BWW Reviews: COUNTRY ROADS: A JOHN DENVER CELEBRATION Fills the El Portal with Love
John Denver was an environmentalist before it was fashionable and a man not afraid to sing about his deep love for the Earth and his wife. While few radio stations still play his music, his many albums sold millions of copies during his singing career from 1969-1997. Those of us in the audience on opening night were quick to join in singing, spreading Denver's joy and love throughout the theater.
Tribute artist Jim Curry, whose voice was heard in the CBS-TV movie Take Me Home: The John Denver Story, has performed Denver's music in sold out shows throughout the country and has emerged as today's top performer of Denver's vast legacy of multi-platinum hits. Jim's uncanny ability to mirror John's voice and clean-cut look takes you back to the time when "Rocky Mountain High" "Sunshine" "Calypso" and "Annie's Song" topped the charts, and his popular music had the heartfelt message of caring for the earth and caring for each other.
What makes Curry's presentation so heartfelt is the multimedia collection of photos and videos from Denver's life which were displayed on a large screen behind Curry and his two accompanists, his wife, Anne, to whom he sang "Annie's Song" at their wedding, and the lovely Diana on an assortment of flutes. These awe-inspiring images included many idyllic Rocky Mountain settings, the Oklahoma wheat fields of Denver's youth (the inspiration for his song "Matthew"), the world's oceans and its many inhabitants, as well as scenes from his other love, flying, during "Eagles and Horses" accompanied by images of wild horses running free and bald eagles soaring and floating in the clear Rocky Mountain air.
Audience participation was encouraged throughout the show, and besides singing along and clapping, many howled lyrics in response to Curry's wolf howls during "Yellowstone, Coming Home." The many photos of wolves "singing" most certainly inspired my participation!
During the concert, Curry shared his vast knowledge of Denver's life as a way to introduce the songs from this astounding Grammy-Award Winning American legend. For instance, "He was born in the summer of his 27th year" is a lyric from "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" and was inspired by Denver's first visit to Aspen, Colorado, a place he would call home for the rest of his life and the inspiration for many of his best-loved songs.
"Country Roads" mentions West Virginia being "almost heaven" but certainly Denver walked many a country road in his beloved Rocky Mountains, a place as close to heaven on Earth for him. The photos and videos shown during "Rocky Mountain High" certainly will open your mind to the wonders that were so much a part of Denver's life.
One of my favorite songs is "Sunshine on my Shoulder" which I remember listening to while sitting in my favorite Redwood grove along the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz, CA. Curry sang this song while images from the John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen were shown where many of the large boulders are inscribed with Denver's song lyrics. It's a perfect tribute to a perfect Rocky Mountain singer/songwriter, and a place I hope to visit one day to re-capture the joy I felt while sitting in the Redwoods with Denver's music in my ears.
Denver died on October 13, 1997 when his small aircraft plunged into Monterey Bay. I'd like to think that the dolphins and whales he so loved and studied aboard Jacques Cousteau's Calypso were calling him home. May he rest in peace and may his music live in our hearts and souls forever. And as long as Jim Curry keeps traveling the world channeling Denver's spirit with his perfect physical mimicry and sound, you will have the chance to celebrate life with him.
El Portal Theatre in association with Off Broadway Productions (a division of Rock N Roll Inc.) proudly present Country Roads: A John Denver Celebration starring Jim Curry, a multimedia musical production celebrating the music, life and legacy of John Denver, at El Portal's Monroe Forum Theatre, in the NOHO Arts District, North Hollywood, CA. This special ten performance engagement will be presented April 3 through April 13, 2014.
For tickets and information call the El Portal Box Office at 818-508-4200 or order online: www.elportaltheatre.com. El Portal Theatre is located at 5269 Lankershim Blvd in the heart of the NoHo Arts District in North Hollywood, California.