Press and Media

The Denver Post

August 14, 2014

By Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post Theater Critic

The Denver Center Theatre Company has unveiled the final show of its 2014-2015 season. The world premiere of "The 12" - Robert Schenkkan and Neil Berg's musical about Jesus' disciples - is slated for March 27 through April 26 at the Stage Theatre.

The production joins a robust roster of diverse works, including the revamp of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," which opens the season Sept. 12.

"Denver Center Goes All the Way" could have been the winking headline for this late addition. After all Schenkkan's play "All the Way" won the Tony Award for best drama in June. Actor Bryan Cranston took best actor honors for his turn as President Lyndon Baines Johnson during the period he was muscling and cajoling Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

For the Denver Center's resident theater company to end the season the way it launches it - with a fresh musical - also underscores the all-in commitment the company and artistic director Kent Thompson have made not merely to new plays, but also new musicals.

"Musicals are a tough thing obviously because of the resources required," Schenkkan said on the phone from New York. "And it's wonderful that a theater the size of Denver is willing to take that gamble with their audiences."

With the help of the Steinberg Commission in Playwriting, the much-in-demand Schenkkan is already at work on a commissioned piece for the Denver Center.

"His epic 'The Kentucky Cycle' is one my favorite plays," Thompson said via e-mail. "When I saw 'All the Way' in its premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival I knew we'd made a great choice." Schenkkan won the Pulitzer Prize for "The Kentucky Cycle" in 1992.

Still. Thompson agrees two musicals in one season is quite the undertaking.

'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' fulfills many things on my list of artistic priorities - a terrific book and new songs from the Meredith Willson library, a top creative team, and - in many ways most important-a new look at an iconic Colorado woman whose story is relevant today."

In "The 12," Schenkkan and composer-lyricist Berg imagine the lives of the 12 disciples in the aftermath of their leader's death.

"This is the part of the story I've never seen dramatized in any form," said Schenkkan. "What an interesting dramatic question. These 12 very ordinary men - blue-collar, young for the most part - who give up everything to follow this very compelling - at the same time difficult-to-understand - individual into what seems like an extraordinary triumph. Which within 36 hours becomes a complete horror show. He's dead. They're hunted. Every thing they've given up everything for is gone."

Thompson says he did not go searching for a musical to take the final slot of the season. Instead, he wrote, "The 12" fulfills a larger goal "to create unforgettable experiences for audiences and artists."