Grand Junction's Cabaret Dinner Theatre Shuttered

It's unusual for the closure of a performance space in Grand Junction to make news on the other side of the state. But the Denver Post's John Moore made a compelling case for covering the Cabaret Dinner Theatre's demise in a June 30 piece, pointing out that the venue was "the state's second-largest dinner theater and sixth-largest theater overall," generating $2.3 million in 2004 alone and employing as many as a hundred people at the theater and Spotlight Lounge, an adjacent bar and live music venue, when things were going well.

That hasn't been the case for a while.

The Cabaret, which was founded in 1999, briefly went dark in February due to a failure to pay taxes, and a June 27 overview in Grand Junction's Daily Sentinel estimated current debts at $1 million. The accompanying comments from readers, patrons and former employees vacillate between nostalgia for productions past and frustration over the sudden closure, some voiced by people who'd bought tickets for future shows.

As for me, I can't pretend to be objective, since I've known many of the people involved with the Cabaret for years. I attended Grand Junction High School with executive producer Kirk McConnell and was acquainted with his younger brother Kevin, who oversaw the business end of the Cabaret's operations for most of its existence; he's no longer involved with the theater. In addition, I'm good friends with the eldest McConnell brother, Arn, who's worked at the Cabaret in a variety of capacities, including acting in many plays and musicals. When I contacted Arn, he sent me an official statement:

"On Friday, June 27, the Cabaret Dinner Theatre unexpectedly lost its lease and ceased operations following that night's performance of CHICAGO before a sold-out audience. Kirk McConnell, the owner and executive producer of the Cabaret, is currently examining options for the future."

Arn couldn't provide any more on-the-record information at this time -- but the open-ended nature of his concluding sentence suggests that the Cabaret may not be as dead as it seems. The odds stacked against resurrection are enormous and probably insurmountable. For that reason, a comeback would be that much more dramatic. -- Michael Roberts