will be found at the Orpheum Theatre on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. I was lucky enough to see the show on Broadway, starring Ben Platt in an unforgettable performance that won him Tony, and was totally enraptured by this thoroughly modern musical. Two years later the show and this touring cast are still fantastic (even if the Orpheum is too big of a venue for this intimate of a story). The small-cast non-flashy musical deals with pretty serious issues like suicide, mental illness, grief, and the dangers of social media, although not without humor and a fantastic Pasek and Paul score. Most importantly, it delivers a message of connection and hope that this world needs.
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Saturday, May 25, 2019
a talented young actor who's appeared on many stages around town in the last several years. As director H. Adam Harris succinctly put it on opening night, it's a play about love: love between parent and child, love between friends, romantic love. It's a funny, sweet, poignant coming of age tale with characters that feel real and modern, beautifully brought to life by a terrific cast. It's exciting to see young black artists playing all the roles - actor, director, playwright, producer - to tell these stories that need to be told.
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
This was my Instagram post upon arriving home from the Jungle last night, and it pretty much says it all. I'll expand on that a bit more here, but in general, this new play about six people on a silent meditation retreat is hilarious, heart-breaking, and very human. Visit the Uptown theater now through June 16 to experience it yourself (pro tip: the Jungle is one of the few theaters in town with Tuesday and Wednesday performances, which have lower ticket prices, better availability, and usually less Uptown crowd/parking/traffic issues than weekends).
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Monday, May 20, 2019
Pillsbury House Theatre, feels very relevant to the here and now. Through the story of two brothers, one dark-skinned and one light enough to pass for white, South African playwright Athol Fugard explores the complex issues of racism and white privilege, before that term was in our collective consciousness. It's remarkable that this play was performed (for one performance only) in Johannesburg in 1961, with it's strong anti-apartheid message. But even in Minnesota in 2019, we still have lessons to learn from it. This is a powerful, intense, and sobering play, beautifully acted by two beloved #TCTheater veterans.
Sunday, May 19, 2019
Full Circle Theater show, and I knew enough about them to expect it to be something thoughtful, well done, and relevant to the world we live in. And I knew this play had something to do with Chinese political art. All of those things are true, but Caught is so much more. It's a Russian doll of a play with layers upon layers of truth, reality, and artifice. By the time it was over I didn't know what was real, where the play ended and reality began. And that's the point of Caught, to make us question truth, reality, art, politics, even theater. It's a brilliantly written play (by California based playwright Christopher Chen), perfectly executed by director Rick Shiomi and the team. I'm not going to be able to tell you too much about it because I don't want to spoil the surprising and delightful trip, but just trust me - you need to see this play. And with all tickets just $9 as part of the Guthrie's Level Nine initiative, you have no excuse not to.
Saturday, May 18, 2019
Scapin, to the most moving Into the Woods, to the currently playing The Sins of Sor Juana, this season has been classic Ten Thousand Things. That is to say theater in its purest form without distraction, stripping away all the fluff to get to the purest heart of the story, and delivering it directly to the audience in a playful and immediate way. The Sins of Sor Juana is a fictionalized telling of the life of an inspirational woman ahead of her time, 17th Century Mexican poet and scholar Juana Inéz de la Cruz. It's a story that feels so relevant, as girls and women around the world are still denied opportunities for education. Sor Juana is a heroine for today.
Friday, May 17, 2019
Lakeshore Players Theatre* in White Bear Lake, which opened a gorgeous new building about a year ago. The final production in their first full season in their new space is Mary Poppins, a show that celebrates imagination, determination, play, and family. I'll admit that the biggest draw to see this show was seeing one of my #TCTheater favorites Quinn Shadko as Mary Poppins, but the whole show is just darling. If you're in the Northeast metro be sure to visit them in the Hanifl Performing Arts Center, or check out what theater is happening in your neighborhood.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
DalekoArts, a professional theater in New Prague, Minnesota on the very southern edge of the metro area, is closing out their seventh season with the multiple Tony-winning Broadway play-with-music Peter and the Starcatcher. It's a charming, quirky, innovative little play, and therefore a great choice for Daleko. This is my fourth year attending their spring musical(ish) and I continue to be impressed with the care and energy they put into the work that they do. Season 8 looks just as promising, with a walking ghost tour around historic downtown New Prague, a Scrimshaw Christmas comedy, a play about 19th Century mathematician Ada Lovelace, and the hilarious musical Spelling Bee. If you're in the mood for a theater road trip (about an hour from the cities), head south to Daleko.
See Nautilus' Facebook page for details and to be informed about upcoming "Rough Cuts" (the next one is a selection from their annual composer-librettist studio on June 3-4).
