Monday, June 30, 2014
Grandma Sophie immigrated to St. Paul from Russia when she was just 16. The story begins when young Michael is with his family, sitting shiva after Sophie's death. She never talked about her journey to come to this country, and Michael is haunted by what he doesn't know and what his grandmother tried to tell him before she died. The family tells stories of their past, and we see Sophie's life in flashback - her marriage, divorce, children, a portrait of a life. Michael's questions are not completely answered but he does get a better understanding of who she was, as does the audience. She sounds like an incredible woman - strong and smart, determined to make a better life for her family, a survivor of great hardships.
Roberta Carlson again wrote beautiful moving music that moved me to tears (see also My Ántonia). This piece is similar in that it evokes feelings of nostalgia for a longed-for past and people. The music and words of the play are beautifully performed by the seven-person cast - Randy Schmeling as the adult Michael looking back on his past, Spencer Levin as young Michael, Nora Long as Sophie (with her strong clear voice ringing out across the theater), Emily Scinto as Young Sophie and Michael's sister, Sally Ann Wright and Jay Hornbacher as Michael's aunt and uncle, and Ryan Patrick as Sophie's husband.
I've attended several readings of new work this year, including the History Theatre's Raw Stages, Theater Latte Da's Next, and the beautiful new musical version of the movie Sweet Land. It's so exciting to hear new plays and musicals "read" (which really means performed, but with a script in hand) by local talent. It's fun to be part of the development process and to watch these pieces grow and transform. There's one more performance of Walking Across Poland tonight, and the Fresh Ink series continues in July with more new works. Check it out, or contact your favorite theater company to see what they've got cooking.
Saturday, June 28, 2014
In Columbia National Park in the Pacific Northwest, we meet Arthur, a "Sasquatch American" who doesn't fit the image of Bigfoot. Yes he's big and hairy, but he's also intelligent, well-spoken, and kind, a true gentle giant. He's lost and trying to get back to his family when he meets Sam, a lost little boy. In the tradition of a child befriending an alien creature (see also E.T. and ALF), the two become friends and help each other through their predicament. In the meantime, many people are looking for Sam and "Bigfoot," including Sam's "Helicopter Parents," a park ranger, the hosts of a reality TV show called Modern Monsters, and some locals who are hoping to profit from the discovery of Bigfoot. Eventually everyone works together to protect Arthur from those who are trying to exploit him and his kind, so that he can live a quiet happy life in the Sasquatch community in a remote area of the park.
This production of Sasquatched!, directed by creator Phil Darg and his wife Jules, features a new local cast, and I can only assume it was improved from last year's version by Jim Lichtsheidl's "Storieography" (his word for choreography and movement and such). One way it was not improved is by the use of pre-recorded music instead of a live band. The NYMF production lists a music director and assistant music director, so I assume they had live music. As a former band geek I take offense at that, and frankly, canned music just sounds cheap and karaoke-like. How can you respect a musical with no live music? The show would be greatly improved by ditching the track and adding even just a keyboard, guitar, and percussion.
|reality TV show hosts with the local|
(Rick Baustian, Daniel Flohr, and Cayla Marie Wolpers)
Sasquatched! continues this weekend at the Sabes JCC Community theater, followed by free outdoor performances in Maple Grove, and a two week run at the Old Arizona in late July (click here for details). Bring your family for some fun summer musical theater.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
If you've never seen Little Shop in any of its incarnations (see also the 1986 movie), here's a brief plot summary. Aspiring botanist Seymour finds a strange and interesting plant and brings it into Mushnik's Flower shop, where he works with Audrey. He soon finds out that the plant, named Audrey II, will only grow if he gives it blood, but in return it makes Seymour's life wonderful - the failing flower shop flourishes, Seymour becomes famous, and most importantly, he thinks it makes him look better in Audrey's eyes. But the dilemma comes when Seymour needs to find more sources of blood to satisfy Audrey II's growing appetite. He's sold his soul to the devil and there's no turning back.
On the tiny stage at Open Eye Figure Theatre, 7th House brings this morbidly hilarious world to life in a delightfully inventive and low-tech way, involving an overhead projector, a plastic shower curtain, a skull, fake blood, and a series of increasingly larger cardboard boxes. The show runs about 90 minutes including a short intermission, which feels exactly the right length. Similar to what Ten Thousand Things does in their productions, they've stripped the show down to its bare essentials to get to the heart of the piece, without any unnecessary fluff.
