Best Burlesque Night 2013 | Merry Widow's Artisan Operetta | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Eric Gruneisen

In a city as boosterish on burlesque as Denver, creativity earns extra bonus points. Every third Monday, the performance troupe behind Merry Widow's Artisan Operetta surprises its audience at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse with a comedic (and clothing-light) tribute to any number of topics from this century and the last — from sultry takes on Roy Lichtenstein and Mae West to a technicolor foray into '90s teen craze Lisa Frank. When it comes to burlesque maven Merry Widow and her troupe's shifting cultural aesthetic, nothing is sacred — and everything is sexy.

Bill Murray, who just a month earlier had been photographed across Austin at South by Southwest rocking Big Head Todd and the Monsters T-shirts, was at Wrigley Field for the opening day of the Chicago Cubs 2012 season, where he sang an enthusiastic rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Accompanying him? Todd Park Mohr, one of Colorado's favorite sons.

Pablo Kjolseth, the heartbeat of CU-Boulder's time-honored International Film Series, is all about analog, and though he's now being forced to add digital equipment to IFS's projection rooms (new celluloid is essentially history with the recent passing of the Digital Cinema Initiatives), he promises to still deliver film classics on celluloid whenever possible. Kjolseth stands by the idea that a movie should be viewed in its original medium, and insists that there are plenty of older reels still floating around; he's collected an extensive archive at IFS over the years. On the other hand, digital projectors will not only allow Kjolseth to continue programming short runs of more current films shot digitally, but will also open up other programming possibilities: "I'm excited to be able to stay current," he says. "Going digital means that I might eventually be able to add 3-D to the bells and whistles available at IFS. More independent films are being made using 3-D technology." So at IFS, you can have your 3-D...and your classics, too. Live long and prosper.

Two men play 26 roles in Love Child, a play about a couple of actors who decide to stage Euripides's Ion in a sausage factory. Steven Burge played the actor's agent, who sits in the audience watching him and his own mother and father...oh, wait, maybe that was Damon Guerrasio. With the two men switching roles so fast and so often in this Avenue Theatre production, you pretty much forgot who'd done what within seconds of leaving the theater — though it all seemed completely clear while you were actually watching. Burge and Guerrasio are not only two of the most versatile and quick-thinking actors around, they're both snort-beer-through-your-nose funny.

Tracy Warren is a warmly appealing actress with a fine singing voice. And during Boulder Dinner Theatre's 42nd Street, we learned she also has a deft touch as a choreographer who can handle dozens of swiftly tapping feet as well as soulful solos and silly-funny two-performer numbers.

Cigars on Sixth is the ultimate man cave — decorated in dark wood, antique chairs and a flat-screen TV, and stuffed full of every cigar- and pipe-related knickknack you can imagine, not to mention a set of antlers and a fake mounted fish. Here you'll find old boys in suits and ties, lawyers, accountants, politicians and Hawaiian shirt-clad silverbacks trading throaty stories and jokes at just about any time of day. The humidor is well-stocked, as are the shelves of ashtrays, humidors, cutters and other paraphernalia. Wanna feel even more manly? Make your way through the thick air to the back, where you can get a shave and a haircut from the one-seat barbershop.

Buntport Theater's Evan Weissman had the urge to do something more, something proactively political that would engage the public in a gentle way. His urge to facilitate a better world led to Warm Cookies of the Revolution, an ongoing series of civic discussions augmented by an element of shared creative fun that Weissman likes to characterize as a "civic health club." The concept? So simple: Themed discussions about civic and community issues are thrown on the table, along with fresh-baked cookies and milk and something for participants to do with their hands, communally if possible, such as writing letters or knitting or playing board games or cooperating to build well-planned LEGO metropolises. Every Warm Cookies event is different in scope and subject, but all have one thing in common: They get people to loosen up and start talking. Weissman is partnering with the city on some of the events, and they're beginning to pop up all over the place, though he hopes to eventually find a permanent meeting place, perhaps one with a cafe-like ambience, where cookies and milk and maybe soups could be dispensed for donations. Weissman proves that looking to the future can be fun.

The McNichols Building started out handsome when it first opened as a Carnegie Library in 1910, and it remained stately through every changing of the guard, including stints as the Denver Water Board office and the Denver Treasury. It was renamed in 1999 for former Colorado governor Stephen McNichols, and then, sadly, sat vacant for ten years. The first glimmer that there might still be life left in the McNichols came with the first Biennial of the Americas three years ago, when it housed art exhibits and roundtables; since then, the city has at least partially completed renovations that make the space more conducive to showing art, hosting events and being rented out. Since its grand opening in October, the newly anointed cultural center has become the place to go for swanky galas as well as gallery shows and meetings. Book it!

Mile High Soul Club is a monthly event, and while once a month would hardly seem enough to make it a destination, this club night packs more than enough good times and great music into one evening to hold you over until next time. Launched in 2008 at Rockbar, the night, helmed by Tyler Jacobson, DJ DogBoy and Creeper Steve, features a choice blend of hand-picked Motown and Northern and vintage soul. Not only has the night survived a succession of moves over the years, but it continues to thrive and grow. It's grown so much, in fact, that in February, Mile High Soul Club set up shop at Beauty Bar — which has plenty of room for the many fans who flock to Denver's best club night.
Evan Semón

At this point, the Solution is well on its way to becoming a Denver institution. But it isn't just our town's longest-running and most revered hip-hop night — it's also a testament to quality and resilience. Despite having moved virtually all over town since it was founded half a dozen years ago by DJs Low Key and Sounds Supreme, the Solution continues to draw a faithful crowd wherever — and however — it goes. Even after the Solution took a hiatus from weekly parties, the Solution crew continued to offer showcases featuring a parade of the best local MCs and producers, along with lauded acts from elsewhere. And last month, when the Solution returned to a weekly format at its new home at the Meadowlark, all was right in the cosmos again.

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