lone tree arts center

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.

Preview: The Good Humor Men

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By Tracy Hauff, Guest Blogger

I think we can all agree that 2017 has been a rough year. Politics, tragedies, and natural disasters have taken a toll, so what could be a better way to unwind from 2017 and usher in 2018 than a night of good clean fun? Well, sit back, relax, and laugh because we got it covered. Three of the funniest men in the stand-up comedy arena—Pat McGann, Pete Lee, and Pat Hazell—are banding together as The Good Humor Men to bring us a well-deserved night of jocularity. I don’t know how Lone Tree Arts Center finagled this sought-after trio of talent, but I’m sure glad they did!

The Good Humor Men are known for hilarious clean humor. No cussing is necessary to get a guffaw. About the dirtiest joke you may hear is from Pat McGann who is a father to three youngsters: “I got kids at home. We got three under four. Know what that’s like? Here’s a fast fact, 75% of the asses I wipe aren’t mine.”

Then there’s Pete Lee, the youngest of the jokesters. He knew he was doing something right when following his performance, Robert DeNiro called him over to his table to tell him what a terrific set he had.

Last, but not least, Pat Hazell, a well-seasoned comedian with appearances on ABC, CBS, Showtime, MTV, Comedy Central, PBS, Fox, and CNN, and celebrated for his baby boomer child-of-the-sixties live theatrical tour, The Wonder Bread Years. He is also the brains behind the original production of The Good Humor Men. Thank you for that, Pat.

One night only, Friday, December 29, 2017. Don’t delay. Get your tickets today and join us for an evening of laughter.

Tickets: www.lonetreeartscenter.org/goodhumormen

Preview: Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Night

 

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By Monica Jarrell, Guest Blogger

Join us at the Lone Tree Arts Center for a screening of Viva Las Vegas on December 28th at 7:00pm.  Get your tickets early as this show will sell out quickly.  Stick around after the show for a Las Vegas cocktail night in the lobby, complete with appetizers, casino games, karaoke, and an Elvis costume contest judged by the man himself.

Viva Las Vegas, starring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret, hit the movie scene in 1964.  It was instantly a big hit.  The movie was rated #14 in gross movie sales that year. The movie is full of songs and dancing, including “Viva Las Vegas” which remains a classic to this day.

Many critics suggest that Viva Las Vegas was one of Elvis’s best movies.  All agree that the chemistry between Ann-Margret and Elvis was very apparent and made the movie a success.  It is the only movie that Elvis starred in where the co-star matches and at times surpasses his on-screen presence.

The story is about Lucky Jackson who arrives in Las Vegas to participate in the City’s Grand Prix Race.  He needs a new engine in his race car, so he works as a waiter at a hotel to earn the money for his car. Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret) is the hotel’s swimming instructor.  Lucky attempts to win the affection of Rusty but faces competition in love and in the race.  Count Elmo Mancini (Ceasre Danova) arrives and attempts to win the girl and the race.

The chemistry between the two stars was genuine during filming.  Presley and Ann-Margret began an affair while filming Viva Las Vegas.  This affair brought a spark to the movie screen and rumors were abundant concerning the future between Ann-Margret and Elvis.

The Swedish born singer/actress Ann-Margret was raised in Illinois and was discovered by George Burns.  She is best known for her roles in Bye Bye Birdie (1963), Viva Las Vegas (1964), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), Carnal Knowledge (1971), Tommy (1975), Grumpy Old Men (1993), and Grumpier Old Men (1995). She has won five Golden Globe Awards and has been nominated for two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and six Emmy Awards.

For his role in Viva Las Vegas, Elvis Presley received a third-place prize in the 1965 Laurel Awards for best male performance in a musical film. Viva Las Vegas also received the 1965 Laurel Award for runner-up in the category of the best musical of 1964.  Ann-Margret was praised for her on screen chemistry with Elvis, as she nearly stole the film from him.

The movie was written by Sally Benson, directed by George Sidney, who also directed Bye Bye Birdie – a film that also starred Ann-Margret.  The song “Viva Las Vegas” was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman.

Remember, what happens at Lone Tree Arts Center, stays at Lone Tree Arts Center.

