A lesser director might have turned Flyin' West into a hiss-filled potboiler. But in director Jeffrey Nickelson's capable hands, Pearl Cleage's play became an expansive ode to courage, self-determination and the price of freedom. Despite the dramatist's frank treatment of the subject of domestic

abuse, the play was hardly a sermon; instead, Nickelson and company paid tribute to the generations of trailblazing women who selflessly cleared the way for those who came after them. And Shadow's early-season production of Hughie resurrected one of Eugene O'Neill's more colorful characters with sublime grace: With all of Ralph Kramden's expansive largesse and Archie Bunker's blunt-witted pluck, actor Kurt Soderstrom brought a wealth of understanding to the character of Erie, covering a lifetime's worth of defeat, loneliness and fear in the space of 45 minutes.

Best Promoter of Musically Uncategorizable Weirdness

Tom Steenland

The man behind Boulder's Starkland Records continues to put out some of the county's most intriguing avant-garde CDs, and now Tom Steenland has branched out into a new medium: immersion. Starkland's first DVD turns the spotlight on worthy performers such as Paul Dresher, Pamela Z, Meredith Monk and Denver veteran Bruce Odland. May Steenland continue to wander far from the beaten path.

Although most people equate LoDo more with baseball than bands, Frank Schultz and his team at the Soiled Dove have been presenting living, breathing music almost every night of the week in a high-end setting. The venue's music calendar has received a considerable boost from former Herman's Hideaway booking manager Sharon Rawles, whose knack for scouting fun and promising local and national talent has given the Dove wings. Over the past year, the club has also deepened its commitment to the local music community: Lesser-known acts are invited to take the stage during the Locals Launch series, and the Dove hosts monthly Colorado Music Association meetings. With a professional staff, impeccable sound system and music-supporting spirit, the Soiled Dove is on its way to becoming one of the best music rooms in the state.

Best Approximation of a Concert at the Apollo Theatre

D'Angelo

Despite the hefty ticket prices, D'Angelo and his band, the Soultronics, put on a blazing show that quickly had the many pretty thangs in attendance rushing the stage and dancing in the aisles. With the lights dimmed low, the Virginia-bred funkster unleashed his smooth, soulful grooves on a stage that resembled the hotspots of a different era. D'Angelo's New Soul Revue felt like one long, extended -- and blissful -- jam. Oh, yeah.
Now in its second year, the Pan African Film Festival is coming into its own as a significant cultural resource. More than fifty movies from black filmmakers all over the world will be screened this year, ranging from shorts to features to documentaries to works in progress. The festival, which kicks off with a gala opening at the Mayan Theatre, takes place April 26-30 at the Tivoli and will also include various workshops and panels. Bring a date, some popcorn and an open mind.

It isn't often that local audiences get the chance to spend extended periods of time in the company of actors capable of commanding any stage in the English-speaking world. This past fall, though, Royal Shakespearean Greg Hicks treated Denver to a nine-hour-long display of consummate skill. Hicks led the Tantalus company with superb portrayals, captivating the audience's attention from his first entrance, tightening his grip during moments of dry humor, descending into agony and rising magisterial with the slightest inflection or shift in posture. Perched on stilts and balancing canes and done up in a headdress that seemed inspired by the Dr. Who television series, Hicks gave a rendering of the lecherous Priam that nearly stole the show. And as Agamemnon, Hicks revealed a man marooned between the twin towers of pride and necessity. It was a virtuoso, standard-setting performance that, one hopes, we'll soon see the likes of again.
Where's Lucius Nunn when you need him? Back in 1891, the Telluride resident electrified the world when he and some colleagues built the first industrial hydropower plant (the Ames Plant) to produce alternating current. Two years later, the country's energy industry was revolutionized when Nunn and Nicolas Tesla exhibited their affordable-energy project at the Chicago World's Fair. But not all of Nunn's works were on such a global scale: He got his start in Telluride by building a bathtub that he rented out to miners, an enterprise that eventually funded his law practice and the subsequent purchase of the San Miguel Bank -- which was later robbed by Butch Cassidy. Nunn's Telluride Power Co. Building is now the Nugget Theater, home to the Telluride's Tech Festival, which last August honored the town's most energetic citizens.

This crowd-pleasing revival of The Fantasticks was full of entertaining performances -- the most promising of which was Betsy Taylor's rendering of the vocally demanding role of Luisa. Only the most stoic individual could have maintained a stony countenance when Taylor attested to her undying affection for her romantic partner, or when the pair of young lovers reunited during an eloquent duet near the end of the play. With a little time, it's certain that the Evergreen High School senior will develop into as mature a vocalist as she already is a naturally gifted actress.
Ask not for whom the seltzer fizzes, kiddies: It fizzes for thee -- especially when the cheerful hosts of Radio 1190's Hangover Brunch take to the late-morning airwaves on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Milkman Dan, Steph and a rotating crew of bleary-eyed guests count down their favorite thirty musical tracks of the week while dispensing a little culinary dope: Crepe Suzzettes, Cibo Matto, Quiche Lorraine, DJ Food, and recipes for award-winning chicken and waffles. So forget the shakes, flip a few 'cakes and let the tunes shine in.

Best Performance by a Denverite at the Grammys

Dianne Reeves

Jazz chanteuse Dianne Reeves finally had a well-deserved moment in the spotlight -- and at the podium -- at this year's Grammy Awards. Reeves snagged the award for Best Jazz Vocal Album with In the Moment -- Live in Concert, her stunning album released for Blue Note in the summer of 2000. The former University of Colorado student has always had an astonishing ability -- her vocal range bounces elastically around three octaves -- and now she's gotten the recognition (and nifty statue) that's long been her due.

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