Most of us Coloradans were born elsewhere (or at least, so it seems these days). In our state of transplants, a new musical by the Local Theater Company raises the question—with about 70 minutes of macabre guitar- and violin-laden song—who belongs here?
Discount Ghost Stories: A Colorado Folklore Concert debuts Thursday, June 13 at the Trident Booksellers and Cafe in Boulder. The musical digs into glossed-over stories of our state’s unsung heroes, like the lovesick, English-born Silver Plume miner Clifford Griffin (Erik Fellenstein), who shot himself more than 100 years ago on a jagged Rocky Mountain ledge; and Clara Brown (Faith Angelise Goins-Simmons), a freed slave who bootstrapped a successful business in then bustling Central City, all while searching for her long-lost daughter, who had been sold into bondage separately from her.
“There’s a myth of the west as ‘opportunity for all,’” says the play’s co-writer Pesha Rudnick. “But what does that actually mean? If it’s an opportunity for all, who pays the price?… The idea is to look at American history right now with honest eyes.”
The show takes place on the Trident’s back patio, where a stage occupies the west end of the space and a bar (yes, grab a beer before the show) flanks the east edge. It commences as the audience mingles and sips; an actor/usher bellowing for last call and promptly begins to harass a lone audience member with a guitar slung around her shoulder (it’s ok, she’s an actor, too). The play then roars into speed with its opening number, a full-cast, musical introduction to the play’s premise—the harassed audience member, Gemma (Jenna Moll Reyes), presumably a wayward, teenage transient, is inexplicably spending her evening singing songs with deceased Coloradans, learning the stories of their lives (and deaths).
Discount Ghost Stories oscillates between dramatized history, an overdone drama of the show’s protagonist, Gemma, and much needed comedic reliefs. But what it lacks in plot (there is none) it makes up in spectacular, Western-ish musicality. Every actor is a virtuoso, all singing and playing instruments—guitar, violin, Cajon, and more. Pay special attention to Goins-Simmons, who captivates with her impressive vocal range and musical dynamism.
Expect just over an hour of impressive—if bootstrapped—musical production and seven Coloradans’ stories that didn’t quite make the history books, but probably should have.