• Meet 2018 Bobby G Awards Outstanding Actor nominee Travis Turner

    by John Moore | May 15, 2018
    Travis Turner Bobby G Awards

    The Bobby G Awards celebrate outstanding achievement in Colorado high-school musical theatre. The sixth annual awards take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 24, at the Buell Theatre. (Reserve your seat here)

    Today we continue our daily rollout of the five students who are finalists for Outstanding Lead Actor. The winner will advance to represent Colorado at The Jimmy® Awards/The National High School Musical Theatre Awards™ (NHSMTA) in New York City.

    Travis Turner Bobby G Awards QuoteTRAVIS TURNER

    Edward Bloom in Big Fish
    Fossil Ridge High School, Fort Collins
    Class of 2018

    • Twitter bio (to a sick rap beat):
      Song Singing Fellow, Dancing like some Jell-o.
      Acting like I'm mellow, on stage cause I love it.
    • What's your handle? travisj.turner on Instagram
    • College plans: I will attend the University of Northern Colorado to pursue a BFA in Musical Theatre
    • First role: In eighth grade, I performed the role of Horatio Miles in And Then There Was One.
    • Why do you perform? As an audience member, I know the feeling I get when I watch a production. The sense of awe and amazement in how the show is performed and how the performers showcase their perfected art. As an actor, that is what I want to give to an audience. I perform so that I can showcase my best work and to tell a story that people will love and remember after they leave the theatre.
    • One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: I had the chance to see Disney’s Aladdin, both on Broadway and the touring production. This show is truly a technical work of art. The Genie’s appearance was one of the best visual parts of the show. I found myself at the edge of my seat in excitement for whatever scene was going to come next. Of every show I have ever seen, I have enjoyed Aladdin the most.
    • Ideal scene partner: My favorite TV show of all time is “The Office.” Watching this show, I gained an immense amount of respect for Steve Carell. His ability to portray the challenging role of Michael Scott is so inspiring to me. It would make my life if I could act in a scene with him. I feel like lines and reactions would be so easy to bounce off him. 

    • What's playing on your Spotify right now?  I really love listening to John Mayer and Jack Johnson. Any kind of relaxing tunes. Though, when I want to sing, I love to listen to showtunes — anywhere from Memphis to Newsies.
    • Favorite moment from your show: The night Big Fish ended, as heart-wrenching as it was. That's when I truly realized that all the work we put into show had paid off. I was overwhelmed with gratitude, and before I knew it I was in tears. I was sad the show had ended, but so happy it went as well as it did.
    • How does it feel to be nominated? It has literally been a dream come true. It is such a special feeling knowing I have been recognized for my hard work and determination. I am beyond thankful for the Bobby G adjudicators for giving me this experience that I will remember for my entire life.

    Reserve your seat for the May 24 Bobby G Awards

    • What has this experience taught you about the value of arts education and extracurricular activities at your school? It has taught me to appreciate the opportunities we are given, especially in this state. Colorado has a very connected group of high-school performers. You meet people at Thescon and they are the same people you see at Colorado All-State Choir. I love that the arts have brought me so close to the whole community of artists.

    Our featured nominated actors and actresses to date:
    Selected recent coverage of the Bobby G Awards:

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • In the Spotlife: Jake Mendes of 'This is Modern Art'

    by John Moore | Mar 30, 2018

    Jake Mendes. THIS IS MODERN ARTLakewood native Jake Mendes makes his Denver Center debut in This is Modern Art.'

    Jake Mendes glides from Hedwig glam to graffiti bomber in Off-Center's provocative new play This is Modern Art

    2016 True West Award winner Jake Mendes, who plays Dose in Off-Center's This is Modern Art, is making his Denver Center debut. The University of Northern Colorado grad just blew the roof off the Aurora Fox starring in Hedwig and The Angry Inch. At the Arvada Center, he recently played Rueben in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Paul in A Chorus Line and he originated the role of Simon in the world premiere musical I'll Be Home For Christmas. Off Broadway, he performed in Bunnicula and Pinkalicious: The Musical. Other New York credits include Xanadu, A Man of No Importance, The Little Dog Laughed, The Normal Heart and The Drowsy Chaperone.

    • Hometown: Lakewood
    • Home now: Denver
    • What's your handle? @_jake_mendes_ on Instagram
    • What have you done for us lately? I played Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Aurora Fox
    • Twitter-sized bio: Portuguese. Virgo. Lactose Intolerant.
    • JAKE MENDES HEDWIG AURORA FOXWhat would you be doing if you were not an actor? I would be directing and choreographing. I thrive on the creation of art and collaboration with artistic minds. I feel like I can best contribute to the world around me through theatre and performing arts.
    • One role you were completely miscast for: While it was very fun … I did a spot in a web series where I had to be a hipster bro, introducing my girlfriend to my sex-obsessed, over-sharing parents for the first time.
    • Bucket-list role? I was lucky enough to cross this off of my list earlier this year when I played Hedwig with the incomparable Norrell Moore. So now I’m waiting for someone to cast me as Effie White in Dreamgirls.
    • One seminal experience where you saw greatness play out in front of you: When I saw Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart on Broadway, I had a moment where I truly understood how theatre could immediately affect people in a guttural and primitive way. At the end of the play, people were crying and hugging each other, silent. I realized then that it is truly our responsibility and privilege as performers to send our stories to people’s hearts and souls. We won’t be able to determine how they’ll  be received, but we could be the ones to provide an opportunity for an audience member to be transformed in some way.
    • Betty WhoWhat are you listening to on Spotify right now? I’m always listening to Betty Who, but I’m also really into the playlist compiled from the Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It” right now.
    • What is This is Modern Art all about? It's based on the true story of a Chicago graffiti crew that is are willing to risk everything for their art. But when they pulled off the biggest graffiti bomb the city had ever seen, the consequences got real, and it sparked a public debate that asked where art does — and does not — belong?
    • Why does This is Modern Art Matter? This play highlights the fact that art should never be boxed into something specific. Artistic expression means different things to different people. You may like to experience different forms of art, but one will never be better than the other.
    • Jake Mendes THIS IS MODERN ARTWhat do you hope audiences get out of seeing This is Modern Art? At the very least, I hope their eyes will be more open to the beautiful and illustrious street art culture that is exploding in Denver.
    • One thing we should be doing to foster the next generation of theatregoers? We need to encourage people to listen, and to be open and honest. Whether you’re listening to a performance, listening to your castmates on stage with you, listening to what your director is saying … listening to your own heart and soul. Listening, honesty and openness all help to foster a sense of trust, which cultivates one’s ability to take risks and create dynamic, life-changing experiences.
    • What do you want to get off your chest? Dear Dad, I got my nose pierced… I’ve been keeping it hidden for a few months… sorry.
    • What's one thing we don't know about you? I’m a certified Pre-Natal and Post Partum Personal Trainer.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    This is Modern ArtThis is Modern Art
    : Ticket information

    • Presented by Off-Center
    • Performances through April 15
    • Jones Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Written by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    • Directed by Idris Goodwin
    • Featuring Robert Lee Hardy, John Jurcheck, Brynn Tucker, Jake Mendes, Chloe McLeod and Marco Robinson
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of This is Modern Art:
    This is Modern Art will make you look
    Idris Goodwin is going places: From Curious' Detroit '67 to Denver Center
    Graffiti: Modern art or 'urban terrorism'?
    Vast and visceral: Off-Center season will include This is Modern Art

    More 2017-18 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    • Meet Ilasiea L. Gray of Sleeping Beauty
    • Meet Candy Brown of Love Letters
    • Meet Christy Brandt of Creede Rep's Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Meet Deb Persoff of Vintage Theatre's August: Osage County
    • Meet Monica Joyce Thompson of Inspire Creative’s South Pacific
    • Meet Hugo Jon Sayles of I Don't Speak English Only
    • Meet Marialuisa Burgos of I Don't Speak English Only

  • 'First Date' understudies will take center stage at Denver Actors Fund screening

    by John Moore | Jan 18, 2018
    Understudies Cashelle Butler and Barret Harper. First Date Photo by John Moore
    First Date understudies Cashelle Butler and Barret Harper. Photo by John Moore

    Unsung heroes will get their chance to sing out at Monday's benefit screening of 500 Days of Summer at Alamo

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Understudies are among the many unsung heroes of the theatre — especially on long-running shows such as DCPA Cabaret’s romantic musical comedy First Date at the Galleria Theatre. All the more so during the ongoing cold and flu epidemic in Denver.

    We talked about it with Cashelle Butler and Barret Harper, who on Monday will be performing songs from First Date before a screening of the popular film 500 Days of Summer at the Alamo Drafthouse. It’s a benefit for The Denver Actors Fund, which, in four years, has made more than $200,000 in medical relief available to members of the Colorado theatre community. Alamo donates 50 percent of all ticket proceeds from this fun monthly film series, which cleverly pairs a popular movie with a live appearance by a local theatre company staging a related musical.

    Cashelle Butler First Date QuoteFirst Date, which performs at the Galleria through April 22, follows a blind-date newbie who is set up with a serial dater. The audience follows along as a casual drink at a busy New York restaurant turns into a comically high-stakes dinner.

    We asked Butler and Harper about the life and challenges of an understudy, the importance of The Denver Actors Fund and Monday’s upcoming appearance at the Alamo.

    “I always find it an honor to be cast as an understudy,” said Butler, who attended Cherry Creek and Cherokee Trail high schools and graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “They are trusting me not only to know multiple roles, but to be able to come in at the last minute and keep the show running.”

    Butler was called on to perform in First Date just last week. “My castmates were all so supportive, helpful, trusting and incredibly fun to be on stage with,” she said. “They are a great group. You should all go see them shine, because they are truly amazing performers and human beings.”

    Harper, who graduated from Littleton High School and the University of Colorado Boulder, said understudies make it so that the lead actors don’t have to take unnecessary health risks for the sake of a single performance. “When an actor knows he has an understudy, he or she generally does a better job and is less likely to get sick because it removes the stress from feeling like they have the weight of the show resting on the unpredictable nature of human health,” he said. “They can focus on their craft with the confidence someone has their back.” 

    Choose your 500 Days of Summer screening seats here

    Join Butler and Barrett Monday for their live appearance at the Sloan’s Lake Alamo Drafthouse, hosted by film series emcee (and, coincidentally, First Date castmate) Steven J. Burge.

    In the meantime: Don’t forget to hug an understudy … but only if you’re healthy.

    Question: How is the importance of understudies heightened during cold and flu season?

    Cashelle Butler: That’s when understudies are especially vital. As a performer, you want to know that if you have to go out of the show, you aren't letting anyone down. Having an understudy gives you the peace of mind to know you can take the time you need to heal your body without any guilt. I want everyone to be healthy and happy and to never need me. But should that day come, I want to make sure nobody on stage has to worry about me or the show.

    BARRET HARPER QUOTE FIRRST DATEBarret Harper: Working as an understudy during cold and flu season requires extra vigilance and discipline. Your chances of performing skyrocket, but you are equally at risk for illness yourself. So staying fresh on the material and staying healthy are paramount.

    Question: What does it mean to you to help support The Denver Actors Fund on Monday?

    Cashelle Butler: It is both an honor and a privilege. While being an artist is incredibly rewarding, fun and exciting, it does not always afford us the stability and comfort that other jobs have. Life happens, and nobody should have to face life's worst turns alone. The Denver Actors Fund is there when you are going through your darkest days, offering help, support, hope and a reminder that this community is there for you and you are not alone. I feel so lucky to be a part of such a kind, supportive, genuinely caring community of humans and artists, and to be able to support the Denver Actors Fund is such a rewarding treat.

    Barret Harper: The Denver Actors Fund is the lifeline that connects the entire Colorado theatre community. It sends a message to the artists in this community that helping each other in our time of need makes our community and our art stronger. Individual actors generally don’t have the means to help others in a meaningful financial way, so the DAF provides a mechanism to transform our magnanimous spirit into something more tangible. It means the world to me to support an organization that has helped so many of my brilliant coworkers and friends over the past few years. 

    Question: Why should people come to see the screening of 500 Days of Summer on Monday?

    First Date Fall Casting Photo by Emily LozowCashelle: Everyone should hang out with us on Monday! When you support The  Denver Actors Fund, you are supporting Denver's community of actors. And you get to hear a few songs from First Date. Plus, Steven J. Burge is the funniest, most lovely and prettiest human around. He will make you laugh so hard you will leave with a washboard stomach. You also get to ogle Barret Harper and listen to his gorgeous voice. You'll get to eat popcorn and drink beer and watch one of the cutest movies of all time — which is not coincidentally quite similar to First Date. You get to escape the world for a few hours and hide in a movie theatre and believe in love.

    (Pictured: Seth Dhonau and Adriane Leigh Robinson in the DCPA's 'First Date.' Photo by Emily Lozow.)

    Barret Harper:  People should come knowing they will be contributing to an organization that is dedicated to directly helping the local theater community. You can see your donated money in action every time you see the actors perform. You become a part of the art in a meaningful 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. He is also the founder of The Denver Actors Fund.

    Meet the cast: More fun to read than any dating profile!

