Monday, May 21, 2018

"The Room with Closets" by Sparkle Theatrical at the Southern Theater

Immediately after seeing Sparkle Theatricals' original new work The Room with Closets, I posted on my Insta story: "I'm not sure what just happened, but it was exquisite. I feel like I was in a dream." This is one of those theater experiences that is so mesmerizing, that so fully and specifically creates a world through words, movement, music, and visuals, that it absolutely casts a spell over the audience. A spell that's hard to shake when you step out of the theater and back into harsh reality, like waking up from a dream that you don't fully understand but that created such lovely feelings you want to go back to it. It's also the kind of show that's really hard to describe; words fail. I'll do my best, but I encourage you to go see it for yourself. It's a beautifully unique piece, and the creators (theatrical director Jon Ferguson, choreographer Alejandra Iannone, technical director Rick Ausland, and this beautiful six-person ensemble) obviously put a lot of thought and care into every detail. See it at the gorgeous Southern Theater (a space that enhances every performance there) through this week only!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

"Kind of Funny But Also A Little Sad" at Strike Theater

A few weeks ago I brought you my adventures at HUGE Theater, your home for comedy in Uptown. Today I bring you a report from Strike Theater, your home for comedy in Northeast Minneapolis, a neighborhood closer to (my) home and easier to get to and park in (unless it happens to be Art-A-Whirl, then it's almost as miserable as Uptown). Strike has been open for a few years as a Fringe venue but just opened as a full-time comedy venue last fall. Founded by Allison Broeren, Mike Fotis, and Joe Bozic (whom you might know from the Minnesota Fringe Festival), they are "dedicated to Twin Cities sketch comedy, storytelling, and spoken word," and they offer an array of comedy performances and classes. Last night I attended the final performance (sorry) of Kind of Funny But Also A Little Sad, but check out their show calendar and class schedule for what's next at Strike.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

"The Good Person of Szechwan" by Ten Thousand Things at St. Paul's ELCA

Michelle Hensley, retiring Artistic Director and Founder of Ten Thousand Things, is a gift. A gift to theater, a gift to Minnesota, a gift to the world. She taught us a new way to do theater, a new way to experience theater, one that considers who the audience can and should be, which is everyone. Read her book All the Lights On if you want to know more about it, or go see her beautiful swan song The Good Person of Szechwan (continuing through June 3), which is also the first play that TTT ever did nearly 30 years ago when Michelle started it in California. We've been lucky enough to have TTT as a vital part of the #TCTheater community for 25 years, a tradition that will continue after Michelle's retirement under the leadership of new Artistic Director Marcela Lorca. One can only hope that all of the artists and audience members she's worked with and influenced in those years will continue on this tradition of inclusive, accessible, imaginative theater that is unlike anything else.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

"An Enemy of the People" at the Guthrie Theater

Whistle blowers. Leaking confidential information to the press. A scientist who isn't believed. A politician covering the scientific truth with an invented truth of his own. An Enemy of the People feels like a ripped from the headlines play, but in reality it's a 130-year-old Norwegian play, although with a new adaptation that has been updated for the Guthrie's production, allowing for the inclusion of timely phrases like "alternative facts." But the core of the story is the same: science vs. politics, truth vs. fabrication. In a gripping 90 minutes, the story unfolds and the scientist's life unravels, all while trying to do "the right thing." A fantastic cast of local and national talent, a gorgeous crisp, clean, Scandinavian design, and timely and relevant themes make for another great night at the Guthrie.

Monday, May 14, 2018

"She Loves Me" at DalekoArts

The second of three #TCTheater productions within a year of the delicious and timeless 1963 musical She Loves Me is now playing on the far Southern edge of the seven-county metro area, at DalekoArts in New Prague. Based on a 1937 Hungarian play, the basic story has been told in multiple iterations, including the 1940 Jimmy Stewart movie The Shop Around the Corner, and the 1998 Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan remake You've Got Mail. But She Loves Me tells it in musical form, which IMO is always the better way to go. The current popularity of the show is perhaps due to the successful 2016 Broadway revival (broadcast live via BroadwayHD), but whatever the reason I'm glad of it. I have fallen in love with this sweet and funny show, first through Lyric Arts' production earlier this spring, then through listening to the 2016 cast recording, and now through DalekoArts' charming production. They employ a smaller cast and band on a much smaller stage (I'm not sure there are any tinier stages in #TCTheater than Daleko's), and blissfully no body mics, which only makes the experience more sweet and intimate. She Loves Me plays for one more weekend only; if you're in the Southern Metro you should definitely check out what's going on in New Prague.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

"Taking Shakespeare" at Gremlin Theatre

I wish I had had a professor like the one in Taking Shakespeare, maybe I'd have a better appreciation for the Bard. As it is I struggle the first time I see a Shakespeare play, as does the student in the play. But by the end he seems to really get it, and like in any good teacher/student relationship, the teacher also learns from the student. In Gremlin Theatre's staging of the new(ish) play by John Murrell, directed by Artistic Director Peter Christian Hansen, we get to watch this relationship play out in the hands of two talented actors (a beloved veteran and an exciting newcomer). It's an exploration of not just Shakespeare, but the changing phases of life, and whatever one's passion happens to be.

