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THE ODD COUPLE – Written by Neil Simon; Directed by Dwayne Carrington. Produced by Firehouse Theatre Company (7653 East 1st Place on Lowry, Denver) through December 17. Tickets available at 303-562-3232 or 

There is a certain comfort in watching a favorite movie over and over or bingeing on a TV program you saw when it first came out. It’s the same with plays as well. You know the story; you’ve heard the jokes; it’s just fun watching different people perform the familiar dialogue. And if you know Neil Simon, you know there are going to be a lot of one-liners you’ve probably forgotten that will still make you laugh. This is what we have going on at Firehouse for this holiday season. A look back at a familiar story with a tiny twist. 

The twist being that good ol’ rumpled up Oscar is being played by Jeff Jesmer, a handsome White man while gorgeous Black man Don Randle is doing up-tight Felix. Not too surprisingly, the use of a mixed race cast does not seem to call for adjustments to the script or to the acting. I can remember only one little reference to race in an added joke about Felix having a brother. Both men are versatile enough to have played either role; for a short time, there had been conversation about having them learn both roles and alternate on every other performance.  

Jeff Jesmer is an compelling actor who excels in playing characters who are perhaps slightly confused about what’s going on or gently taking on the romantic lead in a show. In a recent review, he was described as “being at ease in a room.” An accurate and insightful description which suits this particular role. Oscar has broad enough shoulders to take on who he knows in advance is going to be a difficult roommate. He copes longer than most would, but when he explodes, there’s blood on the walls. Oh, wait – that’s not blood! That’s linguini!! 

Don Randell had to work hard to muffle his personal manliness to create a fragile and needy Felix. It doesn’t seem to quite fit him in early scenes, but he warms up considerably during his scenes with the female visitors and especially in the last scene when he is allowed to gloat a little and soften his self-condemnation.


Both Oscar and Felix love their Friday night poker games. They are joined in these evenings by four buddies from the hood: Matt Hindmarch as Murray, Allistair Basse as Speed, Ian Scott as Vinney, and Lisa Wolf as Roy (a part usually played by a man). Their rough camaraderie illustrates a long history of friendship as they banter and bitch. But their concern for the missing Felix and their care of him when he finally arrives is genuine and displays the best of male bonding. Even when there’s a woman involved. 

The Pigeon sisters from upstairs who join Felix and Oscar for dinner but never quite get around to eating are delightfully cast with Yasmine Hunter and LaDios Muhammad. They arrive ready to party hardy yet can’t quite understand what they have walked into as Felix fumes about his burnt London broil and Oscar fusses over drinks. In their final scene, they turn on Oscar and coddle Felix to absolutely dumbfound the card players. Their English accents may be a little over the top, but easily forgiven. 

Not only does Jeff act in the production, but he also built the well decorated set. Fittings and furniture provided by Prop Designer Kate Small create a warm if slightly untidy setting – at least, until Felix gets his hands on the Hoover. Rick Reid’s sound design is authentic as always, providing music from the era and the sound track from the original movie and TV series as lead in to both acts. The costumes by Rachel Finley help identify the working class players. 

If you are a Neil Simon fan, if you like to laugh, if you haven’t seen this duo at work for a few years, you’re in for a treat with the Firehouse production. 

A WOW factor of 8.5! 


THE MINUTES – Written by Tracy Letts; Directed by Missy Moore. Produced by Thunder River Theatre Company (67 Promenade, Carbondale) through November 26. Tickets for future productions are available at 970-918-8200 or 

Since Thunder River’s production of THE MINUTES is having its final performance on the day this is being written, more than talking about the actual production, I want to tell you a little about the theatre company itself and what a joy it was to attend this production. We’ve all been hearing about the good work that Thunder River has been turning out for the last few years, earning Henry’s for productions and actors. The skeptic in me wanted to know how a tiny mountain town could find the talent to do all this great work. So, I investigated. 

As it turns out, Carbondale is not that small a town. Providing a home base for over 6500 villagers, many of whom work in the neighboring towns of Aspen and Glenwood Springs, the theatre company there has an inspiring history. Founded in 1995, for the first eleven years of its existence, it didn’t have its own home but trucked costumes and props all over the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond to perform in other venues. Finally, on New Years Eve in 2005, they were able, with the overwhelming support of the entire community, to open their own beautiful new facility that was paid in full by grants and donations. This is no small community theatre; this is a full-blown professional theatre that actors from Denver and other Front Range theatres are beginning to discover as a great place to work. 

