theresa allen

Preview: Low Down Dirty Blues

email ad with pic

*Photo: Tim Fuller

By Theresa Allen, guest blogger

The heartbreaking stories of lost loves, hard-times, failed jobs, and all that is both painful and joyful in life comes to the Lone Tree Arts Center with Low Down Dirty Blues beginning Thursday, October 18 to Saturday, October 27, 2019. Through song, music and stories, Low Down Dirty Blues promises to take the audience from the midnight blues straight into the joy of a Sunday morning gospel redemption.

The musical revue features Felicia P. Fields as Big Mama, a Chicago bar owner, who gathers with several blues musicians for a bawdy and humorous conversation and an after-hours jam session that features the songs of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Ma Rainey, Pearl Bailey, and Mae West. Fields is a Chicago native and veteran stage actress known for her Tony-nominated Broadway performance as Sophia in The Color Purple as well television and in stage performances in the Chicago theater scene.

Joining Felicia are Shake Anderson, who’s worked with some of the most recognizable musicians in the business, including Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Ray Charles, and Stevie Wonder; and Chic Street Man, who has an impressive stage resume and has performed at many prestigious venues, including the Montreux and Bern Jazz Festivals in Switzerland and the General Assembly of the United Nations. All three were previously in the production earlier this year in Arizona. In Low Down Dirty Blues, Fields, Anderson, and Street Man, along with additional musicians, will perform blues standards such as “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “Good Morning Heartache,” “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” and “I Got My Mojo Working.”

Low Down Dirty Blues is brought to the Lone Tree Arts Center under the creative direction of Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman, the creators of Muscle Shoals: I’ll Take You There and It Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues. The musical offers the extraordinary opportunity to hear a truly American art form with its roots in African-American work songs and spirituals learned at the knee of sharecroppers on their porches, in the fields, and in the church pews.

Tickets for Low Down Dirty Blues are on sale now from $10 to $60 and can be purchased at http://www.lonetreeartscenter.org/lowdowndirtyblues. Both matinee and evening performances are available in this beautiful venue that doesn’t have a bad seat in the house. The Lone Tree Arts Center is located at 10075 Commons Street in Lone Tree. Free on-site parking is available.

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.

_DS78802

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.

_DS86457

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.

_DS86639

(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.

Preview: SFJAZZ Collective and the Music of Miles Davis and Original Compositions

SFJAZZ Collective_header

By Theresa Allen, Guest Blogger

Looking to spend an evening listening to world-class jazz music in the Greater Denver area? The SFAZZ Collective will be performing “The Music of Miles Davis and Original Compositions” on Wednesday, April 25 at 7:30 at the Lone Tree Arts Center.

The SFJAZZ Collective is an all-star ensemble that performs new and fresh arrangements of work by a modern jazz master. The SFJAZZ Collective, a nonprofit launched in 2004 in San Francisco, is a collaboration of many diverse and dedicated jazz musicians who wish to inspire audiences with high quality concerts and a children and teens’ music education outreach program aimed at encouraging the next generation of jazz performers.

The SFJAZZ Collective will perform a tribute to legendary jazz composer and musician, Miles Davis, who was one of the most innovative and influential jazz performers of the 20th Century. “The Music of Miles Davis and Original Compositions” will be performed by eight SFJAZZ Collective musicians, all at the top of their fields, including:

David Sánchez, a Grammy Award winning jazz tenor saxophonist, from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Sanchez performed in Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra and Dizzy’s Trio until Dizzy’s death in 1993, toured with the Phillip Morris Superband and with many other jazz greats. He will be performing with Sean Jones, an American trumpeter and composer who was featured on Nancy Wilson’s Grammy Award winning album Turned to Blue in 2007. On vibraphone, Warren Wolf , a musician trained in many genres from classical to jazz and who is a percussion instructor at the Berklee College of Music. Wolf performs regularly with the Rachael Price Group (of Lake Street Dive fame) and the Donel Fox Group.

Miguel Zenón will be performing on the alto saxophone. He is a founding member of the SFJAZZ Collective as well as a composer, bandleader, teacher, and a four-time Grammy Award nominee. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Genius Grant. On trombone will be Robin Eubanks, a jazz and fusion musician who has performed with Slide Hampton, Sun Ra, and Stevie Wonder. Eubanks has appeared on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live.

Edward Simon will accompany the group on piano. Simon is a Venezuelan jazz musician who has performed on several Grammy-nominated albums and who teaches at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.  The jazz bassist is Matt Penman, one of the most in-demand musicians in the United States. Penman recently joined the faculty of the Roots, Jazz and American Music program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. And last, but not least, Obed Calvaire will perform on drums. Calvaire has performed along with Wynton Marsalis, Seal, Lizz Wright, and Sean Jones among many others.