Friday, May 11, 2018

"Marisol" by Theatre Coup D'Etat at SpringHouse Ministry Center

Theatre Coup D'Etat has done it again. They've brought us an interesting piece in an intimate setting with innovative staging and a talented and diverse cast. A piece that pushes boundaries and makes the audience think. I never know what to expect from Coup D'Etat, as I didn't with Marisol, currently playing at SpringHouse Ministry Center, but it's always worth my time. For this play written by Puerto Rican playwright José Rivera they've enlisted Puerto Rican #TCTheater artist Ricardo Vázquez, which is the smartest choice they made with this piece, because it lends an authenticity and an understanding of the culture and traditions from which this play was born. It's a wild ride, one that's at times confusing or difficult to watch, but so chock full of meaning and symbolism that I can't even begin to unpack it all. The production is very thoughtful and detailed, and not one I will soon forget.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

"Under this Roof" by Full Circle Theater at the Guthrie Theater

Currently staging just their third production, Full Circle Theater is new to the #TCTheater scene, but the founding members are certainly not new to the community. Co-Artistic Directors Rick Shiomi and Martha B. Johnson, along with Core Artists Lara Trujillo, James A. Williams, and Stephanie Lein Walseth have combined their experience and talents "to produce heartfelt, groundbreaking theater that artfully addresses issues of diversity and social justice for 21st century audiences." The new play Under this Roof, written by veteran actor of local and national stages Barbara Kingsley, fits well with this mission. It's a simple story of friendship and family, with moments of lyrical beauty mixed with the mundane stuff of everyday life. Directed by Full Circle artist James A. Williams and featuring a solid four-person cast, it's a realistic and ultimately hopeful look at the challenges that life throws at us.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

"Five-Fifths of The Matrix" by Five Minnesota Fringe Festival Companies at ARIA

The first Minnesota Fringe Festival event of 2018 is here! The first one I attend anyway (the lottery happened a few months ago, choosing the lucky companies that get to perform in the festival). The annual "Five-Fifths" fundraiser is when they take an iconic movie, split it up into five parts, hand it over to five Fringe companies, then put the five parts back together again. To say that the end result bears little resemblance to the original goes without saying. But it's great fun, and really gives you a taste of what Fringe is - a display of a wide array of creativity. Mark your calendar for August 2-12, and in the meantime find out how you can get involved (by volunteering, donating, or attending other pre-festival events) at the Fringe website.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"High Fidelity" by Minneapolis Musical Theatre at Electric Fetus

High Fidelity, the Broadway flop musical adaptation of the 2000 film (it ran for 32 performances only), is the perfect choice for Minneapolis Musical Theatre, whose motto is "Rare musicals. Well done." They have a knack for bringing out the best in a show and staging it in a way that works. So they're staging High Fidelity, which mostly takes place in a record store, in an actual record store! And an iconic Minneapolis record store at that - Electric Fetus. Maybe this show didn't/wouldn't play well in a traditional theater space, but in this intimate site-specific space that makes you feel like you're part of the story, it's a unique theatrical thrill. With a fantastic and hard-working 14-person cast, a rockin' band, and great use of the space, it's a sure-fire hit. With only six more performances and limited space, act fast so as not to miss out on the fun! (Click here for more info and tickets here.)

Monday, May 7, 2018

"Sub/prime" by Media Blitz at Mixed Blood Theatre

In a note in the program for his new play Sub/prime, NYC playwright Beck Lee states that local director Peter Moore told him after a reading, "You haven't found the humanity in these people yet. They are not honest, vulnerable people... they're stick figures." I shudder to think what the early version of this play was like, because these four Minnesota tourists on vacation in NYC are the most miserable horrible people I have ever seen on stage. I kept waiting for some sort of redemption, where someone learns a lesson, or gets there comeuppance, or something. But it never came. Part of me thinks this play is one big prank on Minnesotans; that the playwright hates Minnesotans and tourists and this is his big joke to show how horrible we are. Either way I was not laughing; I've rarely been so offended at the theater.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

"Lord Gordon Gordon" at History Theatre

The creators of History Theatre's smash hit new original musical Glensheen return for their second collaboration with the theater dedicated to creating new work mining the area's rich history - the fun and farcical (yet somewhat factual) Lord Gordon Gordon. I didn't love it as much as I did Glensheen (maybe because I'm not obsessed with this story like I am the story of the wealthy heiress serial killer arsonist), but it has that same sense of fun and wit combined with great original music that one comes to expect from a Hatcher/Poling show. With an excellent cast, plenty of Minnesota and Canada jokes, and clever theatrical tricks, it makes for a fun evening at the theater, laughing about the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction antics of a con man and his marks right here in Minnesota almost 150 years ago.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

