Thursday, December 30, 2021

"Another Miracle on Christmas Lake" at Yellow Tree Theatre

It almost took a miracle for me to see Yellow Tree Theatre's annual original holiday* comedy based in the fictional and very Minnesotan town of Christmas Lake. I arrived at the theater with a group of friends on a warm and rainy December night to find that the performance had been cancelled due to a tornado warning (in Minnesota in December?! and climate change isn't a thing). The next week everyone was busy with Christmas plans, so a subset of the group rescheduled to see one of the last performances this week. Amidst a slew of show closings on Broadway and locally, this show did indeed happen! A perfect final show of 2021, closing out a less than perfect year of theater, but one that saw growth, ingenuity, and a return to some form of normal (more on that in the coming days). There are only two performances left of Another Miracle on Christmas Lake, but you can still get yourself to Osseo to see it if you act quickly. Or make plans for their two upcoming shows in 2021 which are both brilliant and rare choices - the funny, feminist, historical, and modern play In the Next Room; Or, the Vibrator Play and the musical Passing Strange.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Kate Beahen and the Hometown Favorites at Lyric Arts

When Lyric Arts had to cancel a few weekends of their production of It's a Wonderful Life due to breakthrough COVID cases amongst the large cast, they called on Kate Beahen to help fill a few dates on the calendar, and encourage patrons to remember Lyric Arts or other local theaters in their year-end giving. A Lyric favorite and native of the Anoka area, Kate has appeared many times on the Main Street stage, as well as other stages around town, in both plays and musicals (my favorite: playing the Idina Menzel role in Lyric's regional premiere of If/Then and absolutely making it her own). She recently formed a band with her brother Bob and a few of her friends, calling themselves The Hometown Favorites and appearing at Crooners Supper Club. In the few days before Christmas, they did two holiday* shows at Lyric, and I was lucky enough to catch one of them. Kate's an incredibly talented vocalist and performer, and is also a natural at hosting a show and bantering with the band and the audience. It was a much needed fun and festive evening of holiday music and cheer.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

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

After pivoting to a very 2020 Zoom version last year, everyone's favorite improv show Family Dinner is back at HUGE Theater where they belong! Where we can watch a delightfully dysfunctional family reunite for a holiday* dinner and actually eat it, live in front of us! I saw the show last weekend with my blogger friends from Play Off the Page and The Stages of MN (and then stayed to watch the also hilarious improv troupe The Mess), and laughed harder than I have in a long time. Family Dinner is hugely popular and often sells out its twice-weekly shows from mid-November through the end of the year, because everyone can relate to that awkward family dinner, even if this one is a bit more extreme in awkwardness and drama. But it's never mean-spirited, you get the sense that this improvised family loves each other, even whilst driving each other crazy. The final two performances this year are on New Year's Eve and Day - get your tickets now! While you're on the HUGE website, check out what else is going on, with live shows six days a week.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

"The Red and the Bright" by nimbus theatre at the Crane Theater

photo by Todd Craig
nimbus theatre is celebrating 20 years in #TCTheater with their 50th production, the original play The Red and the Bright. From my first nimbus show, the original and locally historical play Bohemian Flats in 2013, to the harsh look at race and racism in America in Nacirema, to the breathtaking design of Ghost Sonata, to a fascinating look into art forgery in From Darkness, to many historical dramas and even a comedy, what I've come to expect from nimbus is something interesting, thoughtful, and unique. Sometimes a little weird, sometimes a little rough, but always intriguing, forward-thinking, and worth checking out. They often do original plays, as is the case with The Red and the Bright, written by co-Artistic Director Liz Neerland and directed by co-Artistic Director Josh Cragun. They began working on it before the pandemic, and it's finally seeing the stage, presenting a fantasy world that feels real and complete unto itself, from the language spoken, to the relationships amongst the tight community, to the detailed design. Only two more performances remain; click here for info and tickets.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

"A Christmas Carol" at the Guthrie Theater

The Guthrie Theater's first production post-pandemic (not counting their hosting of the Broadway tour of What the Constitution Means to Me) is their annual tradition, A Christmas Carol. This is their 47th production, and my 15th time seeing it. It's obviously a beloved holiday* tradition in the #TCTheater community, one that I also love and have rarely missed in my 18 seasons as a subscriber. But why? Why do they keep doing it? Why do people keep seeing it? Why do I go back year after year? Read on for ten reasons to see the Guthrie's A Christmas Carol this year before it closes on December 27.

