Garden party: Next weekend's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream might seem to better fit the occasion, but look at it this way: Kicking off this summer's Theatre in the Park series in Civic Center Park with James Goldman's Lion in Winter at least sounds pretty cool. Taken literally, that is. Never mind that the weather is calm and the temperature glorious and stars above the Greek Amphitheater are all a-twinklin' in the clear, blue-black night sky. And isn't that just a breath of a breeze mussing your hair? As for that matter of the admission price--there isn't one. Bring a blanket, a picnic, a crowd and maybe a sweater or umbrella and enjoy your royal history lesson. Curtain time is 8 p.m. nightly today through Saturday; for more information call 770-2106.
Deja vu: Have we all been here before? Well, sorta. Just a couple of weeks ago we were cruising Cherry Creek North looking at great art and crafts, noshing on goodies and having a heck of a time. The Cherry Creek Art Walk, scheduled for every third Thursday of the month through the end of the year, is a slightly smaller-scale endeavor than the massive Cherry Creek Arts Festival, but the good-time part still applies, and so does the great art. More than twenty galleries located between 1st and 3rd avenues and Josephine and St. Paul streets host open houses tonight from 5 to 9; the profusion of nearby eateries supply a perfect excuse to stop for a bite during stroll hours; and, this month only, neighboring shops will offer bargains to gallery-goers as part of an annual sidewalk sale.
Short stuff, tall order: Talented kids from all over the city get into the act during the Denver Public Schools' Summer Stage '97, a showcase series offering a smorgasbord of performing arts programs featuring students of all grade levels. This weekend, middle-school pupils sing and dance their way through The Best of Broadway (2:30 today and Sunday; 7 tomorrow), while high-schoolers get serious in Othello Rehearsed (7 today and Sunday; 2:30 tomorrow); the festival wraps up next week with a Spanish-language play and all-age, grand-finale performances of The Sound of Music. Tickets range from $3 to $5 (family discounts available); all productions take place at Thomas Jefferson High School, 3950 S. Holly St. Call 691-7006 for tickets and information.
Summer in the city: Some things just keep inflating, growing in size year after year, like a marshmallow man. Lucky for us, the AT&T LoDo Music Festival, which offers a heap of music for just a few bucks, is one of them. Setting up in the streets of LoDo for its fifth year, the friendly urban festival will expand into visual- and performance-art areas with New Yorker Pat Olesko's inflatable art, sidewalk art by Dubliner Gary Palmer, urban ballet from the Pedestrian Project and other whimsical side shows. Today's musical lineup gets going at 6 with a mixture of ska, jazz and assorted roots and ends late with the Freddy Jones Band and the Smithereens; tomorrow's show starts at 4 with more variety, blending zydeco, gospel, blues, country, folk and headliners Tower of Power and Little Feat. Tickets are a reasonable $10 to $12 daily; enter the festival grounds (between 18th, 20th, Wynkoop and Blake streets) at 18th and Blake. Call 888-LODO or 1-800-444-SEAT.
In full bloom: Ethnic festivals are flowering in Denver over the weekend, each paying homage to growing things and fascinating cultures. The annual Cherry Blossom Festival, usually thrown in spring but held back until mid-summer this year, celebrates Japanese arts, food and customs today and tomorrow from 11 to 6 at Sakura Square, 19th and Lawrence streets. There's a reason for the fest's slight change of season: More dependable weather patterns will allow for a special "Obon Odori" folk dance, complete with kimonoed performers swinging colorful lanterns, tonight from 7 to 9. Daytime activities include martial arts demonstrations, an Akita dog show, traditional tea ceremonies and some of the best homemade festival food you'll ever savor. Admission to the 25th annual event is free.
Indigenous culture, replete with Native American arts, storytelling, music and dance, is the focus of the Denver Botanic Gardens' annual American Indian Sunflower Festival, which takes place--where else?--in the shadow of the DBG's magnificent sunflower patches, reminders of the native plant's decorative, medicinal and dietary uses. Kids will enjoy painting pots and making cornhusk dolls during craft workshops, and everyone will dig the authentic fry bread; festival activities and displays are included in the regular gate admission of $2 to $4 (children five and under free). The festival runs from 9 to 5 today and tomorrow at 1005 York St.; while you're there, check out the DBG's fun BirdHaus display, on exhibit through July 27. Call 370-8187.
