By Susan Froyd
By Byron Graham
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davies
By Josiah M. Hesse
By Bree Davies
By Susan Froyd
By Kate Gibbons
In Perfect Harmony. Like all of Heritage Square's summer musicals, this one has almost no plot. The characters are supposed to be singers who formed their own group, the Dysfunctional Family, after aging out of the youth-oriented Up With People. They start out pretty dorky, with Rory Pierce in horn-rimmed spectacles, Johnette Toye sporting an insanely determined smile, and everyone wearing neat, good-kid outfits: navy dresses and shirts, neatly pressed slacks. But they're trying to evolve and get hipper, so they try all kinds of styles and genres: rock, country, great old musicals, newer musicals, pretty ballads, television theme songs (including South Park), and their patented imitation of the Mamas and the Papas, with Annie Dwyer in a fat suit as Mama Cass, and the voices harmonizing beautifully on "Monday, Monday." The oldest number, "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?," movingly sung by T.J. Mullin, seems utterly contemporary these days, as we teeter on the edge of what may be another Depression. I'd take the country song "Atheists Don't Got No Music" as an insult, except that the lyrics do allow us blues and rock and roll. Mullin and Dwyer sing a lovely folkie tune called "When You're Next to Me," from A Mighty Wind, and Alex Crawford's deep baritone does full justice to "Old Man River." But the focus is all on the excellent singing and playing, the precision of the group numbers, and choreography that sometimes approaches real elegance — not on shtick. You get the sense that the troupe is trying to do things a little differently, perhaps appeal to a bigger audience. So while the dialogue is still cornball, you don't get the guys' usual hilarious cross-dressing routine — I missed that glimpse of Pierce's shapely legs — and Dwyer doesn't race into the audience to assault bald men with sticky kisses. There are also fewer moments of jaw-dropping, I-can't-believe-I-saw-that insanity. I missed those, too. Presented by Heritage Square Music Hall through September 4, 18301 West Colfax Avenue, Golden, 303-279-7800, www.hsmusichall.com. Reviewed June 16.
A Touch of Spring. A Touch of Spring, Samuel Taylor's rarely performed 1968 comedy, has one foot in the '50s (it's set in 1959) and another in the late '60s, that era of questioning and boundary-pushing. It starts out as a charming romantic comedy, but after a brief, exhilarating fling with genuine iconoclasm, it falls back into conventionality, with a conclusion that's a little wicked — at least for the time — but also deeply disappointing. We first encounter Sandy and Diana Claiborne in an expensive hotel in Rome. He's a business tycoon, she's high society, and they're behaving like the typical ugly Americans abroad. They're in town to collect the corpse of Sandy's father, who died in a car accident, and then hurry back home. But no sooner has impatient Diana huffed back to the States than Alison, a young Englishwoman, appears with an errand similar to Sandy's. Her mother died in the same car accident as his father, and Sandy is the only one who takes more than a second to figure out just what this means. The one truly original character in the play is Baldassare Pantaleone, or Baldo, a fast-talking young Italian operator who can fix balky appliances, blow through the bureaucracy and reveal the sensual joys of Italy to both Sandy and Alison. But Baldo leaves the stage halfway through the action, sticking us with the lovers and dialogue so insipid that it's impossible to care very much how this affair turns out. As Baldo, Michael Bouchard runs off with the evening. Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse through August 28, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, www.minersalley.com. Reviewed July 28.
Uncle Vanya. Most audiences these days simply don't know what to make of Chekhov: all those talky Russians airing their deepest desires and despairs, periodically insulting each other, occasionally bursting through with declarations of unrequited love. Nor do we really understand Chekhov's times. Our fondness for nature is tempered by the knowledge that the nearest pizza slice is only a car ride away — a perspective that in no way clues us into the brutal isolation of rural Russia in the late nineteenth century. Like most of Chekhov's dramas, Uncle Vanya has little overt action and no straightforward plot line — just talk, humans bumping up against each other, small psychological revelations. Although Chekhov called his plays comedies, the overall tone in most productions of his plays is of subdued and baffled tragedy. Ed Baierlein has produced the first comic Vanya I've ever seen, and while a few scenes come dangerously close to farcical, overall the tone works. At Vanya's house, the dreary daily tasks are done by Vanya's niece Sonya and the old nurse, Marina. The household rhythms are disrupted by the arrival of Vanya's self-important art-professor brother, Alexandr — Sonya's father — and Alexandr's beautiful and much younger wife, Yelena. Astrov is the perennial outsider, a doctor who has come to believe that all his healing work is useless. Vanya is in love with Yelena, who's tired of her hypochondriacal husband, and so is the good doctor Astro — for whom Sonya has been yearning for many years. Led by some very strong performances, the cast makes these people both sad and silly, saving them from absolute silliness with rueful self-awareness and a kind of bitter humor. This Vanya is a strong reminder of why this thirty-year-old company remains a formidable theatrical force. Presented by Germinal Stage Denver through August 28, 2450 West 44th Avenue, 303-455-7108, www.germinalstage.com. Reviewed August 4.
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