Theater

Now Playing: The Week's Theater Options

Fiddler on the Roof. This production of Fiddler on the Roofdoes full justice to Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's brilliant songs, tells the evocative story with clarity and feeling, and also — uniquely — sounds the musical's deeper, darker chords. The action is set in a rural Russian Jewish community whose members can be quarrelsome and petty or generous and helpful, but always unified by timeless bonds of ritual and tradition. At the center of the community is Tevye, a poor milkman struggling to survive and with five daughters to worry about. His worries come to a head when the three eldest daughters, each in turn, defy his patriarchal authority: Instead of submitting to the manipulations of matchmaker Yente, Tzeitel chooses the tailor Motel and only then asks her father's permission; Hodel falls in love with radical Marxist Perchik and prepares to follow him wherever his revolutionary work leads; and, worst of all, Chava marries outside the faith, choosing a Russian soldier. A lot of Tevyes come across like Jewish Santa Clauses, but Wayne Kennedy's version is a different animal entirely. He gives the comedy its due but lets us see the profound sadness beneath the jovial exterior — and something more. This man is loving to his children, generous to the stranger — as Jews are historically required to be — and jokey and argumentative with God. But there are deep currents of rage coursing through his veins as he contemplates the loss of everything he's cherished, including his little bird, his daughter Chava. The entire cast is strong and conveys a sense of authenticity and respect for Jewish history, and the menace humming beneath the action reminds us of the real dangers of the pogroms. Presented by BDT Stage (formerly Boulder's Dinner Theatre) through February 28 at 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder; for information, call 303-449-6000 or go to bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed December 4.

Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking. The Broadway musical is a big, bloated, conventional, endlessly copycatting phenomenon that cries out to be skewered, and Forbidden Broadway— in various incarnations — has been busily skewering it for over three decades. Despite this, Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking never feels packaged. Starring four of our brightest local talents, it's fresh, alive, and very, very funny. The roster of parodies takes in everything fromLes Misérablesthrough the Disney churn-outs to the serious, soulful Once, and the show manages to be savage without losing its good humor. If you hate the musical in question, you'll find the parody hilarious; the same is true if you love/hate it; and there's a subversive thrill in seeing even work you genuinely admire skillfully satirized. A couple of numbers miss, however. The Book of Mormon had to be in the mix, given its phenomenal success, but the song in which Trey Parker and Matt Stone exult in their own cleverness and wealth isn't nearly as funny as the musical itself. Still, most of the parodies sting beautifully. "On My Phone," sung by a bored Eponine texting away backstage in Les Misis a comedic gem. Then there's the jealousy duet between Chita Rivera, the first Anita in West Side Story, and Rita Moreno, who played the role in the movie, sung to the tune of "America." And no matter how often Wickedgets satirized, you can't prick that hot-air-filled balloon often enough. This show requires a lot of talent, and the performers have it in spades: splendid voices, clear enunciation (essential), charm and fearless comic chops. It all adds up to one of the brightest, sharpest, most entertaining evenings around. Presented by the Garner Galleria Theatre through March 1, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, denvercenter.org. Reviewed December 25.

Grounded. As Grounded begins, The Pilot is at the top of her game, cocky and tough, exulting in her job of carrying out airstrikes on Iraqi targets, then veering off into the solitary blue freedom of the sky: "I'm long gone by the time the boom happens," she says. On leave, she whiles away the evenings drinking and playing pool with her "boys." But like many a warrior before her, The Pilot is undone by love. She gets pregnant, marries, has a little girl, and is grounded by the Air Force and assigned to launch drone attacks from the safety of an air-conditioned trailer in the Nevada desert. For twelve hours a day, she stares at a gray screen, periodically — after long hours of boredom — obliterating human beings judged guilty by her intelligence coordinator with a movement of her thumb. This kind of killing is different from the killing she's used to, though: There's a camera in the belly of her Reaper, and she can see the condemned. Every evening, she goes home to her devoted husband and her child. You know from the play's beginning that The Pilot will eventually fall apart — but you don't know how this will happen. Author George Brant has written a brilliant script: terse, angry, sad and poetic — not lyrically poetic, but a deep, tough, true poetry, and the central topic is resonant. Anyone who's been following the news knows about the controversy surrounding the U.S. use of drones — the civilian deaths, the wedding parties bombed, the fact that the administration defines all military-aged males in a strike zone as militants. Seated in a barcalounger, The Pilot metes out death and destruction with absolutely no danger to herself. But there's nothing polemical about Brant's script, which is essentially the story of a singular and fascinating woman, a soldier through and through, a hero in the parlance of the day. Laura Norman is brilliant in the central role: She lives every emotionally draining moment, and there's a profound truth to everything she does, from the heavy, authoritative walk to the jocular militarisms she spouts to her final ominous and despairing words. Going through this experience can't have been easy for either Norman or director Josh Hartwell, but their creative generosity has achieved something rare in the world of theater: a work with the power to change the viewer. Presented by Boulder Ensemble Theatre Collective through January 18, Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut Street, Boulder, 303-440-7826, thedairy.org.

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Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman