Terry Rhoads, “Denver’s leading man,” dies at 61

Beth Malone as Ado Annie and Terry Rhoads as Ali Hakim in “Oklahoma” at the Country Dinner Playhouse.

Beth Malone as Ado Annie and Terry Rhoads as Ali Hakim in “Oklahoma” at the Country Dinner Playhouse.

By John Moore

25092_1355062070216_3439262_nTerry Rhoads may have moved on from Denver years ago, but his impact on Colorado theater was enduring.

Rhoads played the leading man at dozens of Country Dinner Playhouse shows. He was the undisputed star for much of producer Bill McHale’s heyday in the 1980s before moving on to a significant career in TV, music, film and commercials in California. Last year, he appeared in the Anthony Hopkins film “Hitchcock,” as Jack Russell.

Rhoads died yesterday of amyloidosis, a rare disease of unknown cause. It occurs when an abnormal protein produced by cells in your bone marrow builds up in your organs and tissue. He was 61.

His wife, actor Lise Simms, is telling friends that Rhoads’ transition was beautiful, “and to celebrate his life.” They lived together in Encino, Calif.

“We lost an amazing talent and spirit today,” said fellow Country Dinner Playhouse actor Patty Holland-Trout.

Rhoads started with Bill Oakley’s melodrama ensemble at the former Heritage Square Opera House and came to the Country Dinner Playhouse as a Barnstormer — the actor-waiters who performed the musical pre-show. He starred in shows like “Fiddler on the Roof” and dozens more. He also starred in shows at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre.

Terry played the leading role in the short-lived sitcom “Living in Captivity” and was the host of HGTV’s “Desperate Spaces.” He appeared in TV shows including “Murphy Brown,” “Seinfeld,” “Party of Five,” “7th Heaven,” “The Norm Show,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “Friends” “Yes, Dear,” “3rd Rock from the Sun,” “Ally McBeal,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Navy NCIS,” “Phil of the Future,” “House M.D.,” “What I Like About You,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Hannah Montana,” “Bones” and others.

Rhoads made a career of playing supporting roles in California, but here he was Denver’s leading man.

“Even when he had a small role, like when he played Sonny in ‘Grease,’ he made it big,” said fellow actor Brian Smith, who remembers Rhoads as a devoted Broncos fan who was so nervous during games that he could never sit down.

“He was the only actor I know who Bill McHale ever let ad lib,” Smith said, “because he knew he could control it.”

Lise Simms and Terry Rhoads returned to Colorado in 2008 for a Country Dinner Playhouse reunion. Photo by John Moore.

Lise Simms and Terry Rhoads returned to Colorado in 2008 or a Country Dinner Playhouse reunion. Photo by John Moore.

Rhoads was born Dec. 31, 1951, in Phoenix and graduated from Central High School in Scottsdale. He is the father of a son, Tony, and daughter, Sarah.

Smith remembers among Rhoads’ many highlights was starring in “They’re Playing Our Song,” opposite his wife, and as Ali Hakim in “Oklahoma.”

“But he was amazing in ‘Me and My Girl,’ ” Smith said. “It just became a one-man show show. He was hilarious one moment and tearing your heart out the next. Everything he did was perfect.”

Last year, Rhoads appeared on an episode of the TV Series “Better with You,” and appeared in seven episodes of “Better Off Ted” (as Chet). He released a CD of songs titled “Lean.”

Rhoads returned to Colorado in 2008 to join more than 170 former actors, artisans and loyal customers of the Country Dinner Playhouse. Attendees came all the way from Spain for an emotional reunion that spanned all 37 years of the barn’s storied history.


Rhoads’ Expedia commercial

 

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Terry Rhoads, Linda Suttle and Marcus Waterman at the Country Dinner Playhouse reunion in 2008. Photo by John Moore.

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“Glee” fans: Meet Melissa Benoist in photos, video

Patric Case and Melissa Benoist in Town Hall Arts Center’s “Footloose, the Musical,” in Littleton, Colo. Photo provided by Town Hall Arts Center.

 

By John Moore

Hey, “Glee” fans: The first episode of Season 4, airing Sept. 13, is titled, “The New Rachel Berry” … and the new Rachel Berry is named Marley … and she will be played by Arapahoe High School grad Melissa Benoist of Littleton, Colo.

Look for our exclusive interview with Melissa in  the Sept. 9 Denver Post. Yes, she has already been Slushied. And yes, she opens Season 4 singing a cross-country duet with Lea Michele to Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” Read more then.

Meanwhile, enjoy this look back at Melissa’s theatrical roots in the Denver metro area:

(And here’s our Denver Post feature naming Melissa one of Colorado’s “Can’t Miss Kids … in 2006!)

The Denver’s Post’s 2006 “Can’t Miss Kids,” from left: Max Posner, Noah Wilson, Akil LuQman, Melissa Benoist and Courtney Lorenz. (Photo by Lyn Alweis / The Denver Post)

 

Melissa Benoist, second from top right, as Brigitta with Annaleigh Ashford  (Liesl) in the Country Dinner Playhouse’s 2000 staging of “The Sound of Music.” Swanson is now in off-Broadway’s “Dogfight.” In front of them, Jesse Johnson is now in Broadway’s “Wicked,” and, far left, Christopher Sergeeff is in the national touring production of “Mamma Mia.”

Melissa Benoist as Kim MacAfee in the Town Hall Arts Center’s “Bye Bye Birdie,” with Jerry Cunningham, in Littleton, Colo. Photo by Brian Miller, provided by Town Hall Arts Center.  

 

 

On the day the Country Dinner Playhouse abruptly closed its doors in 2007, the cast of “Evita,” including Melissa Benoist (“Another Suitcase in Another Hall”) and Patric Case, gave one final performance of “Evita” in the rainy parking lot. (This was actually the pre-show medley promoting “Seven Brides,” which would have been the next show at the Playhouse.) Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post.


 

Melissa Benoist, top right with Markus Warren and the cast of the Country Dinner Playhouse’s “Evita” in 2007.

 

Melissa Benoist in the title role of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” at the Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton, Colo. Photo provided by Town Hall Arts Center.


Melissa Benoist in the title role of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” with Seth Caikowski as the Prince, at the Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton, Colo. Photo provided by Town Hall Arts Center.

 

Melissa Benoist as Kim MacAfee in the Town Hall Arts Center’s “Bye Bye Birdie”  in Littleton, Colo. Photo by Brian Miller, provided by Town Hall Arts Center.

 

Melissa Benoist as Kim MacAfee in the Town Hall Arts Center’s “Bye Bye Birdie” in Littleton, Colo. Photo by Brian Miller, provided by Town Hall Arts Center.

 

Melissa Benoist as Bebe in the Town Hall Arts Center’s “A Chorus Line” in Littleton, Colo. Photo by Brian Miller, provided by Town Hall Arts Center.

 

Melissa Benoist as Bebe in the Town Hall Arts Center’s “A Chorus Line” in Littleton, Colo. Photo by Brian Miller, provided by Town Hall Arts Center.

Melissa Benoist, 2006. Photo by Lyn Alweis, The Denver Post.