Company member Grant Sorenson plays Seymour with just the right mix of sweetness, lack of self-confidence, and a growing inner determination to do what he has to do to get what he wants in life, mainly Audrey. As Seymour's love, Maeve Moynihan is pitch-perfect, both in her powerful voice and in her portrayal of Audrey's charming ditziness. I've watched Maeve grow up on local stages; just six years ago she was little Carrie Ingalls in a musical version of Little House on the Prairie at the Guthrie, and now she's all grown up and playing one of the most iconic roles in musical theater. In between she was young Violet in my favorite Theater Latte Da show Violet (when I referred to her as "teenage wonder"), and Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at the Children's Theatre (at which time I said "I only hope that after she becomes a big Broadway star she comes home every now and then to grace us with her talent"). It's a thrill to see her back on stage playing an adult, and I look forward to seeing what her bright future holds. Grant and Maeve make for a completely adorable Seymour and Audrey, and if you don't get chills at the end of "Suddenly Seymour," one of the best musical theater love songs ever written, you probably don't have a soul.
|6/7 of the cast of Little Shop of Horrors|
(photo by Kelly Nelson)
This is only 7th House's third production as a company, after debuting last summer with a groovy production of Hair, followed earlier this year by the smart and sexy Cinephilia. If this group of young talented theater artists who have created a space for their work is not yet on your radar, they should be. Their next show is something that makes me very happy - a musical collaboration between David Darrow and the super talented couple Mary Fox and Blake Thomas*. Blake is one of my favorite musicians and an incredibly talented songwriter, and I got a taste of David's songwriting skills in his Fringe show a few years ago, so the two of them writing and creating together is something I would not miss for the world. Jonah and the Whale will play in the Guthrie's Studio Theater this December. But in the meantime, head to Open Eye to experience this darkly funny and delightfully inventive Little Shop of Horrors (playing through June 29 only).
*Click here to listen to Blake and Mary's radio show, Take it With You, recorded live monthly in Duluth. It's a wonderfully new and fresh take on the old radio variety shows of the past, full of hometown humor, heart, and Blake's original music.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.
Saturday, June 21, 2014
The Heiress was written by husband and wife playwrights Ruth and Augustus Goetz in 1947, based on Henry James' late 19th Century novel Washington Square. The title refers to a young woman named Catherine who lives with her father Dr. Sloper in a posh house on Washington Square Park in 1850s NYC. Catherine's mother died in childbirth, and like Tyrion Lannister, her father blames her for her mother's death. He continually compares Catherine to her mother and finds her lacking. According to him, Catherine is plain, boring, and possesses no charm or grace. But who could possibly live up to the ghostly image of the perfect woman that he has created in his head? Despite this attitude, or perhaps because of it, Catherine loves her father desperately and would do anything to please him. When Catherine is courted by a handsome young gentleman, Dr. Sloper believes that he only wants her for her money, because who could love such a woman as Catherine? So begins Catherine's struggle between pleasing her father and committing to this man that she loves and she believes loves her. Like Tyrion, Catherine eventually gets her revenge on her father, although with much more subtle tactics than a cross-bow. She finally realizes her own power, and will not let the desires or decisions of either man control her life.
|Catherine at her needlepoint with her aunt looking on disapprovingly|
(Katie Guentzel and Wendy Lehr, photo by Michal Daniel)
To play the title role, Kate Guentzel reigns in her usual effervescent charm and transforms into this plain and timid woman, who blossoms with love, grows through pain, and shows her strength at the end through subtle changes in voice and demeanor. One of my favorite playwrights, Jeffrey Hatcher, makes a rare onstage appearance as Catherine's stern and pragmatic father and proves he's just as good on this side of the stage. The incomparable Wendy Lehr plays Catherine's fluttery aunt who so desperately wants her to marry Morris, regardless of his true intentions. Kate's real-life husband John Catron plays Catherine's suitor Morris, and is so delightfully and falsely charming that one wonders how awkward that ride home is every night. The rest of the cast fill their roles well, even if only onstage for a short time, including Valarie Falken as the family's ever-present Irish-accented maid.
