My night at the Town Hall Arts Center’s teen “Grease”

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By John Moore
July 16, 2013

Opening No. 93: Town Hall Arts Center’s teen “Grease”: Robert Michael Sanders is the MacGuyver of the Colorado theater community. Not even three months after a botched routine shoulder surgery left his arms and fingers partially paralyzed, the actor, musician, set builder and all-around good guy directed the Town Hall Arts Center’s teen “Grease” that opened Juy 12 in Littleton. Sanders has made both progress both incremental and monumental in his slow but determined recovery, which has included an intense program at the Craig Rehabilitation Center. What he can’t make his fingers do, he uses gadgets to find other ways to do things. On opening night he not only tied his own tie (it took eight minutes) — he drove himself to the theater (after being certified by his medical team and the local Department of Motor Vehicles). He admitted to his opening-night audience that “Grease” … “is a terrible story with a terrible moral,” but it has good music, and audiences still enjoy it. His is a 70-minute, family friendly version with choreography by the lovely Shannan Steele. It performs again at 7 p.m. July 19 and 20, and also at 10 a.m. July 17-18. It stars Amanda Staab as Sandy, Lenny Gilbertson as Danny, and … let’s just say several dozen others. (Keep an eye out for young Devon Erickson, who sings a pretty spot-on “Those Magic Changes” as Doody.) Tickets $5. At 2450 W. Main St., Littleton, 303-794-2787 or town hall’s home page. Thanks Ellen Shamas-Brandt, Seth Maisel, cast and crew.


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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):

Photos: My night at Cherry Creek Theatre’s ‘Baby’

Because “Baby” is being staged in the Shaver-Ramsey Showroom — a fine carpet store —
the entire set must be assembled, taken down stored in a parking-lot pod and assembled again — for every performance.

By John Moore
June 5, 2013

Welcome to my ongoing, 2013 labor-of-love photo series bringing you iconic snapshots from behind the scenes on opening nights in Colorado theater. All photos by John Moore copyright 2013 for www.CultureWest.Org.

Opening No. 75: Cherry Creek Theatre Company’s “Baby, the Musical”: “Baby, running through June 23, is a 1983 musical about impending parenthood as told through three couples dealing with the potential consequences of this most universal experience. There are two college students (Emily Luhrs and Drew Hirschboeck), two thirtysomethings having trouble conceiving (Shannan Steele and Scott Severtson) and two middle-aged parents (Brian Walker-Smith and Megan Van De Hey) who thought their diaper-changing days were over. Director Pat Payne has assembled a big-name cast including five Equity (union) actors. Also featuring Jona Alonzo, Ben Dicke, Lisa Finnerty and Parker Redford. I’m not saying staging this musical about love could get a little confusing backstage but, in real-life, Luhrs is sweet on Dicke; Severtson just became a dad again, Van De Hey is partial to assistant stage manager Robert Michael Sanders; and while Steele plays a woman desperate to become pregnant, she is expecting her second child. Oh, baby! Showtimes 7:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 6:30 p.m. Sundays at Parker Redford at the Shaver-Ramsey Showroom, 2414 E. 3rd Ave., 303-800-6578 or Cherry Creek Theatre’s home page. Thanks to Amy Brosius, Gloria Shanstrom, Richard H. Pegg, Mark Rossman and Maxine Rossman.

The following gallery is just one chapter in my ongoing photo series called “It’s Opening Night in Colorado Theatre,” bringing you iconic snapshots from behind the scenes all over Colorado theater. All photos by John Moore for www.CultureWest.Org. To see the actual, official photo series featuring one intimate, iconic snapshot from 76 Colorado opening nights (and counting), click here.

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Parker Redford gets a backrub from Emily Ann Luhrs, who gets a backrub from Drew Hirschboeck, backstage on opening night. Backstage, in this case, is really a downstage storage room at the Shaver-Ramsey Showroom. (Yes, the actual rug store).


The Shaver-Ramsey Showroom.


