Thursday, January 27, 2011

Free Community Snowshoe hike led by Fitness Company is Jan 29

Local Fitness Company offers Free Snowshoe
‘Fun-Fit’ Adventures to Community

Fitness For Living, a health and lifestyle company that offers five-week Fitness Boot Camps is offering a series of snowshoe ‘Fun-Fit’ hikes open to the public. The company created their year-round Fun-Fit Adventures to help inspire, educate and support adults to get fit, get outside and get active. Their series of one-day outings are free and open to the community. Their next Fun-Fit Adventure features a snowshoe hike to Brainard Lake on Saturday, January 29.

Snowshoeing is one of the fastest growing winter sports and for good reason. It requires little skill and minimal equipment; if you can walk you can snowshoe. “Snowshoeing is an ideal group activity,” explains Fitness For Living’s Director David Clair. “Those that are more fit lead the group and pack down the snow making it easier for those that follow.”

Each Fun-Fit Adventure includes an educational component that can vary from outdoor skills to fitness training and nutrition tips. On the upcoming snowshoe hikes, participants will learn to use a GPS to navigate off-trail to find a hidden cabin for a relaxing cocoa and tea break.

Fun-Fit Adventures are appropriate for adults of average fitness level. Outings have a casual, social pace and are focused on meeting others and having fun. To register or to learn more about Fitness For Living’s free Fun-Fit Adventures call 303-550-3491 or visit the Fitness for Living website.

Space is limited; be sure to register in advance!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fourmile Canyon Relief Fund to benefit from Whole Foods Market Pearl Street celebration

January 22nd fundraiser aims to donate $25K

To celebrate the opening of the newly expanded Whole Foods Market Pearl Street the store will host a fundraiser for Foothills United Way’s Fourmile Canyon Relief Fund during the community party Saturday, January 22 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The goal is to raise $25K through a silent auction, donation station and pancake breakfast. Whole Foods Market will kick off the donation drive with a $5,000 contribution and will match another $3,000 of shopper donations.

The Community Party and fundraiser will feature:
  • Official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.
  • Silent auction, pancake breakfast and donation station to raise funds.
  • Activities for children such as face painting, caricature artists, and craft-making station.
  • Sampling and cooking demonstrations in each department with over 20 local vendors and non-profit organizations.
  • Live music from Boulder-based Spring Creek Bluegrass Band.

WHEN: Saturday, January 22 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Ribbon cutting at 10:00 a.m.

Boulder residents and the Fourmile Canyon Fire and Rescue Team still need our help!

“Even though the fire was a few months ago, many Boulder residents are still displaced and the Rescue team is in need of replenishing their supplies,” said Jennifer Rudback, Pearl Street store team leader. “We designed the store’s expansion with our community in mind – a comfortable gathering place, a retail outlet for our many local vendors and continued support for nonprofits and those in need.”

A silent auction and donation drive to accompany fun and festive activities throughout the day.

  • Special Fourmile Canyon Relief Fund items available for purchase at each of the new venues, 100 percent of the cost going to the fundraising efforts.
  • Silent auction featuring items from five local non-profits, who are competing to be selected as the store’s 5% Day recipient in the fall.
  • KIMN radio hosted donation drive 12:00 p.m. -2:00 p.m.

For more information shoppers can contact the store at (303) 545-6611 2905 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80301.

About Whole Foods Market®

Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFMI), is the leading natural and organic food retailer. As America’s first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market was named “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” by Health magazine. The company's motto, “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet”™ captures its mission to ensure customer satisfaction and health, Team Member excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement. Thanks to the company’s more than 55,000 Team Members, Whole Foods Market has been ranked as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in America by FORTUNE magazine for 13 consecutive years. In fiscal year 2009, the company had sales of $8 billion and currently has more than 280 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Snow Meets Hip-Hop at the UnderArmour 3rd Rail Jam, January 29

Hip-hop, urban edge and art hit the slopes

The UnderArmour 3rd Rail Jam, a grassroots snow competition, is making a stop at Echo Mountain, Colo., January 29. The 3rd Rail Jam is a winner-take-all rail jam event where up to 150 amateur riders compete for cash prizes and limited edition prizes in four divisions: 15 and under, all girls, best of breed, and skiers.

The event also features a freestyle MC bunker battle, live graffiti art by some of North America's notorious graffiti crews, and hip-hop music.

