Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
The quality of the food varies, and the shows range from hilariously creative to the occasional damp squib. But over its 25 years, Heritage Square Music Hall has always been worth a visit. The melodramas and songfests feel like a wonderful party where your friends get up, one by one, to tell jokes or sing songs — though your friends aren't likely to be as talented as director T. J Mullin, who maintains a soft-spoken dignity on stage, right up until the moment he turns into a wailing baby; Rory Pierce, who'll play it straight for a while and then pop up in drag, showing off the best legs in the business; Alex Crawford, a grandfather who can still do the splits; Randy Johnson, who pounds the piano keys with such skill and enthusiasm that you have to sing along. And where will we go after December 31 — when the place closes — to see Annie Dwyer, the crazed comedian who made her mark snatching glasses of booze from customers' tables and downing them, impersonating singers from Janis Joplin to a fat-suited Mama Cass, terrorizing male audience members with sticky red forehead kisses and then yelling at their female companions? There is still a season's worth of shows to see, but the fun will stop at the end of the year, with Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night.
William Havu brought together three of the state's top abstract artists last spring. The main event was Amy Metier. Metier begins with an actual subject, and then, using her expressive brushwork, turns it into an abstract composition; though more representational than usual for her, these paintings were still very much a part of her classic style. Meanwhile, the floors at Havu were filled with small, simple sculptures based on organic shapes by Michael Clapper. One of Clapper's greatest strengths is the way he combines different materials. Finishing off the trio were Emilio Lobato's recent wall relief sculptures made of found materials.
When beloved local songwriter Mike Marchant was diagnosed with lymphoma last year, the scene immediately rose up to support him. A part of Denver music for the past decade and a half, Marchant is known not only for his never-ending creative endeavors — in Widowers, Houses, Mike Marchant's Outer Space Party Unit and more — but also for his kind heart. Like many creative types, Marchant is uninsured, but the amount of support coming in from the numerous benefit concerts, comedy nights and variety shows that sprung up within weeks of his diagnosis has been nothing short of miraculous. It pays to be kind, and this selfless musician would surely do the same if he were in someone else's shoes.
The story behind The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity is told as a series of monologues by a Puerto Rican kid called Macedonio Guerra, or Mace. Mace was fascinated by professional wrestling as a kid and grew up to be a part of that world. But only as a literal fall guy — the opponent routinely demolished by such stars as Chad Deity, a man who knows how to put on a terrific show but can't really fight worth a lick. It takes a lot of charm to keep audiences engaged through these long, often expository monologues, and serious acting chops to bring across Mace's emotional life and the way he longs less for his own turn in the spotlight than for some kind of truth in the over-hyped, stereotype-ridden sport he loves. Lopez managed all of this in the Curious Theatre production and pulled off some cool wrestling moves in the process.
James O'Hagan Murphy provided a complex portrait of a complex man in RFK. Robert Kennedy is remembered for his tragic assassination and venerated as the ideal president-who-should-have-been. But he possessed less pleasant characteristics, too: utter ruthlessness in pursuit of power; spurts of pettiness and jealousy; a profound loathing (entirely reciprocated) for Lyndon Baines Johnson. Kennedy tapped Martin Luther King's phone, and it took him some time to become an advocate for civil rights. But once he did, he fought for them passionately. In Murphy's authoritative performance in this Vintage Theatre production, all of the man's depths and ambiguities were made clear. And Kennedy's grief as he stood over the coffin of his murdered brother seared the soul.
Erick Devine exuded kindness and humanity as Kris Kringle in the Arvada Center's Miracle on 34th Street. He has a big, rich baritone, and his portrayal brought so much warmth to the show that when he told little Susan he really was Santa Claus, you didn't doubt it for a moment.