Tuesday, January 29, 2019

"She Loves Me" by Artistry at Bloomington Center for the Arts

This was my third time seeing She Loves Me in under a year, and I'm not mad about it. Yes, I would prefer that the people of #TCTheater talk to each other a little more so as not to produce duplicate shows, but it happens (e.g., everyone jumping on the Ordway's bandwagon - the Guthrie producing West Side Story the year after they did, the same for Chanhassen Dinner Theatres and Mamma Mia!). If there's a musical I have to see three times in a year (OK I don't have to, I choose to, because I'm me), I'm glad it's this darling little gem of a musical. Each theater (see also Lyric Arts and DalekoArts) brings their own spin to it, and a different delicious cast. Now playing at Artistry in Bloomington, She Loves Me is definitely worth a visit, whether or not you've seen it on stage recently, or perhaps one of the other iterations of the 1937 Hungarian play (such as the 1940 Jimmy Stewart movie The Shop Around the Corner or the 1998 Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan remake You've Got Mail or the successful 2016 Broadway revival of She Loves Me broadcast live via BroadwayHD). It's a sweet, funny, charming, and relatively egalitarian love story considering when it was written.

Monday, January 28, 2019

"A Little Night Music" by Theater Latte Da at the Ritz Theater

Theater Latte Da's production of A Little Night Music is pure loveliness from the moment the cast steps onstage behind a sheer curtain, warming their voices and waltzing in old fashioned undergarments, to when that same curtain falls at the completion of the story and the youngest cast member steps out gazing in wonder. As everything created by Peter Rothestein and company, it's thoughtful, detailed, well cast, beautifully staged, and musically gorgeous. Sondheim's 1973 Tony-winning musical is a charming, smart, and funny story about the perils of love and the phases of life, bringing to mind the Shakespeare quote "Lord, what fools these mortals be." And you'd be a fool to miss it.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

"The Great Leap" at the Guthrie Theater

This may come as a shock to you, dear readers, but I am not a fan of the sportsing events. The one exception being my lifelong love of the Minnesota Twins, but other than that, I have no interest in watching any game anywhere anytime. Except on the stage, where for some reason sports provides a good background for drama (see also Colossal and The Wolves, which is being remounted at the Southern beginning next week). In the case of Playwrights' Center affiliated writer Lauren Yee, basketball combined with US-China relations in the 1970s and '80s provides a whole lot of drama. Inspired by her father, a Chinese-American who went to China to play basketball against Chinese teams, she has written a smart, funny, entertaining, educational, and thought-provoking play about basketball that isn't really about basketball at all.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"On Your Feet!" Broadway Tour at the Orpheum Theatre

On Your Feet! The Emilio and Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical tells the story of a real-life American Dream. Gloria and Emilio immigrated with their respective families from Cuba to Miami, where they met, married, and built a pop music empire. The line that got the biggest response on opening night was Emilio telling a music exec who said they could never cross over from the Latin market, "this is what an American looks like." Even though this scene happened 30-some years ago, it's particularly poignant today. As is watching an all Latinx cast in a Broadway musical (when have we ever seen that?) as talks of a wall on our Southern border dominate the news. But I don't mean to get too political or heavy. All of the above is true, and does add resonance to the story, but On Your Feet! is also a super fun musical celebrating a music superstar and the man behind the woman. The Broadway tour is in Minneapolis for just one week, giving us the opportunity to get out of the January cold and experience the Miami heat for a few hours (click here for info and tickets, including student/educator rush tickets).

