Wednesday, June 8, 2016

2016 Summer Theater Preview

It's finally summer in Minnesota, and that means lakes, parks, camping, hiking, and best of all - summer theater! You can't spend every moment of the summer outdoors, because you wouldn't want to get a sunburn, and also sometimes it rains. So take a break from outdoor activities to see some great theater this summer (or watch theater outdoors!). Here are a few of your choices for summer theater playing on stages and in parks around Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the surrounding area (click the link in the title for more information on each show).

Park Square Theatre brings the popular movie Calendar Girls to life on stage with a cast that includes some of the most talented women (and a few men) of the Twin Cities Theater scene. The Twin Cities Theater Bloggers (including yours truly) will be hosting a special event at the matinee on June 26 with pre- and post-show discussions (use code TBE for $5 off admission). Playing June 17 - July 24.
Update: read my review here.

Jungle Theater is presenting the world premiere of Le Switch by Philip Dawkins, a core writer with the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis. I can only hope that this "romantic comedy in the post marriage equality world" is half as funny, poignant, and beautiful as his Failure: A Love Story. Playing June 17 - July 31.
Update: read my review here.

The Guthrie Theater continues their summer musical blockbuster tradition with South Pacific,
perhaps Rodgers and Hammerstein's best score and certainly the most ahead-of-its-time with themes of racism and bigotry ("You have to be carefully taught"). Hear such classics as "Nothing Like a Dame" and "Some Enchanted Evening" performed by this talented cast of national and local talent, directed by the Guthrie's new Artistic Director Joseph Haj (June 18 - August 28).
Update: read my review here.

Nearly 20 years after its pre-Broadway premiere right here in Minneapolis, The Lion King returns to the Orpheum Theatre from July 5 to August 7. With it's ingenious puppetry and classic story, you might exclaim as Dana on Sports Night did: "look what we can do!"

If you missed the smash hit new musical Glensheen last fall, now's your chance to see it! St. Paul's History Theatre is remounting their production with the same incredible cast. This campy and darkly funny musical (written by Jeffrey Hatcher and Chan Poling) about Minnesota's most notorious crime (the murder of heiress Elisabeth Congdon and her nurse in Duluth's Glensheen mansion) returns this July.

The University of Minnesota recently announced that this is the last year they will be performing a summer melodrama at the Minnesota Centennial Showboat on the river across from downtown St. Paul. Under the Gaslight is your last chance to see some talented young theater artists in a delicious melodrama performed on an actual (permanently docked) showboat, this July and August.

One of the best things about summer in Minnesota is outdoor theater. There's nothing better than watching a great show set against the beautiful backdrop of nature. Choices for outdoor theater abound, including:
  • Mill City Summer Opera is performing Sweeney Todd (not really an opera, but it's Sondheim so I'll allow it) in the ruins courtyard of the Mill City Museum. With just six performances in July, this popular event is virtually sold out, but give them a call and you might be able to snag a single seat.
  • Classical Actors Ensemble follows last year's utterly charming Two Gentleman of Verona with A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed at Lake of the Isles and other area parks in June and July. And you can't beat the price - it's FREE!
    Update: read my review here.
  • Mixed Precipitation's "Picnic Operetta" is not only a delightful mish-mash of classic opera and modern pop tunes, it's also a picnic! They serve a delicious tasting course during the show that corresponds tp whatever's happening on stage, or grass, as the case may be. Donald Giovanni in Cornlandia is performed in public gardens throughout the Twin Cities Metro area in August and September.
  • TigerLion Arts is once again on tour with their lovely outdoor walking play entitled Nature, about the friendship between and writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. I've seen it twice and it's truly one of my favorite theater experiences, so charming and playful and poignant as you experience the beauty of Nature while learning about these two men who loved her so, but sometimes disagreed about her. Nature is on tour throughout the Midwest this summer, including a few stops in Minnesota this fall.
Last but not least, you can't talk about summer theater in Minnesota without mentioning the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the largest unjuried theater festival in the country. With about 170 shows at a dozen or so locations over 11 days, it's a theater smorgasbord! This year individual show tickets are replaced by day passes, encouraging people to experiment and see more than one show. I know it's overwhelming, but just jump in and you will likely be rewarded with something silly, profound, beautiful, or crazy. Check out their super helpful website with show details and check back with Cherry and Spoon, where I will have some handy tips and my must-see show list.

Happy summer theater-going!

Addendum: if you have not yet seen Beauty and the Beast at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, add this magical, transporting, and flawlessly cast musical to your summer list (playing through September).

This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.