Best Supporting Actor in a Musical 2008 | Milton Craig NealyLa Cage Aux FollesArvada Center for the Arts and Humanities | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Jacob is the intensely effeminate butler — or, as he prefers, maid — of the gay couple at the center of the frothy, splashy La Cage Aux Folles. The role is a guaranteed laugh-getter, and Milton Craig Nealy played it to the hilt, with infectious style, humor and enjoyment.
A man and a woman have just woken up, and they don't know who they are. A young woman enters, and she tells them cruel things — that they're suspected of murder, that they're not, that they're actually married, but unhappily so. She identifies herself as their lawyer, then later as their daughter. Laura Norman took this baffling role and played it with feeling, hinting at an unknowable but fascinating subtext, and as a result, she held the audience spellbound.
Is there anything Kathleen M. Brady can't do? We've seen her in classical and modern plays, in comedy and tragedy. This year we found out that she can sing, and sing she did in A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, rich-toned and full-throated. Brady played the role of the shrew Domina (the name speaks for itself) with such humor and vitality that you couldn't imagine why the male characters weren't falling all over her instead of the mushy little ingenue.
Uncle Peck is a monster who's sexually abused his niece for years. Yet in an understated performance, Paul Borrillo managed to make him ordinary and likable, even vulnerable. In one charming scene, Uncle Peck was teaching a small boy how to fish — "reel and jerk...reel and rest" — and Borrillo's portrayal was so strong that it took a few moments for the nauseating realization to dawn that this man was reeling in the boy along with the fish.
We recently heard a local tastemaker heap effusive praise on Michael Trundle: "He's the first one in this town who played Shitdisco." While that may not mean much to non-Shitdisco fans, Trundle and his longtime Denver 3 associate Tyler Jacobson have indeed been turning the masses on to the hottest music with their playlists and frequent listening parties at Lipgloss, the ridiculously successful, long-running weekly club night. The nationally renowned night isn't just a hit with club-goers; it's also become the destination of choice for such luminaries as Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke from the Smiths, as well as a number of touring acts who've been spotted stopping by La Rumba after their own Friday-night shows.
Abstract-expressionist giant Clyfford Still was an anti-social egomaniac. When he died, his estate retained more than 90 percent of his lifelong output. This created an opportunity for Denver to build a museum specifically to house it all. The Still Museum won't open until 2010, so its director, Dean Sobel, put together a stunning preview, Clyfford Still Unveiled, at the Denver Art Museum. A surprising aspect of this exhibit is the way the artist's early representational work indicates that the figure — not the landscape, as widely thought — is the basis for his later classic abstracts. The gorgeous show, which stays open through June, handily makes the case that Still was one of the best.
The play was an old chestnut, but thanks to impeccable casting and insightful direction, Paragon Theatre Company breathed new life into Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? You couldn't help admiring Martha Harmon Pardee's vitality and sheer, pull-out-the-stops courage as Martha; she came across as funny, smart, wrenchingly vulnerable and, in her own way, honest. Sam Gregory's George at first seemed the weaker of the two antagonists — but it didn't take long for the audience to figure out that George was a deadly opponent. These two had been fighting forever; it's what they did instead of sex. Add Ed Cord as Nick, blankly pleasant at first but slowly revealing his soulless ambition, and Barbra Andrews's secretly spiteful Honey, and you had a mind-bending combination of slow simmer and all-out combustion.
Although there were some disappointments at Curious Theatre early in the season, How I Learned to Drive — a reprise of the first-ever Curious production ten years ago — was a hit, and the company continued to roar forward with two of the most exciting productions on a Denver stage this year. 9 Parts of Desire, a play by Heather Raffo, revealed the depth and complexity of Iraqi culture through the voices of several women, and in a gutsy, beautiful performance, Karen Slack played them all. Equally riveting was The Lieutenant of Inishmore, a rollicking, blood-soaked farce by Martin McDonagh, brilliantly acted and directed, that had you simultaneously wincing down in your seat and laughing aloud.
You're allowed to bring tea, coffee, beer or wine into the new Black Box Theater at the Arvada Center, and such venues as Miners Alley, the Bug and Curious Theatre also allow sipping during performances. This is a trend we applaud — although inebriated audiences can be a nuisance, and no one should be crunching popcorn or rustling candy wrappers during performances. Now, if only local theaters would tackle the problem of dishwater coffee and uninspired intermission treats...
It's not hard to "Get High on Film," as the Independence Film Festival motto suggests, when the whole thing takes place up in the clouds at various venues in Buena Vista, Leadville and Salida. Last year's inaugural cinema bash kicked off with a ceremony featuring filmmaker John Landis on the 12,000-foot summit of Independence Pass, and the rest was purely off the wall, with guests including Grease director Randy Kleiser (feted with a '50s sock hop and screening at the Comanche Drive-In in Buena Vista) and the daughter of late comic actor Don Knotts. This year, fest promoters Lawrence Foldes and Victoria Meyerink will hit the heights again in the same slightly kitschy/sweet vein, with a tribute to Elvis movies, a critic's forum with Rex Reed, a new juried film competition and guest Franklin J. Schaffner, who directed Patton, Planet of the Apes and Papillon.

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