Friday, February 27, 2015

"Pop Up Musical" at Plymouth Playhouse

Musical theater is just the best thing, isn't it? If you agree, head west to the Plymouth Playhouse for the latest incarnation of the delightfully irreverent tribute to the love of all things musical theater, aka Pop Up Musical. Four friends, who just happen to be super talented local music-theater artists, created this show for the Fringe Festival a few years ago. It was so successful that they've expanded it and continue to bring it to various venues in the area (including the Jerome Hill Theater, where I saw it in 2013). The talented cast sings 24 songs from 24 different musicals, 23 of which I've seen on stage. Wow, am I a nerd the target audience for this show! While belting out showtunes, the cast also shares fun bits of trivia in the VH1 Pop Up Video style, using signs and video projections. It's truly a must see for anyone for whom the great American musical theater cannon holds a special place in their heart (and their iTunes).

You may have seen these four performers on stages around town. Jennifer Eckes, Judi Gronseth, Kevin Werner Hohlstein, and Timm Holmly have known each other and worked together for years (we get to learn how they all met through the pop ups during the song "Friendship"). Video screens on either side of the stage display pop ups, as well as images of things related to the song (famous magicians and clowns during "Magic To Do" and "Send in the Clowns," a photo of an actual "Edelweiss"). The cast also holds up signs with pop ups, harkening back to the show's low budget Fringe origins, and these are perhaps the most fun. While someone is pouring their heart out in song, one of their cast members picks up a sign from the big stack on one of the four podiums, and parades it around the stage like Vanna White, facial expression telling all. Signs can also be props - the blue fans of "Sisters," animals for "Circle of Life," and Annie's hair (which gets multiple uses throughout the show).

The pop ups take three forms: fun and interesting trivia about the shows and songs themselves (when it opened, Tonys, stars, backstage gossip), tangential info about a word or idea in the song (we learn that Kleenex is a proprietary eponym during "Suddenly Seymour," and about the invention and cost of champagne during "Hey Big Spender"), and personal info about the cast (Judi was born the year that Sound of Music premiered, Kevin slept on the sidewalk to get tickets to RENT). We learn how many times the words "Tomorrow," "Popular," and "Tonight" are sung in the respective songs (16, 14, and 38!), and some common malapropisms for the opening line of "Circle of Life" ("ingonyama nengw' enamabala," or "penguin mama, penguin has a mama?").

Timm Holmly, Jennifer Eckes,
Judi Gronseth, and Kevin Werner Hohlstein
All of these shenanigans almost distract you from the fact that these four can really sing. They all have powerful, gorgeous voices, and perform with great enthusiasm and delightful camp. Songs come from such beloved and diverse musicals as Avenue Q and Fiddler on the Roof, Xanadu (featuring some impressive roller skating tricks by Kevin) and Les Miserables. The cast fights over who gets to sing one of the most beloved musical theater songs, "What I Did For Love" from A Chorus Line. Who wins? The audience, because they all end up singing it. Unfortunately they sing to a recorded karaoke-like track, but they acknowledge and poke a bit of fun at that. And they sound better than any karaoke singers I've ever heard! Still, I would love to see how the dynamic would change with a piano accompanist replacing the recorded track; it could lead to some fun interplay with a 5th person onstage, as well as greatly improving the quality of the music.

If you, like me, obsessively listen to musical theater cast recordings, define your life in terms of musical theater milestones, and constantly quote showtunes, this is a show for you. Because Jennifer, Judi, Kevin, and Timm love musical theater as much as you and I do. But unlike you and me (well, me anyway), they have the talent to sing and perform these songs and entertain an audience with their non-verbal written-on-signs banter. Pop Up Musical plays in the cozy theater in the basement of a Best Western for just three more weekends, don't miss it! See the Plymouth Playhouse website for more info, and visit Goldstar for discount ticket deals.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

"In the Age of Paint and Bone" at nimbus theatre

nimbus theatre's newest original theatrical creation, In the Age of Paint and Bone, deals with the very oldest of recorded history. Tens of thousands of years ago, the earliest humans painted on the walls of caves, many of which have been rediscovered in the last century or two. Co-Artistic Director Liz Neerland directs and wrote this piece, along with the ensemble in their unique workshop process. It's a fascinating subject, and one of those plays that makes me want to know more (fortunately the playbill includes a reading list, gotta love that!). I've long been fascinated by the pre-historical era, and used to be a bit obsessed with the Earth's Children series (aka The Clan of the Cave Bear books), which are part cheesy romance novel and part historically accurate description of a time long past. In the Age of Paint and Bone brings this era to life, but subtly and not in sharp focus, as we don't really know what these pre-historic people were like. The play also looks at the people who first rediscovered the paintings, and what they mean to us today.

