2014 True West Award: Matthew D. Peters




Longtime area dancer and actor Matthew D. Peters has been branching out as a choreographer since 2010. But this year, the Boulder native made it plain he has become a director to be reckoned with as well.

Peters helmed two massive undertakings in 2014: A pulsating staging of Swing! at the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center, and perhaps the largest physical undertaking in Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s storied history: Shrek the Musical (featuring a 19-foot dragon). Peters also choreographed a high-flying Peter Pan for Starkey Theatrix at the PACE Center in Parker. (Ironically, Peters played Peter Pan in Shrek!). That his docket included three productions for three different companies is a testament to the high regard in which Peters is held throughout the metro theatre community.

After years of performing as an actor and dancer in the ensemble at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre (now called BDT Stage), breaking into Producing Artistic Director Michael J. Duran’s director ranks for Shrek is a major endorsement. Not to mention the Henry Award nomination he earned from the Colorado Theatre Guild.

Peter Pan allowed Peters to show off some fun aerial tricks – with cables – but Swing! is the kind of show that allows a guy like Peters to really fly. The musical is all song-and-dance, celebrating jazz/pop icons of the 1930s and ’40s such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and others. 

The musical, originally choreographed for Broadway by Littleton High School graduate Lynne Taylor-Corbett in 2000, inspires difficult dances that pushed Peters’ ensemble to their limits. (Seth Caikowski, Anna High, Traci Kern, Demetrius De Thomas, Stephen Bertles, Joseph DeMers, Ronni Gallup, Rae Klapperich, Matt LaFontaine, Emma Martin, Brenda Thistle and Peters himself). The show is made up of “song stories” such as I’ll Be Seeing You, It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy set to jive, swing, lindy-hop, jitterbug, ballet, and even a hint of the hip-hop to come. It demands high-energy, acrobatic and precision dancing that more than once left audiences gasping for fear that some little airborne 80-pounder would surely scrape her head against the floor – or ceiling.

It all made for a joyful, exhilarating evening at Town Hall.

Peters hasn’t slowed down as an actor, either. He not only performed in Swing!, he is currently appearing as Avram in BDT Stage’s Fiddler on the Roof  through Feb. 28. In 2015, Peters will be choreographing Chicago at his alma mater, Boulder High School, and Mary Poppins at BDT Stage.


                                 2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS

1. Norrell Moore
2. Kate Gleason
3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
4. Ben Cowhick
5. Robert Michael Sanders
6. David Nehls
7. Adrian Egolf
8. Emma Messenger
9. Buntport’s Naughty Bits
10. Tim Howard
11. Gleason Bauer
12. Daniel Traylor
13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
14. Cast of ‘The Whipping Man’
15. Rick Yaconis
16. Michael R. Duran
17. Laura Norman
18. Jacquie Jo Billings
19. Megan Van De Hey
20. Jeremy Palmer
21. Henry Lowenstein   
22. Sam Gregory
23. Wendy Ishii
24. J. Michael Finley
25. Kristen Samu and Denver Actors Fund volunteers
26. Matthew D. Peters
27. Shannan Steele
28. Ludlow, 1914
29. Spring Awakening and Annapurna
30 Theatre Person of the Year Steve Wilson

The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist.

*The DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA’s celebration of the local theatre community.

Moore’s daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

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