Best Transformation of Space 2002 | Annex Theatre | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
The Everyman Theatre Company has done wonders with the bland, inhospitable 1950s-style office building it calls home, making one room into a snack area, another into a focused and inviting theater through the use of platforms and artfully placed lights. As for the sets, they reveal the same vision and attention to detail. Using a few props and a stack of suitcases, artistic director Richard H. Pegg managed to suggest a rich fictive world for The Baltimore Waltz. For Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, he designed a young girl's bedroom that was beautifully detailed, convincing, solid and multi-dimensional as a house.
Heritage Square offers fun in down-home style - first with food in a large, friendly dining room, followed by an outrageously hammy melodrama acted by seasoned and talented performers who are clearly enjoying themselves. These productions aren't weighted down with either concepts of high art or the huge costumes, multimillion-dollar sets or over-miked sound of the commercial, Disneyesque variety. They're funny and funky and unpretentious. Take the family, order a drink, sing along or heckle if you want, and be prepared to find yourself on stage or with a cast member perched on your lap if you sit too close to the front.
Songbird Lannie Garrett is the ultimate survivor, and her recent incarnation as Gloria Half Gaynor displays her savvy show-biz instincts. Not content with having created a Patsy Decline alter ego, Garrett now transforms herself into a disco diva one night a week, backed by a seven-piece band and singing all those songs you prayed you'd forget. For several frightening hours, the remodeled lounge at the Denver Buffalo Company becomes a '70s dance club, as audience members jump up and get down with their bad selves. (Very bad, in some cases.) For a hot case of Wednesday-night fever, dive into Garrett's Gloria Half Gaynor show. She will survive!

Best Drag Queen With a Degree in Quantum Physics

Anita Cocktail

Bud Bradshaw makes an imposing woman. He, er, she, is 300 pounds and nearly seven feet tall in custom-made platform heels and towering wig. But the most unusual thing about Bradshaw is the fact that she, er, he, has a degree in quantum physics. He doesn't much like to talk about that part of his life, though. It was only in the last eight years, he says, since he developed Anita Cocktail, that his life has had purpose. After all, he notes, "A little makeup and paint turns a boy into something he ain't." Bradshaw produces Live, Lip-Sync, & Laffs, a variety/cabaret show at 60 South that includes Ms. Cocktail, Barbie Blake (who can do cartwheels in five-inch stilettos), Starr Masters, Erica Benson, Tatyana Romanov and Ms. Tina Le Grande. He'll introduce a second show, Hell on Heels, at the Denver Buffalo Company soon. Come on out: This show is anything but a drag.
Not content with winning hearts and saving pooches with his appearances on cable TV's Emergency Vets (on Animal Planet), funnyman/animal doc Kevin Fitzgerald stages an irregular (very) variety show that seems to have found a home on major holidays at the Comedy Works in Larimer Square. What's not to love about the Love Show? An evening's lineup always includes a sampling of Fitzgerald's comic antics -- on a recent outing, he sang Doris Day's "Que Sera Sera" backed by the Well Hungarians, and then offered a Michael Flatley tap dancing imitation (wearing see-through tights). After that, he transformed himself into the emcee to introduce a cavalcade of Denver's most unusual performers, including a gaggle of jugglers, a roller-skating bird, a smoking pig and Shelvis, the fabulous female Elvis impersonator. "Denver has a lot of talent out there," Fitzgerald insists. And he's bringing that talent to you, one wacky act after another. Take this doctor's advice: Variety is the spice of life.
Most of the humor on Denver's Channel 8 is inadvertent: It's tough to take those endless city council committee hearings seriously. And while the people featured in @altitude: Life in the Mile High City aren't putting on an act, either, the production team definitely takes an entertainingly skewed view of life in Denver. This is altitude with an attitude. "Our purpose is to make each @altitude show reflect all the diverse energies that make this a great city," says producer Jen Caltrider. "The people, ideas and activities you won't find anywhere else." The monthly show (which is repeated, and repeated, and repeated -- this is Channel 8, after all) is hosted by familiar voices (if not faces) Paula Purifoy and Marcos Fernandez; it's featured a varied lineup in its first few editions, including an homage to Denver's romantic side, a whirlwind tour of the city's museums, and even some talking back to the mayor. Don't touch that dial!
As a youngster, Denise Nickerson participated in projects that have garnered her eternal fame among members of two separate cults: She was in the cast of the 1960s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, and she co-starred as Violet Beauregarde, the obsessive gum-chewer who turned into a giant blueberry, in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Nickerson subsequently left show business, and in April 2001, she and her son moved to Denver, where she works for an accounting firm. For the most part, she leads a low-key life, but she happily participated in promoting the thirtieth-anniversary DVD of Wonka. Given how star-starved Denver is (why did Gary Coleman ever move away?), it's nice to have her here.

Best Repeat Performance by a Denverite at the Grammys

Dianne Reeves

Dianne Reeves has definitely found her calling. The jazz diva, who was raised in Denver, won a Grammy Award this year for The Calling -- Celebrating Sarah Vaughn. It was her second consecutive win in the category of Best Jazz Vocal Album; Reeves won the same award the year before for In the Moment -- Live in Concert. Both albums were released on the Blue Note label, and both show off the former University of Colorado student's astonishing vocal range. For fans in Denver and around the world, the Grammy wins strike the right chord.
Twelve-year-old Akil LuQman promises to be a roaring success as an actor. On April 17, the Denver sixth-grader makes his debut as Young Simba in the road show of The Lion King. Catch him while you can.
Although it takes place early this year -- the first three weekends in April -- Silver Plume's annual community melodrama, performed by the Plume Players, should be filled with just as much tiny-town drama as ever. Don't Shoot the Piano Player, a nod to the old mining town's Wild West history, has a cast of ten (approximately 5 percent of the town's population); proceeds go to benefit historic preservation efforts.

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