Sunday, July 31, 2022

"Holmes and Watson" at Park Square Theatre

For the first time since 2019, Park Square Theatre's summer mystery tradition continues! (Not counting 2020's utterly delightful virtual zoom mystery play Puzzle Riddle Plot.) I'm not sure I can tell you much about Holmes and Watson without giving it away; it's one of the most surprisingly twisty tales I've seen on stage. But it's enough to know that it's well plotted, well written, deliciously acted, stunningly designed, and features one of the most beloved characters in literature, TV, and film - the epitome of the clever detective, Sherlock Holmes. Or rather, three of them. The rest you'll have to discover for yourself on Park Square's main stage in the Historic Hamm building in downtown St. Paul through August 21.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Broadway Tour of "Wicked" at the Orpheum Theatre

No matter how many times I see Wicked (seven and counting), it's always a thrill. Those familiar and iconic moments (Glinda descending in a bubble, Elphaba ascending on her broomstick declaring "You'll never bring me down," the flying monkeys) still have power. At this point, the fourth longest currently running Broadway show (since 2003), that has been touring the world almost as long, is a machine that runs like clockwork. But this incredible touring cast, despite how many times they may have played these roles and sung these songs, find a way to make it feel fresh, exciting, and still surprising. Oz will stay in Minneapolis for a month, and whether you've never seen it (who are you?) or have seen it a dozen times, it's always a great time to experience the spectacle, the thrill, the iconic score, and the heart-warming story of female friendship and standing up for what's right. Click here for info and tickets, including info about student/educator rush tickets.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

"Sweat" at the Guthrie Theater

Three years ago, the Guthrie premiered the new play Floyd's (which had its Broadway premiere as Clyde's earlier this past season) by two-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage, a companion piece to one of her Pulitzer Prize winners, Sweat. The Guthrie was supposed to produce that play in the summer of 2020, which of course it didn't, but good things come to those who wait. Both plays were created based on an extensive series of interviews by Lynn and Kate Whoriskey (frequent collaborator and original director of both plays) with the people of Reading, Pennsylvania. The 2010 census determined that Reading had the highest poverty rate out of all cities in America with a population over 65,000, making it a microcosm of what was happening in the greater U.S. during the recession. The first play to come out of these interviews, Sweat is a grittily real, painfully American, and beautifully human story of a group of friends whose lives are torn apart by poverty, drug abuse, racism, and violence.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

2022 Minnesota Fringe Festival Must-See List

Friends, it's been three long years since the last Minnesota Fringe Festival as we know it. They hosted an entirely virtual festival in 2020, and a hybrid festival in 2021 that included about a dozen in person shows. But now it's 2022, the pandemic is totally over (sarcasm), and Fringe is back (August 4-14)! After all that time I'm not sure I remember how to do this anymore, and it's been a particularly busy summer on multiple fronts so I haven't had much time to peruse the website or make my schedule yet. I'm also going to be out of town for part of the festival, so I'll probably only make it to 20-some shows (far from my high of 54 in 2016, but that's exhausting and I'm not getting any younger). But I'm already getting excited about immersing myself in the wonderful artful adventure known as the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Read on for a few of my must-sees, some logistical info from the Fringe website, and my annual tips for newbies.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

"School of Rock" by Zephyr Theatre at Lowell Park

Broadway by the Bridge is back! Zephyr Theatre's pandemic-inspired outdoor summer musical tradition began last year with a super fun Mamma Mia!, and will hopefully continue long past the point where it feels safe to be inside a crowded room. The riverside stage with the gorgeous evening sky and the historic Stillwater bridge as backdrop couldn't be more perfect for outdoor theater, and what's happening on stage is pretty great too. The regional premiere of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Julian Fellowes musical adaptation of the 2003 Jack Black movie School of Rock features a slew of talented kids, and some pretty great grown-ups too, in this fun and feel-good celebration of music and the way it can bring people together and inspire a sense of confidence, purpose, and self-worth. The bad news is there are only seven performances, and five of them are in the past, so act fast to catch this great new outdoor #TCTheater tradition! (Info and tickets for this Wednesday and Thursday can be found here.)

Monday, July 25, 2022

"Something Rotten" at Lyric Arts

Once again, Lyric Arts in Anoka is bringing us the regional premiere of a new(ish) Broadway musical (see also 2018's If/Then and 2019's Bright Star). The 2015 ten-time Tony nominated Something Rotten! is a hilarious musical about musicals, set in Shakespeare's time and featuring The Bard himself as a character. Lyric Arts has assembled a huge, talented, and largely unknown cast to bring this big, bold, wacky story to life on their intimate stage, and it's a hit. If you love musicals, or Shakespeare, or Renn Fest, or broad comedy that's both silly and clever, this is the show for you. Click here for more details and to purchase tickets to the show (continuing through August 14).

