The Arvada Center is celebrating the return of live musical theater with an experience that will be novel for both performers and audiences — musical theater outside. For the first time in 19 years, the Center is premiering a show — “Million Dollar Quartet” — in its Outdoor Amphitheater.
“The show is based on a real jam session recorded by Sam Phillips from 1956 featuring Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis,” said Rod A. Lansberry, producing artistic director of musical theatre. “It took place in a two-hour span, and the show is a lot like watching that session live. But it’s not a Vegas impersonation show — it has a storyline that carries through.”
“Million Dollar Quartet” runs at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., through Friday, July 2, with performances at 8 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday.
“Million Dollar Quartet” features Zachary Andrews as Phillips, JP Coletta as Lewis, Sam Sherwood as Perkins, Andrew Frace as Cash, Nick Voss as Presley and Suzanna Champion as Dyanne. Lansberry said the Center received about 600 auditions for the roles — all virtual, due to the pandemic. Once that relatively new experience was surmounted, then came the “old is new again” experience of putting together a show. In person. For a live audience.
“After two years of not performing for the actors and two years of not directing for me, it took a little while to get used to again,” he said. “But there was much more of a feeling of excitement for us to be back in front of an audience, with performers getting to do what they do.”
The show features classics like “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Walk the Line,” which means not only do the actors have to perform and play on stage, but they need to do be convincing as the well-known figures without straying into caricature.
“It’s a very intricate show because of the style all these musicians played in,” Lansberry added. “We don’t want them to be doing impersonations, so all the actors did their homework to ensure they’re believable as these characters.”
The original plan was for the show to be performed on the Main Stage, but when the Center’s production of “Small Mouth Sounds” was moved into that space to allow for social distancing, “Million Dollar Quartet” migrated outside.
“It really fits in the amphitheater because it is very similar to the live music we normally have out there,” Lansberry said. “It’s just an enjoyable evening outside — something that a lot of us haven’t had in the last year and a half. It’s important to produce a show that gives people that opportunity.”
For information and tickets, call 720-898-7200 or visit www.arvadacenter.org.
Plays making progress with the Athena Project
The Athena Project’s Plays In Progress series is back this year highlighting new works by women playwrights from more than 300 submitted works. The works — “The Newlywed Game” by Alyssa Haddad, “Like a House of Cards” by Eva Grace, “Woman Wahala” by Nikkita Duke and “Knead Love” by Camille Darby — will be presented as virtual table reads on Zoom Webinar, and there will also be panels featuring playwrights, directors, dramaturgs and actors from across the country.
The series will be on Saturday, June 5 and Sunday, June 6. There is a Series Pass and Backstage Pass available to the general public, and for entertainers and theatre artists who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a Backstage Pass option at a discounted rate.
The full schedule and tickets can be found at https://athenaprojectarts.org/pip/.
A summer of fun ahead at Four Mile Historic Park
After more than a year of being closed, Denver’s Four Mile Historic Park reopened on Wednesday, June 2, for self-guided tours. The 162-year old house museum, Denver’s oldest standing structure is also a working farm with horses, goats, chickens and pigs.
In addition to the reopening, the park also announced an Independence Day Celebration, presented by ANB Bank, from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, July 2, and Swallow Hill Music’s Shady Grove Picnic Concert Series. The concert series runs on Thursdays through August and features performers like Dakota Blonde, Eilen Jewell and more.
For more information, visit www.fourmilepark.org.
Clarke’s Concert of the Week — The Menzinger’s Last Pandemic Virtual Performance Ever (Probably...)
The Menzingers make the kind of anthemic rock music that many will tell you has gone out of “style.” But it still manages to capture the hearts of those who love it. The group has the uncanny ability to write incisively about everyday struggles in a way that’s both clever and catchy.
To celebrate the (hopeful) return live touring, the group is hosting what they’re calling “The Last Pandemic Virtual Performance Ever (Probably…),” at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 8. This will (again, hopefully) be the last time you can see these guys play without having someone else jumping into you and spilling their beer all over, so catch it while you can at www.themenzingersmerch.com.
Clarke Reader’s column on culture apears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at Clarke.Reader@hotmail.com.
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