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Best Of 2014

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Museum Shop
Denver Botanic Gardens

Former Nordstrom exec Chuck McGothlin has an impeccable eye honed during a career buying for the department store's Fifth Avenue boutique in New York, and his experience there clearly translates well at the beautifully upscale Denver Botanic Gardens gift shop. What makes this a must-see stop before or after any visit to the gardens (or even when you're just gift-shopping)? Brilliant merchandising — and a well-selected mixture of art, jewelry, repurposed materials, books, cards, pottery, plants and elegant home accents, along with many nature- and garden-oriented items. And with a much-awaited outdoor exhibit by glass artist Dale Chihuly coming to the DBG in June, the shop should be even more spectacular.

1007 York St., Denver, 80206
MAP
720-865-3500
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2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver, 80205
MAP
303-370-6000

Best Book Club

This book club has everything: great titles, a dynamic facilitator, interesting company all deeply engaged in relating works of literature to their life experiences. The only hitch is you have to be in prison to join. Ex-librarian Karen Lausa's largely volunteer effort to bring serious books into the Colorado Department of Corrections, which began with a group of lifers at Limon in 2012, has expanded to several other facilities, demonstrating that incarcerated men and women, adults and juveniles are all hungry for a good story — and a chance to reflect on what it can teach them about their own wrong turns and possible paths to redemption.

Best Actor in a Comedy

Founding troupe member Evan Weissman has been missing from the Buntport stage for a while. "It's like breaking away from family," he says. "Even if you want to, you can't, and I don't want to." So it was a joy to witness his return as Alec the Amazing and All Powerful in this season's terrific revival of Jugged Rabbit Stew. Alec is a magician filled with delusions of grandeur but unable to perform a single trick, since the real magic lies in the paws of his angry and vicious white rabbit, Snowball — who has actually magicked away Alec's right arm. Alec doesn't seem to mind, however. He's filled with bouncy joie de vivre, along with inexplicable love for nasty Snowball, a love he celebrates in a full-throated song about "That Special Hare." Perhaps it was Weissman's delight at being back on stage that made him perform with such fizz and brio. Whatever it was, bravo, Alec!

Best Actor in a Drama
Cajardo Lindsey in <i>The Brothers Size</i>

We've seen Cajardo Lindsey playing thoughtful, temperate people for a few years now and doing it very well, but before he appeared in Curious Theatre Company's The Brothers Size, we'd never understood the man's sheer power as an actor. In this myth- and dream-saturated story, Lindsey played Orgun, owner of an auto shop. His younger brother, Oshoosi, had just been released from prison, and Orgun expected him to enter the same trade, but Oshoosi preferred to laze in bed and fantasize about freedom, car rides and pussy. In the Yoruba tradition, Orgun is a blacksmith, and Cajardo, beating metal into submission, towered over the evening, terrifying in his anger, heartbreaking in his grief, both human and larger than human, and sometimes — like the play itself — wonderfully and unexpectedly funny.

1080 Acoma St., Denver, 80204
MAP
303-623-0524
Best Actor in a Drama
Cajardo Lindsey in <i>The Brothers Size</i>

We've seen Cajardo Lindsey playing thoughtful, temperate people for a few years now and doing it very well, but before he appeared in Curious Theatre Company's The Brothers Size, we'd never understood the man's sheer power as an actor. In this myth- and dream-saturated story, Lindsey played Orgun, owner of an auto shop. His younger brother, Oshoosi, had just been released from prison, and Orgun expected him to enter the same trade, but Oshoosi preferred to laze in bed and fantasize about freedom, car rides and pussy. In the Yoruba tradition, Orgun is a blacksmith, and Cajardo, beating metal into submission, towered over the evening, terrifying in his anger, heartbreaking in his grief, both human and larger than human, and sometimes — like the play itself — wonderfully and unexpectedly funny.

1080 Acoma St., Denver, 80204
MAP
303-623-0524
Best Actor in a Musical
Seth Caikowski in <i>The Full Monty</i>

Seth Caikowski has played sidekicks and leading men, dignified figures and cartoonish clowns. In Boulder's Dinner Theatre's The Full Monty, he got to display another aspect of his versatility as working-class Jerry, tough-minded and humorous, but emotionally vulnerable in his relationship with his young son and ex-wife. Since this is a musical about regular guys putting on a clumsy strip act, the dancing can't look too professional — but it should still be an audience-pleaser. Caikowski handled this contradiction with skill, athletically light on his feet without appearing dancer-trained. And he imbued the entire role with dignity and strength.

5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, 80303
MAP
303-449-6000
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Best Museum Shop: Denver Botanic Gardens

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