The afterparty (and MC battle) in conjunction with the Echo Mountain event will take place at Summit Music Hall (1902 Blake St., Denver) at 9 p.m. Admission is $20.


Mashup the nation’s best amateur skiers and riders with an unleashed hip-hop influence and you’ve got the renowned Under Armour 3rd Rail Jam. Making the rounds again for 2011, the Under Armour 3rd Rail Jam will offer three additional resort stops for a total of eight across the nation. This tour will showcase some of the best in snowsports with a series of winner-takes-all rail jams, slopeside graffiti art, MC battles, hip-hop music and off-the-hook after-parties.

The grassroots snow competition series comes to Echo Mountain in Colorado on January 29. The afterparty will take place at Summit Music Hall (1902 Blake St., Denver) at 9 p.m. Admission is $20.

The Under Armour 3rd Rail Jam draws aspiring amateur riders to resorts nationwide. Up to 150 riders per stop will compete in a winner takes all competition conducted in true jam format. Judges are present at all features to provide the best scoring coverage possible. Each division will be competing for cold, hard cash and additional prizes.

Hip-hop culture reigns supreme at the Under Armour 3rd Rail Jam where notorious graffiti crews offer up live painting demos and a freestyle MC competition pits eight local MCs against one another in “The Battle Below Zero.”

On tap again this year is the tour’s popular MC Battle Below Zero, where rappers compete to win a $500 cash prize, a featured performance at the event’s after party, and an interview on Slacker Radio,

The Under Armour 3rd Rail Jam has been part of artist trajectories such as Kay M who won in 2009 and later toured with Jay-Z. Additionally, last year’s champ, A-class, is now a mainstay in the Grind Time battle circuit. We are looking for eight MC's from each one of the Under Armor 3rd Rail Jam tour stops to test their skills in this competition. The rules are simple, send your best track to It cannot exceed four minutes and must be clean, edited music with NO PROFANITY. Each MC will perform this track to the massive crowds at 3rd Rail Jam and be judged on creativity, crowd reaction, lyrics and vocal delivery. Judges include a local hip hop writer from your city, 3rd Rail’s event producer, Timmy Grins, and the official tour DJ's, DJ Image and DJ Dolamarx. And hip-hop star, Wu-Tang’s Raekwon, will make a special appearance!


The event’s energy continues as each rail jam is followed by pulsating after-parties that feature the hottest DJs, break dance crews and live hip-hop performances. Events sponsors include some of the biggest names in fashion, action sports and technology such as Under Armour, Kangol, Bern, Beats by Dr. Dre, 33Third, Grenade and Launch Snowboards, Ninthward Skis; additionally, the United States Marine Corp has recently signed-on as a full tour sponsor. At each stop of the tour, sponsors will have a presence to showcase their latest product lines and conduct giveaways for attendees.

3rd Rail has partnered again with Slacker to create a customized online radio station for the tour. The 3rd Rail Jam station is filled with original hip-hop, rock, funk, and soul taken completely from DJ Image’s impressive 20,000-plus record collection. Listen at 3rd Rail’s non-profit partner this year is Amped4aCure. Five dollars of every registration will go to this beneficiary.

The competition is open to four divisions: 15 and under, all girls, best of breed and skiers. For more information, or to register for the 3rd Rail events, go to Registration is $20. There is no admission to be a spectator. Registration starts at 10 a.m. and the competition begins at 12 p.m.

This year, Under Armour is also going to give fresh new jackets to the park crew with the sickest build on this year’s tour.

See video:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bon Jovi to Perform Exclusive, One-Night Show to Support the Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation – CeDAR - On January 21

2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame nominee Bon Jovi will come to Denver on January 21, 2011 to perform an exclusive, one-night show to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation (CeDAR) and raise funds for its important mission of rebuilding lives.

For ticket information, visit

The Evening with Bon Jovi will be held at the Colorado Convention Center and will include a silent auction, dinner and the Bon Jovi concert.

“The Evening with Bon Jovi is a wonderful opportunity for the community to support CeDAR – a leader in the treatment of dependency and addiction – while enjoying the intimate performance of an American music legend.” says Bruce Schroffel, President and CEO of the University of Colorado Hospital, to which CeDAR is affiliated.

