Thrills for the week

November 28
Help yourself: Do you consider the calories consumed in your average Thanksgiving feast an on-again, off-again kind of thing? Just remember, tubbo, that kind of timely pound-shedding usually happens only in your dreams. So give thanks: The City of Aurora Recreation Division's Huff-N-Puff Before You Stuff offers even the most unrepentant mashed-potato fiends a chance to do themselves some good. The annual workout, an incremental hodgepodge of body-shaping exercises, aerobics, weightlifting and drop-in basketball for the guilty-minded, begins this morning at 8 and continues through noon, allowing just enough time to work something out of your system--before the fact. Bring a donation of canned goods, an old coat or a hat and mittens to the Beck Recreation Center, 800 Telluride St., and take your pick of healthful activities, on the house. Call 739-6886.

After--or before--helping yourself, though, remember this: Traditional Thanksgiving Day Meals are offered to Denver area homeless and needy populations by both the Volunteers of America and the Salvation Army, and either agency could use some help. The VOA dinner, served from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Champion Brewing Company, 1442 Larimer St., will be eaten to strains of live gospel music; the VOA also provides the fixin's at three area senior centers or home-delivered meals through its Meals on Wheels program (294-0111). To find out how you can help, call 297-0408. The Salvation Army will be serving holiday vittles to hundreds from noon to 1 at Currigan Hall; for general information call 861-4833.

November 29
Stage cache: 'Twas the day after Thanksgiving and all through the house...every creature was stirring--including a mouse, a hollow-eyed contingent of football burnouts, some seriously overstuffed pets and a teetering raft of screaming kids. Better head 'em off at the pass--pronto! The best solution we can come up with for day-after doldrums is to get out and do something. Well, a rousing run-through of A Christmas Carol can put just about anyone into the spirit. And the first--maybe the best--version of the season, a hearty Dickensian extravaganza put on by the Denver Center Theatre Company, opens for previews tonight at 8 at the Stage Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. Shows continue daily except Mondays, through December 29; for tickets, $23 to $34, call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS.

Another pair of Denver traditions approach the holidays from an ethnic point of view, dousing the season with humor, poetry, dance, gospel music and a good pinch of magic: Black Nativity, a full-bodied gospel musical by Harlem Renaissance great Langston Hughes, returns tonight at 7 at the new Eulipions Cultural Center, 1770 Sherman St., and continues weekends through December 21. Admission ranges from $12 to $20; call 862-0026. Cleo Parker Robinson's annual family program, Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum, also opens this evening for a three-day stand at the Auditorium Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. An energetic and ever-changing celebration of holiday customs from around the world, the performance is a joy for all ages. Tickets are $15 to $25; call 295-1759 or 830-TIXS for reservations.

Don't let this one skate: One could argue that no Denver shopping district does more to promote good old Christmas cheer than Larimer Square, where a yearly Winterfest includes a little bit of everything one normally connects with the snowy, red-cheeked season at hand: a huge Christmas tree, chestnuts roasting, strolling Victorian carolers and a skating rink. And that's just for the adults. For the kids, there's a Santa's Workshop, a face-painting salon and a fabulous model train circling a gingerbread model of the square. The fest kicks off tonight at 6 with a Tree Lighting Ceremony augmented by the arrival of Santa's sleigh, which will be towed by the parading Coors Belgian draft-horse team. All these warm and fuzzy happenings are free; call 607-1276 for details. If you arrive early enough, take a detour to the nearby Tabor Center, 16th and Lawrence streets, where Newfoundland dogsled rides can be had from noon to 4 and live reindeer will prance from noon to 6. Call 572-6868.

Just want to slip and slide, without the attendant festivities? The Rink at Founders Center, an outdoor ice-skating venue at Founders Center, Third Ave. and Milwaukee St. in Cherry Creek North, makes its public debut today. The slick new rink, open 11 to 10 weekdays and 8 to 8 on Saturday and Sunday, will remain open through mid-March, weather willing; admission is $2. Those wishing to rent blades can do so for an additional two-buck charge.

November 30
Brains or Brown? How about both? Any connoisseur of acoustic music will tell you--contemporary folkie Greg Brown, a popular traveler on the circuit, tops many a best-of list in the wry, laid-back poet-troubadour genre. Honest and literate, with a touch of gospel fire in his belly, the Iowa native has been getting a mountain of critical attention for his recent album, The Poet Game. But his fans and friends know he's always been that good--or better. The Swallow Hill Music Association makes Brown the headliner of its annual Thanksgiving concert, tonight at 8 at the Temple Events Center, 1595 Pearl St.; for tickets, $12 to $14 ($5 for children), call 1-800-444-SEAT. For information call 777-1003.  

