The Powerpuff Girls: Heroes & Villains (Kid Rhino) is ostensibly a CD tie-in to the Cartoon Network series in which a trio of tots named Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup regularly triumphs over animated evil. But it's also an exceedingly enjoyable indie-pop primer in which two first-rate local acts, the Apples in Stereo and Dressy Bessy, demonstrate why Denver has become a breeding ground for ultra-melodic college rock.
Over the years, Bud Shark's Lyons print studio, Shark's Inc., has attracted famous artists from across the country who wanted to make prints at the mountain compound. Oddly, these prints have ended up more often in New York and London than in Denver. But that changed when the William Havu Gallery put together last fall's Select Prints. Printmaking is a specialty of the gallery, so the fit with Shark's was a near-perfect one. The show included stellar pieces, some of them three-dimensional, the best by the likes of Red Grooms, John Buck and Betty Woodman.

Secret South proves that 16 Horsepower has survived the hurdles of record label fallout (the band has signed with Razor & Tie) and shifting membership with its creative faculties not only intact, but heightened: This swirling mass of music, informed by the skewed American traditionalism of David Eugene Edwards, his bandmates and local production ace Bob Ferbrache, is an emotional, often ominous trek that beckons the careful listener to find the calm within the storm. Banjo pluckings crouch behind walls of distortion; plaintive readings of American railway standards morph into discordance. It's a brilliant work, one that music lovers should be proud to regard as a hometown export.
Paintings done with stripes, bars, lines and planes is what you'll find at Rule Modern and Contemporary Gallery on most days. Director Robin Rule fills the rooms with a mix of minimalist old masters from New York, like Carl Andre and Mary Obering, and local talents, such as Clark Richert, the dean of geometric painting. From time to time, she also shows quirky abstracts, representational works and photos. But there's no denying that less is best at Rule.
Arguably the best art-rock band ever to hail from Denver, Thinking Plague first introduced itself to the public with ...A Thinking Plague and Moonsongs, a pair of platters recorded in the early and mid-'80s, respectively, that have been out of print for ages. Early Plague Years (Cuneiform) corrects this error, giving admirers another chance to hear a fine band in its nascent stages.
Smartly directed, honestly acted and imaginatively written, HorseChart's production of O.T. took on prickly issues with the kind of spunky tenacity that one expects from a group of theatrical renegades. Clay Nichols's drama, which was mounted as part of the National New Play Network, mixed flashback-style scenes with current happenings to raise questions about the embedded attitudes that give rise to prejudice and racism. The play worked because Nichols took pains to reveal each issue's complexities and ambiguities; combined with director Brett Aune's straightforward approach, O.T. proved that it deserved to be further developed and mounted again.

The self-titled debut from Open Road is a bone-chilling masterpiece of Kentucky-grown sound. Leader Bradford Lee Folk sports a harrowing voice, and he and his mates possess a commanding, retro-respectful grasp of their adopted music. From giddy stompers to tear-jerking laments, this record delivers all of the rustic goods.
The revolution will not televised; instead, it will be in multimedia, and it's already getting started at Cafe Nuba in Five Points. Located at the Gemini Tea Emporium and run by Denver's Pan-African Arts Society, the cafe hosts monthly sets of hip-hop poetry, performance art and political prose, monthly screenings of black independent films and shorts, free HIV testing, voter-registration drives and book giveaways.

The oldest community-theater group in the state, the Evergreen Players celebrated their fiftieth anniversary last year by winning the regional American Association of Community Theatres competition in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The group's production of All in the Timing qualified the actors for the national AACT competition, which takes place this June in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Back on their home turf, the players are presenting La Cage Aux Folles at Evergreen's Centre Stage Theater through April 8. Give them a hand.

Teachers at Denver's East High School remember Don Cheadle (class of 1982) as an able student and a dedicated student actor; his turn as the Artful Dodger in Oliver is still cherished there. Since then, this talented character actor has stolen a show from Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress, broken hearts in Boogie Nights and, last year, turned a police stakeout (with fellow cop Luis Guzmán) in Traffic into a miniature comic masterpiece. Fortunately, fame hasn't caused Cheadle to forget his humble beginnings: Teachers and staff at East say the actor returns to say hello whenever he's in Denver.

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