The event is being produced by Chuck Morris, president of AEG Live Rocky Mountains, who is honored to have one of the greatest bands of all time play for the cause. Morris promises that the silent auction alone will be as “spectacular” as the show – featuring international concert tickets, rock and roll memorabilia and other exciting bid items. “Many of my friends both inside and outside of the music business (myself included) have worked tirelessly to overcome addiction problems and I’m honored to be involved in putting this wonderful event together for such a great treatment center,” says Morris.

Evening with Bon Jovi

Friday, January 21, 2011
Colorado Convention Center
Korbel Ballroom
Starting at 6:30 PM

• Spectacular Silent Auction
• A Colorado Dinner
• Exclusive Bon Jovi Concert

In support of the Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation CeDAR – one of the nation’s leading residential addiction treatment centers, located on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

For ticket and table information go to


About CeDaR

CeDAR’s fifth anniversary marks its emergence as one of the country’s leading residential treatment facilities, its success in part attributable to its unique affiliation with an academic medical center – the University of Colorado Hospital.

“We are passionate about helping patients and families find and stay on the road to recovery,” says CeDAR Director, Frank Lisnow. “We are honored that AEG has chosen to recognize CeDAR by partnering with such an esteemed artist to raise awareness about our work.” Each year, one in four deaths in the United States can be attributed to alcohol, tobacco or illicit drug use. CeDAR has helped more than 2,000 individuals and family members deal with addiction and begin to rebuild various aspects of their lives. At CeDAR, treatment includes individual therapy, group counseling, 12-Step study, daily exercise and spiritual guidance. CeDAR also includes state-of-the-art pharmacology in its treatment.

In addition to its 30-day residential treatment program, CeDAR specializes in support programs that help cement and sustain sobriety including the Family Program, Residential Extended Care, Alumni Program and Support. Patients struggling with chemical dependencies may also suffer from co-occurring disorders, such as bi-polar disease, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress or compulsive gambling. CeDAR is the only facility in Colorado that works with co-occurring disorders and has two addiction psychiatrists on staff.

In recognition of its excellence, the Colorado Employee Assistance Professionals Association named CeDAR the 2008 “Provider of the Year.” For more information about CeDAR, visit:

About Anschutz Medical Campus

The Anschutz Medical Campus is the nation’s newest health care campus and fosters collaboration among students, researchers and clinicians. Campus architecture and state-of-the-art technology bridge education and research with two world-class hospitals: University of Colorado Hospital and The Children’s Hospital. The Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora is the world's only completely new education, research and patient care facility and the largest academic health center between Chicago, Texas and the West Coast.

About University of Colorado Hospital

The University of Colorado Hospital is the Rocky Mountain region's leading academic medical center, and has long been recognized as one of the United States’ best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, and most recently was cited as the nation’s 8th best academic hospital by University HealthSystems Consortium. It is best known as an innovator in patient care and often as one of the first hospitals to bring new medicine to patients’ bedsides. Based at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo., the hospital’s physicians are all affiliated with the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, part of the University of Colorado system.

About Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi was formed in 1983 in Sayreville, New Jersey. The band consists of lead singer and namesake Jon Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan, drummer Tico Torres and bassist Hugh McDonald. Throughout its career, the band has released twelve studio albums, two compilation albums and one live album, and has sold over 130 million records worldwide. It has performed more than 2,600 concerts in over 50 countries for more than 34 million fans, and was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2006. The band was also honored with the Award of Merit at the American Music Awards in 2004 as songwriters and collaborators, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora were inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009. For more information on Bon Jovi, visit

About AEG Live Rocky Mountains

AEG Live, the live-entertainment division of Los Angeles-based AEG, is dedicated to all aspects of live contemporary music performance, touring for a variety of programming and multi-media production. AEG Live, the nation’s second largest concert promotion and touring company is comprised of special event, broadcast and exhibition divisions, fourteen regional offices and numerous state of the art venues nationwide. AEG Live Rocky Mountains promotes Colorado’s Mile High Music Festival. They produce events at the 1STBANK Center, Bluebird Theater, Ogden Theatre, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Pepsi Center and more in Denver, Colorado as well as produce shows in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho.

A Cappella "Zing for Zonta” A Gift of Song for Women and Girls, January 23

On Sunday, January 23, Zonta Foothills will bring some of the best a cappella singers from Boulder County and beyond together on one stage to benefit women and girls. Boulder’s own Three Story Limit, The New Wizard Oil Combination, CU Extreme Measures, Wonder Voice and the Princeton University Footnotes will be among the groups singing a Cappella from Cole Porter to Duke Ellington to Squeeze. Doors open for a silent auction at 1:30 pm and the performances will begin at 2:00 pm.

