42nd Street. A big, glitzy show filled with great songs and requiring dozens of tapping feet, 42nd Street
is one of those musicals that spoofs the genre while at the same time providing all its shmaltzy pleasures. Peggy is a star-struck youngster who arrives in New York to audition for a musical called Pretty Lady. Oddly, even though she's clearly a budding star whose career will completely dwarf theirs when she takes over for the injured lead, all the other hoofers adore her, and sweetly encourage her to persevere in the face of all obstacles. The producer falls hard for her, as does leading man Billy. By the end, her charm and talent have even melted the stony heart of Dorothy, the sidelined leading lady. But the plot is just a pretext for a string of exhilarating musical numbers, such as "Lullaby of Broadway," "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me," and "We're in the Money." Given a show this ambitious, Boulder's Dinner Theatre had to find new talent, as well as using excellent longtime performers like the indispensable Joannie Brosseau, fleet-footed Scott Beyette, and Alicia Dunfee, one of the most compelling actresses around. For the young leads, director Michael J. Duran brought in Katie Ulrich, a dancing, singing firecracker, and Johnny Stewart, a University of Colorado business and dance major, who had never before appeared at Boulder's Dinner Theatre. He also assembled a scintillating and largely unfamiliar chorus. The result is a glittering, tinseled present to brighten the holiday season. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through February 16, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder. 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed December 13.
Dixie's Tupperware Party. Dixie is a booze- and sex-addicted, trash-talking, child-neglecting ex-con from Alabama who holds Tupperware parties in her trailer, and she's invited you to this one. Dixie's Tupperware Party at the Galleria really is a Tupperware party — you get a name tag and raffle number when you come in, and there are pens and catalogues on all the tables. Dixie, your hostess, greets you in high white heels and a crotch-skimming skirt, earrings swinging, red hair piled high. Collapsible bowls, punch and party setups, plastic jugs and ribbed mugs (uh-huh) gleam in shades of lime, blue, orange and purple on a table behind her; by the time she's through, you won't be able to look at a plastic storage container without giggling. Just the words "collapsible bowl" will set you off. Dixie is also Kris Andersson, an actor who realized he could make an actual living selling Tupperware and began hosting parties. As he worked, the character of Dixie developed. Andersson brought his show to New York's Fringe Festival in 2004, and it caught fire from there. This production is seriously dirty, and it's also one terrific evening. Dixie is a great character: She doesn't give an inch, but she's as appealing as she is wicked. And Andersson not only loves Dixie, but he loves Tupperware, too — and he's not being snarky about it. So no matter how much Dixie screws up her spiel or how many lewd jokes she makes about the uses to which you can put "the best plastic crap on the planet," there's a reverential quality to the way she fondles the goods that makes you actually want to buy them. Presented by Denver Center Attractions through January 2, Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org.
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Greetings! The play begins with a fair amount of charm and humor, even if the basic plot is less than original: Andy Gorski has brought his girlfriend, Randi, to his Pittsburgh home to meet his very Catholic and conventional family — grumpy, alcoholic father Phil, anxious and unhappy mother Emily, and mentally challenged younger brother Mickey. Think Meet the Parents crossed with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and throw in a dash of Archie and Edith Bunker. But even if the characters aren't fully fleshed out and the jokes are a bit thin, the acting is strong, and the first act flies by. The affectionate interplay between Andy and the brother for whom he's saved his airline package of honey-roasted nuts and with whom he wrestles uninhibitedly on the floor is appealing, and Phil's constant growling irritation, his endless battles with the house's electricity, are pretty funny. But then the angelic being shows up — and, unhappily, he's a complete bore, provider of minor and meaningless miracles, utterer of the kind of advice about life you'd expect to find in a Hallmark card. He helps Randi make peace with the death of her little sister and explains to Emily that changing your life is as simple as changing your actions day by day. Taken as a whole, though, and perhaps with an eggnog or two to help it along, this is a pleasant holiday offering. Presented by Miners Alley through December 23, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, www.minersalley.com.
The Man Who Came to Dinner. Written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart in 1939, The Man Who Came to Dinner
is about an insufferable guest. Wealthy factory owner Earnest W. Stanley lives in a small Ohio town called Mesalia. As the play opens, his household is all a-twitter about their famous guest, writer and public wit Sheldon Whiteside, who, having slipped on the ice outside the front door and hurt his hip, will be staying with them for a while. But when he's wheeled out by a nurse in his wheelchair, Whiteside himself is far less pleased. "I may vomit," he observes to the hopeful and star-struck assembly. And then he proceeds to lay down the rules: Since he'll be working in the living room and the library, no one else can enter them for the duration of his stay. Nor can anyone use the phone. He hands Mrs. Stanley the menu for the lunch he'd like served to the five guests he's just invited, and informs Mr. Stanley that he'll be suing him for $150,000. And so Whiteside sets up court and carries on with his life, preparing for his famed radio addresses, receiving gifts that include an Egyptian mummy, calf's foot jelly, a box of penguins and a scientific experiment involving thousands of cockroaches. But he goes too far when he decides to destroy the budding romance between his secretary, Maggie Cutler, and local journalist Bert Jefferson. There are 23 characters in this play (played here by twenty actors), and people are always popping on to perform comic bits, toss off one-liners and serve as the butt of Whiteside's endless barrage of insults. Whiteside himself is one of those larger-than-life, swift-tongued 1930s wits — Noel Coward with more malice and quite a lot more girth. Much of the humor relies on his nastiness and name dropping. But to carry off a piece as stylized as this, you need actors with a lot of poise and moxie, and much of the acting in this production is at the level of good community theater. Presented by Spotlight Theatre Company through December 22, the John Hand Theater, 7653 East First Place. Reviewed December 6.
Miracle on 34th Street. The songs in this show are workable but not inspired, and much of the script is taken directly from the 1947 movie of the same name that made little Natalie Wood a star. Though it feels odd in this day and age to hear romantic hero Fred address Doris, the woman he's coming to love, as a "dumb little dame," the story still has some charm and punch. Yes, you know cynical little Susan, who's been taught by her embittered divorced mother Doris not to entertain magical or romantic reveries, will be won over by Fred, the gallant Marine who lives next door, and later by Kris Kringle, the portly, white-bearded gentleman who insists he's the real Santa Claus. But it's still fun to watch it happen — and who doesn't want to believe that generosity and goodwill can overcome all obstacles, especially at Christmas? Erick Devine exudes kindliness and humanity as Kringle, and his rich baritone warms you to the soul. When he says he really is Santa Claus, you don't doubt it for a moment. And Lauren Shealy deploys a fine soprano as Doris. Director Gavin Mayer has found several wonderfully appealing youngsters for his cast: Regan Fenske is grave, serious and entirely professional as skeptical Susan; six-year-old Ashlyn Faith Williams is touching as Hendrika, a lonely Dutch adoptee whom Kringle addresses in her own language. As for Nate Kissingford's little Tommy, who innocently destroys his DA father's entire case against Kringle in the courtroom — you just want to squeeze the puddin' out of him, as the old folks used to say. Presented by the Arvada Center through December 23, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, 720-898-7200, www.arvadacenter.org. Reviewed December 6.