Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"Latte Da in the Park" by Theater Latte Da at Plymouth Park

Harry Houdini, Cinderella, Moritz Stiefel, Little Inez, and Judy Garland gather in a park to sing showtunes. No, that's not the beginning of a bad joke, it's Theater Latte Da's annual summer park concert. This show is always my favorite summer outdoor event, and since I missed the show at Lake Harriet this year, I attended the show in Plymouth earlier this week. It's a much smaller venue than Lake Harriet, but just as lovely, especially since the oppressive heat of this summer abated enough to make it quite comfortable to sit outside and listen to some music: a selection of showtunes, pop songs, standards, and a sneak peek of Theater Latte Da's upcoming 2012-2013 season, which looks to be as outstanding as last season was (the year of youth: Spelling Bee, Beautiful Thing, and my favorite show of 2012 so far, Spring Awakening). I've seen all of these talented singer/actors before, in the above-mentioned roles and more, and I loved seeing them in this casual environment.

The show began and ended with the entire cast joining in for the pop classic "I Can See Clearly Now" (and it was indeed a "bright sunshiney day"). The five performers then took turns singing individually, accompanied by Latte Da's constant and eminently capable Music Director Denise Prosek, who kept things moving smoothly along.

  • Harry Houdini, who also goes by the name Sasha Andreev, sang a few songs including the title track from the musical Memphis, and a particularly moving rendition of Five for Fighting's "100 Years to Live."  (and yes I had to google that to find the name of the band.)
  • Our Cinderella, Jessica Fredrickson, sang the Dolly Parton hit "Here You Come Again" and Nat King Cole's "Orange Colored Sky," which later morphed into a nifty duet with the next character...
  • Moritz Stiefel is one of my favorite musical theater characters, and Tyler Michaels is quickly becoming one of my favorite musical theater actors to watch perform. He sang a couple of standards - "Hey There (you with the stars in your eyes)" (originally from the musical The Pajama Game), and "Fly Me to the Moon," the aforementioned nifty duet with Jessica. The two also dueted on a silly and sweet love song called "Cubicle of Love." Tyler and Jessica's voices blend together beautifully (I saw them just the night before in A Night in Olympus at Illusion Theater), and I hear we'll be treated to more of it in Bye Bye Birdie at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, opening this fall.
  • Little Inez, aka Ivory Doublette, sang Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and a very funny little ditty about never getting to sing the melody.
  • Judy Garland's spirit was present when Jody Briskey sang "The Trolley Song." Jody also sang the beautiful "Fields of Gold" and a super-fast and hilarious song setting words to Chopin's "Minute Waltz."
The evening continued with Latte Da's Artistic Director Peter Rothstein announcing their upcoming season, which includes three shows I've been dying to see live and local. They open with Stephen Sondheim's Company (which I've never seen live on stage but fell in love with thanks to the Neil Patrick Harris filmed concert version released to movie theaters last year), followed by the Tim Rice/Elton John Aida (I saw it 11 years ago on tour and Broadway), and closing with Adam Guettel's beautiful creation, A Light in the Piazza (another one I saw once many years ago on tour). The only casting that's been announced is Dieter Bierbrauer as Bobby in Company (a choice with which I heartily agree). One hallmark of a Peter Rothstein production is pitch perfect casting, so I can't wait to find out who will be taking on the roles of Aida, Radames*, Amneres*, Clara, Fabrizio, and the rest.

To whet our appetite for the upcoming season, the cast sang a few songs from the above three shows. First, Company. Tyler led the cast in "Side by Side by Side," Ivory sang "Another Hundred People," Jody sang "Ladies who Lunch" (which I hope she'll do in the production this fall, she has the perfect voice for the song), and Sasha sang the stirring closing number "Being Alive." Jessica and Tyler unfurled several pages of sheet music to sing the beautiful and heart-breaking duet from Aida, "Written in the Stars." Finally, Jessica treated us to a medley of a few songs from The Light in the Piazza.

My very first post on Cherry and Spoon was about Latte Da in the Park in the summer of 2010, so I sort of regard this as my anniversary. I've been doing this for two years now, and it's only getting better and giving me more and more opportunities to see amazing theater and meet talented people and have wonderful experiences. Judging by Theater Latte Da's upcoming season, next year is going to be even better!

*Update: additional casting for Aida announced. Jared Oxborough (aka Che in Evita) will play Radames and Cat Brindisi (Wendla in Spring Awakening) will play Amneres, two more excellent casting choices!