• 2017 True West Award: Colorado Theatre Person of the Year Regan Linton

    by John Moore | Dec 30, 2017
    2017 True West Award Regan Linton



    Regan Linton

    Colorado Theatre Person of the Year

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    We’ll never know whether Phamaly Theatre Company would have survived 2017 had Regan Linton not been here. She was here. And one of the nation's signature theatre companies is still here. And that's why Linton is the True West Awards' 2017 Colorado Theatre Person of the Year.

    For 28 years, one of Denver’s crown jewels has produced professional plays and musicals exclusively for actors with disabilities. But at this time a year ago, it was in catastrophic financial trouble.

    Regan Linton True West Award Quote Photo by John MooreLinton, a former core company member who went on to become a shining national example of what begets opportunity, had just been named Phamaly’s interim Artistic and Executive Director to fill a short-term leadership vacuum.

    Linton’s appointment was a cause for celebration. Not only had the Denver East High School graduate helped elevate Phamaly’s game as an actor with wrenching performances in musicals such as Side Show and Man of La Mancha, she came home with serious cred. In 2012, she became the first paralyzed student ever to be enrolled into one of the nation's top master’s conservatory programs when she was accepted at the University of California San Diego. And in 2015, Linton became the first actor in a wheelchair ever to be hired into the venerable Oregon Shakespeare Festival's year-round repertory company since it was founded in 1935.

    Today, Linton is a highly respected actor, educator and prominent voice for disability inclusion in the national theatre community. And when she accepted the one-year Phamaly assignment last year at age 34, Linton became the first person in a wheelchair ever to lead a major U.S. theatre company as Artistic Director, according to Theatre Communications Group.

    Then came the sticker shock.

    “I immediately became aware that the company was not in as healthy a financial position as I had thought,” Linton said. Phamaly's annual operating budget had more than doubled over the previous seven years, to $850,000. But revenue had not grown proportionally. Just two months into the job, Linton realized Phamaly was facing an immediate $100,000 shortfall.

    (Story continues after the photo gallery below.)

    Photo gallery: A look back at Regan Linton's year (and years) with Phamaly:

    Regan Linton: 2017 Colorado Theatre Person of the Year
    Photos from Regan Linton's first year as interim Artistic and Executive Director of Phamaly Theatre Company, followed by additional photos from years past. To see more images, just click on the image above to be taken to the full gallery. Photos by or compiled by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Linton attacked the problem swiftly, first by shaving the upcoming budget. She scrapped expensive plans to stage Peter Pan with wheelchairs flying over the DCPA’s Stage Theatre. A Shakespeare collaboration with a New York company was put off. And then, on March 28, Linton took a deep breath and released an uncommonly forthright public statement bluntly telling supporters that without an urgent cash infusion, Phamaly would be bankrupt by July 1. And that was just to make it to the summer. “We were really more like $250,000 in the hole,” she said.

    The most important thing to Linton was being open and honest about the situation. “If we were going to go down, then we were going to do it having been completely transparent with every one of our supporters,” she said.

    But, it turns out, It’s a Wonderful Life ain’t just a holiday movie.

    Phamaly’s “Sunny Tomorrow” campaign didn’t just raise $100,000. It raised $108,000, thanks to more than 325 individual donors. And that still takes Linton's breath away. “I feel like that wasn't just people saying, 'We love this theater company.’ It’s deeper than that. I feel like they were saying, ‘People with disabilities are valuable.’ And as a person who lives with a disability, that's really, powerfully meaningful to me.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Just a few weeks after the campaign ended, Phamaly netted an additional, record-obliterating $60,000 from its annual gala — up from $35,000 the year before. And then Annie, which Linton chose to present instead of Peter Pan, drew 6,700 to the Stage Theatre. That’s nearly 20 percent more than the previous Phamaly attendance record.

    Janice Sinden Regan Linton QuoteAll three of those things had to happen, Linton said, for Phamaly to fully climb out of the hole it was in. And all three did.

    But Phamaly didn’t get the backing it needed on sentiment alone. It got it because it was Linton who went out and asked for it, Denver Center President and CEO Janice Sinden said.

    “Regan is a determined, passionate woman who leads with her heart, but always with an outcome in mind,” Sinden said. “She was uniquely situated to lead this campaign because of who she is and what she means to the community. She leveraged smart relationships to drive this turnaround.”

    Boy, did she. The first call Linton made was to Sinden’s predecessor, Daniel L. Ritchie, a longtime Phamaly supporter who cut Linton a $10,000 check just 20 minutes after sitting down with her. The Harvey Family Foundation then agreed to match up to $35,000 in new donations, a goal that was reached in just 17 days.

    But Linton’s greatest fundraising achievement of 2017 came at the end of the year, after Sinden facilitated a visit with William Dean Singleton, retired chairman of The Denver Post and newly named Chairman of the Bonfils Foundation. They hit it off, Sinden said, because the two share a powerful commonality as former able-bodied persons now living with mobility challenges.

    Life changes in the ordinary instant

    Regan Linton HospitalLinton was a 20-year-old undergrad at the University of Southern California when her spine was wrecked in a fraction of an instant on a rainy Santa Monica Freeway. Linton was in the back seat of a car that was stopped for a vehicle that had been abandoned in the fast lane of the highway. The car behind Linton, filled with five sorority sisters, hit her at full speed.

    Linton no longer feels sensation below her chest. And yet, whenever she prepares to go on stage, she playfully says, “I can still feel butterflies.”

    Singleton is a newspaper magnate and cattle rancher who founded MediaNews Group, the fourth-largest newspaper company in the U.S. by circulation, with The Denver Post as its eventual flagship. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 30 years ago, which has slowly robbed him of his mobility, and today he gets around in a motorized chair.

    (Story continues after the video.)

    Video bonus: Regan Linton wins 2017 Spirit of Craig Award:

    The video above was played at the annual PUSH Gala for Craig Hospital in April with the announcement of Phamaly Theatre Company Executive and Artistic Director Regan Linton as its 2017 Dave and Gail Liniger Spirit of Craig Award winner. Video provided by Craig Hospital. To watch Linton’s acceptance speech, click here

    “They hit it off when they met,” Sinden said, "and Dean immediately saw an opportunity to help.”

    On Oct. 11, Singleton presented Linton with the Fourth Annual Dean Singleton Legacy Grant, a $50,000 gift made through the Denver Post Community Foundation. “It was very emotional for both of them,” Sinden said.

    A Regan Linton and Dean Singleton“I couldn’t be more proud of our grant recipient this year, for what Phamaly does to inspire people to re-envision disability through professional theatre,” said Singleton. “Phamaly provides such a benefit to the metro-Denver community.”

    Linton called the grant “an incredible honor for Phamaly.”

    In just six months, Linton implemented a campaign that moved Phamaly from the financial brink to something akin to stability. And that, said former Phamaly assistant stage manager Max Peterson, is an astonishing accomplishment.

    “I had both the pleasure and the anxiety of watching Regan and (Director of Production and Operations) Paul Behrhorst walk through that whole mess,” Peterson said. “It was inspiring to see their determination and persistence to bring that company all the way back. The blood, sweat and tears were real — and the stakes could not have been higher.”

    Meanwhile, back on the stage

    A Regan Linton Theatre Person of the Year Ytue West Awards Photo by John MooreLest we forget: While this was going on, Linton also had a company to run, both as Artistic and Executive Director.

    In February, Phamaly presented George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion at the Aurora Fox, followed by the record-breaking run of Annie at the Denver Center and, last month, Phamaly’s annual original sketch comedy called Vox Phamilia at Community College of Aurora.

    (Pictured at right: Regan Linton backstage with the cast of 'Annie' on opening night. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Linton pushed herself to her physical and mental limits in 2017, in part because she also chose to direct Annie on the largest stage in Phamaly history. Linton began to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it all as preparations for Annie approached. “The stress of even thinking of Phamaly going away was emotionally taxing for me,” she said. "It all finally caught up to me. I was a mess.”

    One of Linton’s smartest moves of the year was calling on former longtime Phamaly Artistic Director Steve Wilson to co-direct Annie with her. “Wilson knows to his bones what directing disabled actors entails: The difficulties many face, the need to work without sentimentality or condescension, and to treat his actors as the artists they are,” wrote Westword’s Juliet Wittman, who called the resulting production “Ready, willing … and very able.”  

    MacGregor Arney and Regan Linton Curious Incident Mixed Blood Photo by Rich Ryan Linton kept her own acting skills sharp in 2017 by performing in two major productions for the Mixed Blood Theatre Company in Minneapolis. In February, she played the governor of California in a site-specific immigration play called Safe at Home that was set and performed at a local baseball stadium. And just last month, she returned in one of the first regional stagings of the big-buzz play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Star-Tribune theatre critic Chris Hewitt said Linton was excellent as an autistic boy’s calm, compassionate teacher.

    (Pictured at right: MacGregor Arney and Regan Linton in 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' for the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis. Photo by Rich Ryan.)

    As Linton reflects back on her year now, she won’t say she saved Phamaly Theatre Company. But Behrhorst will.

    “I say it because it is true,” Behrhorst said. “Of course Regan didn't do it single-handedly. But from the start, she gave the community, the actors, the board and the staff something to believe in. Regan didn't back away from the problem. She gave us new life."

    Sinden sides with Behrhorst.

    John Moore’s 2005 Denver Post feature on Regan Linton

    “Regan came home and she brought both thought leaders and community leaders to the table who invested in the future of this organization," Sinden said. "Regan put Phamaly on a trajectory for long-term success. And only she could have done that.”

    All of which is only part of the reason Linton has been named the 17th annual Colorado Theatre Person of the Year. She not only saved a theatre company. She not only preserved future performance opportunities for persons with disabilities that do not exist elsewhere. She saved something that is part of the city's soul.

    Regan Linton. Craig Hospital PUSH Gala Photo by John Moore“There's a lot of great theater that happens in Denver,” Linton said. “However, one-fifth of the population of the United States identifies as having a disability. So if you don't have that identity prominently represented in your local theater, then you are missing out on a whole subset of what it means to be human. And that's what I think people would have missed out on if Phamaly had gone away. They would've missed out on this unique experience that opens your eyes to something you just don’t see anywhere else.”

    Linton’s 2017 odyssey has changed her career itinerary in ways that are not yet clear, even to her. Her initial one-year appointment is now entering its 15th month. She says she is very close to hiring the company’s next Executive Director. So what does that mean for Linton, who officially lives in Montana now, while maintaining a second artistic home in Minneapolis?

    “It means I will be around for the near future, at least,” she said. “I feel committed to Phamaly, and I want to see Phamaly succeed. To me, that means following through with my commitment to make sure the company is in a good place if and when I move away. And I don't think that work is done yet.”

    Asked to assess where she is at as 2018 begins, compared to the start of the year, Linton laughs. “Well, I'm not nearly as much of a mess as I was,” she said. “But most of all, I will say I am proud to be part of Phamaly living on, and I'm proud to be part of leading Phamaly into its next chapter.”

    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 

    Regan Linton: 2017
    •  Artistic and Executive Director for Phamaly Theatre Company
    •  Winner, 2017 Spirit of Craig Award READ MORE
    •  Played the Governor of California in Mixed Blood Theatre's Safe at Home in Minneapolis
    •  Co-Directed Phamaly's mainstage production of Annie at the DCPA's Stage Theatre
    •  Played Siobhan in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nght-Time for Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis

    The True West Awards' Theatre Person of the Year / A look back

    • 2016: Billie McBride: Actor and director
    • 2015: Donald R. Seawell: Denver Center for the Performing Arts founder
    • 2014: Steve Wilson: Phamaly Theatre Company and Mizel Center for Arts and Culture
    • 2013: Shelly Bordas: Actor, teacher, director and cancer warrior
    • 2012: Stephen Weitz: Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company co-founder
    • 2011: Maurice LaMee: Creede Repertory Theatre artistic director
    • 2010: Anthony Garcia: Su Teatro artistic director
    • 2009: Kathleen M. Brady: DCPA Theatre Company actor
    • 2008: Wendy Ishii: Bas Bleu Theatre co-founder
    • 2007: Ed Baierlein: Germinal Stage-Denver founder
    • 2006: Bonnie Metzgar: Curious Theatre associate artistic director
    • 2005: Chip Walton, Curious Theatre founder
    • 2004: Michael R. Duran: Actor, set designer, director and playwright
    • 2003: Nagle Jackson, DCPA Theatre Company director and playwright
    • 2002: Chris Tabb: Actor and director

    Phamaly Theatre Company: Coming in 2018
    • April 14-22: Romeo & Juliet, at the Dairy Arts Center
    • July 12-Aug. 5: Into the Woods, at the DCPA's Space Theatre
    • Oct. 18-Nov. 11: Harvey, at the The Olin Hotel Apartment, in partnership with Senior Housing Options
    Information: 303-575-0005 or phamaly.org

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of Phamaly:
    Photos: Phamaly Theatre Company's amazing opening-night tradition
    The triumph of Phamaly's not-so-horrible Hannigan
    Pop-culture Annie, from comics to Broadway to Jay-Z
    Phamaly gala, campaign raise $200K, ‘save the company’
    Phamaly launches emergency $100,000 fundraising campaign
    Regan Linton accepts Spirit of Craig Award
    Regan Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment

    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

  • The triumph of Phamaly's not-so-horrible Hannigan

    by John Moore | Jul 14, 2017
    Ashley Kelashian. Photo by Michael Ensminger

    Despite physical challenges, Phamaly's Ashley Kelashian says the girls of Annie just wanna have sun.

    By Avery Anderson
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    It was the first day of rehearsal for a highly anticipated new production of Annie, and one overwhelmed young actor in a wheelchair began to panic. The girl was one of the many novices who will play orphans in Phamaly Theatre Company’s upcoming staging on the DCPA Theatre Company’s biggest stage.

    For 28 years, Phamaly has made performance opportunities available for actors with disabilities, culminating in a big Broadway musical every summer at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. For actors with mental and physical challenges, adjusting to the move from the rehearsal room to the vaunted stage with dozens of fast-moving cast and crew swirling about can be too much.

