Audience will engage with “Speed Dating Tonight!” presented by Steamboat’s Emerald City Opera |

Audience will engage with “Speed Dating Tonight!” presented by Steamboat’s Emerald City Opera

Kari Dequine Harden/For Steamboat Today

— Part opera, part sketch comedy, part improv and part musical theater, there is literally no other show on earth like Saturday's world premiere of “Speed Dating, Tonight!”

The production, written by Michael Ching and first performed in 2013, will be presented by Emerald City Opera for the second year in Steamboat, but with new material commissioned exclusively to reflect life in a Colorado mountain town.

And it is also the immersive aspect that sets it apart from other performances of Ching's popular tongue-in-cheek show — with Emerald City Opera as the first to put it into a shared setting.

On Saturday, the audience will be part of the show — sitting next to singing speed daters and served drinks by serenading waiters.

Last year, it may not have been entirely clear that audience members would not actually be themselves speed dating, said Emerald City Opera Chairman and CEO Jack Dysart.

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But they will be fully immersed, required to register at the box office and receive rotating table assignments. And, of course, who knows, if so desired, they might just meet and mingle with other singles in the audience.

“The whole room is the stage,” Dysart said.

Ching's Steamboat-specific songs feature new characters including a backcountry skier, a cannabis scientist, a food truck driver and a hiker, as well as some of the favorite returning "daters," all desperately looking for love in the Rocky Mountains.

Commissioned specifically for Emerald City Opera, the expansion was made possible by funding from the Amphion Foundation.

The opera is designed with the capacity to "mix and match" 40 stand-alone songs, said Stage Director Adam Pribila, so that no two productions are ever the same.

The music will be conducted by Emerald City Opera Artistic Director Andres Cladera, who began singing in opera productions at the age of 7 and is the former resident conductor at San Antonio Opera.

While the show allows audience members an intimate opportunity to "spend an evening with a bunch of kooky people who come to a speed dating session," the format also adds different dimensions for the actor/singers, Pribila said.

Instead of singing their song and exiting the stage, the actors must stay in character, interacting with the audience at certain times.

Pribila also described training the actors to read audience members, who might want to play along and who might rather just observe.

Pribila, who is from New York City, is returning to Steamboat after directing last year's “Dido and Aeneas,” presented by Emerald City Opera at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs.

Also an actor, Pribila most recently appeared in the award-winning, immersive production of “Queen of the Night” in New York.

The Steamboat audience has been very welcoming, Pribila said, and brings a level of excitement when discovering unique ways to enjoy opera.

“Speed Dating, Tonight!” is described as a “satirical, hilarious, and touching evening of theatre” and an “opera for the digital age.”   

“Come expecting to be surprised,” said Dysart, “And expect to have a good time.”

There will be two showings at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Depot Arts Depot, 1001 13th St. Tickets are $40 in advance ($50 at the door) and can be purchased at or All That.

If you go:

What: Emerald City Opera presents “Speed Dating, Tonight!”

When: 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4

Where: Depot Arts Center, 1001 13th St.

Tickets: $40 in advance; $50 at the door; or at All That