Thursday, December 22, 2022

"The Little Prince" at the Guthrie Theater

The 40+ year tradition A Christmas Carol is not the only magic the Guthrie Theater is weaving this month. Across the lobby in the proscenium theater, the new production of the classic children's book The Little Prince is full of theater magic and sheer delight, no matter your age. Despite the fact that this book is, according to Wikipedia, the most translated book next to the Bible, I have never read it, or seen any previous adaptation on film or stage. I can't think of a better introduction to this magical story of loneliness, connection, and exploration than through this truly inventive production. While A Christmas Carol closes soon, The Little Prince continues into the new year, providing an oasis of color and imagination in the darkness of winter (continuing through Feb. 5).

Saturday, December 17, 2022

"A Christmas Carole Petersen" by Theater Latte Da at Crooners Supper Club

In addition to their new holiday* favorite Christmas at the Local (playing at the Ritz Theater through December 31), and the beautiful tradition All is Calm that is on a national tour and streaming on PBS, Theater Latte Da is bringing back their original holiday show that was an annual tradition for many of their early years. A Christmas Carole Petersen is #TCTheater artist Tod Petersen's love letter to his family, his childhood Christmases, and his upbringing in Mankato (with a good amount of skepticism and "bah humbug" thrown in). Since its first production over 20 years ago, A Christmas Carole Petersen has gone through several iterations and was last seen at the Ritz in 2017. This production, at Crooners Supper Club, is a more streamlined version of the show, with no bells and whistles of fancy sets or costumes, more of a cabaret storytelling show and running just about 70 minutes. But it works, because at its heart this show is a collection of stories and songs, with no need for embellishment  (beautifully directed by Peter Rothstein, as always). The remaining four shows of this one-weekend run are sold out; contact the box office for cancellations, or check out some of the other great holiday offerings at Crooners this year.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

"The Holiday Songbook" by Songbook Live! at Lakeshore Players Theatre

After cancelling the first of three planned shows this season at Lakeshore Players Theatre, Songbook Live! is back, and just in time for the holidays! A continuation of the "Broadway Songbook" series that James Rocco started when he was at the Ordway, this series provides background and stories about songs and composers in a specific genre, while talented singers and musicians perform the songs in question. The two-night only Holiday Songbook (sorry, the LPT run is done, but there is a performance in Menomonie WI on the 15th) is a really fun and festive celebration of the holiday music that is so much a part of our culture, especially at this time of the year. One of the announced cast members had to drop out due to illness, but James Rocco, Erin Schwab, and pianist Lori Dokken are about the best trio you could ask for. The three have a great rapport in this loose and fun show, that includes more than one opportunity for a singalong. The next Songbook Live!, at LPT in April, features women songwriters. Click here for more on that, and follow Songbook Live! on Facebook for information about upcoming shows.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

"Mary's Wondrous Body" by The Birth Play Project at Elision Playhouse

One of my favorite things about being a Twin Cities Theater Blogger is checking out a new theater company and immediately finding a new favorite (e.g. Transatlantic Love Affair, The Winding Sheet Outfit). That's what happened last night when I went to see the new original "dark comedy with music" Mary's Wondrous Body by The Birth Play Project. Led by 2020 U of M grad Madeline Wall, the company focuses on telling birth stories, which is definitely an untapped niche in theater, although something we have started to see more of lately (see Penumbra's recent play Weathering, and the MN Fringe hit Endometriosis the Musical, which wasn't about birth specifically but the larger topic of women's reproductive health). In addition to being a unique and necessary topic, their work, at least based on this one play, is thoughtful, innovative, and bold. A woman belting out songs about the joy and pain of childbirth and everything surrounding it on stage in front of an audience - yes, we need that. I've never given birth (thankfully so after seeing shows like this), but for those who have, I imagine it feels quite validating to see the experience depicted on stage with respect and raw honesty. The birthing process is a fundamental part of the human experience from the beginning of human history, so (like House of the Dragon's theme of "the childbed is our battlefield") let's get into it. (Click here for info about and to purchase tickets for Mary's Wondrous Body, continuing through December 18.)

Saturday, December 10, 2022

"Nimbus Presents: A Count Up to Christmas" by nimbus theatre at the Crane Theater

nimbus theatre's contribution to the #TCTheater holiday* space (and I think their first holiday show in their 20 years) is a delightful spoof of the beloved Hallmark Christmas movie. You know the one, in which a big city person finds themselves in a quaint small town, where they find love and a purpose. Nimbus Presents: A Count Up to Christmas is so full of these movie clichés that they offer a bingo card with items like "peppermint spice," "sledding," "coffee shop." And check off nearly every one. Whether you love or hate these movies, A Count Up to Christmas is a cute and fun way to experience them. See it at the Crane Theater in Northeast through December 18.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Broadway tour of "Les Miserables" at the Orpheum Theatre

The touring production of the 2014 Broadway revival of Les Miserables, the 6th longest running Broadway musical (from 1987 to 2003), is back again! Perhaps because this touring season didn't have a lot of new shows to pick from because of the 18-month Broadway shutdown, this season includes a lot of shows we've seen before. But this is a good one to re-visit, particularly this stunning production. As I've previously written: "Les Miserables is such an inspiring story. Through a moment of kindness, a man's life is changed and he goes on to affect others' lives by passing on that kindness. But through it all he's still just a man, with doubts and regrets and struggles. In short, it's the human experience." Despite the hugeness of this production (in cast, sets, and everything else), it doesn't lose sight of the humanity at the heart of this epic story. Les Miz continues at the Orpheum Theatre through December 18, click here for more information (including student/educator rush) and for the official ticket site. Pro tip: plan to arrive at the theater at least a half hour early to allow for parking, lines, the most thorough security process in town, and finding your seat before the firm start time. If you arrive late, you won't be seated until the opening number concludes (and it's a long one).