    Ashley Kelashian. Photo by John MooreBut veteran Phamaly actor Ashley Kelashian spotted the girl and took action. Within seconds, she managed to maneuver her own wheelchair to the girl’s side and comforted her, despite the enormous pain she was in herself. That’s the way it goes at Phamaly, where there is always an army of special people standing by to help those with special needs.

    At Phamaly, everyone is different - which is what makes everyone the same.

    “We are aptly named Phamaly because it is a family too,” said Kelashian, who, ironically, will be scaring the bejeebers out of the orphans in the iconic role of the mean Mrs. Hannigan when Annie opens on Saturday.

    Kelashian and the girl she helped have more in common than wheelchairs: She has been acting since she was old enough to play an orphan herself. She knew performing was her calling when she was 13 and a teacher told her forcefully, ‘That is what you are supposed to do with your life.’ ”

    Kelashian grew up in Texas and attended the University of Texas at Arlington, where she received the R.L. Frasier Scholarship for Artistic Excellence. It was there, while playing a witch in Macbeth, she discovered something was going wrong with her body.

    “There was a point in the play when we had to run up over this hill because it was an outdoor theatre,” she said. “But I had a breakdown and all these lumps popped up over me. I didn’t know what was wrong with me.” When she admitted to her director that she could no longer accommodate the physical demands of the blocking because she was in such pain - she was cut from the show.

    Phamaly campaign raises $200K, 'saves the company'

    “Everyone was like, ‘You need to handle this. You shouldn't be on stage if you aren’t in shape to run down the hill,’ ” Kelashian said. “Instead of just changing things around so I wouldn’t have to run down the hill, they let me go.”

    A life-changing diagnosis

    Kelashian was diagnosed with Dercum’s disease, a rare condition that caused tumors to grow over her body and under her skin. The result is extreme and constant pain.

    Her peers just didn’t get it, and Kelashian dropped out of college. She says the next couple of years were a dark time. She was depressed because she could no longer act out her passion for theatre - and scared because of the uncertainty this little-known disease brought.

    “That was a rough experience,” she said. “I really don’t talk to anyone from that time of my life, just because it was such a strange thing to go through at a young age.”

    Kelashian enrolled at a local community college where she studied Speech and Debate - “or what I call ‘Competitive Theatre,’ she quipped. It was during a competition she met the man she would marry and start a family with.

    The couple moved to Denver with son Edric, she said, because of the city’s reputation for providing services that allow the disability community to live full and independent lives. “Denver is the the disability mecca,” she said with a laugh. The subsequent legalization of medical marijuana has been a godsend, she says, because it eases her chronic pain.

    (Story continues below the photo.)

    Ashley Kelashian. Photo by John Moore

    The only thing that was missing from her life here was theatre. That changed in 2012. One day while scanning the audition notices in The Denver Post, one upcoming production caught Kelashian’s eye: Phamaly was looking for disabled actors to perform in Little Shop of Horrors.

    “I fell to pieces,” Kelashian said. “I didn't know anything except that whatever this was, it was for me. I just cried and cried. I auditioned, I got in - and that is what I have been doing ever since.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Kelashian instantly felt she could be herself again in the company of Phamaly. Subsequent roles with the company have included Yente in Fiddler on the Roof and Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Her son, Edric Kelashian, joined his mother in the ensemble of Fiddler.

    Ashley Kelashian_Quote 2Through it all, Kelashian has tried not to let her disease change her instinct to always put others first.

    “You have to be humble,” she said. “You have to be patient through your own pain, so you have to be patient with other people's pain. Any opportunity you have to make someone feel good is a good chance for me.”

    As Phamaly's official Literary Manager, Kelashian maintains a script library to help her fellow actors prepare for auditions. She has resisted the frequent suggestion that she should charge for the service.

    “My motto is, ‘Kind is the most important thing you can be,’ ” Kelashian said. “I hope people would say I am kind and helpful whenever I can be.”

    She seems by all accounts, completely miscast to play the role Carol Burnett made famous on film. Mrs. Hannigan is the booze-sodden, kid-hating caretaker of the ratty New York orphanage where she makes her girls scrub the floor till it shines like the Chrysler Building. But while Kelashian might not be wicked, she is known for her wicked sense of humor.

    “Sometimes she just channels Hannigan," said castmate Jenna Bainbridge, who plays good-girl Grace. “Last night one of the kids were driving us crazy and she said, ‘Oh, God, I feel like Hannigan today. I need a drink, you guys.' "

    The sun will come out in Texas

    The Kelashian family moved back to Texas a year ago so Edric could attend his freshman year of high school with his friends there. Ashley has been traveling to and from Denver for the past year to continue her work for Phamaly.  

    For this run of Annie, Kelashian is living in an apartment with a roommate, and she admitted there are times when she needs to ask for help.

    “I don't want to say I overestimated myself before I came back here for this - but I did,” Kelashian said. “I have gotten to the point where when I do the dishes, the repetitive motion tears the tissue in my arm. And at rehearsal, I need to wave the kids all about, and that is more painful than normal.”

    Ashley Kelashian. Photo by Avery AndersonBut all Kelashian had to do was say the word, and "within 30 minutes," she said, help was on the way. The Denver Center, which not only makes its theatres available for Phamaly productions but also assists with production, marketing and logistical support, had made one of the apartments it owns in nearby Brooks Tower building available to another out-of-town Annie performer. And that convenience has made her available to help Kelashian at a moment's notice.

    "I got a phone call saying she could come over and help me with things and take me to the emergency room if I ever needed it,” Kelashian said. “I was just crying. Nowhere else in the world would I get this kind of accommodation to do what I love doing.”

    And when Edric graduates from high school in 2020, Kelashian and her husband plan to come home to Colorado for good.

    “Phamaly is the end-game of my life,” Kelashian said. 

    Phamaly Theatre Company's Annie: Ticket information
    • July 15 through Aug. 6
    • Stage Theatre Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Directed by Regan Linton and Steve Wilson. Musical Direction by Trent Hines
    • Tickets: $20-$37
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Accessible performances: July 23, Aug. 3

    Video: View Phamaly's official Annie trailer

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of Phamaly:

    Pop-culture Annie, from comics to Broadway to Jay-Z
    Phamaly gala, campaign raise $200K, ‘save the company’
    Phamaly launches emergency $100,000 fundraising campaign
    Regan Linton accepts Spirit of Craig Award
    Regan Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment

    About the author:
    Avery-Anderson Avery Anderson is interning with the DCPA NewsCenter for the summer. He is the General Manager and producer of Met TV at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He was won two Heartland Student Emmy Awards for his work on The Met Report. He has a passion for local arts and culture and enjoys covering theatres across the Denver area and the state. Follow him on Twitter at @a_anderson64.

  • Pop-culture 'Annie,' from comics to Broadway to Jay-Z

    by John Moore | Jul 03, 2017

    A sneak video peek at Phamaly Theatre Company's 'Annie,' opening July 15 at the Denver Center.

    Today, tomorrow and forever, the red-headed orphan is part of our pop-culture fabric.

    By Avery Anderson
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Denver's Phamaly Theatre Company has provided performance opportunities for actors with disabilities for 28 years. The company stages a big, annual Broadway musical every summer at the Denver Center, and the upcoming Annie will be its first to be presented in the larger Stage Theatre.

    Over the years, America's favorite red-headed orphan has appeared several different forms from the big screen to the newspaper. And the Annie you see on stage this month at the Denver Center "will be unlike any production of Annie you've ever seen," promises co-director Regan Linton.

    Here are 10 different versions of Annie we have met throughout nearly a century of American pop-culture history:

    NUMBER 1In the newspaper: Annie was introduced to the world in 1924 as a comic strip called Little Orphan Annie in the New York Daily News. In this version created by Harold Gray, Annie often battled her archenemy: The mean-spirited and cold-hearted Mrs. Warbucks, if you can believe it. The comic strip attracted adult readers with political commentary that targeted organized labor, the New Deal and communism. The comics ran in several different papers and as different versions until 2010.

    annie comic book

    NUMBER 2On the radio:
    Running from 1931-42 on NBC’s Blue Network, Little Orphan Annie closely followed the comic-book storylines. America’s favorite redhead drew  6 million listeners a week. The radio show even made a cameo in the movie A Christmas Story, prompting the famous Be Sure to Drink Your Ovaltine scene.


    NUMBER 3Early movies: Long before Annie could be seen singing “Tomorrow” on the bring scree, she had two film premieres in 1932 and 1938. The 1932 version (below) followed the traditional adoption story, while the sequel saw her head to Hollywood to work for low wages as a stunt double.

    NUMBER 4Broadway musical: The world was introduced to the iconic Annie stage musical 40 years ago, in 1977. Opening just days after the Watergate scandal, Annie was welcomed as a breath of optimism and hope. The original Broadway production won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and ran for almost six years.

    NUMBER 5AnnieLater movies:
    There have been three movie musical versions of Annie. The 1982 version starred Aileen Quinn and Carol Burnett and differed from the stage show substantially by adding and removing several songs. At the time, it was the most expensive film musical ever made, at about $40 million to produce. Nearly $10 million of that went to buying the rights to the 1977 Broadway source musical. There were more than 500 product tie-ins ranging from umbrellas to lunch boxes. Annie was brought back to the screen in 1999 for a TV movie, followed by a 2014 remake produced by Will Smith and Jay-Z and featuring an African-American Annie, Quvenzhané Wallis.


    NUMBER 6Hard Knock-Life
    : In 1998, Jay-Z released his version of Hard Knock Life. Originally, he did not have the rights to use the song. So he wrote a letter explaining that he had seen the show on Broadway on a field trip and that it had touched him so much that he cried. That was all it took for him to get the green light for the rights. He later revealed in his autobiography that he actually never saw the show and made up the whole story. 

    NUMBER 7Stage sequels:
    Annie almost returned to the New York stage with a 1989 sequel called Annie 2: Miss Hannigan’s Revenge. Even with Dorothy Loudon reprising her role as Miss Hannigan, the production was a disaster and closed during its pre-Broadway run in Washington. Another off-Broadway sequel in 1992 called Annie Warbucks fared better. It starred Harve Presnell and featured Denver's Michael E. Gold - but it never made it to Broadway.

    annie stage

    NUMBER 8Forbidden Broadway: Young Annie found herself in a different kind of role in 1982 when Forbidden Broadway added her to its annual satiric musical revue. In this version Annie is a 30-year-old smoking adult who sings a parody of her iconic "Tomorrow" song.

    NUMBER 9Actress AnnieActress who have played Annie:
    Over the years, many actresses have played the title role of Annie including Andrea McArdle, Alicia Morton, Quevenzhané Wallis and Sarah Jessica Parker.

    NUMBER 10Coming up in Colorado:
    Little Orphan Annie will be no stranger to area stages in the coming months. In addition to Phamaly Theatre Company's upcoming staging at the Denver Center from July 15- Aug. 6, BDT Stage will be staging Annie from Nov. 18- Feb. 24. Pictured below: The cast of Phamaly's Annie at a recent promotional benefit appearance for the Denver Actors Fund at the Alamo Drafthouse. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Annie Phamaly

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Phamaly Theatre Company's Annie: Ticket information
    • July 15 through Aug. 6
    • Stage Theatre Denver Performing Arts Complex
    • Tickets: $20-$37
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Accessible performances: July 23, Aug. 3

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of Phamaly:
    Phamaly gala, campaign raise $200K, ‘save the company’
    Phamaly launches emergency $100,000 fundraising campaign
    Regan Linton accepts Spirit of Craig Award
    Regan Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment

    About the author:
    Avery-Anderson Avery Anderson is interning with the DCPA NewsCenter for the summer. He is the General Manager and producer of Met TV at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He was won two Heartland Student Emmy Awards for his work on The Met Report. He has a passion for local arts and culture and enjoys covering theatres across the Denver area and the state. Follow him on Twitter and @a_anderson64.

  • Photos: Phamaly gala, campaign raise $200K, ‘save the company’

    by John Moore | Jun 12, 2017
    Phamaly 2017 gala
    Photos from Phamaly Theatre Company's annual gala on June 3 hosted by Kyle Dyer of Channel 9 and former Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers (pictured below and right with Phamaly's Regan Linton). To see more photos, hover your cursor over the image above and click the forward arrow. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewCenter.

    Phamaly's mission to transform the public perception of disability will continue with Annie at the Denver Center

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Phamaly Theatre Company's emergency "Sunny Tomorrow" fundraising campaign has reached its $100,000 goal, and the company's subsequent annual company gala at the Wings Over the Rockies Museum on June 3 raised a record $101,000 in addition, company officials announced. 

    "We are still blown away by the overwhelming energy that we felt in the room," said Phamaly Development and Marketing Manager Tamara Arrenado. "Phamaly has so much momentum and enthusiasm moving forward."

    Annie gala PhamalyPhamaly, a rare and internationally acclaimed theatre company that exclusively provides performance opportunities for actors with disabilities, faced the real prospect of bankruptcy before the fundraising initiatives were launched by Acting Executive Director Regan Linton. The company had undergone unprecedented recent expansion, "and this level of operation has unpredictably strained our organization," Linton wrote in an open letter to Phamaly supporters.

    At the gala, a moment was taken to thank Linton for her efforts. "You saved the company," Production Manager Paul Behrhorst said bluntly. 

    For 27 years, Phamaly's mission has been to produce professional plays and musicals that empower its performers and transforms the public's perception of disability.

    Phamaly's annual summer Broadway musical presentation will be Annie, opening July 15 at the Denver Center's Stage Theatre. Members of the cast performed at the gala. See the photos above.

    Annie: Ticket information
    annieAt a glance: You may know the story of Annie, but Phamaly's approach to this familiar story will be more raw and humanistic. "These are hardened orphans who have faced a lot of adversity in their lives, just like the actual young actors in our cast who are going to be playing these roles,” said co-director co-Director Regan Linton.

    Presented by Phamaly Theatre Company
    July 15-Aug. 6
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
    Directed by Regan Linton and Steve Wilson
    Call 303-575-0005 or go to the Denver Center's web page

    Phamaly, Denver Actors Fund benefit screening of Annie film
    Glance: The Denver Actors Fund hosts a monthly film series at Alamo Drafthouse Denver showing a movie both inspired by a Broadway musical and is also currently  being presented by a local theatre company somewhere in the area. This month:  Get a sneak peek at Phamaly's upcoming production of Annie with a live performance by members of the cast before the classic 1982 Carol Burnett film is shown in TWO Alamo theatres simultaneously. All tickets $10. 

