Whether professional or amateur, mainstream-minded or avant-garde, a theater company rises or falls on its willingness to reconcile commercial interests with artistic demands. And while engaging a pail of local Equity actors would normally be considered a financial risk for smaller theater companies, that's exactly what the Aurora Fox Theatre Company did for its final show of the season. That calculated -- and laudable -- gamble capped a successful string of highly entertaining, modestly professional efforts. From the hauntingly poetical Wings to the zanily philosophical The Ice-Fishing Play to the bitingly satirical Nixon's Nixon, the publicly funded troupe discovered newfound potency by injecting itself, as well as its audiences, with a healthy dose of creative Viagra.

Readers' choice: Denver Center Theatre Company

Whether professional or amateur, mainstream-minded or avant-garde, a theater company rises or falls on its willingness to reconcile commercial interests with artistic demands. And while engaging a pail of local Equity actors would normally be considered a financial risk for smaller theater companies, that's exactly what the Aurora Fox Theatre Company did for its final show of the season. That calculated -- and laudable -- gamble capped a successful string of highly entertaining, modestly professional efforts. From the hauntingly poetical Wings to the zanily philosophical The Ice-Fishing Play to the bitingly satirical Nixon's Nixon, the publicly funded troupe discovered newfound potency by injecting itself, as well as its audiences, with a healthy dose of creative Viagra.

Readers' choice: Denver Center Theatre Company

Marilyn Megenity's eclectic and artful restaurant and nightclub is an unofficial home to many of the city's social and professional dancers. Nearly every night of the week, you can catch a class and/or performance from someone who's more than willing to swivel her belly, hop the lindy or swing all over the Merc's wooden floor. But more than any of the club's other weekly offerings, the Friday-night Tango events have begun to make the café's mercury rise. The sultry Argentinian dance is gaining in popularity what it may lack in accessibility: Dancers say it takes years of careful practice to perfect even the most basic tricks of the tango trade. Which means the Mercury staff and curious observers can count on seeing the same saucy customers sauntering around the floor in their high heels week after week.

Mercury Cafe
Marilyn Megenity's eclectic and artful restaurant and nightclub is an unofficial home to many of the city's social and professional dancers. Nearly every night of the week, you can catch a class and/or performance from someone who's more than willing to swivel her belly, hop the lindy or swing all over the Merc's wooden floor. But more than any of the club's other weekly offerings, the Friday-night Tango events have begun to make the café's mercury rise. The sultry Argentinian dance is gaining in popularity what it may lack in accessibility: Dancers say it takes years of careful practice to perfect even the most basic tricks of the tango trade. Which means the Mercury staff and curious observers can count on seeing the same saucy customers sauntering around the floor in their high heels week after week.

The heat may finally be rising off the Latin Explosion ushered in by folks like Ricky Martin, but the vida is still plenty loca at Sevilla. Folks on their way to LoDo discos or Rockies games might overlook the swanky spot near the Icehouse, but those inside aren't likely to care: They're too busy shaking their hips and rib cages in time to accelerated Latin-style percussion or checking out the hot couture of the bar's spicy clientele. Though Sevilla is beginning to incorporate techno and house music into its weekly schedule, live -- as well as deejayed -- Latin styles still dominate the club calendar. Which gives us all plenty of reason to say !olé!

Readers' choice: Sevilla

The heat may finally be rising off the Latin Explosion ushered in by folks like Ricky Martin, but the vida is still plenty loca at Sevilla. Folks on their way to LoDo discos or Rockies games might overlook the swanky spot near the Icehouse, but those inside aren't likely to care: They're too busy shaking their hips and rib cages in time to accelerated Latin-style percussion or checking out the hot couture of the bar's spicy clientele. Though Sevilla is beginning to incorporate techno and house music into its weekly schedule, live -- as well as deejayed -- Latin styles still dominate the club calendar. Which gives us all plenty of reason to say !olé!

Readers' choice: Sevilla

This Golden cowboy bar -- which served morning drafts to Coors workers in a past life -- now serves country-and-Western culture to audiences every night of the week. Thankfully, it's the blue-collar working-class type, not the slick sort enjoyed by most wearers of the house's namesake hat. Granted, weekend acts here are more likely to play Garth and Shania than Waylon and Willie, but the spacious setting, time-worn atmosphere and cheap drafts tilt the scales in Stetson's direction.

Readers' choice: Stampede

This Golden cowboy bar -- which served morning drafts to Coors workers in a past life -- now serves country-and-Western culture to audiences every night of the week. Thankfully, it's the blue-collar working-class type, not the slick sort enjoyed by most wearers of the house's namesake hat. Granted, weekend acts here are more likely to play Garth and Shania than Waylon and Willie, but the spacious setting, time-worn atmosphere and cheap drafts tilt the scales in Stetson's direction.

Readers' choice: Stampede

It's sometimes difficult to see the stage at the 15th Street Tavern, a teeny club on the semi-seedy side of LoDo, especially if you've made the mistake of showing up late on a Saturday night when the faithful crowd the floor and a thirsty, critical mass wraps three-deep around the curved bar. From a sight-line perspective, promoter Scott Campbell's knack for bringing in raucous, rugged and righteous touring and local acts is a complication; from a musical one, however, it's a gift. The Tavern ain't pretty -- expect some coagulated goo on the floor and an aroma reminiscent of the smoking lounge at the Vegas airport. Instead, the club's beauty lies in the fact that it provides a chance to see up-and-coming bands like the Forty-Fives, the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs and Sweep the Leg Johnny in an intimate setting, usually for under ten bucks. Cheap drinks (made even cheaper by checking the ever-revolving code phrase posted weekly on www.15thstreettavern.com) sweeten the deal. Though it's not recommended for the meek, the Tavern is the kind of place that reminds us of rock and roll's gritty power. Just don't forget your earplugs.

Readers' choice: Herman's Hideaway

It's sometimes difficult to see the stage at the 15th Street Tavern, a teeny club on the semi-seedy side of LoDo, especially if you've made the mistake of showing up late on a Saturday night when the faithful crowd the floor and a thirsty, critical mass wraps three-deep around the curved bar. From a sight-line perspective, promoter Scott Campbell's knack for bringing in raucous, rugged and righteous touring and local acts is a complication; from a musical one, however, it's a gift. The Tavern ain't pretty -- expect some coagulated goo on the floor and an aroma reminiscent of the smoking lounge at the Vegas airport. Instead, the club's beauty lies in the fact that it provides a chance to see up-and-coming bands like the Forty-Fives, the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs and Sweep the Leg Johnny in an intimate setting, usually for under ten bucks. Cheap drinks (made even cheaper by checking the ever-revolving code phrase posted weekly on www.15thstreettavern.com) sweeten the deal. Though it's not recommended for the meek, the Tavern is the kind of place that reminds us of rock and roll's gritty power. Just don't forget your earplugs.

Readers' choice: Herman's Hideaway

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