Saturday, January 19, 2019

"Gone Missing" by Theatre Elision at Dreamland Arts

The Twin Cities Theater Bloggers gave new-ish #TCTheater company Theatre Elision the "Under the Radar" award for 2018 (read all the awards here). It was less than two years ago that they debuted with an original musical Ragtime Women in the intimate Dreamland Arts space in St. Paul. After nearly a dozen small cast, one act, original or rarely done musicals at small venues around town, they return to Dreamland Arts with another such piece. Gone Missing was created by NYC based theater company The Civilians, including playwright Steven Cosson and composer/lyricist Michael Friedman. The Civilians also created The Abominables at Children's Theatre, premiering shortly after Michael's death from AIDS shocked the theater world. I'm a big fan of his music (see also Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), so I'm grateful to Elision for bringing us this piece. Gone Missing is a funny, quirky, poignant little musical about all things lost, as always beautifully performed by the cast and band.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The History Theatre's New Works Festival "Raw Stages" 2019

Last weekend was one of my favorite weekends of the year: "Raw Stages" weekend at the History Theater in downtown St. Paul. Most of the work produced by the History Theatre is new work that they develop, a claim few theaters of their size can make. Specifically, they produce plays and musicals inspired by local history. Usually some part of history that's not well known, but somehow relates to the modern world and helps us gain insight into where we are by looking back at where we were. An important part of the development process is their annual new works festival, in which four new pieces receive a director, cast, workshop, and public reading. I was able to attend two of the four readings this year, both exciting and promising works that I hope to see on the stage next season. But first, History Theatre's current season concludes with three HERstory plays - world premieres by and about women (click here to find out more).

Sunday, January 13, 2019

"These Shining Lives" at Theatre in the Round

"Dip this paintbrush in radium and then put it in your mouth. Don't worry if it gets all over your skin, clothes, and hair, you'll be fine!" If any of our employers told us this today, we would all likely walk out the door. But in the 1920s, when workers had much fewer rights than we do now, if you needed the job to feed your family, and especially if you were a woman and your bosses were men, you likely would have accepted it. These Shining Lives tells the true story of women who did just that, until their hands started glowing and their bones started aching. It's because of a couple of lawsuits brought by the real life "Radium Girls" against their employers that companies are held responsible for injuries or illnesses their employees acquire on the job. Theatre in the Round tells these pioneering women's story, via a female playwright and director, with humanity and grace.

"The Children" at Jungle Theater

The Jungle Theater produced some of my favorite work in #TCTheater last year, and they're showing no signs of stopping that trend in 2019. Their first show of the year (my fifth, but who's counting), is the first post-Broadway production of The Children by Lucy Kirkwood (not to be confused with the re-imagined Medea play The Children by Michael Elyanow produced by Pillsbury House a few years ago). In a pre-show speech by Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen (who has only made the Jungle better in her short tenure), she said that this team of actors, designers, and director are a master class of putting together a piece of theater. I couldn't agree more. Everything about this play is impeccable, from this very specific design that transports the audience to a seaside cottage after a nuclear disaster, to the three-person cast of beloved veterans of stage and screen, and everything else that allows this magic to happen. Get yourself to Uptown (as much of a pain as that sometimes is) to see this brilliant work of theater that will leave you contemplating life for days to come.

Friday, January 11, 2019

"Dead Man's Cell Phone" at Lyric Arts

In 2007, playwright Sarah Ruhl wrote a quirky, fantastical, and painfully real play about our relationships with our cell phones and with each other. A play that seems even more relevant now, 12 years later, as smart phone technology and usage has increased. Lyric Arts' production of Dead Man's Cell Phone captures this struggle between technology and connection, and entertains with a charming six-person cast and ambitious design. This odd and amusing comedy that speaks to the world we live in officially opens tonight and runs through January 27 in downtown Anoka.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

"Rough Cuts" at Nautilus Music-Theater: "Fidgety Fairy Tales" and "Heroine"

On the second Monday of (most) every month, in a little studio space in Lowertown St. Paul, you can listen to exciting new works of music-theater. The place is Nautilus Music-Theater, a company committed to developing new works. Once a month (typically repeated on Tuesday at a location in Minneapolis), composers and playwrights have the opportunity to see their work read by talented local actors, and we the audience have the opportunity to witness a new work in the making and provide feedback to help the creators in their process. That's a pretty cool thing. Here's what I experienced at Nautilus last night, to be repeated tonight at Open Eye Figure Theatre (for a suggested donation of $5, which includes milk and cookies!).

