Lake Dillon Theater Co. cabaret showcases ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘The Music Man’ at ‘Gathering Light’ concert
The past year has been a tough one for the performing arts community with theaters across the country closed for months and actors finding themselves out of work.
Interpreter Melanie Beck returned to live with his parents in Connecticut while Chris McNiff’s Work on the catering side has shifted towards providing virtual events. Music director Jonathan K. Parks questioned his career in New York and went into real estate in the winter.
“It wasn’t for me,” Parks said with a laugh. “I’m glad I tried something else and immersed myself in this world a bit. I think it taught me a lot about myself, but eventually things started to come back, and I was happy to let that go.
Now the three are headlining their first in-person indoor show for the Lake Dillon Theater Co. since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. While the premiere for the theater company was in April, this weekend’s concerts will be the first since the county went green.
Entitled “Gathering Light,” the two-act show combines classic musical songs with more obscure contemporary numbers. It pays homage to Broadway stars like the late Rebecca Luker with “The Sound of Music” and “The Music Man” medleys, then allows actors to express themselves with personal selections from shows such as “Baby” and “Jane”. Eyre ”.
“We recognize the times collectively and what we just went through with the pandemic, and we use our favorite music to embrace the struggles of the various realities of the pandemic,” Beck said. “We are also shining a light on the fruits that, unexpectedly, have arisen from the pandemic, both personally and collectively.”
This may involve the show featuring heartwarming soundtracks, references to activism, and other current events that capture the socio-economic climate surrounding the pandemic.
With Beck living with her parents, she decided to shout out some tunes from the 1960s and 1970s by Burt Bacharach, Frankie Valli and other artists that she listened to her parents play in the background. Meanwhile, some of McNiff’s cabaret favorites are “Light in the Dark” from “Next to Normal” and “All I Need is the Girl” from “Gypsy”.
Beck sings the mezzo-soprano, McNiff is a bari-tenor, and Parks occasionally sings the bass, but he will mainly accompany the other two on the piano. The theater company contacted the three in April, and they began to meet on Zoom and eventually in person.
The rehearsal was a bit easier for roommates McNiff and Parks; however, and their story and life situation is how McNiff initially got involved. Brett Figel – another roommate and former Lake Dillon Theater Co. – was first approached for the show but was unable to do so. This left the role open to McNiff, who had never worked with the company before.
Growing up in Connecticut just an hour from the city, McNiff often went to see shows with his grandmother. He was 7 when he first took the stage in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.
Through a tap lesson in college and student-led performances, he ignited his passion for musicals and choreography in high school and college. His only visit to Colorado was to stop in Denver for the national tour of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” at the Buell Theater.
“The high altitude dancing knocked us out,” McNiff said with a laugh.
Parks and McNiff first met at “Mary Poppins” in Vermont about five years ago. It’s a musical that McNiff has performed several times, culminating in his favorite version when he played Bert in an Arizona regional production.
All three like to have the creative opportunity to work with familiar faces. For Parks and Beck, it was a journey back to their theatrical family and home base, where it all began. Beck recently performed with Lake Dillon in “Rock Of Ages,” but first performed with them ten years ago when the theater was on Lake Dillon Drive.
It was Beck’s first time in Colorado, and the repertoire season had her in “The Who’s Tommy”, “Godspell”, “Shout!” The Mod Musical ”and“ The Red Cape ”. Now the Connecticut native is going back to her roots with songs from “The Sound of Music” and “The Music Man,” as it was tracks her mother shared with her that originally started her love of comedy. musical.
Beck participated in theater from a young age because it allowed him to find a community at school. She learned to enjoy plays as she got older thanks to the opportunity to explore characters and lyrics, but the child in her still enjoys singing in musicals.
Parks, who has also long loved “The Sound of Music,” credits the Lake Dillon Theater Co. with her first professional theater job. Music was a natural part of Parks’ life growing up in Georgia with two musicians for parents. He wanted to quit college and high school several times, but his mother, a music teacher, kept it up.
Parks originally wanted to be an actor, but realized that performances didn’t come as naturally to him as music, and saw a lack of parts written for bass vocalists. He mixed his two loves into a degree specifically for musical direction in musical theater to stay in the industry.
He worked as Assistant Music Director for Lake Dillon Theater Co.’s production of “Chicago” in 2007 while still in college and most recently was Music Director for Lake Dillon’s “Kiss of the Spider Woman”. in 2012. He’s done a bit of gigs sporadically since then, but nothing has become a focal point of his life like “Chicago”. After touring with him for a few years, the show was its Broadway debut just before the pandemic.
“I think this is one of the most brilliant shows ever written,” Parks said. “The orchestrations are awesome, and every time you play it it seems like you’re always learning something about it. It’s so much fun. I loved that Lake Dillon also sparks this interest in me. They taught me everything I know.
While “Gathering Light” is a must-have creative outlet for performers, the artistic future of Beck, McNiff and Parks is not entirely clear. Parks is working on “Godspell” with a high school in Connecticut while McNiff has nothing on the horizon except to get back into video submissions for auditions. Beck will begin his graduate studies in the fall to study marriage and family therapy.
“The past year has been kind of a gestation period of how I would like to continue playing in my life, but also broaden my horizons and hope that those horizons will only broaden my skills to contribute to the world,” Beck said.