Under the leadership of former Denver actress and director Missy Moore, their seasons have been edgy, educational and enlightening. Missy is the younger daughter of the legendary Moore family of entertainers that includes father Bob (who was in the show), mother Wendy (sadly who has left us to appear in heavenly productions) and sister Mandy (choreographer extraordinaire of LA LA LAND among others – who can ever forget that incredible traffic jam scene choreography for the first song in the movie!). So, it is no wonder that Missy is fearless in her confidence to be able to bring slightly controversial scripts to life in her theatre and know that her community will follow wherever she leads. 

As an example, the current 2023-24 season, in addition to the just finished THE MINUTES about a contentious city council in a town that has long lauded a historic faux hero with feet of clay, also presented RABBIT HOLE, a heartbreaking drama about a family facing unthinkable grief in the aftermath of the accidental death of a child. Upcoming in February, ENDGAME, Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece about three members of a family and their servant, all caught in misery of their own making. This will be followed in June by POTUS, OR BEHIND EVERY GREAT DUMBASS ARE SEVEN WOMEN TRYING TO KEEP HIM ALIVE about an unnamed President who makes a career-ending remark in front of the press and his coalition of women who are trying to save him from himself. Hmmmmm …… 

THE MINUTES was incredibly good; the acting crisp and precise, the emotional underbelly well expressed, the pacing swift and authentic. It could stand side by side with the recent production at Curious Theatre in Denver and hold its own. A Q&A after the performance happily revealed the back stories of various characters and the actors’ personal solutions to the mysteries in the script – all of which proved very enlightening in understanding this comically difficult piece. It was evident that the director and cast had worked together to unravel the plot and find the answers to the questions posed by Lett’s writing. The technical aspects of the production were first-rate and professional. A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and weekend adventure. 

I HIGHLY recommend a stop to enjoy this jewel of a theatre on your next trip to the mountains. Looking for something to do? Meander on over to Carbondale and take in a play. Going skiing in Aspen or Vail? Take a side trip and enjoy a show when you come down off the mountain. You will be not be sorry. 


THE GLENWOOD SPRINGS HOLIDAY VAUDEVILLE SHOW – Written by the cast; Directed by John Goss. Produced by The Glenwood Springs Vaudeville Show company (915 Grand Avenue, Glenwood Springs) through January 13. Tickets available at 970-945-9689 or 

For those of you who miss Heritage Square Music Hall, here is your surrogate. The crew in Glenwood Springs bring the heart and soul of vaudeville back to life with their songs, skits, magic tricks, and their famous dog act. It’s a two hour olio of fun and frivolity full of fabulous folk.  

Let’s talk about the people on stage. Starting with old-timer Tom Erickson who has been there since the beginning 15 years ago. A talented comic actor and singer, Tom entertained at the iconic Crystal Palace in Aspen before moving to the GSV show when it opened. Teagan Brown is the kid in the company and a magician who baffles with close-up effect tricks with cards and a pretty amazing Metamorphosis escape routine on their small stage. Michael Scarpetti adds humor and musical charm to numerous numbers while Tim Veazey accompanies everything on the piano. The cast of women includes Madeleine Miller who did a hilarious rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas ending in a strait jacket. Nattia Trout is an alum of Candlelight Dinner Playhouse and Performance Now who does a mean Barbie doing rap. Ella Yates is the ingenue in the skits and gives the show a quiet moment by playing her harp for a Christmas song. Every one of these players are excellent singers and dancers with that certain flair of professional confidence that experience and talent adds to a performance. 

All of this mayhem is wrangled by John Goss, owner and operator of the Vaudeville theatre. A most talented and personable leader of the pack, John serves as the host, the narrator, the preshow entertainment, the concierge, the overseer of the kitchen activities, the adaptor of songs, the developer of skits and the owner of Rio, the vaudeville dog. John is an alum of BDT Stage (we had a nice chat about the brilliance of his friend and mine, Wayne Kennedy) and, you can tell by his enthusiasm, brings his A game to every performance. He and Rio have one of the funniest routines in the show in which Rio becomes John’s head and John becomes Rio’s hands while eating spaghetti. You have to see it to believe it and I still can’t figure out how they do it. 

