Three productions part of theater adventures

New season has strong offerings around area

Posted 9/18/16

We are told that 29 productions have opened — or will open — during September in the metro area, as the new theater season gets going. What's a theater lover to do? Get up and go! We visited three in the past week, which varied considerably …

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Three productions part of theater adventures

New season has strong offerings around area

Posted

We are told that 29 productions have opened — or will open — during September in the metro area, as the new theater season gets going. What's a theater lover to do? Get up and go! We visited three in the past week, which varied considerably …

`Once Upon a Mattress'

“Romp” is a good word to describe this funny spin on Hans Christian Anderson's “Princess and the Pea.” “Once Upon a Mattress,” at Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton through Oct. 2, introduces characters right up front, after a chorus of “We Have an Opening for a Princess.” Overbearing Queen Agravain seems a part just made for the talented comic LuAnn Buckstein, who bosses her wimpy son, Prince Dauntless (Mark Shonsey) endlessly. Mute (due to a curse) King Sextimus (Kevin Walton) chases a nubile young woman across the stage in the other direction (his special interest). Sir Harry (Zach Stailey) proposes going into the nearby Swampland in search of a suitable princess since the queen has rejected all candidates to date. No one in the kingdom can marry until the prince does!

Soon, a dripping, seaweed-draped Princess Winnifred the Woebegone (the excellent Taylor Nicole Young) climbs up out of the moat after swimming across it. “Shy” is her first number, with the queen and wizard. Young can belt them out and soon follows with “The Swamps of Home.”

Town Hall Arts Center has its season off to a live-wire start, under Robert Wells' skilled direction. He really has a knack for staging the silly stuff. Kelly Kates' choreography shines throughout — especially “The Spanish Panic.” Michael Duran's scenic design suggests a castle's architecture, with clever set pieces to add and subtract quickly. Music was recorded by Donna Debrecini. Costumes by Terri Fong are colorful and richly detailed. Lighting and sound are perfectly calibrated.

A person sitting close to me said “I had a smile on my face the entire evening!”

`Sister Act'


The Broadway musical “Sister Act,” set in 1977 Philadelphia, is based on the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg. It plays through Oct. 2 at the Arvada Center, with a strong, winning performance by Brit West as Deloris Van Cartier, an entertainer who has to go into hiding after she witnessed a murder. The police find her a secure place — in a nearby convent, where the Mother Superior (Megan VanDe Hey) will watch over her, aided by her nuns — who sing off-tune and are awkward and shy.

Deloris soon has the sisters rockin' — which pleases the Monsignor O'Hara (Stephen Day) and alarms Mother Superior greatly. Farce ensues, with chases, gangsters, altar boys and lots of delightful music from the house band, led by David Nehls on keyboard.

The energetic score is by Alan Menken, with gospel, Motown, soul and rock segments. Brian Mallgrave's set worked smoothly throughout, as it moved around town. Costumes ranged from spangled showgirl to black nun's habit and all had a place in the story. Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck choreographed and appeared as one of the sisters and Brianna Diaz is credited with the array of costumes, including one especially clever lightning-fast change on stage.

`The Money Shot'

Our third show of the week, “The Money Shot” by Neil LaBute, plays through Sept. 24 at the Avenue Theater on 17th Avenue in Denver, where scripts get a bit edgy on occasion. Well-directed by Warren Sherrill, and with a competent cast of Suzie Scott, Stephen Krusoe, Timmi Lasley and Katie Cross, it tells a story of fading actors who are so desperate for work that they get involved in production of a pornographic film. (The title refers to that.) La Bute's language and action is often dicey, but this is really out there. Be warned if you have sensitive ears or feelings. Or see it if you're seeking a bit of adventure!

If you go

“Once Upon a Mattress” plays through Oct. 2 at Town Hall Arts Center, 2450 W. Main St., Littleton. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays (2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24); 2 p.m. Sundays (and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25). Tickets, $23-$42, 303-794-2787, ext. 5 or townhallartscenter.org/once.

“Sister Act” plays through Oct. 2 at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 1 p.m. Wednesdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets: 720-898-7200, arvadacenter.org/sister-act.

“Money Shot” plays through Sept. 24 at the Avenue Theater, 417 E. 17th Avenue, Denver. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Tickets: $27.50, avenuetheater.com.

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