"Prescription: Murder" by Ghoulish Delights at the Phoenix Theater

Lieutenant Columbo, as personified by Peter Falk, is one of the best TV detectives of all time. The original series ran for seven season in the 1970s, two more in the late '80s, with specials continuing through 2003. Columbo, with his trench coat and cigar and "just one more thing," is a TV icon. But did you know that this detective series actually started as a play (as most good things do)? The creators of the TV show, William Link and Richard Levinson, first wrote a play about the disheveled detective who always gets his man, a play that was then turned into a TV movie that became the pilot for the long-running series. And the rest is history. Now, thanks to Ghoulish Delights, you have a chance to revisit that history and see Columbo's origins on stage at the Phoenix Theater in Uptown: a must see for Columbo fans and fans of retro thrillers.

Monday, April 30, 2018

"Into the Woods" at Lakeshore Players Theatre

Lakeshore Players Theatre has been the community theater in White Bear Lake for 65 years. Even though I'm kept very busy by professional #TCTheater, I'm a little ashamed to admit I've never attended an LPT show despite living in the Northeast metro. This spring, they're opening a brand new performing arts facility just off of Highway 61 in downtown White Bear Lake, which speaks a lot to their audience and donor support, as well as to their commitment to continuing and furthering their legacy. This new building, combined with the fact that their first show in the new space is one of my favorite Sondheim musicals, convinced me to make the short drive to finally check them out. I was impressed not only with the new facility, but also with the quality of their production of Into the Woods. Sondheim isn't easy for professional theaters, much less community theaters, but there were zero cringe-worthy moments and they really pulled off this tricky show remarkably well.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

"Off Book" and "The Mess" at HUGE Improv Theater

"Life is better when you're laughing." Or at least that was the sidewalk chalk wisdom I saw on my morning run today. But there definitely is truth to it, and if you're in need of more laughter in your life, there's no better place to go for consistent laughs any night of the week than HUGE Improv Theater, a home for improv in Uptown Minneapolis. HUGE hosts a variety of improv troupes, with shows almost every night. Most shows are about $10 per ticket, and if you go on a Friday or Saturday night, you can see multiple shows at a discounted price. A small price to play for a lot of laughter.

"Follies" at Artistry

Artistry's production of Stephen Sondheim's 1971 musical Follies, the final show of their 2017-2018 season, opened two weeks ago, but the Great April Blizzard of '18 caused them to cancel several shows on their opening weekend. I finally had the opportunity to see it this weekend, and it was worth the wait! Having seen the 2011 Broadway revival, I knew what a gorgeous, but complicated, musical Follies is (does Sondheim write any other kind?). During my two-week delay in seeing the show I've been listening to the 2011 recording, so I was primed and ready for this show, and I loved every minute of it. Music Director Anita Ruth's 21-piece pit orchestra, Director Benjamin McGovern's large and talented cast (which includes three Equity actors, perhaps the most I've seen in a single show at Artistry), plus the dazzling design do justice to Sondheim and book writer James Goldman's complicated and beautiful musical. Congratulations to Artistry for tackling tricky Sondheim and pulling it off beautifully!

Friday, April 27, 2018

"This Bitter Earth" at Penumbra Theatre

Playwright Harrison David Rivers is having a moment here in #TCTheater. This spring he's had two world premieres (History Theatre's A Crack in the Sky and Theater Latte Da's Five Points, with music and lyrics by Ethan D. Pakchar and Douglas Lyons), and his play the bandaged place was the final reading in the Playwrights' Center's (where he's a core writer) Ruth Easton series earlier this month. And now, the jewel in the crown of Harrison David Rivers' 2018 #TCTheater productions is Penumbra Theatre's regional premiere of This Bitter Earth (which premiered at San Francisco's New Conservatory Theatre Center last fall). This brilliant play artfully combines the political (referencing several of the killings of young black man in recent years, interracial relationships, and gay rights) with the personal (an achingly beautiful love story). The talented two-person cast and creative team have created a visually and emotionally stunning production that engages the mind, the conscience, and the heart.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

"Still Dance the Stars" at Yellow Tree Theatre

Last night in the cozy intimate space of Yellow Tree Theatre, in a strip mall in Osseo, I saw a world premiere new play that's unlike anything I've seen before. As someone who sees a lot of theater (and I mean a lot), that's a rare occurrence. While playwright Jayme McGhan's Still Dance the Stars reminds me a little of the Pulitzer Prize winning musical Next to Normal, in that it deals with parents grieving the loss of a child in different (and sometimes hallucinatory) ways, the storytelling is completely unique, combining very real and natural dialogue, fantastical dream sequences in which stuffed animals come to life, dance, and music to tell a heart-wrenching and heart-warming story of grief, love, and family. It's a great choice of play for Yellow Tree, my favorite theater in the 'burbs, and the cast and creative team do a beautiful job of bringing the play to life with all of its humor, grace, silliness, and beauty.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Broadway Tour of "Jersey Boys" at the Orpheum Theatre

