Making up bedtime stories for your kid has always been a way of righting the world. We've been doing it from the time we emerged from the jungle, stood on two legs, and danced and chanted around the fire. In Cy Frost and Doug Olson's Bubs, now receiving its world premiere at the Avenue Theatre, son Will has the great good fortune of having a dad whose stories come in the form of original songs—20 of them—delivered by 15 strange and wonderful imaginary characters known as the "Bubs," all of whom are performed by noted local actor Erik Sandvold.
As we saw from Sandvold in another one man tour de force, I Am My Own Wife, his unique vocal and physical talents provide him with a limitless palette of voices and dispositions from which to draw distinctive and engaging characters, which he does here with his usual aplomb. In Bubs, however, we're treated to the additional thrill of Sandvold interpreting multiple characters while delivering their songs.
|Erik Sandvold as Wiley Tipps|
Like the 2008 Tony Award-winning bio-flavored musical Passing Strange, Bubs tells the coming of age tale of a boy with a single parent; in both shows the protagonist leaves home and finds a career in music, eventually returning home with the hope of reconciling with the abandoned parent.
|Erik Sandvold as Jazbo Delepère|
But Frost and Olson have worked on this script for more than a decade, and it shows in the relationship between Will and his pop, which imbues Bubs with more depth than Passing Strange. The score, too, is multi-faced, including Latin-infused pop, a tuxedo waltz, cowboy ballad, and railroad song, strains of Appalachian bluegrass, a Broadway chorus line, some Memphis blues, a New Orleans dirge, a French cabaret number, a blast of hard rock, reggae, and a Dylanesque folk song.
The six piece band/chorus, put together for this show, are all standout musicians and vocalists, having performed with the likes of Chaka Khan, Bill Withers, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Michael Brecker, Ike and Tina Turner, Clark Terry, Dave Grusin, Steve Miller, Dave Brubeck, and Aaron Copeland. Award-winning director Warren Sherrill folds them appropriately into the action as well.
|Erik Sandvold as Will and band|
Bubs runs Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm and Saturdays at 7 pm and 9:15 pm at the Avenue Theatre, 417 E. 17th Ave., Denver, through September 27th. 303-321-5925.