Thrills for the week

January 2
Down and ditty: So it's the day after the day after. No one ever said you couldn't continue to inaugurate the fledgling year with something fun--if you're up to it. If you are, light-on-their-lips pop purveyors They Might Be Giants provide just the ticket for an easy night out when they bring their rakish portfolio of goofy tunes to the Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax, for a post-New Year's romp. The Reejers open at 8; to reserve tickets, $18.50, call 830-2525 or 1-800-444-SEAT.

January 3
Wallflowers: Denver galleries have the nicest way of getting off to a fresh start each year, with a blooming garden of local art showcases opening all over town in January; this is traditionally the time when members of the area's cooperative galleries get together for a mass strutting of stuff. Denver's alterna-granddaddy, Pirate, 3659 Navajo St., leads off the year with a prodigious seventeenth-anniversary group show, while CORE New Art Space, 1412 Wazee St., welcomes the very first LoDo First Friday of the year with its own members' show; and a venue that falls somewhere in between those two grassroots salons, Spark Gallery, at 1535 Platte St., follows suit. All three galleries hold receptions tonight from 7 to 10; Spark's show hangs until January 12, while those at Pirate and CORE continue for an extra week, through January 19. Chances are good that some of their neighboring galleries will also get into the act; call individual venues for information.

January 4
Stage flights: Galleries aren't the only places emphasizing local artists this month--the city's wee stages abound with fertile and off-the-wall offerings designed to properly alter perspectives and stretch horizons, in keeping with the advent of a brand-new year.

The Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St., currently presenting an extended run of the sketch-comedy performance Two Women, No Mascara, is one such cultural beehive. Mascara--an hour-and-a-half-long run-on collision of zany characters, songs and comedic whatnot performed by a pair of very funny local women, Nina Berezina and Lisa Wagner--plays the Merc at 7 tonight and again on January 11 and 18; tickets are $10 at the door. Call 294-9821.

Still another enclave of the avant-garde, the Bug Performance and Media Art Center, 3654 Navajo St., continues to hang bravely by a thread in a world overrun by sports bars and pool halls. There, something called Random Axe of Rhyme--a monthly mixed bag of music, theater, dance, comedy and spoken word with multimedia trio Jafrika, poetic troupe Open Rangers and a revolving selection of guest poets--is performed at 8 the first Saturday of every month. Tonight's installment in the wonderfully plastic and ongoing cultural confection (participants say no two shows are alike) features bards Patricia Sanders-Hall and Robert Ferriter along with the regular cast members; for tickets, $8 ($6 members), call 477-5977.

CityStage Ensemble, a respected little dramatic troupe, holds its own tonight at the Theatre at Jack's, 1553 Platte St., with a continuing world-premiere run of Reading the Mind of God, Pat Gabridge's thought-provoking play about seventeenth-century astronomers Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe. Special tonight, though, is a free post-performance Kepler and Tycho Star Party, complete with outdoor telescopes for stargazing, an indoor astronomy slide show and steaming hot chocolate for all--cast, crew and party-goers alike. Admission to the play portion of the evening is $12 ($10 seniors and students); call 433-8082 for reservations, and pray for a cloudless night.

Chuck up: The hell with the holidays! Nothing says they're over better than the Great Fruitcake Toss, a new event catching on annually with jocular good humor in the touristy town of Manitou Springs. At last year's inaugural toss, the dense, uneatable baked goods were, among other things, slung from slingshots and set loose dangling from weather balloons; this year, one can only assume the sky's the limit. Or beyond. It all begins at 11 a.m. in Manitou's Memorial Park and is strictly B.Y.O.F.; your $5 entry fee helps benefit Westside Cares, a local nonprofit agency assisting families in crisis. At least you'll know your noble fruitcake went down for a good cause. For additional information call 1-800-642-2567.

Blues in the face: Some folks who've heard, but have never seen, blues traditionalist Keb' Mo' in action might assume he's eighty years old and spends his time rocking on a porch somewhere, as gnarled up as a well-aged tree trunk. A walking, talking tribute to the definitive blues pioneers, Mo'--a fairly young fella actually dubbed Kevin Moore--may not be the original artifact, but he's no disappointment, either. The talented wolf in old man's clothing not only reproduces the primitive slide-guitar riffs and cracked vocals of early country bluesmen, but he also writes and sings up a storm of more up-to-date personal material. So get a life; he's entitled. Moore--that's Mo' to you--appears for a two-night stand at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, with a tasty new electric band in tow, beginning tonight at 9. Tickets are $16.80; call 447-0095 or 830-TIXS.  