    500 Days of Summer: Benefit film screening:
    What: Denver Actors Fund screening of the film 500 Days of Summer, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel
    Who: Live pre-screening entertainment from DCPA Cabaret's First Date.
    When: Monday, Jan. 22: Entertainment 6:30 p.m.; film at 7
    Where: Sloan's Lake Alamo Drafthouse, 4255 W. Colfax Ave., drafthouse.com

    First Date: Ticket information
    First DatePerformances through April 22
    Tickets: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    At the Garner Galleria Theatre

    The book is written by by Austin Winberg. Music and Lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner. Orchestrations by August Eriksmoen. Vocal and Incidental Music Arrangements by Dominick Amendum.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of First Date:
    Video: Photos: Your first look at First Date
    Check out the all-local cast of the Denver Center's First Date

    Video bonus: Cashelle Butler visits Cherry Creek High School:

  • 2017 True West Award: Vance McKenzie

    by John Moore | Dec 28, 2017

    2017 True West Awards Vance McKenzie


    Day 28: Vance McKenzie

    Lighting Designer

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    To shed a little light on Lighting Designer Vance McKenzie, we offer this bit of illumination: He’s a cool kid with a cool kid. Clearly. He and wife Crystal named their son Grayson — the non-nom de plume of Batman’s original sidekick Robin before he became known in the DC universe as Nightwing.

    Seriously, how cool would it be to have a nickname like Nightwing? As your birthright?

    McKenzie is a busy lighting designer from Carbondale whose friends use other words to describe him as well: Collaborative. Patient. Unafraid. Outside the theatre, they say he's an avid skier who loves board games, role-playing Starship Troopers and playing Xbox. "So yeah, he's a total uber-geek,” says Miners Alley Playhouse Managing Director Jonathan Scott-McKean. (And it takes one to know one.)  

    Vance McKenzie QuoteSuch a fine line between tech-nerd and guardian protector of the universe.

    McKenzie is definitely a superhero to Seth Caikowski, who directed The Wedding Singer last summer with McKenzie as his “let-there-be-light” guy. McKenzie is the resident lighting director for Performance Now Theatre Company at the Lakewood Cultural Center.

    “I would trust him with any type of show,” Caikowski said. “From Shakespeare to Sondheim, Vance will always deliver.” 

    He’s delivered for a wide variety of Colorado theatre companies including the Arvada Center, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks, Performance Now, Phamaly Theatre Company, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre, Miners Alley Playhouse, Platte Valley Players, the University of Denver, Ballet Nouveau Colorado and Lake Dillon Theatre. Those companies perform in venues ranging from a state-of-the-art, 975-seat concert hall to a tiny, 60-seat studio. And it takes a special someone, Scott-McKean says — one might even say cool — to design for both kinds of spaces effectively.

    “Miners Alley Playhouse is a harder place for a lighting designer to work than, say, the Arvada Center because we have fewer instruments and circuits to work with,” Scott-McKean said. “Vance came in here wanting to do highly professional work in a venue that, frankly, was not designed for truly high-quality lighting. But instead of settling, he worked with us to move up in the world and get better gear. He’s upped the game here.”

    Vance McKenzie Adriane Wilson Cabaret Miners Alley Playhouse 400Here’s a brief look at McKenzie’s busy and very varied 2017:

    • Miners Alley Playhouse’s Hir
    • Miners Alley Playhouse’s Cabaret (photo at right of Adriane Wilson, currently appearing in DCPA's 'First Date' as Adriane Leigh Robinson, by Sarah Roshan.)
    • Performance Now’s Man of La Mancha
    Performance Now’s Hello Dolly
    • Performance Now’s The Wedding Singer
    • Performance Now’s The Mervelous Wonderettes
    • Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s Sister Act
    • Lake Dillon Theatre Company’s Ghost
    • Arvada Center’s The Foreigner
    • Platte Valley Players' A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

    Lake Dillon Theatre Company Artistic Director Christopher Alleman said McKenzie’s adaptability made him the perfect choice to simultaneously design two very different film adaptations in its swank new $9 million Silverthorne Arts Center: Sister Act in the 165-seat mainstage theatre and Ghost in the 60-seat studio next door.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “Those are two very different spaces,” Alleman said. “Sister Act had more bells and whistles, while Ghost was simple storytelling. Although Vance was successful with both shows, I believe his design in the smaller and more challenging theatre was beautiful.”

    Vance McKenzie Sister ActDespite the obstacles McKenzie faced in designing Cabaret for the 120-seat Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden, Director Len Matheo said McKenzie went the extra mile to make sure the lighting "truly evoked the seedy atmosphere of Berlin’s pre-World War II Kit Kat Club." McKenzie’s lighting ideas even informed the show’s scenic design.

    “We decided early on we wanted to use spotlights,” Matheo said — which, to anyone’s memory, had never been used for any MAP show since its 2003 opening. “Working together, we created actual towers to house those spotlights — and those same towers eventually became the guard towers in the concentration-camp scene.”

    (Photo at right of Lake Dillon Theatre Company's 'Sister Act' by Christopher Alleman.)

    McKenzie, a graduate of Roaring Fork High School, the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, teaches lighting for the Community College of Denver. His wife, Crystal, is the Assistant Costume ShopVance McKenzie The Wedding Singer Manager at the Arvada Center and is currently focused on the upcoming Sense and Sensibility, opening Jan. 26. Crystal designed the costumes for Neil Simon's Broadway Bound at MAP last summer and will be designing two more shows there in 2018.

    Here’s more of what those who worked with McKenzie in 2017 had to say about today's True West Award winner:

    • Alleman: “We love working with Vance. We like to surround ourselves with talented and knowledgeable people but, most important, we surround ourselves with generous, kind and collaborative people. Vance is all of those. His spirit in the room is palpable. His goal is to make the show stronger — whether it is his lighting vision or not.  He listens to directors and incorporates their thoughts — without losing his own vision.”
    • Vance McKenzie The ForeignerCaikowski: “Vance understands exactly how to work in challenging spaces. And he has the patience to roll with changes in a very small amount of time. Vance has to navigate around the chaos of load-in and produce an entire show in about two days. All while taking notes and being patient in a sea of frustrations. He is truly incredible."

    (Photo of the DeLorean from The Wedding Singer courtesy Seth Caikowski. Set photo from the Arvada Center's 'The Foreigner' by M. Gale Photography.)

    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

    About The True West Awards: '30 Days, 30 Bouquets'

    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore's daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards (to date)

  • 2017 True West Award: Randy Chalmers

    by John Moore | Dec 17, 2017
    2017 True West Awards Randy Chalmers

    Main photo above: Randy Chalmers performed at 'Miscast 2017,' a benefit for The  Denver Actors Fund, in a number with 'In the Heights' castmate Jose David Reynoza that was spun as a comic competition between two male actors for the lead in 'Funny Girl.'


    Day 17: Randy Chalmers

    Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
    Town Hall Arts Center
    Inspire Creative and Parker Arts

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Randy Chalmers is a young guy to already have a signature role, but the rising actor joined some heady company this year when he played the same character in Hairspray for the third different company and third different director.

    Only a handful of local actors have ever done it in Colorado, and the names are big: Joanie Brosseau (Evita), Billie McBride (Driving Miss Daisy), Margie Lamb as the mad mother in Next to Normal, Sharon Kay White as Adelaide in Guys & Dolls, Carla Kaiser Kotrc as Domina in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Scott Rathbun as William Barfee in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Carolyn Lohr (Kate Monster) and Leslie Randle (Bad Idea Bear) in Avenue Q, and the great comedian Bill Berry as Mr. Sowerberry (Oliver) among them.

    That overachieving Megan Van De Hey has played Patsy Cline four times in Always … Patsy Cline for four different directors. That's not everyone but ... it's a short list. (Side note: The legendary Melissa Swift-Sawyer has played Patsy five times for four directors in four states.)

    And this year, along came young Randy Chalmers.

    400 Randy Chalmers HAIRSPRAY Photo Becky TomaThe Colorado Springs native, whose very first postgraduate performance was a breakout turn as Seaweed J. Stubbs in Hairspray for Performance Now in 2014, joined that rarefied group this year by again playing Seaweed in back-to-back stagings of the sweetly subversive John Waters musical for the Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton and then Inspire Creative in Parker.

    How back-to-back? He was in performances for one when rehearsals began for the other.

    Chalmers’ roster of Hairspray directors goes like this, in order: Kelly Van Oosbree, Nick Sugar and Liane M. Adamo.

    (Photo above right: Randy Chalmers in Town Hall Arts Center's 'Hairspray.' Photo by Becky Toma.)

    One might imagine that playing the same role for a third time could start to become old hat for an actor. Van De Hey says “the difficulty comes in being open to new direction and not just re-creating the exact same performance.” Re-creation, she says, is easy. “Finding new is difficult.”

    But Tanner Kelly, the Music Director for Inspire Creative’s Hairspray collaboration with Parker Arts in July, said Chalmers approached the challenge as a professional in every sense of the word. “Though Randy was still playing Seaweed in another production, he was willing and ready to try our fresh take and adapt to what we wanted for our production,” Kelly said. “Not only did I love what he brought to Seaweed and to our version of Hairspray, I also loved what Randy brought to the table as a human being.”

    Seaweed is the charismatic son of R&B icon Motormouth Maybelle in the story, set in segregated 1962 Baltimore. He’s a charming, silky-smooth dancer but is only allowed to appear on a popular local TV dance show on the designated monthly Negro Day. And in falling in love with an impressionable white teenager, Seaweed turns a woke Penny Pingleton into a gleefully proud Checkerboard Chick. In Chalmers’ case, make that Checkerboard Chicks: Scene partners Chelsea Ringer, Cara Lippitt and Christy Oberndorf.

    (Story continues below the photo)

    Randy Chalmers True West Awards Seaweed
    Above: Randy Chalmers in three productions of 'Hairspray': Photos by Becky Toma (left), Pam Spika (middle) and RDG Photography (right).

    2017 was remarkable Chalmers for more than just Hairspray. The role that perhaps even more clearly signaled the emergence of a mature leading man was his follow-up performance in Town Hall’s In the Heights. Randy Chalmers Rose Van Dyne IN THE HEIGHTS Town Hall Photo By Becky Toma

    That's Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Fiddler on the Roof-inspired love letter to the gentrifying Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. Chalmers played Benny, a taxi-cab dispatcher who falls in love with the Puerto Rican boss’ daughter, Nina.

    “Chalmers smooth, riffy voice is exactly what the role requires,” wrote Broadway World reviewer Chris Arneson. Or, as esteemed Music Director Donna Debreceni puts it: “He’s got a voice like buttah.”

    Says Sugar, who has now directed Chalmers in five productions: “It's great to see Randy embrace his strengths and talents and shine as a performer. He continues to get stronger as a musical-theater actor with each show, and it's exciting to watch that growth come alive on stage.”

    (Pictured at right: Randy Chalmers with Rose Van Dyne in Town Hall Arts Center's 'In the Heights.' Photo By Becky Toma.)

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Chalmers graduated from General William Mitchell High School in Colorado Springs and attended the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. His early credits in Denver include major opportunities made possible by the late, audacious Ignite Theatre, including Rent and Dreamgirls.  

    Audiences presently can see Chalmers in a completely different light this holiday season as a Wickersham Brother in Town Hall’s kid-friendly (and nearly completely sold-out) Seussical. He’ll follow that by playing Sebastian for Inspire Creative in the first homegrown production of The Little Mermaid since Disney first introduced the developing musical to the world here on its way to Broadway in 2007. The Inspire Creative production will play at the PACE Center from Jan. 19-Feb. 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.

    Randy Chalmers 2017: 

    • Destiny Walsh and Randy Chalmers at Miscast 2017. Photo by John Moore.Ensemble in Breckenridge Backstage Theatre's Toxic Avenger The Musical
    • Seaweed J. Stubbs in Hairspray, Town Hall Arts Center
    • Seaweed J. Stubbs in Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts
    • Benny in In the Heights, Town Hall Arts Center
    • Wickersham Brother in Seussical, Town Hall Arts Center

    They said it:

    • Donna Debreceni, In the Heights Music Director: "Whether he is a Wick in Seussical; or a pig in Shrek; or Flick in Violet; or Seaweed in Hairspray; or most recently, an amazing Benny in In the Heights, Randy’s instincts and innate musicality are something I can always depend on and — most important — enjoy.”
    • Alisa Metcalf, Performance Now Artistic Director: “He’s very reliable, a hard worker and just a really sweet person … and super-talented to boot.”

    About The True West Awards: '30 Days, 30 Bouquets'
    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore 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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

    Video bonus: Inspire Creative's Hairspray cast appears at Alamo Drafthouse:

  • Study: There's a lot of Denver in Denver Center casts this fall

    by John Moore | Dec 13, 2017

    Fall Casting 800 Photos by Adams Viscom

    Survey of DCPA cast lists shows 56 percent of all available jobs this fall have gone to actors who live in Denver area 

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    There has been a lot of Denver at the Denver Center this fall. An analysis of cast lists for the eight shows presented since the start of September shows that 56 percent of all actors who have taken to a DCPA stage also call Denver home.

