Since 2018, Theatre 55 has been producing shows with entire casts made up of actors age 55 or older, showcasing the talent of elder actors in our community (like the B Positive of #TCTheater). They also give novice actors the chance to work with and learn from more experienced theater artists, with a goal to "enrich the lives of elders as artists, audiences, and lifelong learners through theatre performance and education." They're returning to live in-person performance with the cult classic The Rocky Horror Show, and similar to Hair, their first production three years ago, populating this show with people who likely were around for and witnessed the original incarnation brings a new depth and meaning to it. But mostly, it's just a whole lot of fun. Everyone in the 15-person cast seemed to be having a blast, and the audience was right there in it with them. This show is such a fun and wacky expression of life and individuality, and this particular production is a great reminder that it's never too late for "don't dream it, be it." If you're one of those Rocky Horror fanatics (which, I admit, I am not), or if you just want to have a good time at the theater, check out this unique Rocky Horror through February 6 only (click here for details and to purchase tickets on a pay-what-you-can scale).
It doesn't get much more Minnesotan than outdoor opera performed on a frozen lake, surrounded by art installations. This is Art Shanty Projects, now in their 14th year, celebrating winter, the great outdoors, and art. Their mission: "Art Shanty Projects intentionally creates an impermanent art village on Minnesota lake ice amid changing climate and environment. With a spirit of embracing challenges through creativity, we support an ecosystem that inspires everyone to create and participate in art, thrive in winter, and build community." Since theater is a bit slow at the moment, I used my spare time to visit the shanties for the first time last weekend. It runs for another two weekends, and you can find all the information here, including performance schedules. Scroll down for my photo journal of my day (well, hour and a half) at the Art Shanties.
Theater Latte Da's re-imagined production of the 19th Century Italian opera La Bohème, first produced in 2005, and again in 2007, was scheduled to open on March 14, 2020. They had a few previews, and then... well, we know how that story goes. But now, 22 months later, La Bohème finally had its opening night at the Ritz Theater! It's a gorgeous, thoughtful production, accessible even to those not very familiar with opera, such as myself. But of course, my interest in La Bohème is primarily as the inspiration for my favorite musical RENT. I've seen La Bohème once before pre-blog, 20 years ago, which means I remember nothing about it. Watching this performance, I was continually delighted by how familiar the characters, stories, and even specific scenes are after seeing RENT 16 times in the last 25 years. But enough about RENT, that's just this RENThead's way into this piece. La Bohème is worthy on its own without that connection, being "one of the most frequently performed operas worldwide." I'd not rather see anyone's production other than Theater Latte Da, who has, as per usual, brought a new and unique spin to the piece while honoring the spirit of the original, and made this 125-year old opera feel vital and relevant.
The world premiere new play Bina's Six Apples, which just opened at Children's Theatre Company, teaches children about the refugee and displaced person crisis that's happening now in many places around the world, and has happened countless times throughout history. This particular story is about a family forced to leave their home during the Korean War, inspired by playwright Lloyd Suh's own family history. There's no better way than theater to engender empathy with people who live in another time and place, and this play does just that through the sweet and inspiring story of one frightened but brave little girl.
If you love musicals (and if you don't, why are you reading this blog?), grab your vax card and mask and head to Anoka to see Lyric Arts' new production of [title of show], the charming, irreverent, quirky little musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical. I knew I loved the show, but I hadn't seen it in over ten years and I had forgotten just how fantastic it is. Chock full of (sometimes obscure) musical theater references and meta fourth-wall breaking, it shows the creative process in all it's wonder and heartbreak. Lyric has assembled a really talented young cast and creative team, some of whose names you may not know, but you will now. It's 90 minutes of sheer joy and delight, a celebration of making art that couldn't come at a better time.
The new year has started out a little rocky, with several local shows being cancelled or postponed. I still have a few shows on my schedule, but up until the moment the curtain goes up I'm not sure they're actually going to happen. The Broadway tour of Come From Away is still on (for the moment) and playing at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. I cannot think of a better show to begin my 2022 year of theater. It's the heart-warming true story of how the people of Gander, Newfoundland welcomed 7000 strangers when their planes were diverted there on 9/11, smartly and succinctly told in a 100-minute musical that flows from story to song with minimal applause breaks, with a fantastic score infused with Celtic rhythms and instrumentation. What I love most is that someone heard about this inspiring 9/11 story and thought - let's write a musical about it! And then they did it in a way that's not treacly, or overproduced, or any other of the many ways it could have gone wrong. They did it in a true and heartfelt way that tells the story in the best possible way. "They" are Canadian married couple Irene Sankoff and David Hein (and producer Michael Rubinoff), and their creation has traveled around the world, inspiring many, and reminding us of the good in humanity, and the incredible things that all of us ordinary people can do when we put aside our differences and connect with our fellow humans.
We did it, friends: somehow, we've made it to the end of another year. A year that started in the bleak darkness of a much too long intermission from live theater, continued through a glorious summer of outdoor performances, and into the sudden hopeful return of #TCTheater, almost like we knew it before, but different. Things looked pretty great in September as many companies returned to the stage with a new season, but a bit of darkness has descended again with the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant that has forced show closings and cancellations on Broadway and here at home. The future is uncertain, but the experience of the past nearly two years dealing with this pandemic gives me confidence that we will get through this too, and theater will continue. But first, let's pause and look back at the year that was in #TCTheater.