Sunday, March 27, 2022

"Eugene Onegin" by Skylark Opera Theatre

Once again, Skylark Opera Theatre brings us a classic opera in a stripped down, accessible, intimate way. They're performing the 19th Century Russian opera Eugene Onegin (pronounced oh-NYAY-gun) by Tchaikovsky, based on a novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin, at The Museum of Russian Art. In an audience of about 100 arranged along a long corridor stage area, surrounded by Russian art, listening to this unamplified nine-person cast (singing in English) accompanied only by a grand piano is a uniquely satisfying musical experience. Only four performances remain, click here for info and tickets.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

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

The Great Strike Theater IMPROVISED Bake Off is back! The last time I was at Strike Theater was for the 2019 holiday Bake Off. After a very long intermission, Strike opened its doors again last year for sketch comedy, storytelling, and spoken word shows and classes. And this week my favorite show, the delightful spoof of everyone's favorite TV baking competition, returned for two performances only. Click here for more info on Strike's upcoming shows and classes, and read on for more about this episode of the Bake Off.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

"Parks: A Portrait of a Young Artist" at History Theatre

When I saw a reading of the then-titled The Gordon Parks Play Project three years ago, I wrote: "Friends, this is one of those experiences that transcended theater." When the reading is that good, and the playwright is one of #TCTheater's most talented and prolific, Harrison David Rivers, adding in acclaimed director Talvin Wilks, you know the finished product is going to be something special. Parks: A Portrait of a Young Artist, which has finally opened at History Theatre, is just that. Beautifully written, directed, and acted, with evocative images, well-chosen period songs, and an almost constant underscoring of music, Parks traces the origin of photographer, musician, and filmmaker Gordon Parks during his decade or so living in St. Paul as a youth. Once again his great-niece Robin P. Hickman-Winfield, a collaborator on the piece, was in attendance and spoke before the performance I attended, and it's clear that Gordon's legacy of Black artistry lives on in her, the students at Gordon Parks High School in St. Paul, and any other Black youth who picks up a camera, or a paintbrush, or a pen as their weapon against racism and injustice.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

"Ruddigore; or, The Witch's Curse" by the Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center

Another 2020 "ghost show" has returned! (And this one is a "ghost show" in more ways than one.) The Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company had just opened their production of Ruddigore; or, The Witch's Curse in March of 2020 when the pandemic shut down all live performance. Finally, two years later, they've re-opened the show for a (hopefully) full run, and it's delightful! A huge and talented cast, a gorgeously full opera, and a clever concept that pays homage to classic movies makes this show a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and worth the wait.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

"Thurgood" at Penumbra Theatre Company

Friends, if you want to be reminded of the promise of America, and have a little hope restored that this promise will one day be fulfilled, go see Thurgood at Penumbra Theatre. And you're in luck - after selling out the initial planned run (at limited capacity), they've it extended through April 10. This solo play is such an inspiring look at the icon and the human that was lawyer, activist, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and what an important role he played in the continued fight for Civil Rights. Though it seems like we've taken a few steps back in that regard lately, with new voter suppression laws and increased hate crimes and violence against Black Americans, and other communities of color, this play reminds us what is possible. And with the recent nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, who would be the first Black female Justice, it couldn't be more timely.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Broadway Tour of "Hadestown" at the Orpheum Theatre

It's an old song. It's a sad song. But we sing it anyway. Such is the song of Hadestown, the 2019 Tony winning best musical that's finally made its way to Minneapolis, just in time for spring. The sad old song being sung again and again is that of Hades and Persephone, whose relationship is responsible for the changing of the seasons (according to Greek mythology), as well as Eurydice and Orpheus' tragic love story. Singer/songwriter Anaïs Mitchell turned this sad old song into a song cycle, a folk opera which she first recorded with some of her folk singer friends in 2010 (which I heard her perform at the loveliest little folk festival in Minnesota, Storyhill Fest). It took almost a decade to turn that song cycle into a Broadway musical, with help from visionary director Rachel Chavkin. The result is this stunning piece of music-theater that's wholly unique and original. I was lucky enough to see it on Broadway, and am thrilled that the tour is finally here! Truly, friends, don't miss your brief chance to see it at the Orpheum Theatre before the song moves on (click here for info and tickets).

Sunday, March 13, 2022

"Orlando" by Theatre Pro Rata at the Crane Theater

Although based on a 1928 Virginia Woolf novel and adapted into a play around the turn of this century by Sarah Ruhl, Orlando speaks very much to this time, with its exploration of gender fluidity, and it's skewering of societal norms around gender identity and gender roles. Written in a modern narrative style, with the ensemble taking turns describing the story as it plays out, there's a playfulness to it despite the seriousness of the ideas presented. Theatre Pro Rata has assembled an excellent cast and team to bring the complex, modern, insightful story to life at the Crane Theater (through March 27, click here for info and tickets).