This is a dinner theatre with a twist. John gathers a set amount of food from various restaurants across Glenwood on Fridays before the weekend, based on his experience with what patrons will probably want to eat (?). You order when you arrive just like at any ordinary dinner theatre; it’s warmed in the kitchen and served quickly by the wait staff and performers. It’s a very slick operation that ingratiates them in their community by using local restaurants instead of the expense of creating their own kitchen. And the food is delicious. He must have to get a LOT of meat loaf as it was outstanding – this from a connoisseur of meat loaf. 

The theatre also owns one of the twelve still-working orchestrian organs which were originally used to provide musical background for silent films in the 20’s. John demonstrated its versatility as part of the preshow entertainment. It looks like an organ and sounds like an orchestra. I’m not even going to ask how they got it in the “attic” above the stage. 

I was laughing too hard to take a lot of notes but just as an example, they built a number around “Ghost Reindeers in the Sky.” The gents from the Lollipop Guild (puppets) came out to entertain. There was Sebastian the Lobster from LITTLE MERMAID singing an adaptation of “Under the Sea” changed to “ADHD.” I remember a funny rap battle between Barbie and Ken against Woody and Buzz from TOY STORY. A very cute tap number with Teagan and John as toy soldiers and a Scary Santa number to the music from Carmina Burana remain in my memory. The fun is definitely PG rated; there were a large number of kids in the audience thoroughly enjoying themselves. An example of the humor: Knock Knock! Who’s there? Yule. Yule Who? Yule know when you open the door!! This gives you an idea of the variety and versatility of this cast. They are all Entertainers with a capital “E.” 

This winter don’t just drive through Glenwood Springs on your way to Aspen. Slow down, spend the night, and take in this unique and delightful vaudeville revue. You’ll leave with a smile on your lips and a glow in your heart. 

A WOW factor of 8.5!! 


CINDERELLA – Music by Richard Rodgers; Lyrics and Original Book by Oscar Hammerstein II; New Book by Douglas Carter Beane; Directed by Kenny Moten; Music Direction by Jordan Ortman; Choreography by Jessica Hindsley. Produced by the Arvada Center (6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada) through December 31. Tickets available at 720-898-7200 or 

Bob Fosse died in 1987 and his soul burst into tiny pieces. They floated around in the musicverse waiting for just the right tiny bodies to arrive. Then they dropped into the hearts of little dancers who grew up to be brilliant choreographers. We are so lucky to have several of those tiny, but now grown-up choreographers, here in Denver. Jessica Hindsley is one of them. The dancing in this show, under her watchful eye, is absolutely breath-taking. The waltz at the end of Act One is like watching angels breathing. Go see this show with your own tiny dancers and you’ll see what I mean. 

Charles Perrault’s love story written in 1697 has gone through hundreds of adaptations and portrayals on stage, in movies, on TV, in ballets and in books. Many small changes have been added to the basic story over the centuries till we come to the popular version with music and lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein written in 1957 for television and was subsequently given a more modern book by Douglas Carter Beane in 2013. Director Kenny Moten adds his own special touches to make the whole experience more relatable to today’s audiences. His villagers carry cellphones, for instance, and some of the dances are gender free. Kenny finds the humor in each scene and allows the players to have fun with it.  

[A personal note: I have been enthralled with Kenny Moten’s talent since I first met him as the Teen Angel in GREASE (“Beauty School Drop Out”) at Country Dinner Playhouse. He came floating down from the ceiling with his foot hooked into a loop singing his heart out. The next time I worked with him, he was involved in a Christmas Spectacular as a dancing candy cane. Kenny’s come a long way, directing in multiple theatres all over the state and winning kudos left and right for his talent. I knew way back then that this was a performer who was going to go places. Good job, Mr. Moten!] 

In the lead role of Ella, we have the lovely voice and lovely talent of Hillary Fisher. She could probably make a successful career by going from production to production playing this role, it suits her so perfectly. But that’s no fun; there’s too many great roles out there waiting for her to find them. I just hope she finds her way back to Denver occasionally. Ethan Walker who has recently lit up the stages at both Candlelight and the PACE Center in lead roles, makes a beguiling prince. Some of his solos seemed to be a little low for his voice but he overcame it all with charm. His transition from a do-nothing innocent to a soon-to-be dynamic ruler was fun to watch. 

The two officials who have been running the show until Prince Topher “grows up” are obviously devious and underhanded. Sebastian, as played by Zayaz Da Camara and Lord Pinkleton (Madelyn J. Smith), make delightful villains who were not really “bad,” just taking advantage of a situation. They soon learned they weren’t going to get away with that anymore. Their counterpart was a relatively new character (added by Beane in his adaptation) to take the opposite stand as the lazy government officials. Jean-Michel, given voice by Christian McQueen, is labeled a radical because he wants justice and responsibility from the royal family. (Just reading the evening news creates an echo in the theatre.) But even Jean-Michel has his soft side as he is goofy over one of Ella’s stepsisters. 

