As I started to put together my list of favorite shows, a few theaters kept popping up over and over again. Instead of just listing them repeatedly, I decided to summarize each of their years individually.
|Chicago (photo by Dan Norman)|
|School Girls (photo by Dan Norman)|
|A New Brain (photo by Devon Cox)|
|Smokey Joe's Cafe (photo by Dan Norman)|
|Peter and the Starcatcher (photo by Dan Norman)|
|Sisters of Peace (photo by Scott Pakudaitis)|
|In a Stand of Dying Trees (photo courtesy of Uprising)|
- Actually, Minnesota Jewish Theater Company - an incredibly timely and important exploration of consent between two college students.
- Aubergine, Park Square Theater - a very relatable story of a Korean American family bonding through food that made for a heartbreaking dramedy.
- Benevolence, Penumbra Theatre - a sequel to the incredibly powerful Ballad of Emmett Till that tells the other side story, and is just as powerful and devastating.
- The Brothers Paranormal, Theater Mu and Penumbra Theatre - a historic co-production that was the most deliciously frightening experience I had at the theater this year, and also told a poignant story of the immigrant experience.
- Caught, Full Circle Theater - a trippy story about art and politics that kept the audience on its toes with its meta play within a play format.
- Father, Gremlin Theatre - a devastating look at a family affected by dementia that put the audience inside the mind of the person with dementia, a confusing and frightening place to be.
- Jimmy and Lorraine: A Musing, Pillsbury House Theatre - a compilation of the writings of James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry that created a beautiful dance of a story.
- Metamorphoses, Guthrie Theater - playwright Mary Zimmerman returned to the play she wrote over 20 years ago to direct an enthralling and dreamlike retelling of classic myths.
- Pipeline, Penumbra Theatre- a powerful, relevant, and devastating look at racial inequality in our schools.
- Roe, Mixed Blood Theatre - a brilliantly constructed new play about the women behind the historic Roe v Wade court decision and the arguments that are still happening to this day.
- Be More Chill, Minneapolis Musical Theater - a fun and modern musical with an enthusiastic young cast and one of the younger audiences I saw at the theater this year.
- Bright Star, Lyric Arts - a regional premiere of the Edie Brickell and Steve Martin-penned bluegrass musical, a production full of heart and soul.
- A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Old Log Theater - another regional premiere in the suburbs, this fabulous production of the Tony Winning Best Musical makes murder more fun than it should be (and is still running, closing in February).
- Heaven, Flying Foot Forum at Park Square Theater - the gorgeous return of one of my favorite pieces os 2011, a dance musical about the Bosnian War shouldn't work, but somehow it does as it brought out all of the complicated and varied emotions.
- Into the Woods, Ten Thousand Things - one of Sondheim's most beloved and frequently produced musicals received the classic stripped-down TTT treatment that let the heart and biting wit of the story shine.
- Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant, Park Square Theater - a remount and expansion of the hit Minnesota Fringe Festival millennial musical by local composer/playwright Keith Hovis that hit all the right notes.
- Legally Blonde, Lyric Arts - I wasn't expecting to love this movie adaptation as much as I did, but the storyline felt very appropriate for 2019, and this Ben Thietje-directed production was bursting with joy and humor.
- Mamma Mia!, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres - a show so popular it's been extended to an almost unheard of year-long run, and deservedly so because of the excellent ensemble cast, fun music and choreography, and beautiful story of female friendship (playing through February).
- Man of La Mancha, Mounds View Community Theatre - how lucky am I that this Joe Chvala-directed and -choreographed production played in my neighborhood this summer? The foot-stompingly earnest production of this moving musical was as good as anything I saw on professional stages this year.
- The Most Happy Fella, Skylark Opera Theatre - this rarely done charming old-fashioned love story received a few minor tweaks that made all the difference.
- Sea Cabinet, Theatre Elision - another rarely produced (in fact a US premiere), small cast, one act musical with a mostly female cast and creative team from Elision, this was a hauntingly lovely and beautifully performed song cycle about love, loss, and the sea.
