Arvada Center Blog

Bus Stop opens Friday!


The Arvada Center’s Black Box repertory theatre series kicks off this weekend! Bus Stop, directed by Allison Watrous, opens this Friday.


Jenna Moll Reyes as Elma and Emily Van Fleet as Cherie. Matt Gale Photography 2017

Bus Stop is written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright William Inge, known for his portraits of small-town life in America’s heartland. Bus Stop is a drama infused with comedy and honesty, and was nominated for four Tony Awards when it opened in 1955.


Geoffrey Kent as Will and Josh Robinson as Carl


The play takes place inside a street-corner restaurant in a small Kansas town after a blizzard has forced an inter-state bus is forced to stop for the night. The restaurant fills up with an eclectic cast of characters, each bringing their personalities and problems with them as they seek refuge.


Josh Robinson as Carl and Kate Gleason as Grace

Central to the story is Bo, a boastful but innocent cowboy who plans to get Cherie to the altar, kicking and screaming if necessary. But Cherie, a worldly nightclub singer, has plans of her own and they don’t include Bo! As the night goes on, these snowbound strangers share their secrets and dreams. William Inge mixes moments of uproarious comedy and heartbreaking tenderness to explore the many nuances of love and longing.


Sean Scrutchins as Bo

Bus Stop marks the launch of the Arvada Center’s spring repertory theatre season. It’s presented by members of the Center’s new ensemble company of actors, directors, technical artists and designers, and performed as part of the Center’s three-play repertory rotation. Play the video below to meet the actors!


Bus Stop Cast

Emily Van Fleet – Cherie

Sean Scrutchins – Bo

Sam Gregory – Dr. Lyman

KIate Gleason – Grace

Jenna Moll Reyes – Elma

Michael Morgan – Virgil

Geoffrey Kent – Will

Josh Robinson – Carl


Sam Gregory as Dr. Lyman

In addition to director Allison Watrous, the creative team includes Clare Henkel (Costume Design), Jason Ducat (Sound Design), Brian Mallgrave (Scenic Design), Shannon McKinney (Lighting Design) and Megan O’Connor (Wig Design). The Artistic Director of Plays is Lynne Collins.


Sean Scrutchins as Bo and Michael Morgan as Virgil

Bus Stop opens Friday and runs until April 15. Tickets for opening night are almost sold out – but you can come see it opening weekend!

Visit our website for information on upcoming Black Box productions The Drowning Girls and Waiting for Godot!

Arvada Center Bus Stop Cast M. Gale Photography 2017

A Year With Frog and Toad opens today!


The cast of the Arvada Center’s spring children’s theatre production are ready to hop, slither, crawl and fly their way across stage! A Year With Frog and Toad, an adaption of the beloved children’s stories by Arnold Lobel, opens today.


Brandon Bill (Frog) and Matt LaFontaine (Toad) – all photos M. Gale Photography 2017

The musical features bright, intricate costumes and an upbeat and humorous score. It’s perfect for kids of all ages.

Arnold Lobel’s daughter Adrianne Lobel commissioned a musical based on her father’s treasured characters, a friendly Frog and uptight Toad. It was written by a pair of brothers, Robert and Willie Reale, and Adrianne Lobel designed the original set based on her father’s art.


Maggie Tisdale, Carter Smith, Lindsay Weidig, Ben Griffin and Melissa Morris (left to right)

The musical broke new ground by bringing professional children’s theatre to Broadway and was nominated for 3 Tony Awards – including Best Musical.

A Year With Frog and Toad follows the woodland adventures of two amphibious friends, a worrywart toad, and a perky frog, with their assorted colorful hopping, crawling and flying companions, over the course of a year.


Lindsay Weidig, Carter Smith, Maggie Tisdale, Ben Griffin and Melissa Morris

The two best friends celebrate and rejoice in their differences that make them unique and special. Part vaudeville, part make-believe, all charm, A Year With Frog And Toad tells the story of a friendship that endures, weathering all seasons.


Brandon Bill (Frog) and Matt LaFontaine (Toad)

The jazzy, upbeat score of A Year with Frog and Toad bubbles with melody and wit, making it an inventive, exuberant and enchanting musical for the whole family. A Year With Frog and Toad opened February 2, and it runs until May 19. For details on performance dates and to purchase tickets, visit our website.

Accessibility is important to our children’s theatre program. Select performances of A Year With Frog and Toad will be Audio Described for the sight impaired, and Shadow performed for the hearing impaired. Shadow – interpreted theatre utilizes specially trained American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters to perform as “shadows” on stage alongside actors.