In this version, the stepmother Madame and stepsisters Gabrielle and Charlotte have very different characters from your usual round of fairy tale bad guys. Megan Van De Hey as the elegantly gowned Madame can become deceptively understanding and obviously cruel in the blink of an eye. As all three reminisce about the ball and Ella “wonders” about what it must have been like in “When You’re Driving Through the Moonlight,” Madame remembers her younger days. For a minute there, she forgot to be mean. The sisters – played by Rachel Turner and Lily Schmoker – are comic characters, but they too just want to be noticed and loved. Rachel’s turn as Gabrielle gives her the opportunity to fall in love with Jean-Michel and help her sister Ella. Both girls have the funniest song in the show with the “Sister’s Lament” that the prince seems to want someone pretty and smart. They wonder why he couldn’t like someone just ordinary – like them. 

Special kudos to Alana Watters for her role as the Fairy Godmother who makes the magic happen. The costumers and artisans in the scene shop really help her out, but she’s the one on stage who must make it happen in front of the audience. She pulls off quick changes and changing mice into footmen in the blink of an eye. Her voice is magnificent and her personality sparkling. Her two foot-mice, Jasmyne Pierce and Rae Leigh Case, are athletic dancers and acrobatics, thrilling the audience with their tumbling antics.  

I always know I’m going to see a beautiful well produced show when I go to the Arvada Center. Everyone from the people making the decisions to the artisans in the scene, prop and costume shops to the people participating in rehearsals to the people selling the tickets know their jobs and do them well with quiet competence and devotion to their collective art. A well-run ant hill dedicated to the arts. It’s a pleasure to go through the door. 

A WOW factor of 9!! 


LOKI’S MONTROUS CHILDREN – Written by Ellen K. Graham; Directed by Hart DeRose. Produced by Feral Assembly (Presented at the Buntport Theatre, 717 Lipan) through November 11. Tickets available at 

I will be the first to admit that I don’t feel qualified to review this show for potential viewers.  I know diddly squat about Dungeons and Dragons and only minimal information about Norse mythology. Other than the first Gal Godot WONDER WOMAN, I haven’t even watched superhero or Marvel movies since Christopher Reeve stopped playing Superman.  But I didn’t feel like I was the only one who walked out of the theatre shaking their head with a “What just happened?” on their lips. 

This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the afternoon of watching Loki’s children act up; part of the fun was trying to pull the pieces together, figure out relationships, and who was a semi-God and who was human.  So, I’ve done a little dramaturgy on my own to see if I can figure it out. 

Let’s start with Odin (played briefly by Terry Burnsed), a Norse god of war who was married to Frigg (Gina Wencel), goddess of marriage and fertility.  They had children but it seems that Odin had a little side hustle going on with another goddess and sired Loki from that relationship.  Which made him a little pissed off at the world.  Who wants to be half-anything and ignored by your dad?  Regardless, Loki married Sigyn and had three children.  This is where our story starts. 

We first meet Hel who presides over the place she’s named for.   She is described as half blue/half flesh-colored and is gloomy and downcast.  The slow moving, slow talking Bevin Antea gives us an impressive Hel as she welcomes the newly dead to her domain. 

Second on board is Fenrir who presents as wolf – no gender confusion there.  Josh Berkowitz brings his sexy to the party . . . . but it doesn’t take a blow from Thor’s hammer to tell everyone to stay away from this one.  The doctor (Dakota Hill) who comes periodically to treat him is intrigued but cautious – until he’s not.  Whoops! 

The third child of Loki is Jormungandr (pronunciation on your own) who presents as a giant snake so long that he bites his own tail as he encircles the earth under the ocean.  It is rumored that should he let go of his own tail, Ragnarok would commence.  This is the battle between humans and Gods that would end it all for humanity.   

We never meet Jormungandr (because he’s under the sea), but Marie, female Olympic swimmer (Calista Masters) who has never been allowed to swim anywhere but in a pool, is intrigued by the ocean.  So, of course, the first time she swims in the ocean, who should she encounter but the big old snake-head.  In probably the most dramatic scene in the evening, we learn what has happened to her as her mother (Gina Wensel again) stands on the shore screaming her name. 

