Musical in Montrose
The Tony Award-winning 1776, a surprisingly-lively, toe-tapping take on the signing of the Declaration of Independence, is hitting its stride at Magic Circle Theatre just in time for Memorial Day Weekend. That’s sweet satisfaction for the show’s director, Ginny Spaven. She and assistant director Kathy Murdoch had wanted to produce this musical for years, but a few of their colleagues insisted they couldn’t do it. What they mostly meant was, the casting would be too daunting; where in the world would they find 24 men who could sing and act in a community as small as Montrose? “We said to each other, ‘don’t tell us we can’t do this,’” Spaven said. “‘We are going to do this.’ We visualized it happening.”
As they pictured it, they also got busy. The directors made lists “of all the males we knew who had ever performed in this theatre, as well as everybody we knew from church and community choirs.” What they got, and whom they eventually cast, was 24 gentlemen “with 60 plays under their belts, and others with none,” Spaven said. It works. Given its subject matter, you might imagine 1776 resembles a musty artifact, what Spaven called “a dull history lesson.” It does not. Indeed, like the document that emancipated a nation, the musical is full of relevance – and life. Spaven and Murdoch chose well. “On the face of it, few historical incidents seem more unlikely to spawn a Broadway musical than that solemn moment in the history of mankind, the signing of the Declaration of Independence,” wrote Clive Barnes in the New York Times. Yet 1776 “is a most striking, most gripping musical. I recommend it without reservation. It makes even an Englishman’s heart beat faster.” It requires “courage as well as enterprise in this cynical age” to mount a theatrical production “that simply deals with [historical] events,” and 1776 “makes no attempt to be satirical or wander off into modern bypaths,” the New York Post said. “The result is a brilliant and remarkably moving work of theatrical art.” 1776 marks the last of Magic Circle’s 2012-2013 season, but Magic Circle’s work doesn’t end there. “The day we strike our set after the matinee on June 2, there’ll be a theatre for children, then drama camps for youngsters.” There’ll also be a night of one-act plays, “And by then we’ll be into rehearsal for our first fall show,” Spaven said. “The public sees our season as September to May, but there is never a week in that theatre that someone isn’t prepping some production.” Performances are on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.
In Telluride: Room 237
If you thought Stanley Kubrick’s classic The Shining was about a screenwriter who flies into an uncontrollable rage in a haunted hotel…well, maybe you do think that, but a number of people think otherwise. And Room 237, which screens at the Nugget tonight, May 23, is here to tell you about them. The film surveys uber-fans who believe they see things in the Shining the rest of us missed. One (an Albion College professor, no less) believes Kubrick embedded subtle references to the Holocaust in his masterwork through the lead character’s choice of typewriter. Another believes the Calumet baking soda cans lining a pantry in the Overlook hotel – King chose the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park as his inspiration – are intended to highlight the plight of the American Indian. Still another believes that a poster in the movie is of the Minotaur, and that the film is, in essence, a re-telling of the Greek myth of the half-man, half-bull. (Leon Vitali, Kubrick’s personal assistant on the film, couldn’t resist taking a swat at this idea in a recent interview. “That astonished me,” Vitali said. “I stood staring at all that stuff for weeks while we were shooting in that room. It’s a downhill skier. It’s a downhill skier. It’s not a Minotaur.”) It all sounds wacky. Yet the film is interesting not in spite of that, but because of it, critic Manohla Dargis has pointed out. These “vaguely lucid and crackpot ideas” have “only proliferated because of the ease with which a film like The Shining can be watched, paused and re-watched at the touch of a remote. And part of what makes Room 237 fascinating to watch and to think about (beyond other people’s loopiness) is that it shows how works of art become encrusted with their reception. It’s a process that has only been accelerated by the Internet, where millions of loony and lovely interpretations bloom.” The film, a Telluride Film Festival Presents selection, screens at 8:30 p.m.
Abundant Fauna in Grand Junction
Finally, if you like animals and find yourself in Grand Junction this weekend, you may want to swing by the Mesa County Fairgrounds, where you’ll find not only a Dogs On Course North America Dog Agility Show and a Western Slope Reining Horse Association Show, but the Shrine Circus. Canines and Quarter Horses plus elephants and tigers, all on the same property all weekend. Jo Carole Haxel, manager of the fairgrounds, takes the multiplicity of species in stride. “It’s kind of a parade of animals through here. Last week we had llamas,” she said matter-of-factly. “This year at the Mesa County Fair, from July 16-20, we’ll have not only a dog show but a cat show – if you can imagine that – and we’ll also have wolves. During the Fair, we have our biggest collection of species. We get rabbits, guinea pigs, carrier pigeons – the works.” Keep track of what’s showing at the Fairgrounds – the PBR Bull Riding event is on in July – by visiting its website (mesacounty.us/fairgrounds/) and clicking on ‘events.’