Wheel 'em in: Is your kid the next Patrick Roy? The traveling NHL Breakout '97, stopping over in Denver this weekend, is as good a place as any to find out. The two-day event not only features a plethora of tournaments for dozens of local roller-hockey teams competing in state-of-the-art inflatable rinks, but it also boasts an obstacle course, demo zone and slap-shot cage for spectators and a goodwill contingent of Colorado Avalanche players to meet and greet the fans. And as for those reckless little Roys, there'll be an interactive Between the Pipes exhibit where they can sample the art of goaltending. The in-line fest runs from 9 to 6 today and tomorrow in the Coors Field parking lot; call 1-302-405-1359 or skate onto the NHL's Web site at www.nhl. com for details.
Go, you girl group: Cabaret will never be the same after the whirlwind arrival of Betty, a witty, sassy New York-based trio of harmonizing gals not content to stick to any single vein of popular music for more than a few minutes. The result is a show studded with variety: torch songs, nostalgia trips, novelty tunes, jazz, disco-ready dance music and...a cello. Catch Betty tonight at 7 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave.; for tickets, $10 in advance ($12 at the door), call 830-TIXS or 322-2308.
HORDE times: Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, dudes--another HORDE Festival is coming your way, and it may just be the best one yet. Headlined by jammer godfather Neil Young and his on-again, off-again band, Crazy Horse, the fest, starting today at 2:30 at Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, 6350 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., also features local boys Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Les Claypool's manic trio Primus and hot music revivalists the Squirrel Nut Zippers, along with an alternative/jam-band gumbo that includes Toad the Wet Sprocket, Morphine, Ben Folds Five and Leftover Salmon. Hey, the more the merrier. Tickets are a flat $30; call 830-TIXS, pronto, to reserve yours.
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Monster mush: Take one fairy tale, embellish it liberally with singing teapots, dancing candlesticks and show-quality songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, and you've got Disney's Beauty and the Beast, one of the finest in a string of animated films that has revived the studio's feature-length cartoon dynasty in recent years. Now Beauty's made the leap to live action on Broadway, where it premiered as a stage musical in 1994. Featuring fabulous costumes, stunning special effects and five new songs co-written by Menken and new collaborator Tim Rice, the extravaganza makes its Denver debut at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, tonight at 8. Even if you're a curmudgeonly Disney-hater, advance reports indicate it'll tame your beast within. The run continues daily except Mondays through August 31; for showtimes, reservations and tickets, which range from $15 to $65, call the Denver Center box office, 893-4100, or Ticketmaster, 830-TIXS.
Clinton administration: Ever since we--and George Clinton's P-Funk All Stars--were in diapers, there's been little question in our minds about where the funk is given up. Tonight Clinton and covey give it up at Red Rocks when the Smokin' Grooves '97 tour, the latest version of Clinton's annual tribal hoedown, frees your mind beginning at 6. In tow for this year's show are Cypress Hill, Erykah Badu, Brand New Heavies, The Roots and Foxy Brown; for tickets, $27.50, call 830-TIXS.
Come blow your horns: You've got to start somewhere, and for young jazz musicians from around the world, the Mile High Jazz Camp at CU-Boulder is it. The instructional portion of the week-long program, provided by a high-quality teaching crew of instructors and players from across the country, is, to everyone's advantage, highlighted by free performances open to the public. Faculty big bands blow the house down nightly at 8, today through Friday; Saturday is reserved for the students, who perform in combos from 1 to 5:30 and in big bands beginning at 7. Performances are held in Grusin Hall, on campus at 18th and Euclid, Boulder; for information call 492-8008.
The subterraneans: The Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St., lives up to its name as Bohemia Central tonight when poets, musicians, performers, dilettantes and thrill-seekers make things up as they go during Bleeding TVs of the Angels, a recurring sort of happening at which participants type, sing, emote and otherwise spontaneously do as they please for the entire evening. Collaborators are urged to bring instruments, toys, tools, ideas and food; the artsy free-for-all, also a potluck dinner, begins at 7 and continues until...whenever. And you might want to doll yourself up a bit--word is that video cameras will be rolling. Admission is $3 at the door; call 294-9258.