By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
It's a significant step when an urban campus extends its boundaries so dramatically, past the psychic and physical wall that is Colfax — particularly given the history of tensions between Auraria and Lincoln Park residents, who've protested past attempted incursions of student housing. But this is one play that could turn into a grand slam.
Heritage Square Music Hall
18301 West Colfax Avenue
You're still on Colfax when you visit the Heritage Square Music Hall, but you could hardly feel further away from the city. The building seems like an authentic nineteenth-century opera house — you can imagine cowboys, miners and ladies of the night mingling in the comfortable, wood-furbished auditorium. Except it turns out the music hall is part of a development — Magic Mountain — that was originally cooked up in the 1950s by Disney-influenced businessmen and designed by Hollywood art directors, with all the buildings at two-thirds scale. Magic Mountain failed and was eventually reopened as Heritage Square, a collection of quaint shops and children's rides.
In 1972, William Oakley created the Heritage Square Players and began staging old-fashioned melodramas in the music hall. In 1988, T.J. Mullin took over, and the productions began morphing and shifting. He staged melodramas and novel adaptations (though Dickens would hardly have recognized his own Cricket on the Hearth); zany takes on Western history; olio medleys; and a series called Loud, each show comprising musical numbers from differing decades linked by the thinnest and most absurd threads of plot. In short, the fare has been as eclectic, eccentric, mishmashy yet strangely successful as the physical design of the place.
But the company never recovered from the recession, and this will be their final season.
Mullin and his cast of regulars forged a genuine bond with their audiences, and for years people came back again and again to eat at the upstairs buffet before descending the creaking stairs to the auditorium. The festivities still begin with a cheerful, uninhibited sing-along led by music director N. Randall Johnson on the piano. Then the performers take over. Playful, unpretentious, hugely talented, they give new meaning to the term "audience participation" — and audience members think nothing of calling out questions or requests or even popping up on stage themselves. The productions are a mix of original humor, corny old routines and unexpected new ones, improvisation and songs.
There are moments from these shows embedded in memory: colorful beach balls flying back and forth between the performers and the audience; Rory Pierce taking the hand of an elderly woman in the front row and singing a tender love song to her; spot-on imitations of such stars as Janis Joplin, Mick Jagger, James Brown, Mama Cass; Johnette Toye's lovely soprano; the evenings when Annie Dwyer left the stage to snatch up audience members' drinks and down them in a gulp, returning to her role afterward with complete focus and aplomb. We can't help thinking that even when the show's finally over, all that singing, laughter and camaraderie will somehow still be lingering in that strange hybrid of a building.
You can still catch the rest of the season, including the last in the Loud series, 50 Shades of Loud, and the final show, Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night.
1080 East Colfax Avenue
When Smiley's Laundromat said goodbye to Colfax this past April, closing its doors on more than three decades of a bizarre existence, it was more than a sign of the changing times. It was also Colorado's most famous road losing a living tribute to its weirdness.
But perhaps describing Smiley's — and its embodiment of the avenue's culture and population within its fishbowl storefront — as weird and bizarre doesn't give enough credit to the "World's Largest Discount Laundromat." Having opened in 1979, Smiley's was around long before Denver became a "most educated" or "most fit" city. Smiley's was part of this cowtown's seedier aesthetic, one that seems harder to find now.
Smiley's had been set to close once before, in 2006, when Triton Properties bought the 24-hour laundromat and its upstairs rental properties and announced plans to redevelop them. But the recession promptly halted those plans, and Smiley's stayed open. In 2011, the business portion was sold to longtime Smiley's washer-and-dryer repairman Richard Son, who cleaned up the spot, lowered prices and removed the 24-hour aspect of the laundromat — something that had become more of an expensive nuisance than a traffic driver. Still, the place was open seventeen hours a day.
Then, earlier this year, it looked as if Smiley's was getting a remodel — the windows were papered up and the parking lot was fenced off — but it quickly became clear that it had actually closed. Nostalgia couldn't keep a place like Smiley's open indefinitely — and the building's new owners, Slipstream Properties, have a lot of work ahead of them, including fixing water leaks, removing asbestos and making other repairs.
Slipstream has no plans to drastically change the facade of the building that once housed Smiley's — but the company "took out both levels of the ceiling, and now it's an amazing, tall space — it feels huge," Slipstream's Anthony Loeffler told Westword earlier this year. "We're planning on redoing the floor, creating several spaces and moving in some retailers."
Man, I guess I never thought I would see the day people would be so up in arms about a fried chicken joint being built on Colfax.
Colfax, you've changed.
Sean Mandel deliberately lies when he "insists" he has received "only two complaints" about Chick-Fil-A. I attended a neighborhood meeting in February with about two dozen neighbors, all of whom opposed the restaurant and pointed out the disadvantages and harm it would inflict on the neighborhood. That was just one meeting that people bothered to attend. He might have "received" two complaints by formal business letter, but he has heard and seen and been exposed to many, many more complaints about the restaurant (and about his duplicity).
Sean Mandel is lying again. The entire South City Park Association has complained about Chick-a-Fil. The drive thru does not meet the city's Colfax Plan and was snuck in on lies by him. The writers need to contact the association and see all he has done to avoid working with us. He has stated to us that Sprouts is non-viable on it's own as a tenant and they MUST have a drive thru... We do not trust, nor like him!
Sean, you are not welcome in SCP! Keep coming here on dates and I will harrass you in front of them!
I was surprised that the article failed to mention Duman's Custom Tailors. It has been right around the corner from the Capitol forever, and if anything demonstrated the eclectic nature of East Colfax Avenue, it was that shop.
I was gonna say, isn't it the longest street in the country? Cause if its not I've been lying to my out of town peps.
interesting. one other thing that should be mentioned is the latter day phenomenon of calling the street, "the Fax". that is appalling and must cease.