review

Review: Grease Sing-A-Long Movie Night

By K. Fleming, guest blogger

Despite its age, Grease, one of the most popular movie-musicals of all time, is still beloved by adults and children alike with its timeless charm. On Saturday night, Lone Tree Arts Center paid homage to the 40th anniversary with a sing-a-long version of the hit movie accompanied by a sock hop after the showing.

The auditorium was packed with children, parents, and grandparents in various forms of 50s attire. The audience became T-Birds and Pink Ladies for the night and were inducted into the halls of Rydell High by the MC after a little comedy, singing, and trivia started off the show.

The lights dimmed, the auditorium imitated a regular movie theater setting, and the film rolled. But immediately, lyrics popped up on the screen in colorful bursts, sometimes being a focus in the frame, others with comedic animations, and on the more popular songs, they demurely sat along the bottom of the screen to illicit the most amount of attention to the songs.

The 1950s setting of this movie and the 1978 release date aside, classics like “Greased Lightning” needed some creative adjustments to the lyrics because of language or suggestive themes, often causing the audience to laugh. During Rizzo’s (Stockard Channing) “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” the adjustments told a story alongside her confessions on sexuality and teen pregnancy.

Other than the adjustments, the movie played out as it always did. Bad boy turned smitten teen Danny (John Travolta) and his T-Birds engaged in goofball and questionable behavior while wholesome and hopelessly devoted Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) navigated the established Pink Ladies and a new high school.

After the audience sang their last song with Rydell High, the party was just getting started at Lone Tree Arts Center. Red and white checkered tables lined the halls while hot dogs, hamburgers with all the fixin’s, and fries were available for guests in the lobby.

An event hall beckoned people with the sound of music and a disco ball twinkling in the distance. High top tables, streamers and balloons transformed the event hall into its own version of a Rydell High School gym.

The photo booth was filled with props and prompts to get the most authentic pictures. For a sugar rush, cotton candy and root beer floats lined the back of the hall. On your way for sweetness, carnival games like ring toss and skeeball tested skill while the dance floor, equipped with dance instructors, tested dexterity of the costumed audience members as they learned and competed in dance competitions like hand jive and the twist.

Whereas the Grease sing-a-long was billed as the main attraction, the sock hop continued to engage people of all ages, bringing the older generation back to their high school days and allowing kids (and probably their parents) to get a glimpse of grandma and grandpa in their heyday.

Review: August Wilson’s Fences

By Michelle Wilson, Guest Blogger

Fences is a story of a black, working class family that opens in the back yard of a blue-collar, urban setting in the late 1950’s. Troy Maxson is the father of two children, both from different mothers. He has one son that is still living at home, along with his wife Rose.

The relationship between Troy and Rose is much the typical one of that era, where the husband works and mother stays home to raise the children. It is apparent that Troy’s attitude toward his son Cory, aptly played by Jay Reeves, is uptight as he was brought up in a time period that believed he was born with two strikes against him before he came to the plate. That thought process has followed him throughout his life and is finally coming to a head. His outdated opinion of what is important proves difficult change is a sign of the times.

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Esau Pritchett as Troy Maxson. Photo by Danny Lam

Esau Pritchett’s delivery of Maxson is soulful, sincere, and strong. He’s an attention grabber with apparent emotion. He truly evolves into the part of an uneasy man striving to maneuver through family life overtaken with promiscuity and drinking. He is expected to stay the path of what is required of him at home but is called to a sincere struggle when things start to get out of hand in his life. Pritchett puts his heart into the character and absorbs the audience with his precise timing. Troy becomes an unruly, broken man in an implied fight between God and himself.

Julanne Chidi Hill begins her portrayal of a pleasing Rose, a woman who knows her place but carries a hint of position, regardless. Hill’s motherly tenure is evident in this representation of a protector, with a son who is merely striving to be a regular kid. She holds court and gathers dismay as the audience becomes emotionally engaged with a crucial delivery in the second act.

A gratifying supporting cast provides a stellar job as a whole. The show’s shining moment occurs when Gabriel, played by Darryl Alan Reed, delivers a spot-on performance of a mentally disabled man trying to make his way through life in his happy-go-lucky way. His attentive portrayal is weighty and spot-on without feeling overdone.

After being left on the edge of my seat, scene changes felt a bit long and I found myself listening to the words of the period music and becoming a bit restless. With a quick recovery, the show has a nice pace, regardless.

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Esau Pritchett and Bradford Barnes. Photo by Danny Lam.

Set design is one of the production’s strongest assets. Simplistic yet detailed. The intrinsic nature of weeds making their way through the cracks of the concrete and a random antenna on top of an apartment building, are what make this set realistic and charming. Kudos to designer Edward E. Haynes, Jr.