    Presented at Alamo Drafthouse Sloans Lake
    4255 W. Colfax Ave.
    6:30 p.m. live entertainment, 7 p.m. film
    Choose your preferred seating here.

    Note: Choose 6:30 start time to be in a fully accessible Theatre 4: The Phamaly performance will be interpreted, and the movie will be captioned on screen. This performance is also designated as public singalong. Choose the 6:35 p.m. screening if you want listen to the movie in quiet adulation in Theater 5. You won't miss the live performance by Phamaly. We will livestream the performance next door right onto the screen in Theater 5. This will be the screen with NO captions.

    Selected recent NewsCenter coverage of Phamaly:
    Phamaly launches emergency $100,000 fundraising campaign
    Regan Linton accepts Spirit of Craig Award
    Regan Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment
  • Summertime in Colorado: A time for play ... and plays

    by John Moore | May 31, 2017

    Summer theatre
    Creede is one of Colorado's many hidden mountain gems that offers both recreational activities and some of the best live theatre in the region. Photo courtesy Creede Repertory Theatre.

    By Avery Anderson
    For the DCPA NewsCenter

    Colorado offers a plethora of summer activities such as hiking, camping, white-water rafting and iconic nights at landmarks such as Red Rocks or Coors Field. But there are also a surprising number of live theatregoing opportunities across the state.

    Summer is when summer repertory companies open from GraBenjamin Cowhick 2 nd Lake to Dillon to Creede to Breckenridge to Boulder to Greeley to Pagosa Springs and beyond. The statewide lineup holds an array of offerings from BDT Stage's re-envisioning of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat to lesser-known contemporary musicals such as [title of show] in Trinidad. But the most popular title of the summer is the musical S ister Act, which is being staged in Greeley, Dillon and Pagosa Springs.

    A busy upcoming summer at the Denver Center includes a new weekly collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art called Mixed Taste; the original drag-meets-Comic Con party DragOn; and, of course, the pre-Broadway run of Frozen

    But here we focus on 10 intriguing titles for summer from throughout the state, in order of opening, followed by every Colorado theatre company’s current schedule. (To update or correct your company’s schedule, email jmoore@dcpa.org).

    As you travel the state this summer, remember to combine theatre with your tourism experience.

    (EDITOR'S NOTE: As the summer progresses, we're deleting our featured choices below that have already closed.)

    NUMBER 2Colorado Shakespeare Festival
    Through Aug. 13

    Summer theatre 800 5The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is celebrating its 60th season with The Taming of the Shrew, Julius Caesar, Hamlet and Henry VI Part 3. The nation's second-oldest Shakespeare festival will continue its recent deep-dive into gender fluidity by casting a female Hamlet, and she's an actor familiar to DCPA Theatre Company audiences. Lenne Kingaman, who played Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and two roles in Appoggiatura, will be mulling the meaning of her existence on the University of Colorado's intimate indoor stage. (Read our full interview.) 
    At the Mary Rippon Amphitheatre and University Mainstage, CU-Boulder campus, 303-492-0554 or colorado shakes’ home page

    NUMBER 4Disney’s Newsies
    Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre

    Through Aug. 24

    The venerable Rocky Mountain Rep celebrates its 50th anniversary season in Grand Lake with Disney’s hit stage production that follows the 1899 Newsboy Strike from the eyes of fictional paperboy Jack Kelly. Based on the 1992 movie, this musical stage adaptation features music by Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) and a book by Harvey Fierstein. The original production was nominated for eight Tony Awards, and won two.
    800 Grand Ave, Grand Lake, 970-627-3421 or rockymountainrep.com

    NUMBER 5Ring of Fire
    Vintage Theatre

    Through Aug. 6

    What’s better than country music on a summer day? How about an entire musical filled with country music? Ring of Fire features the music of Johnny Cash, including such as “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk the Line” This tribute to “The Man in Black” is directed by Kelly Van Oosbree.
    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintage’s home page

    Summer theatre 800 3

    NUMBER 6Ghost
    Lake Dillon Theatre Company

    July 1- Aug. 24

    Lake Dillon Theatre Company moves into its new $9 million, 16,000 square-foot Silverthorne Performing Arts Center with the musical stage adaptation of the popular '90s movie. Just as in the movie, a woman struggling to accept the death of her lover enlist the help of  a psychic to help the two communicate. SPAC will include multiple theaters and an arts education lab. READ OUR COVERAGE OF THE OPENING
    460 Blue River Pkwy, Silverthorne,  970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org

    NUMBER 7Sex With Strangers
    Theatre Aspen

    July 6-Aug. 12

    Robblee, JessicaIn this provocative contemporary romance written by Cherry Creek High School alumna Laura Eason, two people are forced together in a secluded B&B with no TV or Internet. Denver actor Jessica Robblee (DCPA Theatre Company’s Frankenstein) stars alongside New York actor Patrick Ball. The Director is Christy-Montour Larson (DCPA’s Two Degrees).
    The Hurst Theatre  470 Rio Grande Place, 844-706-7387 or theatreaspen.org

    NUMBER 8Annie
    Phamaly Theatre Company

    July 15-Aug. 3

    You may know the story of Annie, but you have not seen America’s favorite orphan through the lens of Phamaly, Denver’s acclaimed theatre company that makes performance opportunities available to actors with disabilities. Phamaly’s approach to this well-worn story will be more raw and humanistic, says Phamaly Artistic Director Regan Linton. “These are hardened orphans who have faced a lot of adversity in their lives, just like the actual young actors in our cast who are going to be playing these roles,” Linton said. READ MORE
    At the Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-575-0005 or phamaly’s home page

    NUMBER 9Much Ado About Nothing
    July 27-Aug. 19

    Colorado Springs TheatreWorks
    At Rock Ledge Ranch

    Summer theatreThe Colorado Shakespeare Festival is not the only company tackling the Bard this summer. Audiences can once again experience the Bard at the stunning outdoor Rock Ledge Ranch at the base of the Garden of the Gods with a new staging of Much Ado About Nothing. This Colorado Springs tradition was started by Colorado Springs TheatreWorks founder Murray Ross, who died in January. The company has dedicated the upcoming season to him.
    3105 Gateway Road, Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org

    NUMBER 10General Store
    Creede Repertory Theatre

    Aug. 18-Sept. 16

    In this world premiere, the owner of the local general store is determined not to let anything stop him from holding onto his small piece of the America Dream. This big-buzz new play, which actually kicks off the fall sesaon, is written by Colorado native Brian Watkins and will star Logan Ernstthal (Miners Alley Playhouse’s A Skull in Connemara) and be directed by Christy Montour-Larson. Summer titles include She Loves Me, The Syringa Tree and Arsenic and Old Lace.
    124 Main St., 719-658-2540 or creederep.org


    (The following listings are through September 2017. Send updates or additions to jmoore@dcpa.org.)

    At The Bakery 2132 Market St., ticketleap.com
    July 13-28: A Midsummer Night’s Dream


    Presented by Marne Interactive Productions, 2406 Federal Blvd., 303-455-1848 or adams’ home page
    Ongoing events and rotating shows

    44th and Tennyson Street, 720-583-3975 or andtototoo.org
    No summer events scheduled

    6901 Wadsworth Blvd., 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org
    Sept. 12-Oct. 1: A Chorus Line

    9900 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org
    Season 33 to be announced July 10

    417 E. 17th Ave., 303-321-5925 or the avenue’s home page
    No summer events scheduled

    401 Pine St., Fort Collins, 970-498-8949 or basbleu.org
    July 27-30: Theatre Esprit Asia’s Coming to America: Boat Person & Antecedent

    No summer events scheduled

    720-328-5294 bitsystage.com
    No summer events scheduled

    Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., 303-440-7826 or betc’s home page
    Sept. 14-Oct. 8: The Revolutionists

    Jack BartonBDT STAGE
    5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000 or bdt’s home page
    Through Aug. 19: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat READ MORE
    Aug. 25-Nov. 11: Rock of Ages

    Aug. 18-27 at venues around Boulder

    121 S. Ridge St., 970-453-0199 or backstagetheatre.org
    Through Aug. 6: The Producers
    July 7-Aug. 12: Buyer and Cella
    Aug. 25-Sept. 4: Billy Elliot (at the Riverwalk Amphitheatre)

    717 Lipan St., 720-946-1388 or buntport’s home page Buntport.com
    No new productions scheduled - check web site for monthly offerings

    4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, 970) 744-3747 or coloradocandlelight.com
    Through Aug. 27: The Slipper and the Rose
    Sept. 7-Nov. 5: The Music Man

    At the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or thecatamounts.org
    Sept. 8-30: You On the Moors Now


    Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, or tickets.thedairy.org
    Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant St., Louisville (see below)

    July 15-24, 2017: In the Heights (Youth performers) (At Dairy Center, Boulder)
    303-444-7328 or thedairy.org

    July 27-Aug. 6, 2017: Godspell (Youth performers) (At Louisville Center for the Arts) ticket info

    124 Eureka St., 303-292-6700 or centralcityopera.org
    July 8-Aug. 6: Carmen
    July 15-Aug. 6: Così fan tutte
    July 26-Aug. 6: The Burning Fiery Furnace
    July 26-Aug. 6: Cabildo
    July 26 through Aug. 6: Gallantry

    Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant St., 303-665-0955 or cctlouisville.org
    No summer events scheduled

    At the Mary Rippon Amphitheatre and University Mainstage, CU-Boulder campus, 303-492-0554 or colorado shakes’ home page
    Through Aug. 13: The Taming of the Shrew, outdoors
    Through Aug. 13: Hamlet, indoors
    July 7-Aug. 12: Julius Caesar, outdoors
    July 21-Aug. 13: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, indoors
    Aug. 6-8: Henry VI, Part 3 (Original Practices), outdoors

    30 W. Dale St., Colorado Springs, 719-634-5581 or www.csfineartscenter.org
    Sept. 8-Oct. 1: Parallel Lives
    Sept. 16: An Evening with Jim Breuer

    124 Main St., 719-658-2540 or creederep.org
    Through Aug. 11: Pants on Fire
    Through Aug. 10: She Loves Me
    Through Aug. 26: The Syringa Tree
    Through Sept. 9: Boomtown
    June 30-Aug 9: Arsenic and Old Lace
    July 14-Sept. 15: Talley’s Folley
    Aug. 18-Sept. 14: General Store

    1080 Acoma St., 303-623-0524 or curious’ home page 
    Sept. 2-Oct. 14: Appropriate


    Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-444-7328 or tickets.thedairy.org
    June 3-July 23: Tommy Koenig’s Baby Boomer Baby

    Dixie Longate Photo by Bradford RogneDENVER CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
    Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100 or the denver center’s home page
    July 5-Aug 23: Mixed Taste, Seawell Ballroom
    July 15-Aug. 6: Phamaly Theatre Company’s Annie, Stage Theatre
    July 19-Aug. 6: Dixie's Tupperware Party, Garner Galleria (Photo at right)
    Aug. 9-27: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus Live!, Garner Galleria Theatre
    Aug, 17-Oct. 1: Frozen, Ellie Caulkins Opera House
    Sept. 21-Oct. 22: Girls Only - The Secret Comedy of Women, Garner Galleria

    1560 Teller St., Lakewood, 303-232-0363 or the edge’s home page
    Through July 2: Mud Blue Sky
    July 14-Aug. 6: Bad Jews
    Aug. 25-Sept. 17: Dinner

    At the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., 720-984-0781 or equinox’s home page
    Through July 1: The Rocky Horror Show
    July 28-Aug. 19, 2017: Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story

    At Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, 303-674-4934 or evergreen players’ home page
    July 15-Aug. 6: Monty Python's Spamalot
    Aug. 25-26: EPiC summer improv

    At the John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. 1st Place, 303-562-3232 or firehouse’s home page  Through July 15: Rock of Aging

    2109 Templeton Gap Road, Colorado Springs, 719-425-9509 or funkylittletheater.org
    No summer events scheduled

    At Westminster High School, 69th Avenue and Raleigh Street
    303-455-7108 or www.germinalstage.com
    July 28-Aug. 20: Seascape
    Sept. 22-Oct.15: The Master Builder

    At the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker, parkerarts.org
    July 14-Aug. 6: Hairspray (with Parker Arts)


    224 Main St., Longmont, 303-682-9980 or jesterstheatre.com
    Through July 2: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

    At the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, 460 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne, 970-513-9386 or lakedillontheatre.org
    Through Aug. 13, 2017: Sister Act
    June 30-July 9: Buyer and Cellar
    July 1-Aug. 24: Ghost
    Aug. 11-20: Grounded
    Sept. 1-17: Noises Off
    Sept. 15-24: Pretty Fire
    Nov. 24-Dec. 17: Murder for Two

    University of Northern Colorado campus, 970-351-4849 or littletheatrerockies.com
    Through July 16: Baby
    Through July 23: Simply Simone
    June 29-July 21: Proof
    July 27-July 30: Sister Act

    10075 Commons St., 720-509-1000, lone tree’s home page
    June 10: An evening with Betty Buckley

    513 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-5200 or longmont’s home page
    July 15-Aug. 6: As You Like It (multiple locations)  

    John Hand Theatre, 7653 E. First Place, 720-880-8727 or thisisspotlight.com
    Through July 30: It's Only a Play (At Vintage Theatre)
    July 29-Aug. 26: On Golden Pond

    3750 S. Mason St, Fort Collins, (970) 225-2555 or midtownartscenter.com
    Through Aug. 26: Hair

    1626 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, 719-465-6321, themat.org
    July 21-Aug. 26, 2017: Circus of the Night

    1224 Washington St., Golden, 303-935-3044 or map’s home page
    July 14-Aug. 20: Broadway Bound
    Sept. 8-Oct. 15: Les Liasons Dangereuses

    Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St., Fort Collins, 970-484-5237 or openstagetheatre.org
    Through July 1: The Three Musketeers              
    Sept. 21-Oct. 14, 2017: Ideation (At ArtLab, 239 Linden St., Fort Collins)

