See ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and Holiday Follies variety show this December |

See ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and Holiday Follies variety show this December

Breckenridge Backstage Theatre and Lake Dillon Theater Co. productions spread seasonal cheer

Jacob Dresch, right, plays George Bailey in Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” The show runs through Dec. 30.
Curtis DeVore/Breckenridge Backstage Theatre

Bring out the snow machines, tinsel and Christmas lights. Both Breckenridge Backstage Theatre and Lake Dillon Theatre Co. are spending the wintry season with shows centered on holiday themes and values.

Backstage Theatre is currently in the midst of an “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” production. Written by Joe Landry, the play is an adaptation of the classic James Stewart film, which in turn is a version of “The Greatest Gift,” a short story based on “A Christmas Carol.”

The ensemble reenacts the tale of George Bailey, a disheartened man who considers suicide until an angel shows what life would be like if he wasn’t around. However, it isn’t a one-to-one reproduction of the film.

Rather, the real-life actors are portraying a cast of six fictional actors preparing to present the story in front of a live studio audience at a radio station Dec. 24, 1946. Director Mark Ragan said the style gives the play an intimate and homey feel. It makes it relatively simple to put on, which helped since the cast only started rehearsing Nov. 30 before the Dec. 9 premiere.

“It’s probably one of the more satisfying plays produced around Christmas,” Ragan said. “The story is just so magical.”

The Gilpin County resident suggested the play two years ago before the coronavirus pandemic. He had just finished playing Scrooge in Backstage Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” and fell in love with the town.

“I thought Breckenridge was the perfect place to do it because, at Christmas time, it kind of looks like a billionaire’s Bedford Falls,” he said. “It’s got that beautiful Main Street.”

If you go

What: ‘It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play’

When: Now through Dec. 30

Where: Breckenridge Theater, 121 S. Ridge St., Breckenridge

Cost: Tickets range from $15-$17 for children and $25-$42 for adults. Visit to purchase.

Ragan also plays the studio’s announcer. Joining him are Lauren Dennis as Violet, Jacob Dresch as George Bailey, Seth Palmer Harris as Clarence, Kate Parkin as Mary Bailey and Chip Smith as Mr. Potter. Dennis, Palmer Harris, Ragan and Smith also perform in the ensemble, while high schooler Riley Goossen is the Foley operator that makes sound effects for the radio broadcast.

Much of the cast is Colorado Shakespeare Festival alumni. Ragan performed in “The Odyssey” over the summer and invited people such as Dresch, Dennis and Palmer Harris for “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

It is the second time Dresch has performed the part of George Bailey in Landry’s play. The Pennsylvania native first stepped into Bailey’s shoes around 10 years ago during his undergraduate studies at DeSales University.

“The pre-show is so much lovelier in terms of actually creating the environment of a live, New York, late 1940s radio studio,” Dresch said. “We’ve added great standard songs among the cast. We draw the audience in even more, in addition to the beautiful set that we have.”

The cast of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” performs. The Breckenridge Backstage Theatre production is directed by Mark Ragan.
Curtis DeVore/Breckenridge Backstage Theatre

Ragan said he got permission from Landry to spiff up the interactive atmosphere and conceit of the show. The audience comes into the theater like they’re stepping off the street and into a radio station lobby, complete with “on air” signs and vintage memorabilia. The actors accidentally come in early, and pass the time warming up the audience with 1940s songs and complimentary Champagne.

Dresch is excited to be doing the play once more, not only to honor a nostalgic tale, but also to tell a feel-good story of perseverance and hope. For him, it’s about the values that help people get through hard times.

“There’s nothing like sharing a story communally with a live audience,” Dresch said. “That’s something I’ve been reminded of with the big break we had in the pandemic. There’s nothing quite like gathering together again, especially with this story, which is just a wonderful alternative to ‘A Christmas Carol.’”

Holiday Follies runs through Dec. 24. The show was choreographed by Josh Walden.
Chris Alleman/Lake Dillon Theatre Co.

Across the county, Lake Dillon Theatre Co. is putting on its annual Holiday Follies variety show. While it has become a Christmastime tradition, this year’s production is anything but traditional.

The 2020 iteration was a virtual show that had the performers individually send in their segment for an edited compilation that was broadcast for free. The company went big this year with an eight-piece band, 11 performers and a run time of 145 minutes, including an intermission, to welcome patrons back to the theater.

“This is like a full-blown musical,” Artistic Director Chris Alleman said. “The show itself has about 36 to 40 songs in it. It’s huge.”

Alleman creates the show every year and started compiling the setlist in July before narrowing it down for orchestration. The audience will hear classics like “Joy to the World,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Frosty the Snowman,” yet titles might not sound like what listeners expect. For instance, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” has been turned into a ballad.

“Our ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ doesn’t sound like a church choir; it actually has this very rhythmic, African feel to it,” Alleman said.

There are also wintry songs like Michael Bublé’s “Cold December Night” and Matt Wertz’s “Snow Globe” as well as Hanukkah songs.

“We really run the gamut of everything that we do,” Alleman said. “Each song has its own story that is being told. You come to the show, and you get 38 different stories, and each of them affects people in very different ways.”

If you go

What: Holiday Follies

When: Now through Dec. 23

Where: Silverthorne Performing Arts Center’s CVA Flex Theater, 460 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne

Cost: Tickets start at $36.50 for adults and $24.50 for students. Visit to purchase.

One of the people making the music come to life is choreographer Josh Walden, who worked on over 18 of the segments. Walden was the associate director and associate choreographer for the 2009 Tony-nominated Broadway revival of “Ragtime” and recently choreographed an episode of the Disney+ series “Encore.”

A choreographer since he was 12, Walden likes how the holiday revue doesn’t have a narrative, allowing him more freedom within a song to explore movement. However, he still aims to give the choreography purpose, rather than make numbers for the sake of it.

“I think what’s exciting about the review is you have so many opportunities to have these mini moments that aren’t tied to anything,” Walden said. “They can just exist on their own. There is a lot of freedom and a lot of creativity that can come from having that kind of structure. … I was really proud that I was able to make every number feel special and unique and independent from the others.”

Some of his favorite moments are the songs that have the entire company out on stage, like “What Christmas Means to Me” and “Underneath the Tree.” The end of the second act finishes with “Bring Me Love,” which has callbacks to the previous songs as a dance medley.

In between the songs are games, jokes and more. There is a section with holiday trivia where teams compete for candy, holiday socks, mugs and other prizes.

“It’s a great way to celebrate all things that are good about the month of December when there are so many things that aren’t so good surrounding us,” Alleman said.

Being held at the end of the year, the revue is also a time of reflection. Patrons were asked to send in information on loved one who died in the past two years for the show’s in memoriam section.

“The holidays isn’t always happy for everyone, because someone may no longer be with you that was there before, so we want people to remember that and have some grace with each other,” Alleman said.

Masks and proof of vaccination are required at both venues for either production.

Lake Dillon Theatre Co.’s annual Holiday Follies show returns after last year’s virtual format. The revue features jokes, games and plenty of seasonal tunes.
Chris Alleman/Lake Dillon Theatre Co.

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