New theater receives warm Grand Lake welcome |

New theater receives warm Grand Lake welcome

Tonya Bina/ Off Beat
Grand County, Colorado
Patrons enjoy champagne and hors d'oeuvres in the lobby of the new Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre on opening night Friday evening in Grand Lake. Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News | Sky-Hi News

A royal wedding took place in Grand Lake on Friday night.

Guests to the red-carpet event were dressed rather fancily for these parts, and champagne flowed like runoff on the Tonahutu.

I’m talking about the long-anticipated 2011 opening night of the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre.

The honorable bride and groom were Belle and the Beast, and our Westminster Abbey, so to speak, was the new performing arts center.

This first-night affair for the brand new building was a momentous one, with celebratory hugs and shrieks sounding off at every turn – even in the women’s bathroom prior to the show.

It was the culmination of three years of fundraising and a successful campaign that brought everyone to this point.

“It takes a village,” Artistic Director Michael Querio said to the audience of supporters prior to the curtain rise.

That the village of Grand Lake has supported the performing arts to the degree it has: “Outstanding, outstanding,” Querio said.

“Welcome to our new home,” said RMRT Board President Judy Jensen, who was credited for much of the legwork during the fundraising campaign. She thanked the long list of organizers and key players who made it all happen. And for each, a heartfelt standing ovation.

After the introductions and more enthusiastic hollers, it came time for the show. “My granddaughter really wants to see Belle,” Jensen said.

Within minutes after the curtain rise, we were all transported to another fanciful village surrounded by forest – another community where perhaps dreams really do happen Disney-style.

In this inaugural show directed by Jeffery Duke, actor Joe Carroll gave a memorable performance as a conceited Elvis-looking Gaston; Elizabeth Lanza was a sweet-singing Belle, and Jim Schubin played an ultimately gentle beast.

Throughout the performance, I was awestruck in knowing that this professional cast had arrived in Grand Lake just one-month prior. And one wouldn’t have known that just three days prior, director Duke and cast were still getting used to the extra width of the stage.

Gilded with amazing costumes, the musical managed to stir the inner child in all of us. From the “wardrobe” of Madame de la Grande Bouche (Erin Daly), to the timepiece of the perfectly cast Cogsworth (Josh Kellman), to the whimsical Mrs. Potts (played by Anna Danielson), to the triumphant ensemble of characters in the “Be Our Guest” scene – costume designer Jesus Perez had really outdone himself.

It takes a creative individual to give life to such inanimate objects as dinner napkins, a saltshaker, or a cheese grater.

We were all sharing in layers of fairytale on Friday night, like looking into a reflection of another reflection.

It seemed everyone in the room had supported RMRT on its journey in one manner or another, and now, all were communed, sitting in those new theatre seats at the rare capture of a truly happy ending.

The very first time I walked into this theatre and all its newness, I had to remind myself I was still in Grand Lake. And in talking with people, I learned I’m not the only one who has had this impression.

“This is the new Grand Lake,” clarified RMRT Board Member Reed James prior to the show.

Certainly, the elevated production of shows and the high quality theater cast a very positive light on the town, and will for many years to come.

I’m pleased the theater also embraces elements of old Grand Lake, from the boardwalk out front, to the fireplace of stones, each locally hand-picked by Grand Lake resident Luke Lemke.

The list of supporters on the donor wall – on a display made of lit etched glass with engravings of aspen trees -is full of familiar names: our neighbors and our friends.

With this new building, we are reminded of the many who have given to the town this gift of culture, magic and imagination, and for that, we citizens have much to be thankful for.

Former RMRT managing director Chad Scott said it best when he told audience members: “You are a part of this forever. It’s just beautiful.”

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