Thursday, March 10, 2022

"Stone Baby" by Trademark Theater and Kiss the Tiger at Icehouse

Trademark Theater's first live production after the extended intermission of the last year or two is, of course, something truly original. During the time off from live performance, they've been working on developing new work, including a collaboration with local band Kiss the Tiger, whose lead singer Meghan Kreidler has been seen on theater and music stages all over town. Stone Baby is a concert/theater/performance hybrid unlike anything I've seen before. The rock concert storytelling format in the vein of Hedwig and the Angry Inch combines original rock music and a wild story about a musician who choose her art no matter the consequences. It's completely mesmerizing, and a welcome step outside of my comfort zone of traditional theater. Stone Baby can be experienced every Wednesday night this month at Icehouse, a really cool music venue in South Minneapolis (click here for info and tickets, standing room and table seating available).

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Broadway Tour of "Waitress" at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

The 2016 Best Musical Tony nominee Waitress is back in the Twin Cities! Last seen in 2017, the tour is coming back around again, and it's better than ever. The quirky little 2007 movie of the same name upon which it was based (written by and co-starring Adrienne Shelly, who was tragically murdered before its release) is one of my favorites, and the musical adaptation retains the sad and joyful sweetness of this story of a woman gaining control over her own life. Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles wrote the Tony-nominated score, and it's a great one, with a more folky stripped-down sound than is normally heard on Broadway. This show gives me all the feels - it's sad, and funny, and hopeful, and inspiring. But it's playing at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts until Sunday only, so don't wait! (Click here for info and tickets.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

"The Big Blue River" by Mariah Theatre Company at North Garden Theater

It's great to welcome in a new #TCTheater company, after we've lost too many in the last two years. Theater and film actor/director/writer Patrick Coyle is debuting his new company, Mariah Theatre Company: "a boutique theatre company in St. Paul, MN producing world premieres with a mission to produce work that honestly depicts issues of mental health, suicide awareness, and addiction." Patrick wrote The Big Blue River before and during the pandemic. It's a funny, quirky, poignant play about a woman looking for connection, something probably everyone can relate to after the isolation of the recent past. He's assembled a fantastic cast of local actors to bring his story to life in the intimate space of the North Garden Theater in St. Paul's West 7th neighborhood.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

"Once Upon a Winter Night" at Open Eye Theatre

Open Eye (née Figure) Theatre's new original work Once Upon a Winter Night was postponed from January to March, which often marks the beginning of spring. But never fear, this is Minnesota, so we're still in the throes of Winter. I attended the show after a matinee at the nearby Children's Theatre, and when I left the theater and saw the slush falling from the sky and filling up the streets and sidewalks, I almost drove home. But since I was there, I decided to stay, and sloshed through the puddles into the cozy and intimate space at Open Eye for a mesmerizing magical show. It turned out OK because it was still just raining when I drove home, with everything freezing and being covered by a couple inches of snow by the morning. Which just reinforces what we who live in the frozen North know - Winter is a mysterious, magical, at times menacing thing that we just try to survive every year. But there's a lot of fun and celebration to be had in Winter too, and that's what Once Upon a Winter Night is.

"Something Happened in Our Town" at Children's Theatre Company

Something happened in our town. In May of 2020, while we were in the early days of a terrifying, deadly, and isolating pandemic, a Black man by the name of George Floyd was murdered by police on a public street with the world watching. As if this were the last straw in years, decades, centuries of discrimination, prejudice, and violence against Black people, our town erupted. The world erupted, with generations of pent-up frustration at injustices. It was, and still is, hard to process that as an adult. I can't imagine what our children felt and are still feeling. The Children's Theatre Company saw this need and commissioned playwright Cheryl L. West to adapt the children's book Something Happened in Our Town, written by three child psychologists in 2018, into a play. This story of two families, one Black and one White, and how they and the children's friendship were affected when a Black man was killed by police, offers a straight-forward and hopeful look into these issues, if a bit simplistic and heavy handed at times. Something Happened in Our Town continues through March 27, and while it may not be as fun as Annie or the upcoming Diary of a Wimpy Kid, it's a useful tool (along with lots of helpful dramaturgical info in the program) for parents and children to discuss and process what's been happening in our town over the last two years.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

"Celebrating Sondheim, Act I" by Theater Latte Da at Crooners Supper Club

A memory popped up on Facebook this morning from 12 years ago: "Stephen Sondheim is a genius. I saw him tonight in a sort of Q&A, and I felt like I should have been taking notes. It was like taking a class in musical theater from one of the masters of the form." Even though I didn't take notes, I did write down what I remembered afterwards, and later that year when I started Cherry and Spoon, I posted it (you can read it here). This is a timely memory because last night I had the pleasure of watching a Sondheim cabaret by my favorite interpreters of his work, Theater Latte Da