Gorgeous George: Who can resist the jazz- and Tin Pan Alley-inspired orchestral strains of George Gershwin's all-American compositions? Not you. The Colorado Symphony Orchestra, with guest vocalist Marilyn VerPlanck and conductor Newton Wayland, will celebrate Gershwin's music in a pops presentation beginning at 7:30 tonight (and repeated at the same time Saturday) at the Auditorium Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. Tickets range from $4 to $35; call 986-8742.
Hit the seedlings: Don't throw in the trowel just yet--whether you're looking for something that will grow where there's not enough water or something that's happiest floating in a wet ol' pond, the annual Denver Botanic Gardens Book and Plant Sale will cater to your out-of-the-ordinary gardening needs. Along with xeriscape and water-garden kits and close to 20,000 new and used books of all kinds, you'll find more than a quarter of a million plants for sale today and tomorrow at the gardens, including specialty seedlings such as the Principe Borghese Italian drying tomato; a green cherry tomato that resembles a grape; and the fiery Red Savina Habanero, a hot pepper guaranteed to supply more burn for your money. And while you browse the miles of bedding plants, herbs, cacti and charming garden accessories, your kids can get their hands dirty decorating and planting a Mother's Day flower pot ($1 per pot for children ages six and under, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow). Drop by the gardens, 1005 York St., between 10 and 5 each day; admission is free. Call 370-8187.
Fancy footwork: In what promises to be a fine example of why this Colorado troupe received a 1996 Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, Kim Robards Dance will stage a spring-has-sprung performance this weekend at the Teikyo Loretto Heights Theater, 3001 S. Federal Blvd. Led by Robards, whose works have been featured nationally and abroad, the group will premiere the choreographer's ensemble piece Unveiled and dance a pair of works by Russian guest choreographer Sasha Kukin. The performance, beginning tonight and tomorrow night at 8, will also feature additional reprise presentations. Admission ranges from $12 to $15 ($25 couple); call 825-4847, 830-TIXS or 937-4205 for reservations.
Picture perfect: Provocative and striking images by ten local photographers will line the walls at the Mackey Gallery, 2900 W. 25th Ave., during its fourth annual photo show, which opens tonight with a reception from 7 to 10. Also opening tonight--at Mackey's own gallery-within-a-gallery, M-ART--is a one-man show of shimmering Colorado Front Range landscape paintings by neo-expressionist Steve Walker. The photography exhibit continues through June 15, while Walker's works hang through June 3; for information and gallery hours call 455-1157.
The night of living dangerously: Mel and Sigourney, eat your hearts out. The food, culture and arts of Indonesia--minus the politics, humidity and lizards--will take a graceful step closer to home at the Balinese Arts Festival, a long, exotic evening that begins today at 4 at the Houston Fine Arts Center, 7111 Montview Blvd. The program will be highlighted by a dance-drama performance featuring a troupe of guest dancers direct from Bali and accompaniment by the local gamelan ensemble (for the uninitiated, an Indonesian percussion orchestra) Tunas Mekar. Also featured will be discussions and workshops, vendor booths with Indonesian goods, a tasting of Balinese cuisine, a fashion show and a travel slide show; for tickets, $8 to $18 in advance ($10-$20 at the door), call 433-3782.
Toast to the town: A swell urban celebration that grows larger and more comprehensive every year, Historic Denver Week kicks off today with its annual children's event, Box City. In that special project, kids in grades K-5 become city planners, architects and contractors, building a miniature city from cardboard, construction paper and glue. Youngsters can try on the various occupational hats from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at a new location, the Park Central Complex, at 16th and Arapahoe streets next to Skyline Park; admission is free. The rest of the week includes a top-notch series of walking tours, from a geology tour exploring the rock, stone and masonry found in historic structures around town (11:30 a.m. May 13, $15-$20; includes a Historic Denver guidebook), to a modern architecture tour with Westword art critic and Zeckendorf Plaza champion Michael Paglia (11:30 a.m. May 14, $5-$8), to a ritzy LoDo loft tour (noon to 4 p.m., May 18, $8-$12)--and everything in between. Meanwhile, the Molly Brown House Museum, 1340 Pennsylvania St., will host a Victorian Tea (1, 2 or 3 p.m. May 11) and offer free admission to mothers and grandmothers (noon to 4 p.m. May 12). For more information or to make tour reservations, call 296-9887.
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Swing shift: Maybe Mom would like to swing this year. If so, Mother's Day is the perfect occasion for a Gift of Jazz Party at the Wynkoop Brewing Company, 1634 18th St. Organized by local trumpeter Bob Montgomery, the casual 4 to 7 p.m. gig, featuring eight area jazz vocalists and two hotshot Denver rhythm sections, will make for a fine afternoon with your musical mater. And if the tensions rise, send her to the bar for a foamy beverage (stop sweating; we're talking about root beer). Admission is $3 to $8--except for moms, who will be admitted free when accompanied by one or more of their big or little kids. For details call 592-1168.
Days of whine and neurosis: Funny comes in all colors, but when it involves stand-up schlemiel Richard Lewis, it's usually dressed in black. Lewis, star of defunct television sitcoms, motion pictures and comedy shows on every network and cable channel known to man, has made a living exploring the humorous side of misery and angst ("I had a date from hell!"). Now on his first stand-up tour in more than two years, Lewis will have you laughing--to keep from crying--at 7:30 and 9:30 tonight and tomorrow at the Comedy Works, 1226 15th St. in Larimer Square. Ticket prices vary; for further information and reservations call 595-3637.
Ready to roll: Following the example of other major museums, the Denver Art Museum premiered its Cinema Series last week at the Acoma City Center, two blocks south of the museum at 1080 Acoma St., with a screening of John Ford's John Wayne oater The Searchers. The series, dedicated not only to classics but to meritorious independent films, continues tonight with Black Robe, Bruce Beresford's brutal tale of a missionary among native tribes in seventeenth-century New France. Future offerings, to screen at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through June 18, include The Wind--a 1928 pre-talkie with Lillian Gish and live accompaniment by pianist Hank Troy--on May 28; Night of the Hunter, with Robert Mitchum, on May 21; Terrence Mallick's Days of Heaven on June 4; Allison Anders's poignant Gas, Food and Lodging on June 11; and Clint Eastwood's Oscar winner Unforgiven for the finale. Tickets are $5 ($2.50 DAM members); call 640-2428 or 573-0782.
For the love of Maori: Those Pacific winds generated by the Balinese Arts Festival (see Saturday) will shift southward today, giving Denver a distinctly pan-cultural hue when the five-day South Pacific Festival commences tonight at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax. Sponsored by the Colorado-based South Pacific American Cultural Exchange, the festival is a kaleidoscopic effort combining cultural performances, a photography show, a writing workshop with Australian fiction author Peter Carey (2 p.m. today, $125) and an Australian and New Zealand Film Series. An opening-night gala, which includes film clips, music, food and aboriginal music and lore with didgeridoo artist and storyteller Paul Taylor, begins tonight at 6. Tomorrow's New Zealand Evening, also beginning at 6, mixes more films and food with a vibrant performance by the Kahurangi Maori Dance Troupe, which re-creates the Haka dance observed by Captain James Cook when he landed on New Zealand centuries ago. For more event information, ticket prices and reservations, call the festival hotline at 293-2420.