In the Age of Paint and Bone takes place in three time periods, the present, the ancient past, and the recent past when the caves were rediscovered. The nimbus stage has been transformed into a cave, with paintings either drawn on the wall or projected. Before the show the audience is invited to explore the area, while actors, in the form of museum tour guides, answer questions. The play begins as a presentation in a museum, and we flash back to the discovery of the cave paintings in Altamira, Spain in 1879. An amateur explorer and his daughter find the paintings, but his belief that the paintings are ancient are disbelieved, until he's finally proven right after his death. We also witness the accidental discovery of the cave paintings in Lascaux, France in 1940 by a couple of teenage boys. But the most fascinating scenes of the play are the flash-way-backs to the people who created this art. The light is dim, music is playing, and we never hear them speak (perhaps they didn't speak in the way we currently do). But we see them painting (including a cool trick of projection that shows the lines of one of the drawings appearing as the artist moves his brush), performing rituals, and communicating with each other.

a painting of a bison in Altamira
The seven members of the ensemble (Timothy Daly, Erin Denman, Jeffery Goodson, Shira Levenson, Derek Meyer, Brian O'Neal, and Alyssa Perau) play multiple characters in all time periods, and change in and out of the varied costumes so quickly it feels like there are more than just seven actors. Brian Hesser's multi-level cave-like set, Mary C. Woll's ancient, period, and modern costumes, and Caitlin Hammel's inventive video design all combine to define these specific worlds.

This piece doesn't answer any questions about why the paintings were created (probably for the same reason anyone creates art, which are many and varied), but rather it plants a seed of interest in the audience, or at least it did in me. What a different life our long ago ancestors lived, but maybe they're not that different from us than we think. Minnesota has its own version of cave paintings in the Jeffers Petroglyphs, which are carvings rather than paintings, that I hope to visit someday. What fun this piece must have been to explore and create. I wish I could take a leave of absence from my day job to re-read the Clan of the Cave Bear books and some of those suggested in the playbill. But if you don't have time for that either, you can spend 70 minutes in nimbus theatre's exploration of the Age of Paint and Bone (playing now through March 1).

a progression of light in the three time periods
(photo by Mathieu Lindquist)

"Duets" by Alive & Kickin' at the Varsity Theater

Alive & Kickin' is billed as "the Twin Cities' premiere rockin' senior ensemble group." I'm not sure there's a whole lot of competition in that category, but the women and men of Alive & Kickin' are most definitely awesome. For the past five years, Michael Matthew Ferrell (Theater Latte Da's resident choreographer) has led this talented group of singers ranging in age from 60s to 90s, with music direction by Jason Hansen. With talent like that behind them, this group is no joke. They sing a variety of classic rock and pop songs, or as this musical theater geek likes to call them, Glee songs. In fact, Michael Matthew Ferrell is a little like the Mr. Schuester of senior citizens. I imagine them gathered in their choir room every week, learning a life lesson through the music of Queen or Katie Perry or Lady Gaga. Except in this case, it's the seniors who are the teachers with their years of life experience. One of Alive & Kickin's goals is to give voice to senior citizens, an important but often ignored segment of our society. This week they performed at the Varsity Theater with some of the Twin Cities' top talent from the world of music and theater, sponsored and emceed by myTalk 107.1, to raise money for a permanent choir room, er... rehearsal space.

