Tuesday, February 28, 2023

"Analog and Vinyl" by Minneapolis Musical Theatre at the Phoenix Theater

Minneapolis Musical Theatre's latest "rare musical, well done" is a sweet and quirky little piece called Analog and Vinyl, billed as a "hipster rom-com spin on Faust." It's a smaller musical than their 2022 offerings (Hands on a Hardbody staged in a car dealership, and the not-really-a-holiday-show Striking 12). Here the band (four) outnumbers the cast (three), and it's well-staged in the intimate space at the Phoenix Theater. In addition to the classic Faustian sell-your-soul-to-the-devil dilemma, the musical also delves deep into music history and obscure references (most of which this theater nerd probably did not catch). Chalk this one up as another rarely done musical that MMT dug up brought to life in a fun, earnest, entertaining way.

The hero of our story, Harrison, owns a record store sometime before the recent resurgence in vinyl records. As such, he's about to lose the store, in a location that's been in the family for a couple generations. His one employee (whom he doesn't pay) calls herself Rodeo Girl, and spends more time going off on random tangents than she does working. When a mysterious stranger walks into the store and promises to give them any and everything they desire, they can't believe their luck. But there's a catch - the stranger is the devil, and the price is their soul. Radio Girl is all in (and her greatest wish is for Harrison to love her back), but Harrison is reluctant, despite his desire to make the store a success, and in turn, make his father proud of him. The devil demands a decision; what will their answer be? They'll have to sing about all the options first.

Grace Hillmyer as Radio Girl, Roland Hawkins III as Harrison,
and Bradley Johnson as the devil (photo by Unser Photography)
This winning trio of performers bring life and quirky personality to their characters. In the Sunday matinee, I saw an understudy for Harrison. But you'd never know it; Kyle Camay was fully in character and in every scene, in a heartfelt performance that really makes us feel for and root for Harrison. Grace Hillmyer is charmingly awkward as Radio Girl, with strong vocals. Completing the trio is Bradley Johnson as the devil, in a role that may have been written for a woman. But it totally works, as the character is sort of genderless and otherworldly, and Bradley is very convincing as the sweet-singing and sweet-talking Satan.

Vanessa Brooke Agnes directs the piece with lightness and humor, but with some powerful emotional moments. There's not a whole lot of room to move around in the small record shop set that consists of a counter, a rack of records, and one chair, but it's utilized well. Concert posters and ticket stubs cover the walls of the record shop, and it's fun to spy all of the vintage records on the shelves (with even a few treats for theater nerds). The wardrobe fits the "hipster" bill well; Harrison and Radio Girl look exactly like you would think record store employees look. The devil definitely stands out in this world in two elegant unisex looks - a pale peach shorts outfit and a leather duster over eggplant pants. (Costume design by Jorie Ann Kosel, scenic design by Joel Moline).

Music Director Brenda Varda leads the four-piece rock band, who are seated on stage next to the record store set. The original score (by Paul Gordon of Emma and Daddy Long Legs fame) is fun and interesting, funny and emotional. Not every song ends with a button to signal applause; it's a little more complex than that.

You likely won't get a chance to see Analog and Vinyl again any time soon. See it now through March 12 at the Phoenix Theater in Uptown (get there early to find street parking, and don't be alarmed by the under-construction look of the entry way - they're still fixing the damage done by an SUV that crashed into the entrance last fall).


Join me and my fellow Twin Cities Theater Bloggers for a special event at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres! Get $20 off the ticket price for the March 4 matinee performance of the regional premiere of the super fun and heart-warming musical The Prom, and stick around after the show for a talk-back with some of the cast. Read my review of The Prom here, find more info about the event in the Facebook event here, and purchase discount tickets using code TCTB1 or by clicking on this link (discount valid for any performance through March 12).