    That doesn’t even include the eight child actors who currently populate the Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol. And when you add in all the actors who grew up in Colorado but are now based elsewhere, the number of actors with local connections jumps to 67 percent.  

    “The Colorado acting community is such a multi-talented group, and that is evident in all the amazing work featured across the entire state and on every one of our stages at the DCPA this fall,” said DCPA Director of Casting Grady Soapes.

    The survey includes all homegrown programming offered by the DCPA, totaling 73 adult actor slots. Much of the local infusion this year can be traced to Off-Center’s immersive musical The Wild Party at the Stanley Marketplace, as well as DCPA Cabaret’s newly launched musical First Date at the Galleria Theatre, both of which cast entirely local actors.

    First Date Fall Casting Photo by Emily LozowFirst Date director Ray Roderick, who is based out of New York, is responsible for the longest-running musical in Colorado Theatre history, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, also at the Galleria, as well as The Taffetas, Five Course Love and many others. And while he is always empowered to cast actors based anywhere around the country, he almost always fills his Denver cast lists with Denver actors. Why? Because he can, he says.

    (Pictured above and right: Local actors Seth Dhonau and Adriane Leigh Robinson will be taking their 'First Date' through April 22. Photo by Emily Lozow.)

    “There is no question that there is a wealth of talent here in Denver,” Roderick said. “When I work at other regional theatre centers and I choose my cast, I’m often told, 'Well what have they done on Broadway?’ I never get that here at the Denver Center. The fact is, when you are casting a show, what matters is the story, period. And we have beautiful storytellers in Denver. That they happen to live in Denver has nothing to do with their level of talent.”

    It was the Denver Center’s Jeff Hovorka who convinced then-DCPA President Randy Weeks that the first staging of the Galleria Theatre’s Always…Patsy Cline back in 1997 could be effectively cast with local actors. Melissa Swift-Sawyer and Beth Flynn made Denver musical-theatre history when their show ran for three and a half years, only to be surpassed by I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, another all-local show that opened in 2000 and became Denver’s longest-running musical by 2004.

    “The three biggest successes in the Galleria Theatre history, including Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women, all have had local casts,” said Hovorka, now the DCPA’s Director of Sales and Marketing for Broadway and Cabaret. “Denver always has had an incredibly strong talent base, and we are always proud to celebrate the homegrown talent we have in this city.”

    Check out the all-local cast of DCPA's First Date

    The Wild Party Director Amada Berg Wilson, also the founder of a Boulder theatre company called The Catamounts, put 15 local actors to work on Off-Center’s risky plunge into immersive musical theatre, which was attended each night by 200 live party guests.

    “Having an all-local cast is evidence that we really do have the talent right here to pull off a show like this,” said Wilson. “And I think it is great that as the Denver Center continues to experiment with immersive theatre, we are developing a base of talent right here who have the tools and the vocabulary to make this specific kind of work. We are discovering that audiences are really hungry for more of it, and now we have the people here to do it.”

    michael-fitzpatrick-leslie-ocarroll-photo-credit-adamsviscom_24874516748_oThe list of local actors working for the Denver Center this fall spans beloved veterans such as Leslie O’Carroll, who is again playing Mrs. Fezziwig in the Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol, to first-timers such as longtime BDT Stage favorite Wayne Kennedy and Adriane Leigh Robinson, who just played Sally Bowles for the Miners Alley Playhouse’s Cabaret.

    (Leslie O'Carroll, right with 'A Christmas Carol' castmate Michael Fitzpatrick, is now the longest-tenured actor in the DCPA Theatre Company.)

    Longtime Galleria Theatre favorites Jordan Leigh and Lauren Shealy, now appearing in First Date, have built sustainable acting careers around steady work at the DCPA, including occasional crossover roles in Theatre Company productions. Shealy, headlined the Lone Tree Arts Center’s summer production of Evita that was nominated for Outstanding Musical by the Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Awards.

    Colorado theatre favorite Steven J. Burge, who joined the Denver Center earlier this year to play none other than God in the long-running Galleria Theatre hit An Act of God, is back in First Date, which runs through April 22. This is a job, Burge says, “that I would not quit even if I won the lottery, because I love it so much.”

    Each May, the Denver Center holds three days of “general auditions” that are open to local actors to sign up for. This year a record 100 union and 275 non-union actors participated, directly resulting in many of the fall hirings.

    Many of the Denver Center’s current crop of actors have tentacles that reach throughout the Colorado theatre community from Creede Repertory Theatre (Diana Dresser and Emily Van Fleet) to Phamaly Theatre Company (Leonard E. Barrett), which exists to create performance opportunities for actors with disabilities.

    Michael Bouchard and Luke Sorge, the two actors playing David in Off-Center’s The SantaLand Diaries, are both company members with the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, which was co-founded by occasional DCPA Theatre Company actor and Director Stephen Weitz.  

    The Theatre Company’s season-opening production of Macbeth included local playwright Steven Cole Hughes, also a longtime Teaching artist for DCPA Education and graduate of the Denver Center’s National Theatre Conservatory. Robert O’Hara’s cast was a Denver Center reunion of sorts that also brought home Colorado natives Gareth Saxe, Erik Kochenberger and Skyler Gallun.

    Skyler GallunSaxe, a graduate of Colorado College and Denver East High School, played Scar for two years on Broadway in Disney’s The Lion King, but his DCPA Theatre Company roots go back to Cyrano de Bergerac in 2001. Kochenberger also graduated from East High School — but his was in Pueblo. Gallun, who previously appeared in Lord of the Flies, led a talkback with students from his alma mater, George Washington High School, after one Macbeth matinee (pictured at right by John Moore).

    DCPA Education head of acting Timothy McCracken, who has recently performed with both BETC (Outside Mullingar) and Local Theatre company (The Firestorm), landed this fall in both the Theatre Company’s Smart People and A Christmas Carol. His Smart People co-star Jason Veasey graduated from Coronado High School in Colorado Springs and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. His many past local credits include playing Jesus in Town Hall Arts Center’s Godspell.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    This fall also has brought the launch of DCPA Education’s new Theatre for Young Audiences program. The three-person cast of The Snowy Day who performed Ezra Jack Keats’ beloved story for 19,000 pre-kindergarten through third-graders included longtime DCPA Teaching Artist Rachel Kae Taylor (also an NTC grad with three Theatre Company credits) and Robert Lee Hardy, who was recently seen in Vintage Theatre’s A Time to Kill In Aurora.  

    finalpdheadshots0005-web“This has been an exciting year not only for the local actors but for myself and the DCPA,” Soapes (pictured right) said of his local casting. “The dedication this organization has made to further highlighting the talent we have here in Denver has also deepened our appreciation for the artists who are working hard every day to entertain our audiences —  my hat goes off to them,” he said.

    Soapes said his top priority always will be to cast the best person for every role, regardless of ZIP code.

    “We here at the DCPA are excited to continue to tap further into the local talent pool, open our doors wider and show the entire industry why Denver is a destination for quality theatre,” Soapes 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.

    Grady Soapes Quote

    Denver Center Fall 2017 Casting:

    Macbeth: 17 actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Steven Cole Hughes as Doctor of the Psychic/Ensemble)

    Actors from Colorado:

    • Skyler Gallun as Donalbain/Ensemble
    • Erik Kochenberger as Hecate Two/Ensemble
    • Gareth Saxe as Duncan/Ensemble)

    'A Snowy Day. Rachel Kae Taylor, Robert Lee Hardy. Zak Reynolds. Photo by Adams Viscom.The Snowy Day:
    Three actor jobs

    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Rachel Kae Taylor as Archie, Amy, Mom and others
    • Robert Lee Hardy as Peter

    Smart People: Four actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Timothy McCracken
    Actors from Colorado:
    • Jason Veasey

    The Wild Party: 15 actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Brett Ambler as Gold
    • Leonard Barrett Jr. as Oscar D’Armano
    • Allison Caw as Sally
    • Laurence Curry as Black
    • Diana Dresser as Miss Madelaine True
    • Katie Drinkard as Mae
    • Trent Hines as Phil D’Armano
    • Drew Horwitz as Burrs
    • Wayne Kennedy as Goldberg
    • Sheryl McCallum as Dolores
    • Jenna Moll Reyes as Nadine
    • Marco Robinson as Eddie Mackrel
    • Emily Van Fleet as Queenie
    • Aaron Vega as Jackie
    • Erin Willis as Kate

    Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women: Three actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Barbara Gehring
    • Linda Klein
    • Amie MacKenzie

    A Christmas Carol (through Dec. 24): 21 adult actor jobs; eight youth jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Sam Gregory as Ebenezer Scrooge
    • Chas Lederer as Swing
    • Kyra Lindsay as Martha Cratchit/Ensemble
    • Chloe McLeod as Swing
    • Timothy McCracken as Ebenezer Scrooge understudy
    • Leslie O’Carroll as Mrs. Fezziwig/Ensemble
    • Jeffrey Roark as Jacob Marley/Ensemble
    • Shannan Steele as Ensemble
    • Marco Robinson as Ensemble

    A Michael Bouchard 800The SantaLand Diaries (through Dec. 24): Two actor jobs
    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Michael Bouchard as David
    • Luke Sorge as David understudy
    First Date (through April 22): Eight actor jobs

    Actors living in Colorado:

    • Adriane Leigh Robinson as Casey
    • Seth Dhonau as Aaron
    • Steven J. Burge as Man 1
    • Aaron Vega as Man 2 (Nov. 11-Dec. 3)
    • Jordan Leigh as Man 2 (Dec. 5-April 22)
    • Lauren Shealy as Woman 1
    • Barret Harper as Male Understudy
    • Cashelle Butler as Female Understudy
  • 2017 True West Award: Emily Van Fleet

    by John Moore | Dec 08, 2017
    Emily Van Fleet True West Award 2017


    Day 8: Emily Van Fleet

    Arvada Center
    Creede Repertory Theatre
    DCPA's Off-Center

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Denver actor Emily Van Fleet was a shape-shifter in 2017. She played a hillbilly wannabe starlet stranded in a snowstorm. She played a soaking wet corpse in a bathtub. She played a Hungarian lonely heart. She played a coy minister’s daughter. She was an improv comedian. Her stories spanned the globe from 1912 to 1956. Apparently she can play anyone, anywhere, in any time period.

    But once in a great, lucky while, you get to witness an actor killing it so hard in a particular role, you just know they will never be looked at the same way again.

    A Emily Van Fleet The Wild Party Adams Viscom 400 That was watching Van Fleet play a self-destructive showgirl in Off-Center’s very wild The Wild Party, a debauched musical drama based on a 1928 narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March and staged under The Hanger at Stanley Marketplace with a cast of 15, a live band and 200 audience members doubling as in-your-lap party guests.

    (Photo at right of Emily Van Fleet in 'The Wild Party' by Adams Viscom.)

    Van Fleet played the hostess Queenie, and she was regal. It was an absorbing and undeniably seductive performance that demanded Van Fleet’s complete immersion into a role that, on paper, director Amanda Berg Wilson said, frankly didn’t give the actor all that much to work with.

    “That character is actually a trope,” Wilson said, “and yet Emily somehow managed to make a not-terribly developed character fully dimensional, heartbreaking, vulnerable and sexy. And to do that in such an intimate space is a really tricky thing to pull off.”

    Van Fleet is a Boulder native who graduated from Fairview High School and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. She has been a company member with the Creede Repertory Theatre for five summers. Last year, she was chosen to be among the inaugural class of actors in the Arvada Center’s new repertory company. So, she’s actually been killing it for quite some time.

    Last winter, in fact, she killed it as a woman who already had been killed in the Arvada Center’s exquisite staging of The Drowning Girls, which posed an entirely different kind of acting challenge.  

    A Emily Van Fleet She Loves Me Creede. Photo by John Gary BrownThe Drowning Girls tells how three wives of serial killer George Joseph Smith met their watery demise between 1912 and 1914. The stories are told by three actors who must play the wives (and every other relevant character) with great narrative and physical precision, and Van Fleet, Kate Gleason and Jessica Robblee executed the challenge with complete (sorry) fluidity. It’s not easy to act while sopping wet but, as Westword’s Juliet Wittman put it, the three actors committed to it with gusto.

    “The trick for all three of them was to be both choral and incredibly specific and unique in their performances, and I think Emily was brilliant in both regards,” Director Lynne Collins said. “She played a hunchbacked old landlady so precisely, you could almost feel the curvature of her spine and the arthritis in her hands. And two seconds later, she was back to being lovely young Alice. To be that specific and clear in all your characters is incredibly difficult to do.”

    (Photo at right of Emily Van Fleet in Creede Repertory Theatre's 'Arsenic and Old Lace' by John Gary Brown.)

    Just as impressive, one might say, was her performance in Bus Stop as Cherie, the doe-eyed role made famous by Marilyn Monroe in the 1956 film. Van Fleet’s take on the profoundly innocent woman was virtually unrecognizable from Monroe’s take in the famous film.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Van Fleet glides easily from light musicals to romantic comedies to dramas with uncommon ease. But there was something fundamentally “next level” about her star-making turn in The Wild Party. Van Fleet stripped everything from her inhibitions to her clothes while hosting a corker of a party fueled by cocaine, bathtub gin and uninhibited sex.   

