By John Moore
Sept. 9, 2012
Ben Dicke, the producer, director and star of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” whose fall down a trap door at the Aurora Fox Theatre forced a cancellation of the opening performance less than two hours before it was to begin, was released this morning from the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora.
Dicke broke four ribs, cut his head and punctured a lung when he fell about 8 feet down an unseen open trap door along a backstage walkway late Friday afternoon. Scheduled performances tonight (Sept. 9) and Monday (Sept. 10) have been canceled. Opening night now will be Friday, Sept. 14.
While doctors have told Dicke to expect a recovery time of 6-8 weeks, the Bloody-but-not-bowed Dicke is not yet prepared to say he won’t be on the Aurora Fox studio theater stage on Friday portraying Andrew Jackson as a brooding but erudite modern-day emo-rock star in the big-buzz musical whose mystique – and buzz – have only grown since Dicke’s 42-hour stint in the hospital.
“I am going to treat it like an NFL player’s injury,” Dicke said this morning. “We’re going to get a backup ready to go, and I think it’s going to be a game-time decision.”
That backup is Andrew Diessner, who recently starred in the Aurora Fox’s production of “Xanadu.” He was cast in the role of “Bandleader,” which requires him to sing, dance and play bass with the band. If it is necessary for Diessner to play Jackson, musical director and keyboardist Jason Tyler Vaughn would take on the additional “Bandleader” performing responsibilities, while a new bass player would be added to the band.
There are several factors weighing against Dicke being able to resume performing, at least right away — not the last being the broken ribs and “debilitating” shoulder pain that Dicke says was exacerbated by spending hours in the ER in a neck brace. He has developed significant bruising along his back from the broken ribs. The role of Jackson is a physically demanding one, complete with stage fights and even concert-style stage-diving. More important, it is a demanding vocal role, so the biggest obstacle may be Dicke’s lung capacity. “That’s the thing I think would be the most challenging,” he said.
It is extremely difficult — and painful — for an actor to sing with rib pain exacerbated by diminished lung capacity. Working in Dicke’s favor is his peak physical condition. He’s an ultra-runner who recently completed the Leadville Trail 100-mile running race in 30 hours. Doctors were amazed by Dicke’s performance on breathing tests in the hospital, given the extent of his injuries. “Luckily I am pretty strong, and I am probably in the best shape of my life,” Dicke said.
As a self-producer, Dicke has been working tirelessly for months to finance this first-ever Colorado staging of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” including running for 24 hours straight on a treadmill on Denver’s 16th Street Mall to help finance the production. So he was understandably devastated having to cancel the opening weekend of performances. But “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” will have an uncommonly long run for local theater — through Oct. 28 — so he hopes anyone who had tickets this weekend will reschedule.
Dicke has taken heart, and some ribbing — pun intended — from the hundreds of get-well messages that have come his way from all over the country through social media. The most common, in effect: “Please don’t take the title of your show so literally.”
This morning, he responded to well-wishers bt posting: “Seeing all the prayers and love and support here on Facebook and in my texts and from my phone calls has definitely sped up my recovery time. Perhaps it’s time to release some of the ER photos!”
Hey, Dicke still has an expensive production to market.
And he just can’t stand the idea of possibly missing his opening night.
“I’ve been sitting here calculating the hours until Friday and thinking, ‘Well, what will I feel like by Wednesday? …’ and, ‘What will I feel like by Friday? …’ ”
To order tickets or to move reservations, call 303-739-1970. Tickets also can be purchased online at the Aurora Fox’s web site.