Jonathon Gorst has worked in the bright lights of Broadway productions, Las Vegas and, now, Grand Avenue.
As the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue approaches its first anniversary in its new location at the Springs Theater on Grand, it celebrates a reunion between owner John Goss and Gorst, the new music director.
The path to their latest collaboration could be the basis for a vaudeville production in itself, featuring cross-country travel with dogs and a dancer as the story’s love interest.
The story line:
Gorst is a Colorado Springs native whose musical theater resume includes various creative staff roles with “Cats,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “Ghost, the Musical.” His musical talent was evident by age 3, and he went on to graduate from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in piano performance.
His theater roots, though, are in vaudeville. At age 16, he was hired as a pianist at the Imperial Casino Hotel in Cripple Creek. He met Goss there, and, after they produced a six-week sell-out Christmas show in 1991, they traveled separate artistic roads for the next 20 years.
Goss did musical theater in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska while Gorst entered the big time. Remembering their work together, Goss contacted Gorst in 2009 about his idea to produce vaudeville again. Gorst was touring as music director with “Phantom of the Opera” at the time, but Goss said, “eventually I convinced him to give up his wonderful, well-paid job traveling the country to play piano here in Glenwood.”
Not only that, the valley got extra talent out of the deal.
Marisa Paull Gorst, Jonathan’s wife, is a professional classical dancer who is working as a youth instructor with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. She teaches classes throughout the valley, including at Glenwood Dance Academy, which becomes part of the School of ASFB on Sept. 1.
They both have second jobs: She is working as administrative/house manager at the vaudeville revue, and Jonathan is director of the Basalt Middle and High School choirs.
THE ROADS TO VEGAS
Jonathan and Marisa met in Las Vegas in 2010.
Jonathan became music director/principle conductor for the national tour of “Phantom of the Opera” in 2007, and when the tour ended, he continued with the show in “Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular,” at the Venetian Hotel and Casino.
Born in New York City, Marisa started her dance training at the School of American Ballet at age 10. At age 13, she moved to the Kirov Academy in Washington, D.C., leading to an international career in classical and concert dance.
The extraordinary physical demands of classical dance make it a young person’s career, and like many others, Marisa chose musical theater for the second phase of her dance life. She was a cast member in “Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular.”
The couple married in 2011, and when the Venetian “Phantom” production closed in 2012, Marisa and Jonathan explored other artistic opportunities.
Since Jonathan had worked with Goss in Glenwood during tour breaks and introduced Marisa to the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue in 2011, the three of them decided to produce a vaudeville-style show at Bonnie Springs Ranch, a tourist attraction west of Vegas.
“Vaudeville really won my heart even though it’s very, very far from what I’ve been trained in,” Marisa said.
“Bonnie’s Old West Musical Revue” was a hit, and became the “Grand Ole Vegas Revue” at the Plaza Hotel and Casino. Although it was named the Best Family Show in Las Vegas for 2013, the production was financially unsustainable, and the couple went back to the tour circuit for another year. They used the time to audition different U.S. cities where they could settle.
ON THE ROAD WITH DOGS
In a step that surely qualifies Jonathan and Marisa as real Coloradans, they did the last month of their “audition tour” in an RV, “because we wanted our dogs back,” said Marisa. Purebred long-haired dachshund Yoda and mixed breed rescue Chewbaca (named by Jonathan’s children) joined the couple in a 37-footer in January of this year.
“It was a great experience,” said Jonathan. “I loved it so much more than the hotels.”
Washington and Cincinnati were at the top of their “places to live” list, as was New Orleans, where Marisa had performed with the Ballet Theater.
But Glenwood Springs also made the list because of Goss. Jonathan debuted as music director of the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue in July.
Marisa said they asked themselves if they were crazy to risk moving to a small town. But she added that Glenwood and the valley felt like home, giving the couple a “feeling of magic, of peace and excitement at the same time.”
Taking a lesson from their dogs, Jonathan and Marisa combine classical dance’s purebred culture with vaudeville’s mixed-breed entertainment.
Goss said, “Jonathan was lucky enough to find a lovely, talented woman to share his life here and add yet another level of artistic talent to the valley.”
“Jonathan was lucky enough to find a lovely, talented woman to share his life here and add yet another level of artistic talent to the valley.”