The first thing you should know is that there's more theater around here than ever.
At the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (csfineartscenter.org), theater director Scott RC Levy has beefed up the main-stage schedule, adding extra shows like the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Other Desert Cities as well as big favorites like Gypsy and A Christmas Story.
But there's even more upstairs: the FAC's Second Stage Season, a less formal collection of plays for young'uns and adults set in the Music Room. In its inaugural run, the Second Stage has hosted Knuffle Bunny and Make Sure It's Me. April brings Rough Writers, a festival of new, original plays still in development. The works will be read to an audience in a workshop-meets-show setting, and the winner, as determined by a panel, will have his or her effort produced for the FAC's main stage next season.
TheatreWorks (theatreworkscs.org) is chugging forward, too. Now a part of the Actors' Equity Association, it wowed audiences with this year's most talked-about plays, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety — if you see a bunch of fake money laying around, that's probably where it's from — and Red, based on the life of Mark Rothko. Everyman on the Bus was another memorable endeavor, in which artistic director Murray Ross adapted the medieval morality play and set it, literally, on a bus.
The nearly 40-year-old group hosts free prologue lectures to accompany each production, as well as talkbacks with guest moderators and actors following certain shows. It also periodically presents screenings of plays from the National Theatre of London.
Meanwhile, the Millibo Art Theatre (themat.org) is prepping to leave its enclave on Pecan Street and nestle in next to the Ivywild School on South Tejon Street. There it will continue its 20-plus performance seasons while also teaching the performing arts. First, though, the MAT will host its annual Six Women Play Festival from April 11 through 28.
Back downtown, THEATREdART (theatredart.org) continues to flourish in its new Nevada Avenue space. Edgy as usual, it devoted its entire sixth season to "those things that pave the Road to Upheaval — perhaps most of all: control." Similar to TheatreWorks' Everyman reboot, at press time it was readying for a riff on Shakespeare's The Tempest and the music of Bach for a production in April, and a modern interpretation of John Milton's Paradise Lost from local playwright Jeff Keele in June.
2012 also saw a collaboration between THEATREdART and the Star Bar Players (starbarplayers.org), who are celebrating their 40th anniversary season. The companies came together for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; Star Bar was set to go its own way again with May's A Streetcar Named Desire.
Not to be forgotten is Springs Ensemble Theatre (springsensembletheatre.org), a community group offering great variety: Having already presented The Lion in Winter, a drama of royal proportions, it was planning for The Odd Couple in May.
Down in Pueblo, community outfit Steel City Theatre Company (sctcpueblo.com) was to put on Ordinary Days, a comedic musical about young folks in New York City, while the Impossible Players (impossibleplayers.org) can be expected to keep it light, too. Be sure to also check in with Damon Runyon Repertory Theater (runyontheater.org), which hosts plays like The Graduate and Sunset Boulevard, as well as comedians like Brad Zinn and Josh Blue and, new this year, music, with headliners Jesse Winchester and Suzy Bogguss.
Into the mountains, audiences will find Old West-style entertainment at the Thin Air Theatre Company (buttetheater.com/tatc.htm) in Cripple Creek and the Iron Springs Chateau Melodrama Dinner Theater (ironspringschateau.com) in Manitou Springs. Thin Air, acting out of Butte Theater, has scheduled Singin' in the Rain and The Frozen Man for 2013. Camp reigns at Iron Springs, where comedy, music and madcappery are always on the bill.
For faster-paced comedy, sit in on any of the WYNOT Radio Theatre (rickluger.com) shows, featuring some of the area's best talent, like Cory Moosman and Sammie Joe Kinnett. A send-up of radio-heyday programming, WYNOT shows are simple, sleek and brainy: "5 actors. 90 characters. Over 200 props and costumes."
Finally, we have the performances at Simpich Showcase Theatre (simpich.com), a world of marionettes hand-built by puppeteer David Simpich. Shows include the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and morality plays like The Pilgrim's Progress.
Don't stop the music
The Colorado Springs Philharmonic (csphilharmonic.org) is thriving under the direction of conductor Josep Caballé-Domenech. A thrill to watch and a dynamic force for the musicians, "JCD" just spent his first full season here, overseeing a bevy of concerts devoted to Mozart and Prokofiev, Beethoven and Wagner, while conductor Thomas Wilson oversaw a lively pops schedule, paying tribute to Casablanca, Broadway and Disney movies.
