'Almost Heaven' in the garden

PIVOTING WITH ... NICK SUGAR AND THE TOWN HALL ARTS CENTER

Almost Heaven. Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by John Moore

From left: Matt LaFontaine, Alison Mueller, Mark Middlebrooks, Tasha Waters and Zach Stailey

How a lovely outdoor musical experience grew out of necessity and innovation

'Almost Heaven' was scheduled to open inside the Town Hall Arts Center on April 3 when rehearsals were shut down by the pandemic on March 13. What a strange set of circumstances that allowed for the musical to be reimagined as an outdoor, botanic experience at sunset that perfectly matches the tenor of John Denver's music. Director Nick Sugar talks about it.

Nick Sugar quoteWhat are you doing to pivot? We were shuttered during our third week of rehearsal. When I realized this was going to be much worse than expected, my first conversation with Town Hall was that "Almost Heaven" was the show that needed to open our theatre back up when the time came. The music is inspirational. It is the spirit of our community at Town Hall. "Almost Heaven" is Colorado. This version at Hudson Gardens is not the theatrical production that we had envisioned. It is not being performed on the set that was designed and completed on our stage. However, being able to see and hear these amazing singers without their masks on is joyous. "Almost Heaven" gives us all hope.

Why are you doing it? All of us at Town Hall were invested in the show physically and emotionally. The cast was committed to the show as well. If I had to re-cast several performers, or if the Town Hall team felt it weren't appropriate material to be doing for our first venture back, "Almost Heaven" would not be happening. Putting up a production takes a lot of work. Getting "Almost Heaven" up at Hudson Gardens has taken even more hard work, dedication and determination, and that work will continue throughout the run. After every performance, the band, lights, tent and sound have to be set-up and taken down each night.

Is there a timeline for programming to return to the indoor theatre? It's pointless to even speculate right now. Town Hall was lucky enough to be able to pivot with "Almost Heaven." Hopefully, we can continue to pivot successfully with our next production.

Words of encouragement for others who are now pivoting their way through 2020? We as a theater community are hurting. We have lost wages and jobs. We are re-learning, growing and trying to survive. Be brave and stay strong. We are a creative group of people. Create. We will pivot.

'Be brave and stay strong.'

Almost Heaven. Town Hall Arts Center. Photo by RDGPhotography

'Almost Heaven' by the Town Hall Arts Center at Hudson Gardens. RDGPhotography

'Almost Heaven'

• When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through October 11 (sold out through September 20)

• Where: The Rose Garden at Hudson Gardens, 6115 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton

• Tickets: $47-$52. Lawn seating in pods of four or individual chairs

• Call 303-794-2787 or go to townhallartscenter.org

Cast and creatives

• Original Concept by Harold Thau; written by Peter Glazer; orchestrations and vocal arrangements by Jeff Waxman

• Director and Choreographer: Nick Sugar

• Featuring: Matt LaFontaine, Alison Mueller, Mark Middlebrooks, Zach Stailey and Tasha Waters

• Music Director: Donna Debreceni

• Musicians: Mitch Jervis, Scott Alan Smith and Larry Ziehl

• Production Stage Manager: Steven Neale

• Lighting Designer: Kate Bashore

• Sound Designer: Curt Behm

• Costume Designer: Linda Morken

• Technical Director: Mike Haas

• Sound Board Operator: Matthew Dugger

• Production Assistants: Mikayla LaMantia, Stacy Hanna and Robert Michael Sanders 

    Compiled by Senior Arts Journalist John Moore

    "Pivoting With ..." is a new, ongoing series talking with members of the Colorado theatre community about how they are adapting to changes in their creative and personal lives as the COVID pandemic continues. Are you pivoting? Email John at culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

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