We're not awarding this for any one particular performance, though if we had to choose among this year's crop, it'd be Everything Old Is New Again, in which Annie Dwyer revived one of her old tricks: going out into the audience, snatching patrons' drinks -- beer, wine, Scotch, it was all the same to her -- and sucking them greedily down while never missing a line or a beat. Yes, the woman acts and dances and can sing raucous or beautiful depending on requirements. Sure, she teaches kids' classes and helps keep venerable old Heritage going. But that's not the reason for this award. Dwyer is fearless. She'll wade into the audience and corral some poor man, tousling his hair, accusing him of jilting her, snarking off to his wife or girlfriend, sitting on his lap, leaving a sticky lipstick ring on his bald pate. And it never gets old, because she does it with the same glitter-eyed intensity every time. She's a whiz with bubble gum, too. She can lasso you with it. Bottom line: Dwyer is a treasure and a true Colorado original. No one else can do what she does, and our theater scene would be much poorer without her.
This theater piece, put together by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, is about six innocent people who spent anywhere from two to 21 years on death row and were then released. The most unsettling case is that of Sunny Jacobs, who, along with her husband, Jesse Tafero, was found guilty of the killing of two police officers and spent sixteen years on death row. Tafero suffered a hideously bungled execution in 1990; Sunny was released two years later. There were some very strong performances in the OpenStage production, and also a couple that were less polished but touching and effective in their naturalism. Theater has historically been a forum for political action, and OpenStage should be applauded for rising to the challenge with this thoughtful exploration of an important topic, one that increases in importance with every current diminution of our civil and legal rights.
Producer-director (and marketer) Dan Wiley bet he could stage this edgy, contemporary musical about a city suffering a drought so bad its inhabitants are forced to pay to pee -- and executed for freelance urination -- in the Denver Department of Public Works' Wastewater Management Building. He rigged up a stage, cast a group of talented actors, tinkered with the continuing sound problems of his venue, and came up a winner. Urinetown was one of the brightest and most appealing musicals of the year, and it attracted the kind of alert young audience many local theaters would kill for.
William Hahn is one of those actors who always make an impact; you often find your eyes straying toward him, even when there's significant action somewhere else on the stage. In King Lear, sporting a gentle, soul-shrinking little smile, he brought an element of truly original creepiness to a rather staid and predictable production.
Bill Christ played Amadeus's Emperor Joseph II, usually a tiny and forgettable role, to hilarious effect, listening to Mozart's music as puzzlement and a determination to appear cultured chased each other all over his face. The brilliance of Christ's bumbling buffoons -- he knows just how far to take them -- stems in part from his genuine power and heft as an actor.
St. Julien Hotel & Spa
There's something magically Christmasy about standing out in the snow and pushing your nose against the glass of a ritzy hotel to see satin-clad girls crooning retro Irving Berlin classics by the fire. In this wonderland setting, former Cabaret Diosa dancing girl Kim Franco and her crack troupe of old compadres performed live in the lobby of the boutique-y St. Julien on Sunday evenings during last year's holiday season. The '40s-era extravaganza was inspired, and admission was free. It is a wonderful life.
Colorado might have lost the Crispy Family Carnival, but we still have Ukulele Loki, aka Aaron Johnson. A true vaudeville performer, Loki served as music director/ composer/on-stage musician for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's 2006 production of As You Like It, led the "indie acoustic chamber pop" sounds of the Gadabout Orchestra and acted as ringleader for his vaudeville burlesque circus, the Folderol Follies. His work as the "Talented Talker" for the Crispy Family Carnival has also qualified him to perform as a radio emcee -- currently on Route 78 West, which airs Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon on KVCU-Radio 1190 in Boulder -- and foil for sideshow performers, bands and burlesque legends such as Dita Von Teese. Loki's love of all things sideshow ensures that vaudeville will never die in Denver.
What do Zen and cabaret have in common? Nothing, unless you're Nina Rolle. The artist describes Zen Cabaret as "a traveling medicine show that pitches a tent in whatever town it's in, and then these rogues show up and put on a production." Most recently, Rolle pitched her Zen tent in Boulder for Zen Cabaret Version 6.5: Play Money, complete with audience-interaction elements, a soundtrack provided by Jayme Stone and absurdist retail therapy. "In a way, the whole thing is a practice of how I like to laugh, the kind of laugh I want to bring to people," Rolle explains. So chuckle it up.
The Clocktower Cabaret
Eric Gruneisen
The reviews are in: Local triple-nippled drag queen and fabulous fundraiser Nuclia Waste has a mushrooming hit on her well-manicured hands with Demented Divas. The hilarious Vegas-style drag show, featuring Portia Potty, Gabbriella Butz'In and Iona Trailer, not only encourages the most embarrassing forms of audience participation, but also pokes catty fun at an endless parade of prime drag-queen targets, from Bette Davis to JonBent. Stop by on Tuesday nights and play dress-up with the big girls.
The bearded man held his wooden cross high and bumped and swayed to the indie rock coming out of the Keystone Resort speakers. The young workers scanning lift tickets and passes all smiled in his direction and bopped with him. Kids giggled. Their parents wondered if the strange man was a beggar or a paid performer. A dancing orthodox Christian monk would seem an unorthodox form of entertainment, even for a ski resort. Turns out he was just a Jesus freak of the highest order -- one without the shouted ramblings of the characters on Denver's 16th Street Mall.

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