Rhythms of resilience

‘Out of the Blue’ makes its way from Mexico to Boulder for LGBTQ fundraiser

Eli Hans shares his cancer journey through the “mostly one-man musical” Out of the Blue, running April 12-14 at the Dairy Arts Center’s Grace Gamm Theatre. Credit: Scott Umstattd

When the spotlight hits the stage at the Dairy Arts Center’s Grace Gamm Theatre this April, it’ll reveal more than just a set. It will illuminate the harrowing and heartfelt story of Eli Hans, who uses melody to process a grim cancer diagnosis as the producer and star of the touring musical Out of the Blue

But don’t expect a sob fest — this production has enough humor and toe-tapping tunes to make you forget you’re learning life lessons. Based on his own life, the show depicts Hans’ unwavering spirit of survival as he faced a dire lymphoma diagnosis with a 10% chance of recovery. 

“I didn’t know it was going to be a musical when I first started writing it,” Hans says. “I just knew that when we were all sheltering at home [during the COVID-19 pandemic], it was time for me to write about my journey. So many wonderful things happened to me that I felt it would be kind of selfish to keep all that to myself, especially if I could help somebody else get through this.” 

Portraying 25 different characters, Hans invites viewers behind the scenes of his inspirational life story in what he calls a “mostly one-man show.” The only other performer is his husband, Joseph Bennett, who joins him briefly in the first and third act.

“Joseph is an incredible human being,” Hans says. “He’s beyond description, and the way he supported me through my cancer journey and the miraculous way we met just had to be portrayed in the show. He’s a wonderful partner and a great actor. I just love sharing the stage with him and being able to recreate our moments together.”

‘A lot can happen through music’

Since Hans grew up watching musical theater and dreaming of being on Broadway, he says singing and dancing were a “natural form of expression” for his story. 

“A lot can happen through music, because it’s very healing,” he says. “The songs I wrote express the character’s internal emotional state — audiences are better able to handle information when it is wrapped up in a nice song.”

Although Hans could play the piano, he had never written an orchestration before, so he taught himself GarageBand to create the arrangement he wanted. Without formal music training, he wanted to recreate the music he could hear in his head.  

“I didn’t know anything about composing, but because of the pandemic, I had so much time to learn,” he says. “I sent my demos to a music arranger in Canada [Konrad Pluta], and we would talk about how I wanted them to sound Broadway-ish. He would fix them and send them back to me. We’d go back and forth until they were what I had heard in my head, and then boom! It became a musical.” 

Once the music was written, the only thing that really “scared” Hans was mastering the dance elements. “I hired a choreographer [Christie Olvera] because I like to dance, but I’m not a dancer, necessarily,” he says. “There’s not a ton of dancing in this, but I knew I needed a good understanding of dance because the opening number was snazzy.”

Hans approached the creation of Out of the Blue holistically by becoming involved in every aspect of the production, from costume and set design to serving as show producer. He has continued to fine tune the musical since its sold-out world premiere in San Miguel, Mexico, in March 2022 and its well-reviewed appearance at that year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, where it was nominated for six Broadway World Awards.

Boulder bound

As fate would have it, two Boulderites — former city council member Bob Yates and his wife, Katy — were sitting in the audience of Out of the Blue’s world premiere in Mexico. Hans says that the couple was impressed with the musical and urged him to bring the show to Boulder. 

Two years later, Hans is making his first visit to the People’s Republic, but he won’t have much time for sightseeing. In addition to ensuring that Out of the Blue is ready to perform at the Dairy, Hans is serving as a panelist at the Conference on World Affairs hosted at CU Boulder

“Bob nominated me to be a panelist, so between rehearsals and three panels at the conference, that’s going to keep me pretty busy,” Hans says. “We’re only going to have a day or two to explore Boulder. The rest of the time, we’re there to work.” 

All ticket sales after expenses from the Boulder run of Out of the Blue will go to Out Boulder County, a local nonprofit supporting the LGBTQ community. The April 13 performance is a special $100 VIP fundraising event for the organization, complete with pre-show drinks and post-show meetings with the actors. Local donors have purchased a significant portion of the seats on April 14, allowing the Out Boulder youth program to attend for free.

“My whole mission and vision when I created Out of the Blue was to be able to help gay youth,” Hans says. “I wanted to support them as they came out with self-awareness, love and self-acceptance. This show is very much about loving who we are and not living our lives with any degree of shame, so the fact that it’s going to support Out Boulder is icing on the cake.” 

ON STAGE: Out of the Blue. April 12-14, Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder. $30-$100


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