Monday, December 13, 2021

"Amahl and the Night Visitors" by Skylark Opera Theatre at Park Square Theatre

Time to celebrate the return of another theater company back after the extended intermission of 2020-2021, namely Skylark Opera Theatre, who brings us accessible opera in English! They return to live performance after more than two years with Amahl and the Night Visitor, a one-act opera by Italian composer Gian Carlo Menotti. The first opera written for American TV (in 1951), Amahl tells the Nativity story through the eyes of a child who sees the star and is visited by the Three Kings. It's a sweet little story (just about an hour long), well performed by the large and talented cast in the intimate space of Park Square Theatre's Andy Boss thrust stage. But only three performances remain this weekend, so act fast to catch this charming holiday* offering for kids and adults alike (click here for info and tickets).

Thursday, December 9, 2021

NYC Theater Trip 2021: "Six" at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre

Show*: 5

Title: SIX

Location: Brooks Atkinson Theatre

Written By: Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss

Summary: The six wives of Henry VIII tell their own story in the form of a rock concert.

NYC Theater Trip 2021: "Clyde's" at Second Stage Theater at the Helen Hayes Theater

Show*: 4

Title: Clyde's

Location: Second Stage Theater at the Helen Hayes Theater

Written By: Lynn Nottage

Summary: A sort of sequel to her 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Sweat which explores the post-prison future of one of the characters.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

NYC Theater Trip 2021: "To Kill A Mockingbird" at the Shubert Theatre

Show*: 3

Title: To Kill a Mockingbird

Location: Sam S. Shubert Theatre

Written By: Aaron Sorkin (adapted from the novel by Harper Lee)

Summary: A new adaptation of the American classic.

NYC Theater Trip 2021: "Company" at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

Show*: 2

Title: Company

Location: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

Written By: Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and George Furth (book)

Summary: A revival of the Sondheim favorite about a singleton turning 35 in the midst of married couples, but this time the singleton is a woman.

NYC Theater Trip 2021: "Freestyle Love Supreme" at the Booth Theatre

Show*: 1

Title: Freestyle Love Supreme

Location: Booth Theatre

Created By: Thomas Kail, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anthony Veneziale

Summary: 90 minutes of freestyle, i.e, improvised rap and hip-hop music.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

"Black Nativity" at Penumbra Theatre

Another holiday* tradition is back this year - Penumbra Theatre's joyful production of Langston Hughes' Black Nativity. They've been doing this show for over 30 years now, and this version is very similar to what I saw three years ago. It's a wonderful tradition that fills the soul; recommended if you've never seen it before, or if you've seen it a dozen times. Continuing through Christmas Eve at Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Broadway Tour of "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Ordway Center

Broadway is back at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in beautiful downtown St. Paul! The first of their four-show season of touring productions (hopefully they'll add in their fantastic original productions next season) is Fiddler on the Roof. This revival premiered on Broadway in 2015, and has played in the Twin Cities before, but this is my first time seeing it. The last time I saw Fiddler was the 2019 Off-Broadway Yiddish production, which felt like how it was always mean to be (although the musical was originally written in English, it was based on Yiddish stories). Barring the language, this touring Fiddler is also about as authentic as it gets. Featuring fresh new choreography that still honors the iconic original, an incredibly talented cast largely composed of Israeli and Jewish performers, and a brilliant and beloved score, this story of a man and a family struggling to hold on to their traditions and identity in the midst of modern advances and persecution is more moving than ever. While not explicitly a "holiday" show, Fiddler represents all of the ideals of this season - family, tradition, community - and would be a great choice for a family, friends, or solo outing. But hurry, it's only here for two weeks before Tevye and his family pack up and head to the next town (click here for info and tickets).

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

"All is Calm" by Theater Latte Da at the Ritz Theater

Theater Latte Da's first full production in their 24th season is the annual favorite, All is Calm. I've seen it eight times now, and it never fails to move me, in fact it continually finds new ways to move me. Peter Rothstein created the piece about a dozen years ago, and it has morphed throughout the years, eventually being whittled down to its current concise and practically perfect 65-minute form. The story alone is inspiring - the Christmas Truce of 1914, when soldiers on both sides put down their weapons for a spontaneous truce in the beginnings of WWI. And this piece of music-theater, which combines period songs with historical text from letters, journals, and newspaper articles, is simply the most powerful way to tell the story that I can imagine. It's told with such precision, thoughtfulness, and economy; every word, every gesture, every note rings true and has meaning. All is Calm is truly my favorite #TCTheater holiday* production because it conveys what I believe is the core meaning of this season - peace, stillness, reflection, community, and connection.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