Highlights of the show include:
  • The rock songs like "Stayin' Alive" and "I Love Rock and Roll" are fun, but the quieter "Blowin' in the Wind" really showcased the talent of these singers, joined in beautiful harmony. The epic song "Bohemian Rhapsody" was also a treat!
  • In addition to singing, two of the senior shared their inspirational stories that remind us just how much we still have to learn from our elders, including one man's experiences in Vietnam in 1969, and a woman growing up in the segregated South.
  • It's a near impossible task to upstage the hilarious powerhouse Erin Schwab, but 90-year-old Katherine did just that in their duet of "Rehab." Later, Erin took the stage alone in a very funny "dirty song" about a dentist.
  • Damn that Ben Bakken can sing! I almost forget, until I see him again, what a powerful rock voice he has, in this case on the Glee songs "Dream On" and "Somebody to Love." I wonder if he's ever played Roger in RENT? I bet his "One Song Glory" is quite something.
  • A couple of music/theater crossovers in Lisa Pallen (of Belladiva) and Michelle Carter wowed with such songs as "I Wanna Know What Love Is" and "A Change is Gonna Come."
  • Two greats from the local music scene, neither of which I've seen live before but both of whom I've heard of, loaned their considerable music talent to the event. Brian Leighton (aka GB Leighton) is kind of like Minnesota's Springsteen, singing an original song and a cover of "Lean on Me" with the ensemble. Allison Scott has a gorgeously soulful and sultry voice, singing "Waterfalls" and "Piece of My Heart," back by the Alive & Kickin' women.
  • The band, led by Jason Hansen, is pretty awesome too. Sax, electric guitar, tambourine, so much enthusiasm and great support of the singers!
  • A big part of the fun of watching Alive & Kickin' is Michael Matthew Ferrell's unique direction style. Part interpretive dance, part cheerleader, part expressive conductor, and all energy. It's obvious he cares a lot about his seniors and making them look and sound the best they can.
If you're interested in supporting this wonderful ensemble, visit their website for more info. You can also find details about their next performance, Winds of Change at Bloomington Civic Theatre this June.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

"The Woman in Black" at Yellow Tree Theatre

The Woman in Black, a two-person play that's another perfect choice for Yellow Tree Theatre's intimate space, is a story-within-a-story. It takes a minute to figure out what's going on and really get into it, but once you do, it doesn't let you go. The story that's being told is a spooky ghost story, beautifully told through the structure of the play, the two marvelous actors, and the extremely effective lighting and sound effects. It's a deliciously chilling experience that had me squirming in my seat!

The play begins when Nathaniel Fuller, one of the aforementioned marvelous actors, both of whom have been acting on stages around town for decades, enters the crowded dusty stage that looks like a cluttered attic, full of old furniture, crates, and boxes. He sits there in awkward silence for several minutes while the audience waits for the action to start. It was in this moment of silence that J.C. Cutler popped up behind me and spoke the first words of the play, scaring the bejeebers out of me (a feeling that was only just beginning). It soon became clear that Nathaniel is playing a man called Arthur Kipps who has decided to work through a traumatic event in his past by writing it down as a play. J.C. is the actor who helps him tell his story. Eventually we get to the meat of the story, with the actor portraying Kipps as he journeys to a remote part of England to close the estate of a recently deceased client. Kipps himself plays all of the other roles in the story, and as the play-within-a-play goes on he gets more and more comfortable in the telling. The two occasionally break out of character to discuss things, or if Kipps is too upset with the subject matter, hinting at the terror to come. It's a clever way to tell the story, on the one hand the characters are sort of outside of it, but on the other hand they're totally immersed in it.

Nathaniel Fuller (photo by Keri Pickett)
And the story they're telling is a spooky one. I won't go into details because the unfolding of it all is too much fun. But suffice it to say it involves an unwed mother, a remote location, a horrible accident, thick mist, and a not very nice ghost. All of it is told in such vivid detail that you can almost see the deserted old house on the island. The lighting and sound design are crucial to the telling of the story. The play goes from full lights to complete blackness, and everything in between, with lights occasionally illuminating areas behind curtains onstage, including a cemetery and a child's bedroom, or flashing to reveal the woman in black herself appearing as if out of nowhere. Sounds seem to come from all directions, whether it's the sound of a horse trotting, or the house creaking, or a woman screaming. Suddenly you're on high alert, starting at every sound in the theater, even if it's just someone rustling in the seat next to you. Add to this two actors who can so easily slip into the skin (and specific accent) of these characters and take you along on their journey, and a director (Jon Cranney) who knows how to put all the pieces together, and you have a thoroughly chilling effect (lighting design by Sue Ellen Berger, sound design by Montana Johnson, and set design by Robin McIntyre).

J.C. Cutler (photo by Keri Pickett)
The Woman in Black is a fine example of the power of storytelling to transport you to another place and time. And scare the crap out of you. I haven't been this scared at the theater since this other spooky ghost story a few years ago. It's kind of fun to be terrified in that good old-fashioned ghost story kind of way, as opposed to the real and scary things in the world today. Head to Yellow Tree Theatre in Osseo for some spooky storytelling at it's finest (playing now through March 8).