The Heiress is a remarkably feminist piece for a play written in the 1940s based on a book from the 19th Century. While Catherine might not have a happily-ever-after ending, at least it's on her own terms. The Heiress continues at the Jungle Theater through August 10.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.
The Red Box is the fourth Nero Wolfe novel and is set in 1936 in Nero's NYC brownstone. Nero rarely leaves the house, preferring to spend time with his orchids, his beer, and the delicious gourmet meals prepared by Fritz, his personal chef. Instead, he sends his "boy Friday" Archie Goodwin out into the world when required. In the case of the titular red box, Nero is hired by a young man named Lew Frost who's concerned about his cousin Helen's safety after her friend is poisoned. Soon Lew's father and Helen's mother get involved, as well as family friends. What unfolds is a complicated family drama full of secrets and half-truths. Nero attempts to untangle this mess and get to the truth of the murder(s) by interviewing the parties involved, while Archie dutifully takes notes and adds his two cents. He also works with a police inspector, although it's unclear who's helping whom. It's a suspenseful mystery that will keep you guessing, but the real fun is watching these characters as they navigate the waters of this story.
|the cast of The Red Box on the set|
The Red Box is about halfway through its six-week run at Park Square Theatre in lovely downtown St. Paul. It's smart, sharp, funny, suspenseful, and entertaining - the perfect summer mystery play.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Here's the story in a nutshell: artist Molly and banker Sam are blissfully in love, until one night they're mugged and Sam is killed. He becomes a ghost that for some reason cannot pass on. He soon discovers that there's more to his murder than a random robbery. The man who killed him is after something, and Molly is in danger. Sam finally finds someone who can hear him, the psychic Oda Mae, who reluctantly agrees to help Sam save Molly and bring his killer to justice. The supernatural aspects of this story are brought to life on stage through illusions (credited to Paul Kieve - is there another musical with an Illusionist credit?) that show people and objects flying through the air, and yes, Sam walking through a door. The movie-ness of Ghost is replicated by a liberal use of the scrim and video projections.
|Steven Grant Douglas and|
Katie Postotnik at the infamous
Two things that fans of the movie will insist on are both included in the musical - the song "Unchained Melody" and the pottery scene, although the latter plays out differently than it does in the movie. "Unchained Melody" is used in a clever way, with Sam jokingly singing it to Molly early in the show, and the reappearance of several phrases woven into the score later in the show. The original songs in the score range from lovely ("With You," Molly's song about grief and loss), to powerful (Sam's desperate cry "I Had A Life"), to gratuitous ("I'm Outa Here," a fun Oda Mae song that has no place in this show).
Ghost: The Musical continues at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis through the weekend. It's pretty much what you think it is, with some nice moments and great performances wrapped up in a techno-heavy show that fails to impress, as hard as it tries.
*Theater Latte Da's Peter Rothstein cast Steven in three shows last year, and now he's playing the lead in a national Broadway tour, proving once again that Peter has a great eye for talent.
Monday, June 16, 2014
My Ántonia tells the story of a young immigrant girl in late 19th century Nebraska, through the eyes of her childhood friend Jim. The adult Jim narrates the story as he's returning home to visit, and his memories of his time on the frontier and the girl that he loves come to life on stage. We watch Jim and Ántonia grow from children playing on the prairie to young adults making their way in the world. Even though Jim and Ántonia's life paths diverge (he goes to Harvard and becomes a big city lawyer, she stays home and raises a family and a farm), they share a connection that cannot be broken by time or distance. Jim's nostalgia for the Nebraska prairie is inextricably intertwined with his memories of the girl that he knew and the boy that he was.
|Andrea San Miguel as Ántonia|
(photo by Lauren B. Photography)
A big part of the success and emotional impact of this piece is the music by Roberta Carlson. The three-piece off-stage orchestra provides a constant soundtrack to the story, and so specifically brings you to that time and place, tinged with memory. The language of the play (which I assume was largely taken from the book) paints such a picture I that almost wanted to close my eyes to better see it, but then I would have missed the simple but effective images of waving grass or a plow against the sunset projected onto the backdrop. The writing, acting, direction by Michael Robins, music, and images combine to create a feeling of nostalgia for a past I never knew, but that as a descendant of pioneer immigrants is in my bones somehow.
