By Zoe Yabrove
By Bree Davies
By Byron Graham
By Susan Froyd
By Josiah M. Hesse
By Bree Davies
By Susan Froyd
By Kate Gibbons
Cats. There's not much of a plot to Cats. You meet the Jellicles, with their cheerful faces and bright black eyes, who dance "under the light of the Jellicle moon"; the Ming-vase-smashing cat burglars, Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer; fat, elegant, gentleman's club-haunting Bustopher Jones; and contrary-minded Rum Tum Tugger. The show's emotional core resides with battered street cat Grizabella — once a beauty, now doddering and shunned by the others. When we're told at the beginning by wise Old Deuteronomy that tonight one of all the cats will be chosen to ascend to the Heaviside Layer — whatever that is — there's not a lot of suspense about who it will be. Along the way, you get insight into the naming of cats (turns out every cat needs three names), and also how to address a cat: "Before a Cat will condescend/To treat you as a trusted friend/Some little token of esteem/Is needed like a dish of cream." And the music and lyrics are as delicious as a saucer of cream, of course. This is Boulder's Dinner Theatre's second go at Cats, and though it's very like the 2004 production, it's been strengthened in a lot of small ways that make a very big difference. Perhaps most important, the cast features a few notable new dance talents, and there's something to catch and hold your attention at every moment as you confront a moving frieze of kitties cavorting, hissing, twitching and cleaning their own and each others' faces. The BDT's entire cast and crew approach this production with so much energy and enthusiasm that they've made it new again. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through September 24, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed June 2.
The Divine Sister.The Divine Sister features some of Denver's most talented actors, reliable creators of deep and memorable characters in artistically ambitious venues — and all of them having the time of their lives here, hamming, capering and slamming home the cheesiest jokes imaginable. The insanely over-the-top script is by Charles Busch, and it's a tribute to nun and convent movies, everything from Agnes of God to Doubt, with a dash of The Da Vinci Code thrown in for good measure. The plot concerns a Mother Superior trying to keep her convent financially afloat while dealing with Agnes, a hysterically religious young postulant; Sister Acacius, the perpetually horny sports coach; a filmmaker who wants to record Agnes's ecstasies; and Sister Walburga, a mysterious nun from Germany. Mother Superior approaches Mrs. Levinson, a rich Jewish widow who happens to be an atheist, in search of a donation and, in the course of her unsuccessful solicitation, begins a chain of discoveries about her own life. The dialogue is full of spot-on gags: Agnes sees a saint's face in a pair of urine-stained BVDs; Mother Superior is writing a book called The Middle Ages: So Bad?; and there's talk of a little-known Catholic sect based on the doctrine of Jesus's neglected sister, the Divine Joyce. All of the performers work well together as an ensemble — kept, if not in check, then at least in a consistent comic universe by Nick Sugar's tight, clean direction. Each line of dialogue gets its due, each gag is skillfully timed and encapsulated. Add the ridiculous costumes of Kevin Copenhaver (Sister Walburga's mighty headdress is a highlight, but there's strong competition from Mrs. Levinson's ghastly pantsuit) and the funky, cozy, edge-of-nasty charm of the Avenue Theater, and you've got yourself a party. Presented by the Avenue Theater through July 30, 417 East 17th Avenue, 303-321-5925, www.avenuetheater.com. Reviewed June 23.
Hairspray. What started out as a somewhat edgy film by the raunchy and iconoclastic John Waters has morphed into a sugar-sweet, much-loved, Tony-winning musical about self-acceptance and the need for all of us to also accept others. The year is 1962, the place is Baltimore, and rotund, irrepressible Tracy Turnblad manages to charm and wheedle her way onto The Corny Collins Show after learning some sharp moves from the hip black kid Seaweed. Now she can sing and dance with the acceptably thin and white in-crowd; the inevitable mean girl, Amber; and sexy Elvis wannabe Link. But Tracy wants to know why only white people are allowed on the show, with black kids confined to just a single day a month; by the end of Hairspray, she's got everyone dancing together to "You Can't Stop the Beat." And not just the teens. Also her extremely large and hitherto reclusive mother, Edna; half the adults connected with The Corny Collins Show; and her once-mousy best friend, Penny, now all dolled up and ready to caper with her new love, Seaweed. Director Rod A. Lansberry has staged a very appealing production with a youthful, energetic cast; a smart, stylized set by Brian Mallgrave; and costumes designed by Project Runway finalist Mondo Guerra. It's the genius of Hairspray that when everyone starts cavorting together at the end, you find yourself grinning and tapping and clapping along because — cynicism and realism be damned — multiple happy endings are exactly what we want from this bubblegum-sweet, lighter-than-cotton-candy and utterly good-natured confection. Presented by the Arvada Center through July 17, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, www.arvadacenter.org. Reviewed June 30.
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