhaver said the creative team was not interested in furthering the popular cultural depiction of Frankenstein as the neck-bolted, square-headed monster we know from the 1931 Boris Karloff film. Nor the more recent National Theatre approach in London, which turned the monster into something of a mod zipperhead. “When reading Mary Shelley’s book, I was really struck by when she said the Creature had yellow eyes,” Copenhaver said. So the two actors who play the Creature in Denver will be wearing yellow color contacts, and their teeth will be fitted with iron. “But otherwise the monster will appear to be disturbingly normal,” Copenhaver said, in part to force audiences to confront their own feelings about difference and “otherness.” The less freakish this Creature looks, the more disturbing it should be that this society rejects him anyway. (Photo: Sullivan Jones and Charlie Korman by AdamsVisCom.)

    3 PerspectivesJason Sherwood admitted that his vibrant scenic deign, which features one massive (and surprise) overhanging set piece, created a nightmare for Lighting Designer Brian Tovar and others on the creative team. Everywhere a lighting designer might normally expect to place lights, Sherwood has invaded his space with hanging set pieces, as well as accommodation for rain, snow and fire. “The whole team had to get creative all around because of me, and I apologize for that,” Sherwood said with a laugh.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    4 Perspectives Frankenstein PerspectivesActors Sullivan Jones and Mark Junek, the actors who will alternate playing the roles of Dr. Frankenstein and his Creature, have been encouraged to go their own ways – and that freedom affects everyone else on and around the stage. Said ensemble actor Molly Carden: “One thing Sam kept repeating to us was, 'If you are going to have two people play the same role on different nights, you don't want it to be the same performance. That would be antithetical to the whole premise.' ” Or, as Buntrock puts it: “I can't cram one person's performance into another person's. Sometimes I have to keep reminding myself that this show is not the same for both people. It can't be.” That freedom not only means two actors interpreting the text differently, but also having the liberty to move about differently on the stage. That requires flexibility from the acting ensemble, the audience and even the technical crew - specifically, the person operating the lights. “That’s because Mark and Sullivan aren’t always in the same place on the stage each night, even though they are saying the same words,” actor Thaddeus Fitzpatrick said. (Photo: Sam Buntrock by By McKenzie Kielman for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    5 PerspectivesDenver Center newcomer Max Woertendyke plays a gentleman named Felix de Lacey, a man who is devoted to his family and mistress. In fact, Felix is kind, educated, and gentle to all — save for the poor monster. Just a few months ago, Woertendyke was part of the Broadway ensemble of A View From the Bridge, which won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. “Just to clarify - I don’t think I was the one who got it for us,” joked Woertendyke, who understudied the roles of Louis and Marco.

    6 PerspectivesBonus: Mary Shelley’s source novel turns 200 years old this year. And yet surely some audience members will be experiencing the story for the first time. “I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone - but it's about a monster,” Buntrock said with a laugh.

    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 next Perspectives will cover The Book of Will at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, in the Jones Theatre. It’s free.


    Photo gallery: The making of Frankenstein in Denver:

    'Frankenstein' in Denver

    To see more photos, click the arrow on the image above. All photos by John Moore and McKenzie Kielman for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Frankenstein: Ticket information
    Frankenstein• Through Oct. 30
    • Stage Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Oct. 23
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829 


    Previous NewsCenter coverage:

    Photos, video: Your first look at the making of Frankenstein
    Frankenstein
    : On the making of a two-headed monster
    Frankenstein and race: It IS a matter of black and white
    Breathing life into the Frankenstein set: 'It's alive!'
    A Frankenstein 'that will make The Bible look subtle'
    How Danny Boyle infused new life into Frankenstein
    Casting set for Frankenstein and The Glass Menagerie
    Introducing DCPA Theatre Company's 2016-17 season artwork
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    2016-17 season announcement

    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center

  • Photos, video: First look at DCPA's 'Frankenstein'

    by John Moore | Oct 04, 2016



    First video (above) and photos (below) of the DCPA Theatre Company's Frankenstein, opening Oct. 7. Video by DCPA Video Producer David Lenk. Photos by AdamsVisCom. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image below. The production, directed by Sam Buntrock, features actors Sullivan Jones and Mark Junek alternating in the roles of Dr. Frankenstein and The Creature. 