Production designer Richard H. Pegg installs the stage for opening night.


Megan Van De Hey helps prepare pregnant castmate Shannan Steele for a backstage photo shoot: Steele was featured in my blog celebrating the women of the Colorado theater community — all wearing my sunglasses.


The finished portrait!


Brian Walker-Smith is in the house.


Emily Ann Luhrs with her castmate and real-life boyfriend, Ben Dicke, an actor and ultra-runner who would run a 50K race the morning after this performance. Dicke plays several support characters in the ensemble, including a lugubrious and oblivious reproductive specialist.


(Please click “Page 2” below to go to the next page of our photos from our visit to “Baby.”

Fund to aid actor Robert Michael Sanders launches like a rocket

Robert Michael Sanders and Megan Van De Hey. Photo by Ellen Kaye. Below right, Sanders appears in the Denver Center’s “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” with Shannan Steele, Daniel Langhoff and Lauren Shealy. Photo by Terry Shapiro.


By John Moore
May 2, 2013

6792877560_26c062290a_b A modest effort by friends of a hospitalized Denver actor got off to anything but to a modest start tonight.

Sanders, who has at least temporarily lost much of his hand and arm coordination after a botched surgery at Denver Health Medical Center last week, has been transferred to Craig Rehabilitation Center.

Tonight, friends launched a fundraising page to help Sanders and his girlfriend, Megan Van De Hey, with the sudden emotional, physical and financial toll of the incident. The page, spearheaded by Van De Hey’s recent “Always … Patsy Cline” castmate Carla Kaiser Kotrc and fellow actor Deborah Persoff, raised $2,485 toward a $5,000 goal in its first four hours online. The effort was boosted by a $1,000 anonymous pledge.

On April 24, Sanders underwent what was expected to be routine, outpatient rotator-cuff surgery. But it was believed he was given too much anesthesia, causing his blood pressure to drop during surgery, which otherwise went according to plan. It was only determined later, after Sanders could barely move his neck — and his arms and hands not at all — that something had gone wrong. After a quick investigation, Sanders was told by doctors that when his blood pressure fell, the three discs of his spine that control hand and some arm movement were temporarily deprived of oxygen. The impact of the oxygen deprivation is the equivalent of a skeletal stroke, he was told. But whether his spine was permanently damaged, or will slowly come back to full or partial function, is anyone’s guess. Doctors say it is too early to tell whether Sanders will one day recover the full use of his hands, if his present condition is his new reality, or if his fate lies somewhere in between. Sanders was moved to Craig on Tuesday for extended-care physical therapy.

Here’s how Sanders’ situation is being presented on his care page:

Imagine being an actor, guitarist, teacher and construction worker and not being able to make your hands do what they are supposed to do. Robert is the kind of person you go to for help, not the other way around. But until he regains use of his hands, we will be his helping hands. Robert has hundreds of friends asking, “What can I do to help?” This would be one wonderful way to do that. Thank you for your continued love and generosity!”

Sanders just appeared as Pedro in the Arvada Center’s “The Man of La Mancha.” Next he is slated to stage manage Cherry Creek Theatre Company’s “Baby” (featuring Van De Hey), followed by directing jobs with both the Town Hall Arts Center and Aurora Fox’s youth children’s theater programs. He played Fezziwig in the Aurora Fox’s “A Christmas Carol” and was a featured player in the Denver Center’s recent revival of its biggest hit, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” He is also well-known for his work building stages, including the Galleria Theatre’s current “The Doyle & Debbie Show.” Other acting credits include playing Caldwell B. Cladwell in a Denver production of “Urinetown,” and in the ensemble of “Almost Maine” at the Aurora Fox.

Sanders is also an accomplished singer and guitarist, having released the album “Feel It Coming,” under the name of Robert Michael, in 2007. He has been singing, playing guitar and writing songs for more than 20 years, winning multiple songwriting awards. His style is described as fusing rock, blues, country, funk, pop, easy listening and even hair metal.

Photo by John Moore