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Broadway Has Lessons for Local Artists

By David Goe

Last Sunday, I was in the Mile High City catching a matinee showing of “The Book of Mormon.”

I’m not usually a song and dance kind of guy, but every once in a while I can get down with a little Broadway. This is especially true when said material is profanity-riddled satire from Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, the genius behind “Avenue Q,” my all-time favorite musical involving simulated puppet sex, Gary Coleman and Absinthe Daiquiris.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to break down scene-by-scene “The Book of Mormon” for you (although exploring the Spooky Mormon Hell Dream would be quite fun). Instead, I’m offering up my take-aways after seeing a truly professional production.

Unfortunately, it had been too long since I had gone to a top-notch show, musical or concert. I had forgotten how much I miss a show. I’m talking about the entire production from stage plotting, lighting and musicianship to the pure skill of a performer to capture and hold an audience.

Finding this total package at a Grand Junction show of any kind is rare. Living here, it’s easy to forget what a great performance looks like and, as a result, it becomes even easier to accept mediocrity. That’s part of the curse of living in Grand Junction, where the entertainment production generally grades out as a B, as in “barely adequate.”

We occasionally are treated to high-end entertainment such as Chris Isaac or the spectacle that is Gwar, but more often than not one if not more of the essential elements of showmanship are missing.

I understand it is unrealistic to expect a nationally touring production such as “The Book of Mormon” to stop in Grand Junction, but that shouldn’t stop us from taking note of what they do well and replicating it here.

I, we, want to be entertained.

On a local level, there are a number of people raising the bar on showmanship and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they also are the most popular performers in the area.

Take a band such as the Shift, which clearly puts in extra effort into make its live shows more dynamic. The Shift nails it on musicianship, sound quality and stage presence, and fans love it.

Another young crew, Starship Romance, is unmatched in stage lighting and entertainment value. Its light shows alone are reminiscent of scenes from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and worthy of its chosen moniker.

You can’t talk about light production and not mention Lucid Visions Video. Anyone who was at Zombie Prom last week knows what lengths Lucid goes to make sure the stage plotting and lighting are top notch. Hands down Lucid is the best in the biz, and I for one am most appreciative of its talents and what it has done to improve the quality of shows in Grand Junction.

In terms of pure entertainment, look no further than Bronco Country. Lead singer Matt Zurek is a character study in the art of the front man. Nobody is more ridiculous, more audacious and more entertaining than Zurek. It is can’t-miss theater as you eagerly wait to see what he is going to do next.

Thankfully, these groups are self-aware and recognize the importance of putting on a good show.

The thing about performing in Grand Junction, though, is anyone can gig but nobody offers a truly accurate critique of the performance. This presents a problem, as there is basically zero accountability and motivation to get better.

I see performance potential in this town, but fear that lack of accountability will continue to hold us back. Asking for more showmanship isn’t an unreasonable request.

If we can look to our peers and idols for inspiration and incorporate even a few new ideas into productions, the entertainment value will improve drastically in Grand Junction.

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