Monday, May 13, 2019
"The Pathetic Life and Remarkable Afterlife of Elmer McCurdy, the Worst Robber in the West" by nimbus theatre at the Crane Theater
nimbus theatre often brings us some fascinating but little known historical event or issue, typically in a thoughtful way that's somehow relevant to today. Their newest work, The Pathetic Life and Remarkable Afterlife of Elmer McCurdy, the Worst Robber in the West, does that too, but it's the first straight-up comedy I've seen them do, and it's great fun. Real life unsuccessful outlaw Elmer McCurdy would likely have been lost to history, if not for the strange tale of his corpse, which was preserved and made the rounds of carnivals, exhibits, side shows, and even movies, eventually stashed away in storage where it was discovered in 1976 and finally buried. He was the subject of an episode of Drunk History, and this play sort of feels like an extended episode of Drunk History. Silly and funny yet sorta kinda true.
Saturday, May 11, 2019
Safe at Home, a walking play staged in nine locations at CHS Field with precise timing, Autonomy is a driving play staged at nine locations within the exhibit hall at St. Paul RiverCentre. It's a play about climate change, immigration, and autonomous vehicles (aka self-driving cars). A great guideline for making theater is "content dictates form," so when the content is about cars, why not surround the audience with classic cars and have them drive around in golf carts? A little on-the-nose, but it's quite effective. It's really too bad they're only running it for one weekend. There are four more groups of performances but only extremely limited tickets remain. Autonomy is a forward-thinking experiment in theater like you've never seen before.
Friday, May 10, 2019
Mischief Theatre) that opened on Broadway in 2017, where it played for two years before moving to Off-Broadway earlier this year. Similar to Noises Off, it's a play-within-a-play that's so bad it's good. There's no subtlety in The Play, it's all super broad comedy, including pratfalls, spit takes, and falling scenery. They continue to pile it on until the whole thing collapses in glorious chaos. Broadway plays don't often go on tour, and the fact that this one is on tour points to the fact that it's a crowd-pleaser. The ridiculousness continues through Sunday only (click here for info and tickets).
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Minnesota Fringe Festival! This year's festival will take place August 1-11 (with the related Family Fringe happening July 26-28 and August 2-4), but events have been happening all year. May brings one of my favorite Fringe events, the "Five-Fifths" benefit, in which a popular movie is divided into five parts and handed to five Fringe companies for them to interpret as they wish. It's a very clever concept, and one that really showcases what's unique about each company. This year's choice was Mary Poppins, and the results were, as my friend Jules from Minnesota Theater Love succinctly put it, "weird and fun." Just like Fringe!
Playwrights' Center core writer Mat Smart's play Tinker to Evers to Chance, now receiving its regional premiere with Artistry, he very cleverly draws parallels between that specific and complicated baseball sort of love with other sorts of love - that experienced in families and relationships. When you've been disappointed by love (whether that's your beloved Cubbies losing a chance at the World Series by the skin of their teeth, or watching your wife die a slow and painful death), how do you let yourself love again? Is it worth it? You don't have to be a baseball fan to relate to the very human emotions explored in Tinker to Evers to Chance.
Sunday, May 5, 2019
Dirty Business: The Spy Musical, with book and lyrics by Laurie Flanigan-Hegge (Sweet Land) and music by Robert Elhai (C., The Lady with a Lap Dog), tells the stories of mostly forgotten female heroes of WWII. The piece was first presented at History Theatre's "Raw Stages" festival of new works last year, when it showed great promise, and it's exciting to see it now as a full production. Dirty Business is a whirlwind journey through pre-WWII Europe, with many players and missions, that's fun, educational, and inspirational.
The successful musical Matilda (it ran for four years on Broadway, eight years and counting in the West End) is a musical led by child actors, so of course it's the perfect choice for Children's Theatre Company. Although they have a lot of talented adults on stage, and some of their shows even have entirely adult casts, what they do best is nurture and showcase the talent of #TCTheater's youth. And what a bunch of revolting children they are. Nine exuberant, precocious, stupidly talented kids lead us through this dark but inspiring story by Roald Dahl (who also brought us Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and likes to show children getting the best of some truly cruel adults). The show is darkly funny yet surprisingly moving, with fantastic performances from the cast, young and old.
Saturday, May 4, 2019
2019 season that is entirely focused on gun violence, a much needed conversation to have.
Friday, May 3, 2019
Breaking Barriers," this one is "Rise Up!" and the third, coming this fall, will be "all about the ladies," i.e., about how women are portrayed in musical theater and how female audience members and performers respond to that (see also Not Fair, My Lady!). The Ordway Cabaret is similar to the Broadway Songbook series that the Ordway ran for a number of years, except that it's less about musical theater history and more about the performers' personal history as it relates to musical theater. I'm really loving this twist, because it shows in a very real way how much musical theater can affect our lives, both for performers and audience members. And as always with these types of shows at the Ordway, the phenomenal cast brings their hearts and souls to the wonderful performances of beloved musical theater songs.
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
The Brothers Paranormal. In it, an African American couple hires two Thai brothers to investigate some mysterious happenings around their house. The result is a totally captivating thriller that also deals with some pretty serious issues surrounding culture and mental health. It's a play that's both wildly entertaining, and speaks to our world today in a meaningful and thought-provoking way. And as usual with these two theaters, the production is top notch, with an excellent cast and spot on design. Don't miss this historic and fantastic #TCTheater collaboration!