Audio podcast: Ira Glass brings his stage show, which combines the anachronistic art forms of dance and radio, to the Buell Theatre for one night only on Saturday, Dec. 7.
By John Moore
"This American Life," hosted by Ira Glass, is heard each week by more than 1.7 million listeners on more than 500 radio stations around the world, with an additional 1 million listening to the online podcast version.
When given the opportunity to talk to such an iconic voice, you have to let the subject dictate the storytelling form. So I decided to use the occasion of a chat with Glass to resurrect my “Running Lines” audio podcasts, which topped 150 episodes back in 2007 when I worked for The Denver Post.
Words are nice, but you have to admit … when it comes to Glass, you really want to hear that voice. Only you get some visuals, too.
The Book of Mormon national tour made Denver its first city in 2012, its first second city in 2013, and in 2015, it will make Denver its first third city. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The Book of Mormon, which finishes its record-breaking engagement at the Buell Theatre on Sunday, has announced a third Denver visit for Aug. 11-Sept. 13, 2015, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.
Denver Center Attractions and Denver Center Theatre Company 2013-14 subscribers will have first access to purchase tickets to the 2015 return. For those patrons, tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday, Nov. 20). An exclusive online-only pre-sale for American Express cardmembers will begin at the same time.
Tickets go on sale to the general public, online at the Denver Center box office, at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 25.
"The Book of Mormon" has broken the house record at the Buell Theatre for the week ending Oct. 27, grossing $1,943,740.00 in ticket sales. The Buell opened in 1991.
The musical’s various national tours have broken 41 house records in 20 venues across the country. At Broadway’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre, the show broken the house record 45 times.
"The Book of Mormon" is back.
Opening Tuesday and running through Nov. 24 at the Buell Theatre.
Limited seating still available. Don’t get burned by scalpers. Call 303-893-4100 or go to the denver center’s home page
And don’t forget: The show will make 24 tickets front-row, $25 available to at least 12 members of the general public through a daily lottery before all performances. Details here.
By John Moore
As a former Denver Post theatre critic in the Google age, you can’t run, and you can’t hide, from your own words. In most cases, I don’t want to.
When it was annnounced that “Pippin” will launch its national tour in Denver in September 2014, I was immediately reminded of my admittedly cranky review of the 2006 Arvada Center production, headlined, “Pippin bares an ick factor.”
My lead from that review:
A critically-acclaimed international dance production, choreographed by ABC-TVs Emmy-nominated Louis van Amstel of “Dancing With the Stars”, has taken the inevitable next step and is hitting The Buell Theatre stage.
Ballroom with a Twist stars “Dancing With The Stars” celebrity pros Jonathan Roberts and Anna Trebunskaya, Tristan MacManus and Chelsie Hightower; finalists from TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance” Randi Lynn Strong, Legacy and Jonathan Platero, and “American Idol” finalist Gina Glocksen and Von Smith.
This evening of pure entertainment for the entire family pushes the boundaries of ballroom dance, infusing it with the intensity of the latest contemporary and “hip-hop” styles. It also is crowned by stunning costumes, magnificent music and breathtaking performances. What’s not to like…?
by Sylvie Drake
With the release of the film made of the musical based on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, and considering that musical’s 33-year record run on stage, one has to ask: Why? Why does this show never seem to lose its luster? Is it the pathos? The action drama? The deep well of sentiment (as opposed to sentimentality) on which it draws? The pervasive heroics and genuine heroism of the piece?
Those blue guys are not aliens; they’re members of Blue Man Group, bringing their energy and enigma to Denver
It’s 10 minutes to show time at a performance of Blue Man Group, and the noise in the theatre is so loud that the audience seems more like a group of revelers at a party than spectators in a theatre. People are boisterous, anticipation is high, the buzz is electric. By the time the Blue Men appear, the audience is screaming with delight.
It’s a scene repeated most nights in New York, Boston, Chicago, Orlando, Vegas and wherever Blue Man Group is appearing. How often do you see theatre audiences so revved up at the end of most shows, let alone before one has even begun? The decibel level rises as the evening goes on. By the end, the atmosphere is euphoric.
