Best Burlesque Night 2012 | Black Box Burlesque | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

They might be split personalities, but neither Reyna Von Vett nor her on-stage alter ego, Cora Vette, is a plain Jane. One of the strongest — and sassiest — personalities in Denver burlesque, Vette's creatively coy sex appeal lends itself to rowdy and raunchy rotating themes — planned by Von Vett and other organizers of Black Box Burlesque, and scheduled the third Friday of each month. In March, the leaders and their coed troupe channeled '80s nostalgia for "My Teen Angst Bullsh*t," taking on both teen-dream John Hughes hits and the easy target that is Risky Business. At Bar Standard, Black Box's current home in a long roster of Denver sites, fans can order bottle service and get their drink on as the costumes come off.

Readers' Choice: Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret

Ed and Marsha Edmunds like to make people jump. Their animatronic creations, which they build for haunted houses and other clients around the country, range from an almost-too-lifelike electric chair to set pieces for Alice Cooper to aliens for the UFO Museum in Roswell. And the Travel Channel took notice, making the Edmundses' Greeley-based company, Distortions Unlimited, the subject of the show Making Monsters, which delved into the couple's process of making those creepy crawlers come to they can scare anyone who comes in contact with them to death.

You know the one about the guy with the smoking-hot girlfriend, the one who, when folks see the two of them together, they're all like, "How the hell did you land her?" And you know his answer? "I asked." While the members of FaceMan could never be accused of playing out of their league like that, they used much the same tactic to enlist both the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Rebirth Brass Band, along with local luminaries, to join them in the studio when they were recording their new record.

Hidden away on the dark northwest side of the Denver Performing Arts Complex is the little Jones Theatre (known as the Source when the facility was originally built), which has always seemed like an afterthought with its shadowy, back-door locale. But what goes on here might be one of the best deals in town: clever performance- and improv-based events that usually cost between $10 and $20 and often include a reception as well as entertainment, all under the umbrella of Off-Center @ the Jones. Curated by Denver Center Theatre Company projection designer Charlie Miller and DCTC artistic associate Emily Tarquin, the series includes Cult Following, a monthly "live movie" improv party with free popcorn, the current Square of Ice battle-of-the-bands Johnny Cash spoof, and a changing palette of little plays and performances like DATE*, coming up in April, which is based on real stories about Internet dating. Quirky, funny and cutting-edge, Off-Center definitely lives up to its name.

The hoopla for this exhibition began long before it opened in late March at the Denver Art Museum, and with good reason: Not only is Denver the only stop that this blockbuster from the Foundation Pierre Bergé — Yves Saint Laurent in France — will make in the United States, but it's breathtaking, even if you aren't a dedicated fashionista. The forty-year retrospective, which demonstrates how YSL drew influences from menswear staples and the art world to create an ascending staircase of style rising through the decades, is also a fascinating peek into the details and craft of haute couture. And on a local level, it's giving a boost to our own fashion scene, involving Denver designers in an accompanying series of stylish events thrown in conjunction with the main attraction. From the elegant display of nearly forty YSL women's tuxedos to the finale of evocative evening gowns, the big show doesn't misstep once. Bravo!

Sub.mission introduced Electronic Tuesdays at Cervantes' Other Side just over a year ago, and because of the massive crowds that come for this club night, it's now been moved next door to the Ballroom. With local acts, DJ battles and competitions, Electronic Tuesdays have grown into a raging concoction of dubstep, house, drum-and-bass and anything else that falls under the ever-expanding umbrella of electronic music. On occasion, you get free access if you arrive before ten o'clock — but when Sub.mission brings in the big guns, you gotta pay to play. And when you do, you can count on the night being worth the price of admission.

Readers' Choice: Beta

Courtesy Clyfford Still Museum Facebook page

Okay, the Clyfford Still Museum has only had one show, but it's so incredible, it deserves its own award. The spectacular Inaugural Exhibition was organized by Dean Sobel, the museum's founding director. Five years ago, Sobel was one of only a handful of people who had actually seen Still's work, since the artist was a major recluse. New discoveries on his part caused Sobel to completely upend all previous research on the artist, demonstrating that it was the figure, and not the landscape, that Still was referencing. This show lays out how Still began in the '20s with post-impressionism and by the early '40s had progressed to abstract expressionism — years before the rest of his generation arrived at related aesthetic conclusions. From then on, until his last works, in the late '70s, Still perfected his pictorial aims, with his paintings becoming airier and flatter as time went on. This spectacular show has true international significance — and it's still on display, for those here at home who somehow missed it.

Coming on the heels of a pauper's life of dumpster diving and living in a bus powered by veggie oil, Paper Bird teamed up with Ballet Nouveau Colorado for the grant-fueled project of Carry On, which took the former to a new world of highbrow art, writing songs for a companion ballet production. Ballet Nouveau Colorado was likewise suddenly exposed to an audience of dusty freegans, traveling by road bike to the sober world of silent dance. And we all got a new Paper Bird album out of it, 2011's Carry On. The two worlds will collide again this September, treating Denver to another round of the unlikely collaboration.

A grawlix is a sequence of typographical symbols used to represent a non-specific profane word or phrase, like this: #@$%*! But there's nothing that coy about Grawlix, the monthly alternative-comedy night formerly known as Los Comicos Super-Hilariosos that features Ben Roy, 2012 MasterMind Andrew Orvedahl and former Westword staffer Adam Cayton-Holland, with frequent special-guest comedians from across the country. The night is rude and it's raw, and it's also super-hilarious. Between monthly humor injections, you can get an additional taste of the comics on their on Grawlix videos.

Readers' Choice: Comedy Works

Caitlin Wise was a student at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' now-closed National Theatre Conservatory, and audiences first saw her in smaller roles at the Denver Center Theatre Company. This season, she rose to prominence in a trio of performances, starting with her portrayal of Hermia in the DCTC's A Midsummer Night's Dream. A comic in the zany, irrepressible tradition of Lucille Ball, Wise has huge, startled eyes and upspringing red curls, and her gift for physical comedy became clear when, as a rookie cop in Creede Rep's Unnecessary Farce (performance at the Lone Tree Arts Center), she had to navigate a room while gagged and bound; she also had problems with handcuffs, self-defense, guns and pretty much everything else — except for doughnuts — that your average cop encounters. And as Cecily in the Arvada Center's The Importance of Being Earnest, she showed no deference at all to the classic status of the play or the elaborate English manners it so cleverly spoofs, but gave the role an entirely contemporary freshness, playfulness and bounce.

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