Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"King Arthur: A Picnic Operetta" by Mixed Precipitation at Falcon Heights Community Garden

There's a lot of outdoor theater going on around the Twin Cities, if you know where to look for it. I partook of one such opportunity on what turned out to be a rainy day, so it was moved indoors to a warming house. But the spirit was still there. Mixed Precipitation takes classic operettas, condenses them, puts a modern spin on them, performs them in community gardens around the Twin Cities metro area, and also serves great food. What could be better? This year's selection is Henry Purcell's 1684 English Baroque opera King Arthur, with plenty of modern references and some punk rock music thrown in for good measure. It's a fun and delicious way to experience music-theater in an informal setting.

Condensing a full opera down to under 90 minutes creates a bit of a hard to follow jumbled mess, but from what I gathered, King Arthur of Cameloteapolis is building a new jousting stadium that will host the Super Joust, a costly endeavor that faces opposition from the Saxons, who are concerned about things like corporate personhood and minimum wage. Or something like that. There is fighting, jousting, magic, a wedding or two, and much beautiful music. I didn't care for the rock songs as much as the opera songs, which are so beautifully sung and played by this wonderful cast and small orchestra that it doesn't seem necessary to add modern songs (although I do kind of love the idea of a rock cello).

Grant Schumann, Peter Middlecamp, and Cassandra McNally
This wonderful cast of adults and children appears to be having a great time playing together, which always makes it more fun for the audience. And they look crazy cool in punk hair, make-up, and costumes. Young Grant Schumann leads the wildly energetic band of Saxons; Wric Larson is dark and mysterious with a commanding deep voice as the demon Grimbald; Elizabeth Windnagel is a delightfully airy imp; Jim Ahrens is our beautiful-haired and slightly out of touch King Arthur; magic is created by JP Fitzgibbons' Merlin and Naomi Karstad's Morgan Le Fay; Maggie Lofbloom's jousting champion Guinevere is a heroine to root for; and Peter Middlecamp is charming as her jousting rival/suitor. And the whole casts sounds fantastic; turns out the warming house has surprisingly good acoustics.

The most unique aspect of this experience is the food. Delicious, interesting, creative, fresh, local food is served in perfect little bites throughout the show, very cleverly worked into the plot and introduced by the characters. I think people should serve me food at the theater all the time! I do wish I had been able to experience this in the great outdoors as intended, but it was still great fun, and they somehow made the last minute change of venue work.

King Arthur continues weekends through September 21. Check the schedule for a garden near you, and then go see some fun and creative music-theater while enjoying delicious food.