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


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

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By John Moore

Award-winning arts journalist John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the United States by American Theatre Magazine during has 12 years at The Denver Post. Hen then created a groundbreaking new media outlet covering Colorado arts an culture as an in-house, multimedia journalist for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. He also founded The Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that has raised more than $600,000 for theatre artists in medical need. He is now a journalist for hire as the founder of Moore Media Colorado. You can find samples of his work at MooreJohn.Com. Contact him at culturewestjohn@gmail.com