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click to enlarge Big Bill Morganfield, playing the Annex Ballroom in Canon City this Friday
  • Big Bill Morganfield, playing the Annex Ballroom in Canon City this Friday

23 Thursday

The Air Force BlueBards go way, way out of uniform to present the rocktacular example of disco-era Christianity, Jesus Christ Superstar. The weekend performance runs tonight through Saturday in the Arnold Hall Theater on base. Tickets are $10 to $13. Call 520-9090. Show starts at 7:30 p.m.

24 Friday

Local artist Daisy McConnell opens a show this evening -- at the EDGE Gallery, 3658 Navajo Street in Denver. McConnell is a beautiful artist whose mixed-media sculpture and collages take on the dirty-little-secret questions most women ask themselves every day -- Should I squeeze myself into that to look good for this? Should I risk fallen arches to wear sexy high heels? Should I wear a girdle like a sausage casing and give up breathing to shrink a size? Trust me, women really do make those decisions, and while those instruments of torture -- corsets, stockings, heels -- can cause physical pain, there is something really sexy about wearing them, causing a conundrum. Trappings is up through June 16, but the opening reception begins tonight at 7. Call 303/477-7173.

Pride of the Yankees, even for those who don't know anything about baseball or Lou Gehrig, is still one of the best (and most romantic) movies ever made. Filmed in 1942 with Theresa Wright and the unbearably handsome Gary Cooper, the film follows the Olympian Gehrig through his 2,130 games with the New York Yankees, his love and marriage, and the disease that ultimately killed him. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and is being screened today and tomorrow as a benefit for the Society for American Baseball Research and the ALS Association (the group that promotes education and research about ALS or, as it's now known, Lou Gehrig's Disease). The film will be shown at 4 p.m. in The Broadmoor hotel theater, 1 Lake Ave. Tickets are $10 to $25. Call 303/893-6767.

The Black Rose Acoustic Society brings back a Celtic favorite to this evening's open stage -- Colcannon (the band, not the potatoes). The concert will be held in the warm, intimate confines of the Black Forest Community Center, the log cabin on the corner of Shoup and Black Forest roads. Admission is $2 to $4, and the show begins at 7:30 p.m. Call 578-0254.

25 Saturday

Don thine wet suit and make a public display of yourself under the tooting, spinning spraying visage of Uncle Wilber, as the fountain in Acacia Park (downtown, Bijou & Tejon) opens today at 11 a.m. And, if that isn't enough to make you cringe with summery joy, the Friends of the Fountain will be giving away free popcicles! If the weather is bad, the opening will be held on Sunday at 11.

The circus is in town, and you know what that means -- manure. And lots of it. (Intrepid gardeners know that there's nothing like monkey poo to boost up those early summer tomatoes.) The Jordan World Circus gives away this precious gardening material to interested parties when it makes a stop this weekend at the Penrose Equestrian Center, 1045 Rio Grande St. But of course, above and beyond the manure, the circus features dozens of exotic animals, including elephants, lions and tigers, plus all of the juggling, clowns and contortionists one has come to expect from a good circus. The show begins at 2 and 7 p.m. today and 1 and 5 p.m. tomorrow. Call 520-7787.

29 Wednesday

click to enlarge Local artist Daisy McConnell open an exhibit at Denver's EDGE Gallery this Friday
  • Local artist Daisy McConnell open an exhibit at Denver's EDGE Gallery this Friday

Wednesday night is becoming the night to go out in this town, as new open mics, jams and gigs are popping up all over town. The Encore! in Manitou has a new open mic with Cathy Q; Genghis Kahn downtown has the Queen of the Blues, Joanne Taylor; and Laura Belle's hosts the blues jam with Little Willy and the Swingin' Johnsons, a night of hell-raising that has been perpetuating itself for years now. Meadow Muffins in Old Colorado City makes room for Mike Nelson & the Motel Kings, Poor Richard's holds the bluegrass jam, and the Utopia Caf brings in Cornmeal while the Ritz has the Byron Shaw Project. Bristol Brewing Co. jumps with Magic Dave and the New Mules featuring Dan Todd, and Kelly O'Brien's has just begun hosting Lobo and Sheryl. There's much, much more. See Playing Around on page 36 for details.

Lawrence Leighton Smith steps out from his symphonic box and into Colorado College's Packard Hall (southwest corner of Cascade and Cache La Poudre) to join the much-acclaimed Da Vinci Quartet as a guest pianist. The supergroup will perform Dvorak's Piano Quintet in A, as well as music by Schubert, among others. The performance is a benefit for the Quartet and features a catered reception. Tickets are $45. Call 634-5581 Ext. 350. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m.

-- Kristen Sherwood

Waters under the Bridge

"Blues ain't nothing but a good man feeling bad," says Big Bill Morganfield.

A self-taught musician, Big Bill not only has the heart and soul of a bluesman, but he's got the genes, too. His father was McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters.

