Numbed by shock and sadness over the April 20 shooting spree that left 15 dead at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO., the people of metropolitan Denver lowered flags, canceled sporting events and asked, "Why?"
Theater, however, continued in the Mile High City, with some acknowledgement of the local tragedy.
The major nonprofit resident troupe, Denver Center Theater Company, was between shows and dark the week of April 19, but the sold-out sixth visit of Les Miserables went on as scheduled April 20 at the Denver Performing Arts Center's Buell Theatre.
The Center's executive director Randy Weeks addressed the audience in a pre-show curtain speech April 20, hours after news of the massacre had broken.The performance was dedicated to the Columbine High School community.
"It had to be addressed," said Nancy Rebek, Denver Center Attractions' director of media and marketing. "To go on with a Broadway musical, even though this one is touching and has a message to it, without saying something would've been strange. It was quite a full house. The curtain speech was to let (the audience) know our hearts were with (the victims and the community)." Although sporting events were canceled, it is harder to reschedule one show of a limited, sold-out run of a national tour, Rebek said. She pointed out that Les Miserables is a rare show whose story is about overcoming obstacles and working toward a more hopeful future; people might have been more reluctant to attend if a frivolous musical comedy had been booked. Les Miz closes there April 24.
As a courtesy, however, refunds were given to those who felt too saddened by the tragedy to attend the musical. That unusual arrangement, due to the generosity of the Les Miz management, is not being widely publicized, Rebek said.
"Everyone's been really rocked by the shootings," Rebek said. "Pretty much, folks are walking around in a daze."
It was learned late in the week that a group from Columbine High School had previously booked a block of seats for the April 21 evening performance of Les Miserables, the day after the shooting. Rebek said the group did attend, but management did not know about it at the time.
Littleton is a Denver suburb about 15 miles from the city.
Chris Wiger of the nonprofit Denver Center Theatre Company reported to Playbill On-Line that Denver sports teams The Rockies, Avalanche and Nuggets canceled home games since April 20 and will wear memorial patches on their uniforms for the rest of the season.
The Avalanche postponed the first two playoff games and moved them from April 21 in Denver to April 24 in San Jose, giving up home ice advantage for the first two games.
"We've all been deeply affected," Wiger wrote in an e-mail.