The Blue Man Group experience is unique and not confined to the United States. There are or have been productions in Tokyo, Toronto, and numerous European cities including Berlin, London, and Amsterdam. Millions of people of all ages and nationalities have seen the show, and countless numbers are repeat visitors. Although the off-Broadway production has been around since 1991, the demand for it is still strong and Blue Man Group has heeded the call with this, its first national tour—a tour that features a combination of the Blue Men’s most popular pieces with fresh material created exclusively for this iteration.
Why all the excitement?
It’s impossible to say exactly. Blue Man Group is totally off the grid—a contemporary comedic piece, performed by three silent, bald-and-blue characters who engage in a variety of set pieces ranging from primitive to sophisticated that combine music, comedy, science, technology and mind-boggling creativity. Just as in old-time vaudeville, they have something for everyone.
“We’ve done surveys to figure out who our audience is, and we’ve found that our demographic ranges from eight to 85 years old,” says Puck Quinn, creative director of character development and appearances. “That’s when we know we’re doing something right. A kid can come to the show and just enjoy the rhythm or the mess or the colors or the spectacle. Adults can come and do the exact same thing, but they might also come away with something to think about. When we do our work well, the show succeeds on multiple levels.”
Amid the riot of colors and music, the eating and flying food, are the LED screens displaying sometimes silly, sometimes witty, sometimes thought-provoking messages. There also is a sonorous pre-recorded voice guiding the audience through clever set pieces about a variety of topics such as modern plumbing, technology and choreography.
But the Blue Man Group show is mostly visual and aural—as opposed to oral. The Men are mute by choice. Language is not an issue, so the show travels well to other countries. Beating paint-covered drums and creating cascades of color has visceral appeal in any culture, and the “feast”—in which a member of the audience joins the Blue Men onstage to dine on… a Twinkie—retains its humor and sweetness wherever it plays.
“I think the reason the show works goes back to our ideas about the character,” says Phil Stanton, co-founder of Blue Man Group with Matt Goldman and Chris Wink all those years ago. “It might sound heady to talk about it this way, but the Blue Man is a kernel of humanity or a kind of Everyman. The blue paint gets rid of race and nationality.”
Adds Quinn: “The show deals with topics and issues that are common to every culture: Communication. Sensory overload. Beating music and heavy rhythm. Dancing. All of that crosses every border. We have things that we want to say, and the message is there if you want to hear it, but we don’t care if you don’t. We just want everyone to have fun.”
The relationship between the Blue Men and the audience is the most intriguing part of this phenomenon. The audience could be considered an additional—and unpredictable—character. It’s not just that a woman from the audience is selected to appear onstage each night to partake in the “feast,” or that a man is chosen to get “Jelloed” (a new verb?) or that viewers in the first few rows are so close to the action that they’re given ponchos to wear in case paint or other stuff lands on them. It’s that the audience response catalyzes the Blue Men. That symbiosis is what fuels the passions of the show’s devoted fans.
“The relationship with the audience is everything,” underscores Matt Goldman, “because at the end of the day, the Blue Man is really just trying to connect. He knows, either intellectually or at gut level, that in order to get to that ecstatic, heightened moment, he must connect with these strangers. That’s why the Blue Man is so respectful [of his viewers]. He wants their trust. It’s all about connection.”
Clearly, Blue Man Group is connecting. Stanton recalls a man who saw the show 70 times (“he wasn’t a weirdo”) and others who’ve seen it 20 or 30 times. “Usually, if people see a play they liked, they’ll tell their friends to go see it,” says Quinn, “but with our show, people want the experience of seeing it with their friends. And that creates energy and intensity from the start…. It’s not a passive experience. It’s more like going to a sporting event.
“I tell people that you don’t really start seeing the layers of the onion peeled back until you see the show for the second or third time. I also think people come back for very specific reasons: they want to really listen to the music or pay attention to a particular moment because they couldn’t quite figure out how it was done. And they come back because they want to see how the show is different from night to night. The other thing is, we change the show. Every couple of years we swap out a whole bunch of material. We want it to be relevant to time and period.”
The national tour should only expand Blue Man Group’s fan base and recidivists will discover a performance quite different from its predecessors.
