REVIEW: THE NOTEWORTHY LIFE OF HOWARD BARNES at Forge Light TheatreWorks

by Michael Mulhern

Forge Light Theaterworks presents its inaugural production of THE NOTEWORTHY LIFE OF HOWARD BARNES. What would YOU do if you woke up to find your entire life thrown into a comedic, book-driven, commercial (but with artistry), highbrow, low budget, modern (but traditional) original American musical? Meet Howard Barnes, a perfectly average man…at least until the day that he wakes up to discover that his life has become a musical. Desperate to escape from the show of his life (literally), Howard embarks on a fantastical quest through the realm of musical theater to get his boring, un-musical life back again. 

First of all I need to commend this new company for perseverance. They were set to open Bare – The Musical over a year ago and then Covid hit and theater stopped. But thanks to the determination of Keith Rabin Jr and crew, this production team is back and stronger and more determined. The thing I like the most about this unique company is that they discover these obscure musical gems for new resurgence and appreciation. 

If you made a cocktail with equal parts Wizard of Oz, Company and Schmigadoon with a dash of Stranger than Fiction on top….then the deliciousness you would taste would the THE NOTEWORTHY LIFE OF HOWARD BARNES!!! The thing I loved the most about this very energetic musical was for as much as they played homage to musicals and love stories on Stage and Screen, then also made fun of those that took the audience on a hilariously noteworthy journey. 

On the industry benefit night we were treated to the understudy of Howard Barnes. Caleb Reed was superb in the role and I appreciates his personal story of his struggle with Covid and the amazing support of the Denver Actors Fund. His performance was very personable and down to earth and he has a great singing voice. Abigail Kochevar as Howard’s love interest Maggie and quite impressive as an superbly strong triple threat and showed such character growth. 

Once again Patrick Brownson stole the show as the eccentric “Wizard” Von Schwartzenholm and had the audience in stitches. Another impressive talent was Lindsey Kinney as Howard’s ex, Grace. She had such strong Stage presence and her vocal range demanded attention. I also have to commend the entire ensemble for having fun with this musical and showing wonderful diversity in dance and glorious harmonies!

The Direction by Keith Rabin Jr. with Musical Direction by Tanner Kelly was excellent and expertly cast. The set was simple, yet effective and the scene transitions were fluid. I especially relished in having an interactive  band onstage. My only critic would be that they could have utilized the multi-media back wall a little more and make the backdrop picturesque stationary (the moving photos became distracting at times). Choreography by Stephanie Hesse was rich with variety and I really loved the Chicago homage, the Experimentals and the Finale.

Even for this cynically down-with-love guy, this musical and its wonderful performance was infectiously adorable and I could not smiling throughout. I look forward to productions to come from this fine company.

THE NOTEWORTHY LIFE OF HOWARD BARNES is delighting audiences now through August 21st. For tickets (available for in-person and streaming) or more information, contact Forge Light Theaterworks by visiting https://www.forgelighttheatreworks.org/howardbarnes.

PHOTO CREDIT:  Hannah Lynn James Photography

 

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