Encore

Ruthless! the Musical. Little Tina Denmark was born with talent. No one knows where it came from -- her mother is a perky, cookie-baking, '50s-style housewife, her father always away on unspecified business -- but dancing and singing are clearly in her blood. So when Tina loses the lead in the school musical, Pippi in Tahiti, to Louise Lerman it's clear that the poor poppet is justified in any steps she takes to remedy the situation -- including murder. Soon Louise is swinging from her own skip rope, and Tina is playing Pippi. Ruthless is an extended piece of camp, a funny, silly pastiche of moments from Gypsy, The Bad Seed, All About Eveand every pre-'60s musical with a larger-than-life female star you can remember. Nonesuch Theater has mounted a highly entertaining version of the show, full of madly hamming actors and great voices. Presented through August 13 by Nonesuch Theatre Company, 216 Pine Street, Fort Collins, 1-970-224-0444, www.nonesuchtheater.com. Reviewed June 2.

Shaking the Dew From the Lilies. Five women are trapped in a shopping-mall bathroom. This is a pretty contrived premise, but the script and the actresses have enough charm to carry it off. Naturally, these five are very different; their paths would have been unlikely to cross under any other circumstances. Cynthia is a repressed society girl who says she has never used a public restroom before. Her introduction to slutty Tami occurs when the latter sprays cheap hairspray around the entire mirror area and into her face. There's some bickering about toilet paper, and then Susan and Aja enter. They're a fairly typical girlfriend coupling: Aja is the sexy woman, Susan the heavier, plainer one who basks in her friend's glamorous glow. We will eventually discover the depths of envious rage beneath Susan's pleasant exterior. The group is joined by thoughtful, quiet Nicole, who turns out -- of course -- to be gay. There's something daring and original about the play's funky setting, the women's candor about sex and other bodily functions, the references to smells, the way the dialogue is periodically punctuated by the sounds of urination and toilets flushing. But the early jokes are pretty feeble. Eventually, the women begin to reveal their secrets to one another. When prim Cynthia breaks down, it's genuinely shocking, but this is followed far too soon, before we can fully digest its implications, by Tami's revelations of childhood trauma. Sequential confessions are a staple of drama in our therapy-saturated culture, but they need to go somewhere. Still, somehow the play does prevail, and there's something disarming in the way the women come to understand each other in their cluttered, exhausted and enforced intimacy. Presented through June 18, Playwright Theatre, 2119 East 17th Avenue, 303-499-0383, www.PlaywrightTheatre.com. Reviewed May 19.

Take Me Out. In Richard Greenberg's multi-award-winning play, the language is full of wit and unexpected insight, and the action trembles between funny and tragic. The story explores what happens when an admired baseball player tells the world he's gay. Darren is aloof, dignified, godlike to his fans. The son of a black father and a white mother, handsome and athletically gifted, he has led a life of privilege. He seems blind to the fact that his announcement is likely to cause problems. His best friend is Kippy, who also serves as the narrator. Predictably, everything changes in the locker room once he's made his announcement, and the contradictions are thrown into stark relief when the team brings in a new pitcher, an overgrown infant filled with grief and rage named Shane. At his first encounter with the press, Shane spews out a series of racist and homophobic epithets. Eventually, the story takes a turn toward tragedy. The play lacks a strong sense of overall unity -- structural or thematic -- but the writing is smart, enjoyable and thought-provoking, there are some wonderful scenes, and the characters are memorable. Curious gives the play a strong production, featuring several fine performances. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through July 2, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed May 1.

The Wizard of Oz. The Boulder's Dinner Theatre production of The Wizard of Oz, under artistic director Michael J. Duran, hews very closely to the 1939 movie version, but it's done with such élan that the show never feels old. With bright, inventive sets, clever costumes, lively choreography and hyper-energetic performances, it's like a carnival ride that whisks you away in a swirl of color, movement, sound and simple nostalgia. As Dorothy, Emily Van Fleet faithfully channels Judy Garland, though she lacks the latter's sense of wonder. Her voice is a marvel, however, shading richly through melting variations in tone and color, and her rendition of "Over the Rainbow" had the audience spellbound. Several BDT stalwarts turn in riveting performances in other roles. Add inventive bits of direction, an excellent small orchestra, an adorable small dog and an ensemble full of fine voices and interesting personalities, and you have an extended frolic that both kids and adults can enjoy. Best of all, the production does full justice to Harold Arlen's wonderful songs. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through September 4, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.theatreinboulder.com. Reviewed May 26.

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