At the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue, everything old is new (and funny) again.
The popular Glenwood Springs variety show dinner theater is opening in its new Grand Avenue home on Friday, Nov. 29 with a holiday show running through the new year. Propelled by the age-old vaudeville spirit, the revue offers two hours of rapid-fire, in-your-face dinner theater, with a mix of skits, dance numbers, novelty songs, audience participation, sight gags, wit and slapstick.
The latest iteration of Glenwood Vaudeville mixes in straightforward musical performance along with its signature bizarre bits. The holiday show includes pianist/singer Jonathan Gorst, who conducted recent national tours of the musical “Phantom of the Opera.”
“Expect a whole lot of crazy,” says Glenwood Vaudeville founder John Goss. “It’s a wacky holiday show, like all of our shows, with a hodge-podge of holiday stuff.”
Now in its fifth year, Glenwood Vaudeville Revue has quickly become a Roaring Fork Valley cultural staple. It’s a modern take on the old-time vaudeville formula, which was America’s pre-eminent form of entertainment before motion pictures supplanted it a century ago.
“It’s in the spirit that we’ll do anything that will entertain,” says Goss. “We can do anything we like, from tap dance numbers to animals to audience participation — that’s why I like the term ‘vaudeville.’ It’s about doing anything to entertain people.”
The irreverent show was a hit from the start, putting Goss and other former Crystal Palace performers on stage together. Past audience favorites have included tributes to classic variety TV shows like “Hee Haw” and “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.” Original songs have included pigs rapping and a John Denver send-up about drunk driving, set to the tune of “Rocky Mountain High” with the chorus, “I got a DUI / In Colorado.”
“What I’m really pleased with is that it covers a lot of different backgrounds and age groups — it works for everybody,” says Goss.
Goss and his team have worked hard to keep the show fresh, and not repetitive. They add new bits and songs, while reviving some that have been big hits with theater-goers. After the holiday revue’s run, they will stage a new show in a spring season running February through April. A new summer show is slated to open in May.
This fall, the revue moved into a new permanent home on Grand Avenue, in the former Springs Theatre space. They gutted the movie theater and invested $250,000 in a remodel. The new theater offers amenities like improved lighting and sound systems, seating for 150, handicap access, a cozy lobby and a, well, grand entrance right on Grand Avenue.
“It looks like a professional dinner theater place now,” says Goss.
The Revue built its audience with shows in Glenwood’s Masonic Lodge, a less than ideal space that the troupe converted for its shows. Goss is happy to be moving on and making a permanent home on Glenwood’s main drag.
“It felt like it was in a government building or something, and not its own professional space,” he says.
Among the new additions to the space is an antique 1918 Wurlitzer photoplayer. Cutting edge technology for its day, the instrument plays hundreds of instruments at once and provides sound effects. It’s the type of machine that was used to provide sound for early silent movies. It’s now prominently featured on the Revue stage, and will be played by cast members.
Goss spent about a year looking for a vintage photoplayer, and found this rebuilt working one in Oregon. It hasn’t been used for public performance, by Goss’s estimation, since at least the 1940s.
“It should be a great addition,” he says.
The food on the menu in the new theater is a mix of items prepared in-house and dishes from local restaurants — the famous 19th Street Diner meat loaf, spaghetti from Daily Bread, soups from Juicy Lucy’s, for example.
The holiday show cast includes Goss and returning performers like Crystal Palace veterans Gary Daniel and Tom Erickson, along with Defiance Community Players president Jennetta Howell. Bob Moore, whose flamboyant performance as Max Bialystock was a highlight of Aspen Community Theatre’s “The Producers” this fall, joins the holiday show cast.
For Aspenites, the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue’s emergence in 2009 was welcome news, as it followed the closing of Aspen’s Crystal Palace dinner theater after a 51 year run. But for locals who haven’t yet seen the revue, Goss stresses that it is its own bizarre beast — not a simple a replica of the Crystal Palace experience. While he and other Palace regulars are in the cast, they don’t do much of the political and current events humor that the Palace perfected, and don’t repeat familiar material the way the Palace did. They retire even their most popular bits, so that audience members can see a fresh show each season.
“The Crystal Palace was wonderful and I like the fact that people compare the two,” he says. “But you can’t really say it’s the Crystal Palace moved downvalley.”
Glenwood Vaudeville Revue
Thursday through Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Sunday 5:30 at p.m.
Nov. 29 - Jan. 4
$24/adults, $22/seniors, $16/kids