At this particular performance, two cell phones rang in the audience during scenes. We, as an audience, have a responsibility to minimize distractions as a courtesy, not only to the actors on stage, but also to fellow audience members. I found this to be inappropriate and disappointing, although we had been asked to silence our phones prior to curtain.

This is a timely show for today’s war against racism and the associated societal struggles. It was a pleasure to see a mixed cultural group of audience members coming together to encounter the way things used to be as we venture forward into America’s next phase.


August Wilson’s Fences runs at the Lone Tree Arts Center until April 21st. Tickets are available online here, over the phone at 720-509-1000, and in-person at the Box Office.

DEATH AIN’T NOTHING BUT A FASTBALL ON THE OUTSIDE CORNER: Review of August Wilson’s “Fences”

By Theresa Allen, guest blogger

The warm golden glow of a summer’s evening juxtaposed against the dark shadows of a dilapidated brick city home provides a luminous backdrop to the riveting and heartbreaking performance of August Wilson’s Fences at the Lone Tree Arts Center. There is still time to pick up tickets to see this extraordinary performance before the play closes on Saturday, April 21st.

Fences opens with Troy Maxson, a garbage man, holding court in his backyard with his captive audience, his wife Rose and best friend Bono. In the opening scene, Troy is a mesmerizing storyteller who humorously recounts a fantastical tale, in the African-American oral tradition, of how he wrestled and escaped from death. This allegorical telling is the thread that holds all the complicated aspects of Troy’s personality together in a deeply disappointing world.

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Esau Pritchett as Troy Maxson. Photo by Danny Lam.

The part of Troy is portrayed by Esau Pritchett, who brings to life a good, but deeply flawed man whose personal frustrations have resulted in building walls between himself and those who love him. Pritchett’s strong voice, charismatic nature, and powerful stage presence provides the audience the sense that they are watching the tragic fall of a working class hero.

In his youth, Troy has the opportunity to play for the Negro Baseball League, at a time before the racial barriers were broken by Jackie Robinson. However, he is involved in a robbery that results in the loss of his baseball future, and he ends up with penitentiary time. He is not home to raise his oldest son, Lyons, played by Bradford Barnes. In his limited understanding of the world, Troy cannot comprehend Lyons’ calling to become a jazz musician and is annoyed by his inability to provide for his wife and his weekly requests for money.

Troy’s second son, Cory, played by Jay Reeves, is a young man with the opportunity to receive an athletic scholarship. Reeves gives a outstanding performance as a young man full of hope and optimism that is dashed when his father will not sign the papers allowing him to play college football. Troy projects his own failure in athletics on to Cory. This is Troy’s way of protecting Cory from the harshness of the world. However, it’s Troy’s sense of duty towards his family coupled with his own inability to be a perfect father and husband that is the tension that holds this play together.

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Esau Pritchett and Julanne Chidi Hill. Photo by Danny Lam.

Without giving away the plot, the pivotal crisis that occurs between Troy and Rose illuminates the complexity of their 18-year marriage. Rose, who in Act I seems marginalized in the lives of Troy, Lyons and Cory steps into the spotlight as a strong and resilient character in her own right in Act II. Julanne Chidi Hill, the actress who portrays Rose, gives a spellbinding performance when she challenges Troy’s view of the world by pointing out her own disappointment in his behavior and her own life. Yet she rises above the situation. There is a great acting chemistry between Hill and Pritchett, which makes Troy’s betrayal profoundly devastating to the audience.

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(L-R)Bradford Barnes, Julanne Chidi Hill, Darryl Alan Reed, and Jay Reeves. Photo by Danny Lam.

The one character that ties all of the family together is Darryl Alan Reed’s memorable performance as Gabe, Troy’s mentally ill brother. It’s no coincidence that Gabe, who carries a trumpet and who is constantly talking to St. Peter will be the vehicle for Troy’s redemption. In fact, I was surprised and delighted by the “deux ex machina” ending reminiscent of the chariot scene in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This interesting ending reminds the audience that no one escapes death and what that means for those who love you. While Troy may have been a free man in 1950s Pittsburgh, he was still enslaved in a culture by racism, poverty, responsibility, and powerlessness in a world that seemed to be constantly conspiring against him. Closure only comes to Troy’s wife and children, and to the audience, through forgiveness and understanding.

Fences is the sixth in a series of ten plays Wilson called the “Pittsburgh Cycles.” Written in 1985, Fences was the winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. In the capable and deft hands of director Wren T. Brown and this fine cast, this smart, funny, captivating, and heart-rending performance of Fences engages the audience with a satisfying story about the human condition.