    “Queenie is a sexually ambitious, morally dubious, low-rent vaudeville performer who is promiscuous and probably an alcoholic,” Wilson said. “And through the course of the play she falls in love and consummates that love right then and there — with a man who is not her husband. Emily somehow kept that up for two hours in very close proximity to the audience — and that requires a level of being present that not every actor has. That’s what I think made it such an amazing performance.”

    A Emily Van Fleet I Mackers Creede Repertory Theatre Photo by John Moore 800Off-stage, Van Fleet and her husband, Nathan Jones, wrote an ingenious modern adaptation of Macbeth that was performed by and for teens last summer in Creede, located 250 miles southwest of Denver in Mineral County I, Mac(kers) uses spoken word and cell phones to tell the story of an aspiring but morally compromised high-school thespian who succumbs to the temptation of social media, technology and cyberbullying to fuel his ambition by spreading rumors and manipulating his fellow students.

    (Photo at right: Audiences greet the teen cast of Creede Repertory Theatre’s youth production of 'I, Mac(kers)' after a performance. Photo by John Moore.)

    “Emily Van Fleet is a magical unicorn,” said Creede Rep Artistic Director Jessica Jackson. “Yes, she’s an incredible actor and musician, but Creede audiences also get to experience her as this passionate community member and leader in our company as well. And in some unquantifiable way, that makes what she does on stage even more compelling.”

    And she’s finishing the busiest year of her life by performing in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's Yuletide Celebration.

    There’s a simple reason Van Fleet is enjoying the level of success she attained in 2017, said Collins. She’s earned it.

    “She hit her stride in every area of her work this year," Collins said, “and she works harder than any other actor I know.”

    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.

    A Emily Van Fleet The Drowning Girls M. Gale Photography 800

    From left: Emily Van Fleet, Kate Gleason and Jessica Robblee in the Arvada Center's 'The Drowning Girls.' M. Gale Photography 

    Emily Van Fleet 2017

    • Cherie, Arvada Center’s Bus Stop
    • Alice, Arvada Center’s The Drowning Girls
    • Amalia, Creede Repertory Theatre’s She Loves Me
    • Elaine, Creede Repertory Theatre’s Arsenic and Old Lace
    • Performer, Creede Repertory Theatre’s Boomtown
    • Director and Playwright, Creede Repertory Theatre’s youth production of I, Mac(kers)
    • Queenie, Off-Center’s The Wild Party

    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore 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

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

    Video bonus: Emily Van Fleet talks The Wild Party

  • What a wonderful world it was with Daniel Langhoff

    by John Moore | Nov 12, 2017

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

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

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (Story continues below the photo.)

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

    A punctilious punster

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

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

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

    "That was Daniel," his wife said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A life on every stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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

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

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

    The great work of helping others

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (Story continues below the video.)

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

    The impact of family

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

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

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

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

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

    And that's OK.
    You found your forever. 

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

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

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

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

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

    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center's Senior Arts Journalist.

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

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

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

    Daniel Langhoff/Selected shows and companies

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

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

  • Meet Autumn Hurlbert of 'Something Rotten!'

    by John Moore | Oct 18, 2017
    AUTUMN HURLBERT. Something Rotten

    Autumn Hurlbert of the national touring cast of 'Something Rotten!' attended college in Greeley.

    Portia in 'Something Rotten!,' playing through Oct. 29 in the Buell Theatre.  

    AUTUMN HURLBERT On Broadway: Legally Blonde. First National Tour: Little Women. Selected Off-Broadway/Regional: Nobody Loves You (Second Stage), A Taste of Things To Come (York Theater Company), The Last Five Years (ACT Lousiville), Private Lives (Shakespeare Theatre Company, Huntington Theatre Company), every tongue confess (Arena Stage), Les Miserables and Evita (Pioneer Theater). Film/TV: “The Sound of Music, Live!,” “Legally Blonde: The Search For Elle Woods,” Sudden Death!, Research.

    • Hometown: I was born in Montana, and that's where most of my family lives now.
    • Home now: I have lived in New York City for almost 15 years now ... longer than anywhere else.
    • Training: I have a Bachelor of Arts in Musical Theater from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
    • AUTUMN HURLBERT. Twitter-sized bio: Performer, mommy, wife, yogi, explorer, rule-breaker, wannabe political-science expert, musician ... and a silly, life-loving adventurer. 
    • What's your handle? @autumnhurlbert on Twitter and Instagram
    • What do you be doing if you were not an actor? Ooh! I would pursue a profession in some form of social advocacy: Social work, animal rescue, public school after-school programs, something along those lines. I feel that my purpose here on Earth is to empathize and help others in any possible way I can. Or ... this is weird, but I would totally be an aesthetician. I would love to give people facials!
    • One time you saw greatness play out in front of you: One of the most transformative theater experiences I witnessed was Coram Boy (which on Broadway featured former longtime DCPA Theatre Company member Jacqueline Antaramian). It was an epic adventure that addressed child cruelty in the 18th Century. It was unlike anything I had ever seen, and it took my breath away. It was a huge production, but it had these beautiful, nuanced themes that I still think about. It closed much too soon and I am sad more people didn’t get to experience it. It was sad and magical and mind-blowing.
    • Bucket-list role: There are so many great roles I would love to tackle, but my No. 1 dream is to originate a role on Broadway. I love the creative process, and I really hope some day I can put my stamp on a role that future musical theater comediennes will conquer with their own interpretations.
    • One time you were totally miscast: I played one of the urchins in a production of Little Shop of Horrors at a community theater in Arizona. I sang the crap out of it, but it was definitely three white girls playing the urchins. Miscast!
    • alabamashakesWhat's playing on your your Spotify? I am currently obsessed with Alabama Shakes. They have been around for a while, but - man! - their music makes me feel the feels. I also really love Big Boi’s album, Big Boi Boomiverse. He calls himself an old-school rapper, but he says, 'I can lay down all of these new sounds and make them my own.' It’s an eclectic and fun album.
    • How should we should foster the next generation of theatregoers? I think arts education is the most important avenue, not only for nurturing future theatregoers, but also for making the world a better place. The arts teach empathy  and inclusiveness. The arts challenge and enhance your world view and your ability to participate in an ever-changing and evolving world. Studies have shown that children who play musical instruments are better at math. The arts are everything. (But I am totally not biased, am I?)
    • One thing we don't know about you: I have my toddler and my husband on tour with me. We are a like a traveling family band. We are living our gypsy spirit dreams!
    • Why does Something Rotten! matter? Our motto for this tour is: “Make America Laugh Again." Something Rotten! offers an escape from the stress and worry of daily life. One of the main themes is “To thine own self be true." That is a courageous and beautiful mission for anyone to live by. And we exemplify how to do that through comedy. Laughter is a necessity in life, in my opinion.
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of this play? I hope they walk out with their cheeks and bellies sore from laughing. I hope the love we have for each other on stage is felt in the audience — you are our final cast member.
    • One thing you want to get off your chest: Please, please, make fanny packs go away for good. They really don’t look good on anyone. ANYONE. 😜

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Something Rotten!: Ticket information
    Something Rotten!At a glance: Set in 1595, this hit musical comedy  tells the story of two brothers who set out to write the world's very first musical. It was called  'The Producers + Spamalot + The Book of Mormon. Squared,' by New York Magazine. The New York Post called Something Rotten! 'a big, fat hit.'

    • National touring production
    • Performances Oct. 17-29
    • Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets start at $25
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Sales to groups of 10 or more click here
    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Something Rotten! (to date)
    Something old, something new, something borrowed and Something Rotten!
    Go to the Something Rotten! show page
  • In the Spotlife: Adriane Wilson of 'Cabaret'

    by John Moore | May 19, 2017
    Adriane Wilson

    Sally Bowles in Miners Alley Playhouse's Cabaret, opening tonight and running through June 25.

  • Hometown: Sacramento, Calif.
  • Home now: Greeley
  • Adriane Wilson Quote 1High school: Aviano American High School in Aviano, Italy
  • College: BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley
  • What have you done for us lately? I played Morticia Addams in The Addams Family for the Little Theatre of the Rockies in Greeley
  • Twitter-sized bio: I am a pit-bull rights activist, cheese-lover and Harry Potter enthusiast. I was raised in a military family, so I had the opportunity to live and perform all over the country and overseas. I am happiest when I am cooking, reading and playing with my two handsome puppies.
  • What's your handle? @little.adriane.leigh on Instagram
  • What was the role that changed your life? In all honesty, I think I am playing a life-changing role right now as Sally Bowles. She is such a complex and challenging role to tackle, and our director Len Matheo has truly helped me find a grounded and realized version of her. I have always doubted my abilities as an actor, but working with this cast and team, I have started to gain a new kind of confidence in myself as a performer that will most definitely fuel my performances in the future
  • steve-carell 300Ideal scene partner: Steve Carell. I am an enormous fan of his work. His range is so vast, and he seems like such a friendly person.
  • What is Cabaret all about? This musical explores the horrific reality of the Nazis’ rise to power in 1930s Berlin, and how varying groups of people were affected by the new regime. Some citizens remained blissfully naïve, while others had their lives turned upside down.
  • Tell us about the challenge of playing this role: Finding a believable balance between the showman’s persona she wears in public, and the deep, depressive state she regularly finds herself in. Sally also struggles with self-loathing, doubt and addiction. I want to stay far away from playing those traits in a caricatured fashion.   
  • More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • What do you hope audiences get out of seeing this play? Foremost, I want the audience to enjoy themselves, because the first act is truly a raucous time. The second act, however, should be a wake-up call. History has been known to repeat itself. And as a Jewish woman, that frightens me. This play is a reminder that politics affect us all, no matter how far from home the conflict is taking place.
  • What's one thing most people don't know about you? I desperately want to join a Dungeons and Dragons campaign!
  • What’s one thing you want to get off your chest? I think it is absolutely outrageous that there is a ban on Pit Bulls in the city of Denver. I rescued a Pit Bull from a kill shelter three years ago, and it was one of the best things I have ever done. His name is Scott, and he is a total angel. He loves to snuggle, play with his big brother and give kisses. I would love to move to Denver as my career in theatre continues to blossom, but I cannot because of the ban, and I refuse to leave Scotty behind. There is no such thing as a “bad breed” - only people who do bad deeds. These creatures are naturally strong and smart, so cruel people taught them to fight because they were more likely to win, and they looked awfully tough on the end of a leash. The media has taken this image and blown it out of proportion, causing ill-informed people to believe it blindly. Educate yourselves, and adopt a Pit Bull today.

  • Adriane Wilson. Luke Sorge. Adriane Wilson. SARAH ROSHAN PHOTOGRAPHY
    Luke Sorge and Adriane Wilson in Miners Alley Playhouse's 'Cabaret.' Sarah Roshan Photography.

    Miners Alley Playhouse's Cabaret: Ticket information

    • Written by John Kander (music), Fred Ebb (lyrics) and Joe Masteroff (Book)
    • Directed by Len Matheo and Mitch Samu (music)
    • Through June 25
    • 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden MAP IT
    • Tickets $18-28
    • For tickets or information, call 303-935-3044 or go to minersalley.com

    Performance schedule:
    • 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
    • 6 p.m. Sundays May 28, June 4, 11 and 18
    • 1 p.m. Sunday, May 21 and June 25

    Cast list:

    • Jim Walker as The Emcee
    • Adriane Wilson as Sally Bowles
    • Luke Sorge as Cliff Bradshaw
    • Tim Fishbaugh as Herr Schultz
    • Kristen Samu as Fräulein Schneider
    • Alaina Beth Reel as Fräulein Kost
    • Rory Pierce as Ernst Ludwig
    • Kit Kat Girls: Steph Holmbo, Kenzie Kilroy, Abbey Kochevar and Kayla Mally
    • Kit Kat Boys: Parker Fowler and Gabe Morales

    More 'In the Spotlife' profiles:
    Meet Lauren Bahlman of Wide-Eyed West's theMumblings
    Meet the ensemble of Buntport Theater's The Crud
    Meet Mark Collins of And Toto Too's Lost Creatures
    Meet Carley Cornelius of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Constellations
    Meet Emily Paton Davies of Miners Alley Playhouse's God of Carnage
    Meet Kelsey Didion of Curious Theatre's Constellations
    Meet Denise Freestone of OpenStage's August: Osage County
    Meet Sam Gregory of the Arvada Center's Tartuffe
    Meet Emily K. Harrison of She Rode Horses Like the Stock Exchange
    Meet John Hauser of Curious Theatre's Hand to God
    Meet Jim Hunt of Buntport's The Zeus Problem
    Meet Jeff Jesmer of Spotlight Theatre's The Crucible
    Meet Wayne Kennedy of BDT Stage's Mid-Life 2
    Meet Carla Kaiser Kotrc of Miners Alley Playhouse's A Skull in Connemara
    Meet Heather Lacy of the Aurora Fox's Priscilla Queen of the Desert
    Meet Seth Maisel of Town Hall Arts Center's The Firestorm
    Meet Tim McCracken of Local Theatre's The Firestorm
    Meet Tamara Meneghini of The Last Testament of Mary
    Meet Angela Mendez of Beauty and the Beast
    Meet Joelle Montoya of Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres
    Meet Rebekah Ortiz of The Robber Bridegroom
    Meet Anne Oberbroeckling of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ripcord
    Meet Jessica Robblee of Buntport Theatre for All Ages' Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey
    Meet Cory Sapienza of Miners Alley Playhouse's Hir
    Meet Sean Scrutchins of the Arvada Center's Bus Stop
    Meet Lauren Shealy of Lone Tree Arts Center's Evita
    Meet Jane Shirley of The Avenue's Santa's Big Red Sack
    Meet Marc Stith of Benchmark Theatre's The Nether
    Meet Peter Trinh of the Aurora Fox's Chinglish
    Meet Petra Ulyrich of Germinal Stage-Denver's Johnny Got His Gun
    Meet Megan Van De Hey of the Arvada Center's Sister Act
    Meet Sharon Kay White of the Arvada Center's I'll Be Home for Christmas

  • 2016 True West Award: Matthew Campbell

    by John Moore | Dec 23, 2016
    True West Awards Matthew Campbell


    30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    Day 23: Matthew Campbell

    August Wilson wrote Two Trains Running. Pshaw, two. As Production Stage Manager for Sweet and Lucky, the DCPA’s first deep dive into off-site adventure theatre, Matthew Campbell kept 20 trains running at once as the massive, elliptical story played out in all corners of a 16,000-square-foot warehouse north of downtown Denver.