    20000 Pikes Peak Avenue, Parker, parkerarts.org
    July 14-Aug. 6: Hairspray (with Inspire Creative)

    Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway, 303-987-7845 or performancenow.org

    At the Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-575-0005 or phamaly’s home page
    July 13-Aug. 6: Annie 

    800 Grand Ave, Grand Lake, 970-627-3421 or rockymountainrep.com
    Through Aug. 26: Mamma Mia
    Through Aug. 24: Newsies
    June 30-Aug. 25: West Side Story
    Sept. 1: Almost Heaven: Songs of John Denver

    The Barth Hotel, 1514 17th St. seniorhousingoptions.org
    Stella and Lou (presented by Vintage Theatre)

    At the Famous Performing Arts Center, 131 W Main St., Trinidad, 719-846-4765 or scrtheatre.com
    Through Sept. 1: [title of show]
    July 1-Sept. 2: Dames at Sea
    July 21-Aug. 18: The Murder Room

    1903 E. Cache La Poudre St., Colorado Springs, 719-357-3080 or springsensembletheatre.org
    July 20-Aug. 6: Gidion’s Knot

    At the ATLAS Black Box Theater on the University of Colorado Boulder campus, 1125 18th St., Boulder, squareproducttheatre.org
    July 29-Aug. 12: House of Gold

    27357 Conifer Road, Conifer, 303-886-2819, 800-838-3006 or stagedoor’s home page
    No summer events scheduled

    The Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 427 E. Colorado, Colorado Springs or starbarplayers.org
    No summer events scheduled

    220 W. Sackett Ave., Salida, 719-530-0933 or salidasteamplant.com
    No summer events scheduled

    At the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, 303-296-0219 or su teatro’s home page
    No summer events scheduled

    The Hurst Theatre  470 Rio Grande Place, 844-706-7387 or theatreaspen.org
    Through Aug. 19: Hairspray
    July 6-Aug. 12: Sex With Strangers
    July 13-Aug. 15: The World According to Snoopy

    Mary Miller Theater, 300 E. Simpson, 720-209-2154 or tclstage.org
    July 15-Aug. 6: As You Like It (Various locations)

    July 27-30: Coming to America: Boat Person and Antecedent (at Bas Bleu Theatre, Fort Collins)

    3955 Regent Circle, Colorado Springs, 719-255-3232 or theatreworkscs.org
    July 27-Aug. 19: Much Ado About Nothing, at Rock Ledge Ranch (3105 Gateway Road)
    Sept. 7-24: Heisenberg, at the Bon Vivant Theatre

    Butte Theatre, 139 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek, 719-689-3247 or thinairtheatre.com
    June 2-July 28: A Cripple Creek Ragtime Revue
    June 23-Aug. 24: After Dark
    June 30-Aug. 26: Annie, Get Your Gun
    Sept. 1-23: The Nerd

    At the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, 2313 Eagle Drive, 970-731-7469 or pagosacenter.org
    Through Aug. 25: Aida
    Through Aug. 26: Hairspray
    July 8-Aug. 27: Big River
    July 15-Aug. 26: Sister Act

    67 Promenade, Carbondale, 970-963-8200 or thunderrivertheatre.com
    Through July 1: The Memory of Water

    2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or town hall’s home page
    Sept. 8-Oct. 8: In the Heights

    Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Ave., Boulder, 303-442-1415 or upstart’s home page
    No summer events scheduled

    1468 Dayton St., Aurora, 303-839-1361 or vintage’s home page
    Through July 23: It's Only a Play (with Spotlight Theatre)
    Through Aug. 6: Ring of Fire
    July 13-23: Stella and Lou (with Senior Housing Options at the Barth Hotel)

    Avery-Anderson Avery Anderson is interning with the DCPA NewsCenter for the summer. He is the General Manager and producer of Met TV at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He was won two Heartland Student Emmy Awards for his work on The Met Report. He has a passion for local arts and culture and enjoys covering theatres across the Denver area and the state. Follow him on Twitter and @a_anderson64.
  • Video: Phamaly's Regan Linton accepts Spirit of Craig Award

    by John Moore | May 09, 2017

    The video above was played at the annual PUSH Gala for Craig Hospital with the announcement of Phamaly Theatre Company Executive and Artistic Director Regan Linton as the 2017 Dave and Gail Liniger Spirit of Craig Award winner. Video provided by Craig Hospital.

    By John Moore

    Senior Arts Journalist

    Phamaly Theatre Company Executive and Artistic Director Regan Linton was honored at Craig Hospital's annual PUSH Gala as the winner of the 2017 Dave and Gail Liniger Spirit of Craig Award on April 29.

    Craig is a world-renowned, non-profit rehabilitation hospital that specializes in treating patients with spinal cord injury  and traumatic brain injury. The award recognizes a Craig graduate who, through community service, professional achievement, and personal support of Craig’s patients, graduates, and mission, significantly brings to life the spirit of Craig to others in the community.

    Linton is an actor, educator, and prominent voice for disability inclusion in the national theatre community. The Denver East graduate was paralyzed in a 2002 car accident and went on to the University of California at San Diego, where she become the first paralyzed student ever accepted into any of the nation’s top masters acting conservatory programs.

    Story continues below the video:

    Video: Regan Linton accepts the Craig Hospital Award:

    After performing around the country for prominent companies including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Linton returned to Denver in August to lead Phamaly out of an imminent financial crisis. She will co-direct Annie with a cast made up exclusively of actors with physical, cognitive or emotional disabilities, opening July 13 at the Denver Center's Stage Theatre.

    Regan Linton Kelli JohnsonThe PUSH dinner raised more than $1.8 million to support Craig’s programs and research.

    The other major award of the night was the Inspiration Award, which went to Craig graduate Kelli Johnson in recognition of her work to encourage skier and rider safety in memory of her daughter, Elise.

    Johnson (pictured at right with her family) sustained a traumatic brain injury in a ski accident when she and her daughter were struck by a snowboarder. Elise died in the accident. Johnson and her husband, Chauncy, are working with the National Ski Areas Association on a campaign to encourage safety in memory of their daughter. (See video below.)

    The emcee of the PUSH gala was Kyle Clark of KUSA Channel 9.

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Regan Linton:
    Phamaly launches emergency $100,000 fundraising campaign
    Regan Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment
    Regan Linton works her magic in San Diego
    Video: Reagan Linton wins Colorado Rockies Inspiration Award
    Phamaly's historic goodwill tour to Japan
    The Regan Linton story: Performing for those who cannot

    Video: Kelli Johnson Inspiration Award:

    The video above was played at the annual Push Gala for Craig Hospital with the announcement of Kelli Johnson as the winner of the annual Inspiration Award. Video provided by Craig Hospital.

    Photos from the 2017 PUSH gala:

    Regan Linton accepts Craig Hospital Award

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above.
  • Phamaly Theatre Company faces immediate $100,000 shortfall

    by John Moore | Apr 14, 2017

    Phamaly. Regan Linton

    UPDATE June 2: Update: Phamaly Theatre Company reports that it has reached its $100,000 goal to off-set its immediate budget shortfall thanks to 325 donors. Artistic Director Regan Linton: "Challenge is no stranger to the company members of Phamaly. For 28 years, Phamaly has persevered and triumphed in its mission to produce extraordinary theatre and transform the lives of people with and without disabilities. We are able to continue doing this because of the amazing humans who are part of our Phamaly family. We hope you will join us for Annie this summer and share in the joy, camaraderie and artistry that Phamaly continues to foster."

    Rapid expansion has put the acclaimed company that creates opportunities for actors with disabilities in danger.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The posters for Phamaly Theatre Company’s upcoming production of Annie don’t say “The sun will come out tomorrow,” as you might expect. Instead, they ask a far more ominous question: “Will tomorrow ever come?” It’s a reference to the original comic-book source. And that's the very question hanging over the internationally acclaimed Denver theatre company that has been providing performance opportunities for actors with disabilities for 27 years.

    Phamaly has launched an emergency $100,000 fundraising campaign to stay in operation past the summer. The deadline is July 1.  

    Phamaly quote“Phamaly is in a rough spot right now – maybe rougher than it has ever been in before,” said Artistic Director and actor Regan Linton, who rejoined Phamaly last August only to discover that the company was facing a potentially catastrophic revenue shortfall. The culprit: Too much expansion, much too fast.

    Phamaly now performs a full year-round season, offers a statewide children’s tour and stages a big Broadway musical each summer at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

    The first public sign of possible trouble at Phamaly was the successive departures of both new Artistic Director Bryce Alexander and new Executive Director Maureen Ediger within four months last year. In January, the previously announced upcoming staging of Peter Pan was scratched because of rising costs associated with flying special-needs actors. Annie took its place. But the full extent of the problem only became known when the company released an uncommonly transparent public statement on March 28.

    "We need your support like we never have before," it reads.

    Phamaly’s annual operating budget has more than doubled in seven years, from $350,000 in 2008-09 to $850,000 last year. This year’s budget was cut to $750,000, but still - without an immediate cash infusion, “bankruptcy is a scary possibility,” Linton told the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Read the full Phamaly letter to its supporters

    “I'm an optimist, but Phamaly is facing that possibility more realistically right now than it ever has before,” said Linton. “I'm hesitant to use that word, bankruptcy, but yeah, it is important to give people a sense of the stakes.”

    The Phamaly statement that also announced the launch of “The Campaign for a Sunny Tomorrow” was posted both to its website and sent out to the company’s full email list.

    Phamaly-Pygmalion“Phamaly significantly expanded programming a couple of years ago with the best intentions of serving more members of our community and making a greater impact,” it read. “This expansion included increasing the number of mainstage shows, offering educational classes, increasing outreach, moving into a new office with rehearsal space, and growing our staff. We expanded too much, too quickly." Added Linton: "I think at some point you have to be able to say, ‘No. There are certain things we can’t do,’ and be OK with that."

    (Pictured right: Phamaly's recent production of 'Pygmalion.') 

    Expansion also brought unexpected expenses, missed projections an overextended staff. And, Linton bluntly admits, that has had an inevitable impact on the quality of the company's productions over the past year.

    “Phamaly has not necessarily been producing the kind of theatre that I think we are capable of,” Linton said. “Our productions have not been optimally supported, and our ability to keep patrons fully engaged has been affected.”

    Phamaly’s closest supporters immediately responded to the company’s distress signal with $30,000 in pledges in the first 17 days of the drive.  The Harvey Family Foundation has agreed to match up to $35,000 of new donations for this campaign, although Linton said that money will not count against the overall goal "to raise $100,000 in new and different money from other fundraising activities,” Linton said, including the annual Phamaly gala, which is expected to raise a separate $35,000 on June 3.

    Click here to support the Phamaly fundraising campaign

    Hundreds of local theatre companies have come and gone since a group of disabled student actors, frustrated by the lack of opportunity to perform, began staging shows in 1989 in the basement of the Boettcher School. But there is much more at stake when the endangered company is the one and only company that presents professional plays and musicals cast entirely with performers who have physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities.

     “Phamaly is a unique company. There’s no other like it in Colorado, and really no other company exactly like it in the entire United States,” Linton said.

    Phamaly Gala 2016 Phamaly has built its reputation for creating performances that transform the lives of both the actors onstage and the audiences watching. The company has produced a treasure trove of indelible stage memories, including a production about circus freaks called Side Show, and a Man of La Mancha starring Linton as an Aldonza who is beaten and tossed from her wheelchair, forcing Linton to sing her guttural battle song while crawling across the stage by her elbows. These and dozens of other moments sear themselves into the consciousness of anyone watching.

    “I think a good theatrical experience is about so much more than how high your chorus kicks. It's about: Are you moved by what you see? Does it transform your way of seeing the world?” said Linton, the only Artistic Director leading a major U.S. theatre company from a wheelchair, according to the Theatre Communications Group.

    “I think that is something Phamaly does unlike any theatre company, and it’s because you have these extraordinary human beings doing these shows that make you think about the human condition and the human experience in a completely different way.”

    (Pictured above and right: Rob Costigan and Hannah Balmer dance at the 2016 Phamaly gala, which is coming up again on June 3.)

    But in recent years, Linton said, “I feel like some of our productions have been trying to fit into a mold that other theatre companies already fit. I don't think that's what we should be doing. I think we should be creating our own mold.”

    That starts with Annie, which Linton is co-directing with Steve Wilson, the longtime Phamaly Artistic Director who resigned in 2014 to focus on his full-time job as Executive Director of the Mizel Arts and Culture Center. Because the Space Theatre is undergoing a year-long renovation, Annie, opening July 13, will be Phamaly’s first-ever production in the Stage Theatre, which is nearly twice as big as The Space Theatre. That creates both  artistic opportunities and the chance to introduce Phamaly to new audiences, and Linton plans to take full advantage of both. “This will be unlike any production of Annie you've ever seen," she promises.

    “I don't want to do the same old Annie,” she said. “I don't even want the red wig. I don't want any of the little girls in dresses. These are hardened orphans who have faced a lot of adversity in their lives, just like the actual young actors in our cast who are going to be playing these roles. We want to give the audience characters who are grounded in something real. And one thing our actors do better than anybody is present something authentic and real onstage.”

    So what happens if Phamaly does not raise $100,000 in new money by July 1?

    “Phamaly is definitely in danger of not being able to do our programming, at least for the near future,” Linton said. “But I'm an optimist, so I feel like even if Phamaly gets to the worst possible state where we would have to close our doors, Phamaly will continue to exist in some form because it is such an important part of the community.

    “My hope is that we would always find a way to make it work, especially in keeping with the Phamaly spirit. We find ways to make things work. That’s what we do.”

    A note on Phamaly Theatre Company funding

    Ticket sales account for only about 20 percent of Phamaly’s funding. About 60 percent comes from a combination of foundations, government support and individual contributions. The company received $150,00 this year from the metro-Denver taxing district known as the SCFD, and it has applied for $70,000 in the coming year from the National Endowment for the Arts. That the agency is imperiled by President Trump’s announced intention to de-fund the NEA only creates further financial uncertainty for Phamaly.

    “When you cut back government funding, then you are putting more pressure on communities and individual donors to support the organizations they care about,” Linton said. “If the NEA is eliminated, that would put more strain on individual contributors to support Phamaly.”