A Year With Frog and Toad Cast

Brandon Bill – Frog
Matt LaFontaine – Toad
Melissa Morris – Mouse, Ensemble, Lady Bird, Squirrel, Mole
Ben Griffin – Lizard, Ensemble, Man Bird, Squirrel, Mole
Lindsay Weidig – Ensemble, Lady Bird, Squirrel, Mole
Maggie Tisdale – Turtle, Ensemble, Lady Bird, Squirrel, Mole
Carter Smith – Snail, Man Bird, Mole

The music is directed by David and Julie Payne, with musical direction by Keith Ewer and choreography by Piper Arpan. The Arvada Center Artistic Producer is Rod A. Lansberry.


Marlowe Awards recognize Sister Act, Tartuffe

Every year, local theatre reviewer David Marlowe presents his picks for the best performances and technical achievements in the Denver theatre community. The 2016 Marlowe Awards have been announced, and Arvada Center artists and productions staff won four of them! Click here to read the complete list of awards, and congrats everyone!


Best Supporting Actress – Jessica Austgen, Tartuffe


Matt Gale Photography

Outstanding Sound Design – Morgan McCauley, Tartuffe


Matt Gale Photography

Choreography – Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, Sister Act


P. Switzer Photography

Best Production of a Play – Tartuffe


Matt Gale Photography

2016 True West Awards recognize Center actors & designers!

The Arvada Center has the opportunity to work with so many talented members of the Colorado theatre community every year – and this year, six actors and one designer involved in our productions were recognized in the 2016 True West Awards! Congrats to these talented people – look for their work in upcoming Arvada Center productions in 2017.

Michael Morgan


Michael Morgan starred in the Arvada Center’s fall Black Box production of Tartuffe. He’s a member of the Center’s Black Box Repertory company and will be appearing in Bus Stop, which opens in February. Artistic Director of Plays Lynne Collins calls him an “actor’s actor — You watch him and you can’t help but go away thinking you really know whatever guy he’s playing. He’s just very relatable and accessible to an audience.”


Leslie O’Carroll and Steve Wilson


The husband and wife duo took on an interesting task this year. O’Carroll appeared as Madame Pernelle in Tartuffe, but almost turned down the role because of a schedule conflict until Lynne Collins suggested her husband, Steve Wilson, step in. The actor swap fit perfectly into Moliere’s comedic masterpiece, as a husband stepped into his wife’s shoes.


Jake Mendes


New to the Arvada Center stage, Jake Mendes took on the role of Simon Bright in the Center’s world premiere musical I’ll Be Home for Christmas. But theatregoers may have seen him elsewhere – even if they didn’t recognize him. He also appeared in Little Shop of Horrors at Miner’s Alley Playhouse, and as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in StageDoor Theatre’s Rocky Horror Picture Show. 


Diana Ben-Kiki


If you saw Tartuffe, you saw Diana Ben-Kiki’s handiwork firsthand on the heads of the actors onstage. The Denver Center’s “Wig Goddess” produced over 130 heads of hair this year, including productions of Sweeny Todd, Frankenstein and A Christmas Carol as well as Tartuffe. 


Sharon Kay White


Sharon Kay White brought her voice and comedic talents to two Arvada Center productions this year – she appeared as Sister Mary Patrick in the fall musical Sister Act and belting variety-show star Carol Marie in  I’ll Be Home for Christmas. She was one of a few actors involved in the world premiere musical from its first staged reading.


Sam Gregory


Alongside Michael Morgan, Sam Gregory’s hilarious take on Tartuffe‘s hapless patriarch Orgon had audiences laughing. Another repertory company member, Gregory will appear in two upcoming Black Box productions in 2017. He plays Dr. Lyman in Bus Stop, and stars as Vladimir in Waiting for Godot, opening in April.


From Page to Stage – the Making of a Musical

This holiday season the Arvada Center produced a brand-new musical work – the first in our 41-year history. Arvada Center Artistic Producer of Musicals Rod A. Lansberry and I’ll Be Home for Christmas co-creators, David Nehls and Kenn McLaughlin offer their perspective to what it takes to build a new musical from the ground up.

  1. Describe what it feels like to create a new musical like I’ll Be Home for Christmas from concept to completion?

Rod Lansberry (RL): The idea to have a world premiere on the Arvada Center stage is something we have worked on for many years, and we are happy to have this chance to bring something new and fresh to our audience.

