singing

Featured Festival: Denver Christkindl Market

A grand welcome to the market by Ms. Laura Kantwerk.

A grand welcome to the market by Ms. Laura Kantwerk. Photos by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer, all rights reserved.

It seems rather appropriate for the Mayor of a place called HeidiTown to have a connection to the German Chamber of Commerce – Colorado Chapter. Full disclosure: This organization has been advertising their events with HeidiTown for a while now and it’s a match made in heaven.

This organization puts together well-organized and top-notch events that I am more than happy to slap my endorsement on. Their Biergarten Festival is a summer party my husband and I look forward to every year.

The GACC-CO’s winter event is the Denver Christkindl Market. In operation for 12 years, this year there’s a new look, but the market hasn’t lost its intimate, European feel.

Christkindl markets have deep roots in Germany where the oldest recorded Christmas market dates back to 1310 in Munich. Held in front of churches, the markets were often part of a person’s church visit. Today, these markets are still held in town squares across Germany.

Tour the Denver Christkindl Market to find unique, handmade gifts for nearly everyone on your list. I found lots of knit hats and beautiful artisan jewelry that I’d love to find under the tree this Christmas.

Pastries at the Denver Christkindl Market

Pastries at the Denver Christkindl Market.

The best part of the market, in my illustrious opinion, is the food and the beer/entertainment tent. I’d recommend coming hungry, having some delicious European-style food and a beer or two and then going shopping.

While we were visiting the beer tent last weekend, the Chalet Dancers from Castle Rock were peforming and their authentic German dances impressed the crowd, me included. Under the tent you’ll find a full lineup of entertainment on the weekday evenings and weekends.

Sipping a beer or gluehwein (spiced wine), you’ll be transported to a different time and place, and this is what I love the most about the Denver Christkindl Market and the Biergarten Festival – it’s a chance to experience a little German culture right here in Colorado. Our state is rich with German heritage, but we don’t always get a chance to see it, taste it and feel it in action. I applaud the German Chamber of Commerce – Colorado Chapter for keeping this culture alive and well.

Keep in mind that the market is a wonderful event for children – from entertainment to delicious pastries, make the Denver Christkindl Market a part of their childhood memories this Christmas.

chalet dancers at Denver Christkindl Market

Chalet Dancers from Castle Rock, Colorado.

Denver Christkindl Market

Skyline Park (16th & Arapaho)

November 23 to December 22, 2012

Sunday – Wednesday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Thursday – Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Join the Denver Christkindl Market on Facebook

www.denverchristkindlmarket.com

HeidiTown on the Radio – Holiday fun in Fort Collins & family activities around Colorado

This week’s radio segment on KRFC 88.9 FM offers up some seasonal fun this weekend in Fort Collins PLUS, some ideas on what to do with out-of-town guests over the holidays in Denver and beyond.

Listen to the segment  HERE.

Church Carolers

 

Avenue Q at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre – Like nothing you expect

Avenue Q Kate & Christmas Eve

Avenue Q at Boulder's Dinner Theatre runs through November 3, 2012. (Courtesy photo)

Dinner theaters often produce shows that will appeal to a mass audience, and old Broadway musicals are the norm. So when I go to dinner theater, I’m usually familiar with the production. Last weekend was the exception to that rule, and it was refreshing to have no preconceived notions about the show I was about to see at Boulder’s Dinner Theater.

In the spring, we saw “Cinderella” at BDT, and were pleasantly surprised to find a new, expanded menu. This time we started with the artichoke spinach dip appetizer, and I have to admit to enjoying the hummus platter on our last visit much more. Our entrees, however, were both outstanding. I opted for the potato cod served with Spanish rice and vegetables. The cod was flaky, and the chipotle aioli drizzle was packed with flavor. Ryan ordered the chicken cordon bleu, because it never disappoints.

As we ate dinner, we admired the stage set. It’s an authentic looking New York apartment building, complete with trash can and fire escape. It reminded both Ryan and I of Michael Garman’s Magic Town in his Old Colorado City studio.

“Avenue Q” is a puppet show for adults, and the winner of three Tony Awards. While the presentation is something you’ve probably never seen before, the story is ages old.

Avenue Q entire cast

Courtesy photo

Princeton is fresh out of college with a BA in English, and finds the only apartment he can afford is on Avenue Q, a not-so-trendy part of New York City. While he searches for his purpose in life he meets his neighbors, an eclectic bunch that includes an engaged interracial couple, an assistant kindergarten teacher, an odd couple, a porn-junkie and Gary Coleman as the apartment super.