"Jacuzzi" by Dark and Stormy Productions at a found space in Stillwater

If you're looking for a palate cleanser to all of the holiday fare in #TCTheater this year, which can often skew towards the sickly sweet, look no further than Dark and Stormy Productions, which returns to the stage, er, hot tub, with the kind of dark comedy that has become their trademark. In Jacuzzi, the story of a couple of con artists preying on a gullible and dysfunctional father/son duo plays out over 100 minutes or so in and around an actual jacuzzi filled with actual water. It doesn't get much more site-specific than that. This is a great time of the year to visit lovely river-side Stillwater for holiday shopping, dinner at one of the numerous great restaurants, and some great and intimate theater (continuing through December 19).

"It's a Wonderful Life" at Lyric Arts

The 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life has become one of the most beloved Christmas* movies of all time. And now you can see it come to life on Lyric Arts' Main Street Stage in lovely downtown Anoka. The adaptation by Doug Rand is very faithful to the movie; it almost plays out scene by scene. It feels a bit long and slow-moving at times (the many scenes that make up someone's life story don't cut together quite as quickly on stage as on film), but the large and talented cast really make these characters their own, while having a lot of fun with accents and these familiar lines. Most importantly, the beautiful and important message that "no one is a failure who has friends," that every person's life is impactful and worthy no matter what their accomplishments or net worth, shines through.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

"Holiday Show! the holiday show" at DalekoArts

A local theater fan arranges for all of their favorite actors to come to their home under false pretenses, locks them in, and orders them to create and perform a new holiday* show. No, I'm not describing my pandemic fantasy, this is the plot of DalekoArts' return to the stage after a 21-month extended intermission (during which time they produced an all-virtual subscription box season called "Daleko Home Invasion"). The new original comedy Holiday Show! the holiday show is a ridiculous and loving ode to theater, the holidays, and being together. In other words, it's perfect for this odd and lovely season we're living in. Holiday Show plays weekends through December 19 in charming historic downtown New Prague, just a quick jaunt over the river and through the woods (and farm fields). Their programming is always worth the drive, and their 10th season looks to be a great one, continuing with the "hilarious and heart-breaking" play Lone Star Spirits, and the second regional production of the eight-time Tony-winning musical Once. If you've not been to New Prague lately, now is a good time for a visit (click here for info on the season).

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

"Christmas of Swing" at History Theatre

#TCTheater loves its holiday* shows, and my very first this year (not counting Annie, which is holiday-adjacent) is History Theatre's remount of their original musical Christmas of Swing, which I first saw in 2013. They've updated it this year to reflect the greater diversity of soldiers who served in WWII, making it more poignant and powerful than ever. But it's still highly entertaining, featuring Minnesota's own original girl group The Andrews Sisters, singing WWII era songs both Christmassy and not. The large and talented cast does a wonderful job of bringing this music and these heart-warming and heart-breaking stories of WWII soldiers to life.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

"Anamnesis" by The Moving Company at the Southern Theater

Two years after their last live show (during which interval they produced a charming, funny, and profound little web series called Liberty Falls 2020), the Moving Company is back on stage where they belong. As I found my seat in the nearly full-to-capacity vaxxed and masked crowd at the Southern Theater last night, and saw the black tarp-covered object filling the space under the historic arch, I had no idea what I was in for. But after ten years of experiencing this company that is the descendent of the famed Tony-winning Theatre de la Jeune Lune, I knew it would be unique, inventive, and, yes, moving. Anamnesis is all that and more (continuing at the Southern Theater through December 4).

Friday, November 19, 2021

"The Empathy Project" by Full Circle Theater Company at Park Square Theatre

During this very long extended intermission from live performance, Full Circle Theater Company continued development of new works, including a play called The Empathy Project. They held several zoom readings, and now it's finally on stage in a full production. Having seen and appreciated the zoom version, it's wonderful to see what it has grown into in this fully staged version of the piece. Playwright Stephanie Lein Walseth interviewed 20 people across the state of Minnesota, looking for a good representation across politics, geography, and race. She asked people about their family story, their values, what empathy means to them, and their hope for the future. All of these stories are beautifully woven together, with the interviewees embodied by a talented nine-person cast, to create an inspirational tapestry of humanity that reminds us that behind all the rhetoric, we're much more similar than we thought we were. If you need a little more empathy in your life (and who doesn't right now?), see one of the few remaining performances of The Empathy Project at Park Square Theatre, closing November 21.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

"Little Women: The Broadway Musical" at Artistry

After cancelling their originally scheduled opening weekend due to a positive COVID test in the vaccinated cast (statistically speaking, this was bound to happen somewhere amongst the many shows in production right now, even with a low breakthrough rate), Artistry finally opened their production of Little Women: The Broadway Musical. Louisa May Alcott's classic story of four very different but loving sisters has stood the test of time and many adaptations. While this is not my favorite adaptation of the story, it's still a heart-warming tale, and the talented cast and creative team make the most of the material.