Tickets for August Wilson’s Fences are sale now from $35 to $60 and can be purchased at www.lonetreeartscenter.org/fences. The Lone Tree Arts Center is located at 10075 Commons Street in Lone Tree. Free on-site parking is available.

Review: Bob Kendrick

1521560770_h_negro_baseball_league_show headerBy Keilani Fleming, Guest Blogger

It was a blustery evening as Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum located in Kansas City, Missouri, made his way up to the podium to speak on his passion; the true history of baseball in the context of the Negro Leagues.

BobK1(Mug)1Kendrick visited Lone Tree Arts Center, in part, as a complement to the current running theater production, August Wilson’s Fences. Several of the baseball players about which Kendrick speaks are referenced in the play, set in the 1950s, by the main character, Troy Maxson, played to perfection by Esau Pritchett.

I had a moment of panic when Kendrick, early in his multimedia presentation, listed off baseball stats for some of the great known names in the game like Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron. Whereas I’ve only watched baseball since I witnessed the ballerina-like grace of Troy Tulowitzki during his rookie year with the Colorado Rockies, my 14 year old daughter accompanied me for the evening and was indifferent, at best, to baseball. In that moment, I thought of my father-in-law, probably sitting at home watching the Rockies game, and how he would have been a more enthusiastic choice.

I chose my daughter because she loves historical content and a good story. As it worked out, I wasn’t wrong in my choice of guest.

Initially, I started taking notes on the various players on the Negro Leagues, names I’ve never heard of before with my limited baseball knowledge. Eventually, I put down my pen and just listened to the engaging speaker in front of me with his wealth of anecdotal knowledge of the likes of “Rube” Foster, “Satchel” Paige, Josh Gibson, “Cool Papa” Bell, Martin Dihigo, and “Buck” O’Neil.

Previously, when I thought of athletes of the past, I didn’t believe they would be able to cut it in the modern day. Athletes are faster, stronger, hits are further, pitches are faster, and training has become an exact science so athletes have precision honed skills. But story after story from Kendrick showed me just how wrong I was. “Cool Papa” Bell running all the bases in 12 seconds. Gibson clearing the bleachers at Yankee Stadium with a homerun. Satchel’s 105 mph pitches.

As Kendrick “(took) control of the pen of history and (told) the story as it should have been told,” I was proud my daughter’s now expanded knowledge of baseball had a foundation in these stories; the stories of the Negro Leagues as they made their way in a segregated sport to produce some of the best athletes known to date.

Most surprising to me were Kendrick’s assertions about the man who broke through the color barrier of baseball in 1947: Jackie Robinson. Kendrick and others believe Robinson’s ability to not only be an exceptional athlete but also his ability to not get ruffled by the backlash of discrimination he experienced, helped spur a bigger conversation about civil rights. Kendrick described Robinson as “not the best man, but the right man” for the job.

When the question and answer portion of the event commenced, my eyes traveled across the room and I noticed something rather remarkable. The audience spanned from kids to seniors, across races and genders. I had spent an hour listening to Kendrick tell the story of how the Negro Leagues were born out of segregation to bring integration and I was witnessing its true mass appeal, over 70 years after Robinson joined Major League Baseball, at Lone Tree Arts Center.

For more information on the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum located in the historic district of 18th and Vine in Kansas City, Missouri, please visit http://www.nlbm.com.

For tickets to Lone Tree Arts Center production of August Wilson’s Fence showing until April 21, 2018, please visit http://www.lonetreeartscenter.org/fences.

Review: Mandy Gonzalez: Fearless

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By Cassie Schauer, Guest Blogger

Who needs to fight for Hamilton tickets when Mandy Gonzalez is in town?  Currently starring as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton on Broadway, singer Mandy Gonzalez chose Lone Tree for the closing night of her week-long tour to promote her debut CD, Fearless. In her words, this CD and tour are a “dream come true.”

I have never heard her sing live, so I was immediately blown away with the power of her jazzy voice. She opened with the classic “On a Clear Day” sung with a sultry Latin beat. Her voice is huge — I imagine it could be heard from the parking lot.  Mandy created an intimate connection with the sold-out audience throughout the performance, waving to the people in the balcony and sharing her connection to each of the songs she chose to perform for us. By the end of the evening, I felt I had been listening to someone whose career I had been following for years.  She was so excited and genuine and having so much fun.

She added a personal twist to each song she performed and referred to several as being “from her first album.”  Her rendition of “I Only Have Eyes For You…and you…and you…and you…” was performed with a playful Latin beat.