Sunday, July 24, 2022

"Shrek" at Artistry

To close out their 2021-2022 season that began with the gorgeous and timely Jason Robert Brown song cycle Songs for a New World, ushering us into the new world of post (mid) pandemic theater, Artistry is bringing us the joyful story of Shrek. This story of a lonely ogre who finds friends, community, and love is a celebration of the beautiful uniqueness of all of us freaks, and it's a really fun time. With a huge cast chock full of local talent; super fun fairy tale costumes; direction by #TCTheater veteran Angela Timberman, a master of making the audience laugh while tugging at their heartstrings; and a catchy score music directed for the last time by Artistry's soon-to-be-retired resident Music Director Anita Ruth, Shrek is a great choice for kids and grown-ups alike (continuing at the Bloomington Center for the Arts through August 14).

Sunday, July 17, 2022

"Glensheen" at the History Theatre

Seven years after its premiere, History Theatre's original musical Glensheen (based on the tragic and bizarre murder of one of Minnesota's most famous heiresses) is still going strong! What has become an annual event took a pause during the pandemic, and returned this year with a tour through Minnesota and a three-week stint in St. Paul. I saw it last night for the third time, and was once again impressed by this wholly local creation. Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's script is so clever and witty (you can also catch his Sherlock Holmes mystery play at Park Square just a few blocks away), local musician Chan Poling's score is so catchy and fun (original cast recording available at concessions), and this seven-person ensemble is so talented in bringing it to life; I don't know how many times they've done this show (five of the original cast members have returned), but they still make it exciting and heart-felt and playful every time. You have one more week to visit Glensheen, site of Minnesota's most famous true crime case (which bears more than a few similarities to 2004 documentary and recent HBO series The Staircase). Click here for tickets, and keep reading for my review from the 2015 production (with a few updates):

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

2022 Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona

For the first time in three long years, Great River Shakespeare Festival is back inside the DuFresne Performing Arts Center on the Winona State University Campus. After their 2020 season was cancelled due the pandemic, they produced a wonderful and entirely outdoor festival in 2021 in a lovely space right on the river. But this feels like a return to festivals of old, complete with other events like discussions, ice cream socials, and pre-show entertainment. I never went to theater camp (although I did go to band camp), but GRSF feels like what theater camp might be like - an immersive theater experience with other theater nerds, plus fun summer activities. It continues for three more weekends and is just an easy and gorgeous two-hour drive from the Twin Cities, with lots to do in Winona including shopping, eating and drinking, arts and culture, and various outdoor activities. You can find all of the relevant information and purchase tickets on their website.

Friday, July 8, 2022

"Twelve Angry Women" by Theater Latte Da at Crooners Supper Club

Theater Latte Da is just over halfway through their seven-week run of the world premiere new musical adaptation of Twelve Angry Men, the classic American rumination on justice and civil discourse. If you haven't seen it yet, get your tickets before they're gone (read my full review of this "adaptation done right" here). Last week, #TCTheater artist and musical theater history aficionado Max Wojtanowicz presented one of his "Pin Spot Series" edutainment shows about the making of this musical in particular, and what goes into making a new musical in general (watch for more of this series during Latte Da's upcoming 25th season). And this weekend only, Theater Latte Da is presenting a companion cabaret show at Crooners entitled Twelve Angry Women, compensating for the fact that the author's estate did not allow them to change the gender of the characters. Although it was planned months ago, this show couldn't come at a better time; women have arguably never had more reason to be angry than they do now, when the Supreme Courts is rolling back our rights 50 years. This show is both a healthy release of that anger, and a beacon of hope that we're still here, we're still fighting, and we'll get through this together. Get your tickets for one of the two remaining shows here.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

"Love's Labor's Lost" by Classical Actors Ensemble and Como Lakeside Pavilion

Classical Actors Ensemble's free Shakespeare in area parks is an annual #TCTheater summer tradition that's been happening every year since 2014 (except for 2020). They do Shakespeare like it was meant to be - accessible, playful, and fun. This year they're bringing us one of Shakespeare's earliest and lesser known comedies - Love's Labor's Lost. They've set this rom-com in a modern day prep school, reenvisioning the characters as students, professors, and campus staff. It works, and it's a whole lot of fun. I saw the show on a stage at Como Lakeside Pavilion, but mostly they perform on a green lawn in a Twin Cities area park - click here to find a location near you (through July 17).

Friday, July 1, 2022

"Emma" at the Guthrie Theater

It's summer at the Guthrie, and there's a big fun show on the thrust stage for the first time since 2019 - a world premiere new adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. Playwright Kate Hamill is adapting all of Austen's works for the stage; Emma is her fourth and was commissioned by the Guthrie Theater, its 2020 premiere postponed two years due to the pandemic. But somehow, now seems just the right time for what is my favorite Kate Hamill play to date. All of her adaptations are true to the source but bring something fresh, modern, and feminist to the story. The themes of Austen's work are timeless, stories of smart young women determining their own destiny despite societal limitations, and Kate makes these themes even more relatable to a modern audience. Emma strikes the perfect balance between the source material, modern social relevance, and delightful silliness; a summer confection as delicious and juicy as the red ripe strawberry on the cover of the program. See it now through August 21.