Review: Matt Dusk

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By Janice Hubbell, guest blogger

On a snowy and brutally cold Saturday evening, my hubby and I arrived at the Lone Tree Art Center (thankfully only a couple blocks away) to see Toronto jazz crooner, Matt Dusk, perform. We expected to see unclaimed seats in the sold-out show but were pleasantly surprised to see an audience full of brave music lovers! Matt’s appearance and voice were as dreamy as one might expect at a pop concert, although much more enjoyable! We enjoyed each rendition of jazz standards from the Great American Songbook as Matt warmed up the audience and proceeded to charm us out of our seats! (Naturally, since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, the songs were romantically inclined such as “My Funny Valentine.” I noticed couples in the audience holding hands and gazing in each other’s eyes…) We also enjoyed the glass of champagne and cookies during intermission—what a lovely surprise!

More than just a professional performer, Matt’s stage presence was warm and genuinely friendly as he invited the audience into his life, sharing bits and pieces of his personal career and family. I especially enjoyed his stories before several of his songs—who doesn’t enjoy a good story?! For instance, I had no idea Johnny Mercer wrote “One For My Baby (And One For The Road)” on a napkin in a bar, in the middle of nowhere, on a road trip to propose to Judy Garland…and he literally was singin’ the blues after discovering she had just married! As much as I like a good cover, I love original music even more so, and Matt performed one of his signature heartbreak stories beautifully. The best song of the night, hands down, however was “Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Bad,” written for Frank Sinatra by U2 stars, Bono and The Edge. Sadly, Frank died before performing, and Bono allowed Matt Dusk to debut this song depicting real life. Matt really captured our hearts in his sensitive portrayal as no one moved or made a sound. The concert ended with his moving tribute to Frankie—“I Did It My Way!”

Matt Dusk’s trio of musicians were on the same level as his vocal performance—just a piano, acoustic bass, and saxophone player. Their accompaniment showcased his voice perfectly but he also allowed them to shine individually. As we were leaving, we encountered Matt in the hallway and he stopped to shake hands and chat. We complimented his performance and mentioned the musicality of his band, especially since there was no drummer. As a musician, I know how difficult that is—musicians lean on the drummer to carry the song and must be twice as good to carry the music without percussion. Matt mentioned they were all from Denver and that he would pass on the compliment!

 

 

 

Review: PostSecret: The Show

by Kristi Andrus, guest blogger

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All of the stories featured in PostSecret: The Show were true. I didn’t expect that. I guess I understood the concept, but still thought the production would have embellished or taken creative license or something. Huh, I guess that truth is stranger than fiction.

Some of the secrets and stories were funny, some were poignant, some were disgusting, some were heartbreaking, some were ironic, and some were heartwarming. The ones that moved me were people so touched by other people’s secrets that they responded to offer camaraderie, support, even money. The stories of people saving voicemails of their loved ones to listen to after they died were relatable and hard to hear. The postcard I’m not sure I’ll ever forget said: “Everyone who knew me before 9/11 believes I’m dead.”

Why?! Why would he/she do that to people that love them? To people that know them and cared about them and now mourn them? Was it so bad? Is he/she escaping something? It’s got to be made into a book, right? Someone please take that secret and run with it. Write the book, option the rights to a movie, who knows where it could go?

The best parts:

The actors – There were only three, Maria Glanz, TJ Dawe, and Kerry Ipema. They were fantastic and believable. It was so much fun to see them embody the different people from the postcards.

The start – “Listen. Don’t Judge. Use a voice of compassion. Build rapport.” Relevant and riveting from the get-go. It could have been a mantra.

The stats – I pee in the shower is the most common secret mailed in. Tell me who feels the need to confess that? I wish I had someone to share my secrets with is the second most common secret. That’s sad. Vulnerability is powerful y’all. Share with a friend and watch your relationship evolve. You don’t have to share your biggest, worst, darkest secret, maybe start small and see how it goes.

The timing – “In 2004, nothing went viral.” Timing, ladies and gentleman, is everything, and ideas, businesses, and relationships are made and broken on that alone. This concept probably wouldn’t work in today’s world, but it worked when it launched and it’s still going strong. Check out the blog to see how it’s expanded.

The instructions – Take a postcard, or two. Tell your secret anonymously. Stamp and mail the postcard. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything – as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. Simple and powerful.

If you missed the show, I’m sorry, it was a great night out. To the fellow audience members with really great laughs, thank you for being a delightful soundtrack to the show.

See you at Lone Tree Arts Center for the next one!

