Audience Reaction


Here is some PRESS on I Am Alive -

From an audience member who attended the April 21, 2015 concert performance: 

I Am Alive. The scenes were flawlessly timed. The movement was vibrant. The music was beautiful and sometimes haunting, with crystal clear instrumentals. The graphic scenery was riveting. I Am Alive was written from the heart.  It was apparent that director Christy Montour-Larson instilled this historic situation into the hearts of the actors, such that they truly embodied their characters. Never have I seen such a large group of players connect with the audience. Towards the end, Armenian Genocide survivors Kourken and Malvine meet, fall in love and marry. The audience was brought to tears by their union at the end of the play. Images, photos, of the real Kourken and Malvine appeared on the backdrop, and it brought home that this production was about real people and real life. It was truly a human experience.    – Andrew D., Larkspur Colo.

Denise Gentilini interview on 9NEWS Denver - April 25, 2016

Denise Gentilini interview on Colorado Public Radio with Ryan Warner:

Denise Gentilini television interview with Lois Melkonian, February 23, 2015 - on KDVR Fox 31, Denver:

From our award winning Director, Christy Montour-Larson - speaking to the cast during rehearsal:

"I know that we do a lot of shows, we do shows, we do shows. But every now and then we get to do a show that's more than just a show, don't we? We get the chance to really tell the story of a community - we get to gather. Theatre is theatre but sometimes theatre is more than theatre. Sometime theatre is the telling of humanity. This is like a sand painting that will be in the ether, but I know I will never forget it and I hope you never do, either".

After seeing our Glendale, California Alex Theatre performances on September 10 and 11, 2016 - Patrick Hurley said the following about I Am Alive:

"...a highly worthy... essential piece of historical theatre."

"captivating and beautifully choreographed."

"A bit agitprop, a bit documentary, this is story worthy of being told."

Premiere of Genocide Musical, Launch of Hamazkayin Troupe Enliven Fall Theater


October 17, 2016


“I Am Alive” in performance at the Alex Theatre.


After a sleepy summer, Armenian theater greeted the fall with fervor, as four different productions succeeded one another within a five-week frame. The most recent entries were light-hearted fare. “Love & Marriage” featured a trio of one-acts adapted and directed by Aramazd Stepanian; being away from the Southland, I missed its single-weekend engagement. “Look Me in the Eye” was Vahik Pirhamzei’s latest (and, by now, formulaic) piece about marital discord, although it boasted, as usual, a healthy sprinkling of sharp one-liners that delighted his audiences and strong acting by a seasoned ensemble.

Yet, the notable theatrical events of the fall were not the comedies; rather, they were two surprising entries – a Genocide musical by Emmy Award-winning composer Denise Gentilini and the debut of the Hamazkayin Theater Company with an original children’s play.



The burning of Izmir as depicted in “I Am Alive.”

Musicals as an Armenian art form are as common as four-leaf clovers, making Gentilini’s “I Am Alive” – which tells the story of her grandparents, Kourken and Malvine, both survivors of the Genocide – quite an exceptional achievement. After its world premiere in Colorado, the groundbreaking work was performed at the Alex Theatre in Glendale by its original cast, delivering the sort of high-caliber production values often missing in Armenian-themed theater.

Gentilini’s musical starts off as an Armenian riff on “Fiddler on the Roof,” depicting village life in Yerzinga and Manisa before those communities (and countless others) were decimated by deportations and massacres that began in 1915. The opening number, “We Are Blessed,” is a straightforward but moving piece that showcases the cast’s vocal talents from the outset. We are then introduced to Kourken and Malvine, pre-teens from reputable families (Kourken’s father is the local chief of police.) Both families are virtually annihilated, however, as Armenians are forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands and systematically killed. Malvine is saved when her mother entrusts her care to a sympathetic neighbor, while the intervention of a compassionate Turkish commandant spares Kourken from death.

The plot traces Kourken and Malvine’s experiences during the Genocide and its aftermath, as they find love amidst devastation, flee to the safety of Europe (and subsequently the United States), but remain scarred by the tragedy of their past.

Collaboratively written by Gentilini and Lisa Nemzo, the musical’s book and lyrics follow a strong trajectory, although in its latter parts, “I Am Alive” becomes overly sentimental, perhaps more revelatory for non-Armenian audiences less familiar with the Genocide than for Armenian ones. The compositions and orchestrations by Gentilini are impressive throughout – only a couple of transitions come across stilted – alternately evoking tension, pathos, and hope.

Performed against a backdrop of projections – mostly well-placed but occasionally overwrought (flames and all-too-literal red imagery), the California premiere of “I Am Alive” featured thoughtful staging by director Christy Montour-Larson, who handled the show’s inherent challenges well. The mass killings, always difficult to pull off on stage, were effectively visualized as tableaux vivants featuring background figures draped in shroud-like swaths of cloth, enhanced with cadenced choreography and rhythmic recitation. Equally effective was Montour-Larson’s choice to have cast members on stage throughout the performance, seated on church pews and watching scenes they were not in – witnesses to tragedy in the classical Greek tradition.

A large, multi-ethnic ensemble delivered strong performances, both in terms of acting and singing, although the musical’s vocal demands sometimes proved too much for the abilities of its younger cast members. Transferring the production intact to another state was undoubtedly a mammoth undertaking, and lackluster attendance probably did not help the show recoup its considerable costs. Too bad – the experience was a most worthy one.