The action eventually seems to devolve down to a DnD game in which Maria is the Dungeon Master controlling the story and the other non-children characters are the players on a complicated campaign.  So, is everything that went before a game?  Is Loki trying to get all his children together in one place?  If so, why? We never really meet Loki but he’s certainly talked about.  As a major trickster, it would be just like him to have put this whole thing together as a big joke on the audience.  Wait, I’ve got it – Ellen K. Graham, the playwright, is Loki!!  That explains everything!! 

You see what I mean?  The fun is in trying to analyze the pieces and pull them cohesively together.  But the progression of the scenes and the use of actors playing multiple roles adds just enough confusion to the proceedings that you are kept on your mental toes throughout the performance.   

I do feel qualified to comment on the work of the cast and the production values.  It was so pleasurable to see Terry Burnsed and Gina Wensel back on stage when I haven’t seen either of them in decades.  Terry’s grumpy old dead guy starts the night off with a laugh.  Gina’s anguished mother on the shore ends the night with a tear.  Johnathan Underwood takes the role of an office clerk that lets him rest a little more than his recent stint as Renfield in DRACULA.  His co-worker is MaryAnn Amari. Josh Berkowitz seemed to have no problem bringing his wolfish tendencies to the forefront and Dakota Hill had no problem falling for his game.  A very thoughtful and tender Artie Thompson who has just returned to performing was a social worker trying to help. I can’t wait to see what she does next. Matthew Schultz plays Tyr, another God who got a little too close to Fenrir, dressed like Trump on the top half and wears shorts on the bottom half. Are you readers getting a hint of the whimsy involved in this production? If I had known some of this information before watching the show, I would have had even more fun figuring things out. 

The big open space at the Buntport Theatre proved helpful in giving very specific playing spaces for the variety of action going on somewhat simultaneously.  However, it seemed as though the playing spaces and lighting could have been used more effectively in helping the play avoid long blackouts.  In some cases, the space between scenes was caused by the need for an actor to add or take off a piece of costume to assume their alternate role which leads to the question – could the scenes have been arranged somewhat differently and still told the same story??  

 The truth is that everyone in the audience will leave the theatre with a slightly different take on “What just happened?” and that’s OK. 

A WOW factor of 8!! 


COAL COUNTRY – Written by Erik Jensen, Jessica Blank and Steve Earle; Directed by Jessica Robblee.  Produced by Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (presented at the Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut, Boulder) through November 16.  Tickets Available at 303-444-7328 or

A new form of theatre is becoming recognized as having validity and purpose in a changing world. Documentary theatre is an examination of a real-life situation, unethical episode, tragic event, or cataclysmic happening then portrayed in such a way as to lend understanding, sympathy, perhaps acceptance or resistance to the root causes. An example would be THE LARAMIE PROJECT in which interviews were conducted with the residents of Laramie, Wyoming after the brutal murder of a gay college student to explore how the event had resonated with its citizens and led them to a broader understanding. THE GUYS could be considered another in which a fire chief in New York after 9/11 enlists a journalist to help him write individual obituaries for his men who had died on that day.  

COAL COUNTRY too is a documentary presentation about the families of the men who died in a 2010 coal mine explosion in West Virginia. It details their lifestyle, their dependence on the only means of making a living in that area, their efforts – fruitless – to get the mining company to uphold the safety regulations in place, and ultimately, their grief and anger when their worst fears were realized. 

There are husbands, brothers, sons lost in the avoidable explosion. Even though the rallying song proclaims “Union, God and Country was all we ever knew,” this was not a union mine and the local managers were unable to wield enough power to get the unsafe working conditions changed. Twenty-nine men died “Five Miles In and One Mile Down,” as recorded in a song commemorating the event. 

The explosion occurred in 2010. In 2012, although purchased by another coal mining company, the Upper Big Branch mine was permanently closed with cement being poured into every opening. In 2014, the owner of Massey Energy, who owned UBB at the time of the explosion, was sentenced to one year on a misdemeanor charge, an act depicted in the play as a slap on the wrist. In a settlement with the new owners, each family of the deceased miners was awarded $1.5 million for their loss. This play was written in 2020. It would have been an interesting footnote to find out how this community and these people we’ve come to care about survived the closing of the mine. Where did they go? What did they do when there were no jobs left? 

But has anything changed? It appears that this avoidable event has made a slight impact on the coal industry. Owing to the 29 from UBB, 72 miners died in accidents in that year. Last year in 2022, “only” 29 died in mining operations. Could this be considered an improvement? 

