When the news broke last June that Boulder Dinner Theatre (BDT Stage) owners Gene and Judy Bolles had sold their building on 5501 Arapahoe Ave. for $5.5 million to Quad Capital Partners, the writing was on the wall for the long-running theater company.
“There was a lot of outrage when we announced this was the final season,” says producing artistic director Seamus McDonough. “People were devastated, and they have continued to ask what the possibilities are of moving to a new location. The community is really sad that BDT is closing because the theater has meant so much to them for the last 46 years.”
McDonough had just finalized plans for the theater’s 45th season when he received word that the building had been sold.
“Originally, it was only three shows: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Something Rotten and The Sound of Music,” McDonough says. “However, when we found out it was going to be our final season in the space, we wanted to expand to honor the legacy of BDT.”
A provision in the purchase agreement allowed the theater to use the site for one final season of performances. Along with the aforementioned titles, BDT’s final season also included A Church Basement Ladies Christmas, which featured many actors who had been with the company for more than 40 years, and the recently announced encore production of Fiddler on the Roof, which will run from Sept. 9 to Jan. 13 of next year, starring BDT staple Wayne Kennedy.
As a part of its farewell season, BDT Stage is currently producing its most requested title of the last decade: The Sound of Music. “It’s a classic and something the whole family can enjoy,” McDonough says. The musical was the last project for the writing team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and it is based on Maria von Trapp’s autobiography, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.
The story — set in Salzburg, Austria, just before the outbreak of World War II — centers on Maria, a rebellious nun who is sent from the abbey to look after the seven children of the recently widowed Captain Georg von Trapp. The Sound of Music opened on Broadway in 1959, where it won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and was adapted into a widely successful Academy Award-winning film adaptation starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in 1965.
“I play the role a little younger and more rural than Julie did in the film,” says McKayla Marso-McDonough, who plays Maria. “I’m a mom, so the nurturing aspect of the character comes naturally to me. It’s been a childhood dream of mine to play Maria, so when I found out I’d been cast in the role in 2020, I was devastated to learn the theater had closed.”
‘This place has been a gift’
Despite initial plans to stage the musical in the summer of 2020, the pandemic forced BDT Stage to postpone its production. “When COVID hit, I thought it was done, but it turns out Seamus just had it on hold,” says director Alicia K. Meyers. It was initially delayed until the summer of 2021, but due to pandemic-related concerns, it was again postponed.
“The Sound of Music is already an expensive show, and we didn’t want to put it on the books and then have all these extra production costs because of Boulder County’s pandemic regulations,” McDonough says. “It wasn’t looking financially feasible for us to do it in 2022 at the level our patrons have come to expect from a BDT stage production, so we scheduled the show for 2023 and made it part of our final season celebration.”
Once Meyers got the go-ahead to proceed with the production, she took a novel approach to the rehearsal schedule. “We started with McKayla and the kids two weeks before everyone else,” Meyers says. “There are two casts of incredibly gifted kids in the show; I wanted to make sure they were solid so we could build the show around them. After the kids were comfortable, we slowly added in the adult characters.”
This strategy meant the play’s youngest performers had more time to strengthen their relationships and get their feet beneath them before the adult actors arrived on set. “They had this bond before we walked in that we were thrown into,” says Scott Severtson, who plays Captain von Trapp. “It was an interesting dynamic because the kids all knew what they were doing, but I was just learning what I was doing. My favorite part was finding an individual moment with each kid through the show, so we felt connected as a family.”
The show opened on April 29 and runs throughout the summer. “Generations of families have been coming to watch this show together,” Marso-McDonough says. “Grandparents bring their children, who bring their children, and they all sing the songs together. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, which has helped make the final season of BDT a huge success.”
But as the cast and crew behind The Sound of Music continue the work of making the company’s final season one to remember, there’s more than a little reflection on what BDT Stage has meant to performers and audiences alike.
“How many people can say they worked in musical theater for 28 years? It’s been incredible to watch BDT grow, and even though the end is going to be heartbreaking, I wouldn’t change anything,” Meyers says. “This place has been a gift.”
ON STAGE: The Sound of Music. Various times through Aug. 19, BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder. Tickets here.