Monday, December 11, 2017

"It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" at the St. Paul Hotel

#TCTheater friends, there's a well kept secret in town. At least I've never heard of it in the theater world, but my parents have heard of it from their favorite radio station (and the one I grew up listening to) WCCO. Every holiday* season at the beautiful St. Paul Hotel, there is a charming performance of It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play accompanied by a three-course meal. My mom has been wanting to go to it for several years, but it has a loyal following and is a tough ticket to get. We finally got in this year, and I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed it. Now in their 12th season with the same cast, this company puts on an entertaining show filled with nostalgia and the warmth of the holidays, with a lovely meal (see menu to the left, vegetarian options also available). Performances continue through December 24 and are sold out except for a few dates. Or you can listen to a live broadcast of the show on WCCO on December 17 at 7 pm, with a re-broadcast on December 24 at 5 pm.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

"North Pole 1973" at Strike Theater

There's a new theater in Northeast Minneapolis known as Strike Theater, "dedicated to building a community for sketch comedy, storytelling, and spoken word." It's been open for Fringe shows for the last two years, but just opened as a home for comedy performances and classes this fall. Founded by Allison Broeren, Mike Fotis, and Joe Bozic (whom you might know from the Minnesota Fringe Festival), it's sure to become the place to go when you're in need of a good laugh (or to learn how to elicit said laugh). And it certainly was that last night, when I attended their first ever holiday* show, North Pole 1973.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

"Annie" at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts

"The future is female." If the main stage at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is any judge of it, this statement is true, and gives one hope for the future. The story of one 11-year-old girl who changes hearts and minds with optimism and determination is an inspiring one, as is the boundless energy and talent of the young females on stage who bring this story to life. Watching Annie last night, I couldn't help but feel nostalgic for the Great Depression, when at least the president cared about the people and developed (with Annie's help of course) a New Deal that would help lift the country out of poverty. A stark contrast to today's reality, when the current resident of the White House seems to care only for the rich, and those in need get served newly crappy deals nearly every day. Maybe we need to send Annie to the Washington to get Democrats and Republicans singing together about the hopeful future of America! In the meantime, head to the Ordway to see this swell production of an American musical theater classic and get your dose of optimism about our female future.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Blithe Spirit" at the Guthrie Theater

If you're looking for a fun, light-hearted, escapist night at the theater (and really, who isn't in need of that?!), look no further than the Guthrie's sublimely entertaining production of Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit. Featuring Guthrie favorites and newcomers in this perfect concoction of a cast, breath-takingly gorgeous design, and the witty words of one of 20th Century England's favorite writers of comedy, Blithe Spirit will keep you warm with laughter on a cold winter's night, and make you forget about the seemingly endless despair happening outside of the theater walls (this is why I prefer to say in the theater as much as possible). Blithe Spirit continues through January 18 and is a hilarious duet partner to that other ghost story across the hall.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Chess" by Chameleon Theatre Circle at Gremlin Theatre

Before last year, I had never heard of the musical Chess. Although I consider myself a musical theater nerd, I rarely listen to musicals I've never seen, so it makes sense I didn't know about this rarely produced 1980s musical written by Tim Rice and the Bs of ABBA. But thanks to Second Fiddle, which stages one-night-only readings of rare musicals, I recently became aware of its charms. Chameleon Theatre Circle's new production of Chess as part of their 20th season (bringing back a favorite from their 2nd season) is the first full production I've seen. And I have to say, I kinda love it. It's fabulously cheesy and very '80s, but it put a smile on my face, which I needed on a wintery Monday. The cast is really strong, with no weak link among them, and performs this intricate score well along with the terrific onstage band. You can't do Chess halfway, you have to go at it full force, and they do, and it's kinda awesome!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"Miracle on Christmas Lake" by Actors' Theater of Minnesota at Camp Bar

I'm a big fan of Yellow Tree Theatre in general and their four original and very Minnesotan Christmas* plays in particular (see also: A Gone Fishin' Christmas, no seriously go see it, playing now through the end of the year). So I jumped at the chance to see another theater company, Actors Theater of Minnesota, perform the play that started it all - A Miracle on Christmas Lake. Written by Yellow Tree co-founder Jessica Lind Peterson, it's inspired by the real life predicament they faced when they lost the rights to the show they were planning to do and had to come up with something in a short amount of time. This wacky, sweet, ridiculous little play chock full of Minnesota references and stereotypes was the result, and it's great fun to see another company's take on it in the intimate space of Camp Bar.