This troupe of nine actors tell a compelling story. Chris Kendall brought his grizzled persona to the stage as a third-generation miner now too old to go underground. Anastasia Davidson lost her husband; Martha Harmon Pardee lost her brother. Mark Collins and Lindsey Pierce play a married couple who lost friends and colleagues but were safe. Cajardo Lindsey and Jason Maxwell were angry miners who were not in the mine when it happened. Simone St. John was the judge who couldn’t really deliver good news to the remaining families. And Joe Jung sang the music of the miners, some traditional and some original to the production. Their delivery was unified and powerful; these were truly portrayed as family members caught in this unbearable event, waiting for word about their loved ones, and mourning when information came about no survivors. 

The production is enhanced by Tina Anderson’s powerful set signifying the opening of a tunnel that has been damaged and looks unsafe. The rendering of the explosion itself is powerfully supported by the Light Design of Erin Thibodaux and Sound Design of Jason Ducat. 

A WOW factor of 8.5!! 


MURDER FOR TWO – Music by Joe Kinosian; Lyrics by Kellen Blair; Book by Kellen Blair and Joe Kinosian; Directed by Julia Tobey. Produced by Give 5 Productions (Presented at Parker Arts Schoolhouse Theatre, 19650 East Main Street, Parker) through November 19. Tickets available at 303-805-6800 or 

Twenty-four hours later and I’m still trying to recover from the madcap round of energy expended by two hard-working actor/musicians in performing this silly good-for-nothing-but-laughs musical comedy. Brandon Bill and Blake Nawa’a reprise their roles (multiple) in this goofy musical romp for the enjoyment of the residents of Parker and surrounds at the perfectly sized Schoolhouse theatre. I don’t know how they can possibly do two shows a day some days – but they do. 

Brandon Bill reveals once again his ability to transform into multiple characters in front of your eyes as he did not that long ago in Vintage’s production of A GENTLEMEN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER. He’s a maid, the wife of the victim, the niece of the victim, an argumentative married couple, a ballerina believed to be the mistress of the victim, a “twelve-boy” musical choir (must be seen to be believed), and one or two others thrown in for good measure. With the addition of gaudy glasses, a change in posture or vocal quality, a nervous hand gesture, or some other little give-away characteristic, Brandon slides into a new persona easily. At least easily as far as the audience is concerned, but just keeping “everyone” straight has got to be a lot of mental work, let alone becoming them within seconds of each other. In addition to jumping back to the piano to accompany Blake’s solos. Good job, Brandon. 

Which makes it sound like Blake has the easier job. Not really. In playing Marcus Moscowicz, the detective wanna-be, he provides the perfect slightly calmer foil for all of Brandon’s madness. He directs the dialogue, responds to each character with a different set of reactions, fends off the romantic advances of two “women,” and guides the investigation into the murder. In addition to jumping back to the piano to accompany Brandon’s solos. Good job, Blake. 

Both men, in addition to their acting and singing talents, are virtuosa piano players. Each takes turns in making the music part of the evening come alive, accompanying one another in solos and duets, making the simple act of playing the piano a comical skit and part of the action. Good job, boys. 

The script is the standard kind of whodunnit plot seen in variations from Agatha Christie to MURDER IN THE BUILDING. A gathering of friends and relatives plan a surprise party for a man, but he is shot as he enters his own house. Obviously one of the party guests committed the murder, but who? A police officer who really wants to be a detective decides to try to solve the crime in the hour before the real detective will get there. And the plot unfolds from there. He interviews the multiple party guests, investigates what few clues there are, accuses each one and then must backtrack, witnesses yet another murder, and on until, through a process of elimination, the true villain is found. The fun is more in searching than in solving. 

A great way to spend an evening or an afternoon on a sunny day in Parker. But get your ticket early. There was an absolutely sold-out house on a Saturday afternoon. 

A WOW factor of 8.5!! 


SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM – Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Book by James Lapine; Directed by Bernie Cardell; Musical Direction by Rob Lowe. Produced by Cherry Creek Theatre (Presented at the Pluss Theatre, Mizel Center at 350 South Dahlia, Denver) through November 19. Tickets available at 303-710-8454 or 

A jukebox musical will always “just” be a jukebox musical to some people. You can dress them up with a story either real (as in BEAUTIFUL and JERSEY BOYS) or fictional (like MAMA MIA or FOREVER PLAID). Or you can just relax and sing the music (like MY WAY or RING OF FIRE). But long-time Sondheim collaborator James Lapine had the right idea when he decided to put together a show about Sondheim using his own words . . . literally. 

