Sunday, May 27, 2007

For Country Dinner Playhouse Ticketholders

Right now there are three options for people who hold tickets to a performance of "Evita," none of which involves a refund.

Boulder's Dinner Theatre is holding a special production of "The Sound of Music" on July 12. This is a very generous offer - it's free and includes dinner - but Boulder's Dinner Theatre only holds 284 people, so call 303-449-6000 as soon as possible.

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is offering $10 tickets to its current productions of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" of "The Taffetas." These are available only at The Denver Center box office one hour prior to show time and are subject to availability. This makes it a bit iffy for area residents, though a ticket salesperson would probably be able to tell you whether the odds were favorable for a particular performance. "Forum" runs through July 8; "The Taffetas" runs through August 5. Contact the Denver Center at 1.800.641.1222 or

The Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton is offering half-price tickets to "My Fair Lady" through June 24. Call 303-794-2787.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Country Dinner Playhouse Closes

Employees arrived on Tuesday to find the doors padlocked and a "closed until further notice" sign on the Greenwood Village dinner theater - a sad end to a 37-year run.

This is a blow to the state's theater community. Theater elitists may scoff at Country Dinner Playhouse's repertoire choices - and the food - but it was the state's only year-round professional theater. Many Colorado actors earned their equity cards there; many others were able to make ends meet because of the long season and eight-shows-a-week production schedule.

I don't know who the villains are in this scenario. (Since it's theater, there has to be a villain!) The theater owners said that it became impossible to continue without a lease, which the property owner refused to provide; the property owner said the theater owners had been assured that the property wouldn't be developed before May 2008 - which, I must say, isn't exactly reassuring. And no one denies that the landscape has become increasingly difficult for dinner theater over the years: Several have come and gone in Colorado Springs during my time at the Gazette.

There will be a story in Friday's Go! - which will replace the review of the Country Dinner Playhouse production of "Evita." Meanwhile, here are some links to more info:

Denver Post Story
Comments to Denver Post Story
Rocky Mountain News Story

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Philharmonic Finale

There will be a review in Sunday's Gazette, and right now I'm just too tuckered out to add anything substantive to it, so there.

The program consists of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake Suite, Mendelssohn's Symphony No.4, “Italian,” and William Schuman's New England Triptych. While the concert isn't comparable to last season's finale - Mahler's Symphony No. 5 - it's a good program, with juicy solos for just about every principal player (including harpist Donald Hilsberg).

The program will be repeated Sunday at 2:30 at the Pikes Peak Center. Call 520-7469 for tickets.

Weird Synchronicity

I've seen hundreds of plays since I started reviewing for the Gazette in fall 1993, but I'd never seen one that incorporated an acoustic-era opera recording - that is, a recording dating from before 1925, when sound was transmitted to the wax master not through microphones but through enormous horns.

That came to an end Thursday, when Edith Tankus chose to accompany her climactic trapeze scene (see below) with "Caro nome" from Verdi's "Rigoletto," sung by, I think, Luisa Tetrazzini. (She's the soprano immortalized in Turkey Tetrazzini, the way her rival Nellie Melba was immortalized in Peach Melba and Melba Toast.) It was a magical combination, with the placid, unearthly ease of Tetrazzini's singing complementing Tankus' graceful, refined acrobatics.

The very next night, I saw the Star Bar Players' excellent new production of Noel Coward's "Hay Fever." Since they did this three-act play with only one intermission, they needed something to cover the scene change between Acts 2 and 3. And they chose an acoustic-era recording of the quintet from "Rigoletto." It was doubly appropriate, fitting both the period (the play was written in 1924) and the chaotic mix of emotions that characterizes "Hay Fever."

Two nights, two acoustic recordings of "Rigoletto"? What are the odds of that?

Edit: Finally got into the basement to dig through the old records. Nope, it's not Tetrazzini.

Weird Synchronicity 2: Two days after seeing "Hay Fever," I went back to see "Into the Woods" a second time. Both plays contain the line, "He's your father!"

Friday, May 18, 2007

Edith Tankus at the MAT

About three minutes into "Not Yet, At All," Francis - the main character in Edith Tankus' one-woman show at the Manitou Art Theater, tells the audience, "Don't make eye contact - you might fall in love with me."

The warning came just in time. I was already half-smitten with the winsome, irresistibly positive girl who we meet daydreaming in a math class at a school for wayward girls.

Soon after, Francis runs away from school, joins a circus, and becomes Francesa.

