Reviews

Review: SHOUT! The Mod Musical

By Beki Pineda

SHOUT – Created by Phillip George, David Lowenstein and Peter Charles Morris; Directed by Kate Vallee. Produced by Town Hall Arts Center (2450 West Main Street, Littleton) through June 20, 2021. Tickets available for live performances and streaming at 303-794-ARTS or townhallartscenter.org.

The very first song on this program celebrating the music popular among girl singers in the 60’s is “England Swings.” I can vouch firsthand that England was swinging in the 60’s because I was living there from 1964 to 1967. Not doing much swinging myself however; but did get to witness as music and fashion burst on the streets and on the TV. This production recalls with fondness the music and the mentality of this time. The patter in-between the songs vividly illustrates the prevalent female state of mind in this pre-feminist era. . . which elicited audible groans from the women in the audience. Were we really ever that naïve?

The five women singers who comprise this cast pay homage to the music of the amazing Petula Clark (“Round Every Corner,” “I Know a Place,” Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love,” “A Sign of the Times,” and all time favorite “Downtown”), the soulful Dusty Springfield (“Wishing and Hoping,” “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself,” “All I See is You,” and the rocking “Son of a Preacher Man”), Sandie Shaw (“How Can You Tell”), Lulu (“To Sir With Love” and the title song), Shirley Bassey (a parody of “Goldfinger” callec “Coldfinger”) and Cilla Black (“You’re My World”). Mary Hopkins remembrance of “Those Were the Days” added an even deeper sense of nostalgia. The girls even allowed American’s to invade the party by including Dionne Warwick’s hit “Wives and Lovers” and Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walking.” The very slight insignificant contribution of men to the festivities were with Roger Miller’s “England Swings” and Len Barry’s “One-Two-Three” – fun to hear again.

But the ladies of the cast made the evening. Their energy and vocal renderings brought back the era and the memories. The Mary Quant style dresses conceived and created by Costumer Terri Fong-Schmidt conjured images of Twiggy and Sassoon hairstyles. Performing on a set straight out of the American LAUGH-IN show, the girls recreate an English style variety show. Hanna Dotson, Piper Lindsay Arpan, Amy Dollar, Valerie Igoe, and Ryahn Evers are all making their Town Hall debut, as well as Director and Choreographer Kate Vallee. A winning team to be sure, they performed together as though they had been doing the show for months, instead of it being opening night. While all the girls had outstanding solos, Hanna stole my heart with her renditions of the Petula Clark songbook. It was so enjoyable to see each of these talented ladies step into the spotlight time and again and sing their little socks off. Each of them have spent hours in the chorus of other musicals; each of them deserve this chance to show audiences that they have what it takes to carry a show. Good on you, ladies.

The stories and patter between songs enhanced the impression of the (somewhat) innocent 60’s. “I tried coke once but the ice cubes kept getting stuck in my nose!” “In my family, inheritance means my mother’s hips!” A unique little side note: It was so much fun to be there the night that Piper’s husband and son Tucker attended the show. Because every time I glanced down the aisle at Tucker, he was dancing in his seat and miming the words to his mother’s activities having watched her rehearse. Obviously a dancer in the making!

Many theatres are choosing light-hearted small cast productions to ease their way back into the spotlight. This joyful musical was a good choice for Town Hall. For those still leery of public outings, the production is also available for streaming on certain dates – check the website for time and date. It is guaranteed to make you smile and sing along.

A WOW factor of 8.5!!

OUT FRONT Magazine Show Review: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

By Addison Herron-Wheeler (OUT FRONT Magazine)

We’ve now heard this a million times, but the past year-and-a-half has been incredibly tough on the theatre community. Like other entertainment industries, it was virtually destroyed by COVID, with any remaining shows moving online entirely for a livestreamed experience.

Now, as the world is finally getting vaccinated and opening back up, shows are slowly returning, and one of them is Town Hall Arts Center’s You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.

