THRILLS

Wednesday December 20 Chicken feed: How does this sound for holiday fare that's loud, boisterous, anarchic and silly? A bunch of parents and their kids show up for a play. Only instead of sitting and fidgeting, they get on stage and play the leading roles. At the Chicken Lips Comedy Theater, 1360 17th St., the ultimate audience-participation version of Dickens's A Christmas Carol, supervised by The Playmakers, shows daily at 2 through Friday. This divine chaos can be had for five bucks a head; call 534-4440 for reservations. But please leave all reservations at the door! Or if your tastes are more refined but you still want to have a good time, also at Chicken Lips this December is Robert Dubac's wildly successful one-man show The Male Intellect (an oxymoron), redux and playing nightly Thursday through Sunday, leading up to a big New Year's Eve finale. For showtimes or to purchase tickets, $22, call 534-4440.

Stop the world: Desperately seeking holiday cheer? There is life without Prozac--try calming down with A Holiday Musical Feast, the lunchtime classical music series offered annually at the 1801 California Building downtown. Remove your heels, unwrap your brown-bag sandwich and enjoy: The Barbara Lepke duo performs on harp and flute today, the Highlands Flute Ensemble entertains tomorrow and the Komodore & Jaramillo guitar and violin duo wrap up Friday, all between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Admission is free; for details call 595-8747.

Thursday December 21 Sugarplums 'n' spice: Few Christmas traditions are more instantly recognizable or annually de rigueur for the kids than at least one magical run-through of The Nutcracker, the ballet sprinkled with sugarplum fairies, little dreamers and marching nutcrackers. The Colorado Ballet serves up the classic with the usual old-fashioned panache, offering performances daily at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, through Sunday. You may have to scrounge for tix to today's 2 p.m. family matinee, preceded by special activities and an autograph session with Colorado Ballet dancers (call 837-8888), but for showtimes and reservations to regular performances--admission ranges from $12 to $38--call 830-TIXS.

Pyle it on: Local recording artist and resident cowpoke Chuck Pyle, playing host to an Acoustic and Western Christmas tonight, will welcome bluegrass favorite Tim O'Brien, along with pals Gordon Burt and Chris Engleman, to the stage at the Salvation Army, 1539 Spruce St., Boulder. The concert, a laid-back fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity, the organization that helps low-income families build their own homes, begins at 7 p.m. and features holiday tunes, a sing-along and original music by the artists. Admission is $10 ($5 students) with a canned food donation; call 442-7887 or 543-0888.

Friday December 22 Wracked and spent: Right about this time the holiday shopping frenzy reaches its zenith. Well, take a deep breath and leave the mall this instant. Go to the tiny, charming, manageable Zip 37 Gallery, an artsy hole-in-the-wall at 3644 Navajo St., where members will display loads of fresh, untouched, affordable art gifts for a three-day, last-minute Late Shoppers Show. An opening reception will be held from 7 to 10 this evening; the show continues from 11 to 6 tomorrow and Sunday. By the way, Zip will accept that plastic; call 477-4525 for information.

Bang a gong: This time the bell tolls for thee! They'll be ringing your chimes today during Heavy Metal Live From City Hall, an all-request morning of music engineered by carillonneur Robert Gift and rung out on the City and County Building's ten-bell Robert W. Speer Memorial Chime. The performance, from 6 to 8 a.m., will be simulcast on KOA radio; to make requests call the KOA morning drive-time call-in number, 623-8585, or call the Chime Line, 755-2224. If you're stiffed on the air today, a repeat performance will take place, sans radio broadcast, from 7 to 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Still not satisfied? Heck--just get it out of your system! The Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St., will host an evening of Solstice Drumming beginning at 9:30 tonight and continuing until things peter out. It's free and open to participants of all ages; just bring your primal bad self and something to bang on. Call 294-9281.

Judy, Judy, Judy: That Judy Collins has been a busy gal. The onetime Denverite has gone from being a Sixties folkie diva in the Baez mold to holding her own in the Nineties on the symphony pops circuit, and now she's also the accomplished author of a slightly potboiled romance. Collins will appear tonight at 8 at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl.; for tickets, $18-$23, call 534-8336 or 830-TIXS.

Saturday December 23 Direct from the poles: Christmas is second nature in the snowy hills of Colorado, where Santa--a proficient schusser, they say--traditionally makes the rounds in all the hopping mountain ski areas. But don't be surprised if you see the jolly one join you on the slopes during the next few days, even at some of the smaller resorts: St. Nick's busy schedule has him skiing at Silvercreek (1-970-945-7491), Monarch (1-719-539-2581) and Wolf Creek (1-970-264-5639), among other places, at various times throughout the extended weekend. The holiday season will also come to a fiery head during tonight's Breckenridge Torch Ski Parade, 6 p.m. on Peak 9 (a filling $12 Fondue Dinner Sampler follows at the Maggie Restaurant; call 1-970-453-2000) or tomorrow's Santa-led Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade, snaking--under a fireworks spectacular--down Lower Hughes Trail at Winter Park. Church services, caroling and a bonfire wrap up the Winter Park festivities; for info call 1-970-726-5514, ext. 1727.

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