When longtime Denver resident Dennis Law isn't working at the University of Colorado, he might be found negotiating with China's government for permission to contact various Chinese performers. Law also spends his time touring with more than ninety foreign artists whose talents he has assembled for Terracotta Warriors, the musical he recently wrote, directed and produced. Warriors, which details the story of an ancient Chinese dynasty, is Law's second production in a genre he copyrighted, the "Action-Musical." The idea is to combine enough classical Asian dancing, martial arts and acrobatics to be culturally enriching without being "so Chinese every Westerner falls asleep." In Warriors, Law says, he blends authentic Chinese martial arts, which are "much more exceptionally visual than martial arts in Hollywood or North American strip malls," and a faster-paced plot than is characteristic of traditional Chinese theater.
The show's run starts at 8 p.m. tonight at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets; it continues through July 18. For tickets, $20 to $65, call 303-893-4100; for information, go to www.denvercenter.org. -- Caitlin Smith
Metropolitan Jazz grabs hot horns for the Fourth
In the fall of 2002, a Westword classified ad announced open auditions for a new jazz big band. Scott Handler, a United Airlines pilot by day and screaming lead trumpeter by night, and Kevin Buchanan, trucker by day and jazz trombonist by night, coordinated the auditions and whittled the ensemble down to eighteen musicians. That was the start of the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, which will be featured in the July 4 installment of the City Park Jazz Series. The musicians, most of whom paid their dues playing in high school, college and military big bands, are an eclectic but talented mix: two ministers, two architects, an engineer, a computer programmer, a high-tech recruiter, an electrician and a few band teachers. Only a handful consider themselves full-time musicians. "There is a very structured big-band experience for musicians in high school and college," explains MJO bass player Andrew Hudson, who moonlights at Frontier Airlines. "Unfortunately, in the real world, there are not a lot of opportunities for musicians to play the classic arrangements by Count Basie, Stan Kenton and Woody Herman, or to explore the contemporary big-band repertoire."
MJO will play all that and more at a series of performances this summer, including regular gigs the last Sunday of the month at Dazzle and the third Thursday of each month at Patrick's. On July 4, the group will play from 7 to 9 p.m. at the City Park boathouse; that concert is free, as is a show from 7 to 8:30 p.m. July 1 at Thornton City Park.
Happy Birthday, Maestro
It's not every day that a maestro turns the big 3-0. In fact, it's a rare event, because there simply aren't many maestros as young as Colorado Music Festival director Michael Christie.
To mark the milestone, Christie has assembled a program that starts at 7:30 p.m. tonight and tomorrow night and features acclaimed pianist Angela Cheng, along with the CMF festival orchestra, performing works by Rachmaninoff and Bruckner.
"I wanted to walk away from these evenings knowing I had a soloist who enjoyed every note as much as I did," Christie says. "And a symphony that would allow me to showcase the experience I've gained over the past nine years conducting symphony orchestras."
All of the CMF concerts -- the festival runs through August 6 -- will take place at Boulder's Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Road. Tickets for the birthday shows, $10 to $40, are available online at www.coloradomusicfest.org. -- Ernie Tucker