“We are going to be in large theatres, and that was one of the main impulses for finding another way to deliver a lot of the content,” says Stanton. “We have a new set design, with LED surfaces and LED curtains. It gives the show a completely different look. And we’ve found that we can use the technology to help people focus more.”
The finale—one of Blue Man Group’s most celebrated hallmarks—is now completely new; replacing it, its creators say, took guts.
“We always wanted the show to feel like it was working toward that moment, that ending, when all the things that make us fragmented in the modern world go away and we become one group,” says Stanton. “It’s hinted at in certain places during the show, and that’s what the arc of the evening is about: two cultures encountering each other and realizing by the end that there are no barriers between them….
“There aren’t many places where you can be with strangers and have this shared experience. The new finale has a similar concept, and the same goal: to make the audience look around and encounter other people. Visually, we’re taking it to another level. We hope audiences will find it even more powerful.”
Material for this article is courtesy of the Blue Man Group website.
By Sylvie Drake
For nearly 60 years, he’s usurped Mark Twain’s persona as his mantle and Twain’s perspicacity as his rapier. Both still apply.
Did you know…. that actor Hal Holbrook was a member of the first Lincoln Center Repertory Company (1963), did a whole lot of regional theatre, film and TV, won numerous Emmys, including one for his role as host and narrator of Portrait of America, a five-year cable TV project that garnered the 1984 Peabody?
Of course not.
It’s been a while since Denver had a taste of the mad science inherent in Jekyll & Hyde, the killer musical perhaps more suited to Halloween than the advent of spring. It is now back at The Buell Theatre, better than ever, and drumming up a few extra chills before the imminent demise of winter.
One of New York’s enduring hits, Jekyll & Hyde, which features a book and lyrics by two-time Academy Award-winning lyricist Leslie Bricusse and a score by Grammy Award-nominated composer Frank Wildhorn, is based as we all know on Robert Louis Stevenson’s infamous tale of a decent scientist’s wild experiment gone bad. A whirlwind odyssey pitting man against himself is set in motion when the brilliant Dr. Jekyll’s medical fooling around backfires, giving life to his evil—and increasingly uncontrollable—alter ego Edward Hyde.
The musical spent some four years on Broadway and on multiple worldwide tours, but the production currently in Denver is an arresting pre-Broadway reinvention. It has a revised script, a slightly different song list, new orchestrations and an impressive new look.
Aside from the central battle between good and evil, this moody musical is loaded with romance, to be introduced this time by a new pair of stars. Tony Award-nominee and “American Idol” sensation Constantine Maroulis joins Grammy Award-nominee and Canadian R&B superstar Deborah Cox to handle the romantic aspects of this haunting tale, as well as inject robust new life into the Stevenson classic scheduled to make a return appearance on Broadway in April.
Maroulis, who shot to fame on “American Idol” and received a 2009 Tony Award nomination for his work in Rock of Ages, plays the dual title role. He is not shy about sharing a life-imitates-art event that he claims instantly connected him to Dr. Jekyll. Dr. Jekyll’s scientific experiment was undertaken in an attempt to help his ailing father; by coincidence, Maroulis’ own Dad was gravely ill when he, the son, was offered the role last year. Playing Dr. Jekyll only strengthened his resolve to give the musical his all.
“I feel you should approach every role with the passion and desire to find everything you need to find as an actor and artist,” he told Playbill at the start of rehearsals last summer. “That’s how I approached Rock of Ages, and that’s how I’d approach Hamlet, which I’d love to do one day. I go about everything the same way.”
Jekyll & Hyde previewed in La Mirada, CA, in September before kicking off its 25-week Broadway-bound national tour in October. The talented Jeff Calhoun is the director/choreographer of this new edition; among Calhoun’s many varied credits are such admired and well-received musicals as the Tony-nominated Newsies, Big River and Grey Gardens.
The original Jekyll & Hyde saw the dark of night in 1990 at Houston’s Alley Theatre, breaking box office records and playing to sold-out houses. At that time, a recording of the musical score yielded all the hit songs that continue to have a strong hold on listeners (“This is the Moment,” “A New Life,” “Someone Like You”), transforming Jekyll & Hyde at the time into something of a theatrical phenomenon.
