Video: My Memoriam Film for the 2013 Henry Awards

By John Moore
July 23, 2013

My video tribute to Ray Angel, Diane Beckoff, Harry Cruzan, Shana Dowdeswell, Diane Gadomski, Robert Garner, Angela Johnson, David Kristin, Will Marshall, Brook Millard, Adam Perkes and Linda Rae Wheeler. This served as the “memoriam” section of the 2013 Henry Awards celebration held July 22 at the Arvada Center.

Thank you to everyone who helped me make this tribute: Jeremy Palmer, Beki Pineda, Randy Weeks, Neal Johnson, Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Bill Wheeler, Lauren Millard, Taylor Millard, Deb Flomberg and Brenda Perkes, mother of Adam Michael Perkes.

If you get a pop-up ad while watching, just click the X in the upper-right corner of the ad, and it will go away.

 

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How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

Video: Coloradans on Broadway salute high-school Bobby G Award Nominees

By John Moore
May 30, 2013

We asked Coloradans on Broadway to send their encouragement and congratulations to the Colorado high-school students attending the first-ever Bobby G Awards on May 30, 2013, at the Seawell Ballroom in the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

Those participating include Annaleigh Ashford, Andy Kelso, Elizabeth Welch, Jesse JP Johnson, Gavin Lodge, Gabriel Ebert, Colin Cunliffe and Joshua Buscher. With a little Melissa Benoist thrown in. Video by John Moore for CultureWest.Org. Run time: 6 minutes.

The Bobby G Awards, named after Denver producer Robert Garner, honor the best in Colorado high-school musical theater. They are part of a national awards program called the Jimmys.

Previous coverage: Announcing the launch of Denver’s Bobby G Awards

Nominees and award recipients: Here’s a complete list of winners and nominees.

Coming soon: More photos from the awards gala.

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Bobby G’s: Denver Center joins national awards program honoring high-school theater

Fairview High School's 2011 production of "All Shook Up."

Fairview High School’s 2011 production of “All Shook Up.”

 

By John Moore
Feb. 26, 2013

Robert Garner

Robert Garner

Denver Center Attractions has embarked on a major, ongoing commitment to honoring the best in Colorado high-school musical theater by joining up with the National High School Musical Theater Awards program based out of New York.

A team of local expert adjudicators is already scouring productions being staged this semester by more than 20 participating public and private high schools in the metro area. The highest score recipients will receive the first-ever Bobby G Awards, named after pioneering local theater producer Robert Garner, who died last year. The parent national awards program is known as “The Jimmys,” after Broadway impresario James M. Nederlander.

The categories will be patterned after Broadway’s Tony Awards, with honors going to best actors, actresses, directors, student designers and many more. The nominees will be announced in early May, and the winners at a gala awards ceremony May 30 that will include performances by all the nominated “best productions.” The students named outstanding actor and actress by the Bobby G’s will then move on to the Jimmys — otherwise known as the NHSMTAs (whew!), a week-long awards program that runs from June 26 through July 2 in New York. In all, more than 50,000 high-school students participate in the national awards program each year.

Denver Center for the Performing Arts president Randy Weeks said the Bobby G’s are a fitting way of honoring Garner, who founded what later became Denver Center Attractions (the Denver Center’s Broadway division).

“Sending two kids to New York for excellence in musical theater?” Weeks said, “I mean, how much would he have loved that?”

Normally, a newly added region must be phased in for one year before its winners advance to nationals. But Denver is being fast-tracked, Weeks said, in part because of the credibility that the Denver Center brings to its regional program. That is thanks in part, Weeks said, to local actor David Cates, who brought the idea to him when he moved here from California. Cates, one half of the “He Said/She Said” local theater critics team, had been a judge in California’s awards program, and proposed its expansion into Colorado via Denver Center Attractions. Weeks since has hired Cates on a contract basis to administer the awards locally.

David Cates

David Cates


“He has direct experience managing one of these programs,” Weeks said, “so he brings us right up to speed with everyone else relatively quickly.”

The launch of the Bobby G’s dovetails nicely with Denver Center Theatre Company artistic director Kent Thompson’s new playwriting program that he is bringing into area high schools. “This is all coming together rather nicely,” Weeks said. “We are doing what we are supposed to be doing: Promoting and exposing the high-school kids to theater.”