Preview: Michael Martin Murphey

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By Janet Warner, Guest Blogger

The Lone Tree Arts Center is excited to welcome back Michael Martin Murphey, performing December 22nd and December 23rd, 2017.  He previously appeared with the Lone Tree Symphony in 2013, but A Cowboy Christmas will be a show with his own Rio Grande Band.  As a testament to his talent and popularity, Murphey was originally scheduled for just one appearance, but ticket sales were so brisk that a second date was added. While you may not be so familiar with his name, you have probably heard his music on the radio over the years, with classic hits like “Wildfire,” “What’s Forever For,” and “Carolina in the Pines.”

Murphey’s holiday show celebrates what he calls the cowboy culture – a life based on faith, family, hard work, and his passion for conservation and the environment.

Photo By Kim ThompsonMichael Martin Murphey is drawn to all things having to do with the American West.  He is a student of its history, culture, landscape, and the characters who shaped and built it.  Murphey’s music reflects these interests and passions, and with more than 35 albums produced over a long career, his life experiences documenting the cowboy culture are what drive his music.  It goes without saying that he is also a gifted songwriter, his songs having been recorded by artists such as Kenny Rogers and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. In addition, he’s had multiple gold records and been nominated for several Grammy awards.

He continues a busy tour schedule of his Cowboy Christmas show through the end of the year in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Colorado.  You are in for a real treat if you’re lucky enough to get tickets to see Michael Martin Murphy this Christmas season – it will be impossible not to tap your feet, clap your hands, and enjoy yourself!

 

Preview: Cherish The Ladies

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By Janice Hubbell, Guest Blogger

Celtic music evokes memories of my Irish granddad playing the “fiddle”—not to be confused with the violin! I have not yet visited Ireland, Scotland or Wales, but my daughter spent a summer as an undergrad at The Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, Ireland, and I loved her photographs of haunted castles, crystal chandeliers, rugged coastlines, trees hundreds of years old and little bog houses decaying back into the soil. These images felt familiar… like I had been there before. Maybe Ireland is imprinted in my DNA!

Traditional Irish music style encompasses a wide range—from haunting to boisterous, depending on the tempo, instrument, and the song’s intended emotion and message. My daughter and I are looking forward to celebrating our Celtic heritage on December 20 with Cherish The Ladies who have been authentically representing Irish music and step dancing for over 30 years. This Grammy-nominated Irish-American group broke into the male-dominated Irish music scene in New York City in 1985 and they are coming to perform for us at the Lone Tree Art Center!

It’s Ladies Night…See you there!

 

Review: Home for the Holidays

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By Kristi Andrus, Guest Blogger

For the holidays, you can’t beat home, sweet home.”

Ok, if you read my preview, you know I’m a confessed Christmas-a-holic and was really looking forward to Home for the Holidays at Lone Tree Arts Center. You also know that the theme this year is holidays through the ages and the show is appropriate for audiences of all ages, so I attended with my five-year-old daughter and she can be a tough critic. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to report that it lived up to the hype for both of us.

The show opened with a soloist and shadow dancers that spelled out holiday words with their bodies behind the screen, which was an entertaining effect that immediately grabbed the audience. (There was a great band on stage throughout the show too, and other than a guitar solo during the Christmas-fied “Yuletide Bohemian Rhapsody,” the saxophone clearly was the star.)

Emcee (Rob Costigan) provided a funny break between sets and Santa (Colin Alexander) and Mrs. Claus (Margie Lamb) co-hosted, bantered, and regularly burst into song. They both have beautiful voices as they recalled moments from each decade, and my daughter waved and clapped every time they returned to stage. She wasn’t the only child to do that.

Starting with the 50s, the cast danced, sang, drummed, and played their way through the decades. The songs were infectious with surprises and funny moments that kept everyone on their toes. “Blue Christmas” seemed to be a crowd favorite.

The sets were bright and retro, as were the costumes – the black and white mini dresses of the 60s were my favorite. Fair warning…there were a lot of food references: “he puts the chocolate chip in your cookies” for example, so don’t come hungry. At one point, they even called out to the audience to acknowledge their calorific recipes.