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Pippin" at the Orpheum Theatre

The revival of the 1972 Stephen Schwartz/Bob Fosse musical Pippin ran on Broadway for almost two years, closing just a month ago, and won four Tonys and had audiences and critics raving. I saw it last spring and fell in love with the score and the spectacular circus energy of the revival. The circus has since hit the road and I was thrilled to have the chance to see it again, as it stops in Minneapolis for one short week. There's nothing small or subtle about Pippin, it's truly spectacular in the best possible way. Many different artforms are combined - circus, Fosse-style dance, a great score, even a sing-along! And the result is a fantastically creative and entertainingly unique evening of entertainment.

Pippin is very very loosely based on the historical figures Charlemagne, a King in the Middle Ages, and his first-born son Pepin, a "hunchback" who was passed over for his father's thrown. But in this version, Pippin is a lost young man who's dissatisfied with life and searching for something to make his life meaningful. He tries war, the pleasures of the flesh, and an ordinary life, flitting from one thing to the other, but still feeling empty and unfulfilled. In the original production, the story was told through a performance troupe, but in this version it's a circus, complete with contortionists, trapeze, balancing acts, and acrobatics. It's hugely fun and light-hearted, like a musical/comedy/circus version of Game of Thrones with a touch of Monty Python's Spamalot, where dead men talk and come back to life, and battles are a beautiful dance. But the ending takes a dark turn, and we find out that this circus isn't all fun and games; Pippin was being manipulated into playing a part that was already laid out for him. He rejects this role along with the bright lights and magic of the circus life and instead turns to a simpler life defined by him. But there's always someone else waiting to fill the role, and the circus continues without Pippin. I'm not certain if this is an allegory for the allure of show business, or perhaps more generally, the roles that are laid out for us by society that we're expected to play, but that sometimes need to be rejected to find something that's more individually fulfilling.

Sorry for getting serious for a moment there, for the most part Pippin is just a whole lot of fun. The large ensemble cast is a mixture of singers, actors, dancers, gymnasts, and circus professionals, most of whom are some combination thereof. The stage looks like the inside of the Big Top, with poles and ladders that the performers constantly climb on and jump off of in thrilling feats of daring. Magic tricks, fires, trapeze, hoop-jumping, knife-throwing, amazing one-handed handstands, and so much more delight the audience. Revival choreographer Chet Walker has choreographed some brilliantly cool Fosse numbers to the fun and poppy '70s score.

The role of the Leading Player, a sort of ringmaster, is the only role that has earned a Tony for a man (Ben Vereen in the original) and a woman (Patina Miller in the revival). Those are some big shoes, or rather, knee high black boots, to step into, and Sasha Allen does so brilliantly. She owns the stage, as this character must as she directs the plot and manipulates the players to do her bidding. She also has a big gorgeous voice and looks cool doing the Fosse dances. As the title character, Sam Lips is charmingly awkward, sweetly confused, and extremely likable. A couple of Broadway vets shine in supporting roles, including the original Pippin, John Rubenstein, who 40 years later is playing the role of Pippin's father. He obviously has such a level of comfort with the show, and has so much fun with the role. Priscilla Lopez was also seen on Broadway 40 years ago, in the original cast of a little show called A Chorus Line. In what has got to be a dream role for a woman of a certain age, she gets to hang upside down on a trapeze and lead the audience in a sing-along as Pippin's grandmother, and she looks and sounds fabulous while doing so. Also great are Sabrina Harper as Pippin's step-mother, a not so typical housewife (unless you consider Cersei Lannister and Norma Bates typical housewives), and Callan Bergmann as Pippin's spoiled and favored half-brother. Last but not least, the cast features a Minnesota native in Kristine Reese, who is delightfully loopy as the woman who eventually steals Pippin's heart.

The first national tour of the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of Pippin plays at Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre through this weekend only, so get your tickets now if you don't want this circus to pass you by.



Monday, February 16, 2015

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Guthrie Theatre

Yesterday I sat on the famous thrust stage of the Guthrie Theater and watched a bunch of soldiers, lovers, and fairies dance, sing, fly, converse, love, hate, and generally cavort around in a bare circular space. Or was it all a dream? Such is the Guthrie's latest production of perhaps Shakespeare's best loved romantic comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream, that after three hours of spellbinding theater, you're not quite sure if what you saw just happened, or perhaps, as Puck suggests in his epilogue, it was all just a dream. Artistic Director Joe Dowling has returned to an old favorite in his final season at the Guthrie, assembling a gorgeous and talented cast of local favorites with a few national talents thrown in. It's no wonder that he returned to this show (a version of which was last seen in 2008); this Midsummer is a dream of a production, with plenty of spectacle in the form of dancing, flying, singing fairies, humor in the form of typical Shakesperean hijinks, and heart in this sweet romance that ends with a neat happily ever after. Everything about it is truly a delight.

