Jackie and Me. Jackie and Me
Steven Dietz's dramatization of a young-adult book by Dan Gutman, is a kids' show, and also a remarkably flat and didactic one. It tells the story of a baseball-crazed boy named Joey Stoshak, who, with the help of a magical baseball card, goes back to 1947 and meets his idol, Jackie Robinson, the man who changed the game and, in the process, racial dynamics in America. Joey has a problem with his temper, and Robinson shows him how to deal with it. His parents are on the verge of separating, and Joey's adventures help bring them back together. Pretty much everyone is a cardboard character. Joey jumps around a lot and has little jokes, but he's still one of those stereotypical cutely tough but vulnerable Brooklyn kids. Mom and Dad are nice, nice, nice: You start longing to witness one serious squabble between them. As for Robinson himself, he's so noble he seems poised to step onto a plinth and instantly transmogrify into marble. The entire play is sanctimonious, preachy and sodden with wet-eyed nostalgia; even for a kids' story, the plot beggars belief. In most children's literature, the young live in a fantastical world that's closed to their elders, but Joey's parents know he is able to travel through time, and they actually suggest errands for him to accomplish when he does this. And once he's in the 1940s, Joey is transformed in a way that's seriously hard to stomach. Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through December 22, Space Theatre. Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, denvercenter.org. Reviewed November 28.
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Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good-Bye. This is the last show at Heritage Square Music Hall — a strange venue that's half true Western-style building, half pure Disney-level kitsch. So if you're already a fan of the 25-year-old troupe, go catch Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good-Bye
immediately. And if you're not, you should check out this unique slice of Colorado theater history before it vanishes. Over the years, the shows have been both scripted and improvisational; some were a little serious, but most are just hilarious; many consist of strings of musical numbers patched together with the slimmest of plots; and there's almost always a lot of interaction with audience members — some of them repeaters who have no problem yelling out ideas, requests, even the occasional "I love you" to a specific cast member. This final production has no plot, just songs the cast happens to like or feels you will. There are jokes about job-hunting and a famous guest artist who's inexplicably absent or perhaps just passed out backstage. The actors each sing a song they've chosen as a farewell: Alex Crawford does his own take on Cab Calloway's "The Hi De Ho Man," Rory Pierce contributes a tender "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and Annie Dwyer, looking glamorous in a glittering white dress, says quietly, "All my formative years have been spent right here," before launching into Sondheim's "I'm Still Here." T. J. Mullin comes up with a moving rendition of an aria from Puccini's Turandot, revealing himself as a man seriously in love with music. From there, it's on to the broad humor of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," a clutch of other comic songs and the sweet sounds of "O, Holy Night" and "Silent Night." Presented by Heritage Square Music Hall through December 31, 18301 West Colfax Avenue, Golden, 303-279-7800, hsmusichall.com. Reviewed December 5.
Spamalot. That's the unmistakable voice of Jerry Lewis you hear when God appears to Arthur in Spamalot
and instructs him to seek the Holy Grail. What is this Holy Grail, the knights wonder, staring upward. Some kind of cup? Well, couldn't they just buy a new one? Lewis is a friend of Boulder's Dinner Theatre artistic director Michael J. Duran, and he agreed to lend those familiar tones and that well-loved demanding whine to this production. Lewis doesn't actually appear on stage: God is represented by a pair of huge cardboard feet descending from the ceiling. The musical was written by Eric Idle and based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in the best tradition of such punny, capering, mildly scatalogical (lots of fart jokes) and altogether lunatic English comedy as Fawlty Towers. The dialogue is a hoot. When Arthur tells a raggedy subject he's the king, the subject turns out to be an anarchist with a lot to say about the anti-democratic nature of monarchy. A princess locked in the tower by her strict father is actually a delicate princeling yearning for gay love. The songs are blithe and tuneful, and there are clever sendups of all kinds of Broadway tropes. There's "The Song That Goes Like This," which parodies Andrew Lloyd Webber; The Lady of the Lake's tantrum, "The Diva's Lament" ("Whatever happened to my part?"); and a hilarious take-off on Fiddler on the Roof: "You Won't Succeed on Broadway (If You Don't Have Any Jews)." Director Piper Lindsay Arpan, who performed in Spamalot on Broadway, has assembled a talented cast, and every member is clearly having a blast. So is the audience. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through March 1, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed November 21.