Our entry into this world of music is an unnamed boy and girl. The boy is introduced to the Minneapolis music scene by his older cousin, and falls in love with the music and the girl, an aspiring musician. We see them at parties, record stores, and of course, First Ave. Other characters include two record store employees, typical music nerds who argue about which band is the best, and get annoyed when their favorite band becomes popular and "sells out." We also see behind the scenes at First Ave as the manager Steve just wants to bring in good bands and the people who love then, not realizing that he's starting a revolution. Many in the large cast play multiple characters coming into and out of the story, at times making it difficult to track who's who. But the general throughline is clear: music brings people together and is a celebration of life, although in a "complicated" way.
|record store in the foreground, First Ave office in the|
background (photo by Scott Pakudaitis)
|Nic Delcambre leads the band as the crowd dances|
(photo by Scott Pakudaitis)
And of course, you can't talk about Minnesota music without talking about Prince, and talk about him they do. Due to the difficulty and expense of gaining rights to his music, we never hear any of Prince's songs (except for the boy's mangled rendition of "Purple Rain), but his presence is powerfully and poignantly felt, especially in the wake of his recent passing. Above all this play is a celebration of the music scene he helped to create.
Set designer Michael Hoover has created a stage on stage, with multiple levels and stairs forming a dynamic performance space. Director Dominic Taylor uses it well, often with more than one scene occurring in different locations around the stage. Choreographer Carl Flink has given the ensemble some crazy fun dancing that looks chaotic but must be intricately planned. Amelia Cheever's costumes transition from an almost '70s vibe in the early '80s to the high-waisted pleated pants and stone-washed jeans era of the '80s that I remember too well.
Whether you're a fan of this kind of music and spent your youth dancing in downtown Minneapolis clubs, or a nerd who spent the '80s watching TV and doing homework, Complicated Fun is a compelling new play with music that tells an important piece of Minnesota history, integrating music into the story in an exciting and organic way. Complicated Fun continues at the History Theatre in (ironically) downtown St. Paul through May 29.