Cats. This company does as good a job with Cats as one can imagine. The dancing, choreographed by Stephen Bertles, who also directed, is seamless. The cast is lithe and graceful. They slither like snakes. They leap high and land without a sound. They're wonderfully into character, batting at each other with kitty-cat paws, or hissing or rubbing a head lightly against a fellow actor's shoulder. The voices and performances are also fine, and there are a few good numbers, such as "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer" and "Gus the Theatre Cat." There's also the T.S. Eliot factor: Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is the dour old poet's most playful work. But this is still Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer-impresario who arrived on the musical-theater scene like a soggy gray blanket, snuffing out any sparks of wit or originality and leaving in their place a huge, throbbing, manipulative, faintly ecclesiastical and unfocusedly ecstatic swamp of sentimentality. It's a swamp that snares these dancing kitties' feet, no matter how high they try to leap. Presented by Boulder Dinner Theatre through May 1, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-442-5671, www.theatreinboulder.com. Reviewed December 2.
Cyrano. The trouble with Heritage Square's Cyrano is that the company has abandoned the hybrid style that's all its own -- one that involves wild improvisation and lots of audience participation -- and decided instead to play the story of the long-nosed wit and fighter who's afraid to reveal his love to the beautiful Roxanne pretty straight. T.J. Mullin, who plays Cyrano, specializes in an understated on-stage humor that's the antithesis of Cyrano's swashbuckling. And Annie Dwyer can do that demure-heroine thing all right, but she's far more interesting when she's flashing baleful glances at the man in the audience who's been brash enough to question her beauty. For the second part of the evening, the cast tackles the songs of Stephen Sondheim -- whose works are notoriously difficult to play and sing -- and does well with them, giving us a medley of songs that's so charming and tuneful, you want the music never to stop. Presented by Heritage Square Music Hall through May 8, 18301West Colfax Avenue, D-103, Golden, 303-279-7800, www.hsmusichall.com. Reviewed March 10.
El Conquistador! Polonio Castro, the protagonist of Thaddeus Phillips's El Conquistador!, is an Everyman figure, the kind of guy who has no power in the world, but who ultimately gets what he wants because he's small, cheeky and irrepressible. Polonio's crops have been destroyed by the rain of U.S. pesticides intended to eradicate Colombia's coca fields. Taking with him his television and a beloved potted plant, he decides to seek his fortune in Bogota, where he takes a job as the doorman at an apartment building populated by an eccentric and demanding group of tenants. Confusion, murder and mayhem follow. Naturally, this being a Thaddeus Phillips production, the story is told by highly ingenious means. The tenants of the apartment house appear on film; they are played by genuine Latin American soap stars. Pretty soon it feels as if the boundaries between reality and fantasy, action and play-acting, flesh-and-blood people and the visual representation of those people are dissolving. Aside from a brief explanation by Phillips at the beginning, El Conquistador! is entirely in Spanish. It's also entirely comprehensible, even to those who don't speak the language. Presented by the Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental through April 10, Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan Street, 720-946-1388, www.buntport.com. Reviewed March 31.
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.
Paris on the Platte. Joan Holden's play is a comic romp through early nineteenth-century Denver history, focusing on Mayor Robert Speer and his dreams of the City Beautiful. Speer was a genuine visionary. Inspired by two trips to Paris, he cleaned up Denver's streets, unclogged garbage-laden Cherry Creek, built an auditorium, created parks and laid plans for a civic center. But there was another side to these activities. He also ignored prostitution, pandered to business and shamelessly rigged elections. The play is episodic, with no clear story arc. The acting is presentational, though not always without feeling. The action is accompanied throughout by the clean, swift playing of pianist David Dunbar, working in styles as various as ragtime and Chopin, and Tupper Cullum does full justice to all the aspects of Speer's complex character. Holden has a keen political and satirical eye for civic issues, and this is a highly enjoyable history lesson. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through April 23, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed March 31.
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