    Frankenstein- 2016-17 Theatre Company Season

    Cast list

    • Mark Junek as Victor Frankenstein and his Creature
    • Sullivan Jones as Victor Frankenstein and his Creature
    • Molly Carden as Agatha/Ensemble
    • Thaddeus Fitzpatrick as Rab/Ensemble
    • Meridith C. Grundei as Servant/Ensemble and understudy to Gretel
    • John Hauser as Understudy to Felix/Rab
    • Charlie Korman as William
    • Jenny Leona as Elizabeth/Ensemble
    • Avi Levin as understudy to William
    • Rodney Lizcano as Gustav/Constable/Ensemble
    • Conan McCarty as Klaus/Ensemble
    • Kevin McGuire as De Lacey/M. Frankenstein
    • Leigh Nichols Miller as understudy to Victor/Gustav/Constable
    • Douglas Rees as Ewan/Ensemble
    • Jessica Robblee as Clarice/Gretel/Ensemble
    • Brian Shea as understudy to Klaus/De Lacey/Ewan
    • Brynn Tucker as understudy to Female Creature/Servants
    • Nellesa Walthour as Female Creature/Ensemble
    • Erin Willis as Servant/Ensemble, and understudy to Agatha/Clarice
    • Max Woertendyke as Felix and understudy to The Creature

    Frankenstein: Ticket information
    Frankenstein• Through Oct. 30
    • Stage Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Oct. 23
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829 


    Previous NewsCenter coverage:

    Frankenstein: On the making of a two-headed monster
    Frankenstein and race: It IS a matter of black and white
    Breathing life into the Frankenstein set: 'It's alive!'
    A Frankenstein 'that will make The Bible look subtle'
    How Danny Boyle infused new life into Frankenstein
    Casting set for Frankenstein and The Glass Menagerie
    Introducing DCPA Theatre Company's 2016-17 season artwork
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    2016-17 season announcement

    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • 'Frankenstein': The making of a two-headed monster

    by John Moore | Sep 30, 2016
    Director Sam Buntrock, on the benefit to audiences of seeing his 'Frankenstein' twice. His two leading actors will rotate nightly in the roles of Dr. Frankenstein and the Creature. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    Frankenstein is a play in a hurry, says Director Sam Buntrock. So the first thing Denver Center audiences will notice is that playwright Nick Dear has sliced off the first 100 pages of Mary Shelley’s classic source novel. The Theatre Company’s new staging opens instead with a birth – the animation of Victor Frankenstein’s hideous collection of moribund corpse parts. 

    "Nick Dear is not interested in how we got there,” said Buntrock, whose live visual feast has its first preview performance tonight (Sept. 30) in the Stage Theatre. “There is very little backstory. It relies on you already knowing the story, which is smart. Frankenstein is so culturally understood that it’s a word we use every day. It’s in our lexicon. The play knows that.

    "The fundamental moment is really when the Creature is born – and everything else is just claptrap.”

    The second thing audiences will notice is that Buntrock’s two leading actors alternate nightly playing the roles of Victor Frankenstein and his creation. In Denver, that will be Sullivan Jones and Mark Junek, who says this play is also not at all interested in the science of how the Creature comes to life. Instead it simply assumes that the Creature, despite being assembled from a variety of cadavers, is indeed a singular human being – and therefore capable of basic human traits including learning, memory, love and suffering.

    “I think there is sort of a supernatural quality about this version of the Creature,” said Junek. “It is an almost fully formed human being but it has no impressions of humanity. So I think of it more as an alien - someone who has never directly experienced society or humanity before, but yet has a full capacity to learn."

    Except, as the well-known story goes, this society will not have it. Or him. Or any other Other. And we witness the lethal, legal and moral fallout.