Jersey Boys is my musical theater guilty pleasure, and the exception that proves the rule about jukebox musicals. Meaning, I'm not usually a fan of taking popular hit songs and creating a musical around them; I much prefer new original musical theater. Except for Jersey Boys, which I can't help but love and see every time it comes to town (four and counting). After running for over 11 years, the Tony-winning musical closed on Broadway last year, but is still touring the country, stopping at Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre this week. The reason I love it is not just because of the fantastically catchy music of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the sharp choreography, and the retro fashions. But because all of this is put together very smartly in the true story of the group, dealing with the good and the bad of fame and living in the music industry. If you've seen Jersey Boys at some point in the last 12 years, you know what I'm talking about. If not, it's not too late to check out this smart, funny, and musically delicious jukebox musical that gives you a peek inside some of the best known American pop songs of the last century (click here for more info and tickets).

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

"Natasha and the Coat" by Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company at Highland Park Center Theatre

For the final show of their 23rd season, Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company is bringing us the world premiere of a new play. LA-based playwright (and Playwrights' Center affiliated writer) Deborah Stein's Natasha and the Coat is an engaging look at a Hasidic Jewish family in the neighborhood of Williamsburg in early 21st Century Brooklyn, as well as the garment industry in that neighborhood. It touches on themes of immigration, gentrification, and how to maintain one's culture and traditions while still functioning in modern American society. While it could use a little tightening up (it's lacking in momentum in parts, and feels too long at 2.5+ hours), the likable and believable cast make it worthwhile.

Monday, April 23, 2018

"Thomas Tallis" by Orchard Theater Collective at Calvary Baptist Church

The long, complicated, sordid tale of the English monarchy is the source of much drama and many many plays. Wars, illegitimate heirs, beheadings, oh my! The play Thomas Tallis looks at it from another side, through the life of a man who was a surprising constant through some of the most tumultuous changes in the monarchy in the 16th Century, from Henry VIII through Elizabeth I. As composer for the Church of England, Tallis worked under four different monarchs with differing religious and musical tastes, and somehow survived to the ripe old age of 80 with his head still attached to his body. Jessica Swale's sparse play doesn't get into too many details about the composer or those he worked for, but it does paint a portrait of the artist, the era, and the importance of music. New young theater company Orchard Theater Collective has chosen this play as their second work, staging a lovely and haunting production in Calvary Baptist Church.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

"The Lorax" at Children's Theatre Company in Partnership with the Old Globe and the Old Vic

Unless. What a powerful word. So many scary things might happen. Unless. Unless what, you ask? "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." The best thing to happen lately in this dark and scary world is people caring a whole awful lot about things, and taking to the streets and the polls to make them better. That's the heart of Dr. Seuss's story The Lorax, which specifically is talking about the environment, nature, the wilderness around us. The Old Vic Theatre in London has turned this beautiful story into a charming, playful, and poignantly relevant musical that is now receiving its US premiere at Minneapolis' Children's Theatre Company (in conjunction with San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, where it will play this summer). It gave me all the feels, and had me walking down the street on this first truly spring-like day in wonder. Such is the power of theater, of stories, of people who care a whole awful lot.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

"My Barking Dog" by Market Garden Theatre at the Crane Theater Studio

Eric Coble's play The Velocity of Autumn ran for just a month on Broadway four years ago, and I was lucky enough to see it. I really don't understand why it was such a short run, except that maybe the intimate family story plays better on smaller stages. Seeing it again at Old Log a few years ago  confirmed my opinion that it's a beautifully written play, smart and funny and poignant and relatable. I have now seen my second Eric Coble play, thanks to the small theater company Market Garden Theatre producing My Barking Dog in the Crane's intimate (and not yet completed) studio space. This play is also beautifully written, although much different than The Velocity of Autumn. My Barking Dog starts off as a real and relatable story of two individuals, and then veers off into the fantastical, but it's a journey I was happy to take because of the beautiful, odd, surprising script and the strong performances by the two-person cast.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" at the Guthrie Theater

