The Butte Theater: Our Local Broadway

By Jenette DaPolito Special to Courier
Posted

The Butte Theater in Cripple Creek is a dynamic theater overflowing with history, hard work, and jaw-dropping talent.

Located on Bennett Avenue, the building itself was built in the 1890s and has been refurbished for modern use. Several years ago it was unknown that there was ever a theater above the city’s fire station. How did they discover it?

Mel Moser, the director of the theater explained “It was the city, they were renovating this whole building for the fire department and while they were tearing the walls down they came across some old playbills from the old opera house, back at the turn of the century, and they decided to renovate the upstairs space and clear some floor and make it into a theater.”

It wasn’t just anyone inexperienced in the theater that took it over. Mel continued by saying, “The Mackin family who were the ones that started that classic melodrama up at the Imperial in the 40’s which through the '90s. But they sold the Imperial Hotel to the gaming folks, and once they did that they shut down the melodrama. So the city . . . they asked the Mackins to bring their melodrama troop back down to the Butte Theater once they had it renovated. So they started their long running melodrama here at the Butte, and that was in the year 2000.” Clearly the Butte is filled with rich history and theatrical heritage.

Several productions are organized each year. A lot of hard work goes into such a full schedule for the theater.

When asked about some challenges of putting a show together Mickey Burdick, a producer, said “It starts so early, people think you kind of show up and start rehearsals. It’s one of those things that starts in January every year and takes 4-5 months just of build-up like, marketing, building sets, and casting.”

Dwelling on the challenge of casting, the actors are from all over the country. Representatives from the theater travel to several large auditions where they see about 1,000 actors in just four days, and over 100 theaters are also represented.

Has all that hard work casting paid off? It seems the answer is a resounding yes.

Mel, quoted earlier, says “Last year when we did ‘My Fair Lady’ it had just come through Colorado Springs about 4 months earlier, and patrons from Colorado Springs would come up and say ‘We weren’t sure we wanted to come to this little theater to see this huge musical.’ But they love it because it’s so intimate and they’re sitting right on top of the actors and they get to see all the expressions of the actors. Some of the special effects of bigger theaters we don’t have but we do have great talent and we put on really solid shows. I think the audiences really appreciate seeing a big musical like that by a small group of actors, and on that level of talent.”

Of course the actors themselves work hard on another level, they basically have three weeks of constant rehearsal before the show opens.

Performing too, is physically demanding “Most folks are winded just coming up the stairs to get up here [on stage], but to see these actors doing all these dances at 10,000 feet in elevation.” said Mickey Burdick.

Accompanying the strenuous dancing is their seemingly effortless, yet beautiful singing.

The Friday night performance of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ received a standing ovation. Considering the wonderful acting, singing, dancing, and real rain . . . a standing ovation was the only appropriate level of praise for the production.

Right now three shows are being performed on an alternating schedule including, "Singin’ in the Rain", "Girl of the Golden West" and "Star Spangled Girl".

It is impossible to overestimate the fun and enjoyment you’ll experience attending just one Thin Air Theatre Company production be it with your family, a friend, or even by yourself.

Surely, an evening enjoying fine entertainment at the Butte Theater can be placed as a top priority for us all.