    A tag-team wrestling event

    The challenge for both the director and his entire ensemble of actors is that they have essentially created two different plays - in just more than a month of rehearsal.

    A Frankenstein actors“My approach was to first find out who Mark and Sullivan are as actors and then work out their needs,” said Buntrock. “Even though they are playing the two leading characters, there are huge sections where they aren’t interacting with each other onstage. So I have isolated them a lot of the time - and it’s been interesting to watch them because they both come to the exact same conclusions some of the time, and at other times they come up with their own versions.”

    Sullivan compares those first few days of rehearsal to WWF tag-team wrestling. “One guy goes in and he puts the other guy in a headlock. Then he tags out, and the other guy does it. That's kind of what we have been doing.”

    Junek said he and Jones were freely stealing from one another other in the first few days of rehearsals. But once Buntrock isolated the actors, Jones added, “that freed us up to kind of craft our own performances.”

    By encouraging his actors to go their own ways, Junek said, “I think Sam is admitting the obvious, which is that we are very different people, and we bring different things to the roles.”

    But the more the actors explore the parallel lives of Frankenstein and his Creature, Sullivan says, the more they are discovering that there is more to this role-reversal idea than the actors simply trading places. The refined man of science and his hideous creation, they have discovered, essentially trade places themselves by the end of the story.

    Frankenstein and race: It IS a matter of black and white

    “The more we do this, the more clear it becomes that they are of the same cloth,” Sullivan said. “They are the same person. They are mirrors of each other. Or shadows.”

    Buntrock promises a special satisfaction, he said, for those audiences who come back and see the play twice. (On Saturdays, audiences can see the play twice on the same day.)

    “This is a play which really merits going back to anyway just because there are so many ideas in it, and it all happens so quickly,” Buntrock said. “It’s almost like one of those great films that you want to go back and see again because you get so much more out of it the second time. I think these are two phenomenal actors, and it’s a real treat to see what they both bring to it individually.”

    'Frankenstein' stars Sullivan Jones, left, and Mark Junek.

    'Frankenstein' stars Sullivan Jones, left, and Mark Junek. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter 



    For Buntrock, a Tony Award nomination at 32

    Buntrock’s life fundamentally changed at age 32 when he became one of the youngest directors ever to be nominated for a Tony Award, for the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. Buntrock’s innovative infusion of animation and projected color not only helped the audience to visualize the brilliance of Georges Seurat’s perplexing, 1884 abstract masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – it has been credited with forever changing the role and expectations of multimedia in live theatre. The next year, for example, Les Misérables was reimagined without a barricade but with 180-degree scenographic projections of revolutionary Paris streets in its place.

     “We used projection to allow us to really tell the journey of the painting, starting as a charcoal line across the page all the way through to the last dab of paint,” said Buntrock. Ben Brantley of the New York Times said Buntrock “used 21st-century technology to convey the vision of a 19th-century Pointillist to truly enchanting effect.” But despite the “rhapsody of images” that Buntrock kept unfolding before the audience, “the great gift of this production,” Brantley wrote, “was its quiet insistence that looking is the art by which all people shape their lives.”

    The Tony Award nomination opened doors for Buntrock, who has been living and working in the United States exclusively since 2011. “It’s the reason I have a career here,” said Buntrock, who added with a laugh, “It also means my name now has the words ‘Tony nominee’ in front of it in anything I read.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    In 2013, Buntrock accepted an invitation to direct the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere of Ed/Downloaded. How could he not? Playwright Michael Mitnick wrote the play specifically for Buntrock. The story is set in the near future, when you will be able to download your 10 favorite memories when you die - essentially leaving behind a carefully curated if not necessarily accurate representation of your life. When Ed dies and his girlfriend discovers he was cheating her, she sets about to change his digital scrapbook.

    A_Sunday_on_La_Grande_JatteThe fun for Buntrock was combining live theatre with filmic elements. “So for example, in one scene, our theatrical reality is that the actors on the stage are in the woods,” Buntrock said. “But when we see the memory that goes with it, it’s Ed having been filmed in the real woods. It was extraordinary fun to play with those realities off each other.”