    Sweet and Lucky was essentially performed by three sets of actors separately and simultaneously. That meant Campbell had to manage 13 performers, six crew members and 72 audience members spread out in 20 smaller performing spaces. It was Campbell’s job to make sure all that constantly moving action never collided on the tracks.

    Check that. Campbell was the tracks.

    True West Awards Matthew Campbell Quote“When we were just beginning Sweet and Lucky, we knew that finding the right Stage Manager would be critical for the show’s success, because we have never attempted anything like this before,” said Charlie Miller, the DCPA’s Associate Artistic Director for Strategy and Innovation. In fact, this was the biggest physical undertaking in the DCPA’s nearly 40-year history.

    The original story, developed in partnership with New York's Third Rail Projects, is a mysterious exploration of memory that begins in a strange antique store where nothing is for sale. The audience is split into smaller groups and led into several different environments – a graveyard, a drive-in, a swimming hole and more – as they witness the relationship between one couple as it plays over several generations. But different audience members saw different actors tell that story, and in different orders. Thanks to the man behind the curtain, the audience never knew the other performances were even happening.

    True West Awards Matthew Campbell. Sweet and Lucky.“Not only did Matthew have to know where everyone was at any given moment, he had to know instantly what to do in any situation where something could go wrong,” Miller said. “If Matthew did not keep everything moving, the whole show might fall apart.”

    It never did. Not that there weren’t some close calls: Late-arriving patrons threw the entire machinery out of whack. Patrons gone rogue. Inevitable technical difficulties including overheating projectors and having to build emergency light cues in the makeshift performance space of a warehouse. Because the run was almost completely sold out and eventually extended several months, new cast members had to be rotated in. The job of any Production Stage Manager is to take cues from any given situation and react. What distinguishes Campbell is that he reacts quickly, kindly and decisively.

    “He is calm under pressure,” Miller said. “He was never fazed by the many unexpected challenges we faced throughout the process. He also made for such an incredibly positive and welcoming environment for all of the artists involved. We heard from so many cast members about how integral he was to the success of the show.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    One of those cast members was Meridith C. Grundei, who said Campbell was “beyond amazing” throughout the run. “He has a great temperament and a great sense of humor balanced with a professionalism in tense situations that put everyone at ease,” she said.

    Campbell was always the first to arrive and last to leave, and he rolled with every unexpected punch that came his way.  After the show’s first two-show Saturday, for example, Campbell waited with a member of the bar staff who was stuck at the warehouse past midnight waiting for an Uber car ride that never arrived. Eventually, Campbell gave her a ride himself. That meant Campbell didn’t get home to his wife and children until after 2 a.m. And yet, he was back at the warehouse at 9:15 the next morning to unlock the building and start another day. On schedule, as always.

    True West Awards Matthew Campbell Believe it or not, Sweet and Lucky has been made into a graphic novel. (Or at least the cover.) And if you look closely at the illustration to your right created by crew member Lauren LaCasse, who's the nerve center of Sweet and Lucky? It's the otherwise unseen Campbell.

    At one time, Campbell was a performer. While still a lad of Littleton High School, he was in the the ensemble of a production of Story Theatre that christened the Dorie Theatre at what is now the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center.

    But over time, his passion took him backstage. One of his early career highlights was serving as Production Coordinator at the 2007 Colorado Festival of World Theatre, an international event that drew Stephen Sondheim, Patti Lupone, Marin Mazzie, Donna McKechnie and other greats to Colorado Springs.

    Campbell has now been a Production Stage Manager with the DCPA Theatre Company for seven seasons. Recent credits include As You Like It, Lord of the Flies and Other Desert Cities.

    But DCPA Associate Production Manager Melissa Cashion says hiring Campbell to be the Stage Manager for Sweet & Lucky “was about the best hire I have ever made in my career.”

    And like many of those who serve in the always invisible and often thankless job of Stage Manager, Cashion said Campbell is an unspoken hero of the DCPA. 

    Photo gallery: Sweet and Lucky

    Sweet & Lucky

    Photos from Off-Center's production of 'Sweet and Lucky' in a RiNo warehouse north of downtown. To see more, click the 'forward' arrow on the image above. Photos by Adams VisCom.

    Matthew Campbell/At a glance

    • High school: Littleton
    • College: Graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with an emphasis in Technical Theatre, Directing and Acting
    • College: Masters degree in Theatre Arts with an emphasis in Stage Management from the University of Iowa
    • Stage Manager or Assistant Stage Manager for the DCPA Theatre Company since 2010
    • Other local experience: Colorado Shakespeare Festival (2013-15); Arvada Center (2007-13); Candlelight Dinner Playhouse (2008-10); Country Diner Playhouse (2003-07)

    Video bonus: An introduction to Sweet and Lucky:


    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

    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
  • 'Rudolph' brings deer, er, dear love home to Colorado

    by John Moore | Dec 14, 2016
    Rudolph Jamie Mills Ben Burch
    Jamie Mills and Colorado native Ben Burch, who met in Greeley, are coming home this week to perform at the Buell Theatre. 

    When Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical lands on the Buell Theatre stage Dec. 16, Santa and Mrs. Claus won’t be the only lovebirds in the house. The ensemble features Colorado Springs native Ben Burch and his wife, Jamie Mills, who met as students at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. The couple have been together for nine years and will celebrate their third anniversary on Dec. 28.

    We caught up with the Colorado-bound couple to talk about performing in the holiday musical, which is based on the stop-action TV classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that first aired on NBC in 1964. It has been telecast every year for 52 years, making it the longest-running Christmas TV special in history. Now it comes to Denver as a family friendly stage adaptation. 

    We caught up with the Colorado-bound couple to talk about life on the road and performing together at the Buell Theatre Dec. 16-18.

    Rudolph. Jamie Mills. Ben Burch.

    John Moore: How did you meet in Greeley?

    Ben Burch: We were both in the musical theatre program at UNC. I was a sophomore and Jamie was a freshman. We first saw each other at an audition for The Rocky Horror Musical, where she was wearing a beautiful pink dress and I was wearing silver pleather pants. I mean, who wouldn't be confident in silver pleather pants? So, I introduced myself and struck up a conversation. That night I told one of my roommates I had found the woman I was going to marry.

    John Moore: How did the opportunity to perform together in Rudolph come about?

    Jamie Mills: Ben auditioned for the show in the summer of 2015, and he performed in it last year by himself. The entire time he kept saying how wonderful it would be to go out on tour together. So, when the opportunity arose this past summer, we jumped at it. It was a long audition process for me, but Ben helped me every step of the way. Sometimes, if you work hard enough, the best of things can happen. 

    Rudolph. Jamie Mills. Ben Burch. Photo by George Garvin PhotographyJohn Moore: What do you consider to be your home?

    Ben Burch: We live in Los Angeles now. And while our home base may change because of the nomadic lifestyle of the traveling actor, Colorado will always hold a special place in my heart. What can I say? I bleed orange and blue. 

    What is the secret to performing on the road and maintaining a successful marriage?

    Jamie Mills: We always tell people that communication is the most important part of a marriage. We've both done a tour without the other, and we agree that it's harder for the person left at home. On tour, you're with new people and in a new place almost every day. It's important to remember that your significant other doesn't have that and to try to share all of your experiences with them. Time differences also can be hard. You have to remain focused and know that your separation will only last for the length of the contract, but your love and relationship ARE forever. 

    (Photo above and right: The 2013 wedding of Jamie Mills and Ben Burch. Photo by George Garvin Photography.)

    John Moore: How important is Christmas in your household? 

    Ben Burch: It is THE MOST IMPORTANT! Christmas is our favorite holiday. Both of our families have very different traditions, and we are still in the process of picking and choosing what we will keep. If I had my way, we'd start celebrating and decorating in October. But Jamie has a very specific timeline. There's Halloween, then her birthday, then Thanksgiving, and the Friday after Thanksgiving we can start celebrating Christmas. But we started Rudolph rehearsals in October, so we were singing Christmas music before Halloween this year!

    John Moore: Everyone knows the story of Rudolph. Tell us about the theatergoing experience, and why families should add it to their holiday plans.

    Jamie Mills: It's a live-action version of what you've seen on your TV screen for so many years, and it’s the most charming family event that you could imagine. Parents and grandparents who have seen the movie will love passing the tradition on to the newer generations in the family. Kids will delight in seeing Rudolph grow from a young buck into the hero of Christmas right before their eyes. Seeing the audiences’ faces at the end of the show while Rudolph is flying above our heads is truly a joy for all the actors. 

    Rudolph. Ben Burch. John Moore: How many family and friends are coming to see you perform?

    Ben Burch: Every family member I have in Colorado is coming to a performance, and some are coming from as far away as Washington. Friends from high school who have never seen me perform are coming. College classmates who have started their own families are bringing their kids. Needless to say, the Buell Theatre will be packed with fans of Yukon Cornelius, Mrs. Donner and Dolly. 

    (Photo above and right: Ben Burch as Yukon Cornelius, with Hermey. Photo by Character Arts.)

    Ben, since you grew up in Colorado Springs – what will it mean for you to be performing on the Buell Theatre stage? 

    Ben Burch: It has been five years since I last performed in Colorado and 10 since I performed in Colorado Springs. My nephew and nieces have never seen me on stage. The Buell is a beautiful theater, and I can't believe it's where I get to share my passion for live performance with them. Not bad for a kid from the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center to make the jump up to the gorgeous Buell

    John Moore: What’s your message for Colorado in advance of your return? 

    Ben Burch: I'm back … and go, Broncos!

    John Moore: You close here in Denver on Dec. 18. So how excited will you be to be spending Christmas together … in Los Angeles?

    Ben Burch: Not as excited as we will be to fly back to Colorado the day after! 

    Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical

    • Dec 16-18
    • Buell Theatre
    • 7:30 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. Dec. 17
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829 

    Photo gallery: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical

    Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical

    To see more production photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos courtesy of Character Arts. 
  • 2016 True West Award: Jake Mendes

    by John Moore | Dec 13, 2016
    True West Awards Jake Mendes


    30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    Day 13:
    Jake Mendes

    Every year announces the unmistakable arrival of a select few major new talents in Colorado theatre. And one of the freshest faces of 2016 was the ever-changing face of Jake Mendes.

    The Lakewood native played a sadomasochistic dentist with a penchant for pain; a high-heeled mad scientist hell-bent on creating his perfect sexual plaything; and a brooding former teen idol just back from Vietnam.

    True West Awards Jake Mendes “That tells me that Jake has great range,” said Gavin Mayer, who directed Mendes in the Arvada Center’s world-premiere holiday musical I’ll Be Home for Christmas, which plays through Dec. 23. “For anyone to pull off that kind of variety, you have to be willing to be very vulnerable and honest. Jake isn’t afraid to take risks on the stage. He’s a great singer with nice comic timing – and he also happens to be very smart, articulate and kind.”

    Mendes, 28, graduated from Green Mountain High School and the University of Northern Colorado before enjoying a rare streak of immediate good fortune in the Big Apple. He was cast in Bunnicula off-Broadway among other productions including The Drowsy Chaperone and The Little Dog Laughed.

    But Mayer says Mendes is an uncommonly levelheaded young man with a long-range plan to have a career in arts administration. So he returned to Colorado to earn his masters degree in Arts Development and Program Management from the University of Denver. While doing so, he worked as a part-time teacher for Jefferson County Public Schools and helped out on the drama productions at his Green Mountain High School alma mater.