    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.

    annie phamaly

    Phamaly Theatre Company's upcoming offerings

    Staged reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream
    May 6-7
    At the Lone Tree Arts Center TICKETS

    July 14-Aug. 6, 2017
    Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex TICKETS

    Selected previous NewsCenter coverage of Regan Linton and Phamaly:

    Regan Linton returns to lead Phamaly in landmark appointment
    NEA Chair champions Colorado, and arts therapies for veterans
    Phamaly will send wheelchairs flying in Peter Pan
    February 2015: Phamaly names Bryce Alexander to replace Steve Wilson
    Wilson resigns from Phamaly after 14 years
    Regan Linton works her magic in San Diego
    PBS podcast: Denver theater featuring disabled cast gains popularity
    Phamaly's historic goodwill tour to Japan
    Regan Linton: Performing for those who cannot
  • The evolving Beth Malone: So Far ... So Good

    by John Moore | Apr 06, 2017
    Beth Malone. Photo by John Moore

    Beth Malone returns to Denver for two intimate cabaret concerts on April 15 at the DCPA's Garner Galleria Theatre. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Beth Malone's journey from a gravel road in Castle Rock to Broadway's bright lights took a right turn at a mirror.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    It’s about 1,800 miles from Haystack Road to Broadway, but the funny and sad and twisted and ultimately triumphant journey Beth Malone took from Castle Rock to New York City was light years in the making.

    Malone starred in the DCPA Theatre Company’s 2014 reimagining of The Unsinkable Molly Brown and was nominated for a Tony Award for her work in the groundbreaking musical Fun Home. She will tell her story in two uncommonly intimate cabaret concerts on April 15 at the Denver Center’s Garner Galleria Theatre.

    It’s called Beth Malone: So Far, and it covers Malone’s formative years in Colorado. She describes the family, friends and lovers she encountered on her way to starring in Broadway’s first musical with a lesbian protagonist.

    Audiences can expect a swath of recognizable pop songs and very funny anecdotes filled with local references. “I mention Country Dinner Playhouse, the Arvada Center and Boulder's Dinner Theatre (now BDT Stage) before the end of the opening number,” she says.

    But there is a beating and very vulnerable heart at the center of Malone’s story. It’s the crucial off-stage part that covers how she discovered her sexuality and came to own her true self — and the toll it took on her suburban, testosterone-fueled Castle Rock family. Her father, Bill, is a cowboy, and so naturally Malone was a cowboy, too. She is careful not to use the word "cowgirl."

    A Peggy Malone“No, I was a cowboy. I used to be my dad's little clone,” she said. Her mother, Peggy Malone, continues to be a popular country singer along the Western Slope, and she grew up alongside three typically competitive brothers.

    “So Far is about my redneck beginnings and how my parents ended up with such a wildly left-swinging daughter,” Malone said. “But more than anything, it’s really about my relationship with my dad, and what happened when I came out.”

    When Malone performed So Far two years ago at Joe's Pub in New York City, the show went over like gangbusters, she said. In part because cabaret concerts typically deliver upbeat songs and funny anecdotes — and Malone has plenty of those to tell. Like when she stumbled across the film Singin’ in the Rain on TV as a girl. “I didn’t know stuff like this existed,” she said. “I remember running down the hall and saying, ‘Mom, the most amazing thing is on TV!’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, that’s called a musical.’ And I said, ‘Well … that’s what I am doing with the rest of my life.”

    But cabaret concerts don’t typically also deliver a meaningful and sadly universal story of a father and daughter finding each other, breaking apart, and finding each another again  — in an entirely new and uncomfortable context.

    “It’s unexpectedly heart-wrenching,” said Malone. “You are laughing your butt off, and then you find yourself really invested in the love story between me and this heroic cowboy father-figure. When it gets hard for me, I think it gets hard for a lot of people in the audience, too.”

    Beth Malone. Photo by John Moore
    Beth Malone in Leadville. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Malone’s first play was Annie for Castle Rock Junior High School in 1984. When she was just 16, she landed her (first) dream job — as a hostess at the Country Dinner Playhouse. Two years later, she starred there in Baby. She made her Denver Center debut that same year at age 18 as the understudy to Mary Louise Lee — now the First Lady of Denver — in Beehive at the very same theatre Malone will be performing So Far on April 15.

    Malone made her debut with the DCPA Theatre Company in 1993 in the world premiere of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Bon Voyage, an adaptation of Noel Coward’s failed musical Sail Away. She went on to make her name performing on stages all over Colorado from the Crystal Palace to Theatre Aspen to the Arvada Center, where she played the narrator in holiday stagings of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for five years running.

    But all through those years, Malone felt like an “other,” she says, and she didn't yet know exactly why. “I have a number in the show about what it's like to be Mulan in a dressing room with Snow White, Belle and Arial. … Do you know what I mean?”

    For those who might not know what she means, Malone describes Mulan as the cross-dressing Disney heroine who looks like a boy. “She's the action figure that nobody wants,” she said with a laugh. “That’s pretty sad for Mulan — and Mulan is me.”

    Malone fully expected to get married — to a man — when she met Rochelle (Shelly)  Schoppert 25 years ago. She says feeling true love for the first time was so intense, it felt like being shot by a gun. And that she fell in love with a woman, she said, “ruined my family for many, many years.” And yet, in 2014, the then 23-year couple rode their bikes to New York's City Hall and legally married.

    Beth Malone. Denver Broncos. Photo by John MooreMalone and her father will never come to a mutual understanding about many things, including their feelings on the current president. But time has a way of morphing the once inconceivable into the more natural order of things. Into something resembling a family. And like many families, the Malones have more in common than not — their love for the Colorado outdoors, their cowboy ways and perhaps most important — their intense mutual love of the Denver Broncos. Bill and Peggy Malone have accompanied Beth and her wife both times she sang the national anthem at Mile High Stadium, in 2014 and '16. (Pictured above from left: Peggy Malone, Beth Malone, Bill Malone and Rochelle Schoppert by John Moore.) Beth recently took her father on a trip to Ireland.

    So Far is actually a really warm, fuzzy, feel-good story,” Malone says of the way her story plays out. “And by the end, you’ll just want to call your dad.”

    Malone’s song list leans more toward pop than showtunes, starting with an appropriately country slant. “The show opens with Happiest Girl in the Whole USA, recorded by Donna Fargo, and segues into a Barbara Mandrell medley, so ... you can see where I am going with this,” Malone said with a laugh. “No one was more obsessed with Barbara Mandrell than I was.” Just wait till you hear the story about the kiss an 11-year-old Malone got from none other than ... Barbara Mandrell. 

    Coming-of-age songs include Melissa Etheridge’s Bring Me Some Water and k.d. lang’s Constant Craving alongside Foreigner’s I've Been Waiting for a Girl Like You. Musical-theatre fans will get a taste of Spring Awakening and a Fun Home mash-up that somehow invokes John Mayer. It builds, she says, to a poignant LeAnn Rimes song called What I Cannot Change.

    Malone has been developing So Far for years with initial producer Peter Schneider, playwright Patricia Cotter (The Break Up Notebook: A Musical) and Beautiful: The Carole King Story Music Director Susan Draus (who will play the show in Denver). But it has necessarily changed in tone, Malone said, since she last performed it in 2015, when  the gay community was riding an unprecedented wave of acceptance and legal victories.

    “All of these amazing, progressive things had just happened,” she said. “Marriage equality had passed, health-care was happening and Fun Home had won the Tony Award for Best Musical. So back then, I ended the show by saying, ‘It's a really bad time to be an angry white guy in America.’ ”

    Well ... that was then.

    "Now I have to say that the pendulum has fully swung the other way, and angry white guys are having their day again,” Malone said. “It’s just a hate orgy out there right now. That's how it feels to me. So there is a different vibe now, and I have had to rewrite the ending of the show a little because of that.”

    Beyond Fun Home
    The success of Fun Home has brought new career opportunities for Malone. Notable TV credits have included Brain Dead and The Good Wife. She has an upcoming indie film called Laying Low. But the biggest break by far was appearing opposite Robert DeNiro in last year's star-studded film The Comedian. Malone has a nice, long scene where she plays a reality-TV producer who gives DeNiro the brush-off when he pitches her an idea for a new show.

    “Yes, I busted DeNiro’s (bleeps),” Malone says with evident glee. “It was pretty amazing.”

    Also amazing: Hanging out on the set with the likes of Edie Falco, Danny DeVito and Broadway legend Patti Lupone when Lupone figured out that Malone was the star of Fun Home.

    “I was like, 'Oh my God, is anybody hearing this? Patti Lupone is telling me how good I am right now!’ " Malone said. "And sure enough, Edie Falco came up to me and said, ‘Patti Lupone was just crazy about you.’ It was just the best.”

    A Beth Malone 800 5

    Still, the greatest impact Fun Home has had on Malone's life was not only giving her a voice, she said. “It also gave me an audience that wanted to hear that voice," she said.

    Fun Home helped me to define my own beliefs and to commit to them publicly,” she said. “As an actor, I was always sort of a politician. I wanted to be with my wife, Shelly, behind closed doors, but I never was political about it, and I never pushed it anyone's face. I never stood up for anyone besides myself.

    "I have lived in Aspen, L.A. and New York – and being gay there is pretty easy. I never really gave a thought to teenagers who were trying to come out in Tennessee and Kentucky and Alabama. Now, I think about those kids all the time. Now, I talk to them whenever I can. That is my gift from Fun Home: The awareness that just living my life openly can be a beacon for other people – if only I am strong enough to stand up and claim 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.

    Beth Malone: So Far
    Beth Malone About the show: Tony-nominated Beth Malone (DCPA Theatre Company’s The Unsinkable Molly Brown) brings her acclaimed solo show back to where it all happened. Follow this adorably insane little lesbian as she takes you on a journey from Castle Rock to the South Pacific. From little girl crushes to grown-woman heartbreak. Join us for comedy, tragedy, and a crush on Connie Chung.

    • April 15, 5 and 8 p.m.
    • Garner Galleria Theatre
    • Tickets start at $50
    • Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    An update on The Unsinkable Molly Brown:

    Molly_Brown_Beth Malone_JK_800Beth Malone will return to the role she re-created for the DCPA Theatre Company this summer when The Unsinkable Molly Brown plays The Muny this coming July 21-27 in St. Louis. The Muny is America’s largest outdoor musical theatre. After that, Malone said, the goal is Broadway.

    "That is absolutely the intention of putting it up at The Muny,” Malone said. “There is no other reason than for it go to Broadway," she said. And while there is not yet a producer attached for New York, “everyone involved with it feels very strongly that it we are completely on track to move it there.”

    (Photo above by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)

    The show has changed in some significant ways since its debut in Denver, Malone said. The song Don't Put Bananas on Bananas, originally written by Meredith Willson to be included in The Music Man, has been cut. And Molly Brown’s activism and commitment to social causes is given more dramatic importance in the new storyline.

    “Molly Brown was the head of the Survivors Committee of the RMS Titanic, and a big part of her work was making sure that all of those people in steerage weren't just immediately kicked out and sent back to the countries they came from because their paperwork was at the bottom of the ocean. Her commitment to the plight of the immigrant makes the story seem more relevant since our election in November.”

    There has been no announcement yet who will play opposite Malone as Leadville Johnny Brown.

     Selected previous Beth Malone coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter:

    Photo gallery: Beth Malone in Denver:

    Beth Malone in Denver

    To see more photos, click the forward arrow. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
  • John Cameron Mitchell on the ageless appeal of Hedwig

    by John Moore | Nov 27, 2016

    John Cameron Mitchell Quote. Photo by Nick Vogelson.John Cameron Mitchell photo by Nick Vogelson.

    John Cameron Mitchell knows the impact his underground rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch has had on a generation of misfits over the past 20 years. It's not overstating to say his musical has saved lives by giving those who have felt divided or separated a place to belong.

    But even now, after Hedwig’s long journey from a gay New York nightclub to off-Broadway to a cult-hit film and on to Broadway before now its first, Denver-bound national touring production, Mitchell thinks perhaps he’s perhaps not the best person to assess the show’s lasting cultural impact.

    “I feel wonderful when people say it has changed their lives - and I am assuming they mean that in a good way,” Mitchell said from San Francisco in advance of Hedwig’s Dec. 6 opening in Denver with Euan Morton (Taboo) starring as Hedwig.

    “I think the most common positive effect I hear is that the show is so specific about someone who is so unique that it creates space in people's lives to find themselves. I think that ‘s one of the important things about any good, fictional narrative piece: It's true enough that you can buy its logic. Obviously you have to care. And ideally you have metaphors and ideas that resonate in your life.”

    Stephen Trask: There are Thors all around us

    Hedwig and the Angry Inch has a big idea at its core: Co-written by Stephen Trask, the show is essentially a rock concert featuring a genderqueer singer who is following a rock star and former lover named Tommy Gnosis around the country. Between songs, Hedwig tells the harrowing details of her shocking life, including how she was born a boy in communist East Germany and underwent a botched sex-change operation to marry an American soldier who then abandoned her in a Kansas trailer park. Now Hedwig seems doomed to search (or stalk) the earth for her "other half,” who may or may not be Tommy Gnosis.

    There is an ambitious metaphor running underneath all of this as well: The story is steeped in "The Origin of Love,” a cautionary tale related by Aristophanes in “Plato's Symposium.” It's about about how the vengeful god Thor long ago split the three sexes of human beings down to two - damning all descendants of prehistoric man to an unending search for whatever is missing in us.

    “ ‘The Origin of Love’ is a myth that can be interpreted in a lot of ways,” Mitchell said. “What your ‘other half’ is can be many things. It was originally talked about in a romantic way, but it's flexible enough that you can think of it in a religious way, too. You can also think of it in a personal, internal way of seeking a certain wholeness. That idea is really strong for a lot of people.

    “Everyone is a misfit and a loser – or they have felt that way. Everyone is fighting a battle, and Hedwig’s battle is particularly hard. But she laughs at it, and that makes it a communal thing. That resonates, especially in this cyber, anti-empathy moment that the industrialized world is in right now.”

    How so?