Despite a mixed critical reception for its original New York run, a 1997 revival at Broadway’s Plymouth Theatre turned things around. It played to sold-out houses and nightly standing ovations, breaking box office records several times and spawning legions of repeat visitors who became known as “Jekkies.” (Some “Jekkies” claim to have seen this show more than 150 times.)
This success is a testament to its creators’ persistence in their pursuit of perfection. When such stars as Liza Minnelli and The Moody Blues began performing and recording its songs, the show gained even greater traction.
While the look may have changed, the mood and the music that first grabbed audiences by the throat are very much there and ready to do it again.
“Any time you have a title with such history and recognition, it’s important to take a fresh look at it,” said Maroulis, who admits to never having seen the musical before being cast in it. Neither, incidentally, had director Calhoun.
“I feel like I’m creating a new role,” Maroulis told Playbill. “We feel we have a really lean and mean script…. Jeff is a very meticulous, detail oriented director. Our approach is very grounded and very real, not over the top.”
This story was assembled from website materials and the Internet
Mat Hostetler is familiar to Denver audiences for for his work with the Denver Center Theatre Company, Creede Repertory Theatre, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and graduate productions at the National Theatre Conservatory. He returns in the national touring premiere of War Horse and took a break to tell us about life since Denver.
Q: So you spent some of your childhood in Glenwood Springs. This is a bit like coming home, right?
A: Absolutely! Perhaps, even more than being my physical home for many years, Colorado has always been my creative home. I started acting when I was in Glenwood and did a lot of community theatre in both Glenwood and Aspen. While in college at the University of Kansas, I came back to Colorado and worked at Creede Rep. Then, after many years away, I came back to Colorado to attend grad school at [National Theatre Conservatory] and had the privilege to work with both the Denver Center and Colorado Shakespeare Festival. So many tremendous teachers and mentors in Colorado have helped me along the way, I’m just so grateful.
Q: So we see that this is your first national Broadway show tour, what’s that like? Good at packing yet?
A: Yeah, I’ve got the packing down to a science! I was terrible for the first few cities, but you learn quickly! It’s been such a thrill, getting the chance to perform in some of the most beautiful and historic theaters in the country. Every week or two, we walk on stage and the house looks completely different. That’s a pretty unique experience.
Q: Tell us about your character, Veterinary Officer Martin.
A: Well, I can’t say much without giving too much away, but he has a pivotal role towards the end of the show. In doing a lot of research about World War I, and specifically about veterinary officers, it’s difficult to fathom what they saw from day to day. The estimated number of horses that were lost in WWI is truly staggering.
Q: How does one person understudy 10 roles? I mean, really, ten?
A: It’s pretty crazy! Fortunately, we have had the opportunity to rehearse every role we understudy, and being in the show every night helps keep it all fresh in our minds. I’ve already gone on in about half those roles, and will likely have done them all before the tour ends. It’s fun to have that different energy on stage from time to time!
Q: You’ve done a lot of television since graduating the National Theatre Conservatory (NTC) and moving to New York. How does TV differ from the stage?
A: I actually really enjoy doing TV. I know, sometimes that’s not the case with stage actors — of course, we all love the paycheck in television – but I really do feel comfortable in that world. Of course, it’s a totally different animal from theatre. As much as I enjoy TV, I’m not certain it could ever hold up to the energy and joy of being on stage every night. There’s nothing like live theatre. I’m very fortunate to get to do both.
Q: And you’ve gotten married since you left Denver, to fellow NTC alum January LaVoy. What’s she up to? How is married life when you’re on the road?
A: January is great! Thanks for asking. When we got married in September of 2011, she made me the happiest and luckiest guy in the world. She’s been doing quite well, just finished a production of Good People at the Pittsburgh Public, and before that was at the Alliance in Atlanta doing the world premiere of What I Learned in Paris by Pearl Cleage. She has also become quite a force in the audiobook world. If you haven’t listened to any of her stuff yet, you should do yourself a favor and pick up The Diviners by Libba Bray. January’s work on it is simply stunning. I know, I’m biased, but still…
And as for married life on the road, it certainly isn’t easy, but we’ve managed it pretty well. We try to see each other once every four to five weeks. We’re racking up tons of airline miles! In the most difficult weeks, we try to remember how lucky we are to be two working actors. It’s a rare thing in this business.
