Encore

The Elephant Man.The Elephant Man is based on the life of Joseph Merrick, who was born in Victorian London and suffered from a hideously deforming disease that resulted in overgrowths of bone and hanging excrescences of putrid flesh. Abandoned by his father and stepmother, Merrick became the primary attraction in a freak show, from which he was rescued by a doctor named Frederick Treves, and ensconced in London Hospital for tests. There his intelligence and poetic imagination were discovered, and he became something of a celebrity, receiving visits from the famed and wealthy. The direction at Bas Bleu is intelligent, with a focus less on the historical milieu than on the inner lives of Merrick and Treves. There are advantages to this approach, but also losses. Stetson Weddle's performance as Merrick is a little too subtle; sometimes the pace lags. Still, this is a thoughtful and sometimes moving production. Presented by Bas Bleu through July 23, 401 Pine Street, Fort Collins, 1-970-498-8949, www.basbleu.org. Reviewed June 30.

The Full Monty. The Full Monty follows a group of men who are out of work in Buffalo, New York. Amazed to discover that the women of the town are willing to pay high prices to watch a Chippendale-style strip show, the men decide they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by staging a similar extravaganza. The originator of the plan is the charmingly irresponsible Jerry Lukowski, who's desperate for money to meet support payments for his teenage son. Jerry's best friend, Dave Bukatinsky, has sunk into a marriage-threatening depression; he eats to console himself and has developed a formidable paunch. Stripping is the last thing on his mind. This is a good-hearted, gentle show, adapted from the 1997 British film, with a focus on the ways in which the men overcome their insecurities. It's also smart and well-written. You really do like these guys, and the critique of conventional sexual politics is both funny and right on. There's a lot of wonderful singing and acting in this production. And in the wives' loving shrieks of encouragement at the final striptease, and the men's growing confidence, there's an exhilarating sense of a broken community coming together to reaffirm itself. Presented by the Arvada Center through July 31, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, www.arvadacenter.org. Reviewed on July 7.

Impulse Theater. Basements and comedy go together like beer and nuts or toddlers and sandboxes. The basement of the Wynkoop Brewery where Impulse Theater performs is crowded, loud and energetic. Impulse does no prepared skits, nothing but pure improv -- which means that what you see changes every night, and so does the team of actors. These actors set up and follow certain rules and frameworks; they rely on audience suggestions to get these scenes going or to vary the action. Your level of enjoyment depends a lot on whether or not you like the players. Charm is a factor, and so is the ability to take risks. Fortunately, the performers are clever and fast on their feet, willing to throw themselves into the action but never betraying tension or anxiety, perfectly content to shrug off a piece that isn't coming together. The show is funny when the actors hit a groove, but equally funny when they get stymied. So, in a way, the improvisers -- and the audience -- can't lose. Presented by Impulse Theater in an open-ended run, Wynkoop Brewing Co., 18th and Wynkoop streets, 303-297-2111 or www.impulsetheater.com. Reviewed June 3.

My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra. The Denver Center production of My Way features four attractive, energetic performers with strong and differing voices; 53 of the best twentieth-century songs; a set that's beautifully designed both to please the contemporary eye and to evoke the period, with softened Formica colors flowing into each other and elegant forms; witty, attractive costumes; and three excellent musicians. So if you're entertaining a business client or out on a date, this is the show for you. But it's essentially a commercial enterprise rather than an evening of theater. The performers don't just sing the songs, they sell them. They're full of energy. They bounce. They emote. They never allow a moment of reflection or understatement. Sinatra was the guy sitting alone on a barstool in a pool of light, shadows pressing in on him, the rakish angle of his hat belying the world-weariness of his soul. This seems an odd way to pay him homage. Presented by Denver Center Attractions in an open-ended run, Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed June 9.

Rocky Horror Show. Rocky is a pastiche of clichés from science fiction, horror movies and pop culture. It's an uninhibited celebration of camp, aided by three decades of film and stage audiences who have clapped and sung along to the songs, flung various and specific objects onstage, lit flickering lights and offered randy verbal prompts. The action begins when innocent young Brad and Janet, who have just attended the wedding of a friend, get engaged. Within minutes -- naturally -- they find themselves stranded on a dark road in a pelting rainstorm. They seek shelter and a phone in the sinister castle of Frank-N-Furter, who's a mad alien scientist visiting Earth from the Planet Transsexual. The actors are never very far from you on the Avenue's tiny stage, and their hypnotically glazed eyes help make the production a total immersion experience. Should your attention falter for a moment, you'll find everything crashing back into focus when Sugar stalks onto the stage with his sinuously sweeping moves and crimson-lipped, lemon-wedge-shaped smile. This is Rocky Horror as it's meant to be -- a lewd and lurid midnight fantasy. Presented by the Avenue Theater at 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through August 6, 417 East 17th Avenue, 303-321-5925, www.avenuetheater.com. Reviewed July 14.

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