The first round of Bobby G adjudicators are made up of a wide variety of professional theater artists, including Weeks himself, as well as acclaimed area actors Nick Sugar, Barbra Andrews, Michael Stricker, Scott Rathbun, Matt LaFontaine and Thadd Krueger; Channel 12 arts host Eden Lane (“In Focus with Eden Lane”); the “He Said/She Said” team of David Cates and Kateri McRae; Northglenn Youth Theatre director Kim Jongejan; and myself (founder of the arts web site CultureWest.Org, former theater critic at The Denver Post and creator of a lamented web site dedicated to all things Colorado high-school theater called “Standing O”).

“With the arts in schools receiving less and less funding, the Bobby G’s can only help encourage those amazing students who are doing the extra work it takes to participate in the performing arts,” said Lane, who wishes there had been a similar program when she was in high school. “In my day, a program like this certainly would have solidified the idea in my mind that this can be more than a hobby — that you can have a career in the performing arts.”

That the new program is being administered by a major regional theater company such as the Denver Center — “and a Tony-winning company at that,” she said, “certainly gives this new program all the credibility it needs.”

A major component of the Bobby G’s program is feedback. Every adjudicator numerically scores each school’s achievement in various categories but also offers detailed, constructive reaction and advice on all aspects of every production, using standards set by the national program, as well as their own professional experience. Participating schools will eventually receive each adjudicator’s comments, praise and constructive criticism — all designed to recognize success and encourage future growth.

“This is serious stuff,” said Weeks.

It is hoped that the Bobby G’s will help counter the decades-old disproportion in attention and value our society has placed on those kids who excel in sports over those who pursue careers in the performing arts.

“That has been an ongoing consideration for decades, but I think things are changing,” Weeks said. “Because of social media, the kids in the drama department have the ability to find their own voices now. The Bobby G’s is just another way of supporting the kids who don’t always get the attention.”

National awards president Van Kaplan said Denver Center Attractions is a welcome addition to the National High School Musical Theater Awards. “As one of the country’s foremost professional theaters, it is uniquely positioned to be a leader in supporting young performers and the outstanding work taking place in high schools in Colorado,” he said.

While this year’s lineup of participating schools is set, interested high schools may apply for future Bobby G Awards consideration by going to www.BobbyGAwards.org. The registration fee is $200 per school. All fees go directly back into funding and growing the program.

 

(Please click below to go to the next page and read more about the national awards.)

Robert Garner given Lifetime Achievement Award at memorial

CultureWest.Org video from the Garner ceremony: Click here

By John Moore

Sept. 8, 2012

Longtime Denver theater producer Robert Garner was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Broadway League of New York at a celebration Saturday honoring Garner, who died July 19.

The award was presented via videotape by Nick Scandalios, chairman of the board for the Broadway League and executive vice president of the Nederlander organization.

“Bob put Denver on the map, making it a must-stop for any tour,” Scandalios said. “And at the same time, he was instrumental in opening up many road markets in the West for Broadway touring.”

He added: “Bob was always plugged into Broadway. In fact, we always used to say, ‘If you wanted to know something about Broadway, call Bob Garner in Denver.’

“My boss, Jimmy Nederlander, always said, ‘You could always count on Bob Garner to be loyal and a friend. And friends in this business are the most important things. You can count them on one hand, and you could do things with a friend on a handshake.’ ”

The afternoon culminated with a tribute from Denver Center president Randy Weeks. “Bob was my Peter Pan,” he said. “He didn’t want to grow up — or he did not want to grow old.”

More coverage:

Here’s my look back at the man for all ages

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Project Angel Heart.

To read several tribute pieces to Bob, click here

Bill Husted, Judi Wolf and Donald Seawell at Saturday’s celebration of the life of theater producer Robert Garner. Photo by John Moore.

 

Public invited to celebrate theater producer Bob Garner on Saturday

Robert Garner with Chuck Morris. “Two old show-biz pals,” Garner wrote on Facebook. Photo via Joanne Davidson, The Denver Post

 

By John Moore for CultureWest

Friends of legendary Denver theater producer Robert Garner know the last thing the tireless bon vivant would probably want is a memorial party on his behalf to be held in a classy ballroom, but … I’m guessing, that will be just the start of a party to celebrate a true Denver original on Saturday, Sept. 8.

You know him, and if you don’t, here’s my look back at the man for all ages, who died July 19, no doubt very much against his will.

The fun begins at  3 p.m. in the Seawell Grand Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, at the corner of 13th and Arapahoe streets.

Being an intrepid reporter, I have interrogated several sources who have confirmed on the condition of complete anonymity that there will be an open bar and hors d’oeuvres for this event.

Anyone and everyone is welcome to attend. You are asked only to RSVP to this page, so that organizers know how much food to get.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Project Angel Heart.

