Monday, December 23, 2019

"Holidays with Bing" at Old Log Theatre

I grew up listening to Bing Crosby‘s Christmas album - the actual record played on an actual record player (this was before listening to records became hip, it was just how we listened to music in the old days). Bing Crosby had a long and varied career, but he’s perhaps most associated with Christmas music, specifically the movie White Christmas (one of my faves), specifically the song "White Christmas." So when C. Ryan Shipley debuted his spot on Bing Crosby impression this summer at Old Log Theatre's Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical, it was inevitable that we would get a full Bing Christmas show. Which brings us to December, and the sold out shows every Sundays at 6:30. Judging by the reception from the multi-generational crowd, Ryan may be stuck doing his Bing show for years to come, which is a Christmas gift to us all. Holidays with Bing is like that iconic Bing Crosby Christmas record come to life, full of all those warm and comforting feelings of nostalgia for those of us who grew up with it.

Friday, December 20, 2019

"Happy Holi-Dane" at History Theatre

A few nights ago, I attended a super fun old fashion holiday variety show, live! The one night only event Happy Holi-Dane was presented as part of the History Theatre's new History Theatre presents series. Hosted by Dane Stauffer, star of History Theatre's smash hit original musical Glensheen (which is returning next summer to St. Paul and Alexandria), the show also featured Dane's talented friends, including some of the Glensheen cast. Dane is an amiable and personable host, and the evening was full of songs, skits, laughs, singalongs, and touching moments, just like those holiday variety specials of old.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

"Blackout Improv" at Mixed Blood Theatre

Friends, it's been too long since I've seen Blackout Improv. Now in their fifth year, this all-POC improv troupe performs every third Monday at Mixed Blood Theatre. Now that #TCTheater is winding down for the holidays, I was finally able to go see a show, just in time for their year end/holiday show. If they're not already, Blackout Improv should definitely be on your radar going into 2020 for the unique perspective and performance style they bring to the Twin Cities performing arts scene.

Monday, December 16, 2019

"Adventures in Mating: Holiday Edition" at DalekoArts

I loved reading choose-your-own-adventure books as a kid. It was so exciting to have a bit of a control over where the story was going, to flip back and forth to specified pages based on your own choice. Who knew there was a theatrical version of this particular thrill? #TCTheater artist Joseph Scrimshaw created such a thing for the Minnesota Fringe Festival years ago, called Adventures in Mating. It was so popular he expanded it, and it was produced elsewhere, including at DalekoArts as part of their "Friends of Friends" weekend series. I'd never seen it before making the beautiful winter's drive to DalekoArts in New Prague, where they're premiering an updated holiday* version of Adventures in Mating. It's hilarious and awkward and delightful, and also has that particular choose-your-own-adventure thrill of being in control of where the story is going. They say anything can happen in theater, but this show takes that to a new level, keeping the actors and crew on their toes as we decide their fate. And as expected, the team at DalekoArts does that dance beautifully.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

"The Great Strike Theater Improvised Bake Off" at Strike Theater

#TCTheater friends, I think I have a new favorite holiday* comedy tradition. Cooking and baking shows are hugely popular; in particular, people love The Great British Baking Show almost to a point of obsession. The Great Strike Theater Improvised Bake-Off plays on all of that to bring us a truly delightful, hilarious, and fabulous-smelling show. Not only do they pay loving homage to all of the delightful quirks of these shows (the tent! the showstopper! the awkward/funny host banter!), but there is actual baking happening on stage with a finished product that the judges actually eat. And it's all improvised! Well except for the baking, hopefully they have a recipe they're following. This installment features two rounds of semi-finals (one of which I attended), and the winner of each compete tonight (Saturday) in the finals.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

"The Band's Visit" Broadway tour at the Orpheum Theatre

This morning my yoga teacher asked us to think of something that was magic. It should come as no surprise that my immediate thought was: theater. I can't think of anything more magical than a couple of thousand strangers sitting in a room together and being transported to a tiny town in the middle of the desert in Israel, hearing the stories of people who may live in a very different place than us, may speak a different language, may have different beliefs, but with whom we connect and relate to via our shared humanity. And really, this is what The Band's Visit is all about. People who may seem very different coming together and sharing a very real and human, if momentary, connection through music and stories. It's such a simple and beautiful story, and one that this divided world needs to hear now more than ever. Which is why I'm so glad that this 2018 ten-time Tony Award winner, which just closed on Broadway in April, is touring the country so that ordinary people in ordinary towns can experience this extraordinary story of ordinary people in an ordinary town. That's the kind of magic that can change the world.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

"Immortal" by Trademark Theater at Camp Bar

The latest creation from new #TCTheater company Trademark Theater is a solo show created and performed by its Artistic Director Tyler Michaels King. Immortal has been in development for a while, and for the last three weeks Tyler and his collaborators workshopped the project, culminating in a one-night only performance at Camp Bar last night. Hopefully this is not the last we see of the aging crooner F. Amos Lee, and he'll make his return in some form or another in the coming years.

