Colorado’s mountain towns might be small, but several of them pack a big punch when it comes to fine arts. Operas, musicals and first-run shows are all artfully enacted on many small-town stages. Check out these time-tested performance centers in Colorado's high country to raise the curtain on big stars.
The Creede Repertory Theatre has been quietly building a profound reputation. From its humble beginnings in 1966, when the first ensemble was directed by a 19-year-old student from the University of Kansas, to today’s rotating schedule of various theatrical events, the Creede theater has inspired patrons and actors alike. Keeping up a well-stocked schedule of contemporary and classical theater requires dedicated, diligent and capable actors and actresses — an asset the theater has never been without since opening its doors with “Mr. Roberts,” “The Bat,” “Our Town,” “The Rainmaker” and “Born Yesterday” all within the same month. Today, the theater still features a robust program that changes monthly.
The 1878 sandstone Central City Opera House, constructed by hard-rock miners from Wales and Cornwall, reflects the harmonious appearance of the surrounding terrain. The ornate stone masonry and fine woodwork are reminiscent of a time when aesthetic details were emphasized. As a fully functioning performing arts venue, the Central City Opera House is more than just a historic landmark. Not only has the Central City Opera Association received awards for its preservation efforts, but the opera house is also the oldest running theater in the Rocky Mountain region. Patrons will be amazed at the sustained sound quality during today’s operatic performances, as well as the caliber of internationally known directors, performers and conductors.
The historic Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School & Camp, founded in 1913 in Steamboat Springs, is recognized as the oldest continuously operated organization of its kind in the nation. In 1995, the historic significance of this site was officially noted when it was included on the National Register of Historic Places. Since the camp’s creation, a distinguished collection of actors and dancers have passed through its doors, including Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Biel. At the end of every summer, the aspiring actors who’ve taken part that season stage a camp-closing performance and invite the general public to attend.
Horace Tabor was one of the state’s richest silver barons, and his taste for opulence is best reflected in the Tabor Opera House built in Leadville in 1879 — an endeavor to bring high culture to the otherwise rough-and-tumble mountain town. The magnificent venue is open in the summer, and visitors may take a formal tour up the grand staircase, onto the stage and even into the dressing rooms. Recently the theater has hosted an exciting summer season, and it will occasionally open its doors to a performance during other times of the year.
Since the 1960s, this professional theater company in the heart of Grand Lake has been presenting Broadway musicals and showcasing top young talent. Located on the westernmost border of Rocky Mountain National Park, Rocky Mountain Rep recently opened a brand new theater complex, treating visitors to soaring musicals with award-winning production values and modern audience comforts. With a growing list of Broadway alums, the theater packs the house in the summer and fall seasons.
Relatively young as far as many of these theaters go, the Southern Colorado Rep stands up with the best of them after more than a decade of quality live theater in Trinidad. Performances are held at the Massari Theatre for the Performing Arts and other venues in town. During the summer, the professional company, drawn from performers around the nation, showcases plays like "On Golden Pond" and "They're Playing Our Song." During the fall and winter, the Community Repertory Theatre produces original works, many of which tell of the area's storied pioneer past.
Photo: Central City Opera House.