Picnic was a generally forgettable production, with disappointing performances from some of the leads. But playing a befuddled neighbor, Kathleen M. Brady showed just how powerful gentleness can be. Sure, her character was confused and sometimes downright dumb, but all of her instincts were true. She was kind to the young people and understanding with her bad-tempered, controlling neighbor, Flo. At one point, she told the play's young hero, Hal, that she'd made him a Lady Baltimore cake, and he gave her a grateful kiss. Her pleased, confused response was the sweetest moment of the evening.

Buntport Theater Company
Courtesy Buntport Theater Facebook page
Many of the literati quarreled with director Donovan Marley over his decision to set the production of Chekhov's classic, The Three Sisters, in the American South in 1862. But somehow James Warnick's translation added resonance and implication while leaving intact the plight of the characters and the sense of a world trembling on the verge of transformation. The cast -- which included Bill Christ, Jamie Horton, Annette Helde, Jacqueline Antaramian, Keith Hatten, Randy Moore and Richard Risso -- was absolutely stellar, and the substitution of black slaves for Chekhov's servants added a frisson of uneasiness, even guilt, to our experience of the production. The set, costumes and lighting were also impeccable.
One of the great joys of Donovan Marley's The Three Sisters was watching Annette Helde and Jacqueline Antaramian working together. Both of these women are extraordinary actresses, and both project entirely different personae. Helde brought a profound gentleness to the oldest of the sisters, Alma, along with a stifled tenderness that illuminated the entire evening. As the unhappily married Marsha Anne, Antaramian was funny, fierce, bitter, staccato and eccentric. But when she finally gave in to her doomed feelings for her beloved Covington, the flood of emotion threatened to drown us all.
There's a lot to like about Chicago -- brilliant songs, a witty script and a grown-up worldview -- and Boulder's Dinner Theatre gave the dark musical a sexy, vivid, energetic production, full of show-stopping performances. Joanie Brosseau-Beyette played Roxie Hart, a hard-eyed, murderous little blond, without a second's sentimentality. Alicia Dunfee led a chorus of murderesses that included the delightful Shelly Cox-Robie, and Wayne Kennedy provided pathos as Hart's adoring, exploited husband. The evening was graced by a fine jazz sextet and a lot of strong voices. Slick, sophisticated and about as good as dinner theater gets.
Okay, his name is actually Brian Mallgrave, and he's an excellent and very intense young actor, but we'd never seen him like this before. It took several seconds after B. Hamlette's gliding, swooping entrance in Chicago before most of the audience realized he wasn't a she. As gossipy, credulous reporter Mary Sunshine, Mallgrave was simultaneously elegant and silly, stealing every scene that the character graced. And though it was hard to decide if it was a soprano or a countertenor, the voice was soaring and rich.
Sweet Corner Symphony was a doo-wop a cappella concert with amazing singing by Vincent Robinson, Ed Battle, Ken Parks, Dwayne Carrington and Hugo Jon Sayles. "Swanee" got the group's own satiric spin, and they also performed dozens of lesser-known songs. Ken Parks was mesmerizing as the ringleader: tall and heavyset in a gold-and-black dashiki, deploying his strong, mellow, expressive voice, shaking his head, gesturing, constantly on the move. Carrington provided powerful support with his bass baritone, and Hugo Sayles offered up a terrific falsetto. Vince Robinson radiated rhythmic good humor, and Ed Battle -- another knock-out performer -- had a couple of moving solos, including a version of the Lord's Prayer.
Those Denverites who saw Savion Glover perform at the Buell will someday tell their children about it. He just may be the best tap dancer alive, certainly one of the best who ever lived. Glover, who began dancing at the age of eleven, makes music with his feet. Bring in Da Noise, which he also choreographed and for which he won a Tony, used tap, hip-hop, blues and percussion to tell the story of black people in America. This is not the tap we associate with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly -- although Shirley Temple puts in a dizzying appearance. This dancing was loud, rough-driving and exuberant, but also complex and sophisticated. Glover alone could carry an evening, but for this production he gathered an extraordinary group of dance talents and gave them generous stage time. Unforgettable. Mind-blowing. Dazzling. Glover's show was all this and more.
Though some of us wondered why New York kicked up such a fuss about The Producers, the

"Springtime for Hitler" number made everything clear -- or almost so. The entire show builds to this moment, and when it comes, it's got the lot: a tease of a beginning, catchy tunes, chorines prancing about in '30s-style Hollywood headdresses that feature a beer stein, a pretzel and a sausage, black-helmeted storm troopers gliding forward in nightmarish rows, and a Hitler (Lee Roy Reams) who adopts a chilling world-conquering pose and then drops it to camp blithely all over the stage.

Ulla was a Swedish sex bomb who longs to be a star. She was almost a cartoon, a flesh-and-blood Jessica Rabbit, and Charley Izabella King was a wonder in the role. Inhumanly gorgeous, wearing clothes that loved her body, she vamped around the stage and spoofed her own exaggerated accent. While limited to prancing, splits and high kicks, it was clear that King is a ballet-trained dancer. We'd never experienced seduction until we heard her croon, "Ulla likes Bblllllooom," lingering on each syllable like a cat lapping at cream.
As Godot's Lucky, Dennis Rodriguez was called on to stand for long periods of time with his mouth open, his feet turned out and his knees slightly bent, looking like a clown, a puppet, something inanimate. His silent presence remained infused with feeling nonetheless. Then he began his speech, an incomprehensible monologue that must have been at least ten minutes long. Usually, audience attention wanders within a minute or two, so it's a testament to Rodriguez's conviction and the deftness of the direction that we listened to every word he spoke, trying to piece them together and make meaning even as Lucky spoke on and on and finally sputtered into complete incoherence.

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