The sparkling music of Sondheim is presented by a cast of eight equally talented singers and one really good piano player. But interspersed between the musical numbers are short clips of film featuring Sondheim himself talking about his life, his career through the years, an explanation of how he works, his fondest memories, and his writing philosophy. This added charm and authenticity to the whole production, as well as a little education on how a musical is conceived and grows. Putting it together, you might say. 

Opening the program and glancing through the voluminous list of songs to be included in the evening’s entertainment is daunting. Forty titles are mentioned, nearly all from Sondheim’s twenty plus major works. But not to worry. Some are only snippets of songs interlaced with others into a harmonious whole. Some songs are known; others are from more obscure works or more reminiscent of early work. It was pleasant to revisit old friends from well-known shows, but also to learn new works from shows not seen. Most were given an explanation for how they fit into their play or why they were cut. But all are entertaining and well presented.  

All eight singers got equal time in the spotlight. Isabelle Duran, Traci Kern, Carolyn Lohr and Susie Roelofsz made up the female contingent. The men in the songs were represented by David Kincannon, Brian Merz-Hutchinson, Lars Preece and Carter Edward Smith. Each contributed mightily to the music and the entertainment. I loved the jazzy interpretation they gave to “Something’s Coming,” from WEST SIDE STORY and Susie’s wistful rendering of “Send in the Clowns” from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC.  

The lone piano player mentioned earlier is Rob Lowe (no, not that Rob Lowe), the Music Director. Special kudos belong to him and to Director Bernie Cardell for schooling the singers on this complicated score and for finding creative ways of making the evening lively, entertaining, educational, and pretty – all at the same time. 

A WOW factor of 8.5!! 


THE LEGACY OF BAKER STREET – Written by Brian Dowling; Directed by Dan Schock. Produced by Coal Creek Theatre of Louisville (800 Grant Street, Louisville) through November 11th. Tickets available at 303-665-0955 or 

It’s always so enjoyable to drive up to Louisville for a night of entertainment at the charming little theatre in the park. It’s fun to see how they make their space work for whatever production they are doing and revel in the feeling of a true community theatre. I’ve gone enough times now that I’m beginning to recognize and look forward to seeing familiar faces. While they usually choose tried and true scripts, they also sponsor a Playwright’s Showcase that gives local Front Range authors a chance to see and hear a new work being read. 

Such was the case with their current production. THE LEGACY OF BAKER STREET was written – possibly a first effort – by local playwright/actor Brian Dowling to, in his own words, “create an action-adventure for women.” This is accomplished by his unveiling of the characters of Felicity Watson and Charlotte Holmes (sister to Enola??). They have inherited their respective father’s abilities to analyze a situation and act decisively to solve the problem. Dowling has a nice touch with dialogue and has carefully constructed plausible back stories for both women.  

Felicity is the more thoughtful, cautious one while Charlotte bulls ahead into dangerous situations with abandon. Together they create both a thinking and an acting pair of detectives. However, no matter how carefully you stage it, women engaged in physical fighting rarely works on stage. The people in the audience drop back mentally and begin to worry about the pseudo-fighters getting hurt in real life. It’s just a normal human reaction. It’s more interesting to see women use their brains to outsmart the villains. I grant you, sometimes it just takes a firm kick in the ass to overcome adversity. 

The plot involves finding Gregory, the curator of the reconstructed Baker Street office of Holmes (the original has been razed), who has been kidnapped. John Watson, who is still alive, gets involved and Sherlock and Irene Adler show up to offer consolation and advice to Charlotte. It’s a bit of a convoluted plot that thoroughly introduces us to these new characters and provides a set up for what I have a sneaky feeling will be one or two more sequels.  

The gang from Coal Creek do their usual competent job of putting together a well-dressed authentic set with movable parts that work efficiently. Jaccie Kitts as Charlotte and Staci York as Felicity created a pair of characters that work well together, are different enough to be interesting, and share a common goal. Staci brings a wry humor and a reluctant acceptance of the impetuous behavior of her partner. Jaccie, on the other hand, rarely sees danger in her quest to get to the truth. She shares the annoying habit of her father in revealing obscure information about everyone in sight by examining the dust on their shoes or the soup stain on their tie. It’s enjoyable to see how the whole team worked together to bring this new script to the stage. 

Another fun evening at Coal Creek! 