While growing up, Big Bill's musical influences were not the legendary blues players of his father's ilk, but the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight.

It wasn't until Waters' death in 1983 that he turned to his dad's music with the desire to honor him. He picked up a guitar and spent over a decade teaching himself to play the blues by listening to the music of Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson.

After he was asked to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. for the PBS documentary Tribute to Muddy Waters -- King of the Blues, doors opened for him. Several record labels approached him, and in 1998 he signed with Blind Pig Records.

At last he was able to realize his dream: recording a tribute album to his father. Produced in Chicago, Rising Son features harpman Paul Oscher, pianist Pine Top Perkins, drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith as well as guitarist Bob Margolin, all former sidemen in Muddy's band. Robert Stonger, the late Sunnyland Slim's bassist, completes the back end. As Big Bill puts it, "Only Daddy was missing. I closed by eyes to be as close to his spirit as I could."

For the album, Big Bill covered Chicago blues classics "Screamin' and Cryin'" and "Champagne and Reefer" by Muddy, Little Walter's "I Just Keep Lovin' Her," Howlin' Wolf's "Baby How Long," and "Sloppy Drunk" by Jimmy Rogers. Big Bill also wrote five original songs.

click to enlarge Don thine wetsuit and make a public display of yourself under the tooting, spinning spraying visage of Uncle Wilber this Saturday
  • Don thine wetsuit and make a public display of yourself under the tooting, spinning spraying visage of Uncle Wilber this Saturday

Big Bill did his daddy proud. The recording received rave reviews from the critics. And in 2000, after only two years of playing out, Big Bill was awarded the W. C. Handy Award for "Best New Blues Artist," the equivalent of a Grammy Award in the blues world. Another dream realized.

On his latest recording, Ramblin' Mind, Big Bill is joined by special guests Taj Mahal and harpman Billy Branch and he's backed once again by Bob Margolin, Paul Oscher, Pine Top Perkins, Willie Smith and Robert Stonger. The recording features ten solid originals, one written by Taj Mahal for the project, "Strong Man Holler."

On this album, Big Bill comes into his own. His deep vocals are strong and versatile, whether singing Chicago blues, old Delta blues or little swing.

"My job is to go out and make people feel good and happy and forget about their problems," says Big Bill.

Now's your chance. Big Bill plays the Annex Ballroom -- renowned for its dance floor -- in Cañon City this weekend.

-- Sunnie Sacks

capsule

Big Bill Morganfield

Annex Ballroom, 509 Main Street, Cañon City

Saturday, May 25, 8:30 p.m.

click to enlarge Archie, the pipsqueak, Bible-thumping Mama's boy of The Holdup - SUNNIE SACKS
  • Sunnie Sacks
  • Archie, the pipsqueak, Bible-thumping Mama's boy of The Holdup

Tickets: $10. Call 719/276-3088.

What's the Holdup? The Star Bar Players wrap up their 2001-2002 season

"All through my writing death has served as the place where no one can get you, nobody can call," says Pulitzer Prizewinning playwright Marsha Norman in the summer 2000 issue of the art zine, Bomb. "Somehow an early death is appealing in a silly, fantasy life."

In The Holdup, the Star Bar Players' season finale, Norman grapples with the immensity of an early death -- and its consequences. But it's pulled off with a light-hearted wit (even in the funeral scene) that obscures the play's heavy-hitting message.

Set over the course of one cold fall night in 1914, the play features four characters who intersect in a deserted wheat field of northern New Mexico. Two brothers -- long at odds with each other -- and two former lovers -- long lost to each other -- congregate by the cookshack of a wheat-threshing crew, who's due back at dawn.

It's only meant to be a temporary crossing of paths, serendipitous and fleeting. After all, one of the lovers -- the Outlaw, played with an appealing naturalness by Jon Smith -- appears and demands dinner with a pointed gun. He's awaiting the arrival of his lady love of 20 years back, Lily, performed with melodramatic flair by Sue Bachman.

But the turn of events cracks open the tension between the two brothers. Henry, the brooding older sibling who's never amounted to much, finds in the Outlaw the excitement absent from his own life, while Archie, a pipsqueak, Bible-thumping Mama's boy, yaps his way into a suddenly more sober future. Mark Sullivan is engaging as the dislikable Henry, and Keith Bunish pulls off immature Archie rather well, nuance not being the strong suit of single-minded kids.

"We all have the turning point in which our character and its future are decided upon in an instant. As quick and sudden as a gunshot," writes Tony Babin in the director's note. But while changes in the course of one's life can appear to be instantaneous, The Holdup's strength is in its clear-eyed exploration of the history and the patterns that lead you to that one instant.

-- Tess Powers

capsule

The Holdup

presented by the Star Bar Players
Lon Chaney Theater in the City Auditorium, at the corner of Kiowa and Weber.
Friday-Saturday, May 24 through June 1, 8 p.m.
Sunday, June 2, 2 p.m.
Tickets: $12, $10 for students and seniors. Call 573-7411.

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