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.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

"Annie" at Children's Theatre Company

A healthy dose of optimism is exactly what I needed last Friday night, when it seems like coming out of this pandemic is one step forward and two steps back, on top of all of the other problems the world is facing right now. And optimism is exactly what Children's Theatre Company's production of Annie delivers, in spades. Ten years later, they're remounting their 2011 production with most of the creative team and even some of the cast returning. It's the first live performance at CTC since their original play Spamtown, USA closed early due to the pandemic 20 months ago, and it's a joyous return. Despite being written in the '70s and taking place in the '30s, Annie clearly resonates with 2021. People living in poverty struggling to survive while others live on "Easy Street," and bad feelings towards a former president who left us with mess to clean up, are stories that could've been pulled from today's headlines. Annie shows us the power of "Little Girls," at a time when we're looking to the younger generations, and women of all ages, to lead us out of today's challenges and into a better "Tomorrow."

Friday, November 12, 2021

Broadway Tour of "Oklahoma!" at the Orpheum Theatre

The 2019 Tony winner for best revival of a musical begins its National tour right here in Minneapolis. But this Oklahoma! is more total reimagining than revival. So many revivals are really just a retread of the original production, with a few tweaks here or there. But with this show, it's as if director Daniel Fish were handed the script and score for a new show in 2015 (the first year he directed the show) and created this piece with no knowledge of any production that had ever come before. This production takes wild risks and pushes the edges in every direction. The result is an Oklahoma! that is dark, sexy, urgent, vibrant, modern, stripped-down, and speaks directly to current American by examining its violent* past. Pretty remarkable feat for a nearly 80-year old musical. But it's only in town through Sunday, before heading off across the nation (click here for info and tickets).

Thursday, November 11, 2021

"Fruit Flies Like a Banana" by the Fourth Wall Ensemble at the Southern Theater

Oh happy day - my favorite traveling fringe show is in town, and it's not even fringe season! With all fringe festivals cancelled (or virtual) in 2020, and limited in 2021, the Boston-based Fourth Wall Ensemble is embarking on a mini-tour of their own. And since they love Minnesota (or that's what they tell us, and we believe them), the Southern Theater in Minnesota is one of their stops. But hurry, they're only here for one more show - tonight! If you've never seen them before, now is your chance to see multi-disciplinary artists do what I have literally never seen anyone else do. This trio of classically trained instrumentalists performs short pieces of music combined with storytelling, theater, dance, movement, acrobatics, and just generally wildly creative silliness. It's a guaranteed hour (or so) of pure joy and wonder. And who doesn't need that right now?! Click here to purchase tickets for tonight's 6:30pm show (great for kids and morning people struggling with the recent time change).

Sunday, November 7, 2021

"Top Girls" by Theatre Pro Rata at the Crane Theater

Everyone loves the '80s, right? Maybe not so much after seeing Theatre Pro Rata's production of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, which takes an unflinching look at what the '80s were really like, particularly in the lives of working women who seemed on the surface to "have it all." It's dark, weird, and a little fantastical, like all of Churchill's work, but it's also smart, thought-provoking, grounded in humanity, and relevant to our world 40 years later, with a different sort of gender politics happening in the work place.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

"Brujería for Beginners" by 20% Theatre Company and Lightning Rod at Mixed Blood Theatre

Amongst the theater companies recently lost to the pandemic (and other reasons) are Theatre Unbound (featuring female-identifying artists and stories), Uprising Theatre Company (transgender and gender nonconforming artists and stories), and now 20% Theatre Company (all of the above). The rest of #TCTheater really needs to step up to make sure that these stories continue to be told, and that women and members of the LGBTQ+ community are given a seat at the table. One new company that will be taking up the mantle is Lightning Rod, "a transgender-led, majority BIPOC organism, dedicated to legacy, development and opportunities for queer and trans artists," which is partnering with 20% Theatre's on their 50th and final show. Brujería for Beginners opened at Mixed Blood Theatre last night and it was a bittersweet event, full of celebration as well as sober finality. The family dramedy, with a magical twist, is a sweet and charming show, and the energy in the firehouse was palpable.

