Curious Theatre Company

9 Circles, which had its regional premiere at Curious Theatre Company, is based on a real-life atrocity in Iraq: an incident in which a United States soldier entered a family home, raped and killed the fourteen-year-old daughter, killed both her parents and her six-year-old sister, then attempted to burn her body. Taking us into this man's mind is a serious challenge. As Daniel Reeves, Sean Scrutchins needed to be twitchy and almost blurrily out of focus at first, and then, by turns, difficult, belligerent, humorous, unaware and in a state of deep denial. Scrutchins was all this — and then he took us by the throat for the play's terrifying final scene, shaking us out of our complacency and then setting us back down again, forever changed.

Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
The Arvada Center

The character of Coalhouse Walker towers over the musical Ragtime, a panoramic take on the history of the early twentieth century based on the E.L. Doctorow novel. We are shown Walker's patient and ultimately victorious courtship of Sarah, the mother of his child; his pride, the insults he endures, and then his violent radicalization. When the actor scheduled to play Walker developed throat problems, understudy Tyrone Robinson took over the role of Walker a short time before Ragtime opened at the Arvada Center for the Arts. Tall and imposing, cocky and vulnerable, he gave full expression to the character's fierce tenderness and ambiguous morality, and his powerful, expressive voice commanded the stage.

Denver Center Theatre Company

We've seen domineering Petruchios, and Petruchios so glossily movie-star sexy that it's easy to understand why their Katherines fall for them. But in the Denver Center Theatre Company's production of The Taming of the Shrew, John G. Preston's Petruchio was sort of rugged-tough and sort of ham-fisted and sort of dopey-dusty all at the same time — and he managed to own the stage. He was so high-spirited that the usually unpleasant scene in which he beat Grumio came across more as masculine horseplay than bullying, and it was fun watching his bemusement at Katherine's ill-tempered sarcasm change slowly to respect, admiration and, ultimately, love.

Miners Alley Playhouse

Rhonda Brown has a terrific warmth and vitality on stage, and these qualities were evident in her portrayal of Linda in the Miners Alley Playhouse production of Fiction, Steven Dietz's tricky Rubik's Cube of a play. Linda, a writer and prickly intellectual, has been diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor and has asked her husband — also a writer — to read her journal after her death. In return, she wants to read his — before her death, naturally. What follows is an entertaining mishmash of truth and deception, reality and falsification — and then it turns out that Linda's diagnosis itself was an "oncological misapprehension." But audiences had no problem navigating this maze of mixed meanings, because Brown led them through it with so much charm and authority.

Denver Center Theatre Company

Lynn Nottage has acknowledged that her brutal and richly textured play, Ruined, owes a debt to Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage. Like Mother Courage, Mama Nadi profits from violence and war: She's the owner of a brothel. But where Mother Courage worships profit alone, placing it above even her love for her children, Mama Nadi is more nuanced, and fiercely protective of her girls — as long as their well-being doesn't threaten her own. And "fierce" is exactly the right word to describe Kim Staunton's performance in the Denver Center Theatre Company's production of Ruined. She was electrifying. She made Mama Nadi passionate, tough and full of rage, but also capable of tenderness and even — in the midst of abject horror — tiny moments of the purest frivolity.

Okay, we admit it: We fell in love with Maggie Sczekan's Christine in the Boulder's Dinner Theatre production of Phantom. When she was on stage, we were mesmerized. When she wasn't, we waited impatiently for her to return. So many musical-comedy ingenues are annoying: pretty, simpering puppets whose sweet, shy gestures could never come from a real, breathing woman, but Sczekan is a real actress. If her gestures were charming and pretty, they were also sincere; her voice was rich and expressive, with all the range and musicality the score required; and her entire performance showed individuality and spine. Sczekan has star quality, and we'll be surprised if we're able to keep her in Colorado much longer. Here's hoping.

We'd seen Jamie Ann Romero as a charming ingenue and a cute comedienne several times before, but it was never clear that she had the gravitas for a tragic role — until the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's production of Romeo and Juliet. Romero's Juliet was a lovely, playful child who grew before our eyes into a deep-souled woman. It was a tender, touching, radiant and fully realized performance.

Best Addition to Denver's Art District on Santa Fe

Black Book Gallery

Black Book Gallery

Black Book brings urban and street-inspired art to Denver's Art District on Santa Fe in a big, bold way, hosting exhibits that showcase both local and national figures. One month you might see seafaring woodcuts by John Fellows, the next, sculptures and prints by Ravi Zupa; international names like Ottograph, Galo and 2501, who showed together here a year ago, are also a big part of the fluid Black Book mix. And the gallery keeps the art coming, one show after another, sweeping house monthly. Watch carefully: This kind of work isn't going away anytime soon, and neither is Black Book, which deals in affordable, collectible works that reflect the times we live in.

Clyfford Still Museum
Courtesy Clyfford Still Museum Facebook page

Clyfford Still, a pioneer of abstract expressionism and a giant in the history of modern art, died in 1980, leaving behind a will stipulating that his estate, comprising some 94 percent of his life's artistic output, would be given to an American city that would pledge to build a museum to display his work — and nothing else. In 2004, then-mayor John Hickenlooper brought home the bacon when he sweet-talked the artist's widow into selecting Denver as the recipient of Still's posthumous gift. Five years later, construction began on the Clyfford Still Museum, hard against the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building, according to a design by Brad Cloepfil's Allied Works Architecture, and the doors opened this past November. While the exterior is chaste, made up of simple cubic volumes with unexpected cutouts in the grooved cast-in-place concrete walls, the interior is stunning, with these three-dimensional walls providing the perfect counterpoint to Still's utterly flat signature work.

For the past year, the Kimble Music Group family has been providing excellent engineering, recording and mixing services to hip-hop cats all over the rap scene at KMG Studios. From Rockie to the entire Super Dope team to every indie artist on the rise, KMG has made its mark on records across the board. Great quality, state-of-the-art equipment and the golden touch of engineer and founder Greg Kimble keep KMG a cut above the rest. Those who have recorded here bear witness to impeccable professionalism, flexible hours and a comfortable atmosphere.

Best Of Denver®

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