Monday, December 9, 2019

"Dog Act" by Fortune's Fool Theatre at Gremlin Theatre

Dog Act is a little like The Walking Dead, but with entertainers. Because even in an apocalypse (zombie or otherwise), we still need to tell our stories, and be entertained by storytelling. In Dog Act, produced by Fortune's Fool Theatre at Gremlin, a traveling performer and her dog/person try to survive in a post-apocolyptic world that, much like the TWD universe, consists of scavengers and worse, people who will stop at nothing to survive. Those are the ideas explored in this weird but oddly sweet play, well executed by the Fortune's Fool team.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

"Family Dinner" and "The Mess" at HUGE Improv Theater

Family Dinner is my favorite show at HUGE Improv Theater in Uptown. It comes around this time every year, with shows on Fridays and Saturdays all through November and December, most of which sell out. Now in their eighth year at HUGE, it's basically the Guthrie's A Christmas Carol (as creator Molly Ritchie said). I attended with my Twin Cities Theater Blogger friends old (Minnesota Theater Love, Twin Cities Stages, Bite-Sized Beet) and new (The Stages of MN, The Global Dig, and Millennial in the Mezzanine), and a good time was had by all. HUGE is a great option for a fun outing this time of year, or any time of year. Buy tickets for one show only, or save on a two- or three-show pass. And you will want to get your Family Dinner tickets in advance - they will sell out.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

"The Norwegians" by Dark and Stormy Productions at Grain Belt Warehouse

Seven years after their debut, during which time they've brought us a couple of dark and stormy little plays every year, Dark and Stormy Productions is doing their first remount. If you're going to remount a show, the hilarious and very Minnesotan dark comedy The Norwegians, first presented in 2016, is a great choice. This story of two Southern women so beaten down by Minnesota winters and bad relationships that they hire Norwegian gangsters to kill their exes is worth seeing again. In 2016 I called the play "a cross between a Prairie Home Companion sketch and an episode of Fargo, with more edge than the former but without the latter's ominous cloud of despair." They've reunited most of the original cast and creative team, with a few new faces, for what is once again is a very funny, entertaining, and intimate anti-holiday* #TCTheater choice.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

"SIX" at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

The history of the British monarchy has inspired countless works of entertainment, from Shakespeare plays to Netflix series. And now it has inspired a fabulously feminist pop musical. In just over two years, SIX (written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss while students at Cambridge) has gone from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to London's West End to Broadway, where it will premiere next spring after wrapping up the month-long run at the Ordway. Structured as a pop concert, SIX allows the six wives of Henry VIII to tell their own stories. This musical couldn't have come at a better time, when we're hungry for women's stories, for women to tell their own stories instead of being defined by men, as history has defined these six women by their marriage to a king. SIX's reputation precedes it; young musical theater fans in the know have been obsessively listening to the London cast recording for months, and the US production is surrounded by huge buzz. The opening night audience was ready for this show, responding enthusiastically to their favorite moments that they knew were coming. I knew nothing about the show going into it, and was hugely impressed by this smart, funny, clever, modern, fresh, and wildly entertaining musical. It's a rare thing that we get to see the next Broadway sensation in Minnesota before they see it in New York, and #TCTheater music-theater fans would be wise not to miss this chance.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

"A Very Die Hard Christmas" at Bryant Lake Bowl

I've never seen the popular 1988 action movie Die Hard, so for years I resisted seeing what has become an insanely popular holiday* tradition - A Very Die Hard Christmas at Bryant Lake Bowl (the 10pm showtime also kept me away). But this year, I finally had to see what everyone was raving about, especially since they added a few 8pm shows for us morning people. I'm still not sure I understand why it's so popular (this year they sold out the entire run before they even opened), but it is a super fun show chock full of pop culture references (of the '80s and Christmas varieties), with very funny performances by the cast. I've never seen such a packed and enthusiastic BLB audience. People love the show, and the team loves doing it, and I guess that's what makes it such a popular and long-standing tradition.

Monday, December 2, 2019

"The Viking and the Gazelle" by The Waterfront Productions at Mixed Blood Theatre

The independently produced Minnesota Fringe play The Viking and the Gazelle is being remounted at Mixed Blood Theatre this December with a mostly new cast. Producers (under the name The Waterfront Productions) and co-writers William and Suzanne Bengston based the play on their experiences as an interracial couple. It's an interesting premise and the play includes some good discussions, bringing up some important issues like institutional racism and white spaces that hopefully encourage discussion amongst those who see it. But there's no nuance or subtlety; every character is one extreme or the other, so much so that they feel less like real people and more like caricatures of certain "types" of people. Still, these are important conversations to be had.