Q: The Colorado audiences miss seeing you. You were certainly a favorite at Colorado Shakespeare Festival (Three Musketeers, Macbeth, Hamlet) and our Theatre Company (Merry Wives of Windsor, Richard III, Christmas Carol, Trip to Bountiful), plus roles at Creede Repertory Theatre. Miss Denver? Fondest memories?
A: Too many to name, really. Three Musketeers was probably the most fun I’ve ever had on stage. Truly. Merry Wives at the Denver Center was a blast as well. Getting to work with that amazing cast — with David Ivers directing. What a treat! And there’s no experience quite like a summer in Creede. But, all in all, I’d have to say the National Theatre Conservatory will always be my fondest memory of my time in Colorado. I’m just so grateful for every minute I spent there.
Q: How long will you be in the first national tour of War Horse? Where will we see you next?
A: I’ll be with War Horse through June. Then it’s back to New York to see what’s next. I’ll keep you posted!
1. The puppet (Joey), which weighs 120lbs, is handmade by 14 people. Its frame is mostly cane, soaked, bent and stained.
2. An aluminum frame along the spine, lined partly with leather for comfort, allows the horse to be ridden.
3. Stretched, hosiery-like Georgette fabric makes up the “skin” beneath the frame.
4. A puppeteer at the head controls the ears and head; one in the heart controls breathing and front legs; a third in the hind controls the tail and back legs.
5. A harness connects the puppet’s and puppeteer’s spines so his or her movements become the breathing of the horse.
6. The tail and ears are moveable instead of the lips or eyelids, because that’s how horses usually express themselves.
7. Two levers connected with bicycle brake cables control the leather ears.
8. The puppet, just under 10ft long and about 8ft tall, has about 20 major joints. Vertical levers curl the knees and lift the hooves.
9. The neck is made of carbon fiber glass for flexibility.
10. The eyes are black color behind clear resin so light refracts through them.
11. The right hind lever moves the tail up and down; the left hind lever, left to right; moved together, it spirals.
12. The hair in the mane and tail is made of Tyvek, a plastic-like paper.
It’s been a little while since you heard those clanging sounds, but Stomp is back in Denver in all its explosive, syncopated glory, with its cast of incredible percussionists who treasure the old adage about one man’s trash…
The troupe still doesn’t look at everyday objects the way the rest of the world does. In its hands, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters (we’re not sure about Grouchos and Harpos) and the general detritus of the 21st century take on a life of their own. Stomp, created and directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, is an exploration of the outer limits of rhythmic invention. It’s a Pipe (read drain pipe) and Drum (read anything) Corps for our age.
And speaking of age, it has not withered Stomp’s clatter—or fun. Stomp—a concatenation of sound and skill—is back with its rhythms and drumbeats intact.
The same goes for its nonstop movement of bodies, objects, sound—even abstract ideas. There’s no dialogue, speech or plot. But music? Absolutely. Uncommon music, created in nontraditional ways—with every day objects ranging from matchbooks to every household object you can conjure up. You’re bombarded by a caterwauling noise that under any other circumstances you would choose to shut out.
But not here.
Here all is syncopated and choreographed with the precision of an army bugle corps minus the bugles and by the fertile imagination of buskers or street performers from the streets of Brighton, England. Brighton is the place of origin—the spot where Stomp’s creators hail from and where they dreamed up this utterly inventive, unexpected, whacked-out show.
So sit back, relax, tap your feet, clap your hands. There’s only fun to be had here—no political statements, no dialogue to misconstrue, nothing beyond the sheer, surprising sights and sounds of the moment, from the ringing of hollow pipes to clashing metal weaving its spell, and industrial strength dance routines involving a lot of supremely well co-ordinated bodies.
Hold on fast to those hubcaps as you zip yourself downtown to swing along with Stomp!
