Tuesday, November 16, 2021

"Puttin' on the Ritz" by Theater Latte Da at the Ritz Theater

After 611 long dark days, Theater Latte Da is finally back performing again in their Northeast Minneapolis home, the Ritz Theater. They opened their 24th season last weekend with a special cabaret concert for subscribers (and me!) and it was such a joyous celebration. I've missed Theater Latte Da's brand of music-theater so much, and am thrilled that they're finally back. The first official show of the season is a remount of their gorgeous annual holiday show All is Calm (seen on PBS stations around the country last year), to be followed by La Boheme in January, nearly two years after the production was shut down after just a few preview performances. Next spring we'll see the area premiere of the 1992 multiple Tony-nominated musical Jelly's Last Jam, and the season will conclude with the world premiere of a new musical adaptation of the classic play Twelve Angry Men, which Latte Da has been developing for several years. Click here for info on their season and to purchase season tickets, or individual tickets for the first two shows, and read on for highlights of last weekend's Puttin' on the Ritz.

Puttin' on the Ritz was a beautifully curated and directed (by Peter Rothstein and Kelli Foster Warder) selection of musical theater, standards, and pop songs, performed by a fantabulous ten-person cast accompanied by the most excellent five-person band, directed by Latte Da's own Denise Prosek. Funny, emotional, entertaining, some songs were pulled from Theater Latte Da faves from the last 23 seasons, some favorites yet to come. And I'm pretty sure the ending was specifically constructed to make me cry (mission accomplished), but truthfully I teared up at several points throughout the show, just from the pure joy of experiencing live music-theater at the Ritz again.

Highlights of the show are too many to mention (you can find the full songlist here), but just to name one or two for each performer:
  • If Erin Capello's performances were auditions for the yet-to-be regional premieres of the female singer-songwriter musicals Beautiful and Waitress, she has my vote! Gorgeous vocals and pure emotion on "It's Too Late" and "She Used to Be Mine."
  • I didn't realize how dull my recent Bradley Greenwald-less life has been. He just lights up the world, from his hilarious rendition of my favorite Hamilton song "You'll Be Back," to a song from the lovely musical adaptation of Cyrano - C. - which he wrote with composer Robert Elhai.
  • Jennifer Grimm is a born entertainer (see also Jenny sings Judy), whether it's telling jokes or singing the Patsy Cline classic "Walking After Midnight" or a lovely ode she wrote to "Minneapolis and St. Paul."
  • Anna Hashizume showed her musical and opera chops with a selection from Amélie and the forthcoming La Bohème.
  • The incomparable John Jamison singing a medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "Home" was as amazing as you think it was.
  • Rodolfo Nieto got a little folky with Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" and dueted with Bradley on "Impossible Dream" - impossibly gorgeous.
  • Britta Ollmann reprised her roles from two of my favorite Theater Latte Da productions - the girl in Once (2018), and Violet in Violet (2010), both Latte Da regional premieres, the latter in the moving finale song "Bring Me to Light."
  • You may have seen Jay Owen Eisenberg sing "Ring of Keys" from Fun Home in one of Theater Latte Da's virtual cabarets this year, and it's even better and more poignant in person. Also a very funny "Mr. Cellophane."
  • T Mychael Rambo is such a joy, and his rendition of "Defying Gravity" is the Miscast performance I didn't know I needed! And his duet with John on "Make Them Hear You" from Ragtime produced all the feels.
  • On the other end of that famous Once duet was Matt Riehle, proving he's got the soulful vocals, guitar-playing skills, and ginger hair that make him perfect for the role (#TCTheater take note!). He also gave the Boss a run for his money with "Thunder Road."
In addition to the above, Peter read a lovely quote about the joy of being alive from And Things That Go Bump in the Night, the first play by Terrence McNally, whom we lost to COVID early on in this pandemic. And the band played a super fun medley of musical theater songs - play name that tune with your neighbor!

Welcome back Theater Latte Da! All is Calm, my favorite music-theater celebration of the season for its stillness, peace, and beauty, opens the weekend after Thanksgiving and plays through the New Year, which will hopefully bring us even more good things.