50 Shades of Loud. Heritage Square Music Hall will close down at the end of the year after more than two decades of hilarity in its Golden home, where a unique small company evolved an equally unique performing style. The shows are simultaneously bumbling and brilliantly staged, professional and apparently amateurish, silly and clever — and also gutsy and funny as hell. For a long time, a devoted audience came along night after night for the ride. But that audience dwindled, and that means the end of the music and laughter. For the moment, however, there's plenty of both as the intrepid troupe presents 50 Shades of Loud, the tenth and final entry in its Loudseries — original summer-spoof musicals in which the members perform a string of popular numbers linked by a very thin excuse for a plot. In this one, Rory (Rory Pierce) has bought the house where T.J. (T.J. Mullin) and Annie (Annie Dwyer) grew up, and is about to move in — except that Mom is on the john reading Omagazineand shows no inclination to vacate. Rory's ex-wife, Johnette (Johnette Toye), is moving in a couple of blocks away. The tumultuous relationship between Annie and her teenage boyfriend, Bobby Lee — always played, with varying degrees of commitment or reluctance, by some guy Dwyer picks out of the audience — remains tumultuous even though they're now married. Annie plonks herself on this Bobby Lee's lap, ruffles his hair, drags him onto the stage, and berates him frequently. The entire cast is in terrific form. They do solos, duets and group numbers; play various instruments; execute sharp, synchronized moves; croon love songs and belt out hard rock. They don wigs and absurd costumes; the men sashay in ball gowns. And it wouldn't be Heritage without everyone donning bowl-cut black wigs for a Beatles number ("Back in the U.S.S.R.") and a hugely fat-suited Dwyer trundling around the stage as Mama Cass for "Creeque Alley." All the numbers are fun, but some are performed with such crazed passion that the entire house erupts in joyous shouts. Presented by Heritage Square Music Hall through September 8, 18301 West Colfax Avenue, Golden, 303-279-7800, heritagesquare.info. Reviewed July 11.
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In the Heights. A lot goes on in three days in Washington Heights, Manhattan — at least as portrayed in In the Heights. Graffiti Pete gets driven away from Usnavi's bodega — where everyone stops for light, sweet coffee in the morning — before he can make his mark on the door; Usnavi greets the neighborhood and yearns for pretty Vanessa; Vanessa likes Usnavi, but longs to get out of Washington Heights; Kevin and Camila run their taxi-dispatch shop and welcome back their daughter, Nina, the neighborhood's big success story since she escaped it to study at Stanford; Nina — whose life isn't quite as perfect as everyone imagines — teases and flirts with Kenny, an old friend. There is also the figure who represents the history and soul of this immigrant community: Abuela Claudia. In her first — and very ambitious — venture as a director, Rebecca Joseph does almost full justice to this warmhearted and endearing show. The action flows well, and she keeps her large cast singing and dancing with exuberance. But in some ways the production adds to the plot's vagueness. It's sometimes hard to hear the words being sung. Though the choreography is pleasing, it could be cleaner and crisper in parts, as could the action in general. Still, the joyful energy of the cast makes up for these minor problems. Presented by Vintage Theatre through September 8, 1468 Dayton Street, Aurora, 303-856-7830, vintagetheatre.org. Reviewed August 15.
Metamorphoses. Mary Zimmerman's play is a retelling of nine myths, most of them from Ovid. It takes place in and around a pool of water, and water imagery dominates as characters transform within the pool's depths or skim across the surface, create murderous watery mayhem or playfully splash each other. Eight performers act out the myths, metamorphosing appropriately as they do. These myths are meta-stories, rooted deep in the human psyche (which, as the play tells us, once meant "soul" rather than representing the personal travails and neuroses embedded in the current word "psychology"). They deal with universal themes: change and transformation, death, familial relationships, varieties of love and love's redemptive powers, selflessness and, in two cases, untrammeled greed. One tells of King Midas, whose worship of gold destroys his only daughter. In another, Erysichthon chops down a tree sacred to Ceres, goddess of summer and fruitfulness, and the spirit Hunger is sent to punish him; maddened, he consumes everything he has, finally devouring his own flesh. The tone of the production is anything but lofty and solemn, though some scenes are deeply moving. There are all kinds of comic moments: a mime sequence showing Narcissus paralyzed by his own beauty; Phaeton floating on a plastic raft and complaining to his analyst that his father, Phoebus Apollo, won't let him drive the car. Directed by Geoffrey Kent, this Metamorphoses turns out to be a brilliant explication of a beautiful text. Presented by the Aurora Fox through September 22, 9900 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora, 303-739-1970, aurorafox.org. Reviewed August 22.