Editor’s note: This story was updated on January 5 to reflect the new performance dates of Winterland: A Discotheque Cabaret, after the show had been postponed due to new COVID-19 safety restrictions announced on November 17.
As we stare down what could be a dreary couple months ahead, Wonderbound is determined to bring Denverites some of the in-person magic of the winter season with their latest take on theatrical revue, Winterland: A Discotheque Cabaret.
The Denver-based dance company is back with their second live production since the initial shutdown of the pandemic after reprising their 2018 Wicked Bayou production in October. And now the group’s upcoming wintertime production—running January 21 through February 7 at their studio—promises a luscious and lively journey for staving off any end-of-year gloom.
“I think what we’re really trying to do is create something fun and festive, and a little sexy,” Wonderbound artistic director and choreographer Garrett Ammon says of Winterland. “Something to get people’s minds off of what’s going on right now and try to create some level of normalcy and some magic in a moment that is lacking that right now.”
A large part of that normalcy stemmed from being able to host audiences in-person, cabaret-theater style, with an abundance of safety precautions. Each show will be limited to 25 guests, all tables comfortably distanced, and audience and staff members masked up, of course—though performance-goers will be able to indulge in small bites and beverages that come with the price of a ticket.
But beyond the appeal of beating cabin fever and witnessing a live performance, Ammon—along with Wonderbound ballet master and associate choreographer Sarah Tallman—predicts Winterland’s performances will be the most guaranteed to thrill. The mix of numbers will dabble in some sultry and slinky aesthetics (think Moulin Rouge and Chicago) while leaning comfortably into the blues, as well. And while Ammon laments the fact that they had to forgo their norm of live music for Winterland, they’re instead revisiting popular sounds from the 1920s to the 1950s—including crowd favorites as well as some deeper cuts—from the likes of Judy Garland, Eartha Kitt, Peggy Lee, Muddy Waters, and more.
“When you look at the music coming out of the [Great] Depression era and so forth, there’s a lot of similarities to our moment,” Ammon says. “We’ve discovered all these interesting things that speak to that kind of duality of the moment—of struggling, of trying to find your way through a very difficult period, but also trying to find light and humor and fun within that.”
Ammon notes that it’s been a longstanding tradition for Wonderbound to try to offer something different for Denverites in the winter season, so Winterland is not a technically a holiday-centered show (or family friendly—sorry kiddos). Instead, Ammon hints that the show will present a sort of twisted lens on our manic reality with peppered elements of gender-bending, role reversal, and general commentary on these strange times. Tallman adds that their inspiration from the ’20s through the ’50s was ripe for this playful choreography. “The [songs] do all contain this lightheartedness, but also this kind of undertone of what was going on at the time,” Tallman says. “There’s a parallel there with us now, and it kind of creates this irony that is fun to explore actually.”
The project will also break from Wonderbound’s typical format of full narrative arcs, instead opting for more of a vignette-style show—something that allowed the group to explore their typical interplay of dance and theatrics from a fresh angle.
“It’s a little more forward-facing, right?” Ammon says. “It’s a little more of a conversation with the audience, so you’re kind of breaking down that fourth wall and really directly engaging with them in a way that, in a more traditional production, might not happen as much.”
All of which, Tallman mentions, lent itself perfectly to a cabaret setting, and would’ve been difficult to achieve through a virtual screening—something many members of Denver’s creative scene have had to adapt to throughout the year.
“I’m excited for people to just come out and be in community with each other at a safe distance and be able to see live art,” she says. “All sharing the same experience is such an important part of our humanity.”
If you go: Winterland runs January 21 through February 7; $60 (price includes complimentary appetizers and beverages); find tickets and more information on updated showtimes and location online.