La Comedia Dinner Theatre’s 2019 season opens with the nostalgic 2005 off-Broadway musical revue “Almost Heaven: Songs of John Denver” through Feb. 17 in Springboro.
Conceived by Harold Thau and written and adapted by Peter Glazer, “Almost Heaven” is a loving, touching and intimate tribute to the legendary 1970s singer/songwriter who tragically passed away in 1997 at age 53 in a plane crash. As nearly 30 timeless country/folk classics arise such as “Rocky Mountain High,” “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy!” “Calypso,” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” multimedia notably accents the story to invite a deeper connection into Denver’s life and career.
“This show is kind of like an autobiography,” said director/choreographer Chris Beiser, who also stars and co-narrates the show. “We showcase pictures of John’s family, his concerts, his airplane, and his beautiful home in Aspen. We’ve also inserted historical photos of what was going on in America at the time his songs were written. He wrote during a very challenging time in this country’s history. His songs, his lyrics, are so strongly felt from within. His songs, which have always had a soothing quality, speak as strongly today as they did decades ago.”
In addition to Beiser, appearing on the La Comedia stage for the first time since portraying Floyd Spinner in 2016’s “Love, Sex and the IRS,” the cast includes returning La Comedia performers Hannah Brown (Shelby in 2017’s “Steel Magnolias”), Digger Howard (Roger in 2016’s “Grease”), Chris Kramer (seen throughout 2018 as General Waverly in “White Christmas,” Professor Plum in “Clue: The Musical” and Boolie in “Driving Miss Daisy”), Tonya Oslack (Rhoda in the aforementioned “White Christmas”) and Christen Placa (seen in 2018’s “Annie” and 2017’s “Sister Act” and “Mamma Mia!” among others).
“I’ve staged the show with a casual sense of people gathering around a campfire or a picnic shelter,” Beiser added.
The production team includes music director Sue Combs, scenic designer Ivory Mazur, lighting designer Timothy A. Guth, and costumers Emercita Erb and Anna Reed.
2019 specifically marks the 25th season of the Adkins family owning La Comedia. The family is excited to embark on what is expected to be a standout season featuring family-friendly titles such as “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Newsies,” “Shrek The Musical” and “Elf The Musical.”
“It has been our pleasure serving and entertaining you, and with your continued support we hope to continue creating memories for many more years to come,” said producer Joe Adkins. “Since taking ownership in 1995 we’ve made many changes and improvements to the facilities and the operation. One thing that remains consistent is our desire to provide a unique, high-quality dining and entertainment experience unlike anything else in the area.”
The Grammy and Emmy Award-winning Denver, inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1996, sold over 33 million records worldwide. Beiser hopes audiences enjoy the opportunity to reflect on his tuneful legacy.
“I’m sure many people are aware of John Denver, but for those unaware this show is a great chance to get to know him better,” he said. “In the meet-and-greet line after the show, we’ve heard some people say how excited they will be to find their John Denver albums at home and hear his music again. This show is rekindling an old friendship and also introducing others to his music.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Almost Heaven: Songs of John Denver”
Where: La Comedia Dinner Theatre, 765 W. Central Ave., Springboro When: Through Feb. 17; Evening performances (arrival times: 5:30-6 p.m.) and matinees (10:30-11 a.m.)
Tickets: Call (937) 746-4554 or 1-800-677-9505 or visit lacomedia.com