Thursday, July 25, 2019

"42nd Street" at the Ordway Center

Come and meet
Those dancing feet
On the avenue I'm taking you to
Washington Street

Washington Street in downtown St. Paul, the address of Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, is the new 42nd Street. The Ordway Original production of 42nd Street is an expertly updated classic that in three words is: Fan. Freakin. Tastic. I've seen the show several times, but never like this. The show opens with the above familiar refrain, the curtain lifting a few inches to reveal feet moving in classic tap-dancing style. Then producer Julian Marsh says something along the lines of - we've done that before, let's do something new. What follows is something entirely new, while still paying homage to the beloved 1933 movie (adapted to the stage in 1980). These dancers (comprised of local and national talent) are some of the best I've ever seen performing this whirlwind tapping, the lead and supporting actors are divine, and the music is familiar yet excitingly modern. If you're a fan of music-theater, get yourself to "naughty, bawdy, gaudy, sporty" Washington Street as soon as you are able! But hurry, the show closes on August 11 after a too-short three-week run (click here for all the deets).

2019 Minnesota Fringe Must-See List

I don't know about you, but this summer has flown by faster than usual. Friends, the Minnesota Fringe Festival is almost upon is! Family Fringe begins this weekend (for all the deets on that check out this preview by my friends at Minnesota Theater Love), with the full Festival running August 1-11. I'll admit I haven't spent a lot of time reviewing the website or figuring out the new features in terms of ticketing and show structure (what exactly are Independently Produced shows?), but I have read through all show descriptions. I've come up with a list of 20 must-see shows out of the 140-ish in the fest, presented below in alphabetical order.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

"Stinkers" at Jungle Theater

Friends, I had a little rough day yesterday. No specific reason for it, I was just feeling a little crabby. And then I had to drive to Uptown which makes me really crabby, and then I realized I forgot my wallet at home so I had to drive around and find street parking. But nothing turns around a "little rough day" faster than a show at the Jungle. Specifically a comedy at the Jungle. More specifically a world premiere new comedy at the Jungle, about a family of people having their own kind of little rough days. Whether the rough day is due to not getting the cookie they wanted, or trying to find a way to launder the money they embezzled, they get through it together. And live to face the next little rough day. Stinkers is a hilarious and heartfelt comedy about family, relationships, and a pickup with the hiccups.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"Man of La Mancha" by Mounds View Community Theatre at Chippewa Middle School

This is my annual PSA to support your local community theater! Especially if one of your favorite #TCTheater director/choreographers is involved. I'm lucky enough that Joe Chvala (founder of the dance company Flying Foot Forum) is directing and choreographing a production for Mounds View Community Theatre for the second time (after helming a delightful H.M.S. Pinnafore two years ago). This Man of La Mancha, playing at a middle school a mile from my house, is as good as what I see on professional stages around town. Of course there's fantastic dancing in Joe's trademark rhythmic percussive style, but he's also assembled a really talented cast, most of them unknown to me, with impressive set design, all of which combines for an all around funny, engaging, and inspiring show. This story of the idealistic noble knight fighting injustice in the world is one that we always need to hear.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

"Footloose" at Artistry

Artistry is opening their 2019-2020 season with the musical adaptation of the hit 1984 movie Footloose. I've seen it once before, at the Chanhassen pre-blog, which means I remember nothing about it. As a musical it's pretty weak, but there is still plenty to enjoy about it, including the talented young cast. The other musicals in Artistry's season (in addition to the classic play Our Town) are ones I'm more excited about - the rarely done A New Brain and Mame, and the regional premiere of The Bridges of Madison County (which, despite being a movie/book adaptation, features a flawlessly stunning score by Jason Robert Brown). In the meantime, you can enjoy some fun '80s tunes in Bloomington this summer.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

"Samuel J. and K." at Gremlin Theatre

"A sports play written by Mat Smart? I'm in! (See also Tinker to Evers to Chance.)" I wrote this on Instagram last night, but as it turns out, Samuel J. and K. is not really a sports play. It's a play about brothers, family, betrayal, loss, and love. In the same way that Tinker to Evers to Chance (seen in a fantastic production at Artistry earlier this year) is not a sports play, but a play about family, grief, love, connection. There's something about sports that loosens people up and allows them to connect and talk about deeper things, and Playwrights' Center core writer Mat Smart uses that to great advantage in these plays. Here, two brothers (one adopted from Cameroon when he was three years old) bond over a game of basketball. Gremlin's production features two talented actors in their cozy intimate theater space, transformed into a basketball court and a hut in Cameroon by deceptively simple design.