Monday, November 1, 2021

"The Most Beautiful Home... Maybe" by Mixed Blood Theatre Company at Springboard for the Arts

Mixed Blood Theatre's second production of their 2021-2022 season, The Most Beautiful Home... Maybe, delivers an important message about the housing crisis in an unconventional performance style. The audience participation was too much for this extreme introvert; it just makes me uncomfortable and further distances me from the subject matter, as opposed to drawing me in with non-participatory storytelling. But for those who don't mind some pretty significant audience participation, it might be a good way to start imagining a better world in the future, where everyone has safe affordable housing.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

"The People's Violin" by Six Points Theater (formerly known as Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company)

The only play I saw live and in person in the last ten months of 2020 was Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company's 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, performed outdoors at various locations. They produced another outdoor play this summer, A Pickle, as well as multiple virtual offerings over the last year and a half. I can't tell you how much creative theater offerings like this kept be going through the very long intermission from live performance, and I'm thrilled that we're finally returning (with the help of vaccines and masks). Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company marks their return to their Highland Park space with a new production, The People's Violin, and a new name - Six Points Theater (watch a video about the name change here). But what hasn't changed is the thought-provoking, meaningful, entertaining, high quality work that they do, exploring Jewish culture and identity, with relevance to the world at large. The People's Violin is another such play.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

"Theatre of the Macabre" at Park Square Theatre

Last year, during the very long intermission from live theater, Park Square Theatre presented a virtual cabaret of Halloween-themed songs and stories called Theatre of the Macabre. This year, they're able to present the show in person in their historic downtown St. Paul space (with the help of vaccines and masks), but only for two nights! It was so great to be back at Park Square for this taste of good things to come (they're hosting a few other companies this fall and officially opening their season with a remount of Marie and Rosetta in January). Theatre of the Macabre is a truly delightful, and at times disturbing, evening of songs and stories, like an elevated version of gathering around a campfire to tell spooky tales. Tickets remain for tonight's show; click here for all the details.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Twin Cities Horror Festival 2021 at the Crane Theater

I don't love horror, and I'm not really into Halloween (except for the candy). But I do love the ingenious #TCTheater community that creates spooky, creepy, scary works of theater for the annual Twin Cities Horror Festival. After last year's virtual festival, they're returning to in-person shows this year (on a limited capacity, with a virtual portion as well) for their tenth season. I spend last night at the Crane Theater being scared, wowed, entertained, and moved by this year's creations. I saw three of the five live shows, and I previously saw one of them at this year's Minnesota Fringe Festival (I like to think of TCHF as a genre-specific mini-Fringe). The festival runs this weekend only, with weekend passes as well as individual show tickets available (click here for details).

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

"Circle Mirror Transformation" at Theatre in the Round

The oldest theater in Minneapolis returns from the very long intermission; Theatre in the Round opened their 70th season with the sweet and awkward little play Circle Mirror Transformation. Unfortunately it has already closed, but their season continues with four more productions through next summer, including the Agatha Christie mystery A Murder is Announced, opening in November. But in the meantime, read on for more about Circle Mirror Transformation, which I caught on closing weekend.

Friday, October 22, 2021

"The Comedy of Errors" by Ten Thousand Things at Plymouth Congregational Church

Last night I saw Ten Thousand Things perform Shakespeare (live and in-person, which 20 months ago would have seemed like an absurd qualifier), and for about 90 minutes, it felt like everything was right with the world. No one does Shakespeare like Ten Thousand Things; no one makes it as understandable, relatable, relevant, and fun. And when you're talking about Shakespeare's silliest and most slapsticky comedy, The Comedy of Errors, it's all about the fun. With just six actors playing all 15 (or 47, who's counting) roles, it's a rollicking good time. Of course not all is right with the world, we're still very much in the thick of this pandemic, which means TTT can't do their most important work - bringing theater out into the community to people who aren't usually able to experience theater. But they can still do what they do for the people who show up at Plymouth Congregational Church, with a pay-what-you-can option to make it more accessible. And what they do is tell stories, in the most delightful and in-the-moment way imaginable, with all the lights on.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

