Salute to a country/pop troubadour: 'Almost Heaven: John Denver's America' opens in Munster
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Salute to a country/pop troubadour: 'Almost Heaven: John Denver's America' opens in Munster

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Fans of the music of John Denver will want to be in the house when Theatre at the Center's latest production opens in previews this week.

"Almost Heaven: John Denver's America" begins previews today and officially opens Sunday at Munster's Theatre at the Center. The show, which also officially opens the theater's new season, continues to March 22.

"This show is so much fun. I'm having a blast performing the music," said Steven Romero Schaeffer, who performs as singer/composer John Denver in the production. Schaeffer said when he and the other cast members pick up the instruments and dig into the rich catalog of songs, they really "jam to John Denver."

Schaeffer, who last performed at Theatre at the Center in "Big River" in 2017, said he's glad to be back at Northwest Indiana's regional theater. "I love it here," Schaeffer said. The actor also said it's great to be working with director Linda Fortunato and his fellow cast members.

The musical catalog of '70s superstar John Denver, Schaeffer said, is made up of many beautiful selections. The show features a variety of tunes written and made famous by the country/pop/folk troubadour. Schaeffer mentioned something that Denver said about his music that really struck him as a performer.

Denver, Schaeffer said, wanted to make music to make "people feel good" because that's what the musician himself wanted to take away from listening to music.

"Almost Heaven," which was written and adapted by Peter Glazer, celebrates Denver's life and career through its relaying of various stories of his life and performances of his songs. It can be categorized as more of a revue than a strict "play" about Denver. Among tunes audience members will hear in the production are "Rocky Mountain High," "Annie's Song," "Sunshine on My Shoulders," "Country Roads" and others.

Schaeffer said Denver's music was pretty eclectic in the sense that it crossed various genres from country and pop to folk.

"I know my grandma was very into (his music)," Schaeffer said, adding that once he was exposed to it, he genuinely liked the tunes.

"When I started to listen to it myself, I became a huge fan," he said. "I have a lot of respect for the man."

Along with Schaeffer, other cast members starring in the production are Shannon McEldowney, Andrew Mueller, Sara Geist and Tommy Malouf. Additional musicians performing in "Almost Heaven" are William Underwood, Malcolm Ruhl and Alison Tatum.

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