The 1967 movie Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is a classic, but I don't think I've ever seen it. Or if I have, I don't remember it. But because this movie has become such an integral part of our culture, even people who haven't seen the movie know the premise: a young woman introduces her black fiance to her white family, who, despite being liberals who believe in racial equality, have trouble accepting the relationship. A stage adaptation of the movie was written just a few years ago (by Todd Kriedler) and is currently showing on the Guthrie mainstage. Why tell this story 50 years later? In a world in which black men are arrested for sitting at Starbucks, it's still an important and unfortunately relevant story. But it does feel a little too easy for the mostly older white audience to laugh at these people's reaction in a past we may think we've overcome, but which we obviously haven't.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"The Imaginary Invalid" by Combustible Company at Gremlin Theatre

Their opening night was cancelled in the Great April Blizzard of '18, but a little (or a lot) of snow didn't stop Combustible Company from delivering a funny, clever, relevant, and really well-done version of Moliere's The Imaginary Invalid. When I finally made it to Gremlin Theatre two days later than planned, I found myself thoroughly entertained for two and a half hours by this delightfully odd mixture of humor, music, social commentary, bright costumes, and pharmaceutical ads. The play may be over 300 years old, but this clever new adaptation (by Oded Gross and Tracy Young) brings out all the relevance to 2018 in this story of a hypochondriac struggling with health care issues, as so many are today. The modern references make the play feel fresh and current, while still keeping a tie to the original, and the consistently fantastic cast plays up the comedy to a hilt, without losing sight of the humanity of the characters. (Playing through April 28, click here for info and tickets.)

Friday, April 13, 2018

"The Skriker" by Fortune's Fool Theatre at the Crane Theater

A dark fairy pursues two teenage mothers in Caryl Churchill's The Skriker, receiving a rare production thanks to Fortune's Fool Theatre. It's an ambitious undertaking, with a huge cast of 17, fantastical elements, and complicated often nonsensical dialogue. While I have to admit that the play is a little too weird for my taste, I can recognize the talent, artistry, and hard work that has gone into making this unique and striking piece of art.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

"Mermaid Hour: Remixed" at Mixed Blood Theatre

On a snowy Sunday afternoon, several of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers gathered in an old firehouse in Minneapolis to witness the rolling world premiere of a new play called Mermaid Hour, which means that the premiere is happening in several theaters around the country. In this story of a 12-year-old transgender girl, her parents, and her friends, playwright David Valdes Greenwood set out to "write a real portrait of a family life, not just an 'issue' play with a message of 'do this' or 'do that.'" From where I was sitting, he succeeded. But what makes Mixed Blood Theatre's production of Mermaid Hour special is that it's the only one of the world premieres to feature music; the Mixed Blood team worked with the playwright to turn his play into a musical. As a musical theater nerd who thinks every play is better with music, I couldn't be happier with this turn of events. Mermaid Hour: Remixed is not only a real and relatable family story that features transgender characters, too often under- or mis-represented onstage, but it's also done in song!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

"Five Points" by Theater Latte Da at the Ritz Theater

On Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, the Broadway tour of Something Rotten! is celebrating the "must see magical new original musical" with a wonderfully ridiculous imagining of the genre's beginnings. A few miles away in Northeast Minneapolis, Theater Latte Da is dedicated to continuing the growth of the musical into the future. Several years ago they committed to developing 20 new musicals by the year 2020 (which is almost upon us). Their latest entry into this project opens this weekend, with the "must see magical new original musical" Five Points, written by #TCTheater's current "it" playwright Harrison David Rivers (his charming immigrant story Crack in the Sky opened at History Theatre last month, and Penumbra will produce his love story This Bitter Earth later this month), with music by NYC-based Ethan D. Pakchar and Douglas Lyons and lyrics by the latter. It's an ambitious story set in Manhattan's Lower East Side in 1863, dealing with themes of immigration, racial tension, war, poverty, and of course, dancing. As always Latte Da has put together a top-notch creative team to bring this story to life, and the result is an exciting musical that's traditional in structure, gorgeously designed, fantastically performed, with many thrilling moments of dance.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

"Pink Unicorn" at Illusion Theater

When you need to dig in your purse for a tissue to blow your nose after seeing a play, you know it was a good one. I don’t cry, but @IllusionTheater #pinkunicorn made me cry with its beautiful message of love, hope, & acceptance.
#tctheater #bringtissues #openheart #walkwithme

Thus reads my 280-character immediately post-show Twitter review of Illusion Theater's production of the one-woman show The Pink Unicorn. Kate Guentzel plays the widowed mother of a teenage girl who one day says she doesn't identify as a girl, she's gender queer. In Elise Forier Edie's beautifully written play, we witness this small town woman's journey to reluctant activist, all for the love of her child. With this very personal script in Kate's deft hands, it's a incredibly moving experience. The Pink Unicorn plays for three weekends only, so waste no time in making your way to Illusion's inviting space on the 8th floor of the Hennepin Center for the Arts in downtown Minneapolis (click here for more info and to purchase tickets).