Review: PostSecret: The Show

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By Joy Carletti, guest blogger

I have a secret.

I’ve been an off-again, on-again reader of PostSecret for over a decade and a writer and storyteller for nearly as long – and my biggest concern about PostSecret: The Show was that it wouldn’t have enough story to it. After all, it’s based on lots of random anonymous lines written on postcards. How much narrative could there be? Where would the emotional arc come from? How satisfied would I be when walking away from this show?

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PostSecret: The Show was an immersive experience from the very start. Before the show on February 8, sticky notes bearing secrets hung on mirrors in the restrooms, paired with pens and blank pads encouraging hand washers to add their own. (My husband let me know that the men’s room had a number of secrets that read “I don’t wash my hands.”  I didn’t see any such secrets in the ladies’ room, but there were a lot of secrets about husbands.) In the theater, a large screen beckoned audience members to tweet their secrets with a specific hashtag in order to be put onscreen. A lot of “check-ins” were shared on the screen but few true secrets. To be fair, Twitter does not promise the anonymity that an unsigned postcard or sticky note does.

The show started by dramatizing PostSecret founder Frank Warren’s most memorable call while volunteering on a suicide hotline. This was done through voiceover and simple movement; it was both dramatic and moving. The story’s ending was not revealed, but the scene had an energy and a gravitas that were leading. Why might any call into a suicide hotline be memorable?

There is a quote from Oliver Twist that I’ve long treasured, “It is the custom on the stage… to present the tragic and the comic scenes, in as regular alternation, as the layers of red and white in a side of streaky bacon.” PostSecret does this beautifully, segueing from its powerful opening into a series of projected postcards about peeing in the shower. This carried throughout the night: moments of extreme tension were followed by great levity. Each postcard on the screen found murmured relatability in the audience. The secrets came in thematic waves, with some broken out and developed into story-scenes by three actors (TJ Dawe, Maria Glanz, Kerry Ipema). Some of these worked very well, showing how people were affected by secrets shared. Others felt a bit treacly and over the top, occasionally giving the sense that PostSecret was the catalyst for healing – rather than the humans behind the stories.

The show incorporated interaction throughout. Following intermission, the audience’s own secrets were read onstage by the actors. These got the biggest responses of the night: raucous laughter, shouts of encouragement, ripples of sympathy. After the show, a photographer was available to take pictures of audience members with their secrets on a whiteboard. The line to share was long!

In the end, my own fears proved unfounded. Of course, wonderful stories emerged out of mere secrets on postcards. Once a secret is shared, there’s an urge to keep sharing. The emotional arc of PostSecret:The Show builds that urge into a wave. I walked out of the show ready to dig into my inner self for something I hadn’t shared before, if only to be part of the movement. It was a truly satisfying evening of theatre – and made for great ride-home conversation!

Preview: Moscow Festival Ballet’s Cinderella

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Photo by Alexander Daev

By Ashton Temby, guest blogger

The Moscow Festival Ballet brings the classic folk tale Cinderella to the Lone Tree Arts Center’s main stage for one night only on Thursday, February 15, 2018.

Cinderella weaves the tale of an unfortunate young woman suddenly at the mercy of her evil stepmother and stepsisters. With the help of her fairy godmother, Cinderella transforms and gets to attend a royal ball wherein she meets her prince.

This interpretation of the classic story was shaped by Sergei Radchenko and his wife, Elena Radchenko.

Sergei Radchenko founded The Moscow Festival Ballet in 1989, creating the first independent company of classic ballet. As a graduate of the Moscow School of Dance, and a dancer for 25 years with the Bolshoi Ballet, Radchenko possessed the framework to found this, now, world renowned company.

Since 1989, The Moscow Festival Ballet has toured, Japan, Korea, Singapore, China, Canada, the United States, and many European countries creating its respected reputation for performing classical elements of Russian ballet.

While Spanish dance is known to be Radchenko’s favorite, he and the company continue to add to their breadth of work, and now also specialize in Twentieth Century ballets, such as Cinderella.

“To stimulate modern viewer interest and need for the art of Russian classical ballet is a main task of our team.” – Elena and Sergei Radchenko (radchenko-ballet.com).

Classical dance elements with a modern twist make this one night performance the event of the season. Tickets can be purchased here or at through the box office.

