Have you been to the Jackson Hole Playhouse?
If you haven’t, call right now (book a flight as well, if distance requires) and make a reservation for the whole family. Then get ready for a true Holiday Spectacular. The Jackson Hole Playhouse is local theater at its very best. Every summer, every December, and every winter, the Playhouse puts on a new show – usually a Broadway musical – of wild, rollicking fun, performed by professional actors and excellent homegrown talent.
Every show is preceded by dinner in the Old West-style saloon (served by a singing, dancing waitstaff). The hilarious Christmas show is one of the highlights of the season in Jackson Hole; I’d feel bereft without it. Santa shows up every night, he loves it so much!
The family behind the Playhouse is as wild and wonderful as any Broadway production. They’re worth a play of their own, with enough plotlines to rope a herd of cattle.
I first met the Garnicks in 1991, when I brought four of my kids from Atlanta to Jackson Hole for the first time. We stayed at the Heart 6 Ranch, because we’d heard great things about it. And it was great: days of roping, herding, horseback rides; nighttimes spent loading our plates with mouth-watering home-cooked meals and telling stories round the campfire. A storybook vacation! But best of all were Vicki and Cameron Garnick, owners of the ranch and parents of eight gifted children. My kids loved their kids; as parents we had tons in common (despite Vicki being a very strict Mormon and me being very not!)
So soul-stirring was our week at Heart 6 Ranch that we decided we might as well move to Wyoming: our hearts had clearly made the switch already and some year later, we did it! Vicki and I have been friends ever since; as have our kids. The picture is me with Brian, Ashley, Jamie and little Chandler.
Vicki and Cameron were born to the theater. They met backstage at a production of West Side Story in Provo; and ran off together to Las Vegas two years later to be married. When their first daughter was born, they moved to a dude ranch in Wyoming (obvious choice!).
Vicki remembers it as an amazing winter: 27 feet of snow completely buried the lodge; snowmobilers would ride right over the top of the building, not knowing it was there; Cameron had to cut a staircase of 17 steps to reach down to the front door; and Vicki didn’t leave the house from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day. Cocooned inside with a little baby, she thought about theater. And thus was the dream of buying the Jackson Hole Playhouse born.
When winter eased up a bit, Vicki and Cameron hatched a plan to earn the money for the Playhouse. Cameron, they decided, would sell hunting trips (he already had a stellar reputation as a hunting guide), and Vicki would load up the truck with all the extra liquor from the Ranch and sell it in Jackson.
So, baby on board, she went to bars around the square with great success. Everyone was happy to buy. Then she stopped at the liquor store. The owner, nonplussed, asked Vicki what the heck she thought she was doing. Had she actually sold any? Oh yes, replied Vicki, all around the square! We don’t drink, she went on, and we have a dream of buying the theater, so we thought this would be a great way to raise money.
The man followed her out to the truck to see what she had, told her he’d buy it all for $8,000.00 and then said, “Young lady, you are bootlegging liquor, and that’s a Federal offense. Go home and don’t ever tell a single soul in town about this until I die…I am the Teton County Liquor Commissioner!”
So Vicki and Cameron raised the money, bought the Playhouse and, as promised, never breathed a word about the liquor commissioner until he passed away.
They loved the Playhouse more every year – while keeping up with the dude ranch and the hunting camp as well. Cameron would take his clients hunting during the day, and camp out with them at night…and still make it to his Playhouse performances by riding his horse to the river, tying it there, swimming across to where Vicki was waiting, and then swimming back when the show was over. There’s no business like show business!
Thirty years later, the Jackson Hole Playhouse is still going strong, with shows they sometimes take around the country and overseas. Vicki has eight children, each one a talent in his or her own right.
One is in his first year on full scholarship from Julliard. One has her own Animal Planet show, and just produced a film called “A Cowboy’s Creed.”
One has a band, runs a restaurant and directs local productions. Another directs after-school programming in Buffalo Valley. A daughter lives in Nashville (but is here in Jackson for the Christmas show), running a 12-K every morning and singing and dancing at night. Their fourth, a full scholarship Julliard graduate, just starred in a Tony Award-winning off-Broadway show, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.” One was just accepted into the American Academy of Theatre Arts in NYC.
All simply rock. The Garnicks are Wyoming’s very own Von Trapp family.
The whole town loves Vicki; a recent setback brought an outpouring of love and support from the community that Vicki said made her feel like she was living out “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Want to see the fantastic Garnicks in action? Who wouldn’t? “The Christmas Survival Kit” (a 12-step program to laugh your way through the holidays) opened on December 14th and runs through January 4th – so now’s your chance. Two of the eight Garnicks are performing!! Show up at 6:00pm for the Hot Cocoa bar, and Wassail with a touch of bourbon, with a festive holiday dinner served at 6:30pm, just in time for the show at 7:30pm.
Kids are welcome and adored at the Jackson Hole Playhouse. One of Santa’s helpers (remember, I told you he comes every night!) takes children for a ride in a tiny sulky pulled by a miniature horse.
“Spoofs,” a tongue-in-cheek outtake on the Oscars, opens in February, with a red carpet, comedic sketches of all the nominees and audience voting. And plans for the summer production are already underway. So call right now! Go once, and I just betcha you’ll go every year from now on.
If you wonder what Vicki and her gang will be enjoying for their Christmas Eve meal, check out her unique, yummy ( I just made it) and easy shrimp recipe below. Also, be sure to catch a ride to Yellowstone with their famous and funny snow coach guides. It’s a ride you’ll always remember.
Have a wonderful, magical holiday season; and a joyous New Year.
The Jackson Hole Playhouse
Thanks to Catherine Coe Photography for capturing the Garnick Spirit!
Shrimp Moska, from one of The Garnicks’ old guests from New Orleans:
Large shell on shrimp: at least 6 to 8 per person
2 cans of bay leaves
2 cans of rosemary
6 lg garlic cloves, fresh
Fresh pepper, lots of it sprinkled generously
Salt, sprinkled generously
Lay the shrimp in a rectangle baking dish. Cover with the rosemary and bay leaves. Take garlic cloves, cut and lay generously over the leaves. Do the pepper and salt over that. Pour the olive oil over it all.
Bake at 425F for 7 minutes, then turn the shrimp over and bake another 7 minutes. The shrimp should be pink. Oil and shrimp will be hot…spoon onto a plate with a lip, take fresh french bread and tear and dip into hot oil, peel the shrimp and eat. It’s messy and delicious.