Tracy Turnblad has big ambition and a bigger bouffant. It's 1962, and the tubby Turnblad dreams of dancing on TV's Corny Collins Show, but when she splits hairs with the program's most popular pre-pubescent starlet, she's tossed into a teenage tangle that could crush her curls and squash her desires. Turnblad and pals are coming to town in the Broadway musical Hairspray, an over-the-top production based on filmmaker John Waters's 1988 campy comedy flick of the same name. The show has bagged a fistful of awards, including a Tony for Best Musical, and is brushing up against Denver in its first run out of the Big Apple. With its roots in the social and political issues heating up the early '60s, the satire-stuffed story is a sort of harebrained tribute to the era, glued together by a message of tolerance. As always in Waters's wild world, big girls with big hearts emerge the winners.
"It has much more lighthearted fun than the film did," notes Denver Center spokeswoman Jenny Schiavone. "I just couldn't stop smiling."
Hairspray opens tonight and runs through April 11 at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets. For tickets, $10 to $70, and showtimes, call 303-893-4000 or go to www.denvercenter.org. -- Kity Ironton
Albuquerque performance poet Kenn Rodriguez started out writing lyrics in a rock band. But when a friend started her own slam series in a funky Albuquerque bar, he found his beat. "I started writing bad Jim Morrison-esque poetry," he admits. "But she kept goading me into coming to readings." Eventually he went to Austin's South by Southwest music showcase, won a prize, got hooked and improved; he's since performed at the National Poetry Slam and as part of the 2000 SlamAmerica bus tour. When Rodriguez guests tonight at the Mercury Cafe's weekly slam, he'll bring a distinctly Chicano voice to the stage.
"The Hispanic voice in slam poetry tends to be more Caribbean; Mexican voices are still rare," he says. But that's changing: Last year, Albuquerque's national slam team was the first all-Chicano squad to compete.
"You just have to be who you are," Rodriguez adds. "A lot of my poems are about being Chicano, with related political and historical elements. People outside the region don't always get the references, but it's our job as performers to get the idea across, even if it is obscure. That's part of the challenge."
Rodriguez will step up to that challenge tonight at 8 p.m. at the Mercury, 2199 California Street; admission is $3. Call 303-294-9281 for details. -- Susan Froyd
Tweakster Tossed Salad
Someone once called them "the Blue Man Group without the paint." Even without the coloring, expect The Tweaksters to dazzle kids of all ages at this afternoon's performance at the Lakewood Cultural Center. "The show is difficult to describe, because it's a little bit crazy," says performing artist Julia Snyder, one half of the dynamic Tweaksters duo. "It's a variety show that integrates dance, acrobatics and object manipulation."
In an hour-long display of versatility, Snyder and Regan Patno combine an off-center sense of humor with precision juggling, gravity-defying acrobatics and creative choreography. In a fast-paced format, the twosome performs eighteen skits: Ping-Pong air raid! Flaming torches!
As Snyder says, "It's all about having fun."
The show, part of the Lakewood Cultural Center Family Series, starts at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 to $11 for box seats, and can be reserved in advance at 303-987-7845 or www.lakewood.org. The center is at 480 South Allison Parkway. -- Julie Dunn
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Calling All Citizens!
Was justice denied when the Justice Department sealed a deal with Rockwell International and dismissed the Rocky Flats Grand Jury a dozen years ago this week? You be the judge when attorney Caron Balkany and Rocky Flats Grand Jury foreman Wes McKinley, authors of The Ambushed Grand Jury: How the Justice Department Covered Up Government Nuclear Crimes and How We Caught Them Red Handed, and former Rocky Flats employee and whistleblower Jacque Brever discuss their investigation, sign the book and even sing a little cowboy poetry from 6:30-9:30 tonight at the LoDo Tattered Cover, 1628 16th Street. The Citizen Investigators will again state their case at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the University of Denver's Iliff School of Theology, 2201 South University Boulevard. For information on either free event, go to http://ambushedgrandjury.com. -- Patricia Calhoun