New York artist Barnaby Furnas, who's achieved international fame over the past ten years, made his local debut this year at MCA Denver in a show put together by new director Adam Lerner. Handsomely ensconced in the Large Works Gallery, Barnaby Furnas: Floods included a handful of the artist's remarkable — and sometime huge — acrylic paintings. Furnas considers himself a narrative painter in the tradition of the great European landscape artists, and if you squinted a little, you could almost see what he means — but these works clearly place him among the heirs to abstract expressionism, with his technique of pouring paint and his embrace of spontaneity and accidents, à la Jackson Pollock. Good show!

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Foothills Art Center typically presents group shows, but last summer the entire place — even the Carol and Don Dickinson Sculpture Garden — was given over to a fabulous solo that delved into the abstract and conceptual sculptures and installations of the legendary Charles Parson. The pieces outside were a trio of gongs in the form of hieratically composed tubular metal spires, while inside there were some surprisingly realistic landscape drawings, along with a facsimile of the artist's studio. The exhibit culminated with a group of interactive gazebos — some with audio components — that viewers were meant to walk through. It was a stunning departure for the Golden facility, and one of the best shows Foothills has ever presented.

Leonard Barrett is a jazz singer, which meant he brought new shadings to the familiar songs of Man of La Mancha, an old warhorse of a musical, soaring on the title song and giving "The Impossible Dream" just enough originality to make it unsentimental and fresh. Barely recognizable as Don Quixote in his thick, old-man makeup, yet masterful, powerful and tender, Barrett immersed himself completely in the role, dominating the stage whenever he was on it.

Best Reason to See Long Day's Journey Into Night

Jim Hunt

Long Day's Journey Into Night, Eugene O'Neill's most famous masterpiece, is talky and long, and although Paragon's production was pretty good, watching it felt a bit like fulfilling an onerous school assignment or being trapped in a bar by a self-pitying, whiskey-breathed old fart who won't shut up. But Jim Hunt, who played paterfamilias James Tyrone, redeemed the evening with the performance of a lifetime. Sure, the guy was slippery and miserly, but he was also deeply human, and his frustrated love for his wife and their two dysfunctional sons shone through everything he did and said, touching the heart.

Frank Georgianna almost single-handedly kept theater alive in Boulder, founding Boulder Rep and staging classics, new plays and musicals during a period when almost nothing else theatrical was happening in that small town. Then Donovan Marley discovered Georgianna's talents as an actor and director, and for several years he worked with the Denver Center Theatre Company. Devoted to Lee Strasberg's Method approach, Georgianna was an inspired — if often difficult — director; as an actor, he communicated a powerful sense of risk, danger and excitement, always working at the very edge of his craft. When his wife, Ernestine, who had tirelessly supported his theater work, developed Alzheimer's, Georgianna took devoted care of her until her death. He himself succumbed to cancer in December, at the age of 74.

Ever since he moved here from Indiana a few years ago, Matt Fecher has demonstrated that he possesses exceptional sensibilities. Say what you will about Fecher — he strikes some folks as a little too cool for school — the guy definitely has a great set of ears. Witness his knack for pulling in stars of tomorrow for the Monolith Festival, which he co-curates with Josh Baker: Ghostland Observatory? Check. Phoenix? Check. Chromeo? Girl Talk? The Cool Kids? Hood Internet? Check, check, check and mate. Thing is, having admirable tastes as a music fan doesn't necessarily translate to making good music. When Fecher first tried his hand at deejaying under the name Hot to Death, a few high-profile gigs drew the scrutiny of cynics, who assumed he'd only landed the slots because of his stature as a promoter. And while that may have been true to some extent, Fecher has since proven himself worthy with both Animals at Risk — reworking tracks by the Swayback and The Pirate Signal — and, most recently, Honey & the Bear, a randy, tongue-firmly-in-cheek acoustic duo.

Although Eric Heights hangs his hat in L.A. these days, his heart is still very much in the Mile High City, judging from the videos he's produced for so many Denver artists. From his most recent work with Spoke in Wordz and ManeRok to past clips for Ichiban, 3 the Hardway, The Pirate Signal and Deca, Heights has used his artistic vision to help us really see these artists, elevating the scene in the process. His distinctive, high-contrast style helps bring the music to life. And it's not just musicians he's working with, either. Even with all the other projects he's been juggling, he found the time to create a well-shot and -produced promo video for Guerilla Garden Studios. Thanks to Heights, Denver is looking good.

The Fresh Breath Committee lives up to its early promise by delivering an engaging album imbued with a classic feel and brimming with fluid grooves and compelling beats. Featuring a stable of stellar MCs who could easily turn heads on their own, the Fresh Breath crew manages to shine individually without stepping all over one another. Lyrically, the Committee has substance; whether they're grappling with matters of the heart or simply reflecting on life, the wordplay is always thoughtful. And the hooks, propped up by the soul-kissed pipes of Crystal Goldenberg, make the platter even more memorable. While there were a number of outstanding local hip-hop releases over the past year, CPR's excellent production, eye-grabbing artwork and overall continuity made it the clear winner.

The Foot: Great band with a lousy name that doesn't come close to describing the music — unless, of course, it's some sort of subtle reference to an ass-kicking or something. Because then the name makes complete sense. Fortunately, these guys put far more thought, time and effort into their music than their handle, and it shows. Primary Colors, the band's latest effort, available for free download right now, is an utterly delightful listen. These three University of Denver grads clearly have some chops, which is immediately evident from listening to the tasty guitar work and drum fills on the album. And that's to say nothing of the melodies, which are tuneful, and the harmonies, which are superb.

Always a fine band with an exciting live show, Action Packed Thrill Ride became can't-miss by smoothing some of the rough edges and leaning away from country and toward rock and roll. Now the band's shows are as much fun as its name. The group recorded a new EP, Best I've Felt, and offered it for free as a download and at its shows. There's a warm, inclusive feel to the new stuff, and we're confident the band's full-length followup to the very good A Looseleaf Script will be its best yet.

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