Music brings people together, and the sounds of these talented singers will raise money to benefit local and international service agencies that advance the status of women in Boulder and around the world.

Where: Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, 3485 Stanford Court, Boulder, CO.

Ticket Information
Tickets are $20.00 per person and can be purchased at or calling

About Zonta Foothills Club of Boulder County
Zonta Foothills awarded nearly $15,000 in grants to local organizations and over $7,600 in international projects and scholarships in both 2009 and 2010. A local chapter of Zonta International, Zonta Foothills Club of Boulder County is an all-volunteer non-profit organization committed to improving the status of women and children in our community and around the world. In 2010-2012 Zonta Foothills is partnering with Boulder Valley School District Teen Parent Program, Care Connect and There with Care to provide needed grant money and service hours. In addition, Zonta supports American Association of University Women (AAUW), Attention Homes, Boulder Reads! and Imagination Library. Zonta established and endowed the Bev Hackbart Scholarship for single parents attending the University of Colorado and supports international efforts to promote women’s economic stability and health, end violence against women and prevent HIV/AIDS.

Monday, January 17, 2011

CU’s Week of Jewish Culture continues through January 25

The Program in Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder presents the Third Annual Week of Jewish Culture, which began January 11. This year’s series is presented in conjunction with two community series: Movers: Do You Speak Jewish? and Czech Point Denver. CU’s Annual Week of Jewish Culture is an exciting series of events that is dedicated to the exploration of more than 3500 years of Jewish culture including its current, most cutting-edge manifestations.

This year’s series incorporates the theme of the community-wide series Movers: Do You Speak Jewish? with authors, scholars and artists from around the globe examining Jewish culture through language and literature.

The week began January 11 with a celebration of the Reb Zalman Archives, which will be housed in CU’s Library Archives. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is considered the father of the Jewish Renewal movement, a recent movement in Judaism that works to reinvigorate modern Judaism with mystical teachings and contemplative practices influenced by Hasidism. Until recently, these materials were in the care of Naropa University which was working closely with the Reb Zalman Legacy Project of the Yesod Foundation, whose mission is to preserve, develop and disseminate the teachings of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.

The Week of Jewish Culture concludes with two events in Denver that are also part of Czech Point Denver, a festival celebrating Czech cultural arts with programs hosted by Denver and Boulder non-profit arts and cultural organizations, and educational institutions throughout January and February. This cooperative project, led by Opera Colorado, will include classical music, theatre, visual arts, film and multimedia experiences.

CU’s Week of Jewish Culture is an annual series produced and presented by the Program in Jewish Studies at CU-Boulder and generously supported by the Program’s donors. “As we have every year, CU’s Program in Jewish Studies is proud to be highlighting the most cutting edge forms of Jewish culture – from Renewal Judaism’s archives and soccer in interwar Czechoslovakia to a series of programs on Yiddish culture in East Germany, including a concert with the world renowned performer Jalda Rebling,” said David Shneer, director of the Program in Jewish Studies at CU-Boulder.

Events will take place in venues on the CU-Boulder campus and in Denver. Complete details can be found at the Program in Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder website. All events are free and open to the public but RSVP’s are suggested as space is limited. For additional questions, contact the Program in Jewish Studies at 303.492.7143 or via email at mailto:

The 2011 calendar of events includes:

In Front of the Iron Curtain: Yiddish in East Germany
with David Shneer
Tuesday, January 18 @ 7 PM
Atlas 100 on the CU Campus

Over the course of her 35 years as the Yiddish diva of the Communist world, Lin Jaldati sang for large official Stalin-era concerts and inspired Yiddish folk music collectives in East German factories. Professor David Shneer will present the life story of Jaldati and her daughter, Jalda Rebling, who picked up where her mother left off, and suggest what it says about Jewish life in Europe, in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust and today.

Kafka, Sports, and Czechoslovakian Jewish Identity
with Professor Robert Adler-Peckerar
Wednesday, January 19 @ 7:30 PM
SOBO 151
151 S. Broadway, Denver

"...snad teď footbal vůbec přestane... [perhaps now, soccer is really over]"

With these enigmatic words, famed soccer fan Franz Kafka ended a 1923 postcard to his brother-in-law after reading a series of articles railing against the fastest growing sport in the world. Join Robert Adler Peckerar, assistant professor of Jewish Literature and Culture at CU-Boulder, for an interactive evening that examines the phenomenon of Jewish soccer in central and eastern Europe at the start of the last century – its controversies, politics, and importance in understanding the birth of a new European Jewish culture. And do it while enjoying a refreshing Czechoslovakian beverage in Denver’s favorite Czech sports bar. (21 ID required). This event is part of a community-wide series celebrating Czech culture, Czech Point Denver.

