Friday, July 30, 2010

Scottsboro Boys: From Off-Broadway to the Guthrie to Broadway

I'm really excited about this show. Scottsboro Boys is a new musical written by Kander and Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret) and directed by Tony winner Susan Stroman, based on the true story of nine black teenagers wrongly accused of rape in the 1930s. It's been playing Off-Broadway (fun fact - the difference between Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway is in the size of the theater: Broadway is 500+ seats, Off-Broadway is 100-499 seats, and Off-Off-Broadway is less than 100 seats) and will soon move to Broadway. But first, it's making a stop in at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, where they will tweak the show in preparation for the Broadway debut. I love being able to see a Broadway show before it hits Broadway, with the original cast. The last such show I saw was The Lion King, which premiered at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis in 1997 before heading to Broadway, where it is still running. Scottsboro Boys is not quite The Lion King; it tackles some pretty heavy issues, and I love when musical theater does that.

Check out this this StarTribune article for more information, and the Guthrie website for ticket info.

Update: check out this interview with composer John Kander, who's still creating ground-breaking musical theater at the age of 83.

Also check out this sneak preview of the show. (And if you stay for the very end you'll here the tones used to call the audience at the Guthrie, a sound that never fails to put a smile on my face. :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Theater Latte Da at Lake Harriet

Last night I attended Theater Latte Da's concert Latte Da in the Park at the Lake Harriet Pavilion in Minneapolis. It was a gorgeous evening for outdoor music, and would have been a perfect night if I had won the raffle for a trip to NYC and gotten my ice cream (note if you go to a Lake Harriet concert - the concession line is the slowest moving line I've ever seen, I got in line 20 minutes before the show started, there were maybe 8 people in front of me, and when the concert started there were still 3 people in front of me, so I gave up). But other than that, it was wonderful evening of showtunes.

Theater Latte Da is my favorite local theater (not counting the Guthrie). According to their mission, "Theater Latté Da seeks to create new connections between story, music, artist, and audience by exploring and expanding the art of musical theater." That's something they do beautifully; their productions are always very well-done and their choices are unique and interesting and really serve to move musical theater forward. Yesterday they announced their 2010-2011 season: Evita, All is Calm, Song of Extinction, and Steerage Song. All really interesting choices that I'm looking forward to.

There were five singers, accompanied by Latte Da's music director Denise Prosek on the keyboard (artistic director Peter Rothstein was also there to announce the new season). I've seen Sasha Andreev in several shows, most recently Tom Stoppard's Rock and Roll at Park Square Theater and Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Guthrie (both are plays, but he played a singing role). Erin Capello and Kahlil Queen are in the upcoming production of Evita, and Whitney Rhodes was in last year's hilarious and moving The Full Monty. I've never seen Jennifer Grimm before but I loved her voice; at times she reminded me of Judy Garland, at other times, Rosemary Clooney. She has that classic 40s/50s deep rich voice (check out her website).

On to the songlist, from what I can remember. I wish they had passed out the songlist because there were a few songs I could identify. But here's what I could:

Sasha first sang a song from West Side Story (I think it was "Something's Coming" but for some reason I'm having trouble remembering). Other songs were "Mr. Cellophane" from Chicago and something about flying a kite. But my favorite song that he did was "Run Away with Me" from the musical The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown by Kerrigan and Lowdermilk. I've previously heard this song in this youtube video of Aaron Tveit (who wowed me in Next to Normal on Broadway last year). I dare you to watch it and not swoon. :)

Erin has a great musical theater voice and sang several great musical theater songs, including "Meadowlark" from The Baker's Wife (which I saw Patti LuPone sing earlier this year), "Diva's Lament" from Spamalot, and another Kerrigan and Lowdermilk song, "My Party Dress," in which she's a little girl dreaming of her future and trying not to spill on her party dress.

Jennifer sang a few original songs that she had written. One about how she missed Minneapolis and St. Paul when she was in New York (which mentioned the cherry and spoon!) and an update of "Anything Goes."

Whitney sang "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl, one of the best musical theater songs ever. She also sang a hilarious song about how she was always relegated to the chorus and never got to sing the melody. Whitney and Jennifer also did a beautiful sort of duet. Jennifer sang "Dulcinea" from Man of La Mancha, followed by Whitney's beautiful rendition of "Someone to Watch Over Me," which then morphed into a duet as they both sang their songs together (I guess that's what Glee calls a "mash-up" ;).

Kahlil started the show with a song from one of my favorites of this year, "Let it Sing" from Violet (the final show of Latte Da's 2009-2010 season). He also sang a song from one of my all time faves, the haunting "Left Behind" from Spring Awakening. Kahlil and Sasha did a beautiful duet of "I'll Cover Me" from another all time fave, RENT, which just made me smile. So I guess Kahlil wins the gold star for singing the most songs from my favorite shows!

The group also sang "Blues In the Night" together and ended the show with selections from Evita: "Night of a Thousand Stars" (Sasha), "High Flying Adored" (Kahlil), "Star Quality" (Jennifer), and of course, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" (Erin).

Another feature of the evening was the little kids who were dancing in the area in front of the stage. At one point there were about ten little girls holding hands and running around in a circle and laughing. Some people might have found this distracting, but the musicians, professionals that they are, weren't distracted at all. I thought it just added to the charm of the evening. A beautiful night by Lake Harriet, great showtunes sung by talented performers, and the laughter of children. What could be better? Besides ice cream. :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I've been thinking about starting a theater blog for a while now. I love theater (especially musical theater) and attend a lot of local and touring shows, as well as shows in other locations (mostly NYC). I usually end up going to shows by myself because no one I know loves theater as much as I do. And to tell the truth I often prefer it that way, so that I don't have anyone or anything to distract me from the main event. But I often find myself wanting to tell someone about it or express something about the show, and again, no one really cares as much as I do! Except for my BFF Kendra (who's with me in my profile photo, and suggested the name of this blog), but she's not local, so she doesn't quite get it either. So I decided to start this blog to put it out there for other MN theater lovers to enjoy. Even if no one reads it, I think I'll enjoy putting my thoughts/impressions/feelings into words.

I don't intend this to be reviews; if you know me you know that I love everything. I'm not criticial enough to be a critic. But there are definitely some shows I like more than others, which you'll probably be able to tell by my enthusiasm and how many exclamation points I use. And I'll let you know if there's something you must see. And please do the same for me, if there's something you think I should see that I'm missing. I have season tickets to the Guthrie, Ordway, and Hennepin Stages, and am a frequent audience member at Theater Latte Da and Mu Performing Arts, and occasional audience member at several other theaters in town. But there are so many great theater companies in the Twin Cities that I just know I'm missing some. Hopefully this blog will also get me more in touch with the theater scene and other theaters I might not have heard of.

This is great timing for me to start this blog - I have five shows coming up in August (see my "upcoming shows" list, above right), including three Sunday matinees (I love the Sunday matinee - I'm already dressed up for church so I can go from there to brunch to the show, and still be home for an early bedtime). I've also got a couple of concerts coming up and might talk about those a bit, although the main focus will be theater. My musical tastes are ecclectic but mostly skew toward the folk end of the spectrum (other than showtunes of course). I might also occasionally rave about a movie or TV show, we'll see where things go.

I guess that's enough rambling to start this blog. I'm looking forward to sharing my love of theater with you all!


p.s. and just to prove that in my head, everything relates to musical theater - the title of this post reminds me of the song "Origin of Love" from "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," and my sign-off "Peace" is inspired by my recent obsession with the musical "Hair!"