"King of the Kosher Grocers" by Stage North at the Capri Theater

New #TCTheater company Stage North (not to be confused with Stage North Theatre Company in Brainerd) makes its debut in the newly remodeled Capri Theater in North Minneapolis with King of the Kosher Grocers. This charming play that is an homage to the neighborhood, first produced by Mixed Blood Theatre in 1992, is a great first production for a company whose mission is "creating vibrant, live experiences that bring people together to tell and celebrate stories of urban life... Our hope is that Stage North will help bring new audiences and new excitement and vitality to the North Side business district and contribute to the neighborhood's continuing growth and expansion" (read the full statement here). Unfortunately, North Minneapolis is a neighborhood known more for its crime and violence than for the community and culture of the people who live there. Of course, theater can't solve all of the problems, but it can shine a light on overlooked people and communities. This play does just that - celebrates the diverse community of people and the vibrant history of this neighborhood.*

Sunday, October 17, 2021

"The Red Shoes" at Open Eye Theatre

In 2017, Open Eye Theatre premiered The Red Shoes, inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story of the vain little girl with pretty red shoes cursed so that her shoes will never stop dancing. The show also "draws inspiration and influences from the vintage detective novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, case studies of amnesia and multiple personality, and black and white film noir movies of the 1940s" (per director and co-writer Joel Sass, along with Kimberly Richardson). They were all set to remount it in March of 2020, when the pandemic shut down all live performance. Happily, a year and a half later, it is opening their live in-person 2021-2022 season in their charming and intimate space in South Minneapolis. Also happily but not surprisingly, The Red Shoes is still "something so curious and unique, odd and chilling, inventive and charming, it's thoroughly captivating from start to finish." And perhaps even more relevant and relatable after we've all spent so much time trapped inside our homes with only our own thoughts and imagination to fill the time and space.

"Every Brilliant Thing" at the Jungle Theater

Jungle Theater couldn't have chosen a better play with which to return to live programming than Every Brilliant Thing. After living apart for so long during this ongoing pandemic, Every Brilliant Thing is all about the connections between people and celebrating the little (and big) things that bring us joy in the midst of the traumas of life. As the Jungle's new Artistic Director Christina Balwin notes in the virtual program, "this beautiful play is performed with the audience, not at them." A live audience is what makes theater theater, and it's what we've all been missing. I can't think of a play in which the audience is more vital than this one. It feels so good to be in a room with other humans again, experiencing and even participating in one of the oldest human artforms - storytelling.

Friday, October 15, 2021

"Not in Our Neighborhood" at History Theatre

The History Theatre original play Not in Our Neighborhood was scheduled to run in rep with Not for Sale in March 2020. We know how that story goes - both productions were shut down shortly before opening. But now, over a year and a half later, History Theatre is opening their new season with Not in Our Neighborhood and will present Not for Sale in February. Both plays deal with with redlining and segregation in St. Paul in the early and mid 20th Century, a local history that feels even more important and relevant now than it did a year and a half ago. Not in Our Neighborhood tells the true story of a prominent and successful St. Paul Black couple who in the 1920s chose to leave the Rondo neighborhood to move into the all-white Groveland Park neighborhood, and the discrimination they faced.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

"Island of Discarded Women" Live Podcast at the Woman's Club of Minneapolis

In May of 2020, I posted a piece called "I Listen to Podcasts Now!" Prior to the pandemic I listened to a few podcasts, but as it probably did for most people, the number of podcasts I listen to has increased exponentially in the last year and a half. One of my few pre-pandemic podcasts was Island of Discarded Women, created and hosted by #TCTheater artist and long-time voice actor on A Prairie Home Companion, Sue Scott. The monthly podcast was recorded live onstage in 2019 (I was hoping to attend my first one in spring 2020), and moved to at-home/zoom recordings during the pandemic. Now the live recordings have begun again in their new home, the Woman's Club of Minneapolis, the second Sunday of every month (proof of vaccination required, plus masks when not enjoying the dinner and drink service). I was thrilled to experience my favorite local podcast live last weekend!

Saturday, October 9, 2021

"Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" by Collide Theatrical Dance Company at the Southern Theater

For eight years, Collide Theatrical Dance Company has been creating new dance musicals, either with original stories or based on classic works. Even the pandemic didn't stop them - they presented an outdoor dance cabaret last fall when all of us were starved for live entertainment; produced a Valentine's Day video dance piece; and returned to the outdoor stage this spring for a dance musical based on Alice in Wonderland. Now they're back inside the best dance venue in town, the Southern Theater, for the premiere of their dance musical based not just on the well known 19th Century novel Frankenstein, but also on the life of its lesser known author, Mary Shelley. Over 75 minutes of continuous dance, the seven-person ensemble tells these remarkable interconnected stories with great emotion and vitality.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Broadway Tour of "What the Constitution Means to Me" at the Guthrie Theater

