Review: The Familiars Brings a Dysfunctional Family Home for the Holidays

Categories: Theater

The Familiars
Edge Theatre Company

Serious about working with local playwrights, the Edge Theatre Company commissioned a holiday show from Ellen K. Graham, whose enigmatic, razor-sharp How We May Know Him won a Best of Denver award some years back, and who has since earned national recognition. The result is The Familiars, which is softer-edged and more conventional than How We May Know Him but carries some seasonal gifts of its own. The play deals with two familiar holiday themes: the impossibly dysfunctional family whose members come together only on holidays and always with tension and strife, and the perennial idea of a seasonal, heart-opening transformation.

See also:
Best Theater Season 2014 -- Edge Theatre Company

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Review: Songs for a New World Creates a Noteworthy Evening at Miners Alley

Categories: Theater

Kristen Samu and Jacquie Jo Billings in Songs for a New World.
Songs for a New World
Miners Alley Playhouse

Musical theater takes many forms, and a small, heartfelt evening can be every bit as satisfying as a glittery Broadway effusion. Composer Jason Robert Brown's intriguing The Last Five Years, produced in Denver in 2005 by Modern Muse and at the Garner Galleria in 2008, is an intimate, two-person musical that tells the story of a failed marriage by working backwards through time, so that the woman is seen reading her husband's breakup letter as the show opens, and no sooner has she finished her grief-stricken song than he erupts onto the stage singing joyously about the "shiksa goddess" -- her -- that he's just met. Songs for a New World, an earlier piece first presented when Brown was just 25, has some of the same tone, the same wistfulness and bittersweet worldview, a similar intimacy.

But Songs for a New World -- a synthesis of new work, cabaret numbers and songs Brown had written for other musicals -- has no plot and no dialogue. It's all sung, with each song telling its own discrete story, and all of them are linked by a concept so large and loose it could encompass almost anything: the idea of a turning point in an individual life, a moment of becoming, of either joyous or fearful realization.

See also:
BDT's Fiddler on the Roof Is Reason to Celebrate -- L'Chaim!

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Review: Moulin Scrooge Mash-Up Creates a Holiday Smash

Categories: Theater

Joseph Wolff Phillips and Jason Maxwell in Moulin Scrooge.
Moulin Scrooge
Bug Theatre

Moulin Scrooge mashes together the well-known story of A Christmas Carol with the plot of Baz Luhrmann's overheated Moulin Rouge, a film about the love between a writer and a consumption-wracked cabaret dancer named Satine. With songs. The primary claim to fame of the play's author, actor-comic-musician Peter Gwinn, is that he was once a writer on The Colbert Report and the host saluted his departure with a clip that showed Gwinn being tossed in effigy from the top of the studio building, bouncing off a car roof and then being run over twice by a minivan. This Moulin Scrooge production is a mash-up, too, the result of a collaboration between two Boulder groups: the Catamounts, a lively, witty company with roots in Chicago theater, and the Naropa-influenced Band of Toughs, who, according to their website, are committed to producing original, genre-smashing work that "puts the ass back in passion -- and then kicks it!"

See also: With FEED, the Catamounts Combine Food and Theater -- But This Is Not Dinner Theater

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Playbill: Four Plays Opening in Denver on December 4-7

Rob Riney and Regina Fernandez Steffen in Vintage Theatre's Miss Saigon.
It's okay to be a Scrooge when it comes to theater. If you want a real, grown-up show that isn't full of fluff and wrapped up in a bow, you can find plenty of performances on local stages that will make you think -- even in December. Here are four plays opening this weekend without a single vision of sugerplums....

See also: Scrooge Loose: An Improvised Christmas Carol

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Review: BDT Stage's Fiddler on the Roof Is Reason to Celebrate -- L'Chaim!