- The Beldenville Troll, Open Eye Figure Theatre - a tour de force (and mostly wordless) performance by Neal Skoy with such detailed design and direction by Joel Sass that I thought Beldenville was a real place.
- Flowers for the Room, Yellow Tree Theatre - an emotional and inventive new musical about a woman in a coma and those she left behind, written by YTT's talented in-house playwright Jessica Lind Peterson with music by one of my favorite local songwriters Blake Thomas.
- Floyd's, Guthrie Theater - Lynn Nottage's sequel to her Pulitzer Prize-winning play Sweat (coming to the Guthrie this summer) was lighter and funnier, but still took a serious look at the effects of incarceration.
- The Hobbit, Children's Theater Company - I first read The Hobbit when I was 12 years old, and this new five-actor adaptation filled me with the same wonder and delight as reading it for the first time.
- The Hollow, Trademark Theater - billed a "a concept album, performed live on stage, combined with movement," the combination of original music by Jenna Wyse and Joey Ford, and movement choreographed and performed by the Michaels Kings (Emily and Tyler) was hauntingly beautiful and unique.
- Hot Asian Doctor Husband, Theater Mu - a hilarious laugh out loud comedy that also thoughtfully and poignantly explores race, identity, and community? Yes please!
- How It's Gon' Be, Underdog Theatre - up-and-coming #TCTheater actor JuCoby Johnson wrote what I called "a funny, sweet, poignant coming of age tale with characters that feel real and modern, beautifully brought to life by a terrific cast."
- Immaculate Heart, Freshwater Theatre - a thoughtful, sensitive, and very real exploration of the complicated issues surrounding faith and sexuality.
- Into the Darkness, Collective Unconscious - my first experience with this company, and I was moved and delighted by their retelling of fairy tales using original music and puppetry.
- My Beautiful Infinity, Chameleon Theatre Circle - discovered through their annual new play festival, this trippy sciencey play was right up my alley, and well executed by the team.
- The Pathetic Life and Remarkable Afterlife of Elmer McCurdy, the Worst Robber in the West, nimbus theatre - nimbus is known for their original devised work, and this wacky Old West sort of true comedy was one of their best (and definitely their funniest).
- Autonomy, Mixed Blood Theatre - in the most ambitious example of site-specific theater, Mixed Blood took audiences on a literal journey around the River Center exhibit hall, filled with classic cars, in an incredibly timely play about climate change and autonomous vehicles. The logistical feat with multiple scenes happening at the same time, requiring precise timing, was flawlessly executed
- Boston Marriage, Arrow Theater - this new theater company, under the direction of talented young #TCTheater artist Grant Sorenson, brought us a hilarious David Mamet play in an intimate space inside a gorgeous historic home in Minneapolis, where the fading summer light magically gave way to candlelight.
- Crowns, New Dawn Theatre - in an exciting debut of a new theater company helmed by #TCTheater favorite Austene Van, the all African American cast that was a Who's Who of the local music-theater scene nearly brought the roof down in the Summit Avenue church.
- Macbeth, Wayward Theater Company - the experts in site-specific theater produced the Scottish play in various rooms in the James J. Hill House, as if we were in the Macbeth castle itself as all the dirty deeds happened all around us. Eerie and mesmerizing.
- Nature, TigerLion Arts - always and forever my favorite site-specific theater, Nature returned after a one-year hiatus, telling the story of the life, work, and friendship of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson set against the backdrop of Nature herself. It doesn't get any better than that.
|photo by Dan Norman|
|photo by Devon Cox|
|photo by Dan Norman|
Whew, that's more amazing theater than one person could even ask for, and that was only in the Twin Cities! I also made my annual pilgrimage to New York City where I saw seven fantastic shows on and off Broadway, including the first Tony-winning Best Musical written and directed by women, Hadestown, a revolutionary revival of Oklahoma, and Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish like it was always meant to be. I made my second visit to the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona for four excellent plays and some great discussions, and saw the heartbreakingly beautiful Minnesota premiere of another Tony-winning Best Musical, Fun Home, at the intrepid Renegade theater in Duluth.
Wishing you all a healthy, happy, and theater-filled 2020!