After Garrett Ammon and his wife Dawn Fay, who run Denver-based dance company Wonderbound, saw alt-country band Gasoline Lollipops perform at a brunch show at Ophelia's, they approached frontman Clay Rose about collaborating on a ballet. At the time, they were interested in putting on something special for Halloween, and they decided to work with another band Rose is involved with, the Widow's Bane, on a production called Wicked Bayou, based on the Widow's Bane song "Old Bayou."
Wicked Bayou, which involved voodoo and a child-eating alligator for the spooky season, "was a success, and we all had a lot of fun," says Rose. "So now we are finally getting around to the project that was initially intended, which is The Sandman, and it's based on a Gasoline Lollipops song called "Santa Maria."
Ammon and Rose are now well into the process of producing The Sandman, which will debut in Denver in February of 2020. Rose provided more than a hundred Gasoline Lollipops songs to choose from, and Ammon has already begun choreographing based on his selections.
Ever since Ammon wrote an original ballet to the music of Johnny Cash while running a ballet company in Memphis, he's been interested in choreographing more shows to American roots music.
"We're very informed by American roots music, from folk to blues to country, so I think [Ammon] just wanted to revisit that notion and expand upon it," says Rose.
Because American roots music is heavily focused on narrative, the stories Rose tells easily translate to the stage. From the lyrics of "Santa Maria," he and Ammon were able to flesh out a storyline involving the titular Sandman and Santa Maria.
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"It's going to debut on Valentine's Day, and it's a romance of sorts," explains Rose. "It's about a young fellow who falls in love, and his love is kidnapped by an evil dude named the Sandman. But this young fellow is sort of favored by the Virgin Mary, Santa Maria, and she helps him and blesses him in many ways on his journey of trying to find his girl. I don't want to tell too much, but it's a girl-power story, is what it is."
Wonderbound describes The Sandman as a "newfangled Western," and Rose concurs: "It's definitely a Western — it involves gun-slinging and things like that — but it also gets pretty metaphysical, and also gets pretty dark. It deals with the shadow realm, and the realm of the human spirit, and maybe the spirit beyond humans."
The Sandman runs February 14 to16 at the Performing Arts Complex at Pinnacle Charter School, then from February 22 to 23 at the Parker Arts, Culture, and Events Center (PACE). Tickets are $25 to $50 and are on sale now.