Art and Artist: Jennifer Schmitz is an unsung hero of 'Forbidden Broadway'

Jennifer Schmitz dons a wig - and a particularly special prop - from 'Forbbiden Broadway: Alive & Kicking!' Photo by John Moore. ​​​
Jennifer Schmitz dons a wig – and a particularly endearing theatrical prop – from ‘Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking!’ Photo by John Moore.

jeChad T. Reagan in a signature 'Forbbiden Broadway' costume inspired by 'The Lion King.' Photo by Terry Shapiro.Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking! consists of four actors, 43 wigs and more than 60 costume changes. And in a tiny – tiny – backstage nook in the Garner Galleria Theatre, there is just one poor, harried Assistant Stage Manager making sure it all comes off – and back on – in place and on time.

She is Jennifer Schmitz, a graduate of Delta High School (1994) and Mesa State University in Grand Junction (1999). And she believes this might be the most intensely costumed show in the more than 20-plus years of Galleria history. The only show that might even come close, she believes, was Greater Tuna, which came in at about 30 changes. And … that’s not even close.

With actors running on and off stage between songs to make lightning-fast costume changes that are essential for the show to maintain its quick rhythm, how does she keep it all straight – the costumes, the hats, the wigs, the jewelry … the puppets?  

“I use a spreadsheet,” said Schmitz. “Really.”

Alvin Colt, who has worked on nearly 90 Broadway shows, designed Alive & Kicking’s ingenious array of comic costumes. His collection includes a Lion King-inspired baboon that is adorned with floppy discs, telephone cords, insects, a fried egg and a noble headdress that has Mickey Mouse sitting on a pot on top of actor Chad T. Reagan’s head. Oh, and there are strips of colored electrical tape across his face.

That’s for starters.

“It’s hilariously weird,” Schmitz said.

Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking is part-parody, part-homage and all impressive. It is conceived by Gerard Alessandrini and directed by William Selby. The costume collection includes nods to Annie, once, Pippin, The Book of Mormon, Mary Poppins and many more.

Schmitz first came to the Galleria as a substitute Assistant Stage Manager for The Last Five Years in 2008. She was brought on by Aaron Quintana, who went on to manage the once touring company and now does the same for The Lion King.

Schmitz worked on the Denver-born Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women and then traveled with the show to Charlotte, N.C., as the full-fledged Stage Manager. Other Assistant Stage Manager credits include I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; Five-Course Love; and Doyle and Debbie.

Schmitz has also worked as a Stage Manager for theatre companies across Denver on such titles as Titanic, I Am My Own Wife, Bug, Nunsense, Bye, Bye Birdie and Dracula.

The duties of a Stage Manager and an Assistant Stage Manager can vary widely from theatre to theatre. In general, a Stage Manager is “The Boss” once the show opens and the director moves on to the next project. The SM is in complete control of everything that happens backstage, including calling light and sound cues as each performance progresses, and giving notes to actors and understudies afterward to keep them true to the director’s vision. For Forbidden Broadway, that boss is Laura Hum. 

An Assistant Stage Manager does pretty much anything and everything the Stage Manager needs done. The responsibilities can range from very high stakes to menial, but the ASM generally deals with props and certain onstage special effects – tasks that involve more direct contact with the cast.

It is one of the most anonymous and thankless jobs in all of theatre — just not backstage at the Garner Galleria Theatre, where the job is absolutely essential. Here’s more of our conversation with Schmitz, an unsung but greatly appreciated hero of the DCPA:

John Moore: You were living in Seattle after college. What brought you back to Colorado?

Jennifer Schmitz: My sister was living in Colorado Springs at the time, so I couch-hopped until I got myself established.

John Moore: What was your first professional job as a Stage Manager?

Jennifer Schmitz: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for the Castle Rock Players. (Now the Front Range Theatre Company.) I felt like I had finally made my goal. It was a real accomplishment.

John Moore: How did you work your way up around town?

Jennifer Schmitz: I took over during the run of Bug at Curious Theatre and then worked on I Am My Own Wife there. Over time, I got hired at the Avenue Theater and the Town Hall Arts Center and some others.

John Moore: What do you love most about your job?

Jennifer Schmitz: What I love most is that I get to work with so many people I love and wouldn’t get to work with otherwise.

John Moore: What is the best thing about working at the DCPA?

Jennifer Schmitz: I feel like this is the pinnacle of Denver theatre. Working here is like working the Broadway of Denver.

jennifer schmitz quote2

John Moore: Tell me your biggest costume-change challenge in Forbidden Broadway.

Jennifer Schmitz: Changing Sarah Rex from a chain-smoking Little Orphan Annie into “Girl” from once … in 15 seconds. That’s rough.

John Moore: What is the heaviest costume?

Jennifer Schmitz: The Mary Poppins costume worn by Lauren Shealy, believe it or not. It comes with a huge coat and a heavy skirt.

John Moore: How do you keep all those wigs straight?

Jennifer Schmitz: They each have a place. And when they arrived here in Denver from New York, they all had to cleaned and styled (by the DCPA Theatre Company’s incomparable wig master, Diana Ben-Kiki).

John Moore: I would imagine that working in the shadows as a Stage Manager or Assistant Stage Manager would be a thankless job.

Jennifer Schmitz: It can be. But I’ve never had anyone thank me as much as (actor) Chad T. Reagan thanks me for the work I do on this show.

John Moore: How do you kill time back here all by yourself?

Jennifer Schmitz: Well, I have no time to kill during the show. Honestly … I have 5 minutes to myself during intermission.

John Moore: So what do you think is the single greatest attribute in a good stage manager?

Jennifer Schmitz: Patience.

John Moore: Since stage managers exist to not be noticed by audiences or critics, how do you measure a job well done?

Jennifer Schmitz: When we started this show, I didn’t think I could possibly do it all by myself. No way. But here we are. So the fact that we did it, without having to hire another person – that, to me, is a job well done.

Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking! plays through March 1.

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking!: Ticket information
Performances run through March 1
Garner Galleria Theatre
Run time: 1 hour 40 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission
Performances daily except for Monday
Tickets: Start at $25
Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at

Our previous coverage of Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking!
Go to the show page
Video: Jordan Leigh’s fresh take on Adam Sandler’s ‘Hanukkah Song’
Opening Night performance coverage
Download the program
Meet the homegrown cast of Forbidden Broadway

Previous DCPA ‘Art and Artist’ profiles:
Costume Designer Megan Anderson Doyle
Graphic Designer Kyle Malone
Stage Manager Kurt Van Raden
Teaching Artist Jessica Austgen
Head of Acting Lawrence Hecht
Lighting Designer Charles MacLeod
Director of I.T. Bruce Montgomery
Stage Manager Lyle Raper

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