This incarnation of My Ántonia continues for two more weekends at The Lab at The Lowry Building.* It's a beautiful piece of theater with all elements combining to bring to life this time and place and these characters. There's a reason this one keeps coming back. It'll make your heart ache in the best possible way. (Discount tickets available on Goldstar.)
*You can park in the Lowry ramp (entrance on Wabasha between 4th and 5th) and walk right from the ramp into the theater space.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill
Rather than a traditional musical or opera with characters and plot, this piece is a compilation of songs by German-American composer Kurt Weill. I have only recently become familiar with Weill, first at last year's Patti LuPone concert in which she sang several of his songs, and then just this spring, when I saw not one but two productions of Weill's most well-known work, The Threepenny Opera. What I liked best about Threepenny was the music, and the more I hear it the more I like it. Berlin to Broadway is a beautiful showcase of the work of this great composer and his complex, interesting, and gorgeous melodies. It's the kind of music that the more time you spend with it, the more you appreciate it.
Four singer/actors and a six-piece band, under the direction of Sonja Thompson, lead us through the life of Kurt Weill, from the beginning of his career in Berlin, to his exile in the Nazi era to Paris and eventually America, to his growing success in his new homeland. The songs are structured chronologically, with one or another of the actors giving a short explanation to establish place and time. Several songs from each piece are presented together, giving us a taste of what the show is like. Wendy Knox, who also directed Frank Theatre's recent production of Threepenny, directs the piece and has truly created a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts. Songs and shows flow from one to the next, with visual interest created by slight costume changes and movement around the stage. It's almost like seeing several little shows in one great show.
|Christina Baldwin and Bradley Greenwald|
(photo by John Engstrom)
In short, Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill a wonderful exploration of the life of an important musical composer, one I didn't previously know much about, with gorgeous music sung by four impeccable voices.
Leonard Bernstein is another great American composer, and this 1956 operetta is one of his most celebrated works. Unfortunately it was bogged down by a troublesome book that went through several rewrites over the years. Skylark is presenting a combination of two more recent and more successful revisions. Based on the 18th Century novella by Voltaire, Candide is a satire that skewers the establishment of both 18th Century France and 1950s America. In the broadly comical plot, the bastard Candide is thrown out of his uncle's castle after falling in love with his cousin, the lovely Cunegonde. War breaks out, the castle is destroyed, everyone thinks everyone else is dead, the lovers reunite and travel the world looking for a place to be happy. Lots of other crazy things happen, which eventually disavow the optimist teachings of Dr. Pangloss, that we live in "The Best of All Possible Worlds" and everything that happens is perfect and wonderful. It's a wild romp accompanied by beautiful music.
|Jennifer Baldwin Peden, Gary Briggle, and Peter Middlecamp|
(photo by John Engstrom)
The two productions share much of the same creative team, including set designer Ann Gumpper, with the moving staircase set pieces being used for both shows. Costume Designer Lynn Farrington has put the Berlin to Broadway cast in classy period clothing, with a few accessories for some of the roles being played. The wardrobe for the Candide cast is more colorful and cartoonish, with the ensemble wearing Converse tennis shoes.
If you're an opera lover, then Skylark Opera's Summer Festival should be on your must-see list. If, like me, you're a bit of a novice when it comes to opera, don't be intimidated. Skylark makes opera fun and accessible, and has chosen two important 20th Century American composers in Kurt Weill and Leonard Bernstein, brought to life by not one but two groups of talented singer/actor/musicians. Both shows have just a few more performances this weekend, pick one or both and go see some opera on a summer evening.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
- The company presents a selection of songs from Comden and Green's first musical, the 1944 classic about three sailors on leave for one short day in NYC, On the Town. Songs include the most famous song from the show, "New York, New York," with Reid, Carl, and James playing the sailors, "I Can Cook Too," with Kirby stepping in at the last minute for an ill Regina Marie Williams, "Carried Away," a very funny duet by Reid and Elena, and the poignant final song, "Some Other Time."
- The quite fabulous Peggy O’Connell* sings a funny and sad rendition of "The Story of My Life" from Wonderful Town, as well as a hilarious Carol Channing-esque version of "I’m Going Back" from Bells are Ringing.
- High school student Amasia, whom James "discovered" in an audition for this year's holiday show A Christmas Story, impresses with a couple of solos – "Hallelujah Baby" and "Being Good."
