‘Broadway Gala’ on Tuesday Highlights Summer for Thingamajig Theatre

Four award-winning Broadway musical hits are playing in rotation this summer at the Thingamajig Theatre Company, in residence at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. As well, a gala fundraiser featuring hidden talents of the exciting, accomplished cast and an auction for unique interactions with the actors will take place on Tuesday, July 25 at 5pm to raise funds for the nonprofit professional theatre company.

Only about half of the costs of Thingamajig productions are covered by ticket sales. The remainder of the theatre’s funding comes from private donors, business sponsors, program advertising, grants and proceeds from this annual gala fundraiser. Tickets are $100.

Thingamajig Theatre’s production of “Hairspray” starring Marion Bienvenu and Dennis Elkins is drawing standing ovations from audiences as it plays in rotation with three other Broadway hits this summer at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. Photos courtesy Carole Howard.

The gala fundraiser
Among the many treats at this special event will be hors d’oeuvres from theatre sponsor Alley House Grille and backstage tours conducted by cast members. When the performers take the stage for a fun cabaret-type show, the audience will have the opportunity to bid on a variety of unique private events with the actors for this very good cause.

The many one-of-a-kind offerings awaiting your bids include a serenade by Luke Hefner at your private party or as a delightful gift for a friend on a special occasion; a progressive dinner for 10 people when actors will chauffeur you and your friends to four incredible locations where you’ll enjoy wine pairings, serenades and delicious food prepared by the cast; and a photo shoot for four where the actors will do your hair and makeup as you enjoy champagne and chocolate, then provide costumes before you pose with the cast for a very special picture that could be your best Christmas card ever.

“We know from previous galas that our guests have been surprised and delighted by the evening – and especially the clever and creative auction opportunities,” said Laura Moore, co-founder of Thingamajig Theatre with her husband Tim. “We are deeply grateful for everyone’s support because the four musicals that folks are seeing on stage this summer would not have been possible without the funding raised at the gala.”

This summer’s 28 actors and production staff of 17 is the largest ever at Thingamajig.

The four summer musicals
“Aida” is a contemporary spin on Guiseppe Verdi’s opera about love and hate, slavery and freedom, war and peace. It is a pop-rock musical by the award-winning team of Elton John (who composed the music for “The Lion King” and “Billy Elliot”) and Tim Rice (lyricist for “Evita” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat”). “Aida” won four Tony Awards and the Grammy for Best Musical Show Album. The multi-talented stars of the impressive Pagosa production are Jameelah Leaundra, Luke Hefner, Heather McCall and Robert Poole.

L-R Heather McCall, Luke Hefner and Jameelah Leaundra star in Thingamajig Theatre’s new production of the Elton John musical “Aida,” playing in rotation with three other Broadway hits this summer at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.

“Big River” is based on Mark Twain’s classic “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Starring Stuart Rial as Huck Finn and Tyler Price as Jim, the story addresses sensitive issues like racism, literacy and voting in the antebellum South with heart and hope. It features country and bluegrass music and lyrics by Roger Williams – plus gospel elements unique to this production, thanks to the musical talents of Robert Poole. The songs give the gifted Thingamajig cast ample opportunity to show off their diverse musical and dancing skills. In 1985 “Big River” won seven Tonys, including best musical and best original score.

“Hairspray” is a 1960s-style musical featuring Marion Bienvenu as Tracy, the heroine who dreams of being a star on an American Bandstand-like TV show. Tracy ends up taking a strong stand and making major contributions to integration in Baltimore. Also starring in this upbeat, optimistic and energetic production is Dennis Elkins. Head of the theatre department at Fort Lewis College in Durango, he is highly popular locally as a brilliant director and actor and is especially admired for heavy-duty roles in serious dramas like “A Few Good Men,” “A Picasso” and “Red.” As Tracy’s mother, he shows off his comedy and musical skills. “Hairspray” won eight Tonys in 2003, including best musical and best original score.

“Sister Act” tells of a disco singer, played by Sarita Amani Nash, who goes into witness protection in a convent to hide from her mobster boyfriend, played by Tyler Price. While struggling in her new restrictive environment, she takes over the choir and ends up inspiring both the church and the community. The show is a heart-warming, rousing tribute to friendship and love. Mother Superior is played by Boni McIntyre, who also directs the production. A gifted musician from Denver, she is music director for all four summer shows and has been involved in so many Thingamajig productions over the last five years that she recently purchased a condo in Pagosa. In 2011 “Sister Act” was nominated for five Tonys including best musical and best original score. This Broadway version of “Sister Act” is based on – but different from – the popular movie starring Whoopi Goldberg except for the basic plot. It is set in the 1970s, providing fun opportunities for disco, blues and soul music.

Melissa Firlit directed “Aida,” Michael Thomas Walker directed “Hairspray” and Anita Jo Lenhart directed “Big River. For all four shows Paul Thiemann is the choreographer, Adrienne Young is the costume designer, Laine Wong is the lighting designer, KC Caimi is the stage manager, Tanya Quinn is the property master, and Dale Scrivener is the light board operator and wardrobe manager.
Also deserving attention are the remarkable talents of the supporting cast and ensemble, notably Sara Burks, Rachel Valencich, Hannah Zilber, Steven Sitzman, Bear Manescalchi, Sheldon Steele, Dan Morrison, Tyler Baxter, Sugah Henry, Gabrielle Beckford, Kevin Brown, Marcus Desion, Tori Gresham, Hanna Hawson, Ian Lah, Kathleen Macari and Melissa McDonald.

The four musicals will be performed in rotation with five to seven shows a week until August 27.

More about Thingamajig
Thingamajig Theatre Company is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit professional organization producing comedies, dramas and musicals year-round. The theatre was co-founded six years ago by Tim Moore, producing artistic director, and Laura Moore, executive director, both brilliant actors and directors in their own right. As a community service, they also provide local youngsters, many recipients of Thingamajig scholarships, with low-cost, hands-on educational opportunities in children’s theatre camps to see and participate in professional productions of important plays.

Thanks to the exceptional casting skills of Tim Moore, Thingamajig consistently attracts gifted directors, actors, singers, dancers and technical experts from across the country. As well, this summer we have two international performers – Sugah Henry from Trinidad, who received rave reviews as Motormouth Maybelle in “Hairspray,” and Jameelah Leaundra from Germany, who plays the title role in “Aida” so brilliantly.

The actors say that they love performing in Pagosa because of the warm welcome they receive from the Friends of the Theatre and other patrons and supporters of Thingamajig. Living in the new actors house is also a huge plus, given that it was built especially for them.

“I am thrilled with the possibility of these musicals bringing people together,” said Tim Moore. “They are intelligent, entertaining and timely choices for Thingamajig Theatre at this point in history. With tensions high, the conversation on the racial divide is as vital as ever.”

For tickets or more information on the gala and summer shows, visit www.pagosacenter.org or phone 790-731-7469.