1973 The original French play La Cage aux Folles written by Jean Poiret premieres at the Theatre du Palais-Royal on February 1. The play starred the playwright Jean Poiret and Michel Serrault. The play ran for almost 1,800 performances. The play was seen by more than one million theatre goers.
1979 French film adaptation of play was directed by Edouard Molinaro. It starred Ugo Tognazzi and Michel Serrault. The film (subtitled “Birds of a Feather” on the US poster) was for many years the most successful foreign film to be released in the US. Unlike many other non-English –language films, the English dubbing was done generally by the original cast.
1980 The French film “La Cage aux Folles II” premiered, also directed by Edouard Molinaro.
1983 The musical La Cage aux Folles opened on August 21 at the Palace Theater on Broadway to great acclaim and popularity. The musical starred Gene Barry and George Hearn.
1985 The French film “La Cage aux Folles III” premiered, directed by Georges Lautner.
1985 The musical La Cage aux Folles opens in Australia and starred Keith Michel and Jon Ewing.
1986 The musical La Cage aux Folles opened in London’s West End starring George Hearn and Denis Quilley.
1996 The American film remake titled The Birdcage directed by Mike Nichols was released, relocated to South Beach, Miami, and starred Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.
2004 The musical La Cage aux Folles opened again on Broadway on December 9 at the Marriott Marquis Theatre starring Gary Beach and Daniel Davis.
2008 The musical La Cage aux Folles opened again in London but this time at the Menier Chocolate Factory to great acclaim, starring Douglas Hodge and Philip Quast.
2010 Another revival of La Cage aux Folles opened on April 18 on Broadway at the Longacre Theater, starring Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge.
2010 A Dutch production opened in November and is still running.
2011 Tony Award-winning revival of La Cage aux Folles begins touring the United States.
STOMP, a unique combination of percussion, movement and visual comedy, was created in Brighton, UK, in the summer of 1991. It was the result of a ten-year collaboration between its creators, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas.
They first worked together in 1981, as members of the street band Pookiesnackenburger and the theatre group, Cliff Hanger. Together, these groups presented a series of street comedy musicals at the Edinburgh festival throughout the early ’80s. After two albums, a UK TV series and extensive touring throughout Europe, Pookiesnackenburger also produced the highly acclaimed “Bins” commercial for Heineken lager. The piece was originally written and choreographed by Luke as part of the band’s stage show; it proved to be the starting point for STOMP’s climactic dustbin dance.
• 1991 — STOMP previewed at the Bloomsbury Theatre (London) and the Assembly Rooms (Edinburgh). Won the Guardian's “Critic's Choice” and the Daily Express “Best of the Fringe” Award.
• 1991-1994 — Played to capacity audiences around the world culminating in a sell-out season at Sadler’s Wells Theatre (London). Received an Olivier nomination for “Best Entertainment” and won “Best Choreography in a West End Show.”
• 1994 — STOMP began its run at the Orpheum Theatre (New York). Won both an Obie and a Drama Desk award for “Most Unique Theatre Experience.”
• 1995 — Two US touring companies were formed.
• 1990s-2000s — STOMP has been featured in or created the Tank Girl movie soundtrack, Quincy Jones’ album “Q’s Jook Joint, ” Showtime’s Riot soundtrack, commercials including Coca Cola’s “Ice Pick” and Target, Nickelodean’s “Mr Frears’ Ears,” “Brooms,” the Academy Awards, HBO’s “STOMP Out Loud,” Sesame Street’s “Let’s Make Music” special, and the PULSE: a STOMP Odyssey IMAX movie.
• 2002 —Entered London’s West End at the Vaudeville theatre and performed as part of the Royal Variety Show for the second time.
• 2004 — New York celebrated 10 years of continuous performances of STOMP at the Orpheum Theatre by renaming 2nd Avenue at 8th Street: STOMP Avenue.
• 2006, STOMP’s New York production passed its 5000th performance mark.
• 2007 — The original creators were asked to create and produce the Lost and Found Orchestra, which takes the ideas behind STOMP to a symphonic level to mark 40 years of the Brighton Festival. It was also performed at the Sydney Opera House.
• 2007 — STOMP OUT LOUD opened in Las Vegas at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino with an expanded cast and performed inside a new $28 million theater specifically created for the production.