- Kirby and Erin duet on "Ohio," in which Erin filled in for Regina and cracked her cast-members up, as well as the audience. She's also quite funny in the super-fast "If."
- Carl gives the villian's perspective in "Captain Hook's Walz," with the cast and audience cheering him on.
- The choreography is quite impressive; they don't just stand there and sing. Of particular note is the terriffic tap-dancing by Reid and Elena in "Comes Once In A Lifetime" and the fast and fancy red and blue-gloved hand motion for "Our Favorite Song."
If you're a musical theater fan, the Ordway's Broadway Songbook series should be required viewing. I love musical theater more than anything but there's so much I don't know about it, and this series helps fill in the gaps in my knowledge. The show takes place entirely on the stage of the Ordway's main theater, meaning the audience sits on stage too, which is a unique perspective.Broadway Songbook: Comden and Green runs this weekend only so act fast. Or plan ahead for the next installment, The First 100 Years, which unfortunately falls right in the middle of the Minnesota Fringe Festival (although on second thought I may be the only person in the intersection of Broadway Songbook and Fringe Fest).
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
So begins the first episode of a new radio show created by local music-theater artists Blake Thomas, Mary Fox, and Andy Frye, who have recently left the Twin Cities to take up residence in beautiful Duluth. You may know this trio from the new original musical Stay Tuned that they created, which premiered at Yellow Tree Theatre last spring and received an encore performance at last year's Ivey Awards. Stay Tuned is about a fictional radio show, and they've taken that idea and applied it to this real life radio show, broadcast from their new hometown and featuring local artists and celebrities. I just listened to the first hour-long episode (available free on their website, with episode two coming shortly) and found it be full of great music, humor, and hometown charm.
Here's the description from their website:
Blake Thomas brings his original music to the airwaves in this new radio variety show described as “CHEERS meets A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION meets AUSTIN CITY LIMITS.” Recorded monthly, the one hour radio play follows Blake, the owner of a tavern & music venue in Duluth, MN, and a colorful group of his multi-talented friends, patrons, and employees. Each episode features original music, comedy, science, and a dash of politics.The exploits of these friends and coworkers are told in short scenes interspersed with songs from Blake's collection of fantastic albums (available on iTunes), the Stay Tuned score, and a few new songs that I haven't heard before. Blake is one of my favorite musicians because of his clever and original lyrics that combine whimsy and melancholy, haunting or driving melodies, and authentic country voice. In addition to the music, the scripted show includes a storyline about Blake and friends, as well as a couple of regular features, including "Steve and Jamie," the too cool for school hipsters, and "Ask Brooks," in which Blake calls his theoretical physicist brother to ask him science questions sent in by the audience. I'm excited to check in with these characters every month and see what new adventures they get into.
Take it With You is a wonderfully new and fresh take on the old radio variety shows of the past. If you're a fan of A Prairie Home Companion, folk-country-Americana music, or hometown humor, give it a listen and see what you think. And if you live in Duluth, know someone in Duluth, or are planning a trip to Duluth, you might even want to go see a live show (click here for the schedule).
|the Take It With You gang at the Underground|
Monday, June 9, 2014
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson tells the story of the seventh president of the United States of America, from his humble beginnings on the frontier of Tennessee, to “hero” of wars against the Spanish, English, and Indians, to the White House. Andrew Jackson has dreams of overthrowing the Washington “elite” (sound familiar?) and becoming “the people’s president,” but he soon discovers that a president has to make the hard decisions, and is never going to please everyone. One of the things Jackson is most known for is “Indian removal,” having convinced many Native American tribes to sign treaties under false pretenses and move west, resulting in the infamous Trail of Tears (the song "Ten Little Indians" recounts the number of ways that Native Americans died at the hands of the white man). As the narrator of the piece says, historians are still debating whether Jackson was a hero or a genocidal murderer. The musical deals with this serious subject matter in a satirical, campy, and over-the-top way. Young Andrew is portrayed as a petulant teenager, and the politicians as idiots. It's a ridiculous and fantastical mash-up of history that's intended to entertain and make a statement about our past and present.