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

"Striking 12" by Minneapolis Musical Theatre at Gremlin Theatre

If you're already sick of Christmas music, endless holiday parties, cheesy Hallmark movies, and other so-called festive signs of the season, then Minneapolis Musical Theatre's Striking 12 is the holiday show* for you. The main holiday here is New Year's Eve, by which time our protagonist is sick of the holidays and ready to retreat to his NYC apartment alone. Taking inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Little Match Girl," this original musical is funny, clever, and surprisingly poignant, but in a not treacly way. Which makes it perfect for this scrappy company whose tag line is "rare musicals, well done," and who perfectly performs this show in a way that feels both irreverent and earnest at the same time. Striking 12 is truly unique in the #TCTheater holiday space this year, an unexpected take on the holiday season that acknowledges the pressures and disappointments that go along with it, but in the end is a sweet story about finding connection. Striking 12 continues for two more weekends only at Gremlin Theatre in St. Paul (conveniently located next door to Lake Monster Brewing and their daily food trucks).

Sunday, December 4, 2022

"Beauty and the Beast" at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

Here's one thing I'm grateful for this season: after more than three years, the Ordway Original is back! As Executive Producer of the "Broadway @ the Ordway" series Rod Kaats noted in his pre-show speech, the Ordway is one of the few theaters in the country that both hosts Broadway tours, and does original Broadway-scale productions using local talent. There have been some great tours coming through the Ordway (a pre-Broadway SIX, and a little show called RENT in 1997 and many years thereafter), but my favorites have always been their original productions, because #TCTheater absolutely has the talent in cast, creatives, and crew to build a big beautiful show. In 2019 they were on a roll with a fan-freakin-tastic 42nd Street and a terrific Smokey Joe's Café. The extended pandemic intermission interrupted that momentum, but now they're back with a Disney favorite - Beauty and the Beast (which they last produced back in 2019, shortly pre-blog). It is everything I expected it to be and more: an incredibly talented and mostly local cast, a fabulous 12-person pit orchestra, and an all-around impressive design, combining into one enchanting theatrical experience for all ages. The show continues through New Year's Eve but it's a popular one, so book your tickets now and head to downtown St. Paul, which is particularly beautiful this time of a year, for a magical night. Click here for the official ticket site, with prices ranging from $50-$150.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

"Christmas at the Local" by Theater Latte Da at the Ritz Theater

Theater Latte Da is celebrating their 25th season this year, and in that time they've created two beloved holiday* shows. A Christmas Carole Petersen (#TCTheater artist Tod Petersen's funny and poignant tribute to his mom and growing up in small town Minnesota) debuted in their third season and has been produced numerous times over the years (including six shows at Crooners this year, December 15-18). All is Calm (a documusical about the WWI Christmas Truce) premiered in 2007 and has gone through a few different iterations over the years, settling into a nearly perfect 70 minutes of theater that has toured all over the country (currently touring the Midwest and West Coast) including Off-Broadway, and was filmed in 2019 for a PBS special that will air in on TPT December 11 and 12. And now the brand new original piece Christmas at the Local feels like the start of another beloved holiday tradition. A "double feature" of Dylan Thomas' story A Child's Christmas in Wales and Maya Angelou's poem Amazing Peace, both set to music and tied together with other holiday songs performed by a group of friends hanging out at their local pub, it creates such a warm, cozy feeling of community, nostalgia, and hope that I want to visit every year (or every night). Get in on this new tradition from the start, with performances continuing at the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis through New Year's Day.

Friday, December 2, 2022

"Holidate" at Yellow Tree Theatre

Yellow Tree Theatre is doing something a little different this holiday* season. From the beginning, Yellow Tree has produced an original holiday Minnesota comedy written by co-founder Jessica Peterson, both in the popular Miracle on Christmas Lake series and other stand-alone plays. Taking a break from that this year, they're producing another original holiday show, this one written by new Artistic Director Austene Van for Park Square Theatre in 2011. There may be fewer Minnesota references and goofy characters, but it's still a festive, fun, and heart-warming show. Plus, there's music, lots of great music! So make yourself a Holidate with Yellow Tree Theatre in charming downtown Osseo this year (continuing through December 30).

Thursday, December 1, 2022

"Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story" by Wayward Theatre at the James J. Hill House

For an alternative (or complement) to the Guthrie Theater's annual production of A Christmas Carol, head across the river and see what the creative minds at Wayward Theatre Company are bringing to this classic story. Not only are they focusing on the ghostly aspects of the story and doing it in the gorgeous (and slightly spooky on a good day) James J. Hill House, but they're also performing in ten different locations around the house with three staggered groups of 30-person audiences walking around to the different locations. I always enjoy ambulatory site-specific theater, and this Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story is intricately planned, well executed, and provides an immersive (but not interactive) experience into this familiar and beloved tale of redemption. With three performance times every Wednesday through Sunday (except for Christmas Eve and Day) through New Year's Day, you have plenty of opportunities to follow Scrooge on his journey. But with only 30 tickets per show, and some performances already selling out, don't wait too long to secure your ticket.