    “It’s rare for someone who is so young and successful on the stage to have the foresight to prepare for a career off the stage as well,” Mayer said.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    But that administrative career might have to wait if Mendes continues the on-stage roll he has been on in 2016. His streak began playing the gas-happy and Audrey-slapping dentist Orin Scrivello (DDS!) and other small roles in Miners Alley Playhouse’s Little Shop of Horrors – while also serving as assistant choreographer. He then played the sweet transvestite (and hedonistic, pleasure-murdering alien) Dr. Frank-N-Furter in StageDoor Theatre’s The Rocky Horror Musical in Conifer.

    Jake Mendes Quote “Jake had audiences in the palm of his hand from the moment he walked onstage,” said his Rocky Horror director, Steven Tangedal.

    Mendes capped his year originating the role of the wholesome former teen idol Simon Bright in I’ll Be Home for Christmas for the Arvada Center. He’s a kid (think Ricky Nelson) who grew up in the 1950s performing on his parents’ nationally televised variety show. He has come back from Vietnam just in time to join the family for its annual holiday special.

    Mayer said Mendes was hungry to work on a world premiere. “It can be intimidating for a lot of actors to take on the challenge of being handed 10 new pages every day, but he always came into the room with such a positive attitude,” Mayer said.

    Read more about Mendes' first teacher, Shelly Bordas

    “Mendes' voice is fantastic as he infuses his numbers with palpable emotion,” Chris Arneson wrote of I’ll Be Home for Christmas for Broadway World.

    Mendes got his start as a boy taking classes from beloved children’s director Shelly Bordas, who died of cancer last year at 41. Tangedal said the ethic Bordas instilled in Mendes was evident from Day 1 of Rocky Horror rehearsals. “When he reminded me that he got his start with Shelly and her troupe at Theater On Broadway, I knew that he had her spirit in his work ethic,” Tangedal said. “He was always ready to help out wherever help was needed. He was a true professional.”

    Now the question is: Will his profession now pull him on stage — or off?

    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

    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
  • 'Jersey Boy' Andrew Russell workin' his way back to Denver

    by John Moore | Nov 06, 2016
    Andrew Russell and the Company of Jersey Boys. Photo Jeremy Daniel

    The national touring company of 'Jersey Boys.' Photo Jeremy Daniel.

    Andrew Russell can relate to the Four Seasons’ unlikely rise from a street corner in New Jersey to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s lived a storybook tale of his own, rising from Pomona High School to his new place at the Jersey Boys’ table. Along the way he’s married his high-school sweetheart, performed in five musicals at the Arvada Center and now he returns home to perform in the national touring production of Jersey Boys from  Nov. 9-13 on the most fabled stage of his youth, the Denver Center’s Buell Theatre.

    “It's definitely going to be a very eye-opening experience. This is something I have always dreamed of,” said Russell, who saw his first live theatre performance at the Buell Theatre when the national touring production of Rent, starring Anthony Rapp, visited Denver in 2001.

    “I spent a lot of time around the Buell as a kid, and throughout my entire life, seeing whatever big shows were touring at the Denver Center,” Russell said. “Theatre in Denver was what I always imagined Broadway would be like. I also remember seeing Les Miserables at the Arvada Center and the touring production of Avenue Q at the Buell. That was my ticket to becoming whatever it is that I wanted to be in my life. Being able to see these quality productions really sparked something in me and made me think that possibly I could be doing this.

    “And now being part of one of those quality productions, and coming back to Denver - it's a full-circle story.”

    Jersey Boys Andrew Russell QuoteRussell wasn’t particularly driven to join the theatre program at Pomona High. You might say gang-leader Gavin Mayer made him an offer he couldn’t refuse – Jersey Boys-style.

    "He pulled me into the program,” Russell said of his teacher and director. “I was this very shy, awkward kid, and I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I was nervous and not ready for high school. I just didn’t have confidence, and I feel like Gavin saw something in me.”

    Russell’s family had moved often when he was a kid, finally settling in Westminster when he was in the fifth grade. Pomona was his first time at the same school for more than two years.

    On his first day of orientation, Mayer invited Russell to sit in and observe what the theatre program there was all about. “Sure enough, a few months later, he cast me in Footloose, The Musical. That was all him,” Russell said. And seven years later, as fate would have it, Mayer would cast Russell again - in the Arvada Center’s Legally Blonde, The Musical.

    “And so Gavin cast me in my first production of anything in high school, and then in my junior year of college, he cast me in my first professional theatre production of anything, and that was Legally Blonde.”

    Before Russell graduated from Pomona, Mayer also cast him in Hello Dolly! opposite Brenna Larsen, another fortuitous gift in Russell’s life. The two played Minnie Fae and Barnaby. They became high-school sweethearts, they matriculated together to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, and they were married in August 2015.

    Andrew Russell. She Loves Me. Arvada Center. In 2014, Russell performed in the Arvada Center’s throwback holiday musical She Loves Me. At the cast party, he met a party-crasher named Matthew Dailey. He was another Arvada Center alum who had just learned he would be playing Tommy DeVito in the national touring production of Jersey Boys. “We talked a little about the show, and I just thought that was so cool,” Russell said. “Who knew that a couple years later, I'd actually be joining him in the tour? It's a crazy thing.”

    It’s a little more crazy that Russell made it into the cast than Dailey, given Russell’s own account of his audition. He was up for the role of goofball Hank Majewski, who was briefly a member of The Four Lovers – the precursor to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. “It was kind of a flop,” Russell said of The Four Lovers. “Hank was kind of a dorky guy who didn’t really lead the group to any kind of success at all. So they dropped him and picked up Bob Gaudio, who obviously made everything right.”

    (Photo above and right: Andrew Russell with Rob Costigan in 2014's 'She Loves Me.' Photos by P. Switzer.)

    Because Russell is now based in Burbank, California, he submitted his audition tape through YouTube. When the casting team then asked him to come in for a real audition, Russell left a key accessory at home. “Hank needs to play guitar, and when they called me back, I didn't even think to bring a guitar,” Russell said with a laugh. “I walked into the room and the first question they asked was, 'Where's your guitar?' And so I had to say, "Um ... back in Burbank?”

    But it worked for him.

    Andrew Russell Quote“I think that set up this kind of goofball attitude from the beginning," he said. "I feel like they saw that in me.”

    The Four Seasons – sans Majewski – went on to chart 50 hit singles and sell an estimated 100 million records worldwide. The core of the group during its 1962-67 heyday were lead singer Frankie Valli, Gaudio on keyboards, DeVito on lead guitar and Nick Massi on electric bass. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

    All of which was news to Russell when he was a student at Pomona – more than 40 years after “Sherry” was the No. 1 song in America. It was 2005 when the Jersey Boys Broadway soundtrack was released and found its way to Arvada.

    “My friends and I would be singing along down the halls of Pomona High School,” Russell said. “I had never heard these songs before. I didn’t know who the Four Seasons were. So me being able to attach to these iconic songs at my age is very much attributable to Bob Gaudio's genius. They are just so memorable that kids generations later can snap along to them just like their parents did.”

    When Russell was cast, part of his intensive training was a third-row ticket to watch the original New York production, which is preparing to end its 11-year run in January as the 12th-longest-running show in Broadway history.

    “I just listened to the way people responded to these songs like ‘Oh What a Night,’ ‘Sherry’ and ‘Walk Like a Man,’ ” Russell said. “This isn't your typical Broadway experience. On top of the book and the score just being really, really good, the direction and the choreography are very specific; It's like a well-oiled machine, from the way the Four Seasons snap their fingers to the way the ensemble put their chairs down.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “The audience forgets they are watching a show. They find themselves singing along and enjoying their memories. Then you see the kids like me who just really enjoy the show, too. That's definitely why the show keeps on going like it has: Because everybody can enjoy it.

    Russell enjoys stepping into the spats of a band of brothers who like to play with each other and make fun of each other. "They get in each others' faces," Russell said. "But in the end, they have this bond, and that bond is their word. They are family.”

    And Russell’s family is his high-school Minnie Fae. Brenna Larsen Russell is also a performer, and she is currently touring the country in Nick Jr.’s cable television show Peppa Pig Live.

    “We always had this crazy bond together,” Russell said. “I couldn't be more proud of her. Here we are just a couple of years out of college in little old Greeley, Colorado, and we both are working professionally, sustaining our life together as a married couple in the industry. It’s been pretty fun.

    “Throughout our whole lives, people have told us, ‘Don't have relationships with other people in the industry.’ But I have seen a lot of relationships be very successful, especially when you find somebody you really have a connection with. I feel like we were brought together for a reason. We just have this soulmate connection. I can’t imagine my life with anybody else.”

    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.

    Jersey Boys: Photo gallery

    Jersey Boys

    Jersey Boys: Ticket information

    • Nov. 9-13
    • Buell Theatre
    • Talkback with the cast following Thursday, Nov. 10 performance
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Additional NewsCenter coverage of Jersey Boys:
    Andrew Russell workin' his way back to Denver
    Matthew Dailey walks like a man back to Denver
    Dailey, Russell: There's plenty of Colorado in Jersey Boys
    Video, photos: Jersey Boy sings national anthem at Broncos game

  • Meet the cast: Jessica Robblee of 'Frankenstein'

    by John Moore | Oct 25, 2016
    Jessica Robblee. Frankenstein


    Gretel the Prostitute and Clarice the Servant in Frankenstein

    At the Theatre Company: All the Way, Lord of the Butterflies, Drag Machine. Other Theatres: After the Revolution, Homebody Kabul, Rabbit Hole, Aphrodisiac (Curious Theatre), This (Boulder Ensemble Theatre), Gidion's Knot (Sis Tryst Productions), 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche (square product theatre), Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey, Duck Duck Dupe, Trunks (a live comic book), Yesterado, Unbeweaveable (Buntport Theater for Young Audiences), Waiting for Obama (New York International Fringe Festival) and The Odyssey: A Walking Tour (Buntport Theater). She is a co-writer, co-director, and actor for Young Audiences productions at Buntport, an artistic company member at Curious Theatre Company, and a writer-performer for the Denver Art Museum’s family theatre programs.

    • Hometown: I don’t have one.  My Army family (mom, dad and brother) are my hometown, I think. 
    • A Jessica Robblee 800 3Training: Davidson College and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley
    • What was the role that changed your life? Cha-Cha DeGregorio in Grease. Playing this role during 9th grade at the community theatre on Camp Zama, Japan, showed me that the theatre community is incredibly fun, creative, free and smart. That pure-fun experience is what drew me back to taking acting classes years later … and that choice changed my life trajectory entirely.
    • Why are you an actor? Acting is playing … in the smartest, most alive, most connected, and most exploratory way you can.  It helps me understand and respond to all the craziness, wonderment, and difficulty of living.
    • What would you be doing for a career if you weren’t an actor? I would be a florist. That’s my first thought. I wanted to be a florist when I was 5 years old, because I was obsessed with colors and rainbows and jobs that involved colors and rainbows … and now I’m in love with gardening.  It’s magical how all the pieces come together, and how the plants respond to your care and do miraculous things. Which sounds like directing. So, I’d be a director. And a writer. And an actor. And a gardener.
    • Ideal scene partner: Will Ferrell. Come on, that man is fearless and talented and so much fun.
    • More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    • Why does this production of Frankenstein matter? This play embodies how our impulse to explore the unknown sits right next to our intense fear of the unknown.  What do we do with these two, sitting side by side, staring at us … imploring us to do and to fear doing? What are our responsibilities as we seek and cross new frontiers?  Also, this piece examines the pain and heartbreak of an individual trying to get others to acknowledge his humanity. What a sad thing, to have to make that argument to your fellow beings. The creature’s plea to be understood as human reminds me of the Black Lives Matter movement. Why does this completely justified, utterly logical movement spark such outrage and fear in parts of our community?  Why are we so threatened? Of course we’re not perfect. Of course there’s work to be done.
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of seeing Frankenstein? Questions about who the Creatures of our world are, and why they are denied humanity - and how they are changed by that denial.
    • Finish this sentence: "All I want is ..."
      "... for us to know each other better, so we can care about each other more. And smiles on the street, great books to read, songs on the air, and stories and jokes that encourage us to keep going when we are feeling like we can’t.  And for Rice Krispies Treats to be good for you. Like, really, really good for you."

    • Learn more about Buntport Theater's 'Siren Song' for all ages

      Jessica Robblee. Lord of the ButterfliesPhotos above and right by 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 of Frankenstein:
      Photos: Opening Night of Frankenstein
      Video series: Inside look at the making of Frankenstein
      Five things we learned about Frankenstein at Perspectives
      Photos, video: Your first look at the making of 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:

      Aubrey Deeker, The Glass Menagerie
      Thaddeus Fitzpatrick, Frankenstein
      Meridith C. Grindei, Frankenstein
      Sullivan Jones, Frankenstein
      Mark Junek, Frankenstein
      Charlie Korman, Frankenstein
      Amelia Pedlow, The Glass Menagerie
      Jessica Robblee, Frankenstein
      John Skelley, The Glass Menagerie
      Wesley Taylor, An Act of God

      Jessica Robblee. Waiting for Obama. Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center.

  • In the Spotlife: Joelle Montoya of 'The Sun That You Are'

    by John Moore | Oct 02, 2016
    The Sun That You Are
    Su Teatro is bringing back its original take on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, with a bilingual twist. In 2005 The Denver Post called perhaps the most ambitious undertaking in Su Teatro's history. 

