Serial killers, singing nuns, a sinking ship coming this summer to Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre
GRAND LAKE — Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre will have some unique visitors this summer, including a singing nun on the run, a murderous barber, an upside-down sinking ship and even legendary songstress Patsy Cline.
The theater excitedly made the announcement at midnight on New Year’s Eve that the 2019 summer season lineup would consist of productions of “Sister Act,” “Disaster!” “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and “Always… Patsy Cline.”
“There’s such a great variety coming up,” said Michael Querio, the theater’s executive artistic director.
The intimate Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, located on Grand Avenue in Grand Lake, has made a name for itself over the decades attracting talented actors and singers, some of which go on to perform in big-title national productions and tours. It’s widely considered a hit attraction in Middle Park and the upcoming season is shaping up to continue the theater’s tradition of success.
“Sister Act” will open the summer season June 7, and will run for 22 performances.
Audiences fell in love with “Sister Act” when the film debuted in 1992, introducing the world to the character of Deloris, indelibly played by Whoopi Goldberg. The plot centers around loud-mouth Deloris, a worldly singer who witnesses a mob crime and is subsequently hid in a convent where she comically has trouble fitting in.
Success from the film led to the “Sister Act” musical, which opened in a regional California theater in October 2006 with music by Alan Menken. The musical eventually went on to open on London’s West End and on Broadway.
“It’s going to be really fun and bright,” Querio said.
Though die-hard fans of the movie might notice changes when it’s performed onstage, as Querio explained movie-to-musical transformations aren’t always exact. “But it’s the same lead character and the same kind of low-grade fun drama. The music is great and the message about music and friendship — I think it’s going to be a really sweet show.”
Auditions have yet to start, but Querio said they’ll be seeking an African-American woman who is fun, a good comic actress and a great singer, someone to match the lead character’s big personality.
The theater’s second production, “Disaster!” is not as well known, but promises some nostalgic fun.
Created by Seth Rudetsky, “Disaster!” is an uproarious combination of hit disaster movies of the 1970s, namely “Earthquake,” “The Towering Inferno” and “The Poseidon Adventure,” mixed with popular musical hits of the same decade.
“It’s really clever,” Querio said, adding that the show is fast-paced and fun. “When you get a good jukebox musical, how they work the songs in, having to sort of crowbar the songs into the plot, it’s very fun.”
“Disaster!” had a short-lived run on Broadway after premiering in 2012 off Broadway.
“I think it probably is better in the off Broadway or in a smaller, more intimate theater,” Querio said. “For shows that work really well in a small production, when they get blown up for the size and budget Broadway has to have, I think they lose something and I think that’s sometimes why shows don’t do so well.”
Querio said he looks forward to the fairly technical challenges that the production will present, including creating a set of an upside-down sinking ship from “The Poseidon Adventure.”
For theater fans with more of a penchant for drama comes “Sweeney Todd,” an epic piece of musical theater, according to Querio.
“It’s such a great contrast to the other two. The other ones are going to be bright, fast comedies and this one is an epic piece,” he said.
At nearly 40 years old, Tony Award-winning “Sweeney Todd” is the musical legend of its fictional namesake, set in the 18th Century. Todd, an English barber and serial killer, murders his customers with a straight razor and, with the help of his accomplice, processes their corpses into meat pies.
“The music is so fantastic,” Querio said. “I personally have never worked on a production of it. I’m looking forward to working on it here.”
The play was adapted by director Tim Burton into a 2007 feature film that included the play’s original hit songs by famed American composer Stephen Sondheim.
While the film was quite graphic, Querio wants to assure audiences that the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre production will feature the gore in a much more theatrical way. “It happens and we see it, but it’s not nearly as graphic as that movie… but people do get their throats slit and slide down the barber chair into the oven.”
Querio says the subject matter of certain productions are meant to provide theater that challenges audiences and introduce them to “something different.” “There are people who want to come and see something that’s really fun, and there’s a good percentage of our audience that wants to be challenged by something. We want to keep bringing things like that.”
Rounding out the summer productions is the true story of a fan-celebrity friendship in “Always… Patsy Cline.”
The revue revolves around a female fan who sees Cline at a live performance and begins writing her letters. The two ultimately develop an unlikely friendship that lasts their lifetimes. And, of course, the play includes many of Cline’s musical hits.
“We’re really excited about the possibility of who we might have coming to do that part,” Querio said. While there is no contract at this point, there is an idea to bring back one of the theater’s alumni who is just about to finish her “significant role” in a national tour.
Overall, Querio believes the upcoming season will offer a bit of something for everyone.
“We try to get something brand new and something that’s going to be very popular and well-known — I think “Sister Act” is going to be that kind of title that people are going to recognize right away,” Querio explained. “And we also want to get something that is a little more edgy and more significant piece of theater and we try to make a balance.”
This summer’s season marks the theater’s 52nd year in Grand Lake.
“We typically finish a season in the 90 percent range, with a number of sold-out performances,” Querio said. “With the energy we get from our audiences and the reaction we’ve seen so far, we expect the season to be really good.”
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