The last character is somewhat confusing, but the creators of “Avenue Q” thought the Coleman character epitomized the play’s central themes, and those themes involve the misconception that we are somehow special and the painful realization that comes with learning life is much harder than anyone told us it was going to be when we were children.

There are only six cast members in “Avenue Q,” but they have more talent than most much larger casts – they sing, they puppeteer, they change characters and voices on a dime, and they keep the audience in stitches.

While Princeton (Brett Ambler) and Kate (Ellen Kaye) are the two main characters, I can’t pick a favorite in “Avenue Q” because the entire cast works their butts off in this show. MariJane Scott, new to BDT, plays Christmas Eve, one of two “humans” in the show, and Scott Beyette is her fiancé Brian. Beyette proved his comedic chops when he was Don Lockwood in BDT’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain” in 2010, while Scott proves hers in this musical.

puppets in Avenue Q

Courtesy Photo

Joanie Brosseau and Seth Caikowski round out the cast, and these two often perform together as one puppet – each taking an arm. They are also two of the funniest characters in the musical, the Bad Idea Bears. These are the friends we’ve all had (or have been) through the years, the ones who suggest shots at 2 a.m. just before leaving the bar.

“Avenue Q” is much more relatable and poignant than you might think. Numbers like, “We’re all a little racist,” points to the hypocrisy that is rampant in today’s society. “I Wish I Could Go Back to College,” reminds us of how easy we had it in college, and why we can’t go back.

This musical is not for children, so unless you want to explain what those puppets are doing in that bedroom scene, leave the kids at home. However, “Avenue Q” reminds adults, in a not-so-subtle way, to take life less seriously, and live in the moment, because all you’ve really got is now.

I’ve been attending Boulder’s Dinner Theatre for a decade, but BDT is celebrating its 35th year in Colorado, and they set the bar for professionalism in the industry. “Avenue Q” is on stage at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre through November 3. To buy tickets go to BouldersDinnerTheatre.com  and be sure to like BDT’s new Facebook page.

All aboard the “Titanic” at the Union Colony Dinner Theater in Greeley, Colorado

Titanic LogoGreeley never ceases to surprise me. It’s an unassuming city, better known for beef than almost anything else, but then there’s the music. From the city’s inception, it has embraced music.

The last time I visited the Greeley History Museum, I learned that the city is home to one of the nation’s longest running orchestras. The University of Northern Colorado is also well-known for an outstanding School of Music, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that Greeley has a talented pool of musically inclined people to fill out the cast at Union Colony Dinner Theater.

This wasn’t my first evening outing in Greeley, but it was my first visit to UCDT, located upstairs in an historic building on 9th Street Plaza. The current show is “Titanic,” and I had never seen a stage production of this story.

Union Colony Dinner Theater is intimate and there’s no such thing as a bad seat. The cast uses the entire room, so don’t be surprised if someone starts singing right behind you during this show.

UCDT has a straightforward menu including a chicken Caesar salad, vegetarian pasta, shepherd’s pie and two upgrades of salmon and prime rib. You order your meal when you book your tickets.

We went with the salsa sampler appetizer, and were not disappointed – the mango salsa is a real winner. The chips are out of the bag, but the salsa makes up for it. The dinner salad came with a roll, and the lettuce was fresh and crisp.

I ordered a chardonnay, and my husband, Ryan, who has been obsessed with margaritas lately, ordered one on the rocks with Hornitos tequila. The UCDT bartender has some skills because Ryan raved about this margarita for the rest of the evening an into the next day.

I had preordered the salmon filet, and having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to salmon – thankfully it was cooked perfectly. I highly recommend upgrading to this delicious and savory dish.

Ryan raved more about his margarita than his shepherd’s pie, but the apple pie got high marks from both of us – Ryan liked the filling and I loved the light and crispy crust. UCDT also has very good coffee, always a plus at dinner theater.

The show opens with UCDT owner, Brandon Bill, on the piano, accompanied by violinist Alison Reifschneider. In fact, this duo provides all the music for this show, a real display of devotion by Bill to this production at his theater.

The cast waves goodbye in Titanic at UCDT

This is the largest cast for a production at Union Colony Dinner Theater. Courtesy photo.

The cast for this production of “Titanic” is the largest they’ve had at UCDT, and there are 36 bios in the playbill. The songs sung by the full cast sent shivers down my spine.

Nearly the entire script is sung, which takes a bit of time to get used to. All the musical numbers are accompanied by just the piano and violin, and with my own background in music, I believe this adds a layer of difficulty to being a part of the cast in this play.

There is little dancing in “Titanic,” but there is a bit of humor, despite the grave ending we’ve all known about since childhood. The character development is excellent, and by the time the ship goes down, I felt attached to several of the individuals on stage.

