Oh, What a Night at Theatre Aspen
Theatre Aspen previews its 2022 summer season
Apparently, all theaters are haunted.
At least that’s the lore around the “ghost light,” which was the only thing onstage as select attendees entered a darkened Hurst Theater and were treated to a Theatre Aspen sneak peek in advance of its upcoming season, which kicked off June 27 with “Gypsy: A Musical Fable.”
According to Producing Director Jed Bernstein, the ghost light is turned on at the end of each season, lit as a promise to return for the following summer. And, with that explanation and the flick of a switch, Theatre Aspen got on with the show: a short, sweet series of miniature musical numbers from the organization’s two upcoming main stage performances and a collaboration with the Aspen Music Festival and School.
The preview opened with “Oh, What a Night,” a song from “Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.” Mike Backes, who will play Gyp DiCarlo in the upcoming show (Aug. 1-23), performed it. All the evening’s singers donned all-black clothing, on a simple black stage against a black backdrop. Little more accompanied them than musical director Andy Einhorn and associate musical director Ben Hartman, sharing keyboardist duties for each song, which allowed the audience to focus on the music and get a taste for what’s to come this summer.
Second from the top were a couple of duets. The first was “If Momma Was Married,” from “Gypsy”, performed by Shea Gomez as Louise and Kayla Goins as Dainty June. This was followed by “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” from crowd favorite “The Sound of Music,” featuring Chance Friedman and Sydney Borchers.
The latter will be performed as the “The Sound of Music in Concert,” in partnership with the Aspen Music Festival and School at the Benedict Music Tent July 25 and 26, and, just announced, Broadway veterans Christy Altomare (Broadway’s “Anastasia”) as Maria, who is joined by Tony Award nominee Brandon Victor Dixon (Broadway’s “Hamilton”) as Captain von Trapp. Both Altomare and Dixon return to the Benedict Music Tent in their third and second productions, respectively.
As previously announced, the principal company for “The Sound of Music in Concert” will be joined by a cast made up of youth performers from the Roaring Fork Valley, Theatre Aspen summer season company members and singers from the Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS program of the Aspen Music Festival and School. Other players include Megan Brilleslyper, Katharine Burns, Amelia Burshe, Eleanor Carroll, Valérie Filloux, Kayleigh Flynn, Claire Griffin, Peyton Herzog, Julia Holoman, Grace Lerew, Emma McAlister, Nina Mutalifu, James Nottingham, Sierra Quint, Jessica Reese, Anna Riley, Logan Saad, Nijel Smith, Harry Spitteler and Gabrielle Turgeon.
In the preview’s second act, the audience learned that a thousand would-be performers and support staff applied for just 23 summer positions, which will round out the roster of apprentices. Roles ranged from performers and technical support to operations and administrative assistance.
Later during the evening’s preview, the lights went down, the music back up, and Jayke Workman wowed the crowd with his take on “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” He dressed in black jean cutoffs and black leather Gucci slides (he got the memo — a very “summer in Aspen” look).
The finale performance, which Bernstein describes as “arguably the most difficult platform for a woman in the theater cannon,” was a literal showstopper by Cassondra James, who performed “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” as the titular Mama Rose.
As the crowd remained in a post-tune standing ovation, Bernstein quoted from the late Stephen Sondheim as he closed the preview. “It’s not so much do what you like, as it is that you like what you do.”
Wise words from the bard of the boards.
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