"The Basset Table" by Persistent Theatre Productions at Dreamland Arts

Welcome to the Renaissance! The day after seeing the hilarious fictional farce about (all male) playwrights in Shakespeare's day, I saw an actual play written by a female playwright of the era. Who knew that there was a successful female playwright who lived and wrote shortly after Shakespeare's time? I didn't. Susanna Centlivre was one of the first women in history to make a living as a playwright, and was also an actor in the era just after women were allowed on stage in England. With the current necessary focus on putting more women's stories on stage, it's a great idea to revisit female playwrights of the past who have been largely forgotten. Thanks to Persistent Theatre Productions, a new #TCTheater company with a "feminist voice," for bringing us one of Centlivre's works.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Broadway Tour of "Something Rotten!" at the Orpheum Theatre

A must see magical new original musical!
A musical!
There's nothing as amazing as a musical
With song and dance and sweet romance
And happy ending happening by happenstance
And you'll see, it will be only the beginning
This glorious creation called a musical

How could anyone resist that?! Something Rotten! is the ultimate musical about musicals, which gloriously celebrates this truly American art form while hilariously poking fun at it (in a loving way). The miraculous thing is that it was written by two brothers with no previous experience in musical theater (but an obvious love for and knowledge of it). Screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick and songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick collaborated (with some help from John O'Farrell) to create this charming story of two brothers who wrote the world's first musical. One wonders how much of the show is art imitating life as the Bottom brothers struggle to write a hit. But whatever struggles the Kirkpatrick brothers went through, it paid off; they have succeeded in writing a "must see magical new original musical," something that's in short supply in the days of jukebox musicals and movie adaptations. If you love musicals (or love to hate them), make your way through the April snow to downtown Minneapolis to enjoy this super fun and fantastic show.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

"Musical Mondays" at LUSH, April 2018

I know it's hard to believe today with all of the snow, but it's April! And with the beginning of a new month comes the fabulous monthly cabaret series Musical Mondays at LUSH! It's the 57th installment of this series, and as co-host Max Wojtanowicz noted, they're not running out of talented performers; the talent pool in this town is that deep. This month, six performers sang songs from Tony Award-winning musicals or performances. Because of that I knew most of the shows referenced, but as always there were a few surprises/educational moments. And of course, many entertaining, funny, and thrilling musical moments.

Monday, April 2, 2018

"The Wolves" at Jungle Theater

I don't do sports. Except for being a lifelong Twins fan (and running an occasional marathon), I have zero interest in sports. I didn't even watch the recent Olympics. But for some reason, sports makes a compelling subject for theater (e.g., Mixed Blood's 2014 production of Colossal). Maybe because of the inherit drama in sports (teamwork, villains, exciting wins, devastating losses), playwrights are able to use sports as a metaphor for life and tell a really compelling story. The latest example of this is Sarah DeLappe's story of a girls' soccer team, The Wolves, a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize. Jungle Theater's Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen worked hard to get this play at the Jungle, and directs it herself, leading an excellent all-female cast and creative team. The result is a very real look at young women today, touching on many issues without exhausting any of them. It's a fantastic 90 minutes of theater that truly feels like eavesdropping on these characters' lives, in which the simple becomes profound.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

"Dance 'Til You Drop" at History Theatre, a Co-Production with COLLIDE Theatrical Dance Company

What do you get when you combine COLLIDE Theatrical Dance Company, known for creating original dance musicals, with the History Theatre, dedicated to creating new work based on or inspired by true events in Minnesota history? You get Dance 'Til You Drop, a dance musical about a Minnesota dance team who competed and set a record in a dance marathon in the 1930s. Let's call it an original historical dance musical! Like all COLLIDE productions, it features exquisite storytelling through dance, and like all History Theatre shows, it's an informative and compelling look at history and how it relates to today. It's fun, inspirational, nostalgic, and over in a quick two hours that will leave you wanting more.

Friday, March 30, 2018

"Familiar" at the Guthrie Theater

By all appearances, Danai Gurira is on top of the world right now. She stars in the current biggest movie in the world, Black Panther; is a cast member of one of the most popular shows on TV, The Walking Dead; recently had her Broadway premiere as a playwright with Eclipsed, the first Broadway play with an all-female and African American cast and creative team; and now her play Familiar is premiering in Minnesota, where it is set and where she spent some of her formative years (she was born in Iowa, raised in her parents' native Zimbabwe, and returned to the Midwest to attend Macalester College). Phew! How can one person be so accomplished and talented? I don't know Danai, but I'm guessing the answer is many years of hard work and dedication. All of this is reason enough to see Familiar at the Guthrie, with all of the attending buzz, but the reason to love it is that it's a really wonderful play with a brilliant cast. As the title implies, it's about families, one specific Zimbabwean-Minnesotan family in particular, that will feel familiar to anyone with a family.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Exclusive Announcement of Lyrics Arts' 2018-2019 Season!