As I’ve mentioned in other dinner theater reviews, there’s also a scene stealer or two in every musical, and “Titanic” was no different. Kahlie Metz, plays Alice Beane, a middle-class passanger who is obsessed with the celebrities onboard the ship. Metz has good comedic timing and keeps the mood in the theater light with her comedic talents.

Owner of the Titanic saves himself.

The owner of the Titanic, Bruce Ismay, saves himself by boarding a life raft in front of women & children. Courtesy photo.

John Sonsa, who was also our waiter, plays the overbearing, power hungry owner of the Titanic. Thankfully he’s much nicer in real life than his character whose onstage outbursts startled the audience more than once.

I also enjoyed the performance by Mike Pearl, cast as ship steward, Henry Etches. Pearl has a consummate onstage presence that really shines.

At times, the musical abilities of the cast of “Titanic” stands out above the acting talent, but this is a solid musical that connects with the audience on multiple levels. I’m excited to see what is in store for UCDT with Brandon Bill at the helm.

“Titanic” plays through August 26, so book now before it sails away. Up next at Union Colony is “Once Upon a Mattress,” “5 Course Love,” “39 Steps,” and “Hello Dolly.” Learn more at www.ucdinnertheatre.com or call (970) 352-2900. You can also find UCDT on Facebook.

Kids steal the show in The Sound of Music at Midtown Arts Center

Sound of Music MAC logoThe hills of Northern Colorado are alive with music this spring, because Midtown Art Center has “The Sound of Music” on their main stage. Colorado is lucky to have a collection of fine dinner theaters, and MAC is the only one located in Fort Collins.

As a reminder, your ticket at this establishment includes dinner plus the show, and this all-in-one evening of entertainment is why dinner theater is a HeidiTown.com recommended event.

Midtown Arts Center is a well-appointed and because my husband and I were a little early, and thirsty, we stopped at the lobby bar for a couple drinks and to reminisce about previous productions of this show we have seen over the years.

My childhood was filled with the songs from “The Sound of Music,” and I have seen at least three productions of the play. We saw the show last weekend and the score has been solidly stuck in my head every since, but it’s not a bad thing to find myself singing, “These are a few of my favorite things”¦”

Dinner theater is definitely one of my favorite things and this time, I was happily surprised with my meal at MAC. In the past, dinners at this theater have under whelmed, however, they’ve hit the mark with their new chicken en croute, first introduced during “Avenue Q.”

Both my husband and I ordered it at the recommendation of the hostess. It’s a moist chicken breast stuffed with cream cheese, spinach and roasted red peppers wrapped in a fluffy pastry and topped with parmesan cream. Just writing about it is making my mouth water. Served with mashed potatoes and the vegetable of the day, I give MAC an A+ on this dish.

As a side note, the chicken en croute is not an upgraded meal, so you don’t have to pay extra for it, and I’m hoping this menu item sticks around for a while.

MAC Sound of Music Maria Surrounded by Kids

Courtesy photos provided by Midtown Arts Center.

Once the musical got underway I was reminded of why this theater is such a great place to catch a show. The combination of a live band, great acoustics and a well-executed floor plan meant that our seats at the back of the house were just as good as anywhere else in the theater.

As most of you already know, “The Sound of Music” is set in Austria, just prior to WWII. It is the story of a precocious wanna-be nun named Maria, who is asked to leave the abbey and try her hand at the real world activity of being a governess. She goes to work for the gruff Captain Von Trapp, a widower with seven children.

Colleen Johnson is making her debut at MAC in the role of Maria, and her voice is as sweet as she is adorable. It is the children, however, who steal the show, and it has been this way in every production of “The Sound of Music” that I have seen.

The children in the roles of the Von Trapp family do an outstanding job, but six-year-old Camille Nugent, who plays the littlest Von Trapp, Gretl, is the real scene-stealer. According to her bio she’s retiring from this role after this production – she’s apparently appeared as Gretl three times already – so you’d better get to MAC to see her before her retirement.

One of the musical numbers that really stands out is “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” It’s been one of my favorite songs from this musical since childhood, and Sarah Grover (Liesl) and Drew Hirschbloeck (Rolf) do a splendid rendition of the song with an interesting take on the traditional choreography.

Both Grover and Hirschbloecker have better voices than half the kids on “American Idol,” and I truly hope that I get to see Grover in more productions at MAC. Her star shines brightly on stage.

MAC Sound of Music - Kids PosingOverall this is a solid production of “The Sound of Music.” The only thing that didn’t impress was the set, however, dinner was delicious and the show was thoroughly entertaining and I would highly recommend it for families.

