When I was a little bitty boy…
Scratch that. I was actually a little bitty girl when I got jumped into “Grandma’s Feather Bed” and all of John Denver’s other songs. I was a bit too young to understand what “passing the pipe around” meant in “Poems, Prayers and Promises,” which I’m sure relieved my parents (though it was their fault I was hooked on his music). I came to appreciate the beauty of nature from the pictures he painted through lyrics in songs such as “The Eagle and the Hawk.” I protested war because of the innocent lives he told me about in “The Box” and sang “Annie’s Song” about tender love as a lullaby to my children.
Then, of course, he’s the reason I moved to Colorado in the first place. John Denver told me to come when he sang “Rocky Mountain High.” And here I remain…27 years later. He was right about a lot of things, what can I say?
So you can imagine my excitement when, in our DCPA Theatre Company’s 2001/02 season, we chose to mount the world premiere of Almost Heaven: Songs and Stories of John Denver. The production was magnificent. The voices melodious. The story inspirational. And John Denver’s posthumous induction into our very own Colorado Performing Arts Hall of Fame was momentous.
The show went on to an Off-Broadway production by Promenade Theatre and has since been produced by theatres across the country. This fall, it returns to a Colorado stage when it is produced by Town Hall Arts Center September 11 – October 11, 2020.
Now titled Almost Heaven, The Songs of John Denver, the show features 29 of Denver’s most beloved songs including “Sunshine on my Shoulders,” “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “Calypso” and many others. The songs are woven with a narrative that illustrates the images of America in the late ’60s and early ’70s that heavily influenced Denver’s music during a time of social unrest and political protest — not so dissimilar from the tension we’re facing in the nation today.
The production features five “storytellers” who — through spoken words and lyrics — share the moments that shaped Denver’s life and music. The Storytellers are cast by local favorites: Matt LaFontaine, Mark Middlebrooks, Alison Mueller, Zach Stailey and Tasha Waters. They are accompanied by The Band, which is filled by Donna Debreceni on keyboards, Scott Alan Smith on bass/banjo/mandolin/harmonica, Mitch Jarvis on guitar and Larry Ziehl on percussion.
To provide a safe and spacious setting, Town Hall Arts Center will perform on the Rose Garden lawn at The Hudson Gardens and Event Center — with Denver’s beloved Rocky Mountains serving as a picturesque backdrop.
Tickets start at $45 and are extremely limited. Evening performances are at 7pm and matinees at 2pm. Visit townhallartscenter.org for tickets, safety requirements and performance details.
Almost Heaven, The Songs of John Denver
Songs by John Denver and others
Orchestrations and Vocal Arrangements by Jeff Waxman
Original Concept by Harold Thau
Tickets start at $45
Evening at 7pm. Matinees at 2pm.
Sept 11 – Oct 11
303-794-2787 • townhallartscenter.org
Performances take place at Hudson Gardens & Event Center, 6115 S. Santa Fe Dr., Littleton
Hudson Gardens Gallery