DCPA COO ready to build on Disney world preem template
[The following article is scheduled to appear in Daily Variety the week of September 10th and in Variety magazine the week of September 17th.]
Denver—On the heels of the recent announcement of the world premiere of Disney's The Little Mermaid at the Denver Performing Arts Complex's Ellie Caulkins Opera House in the summer of 2007 in advance of its Broadway debut, Denver Center for the Performing Arts President and Chief Operating Officer, Randy Weeks, believes that "If this is a successful trial run of the facility for an out-of-town tryout for a large musical, it could be a template for other producers to do the same thing."
No matter how it's measured—venues, seats, craft shops, or ancillary housing—the DPAC is one of the largest performing arts complexes in the world, and it was the depth of these resources that made the deal and potentially positions the organization for similar ones in the future.
"This project is terribly exciting and a huge coup for Denver," said Weeks. "It was like having a building in the right place at the right time. Unexpectedly, I got a phone call from a friend of mine I've know for years and years, who is now President of Disney Touring, Jack Eldon, and he said, 'I need to talk to you about a show, but I can't tell you the title. We're sniffing around and we want to do an out-of-town tryout/preview; then we're going straight to New York, but we're playing a smaller theatre there.'
President and Chief Operating Officer,
Denver Center for the Performing Arts
"And about that time the Ellie Caulkins was coming on line, and I'd been inside of it. And even though it's about 2100 seats, it doesn't feel like that. And I said, 'Jack, I want you to get on an airplane and come on out here and take a look at this facility.' He did, and he liked it. I know they were talking to other cities at that point, but Jack told me that Tom Schumacher would like to come out and look at it too, and he did."
"The Ellie," as the opera house is known, opened a year ago with a star-studded gala and followed with Denyce Graves in Carmen. It is the newest of the nine venues (with a tenth "community stage" in the works) located on the main four-square-block campus of the DPAC.
Schumacher, producer and president of Disney Theatrical Productions, remarked that "We've enjoyed terrific theatrical engagements in Denver through the years, and so it makes perfect sense to work on our new musical here and have Denver become a part of our process."
Weeks explained that "We've presented, in some cases multiple times, everything that Disney Theatricals has done—Beauty and the Beast, Aida, The Lion King, and even On the Record. … And from all this, we've developed a good relationship with Disney—and that's part of it, the relationship aspect.
"So, we kept talking," said an exuberant Weeks. "The theatre was available and the city was very amicable to having them out for the summer. They put together a nice incentive package for Disney. And it happened. The facility and all its backstage support sold itself—they've got a woodworking shop; they've got a metal shop; they've got enough dressing rooms for 3,000 opera singers! (Though Opera Colorado has long boasted the largest chorus in the world, this is a bit of an exaggeration—Ed.) One of Disney's concerns is that they're going to have all their artistic teams out here and they'll have to remind them they won't have this in New York."
Denver is seeking to build on its long-time success as one of the top-five U.S. cities for touring productions (The Lion King opened its road show here in 2002). The Little Mermaid will cap a season that includes The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Light in the Piazza, and Monty Python's Spamalot.