    “Let's just say that looking at screens has not done much for people's compassion. When you can't see a face, you tend to not really hear what people are saying.”

    The video above shows John Cameron Mitchell singing 'Origin of Love' in the 2001 film version of 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch.'

    Hedwig and the Angry Inch was inspired in large part by Mitchell’s visits to his parents’ home in 1980s Cold War Berlin. John’s father, Army Maj. Gen. John H. Mitchell, was in charge of all U.S. military forces in West Germany and stood behind Ronald Reagan in 1987 as the president famously demanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The character of Hedwig was specifically inspired by a real woman who babysat Mitchell when he was a boy. She was an actual German, divorced U.S. Army wife who moonlighted as a prostitute from her trailer-park home in Junction City, Kansas.

    From 2005: Mitchell’s parents are tearing down a wall

    Although Mitchell created Hedwig onstage, Tommy is the character based on Mitchell himself. Both are gay, the sons of an army general and from deeply Roman Catholic homes. Hedwig became the story's protagonist when Trask encouraged Mitchell to showcase their earliest material in 1994 at a drag-punk nightclub called Squeezebox, where Trask headed the house band and Mitchell's longtime partner, Jack Steeb, played bass.

    It would be 20 years before Hedwig would make it to Broadway. And by then, at age 51, the right person to play Hedwig was no longer Mitchell, who instead happily handed the wig over to the man he calls “America’s sweetheart,” Neil Patrick Harris. He was followed by a steady stream of bankable stars including Michael C. Hall, Darren Criss, Taye Diggs, Andrew Rannells and, for three months … John Cameron Mitchell.

    Yes, after the show was an established hit on Broadway, Mitchell decided to step back into Hedwig’s heels and bring his personal journey full circle. He says he took on the challenge as a way to shake himself free from the complacency he felt stuck in following the deaths of Steeb in 2005 and his father, from Alzheimers disease, in 2012.

    “It was just like the old days, but somehow better because there was less at stake,” said Mitchell. "I was just having fun."

    Here are excerpts from more of John Cameron Mitchell’s wide-ranging conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore covering, among other things, Mitchell’s time in both the original Broadway cast of “The Secret Garden” and the DCPA Theatre Company’s “Peter Pan.” 

    John Cameron Mitchell Books

    John Moore: When we last talked in 2011, even though there had been talk, you thought there was no way Hedwig would make it all the way to Broadway. What changed?

    John Cameron Mitchell: The world changed. And Broadway changed. The idea of rock 'n roll on stage, the idea of drag and the idea of an unusual story became less frightening. It was just time, and we wanted to make sure we had the right person playing Hedwig, so we waited until Neil Patrick Harris was free to do it. That was the right move because he was America's sweetheart. That allowed people to not be afraid of it. It was just the right time. And now we are on a national tour, which seems crazy because back in the day, people weren't ready for it.

    John Moore: After so many years, what did it mean for you to finally be able to play Hedwig on Broadway?

    John Cameron Mitchell: It was very exciting. I hadn't really performed onstage in 15 years, so I was kind of nervous. I knew it would turn out right but it was physically really hard and I was sick during rehearsals, and my voice wasn't what it used to be. I had to lower some keys. So it was definitely hard. And then when I got in front of an audience, it was awesome.

    John Moore: How was the crowd response?

    John Cameron Mitchell: It was a very loving audience the whole time, so we could do anything. I tried to not be pandering. I don't want it to become a Rocky Horror, where you are winking at it too much. So it was wonderful - but it was hard. I was used to doing someone else's choreography, and I hurt my knee. I had to do a lot of it in a leg brace. But that was just an opportunity for more rewrites, which was fun, too.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    John Moore: You created that character at such a specific time in your own young life that I can't help but wonder – has the character fundamentally changed with the passage of time?

    John Cameron Mitchell Quote 3John Cameron Mitchell: Yeah. We kept the story happening now, as in today, which means we pushed up when she met Tommy to the 2000s. And that meant instead of grunge jokes, we have Creed jokes. Because Creed was the horrifying progeny of grunge - the misshapen, deformed child of grunge. It was fun to rewrite some jokes but the structure of the show was still very solid, and it still works. But yes, the character can age. The story can be told at any time. It's a role you can do at any age.

    John Moore: So does the story hit you differently with 22 years under your boots?

    John Cameron Mitchell: Some of the things were just more important than others in terms of what the story is now. I felt more compassion for Hedwig's (bleeped)-up parents.

    John Moore: What has it been like for you seeing a steady stream of celebrities playing your signature character?

    John Cameron Mitchell: I don't feel possessive about it in any way. I love seeing other people do it. And every Hedwig has a different take on it. Darren Criss, who just did the role here in San Francisco, is quite young, so his performance was very ebullient and super-improvised. When someone is older and beat cancer like Michael C. Hall has, it has a different feeling. We will always tailor the role for the actor. 

    Euan Morton John Moore: When we talked about Hedwig's road to Broadway, it was a given that it would have to be star-driven, or it just wouldn't have happened. But the road is different. Euan Morton is a Tony Award-nominated actor, but he isn't a household name. How much does it matter that when it goes out on the road, people in Denver might not have heard of him?

    John Cameron Mitchell: The pressure on Broadway was harder because you had more seats to fill, and the ticket price was higher. You had to have some kind of name or you were going to close. On the tour, we are selling "the show." So there is a certain release in being able to cast the best, as opposed to someone who is really good that is also famous. I have to say that I am really, really excited about Euan. His audition was spectacular. It was the best that I have ever seen for Hedwig. I am going to be talking special care with him to give him the benefit of what I know and help him out along the way - because I have a sneaking suspicion that he could be spectacular. 

    John Moore: How much freedom does each actor playing Hedwig have to make the role their own? 

    John Cameron Mitchell: They are actually required to make the role their own. That's part of the process. I don't do that for them. Some people are more comfortable with improvising than others. And some might over-improvise. I am very clear with them that there are some sections where they might find it easier to improvise and it won't mess up the internal structure. Neil Patrick Harris came up some jokes that were so good I kept them in the script. And then there were some new things that I came up with. The script is a living document, like the Constitution, only with different Founding Fathers adding their lines to it. It’s the pursuit of unhappiness in our case. That's what I love about it.

    DSA students join 25th anniversary Secret Garden concert

    John Moore: A left turn before we go: The DCPA Theatre Company is about to stage a 25th anniversary production of The Secret Garden, and since you originated the role of Dickon on Broadway in 1991, I have to ask your thoughts on that show now.

    John Cameron Mitchell: I saw a concert performance in New York earlier this year and Daisy Eagan, who won the Tony Award playing Mary Lennox, played an adult role in it. She was great. But it's funny. It's interesting going back to things that you were in when you were young and look at what still resonates and what doesn't. I am still am very touched by it. There are some corny moments, but there are some gorgeous moments as well. I am a sucker for the orphan trying to find her way. I love Oliver. I love Annie. I love orphans - especially in British settings. I can't help it.  

    Peter Pan John Cameron Mitchell. DCPA Theatre CompanyJohn Moore: I also wanted to let you now that next summer, an acclaimed local theatre company called Phamaly, which makes performance opportunities available for actors with disabilities, will be staging Peter Pan in the very same Stage Theatre where you starred for the DCPA Theatre Company in 1996. What do you think?

    John Cameron Mitchell: Whoa. I think a sword fight with wheelchairs is something that I would fly to Denver to see. I am kind of dorky, physically, in real life, but when I am on stage, I suddenly gain superpowers. As Peter Pan, someone could throw a sword across the stage and I could always catch it at the hilt. Whereas in life, I throw like a girl and drop a ball like a little boy. So there could be some surprising physical things that happen when that adrenaline is flowing. I don't know if anyone in a wheelchair is going to be picking up a Toyota off a child, but let them know that if you believe, and you clap your hands, strange things are going to happen. It sounds like a beautiful idea. The idea of Lost Boys being all kids who are challenged is an amazing metaphor, isn't it?

    John Cameron Mitchell Quote 2(Photo above right: John Cameron Mitchell starring as Peter Pan for the DCPA Theatre Company in 1996.)

    John Moore: It is. Part of that company's whole philosophy is: We all have disabilities - only some of them, you can't see.

    John Cameron Mitchell: That is very true, and the mental and emotional disabilities that otherwise able-bodied people are experiencing can be much more destructive. You can see that happening in politics right now.

    (Note to readers: The Radical Faeries describe themselves a group that “tends to be gay men who are looking for a spiritual dimension to our sexuality; many of us are healers of one kind or another. Our shared values include feminism, respect for the Earth, and individual responsibility rather than hierarchy.”)

    John Moore: The last time we saw you in Denver, you were on theJohn Cameron Mitchell Nick Sugar road with the Radical Faeries. You stopped by Lost Lake on East Colfax to DJ a dance set and meet the cast of a local production of Hedwig. Do you still pop in and do that kind of thing?

    (Photo right: John Cameron Mitchell with one of Denver's past Hedwigs, Nick Sugar, at Lost Lake in 2011. Photo by John Moore.)

    John Cameron Mitchell: Yeah, we still do a party in New York once a month. We have about five different DJs. We did a party in Austin and we did Halloween at a place near San Francisco. Next, my new composer and I are going on a road trip for a month to write for my new musical.

    Mitchell and Trask: The two halves of Hedwig's whole

    John Moore: And how much can we know about your new musical?

    John Cameron Mitchell: Nothing. Because I am still figuring it out.

    John Moore: OK, so, last question: Have we seen the last of John Cameron Mitchell playing Hedwig?

    John Cameron Mitchell: I am sure I will do it one more time when I am in my 70s - in a chair. I'm just sure the keys will be very low.

    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.

    Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Denver: Ticket information
    Hedwig and the Angry Inch Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the genre-bending, fourth-wall-smashing musical sensation, with a pulsing score and electrifying performances, that tells the story of one of the most unique characters to ever hit the stage.
    • Dec 6-11
    • Buell Theatre
    • ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Dec. 10
    • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
    • Groups: Call 303-446-4829 

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Hedwig and the Angry Inch
    Hedwig's Stephen Trask: There are Thors all around us
    Mitchell and Trask: The two halves of Hedwig's whole
    Casting: Euan Morton to don Hedwig's wig on national tour
    Hedwig named to Denver Center's 2016-17 Broadway season
    Hedwig creator’s parents are tearing down a wall
  • Michael Riedel: Broadway's most outspoken voice brings 'Razzle Dazzle' to Denver

    by John Moore | Oct 11, 2015

    In the history of Broadway, there have been few characters onstage as colorful and controversial as Michael Riedel, the self-made journalist whose skewering of Broadway gypsies, scamps and thieves in the New York dailies has made him one of the most feared and revered theatre personalities of the past quarter-century.

    Riedel’s oversight has spanned gossip to hard-hitting investigative journalism. Acting as the proudly opinionated moral conscience of Broadway, he has never minced words when it has come to rooting out those he has perceived to be crooks. The theatre elite have both demanded and dreaded his attention.

    Take, for example, what Riedel has to say about controversial producer Mitchell Maxwell. For a time, Maxwell ran Denver’s New Civic Theatre (now the Su Teatro Performing Arts Center), where he prepared Brooklyn The Musical for its Broadway run in 2004:

    “I have a nose for things that smell badly, and from the moment I met him, Mitchell set my nose twitching. I just never trusted him. He was a walking oil slick.”

    Or how about controversial Canadian producer Garth Drabinsky, who in 2009 was convicted and sentenced to prison for fraud and forgery:

    “I had a great time torturing Garth Drabinsky,” said Riedel. “And in the end, I was proven right. Because Garth went to jail, and I'm enjoying a glass of Chablis with my oysters right now.”

    While most New York theatre writers focus on what is happening onstage, Riedel has relentlessly chronicled all of the off-stage shenanigans for the New York Daily News and New York Post. But he is also a tireless champion for shows he has liked, such as The Lion King, Mamma Mia and Spring Awakening.

    And for those he hasn’t?

    “When shows are disasters," he said, "I am the first one to get out my spade and start digging their graves.”

    Riedel’s stranger-than-fiction real-life story starts with the then-new Columbia graduate’s plans for becoming a lawyer getting derailed when he was offered a job writing for TheatreWeek Magazine - when he was at a kegger.

    Riedel will bring his colorful stories to the Denver Center on Thursday (Oct. 15) for what promises to be a fiery discussion and Q&A about his newly released debut book, Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway. He will talk about both the plays and power plays that make up his book, which serves as both a history and exposé of how theatre not only saved itself, but, in large part he believes, saved the city of New York.


    “Everybody talks about how it was (Mayor Rudy) Giuliani and Disney that saved Times Square,” Riedel said. “But I am going back further. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, nobody thought Times Square could be turned around. Nobody cared. The various mayors’ attitude toward Broadway was, ‘Where is Broadway going to go? New Jersey? You're stuck here in this morass. Live with it.' But guys like Gerry Schoenfeld, who was president of the Shubert Organization, were already working to clean up Times Square.

    "And that cleanup could not have happened without great shows. If there had been no A Chorus Line … if there had been no 42nd Street … there would have been nothing there for people to go and see. If there had been no Annie, why would you ever take a family to Times Square in 1977?"

    Riedel was hired by TheatreWeek Magazine in 1989, and he became the theater columnist for the New York Post in 1998. He worked at the New York Daily News for five years before returning to the Post. He is also co-host of Theater Talk for PBS.

    The host of Thursday’s free discussion in the DCPA’s Conservatory Theatre in the Newman Center for Theatre Education will be David Stone. He’s the producer of both Wicked and If/Then, which launches its first national tour in Denver on Tuesday. Stone is proof that not every Broadway producer quakes in fear of Riedel. “He grew up in the business at the same time I did,” Riedel said, “and we have been friends since we both started out.”

    Riedel will take questions from the audience and sign copies of his book, which will be available for purchase on Thursday.

    Here are more excerpts from Michael Riedel’s conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore:

    John Moore: So what did you really think of Brooklyn?


    Michael Riedel: Brooklyn is a great borough. It’s really come up in the world. There are great restaurants there.

    John Moore: Man, you really do not like Mitchell Maxwell, do you?

    Michael Riedel: I hope you ran him out of town. He's been thoroughly discredited on Broadway.