A WOW factor of 8!! 


MAN OF LA MANCHA – Book by Dale Wasserman; Music by Mitch Leigh; Lyrics by Joe Darion; Directed and Choreographed by Kelly Van Oosbree; Music Directed by Bonnie Simcox. Produced by Platte Valley Players Theatre Company (Presented at the Armory Performing Arts Center, 300 Strong Street, Brighton) through November 4th. Tickets available at 720-263-2878 or

When you see as much theatre as I do, sometimes it’s hard to separate the art from the craft. It is easy to sit in an audience and think “Oh, (fill in the name) is doing a really great job with that song,” or “(fill in the female name) looks really great in that costume.” “Look how well the ensemble is dancing together” or “This is an interesting story, but you know they are going to get together in the end.” Whether you know the actor’s work or not, it’s sometimes easy to see them as actors doing good work, rather than the characters they are playing. When viewing this production of MAN OF LA MANCHA, a familiar tale, I found myself instead thinking of what the characters were experiencing, their quality of life, their unified hope for something better. Instead of thinking Jeffrey is amazing in this role, I was thinking “Oh, Don Quixote is going to be so hurt, so disappointed when he finds out what they have done to her.” Or “How is Dulcinea going to survive this? What will it do to her?” It was a glorious feeling to lose myself in the magic of the play in the hands of these committed players. 

Our “fill in the name” in this production is Jeffrey Parker as Cervantes, the playwright and actor and Don Quixote, the noble character he is performing in his own play. Jeffrey was completely immersed in his roles, was having fun play-acting, and yet dedicated to telling his story that embodies the finest human qualities. He was gentle, brave, determined and a little bit crazy . . . in the nicest possible way. His voice was glorious and inspiring. 

His counterpart was Lindsey Falduto who played Aldonza, the foul-mouthed tramp who had seen the worst of life, had no hope of a better future, and was a bitter broken woman. The flip side of her character came to life when she began to believe in the possibility of Quixote’s beliefs about her, when he saw her as a beautiful woman of worth, and when she felt valued for the first time in her life. Watching this transformation was breathtaking. Her voice is wistful, angry, powerful, and heartbreaking. 

Usually played only for its comic relief, the role of Sancho, Quixote’s faithful manservant, found new depth and new compassion in the hands of George Zamarripa. His puppy-like devotion to Quixote is tempered with both a sense of reality and a dogged desire to make his master’s dreams come true. He was a pure column of compassion and care.  

This story of valor and dreams was being performed for and by simultaneously the men and women of the homeless camp. Each was offered and performed both a part in the story and a role in the reality of their lives. They started out as an argumentative group of people in a hard place and grew to become a band of friends with a determination to better themselves – even if it seemed an impossible dream. Special kudos to Doug Herman as The Governor who led the action as the head bad guy; Adam Luhrs in multiple roles all done well; Jacob McCrory as the sympathetic but helpless Innkeeper; and Vern Moody as the oldest in the camp who became The Padre singing “To Each His Dulcinea” about his own lost dreams. As an ensemble, their laser focus on telling this story was amazing to watch. They slid in and out of the minor characters with ease and fell back into the camp-dwellers when the time came with equal comfort. And sang their little hearts out. 

The homeless camp setting gave the opportunity to have junk-like props on the stage that were cleverly used to become everything from swords to horses to shields to windmills. Benches were moved in various configurations to form the tavern, the stable, the church and every other location needed. Two ladders were lashed together to form an instrument of torture for Aldonza in a harrowing scene. All gathered and moved in position by the devoted ensemble.  

The fourteen-piece orchestra under the leadership of Bonnie Simcox provided the musical support this strong production needed. Nikki Harrison’s costumes often started out as one thing and magically transformed into something else. A padded vest became a pseudo-suit of armor; pans became hats; scarves became aprons and shawls denoting the character’s economic status. My favorite was watching mops become horses eating oats out of buckets.  

I have often praised Director Van Oosbree for her ability to use light to form amazing stage pictures and to create mood and movement. She has outdone herself on this production. Not only did she direct, but she had the vision for the setting, created the movement for the dance and stage direction aspects of the production, came up with the clever use of props throughout, AND helped with the painting and construction of the set. A one-woman theatre machine. 

It will be hard to get a ticket for this last weekend – but try. You won’t be sorry. If it has all become too late for this one, watch for Kelly’s next production as she works in theatres all over town. Everything she does is worth your attention. 

A WOW factor of 9.75!!