An evening with the SFJAZZ Collective offers us the extraordinary opportunity to hear selections of Mile’s Davis’ works interpreted by the foremost musicians in the field of jazz today. Tickets for the SFJAZZ Collective’s “The Music of Miles Davis and Original Compositions” are on sale now from $33 to $55 and can be purchased at www.lonetreeartscenter.org/sfjazz. The Lone Tree Arts Center is located at 10075 Commons Street in Lone Tree. Free on-site parking is available.

Review: A Kantorei Christmas

KantoreiDEN (10)

By Theresa Allen, Guest Blogger

Performing the last of their three sold-out performances of the holiday season, Kantorei brought the audience to its feet at the Lone Tree Arts Center on December 19. A Kantorei Christmas featured a stellar performance by the 50-singer chorus coupled with instrumentals on harp, percussion, string bass, and piano.

Kantorei, an a capella group of international renown, opened its first set with “Come Let Us Adore Him” a traditional carol performed with a medieval drumbeat that reminded the audience of ancient times and the birth of Christ. The chorus transitioned into “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” and “Still, Still Night” as well as a few other Christmas carols produced with a musical twist by composer Jackson Berkey, one of the founders of Manheim Steamroller.

The evening featured several elegant harp solos and accompaniment with the chorus by Janet Kay Harriman, who performs with Opera Colorado and the Central City Opera Festival. The full-bodied warmth of Harriman’s performance of “Asleep in My Arms” evoked the austere beauty of the Christmas season. “Long Expected Jesus” opened with the delicate tones of the harp, the rise of the voices of the sopranos and altos, and became interwoven with the tenor and basses to produce a swell of sound that was ethereal in nature.

The audience was treated to My Perfect Stranger, a composition by Bob Chilcott, which was originally performed by the BBC Singers in 2016, and presented only two other times in the United States. My Perfect Stranger is a poetic retelling of the nativity story that raises the question of what is our role in the Christ story and what part do we play in welcoming others into our lives. Christianna Sullins performed a magnificent solo as Mary and the piece featured dazzling solos by other Kantorei members as the Innkeeper, the angels, the wise men, and even Herod.

The peacefulness of the nativity story was followed by rousing renditions of “Carol of the Bells,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “Sing We Now of Christmas.” However, it was Kantorei’s “Silent Night” sung with the members of the audience that reminded us that Christmas is a season of community, of reaching out to others and celebrating all that is good in this world.

Kantorei, led by artistic director Joel Rinsema, includes more than 50 volunteers, who sing in the chorus as well as serve as teachers, musicians, and conductors in their communities. In 2018, Naxos Records will produce Kantorei’s work with Norwegian composer Kim Andre Arnesen. For more information about Kantorei, visit their website at www.kantorei.com.

The Lone Tree Arts Center hosts professional theatrical and musical performances all year long. In 2018, Ben Vereen, PostSecret, and the Moscow Festival Ballet as well as many other entertainers will bring performances to the Denver area. For more information, visit their website at www.LoneTreeArtsCenter.org.

Preview: A Kantorei Christmas

KantoreiDEN (10)

By Theresa Allen, Guest Blogger

In the deep still of a winter’s night, there is nothing more beautiful, more transcendent, than the lift of human voices in song.  Begin a new holiday tradition with your loved ones at A Kantorei Christmas on December 19, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lone Tree Arts Center.

Denver-based Kantorei, is a world-class a cappella choir, led by artistic director Joel Rinsema. A Kantorei Christmas features the soaring voices of more than 50 singers who will be performing My Perfect Stranger, a beautiful retelling of the Christmas story, premiered by the BBC Singers in 2016 and written by former King’s Singer Bob Chilcott. Janet Kay Harriman, the principal harpist with the Central City Opera Festival and a frequent performer with Opera Colorado, will accompany the choir. The evening will also feature the choir’s performance of an arrangement of traditional carols by Jackson Berkey of Mannheim Steamroller and the audience will be invited to join in the festivities.

A Kantorei Christmas promises to be a truly special evening of newly composed music and classic carols that will fill your heart with the Christmas spirit. Tickets for A Kantorei Christmas are on sale now from $33 to $40 and can be purchased at http://www.lonetreeartscenter.org/kantoreichristmas. The Lone Tree Arts Center is located at 10075 Commons Street in Lone Tree. Free on-site parking is available.