    (The DCPA NewsCenter regularly profiles actors performing in theatre productions throughout the state of Colorado.)


    Rudi in Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres, or The Sun That You Are

    • Hometown: Littleton
    • Home now: Denver
    • High School: Mullen
    • Joelle Montoya QuoteCollege: BA in Performing Arts, acting emphasis, from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley; MFA in acting from University of Essex (United Kingdom)
    • What have you done for us lately? I played Crystal in Little Shop of Horrors at Miners Alley Playhouse
    • What is the Sun That You Are all about? It is a modern adaptation of Orpheus and Eurydice. Set in Mexico, this classic myth weaves Mexican traditions (El Dia De Los Muertos), Aztec culture, beautiful music, poetry and modern day struggles to re-tell the story of Orfeo (Orpheus) and Rudi (Eurydice).
    • Most challenging aspect for you as an actor: (Writer and director) Anthony J. Garcia made it clear that he wanted to give Rudi something he thought was missing in most other re-tellings of this famous myth. He wrote Rudi so she has a voice of her own. Rudi is definitely a spitfire. I love this attribute about her, and I love the challenge of bringing someone so obviously contradictory to life.
    • What do you love most about Su Teatro? I absolutely love the Denver theatre community, but Su Teatro is unique because it has and will continue to provide a creative outlet to the Latino community. It is a theatre where my relatives, who are not typically theatre patrons, will go and see a show because they can relate. Su Teatro allows its audiences to witness something outside of the normal theatre scene and delve into another culture. That's how I believe theatre can work its magic for change.
    • What's one thing most people don't know about you? I Iove collecting rocks. Whenever I go for a hike or traveling, I have to find the right one because, to me, it is a piece of the place I visited, which is the best souvenir there is.
    • What’s one thing you want to get off your chest? To believe is to create, and to create is to love. "Creer es criar, y criar es amor.” I am passionate about all artistic endeavors, because in our effort to create beautiful theatre in Denver and the world is our effort to give love. So please, let us all work together to create a better world for ourselves. Be brave and never give up.

    Read John Moore's 2005 review of The Sun That You Are

    Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres, or The Sun That You Are: Ticket information
    • Written by Anthony J. Garcia and Daniel Valdez (music)
    • Directed by Anthony J. Garcia
    • Oct. 13-Nov. 6
    • At 721 Santa Fe Drive
    • Performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays
    • Tickets $20-25 at 303-296-0219 or suteatro.org

    Cast list:
    Rudi: Joelle Montoya
    Orfeo: Miguel Martimen
    Tia: Yolanda Ortega
    Narciso: Jesse Ogas
    Hector: Lorenzo Gonzalez
    Tommy: Phil Luna
    Annie: Sierra Fernandez
    Lencho: Camilo Luera
    Meghan: Joi Hyatt
    Trisha: Gloria Gray
    Alex: Iliana Barron
    Ensemble: David Carrasco, Felicia Gallegos Pettis, Leslie Gomez.

    Band Leader/Guitar: Adolfo Romero
    Bass: Eli Montoya Pablo
    Percussion: Jared Rains

    More 'In the Spotlife' profiles:

    Meet Jeff Jesmer of Firehouse Theatre Company's The Crucible
    Meet Jessica Robblee of Buntport Theatre for All Ages' Siren Song: A Pirate Odyssey
    Meet Wayne Kennedy of BDT Stage's Mid-Life 2
    Meet Joelle Montoya of Su Teatro's El Sol Que Tu Eres
    Meet Sam Gregory of the Arvada Center's Tartuffe
    Meet Lauren Bahlman of Wide-Eyed West's theMumblings
    Meet Carley Cornelius of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Constellations
    Meet Emily Paton Davies of Miners Alley Playhouse's God of Carnage
    Meet Megan Van De Hey of the Arvada Center's Sister Act
    Meet Anne Oberbroeckling of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ripcord

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

  • In the Spotlife: Lauren Bahlman of 'theMumblings'

    by John Moore | Sep 20, 2016

    Matthew Blood-Smyth and Lauren Bahlman in rehearsal for Wide Eyed West's 'the Mublings,' opening at The Bakery near Coors Field.

    The DCPA NewsCenter regularly profiles actors performing in theatre productions throughout the state of Colorado.


    Jodie in Wide Eyed West's theMumblings, by Dan Kitrosser

    • Hometown: Phoenix
    • Home now: Denver
    • College: BA in Theatre Arts, acting emphasis, from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley
    • What have you done for us lately? I played Jessica in Hysteria for Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    • Coming up: I will be playing Karen Weston in August:Osage County for Vintage Theatre in the fall of 2017
    • What is theMumblings all about? Jodie, who happens to be straight, is married to Allen, who happens to be gay. Over the course of the 90-minute play, the audience is taken through the journey of their story: How they chose each other, and how the other characters in their lives influenced that choice. Oh, and did I mention those other characters are all played by myself and Matthew Blood-Smyth? It's a fascinating exploration of perception, the stories we tell and how we tell them, as well as attempting to answer the basic question of the search for love and how it does or does not rule our lives.
    • Most challenging aspect for you as an actor: This play is unlike any two-person play I have ever read or seen. Being able to explore the "base" characters of Jodie and Allen by also playing their exes, a professor, Jodie's mother, and others, is such a gift from our playwright. It's also a huge undertaking, but, as it's being fleshed out, it's also incredibly rewarding. I just hope I can keep all their idiosyncrasies straight.
    • What do you love most about your director? Kristin Skye Hoffmann is not only a fantastic director and producer from New York, she also happens to be my best friend. We're beyond excited to bring something new and fresh to the Denver community. Being on the producing side of things is different and challenging for me, but it's also an incredible thing. To see an artistic dream literally coming true in front of our eyes is thrilling.
    • What's one thing most people don't know about you? I am pretty obsessed with podcasts, particularly those of the 'true crime' genre. If I weren't an actor, I probably would attempt a career as some sort of low-budget detective.
    • What’s one thing you want to get off your chest? Yes, I am also an improviser. (I make up half of the two-lady improv duo, BAUS, with Jessica Austgen). No, I will not randomly start comically riffing in your living room in front of your friends.

      Wide Eyed West's theMumblings: Ticket information
      • Directed by Kristin Skye Hoffmann
      • Through Oct. 8
      • At The Bakery, 2132 Market St.
      • Performances: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; plus 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, and Monday, Oct. 3; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2.
      • Tickets $20-25 at wideeyedproductions.com or brownpapertickets.com

    Cast list:
    Lauren Bahlman
    Matthew Blood-Smyth

    More 'In the Spotlife' profiles:
    Meet Carley Cornelius of Colorado Springs TheatreWorks' Constellations
    Meet Megan Van De Hey of the Arvada Center's Sister Act
    Meet Emily Paton Davies of Miners Alley Playhouse's God of Carnage
    Meet Anne Oberbroeckling of Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ripcord

  • Janice Sinden: Historic choice for DCPA's new CEO

    by John Moore | Aug 23, 2016
    Janice Sinden Quote

    The Denver Center for the Performing Arts searched the globe for its third Chief Executive Officer, and it found her less than a mile away.
    Janice Sinden, a fourth-generation Coloradan from Fort Collins, has been named President and only the third CEO in the nearly 40-year history of the largest non-profit theatre organization in the country. And first woman. DCPA Chairman Daniel L. Ritchie made the historic announcement this morning.
    “This hiring means there are no walls, and I’m sure Janice will demonstrate that in everything she does," said Ritchie. "She's just an extraordinary human being, and I have no doubt she will succeed as a person and a leader.”

    Sinden, 44, has served as Chief of Staff to Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock for the past five years, where she oversaw 26 city departments with more than 11,000 employees and a budget of more than $1.5 billion. Before that, she ran Colorado Concern, an alliance of more than 100 of Colorado top business executives.
    “We wanted someone well-connected in the community, and she is about as well-connected as anyone could possibly be,” said DCPA chairman Daniel Ritchie.
    It says something of Sinden’s character that when Hancock chose the most vital connector of his administration, the Democrat mayor turned to a Republican who had previously served under Sen. Wayne Allard. Five years later, perhaps the greatest measure of Sinden’s success is evidenced by how hard it is for Hancock to let her walk away. Sinden has helped spearhead numerous mayoral initiatives that have strengthened city finances, reformed city operations, improved the lives of underserved communities and supported Denver’s children, Hancock said.
    “So much of what we’ve been able to accomplish is because she was in the lead making sure we could get across the finish line,” said Hancock. "Her professionalism is unparalleled. The people of Denver are better off and on a better course because she answered the call to serve.”
    Michael Hancock quoteAnd  when Sinden was offered the opportunity to become the first female to lead the DCPA, Hancock gave his reluctant blessing.
    “Mayor Hancock has often told me: ‘Janice, when the time is right, don’t run away from something. Run toward it,’ ” Sinden said. “I’m ready to grab the baton and join this incredible team as we run toward a common goal.”
    Since 1979, the DCPA has presented Broadway tours and produced homegrown theatre, cabaret, musicals and innovative, multimedia plays. As the primary tenant of downtown’s Arts Complex, the DCPA entertained nearly 1.2 million last year through 40 productions, 888 performances and 205 events. The Education program serves 92,000 students each year. It has been estimated the DCPA has registered a $600 million economic impact over the past five years. It has an annual budget of more than $50 million and employs 1,000 full- and part-time staff.
    Sinden, who assumes her duties at the DCPA on Sept. 12, said her top goal will be to help the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District win reauthorization from voters on Nov. 8. That penny-per-$10 sales tax generates more than $50 million annually for more than 300 arts organizations in the metro area.
    “That’s No. 1. We need to get that done,” said Sinden. “I have traveled to 20 countries with the mayor over the past five years, and the first thing everyone asks about is the SCFD. It's a model that no one else has anywhere in the world.”
    She also cited as a top priority The Next Stage – the city’s grand vision for transforming the Denver Performing Arts Complex into an entertainment destination complete with a new amphitheater and music hall, residential towers, hotels, restaurants and retail. As Denver’s former Chief of Staff, Sinden should bring key insight to the project as discussions turn next to governance and funding.

    Institutionally, Sinden said, her initial focus will be on inclusion, diversity, fundraising and expanding audiences.
    Daniel Ritchie quoteThe Hancock administration’s support for arts and culture has been well-documented. Hancock created Imagine 2020, the city’s first strategic plan for arts and culture in 20 years. His wife, singer and actress Mary Louise Lee, has also created a city program called Bringing Back the Arts.
    “Arts and culture are the fabric of our city. They are woven through everything we do,” said Sinden, who imagines a 2020 when Denver arts will be “better, deeper, richer – and with lot more diversity in our participation.”
    Sinden replaces Scott Shiller, who resigned in May. Ritchie said he has no doubt Sinden was the right person for the job.
    “We wanted someone who had demonstrated leadership with a large complex organization; someone who has a passion for theatre and the arts; and someone who shares our values of integrity, diversity, innovation and putting the customer first in everything we do,” Ritchie said. “Janice fits every bill.”
    Sinden said she was not deterred that Shiller resigned after only a year on the job.

    "Jim Crowe, the founder of Level 3 Communications, told me recently that 40 percent of all CEOs don't work out, and it's not because they're not qualified," Sinden said. "It's because it just didn't work, for a variety of reasons. I don't think it's a reflection on Scott or on the organization. Chemistry is everything."

    Sinden is a quintessential Coloradan who hikes, skis and recently took in the  Michael Franti concert at Red Rocks. She lives in Evergreen and often can be found hiking Bergen Peak. She recently scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, an experience she said was “one of the most important things I have ever done for myself.”

    She was born in Steamboat Springs, where her father, Roger Sinden, ran the town’s first Grade-A dairy farm. When the family moved to Wellington, her father then went to work for a Northern Colorado water conservancy district. Her mother’s family owns many dryland farms in northeastern Colorado that are “spread out from Brighton to Yuma and everywhere in between,” she said.
    Sinden grew up playing the piano and attending the theatre with her mother, Arleen Brown, as often as possible. She remembers seeing a production of Annie Get Your Gun at Fort Collins’ Lincoln Center that turned her into a theatre-lover for life.
    “We didn’t have a lot of money,” she said, "but my mother was always exposing us to theatre, and that was a wonderful part of growing up. My mother made sure I could play the piano and swim - and I am grateful for both.”
    She loves live theatre, she said, because "it presents us with an opportunity to tackle a whole lot of issues and experiences we are facing as a community in a way you can't get from television or film."

    Sinden graduated from Rocky Mountain High School and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley before completing the Executives in State and Local Government program at the Harvard Kennedy School.
    She attends theatre and other arts performances as often as time allows. Most recently, she frequented the DCPA Theatre Company’s DeVotchKa-infused production of Sweeney Todd, and her response offers some insight into what kind of programming might most appeal to her at the DCPA.
    “I loved Sweeney Todd because was risky,” she said. “And that’s exciting, because theatre should be risky. If we weren't willing to take risks, we'd just show Cats over and over again. This organization is clearly progressive.”
    While the DCPA fielded inquiries for the CEO position from around the globe, Ritchie said Sinden’s intimate knowledge of Colorado and its most powerful business leaders will uniquely situate her to succeed.