    John Moore: You seem to have the goods on everyone. How did all of this happen?

    Michael Riedel: To be honest with you, I just did it to have fun. I started out as a kid when I was 21. It was a lark. I got the job right out of college at a beer-keg party the weekend I was graduating. I was going to be a lawyer. I never thought I would have anything to do with the theatre, and certainly not journalism. If you read my column closely, you can still see I know nothing about the theatre or journalism. I just fell into it, and it turned out to be kind of fun.

    John Moore: But you have brought some of Broadway’s most powerful to their knees.

    Michael Riedel: But there was no grand plan. I was having such a good time interviewing colorful characters like Gerry Schoenfeld; Jimmy Nederlander; Fran and Barry Weissler; Cy Coleman and Charlie Strouse - and I think somehow the fun that I was having came across in my writing. This was at a time in the late ’80s and early ’90s when people really weren't paying attention to Broadway. This was before we had Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King and Wicked and all the big shows that everyone around the world now loves on Broadway. There was that dip after the success of those Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber shows where Broadway seemed kind of sleepy and tired. When I look back now, I was just a public voice who said to people who read the Daily News and New York Post, “You know what? These characters who run Broadway are interesting.” David Stone has always said to me, “People may hate you, but you made this business sound interesting at a time when very few people were paying attention."

    John Moore: So you did a public service.

    Michael Riedel: Well, I wouldn't go that far. I feel, like all good columnists, I did what I did in service to my own burning ambition. But it worked.

    John Moore: Tell us about the period of time you cover in Razzle Dazzle.

    Michael Riedel: The premise of the book is that New York City, Times Square and Broadway were all down and out in the late 1960s and early ’70s. The city was going bankrupt. Times Square was seedy and dangerous - not a place where any tourist wanted to be. Broadway was in trouble. The Shubert Organization was on the verge of insolvency. Theatres were being torn down. They had more value as parking lots. What I try to show in the book is that a handful of people stuck by Broadway in its hour of need: The Shuberts and Bernie Jacobs and Gerry Schoenfeld and the Nederlanders were buying theatres for a dime back in those days. But it was also artists like Michael Bennett and Joe Papp creating A Chorus Line ... David Merrick coming back with 42nd Street ... Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber coming to New York with Cats. Those guys saved Broadway and, in so doing, lifted not only the theatre world, but also Times Square, and ultimately New York City itself. Because New York has one thing that no other city in the world has, and that's Broadway. And when everything else was deserting New York in the 1970s, when New York was within hours of declaring bankruptcy, Broadway was still there for New York City. You still had Michael Bennett doing A Chorus Line. You still had Bob Fosse doing Chicago. You had Tom Meehan and Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin doing this little show called Annie that made Jimmy Nederlander and his empire.

    John Moore: How important was that to the overall revival of the city?

    Michael Riedel: I try get across in the book that the arts are crucial to the success of a city. We always hear about sports: “If we can get a baseball or a football or a basketball franchise, or build a new stadium, that's the most important thing.” But people do not appreciate or understand the fundamental significance and importance of the arts to the health of a great city.

    John Moore: All this championing is going to do nothing for your reputation.

    Michael Riedel: Hey, I've always been a champion of Broadway. But I've also realized that to be a champion, you have to make it entertaining. And, yes, gossip is entertaining. But Broadway is a place where they have tremendous successes - and I'm the first person to celebrate those successes. I was one of the very first people to champion The Lion King when it played its first preview in Minneapolis and no one in New York knew anything about it. I was an early supporter of Mamma Mia, and I loved Spring Awakening at its very first performance. But that doesn't mean that you cheerlead for everything.

    John Moore: The story of Broadway has been told in many ways, but no one has really written it from this perspective, have they?

    Michael Riedel: I don't think so, because I am going back to guys like Gerry Schoenfeld as president of the Shubert Organization. Gerry was a one-man band promoting the resurgence of Times Square. But he was just trying to clean it up piecemeal. He formed the Midtown Citizens Committee. Gerry was running around and trying to shut down sex shops one by one by dragging the police in off the streets.

    John Moore: Tell us one or two all-time favorite scoops.

    Michael Riedel: I was on to Garth Drabinsky very early on. I had an old friend named Arthur Cantor (producer of On Golden Pond) and I took him to the opening night of Showboat on Broadway that Hal Prince directed and Garth Drabinsky produced (in 1994). Garth was telling us all that it was the biggest hit in the world. But Arthur knew the numbers of every show at his fingertips. And so when Garth brought out the entire crew from backstage and they all took a bow, Arthur leaned over to me and he said, 'That show costs about $600,000 a week to run. There is no way it is going to make any money. This whole thing is a fraud.' And so I began to look closely at Garth's empire, and all the shows he was doing. Bit by bit, as I learned how the numbers work on Broadway, I realized that something was going on here that amounted to a Ponzi scheme. I confronted Garth after Ragtime opened on Broadway (in 1998), and I knew it was going to be overshadowed by The Lion King. I said, “Garth, I have to be honest with you: All the smart, savvy Broadway guys I know don't believe your numbers. They don't believe the grosses you are reporting. They don't believe the profits you are reporting.” And I will never forget this: He banged his desk so hard, my tape recorder was jingling all over the place. He said, “I am the most investigated man in the theatre. I have the (Securities and Exchange Commission) on my back. I have the Canadian Stock Exchange on my back. Everything I do is an open book.” Well, it turned out he had one book that was open … and he had another book that was tightly closed that showed the magnitude of his losses.

    John Moore: So you can't really mean it when you say you know nothing about theatre or journalism.

    Michael Riedel: No, but you have to understand: I never went to journalism school. I never really learned how to write. To me, it's just curiosity and all the great old journalists that I got to know when I was a kid at the Daily News in the early '90s. Not a single one of them was running around brandishing their Columbia journalism degree. My favorite reporters were the guys who reported about the mob. I just liked the way they worked. They had great sources. They had great curiosity about what was going on, and they were able to get people to tell them things that they shouldn't be telling them, and I guess that was my crash course in journalism. To me, journalism is fundamentally about reporting something that the people in power don't want people to know about.

    John Moore: Any other favorite bylines?

    Michael Riedel: I would have to say Spider-Man. I knew the players. I knew the early producers were not up to keeping spending under control. And I knew that Bono and The Edge had no experience on Broadway. I know how rock musicians work. They are never going to be around. I knew from my interviews with guys like Cy Coleman, Jule Styne and Charlie Strouse that when you are writing a musical, you have to be living it day and night to get it right. You can't have Bono and The Edge in New Zealand making gazillions of dollars on a concert and occasionally Skyping in to see how the show is going. So I just knew all the elements there were going to amount to a disaster, and I think history shows that I was proved right.

    John Moore: So you will be joining David Stone here in Denver on Thursday for your Q&A on Razzle Dazzle, which coincides with the launch of the If/Then national tour. What are your thoughts on If/Then?

    Michael Riedel: David made a lot of money from Wicked, and he has produced that show brilliantly. But the thing I admire about David more is that instead of running around now and just doing corporate-produced shows, or just backing musicals based on famous titles of movies, David believes in the original American musical. He did that brilliantly with Next to Normal, which won the Pulitzer Prize and was a success on Broadway, and he is doing that again with If/Then. And even if If/Then was not as successful on Broadway as, say, Wicked, I would much rather have someone like David Stone out there committed to developing original American musicals than have a bunch of corporate executives who only want to mine the back catalog of movie studios.

    John Moore: After chronicling the past 40 years on Broadway in Razzle Dazzle, what is your assessment of the state of the American theatre today?

    Michael Riedel: Just to give you a brief idea of where the book begins and ends: I begin with a huge scandal that rocked Broadway in the early 1960s. It's all about bribery and corruption, and the selling of tickets to hot shows illegally and pocketing the money from the scalpers market. I wanted to show that Broadway back then was a seedy, backwater, corrupt business. Well today, that seedy, backwater, corrupt business makes about $1.5 billion a year for itself, and then another billion in tourism dollars for New York City. This book shows how a business that was down and out has become one of the most lucrative parts of the entertainment industry. But I try to tell that story through the personalities of the people who did it.

    John Moore: And what is your assessment of those people?

    Michael Riedel: I would say theatre people are egomaniacal, they are narcissistic, they are ambitious, they are petty, they're vindictive and they are backstabbing … but they are passionate about what they do.

    John Moore: Hey, that’s what they say about journalists!

    Michael Riedel: I can tell you this, and you can quote me: I have never made as much money as David Stone.

    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 Conversation with Michael Riedel
    • 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct 15
    • Conservatory Theatre
    • Newman Center for Theatre Education, 13th and Arapahoe streets
    • Free discussion and Q&A about Riedel's debut book, Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway
    • Moderated by David Stone, producer of Wicked, Next to Normal and Wicked
    • Tickets are free, but RSVP requested: Click here

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

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

    Look for additional coverage of If/Then, including our expanded interviews with Idina Menzel, David Stone, Brian Yorkey, Tom Kitt and other members of the cast and crew, at denvercenter.org/news-center

  • Idina Menzel lets it glow at Red Rocks

    by John Moore | Aug 12, 2015
    Photos of  the Idina Menzel concert Tuesday at Red Rocks. To download any photo at a variety of sizes, click "View original Flickr image." Photos by John Moore for the DCPA's NewsCenter.

    Broadway superstar Idina Menzel made the powerful personal in a playful set at Red Rocks that appealed to everyone from theatre geeks to Frozen fanatics; from Rentheads to Radioheaders.

    Menzel sang her five-octave heart out before a nearly full house on Tuesday at one of the world’s most iconic amphitheaters. It was a wide-ranging and all-embracing crowd filled with Elsas, Elphabas and even Elsies – that infamous Diet Coke-drinking cow from Rent.

    Menzel made a grand recorded entrance during which she reached out and identified with the 15-year-old in everyone in the audience: “As a kid, I was afraid to shine,” she told them.

    Well, look at her shine now.

    Playing with her traveling rock band of five, backed by a mini-orchestra of 10 local orchestral musicians adding strings and horns, Menzel was at once both larger than life and charmingly intimate during a full evening that spanned the color palate: Standing before the red rocks in a black, strapless gown wrapped by a bronze pullaway skirt, Menzel was alternately green (Wicked) and charmingly blue (“Just cover the little ones’ ears every once in a while,” she suggested.)

    Her set was marked by homages to her many female icons, including Barbra Streisand, Joni Mitchell and Ethel Merman. The mix also included meaningful nods to pop stars ranging from Cole Porter to Sting to Radiohead. There were several songs from the Broadway blockbuster Wicked, including a poignant version of “For Good” sung a capella.

    While telling the charming story of falling in love with a college professor at NYU who was gay ("How do college freshman not know this?” she joked), her tone turned doleful when the teacher challenged her to more seriously consider the plight of the prostitute protagonist of Porter’s classic lament “Love for Sale.” Fully plumbing the depths of despair any woman must endure to sell her body for money, Menzel delivered a meaningful mash-up that bled into Sting’s “Roxanne.”

    She then honored indie faves Radiohead by singing “Special” - and she even cleaned-up the band’s grammar by correctly singing “I wish I were special. She repeatedly joked about the fashion consequences of performing on an outdoor stage where her dress took on a life of its own in the blustery August wind.

    Idina Menzel at Red Rocks

    The concert was filled with big moments and Menzel’s signature, off-the-cuff banter. Clearly many concertgoers know what was coming when she started to invite random audience members to join her onstage for the estimable Rent duet “Take Me Or Leave Me.” Signs instantly popped up from all over the amphitheater, like the one that said, “Came from Chicago. Let’s do a duet!”

    The lucky chosen few fully seized their moments to shine, to Menzel’s great delight. One young woman named Cassie confidently grabbed the mic from Menzel and wailed as if she were the evening’s headliner.

    Toying with her image as both a diva and a kid from the streets of Long Island, Menzel eventually threw off her fabulous heels in favor of oversized yellow slippers.

    One of the most poignant moments of the night was her tribute to Rent composer Jonathan Larson, who died the night before the musical’s New York opening. On this tour, she always sings No Day But Today, a song about embracing life, as a tribute to Larson.  “This song reminds me how lucky I am to be sitting here in this legendary place, with all of you amazing people, where I am getting to do the one thing I have wanted to do my whole life, which is to sing,” she said.

    Menzel talked reverently about her recent turn in the new Broadway musical If/Then, which will launch its first national tour in Denver this October - with Menzel returning to her starring role. It’s the story of a woman starting her life over in New York City with infinite possibilities. The musical follows vastly different ways her life might turn out  depending on the choices she makes.

    Idina Menzel fans at Red Rocks. Photo by John Moore. “Shows come into your life when need to learn something about your life that they have to teach you,” Menzel told the crowd. “If/Then put its arms around me and taught me about choices.”

    Menzel equated her If/Then character’s story in part to her own. While honoring the rocket ship her career has been on since the release of the animated film Frozen, she also acknowledged personal challenges she has faced that have included starting over as a single mother. “This show has taught me that every day you have the opportunity and the power to wake up and start your life over again,” she said.

    She then sang If/Then’s anthem to second chances, called “Always Starting Over.” “What the gods have to give I’ll take, and I’ll live, and be bold,” she sang to a standing ovation, all the more remarkable considering it is such a new song.

    The adoring crowd, which included her mother, sister and other family members who live in nearby Louisville, was twice as big as when Menzel last appeared at Red Rocks four years ago - a nod, no doubt in part, to her part in Frozen.

    She let it all go for Let It Go, bringing dozens of tots onstage to sit and sing with her. She playfully acknowledged the very real probability that “your parents are sick of this song, aren’t they?” And yet the moment felt very much as if all of us in attendance were sitting in the zeitgeist of a pop-culture phenomenon. Tossing in a quick, funny sample of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' “Give It Away Girl,” Menzel ended the song in bare feet, dancing up and down like a kid from Glee at a midnight pajama party.

    But for her very last song, Menzel chose a very soulful interpretation of the iconic Broadway standard Tomorrow, turning one of her favorite childhood songs from a gee-whiz piece of cheese into an anthemic call-to-action.

    Lingering in the love from an audience that didn’t want to leave despite the late hour, Menzel stood silently on the stage as a living testament to what is possible for every young person in the audience to see.

