I found a blog just now called He Said/She Said Critiques. It’s a blog by two young theater professionals featuring critiques of Denver-area community and professional productions. They also have local theater information and audition notices.

I’ve read a couple of their reviews and I like their format. However I feel the Denver blogosphere needs the voice of a semiprofessional musician. Every time I see a review of a musical the first thing I look for is a critical analysis of the music. Unfortunately to get good at music you have to study it. For a long time. In fact, for your entire life. I’ve been playing piano for 21+ years now and I’m still not half as good as I want to be. I’ve music directed shows around town and I’ve played in pits. So I’d like to post some blogs/reviews here of the aspects of musical productions to which I am uniquely qualified to speak: the music, sound, direction, and performance. I hold an MFA from USC in film production where I specialized in rerecording mixing and production and postproduction sound. I also have a BA from UNC in Musical Theater. So I am uniquely qualified to offer my unique perspective on how I think musicals should be done at this level.

My reviews will be particularly critical. Don’t get me wrong, I love the theater. I love musicals. But I am a perfectionist and exceedingly harsh in my critical ear and eye – and even more so for my own productions. I feel it is time that Denver has the occasional review from the point of view of a sound and music professional, and a critical director and actor.

I also don’t believe in being negative for the sake of being negative. I will always try to be as tactful as I can be while still remaining honest. But I set forth my somewhat eccentric observations because I love theater so much in the hopes that some unbiased observations and feedback will help to improve the quality of Denver’s abundant semiprofessional theatrical productions.

2011 Henry Awards Ceremony

The Henrys sure have come a long way since their days at the Fox. In a few years they have dramatically upsized their annual awards ceremony. I am unclear as to the nomination and judging criteria and any such normalization algorithms they may apply to the voting data throughout the year, but I shall assume that the voting is as balanced as possible. The ceremony lasted three hours and was held at DCPA’s Stage Theater, a lovely professional performance space both from the house and backstage. I only wish I could be a part of more productions in this venue.

This leads me to something that irks me about the Henry Awards: DCPA’s inclusion as a nominee. CTG’s criteria obviously allow the inclusion of Colorado’s preeminent professional theater company, but the playing field is not even – not by far. Compare their resources to, say, those of the Vintage, and it is no wonder that time and again they take home many Henrys, especially in technical areas where even the next-biggest theater has difficulty competing.

While I shall (possibly) save the discussion of the method of nomination for a future date, no effort was made by any CTG board member to briefly explain the voting process to us. In fact the entire purpose of the Henry awards and even the Colorado Theater Guild itself was not brought up. This may be a point of discussion for next year. Undoubtedly to the vast majority of the audience, the point of the evening was to be present in case you or someone with whom you worked won a Henry award. Increase the nominees and increase the attendance.

At any rate, the pace of the awards ceremony, as even the Oscars frequently does, slowed considerably as the evening progressed. There were several uncomfortably long pauses between presenters where the stage was empty and there was no playoff/intro music. These “commercial breaks” could be eliminated easily with more rehearsal, but it is a minor point. While the Henrys try to look more professional with each passing year, several minor polish issues comically remind us that it is still a community-based and locally-produced event. For example, the video projection upstage of the presenters always read," And the winner is…" just as the presenters uniformly said, “And the Henry goes to…”. A little skilful technical direction and preproduction planning will alleviate this hiccup in the future. A less innocuous issue was the frequent and exceedingly frustrating tendency for the performer’s microphones to cut in and out. This problem is less excusable as the technical elements of the sound reinforcement system are expected to work as promised.

One word to the band: Donna Debreceni and all of the musicians on stage were fabulous. I was honored and thrilled to play with you for “Lida Rose/Sweet ’n’ Low”,  even if it was terribly briefly. However please prepare a variety of intro/entrance/exit/interstitial music. I appreciate the fact that you all are good enough that you can comp whatever the heck musical theme Donna thinks up on the spur-of-the-moment, but please know at least one theme (preferably two) from each nominated musical ahead of time and please plan a variety of jingles for the rest of the show. No theme should be repeated more than, say, three times, unless you are going for the idea of leitmotif with the hosts. That being said, you are all fantastic and I would love to play/conduct again with any and all of you.

Why am I reviewing an awards ceremony, you may ask? It was an event held in a professional theater space with an admission price for tickets and the creme of the local theater performers performing. If patrons are not to expect entertainment from those criteria, then from what?

Okay, that’s it. It was great to see many old friends and comrades there and it was quite an enjoyable evening. Until next year!