Audiences in Denver used to the winter cold will be transported to the Caribbean and across the equator to Africa when Denver Center Theatre Company opens Dream on Monkey Mountain, a fusion of text, movement and dance, Jan. 22, 1999.
Nobel laureate Derek Walcott's brief scenario, about a West Indies charcoal seller thrown in jail, is filled-in with the addition of a new musical score by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson and an ensemble partially made up of Denver's Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble.
Chris Wiger of the Denver Center Theatre told Playbill On-Line Jan. 18 that this is probably the most music-and-dance-driven staging of the Walcott script ever, featuring a 40-person ensemble. A production of the script by Walcott (the poet who would eventually pen the 1998 musical, The Capeman) won an Obie in New York City in 1971 for Distinguished Foreign Play.
When the jailed Makak (played by Lou Ferguson) dreams of his African roots, director Israel Hicks' staging explodes with an elaborately designed realization of Makak's dream -- and nightmare.
DCTC's Dream on Monkey Mountain, which began previews at the 500-seat Space Theatre Jan. 14 and continues to Feb. 20, 1999 is non literal, atmospheric and poetic, said DCTC publicist Wiger. "His dream is his escape from prison," Wiger said. "In the dream he is made King of Africa." The pageant -- with elaborate beading and feathers on headdresses -- represents all kinds of African regional cultures, Wiger said. Because Makak has not been to Africa, the costumes and set design by Andrew V. Yelusich are what Makak might imagine: More heightened, imaginative and theatrical, ranging from rags to metallic fabrics, tribal-inspired ornaments and more.
The choice to revive Dream came about after discussions between DCTC artistic director Donovan Marley, director Hicks and choreographer Robinson, who have wanted to collaborate on a project for years. "It's the perfect piece to meld disciplines," said Wiger.
Musicians for the staging are Kofi Anang, Dwandra Nickole, Warren Smith and Mark Spiller.
The 17 dancers perform in tandem with a company of actors, including Harvy Banks, Hassan El-Amin, Lou Ferguson, Reg Flowers, Keith L. Hatten, Susan Richardson, Michael Rogers and Allie Woods Jr.
Other designers are Don Darnutzer (lighting) and Christopher A. Ruggeri (sound). Music direction is by composer Perkinson and Warren Smith.
This is Hicks' tenth season working at DCTC. He previously staged Blues For an Alabama Sky, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone and Romeo and Juliet there.
Tickets are $30-$36. The Space Theatre is in the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex at 14th and Curtis streets in Denver. For information, call (303) 893-4100 or (800) 641-1222.
-- By Kenneth Jones