2011 was quite a year for the Denver Theatre Community. Several new theatre companies truly stepped up, showing that good theatre doesn’t always have to do with budget or set, or it can even take place in a rug store. Theatre will leave you laughing and singing all the way home. Theatre can also make you angry or uncomfortable, and in some cases it can do all of the above. One thing is clear – the Denver Theatre Community is alive and robust, full of amazing artists and some of the most creative people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. As 2011 ends, here are the newly named Flomby awards for 2011. It is a look back at the top shows, top companies, and top people that truly stood out.
Show: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
PHAMALy continues to prove time and time again that they are deserving of all the national recognition they receive. This production was no exception. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying can be a dated show, but PHAMALy did a tremendous job, thanks in part to some really fantastic leads.
Show: The Grapes of Wrath
Company: Vintage Theatre Productions
2011 was quite a year for Vintage Theatre Productions. Part of their mission is to bring classics back to the stage, and The Grapes of Wrath certainly fits into that category. This production was an emotionally powerful, heart wrenching version of a beloved classic. From the first moments when Kurt Brighton took the stage with his soulful singing, to the final moments that had brought torrents of tears, this was one production I will not soon forget.
Show: The Liar
Company: Denver Center Theatre Company
The Denver Center Theatre Company took a few opportunities this year to show their funny side, and this was a tremendous example. David Ives is known for his linguistic flair, and The Liar is the perfect addition to the Ives catalog. The Denver Center production of The Liar was a hilarious journey with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Show: Side by Side by Sondheim
Company: Cherry Creek Theatre
This musical revue was the inaugural production for Cherry Creek Theatre, and it took place in a rug store – and somehow it all worked perfectly. It was a tremendous stroll through the catalog of one of the greatest artists to ever grace the Broadway stage, it featured four dazzling singers, and it was a welcome introduction to Denver’s newest company.
Show: The Field
Company: Denver Victorian Playhouse
Technically strong, with a wonderful set design, this show was like sinking yourself into a good novel. A strong story, fine performances, and a delightful experience all made The Field a show that was worth every moment. Sadly, we also said goodbye to The Denver Victorian Playhouse this year, and The Field will go down as a strong reminder of what a wonderful theatre we lost.
Company: The Edge Theatre Company
Extremities is the perfect example of theatre that makes you uncomfortable, angry, upset, and every other negative emotion that one can think of. The script is a difficult but the strength of this play was in the production. The direction was very insightful, with meaningful action and powerful emotions. With impeccable performances from each cast member, this was a show that truly became a powerhouse of emotion. It was also a fantastic introduction to another new Denver Theatre company.
Show: Don’t Dress for Dinner
Company: Miners Alley Playhouse
And sometimes the best theatre just makes you laugh. A Lot. Don’t Dress for Dinner was simply a hysterically funny show put together by hysterically talented people. Each performance was impeccable, and I found myself laughing from beginning to end. Once again Miners Alley proves that they can put together a hilarious evening that is absolutely worth the trip to Golden.
Show: Grey Gardens
Company: Vintage Theatre Productions
I’ve never once been so intrigued by a production that I immediately went home to research more about the source material. That is, until the production of Grey Gardens at Vintage Theatre. The minute I left the theatre I found myself at home watching the documentary, desperate to learn more about these women that I’d just met on stage. Vintage assembled a fantastic cast and crew, bringing life to this lesser-known piece and providing a tremendous evening of theatre.
Company: Arvada Center
Arvada Center truly pulled out all the stops for this huge musical. With amazing sets, costumes, and dance numbers, Hairspray was a delight to watch from beginning to end. Watching the remarkable dancers, it took a lot of self control not to jump up and want to dance right along with them. Every single person leaving the Arvada Center theatre after seeing this show had a huge smile on their face and a spring in their step.
Show: Avenue Q
Company: Vintage Theatre Company
Vintage makes several appearances on this list, and each is very deserving. Avenue Q was a huge undertaking and a giant success for this small company. This scaled down version of the huge Broadway hit was far more heartfelt and far more relatable than the larger touring show. And it further proved that small theatre can be the most powerful.
The Shape of Things, Silhouette Theatre Company
It is no surprise that I’m not a big fan of Neil LaBute’s work. But in some ways, maybe I am a huge fan, because his shows always move me to some very strong emotions, and really – isn’t that always the point of theatre? Silhouette Theatre Company made their Denver debut with LaBute’s The Shape of Things, and they presented a very strong and very powerful evening of theater. This stripped down production didn’t have any sparkling sets or any fancy costumes. It was simply some very strong actors telling a very moving story, and it stood out as a wonderful introduction to another new theatre company.
Best Use of Space:
Into the Woods, Curtains Up Theatre Company
So the theatre companies that made this list perform in a variety of spaces. From the huge Arvada Center space to Vintage Theatre’s small 70 seat house to Cherry Creek’s rug store – and yet there is one company that really deserves some recognition for using their space in a very smart way. Curtains Up is a smaller company performing out of a garage in Arvada. It is a long and narrow space with only a small number of seats. Yet, they continue to bring huge productions and find new and inventive ways to stage them. Into the Woods is a huge show – one that could easily fill a stage the size of the Buell Theatre, yet Curtains Up managed to provide a small and intimate production in their unique space.
Actor to Watch:
Michael Bouchard simply has the best sense of comedic timing this side of Steve Martin. From his amazingly hilarious performances in Miners Alley’s A Touch of Spring and Don’t Dress for Dinner to his heartfelt (and also hilarious) version of Rod in Vintage’s Avenue Q this is an actor that knows comedy. His unique style and impeccable timing ensure that Bouchard always brings a fantastic performance.
Actress to Watch:
This young actress has gone largely unnoticed this year, and honestly, it is a shame. She was stunning in Ignite’s A Chorus Line, she was dazzling in Cherry Creek’s Side by Side by Sondheim, and she was fantastic in Curtains Up’s Into the Woods. Mendez has an incredibly strong voice, and she backs it up with excellent acting and a sparkling stage presence. You may not have heard much about her yet, but stay tuned, because you will.
Just a few short weeks ago, it was announced that John Moore, longtime critic and avid supporter of the all things Denver Theatre would be leaving the Denver Post. This was announcement that shook the Denver Theatre Community to its core, and had tons of Moore’s readers flocking to his Facebook Page and leaving him notes of support and encouragement. His reviews were just a fraction of the avid support he provided to each and every theatre company. He often found himself at three or four shows in a day, and you can bet that if there was anything important happening in Denver Theatre, John Moore was there. Moore also provided a wonderful online presence for the theatre community which included a continually updated list of all shows running in Denver, his Running Lines Blog and samples of new scripts, his exclusive videos and the newer Standing-O coverage of high school theatre. Moore’s exit from the Post will leave a void that will be felt in the Denver Theatre Community for a long time to come. Moore will continue to be a voice in the community, and certainly we haven’t seen the last from him, but this is the perfect opportunity to let John Moore know that his work was appreciated and that the we are all very thankful for all that he did to support the Denver Theatre Community.