In the middle of my 17th season as a Guthrie Theater subscriber, a global pandemic shut down live performing arts. Since it opened in 2006, I had been going to the big blue beautiful building on the river once every month or two, and then suddenly, it all stopped. I was beyond thrilled to return to the Guthrie, my happy place, this week to experience the national tour of the Tony-nominated Broadway play What the Constitution Means to Me. With a mask on my face and a vaccine card in my hand (which, after a solid month of indoor theater-going, feels normal), walking through the familiar spaces felt like coming home. And what a play to begin this new season of theater! I had seen the filmed version of the Broadway play on Amazon, but seeing it live in person is how it was meant to be seen. Written by Heidi Schreck, who also played the role of herself on Broadway, this play is part civics lesson and part very personal story, as it very seriously (and humorously) explores the issues of domestic violence, abortion rights, and generational trauma. It is simultaneously depressing and hopeful about the state of our nation. Which is pretty on track for the world right now. Two years after its Broadway premiere and we're still very much in the thick of it, and this play perhaps helps us see things in a new way. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Ruth Easton New Play Series at the Playwrights' Center

Theater is my religion, and I couldn't be happier to return to the mother church; the Playwrights' Center is back! Of course, they never really went away. They swiftly transitioned to virtual readings of new work in March 2020 and have been continuing to support playwrights locally and across the country in the development of new work, while providing jobs to actors and artists in a time when there were not many arts jobs to be had. But now they're back in their South Minneapolis space in an old church with live in-person readings of new works. The Ruth Easton New Play Series is an annual festival of workshops and readings presented monthly, now through February. There will be two limited-seating in-person readings of each, that will be recorded and made available to watch virtually. You do need to make reservations for both in-person and virtual, but it's free! Below is the schedule of readings as well as my thoughts. Click here for all the details and to make your free reservation.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Broadway Tour of "Frozen" at the Orpheum Theatre

Last Sunday, the re-opening of Broadway after an unprecedented shutdown of a year and a half was celebrated with the Tonys and a fabulous primetime concert called Broadway is Back. Just a few days later, Broadway is back in Minneapolis, in a big way. The Broadway tour of the musical adaptation of the hit 2013 Disney movie Frozen, which was originally scheduled for May 2020, has finally arrived on Hennepin Avenue. Maybe it's partly because I hadn't seen a Broadway tour in so long (not since The Band's Visit in December 2019), but I, and probably everyone in the nearly packed house, found this show to be absolutely thrilling. Jam-packed with great musical numbers, theater magic creating wow moments, and a heart-warming story about the love between sisters, Frozen is a fantastic celebration of the return of theater (continuing through October 20, click here for details and to purchase tickets).

Saturday, October 2, 2021

"The Bungalow Loft" by Fearless Comedy Productions at the Historic Mounds Theatre

Fearless Comedy Productions returns with a brand new comedy play by #TCTheater favorite Shanan Custer! Although maybe it's more of a dramedy, as it features two sisters discovering some secrets about their recently deceased mother and deals with themes of grief, loss, regret, memories, mental illness, and challenging family relationships. Presented in an intimate in-the-round (or square) space on the floor of the Historic Mounds Theatre, The Bungalow Loft is funny and real and brought to us by an all-female cast and creative team. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

"Stations of the Heart" at Nautilus Music-Theater

Nautilus Music-Theater's main focus is developing new works of music-theater (a hyphenate that encompasses opera, musicals, plays with music, and everything in between) through their monthly "Rough Cuts" series and their annual Composer-Librettist Studio. Their rare but wonderful full productions seem to pop up out of nowhere, but in reality they've been in the works for years. Such is the cast with the lovely new song cycle Stations of the Heart, which was first presented at a Rough Cuts 18 years ago. Now, as theaters are starting to open after a very long extended intermission, it's finally being presented as a full production, although a small one - three vocalists and two musicians. It's exactly what I've come to expect from Nautilus - innovative, modern yet connected to a long tradition, and musically gorgeous. Performances continue through October 17 with limited seating, so make your plans soon (proof of vaccination and mask required).