Czech Insights from Music and Literature Opera Colorado with Betsy Schwarm and Davide Stimilli
Tuesday, January 25 @ 7 PM
Tattered Cover LoDo
1628 16th Street, Denver

From Dvořák to Kafka, Czech cultural figures have had a lasting impact on the arts. In this program with live music, we’ll consider the world-view of three generations of Czech artists and how they have affected the arts even beyond their own borders. Includes presentations by Metro State College music historian, Betsy Schwarm, and associate professor of German and Comparative Literature, Humanities and Jewish Studies, Davide Stimilli. Young Artists from Opera Colorado will also perform. This event is part of a community-wide series celebrating Czech culture, Czech Point Denver.

Many of the artists and scholars participating in this series are available for interviews. Please contact Jamie Polliard at 303.492.7143 or via cell phone at 303.961.0894 for information.


The Program in Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder provides an interdisciplinary curriculum for students who wish to learn more about Jewish culture, history, society, and religion. Under the guidance of a distinguished faculty, the program offers a wide range of courses on the Jewish experience in the global arena. For more information, visit the website.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Flatirons Habitat for Humanity Bowling Event Aims to Strike Out Poverty Housing

Flatirons Habitat for Humanity will hold its first Bowl-n-Build Event on Sunday, January 16, 2011, to excite and motivate the Broomfield and East Boulder County communities about its local projects for the new year.

The event is from 3 to 5:30 pm at Chippers Lane in Broomfield. All team registrations are sold out but guest tickets (for non-bowlers) are available at $5 per person and can be purchased at the door.

A ticket price includes delicious food from Carrabba’s Italian Grill plus a chance to win fun prizes. The event is sponsored by Carrabba’s Italian Grill and the Millstone Evans Group of Raymond James & Associates. “We are proud to team up with Carrabba’s and Flatirons Habitat for Humanity to help strike out poverty housing. Everyone involved with Habitat works very hard during the week and it will be fun to take a day off to raise money and bowl for a great cause,” Greg Evans, Millstone Evans Group of Raymond James and Associates.

Proceeds from the event will go towards helping Flatirons Habitat continue to build decent affordable homes for low-income families in need of housing and stability. Flatirons Habitat returns to Broomfield after four years and returns to Lafayette after fifteen years with two new housing projects. Thanks to a partnership with the City and County of Broomfield, Flatirons Habitat is rehabilitating two previously foreclosed homes in Broomfield. In addition, construction will start in March on the first four homes of an eight home project in Lafayette’s Coal Creek Village. Volunteers are needed for both projects and can sign up to volunteer on the Flatirons Habitat website ( by hitting Volunteer Now.

The community has come forth with support for this new event. In addition to the event sponsors Carrabba’s Italian Grill and the Millstone Evans Group of Raymond James & Associates, many other businesses and groups have come forward as lane sponsors, gift donors and/or in registering a team. Just some of the event partners are Citywide Bank; Donaldson, Chiancio and Goodwin; Composite Technology Development; FISH of Broomfield; Flatirons Crossing Mall; Hunter Douglas; Prime Industry; Restoration Specialists and Sill-Terhar Motors.

About Flatirons Habitat for Humanity:
Flatirons Habitat for Humanity is the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. Its goal is to transform lives and communities by building simple, energy-efficient, affordable homes for low-income families living in Boulder Valley and Broomfield communities. The affiliate, founded in 1993, has built 57 homes in Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette, Louisville, Nederland, and Superior, directly impacting 248 individuals. It has also funded 102 homes internationally, in South Africa, Mexico and Guatemala, through its tithe to Habitat for Humanity International.

Habitat believes in a “hand up, not a hand out” philosophy. Habitat homeowners invest 225 hours per adult family member of their own labor — called sweat equity — into building their Habitat home and the homes of others. Habitat houses are sold to partner families at zero profit with a zero percent interest mortgage. The families also receive training in homeownership, financial planning, and home maintenance. In addition, the “Getting Ahead” program offered by the Flatirons affiliate helps break the cycle of poverty by working with families to develop a plan for sustainable change. Graduates are then surrounded by community volunteer mentors trained by Habitat.

