Opera on Tap may be a New York-based nonprofit, but the Colorado chapter is going strong. Like Boulder Opera, the company takes opera out of the stuffy concert halls — but Opera on Tap brings it to bars. Instead of encouraging funereal attitudes and stiff bodies in stiffer seats, Opera on Tap allows audiences to drink and make noise, all while bringing the crowd up close and personal with the performers. Each month the group puts on a show at Syntax Physic Opera, and it hosts a yearly festival showcasing other companies' efforts. We'll drink to that!

operaontap.org/colorado

Best Reason for Musical Fans to Plan Ahead

Hamilton

Hamilton arrives at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex on February 27, 2018. No need to say more.

Children's theater is tricky. The best productions keep young squirmers absorbed while also entertaining their parents, and that can be tough. But Bitsy Stage makes it look easy. The little sister of the innovative all-Shakespeare company Betsy Stage, the group adapts international folk tales for the stage, incorporating lively casts and fun costuming with age-old stories that only improve with time — and then it offers up performances for free. Not surprisingly, shows fill up fast, so grab your gratis tickets now.

Readers' Choice: Arvada Center

Some of the world's best academics and scientists make Boulder their home (though given proposed federal budget cuts, perhaps not for long), so it makes sense that the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company should have a strong interest in presenting smart programming for adults. The latest of its many scientific offerings is Lauren Gunderson's Silent Sky, the real-life story of Henrietta Swan Leavitt and the female "computers" of the Harvard Observatory, which runs April 6 through April 30. But co-founders Stephen Weitz and Rebecca Remaly are equally interested in history, literature, dramaturgy, feminism, zany humor and human nature, and the coming season offers a brain-teasing mix of new, established and soon-to-be-established playwriting talent — including Guards at the Taj, by Rajiv Joseph, author of the brilliant Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.

Readers' Choice: Buntport Theater Company

The Edge Theater Company

Edge Theater Company stages interesting, well-done productions ranging from classics to contemporary, hilarious to soul-rending, but beyond guaranteed seats for this impressive repertoire, there's another reason to pick up a season ticket. The Edge gives out its own annual awards at the end of the year — the Edgys — and if you've seen all the season's shows, you get to vote for your favorite actor, actress, ensemble, etc. Even if you haven't voted, you get to enjoy one of the warmest celebration parties in town, where you'll enjoy drinks and good food (served, at the last Edgys, in massive martini glasses), mingle with the theater crowd as everyone vamps, laughs and chats, and watch a comic-serious presentation ceremony. Artistic directors Rick and Patty Yaconis have found a great way to make their audience — which grows larger, more loyal and more exuberant every year — an integral part of the Edge community.

Buntport Theater Company
Courtesy Buntport Theater Facebook page

The five core artists who make up Buntport write all of their original plays together, experimenting with words, ideas and form, tossing out or subverting convention. They play with myth and literature; their sets are miracles of low-cost, high-labor ingenuity; the four performers who appear in almost every production are major talents, and they also work brilliantly with guest actors. Everything's experimental, but the shows are never stuffy — they're playful, funny, unpretentious and inviting, and if there's a deeper meaning somewhere, it'll be as unexpected as a drop of rain from a clear sky. This is where you'll find all the adventurous young theater-goers that every other company in town is trying to attract.

The Denver Center's annual New Play Summit, established by now-departed artistic director Kent Thompson, is a boon for playwrights, new or established, but it's also a window into how strongly the DCPA supports new work — and this translates into a boon for audiences, because the company stages full productions of the summit's most successful readings. As a result, we get a window into the wider theater world and are regularly introduced to some of the country's most fascinating up-and-coming talents. Watch for the next round of productions to be announced in April.

Curious Theatre Company

Over the past decade, 60 percent of Curious Theatre Company's offerings have been written by playwrights of color, LGBTQ playwrights or female playwrights. The company introduced Denver to Tarell Alvin McCraney, hailed as a successor to August Wilson, producing three of his plays over two years in what artistic director Chip Walton calls Serial Storytelling. There were also four plays in this program by Pulitzer winner Quiara Alegría Hudes, as well as outreach in the form of audience talkbacks and three panels. Diversity is often discussed in cloudy clichés, but Curious has been talking clearly and walking the walk for a long time.

There's no better way to see Shakespeare than in the fine, old outdoor Mary Rippon Theatre — particularly since amplification was provided a few years back (before that, actors' voices were sometimes drowned by traffic on Broadway) and comfortable seats are provided to set atop the stone benches. The atmosphere is magical. This year's outdoor offerings at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival are The Taming of the Shrew and Julius Caesar, and there will be a special reading of Henry VI, Part 3, presented on two nights. Hamlet and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead will be shown inside, at the University Theatre.

coloradoshakes.org

Best Repertory Company
Black Box Repertory Company

Repertory companies employ a team of actors and stage shows in rotation: You can see the same actor play Hamlet one night and a silent bystander in another play the next. This is fun to watch — over time you develop your own favorite performers and start feeling a kinship with them — and it also brings stability to a shifting theater scene. But repertory companies are very rare these days, which makes the Arvada Center's new Black Box Repertory Company something worth celebrating. Under director Lynne Collins, the center has assembled some of Denver's best thespian talents for its company, which started out with a production of Tartuffe and will end the season with Waiting for Godot, described by director Geoffrey Kent as "King Lear meets Duck Soup." Jump on the merry-go-round.

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