After intermission, there was another sax solo as we entered the 80s, and the drummers impressed with buckets and pans, and then beatboxing! Another clever Christmas-fied song was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” performed by Elves (on Shelves).

Deep bass and hip hop breakdancers reminded me why I loved college. Then, when a young boy (Jonathan Jaramillo) found a Zoltar fortune teller and wished to become a great performer, it was a believable transformation. He had the charisma, voice, and moves of a young star. And special guest Sheryl McCallum from Broadway’s The Lion King nailed “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

The children’s choir spoofed “12 Days of Christmas” by pretending to be adults lamenting the responsibilities of the season: 5 months of bills, fat pants, and no batteries included received many knowing smiles and groans from the audience. The “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” rap felt relevant, not campy, even though (or maybe because?) the stage was filled with dancers in glitter jackets, violinists, drummers with glowing drums, and a Sia-inspired young girl.

The show ended with a dance party and my daughter jumped out of her seat to participate. It was after all, a Christmas version of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” She literally couldn’t stop. How would any five-year-old resist the biggest Trolls song of the year?

All in all, the show was fun and sweet, nostalgic and current, so truly, there was something for everyone. We loved it and you will too.

Playing now through Sunday, December 17 at Lone Tree Arts Center. For tickets and more information go to: http://www.lonetreeartscenter.org/homefortheholidays

Once the Audience Enters the Theater

By Heather Beasley, dramaturg

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Stephen Weitz as Cyrano, photo by Michael Ensminger

After the work-packed exhaustion of tech week comes the thrill of opening night, and Cyrano‘s first time before a live audience. The many hours of rehearsal, choral practices, fight calls, set-building, light-hanging, drop-painting, music recording…they all boil down to the chance to tell this glorious, swashbuckling tale to the people who come through the Lone Tree Arts Center doors.

But long before anyone bought a ticket for our show, a few unsung heroes of nonprofit theatre already thought about how to get you to join our audience. The marketing team came up with graphics that caught your eye, and story capsules that captured the essence of a play in just a few sentences. They made sure the word about Cyrano spread high and low–from print ads, to postcards in your mailbox, to your Facebook feed, to preview stories in your local newspaper.  At the most basic level, it only takes two things to create theatre, really–an actor and an audience–and we couldn’t draw an audience without the help of our marketing team.

Once they’ve attracted your attention, the box office staff has the front-line customer service job of making you glad you’ve decided to buy a ticket to see our show. The concessions staff and ushers may help you toward your seat, with a tasty beverage in hand, as you find your spot and wait for the show to begin.

Meanwhile, backstage, the stage manager is counting down:  “Half-hour!”  “Ten minutes to curtain.”  “Places, please.”  Set pieces are placed, volume levels verified, comestible props prepared, and stage weapons checked for safety. Some last-minute emergency always creates a bit of heightened drama: a shoe heel breaks, a button pops, a prop light breaks…there’s always one more problem to solve. But ready or not, the time does inevitably come, and the overture begins.

Once that magical opening night performance gets rolling, our focus turns back to you, the audience.  We wonder: Will you laugh? Will you cry?  Will you be touched by this sweet, brashly romantic, heroic comedy?  The production team members lucky enough to sit in the house on opening night often watch the audience members–friends, family members, theatre critics, strangers. Our satisfaction comes from watching you experience our work and get caught up in the story. For a few hours, you can leave your real-world cares behind and enjoy a story that’s larger than life.

A Stage Manager’s Perspective of Cyrano

By Jonathan Allsup, Stage Manager

Most of the rehearsal time on a play is not spent onstage. Nearly 120 hours of rehearsal on Cyrano were spent in the rehearsal hall, a room approximately the same size as the stage, with a table on one side for the director and stage management, and tables on the other end to hold props. The edge of the stage, curtains in the wings, and the design of the set are taped out on the floor to indicate to the actors and others where the set pieces will be. There are some rehearsal version of props and only a few costume pieces.