    Top Five Idina Menzel Quotes at Red Rocks:

    • “This wind is like a built-in fan for my hair.”
    • On the altitude: Menzel: How does any team ever come here and win a game? Person in crowd: “They don’t!”
    • On the altitude: “Oh, I’m a little panty!”
    • On Rent composer Jonathan Larson: “Thank you for giving me my life.”
    • On Red Rocks: “When you are here, you really feel like you are kind of a big deal."

       If/Then ticket information:

      • Oct. 13-25 in the Buell Theatre
      • Tickets are currently available to purchasers of season subscriptions, which can be had by calling 303-893-4100 or visiting denvercenter.org.
      • Single tickets will go on-sale to the public at 10 a.m. Friday. Aug. 14. Buy and print online at denvercenter.org; charge by phone at 303-893-4100 (Groups of 10 or more should call 303-446-4829); o purchase in person at the Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby.
      • Please be advised that the DCPA's web site at denvercenter.org is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for If/Then performances in Denver.

      Our previous NewsCenter coverage of Idina Menzel:

      Idina Menzel at Red Rocks

      DCPA staffers were on hand at Red Rocks to greet fans interested in her upcoming appearance of "If/Then" at the Buell Theatre this October. Photo by John Moore

    • Photos: Family Night at 'Annie' in Denver

      by John Moore | May 06, 2015

      All our photos are free and easily downloadable from our Flickr site by clicking here.

      A young audience member gets her hair glittered during family activities before 'Annie.' Photo by John Moore. Wednesday was Family Night at the national touring production of Annie, playing through May 10 in Denver. Youngsters got to meet the cast and participate in theatrical activities in the Buell Theatre lobby before the performance, which was followed by a talkback. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      Through May 10
      Buell Theatre
      ASL interpreted, Audio described & Open Captioned performance: May 10, 2pm
      Tickets: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      800-641-1222 | Groups (10+): 303-446-4829

      A young audience member, left, meets the actor who plays Annie after the show. Photo by John Moore.
      A young audience member, left, meets the actor who plays Annie after the show. Photo by John Moore.

      'Annie' cast members sign autographs before Wednesday's performance. Photo by John Moore.
      'Annie' cast members sign autographs before Wednesday's performance. Photo by John Moore.

    • Video: Lynn Andrews comes home and sings like an (East) Angel

      by John Moore | May 05, 2015

      2004 Denver East High School graduate Lynn Andrews has returned home to play Miss Hannigan in the national touring production of Annie through May 10 at the Buell Theatre.

      Lynn AndrewsOn Friday, Andrews paid a visit to her alma mater, stopping by former choir teacher William Taylor and retiring theatre teacher Melody Duggan's classes. Andrews answered questions and sang for the students - and the choir returned the favor. "In 23 years of doing shows, this was the one," Duggan said of Andrews.

      Andrews believes she would not be playing Miss Hannigan today without the encouragement and discipline she got from Taylor and Duggan at Denver East High School. "Everything I am doing now, they pretty much taught me," she says.

      Adds Taylor of the impact Andrews' visit might have on his current students: " I hope it opens up the sky to them."

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


      Check out our full photo gallery of 'Annie's' stay in Denver, including Lynn Andrews' visit to Denver East High School. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

      Through May 10
      Buell Theatre
      ASL interpreted, Audio described & Open Captioned performance: May 10, 2pm
      Tickets: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      800-641-1222 | Groups (10+): 303-446-4829

      Lynn Andrews with William Taylor choir class at Denver East High School. Photo by John Moore.

      Lynn Andrews with William Taylor's choir class at Denver East High School. Photo by John Moore.
    • 'Annie' brings a horrible Hannigan happily home

      by John Moore | Apr 29, 2015

      Denver native Lynn Andrews is having the time of her life playing Miss Hannigan (here singing “Little Girls”) in 'Annie.' Photo by Joan Marcus.
      Denver native Lynn Andrews is having the time of her life playing Miss Hannigan (here singing “Little Girls”) in "Annie." Photo by Joan Marcus.

      For Denver native Lynn Andrews, playing the nefarious and boozy child endangerer Miss Hannigan is pretty much her dream role. And why not?

      “She’s drunk all the time, and she yells at little kids,” said Andrews, who graduated from Denver East High School in 2004. “And they pretty much let me do whatever I please - as long as I don't hurt anybody.” 

      Andrews is playfully playing the iconic villain in the 30th anniversary national touring production of Annie, which opens in Denver tonight (Wednesday, April 29) and plays at the Buell Theatre through May 10.

      You know the story of the red-headed foster child whose sunny optimism singlehandedly lifts America out of the Great Depression. It’s based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip that began in 1924. It was made into a Broadway musical in 1977 that ran for six years. The songs Tomorrow and It's the Hard Knock Life are among the most popular numbers in musical-theatre history.

      Lynn Andrews quoteAnd at a time when pop culture is scrambling to modernize and contemporize, you will recognize the story that is coming to Denver.

      The latest touring production arrives just four months after the latest cinematic spin on the Annie franchise was released in movie theatres. That film traded in the 1930s red-headed moppet for a contemporary young black girl who is taken in by a politician (Jamie Foxx) intent on using her for political gain.

      But the Annie you have known is the Annie you are going to get in Denver, Andrews said. This production is helmed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin.

      “This Annie is a time capsule,” Andrews said. “It’s set in the 1930s. You're going to see the little girl in the red dress and wig. You’re going to see the costumes you expect to see. You going to get the original choreography. There is a dog. You are basically getting the original staging."

      But at the same time, she added, the performances are different because the actors are different. 

      “I am not Dorothy Loudon or Carol Burnett - not by a long shot,” Andrews said of famous actors who have preceded her as Miss Hannigan on stage and in film. “We all have different voices and different physicalities. Our Rooster is different. Our Grace is different ... and nuts ... and so much fun.”

      And audiences young and old have never seen a scenic design like the visual world  created by Beowulf Boritt (who just designed On the Town for Broadway).

      "It is gorgeous,” she said. “It should be incredibly interesting to any kid who has never seen what the 1930s looks like.”

      Lynn Andrews dadAndrews grew up in the City Park West neighborhood the daughter of legendary civil-rights attorney lawyer Irving Piper Andrews, whom U.S. District Judge John Kane called “unquestionably the finest African-American lawyer this state ever saw.” He died when Lynn was just 12.

      (In the photo above right, Irving Andrews is just to the left of Martin Luther King.)

      "He had the first integrated law firm in Colorado,” she said. "He worked selflessly his entire life for social justice, and he made sure we knew what that was about. What fairness and unfairness was about. He impacted a lot of people's lives for the better, while sacrificing a lot of things in his own."

      Irving Andrews also had a lovely baritone voice, Lynn said. “Under different circumstances, we probably could have gone down that road together.”

      Instead, she took classes at Rocky Mountain Vocal Jazz Camp and the DCPA Academy during her high-school years. She even celebrated her senior prom at the DCPA.

      Andrews is also one-third of a self-described girl group called the Shirtwaist Sisters, which she describes as, "What would happen if Hank Williams, The Andrews Sisters and Beyonce had a sleepover." She will spend part of her short return trip home visiting East High School, where she had two seminal teachers – Choir leader William Taylor and retiring theatre legend Melody Duggan. She's the mother of founding Buntport Theater ensemble member Hannah Duggan.

      “How do you begin to talk about Melody Duggan?” she said. “She’s the kindest director you will ever have. The lessons we learned from her also apply to professional theatre, and they also apply to life. She went deeper with everything than you'd think would be necessary in a high-school play. She really cared.”

      She also gave students of minority ethnicities the chance to play roles they might not be considered for at other schools. Andrews' favorite role at East was playing the German innkeeper Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret. She was cast opposite a black student as Herr Schultz.

      He might not look like any other actor you have seen play Herr Schultz, “but he was perfect for the part because of his personality and because of his singing voice,” Andrews said. “I think high school is one of the last opportunities you have to play whatever role you can based on your abilities and not on your look, too. In the professional world, they look at you first - and then hear what you sound like later.”

      Andrews was named all-state in choir, and she credits Taylor for his exacting standards.

      “One of the greatest things about East is that you never felt good enough because there is always such a wealth of talent there,” she said. "And that's a god thing. There were amazing dancers, singers and musicians and so you were always constantly competing with someone who was a slightly better jazz improviser than you, or someone who has a slightly better classical voice than you. So you were constantly on your toes.”

      She’s more staggering – intentionally – than en pointe as the deliciously drunk Miss Hannigan. She loves the show and its sweetly naïve and yet ever-relevant message about keeping a positive attitude during times of personal and national strife – like now. Although with the lingering stagnation and polarization in Congress these past many years, it’s hard to imagine positivity ever emerging from the shallowed halls of Congress.

      “No, I don’t think a little orphan girl in a red dress is going to walk into Congress and stand on the podium and say, ‘Guys, come on. Let’s work together!’ ” she said. “But the larger point is this: You have a choice between accepting misery or being optimistic. You, as an individual, can choose to be optimistic. You can fix your own circumstances.”

      Annie may be a blindly optimistic musical, but when you look at the news today, it’s hard not to hope for someone to stand up and suggest maybe we should give cooperation a try. Even a 10-year-old orphan girl.

      “Has anyone tried that yet?” Andrews said with a laugh. “It’s hard because being cynical is not only cool to people today, cynicism is a way of life for a lot of people. But we don’t have to be fighting each other all the time.

      "You know what? Maybe we should send that kid in to talk to Congress. The point is optimism. Love is everywhere. Open your heart. That's all you have to do."

      That sounds cheesy, Andrews readily admits. But sometimes cheese is not so bad.

      “Are you kidding? I live for cheese,” she said. “In every sense of that word.”

      April 29 through May 10
      Buell Theatre
      ASL interpreted, Audio described & Open Captioned performance: May 10, 2pm
      Tickets: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
      800-641-1222 | Groups (10+): 303-446-4829

      Photos from the national touring production of 'Annie', coming to the Buell Theatre from April 29 through May 10. Photos by Joan Marcus.
    • Meet Little Orphan Sandy: From death row to national applause

      by John Moore | Mar 22, 2015
      Photos from the national touring production of 'Annie', coming to the Buell Theatre from April 29 through May 10. Photos by Joan Marcus. Pictured below right are Issie Swickle, who plays Annie, and a dog named Sunny who plays Sandy.

      By Sheryl Flatow

      The adorable, sad-eyed terrier mix playing Sandy in the national tour of Annie is Sunny, a 4-year-old rescue dog who was named by her trainer, Tony Award honoree William Berloni, after the lyric “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.” Like her character in the beloved musical, the canine went from a hard-knock life to sunny tomorrows. But when Berloni found her, she had just one tomorrow remaining: she was only a day away from euthanasia.

      Issie Swickle as Annie and Sunny as Sandy. Photo by Joan Marcus.Berloni came across Sunny when he was looking for a dog to play Sandy in the 2012 Broadway production. He already had two candidates and was asked to find a third. He saw an online photo of Bruno — the dog had been misidentified as male — at a Houston shelter on a Friday and called to ask if he could come to see her on Monday. He was told she was scheduled to be put down on Saturday.

      “The thing about my job is I connect with someone, whether it’s online or in person, and if I don’t take them, they sometimes die,” Berloni says. “A trainer who used to work with me was living in Houston and I said, ‘Go over and see the dog, and if she’s sweet pull her and we’ll get her to New York and find her a home.’ It was less about the dog being a candidate for the show than it was about saving her life. It wasn’t until I temperament tested her — saw that she was friendly, and learned her aggression triggers and how she deals with stress — that I told the show we had one more candidate.”

      She got the role, making her the tour’s lone holdover from Broadway. In fact, Sunny aside, the touring version is based not on the recent revival, but the original 1977 production. The show visits Denver's Buell Theatre from April 29 through May 10.

      Martin Charnin, the show’s lyricist and original director, is again directing the musical, which has a book by Thomas Meehan and music by Charles Strouse. The choreographer is Liza Gennaro, who has incorporated selections of her father Peter Gennaro’s original dances. The new design is by Beowulf Boritt (set), Suzy Benzinger (costumes) and Ken Billington (lighting).

      Berloni, who has trained animals for 19 Broadway productions, as well as television and film, owes his career to Annie. He was an aspiring 19-year-old actor when he was asked to find and train a dog to play Sandy at the Goodspeed Opera House, where the show was first produced.

      “I had no idea what I was doing,” he says. So he trained the dog purely by instinct, which became the basis of the methodology he continues to use. “It’s really more of a life philosophy than a training philosophy. It’s taking the time to understand someone else’s feelings and language, as opposed to assuming they should understand yours. You take a dog who’s happy, friendly, likes people, and deals with stress, teach them some behaviors where there’s a cookie involved at the end, and they’ll do what you want eight times a week.”

      Berloni works only with rescue animals and estimates that he’s saved some 400 dogs over the years. When the animals aren’t performing, they live with Berloni, his wife and daughter on their Connecticut farm. “We currently own 25 dogs,” he says. “They’re either actors in training, working actors, or retired actors. We also have a couple of horses and pigs, a llama, a donkey, a pony, two cats and a macaw. The dogs reside in special wings of our home; it’s a communal living situation. They pay the mortgage, so I figure they should have luxury accommodations.”

      Reprinted from Playbill® Magazine, October 2014. PLAYBILL® is a registered trademark of Playbill Incorporated, N.Y.C. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

      From left: Isabel Wallach as Duffy, Lilly Mae Stewart as Molly, LillyBea Ireland as Tessie, Issie Swickle as Annie, Angelina Carballo as July, Sydney Shuck as Kate and Adia Dant as Pepper. Photo by Joan Marcus.

      From left: Isabel Wallach as Duffy, Lilly Mae Stewart as Molly, LillyBea Ireland as Tessie, Issie Swickle as Annie, Angelina Carballo as July, Sydney Shuck as Kate and Adia Dant as Pepper. Photo by Joan Marcus.


      April 29 through May 10
      Buell Theatre
      ASL interpreted, Audio described & Open Captioned performance: May 10, 2pm
      Tickets: 303.893.4100 | denvercenter.org
      800.641.1222 | Groups (10+): 303.446.4829

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

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