After a year-long hiatus, Aspen’s Crystal Palace players are returning for two Christmas performances at the Wheeler Opera House.
The shows take place at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Christmas Day, with ticket prices ranging from $20 to $50.
Nina Gabianelli, a performer from the Mead Metcalf era at the Crystal Palace, said about half the material is new, with political and social satire on topics like the pope, gay marriage, Botox and steroids. The 90-minute, 18-song performance will also touch on presidential administrations from Eisenhower to Obama. “If it’s Clinton, we’re going to make fun of Clinton. If it’s Bush, we’re making fun of Bush,” she said. “It’s doesn’t matter who. We make sure we offend all.”
Other former Crystal Palace performers for the shows include pianist/musical director David Dyer, Gary and Meredith Daniel, Tom Erickson, Peggy Wilkie, Julie Maniscalchi and David Ledingham. Newcomer Franz Alderfer also will be on hand, as well as local director Jennifer Michaud. Gary Daniel, Erickson and Maniscalchi currently perform with the Glenwood Vaudeville Review, which is not offering one of its holiday shows on Christmas Day. Michaud is managing director of Stage of Life Theatre Company, based in Carbondale.
Gabianelli said the group of performers, which now goes by the name the Crystal Palace Revue, has been putting on private parties and shows based on demand. While they would love to do it full-time, most of the actors have moved on to other careers, she said.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to ... step up on stage and share with people something that we love to do, which A, is perform and B, make people laugh,” said Gabianelli, who is producer for the company Palace Productions.
Metcalf, who founded the Crystal Palace in 1957, is not involved in the Christmas performances. He has played a part in recent shows, but this year, he’ll be in Crested Butte, where he lives most of the time.
“The people that he brought into this valley and the tradition that he created will hopefully fill the Wheeler Opera House twice on Christmas Day,” Gabianelli said.
When Metcalf opened the Palace, there were only a handful of restaurants in Aspen, she said. Even through the 1970s and 1980s, there were limited entertainment opportunities available. There was a lot of live music, but the Crystal Palace dinner theater was the only theatrical offering.
She said that since 2008, when the Palace was sold and the production shut down, something has been missing in Aspen.
“The void that was created we would love to be able to fill on a more regular basis,” she said. “If this would become a holiday tradition, we’d love doing it, that’s for sure.”