Long in­ter­mis­sion be­tween acts

Live mu­sic re­turns to His­toric Elitch Theatre, end­ing 23 years of si­lence.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Aldo Svaldi

Em­my­lou Har­ris, the Bodeans and Air Sup­ply were some of the fi­nal mu­si­cal acts to per­form at the His­toric Elitch Theatre in sum­mer 1994.

When the Elitch Gar­dens amuse­ment park re­lo­cated to the Cen­tral Platte Val­ley that fall, the venue near the 3800 block of Ten­nyson stayed be­hind and was shut­tered.

Pi­geons, ver­min and de­cay over­took the once-es­teemed sum­mer stock theater that hosted Grace Kelly, Dou­glas Fair­banks Sr., Deb­bie Reynolds and many other per­form­ers. Ray Charles played there in 1989.

But the 126-year-old theater has un­der­gone enough restora­tion to host large au­di­ences once again. On Satur­day evening, the Sweet Lil­lies took the stage, be­fore The Sun­ny­side All-Star String Band.

“The com­mu­nity is be­com­ing more aware of us. They want it to be­come a venue again,” said Tracy Frickey, pres­i­dent of The His­toric Elitch Theatre Foun­da­tion, the vol­un­teer-run non­profit in charge of restor­ing and main­tain­ing the theater.

Satur­day evening’s per­for­mance was a fundraiser for the Sun­ny­side Mu­sic Fes­ti­val, a free com­mu­nity blue­grass and folk con­cert sched­uled for Sept. 9 at Chaf­fee Park.

About 160 tick­ets were sold in ad­vance for the fundraiser Satur­day, said Noah Teitelbaum, pres­i­dent of the fes­ti­val.

“Part of our pro­ceeds go to sup­port mu­sic pro­grams for chil­dren,” he said.

Frickey said Mary Elitch Long, who founded the park with her hus­band, reg­u­larly hosted Den­ver chil­dren, es­pe­cially or­phans, and ex­posed them to the arts, mu­sic, botany and other sub­jects. That’s one rea­son host­ing the fundraiser seemed like a good fit, she said.

The theater took on pub­lic tours in late April as part of Tours Open Den­ver. The foun­da­tion has ap­plied for Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Fa­cil­i­ties District fund­ing, which re­quires host­ing other arts groups and be­ing open to the pub­lic.

But more work needs to be done be­fore the theater can be leased out for events big or small. Sec­tions of seats were cor­doned off, and the upper bal­conies, al­though struc­turally sound, re­mained off lim­its be­cause of safety con­cerns.

Frickey es­ti­mates the build­ing, which is in the third phase of its restora­tion, needs at least an ad­di­tional $2 million of in­te­rior im­prove­ments, in­clud­ing re­strooms, an el­e­va­tor and a lobby restora­tion.

A sep­a­rate fundraiser for the theater it­self is planned for Aug. 26 and will fea­ture Hazel Miller, a sup­porter who is do­nat­ing her tal­ents to the cause, Frickey said.

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