Two-lane blacktop: We're all wooed, at one time or another, by the romance of the road. That all-American pastime reaches a zenith in Searching for 66, a new book by author Tom Teague, a Route 66 devotee who took a leave of absence from his job and set out to follow the legendary asphalt trail of the mainly defunct highway across the Southwest. Teague, who also curates something called the Route 66 Hall of Fame, will discuss the book's down-to-earth narratives, focusing on people, stories and such landmarks as Ernie Edwards's Pig Hip Restaurant in Broadwell, Illinois, this morning at 10:30 at the Ross-University Hills Branch Library, 4310 E. Amherst Ave. The talk is free; for information call 757-2714.

Small world: What better way to raise money for a bug museum than by showing a film devoted to the minuscule universe of bugdom? The stunning movie Microcosmos--now wowing audiences with larger-than-life depictions of down-and-dirty snail love, natural anthill disasters and other insect soap-opera fodder--provides that service for Westminster's Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center this morning at 10:30 at the Mayan Theatre, 110 Broadway. Admission to the benefit screening is $5; for advance tickets call 469-5441.

December 1
Bright lights, big city: Things will be twinkling in central Denver today, where a pair of citified celebrations dust the 'hood with holiday sparkle. This afternoon from noon to 4 in the Capitol Hill area, the Molly Brown House Museum, 1340 Pennsylvania St., hosts a Holiday Heritage Walking Tour featuring four stops at stately structures, each decorated to the hilt with festive Victorian trimmings and including an old-fashioned Santa and music apropos to the season. Opening their doors along with the Brown house will be the Byers-Evans House Museum, 1310 Bannock St., Ardelt's Victorian Flower Shop, 1225 Logan St., and the Capitol Hill Mansion Bed & Breakfast, 1207 Pennsylvania St. Tickets are $7 to $10 ($2.50 for children ages six to twelve); call 832-4092. Then, as the sun begins to drop, the Denver Zoo once again switches on the Wildlights, a spectacular after-dark display that turns the zoo into a glittering enchanted forest of lights and animated sculptures. This year the zoo is introducing a discounted combination ticket that covers regular daytime fees and additional evening charges for Wildlights. Those choosing to scout out zoo attractions before the sun goes down can pick up a snack at the Hungry Elephant Restaurant or visit indoor exhibits such as Tropical Discovery, Primate Panorama, the Giraffe House and the Feline Buildings until Wildlights opens at 6. Carolers, storytellers, warming stations with hot cider and goodies and, of course, Santa Claus will keep patrons entertained nightly until 9, through New Year's Eve. Wildlights admission is $3 for kids and seniors, $5 for adults, and free for children under three. With daytime zoo entry, prices run from $3 to $7. Call 331-4110.

December 2
Surely you jest: Born in the wrong century? An Opera Colorado Guild Madrigal Dinner may be just the thing to make your anachronistic soul feel right at home, at least for one glorious night. Imagine a procession of self-assured lords and veiled ladies of sixteenth-century England dressed to the nines in flowing silks and velvets, followed by a sumptuous feast served by lusty wenches and attended by a jolly jester and madrigal chorus. That's what you'll get--finished off by a flaming plum pudding--tonight or tomorrow at 6 at the University Club, 1673 Sherman St. Admission (which includes wine, wenches, dinner and time travel) is $65; call 778-1500 for reservations.

December 3
Piano man: When assessing what it is that makes classical piano virtuoso Emanuel Ax so superb, don't forget to figure enthusiasm into the quotient. The Israeli concert musician clearly loves what he does, from his most grandiose arpeggios right on down to his subtlest tonal nuances. Ax, who recently was featured on the exquisite soundtrack of the Beethoven film bio Immortal Beloved, will charm another audience tonight at 8 when he performs works by Schubert and Liszt at Macky Auditorium on the CU-Boulder campus. Tickets for the concert, part of the school's excellent Artist Series, are $10 to $30; call 492-8008.

December 4
Dancin' in the fields: Country music isn't all headed for the syrup factory--and the Mavericks are a case in point. Winners of a couple of Academy of Country Music Awards and, now, a nice, shiny Grammy, the band mixes pop, rockabilly and flat-out honky-tonk elements, resulting in records that are smart, danceable, smooth as a lizard-skin cowboy boot and a hell of a lot of fun. It all comes through loud and clear--not unlike lead singer Raul Malo's perfect pipes--on a string of three upbeat albums, beginning with the sublime From Hell to Paradise and ending with the recent Music for All Occasions. But if you've gotta see to believe, the Mavericks will rock and roll their way into the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, tonight at 8. Admission is $22; call 830-TIXS.  

The British are coming: One thing we know about the Brits--they do love their musicals. And now that the members of the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain have decided to take on production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein hit Carousel, chances are they'll do it up splendidly. Factory girl meets amusement-park barker--and never walks alone--beginning tonight at 8 at the Auditorium Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex; the run continues daily except Mondays through December 22. Admission ranges from $15 to $55; call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS for information and reservations.

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