Born to Be Loud. Born to Be Loud consists of a string of songs from the late '50s to the '80s. Some are sung straight, some satirized, some clearly intended as an homage to a particular band or performer; they're stitched together with all kinds of humor and hokum, and just a whisper of plot. What amazes is the fact that the performers are as musically impressive as they are hilariously funny. Be careful where you sit: Every evening, Annie Dwyer assumes the teenage persona she's sported for every one of the Music Hall's Loud series and focuses like a laser on some hapless man in the audience. She proclaims that this is her faithless boyfriend, Bobby Lee, and proceeds to nag, rage, whine, bully, snap her gum and insult the man's date until he admits that he loves her. Presented by the Heritage Square Music Hall through September 12, 18301 West Colfax, 303-279-7800, www.heritagesquare.info. Reviewed June 10.
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change! Four talented, charming energetic performers work seamlessly together to create an evening of song and skit that's almost pure celebratory froth, with just the smallest undertone of genuine feeling. One could wish for more bite, but the humor's exuberant and the songs clever -- and everyone needs a helping of peach soufflé now and then. Presented by the Garner Galleria Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex through August 29, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100. Reviewed September 13, 2001.
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. Impulse Theater, ongoing run, Wynkoop Brewing Co., 18th and Wynkoop streets, 303-297-2111 or www.impulsetheater.com. Reviewed June 3.
Metamorphoses. Mary Zimmerman's play is a sometimes ironic and sometimes respectful take on Ovid's work of the same name. The cast assembles around a granite pool -- a miracle of design and engineering at the Avenue Theater -- that can be anything from a backyard pool to the Greeks' dangerous wine-dark sea, a medium for death, birth, baptism and transformation. Actors act out the myths or narrate them, sometimes addressing the audience, sometimes each other. The gods they portray are pretty much like the rest of us, vain or large-spirited, compassionate or cruel. Zimmerman may deserve all the praise she's earned for Metamorphoses, but the most powerful scenes rely on the words of Ovid and poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Still, Metamorphoses is a seductive combination of lighthearted pleasure and resonant, powerful theme. Presented by the Avenue Theater through August 29, 417 East 17th Avenue, 303-321-5925, www.avenuetheater.com. Reviewed June 17.
Say Goodnight Gracie. George Burns, having just died, finds himself in limbo. To enter heaven and reunite with his professional partner and beloved wife, Gracie Allen, he has to audition for God. The audition is a recounting of his life. Burns was born Nathan Birnbaum on the New York's Lower East Side. He shared a weekly bathtub of hot water with several siblings and a dog. Still a kid, he undertook a number of jobs to help keep the family afloat after his father's sudden death. He found that people would pay to hear him sing, and his infatuation with show business bloomed into passion when he teamed up with a young Irish Catholic vaudevillian named Gracie Allen. After their first performance together -- which bombed -- Burns realized that Allen was much funnier than he was, so he proposed that they switch lines, and he assumed the role of straight man. Instantly, they became a hit. The couple succeeded, sequentially, in vaudeville, radio and television. Frank Gorshin's performance as George Burns keeps the evening entertainingly afloat. He simply is George Burns for an hour and a half. The play is a lovely tribute to a fertile period in American comedy and a genuinely original comic couple. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through August 15, Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org. Reviewed July 1.
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The Tales of Hoffmann. Jacques Offenbach was known for his light comic operettas, but he composed Tales shortly before his death with posterity in mind. You can see his comic-opera talents in the toe-tapping, buoyantly enjoyable drinking songs. But the opera also features beautiful passages of yearning and passion. The plot concerns a poet, Hoffmann, who's mooning around in a tavern, while across the street the woman he loves -- the great diva, Stella -- performs in Mozart's Don Giovanni. Stella, Hoffmann says, is everything to him: artist, maiden and courtesan. He then tells his drinking companions the story of three previous loves. The romances he describes may be real or they may come from his fevered imagination. In any case, Hoffmann reels from beloved to beloved, drinking and taking drugs, until he's finally destroyed. The acting is good, and all the singing first-rate. Presented by Central City Opera in rotation with The Student Prince and Le Jongleur De Notre Dame through August 8. Central City Opera House, Central City, 303-292-6700, www.centralcityopera.org. Reviewed July 8.