As an original cast member of  Lin-Manual Miranda’s In the Heights, “Breathe” is arguably the first song that Mandy is known for.  She told us how returning to the Richard Rodgers Theater for Hamilton brought back such good memories, as if she’d never said goodbye to the theater.  “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard paid tribute to that time in her life.

Mandy sang “Get Ready Cuz Here I Come” in honor of her father’s singing career. It was the first song she remembers hearing him sing. She followed with “Born to Run,” an ode to her husband’s New Jersey roots.  Next was “Life is Sweet,” which she performed on her CD with original Hamilton cast member and her In the Heights co-star, Christopher Jackson.

She then told us the tale of “the Green Girl,” Elphaba from Wicked: the 20 pound dress, the raked stage. Would she ever do it again? No, she said, the green doesn’t come off!  She followed with a tongue-in-cheek rendition of  “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” before singing the powerful “Defying Gravity” from Wicked.

The Fearless CD tour began in Florida. Performing so soon after the shooting in Parkland, Mandy decided that she wanted to honor and celebrate every city she performed in by inviting a community choir to sing with her. For tonight’s show, Mandy was joined by a group from Denver’s award-winning Phamaly Theater Company, comprised of performers with diverse disabilities of every nature. “Starts Right Now” is a powerful ballad about the ups and downs in life, about being fearless, and about having the courage to let go.  The result was strong and positive, the performers clearly enjoying their time to perform together.

Finally, Mandy performed the title song from Fearless, written for her by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It was inspired by the story of how her mother and father overcame huge personal obstacles and found the courage to stand up for forbidden love. She ended the performance with a very passionate rendition of “Que Sera Sera,” her grandmother’s favorite and her best advice.

Mandy was backed by a talented group of musicians. Seeming like old friends who had been playing together for years, they provided a rich and energetic compliment to her voice.  Lead by pianist and musical director, John Deley, the band included Richard Hammond on bass, Abe Fogel on drums, and Oscar Rodriguez on guitar.

There is something different about a Broadway singer performing on her own. A different vibe. Different connection with the audience. Mandy seemed somewhat in awe of her position now as a solo artist. She was having a blast and so were we.

Review: Moscow Festival Ballet: Cinderella

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By Ashton Temby, guest blogger

Cinderella transformed out of her drab, pauper clothing into a beautifully garbed princess, with the help of her fairy Godmother, of course, at the Lone Tree Arts Center on Thursday night thanks to The Moscow Festival Ballet.

Though throughout the performance the dancers and technical specialists seemed to have had their glass slippers on the wrong feet at times, causing out of sync movements and abrupt endings to the pre-recorded music, the prince came to a masterful rescue in a true classic fairy tale manner.

Alexander Daev danced Prince Charming exquisitely with supreme confidence, grace, and unparalleled strength. He enchanted Cinderella and the audience alike with his precision, speed, and incredibly high leaps. “Oohs and ahhs” could be heard from the audience as he displayed perfect pirouettes and clean transitions while mastering the stage. The skills obtained from his time at Voronej Ballet School did not go unnoticed. It’s no wonder Cinderella fell into his arms and was swept away.

The Prince’s new found love was danced by Maria Sokolnikova in a smooth and innocent style expected in the role of Cinderella. Her persona accurately portrayed the humble and hardworking nature of the exploited sister, while also depicting the turmoil and sadness in the character’s life. Sokolnikova was perfectly in character throughout the life of the performance and reminded the audience that a true princess is beautiful on the inside first.

Sokolnikova is a gold medal winner in the competition of The Soul of Dance, among other impressive accomplishments. Her experience in ballet was apparent, but left one begging for more intricate movements. The choreography for Cinderella’s role was repetitive and appeared far less complex compared to the movements of her counterpart, Prince Charming, though her potential was obvious. More complicated dance from the main role would have brought further life and drama to this production.  It is hopeful she will be rewarded with roles in the future that push her outside her boundaries.

The classic folk tale, Cinderella, was created for the stage by Sergei Radchenko, and his wife, Elena Radchnko. Sergei Radchenko founded the Moscow Festival Ballet in 1989 after graduating from the Moscow School of Dance, and dancing for the Bolshoi Ballet for 25 years. His company has become world renowned as they continue to add to their breadth of work.

While this performance of Cinderella may not have been a pristine example of what audiences have come to expect from The Moscow Festival Ballet, it appeared accessible for audiences of all ages. The interpretation of the story was easily followed and provided a good platform for new and seasoned balletomanes.

Cinderella was a one time show at the Lone Tree Arts Center, but it is hopeful that the company returns with impeccably executed productions in the future.

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!

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.