"Not Yet, At All" is a fabulous showcase for Tankus' myriad skills. These includes character acting - both vocal and physical - ranging from Miss Margaret the sadistic nun, to Lester the cynical carnival barker, to Eva, "the exotic Russian showgirl, past her prime, existing in a cloud of her own perfume." (One of my favorite gags was Eva's pronunciation of "teeth.") There's a beautiful song, in which she plays the ukulele and sings with lovely, soft voice. And to top it off, there's a trapeze scene.

(The knee-jerk thought is that Tankus developed a scenario that would show off everything she could do, but in fact it's the other way around: She developed the scenario in order to give herself an excuse to learn the trapeze.)

The major flaw is an unfinished feeling - we're not quite sure how Francis gets from the penultimate scene to the finale, or whether, given Francis' tendency towards self-aggrandizing exaggeration, she gets there at all other than in her mind. But with such a brilliant performance, this becomes a minor quibble.

If, like me, you missed "Not Yet, At All" when it appeared at the Manitou Art Theater in 2002, tonight - Saturday, May 19th - is your chance to atone. Call the MAT at 685-4729 for more information.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Philharmonic Performs Bach and Mozart

Saturday’s Colorado Springs Philharmonic program was one of the season’s more low-key performances — but very satisfying nevertheless.

The final program on the “Mozart and Friends” series includes J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1 and 6, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 29, a masterpiece composed when Mozart was only 18.

The final Brandenburg concerto poses unusual challenges. Its ensemble — four violas and continuo — is both deep-toned and homogeneous. Thematic and expressive variations can easily vanish into the pleasingly mellow carpet of sound.

Conductor Lawrence Leighton Smith and the seven musicians solved this with some subtle cresendos and decresendos and a judicious use of dynamic contrasts.

The finale, with its sweeping rhythms, was especially good — and violists Catherine Hanson and Mary Cowell made it look like as much fun to play as it is to listen to. Their sounds complement each other wonderfully: Hanson, hasa brighter, more violin-like tone, and Cowell's is darker yet radiant.

Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 is the largest and most festive of the set. To audiences brought up on the later symphonic tradition of Mozart and Beethoven, its four-movement structure seems odd: Later composers would have put the exciting third movement after the stately fourth. But Bach's more relaxed arrangement is also satisfying.

Standout performers here were French horn players Matthew Scheffelman and Jennifer Doersch in the first and third movements, and oboist Guy Dutra-Silveira and violinist Michael Hanson in the poignant second movement, which features some of Bach’s most pungent dissonances along with a weirdly pointillistic passage near the end that still sounds surprising after nearly three centuries.

Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 marked a new period in his development, in both scale and sophistication. The opening theme belies the composer’s youth in both its yearning mood and the fancy counterpoint between the violins and the low strings.

It's not a fully mature work, though: The experiments still sound like experiments here, from the loud ending of the otherwise quiet second movement (the muted strings have a wonderful effect — like listening through gauze — which makes the brightness of the oboes and French horns stand out even more dramatically), to the odd held note in the winds at the end of the third movement.

For a lot of the string players — and orchestra in this piece is mostly strings — it was their first playing of the night, and it showed: They weren't really sharp until the third movement. But the dramatic finale was sparkling and even fiery.

First United Methodist Church has excellent acoustics and comfortable pews; about my only complaint as a concert venue is that apparently there's no way to turn down the house lights.

The program will be repeated at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20; First United Methodist Church is located at 420 N. Nevada Ave.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Burying the Lede

This is the journalistic term for putting the key information in a story or press release anywhere except at the top. Last week I received a press release with a textbook example.

The subject was a group of local dancers who will perform in Germany in June at the Keiler Woche summer festival. Some of the works will be previewed here on May 12 at the Colorado Jazz Dance Company's annual spring concert.

Well, that's undeniably interesting, because a lot of good dancers get their start in Colorado Springs, and it's great to see them getting opportunities to perform. But it's also extremely rare for "Go!" to feature articles about events taking place far away: Local events take precedence.

But whoa, then I got to paragraph five: "The May 12 concert will also serve as the debut of Indigo Dance Theatre, a professional dance company under the artistic direction of [Zetta] Alderman."

That's news. Afaik, Colorado Springs has never had a full-time professional dance company. And Zetta Alderman - the Colorado Jazz Dance Company's artistic director - is not someone who would throw around the word "professional" loosely.

So I visited the Colorado Jazz Dance Company's enormous new digs east of Powers, where Zetta filled me in on the plans she and UNLV dance professor Richard Havey have for the new group. Next Friday's "Go!" will contain a story about the coming of Indigo Dance Theatre - an even with potentially major implications for the region's performing arts scene.

And unlke this blog entry, I promise not to bury the lede!