While William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale might seem contrived or even impossible to stage, the Denver Center Theatre Company's seasonal production was a superbly realized dramatic poem about redemption and renewal. The lyrical currents that twist beneath the play's prosaic rime were marvelously shaped into a vibrant whole by director Laird Williamson, whose aesthetic increasingly reflects a mature artist's appreciation of life's ambiguities. And it didn't hurt that the mystical drama was performed against a stunning backdrop of giant steel trees rooted in a cracked alabaster floor, costumed and lighted to perfection and accompanied by an original musical score of Byzantine-like chants. Along with the efforts of a splendid cast, Williamson's artful touches brilliantly evoked the Bard's twilight observations about "unpath'd waters" and "undream'd shores."

Readers' choice: Suddenly Last Summer , Germinal Stage Denver

While William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale might seem contrived or even impossible to stage, the Denver Center Theatre Company's seasonal production was a superbly realized dramatic poem about redemption and renewal. The lyrical currents that twist beneath the play's prosaic rime were marvelously shaped into a vibrant whole by director Laird Williamson, whose aesthetic increasingly reflects a mature artist's appreciation of life's ambiguities. And it didn't hurt that the mystical drama was performed against a stunning backdrop of giant steel trees rooted in a cracked alabaster floor, costumed and lighted to perfection and accompanied by an original musical score of Byzantine-like chants. Along with the efforts of a splendid cast, Williamson's artful touches brilliantly evoked the Bard's twilight observations about "unpath'd waters" and "undream'd shores."

Readers' choice: Suddenly Last Summer , Germinal Stage Denver

Unlike their previous efforts, which have blurred the boundaries that separate the disabled from the rest of society, the Physically Handicapped Amateur Musical Actor's League production of Side Show emphasized those differences to the point of transcending them. A magnificent theatrical achievement, PHAMALy's regional-premiere mounting of the Broadway musical conveyed the idea of abiding self-acceptance without glossing over a few uncomfortable moments -- like, say, the opening number's repeated chant, "Here come the freaks/Only pennies for peeks!" The book on PHAMALy has always been that they're just a bunch of well-meaning though talented folks in wheelchairs who deserve a properly sympathetic audience. In light of this production, though, that nugget of wisdom seems soft-centered. For this troupe, as for the characters in Bill Russell and Henry Krieger's songfest, "Anything's possible -- when everything's right."

Unlike their previous efforts, which have blurred the boundaries that separate the disabled from the rest of society, the Physically Handicapped Amateur Musical Actor's League production of Side Show emphasized those differences to the point of transcending them. A magnificent theatrical achievement, PHAMALy's regional-premiere mounting of the Broadway musical conveyed the idea of abiding self-acceptance without glossing over a few uncomfortable moments -- like, say, the opening number's repeated chant, "Here come the freaks/Only pennies for peeks!" The book on PHAMALy has always been that they're just a bunch of well-meaning though talented folks in wheelchairs who deserve a properly sympathetic audience. In light of this production, though, that nugget of wisdom seems soft-centered. For this troupe, as for the characters in Bill Russell and Henry Krieger's songfest, "Anything's possible -- when everything's right."

An opera based on a Russian silent film would seem the sort of artsy endeavor that invites dismissive sneers from musical and movie buffs alike. But with its lilting score and frank take on age-old questions, Bed and Sofa proved an enjoyable mixture of high-minded music and melodramatic fun. What's more, the latest offering from Boulder's Trouble Clef Theatre Company boasted three outstanding performances that bolstered the troupe's reputation as a premier presenter of musicals. Founded six years ago "to pursue new directions in musical theater," the group has taken on ambitious projects that, if not always polished to perfection, have been marked by their inventive staging, crisp musical direction and top-notch performances. It was altogether gratifying, then, to witness the company's years of hard work pay off in a production where art took precedence over personality and where every note, gesture and utterance felt right at home.
An opera based on a Russian silent film would seem the sort of artsy endeavor that invites dismissive sneers from musical and movie buffs alike. But with its lilting score and frank take on age-old questions, Bed and Sofa proved an enjoyable mixture of high-minded music and melodramatic fun. What's more, the latest offering from Boulder's Trouble Clef Theatre Company boasted three outstanding performances that bolstered the troupe's reputation as a premier presenter of musicals. Founded six years ago "to pursue new directions in musical theater," the group has taken on ambitious projects that, if not always polished to perfection, have been marked by their inventive staging, crisp musical direction and top-notch performances. It was altogether gratifying, then, to witness the company's years of hard work pay off in a production where art took precedence over personality and where every note, gesture and utterance felt right at home.
In only its third full season, Shadow Theatre Company managed to up its entertainment quotient while maintaining its commitment to produce works that are non-exclusive to other cultural groups. The predominantly African-American company held audiences rapt with its multiracial production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Carlyle Brown's The African Company Presents Richard III was particularly stirring when the characters bucked tradition and embraced invention; Laurence Fishburne's bare-fisted Riff Raff made contemporary discussions about social issues sound like wholesale plea-copping; and Ntozake Shange's choreopoem, From Okra to Greens, evoked the slight yet seismic forces -- and urban perils -- that shape male-female relationships.
In only its third full season, Shadow Theatre Company managed to up its entertainment quotient while maintaining its commitment to produce works that are non-exclusive to other cultural groups. The predominantly African-American company held audiences rapt with its multiracial production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Carlyle Brown's The African Company Presents Richard III was particularly stirring when the characters bucked tradition and embraced invention; Laurence Fishburne's bare-fisted Riff Raff made contemporary discussions about social issues sound like wholesale plea-copping; and Ntozake Shange's choreopoem, From Okra to Greens, evoked the slight yet seismic forces -- and urban perils -- that shape male-female relationships.
It might be difficult to understand why the main character in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird willingly subjects himself to vilification, but an actor who portrays Atticus Finch must also contend with the unsettling realization that he inhabits a role that earned Gregory Peck an Oscar in the 1962 film version. Happily, Paul Borrillo's turn in the Arvada Center's sold-out production radiated with conviction, charisma and, most of all, abiding self-respect. Whether he was dealing with his children's day-to-day crises, the community's brewing concerns or the legal system's intricate workings, the local stalwart endowed each scene with an empathy that humanized his character's professorial musings. And rather than transform Atticus's famous closing argument into a fiery lecture, Borrillo delivered a heartfelt appeal to common decency, giving full expression to a form of human goodness that Abraham Lincoln referred to as "the better angels of our nature."

It might be difficult to understand why the main character in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird willingly subjects himself to vilification, but an actor who portrays Atticus Finch must also contend with the unsettling realization that he inhabits a role that earned Gregory Peck an Oscar in the 1962 film version. Happily, Paul Borrillo's turn in the Arvada Center's sold-out production radiated with conviction, charisma and, most of all, abiding self-respect. Whether he was dealing with his children's day-to-day crises, the community's brewing concerns or the legal system's intricate workings, the local stalwart endowed each scene with an empathy that humanized his character's professorial musings. And rather than transform Atticus's famous closing argument into a fiery lecture, Borrillo delivered a heartfelt appeal to common decency, giving full expression to a form of human goodness that Abraham Lincoln referred to as "the better angels of our nature."

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