Last Wednesday, Cyrano rehearsals moved to the Lone Tree Mainstage. This began what is often referred to as “tech week.” Throughout the week, each day, new elements were added, starting with the set, props, lighting and sound cues, and finally, just a few days before we open, costumes, wigs, hair, and makeup. All of these elements continue to be polished and refined throughout the week. In addition, Cyrano has longer daily rehearsals during tech, sometimes working what are called “10 of 12’s”: rehearsals that last from 10AM – 10PM with a 2-hour break.

“Tech” is the culmination of weeks of work by those in the rehearsal hall, departmental shops (scenic, props, electric, sound, costumes), and administration. As a stage manager, I love being a part of the team that coordinates all of the elements, keeping shops informed on what is happening in rehearsal and how it could affect their designs, and making sure that those in the hall are prepared for what we know about the design elements. That way, no one is surprised or unprepared during tech week, and we’re all ready for the public by opening night!

The days of tech week are full of problem-solving. It’s a fun kind of problem-solving. We make good art, tell a good story, and find ways to integrate the design elements with each other so they act as supportive, collaborative elements in storytelling. Stage Managers coordinate all of that. In fact, we call all the cues that execute the design elements together for every performance. That’s what stage managers do.

That’s what I do. And I love what I do!


Cyrano opens this week! Get tickets here or call (720)509-1000.

Comedy for the Modern Theatergoer

By Michael Bouchard, cast member of Cyrano 

Comedy from centuries past tends not to fare well today. This is due to the fact that it isn’t funny anymore. For instance, Shakespeare wrote in Twelfth Night: FABIAN: Sowter will cry upon’t for all this, though it be as rank as a fox.

I’ll let you pause to catch your breath from the laughter.

I know what you’re thinking: “That line makes no sense.” Even if you knew that the context was about Sowter’s opinion of bad poetry, you’d still be hard-pressed to imagine how it could be funny. If you don’t know all the context, syntax, and vernacular language of the day, it looks like drivel.

But if you knew that “out upon it” can mean a positive/surprised “No Way!” and can be contracted to “upon’t”, and that “rank as a fox” means “smells like crap”, you can begin to imagine what Michael Hollinger and Aaron Posner would do if they got their hands on it. The line might read:

FABIAN: Sowter would yell “Incredible!” Even though it’s crap.

Now we know what’s being said! It also fits our current vernacular without losing the playwright’s intention for the line, or the style. Most importantly, it’s funny again.

All this is what Hollinger and Posner have achieved with the humor in this adaptation of the tale of Cyrano de Bergerac. Their script is funnier than Rostand’s original would be to our ears, yet it loses none of the point, and less of the poetry than you might think, without feeling pretentious. If you are a lover of poetry and wordplay, this modern adaptation will give you much to feast on.

And when it comes to the comedy, this production of Cyrano has an ace up its sleeve: The entire cast.

When you ask an ensemble to play multiple roles, you’re going to want flexible actors who can jump from fully realized character to fully realized character, rapidly. Almost as a rule, people who are elastic with their physicality, the pace of their speech, and the tone of their voice are good at comedy. Comedy often relies on understanding rhythms of speech (we call this “timing”) or outrageous physical gags (Jim Carrey comes to mind). When it comes to comedy, this cast knows its stuff.

Every single cast member gets their moment to tickle your funny bone, and not a one fails to deliver. It may be hammy, or it may be subtle. Be it Sammie Joe Kinnett giving you characters you’ll be laughing at for days, or Brian Shea breaking his handsome resolve to deliver a scene of unexpected hilarity, you will find jokes of all kinds to make you laugh, no matter your tastes in comedy. We do it all, even puns (the very lowest form of comedy).

 

Despite all the humor, this is no fluff piece of cream pies and banana peels. Comedy is best when it’s connected to real situations and powerful desires. When the stakes are highest, you have the possibility of great humor and great drama. In Cyrano, every member of the ensemble plays their desires to their fullest. This grounds the humor, and in fact, makes it all funnier, because the situation matters so much to every character onstage.

Stephen Weitz as Cyrano is pretty good too. He might have a career in this if he keeps at it. We’re all rooting for him.

We’re all also rooting for you to come and have a brilliant night at the theater, enjoying the humor in this classic tale well worth sharing with your friends.