For the second year in a row, I am honored to bring you an exclusive announcement of Lyric Arts' upcoming season! I've been a fan of the Anoka theater for years, and am excited for another thrilling season of theater in the 'burbs (including what I believe is the regional premiere of Idina Menzel's latest musical, If/Then).

Without further ado, here is what you can see at Lyric Arts next season (visit Lyric Arts' website or Facebook page for updated information.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

"Measure for Measure" by Theatre Unbound at Gremlin Theater

Theatre Unbound, aka The Women's Theatre, is tackling one of Shakespeare's "problem plays," so called because it falls in between the categories of comedy (in which everyone ends up happily married) and tragedy (in which everyone ends up dead, or almost everyone). They specifically chose this play for this moment because, as director Kate Powers notes in the playbill, "Measure for Measure is a potent reminder that #metoo is a centuries' old problem, that men extracting or pressuring women for sex as a transactional exchange has long been among us. Shakespeare is exploring corruption of authority, the intersection, or bypass of, justice with mercy, and sexual misdeeds that continue to infect our society and oppress those who are not invited to share in governance." Their production is powerful and well-acted, if a bit long. I wish they would have trimmed it a bit to better hone in on the important issues, but that may just be due to my growing intolerance for sitting for three hours (Angels in America notwithstanding). Still, it's a timely production of a 400-year-old play that's surprisingly relevant.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Leslie Odom Jr. with the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall

photo credit: Nathan Johnson
Last weekend, Aaron Burr arrived in Minneapolis. Or rather, the man responsible for creating empathy for the historical figure formerly known only as the guy who killed Alexander Hamilton, thanks to his Tony-winning performance in the musical masterpiece Hamilton (which I was fortunate enough to witness). But Leslie Odom, Jr. is so much more than Aaron Burr, as those of us lucky enough to be in the room where it happened (aka Orchestra Hall), experienced.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

"Luna Gale" by Underdog Theatre at the Southern Theater

Exciting new theater company Underdog Theatre, founded by rising #TCTheater star Kory LaQuess Pullam, is presenting their third work, the first one that's not an original play written by Kory. And it's a tough one. Luna Gale is a sobering look at the system that's supposed to help young people in trouble, and the ways that it fails them. It's a heart-breaking story, but not without a glimmer of hope, thanks to the caring people who work within this broken system. And this really wonderful cast makes you feel every emotion of the story, which is sometimes unpleasant, but very effective in creating empathy for these humans and the difficult situation they find themselves in. Underdog's mission is to "create art for the underserved, underrepresented, and unheard," which is beautifully accomplished here.

Friday, March 23, 2018

"She Loves Me" at Lyric Arts

The 1963 Bock and Harnick creation She Loves Me is a delicious musical that stands the test of time. Based on a 1937 Hungarian play, the basic story has been told in multiple iterations, including the 1940 Jimmy Stewart movie The Shop Around the Corner, and the 1998 Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan remake You've Got Mail. But She Loves Me tells it in musical form, which IMO is always the better way to go. I saw it 13 years ago at the Guthrie and remember being completely enamored of it. My next experience with it was the live-stream of the 2016 Broadway revival, also quite yummy. And perhaps because of the success of that revival, there are three planned #TCTheater productions of She Loves Me within the space of year. First up is Lyric Arts in Anoka, to be followed by Daleko in New Prague in May, and as part of Artistry's recently announced 2018-2019 season. I may need to see all of these versions, because I found Lyric's production to be be just dreamy and extremely well done (with just one complaint that I'll get to later). Friends, if you like classic, clever, musically delicious, timeless musicals, head to Anoka before April 15. They have a loyal fan base and tend to sell out musicals, so you might want to get your tickets sooner rather than later (more info here).

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"Rocket Man" by Theatre Pro Rata at the Crane Theater

Friends, this one gave me all the feels. Theatre Pro Rata's production of Steven Dietz's play Rocket Man checked all the boxes for me. It's a little odd and unpredictable, and explores the ideas of family, science, faith, regrets, time, and life itself. And the truly wonderful and natural five-person cast, under director Stuart Gates, along with the deceptively simple design, bring it to life beautifully. But it's one of those plays I'm not quite sure how to write about. I don't want to spoil what happens, because half the fun of the play is figuring that out as it goes along. I'll try to give you a taste of it, and then if you're curious, you can go see the rest for yourself.

Monday, March 19, 2018

"As One" by Skylark Opera Theatre at North Garden Theater

The new incarnation of Skylark Opera Theatre, under new Artistic Director Robert Neu, is presenting their third work of accessible, intimate opera. As someone who usually stays on the musical theater side of the music-theater spectrum, this approach seems like a good one for me, sort of bridging that gap between opera and music theater. After last year's stripped down adaptation of Carmen and an immersive Don Giovanni, they're now presenting a contemporary opera about a very timely subject. As One is a two-person 90-minute English language opera about Hannah, a transgender woman becoming herself. She is played by both a man and a woman, pre- and post-transition. It's a beautiful, heart-breaking, inspirational, ultimately hopeful story gorgeously told through music. The intimate new space that is North Garden Theater, in St. Paul's West 7th neighborhood, is the perfect location to experience this sparse-in-spectacle but rich-in-substance opera. But act fast - only three more performances remain this weekend (click here for more info and tickets).