Saturday, September 25, 2021

"The 39 Steps" at Lyric Arts

The last time I saw a play at Lyric Arts was January 2020, the bittersweet Irish love story Bloomsday. Returning to their Main Street Stage in Anoka 21 long months later felt like coming home, even without the familiar smell of popcorn, and with the new normal of showing proof of vaccination and wearing a mask. They haven't been silent during this extended intermission, producing several virtual cabarets and even a fully staged production of Lauren Gunderson's The Revolutionists for virtual viewing. But it's great to be back in that space again. This little theater in the 'burbs has an exciting and ambitious season planned, culminating in yet another regional premiere next summer, the hilarious 2015 Tony-nominated musical about musicals Something Rotten. But first, they're opening the season with the very fun and clever British mystery/comedy The 39 Steps. Welcome back, indeed.

Friday, September 24, 2021

"Sherwood" at Yellow Tree Theatre

The last play seen on the Yellow Tree Theatre stage was the powerful drama Skeleton Key in February of 2020, a co-production with New Dawn Theatre Company. Their next scheduled show, the new Robin Hood comedy Sherwood, was cancelled due to the pandemic, and now, almost a year and a half later, it's finally onstage at Yellow Tree. But things have changed since then, in the world and in theater. Audiences have to show proof of vaccination (or negative COVID-19 test) and wear masks, and New Dawn Artistic Director Austene Van, who directed Skeleton Key, is the new Artistic Director of Yellow Tree (following the departure of co-founders Jessica and Jason Peterson to the North). But what hasn't changed is that this cozy little theater in a strip mall in Osseo is a warm and welcoming place with wonderful theater that entertains and challenges audiences. The super fun and playful Sherwood is an excellent start to this new chapter of life, theater, and Yellow Tree.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

"Rondo '56: Remembering St Paul's Black Main Street" at Crooners Supper Club

The story of Rondo, St. Paul's thriving Black neighborhood that was destroyed with the construction of I94 in the '50s and '60s, has been told before (e.g., in History Theatre's 2017 play The Highwaymen), and now it's being told through music. Created by Dan Chouinard in collaboration with T Mychael Rambo, Thomasina Petrus, and Charmin Michelle, featuring music of the era, and utilizing historical photos, Rondo '56: Remembering St Paul's Black Main Street is a celebration of what we had and a memorialization of what was lost. One wonders what our community would look like today if Rondo had been allowed to continue to flourish as an integral part of the greater Twin Cities community, instead of literally splitting it in two and displacing hundreds of Black families. The celebration of Rondo continues today with two performances (click here for details and tickets).

Saturday, September 18, 2021

"Animate" by Mixed Blood Theatre at the Como Zoo

photo by Rich Ryan
Earlier this year, Jack Reuler announced his retirement as Artistic Director of Mixed Blood Theatre, a company he founded in 1976. Mixed Blood has truly become a model of inclusivity, diversity, and accessibility in theater, amplifying often unheard voices on stage and off, and making sure everyone is able to be in the audience with its Radical Hospitality program. But before he retires, Jack is directing another incredible site-specific piece. The new play Animate, written by Ken LaZebnik, is an immersive ambulatory play at the Como Zoo that is, of course, about a zoo. Specifically about the ethics of zoos, accepting donations from wealthy people of questionable character, and "does the good of the many supersede the good of the individual," human or animal. It's an impressive logistical feat, features a ton of #TCTheater talent, and asks some big questions without providing easy answers. In fact, the audience is asked to provide their own answers to the big questions of the show. Unfortunately, the entire (free) run is sold out, but stay tuned in case more dates are added (click here for details).

Friday, September 17, 2021

"You Who I Always/Never/Once Loved" by Fortune's Fool Theatre at the Crane Theater

Last fall, Fortune's Fool Theatre presented a beautiful collection of storytelling pieces by local artists around the topic of having or not having children. They did it as safely as possible, but since the pandemic was still raging I watched the video recordings of To Breed, Or Not to Breed at home. Their follow-up this fall is stories about love in all forms, and since I'm comfortable going to see theater in a vaxxed and masked audience (as most are these days), I was happy to see the first weekend of You Who I Always/Never/Once Loved at the Crane Theater, which is another collection of beautifully honest stories. Performances continue through this Saturday, with another set of storyteller and stories next weekend (click here for details). After the run, they will also make the video recordings available to view online.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

"Minne-Musicals" by Minneapolis Musical Theatre at The Hennepin and The Chambers

A year and a half after their exquisitely lovely production of the sweet two-person musical Daddy Long Legs at the James J. Hill House (which I saw one and a half times, thanks to the joys of parking in St. Paul in the winter), Minneapolis Musical Theatre is back! Unfortunately, the fun and Fringey Minne-Musicals only ran for one weekend, so if you missed it, you're out of luck. But keep an eye on MMT as they continue to bring us "rare musicals, well done."