Broadway star Beth Malone is over the Zoom gigs.
Teaching and participating in online courses throughout the pandemic has kept Malone occupied and practicing her craft — for which she is grateful — but enough is enough, the longtime local and part-time resident said Thursday.
“Who wants to see me singing into my laptop? I don’t know who these people are, but honestly, there must be somebody, because I keep getting asked to do them,” Malone said from her home in Snowmass Village on Thursday afternoon. “As talented as somebody can be, when you watch them in their living room singing with, like, their refrigerator behind them, there’s nothing less charming. This is just bad.”
As one can then imagine, Malone is thus ecstatic to perform on the Hurst Theatre stage Monday as Theatre Aspen kicks off its abbreviated summer season.
A variation from its traditional summer programming, the season will consist of a few different types of performances: a celebrity concert series headlined by Malone; the return of the popular summer cabaret series; live radio plays that will recreate classic movie musicals in radio-play fashion; and the one-person Solo Flights developmental festival.
When the nonprofit announced its revised summer schedule in late May, the thought was, “We can have all of the best-laid plans, but will anybody want to come and see a show?” Theatre Aspen producing director Jed Bernstein said Thursday.
“And I think now we can definitively answer that question, because 85% of tickets for the season have been sold. I think there’s clearly a hunger for this kind of experience this summer,” Bernstein said. “And I’m just happy that, in a small way, the theater can participate in the community this summer and be a part of it.”
Monday’s debut celebrity concert series will bring two performances — the first at 7 p.m. and another at 9:30 p.m. Broadway actresses Carolee Carmello, Kelli O’Hara and Audra McDonald will lead three more concerts throughout the season. Tickets and more information can be found at TheatreAspen.org or by calling the box office at 970-300-4474.
A Tony- and Grammy-nominated performer who first moved to Aspen full time in 1992 at age 21 to work at the iconic Crystal Palace, Malone tapped three valley locals to perform with her on stage Monday: guitarist and vocalist Damian Smith, pianist (and “longtime best friend”) David Dyer and vocalist Sonya Meyer. Malone described the eclectic, three-act musical narrative as “tongue-in-cheek” and “a joy bomb concert.”
“I want people to leave with a lot of hope and actually feel like everything’s going to be OK,” she said. “That’s what I want.”
Malone and her wife are based in New York but spend a few months out of the year — traditionally during the offseason — in Snowmass Village, where they own a condo. Spending more time in the valley throughout the pandemic has been a blissful respite from city life, she said. Being granted the creative liberty to curate her own dream team for Monday’s show was also a blessing.
Bernstein views the strange and unprecedented summer as one “starved” of cultural activity and performing arts — and as an opportunity for innovative artistic expression.
“It’s a perfect time for artists to experiment with new things, to try out new things, to bring out old favorites,” he said. “It really is an ‘anything goes’ sort of summer.”
The Cabaret Series, in its third year, previously took place at partnering restaurants but will take the Hurst stage for the first time this summer. The second annual Solo Flights festival will run Sept. 1-7. Project titles and creative teams will be announced in the coming weeks. The radio play is a new concept that Bernstein hopes could become an annual occurrence.
In conjunction with Pitkin County’s guidelines on gathering sizes, the events are capped at 50 people. Bernstein assured that Theatre Aspen will undergo thorough sanitary measures between the back-to-back performances.
Along with the main-stage programming, Theatre Aspen Education will present three Disney classics: “Beauty and the Beast” (July 29-Aug. 2) “Frozen Jr.” (Aug. 6-8) and “The Lion King” (Sept. 10-12). “Beauty and the Beast” and “Frozen Jr.” will take place at Aspen District Theatre, while “The Lion King” will take over Hurst Theatre.
Theatre Aspen’s pre-pandemic summer calendar boasted three shows — “Chicago,” “Rock of Ages” and “The Sunshine Boys” — that will instead be staged in 2021.
“I think the town is just anxious for performing arts,” Bernstein said. “There’s so many iconic parts of an Aspen summer, and many of those were not possible this summer. It’s meaningful that the theatre was able to carry on.”
The Aspen Heroes Program
Theatre Aspen is honoring 20 local heroes who worked on the front-lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The heroes were nominated by members of the community, chosen by the heroes committee and will be acknowledged on stage before select shows.
Travis Benson and Joey Woltemath, Aspen High School graduation organizers
Samuel Bernal, Community activist and news presenter
Iliana Renteria, Community volunteer
Susan Cross, Community activist
Claudia Flores Cruz, Advocate for the Family Resource Center
Jenelle Figgins, Community activist
Yolanda Gonzalez, Staff at Family Services Team
Diane Heald, Infusion nurse at Valley View Hospital
JeanMarie Hegarty, First responder at Valley View Hospital
Ashley Himmel, Medical assistant at Aspen Valley Hospital
Ruth Hostetler, Administrative Assistant at Pitkin County
Bob and Soledad Hurst, Philanthropists
Linda Killian, Fitness instructor at Aspen Recreation Center
Frank Lu, Executive chef at Jing Aspen restaurant
Santos Marquez, Downtown Services supervisor at the city of Aspen parks department
Miranda Pingree, School lunch provider at the Roaring Fork School District
Dawn Ryan, Teacher and child care provider at Aspen Mountain Tots
Julie Salcedo, Teacher at Honey Tree Preschool
Katherine Sand, Director of Aspen Family Connections
Alex Sanchez, Community organizer
David Wallach, Clark’s Market employee