Central City Opera ends season on a high note

Show Boat receives high praise from fans and critics

By David Josselyn

  The Central City Opera (CCO) wrapped up their 2013 season with Kern and Hammerstein II’s musical, Show Boat, performed at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. The opera company is changing and adapting to the times by bringing its talent on the road to a larger and arguably more critical audience in Denver for a quick seven performances on the big stage.

  Tuesday’s opening performance packed the house at the Buell and the crowd responded enthusiastically to the show, although no applause was louder or longer than what was received for Soloman Howard’s rendition of Ol’ Man River. When his glorious, sonorous bass voice first launched itself into the theatre, more than one person got chills up and down their spine. Not to remain a singular memory, the song is oft repeated throughout the show both as a solo and a chorus, but every time with Solomon’s booming vocals to gratify the audience. Soloman Howard grew up homeless on the streets of Washington, D.C. before getting his start with the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program.

  Most musicals have one character whose performance steals the show, but Show Boat had three: Queenie, played by Angela Renee Simpson, Parthy Ann Hawks played by Denise Lute, and Ellie Mae Shipley played by local actress Ellen Kaye. Ellen’s character is a vaudeville performer wishing for all the world she was an actress. Ms. Kaye; however, is an exceptional actress whose comedic timing procured plenty of belly laughs from the audience. Ellen Kaye grew up in Boulder attending Fairview High School before heading off to New York and Europe. She now chooses to live in Denver, loving the lifestyle of Colorado.

  The Saturday matinee performance on August 10th had an option for a masquerade ball following the performance called Riverboat Royale. Put on by Central City Opera’s young professionals group for the culturally curious, The Scene, attendees got to indulge in delicious Creole cuisine from Bayou Bob’s and Dostal Alley brews or wine and cocktails from the Breckenridge Distillery. The music was provided by the jazz trio of Michael Fitzmaurice, Mark Harris, and Eric Moon. Also entertaining the group was Matt Bergen on stilts, Carrie Turrentine’s balloon sculptures, pop-up opera by Central City Opera Ensemble Artists Antoine Hodge and Jennifer DeDominici, and dancing by Wonderbound.

  The last hurrah of CCO’s 2013 season brought in the crowds and positive praise from critics; hopefully translating to increased ticket sales for the 2014 season in Central. The 2014 Festival has been announced and starting June 28th, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro will rattle the rafters of the Opera House. This will be followed by Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie opening July 27th. The season will wrap up by once again trouping down to Denver for Rogers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music at the Buell Theatre on August 5th through August 13th. If Show Boat is any example of what the Central City Opera produces, start planning now for time to see them next year. A professional opera troupe in small town Central City.

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