"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:
Whether it’s a carryon, a suitcase, a traveling trunk or — as in the case of Mary Poppins which flies into Denver’s Buell Theatre May 1-5 — a carpetbag, it takes a little organizational magic to pack when you are constantly on the road. So we turned to Madeline Trumble, who plays everyone’s favorite nanny to get some helpful, handy tips.
How many markets will you travel to during your run as Mary?
Oh my goodness, I think I’ve traveled to about forty different cities, in three different countries. And we still have a few stops left!
Matt Goldman, Chris Wink and Phil Stanton are entrepreneurs who created and oversee a global enterprise that has brought joy to more than 17 million people. They are also innovators, educators, artists, and contemporary comedians, known collectively as the founders and originators of Blue Man Group. That these three bald and blue characters would become a cultural phenomenon is an idea that was all but unimaginable when these inscrutable beings first emerged, walking the streets of New York.
“We weren’t really goal-oriented,” says Stanton. “When we started walking around the city, we did it because we wanted to see how people reacted. And being bald and blue was our social life. We didn’t want to go to bars and be part of a singles scene, a drinking scene. We wanted our social life to be somehow creative, and this was a lot of fun. We knew we would eventually do some kind of performance, but we never envisioned a commercial theater run.”
By Rob Weinert-Kendt
The playwright Jon Robin Baitz walks healthily among the living, but in some ways his articulate, carefully constructed plays feel like throwbacks to a more literate, less cynical age. Plays such as The Substance of Fire, Three Hotels and The Paris Letter, map out internecine battles of love and loyalty among family, friends and lovers with a comic clarity that evokes Shaw, and a fraught psychological texture, thick with explosive secrets and lies, that recalls Ibsen.
Given those antecedents, it’s surprising that his career until last year was bookended by two formative West Coast experiences that would seem to belie his plays’ well-made classicism.
Bruno Louchouarn’s compositions range from the cantina music heard in the film Total Recall, to works for orchestra, ballet, theatre and multimedia performance pieces. After graduate studies in Paris, he earned a Ph.D. in music composition at UCLA. Currently, Louchouarn teaches music, multimedia, and cognitive science at Occidental College. His work has been widely performed, including at Redcat in Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, UCLA’s Royce Hall, Zipper Hall, the Getty Villa, the Getty Center, the Pasadena Playhouse, the San Diego Rep, Boston Court Theatre in Pasadena, La MaMa in New York City, and the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, as well as many university venues. He also created the musical score for Herbert Siguenza’s A Weekend with Pablo Picasso and talked with PROLOGUE about that experience.
PROLOGUE: First, how do you pronounce your last name?
Bruno Louchouarn: Loo-SHWARN. It’s an old Celtic family name from Brittany—my heritage is both Breton and Mexican.
Spamalot uses 30 wireless microphones and consumes more than 2000 AAA batteries per month and runs over 1 mile of cable.
Among the props is a cow that weighs 45 pounds and it takes two stagehands to catapult it over the castle.
Spamalot uses approximately 40 coconuts per month, supplied by the Coconut King in Florida.
by Michael Lassell
Like Mary Poppins, the character she created, P.L. Travers did not believe in explaining. She did, however, believe in self-mythologizing, leaving those intent on biographical criticism so confused in her wake that even her obituaries had the facts wrong (according to Valerie Lawson, author of Out of the Sky She Came, the definitive Travers biography).
PLT, as she was sometimes called, did not even take credit for “creating” Poppins. Instead, she insisted, the nanny with the upturned nose just came to her one day, much as she blows in on the East Wind in the opening chapter of Mary Poppins (1934). But whether Travers created the “Practically Perfect” Poppins—while convalescing from pleurisy in her Sussex, England, cottage—or merely channeled her, the world is in her debt.
When Herbert Siguenza performed his A Weekend With Pablo Picasso at Houston’s Alley Theatre last year, he had a few things to say to The Alley’s Mark Bly about why he paints and why he took on the perilous task of not only impersonating an iconic artist on stage, but also of creating an actual painting on stage.
Mark Bly: What inspired you to write A Weekend With Pablo Picasso?
Herbert Siguenza: I was born with the mysterious gift of being able to draw. Since I was a young boy, I would press crayons against paper and create imaginary worlds and characters. In fact, when I was in second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Sharp, would pull me out of the reading circle and have me draw on giant rolls of butcher paper instead. She kept everything I drew.
A few tips for Monty Python novices and wannabes.
Remember the first time you tried liver? Or asparagus? OK, bad examples. But just like you didn’t have to be Jewish to eat Arnold’s Jewish Rye, you don’t have to be a stuffy, upper-class twit or even a drunken rugby fan to enjoy Spamalot.
“Taste is the enemy of art altogether. I’ve thought about this a lot. People with good taste are constantly worrying about what other people will think. Don’t put that couch over there! It’s the wrong thing to be thinking about because it squashes expression. Of life and vitality of all kinds, and sex – all the funny things!” —Spamalot director, Mike Nichols, New York Magazine
Other Desert Cities delivers many surprises.
One of them changes the game.
You’ve heard the adage: Don’t let a good deed go unpunished.
That seems to have been the state of mind of Jon Robin Baitz when he was unceremoniously thrown off the successful ABC-TV series, “Brothers and Sisters,” a show he had created and for whose success he was largely responsible as a writer/producer.
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.
Frank Abagnale Jr. is an expert on fraud, scams, deception and beating the system. Between the ages of 16 and 21, he forged and cashed $2.5 million worth of bad checks in the United
States and 26 other countries, while successfully passing himself off as an airline pilot for Pan Am, a doctor, a college professor and a lawyer. He was ultimately caught, as he always knew he would be, and served time in French, Swedish and American prisons.
Karen Zacarías’ adaptation of Helen Thorpe’s best selling book, Just Like Us, rounds out the Denver Center Theatre Company’s eighth annual Colorado New Play Summit.
Based on the true story of four Latina high school students, this timely and relevant look at what it means to be undocumented in America played to an enthusiastic audience of industry insiders.
The girls — two documented and two not — discover how their opportunities differ as they move through high school, college and into the world. Their close-knit friendship is jeopardized when opportunities open or close for each girl according to her immigration status.
When a political firestorm arises in the wake of the shooting of a policeman, their situations are thrown into even bolder relief. Punctuated by notable politicians, outspoken critics of undocumented aliens, and vocal proponents of immigration reform, this play grapples with some essential questions: Who is an American? Who gets to live in America? What happens when we don’t agree?
Picture this: You’re living paycheck to paycheck. Your wife tells you she’s pregnant. Your landlord is threatening eviction. Your job as an Elvis impersonator gets ripped out from under you. Your only life preserver is stepping into the role of a drag queen.
Beaten down by bad decisions and bad timing, Casey is despondent, stating “being good at something doesn’t mean you can make a living at it.” But when circumstances literally thrust opportunity upon him, he listens to Miss Tranny Mills who says, “Daddy makes money. Baby coming. Daddy puts on funny clothes. Sends baby to Harvard.” Casey soon steps into his high heels, dons his wig and steps into the spotlight.
This joyous, bawdy comedy with a ton of music and great big heart was complemented by audience outbursts, guffaws, catcalls and everything but “Hallelujah brother”…or sister, whichever blows your skirt up and makes you happy.