When Henry John Deutshendorf Jr. was eleven years old, he received a gift from his grandmother that determined his destiny. His grandmother’s guitar led him to pursue his love of singing by encouraging him to join a boys’ choir and to take guitar lessons. If his grandparent had presented him with a basketball or a set of golf clubs, how different he and his future might have become.
When a career in music presented itself, Henry John Deutshendorf Jr. was advised to change his name because it was too long for a marquee. Heeding that thought, he changed his moniker to the beautiful capitol of his favorite state and became John Denver. If his music and story are important to you, mosey on over to the Ivoryton Playhouse by Sunday, April 24 for the rich and inspiring tale of friendship entitled “The Road: My Life with John Denver” composed by Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman.
For decades Dan Wheetman was a musician who traveled and played in John Denver’s band. Maybe not his BFF, he was nonetheless privy to the man and his music and is well qualified to comment on his contributions as a singer, songwriter, performer, actor, activist and environmentalist.
David M. Lutken and Sam Sherwood share the honors as Denver’s friend, confidante and musical accompanist, traveling all over the country on buses and his private jet, traveling as far away as Australia. With Katie Deal as a spirited vocalist, and Dan’s wife Penny, an entire jukebox of John Denver’s greatest hits roll down the highway. From “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Annie’s Song,” “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy,” “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “Back Home Again,” we are gifted, and encouraged to sing-along, with many of the two hundred songs Denver composed.
With Dan Wheetman as musical director and Randal Myler as director, we have the solid core of this exciting and vibrant new production at the sturdy helm. John Denver fans will be in their glory.
For tikcets ($44, senior $39, students $22, children $17), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivortyon at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m. On April 10, a Hootenanny was held at 4:30 p.m,next door at the Ivoryton Tavern with participants bringing a banjo, fiddle, even a spoon to come to play.
The premiere of a new children’s play “Polkadots: the Cool Kids Musical” was shown on Monday, April 11 at 7 p.m. and Tuesday, April 12 at 7 p.m, and the final performance is Saturday, April 16 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15. The show is based on Little Rock Nine and features Lily Polkadot who teaches lessons about dignity and respect.
Imagine the wind in your hair and a song in your heart as you travel the open country road to reach peaks of rocky mountain highs with sunshine on your shoulders.