Preview: PostSecret: The Show

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By Joy Carletti, guest blogger

If you are unfamiliar with PostSecret, you may want to visit the website that spurred the show now. But you should only do so if you have some time to go down an internet rabbit hole. Reading PostSecret is like overhearing a truly intriguing snippet of conversation but knowing you can’t ever have the full back story. The site was started in 2005 and bills itself as “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.” There’s something truly magical about browsing through the postcards. The reader feels a sense of familiarity and camaraderie with the writer even if the situation is new. The secrets range from mundane to scandalous, heartwarming to heart-wrenching, silly to downright horrifying. The site has received nearly 800 billion page views over the years, making it clear that people long for a window into all of these feelings.

PostSecret: The Show is looking to heighten these emotions by bringing secrets to life on stage. With the help of three actors and a guitarist, PostSecret: The Show will immerse the audience in a new level of storytelling. The actors will share anonymous secrets, both from postcards sent in by website readers and from audience members. Then they’ll flesh out the stories behind the secrets. What stories might emerge? It will depend completely on what’s shared on postcards that night, as this show changes from city to city, with each new audience supplying new secrets. If the postcards sent into the website are any indication, the show could run the gamut all the way from “I ate my co-worker’s yogurt” to “I’m having an affair with my co-worker’s wife.” Possibly relatable, possibly scandalous, definitely worth seeing!

PostSecret: The Show is at Lone Tree Arts Center for one night only on February 8 at 7:30pm. Don’t miss this opportunity to peer into other people’s lives – and maybe to share your secrets too! Tickets are available here.

Preview: The Peking Acrobats

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By Tracy Hauff, guest blogger

Flipping, flying, balancing, and diving. That’s what you’ll see at the Lone Tree Arts Center on Wednesday, February 7, 2018. The Peking Acrobats will commandeer the stage with athletic abilities that will make you scratch your head—how is that humanly possible?

Few have had the opportunity to travel to China and take part in a Chinese festival, but the Peking Acrobats bring the carnival to us with contortionists, gymnasts, jugglers, and cyclists. Musicians play Chinese instruments that provide traditional background music during each act. Colorful Chinese lions and dragons prance around the stage assisting the gymnasts and delighting the audience.

My ten-year-old granddaughter possesses impressive gymnastic skills, and she will accompany me to the show. She’s always looking for new moves to master, and the Peking Acrobats are sure to deliver an enriching performance that will inspire her quest for excellence.

The entire family will enjoy the choreographed program filled with fast-paced routines that date back to the Ch’in Dynasty. Join us at Lone Tree Arts Center for a night of thrills as the Peking Acrobats perform their time-honored tradition of entertainment.

Single seats are still available here: lonetreeartscenter.org/pekingacrobats

Preview: PostSecret: The Show

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By Kristi Andrus, guest blogger

I vaguely recall this phenomenon from the early 2000s. Approximately 15 years ago Frank Warren conceived of the idea to create an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on a postcard. The secrets were published via a blog, and have since went on to inspire a museum exhibit, several books, a TED talk and more. At the time, it seemed so salacious and brave. Of course, that was mostly pre-reality television, and certainly before the practice of revealing yourself became a strategy for cultivating fame, becoming an influencer, or growing brands.

Imagine, sharing something revealing for the sake of sharing. Perhaps it was to unburden, to atone, to distance yourself from the secret. Maybe it was a silly thrill. Who knows what motivated the participants? The intriguing aspect of the secrets is the anonymity, especially as it seems impossible in today’s world.

I recently read an article that said if you were on Facebook (or substitute your favorite platform here) at any point, or your very closest acquaintances were or are, the amount of data points that exist for you and your network are virtually limitless. The six-degrees-of-separation (Kevin Bacon?) that existed once upon a time is now 2-3 degrees for most people on the planet. I don’t think the article was meant to scare so much as caution that privacy is an illusion to some degree today.

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All that to say, I can’t wait to see this show, billed as an “immersive, poignant journey through the humor and humanity of the personal stories we keep to ourselves” – its concept seems so anti-selfie, pre-Kardashian cool.

Buy tickets at lonetreeartscenter.org for the 7:30pm performance on Thursday, February 8 and let us know what you thought!

Review: Riders In The Sky

By Cassie Schauer, guest blogger

group4x5250dpiOn a cold, windy January night on the Colorado range, the Riders In The Sky brought their funny musical tribute to the Wild West to the Lone Tree Arts Center. My mom and I were excited to see them perform the songs made famous by her childhood favorite Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers. We were not disappointed.

The Riders In The Sky are a group of four very talented musicians including guitarist Ranger Doug the “Governor of the Great State of Rhythm,” fiddler Woody Paul the “King of the Cowboy Fiddlers,” and accordionist Joey who is “The CowPolka King.”  Standing in for bassist Too Slim was Blake Macklemore, who seamlessly picked up on the songs and jokes despite having joined the night before. The band’s playful ribbing about their age reminds you that they have been together for over 40 years.  They are perennial favorites on the state fair circuit and have won a Grammy for their album Woody’s Round Up from Disney’s Toy Story 2.

