Fringe Festival: "Uptown: The Musical" by Box Wine Theatre at Mixed Blood
I saw a flier for Uptown: The Musical a few months ago at the Southern Theater and thought it looked cute and sort of RENT-like, so I was happy to see it on the list of Fringe Festival shows. And even happier to discover that it is cute, if not very RENT-like. There are some similarities - a group of young bohemian friends in an urban setting trying to make their way through life - but Uptown is all lightness and fun without the tragic undertone of RENT.
Uptown takes place in a coffee shop in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis (a neighborhood that's much too hip for me), called "The Dirty Hipster." The colorful characters that populate the coffee shop are the barista Kate (who has been working there much longer than she intended), her musician boyfriend Quentin, a couple of Star Trek dorks, a guy who loves his bicycle, an unemployed young man who still lives with his parents, and a woman who earns money by participating in studies and donating plasma.
The loose plot involves the hipsters protesting against the arrival of a chain store in Uptown - "Trader Jack's." They make signs and rice krispie treats to get people to come to the coffee shop for a benefit concert featuring Quentin's band. They plan to buy a billboard with the money proclaiming the evils of chain stores in Uptown. The benefit is great and everyone has a wonderful time ("out of many we are one, out of one we are many, stay strong stay vocal, keep Lyndale local!"), but unfortunately they don't raise much money. Quentin decides that it's time for him to grow up and leave Uptown (for St. Paul), and the remaining hipsters decide to donate plasma to make some more money and continue on their quest.
The songs are catchy, whether they're about Obama, emus, Star Trek, or plasma. The cast is extremely likeable and capable, with varying levels of dancing and singing talent. Jon Michael Stiff moves like a trained dancer, and Sarah Frazier as Kate has a great voice. Andi Cheney plays Astrid with a frenetic energy that's appropriate for someone in the middle of a sleep deprivation study and living on caffeine. It's a fun and diverse cast of characters that would be fun to hang out and drink some coffee with!