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Center Stage

The staying power of a highly caffeinated comedy


“Triple Espresso” is a regular part of central Iowa’s cultural landscape since its original, record-setting run in 2002.

Paul Somers (Hugh Butternut), John Bush (Bobby Bean) and Patrick Albanese (Buzz Maxwell) star in Triple Espresso beginning Nov. 16 and playing through Jan. 13. Photo from Triple Espresso, LLC

Having experienced this laugh-filled show many times, I can’t recall a single scene where cups of caffeinated beverages took center stage. Like its namesake, however, “Triple Espresso” is an experience to be savored many times. The consumer can continue enjoying this fine creative brew, discovering fresh nuances and delights with each subsequent serving. It’s time to belly up to the comedy bar and let this talented trio of bombastic baristas serve up another round of this unbelievable blend.

“Triple Espresso” is a regular part of central Iowa’s cultural landscape since its original, record-setting run in 2002. Iowa audiences couldn’t get enough of this energizing elixir. The stories of fans returning many times were countless. Those who experienced the show were compelled to bring family, friends and coworkers to share the antics of three gifted performers delivering a superb story. This show masterfully blends comedy, music, magic, vaudeville, audience participation, and even a dash of poignancy to create a delectable evening of entertainment.

“It’s really fun for us, having done it for so many years, to hear from audience members who brought their children to one of our earliest shows. Now those children are married, bringing their children to the show,” reflects Bob Stromberg, who, with Bill Arnold and Michael Pearce Donley, created “Triple Espresso.” “Honestly, that is so rewarding, knowing that folks can bring their kids, their moms and dads, and it’s appropriate for everybody. It’s a joy for us to be able to do what we have done for so long.”

Des Moines has savored every run of Triple Espresso since that 2002 show, originally planned for just a few weeks. It expanded into 451 performances from October of 2002 to February of 2004, making it the longest-running show in Iowa history. Iowans had a new stage love affair that has not waned since.

Prep Iowa

Patrick Albanese was one of that original Des Moines trio. This performing job was life-changing. As magician Buzz Maxwell, Albanese explained, “By the time we hit the third or fourth extension of the show, the stage manager wanted to go home. A local stage manager was hired, and she completed that run. In 2004, I went to another city, the stage manager to L.A.”

That stage manager, Janet, became Janet Albanese, and they married and moved back to Des Moines in 2008.
Another original cast member, John Bush, aka Bobby Bean, became the beloved goofball to audiences. His facile face contorts into a myriad of masks, and his physical comedy and delivery cause waves of laughter throughout the show. He, too, made Des Moines his home town, also finding the love of his life here and getting married.

“Theater is a tough, tough business, and there’s a saying about theater: You can’t make a living at theater, but you can make a killing,” Stromberg shared. “Walt Disney responded to someone once who told him that he made movies to make a lot of money. Disney corrected him by saying, ‘No, no, no — I make money so that I can make movies.’ With ‘Triple Espresso,’ a lot of money has been ‘made’ but, really, it was made so that we could continue doing ‘Triple Espresso’ all over the world. For that, we are very grateful. That’s what we do.”

Overheard in the Lobby — shows aplenty

“Mary Poppins Jr.,” Nov. 2-18, CAP Altoona 100th show; “Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre, Nov. 2-22; “The Foreigner” at Tallgrass Theatre Company continues through Nov. 11; Nov. 9-10 “Naked Magicians” at Temple; “Aladdin the Musical” DMPA; “It’s a Wonderful Life” – Radio Play at Iowa Stage Theatre Company Nov. 16-25. Featuring the Scott Smith Trio and the Des Moines Big Band, the Urbandale Library Art Gallery and Artist-in-Residence program will hold its annual gala celebration on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m., Performing Arts Center, Urbandale High School, 7111 Aurora, Urbandale. Tickets are $35, ♦

John Busbee is a creative project developer, critic, playwright, author, producer and media professional. He has produced his weekly show, The Culture Buzz, on KFMG since 2007.

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