• 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.

  • 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

  • Neil Berg and the rockin' roots of 'The 12'

    by NewsCenter Staff | Mar 31, 2015
    Neil Berg. Photo by John Moore.
    Neil Berg. Photo by John Moore.


    By Douglas Langworthy
    DCPA Literary Manager

    Composer and co-lyricist Neil Berg traces his interest in musicals to an unlikely origin: seeing Annie on Broadway as a boy. “While everyone else loved ‘Tomorrow,’ ” he remembers, “I loved ‘Maybe,’ her ‘I Want’ song.” In an “I Want” song, the protagonist expresses her dreams (e.g. "Annie wants parents"). It’s telling that the budding composer was interested in the song that sets the entire play in motion. Prologue spoke with Neil during rehearsals for The 12, the rock musical he created with book writer/co-lyricist Robert Schenkkan.

    Douglas Langworthy: When did you start writing musicals?

    Neil Berg: From the time I could play the piano, around 9 or 10. I was the youngest of three and rock 'n roll was what I grew up listening to. From my brother I got The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and classic rock. My sister was into folk — Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Peter, Paul and Mary. And my mother and father were into classical, jazz and opera. Being the youngest, it all trickled down. When I came into my own, I was into the classic rock movement. My favorite albums were all those rock operas — The Who’s "Quadrophenia" and Genesis’ "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway," but my very favorite was probably Pink Floyd’s "The Wall."

    Front, from left: Anthony Federov, Terence Archie and Jordan Barbour with other cast members from 'The 12.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. When I got to high school, I chose baseball, but I always loved the theatre. When I got to college my best friend bet me 20 bags of Oodles of Noodles that I wouldn’t audition for the musical. I got into Brigadoon; I was the fifth fellow from the left — I’m not a very good actor — but I loved it. When they found out I could play piano, someone asked me to write my first musical — Ghost Story. My life was changed. I got asked my senior year to compose for Cider Mill Playhouse where I wrote scores for Trelawny of the Wells and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

    I arrived in New York City a little behind because I wasn’t "that “Juilliard guy," but I forged my own path. I auditioned for the BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc. Musical Theater) workshop and got in. That’s how I started writing musical theatre.

    (Note: Photo above: Front, from left: Anthony Federov, Terence Archie and Jordan Barbour with other cast members from 'The 12.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)  

    Langworthy: Talk about how The 12 came about.

    Berg: I wrote a musical version of The Prince and the Pauper that ran Off-Broadway for two years at the Lamb’s Theatre in New York. Lamb’s Theatre was in a former church, so every day I was going to work in a church. Being Jewish from New York, I was always fascinated by religion; by these new televangelists.

    I was asked if I wanted to write a musical about the disciples, but that never got off the ground, so I came up with my original concept to write a rock song cycle. Christianity and rock ’n roll were both revolutions that changed the culture. With Christianity you have all these splinter groups, just as rock has all of its sub-genres.

    So my intention was to give each disciple his own rock style — one could be Elvis, then John Lennon and Bono. I was working with a producer, Adam Friedson, who had just produced Robert Schenkkan’s play By the Waters of Babylon. When I mentioned that I was interested in taking this into a book musical, he put Robert and me together.

    Langworthy: Once Robert came into the picture, how did the project change?

    Berg: Robert liked my parallel concept, but he felt a stricter focus would be more effective. So it was his idea to narrow it down to the story of the disciples in the room just after Jesus’ death. What happens when you have a revolution and the leader is suddenly cut off? What do the followers do? This became about having belief.

    Then we tried a few framing devices. What if this was a rock band on the verge of breaking up, but before they do they make this one last record. So all the different players in the band would come out and become a different disciple. It was cool, but we ultimately felt it was a near-miss. The device was more confusing than helpful, so we decided to simplify. And that’s where we are now, where the struggle of the disciples is the story.

    Watch short video samples of 'The 12' songs from the first sing-through

    Langworthy: What musical influences are reflected in your music for The 12?

    Berg: This is my love letter to classic rock ’n roll. You’ll hear some of The Who, a little Led Zeppelin, a little Tom Waits. John Lennon’s in there in the song called “Why.” And of course the ending is very U2 — the hopefulness, everything Bono has stood for in his career.

    There’s a gospel song called “Rise Up” that I’m excited about because I was thinking about how the first gospel song ever would have been written. It could have been inspired by the first time anyone thought that their leader was risen.

    Langworthy: Do you have a sense of how this will play to theatre audiences and audiences of faith?

    Berg:  Absolutely. We’ve done a few different workshops in different places. One of them was in suburban New Jersey. A large part of that audience was suburban churchgoing Catholic. Their response to the reading was incredible. They felt this is a part of the story that’s not told. They felt that this story was theirs; they could wrap themselves around it and embrace it. And then we did it at B.B. King’s in Times Square, and they loved it too. If we’re telling the story the way we want to tell it, and everyone can bring their life history to it and celebrate it, that would be fantastic.


    The 12
    : Video montage:





    The 12
    : Ticket information

    Through April 26
    Stage Theatre
    Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Toll-free: 800-641-1222 | TTY: 303-893-9582
    Groups of 10 or more: 303-446-4829
    ASL interpreted, audio described and open-captioned performance: 1:30 p.m. April 26

    Our previous coverage of The 12:
    Video montage: Your first look at The 12
    The 12: Three days that rocked the world
    Watch short video samples of 'The 12' songs from the first sing-through
    Video: Robert Schenkkan introduces The 12
    The 12 opens rehearsals with a mandate to 'dig deep'
    Full casting announced for The 12
    Final offering of Theatre Company season: Rock musical The 12

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

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