To read several tribute pieces to Bob, click here

I can’t tell from the information I have been given just how long this party is expected to last, but the goal is for it to outlast the Ballroom stage and spill over into some other gathering place in the immediate vicinity. Check back for updates on that vital information.

Denver theater producer Robert Garner was a man for all ages

 

Robert S. Garner

By John Moore

To ask Robert Garner, he was about in his mid-20s.

Garner was a legendary theater producer and bon vivant for whom the Garner-Galleria Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex is named. He died Thursday morning (July 19, 2012) at home, no doubt against his will, at the (chronological) age of 80.

“What’s my secret?” he said in a 2007 Denver Post interview: “Two things: Have a little passion about life – and keep your friends young.

“If you get to be 75, and you act 75, and you are only around people who are 75 … then you become 75.”

Denver Center president Randy Weeks described Garner as an entrepreneur and impresario. “Bob’s influence in Broadway touring theater at the Denver Center and around the country will not be forgotten,” Weeks said.

Garner was born on Oct. 29, 1931, in Massachusetts, and moved to Colorado when his Army dad retired here. The young Garner thought only Indians lived here at the time, he said. He graduated in chemistry from the University of Colorado and began his producing career when a 1961 production of “Fiorello” was basically handed to him – and he cleared $10,000.

Over the next 34 years, Garner booked almost everything that played at the Auditorium Theatre (now the Ellie Caulkins Opera House) and later, the Buell Theatre. He brought in acts as diverse as the Vienna Boys Choir, Marcel Marceau, Hal Holbrook and the African Ballet.

Those were star-system days, when big film names routinely performed on Los Angeles stages as well. Garner hooked up with the comparably sized Ahmanson Theatre there and arranged for the stars to test-run their plays here in Denver before friendlier audiences. That four-year arrangement brought Maggie Smith, Ingrid Bergman, Jack Lemmon, Charlton Heston, Carol Channing, Kate Hepburn and dozens more to Denver.

“That was a real boon to us because we got shows nobody else in the country ever saw,” Garner said.

Ray Roderick, who directed “The Taffetas” at the Garner-Galleria, in 2007, said of Garner: “He’s rubbed shoulders with Carol Channing and Kate Hepburn and all these other stars. He is show business.”

Garner joined forces with Denver Post publisher Donald R. Seawell in 1970 as Seawell began building the Denver Performing Arts Complex around the Auditorium Theatre.

“Don called me very early on and asked me to head up his Broadway division,” Garner said. “He was editor of The Post at the time and he had a lot of power, so you knew he was going to do it with or without you. So I thought, ‘What’s the point of being on my own fighting this big arts center when I can throw my weight into it, too? So that’s what I did.”

The only time Garner ever appeared on stage himself was in the ensemble of “Kiss Me, Kate,” a production that starred Marilyn Van Derbur at the old Bonfils Theatre. That was 1959, a year after Van Derbur was crowned Miss America.

“I never, ever had any desire to be on the stage,” he said. “I always wanted to be just  what I was, which was a producer.

Garner retired in 1985, before the theater that now bears his name was opened and independently operated by Rick Seeber as StageWest. A dozen years later, the Denver Center was running the now-Galleria Theater and renamed it for Garner in tribute to his career.

“I always wanted my name up in lights, but I never really thought it would happen,” Garner said.

In 2007, Roderick rallied Garner to participate in his staging of “The Taffetas” in the Garner-Galleria. In the lighthearted 1950s musical, Garner appeared in taped segments as the host of an Indiana  televised musical variety show.

Jenny Schiavone, now director of media relations for Denver International Airport, went to work for the Denver Center when she was 18. “I really found a family there in that group of people, and Bob was patriarch of that found family,” she said. “He loved the opening nights, the cast parties, and he was responsible for a lot of great, fun times.”

Garner grew up in the era of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Frankie Laine, but he loved whatever was new.

“My whole career was about passion.,” he said. “It’s true of anybody who wants to be successful: If you don’t have passion for anything, you have nothing.”

Garner served as an honorary DCTC trustee until his death. He is survived by a sister.

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts will host a celebration of Garner’s life at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Seawell Grand Ballroom, 1011 13th St. The event is open to the public but your RSVP is requested at http://www.rememberingbobgarner.com/content/home.html

Note: Garner’s quotes above come from an interview conducted by John Moore in 2007 for a story in The Denver Post. 

 

Jason Henning played Robert Garner in a Curious Theatre tribute to Garner’s career in 2007. Photo by Michael Ensminger.