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Monday, June 30, 2008

Durango Diamonds

As I mentioned that I would be in my last blog entry, I'm in beautiful La Plata County, Colorado, about to catch a flight back to the Mile High City, and I wanted to take a moment to share with you a few of the "gems" I re-discovered in and around historic Durango, Colorado.
With gas prices continuing to climb, that summer vacation road trip you've been planning may need to be scaled back a bit and Durango is just under 350 miles and about six hours away, with lots to do and see for young and old alike.
Obviously, you want to take advantage of one of Durango's main attractions and take a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, established in 1881. The D&SNGRR has been in continuous operation for 126 years and has been featured in several movies, including two of my favorites: Support Your Local Gunfighter and Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. It's a unique experience and a great way to see some beautiful Colorado countryside.
Before jumping on the train, may I suggest my favorite "greasy spoon" restaurant for breakfast? Oscar's has been around as long as I can remember and is a favorite among the locals. Get there early or you may have to wait a little while for a table. It's that good.
When you pull back into the station that evening, you are just about a block-and-a-half away from one of my favorite Mexican food restaurants, Gazpacho's. I recommend the stuffed sopapilla.
Then I suggest you walk a couple of blocks over to what I consider to be the crown jewel of Durango's family entertainment, the legendary Diamond Circle Melodrama. Now in its 47th season (that's right, folks, I said 47th), the Diamond Circle produces rousing live family entertainment in the much-beloved style of Victorian melodrama. (Well, more or less -- those Vics were a bit on the stuffy side, after all.)
The show that I saw was a musical adaptation of Rex Beach's The Spoilers featuring musical and spectacle far beyond what one might expect to find in a sleepy little mountain town.
There is a surprisingly athletic fist fight between hero and villain, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge "crashes" on stage, and we are treated to both rip-roaring dance numbers and heartfelt ballads from the dance hall girls in the Clipper Saloon -- and that's just the first act.
Director and choreographer Richard T. Hanson is a Theatre Professor at the University of Arizona and many U of A students are included in the cast. If their talent is any indication, the Musical Theatre B.F.A. in Tucson is a program with which to be reckoned.
Customarily I will mention a couple of the more noteworthy performers in a given production, but, in this case, I am loathe to even attempt to single out any performer in this ensemble over another, so I won't.
Here are the names of all of the talent that graced the Diamond Circle stage in Durango this summer:
Kytt McLaughlin
Erik Andersson (or Anderson. Sorry, Erik, it's spelled differently in the program than on the website, so I'm not sure)
David Andino
Laura Weiner
Jason Lee Blank
Ben Mattson
Blaire Baker
Jesse Turtz
Amy Shuttleworth
Nehemiah Powers tickling the ivories
Claire Buchignani, and, okay, I said I wasn't going to single anyone out, but I feel compelled to say that I noticed that this young lady boasts Tamora in Titus Andronicus among her credits, and, based upon what I saw on stage Sunday night, I would wrestle a bear to have been able to have seen that. (Well, a small bear. Maybe a koala.)
Anyway, if you should find yourself in Durango this summer -- and you really should -- do not leave without stopping in at the Diamond Circle Melodrama. (Also check out my previous entry for a short video on this remarkable company.)
There are, in fact, two shows running in rep all summer, featuring the same hugely talented cast. The second is a musical revue entitled Whoop-Ti-Ay, and I only wish I could stay a few more days myself to catch that show as well.
I may just have to make another trip.
If you do decide to head down to Durango this summer, drop me a line at the e-mail address to your right (No, on the computer screen. You keep doing that.), and I'll be happy to fill you in on a few other places in the area worth checking out, like the beautiful Vallecito Lake area or my hometown (and the place where I earned my canine moniker), Ignacio, Colorado.
(By the way, MySpacers, I posted a whole bunch of pics of my visit in the album "Home Again 2008".)

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