For those still not fully vaccinated, or just feeling a little squirmy about the idea of going back to in-person shows, put your worry at rest. Town Hall has done an amazing job of making things safe. The actors, who have to undergo regular COVID testing, are encased in a glass box on the stage. While this may sound odd, it doesn’t impact visibility or sound. There is still a live band, nestled to the side of the stage and all wearing masks, and you can still feel the energy coming from the performance and get that live theatre feel, instead of the livestream blues.

There are also plenty of precautions in place when it comes to the audience. Shows are smaller capacity in order to make sure parties can distance from other parties, and exiting the theatre is done safely, in shifts.

COVID precautions aside, the show itself is also wonderful. For those familiar with the classic musical, there aren’t really any surprises or new twists, but each of the characters is warm, funny, philosophical, and engaging, just as they are intended to be. Probably because live theatre has been missing for so long, and the actors are so excited to get back in the spotlight, each performer seems to be throwing themselves 110 percent into what they are doing to tell a compelling and timeless story.

Similarly, the stage accommodations don’t do anything to diminish an amazing, stand-out, set and scenery. While the set is simple and childlike, intentionally, of course, the bright colors in the costumes and set pieces weave seamlessly in with the story, and you get some cool lighting effects and even a kite that really flies.

If you’re itching for some live theatre done safely, make sure to catch You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown at Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton, Thursday through Sunday and running through April 18.

Review: ‘Peanuts’ gang takes to stage

By Sonya Ellingboe (Littleton Independent)

Audience members were scattered sparsely around Town Hall Arts Center and the stage is wrapped with a plastic barrier, but it was indeed a joy to settle in for a live performance last weekend as pianist Donna Debreceni and percussionist Sean Case played the opening music for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center.

Centered on stage, we see a large red doghouse as lights go up and we welcome Charles M. Schulz’s beloved crew, who first showed up in October 1950 in the syndicated comic strip, “Peanuts.”

American cartoonist and Peanuts creator Schulz (1922-2000) was born in Minneapolis and lived and worked for years in Santa Rosa, California, where a museum honors his memory.

My concerns about whether that barrier would affect the sound were gone immediately as the cast moved into a series of vignettes from the beloved Schulz comic strip. With book, music and lyrics by Clark Gesner, additional dialogue by Michael Mayer, additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, this musical, based on what was probably the most famous comic strip of all, is a charmer.

Carter Edward Smith, looking suitably bewildered in his yellow shirt with the black zigzag on it, plays Charlie Brown on a stage he last played on three years ago, while Brekken Baker is bouncy, bossy Lucy Van Pelt, in her first appearance at THAC.

(An old lemonade stand serves as the office for her psychiatric services — 5 cents, please!)

Widely-traveled Mica Dominguez-Robinson appears as Charlie’s little sister, Sally Brown, and Andrew Alber, who appeared in “Cabaret” at THAC, plays Lucy’s blanket-toting little brother, Linus.

THAC regular Matt LaFontaine, who recently appeared as Monty in the virtual Town Hall production of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” is philosophical pianist Schroeder, while Logan Traver, also a former “Cabaret” cast member, wears a white suit with a big black spot on his back and reclines on a bright red doghouse — that lovable Snoopy, of course! (He too was in the large “Cabaret” cast.)

He flies with the Red Baron and worries a lot about his supper, which does arrive, of course. Sweet performance.

Expert director Nick Sugar (“Cabaret” Director and Emcee} has returned to direct and choreograph this whimsical work, delivering his usual polished production, despite minimal set pieces and the constraints of a clear wall between cast and audience. The play, originally produced in 1967, does not include some characters who appeared later in the strip. But we certainly can enjoy this crew as we picture Schulz’s whimsical little guys and girls …

The “Happiness” song is perhaps best remembered, but none of the songs ever took on a life of its own like some musical numbers have. Schulz published a book called “Happiness is a Warm Puppy.”

The musical is said, in a review we found, to be based on the cartoonist’s own life — he had a dog as a kid.

Schulz won numerous awards during his lifetime and a posthumous congressional Gold Medal awarded the year after he died. He left a body of work that has indeed become part of America’s cultural fabric.