Thursday March 23 A novel approach: She has everything you'd expect of a garden-variety folksinger--a clear voice, a comfortable way with the fretboard and plenty of good taste. Yet Nanci Griffith overrides all those boundaries. More than a mere songwriter or interpreter of others' songs, Griffith is a champion of the genre who celebrates good storytelling, modern sensibility, deft wordplay and strong emotional impact. A homespun musician who works the stage like a novelist at a literary reading, Griffith gives her all in concert--the result is an evening as changeable, gripping and moving as a book you just can't put down. She performs tonight at 7:30 at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl.; for tickets, $22.50, call 830-TIXS.
Going mentalist: Magic has never been the same since Penn & Teller stepped into the prestidigitators' arena some twenty years ago. For one thing, in the cynical, theatrical world of big, loudmouthed Penn Jillette and his diminutive, mute partner Teller, escape artists don't escape and scam artists cheerfully expose their own scams. The duo combines equal parts clown antics gone awry, unabashed hucksterism and needle-sharp, sometimes sick humor to create a unique art form. And while the laughs Penn & Teller produce tend to be a wee bit nervous, audiences still guffaw in spite of themselves. See them tonight at 8 at CU-Boulder's Macky Auditorium or tomorrow night at 8 at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. Tickets range from $17.50 to $23.50; call 777-7372.
On official business: Some folks will do anything in an election year, right down to standing on their heads, whistling "Dixie" or--dare we say it--showing us their underwear? At Politics Unusual, an annual benefit at and for the ornate Temple Events Center, 1595 Pearl St., they probably won't go that far--but various candidates, legislators, officials, journalists and other notables will still have a chance to dance, sing, joke and, possibly, make promises. It's up to you to tell the difference. Elbow-rubbing, refreshments and a silent auction kick off events at 5:30; the show, Politician's Auditions, follows at 7:30. Purchase tickets ($20) at the door or reserve them in advance by calling 860-9400.
Friday March 24 Dark passage: The legendary and influential Velvet Underground is most often remembered for the New York-junkie musings of Lou Reed, but fellow Velvet John Cale was just as much an early contributor to the group's rushing, concrete-jungle cacophony. While Reed has remained a celebrated street poet, Cale has taken loftier, more avant-garde routes, in ordered, neat music still capable of being as raw as any Velvet classic. He's worked with Brian Eno and gone full circle to record with Reed again; more recently, he's released an album with former Warhol clan-member Bob Neuwirth. His sharp ear can be traced in recordings he's produced--albums by Patti Smith, Jonathan Richman and the Stooges. The pedigree alone makes for interesting results. Check them out when Cale performs tonight at 8 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax. For tickets, $15 in advance ($17 day of show), call 322-2308.
Asia miner: Denverites with savvy know William Matthews for his watercolors of cowboys and the West, but the painter occasionally forays into other cultures he's encountered in world travels. China is Matthews's latest imagery gold mine and the subject of Watercolors of China, opening tonight at the William Matthews Gallery, 1617 Wazee St. A reception will be held from 5 to 8 p.m.; for further information call 534-1300.
Saturday March 25 Like an open book: An inscription in stone by the west entrance quotes Jorge Luis Borges: "I had always imagined paradise as a kind of library." Anyone who agrees with that had better get in line this morning for the long-awaited Denver Central Library's Grand Opening. There'll be plenty of entertainment--the Overland Marching Band, the Denver Gay Men's Chorus, Montbello High School's ROTC Color Guard and the Denver Public Library Book Clappers and Kazoo Band will all perform--and a whole parade of dignitaries on hand to cut the ribbon, but serious cardholders will be there to see the library itself. Designed by renowned architect Michael Graves, the new building is a weird, wonderful, postmodern curio-sity on the outside and, according to city librarian Rick Ashton, a state-of-the-art library heaven on the inside. Events, including a book sale and children's activities, begin at 9:30 a.m. along the building's south side, on 13th Ave. between Broadway and Bannock. In addition, celebrants can go far in the area with very little cash--admission is free today at the nearby Denver Art Museum and the Colorado History Museum. Call 640-8940 for additional library information.
Whitmore and wisdom: It would seem that actor James Whitmore has yet to be a great American he didn't like. He's done Harry Truman. He's done Teddy Roosevelt. Now the king of the one-man show does American humorist and social commentator Will Rogers in Will Rogers' U.S.A., and the cheers have yet to die down. Whitmore brings his rustic portrayal to the Auditorium Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, tonight at 8 for one show only. Tickets range in price from $10 to $32; to charge by phone call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS.
Sunday March 26 Courage of their convicts: When you attend one of the National Theatre Conservatory's third-year repertory productions, you can give students a boost while giving your entertainment pocketbook a rest. Tonight, for just ten bucks, you can catch Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our God's Country, based on a work by Thomas Kenneally. The story of a group of British convicts who perform a play in Australia and are transformed in the process, Country shows tonight at 6:30 in the cozy but classy Source Theatre in the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. The play continues on March 30 and April 1; alternating performances of Electra and Orestes, from The Greeks, by John Barton and Kenneth Cavander, will take place on March 28, 29 and 30. Call 893-4100 for times or to reserve tickets.
Monday March 27 Gumps and roses: To slightly mangle Forrest Gump's famous philosophy, the Academy Awards are "like a box of chocolates--you never know what you'll get." In a year represented by both treacly Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction (which ran with a whole other kind of sticky, red, wet stuff), the Denver International Film Society's annual Party With Oscar could be a wilder ride than Oscar-watchers are accustomed to. You might find the denouement more engaging while mingling before a large-screen monitor with well-dressed film buffs. Laugh, cry, sample hors d'oeuvres and hang off the cash bar from 6 to 11 p.m. at the Denver Petroleum Club, 555 17th St.; for tickets, $45 ($40 DIFS members), call 298-8223 or 830-TIXS.
Tuesday March 28 Labeque to Labeque: Concertgoers at Boettcher Hall will fancy up tonight for a benefit for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and featuring French-Basque pianists Katia and Marielle Labeque as special guests. The accomplished sisters, who not only know their way around a keyboard but also boast a vast repertoire that includes both Bach and twentieth-century composers, will perform works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Infante and others beginning at 7:30 p.m. Recital tickets are $10, $25 or $35; a dinner/recital/reception package runs from $100 to $150. Boettcher Hall is located at 14th and Curtis in the Plex; call 986-8742 for reservations.
See sighting: Author Carolyn See is an award-winning novelist, but her latest book is a dark, nonfiction memoir. In Dreaming, See writes wisely and even upliftingly about her family's history of drug and alcohol use, all in the strong voice of someone who's clearly come to terms with her own hard knocks. She'll give a reading and sign copies of the book tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave. in Cherry Creek. Call 322-7727 for information.