Mayor John Hickenlooper will really speak up for the arts on Thursday, July 22, when he narrates Peter and the Wolf.
The presentation kicks off the fifteenth season of Theater in the Park. The series of free outdoor performances will be staged this summer at the newly remodeled Greek amphitheater in Denver's Civic Center Park. Theater in the Park executive director Betty Emmanuel says casting the arts-affable mayor was an easy but not obvious choice. "I think he's scared to death, but we know he'll do a good job," she says. "We always try to present a program that is upbeat and family friendly while not too predictable."
The mayor brings Prokofiev's 1936 children's classic to life with help from the Denver Municipal Band, the Ballet Arts Theatre, and Show of Hands, whose members will sign the fable for the hearing impaired. Shows continue through August 7, with Peter and the Wolf followed by Theatre on Broadway's Painted Breadon July 23 and 24; Nomad Theatre's staging of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Parisfrom July 29 through 31; and the Caravan Players' presentation of Colefrom August 5 through 7. Emmanuel says Theatre in the Park spends all year seeking the area's best productions for its performances. "The hard part is to convince the local companies to reproduce the plays," she says. "It's not easy, but we always try to get the right mix."
Theatre in the Park planted its roots at Civic Center Park in 1989 with The Marriage of Figaro, which attracted about 450 people over three days. This year, Emmanuel says she won't be comfortable unless she's seated more than a thousand spectators each evening. "We never thought it was going to be so successful," she admits. "But it is solid entertainment and just amazing to see 1,200 people sitting in these surroundings every night.
"And," she adds, "they always, always give standing ovations."