Friday, October 26, 2007

Reader Review: Theatre of the Vampires

Submitted by Rhonda L. Smith of Denver

Want a great Halloween date night? Don’t miss Theatre of the Vampires. “It’s Ann Rice meets Rocky Horror Picture Show, meets Cirque du Soleil,” says Frequent Flyers Productions’ Artistic Director Nancy Smith.

In Act I, a beautiful young journalist goes to Paris to interview the ghoulish emcee of “Theatre of the Vampires,” a variety show for the mortals of Paris. Of course, the emcee falls for said journalist, and manages to suck her into his fiendish world (pun definitely intended.). In Act II, as the emcee and the journalist continue their dangerous flirtation, the vampires carry on their “variety show,” sometimes mocking human fascination with pop culture and its icons, and sometimes simply trying to shock the mere mortals out of their complacency. The show is dark, campy and sexy. It’s not for the faint of heart (PG13 -- leave the little ones at home for this one!).

The beauty of this show is that the entire presentation is done on low-flying trapeze, hanging cloth and other original apparatus. It makes the already bizarre story line that much more surreal and thrilling. There’s nothing to compare with the beauty of taking modern dance airborne, and in this particular application, the result is spectacular and truly otherworldly.

Theatre of the Vampires will show at Macky Auditorium on October 31 and November 1, 8:00. Call 303-444-SEAT, or purchase online at

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Boulder Discovery: Jazz It Up

For the music of Harlem, New Orleans and beyond, head downtown to Johnny’s Cigar Bar, says Miriam Paisner, a local dance teacher and jazz fan. Once or twice a weekend, the cigar bar hosts live jazz of all sorts, including an impressive array of vocalists, pianists, duos and combos. “It’s a small, intimate venue—a total of 25 seats,” Paisner says of the smoke-free music room, just perfect for a soulful “Autumn Leaves.” Mostly the gigs remain undiscovered, though lively Brazilian music by the superb SambaSong trio will likely draw a crowd to the Johnny’s Saturday, June 30. Best of all, she says, “all events there are free!”

Johnny’s Cigar Bar, One Boulder Plaza, 1801 13th St.
Fridays & Saturdays, usually about 9pm :: Free

Friday, June 29, 2007

Theater Review: Ciao Eden!

Young theater company tries to give new life to an old, old story

By Tyera Eulberg

Adam, Eve, the Garden, the Fall—the Biblical story of the birth of humanity has been retold for thousands of years. And as anyone in a Shakespeare production will tell you, it’s not easy to impress with a story everyone already knows. Nevertheless, Company Ink tries to make the Creation story new again through energy and sheer force of will.

Ciao Eden! follows Adam and Eve from their days of innocence in the Garden of Eden on a loud and lascivious journey to the end of their paradise when they taste the apples of the Tree of Knowledge. Company Ink recalls its traditions as a cabaret-style troupe, structuring this first-ever theatrical musical like a revue. Song and dance alternate with dialog and action.

The music frequently departs from the typical Broadway style—the most memorable pieces are a gypsy waltz and West African drumming. Kim Franco is capable—she plays Eve and is Company Ink’s headlining vocalist, as she was for the late, lamented Cabaret Diosa. But the jazz number by Serena the Snake (our original temptress and villain, played by Liza Oxnard) really enlivens the first act.

With minimalist costumes and sets, and a steel Tree of Life and Knowledge, Company Ink strives to update Eden in our gritty modern era. The Tree succeeds—green-clad Serena winds herself into the framework, evoking both a convincing snake and a trap ready to spring shut. Otherwise, “modern” means garish. The extremely loud sound system and writhing dancers give Ciao Eden! all the subtlety of a circus tent.

On the one hand, the production doesn’t take itself too seriously, offering up groan-worthy one-liners as well as a vigorous shadow-play sex scene after the First Couple eat from the Tree of Life. Yet the dark, heavy scenes as Eve learns about fear, pain and anger, plus several minutes of Eve crying onstage, suggest that Company Ink means it to be very somber indeed.

Then, even the most archetypal characters flip-flop. The Snake, for example, is hissing and hostile one moment and Eve’s caring confidante the next. Meanwhile, the esoteric Muses mystify more than inspire (like Serena in the play, I too wondered what the Muses were supposed to do). The result is a mish-mash of tones and themes, leaving the audience perplexed as to how to feel. Should we feel sorry for Eve? Are we proud of her self-actualization? Or should we feel trapped and uncomfortable about the fatalism of it all? I almost miss the rigid “Good and Evil” moral pronouncements of the Biblical version.

Yet Adam and Eve are ultimately the same Adam and Eve we’ve always known. “Man,” enters with a primal roar, focusing on the “biggest and juiciest” fruit. “Woman” sins, forcing Adam to eat the apple too. Company Ink tells us the same familiar story. But with in-your-face enthusiasm and one jazzy little orchestra, the young cast of Ciao Eden! certainly makes you listen.

(Note: Despite what newspaper listings advertise, this production is not suitable for 13-year-old children.)

Ciao Eden! at the Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St. :: June 29 & 30, 8pm; July 1, 2pm

Music Review: Colorado Music Fest and Colin Currie give outstanding performance at Chautauqua Auditorium

Colin Currie and the Colorado Music Festival orchestra received a standing ovation for the "West Coast premiere" of Higdon's Percussion Concerto at Chautauqua Auditorium on Thursday night.

Currie is clearly a virtuoso percussionist, moving with alacrity from classical marimba, to vibraphone, bongos, trap set, woodblocks, cow bells and a multitude of percussion instruments that "click and clack," in Currie's words. More than an excellent technician, Currie plays with a musicality not often associated with percussion. His playing is both powerful and sensitive, moving through the dynamic opening and closing sections of Higdon's piece through the lyric middle section where Currie simultaneous bowed and played the marimba with mallets. A highlight of the piece is the cadenza written by Currie himself, where he incorporates African rhythms, jazz (did I hear Gene Krupa?), polyphonic rhythms and thematic elements from the work itself.

The CMF percussion section shone as they added point and counterpoint to Currie's musical dialogue. No longer relegated to counting 120 measures before coming in with a single triangle stroke or roll on the timpani, the musicians obviously enjoyed themselves and the opportunity to "strut their stuff" as well as to play with a master like Currie.

The evening opened with a beautifully played Canzon noni toni a 12 by Gabrieli. CMF Musical Director Michael Christie created a "surround sound" effect by placing sections of the brass around the auditorium, where they called to and answered each other.

The evening ended with the pictorial tone-painting of Respighi's The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome. Although classical repertoire standards, the CMF performance of these pieces felt fresh and engaged. Fountains featured beautiful washes of color and finely executed solos by the woodwinds, 1st violin and horns. Pines moved from an enthusiastic and lively opening through a stunning transition to the moody, languorous 2nd movement with exotic rhythmic motifs and subtle use of symbols, to the stately 3rd movement reminiscent of armies treading ancient Roman roads. The piece closed with a return to the "surround sound" effect of brass placed throughout the auditorium, calling to each other, and joining with organ in the exhilarating climax expertly handled by Christie and the CMF.

Altogether, Christie created a diverse yet coherent program that worked on many levels. The younger set will enjoy the excitement of the percussion virtuosity and the novelty of "surround sound" classical music, while music aficionados and amateurs alike will doubtless be caught up in the obvious joy these musicians have in working under the baton of Christie.

The Colorado Music Festival presents a repeat of this program, aptly named "Rhythms and Tones," on Friday, June 29 at the Chautauqua Auditorium. For tickets and information: 303-449-1397,