Literature and Poetry, Theatre

A Melodic Journey Through Love’s Follies

A Preview by Toni Tresca

In the world of love, not every romance ends with ‘happily ever after.’ Despite what pop culture has drilled into us since we were children, things are frequently more complex and messy.

GeRee Hinshaw

“Love is a gift that can also go really wrong, and not everyone gives the gift the other person needs,” says Love Stinks: The Musical performer GerRee Hinshaw. “Our show is an opportunity to dispel a lot of preconceived Disney notions that we tend to have about fairy tale love and simply let love be as weird, gritty and dark as it can sometimes be.”

On May 5, Stories on Stage will present its final production of the 2023-2024 season, Love Stinks: The Musical, at Su Teatro. The show promises a mix of music and narrative that delves into the hilarity and heartbreak of love gone wrong.

Anthony Powell

Since its inception in 2000, Stories on Stage has carved a niche in the Colorado theater scene by bringing literature to life through theatrical performances. According to Artistic Director Anthony Powell, Love Stinks began as a light-hearted suggestion during a season planning session and has evolved into a musical revue.

Abbe [Stutsman, Stories on Stage executive director] and I were in the office this time last year, putting together the next season, and we were brainstorming what to do for our musical show in May,” Powell recalls. “I said, ‘Let’s do Love Stinks!’ Then Abbe said, ‘The Musical,’ and we both laughed hard. Of course, we are now wondering if we promised too much. There will be plenty of music, but it is not a full-length musical.” 

Love Stinks is something Powell landed on after many years of curating other shows for the organization. Traditionally, the organization has celebrated Valentine’s Day with productions that often lean towards more optimistic romance stories.

Steven Burge

“Normally, we have at least one story or a couple of stories that we can build the show around, but for our first Valentine’s Day show, we didn’t because we figured there’d be a thousand love stories,” Powell says. “Well, indeed, there are, but short story writers are rather complicated people. I kept finding love stories, like the anthologies of love stories from the New Yorker, and every story ended in suicide and divorce. I’m going, ‘Well, that’s not the show I’m selling.’ It’s not called Love’s a Bitch and Then You Die; that would be kind of a downer on Valentine’s Day.” 

Fortunately, a friend directed him to one of the few places in the world of cynical writers where love still exists: young adult literature. “But, in the back of my mind, I knew someday we’d have to do the bizarre, dark side of the moon version of that show,” Powell says. “This is that show.”

In selecting stories for the show, the creative team delved into a myriad of sources, seeking tales that could speak to the complexities and absurdities of love without falling into despair. Powell had initially thought about including a poignant story by Hilary Mantel, but when he went back to read it, he scrapped the story because it was “too sour.” 

“That’s a funny distinction for me to make for a show I’m calling Love Stinks, but somehow it wasn’t the right tone, and I can’t even explain why it wasn’t,” Powell says. Instead, they turned towards more humorous, albeit dark, selections, like a poignant yet comedic poem from Raphael Bob-Waksberg‘s collection about a love affair spiraling out of control.

“As dark as we may get, there’s a difference between exploring the ruin of love from a self-effacing standpoint and exploring the mean side,” Hinshaw adds. “The hope is that it allows everyone to laugh openly at what can be a very serious subject. Particularly as Americans, we were raised with this ideal of what love is meant to be from a young age. Marriage is a major milestone in your adult life. You’re a caterpillar, then a pupa and then you get married. This type of show allows people to let go of that and realize that love does not come in a specific way. It does not always work out, and ending a romance is not a failure on your part as a human being.”

Seth Dhonau

Hinshaw, who frequently performs with Stories on Stage, describes Love Stinks as an amalgamation of storytelling and music that amplifies the narrative. Although the full setlist is still being finalized, they do know they will perform The J. Geils Band’s iconic bad romance anthem “Love Stinks.” The creators hinted the rest of the lineup will include a smorgasbord of obscure musical gems and standards from the American songbook.

Love Stinks will feature performances from Hinshaw, Steven J. Burge and Seth Dhonau, under the musical direction of Jordan Ortman. In addition to acting in the show, Hinshaw is also working on a piece that she plans to read that draws from her personal life and the insights gained from her parent’s divorce. 

“When I got married, I knew that, because I had experienced my parent’s divorce, I didn’t want to divorce,” she says. “But that’s not much of a game plan … A speaker said, ‘You will have many marriages throughout your lifetime:  the question is, will those marriages be with the same person or different people?’ That unlocked something for me as a married person. We hold on to a lot of guilt about our marriage not working, especially if we set a goal for ourselves to stay married at all costs. Once I started thinking about what my ‘next’ marriage might look like, it completely changed my perspective, so that is what I will be exploring.”

Jordan Ortman

With the 23rd season nearly finished, Powell revealed that he and his team have been actively planning for the next season of Stories on Stage, which promises to combine more unique themes and literary works, such as a sports-themed show and pandemic-inspired narratives.

“We’ll do Make Merry, of course, but that’s every year,” Powell says. “Another possible show is something called Woke Up. I’m getting increasingly annoyed by all this backlash about wokism. What is so wrong with empathy, kindness, and understanding? To me, that’s what being woke is about. Those are some of the ideas we’re kicking around. We’ll have a more fleshed-out announcement in May when we do Love Stinks.” 

Love Stinks is an invitation to laugh, reflect, and, perhaps, find solace in the shared foibles of love as brought to life through the magic of music and storytelling.

“Maybe this is a function of time, but I’ve got some memories of sort of failed love things that still sting a little,” Powell concludes. “I also have memories of loves that failed but failed magnificently. I mean, love stinks, but it stinks beautifully, and some of my biggest failures are actually what I am proud of– at the very least, I went for it and I didn’t hold back. I hope it will be cathartic for people to see that they are not alone and everyone’s had bad relationships.” 

Love Stinks: The Musical will performed on Sunday, May 5, at 2 p.m. at Su Teatro, 721 Santa Fe Drive, Denver. Find tickets and more information at

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