Flogging Franklstein

History doesn't repeat itself. You repeat History.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

Monday, April 25, 2005

Go See Fire on the Mountain

I went to see the musical "Fire on the Mountain" this weekend. I'll let my friend Gary Zeidner of the Boulder Weekly describe it for you:

An astounding array of these traditional tunes are presented in Fire on the Mountain, a tribute to the American coal miner. I was tempted to label this show a "musical tribute," but that would shortchange what is truly a unique and elaborate multimedia performance. True, the hour and a half show includes 36 songs performed live by a group of talented musicians/actors. Between the songs, however, the actors play the parts of coal miners, their wives and their children. Sometimes they engage in mini-scenes with one another. At other times, they speak directly to the audience, telling tales of what a coal miner's life was like years and years ago. The combination of songs and stories weaves a brilliant tapestry of a miner's life: the difficult, often deadly work, the dirty dealings by greedy coal companies, the union busting and the love and concern of a miner's family.

The cast, Molly Andrews, "Mississippi" Charles Bevel, Margaret Bowman, Daniel E. James, David Lutken, Tony Marcus, Mike Regan, Ed Snodderly and Dan Wheetman, become the very subjects of their songs thanks to period costuming by Kevin Copenhaver. The men sport overalls, work boots and hardhats with headlamps while the women wear simple, country dresses. All the action takes place in front of a mine entrance fa├žade with "Be careful today be alive tomorrow" written in whitewash over the opening into the Earth. As good as the costuming, playing, singing and acting are, it is the continuous slide show on two large screens directly behind the actors that really pulls the whole production together. Throughout the show, black and white photographs of miners, their families, dire newspaper headlines of cave-ins and the like fill those screens. These images frame the scenes perfectly and lend a weight and authenticity to the show that it would otherwise lack.

The link for the review is http://www.boulderweekly.com/centerstage.html but I don't know how long the review will be there. It appears that the Boulder Weekly doesn't archive their stories.

I especially liked the blend of music. There was bluegrass, country, blues and even some gospel. The actors/singers/musicians were very versatile, switching between violin, mandolin, guitar, and banjo, among others.

The show is only playing through April 30 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, so if you don't see it before then, keep an eye out for it in the future.


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