    “Denver is not like New York or Boston or L.A.,” Ritchie said. “Janice doesn’t need to learn the culture here – she is already part of it.”

    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.

    Janice Sinden's community work:
    Janice Sinden served on and/or led the boards of some of the area’s leading non-profit organizations:

    • American Transplant Association
    • Colorado Civil Justice League
    • Colorado Council on the Arts
    • Colorado’s Future
    • Colorado Preservation Inc.
    • Colorado Reform Roundtable
    • Colorado Workers Compensation Coalition
    • Denver Good Government Committee
    • Denver Preschool Program
    • Downtown Parks & Public Spaces Master Planning Committee
    • Executives Partnering to Invest in Children
    • Mental Health Colorado
    • ONE Colorado
    • Visit Denver

    Janice Sinden’s city initiatives
    Mayor Michael B. Hancock credits new DCPA CEO Janice Sinden for the following city initiatives since 2011:

    • Recruiting a new Police Chief and Sheriff to implement major reforms in those two public safety agencies;
    • Creating the new Rose Andom Center, Colorado’s first family justice center to serve domestic violence victims by bringing multiple agencies and services together in one location;
    • Securing voter approval for Measure 2A in 2012, which eliminated the city’s recession-induced budget deficit and restored essential city services;
    • Re-authorizing and expanding the nationally recognized Denver Preschool Program allowing the program to reach more preschool students and reduce costs for families;
    • Creating the Office of Behavioral Health Strategies and Office of Housing and Opportunities for People Everywhere, both of which will bring a new force and focus addressing vulnerable and underserved populations;
    • Establishing the Mayor’s Good Government Committee, which has led to many reforms that today make city government more modern, effective, efficient and fiscally responsible;
    • Negotiating seven successful collective bargaining agreements with the city’s fire, police and sheriff associations; and
    • Supporting other Mayoral initiatives, including international economic development and cultural missions to promote Denver nationally and internationally, the memorial events for the 10th and 15th anniversaries of 9/11, and Denver's bid to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.
  • Colorado actors take center stage in Oregon

    by John Moore | Feb 25, 2016
    Benjamin Bonenfant and Jamie Ann Romero.

    Benjamin Bonenfant and Jamie Ann Romero in Ashland, Ore.

    Jamie Ann Romero and Benjamin Bonenfant, two rising Colorado actors whose rockets have been propelled by fuel from the Colorado theatre community, are opening in major new world premieres at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this weekend.

    On Saturday, Bonenfant stars as Pip in a massive new look at Charles Dickens’ classic Great Expectations. The next day, Romero introduces Belmira in Marisela Treviño Orta’s new ensemble drama The River Bride.

    While Pip is of course the iconic orphan who becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor, Romero plays a Brazilian fiancée named Belmira whose wedding plans are disrupted three days before the ceremony when fishermen pull a mysterious stranger out of a river.

    While they won’t appear together in Ashland, the actors have 13 seasons between them at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder, starring together as the star-crossed lovers in 2011’s Romeo and Juliet. Bonenfant is fresh off starring roles in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Henry V and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s 4000 Miles, and most recently appeared at the Denver Center in the Theatre Company’s Benediction and A Christmas Carol. He’s a graduate of St. Mary’s High School in Colorado Springs and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

    Romero’s Denver Center credits include Romeo & Juliet, Sunsets and Margaritas, The Three Musketeers and a breakout, gender-bending turn in the 2014 world premiere of The Legend of Georgia McBride, which led to a high-profile run in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. She is a graduate of Chatfield High School and the University of Northern Colorado (UNC).

    “A large chunk of my heart is still in Colorado, and I miss it every day,” Romero said this week on the eve of her opening. “From high school through UNC through the things I learned working with brilliant actors at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and the Denver Center, I think every single thing has led me to being here. To being anywhere, really. That just goes back to Denver being an incredible community that supports and lifts up everybody.”

    They now find themselves reunited at the oldest Shakespeare festival in the nation.

    “When I look around in the rehearsal room and I see the interactions of the company members here and the rapport that they have, it makes me miss home,” Bonenfant said. “Because I found those kind of relationships in a great rotation of theatre companies all over Colorado – but specifically, for me, at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.”

    The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is considered a dream job among the nation’s actors because the company presents an 11-show repertory season that lasts 10 months, employing perhaps the last true resident acting company in the nation. So while most actors scramble from one job to the next every month or two, Bonenfant has signed a 40-week contract with the OSF, which equates to the first real professional and financial stability of his young adult life. He also will play two roles in Hamlet (Osric and Reynaldo) while understudying the princely title role.

    Romero, who now lives in New York City and has other upcoming commitments there, chose a one-show, six-month contract that runs through July 7.

    Jamie Ann Romero. Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
    Jamie Ann Romero with Armando McClain in 'The River Bride' for The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Jenny Graham.

    One reason the OSF is considered “the granddaddy of American theatres” has been its ability to adapt with the times. Its wildly varying 11-show 2016 season includes five Shakespeare titles as well as The Wiz, Gilbert & Sullivan, and edgy new works like The River Bride, Roe and, if the publicity materials are to be believed, "a brash new comedy about three young Vietnamese immigrants making their way through the bewildering landscape of 1970s America," called Vietgone.

    “It's an interesting mix,” Bonenfant said. “The legacy of the company certainly has been built for decades on producing Shakespeare. And it’s that history of producing Shakespeare that has gotten it to the place where it has become a powerhouse when it comes to developing all kinds of works.”

    The authors of the two new plays the OSF is launching this weekend are familiar to Colorado theatre audiences. Penny Metropulos and Linda Alper, who have created this new version of Great Expectations, also adapted The Three Musketeers for the DCPA Theatre Company. Metropulos, who is directing Great Expectations, also directed Quilters, You Can’t Take it With You and The Trip to Bountiful for the Denver Center.

    “I think this new production might bring a lot of people into contact with this classic novel, and this great Dickens language, for the first time,” said Bonenfant. “The focus of the narration is just one person telling the story to another person, so it seems to be saying something about the simplicity of storytelling.”

    And, he added, about the generosity of shared storytelling.

    “OSF is very straightforward about the importance of diversity and inclusion,” Bonenfant said. “In this particular telling of Great Expectations, you have an ensemble that is extremely diverse. You have people from all different walks of life, and all different social strata, sharing in the telling of this same story together.” 

    Benjamin Bonenfant. Jamie Ann Romero. Romeo and Juliet. Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of ColoradoMarisela Treviño Orta is a young playwright from Texas, but Denver’s Su Teatro was onto her talents eight years ago when it staged the world premiere of her play Braided Sorrow, a devastating look at the very real plight of thousands of young women who commonly disappear from their jobs at American factories in the border city of Juárez, Mexico, and are later found mutilated in the nearby desert.

    The River Bride, winner of the National Latino Playwriting Award, is set in Brazil and is inspired by Amazonian folklore. “It’s called a 'grim' Latino fairy tale,” said Romero, “and that's exactly what it is.” The story is the first in Orta’s planned trilogy inspired by the Brothers Grimm.

    “It does have humor and tragedy and pathos in it, but the play is really about love,” Romero said. “Being brave in love and what happens when you are … and what happens when you aren’t.”

    (PIctured above right: Benjamin Bonenfant and Jamie Ann Romero in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 2011 'Romeo and Juliet.' Photo by Glenn Asakawa.)

    Bonenfant and Romero now join a longstanding Colorado pipeline to Ashland that dates back to James Sandoe, a seminal figure in the development of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and a regular director in Oregon from 1948-68. Over the years, the OSF family has included Colorado natives including Phamaly Theatre Company’s remarkable Regan Linton, James Newcomb (son of the legendary Bev Newcomb-Madden and currently starring as Hubert Humphrey in the DCPA’s All the Way), and Sandoe’s daughter, Anne, who is a mainstay at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and played a central role in Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s award-winning Ghost-Writer. The connection has grown so strong that, for the first time, casting directors from Ashland took advantage of their time here in Denver for the Colorado New Play Summit last week to audition many of the area’s most accomplished actors for consideration in Oregon’s 2017 season.

    Benjamin Bonenfant. Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
    Benjamin Bonenfant with Nemuna Ceesay in 'Great Expectations' for The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Jenny Graham.

    Bonenfant learned he would headline Great Expectations while visiting the Creede Repertory Theatre in August. He closed the DCPA’s A Christmas Carol on Dec. 27 and was in Ashland for his first Great Expectations rehearsal less than 48 hours later.

    “My last couple of months in Denver, I was really keenly aware that I was going to be leaving, and just how large and how vibrant and wonderful the theatre community in Colorado is,” he said. “On the one hand, it’s a joyful experience getting to join a new community here completely fresh. But I think that only adds more appreciation for what you've left behind and how it's afforded you your opportunities to grow.”

    For as long as Romero has loved Shakespeare, “which is a very long time,” she said, “I've always wanted to work for the OSF. And to actually be here is wonderful and kind of indescribable. I've felt so comfortable and so supported in every way. But to echo what Ben said, the community here does remind me a lot of the community in Denver and Boulder and Colorado in general. Everyone is so supportive and loving of each other there, and that's very much the way it is here too.”

    More about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival:

    • Founded in 1935
    • Located in Southern Oregon
    • Season runs from February through early November
    • Three theatres: The flagship outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre, and the indoor Angus Bowmer Theatre and Thomas Theatre
    • Summertime visitors can see up to nine plays in one week
    • More information

    2016 Oregon Shakespeare Festival season:

    • Twelfth Night
    • Great Expectations
    • The River Bride
    • The Yeomen of the Guard
    • Vietgone
    • Roe
    • Hamlet
    • The Wiz
    • The Winter’s Tale
    • Richard II
    • Timon of Athens

    More about Benjamin Bonenfant:

    Benjamin Bonenfant True West AwardRonald Dean in Benediction, Fortinbras, Hamlet (understudy) in Hamlet, Ensemble in A Christmas Carol, Gerald Forbes in When We Are Married (DCPA Theatre Company); Prince Hal in Henry IV, Parts One and Two, Henry V in Henry V, Dauphin in Henry VI, Part One, Ferdinand in The Tempest, Hamlet in Wittenberg, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew, Claudio in Much Ado about Nothing (Colorado Shakespeare Festival); Philip II in The Lion in Winter (The Arvada Center); Ken in Red (Curious Theatre Company); Boyet in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Herod in Salome, Treplev in The Seagull, Dionysus in The Bacchae, George Gibbs in Our Town, Christian in Cyrano de Bergerac, Bobby Strong in Urinetown, Silvius in As You Like It (TheatreWorks); Leo in 4000 Miles (Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center); Joey/Jim in Ambition Facing West, Rheticus in And the Sun Stood Still (Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company); Elijah in Elijah: An Adventure (Local Theater Company). 


    More about Jamie Ann Romero:

    Jamie Ann Romero. The Legend of Georgia McBride. Photo by Gabe Koskinen. Nina in Vanya & Sonya & Masha & Spike (Paper Mill Playhouse); Jo in The Legend of Georgia McBride, Kitty in The Three Musketeers, Bianca in Sunsets and Margaritas (DCPA Theatre Company); Silvia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Lucy in Dracula (Utah Shakespeare Festival); Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Queen in Richard II, Lady Percy in Henry IV, Part One, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Ophelia in Hamlet (Colorado Shakespeare Festival); Sylvia in Sylvia, Audrey in Hank Williams: Lost Highway (Lone Tree Arts Center); Celia in As You Like It (Modern Muse Theatre Company); Nina in The Seagull (TheatreWorks); International: Brooke in Noises Off (Maxim Gorky Theatre in Vladivostok, Russia).

    Photos: Benjamin Bonenfant won a 2015 True West Award for his performance in the title role of Henry V for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen. Jamie Ann Romero appearing in the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Gabe Koskinen

  • Video: Andy Kelso of 'Kinky Boots' backs the Broncos

    by John Moore | Feb 05, 2016

    Andy KelsoAndy Kelso, who stars as Charlie Price in Kinky Boots on Broadway, is a Colorado native, graduate of Eaglecrest High School in Aurora and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, and a die-hard Denver Broncos fan.

    Here's what he has to say about the upcoming Super Bowl matchup with the Carolina Panthers.

    In the photo at right, Kelso is joined by Kinky Boots co-star Wayne Brady supporting the Broncos ina team cap. hat. Hey, whatever Lola wants!

    Photo courtesy Andy Kelso.

    Re-live Andy Kelso's National Anthem Day in Denver:

    Andy Kelso came home to sing the national anthem at the Denver Broncos' nationally televised victory over the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 24, 2014. Watch above.

    Super Bet: DCPA backing the right horse in Super Bowl

    This just in: A message from Fun Home on Broadway!

    The cast and crew of Fun Home, the Tony-winning Best Musical of 2015, have a message from Broadway. Fun Home's Tony-nominated Beth Malone is a Castle Rock native and recently starred as Molly Brown in the DCPA Theatre Company's "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." Thank you, Fun Home!

    Andy Kelso. Photo by John Moore
    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.