Kenn McLaughlin (KM): It is a very hard thing to describe! Rod and (director) Gavin Mayer have been champions of the work from the start and have offered great direction and feedback that have helped shape where we are.

David Nehls (DN): Creating a new work for musical theatre is one of the most thrilling journeys in the arts.  To be in the room to see the final result with an audience is both exciting and terrifying because you are experiencing all the elements coming together for the first time in real time.  It is truly like nothing else.

Noah Racey as Dana Bright and Megan Van De Hey as Louise Bright

Noah Racey as Dana Bright and Megan Van De Hey as Louise Bright

  1. This musical draws on an old holiday tradition, but it’s also rooted in a specific time (1969). What was the inspiration for the setting of a Christmas variety show? What about this point in history?

KM: Both David and I grew up watching these shows. When we started talking together about our memories of the shows it was clear they had had a deep impact on us.

DN: The TV variety shows of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s honed my sensibility for what I liked as an artist and helped encourage me to go into the arts as a career. Plus, the idea of family is the cornerstone of I’ll Be Home For Christmas, and my family came together to watch these shows.

KM: The idea of the turmoil of the late 1960’s gave us a way to bring in more powerful social themes and put those up against the traditional ideas of an American Christmas. The collision of these ideas is what gives the show its voice. People who have read it or heard it remark how it feels very relevant to our circumstances today and that was the biggest of our goals.

  1. How long did the development of this musical take?

KM: The first time we even discussed it was December 2012. At that time David and I had just finished work on a holiday pantomime for my theatre in Houston, and we were looking forward to what else we might work on. He called me as I was about to board a plane and laid out the idea. I wrote the first treatment of the show on the plane

DN: When Rod reached out about the show after this past Christmas, we jumped on it completing a first, readable draft by March.

RL: The actual production has been in process for almost a year, It went from rough drafts of the script and music to table readings and a staged reading for an invited audience in June.


Arvada Center techs build the set

  1. What phases did the musical go through in development? How did it change?

KM: The biggest change came late in the process with a different approach to Simon’s journey through the play. He now gets more caught by surprise by several things and that sets him on his path. It is much more playable for the actors, and I think much more interesting for the audience.


Jake Mendes as Simon Bright

DN: Dialogue shifted in places, strengthening characters here and there, but the basic structure remained.

5. The Arvada Center held a workshop with actors and a live audience in June. Was having an early audience to hear the words and music helpful?

Rod Lansberry: Actually getting live feedback led us to many insights and ideas that only helped to solidify and improve the piece.

KM: Based on the response we got that day, we knew that the characters and the core story mattered to people. We got to hear where the audience got lost and we got to hear what moved them and all in all it was a remarkable and important day for the play.

Director Gavin Mayer, writer Kenn McLaughlin and musical director David Nehls

Director Gavin Mayer, writer Kenn McLaughlin and musical director David Nehls

  1. What was the collaboration process like, particularly with one of the creators living in Houston?

DN: Working with Kenn is always a joy!  He is so smart and fresh and has a great sense of how the process works.

KM: David and I spoke on the phone several times a day during creation – he’d write something he was excited about, and he’d send it, and I’d write something I was excited about and then we’d get on the phone and work it out. David and I think a lot alike about theatre so it was an easy process for us and the distance was not a problem at all.

RL: Kenn and David have a great working relationship that has served to make the entire project an enjoyable and creative process.

  1. What is the biggest challenge?

RL: Creating a piece that will artistically fit the reputation of the Arvada Center and enlighten while entertaining an audience – especially a piece that fits the theme of the holiday season.

KM: This is a play of extremes and getting that just right is a challenge. It’s a musical comedy with a very powerful story about a soldier and his return from Vietnam. Balancing the power of that story and making sure we honor all the voices of that story while we surround it with some joyful singing and dancing– it is a great and thrilling challenge indeed.

DN: And casting these specific roles with such specific talents is a bit of a challenge.


Kim McClay as Maggie Bright

  1. What’s most exciting to you personally about presenting a world premiere at the Arvada Center?

RL: Bringing a fresh new holiday production to our audience and producing our first new work.

DN: This has been my home theatre for 14 seasons and to have my own work premiere here for the first time is a big thrill.  My shows have now been produced all over the country, but we have never produced one here.  So to cross this off the bucket list is great!

KM: The fact that Rod challenged us to go deeper and to find the darkness too – I can’t be more excited about that. I think it has made the play very special and in fact more joyful than I could ever have imagined. I cannot wait to share it with people – I just can’t wait!


I’ll Be Home for Christmas runs until December 23. Tickets are available online!