    (Pictured above right: Georges Seurat’s 'A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.')

    Buntrock loved “working with such incredible artists across the board at the Denver Center,” he said. “So when it came to being asked to come back for Frankenstein, of course I said yes.”

    His expertise in animation and visual stimulation very much informs his approach to Frankenstein, which will include fire, rain, snow … “all of the elements,” he said.

    Frankenstein“We are using a lot of technology. It’s not really that literal of a production. It’s much more evocative and suggestive than architectural. (Scenic Designer) Jason Sherwood, (Lighting Designer) Brian Tovar and (Projections Specialist) Charlie Miller have been working so hard with technology and with lights to find a way to make that organic and real and of the theatre, rather than seem superimposed.”

    Buntrock has carried his greatest takeaway from Sunday in the Park with George with him to Frankenstein: It’s best, he said, when you take something that's big … and distill it down.

    “I am interested in diluting rather than complicating,” Buntrock said. “We had all this amazing technology to play with 10 years ago on Sunday in the Park with George, but a lot of our work was spent trying to find the smallest thing. Our challenge was how to use projection and strong, bold, almost filmic imagery onstage in a way that still allowed the audience’s imagination to engage.

    “The most powerful thing that I have in my tool set as an director is an audience’s imagination.”


    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.

     


    Photo gallery: More on the making of Frankenstein in Denver

    'Frankenstein' in Denver
    Photos from the making of 'Frankenstein' in Denver. To see more, click the forward arrow in the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Frankenstein: Ticket information
    Frankenstein• Sept. 30-Oct. 30
    • Stage Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Oct. 23
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829 


    Previous NewsCenter coverage:

    Frankenstein and race: It IS a matter of black and white
    Breathing life into the Frankenstein set: 'It's alive!'
    A Frankenstein 'that will make The Bible look subtle'
    How Danny Boyle infused new life into Frankenstein
    Casting set for Frankenstein and The Glass Menagerie
    Introducing DCPA Theatre Company's 2016-17 season artwork
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    2016-17 season announcement

    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center.

  • Frankenstein: It is a matter of black and white

    by John Moore | Sep 23, 2016
    DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
    DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Much has been made of the mirrored relationship between Man and Maker in Mary Shelley’s enduring Gothic classic, Frankenstein. Creator and Cadaver. Father and Son. God and Man.

    The DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming new staging of Frankenstein explores a whole new and incendiary duality: Black and white.

    Frankenstein is, of course, the familiar story of the young science student who assembles a living being from parts of exhumed corpses. In 2011, London’s National Theatre did some Frankenstein-like reanimating of its own when it breathed astonishing new life into Shelley’s nearly 200-year-old horror story. Noted film director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) and playwright Nick Dear had their two leading actors alternate nightly playing the roles of Victor Frankenstein and his creation. Returning audiences not only got to consider how differently the two actors approached the same roles, they got to witness Son become Father. Man become God.

    The National Theatre staging was a sensation. Now, five years later, the DCPA becomes the first theatre company in North America to revivify the London creation. DCPA Director Sam Buntrock and Artistic Director Kent Thompson will also have their actors trade roles. But there’s more. At a time when racial tensions in America are at their highest levels in 40 years, acclaimed actors Sullivan Jones and Mark Junek have been cast to play Frankenstein and The Creature.

    Jones is black. Junek is white. And Thompson knows that may take on added visual significance with today’s audiences, because one more vital relationship between the story’s two archetypal characters is dominance and submission. Master and Slave.

