The summer theater season is winding down, but there are still a few worthwhile productions in town. Keep reading for capsule reviews of two current shows that both close this weekend.
Broadway Bound. The dining-room table is at the center of Kate Jerome’s life, a life devoted to caring and cooking for her family. So it’s intensely meaningful that — though she spends long periods of time waiting for her husband, Jack, to come home and eat, and continually encourages her two grown sons, Eugene and Stan, to come to the table — you never see everyone seated together for a meal in Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound. The only person who does eat there, grumbling continuously, is Kate’s cantankerous socialist father, Ben. The play is a realistic family drama, though young Eugene Jerome, clearly a stand-in for Simon himself, occasionally steps out of the warmly cluttered frame to deliver a comment or explanation directly to the audience. The action takes place in the late 1940s. The war is over, times are rapidly changing, and everyone in the family is seeking his or her place in the world. Kate clings to her traditional role. Ben, who knows Jack is about to leave and his grandsons will soon be trying their luck in the world, worries about leaving Kate alone and retiring to Florida, as his wealthy daughter Blanche — who married money — urges. Eugene and his excitable older brother, Stan, are hoping to break into show business as comedy writers. Their talk about what comedy is and what makes a good script provides an interesting commentary on Simon’s own work and the play itself. The characters are all richly drawn, and kudos to director Kate Gleason, a fine actor in her own right, for assembling equally rich performances. Kate is the heart of this household, and Cindy Laudadio-Hill gives a beautiful performance in the role. There’s a pivotal moment when Eugene persuades Kate to describe the peak experience of her life: the evening at the Primrose Ballroom when, as a young woman, she danced with the soon-to-be-famous George Raft. As she speaks, Eugene provides commentary, essentially transforming her memory into a movie in his mind. Until she silences him with a single flat sentence: “The movie isn’t over yet.” Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse through August 20, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, minersalley.com. Read the full review of Broadway Bound.
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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Sharp. Tuned in. Hip. These aren’t adjectives you expect to hear applied to a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1970 musical warhorse Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. But they fit the cool version directed by Matthew D. Peters and showing at BDT Stage to a T. Joseph tells the biblical story of a young fellow whose father favors him above all his eleven brothers and gives him a glowing, rainbow-colored cloak to prove it. It doesn’t help that Joseph has a habit of telling these brothers his dreams — all of which indicate they will eventually find themselves bowing down before him. They’re not keen on this and so plot to kill him, eventually selling him as a slave to some passing Egyptians. Once in Egypt, Joseph runs into trouble and is thrown into prison, but his ability to interpret dreams comes in handy when the Pharaoh needs help untangling a particularly disturbing dream of his own. After that, Joseph is elevated to a position of great power. When famine strikes, his brothers — who’ve been regretting their treatment of him — go to Egypt to beg for help. They don’t recognize their youngest sibling in the important figure who stands before them, but despite all, Joseph forgives them. Everyone rejoices. The plot serves primarily as a thread on which to hang a sequence of lively, tuneful numbers, and the musical styles range from cowboy to soft rock, throaty French ballad and even calypso. Pharaoh even does a spot-on Elvis impersonation. There are other pleasures here: good acting and good voices, a small orchestra that performs with verve. In all, the production is stylish, visually brilliant, inventive and full of witty touches big and small. Peters has assembled some of the strongest dancers I’ve encountered in musical theater around here, including a trio of elegant beauties who front many of the numbers. The company has transformed a rather squishy and sentimental musical into something swift and contemporary. They don’t go all Hallmark, with Joseph as a wistful dreamer, or indulge in a bunch of irrelevant gags. Instead, they strut their stuff – and they are gorgeous. Presented through August 19 by BTD Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder, 303-449-6000, bdtstage.com. Read the review of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
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