The Full Monty. The Full Monty follows a group of men who are out of work in Buffalo, New York. Amazed to discover that the women of the town are willing to pay high prices to watch a Chippendale-style strip show, the men decide they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by staging a similar extravaganza. The originator of the plan is the charmingly irresponsible Jerry Lukowski, who's desperate for money to meet support payments for his teenage son. Jerry's best friend, Dave Bukatinsky, has sunk into a marriage-threatening depression; he eats to console himself and has developed a formidable paunch. Stripping is the last thing on his mind. This is a good-hearted, gentle show, adapted from the 1997 British film, with a focus on the ways in which the men overcome their insecurities. It's also smart and well-written. You really do like these guys, and the critique of conventional sexual politics is both funny and right on. There's a lot of wonderful singing and acting in this production. And in the wives' loving shrieks of encouragement at the final striptease, and the men's growing confidence, there's an exhilarating sense of a broken community coming together to reaffirm itself. Presented by the Arvada Center through July 31, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, www.arvadacenter.org. Reviewed on July 7.
Madama Butterfly. Central City's Madama Butterfly is beautifully sung, though a little over-directed by famed soprano Catherine Malfitano. First performed in 1904, Puccini's opera tells the story of an American officer, B.F. Pinkerton, stationed in Japan, who enters into an exploitative union with a teenage geisha. He knows from the beginning that he will eventually return home and find an American wife, but Cio Cio San -- Madama Butterfly -- believes entirely in his love and their enduring union. Once Pinkerton has left, she gives birth to his child and spends three lonely, penurious years waiting for his return. Her longing and passion are crystallized in one of the loveliest and most famous arias of the world of opera, "Un Bel Di," sung here to heart-melting effect by Maria Kanyova. All of the casting is strong, and although some of Malfitano's innovations -- intercessions by Butterfly's ghostly father, ancestor tableaux and a great deal of business with the American flag -- are distracting, her production brings life and breath to this much-loved and -performed chestnut. Presented by Central City Opera House through July 30, 124 Eureka Street, Central City, 303-292-6700, www.centralcityopera.org. Reviewed July 21.
Rocky Horror Show. Rocky is a pastiche of clichés from science fiction, horror movies and pop culture. It's an uninhibited celebration of camp, aided by three decades of film and stage audiences who have clapped and sung along to the songs, flung various and specific objects on stage, lit flickering lights and offered randy verbal prompts. The action begins when innocent young Brad and Janet, who have just attended the wedding of a friend, get engaged. Within minutes -- naturally -- they find themselves stranded on a dark road in a pelting rainstorm. They seek shelter and a phone in the sinister castle of Frank-N-Furter, who's a mad alien scientist visiting Earth from the Planet Transsexual. The actors are never very far from you on the Avenue's tiny stage, and their hypnotically glazed eyes help make the production a total immersion experience. Should your attention falter for a moment, you'll find everything crashing back into focus when Sugar stalks onto the stage with his sinuously sweeping moves and crimson-lipped, lemon-wedge-shaped smile. This is i>Rocky Horror/i> as it's meant to be -- a lewd and lurid midnight fantasy. Presented by the Avenue Theater at 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through August 6, 417 East 17th Avenue, 303-321-5925, www.avenuetheater.com. Reviewed July 14.
Ruthless! the Musical. Little Tina Denmark was born with talent. No one knows where it came from -- her mother is a perky, cookie-baking, '50s-style housewife, her father always away on unspecified business -- but dancing and singing are clearly in her blood. So when Tina loses the lead in the school musical, Pippi in Tahiti, to Louise Lerman it's clear that the poor poppet is justified in any steps she takes to remedy the situation -- including murder. Soon Louise is swinging from her own skip rope, and Tina is playing Pippi. Ruthless is an extended piece of camp, a funny, silly pastiche of moments from Gypsy, The Bad Seed, All About Eveand every pre-'60s musical with a larger-than-life female star you can remember. Nonesuch Theater has mounted a highly entertaining version of the show, full of madly hamming actors and great voices. Presented by Nonesuch Theatre Company through August 13, 216 Pine Street, Fort Collins, 1-970-224-0444, www.nonesuchtheater.com. Reviewed June 2.
The Wizard of Oz. The Boulder's Dinner Theatre production of The Wizard of Oz, under artistic director Michael J. Duran, hews very closely to the 1939 movie version, but it's done with such élan that it never feels old. With bright, inventive sets, clever costumes, lively choreography and hyper-energetic performances, it's like a carnival ride that whisks you away in a swirl of color, movement, sound and simple nostalgia. As Dorothy, Emily Van Fleet faithfully channels Judy Garland, though she lacks the latter's sense of wonder. Her voice is a marvel, however, shading richly through melting variations in tone and color, and her rendition of "Over the Rainbow" had the audience spellbound. Several BDT stalwarts turn in riveting performances in other roles. Add inventive bits of direction, an excellent small orchestra, an adorable small dog and an ensemble full of fine voices and interesting personalities, and you have an extended frolic that both kids and adults can enjoy. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through September 4, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.theatreinboulder.com. Reviewed May 26.
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