Next season will bring shows devoted to the music of Queen, ABBA and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as Vanguard performances for Vivaldi, Debussy and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
For other classical music outlets, look for concerts by the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs (chamberorchestraofthesprings.org), led by Wilson of the Philharmonic. Though a smaller body, the Chamber keeps a vigorous playlist, such as April's Season Finale, featuring Chopin, Mahler and Sibelius with the talents of the 2011 winner of the Amateur Pianists International Competition, Michael Cheung. Its shows have the added benefit of lower ticket prices, as do those of the Pikes Peak Philharmonic (pikespeakphil.org) and Pueblo Symphony (pueblosymphony.com).
Other classical music companies play in intimate or alternative settings. String quartet Colorado Hausmusik (coloradohausmusik.com) got its start performing in private homes, but now performs in churches and even at Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. Classically Alive (classicallyalive.com) plays in the home of local music professor Abe Minzer and his wife, who organize themed concerts with spirits and supper.
Eight ensembles make up the Air Force Academy Band (usafacademyband.af.mil) and perform often. Expect top-notch big band sounds from the Falconaires, pop from Blue Steel, and recitals from other groups.
Vocally, Opera Theatre of the Rockies (operatheatreoftherockies.org) is celebrating its 15th season, and this year's show was the raucous, fun-loving Die Fledermaus. Behind the scenes, OTR organizes outreach programs and field trips for burgeoning singers and performers.
The Springs is home to several choirs, including Out Loud (rmarts.org/outloud.php), an LGBT-friendly men's chorus. Born in January 2006, Out Loud performs often, with shows like It's Getting Better: Stories of our Lives!. The Colorado Springs Chorale (cschorale.org), of 100-plus voices, performs regularly, too; for May, it was scheduled to join the Air Force Academy Band for an Armed Forces Week concert, and then the Colorado Springs Philharmonic and the Chamber Singers for Verdi's Requiem.
Movement is power
It's hard to believe, but the Springs' own burlesque troupe, Peaks and Pasties (peaksandpasties.com), turns five this year. You can catch shows almost every week at bars and clubs, with larger events monthly, and the Colorado Burlesque Festival in Denver this summer. Go online for a full schedule and to find information on burlesque classes.
A little younger, but no less talented, is Sansara (facebook.com/sansaramovement), a modern troupe consisting of local luminaries, including artistic director Camille Loftin, Lauren Andrus and Trish Doyle-Stahl. Last year Sansara created a show based on the act of voting, so look out for more contemporary topics in the coming months.
More modern dance comes via Ormao Dance Company (ormaodance.org). After two-plus decades, Ormao continues to produce professional performances, pairing with Colorado College and the Fine Arts Center. It also works to improve its hometown, holding free classes with Greccio Housing kids and offering "Mathtastic: Dancing With Mathematics" educational dance shows at area schools.
The Colorado Springs Dance Theatre (csdance.org) brings performances to town while nurturing "talented young dancers by providing performance opportunities, master classes and scholarships." Its Success of the Springs III show, scheduled for April at Colorado College, is designed to pay tribute to local dancers who have gone on to "the world's stage."
Ballet troupes include the Ballet Society of Colorado Springs (danceinthesprings.com) and the Christian-flavored Ballet Emmanuel (balletemmanuel.org), both staging shows throughout the year, with the classic Nutcracker at Christmas time.
Little ones and laughs
The Colorado Springs Conservatory (coloradospringsconservatory.org) kids can sing, play and act the socks off of most adults. The Conservatory preps performers preschool through high school for professional careers. And Conservatory faculty shine, too: Judeth Shay Burns, Jana Lee Ross and executive director Linda Weise continue to wow crowds with the adults-only humor, music and intimate setting of their cabaret-style show, Manger Avec Trois.
Others dig the Colorado Springs Children's Chorale (kidssing.org), actually five choirs and a preparatory class, and the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony (csysa.com) — similar, except with instruments.
Acting classes, camps and junior musicals are offered through the Academy of Children's Theatre (aoct.net) and AlleyCat Theatrics (209-1484, email@example.com). Completely fearless young ones can also try family-friendly Improv Jams with Improv Colorado (improvcolorado.com).
Got a routine already? Try stand-up nights at local bars like Thunder & Buttons II (thunderandbuttons.com).
Regional talent makes up the handful of comedy shows periodically at Stargazers Theatre and Event Center (stargazerstheatre.com). Big names take the stage at the Pikes Peak Center (pikespeakcenter.com), site of many a traveling and local show. But pros most regularly hit Loonees Comedy Corner (loonees.com), which hosts comedians every weekend.
Otherwise, home-grown laughs can be found the first Friday and Saturday of every month thanks to the RiP (theriponline.com) improv group at Millibo Art Theatre. Stick Horses in Pants (thestickhorses.com) and Improv Colorado (445-9510) also keep healthy schedules, appearing at The Broadmoor, Venue 515 and the Loft.