Sunday, January 6, 2019

"Twelfth Night" by Orchard Theater Collective at Calvary Baptist Church

New #TCTheater company Orchard Theater Collective, founded by a quartet of U of M/Guthrie BFA grads, has brought us some interesting and innovative shows over the past year or so. They continue that tradition with Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night, a clever choice to stage in early January when this actual holiday (aka the 12th day of Christmas) falls. And they've made it feel like a holiday. What is essentially a church basement theater has been transformed into a warm, cozy, festive space with lights and colorful decorations, as well as drinks and a lovely spread of cheese, hummus, bread, and cookies, all included in the price of admission. The intrepid cast of eight brings many more characters to life in this gender-swapping mistaken identity romantic comedy, performed on the small stage and in a square in front of it, with the audience sitting at tables on three sides. This Twelfth Night is playful and fun, an evening of pure frivolity. Fortunately this show runs a little longer than their previous shows (sometimes one weekend only); you have until January 19 to celebrate Twelfth Night with Orchard Theater Collective (click here for info and tickets).

"The Father" at Gremlin Theatre

After a nearly two-week hiatus (during which I wrote about my favorites of the 200-ish shows I saw in 2018), I returned to the theater on Friday night. It was good to be back doing my favorite thing, and Gremlin Theatre's production of The Father was an excellent way to start 2019, setting the bar quite high for all the shows to follow. A smart and twisty script (adapted by Christopher Hampton from French playwright Florian Zeller's original), an excellent six-person cast, thoughtful direction, and meaningful design. Subtitled "a tragic farce," this story of a man descending deeper into dementia is so sad to watch, but beautiful and amusing at the same time. Start your year of theater at Gremlin and you won't be disappointed (continuing through January 27).

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Most Viewed Posts of 2018

Happy New Year, #TCTheater friends! Because I like numbers, I like to look at what posts had the most page views each year. Here are the results from 2018. Two of my most popular posts are about the Minnesota Fringe Festival, proving that people are fanatical about their Fringe. Also for companies big and small, musicals and plays, and even some readings (yay new work!).
  1. MN Fringe Festival: Five Fifths of the Matrix
  2. The Legend of Georgia McBride (Guthrie Theater)
  3. The Book of Mormon (Broadway Tour)
  4. Newsies (Chanhassen Dinner Theatres)
  5. MN Fringe Festival: Must-See List
  6. Words Do Move (Sandbox Theatre)
  7. Assassins (Theater Latte Da)
  8. Mamma Mia! (The Ordway)
  9. The Great Gatsby (Collide Theatrical Dance Company)
  10. The Ruth Easton New Play Series (Playwrights' Center)
  11. My Mother Has 4 Noses (Jungle Theater)
  12. The Laramie Cycle (Uprising Theatre)
  13. Raw Stages New Works Festival (History Theatre)
  14. The Royale (Yellow Tree Theatre)
  15. A Crack in the Sky (History Theatre)

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018: The Year that Was in #TCTheater

Dear 2018, it’s been a wild year. You’ve brought us highs and lows, tragedies and triumphs. I’m sure many people are happy to say good-bye to you. But in the Minneapolis/St. Paul theater world, you’ve been grand, truly grand. And I now have the very difficult job of summarizing the approximately 190 locally created shows I’ve seen by over 80 theater companies (not counting 36 Fringe shows; click here for my festival favorites). For the first time since I started blogging eight and a half years ago, this is a slight decrease from the previous year – I’ve definitely found the saturation point. Even still, I’m at the theater more days than not, and I like what I see much more often than not. I started out with a list of about 50 shows I loved this year, which I attempted to whittle down to something a little more manageable. Keep reading for my 2018 #TCTheater favorites, in roughly alphabetical order.