Habitat has built more than 350,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1.7 million people in more than 3,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter. The most recent City of Boulder housing needs assessment indicates 10,734 families have unmet housing needs in Boulder. These families are often paying more than 50% of their income on housing expenses, living in overcrowded conditions or living in substandard housing.

Photo by Mike Neville

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Imitation of Wife" ENCORE performance for the Boulder County AIDS Project

“Gender Illusion Technician” brings her “one-woman” show back, by popular demand, on January 21 & 22, 2011 to benefit the Boulder County AIDS Project.

Gender Illusion Technician, Jeffrey A. Kash (aka “Ms. Eda Bagel”) returns to the Dairy Center for the Arts for two performances of “Imitation of Wife.” Kash splices together film dialogue, show tunes and comedy routines – drawing heavily from sources from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s – to tell the story of Eda Bagel, a repressed housewife with no domestic skills. Kash’s lip-synching is spot-on, with facial expressions used to great comic effect.

The encore performance (which sold out in November, 2010) will benefit the Boulder County AIDS Project (BCAP), helping to fund the agency’s crucial services related to HIV/AIDS relief, educational & advocacy efforts.

WHEN: Friday, January 21 and Saturday, January 22. Show begins at 7:30 pm.

WHERE: Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut Street, Boulder, CO

TICKETS: $20 (+ service fees) with proceeds to benefit Boulder County AIDS Project, available at the Dairy Box Office, or by calling (303) 444-7328. Ages 18+.

Enjoy this video preview!

Psychosis: The Musical

By Rebecca Jessup


A rock musical, winner of Pulitzer and Tony awards, with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt, starring Alice Ripley, Asa Somer, Curt Handsen, Emma Hunton and Preston Sadleir; directed by Michael Greif. Through Jan. 16 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, 950 13th St., Denver, CO 80204 Performances: Tues-Sat 8pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 1pm & 6:30pm Run time: 2 hours 20 minutes, with one intermission

“Next to Normal” is a musical that takes on challenging and difficult subjects, including the kind of family trauma and toxicity that can trigger mental illness, and the destruction that mental illness can trigger within a family, as well as the toxins that our society uses to treat mental illness. If there is a central theme here, it might be illness, or poison. These are not topics that fit easily into the format of a musical, and the cast and crew expend enormous energy in trying to make it work. The score varies from songs of humor, hope and wit to dark, rattling and discordant hard-rock numbers. The rock songs often contain a dissonance that underscores the dark and deep emotions at play in the plot. It takes courage and strength to tackle this material on stage, in this format; the effort is laudable, but not always entirely successful.

So much of the play is sung that it borders on being a rock opera, and the cast is so small that each character carries a great deal of the weight of the entire show. Every role is a challenge, and every actor brings considerable strengths. The central character, Diana Goodman, is portrayed by Alice Ripley, who won the 2009 Tony for Best Actress for her performance of this role on Broadway. She brings great emotional vigor to the role, as well physical grace, agility and strength. Diana’s loyal and long-suffering husband is played by Asa Somers, her daughter Natalie by Emma Hunton, Natalie’s boyfriend by Preston Sadleir, Diana’s psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist by Jeremy Kushnier, and her somewhat mysterious son by Curt Hansen, who moves with the speed and menace of a panther. Ripley’s singing can be problematic; she slides onto notes with an odd vibrato, and slips into distracting pronunciations that make lyrics more difficult to understand (e.g., the words “in my soul” sound like “in my sewel”).

The high-tech single set is intelligently designed, often representing the traditional floor plan of the family house, upstairs and down, but shifting to signify a doctor’s office, a mental hospital, or even the distance between the mentally ill character and her delusions.

The six musicians are on stage facing the audience, rather than in the pit, and the volume of their electrified instruments is often enough to drown out the actors’ voices. The program warns that “strobe lights are used in this production,” and the final musical number, “Let There Be Light,” is punctuated none too subtly by a mercifully brief use of the blinding lights. Since the central material of the plot is dark and uncertain of resolution, this upbeat last song feels illogical, even manipulative. “Next to Normal” has the courage to present deeply unsettling thematic material – but heaven forbid that anyone should leave the theater on a down note!

Rebecca Jessup, a Latin teacher and freelance writer, contributes regularly to and Boulder Magazine.