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Brief reviews of current shows

Around the World in 80 Days. The Victorians became increasingly fascinated with stories of adventure as technological advances in travel made their world smaller and more accessible. It didn't hurt that so much of that world map was colored an imperial red. In his famous novel Around the World in 80 Days, Jules Verne makes fun of the British, creating in Phileas Fogg the kind of imperturbable Englishman who ventures into foreign lands with no concern for local tradition or custom, taking his tea and kippers wherever he goes. Fogg makes a bet at his gentleman's club that he can circumnavigate the globe in eighty days. He's accompanied on his journey by Passepartout, a Frenchman as acrobatic, voluble and emotional as Fogg is stiff and inexpressive. The two are followed by a Scotland Yard detective who mistakenly believes that Fogg is a thief, and they encounter many adventures, most notably rescuing Aouda, a beautiful Indian woman who's about to be set ablaze on her husband's funeral pyre. Unfortunately, the staged version is static. Over and over again, some character or other (five actors play dozens of roles) explains where the travelers are and what has just happened. The moments that work best are those when something is actually happening on the stage: the ingenious creation of an elephant from a variety of props, for instance, and the dazzling scene when Passepartout rescues the unconscious Aouda. Presented by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival through August 18, Mary Rippon Theatre, University of Colorado, Boulder, 303-492-0554, www.coloradoshakes.org. Reviewed July 5.

Corteo. Cirque du Soleil's Corteo is a fine experience — visually gorgeous, musically exhilarating and filled with acts of athleticism that take your breath away. The costumes and sets are lovely and evocative, with the kind of fanciful curlicues you imagine adorning a fairy-tale palace or a miraculous child's birthday cake. Angels hover over the action, their dresses and bodies making elegant shapes in the air and suggesting wondrous other dimensions. But Cirque's magic seems somehow diminished in this production. Presented by Cirque du Soleil through August 5, Grand Chapiteau, Pepsi Center grounds, 1-800 678-5440, www.cirquedusoleil.com. Reviewed June 28.

La Traviata. There's a reason this tale about the doomed love between a consumptive courtesan and an aristocrat is one of the world's most frequently performed. It's gorgeous, filled with luscious songs and expressive arias, full of pulsating emotion. But hearing La Traviata at the Central City Opera House is a particular treat: The place is small and well-constructed, so there's no need for amplification and nothing to impede sound. Jennifer Casey Cabot, who sings Violetta, has range, fluidity and an effortless coloratura. She's also a fine actress. Cabot is well supported by Chad Shelton as Alfredo Germont and Grant Youngblood as Germont's father, Giorgio. Director Justin Way emphasizes story and character, while conductor Martin Andre provides eloquent and fluid pacing. Though the tale is ultimately tragic, its movement provides the kind of sensual joy you feel when a particularly rich piece of chocolate dissolves in your mouth — but there's no cloying aftertaste, just one sweet, pure, clean sensation following another. Presented by Central City Opera through August 16, 124 Eureka Street, Central City, 303-292-6700. www.centralcityopera.org. Reviewed July 19.

A Midsummer Night's Dream. The action in A Midsummer Night's Dreamis framed by a wedding ceremony between Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and his warrior queen, Hippolyta. We watch a group of working stiffs rehearse a celebratory play for the couple, urged on by the irrepressible Nick Bottom. Four young people disappear into the forest: Hermia and Lysander, who have been forbidden to marry by Hermia's father; Helena, trundling after Lysander, whom she loves; and Demetrius, Hermia's spurned suitor. The forest is ruled by the fairy king and queen, Oberon and Titania, who happen to be feuding. Within this magical, oneiric place, realities dissolve and the lovers are bamboozled by Oberon and his trickster fairy Puck into losing track of their original alliances and switching partners again and again. Meanwhile, Oberon has arranged for Titania to fall in love with Bottom. Not only that, but he's replaced Bottom's head with that of an ass. The interrelated themes are that love is crazy and lovers blind, that we all live in a world of illusion, and that theater itself mirrors this shifting, upside-down world. Director Gavin Cameron-Webb gets all this. His set, a stage within the Mary Rippon stage, is simple, elegant and workable. The actors own the words they speak, and as a result, you hear the lines clearly. Once that happens, any Shakespeare production is halfway home — particularly this one, with its melting poetry. Presented by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival through August 18, Mary Rippon Theatre, University of Colorado, Boulder, 303-492-0554 www.coloradoshakes.org. Reviewed July 5.

The Servant of Two Masters. Carlo Goldoni created the scenario behind The Servant of Two Mastersin 1745 for a famed commedia dell'arte troupe, and eventually wrote down a script that's primarily pure silliness. This is the story of Truffaldino, servant to Beatrice, who is traveling dressed as her own brother after the latter's death at the hands of her lover, Florindo. She has come to Venice to persuade the father of her brother's betrothed, Clarice, to give her Clarice's dowry, which she will use to reunite with Florindo. When Florindo turns up in Venice, unaware that Beatrice is there or that she's in disguise, Truffaldino offers to become his servant, too, reasoning that two masters will mean double pay for him and twice as much food. Naturally, all kinds of confusion follows, with letters, money and challenges flying, usually delivered to the wrong recipient. There are contemporary references scattered throughout director Scott Schwartz's production, and while the costumes are gaudily eighteenth-century, they're accessorized with things like modern high-tops. All of the acting is broad and farcical, punctuated with many bits and shticks. Some of these seem trite, but others are very funny. In all, this makes for a pleasant-enough diversion. Presented by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival through August 18, Mary Rippon Theatre, University of Colorado, Boulder, 303-492-0554, www.coloradoshakes.org. Reviewed July 12.

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