January 5
Hands across the desert: You find the darnedest things at the Mizel Museum of Judaica. The museum's growing Bridges of Understanding exhibition, which already explores rituals and customs from a diverse rainbow of cultures, is gaining a new facet: Muslim Nations, a section focusing on rites of passage specific to an often-misunderstood environment, opens today with a family-oriented celebration intermingling food, dance, music and garb of the Middle East, as well as examples of Hebrew and Arabic calligraphy and guided tours of the exhibit. Admission to the event, which takes place this afternoon from 2 to 5, is free; for details call 333-4156.

Southern fried: What distinguishes actor/comedian Anthony Clark from the rest of the pack isn't that hard to pinpoint. The homespun boy from Lynchburg, Virginia--now a rising hick on television's Boston Common--is just one of the guys. But appearances can be deceiving: Though Clark's gentle twang might mold him forever in the image of redneck kingpin Jeff Foxworthy, the Emerson College graduate who now lives in Los Angeles has a bicoastal sensibility that works even with the most sophisticated audiences. Here's your chance: Turn up your collar--blue, white or whatever--and drop by the Comedy Works, 1226 15th St. in Larimer Square, where Clark begins a three-night run today. Shows are at 7:30 and 9:30 nightly, through Tuesday; to reserve tickets, $20 to $25 and going fast, call 595-3637.

Digging in the dirt: Ever wonder how and why you got to be who you are, where you are? Ancestors, a new ten-part series beginning today on PBS, provides a fascinating and informative look into the art of tracing one's roots by combining the actual genealogical adventures of others with expert instruction on how you can take similar steps to uncover your own heritage for personal, historical or even medical reasons. To get started, tune in to the first intriguing segment today at 4:30 on KRMA-TV/Channel 6; the program continues weekly at the same time.

January 6
Lightweight championships: La, la, la-di-da. Feeling empty-headed? No, but you wanna? Ringleted saxophonist Kenny G will tootle away every last thought lodged in your overcrowded brain tonight when he strolls into McNichols Arena arm in arm with that gorgeous, honey-voiced pop diva Toni Braxton. Ahhh. Aren't they dreamy? Chill with the G-Team tonight at 7:30; for tickets, $27.50 and $32.50, call 830-TIXS.

January 7
The great White way: The austere ambience of a Maine logging town provides the gritty backdrop for A Brother's Blood, a new HarperCollins mystery from the erudite pen of author Michael White that combines World War II intrigue with the rough-hewn outlook of an unconventional contemporary female protagonist. White reads from the absorbing novel, an investigation into the death--years earlier--of an escaped German prisoner of war, tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave.; for details, call 322-7727.

Alma's Mahler: If music is an organic, ever-changing creative entity, you need look no further than Gustav Mahler's unfinished Symphony No. 10 for living proof. The musically obsessed composer, cuckolded by his wife, Alma, and her lover, architect Walter Gropius, died--interestingly enough, of an infection in his heart--before the five-movement Tenth was fully orchestrated. After his death, four major attempts were made at constructing a finished work from notes and sketches left behind by Mahler. Each version draws different conclusions, and one of them--that of Mahler scholar Joseph Wheeler--has now been further honed by Robert Olson, music director of the Colorado Mahlerfest, an annual concert series dedicated to presenting a cycle of the composer's symphonies. That cycle ends this year with performances of the Tenth, along with several lectures and discussions on the work.

The fest kicks off tonight with a taste of things to come: A free chamber concert including songs of Mahler, a piano quartet and a Schoenberg piano work inspired by Mahler's funeral will take place tonight at 7:30 at the Boulder Public Library Auditorium, 1000 Canyon Blvd., Boulder. The event then continues with colloquiums, also free, on January 9 and 11 at CU-Boulder's Little Theatre at Old Main; actual performances of Symphony No. 10 will run January 11 at 8 p.m. and January 12 at 3:30 p.m., also on the Boulder campus at Macky Auditorium. Admission to those concerts ranges from $8 to $30; call 449-1343 for reservations.

Meow mix: Got a yen to relive the adventures of the Rum Tum Tugger and other felines from T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats in magnificent, musical, fuzzy, whiskered, living color? In case you live in an iron-clad theatrical time warp and didn't know, the best and only way to do that is to go see Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats for the umpteenth time. The long-running Broadway favorite, beginning a short run tonight at 8 at the Auditorium Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, will be in town long enough to arch its back and move on--through January 12 only. Admission is $15 to $50; call 893-4100.  

January 8
Don't be late: Author Kate Phillips pulls a fast one in her acclaimed first novel, White Rabbit. She tells the poignant story of 88-year-old Ruth Caster Hubble with such unfeigned skill, you'd assume she was 88 years old herself. Phillips will read from the promising work, now available in paperback from HarperPerennial, tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave. One week into January is always the right time for a good read, so hop to it; for more information on this very important date call 322-7727.

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