|Logan Greene and Philip C. Matthews|
(photo by Byron Ritter)
The show looks and feels like a rock concert, with bright lights, microphone stands, and modern rock costumes with an Old West twist. Unfortunately there were some sound issues on opening night, with headset mics going in and out or sounding muffled or staticky. Hopefully they'll work these issues out, but I would prefer that they lose the headset mics altogether and just use the hand-held mics for the more loud, rocky songs. I believe Philip's mic went out halfway through the show and I'm not sure it ever came back on, but you could still hear him and he sounded fantastic. The advantage of a small space like New Century is that you don't necessary need to mic everyone all the time.
|the cast rocks out (photo by Byron Ritter)|
Even though this is a hugely entertaining and fun show, it goes deeper than that. At the end of the show I was left with a feeling of sadness, that this is the way our country was built. The beautifully poignant song "Second Nature," which plays over a video montage of pivotal moments in our nation's history, says it best:
The grass grows, a prairie
A wilderness across a continent
And we take it
We clear it out and make it
In our image
The backyards, the driveways
The covered wagons rushing
Through the high planes,
The motels on the canyon
They make a second nature
And what was it for, this country
the farms and the blood across a prairie
the nation we became as we build a second nature
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.
Friday, June 6, 2014
The Magrath sisters grew up in the small town of Hazlehurst, Mississippi with their grandparents following a tragedy. As often is the case, the eldest Lenny stayed behind to care for her ailing grandparents as the other two went off into the world. Youngest sister Babe married the successful town lawyer, while middle sister Meg went off to Hollywood to find her fortune as a singer. After Babe shoots her husband, for reasons that unfold over the course of the play, the sisters reunite in their grandparents' home to "get through these real bad days here" together. The "getting through" is complicated by cousin Chick, who's always resented the sisters and is more of a hindrance than a help, and Meg's encounter with an old boyfriend. At the end of the play we don't know if Babe will go to jail, if Meg will reunite with Doc, or if Lenny will be able to stop playing family caregiver and be happy with her new boyfriend, but we do know that for better or worse, the Magrath sisters will be there for each other.
|Georgia Cohen, Maggie Chestovich, and|
Asley Rose Montondo
This is one of those Guthrie sets that I wanted to climb right into and sit down with a glass of lemonade. James Youmans designed the cozy and lived in Magrath home with see through walls, so that you can see the blue sky and power lines behind it. The '70s period costumes by Clint Ramos are super cool, from Meg's Charlie's Angels outfit and classic wrap dress, to Barnette's three piece bell-bottom suit, to Chick's perfectly tailored bright-colored suits with matching shoes.
Crimes of the Heart is funny, tragic, poignant, and engrossing. Go visit these sisters at the Guthrie before they depart and move on with their crazy lives.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
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!)
Sunday, June 1, 2014
The 39 Steps is based on the 1935 Hitchcock movie of the same name, in which Richard Hannay, a bored English gentleman with dark wavy hair, piercing blue eyes, and a pencil mustache, gets involved with a spy and goes on a cross-country adventure to save the world from some unknown evil. And since this is 1935, evil has a German accent. But the details of the plot and the chase really don't matter, it's the fun of the way that the story is told that matters. I've previously seen the show in larger venues (Off-Broadway and the Guthrie), so I was curious to see how a smaller production would handle the tricks of illusion. In some ways the low-tech version is even more fun; we can see the actors manipulating the effects, often with a wink to the audience, which only adds to the entertainment. There's a free-standing spinning door that represents the change of rooms, a puppet show of a plane with crash and burn effects, a car created by a trunk and a few chairs, a chase that requires imagination to follow the actors and their flapping coats to the top of a train, empty frames that create the illusion of windows, and invisible blinds. The scene changes are done quickly, with set pieces rolling on and off stage with remarkable speed. This is one of those shows that would be just as entertaining to watch from backstage.
|Tristan Tifft, Stephanie Cousins, Sean Byrd,|
and Nathan Cousins go for a drive
The 39 Steps continues at Yellow Tree Theatre in Osseo through June 22. If you're a Yellow Tree fan I'm sure it's already on your schedule. If not, this is a good time to become one - head out to the suburbs and see what great theater you can find there (discount tickets available on Goldstar.com). And stay tuned for Season 7 which includes a classic play directed by an Ivey Award winner, a new Christmas play by the playwright of Miracle on Christmas Lake, and one of my favorite new musicals of this century.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.