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"Newsies" at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

The Children’s Crusade: kids walk out of their jobs or schools to take to the streets and stand up for what they believe in, for a fairer and safer world. Does this describe recent current events, a historical event, or the plot of a Disney musical? Trick question - the answer is all of the above! At the same time that the children of Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of latest tragic school shooting, are leading children across the country in making their voices heard, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is presenting the regional premiere of Newsies, a new musical adaptation of the 1992 Disney movie based on the historical newsboy strike of 1899. As is happening today in real life, the kids involved the historical strike and the characters in the musical demand that the people in power listen to them in their call for justice. But the latter group does it with music and fabulous dancing. Children truly are our hope for the future, and Newsies celebrates that idea while providing a fun, entertaining, and inspirational show.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

"The Great Divide II: Plays on the Politics of Truth" at Pillsbury House Theatre

Last year, just a few months into this divisive presidency, Pillsbury House Theatre presented a series of short plays commissioned from local playwrights titled The Great Divide: Plays for a Broken Nation. Utilizing art not to judge or blame, but to explore where we are at this present moment, how we got here, and how we can move forward. One year later, it feels like we're more divisive than ever (although not without a few glimmers of hope), and Pillsbury House has yet again commissioned five short plays, this time under the title The Great Divide II: Plays on the Politics of Truth. They asked the playwrights, "What does truth have to do with our us vs. them mentalities? What is the difference between fact and truth anyway, and does it matter? What happens when our firmly embedded emotions become facts?" The result is five very different and very thoughtful plays, all dealing in some (more or less obvious) way with truth.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

NYC Trip 2018: "Sweeney Todd" at the Barrow Street Theatre

Show*: 6

Title: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Location: Barrow Street Theatre

Written By: Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and Hugh Wheeler (book)

Summary: Stephen Sondheim's story of the murderous barber gets immersive treatment in this Off-Broadway production in a theater that's been turned into a pie shop.

NYC Trip 2018: "Three Tall Women" at the Golden Theatre

Show*: 5

Title: Three Tall Women

Location: Golden Theatre

Written By: Edward Albee

Summary: The Broadway premiere of Edward Albee's 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning play in which a wealthy old woman looks back on her life.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

2018 NYC Trip: "Angels in America" at the Neil Simon Theatre

Show*: 3 and 4

Title: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes
Part 1: Millenium Approaches
Part 2: Perestroika

Location: Neil Simon Theatre

Written By: Tony Kushner

Summary: A revival (out of the National Theatre in London) of Tony Kusher's epic masterpiece centered around the AIDS crisis in NYC in the '80s, but also exploring politics, relationships, the gay culture, religion, and the very nature and purpose of life itself.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

2018 NYC Trip: "Carousel" at the Imperial Theatre

Show*: 2

Title: Carousel

Location: Imperial Theatre

Written By: Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein (book and lyrics)

Summary: A gorgeous new revival of the 1945 dark but beautiful R&H classic musical about the troubled carousel barker and the woman he loves.

Friday, March 9, 2018

NYC 2018 Trip: "The Band's Visit" at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre

Show*: 1

Title: The Band's Visit

Location: Ethel Barrymore Theatre

Written By: David Yazbek (music and lyrics) and Itamar Moses (book)

Summary: A group of eight musicians from Egypt end up in a small Israeli town due to a mix-up. Nothing much happens, and everything happens.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"School of Rock" Broadway tour at the Orpheum Theatre

#TCTheater friends, I'm coming to you from NYC, the great white way, where I'm going to see as many Broadway shows as I possibly can, and share my experiences with you right here and on Instagram. But don't feel too envious of me, if you can't come to Broadway, Broadway will come to you. The latest Broadway show to make its way across the country to Minneapolis is Andrew Lloyd Webber's smash hit musical adaptation of the 2003 Jack Black movie School of Rock (with book by Julian Fellowes, the same writer who gave us all those delightful Dowager quips), which opened in 2015 and is still running. While it's no secret that I am not typically a fan of the movie musical adaptation, this one makes more sense than some because the source material is a story about music. About our love of music, and the power of music to inspire, motivate, and bring people together. It's also an excuse for a dozen incredibly talented young quadruple threats (act, sing, dance, play an instrument) to rock out on stage, and for the audience to rock out with them. The cliched motivational teacher story comes alive due to the talent of these kids (and the grown-ups onstage with them) and ALW's catchy rock score.