This weekend marks your last chance to see Fairfield at Miners Alley. Keep reading for a capsule review of that production, as well as three more shows on area stages right now.
Beauty and the Beast. Even if you've seen Disney's Beauty and the Beast over and over, this live version is worth your time. We meet Belle in the village where she grew up, which she now considers boring and provincial — perhaps because she’s the only person in it who actually reads. Belle is being courted by the local muscular lout, Gaston. When her father gets lost in the woods and finds himself a prisoner of the Beast, Belle offers to take his place. Trapped in the gloomy castle, she finds her captivity lightened by the presence of a comic group of animated, singing-dancing objects that include the candlestick Lumiere, the teapot Mrs. Potts and Cogsworth, the clock. All of these sentient insentients are trapped by the same spell that turned a handsome prince into the Beast. The acting is terrific throughout, the singing fine, the dancing lively and precise, the tech wonderfully creative. But it’s the humanity and creativity of BDT Stage’s approach that make its musicals moving as well as pleasurable. Presented by BDT Stage through September 21, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, bdtstage.com. Read the full review of Beauty and the Beast.
Chicago. This entertaining musical by composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb has a Brechtian undertow of darkness and cynicism, and Phamaly has created a terrific production. The play is set in the 1920s and takes place in a prison occupied entirely by murdering women, almost all of them cheerfully manipulative and entirely unrepentant except for a sweet, gentle Hungarian, Hunyak, who’s been condemned for an ax murder she swears she didn’t commit, and pays with her life for her innocent belief in American justice. We meet Velma, whose murder made her profitably famous, queening her way around until pretty blonde Roxie, who shot her boyfriend because he was a jerk and she was tired of him, sashays in and threatens to replace her. The prison Matron is always open — in so many ways — to those of her charges who want to curry favor; Billy Flynn, the dishonest showman of a defense attorney, will be happy to get Roxie off — and help her steal Velma’s fame — for only a few thousand dollars. The songs are wonderful, with clever lyrics and toe-tapping rhythms; Donna Debreceni’s musical direction is strong and vital, and the cast is top-notch. Erin Schneider’s sophisticated Velma displays a fine singing voice, and you can’t resist Megan McGuire’s minxy little grin as Roxie. As Billy Flynn, Leonard Barrett displays a fast-flashing variety of voices and expressions, sometimes reminiscent of Jim Carrey, sometimes of Robin Williams, and his singing is fabulous. Phamaly is a troupe of actors with physical challenges, and they show a power, grace, complexity and strength that their disabilities cannot take from them. Presented by Phamaly through August 25, Studio Loft at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-365-0005, phamaly.org. Read the full review of Chicago.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Fairfield. Some plays dealing with race go deep and angry, some use comedy, some take place in middle-class living rooms and feature cleverly spiked humor. Others are flat-out shocking. But playwright Eric Coble blows all convention apart with blasts of evil laughter in this farcical comedy about a liberal elementary school in a liberal district headed by a newly appointed black principal, Angela Wadley. A proud centrist, she gets saddled with bright-eyed teacher Laurie Kaminski — hired only because she’s the superintendent’s niece — who's brimming with exciting ideas for Black History Month. These include a vocabulary test using the words booty, chitlins and watermelon, creating a play based on the powerful television miniseries Roots, and an exercise in which the children become either slaves or slave owners and act out their roles. There’s trouble between two of the kids —one black, one white — and soon the situation escalates. The liberal white couple reveals the extent of their unconscious racism, and if the wronged black couple seem more virtuous at first, they’re not. No one in Fairfield is right, and everyone’s wrong — including the majestic Angela. While this play doesn't bring new insight to the knotty problem of racism, at least not in any linear way, it accomplishes something perhaps more significant. About 25 percent of the opening-night audience was African-American and 75 percent white, and throughout the evening the place was filled with gales of laughter, all of us swept away together by the same crazy, hilarious tide. Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse through August 18. 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, minersalley.com. Read the full review of Fairfield.
Mountains Made for Us. There’s a beautiful vitality to Mountains Made for Us, which features a large cast of immigrants. Dancer Deepali Lindblom is the force behind the group, and she plays the central character, Mini, with grace and charm. Mini runs a dance studio, but her future is uncertain since a developer has his eye on the land. When she meets all-American Cal, owner of a pot shop, love begins to stir. But there are cultural as well as emotional differences to surmount. Mini’s in love with the Colorado mountains, which remind her of her beloved Himalayas, but still dreams of becoming a well-known dancer-choreographer in the actual Bollywood. Cal urges her to be content where she is, develop her work as a teacher and find some way to flourish in Colorado. Cal’s father, Sam, is dying of cancer but remains remarkably good-natured and upbeat, and he presents no obstacle to the couple’s union. But the waters are fiercely roiled with the arrival of Mini’s highly conventional parents, who insist she return home to the man they’ve chosen as her husband. The play depicts a search for personal freedom, both in art and in love, and the script is a little flat, exhortatory and repetitive. But the cast is talented, and the stage often filled with the graceful curving limbs and swirling costumes of dancers, all of which makes for a joyful evening. Presented by Vintage Theatre Productions through August 18, 1468 Dayton Street, Aurora, 303-856-7830, vintagetheatre.com.