The show opened with scenes from The Roy Rogers Show including sidekick Gabby Hays, cowgirl Dale Evans, and of course, Roy riding his horse, Trigger. As the lights came up, Riders In The Sky appeared dressed in colorful Western shirts, lighting their cellophane flame on the campfire surrounded by toy armadillos and cacti.  Proclaiming, “In a logical world, men would ride side saddle,” the first set featured a variety of cowboy standards.  Ranger Doug awed us with his impressive yodeling skills, hitting the high notes yet singing with a smooth baritone voice. “Sky Ball Paint” featuring the “Lone Tree Yodel” brought out whoops from the crowd. Sprinkling the set with witty comments and silly jokes, the band invited us to sing along to “Don’t Fence Me In” and “You Are My Sunshine.” The set lighting turned red like the hot desert sun when the band sang “Cool Water,” a favorite of The Sons of the Pioneers. Joey drew lighthearted dirty looks from his bandmates when he threw in a “Diet Pepsi” in place of the “water” echo.

The second set included “Blue Shadows on the Trail” from the 1948 Disney cartoon “Melody Time,” sung complete with wind and howling coyotes.

Woody showed off his various cowboy talents.  As a member of the National Fiddler Hall of Fame (per Ranger Doug, in the “living” category), he dazzled us with his fast fiddling and dancing skills.  Schooling us on the difference between “Country” and “Western” styles of music (“Country” means you take the mike out of the stand), he got down on his knees at center stage, swinging his hips to “You’re Wearing Out Your Welcome  Matt,” an ode to Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty. After jumping off the stage to high-five with the audience, he went on to show off his lassoing skills. Claiming all of his mistakes are real and not rehearsed, he performed the donut trick as a “favorite of the Lone Tree Police.”ritssunset4x5250dpi

Taking a break from the cowboy tunes, local saxophonist Eric Stehle joined the band for a rousing rendition of jazz standard “Sweet Georgia Brown.”  Featuring a solo by each of the five musicians, the group showed off the depth of their musical talents and was a fun change.

The band rounded out the show with audience requests including Tex Ritter’s “Blood on the Saddle” and perennial favorite “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” Ending on a perfect note with another audience sing-along to “Happy Trails to You” and the sage advice to “never drink downstream from the herd,” the band road off into the sunset. Riders In The Sky, a fun and talented group of entertainers, warmed up a cold night on the range with a performance that my mom and I were glad we didn’t miss.

Review: Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Night

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By Monica Jarrell, guest blogger

Viva Las Vegas is a wildly-entertaining movie featuring some amazing high-energy song and dance numbers performed by Elvis Presley and Ann-Margaret. The story line is cute and corny at the same time. It is a story of a boy falling in love with a girl in the coolest city in the world.

The movie is about a romantic triangle involving Lucky Jackson (Elvis Presley), Rusty Martin (Ann-Margaret) and Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova). Lucky must compete with the suave and debonair Count Mancini in winning the race and winning the heart of Rusty Martin.

Lucky Jackson arrives in Las Vegas to race in the Grand Prix. First Lucky needs to buy a new engine for his race car before the big race. While in the garage at the race track Lucky and Count Mancini are under the count’s car looking at mechanical things when in walks Rusty Martin in short white shorts. Both men are smitten with her. Rusty leaves before they can find out her name. The two men spend the night trying to track her down.

The two men find Rusty at the swimming pool where she works as a swimming instructor. Lucky and Rusty perform in a cat and mouse singing duo at the swimming pool. At the end of the song Rusty pushes Lucky into the pool. The money that Lucky made to purchase his new engine falls out of his pocket when he lands in the water.

Now Lucky must find another way to earn the cash he needs for his new engine. He finds a job as a waiter at the same hotel where Rusty is employed. Lucky spends a great deal of time trying to win Rusty’s heart and very little time working as a waiter.

The couple share several fun outings during their budding relationship. They dance and sing on the stage and gymnasium at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. They go water skiing, fly over Hoover Dam in a helicopter, they go Skeet Shooting at the Sahara Hotel, and go on a motorcycle ride performing various stunts.

The film ends with Lucky winning the race and the girl. Their wedding takes place at the Little Church of the West, which is a famous wedding chapel in Las Vegas listed on the U.S. National Registry of Historical Places as the oldest existing structure on the Las Vegas Strip.

