Cats. This company does as good a job with Cats as one can imagine. The dancing, choreographed by Stephen Bertles, who also directed, is seamless. The cast is lithe and graceful. They slither like snakes. They leap high and land without a sound. They're wonderfully into character, batting at each other with kitty-cat paws, or hissing or rubbing a head lightly against a fellow actor's shoulder. The voices and performances are also fine, and there are a few good numbers, such as "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer" and "Gus the Theatre Cat." There's also the T.S. Eliot factor: Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is the dour old poet's most playful work. But this is still Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer-impresario who arrived on the musical-theater scene like a soggy gray blanket, snuffing out any sparks of wit or originality and leaving in their place a huge, throbbing, manipulative, faintly ecclesiastical and unfocusedly ecstatic swamp of sentimentality. It's a swamp that snares these dancing kitties' feet, no matter how high they try to leap. Presented by Boulder Dinner Theatre through May 1, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-442-5671, www.theatreinboulder.com. Reviewed December 2.
The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? Martin is a famed architect whose home life is exemplary. He is happily married to the charming Stevie, and the two of them are dealing in an enlightened way with the recently revealed homosexuality of their seventeen-year-old son. But Martin has fallen in love with a goat named Sylvia. Pretty soon Stevie has found out and -- in one of the most extraordinary scenes in modern dramaturgy -- she careens from rage to helpless laughter, laughter to anguish, anguish to bitterness and all the way back to rage, breaking vases and furniture as she goes. And all the while, Martin insists that his love for Sylvia is real, and not only real but innocent, and not only innocent but beautiful. How does Edward Albee mean us to take all this? His play explores, or at least refers to, all the obvious angles, and he is clearly exploring boundaries: When is sex genuinely immoral? What sexual behavior is clearly beyond the pale? Often the dialogue swings wildly between hilarity and sorrow, but ultimately, The Goat functions exactly the way art is supposed to function -- jolting you out of your customary way of seeing things. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through February 26, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524. www.curioustheatre.org. Reviewed January 20.
Gypsy. Gypsy is the story of the ultimate stage mother. Rose is determined to make her Baby June a star. The act she concocts, featuring June and the child's reluctant sister, Louise, is an agglomeration of bits and pieces from every dumb child act in vaudeville. As the years pass, Rose recycles the same songs and lyrics and attempts to disguise the children's increasing maturity. The songs -- music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim -- are clever, original, tuneful and sometimes touching. The production feels tight, and the casting is first-rate. Susan Dawn Carson makes the relationships among Rose, her longtime lover Herbie and the children genuinely loving, and the fact that you like the character means that her selfish actions surprise you and place her ugly narcissism in stark relief. Marcus Waterman gives Herbie a sad integrity. And the playhouse has actually found some child actors who are a pleasure to watch. A very enjoyable evening. Presented by Country Dinner Playhouse through January 30, 6875 South Clinton Street, Greenwood Village, 303-799-1410. Reviewed December 23.
Impulse Theater. Basements and comedy go together like beer and nuts or toddlers and sandboxes. The basement of the Wynkoop Brewery where Impulse Theater performs is crowded, loud and energetic. Impulse does no prepared skits, nothing but pure improv -- which means that what you see changes every night, and so does the team of actors. These actors set up and follow certain rules and frameworks; they rely on audience suggestions to get these scenes going or to vary the action. Your level of enjoyment depends a lot on whether or not you like the players. Charm is a factor, and so is the ability to take risks. Fortunately, the performers are clever and fast on their feet, willing to throw themselves into the action but never betraying tension or anxiety, perfectly content to shrug off a piece that isn't coming together. The show is funny when the actors hit a groove, but equally funny when they get stymied. So, in a way, the improvisers -- and the audience -- can't lose. Presented by Impulse Theater in an open-ended run, Wynkoop Brewing Co., 18th and Wynkoop streets, 303-297-2111 or www.impulsetheater.com. Reviewed June 3.
Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Jacques Brel was a Belgian singer-songwriter whose reputation took flight in the 1950s and '60s. His songs influenced, among others, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Sting and Bob Dylan, and they have been sung by such diverse artists as Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone. They're verbally and musically complex, sentimental and cynical, worldly wise and world-weary, celebratory, funny. Has anyone since Gilbert and Sullivan fit words and music together so cleverly? And has the world's seamy underside been so powerfully expressed in music since Brecht-Weill? The evening starts with "Marathon," a fast, infectiously rhythmic number that whirls us through the twentieth century, from the bathtub gin of the '20s to the Depression, from World War II to contemporary space travel. The lyrics evoke several of the evening's primary themes. Brel sings of the dark side of life, of greed, lust, rank smells, human perfidy and the sorrows of aging. But there is tenderness, redemption and giddy pleasure here as well. The musicians are first-rate. The four singers excel individually and harmonize well together. So put on your spats and your high-button shoes: This is everything cabaret should be. Presented by the Theatre Cafe in an open-ended run, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 14th and Curtis streets, 303-893-4100. Reviewed November 25.