Bonus coverage: See my full photo gallery from my night at Heritage Square Music Hall’s “One Enchanted Evening,” part of my ongoing photo series, “It’s Opening Night in Colorado 2013.”
By John Moore
Feb. 14, 2013
There’s a reason the venerable Heritage Square Music Hall will finish the year with the poignantly titled, “Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night.”
That holiday production will be the Music Hall’s last, ending a 25-year era of providing family friendly, blue-collar and often outrageously silly musical and comedy entertainment out of a classic Victorian theater nestled in the Heritage Square amusement park and shopping village in Golden.
Connie Helsley, who co-owns the business but rents her theater space from Martin Marietta Materials, cited the economy, location and an aging demographic among the many factors for the decision to shutter the business on Dec. 31. The closure will leave the Denver metro area with only two regular dinner theaters — Boulder’s Dinner Theatre and the Adams Mystery Playhouse.
“It’s just too tough,” said Helsley. “We’re hoping for a full year of seeing a lot of returning customers. But if you want to see us, you have to come and see us now.”
The Music Hall is located at 18301 W. Colfax Ave., just west of I-70.
Helsley estimates that audiences and revenue have fallen 40 percent over the past three years. In its heyday in the mid-’90s, the Music Hall would draw upward of 40,000 people a year. Last year, Helsley estimates attendance was about 18,000.
“I think we offered the best family entertainment in town; the best value for the money in town; and we were the most involved with our customers,” said Helsley. “But they are getting older; we are hard to get to; and we’re located on a steep incline. We’re just not in people’s line of sight anymore.”
Popular veteran actor T.J. Mullin, the face of the company on-stage and the vice-president and co-owner of the company off-stage, opened the Music Hall on June 1, 1988. Previously the theater had operated as the Heritage Square Opera House, traditional melodrama entertainment run by William Oakley. While never fully abandoning that dying art form, Mullin opened up the theater fare to include comic adaptations of classic tales, while ushering in a wildly popular era of pop-musical spoofs called the “Loud” series.
“There is a great amount of sadness,” said Mullin. “I don’t know what I will do if I’m not performing.” At the same time, though, this will be Mullin’s 40th year on area stages. “I am going to be 65 this summer,” he said, and some things aren’t coming as easily.” (Here is our report from Mullin’s 60th birthday celebration in 2008: : “The Loudest Quiet Man on Colorado stages”).
The Music Hall offered among the most consistent year-round entertainment in all of Colorado theater. Regulars Mullin, Alex Crawford, N. Randall Johnson, Rory Pierce, Johnette Toye and comedian extraordinare Annie Dwyer have more than 140 performing years among them on the tiny Heritage Square stage. That’s 140 years of singing, dancing, silly vaudevillian bits … and thousands of bald heads embossed with Dwyer’s lipstick. Performing alumni include Oscar-winning actor Amy Adams.
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