In the past week, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Japan 1,000 years ago, America at the turn of the century and Argentina in the Peron era. Each …
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In the past week, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Japan 1,000
years ago, America at the turn of the century and Argentina in the
Each is a dazzling show, although images in my head seem to get
in the way of each other at times. How very fortunate we theater
lovers are in this new season.
The journey is recommended: “Rashoman” is open at the Aurora Fox
through Oct. 9; “Ragtime” is playing at the Arvada Center through
Oct. 2 and at Lone Tree Arts Center Oct. 6-16; “Evita” is at Town
Hall in Littleton through Oct. 16.
“Rashomon,” based on the stories of Ryunokuke Akutagawa, is
wonderfully staged by director El Armstrong. It takes place near
the ancient Rashomon Gate 1,000 years ago and in a nearby forest.
Jen Orr’s set is a marvel, with misty wooded area and a weathered
wooden gate, where she makes it rain on the three men who narrate
the stories. A Samurai is murdered in the woods and there are four
possible suspects. Flashbacks offer a plausible version about each
and there are several astonishing sword fights, staged by Geoffrey
Narrators are Jack Casperson as the old woodcutter, who found
the body in one version of the story; wigmaker Seth Maisel who runs
a comical commentary throughout; and the somber priest Peter Trinh.
The Samurai, who is bound and gagged through much of the
production, is played by Jude Moran and his beautiful wife is Donna
Hansen. The surly bandit is Enzo Sarinana and Hugo Jon Sayles
floats in as a medium brought by the court to solve the crime. Who
dunnit? Who knows! Stunning production, so perhaps we don’t really
care if we resolve the mystery.
“Ragtime” is based on E. L. Doctorow’s best-selling novel, which
looks at three diverse families who intersect with each other at
the turn of the century: WASP, black and immigrant. So similar in
love for each other. So different in how they function. White,
well-off Mother (Megan Van De Hay) and Father (Craig Lundquist)
have a nice suburban house, a son and a conservative lifestyle
until Mother feels feminist stirrings, encouraged by her activist
Younger Brother (Daniel Langhoff). Coalhouse Walker (Tyrone
Robinson) is a successful Ragtime pianist and his love, Sarah
(Christina Acosta Robinson) is a maid who has a baby he doesn’t
know about. Mother finds in her garden and cares for it. Mother
also takes Sarah in when she is found. Father, meantime, is off
exploring with Admiral Peary.
The third family is immigrant Tateh and his little daughter.
Creative Tateh eventually becomes the inventor of motion pictures —
and eventually connects with Mother.
The book is written by award-winning Terrence McNally, music by
Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. The voices soar and the
interlocked stories include tragedy and appearances by famous
Americans of the period: Henry Ford, Harry Houdini, J. P. Morgan
Emma Goldman, Evelyn Nesbit, Admiral Peary, Stanford White, Harry
Thaw. Sounds confusing, but it sorts people out so there’s never a
question of where the production is going.
This big, gorgeous musical is complex, but engaging throughout
and costumes, set and production values are professional and
polished, as we expect at Arvada Center. The concept of bringing it
to Lone Tree is a very positive development. The actors have
another 10 days of work and the south area audiences get a fine
“Evita” is a contrast with its focus on a single individual and
the lives that swirled around her. Directed and choreographed by
Nick Sugar at Town Hall Arts Center through Oct. 16, it has a lush
score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice — most notably
Eva Peron’s theme; “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.” Ellen Kaye fell
more comfortably into her role as the legendary Evita as opening
night progressed, while Rob Riney had rabble rouser Che nailed from
the start. While it had lots of dance numbers, the production is
also notable for the way Sugar stages the scenes. Che glides
through and around, always the narrator/observer, while the
“People” flow in and out smoothly in various roles.
Keehan Flaugh is a stiff, dignified Peron, flummoxed by his
firebrand wife. Tony Rivera brings a great set of pipes to his
Magaldi theme: “On this Night of a Thousand Stars,” which makes one
want to get up and dance.
The political back story of Evita’s rise to power, despite
objections of the army officers, her need for more power as Vice
President and the illness that eventually defeated her is the stuff
of 20th century legend and offers a framework for almost soap opera
drama as well as a dark piece of history.
A big story, skillfully produced on Town Hall’s intimate
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