It is said that Elvis and Ann-Margaret had a wild love affair while making the movie. The chemistry is evident between the two of them. This attraction to each other is what makes the movie so enjoyable.

The movie is fun, light and breezy. Good clean fun. It is a must see movie for Elvis fans or anyone just wanting to be thoroughly entertained.

After enjoying the movie, the Lone Tree Arts Center provided refreshments of peanut butter and bacon sandwiches. This was one of Elvis Presley’s favorite snacks. Meatballs, mini burgers, and a variety of desserts were also available.

Other activities included Elvis impersonators, an Elvis look-alike contest with Elvis himself acting as the judge. There was a photo booth with wild and crazy costumes and props. Every guest was provided with $500 dollars of play money to gamble with. There were several casino games available for those who felt lucky. The night ended with Elvis singing old Elvis songs. It was a great way to spend the evening.

Review: Michael Martin Murphey “A Cowboy Christmas”

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By Janet Warner, Guest Blogger

I was pleased to be able to attend A Cowboy Christmas with Michael Martin Murphy at Lone Tree Arts Center on December 22nd, 2017.  My husband is not a fan of country music in any form (his loss, perhaps?), but the dear friend I took with me was looking forward to this show as much as I was. I must be honest, however, and admit that we were forced to leave the show at intermission due to illness, so I can only write about what I saw and heard during the first hour of a nearly two hour performance.

As we drove into the rear of the Arts Center parking lot, we passed the big tour bus that Murphey arrived in.  It looked pretty fancy to my eyes, and if one is going to take an extended road trip, I would think this would be the way to go.  After looking at Murphey’s tour schedule from November through July 2018, he’s going to get a lot of use out that bus.

Shortly before the performance, I was curious to know whether the show was sold out.  It was close, with only three single seats still available on the online seating chart; the next night’s performance looked the very much the same.  Either people had heard about or seen Michael Martin Murphey before, or the marketing department had done its job selling the show.  I suspect the former was true, because from my vantage point near the back of the theatre, it appeared that the majority of the audience knew the artist and were already fans.  I say this because it looked to me like many of those attending were prepared to see his country show and dressed accordingly; I saw a plethora of cowboy hats, boots, western shirts and leather.  In fact, a few of the women were dressed in full western regalia and would have been entirely comfortable in any 1800s Wild West saloon!  And, no surprise, the bulk of the audience were baby boomers like me.

Photo By Kim ThompsonThe stage itself was sparsely set up, with five microphones on stands and a blank video screen behind them.  A young man walked out to introduce Murphey, and it turned out to be his youngest son, Brennan.  He said a few words about his dad, the band, the “Murphandise” for sale, and the show itself, and injected the introduction with enough humor so that I didn’t much mind the sales pitch.  Michael Martin Murphey appeared soon after, along with his band of four.  Two, in addition to Murphey, played guitar, one played electric violin, and Brennan played some sort of string instrument that I didn’t recognize, but it added a nice layer of interest to the music. Murphey, dressed in a long, fringed, soft leather jacket, neckerchief and jeans, looked the quintessential cowboy, but then again, they all did!

My impressions of the show were many.  Truthfullly, I was not very familiar with Murphey’s music, other than the songs that made it on the radio years ago (such as “Wildfire” and “Carolina in the Pines”).  I didn’t recognize most of the songs he did, but it didn’t really matter, because the music was really good.  It was interesting too, because I could understand every word of the lyrics so I was drawn in by the stories he told.  Murphey may be in the latter part of his career (due to getting older, and not because he’s lost any of his talent), but he can still keep an audience engaged .  The show was a mixture of storytelling, poetry and music.  Murphey said he’s been doing this show in one form or another for twenty-four years, and it’s obvious he still enjoys performing it.  One of the things I most enjoyed was the harmonizing.  Though there was only one woman in the band, her voice was strong and full of character, and the combination of voices behind Murphey was first rate.  I’m sure the whole point of having a band behind you is to enhance the main performer, and that was definitely true here, all of them fine musicians in their own right.

The video screen behind Murphey and the band was used to show still pictures and video, its purpose to enhance the poem or story he was telling.   Some of the pictures and video showed repeatedly, and that would be my only minor complaint with the stage and setup.  I think more could have been done to improve the quality of the whole experience by having something interesting to look at onstage besides microphone stands and a video screen.  But, perhaps that was the whole point; the focus was solely on the music and not on bells and whistles.  And after such a long and successful career in music, perhaps Michael Martin Murphey knows what he’s doing a little better than I do!  Well done – I think everyone had a great time.