The plot of Midsummer is familiar to most theater-goers, being a frequently produced play. Lysander loves Hermia and she him, but her father Theseus, duke of Athens, has betrothed her to Demetrius, who also loves her although she does not return his love. Lysander and Hermia vow to run away together, and Helena, whose love for Demetrius has recently been rejected, tells him so that he will follow, and she in turn follows him. As we know, strange things can happen when you go into the woods, especially in this case as the young lovers encounter a group of mischievous fairies, who delight in nothing more than creating havoc among humans (if you've ever found an object in a different location than you left it, that might be fairies at work). Through a series of mix-ups, both Demetrius and Lysander are bewitched into believing they love Helena, who, like a nerdy teenager tired of being the butt of jokes, does not believe them. Hermia is confused, devastated, and then furious at this turn of events, and the mayhem continues until the fairies decide to set things right again. Another subplot follows a troupe of actors rehearsing for a play, suffering from the most horrible and hilarious actorly cliches, which allows for some delightful poking fun at oneself. Oh, and one of them is turned into an ass and is wooed by the queen of the fairies. It's a whole lot of silliness that allows for some wonderful encounters, fights, conversations, and dances among the large cast of characters.

Puck and the flying fairies (photo by Dan Norman)
And what a cast it is. It's so lovely to see so many familiar and beloved faces on one stage, while discovering a few new favorites who are thrown into the mix to keep things fresh. First among the many delights is the fairy King's attendant who is responsible for causing much of the mayhem. Tyler Michaels brings his unique physical consciousness to the role of Puck, creating a character that's not quite human, almost reptilian, with a bit of Gollum thrown in. Tyler seems unbound by the laws of gravity that inhibit us mere mortals, as he bounds around the stage with deep knee bends, head cocked to one side as he gleefully watches the mischief he has created, thoroughly enjoying "what fools these mortals be." He's like a mischievous loyal pet of Oberon's, who is given a long leash but sometimes needs to be pulled back when he goes too far, not for malicious reasons, but just to see what will happen. (And there's even an inside joke for those of us who saw and loved Tyler in My Fair Lady last summer.)

the Actors (Jay Albright, Peter Thomson, Andrew Weems,
Kris L. Nelson, Angela Timberman, and Michael Fell,
photo by Dan Norman)
As the first fairy, Nike Kadri is making her Guthrie debut after making an impression on stages around town. She looks and sounds fantastic, singing a few songs and leading the fairies in their dance (although not a musical, there are a handful of original songs by Keith Thomas, with some brilliant choreography by co-director David Bolger). Christina Acosta Robinson (who returns to the Guthrie after participating in the Guthrie Experience a few years ago) is absolutely regal as both Titania and Hippolyta, fairy and human royalty, and Nicholas Carrière (a Guthrie newcomer) effortlessly transitions from the stern and slightly square Duke Theseus to the powerful and cool Oberon.

the Lovers (Emily Kitchens, Casey Hoekstra, Zach Keenan,
and Eleonore Dendy, photo by Dan Norman)
The troupe of actors is comprised of a bunch of local comic geniuses (including the always hilarious Jay Albright and Angela Timberman), with East Coast actor Andrew Weems (also seen at the Guthrie as Uncle Vanya) as the buffoonish and blustering Bottom, delivering the most ridiculously drawn-out comic death scene I've ever seen. In fact, the entire play-within-a-play is hysterical as performed by the "Community Theater of Athens." The four lovers could not be more charming (or look better in underwear) than local actors Eleonore Dendy, Casey Hoekstra, and Zach Keenan, along with Twin Cities newcomer Emily Kitchens as the eager and slightly awkward Helena.