Friday, July 19, 2019

"The Merry Wives of Windsor" by Classical Actors Ensemble at Tony Schmidt Regional Park

Summer in Minnesota means outdoor theater. Every year, Classical Actors Ensemble braves the elements (which last night included excessive heat, bugs, and a train) to bring us Shakespeare as it was always meant to be - fun, playful, accessible, and engaging. They're in the final weekend of this year's production, The Merry Wives of Windsor. I saw the show at a park less than five miles from my house (which, as a suburbanite, always makes me happy); tonight they're performing in St. Paul's Newell Park, with two final shows in Minneapolis parks this weekend (click here for details). Bring chairs, a blanket, an umbrella, a picnic, sunscreen, bug spray, water, and settle in for a fun, colorful, silly show.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

2019 Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona

Last weekend I attended the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona for the second year in a row. I had such a great time with my fellow bloggers from Minnesota Theater Love and Twin Cities Stages last year that we decided to go again this year. If you're looking for a fun Minnesota theater vacation, GRSF is it. Winona is a charming river town that's just a two-hour drive from the Twin Cities, with lots of hotels, restaurants, shops, outdoor activities, and an impressive art museum. And for those of us who love theater, there's truly nothing better that getting away from daily obligations to immerse yourself in theater for a few days. Especially when the theater is so well done, so thoughtful, so inclusive, and so engaging, like it is at GRSF. I don't recall another theater experience where the Managing (Aaron Young) and Artistic (Doug Scholz-Carlson) Directors of the theater can be seen mingling with the audience before, during, and after every performance, and where there are so many opportunities to interact with the artists through various programs and events. It really feels like a fun, festive, community event celebrating theater (mostly but not exclusively written by the Bard). Ticket prices are quite reasonable, with four-show passes ranging from $85 to $140 ($21 to $35 per show). The festival runs through August 4, so you still have time to visit this year. See the GRSF website for all the details, and check out for all of the other activities available (if you can tear yourself away from the theater).

Saturday, July 13, 2019

"Legally Blonde" at Lyric Arts

Oh my God! Oh my God, you guys*!! Lyric Arts' production of Legally Blonde is so much fun! I recently wrote that Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant is the perfect fun summer musical (playing at Park Square Theatre through July 28), but now we have a second perfect fun summer musical. Unlike some other summer musicals, Legally Blonde is fresh, modern, fun, and feminist. I had never seen it before (or the movie from which it was adapted) because I'm a bit of a snob about movie-musical adaptations - I prefer original musicals. But I've been missing out! Elle Woods is a 21st Century heroine and role model who turns the stereotype of the dumb blonde on its head (see also Smart Blonde). Lyric Arts' production of Legally Blonde is sharp, funny, well-cast, and just an all around great time.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

"What Would Crazy Horse Do?" by Turtle Theater Collective at Mixed Blood Theatre

"The Turtle Theater Collective is committed to producing high-quality, contemporary work that explores Native experiences and subverts expectations about how and when Native artists can create theater. In addition to producing Indigenous plays, we center Native bodies and voices by situating them within the broader theatrical canon, providing opportunities for Native artists to grow and play."

Monday, July 1, 2019

"George" by Sheep Theater at Phoenix Theater

Celebrate Independence Day with Sheep Theater, who is bringing back their delightfully wacky original comedy George for the July 4th weekend. This show was my first introduction to Sheep four years ago, with their motto of "Original plays. Deranged sincerity," and I've enjoyed many moments of deranged sincerity since. At the time I called George "funny, clever, and irreverent, with jokes about the many things America is best at (giving speeches, celebrating) and how it's OK to lie if it's for the good of the country." Revisiting it, it gave me all of the patriotic feels, watching a bunch of goofballs make fun of our founding fathers (and mothers!) in the most lovingly irreverent way, celebrating all of the freedoms we hold dear, and remembering the ideals this country was founded on (which is easy to forget these days). As my great-grandmother, daughter of Polish immigrants, used to say - hooray for the 4th of July!