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Future Broadway hopeful get a fine-tuning in the Colorado Springs

By: DAVID SCKOLNIK Special to The Gazette
August 8, 2014 Updated: August 8, 2014 at 10:33 am
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A semi-staged performance of the music-theatre version of Richard Llewellyn's novel with music by Roger Ames and libretto by Elizabeth Bassine, 7 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Aug. 15, First United Methodist Church, 420 N. Nevada Ave., $15-$20; 577-4556, csconservatory.org

Seven years ago Roger Ames and his wife, Elizabeth Bassine, began putting pen to paper with the goal of transforming Richard Llewellyn's great 1939 novel "How Green Was My Valley" into a stage piece. The Thursday and Aug. 15 semi-staged concert performances of their work will be its fourth incarnation.

"We both loved the novel and adored the Oscar-winning film (from 1941)," Bassine says, "and decided to see if there was any way we could get ourselves involved with what was a very precious piece of art."

So began a process many have attempted and so few have succeeded at: to get their creation to the Broadway and international stages.

"We've presented this to producers in the commercial theater world and they think it's an opera and we've presented it to opera intendants and they think it's a musical," Ames says. "There hasn't been any negative response to it except for the fact that people don't know what to call it. "So we're calling it a 
music-theater piece."

It's set in a Welsh mining town at the turn of the 20th century and follows the joys and agonies of the Morgan family as their treasured world implodes around them.

"It's a very scary, gritty, real story of real suffering and real struggle, and there is such built-in drama in both components: the narrative and Roger's music," says Bassine, who lives in Long Island, N.Y., with her husband.

Ames staked his claim in Colorado over a decade ago. Central City Opera's director of education and community programs, Deborah Morrow, brought him in to train teachers to write operas with kids. Morrow was impressed by his musical wherewithal and commissioned him to compose "En Mis Palabras," a short opera that her company tours throughout Colorado.

She introduced Ames to Linda Weise, founder and CEO of the Colorado Springs Conservatory, six years ago and he's been a part of its summertime intensives ever since. Bringing "Green Valley" to Colorado became a logical progression. But the pair wanted to present the work one more time before bringing it to the Springs.

"We're coming into this with the expectation that we've vastly improved the piece since the last time - although there was a great response to it," he says.

The recipe for this event includes the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs conducted by music director Thomas Wilson; performers from the conservatory and Central City Opera, including Weise, Judeth Shay Comstock and Jennifer DeDominici; the Syracuse Pops Choir and musical theater professionals from New York City. Denver-based actor and Billie McBride directs.

david sckolnik, alacarteproductions@msn.com

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