Monday, December 4, 2017

"Coco's Diary" at the History Theatre

For their contribution to the #TCTheater holiday* season, History Theatre is bringing back their original play from five years ago, Coco's Diary, now with Christmas music and decorations! But it isn't really about Christmas of course, it's about a year in the life of a real live 13-year-old girl in 1927, living in what is now the Governor's Mansion on Summit Avenue in St. Paul. Adapted by Artistic Director Ron Peluso and Bob Beverage (the latter also choosing a selection of period tunes), Coco's Diary is, like Coco herself, quite charming. This play with music gives the audience a glimpse into the life of the wealthy on Summit Avenue in 1927, and reminds us that being 13 is the same no matter when or where you live.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

"The Terror Fantastic" by 20% Theatre Company at the Crane Theater

The new play The Terror Fantastic, about a young gay woman grappling with anxiety and depression, is indeed both terrifying and fantastical. In 20% Theatre Company's production, now playing at the Crane Theater, mental illness is represented by an ever-present monster, the only escape from which is into a fantasy world.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

"A Doll's House" by Orchard Theater Collective at the James J. Hill House

If you're looking for an anti-holiday show in this busy #TCTheater holiday* month, a little bitter to balance out the sometimes overwhelming sweet of the season, look no further than Ibsen's masterpiece A Doll's House. Orchard Theater Collective is making their debut with this piece, and they wisely partnered with #TCTheater favorite Craig Johnson, who adapted the play into a crisp 95 minutes and directs this talented young cast. Taking place in Norway during Christmas of 1879, what's remarkable is how ahead of his time Ibsen was in revealing the difficulties that women faced (and still face) living under the strict and unfair rules of society, and how much this play still resonates today.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

"A Gone Fishin' Christmas" at Yellow Tree Theatre

The #TCTheater holiday* season is not complete without a visit to charming downtown Osseo, adorned with red, green, blue, and white lights on all the trees lining the main street of this small town in the suburbs. Just a few blocks away, tucked in a nondescript strip mall, is the warm and welcoming Yellow Tree Theatre space, where for the 10th year in a row you can experience an original Minnesota holiday play, a silly comedy mixed with local references, and a heartfelt message of home and community underneath it all. YTT co-founder Jessica Lind Peterson has written four such plays - two installments of Miracle on Christmas Lake,** A Hunting Shack Christmas, and this year's selection, a reprise of last year's smash hit A Gone Fishin' Christmas. They've brought back most of the original cast, plus a few fun additions, and if possible it's even better than it was last year. It's a really fun feel-good show, with outrageous hilarity mixed with tender moments, plus an original song by Blake Thomas! The Wednesday performance I attended was not sold out, but tickets will get harder to come by, especially weekends, as the season continues, so make your plans now to visit the ice house before it's too late (more info here).

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"A Christmas Carol" at the Guthrie Theater

One of my favorite #TCTheater holiday* traditions is the Guthrie Theater's annual production of Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol. Now in my 15th year as a Guthrie season subscriber, I've only missed it a couple of times in that span. As I wrote last year, "I never tire of seeing it, because Charles Dickens' story of redemption, community, family, and human kindness never gets old. It's a beautiful and necessary thing to be reminded that what brings us together is greater than what drives us apart.' That it's never too late to change, to grow, to become a kinder and more generous person." This timeless story of generosity, gratitude, compassion, and kindness is something we need to cling to, perhaps now more than ever.

Monday, November 27, 2017

"And Then There Were None" at Theater in the Round

And Then There Were None is the best-selling novel by one of the world's most popular mystery writers, Agatha Christie. If one can overlook the horribly offensive original title and the song from which it came (which, to be honest, I'm not sure one can), it's a suspenseful and gripping tale of the most deadly game of Survivor. Christie herself adapted the story into a stage play, even changing the ending. I'd never seen or read it, and I love a good mystery play, so I found Theatre in the Round's production to be an entertaining and surprising afternoon at the theater.