    Thompson is often known to cast actors of color to play characters traditionally played by white actors. So that’s nothing new. But in a year of ever-escalating racial tension in America that flared anew this week in Charlotte and Tulsa, yes, Thompson says, he is trying to make a statement. A bold one about “the complex ways people from different cultures and classes relate to one another,” Thompson said. “And I’m highlighting that by having actors of two different races switching in these two roles.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    A notable departure from Shelley’s source novel is the newly adapted play’s primary focus on The Creature - grotesque as he is, and yet childlike in his innocence. The real horror of Shelley’s story is not those silly (and jettisoned) neck bolts made famous by Boris Karloff. It is the doctor’s blithe rejection of his bewildered creature, and casting him out into a hostile world. Meeting with cruelty wherever he goes, The Creature grows increasingly vengeful. And that all will inevitably look different to a contemporary audience on the nights when Jones is the actor playing the unfairly beaten creature. And that’s OK, says Thompson.

    “I don't know that we’ll ever be a post-racial society,” he said. “But I hope one day we will be post-racist.”

    Buntrock, who is British, said the instinct to cast one Frankenstein Quote. Sam Buntrock white and one African-American actor in the rotating roles was not so much to make some great social statement, but rather stems from a responsibility he feels, and Thompson shares, to increase diversity in the theatre.

    "The impulse came from the notion that the boundaries of casting must be brought down," Buntrock  said. "It's irresponsible in this day and age to be locked into one sense of how a character should look."

    That said, he has talked at length with his actors about the impact this particular casting may have on audiences. "Yes, I am interested in what that provokes in the viewer," he said. "And this is going to bring the audience face-to-face with their attitudes."

    The supreme challenge of two actors having to bring two entire characters to life on alternating nights is affords a rich and rare creative opportunity for potential audiences.

    “In the original London production the reviewers and the audiences were fascinated at how differently they approached each character,” Thompson said. “They were not the exact same performance, and the dynamic between them changed.”


    Frankenstein actors

    DCPA actors Sullivan Jones and Mark Junek will rotate and alternate in portraying Frankenstein and his Creature.


    The New York Times critic Ben Brantley found it thrilling to attend Frankenstein on successive nights in London. “Watching each of these actors find their feet and test their body parts is such a dizzy high point that it can’t be topped,” he wrote. And their approaches are just different enough to make you want to see both.”

    Those who do will see that Frankenstein continues to strike disturbingly urgent chords that go far beyond race, and encompassing “otherness” of all kinds.

    “There are many other things that make The Creature scary,” said Thompson. “There’s his deformity. That he can’t talk. That he seems to be brutish.”

    “Otherness” tends to evoke ignorance, cruelty and fear, said Thompson, who is fascinated by what makes “otherness” frightening to other people in the first place, be it disability, skin color … or even a person’s presidential preference.

    Frankenstein Quote. Kent Thompson“All of that fear multiplies once you start to consider race and culture and age and political opinions,” said Thompson. “It’s easy to demonize the person on the other side of an issue. That is going on all over America today. The challenge we are left is: “How do we stop demonizing each other?’”

    Thompson pointed out that the man in power in this scenario – the omnipotent doctor – would likely fall somewhere squarely on what we would call “the autism spectrum” today.

    "He’s a genius, but his ability to emotionally respond and psychologically understand the consequences of his actions has been thwarted,” Thompson said. Yet, he holds the power to create life in his hands as surely as a gun would hold the power to end it.”

    But while the landmark London staging offered audiences a whole new way of looking at the Frankenstein myth - as will the DCPA’s team of designers and actors – “None of that profoundly changes the major theme of the piece,” Thompson said. Which is, essentially: “Is it even ethically appropriate for man to create life? I mean, once you start down that road, how do you stop?”


    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.


    Photo gallery: More on the making of Frankenstein in Denver

    'Frankenstein' in Denver
    Photos from the making of 'Frankenstein' in Denver. To see more, click the forward arrow in the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Frankenstein: Ticket information
    Frankenstein• Sept. 30-Oct. 30
    • Stage Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Oct. 23
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829 


    Previous NewsCenter coverage:

    Breathing life into the Frankenstein set: 'It's alive!'
    A Frankenstein 'that will make The Bible look subtle'
    How Danny Boyle infused new life into Frankenstein
    Casting set for Frankenstein and The Glass Menagerie
    Introducing DCPA Theatre Company's 2016-17 season artwork
    Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
    2016-17 season announcement

    Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center.

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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.