Categories: Theater

Wayne Kennedy in Fiddler on the Roof.
Fiddler on the Roof
BDT Stage

Do we really need another Fiddler on the Roof? Since being amazed and delighted by the movie many years ago, I've attended several stage productions -- high school, professional and, recently, a very good Phamaly version. So when BDT Stage (formerly Boulder's Dinner Theatre) announced that artistic director Michael J. Duran had chosen the show for the holidays and beyond, I was inclined to skip it. But as it turns out, we do need another Fiddler on the Roof -- because this just may be the most successful production I've seen. It does full justice to Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's brilliant songs, tells the evocative story with clarity and feeling, and also -- uniquely, in my experience -- sounds the musical's deeper, darker chords.

See also:
Boulder's Dinner Theatre -- Best Actor in a Musical 2014

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Review: Anything Goes Finds Smooth Sailing in Littleton

Categories: Theater

Becky Toma
Norrell Moore as Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes.
Anything Goes
Littleton Town Hall Arts Center

Anything Goes premiered in 1934, after a hasty rewrite: The original plot concerned a shipwreck, and shortly before the play's scheduled opening night, a fire broke out on a cruise liner and 137 passengers were killed. By then the writing team, which included P. G. Wodehouse, had moved on, and Timothy Crouse and John Weidman came in to rewrite the script, tossing it together so quickly and creating such a hodgepodge of improbable plot events, corny jokes and juvenile fun that at some point someone exclaimed, "Anything goes" -- and the title became a description of the process of putting the thing together.

See also:
Lucky Me Is a Lucky Catch for Curious

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Playbill: Three Holiday Stage Classics for Everyone

The Demented Divas in The Nutcracker, starting November 26 at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret.
What do you do with the family after Thanksgiving is over? You dress them up and take them to see A Christmas Carol, because some stories were just made for retelling, generation after generation. And if you don't have a family with spit-washed faces, you can throw a little whipped cream on top and see a Christmas show that's silly and glittery and features bearded drag queens. Continue reading for the details...

See also: Playbill: Four Offbeat Shows for the 2014 Holiday Season in Denver

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Playbill: Four Offbeat Shows for the 2014 Holiday Season in Denver

Matt Zambrano is back as Crumpet in David Sedaris's The Santaland Diaries at Off-Center@The Jones.
Some local stages stick with the classics for the holidays, such as the Denver Center Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol and the Colorado Ballet's The Nutcracker. But if you like things light and perhaps a little bit wacked, there are a few ways to buck tradition and deck the halls with plenty of jolly. Read on for four possibilities.

See also: Gone to the Dogs: Dog Park -- The Musical

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Review: The Betsy Stage Twists a Classic in Hamlet, a Gypsy Tale

Categories: Theater

Shannon McAndrews
Patti Murtha and Gina Walker in Hamlet, a Gypsy Tale.
Hamlet, a Gypsy Tale
The Betsy Stage

The ending of the Betsy Stage's Hamlet, a Gypsy Tale is appealing: Having taken their bows with the aid of various eccentric moves and magic tricks, the performers circle the space to the fast, compelling rhythms of "L'Orient Est Rouge," which the program attributes to Lightning Head and Kocani Orkestar. Then they pull a wire fence along the front of the stage and hang a playbill showing a lonely black figure and the word "Hamlet" on it. At this moment, you feel such a glow of pleasure and goodwill that you forget all the many other moments when you thought the end couldn't come soon enough.

See also:
Toil and Trouble with the Betsy Stage

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Review: Lucky Me Is a Lucky Catch for Curious

Categories: Theater

Dee Covington as Sara in Lucky Me.
Lucky Me
Curious Theatre Company
1080 Acoma Street

Curious Theatre Company
's participation in the National New Play Network has been a boon for Denver audiences, in particular the company's loyal cadre of regulars, who tend to be the kind of people who want to hear new voices and are open to being surprised and provoked as well as charmed and delighted. Artistic director Chip Walton has introduced Denver to several interesting playwrights, and now comes Robert Caisley, whose Lucky Me -- a smart, funny, entertaining evening with a highly original heroine -- is the current NNPN offering.

See also:
Buried Child Still Packs a Creepy Wallop

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