Midtown Arts Center is currently selling packages for next season, but due to contractual issues they can’t release the names of the shows they have secured. They are asking patrons to “take a leap of faith” and purchase their tickets anyway. The biggest benefit of securing tickets before the shows are announced is that once announced the ticket prices will go up.

MAC is promising that their 2012-2013 season will be the biggest yet and the titles they have secured include two state premieres.

For more information on buying season tickets, or purchasing tickets to “The Sound of Music,” on stage now through June 2, 2012, go to AdinnerTheatre.com or call (970) 225-2555. You can also visit them on Facebook.

Big River rolls into Northern Colorado’s Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Big River, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Lively and Keith Hatten as Jim and Huckleberry Finn in "Big River," now playing. Courtesy photo from Candlelight Dinner Playhouse.

Huck Finn has made his way to the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse and has been welcomed with open arms. “Big River, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” originally performed on Broadway in the late 1980s, opened at Candlelight on Father’s Day.

When I came to the Candlelight for “The King & I,” the actors had a lot to live up to – and they did -but I had no such expectations for “Big River.”  I have no emotionally attachment to Huck Finn or Mark Twain. I don’t remember reading any Twain in school, and I only vaguely knew the story, so I had no preconceived notions about this play.

I attended a weekend matinee performance, and it was a delightful respite from the hot Colorado summer. The well-appointed Candlelight was buzzing with a large Sunday afternoon crowd of both the very young and the not so very young. A reflection of the audience sat at our table which included my six-year-old niece, my thirty something sister-in-law and my mother-in-law.

The menu at Candlelight is modified for each show. While “The King & I” featured food with an Asian flare, “Big River” features southern comfort food. Blackened catfish, Creole pasta, southern style herb roasted chicken and Cajun meatloaf are the main dishes included in the ticket price.  The upgraded items were the Candlelight’s signature prime rib ($12), St. Louis style short ribs ($11) and New Orleans style shrimp scampi ($10).

Sadly, the kitchen was out of the roasted chicken on our visit.  My mother-in-law and sister-in-law both ordered a Candlelight garden salad with summer chicken salad on top. Unfortunately these meals proved disappointing to my companions who didn’t enjoy the chicken salad portion of the dish.

Big River at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

The children in the audience especially loved when Huck Finn dressed up as a girl. Courtesy photo from Candlelight Dinner Playhouse.

The “just for kids” blue blinking drink, however, was a huge hit with my niece and the other children in the theater. On the waiter’s suggestion I ordered the Cajun meatloaf, which was a huge portion of spicy meat. I liked it, but I’ve since heard rave reviews about the shrimp scampi, so I wish I’d ordered the upgrade. We all absolutely loved the cornbread served throughout the meal with sweet butter.

For intermission we ordered several desserts Рthe lemon sorbet, cherry bread pudding with rum sauce and the coffee cr̬me brule̩ Рand all were well received by the dessert fans at our table.

“Big River” is delightful. The cast is energetic and the raft moves across the stage in a most convincing way. For me, the songs and live band are what stood out in this production. The duets between Huck and Jim were downright phenomenal. The harmony between the three Wilkes sisters is so good it sent shivers up and down my spine.

While children are often assigned to read this book in school, I think this play is more appropriate for kids over 10. That being said, although she was a little heavy lidded during parts, my six-year-old niece never took her eyes off the stage. She loved the musical numbers and she giggled uncontrollably every time a man dressed up in women’s clothing.

While I do not have a connection to this story, it felt that many in the audience did, and they seemed most pleased with this production. Keith Hatten, as Jim, is an absolute star on stage, and his duets with Mark Lively (Huck Finn) were exceptionally moving.

Despite some disappointment in our meals (for the first time ever at this venue) the Candlelight’s talented performers have impressed once again. If you haven’t been to the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, I’d urge you to experience the amazing talent Northern Colorado has to offer.

“Big River” plays through August 21, and children under 12 are free with a paying adult. Upcoming shows include “Annie Warbucks,” “Scrooge, the Musical,” “Cole Porter’s Anything Goes,” and “Oklahoma.”

Ticket prices for adults range from $45.50 to $57.50. Tickets include dinner and the show. There is also show-only seating available in the balcony for $29.50. For more information visit  www.coloradocandlelight.com or call (970) 744-3747.

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse is just off of I25 about 40 minutes north of dinner and 25 minutes south of Fort Collins. The address 4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown, Colorado.

Note from the Mayor: This production of “Big River” stays true to Twain’s voice and does not attempt to whitewash the language of the play. There is some swearing and the occasional use of the “n” word sprinkled throughout. It is not done in an offensive manner and I think this is a good opportunity for parents to discuss this part of American history with their children. I applaud the Candlelight for staying true to Twain.

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