Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"Musical Mondays" at Hell's Kitchen, June 2014

Mondays are typically the worst day of the week, but not when it's the first Monday of the month. Because on the first Monday of the month you can end your dreary Monday with a little musical theater cabaret - and what's better than that? Best friends Max Wojtanowicz and Sheena Janson (who chronicled their friendship in their adorable musical Fruit Fly) started this series, called Musical Mondays at Hell's Kitchen, in November of 2012 and it's still going strong. Surprisingly, last night was my first time attending the event. It's everything I love, great musical theater songs performed by some of my favorite musical theater artists, so now that I know the lay of the land, I'm sure I'll be back.

This month's theme was Pride and featured women singing songs usually sung by men, and vice versa, as well as some LGBT-themed songs. Max and Sheena (who are wonderful hosts and a great comedy duo) were joined by their talented friends C Ryan Shipley, Debra Berger, Justine Bergevin, Kasono Mwanza, and Kim Kivens, accompanied by Jerry Rubino on keyboard, Bill Crean on bass, and Bob Beahen on drums. The performers sang solo and in groups, mostly songs from the musical theater canon. Highlights include:

  • Kim took part in a couple of hilarious duets - "We're Just Friends" with Ryan and "A Woman's Touch" with Debra. Kim never fails to crack me up, except when she's singing a lovely rendition of my favorite Sweeney Todd song, "Not While I'm Around."
  • Kasono gave a couple of powerful performances, including the moving "Not My Father's Son" from Kinky Boots (coming to the Orpehum next summer) and "Fabulous, Baby" from Sister Act, which was in Minneapolis just last week.
  • Ryan sang a lovely version of another song typically sung by a woman - "The Music That Makes Me Dance" from Funny Girl, which I did not recognize despite having seen the movie (when is a local theater going to do Funny Girl?!).
  • The boys were very entertaining singing "Something Better Than This" from Sweet Charity.
  • Debra used this opportunity to sing a beautiful ballad usually sung by a man, "Younger than Springtime" from one of my favorite musical theater scores, South Pacific. And it's just as beautiful when sung by a female voice!
  • They all sound great individually, but the group numbers are especially fun, including a gender-reversed "Brotherhood of Man" from How to Succeed, the inspirational "I Know Where I've Been" from Hairspray, and "All Over the World" from one of my recent faves, Xanadu.
  • We were treated to a preview of 7th House Theatre Collective's upcoming Little Shop of Horrors. Seymour and Audrey, aka Grant Sorenson and Maeve Moynihan, sang "Suddenly Seymour," with David Darrow on guitar, and it was amazing. Little Shop is playing for just two weekends at the end of June so get your tickets now!
  • Three lucky raffle winners walked away with tickets to Little Shop, Skylark Opera's Summer Festival (which this year includes Candide and From Berlin to Broadway), or Minneapolis Musical Theatre's Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, opening this weekend. I didn't enter the raffle, because I already have tickets to all three shows.  :)

Next month's Musical Mondays will occur on July 7 and feature previews of musicals that will be in The Minnesota Fringe Festival (which takes place July 31 - August 10). "Like" the Musical Mondays Facebook page to keep up to date on the schedule and performers. If you're a fan of musical theater and/or our plentiful local musical theater talent, you will definitely want to put this one on your schedule. (It's also great people watching - most of the audience are theater people!)