For this production, the Guthrie has added a half dozen rows of bleacher seating around the back of the thrust stage, creating an in-the-round effect, almost like you're at the circus. If you're lucky enough to snag one of these seats (available online or call the box office for details), you're led down a stairway and into a secret hallway through the bowels* of the Guthrie, and suddenly you arrive on the stage. There are plenty of ushers and signs along the way so that you don't "accidentally" wander off into a restricted area. It's a great place from which to watch the show, although some of the effects of the video projections at the back of the stage are lost because you have to tear your eyes away from the stage (a difficult task) to look behind you at the screen. One of the reasons it's so difficult to turn away from the stage is Fabio Toblini's gorgeously rich costumes, from Hippolyta's elegant gowns, to the lovers' modern clothing, to the actors' silly get-ups, to the fairies' barely there tribal pieces.

It may be dreary bitter midwinter here in Minnesota, but it feels like warm and colorful midsummer on the Guthrie's thrust stage. The magical, mystical, mischievous dream continues through the end of March. It's not a short play (clocking in at about three hours including intermission), but it's chock full of delights for the eyes, ears, mind, and heart.


*If you want to see more of the bowels of the Guthrie, take a backstage tour, offered most weekends.

"Stars of David" by Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company at the Highland Park Center Theater

In 2007, journalist Abigail Pogrebin interviewed dozens of famous Jewish-Americans about their experiences being Jewish in this country, and compiled them into a book called Stars of David. People like Senator Al Franken, actresses Lauren Bacall and Sarah Jessica Parker, actors Jason Alexander and Dustin Hoffman, director Stephen Spielberg, and playwright Wendy Wassserstein. A book of interviews does not exactly scream "musical theater," yet it has been turned into just that, with much success, and Minnesota Jewish Theater Company has brought it to Minnesota. It's not so much a musical as it is a musical review, featuring four actors telling these personal stories in the form of a dozen or so new original songs by various successful musical theater composers. The result is an entertaining, educational, funny, and poignant 90 minutes of musical storytelling.

Bryan Porter, Daisy Macklin Skarning, Laura B. Adams,
and David Carey (photo by Sarah Whiting)
Director Michael Kissin has assembled a great cast and arranged the show nicely in the circular stage space designed by Michael Hoover. Names of the book's subjects are projected onto the set, along with a brief photo as each one is introduced. The onstage four-piece band directed by Kevin Dutcher sounds terrific on these varied songs. Cast members Laura B. Adams, David Carey, Bryan Porter, and Daisy Macklin Skarning, dressed in black to more easily slip into the skins of these famous people, are all very engaging with beautiful voices. Singing solo, with or without backup, or in group numbers, these four singer/actors tell stories that are funny, tragic, moving, or all three.

Highlights include:
  • Bryan sings a cute and then sad story about how Leonard Nimoy's childhood magician dreams are crushed by bigotry.
  • As my favorite TV writer Aaron Sorkin, David sings a funny song about "Smart People."
  • Laura has the unenviable job of being both Fran Drescher and Joan Rivers, two of the most recognizable voices in show business, and she pulls them both off. Joan's song is a sweet one in which she conveys the feeling of being able to just be herself on the "High Holy Days," and Fran's song is as funny and determined as she is, "What Do They Know?"
  • Leave it to Next to Normal composer Tom Kitt to write a melody that made me cry, along with lyrics by book writer Abigail Pogrebin. "As If I Weren't There" tells the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg being unable to grieve her mother in the traditional way she wanted, beautifully sung by Daisy.
  • Another familiar musical theater composer, Duncan Sheik, wrote a song that's very reminiscent of his most famous work, Spring Awakening. "The Darkening Blue" features those same hauntingly gorgeous harmonies, as it relates Kenneth Cole's struggle with how to pass on his heritage to his children, who are being raised as Christians.
  • In addition to telling his own story, Michael Feinstein wrote the music and lyrics for playwright Tony Kushner's "Horrible Seders," a fast, funny, and poignant song well sung by Bryan.
  • Laura and Daisy sing Gloria Steinem's song, which is of course powerful and meaningful and woman-affirming. "The Women Who Had No Names" celebrates all of the women who came before.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow is Jewish? "Who Knew?"
  • David leads the cast in the moving closing song "L'Dor V'Dor," which means "from generation to generation." 
In this country that prides itself as a "melting plot," all cultures get lost through the generations. This book and musical are a way for people of Jewish heritage to hold on to some of that culture that they grew up with and share it with others of their and future generations. But it's about more than being Jewish, it's about how to hold on to and celebrate who you are and who your ancestors were in a world that's trying to make us all the same.

Stars of David plays Saturdays and Sundays only through March 8 at the Highland Park Center Theater on Ford Parkway.