Tuesday, November 28, 2023

"I Am Betty" at the History Theatre

I am Betty. You are Betty. We're all Betty! History Theatre's new original musical I Am Betty tells the story of American women in the 20th Century through the lens of Betty Crocker, as playwright Cristina Luzarraga noted in a talkback I attended. As you may or may not know, Betty Crocker was not a real person; she was a fictional persona created for marketing purposes by the Washburn-Crosby Company (later General Mills). But many women worked behind the scenes to make Betty, and the company, successful. This musical tells their stories, and through them, the history of women in America. Written and directed by women, the show features nine incredibly talented female performers playing all of the facets of Betty for a really fun, informative, and inspiring show. See it at the History Theatre in downtown St. Paul now through December 23, and enter here to win two tickets from the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers!

Sunday, November 26, 2023

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

Now in their 26th season, Theater Latte Da has a knack for creating original holiday shows that become annual traditions. First A Christmas Carole Petersen, #TCTheater artist Tod Petersen's funny and poignant tribute to his mom and growing up in small town Minnesota, which debuted in their third season and has been produced numerous times over the years (including six shows at Crooners this year, December 16-20). Then came All is Calm, a documusical about the WWI Christmas Truce that 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 including Off-Broadway, and was filmed in 2019 for a PBS special. And now we have Christmas at the Local, 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 debuted last year, at which time I wrote, "it creates such a warm, cozy feeling of community, nostalgia, and hope that I want to visit every year (or every night)." If you didn't see it last year, it's a must-see in the tradition of Latte Da's lovely original holiday pieces. And if you did see it last year, then you know that it always feels warm, welcoming, and wonderful to return to The Local (continuing through December 31).

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Patti LuPone in Concert at the Ordway Center

Last Sunday night, I had the great pleasure of seeing Broadway legend Patti LuPone in concert at the Ordway. I've seen her a few times in the past (at Orchestra Hall pre-blog and at the Dakota in 2013), and I'm always amazed not only by her vocal abilities but her talent in storytelling and entertaining a crowd. Titled Don't Monkey with Broadway, this show that she's been touring for a few years (including a 2017 album) is the story of her life and career through songs. It was a fantastic night of music at the Ordway, and while Patti won't be returning, the Ordway has many more great nights of music and theater on the schedule this season. Next up on the musical theater side is a new touring production of the classic Peter Pan December 6-31. This season also brings us a lot of holiday music, and 2024 concerts including local legend Jamecia Bennett on February 24 (like Patti, a master vocalist and performer) and another Broadway/TV/film legend Mandy Patinkin for two shows in April (a recent announcement I was very excited about because Mandy is the one living performer whom I've never seen live that I most want to see). Check out the full schedule of events here, and make your plans to visit the Ordway this season!

Monday, November 20, 2023

"The Secret of Chimney Manor" at Theatre in the Round

The #TCTheater Agatha Christaissance continues with a new adaptation of one of her novels. But to be fair, Theatre in the Round has been doing Agatha Christie plays long before it recently became en vogue. Playwright Todd Olson has adapted the 1925 novel The Secret of Chimneys in this world premiere new play, called The Secret of Chimney Manor (perhaps to clarify that the Chimneys of the novel refers to an English country estate, not the architectural structures). There are a lot of characters in this story, and a lot of subplots, but it all comes together by the end. And along the way there is humor, as well as strong performances by the 12-person cast (many of them playing multiple characters). TRP Agatha Christie plays are popular, so act fast if you want to catch this one before it closes on December 17 (or sells out).

Sunday, November 19, 2023

"The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley" at Lyric Arts

The Christmas at Pemberley play series by Lauren Gunderson and Margo Melcon has become a new #TCTheater holiday* tradition. The playwrights have taken the characters and relationships from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and continued them on into the following years. These plays came to us first through the Jungle Theater, which produced Miss Bennet (focusing on bookish sister Mary) in 2017 to such success that they co-commissioned a sequel, The Wickhams (about Lydia after her elopement with Mr. Wickham), premiering in 2018. After a pandemic pause, they brought us the third play (another co-commissioned rolling world premiere) Georgiana and Kitty (focusing on the friendship between Mr. Darcy's sister and a forgotten Bennet sister) just last year. Also last year, Lyric Arts wisely jumped on this bandwagon, producing the first play in the series, Miss Bennet. This year they're continuing the story with the second play, The Wickhams, the events of which happen concurrently with those of Miss Bennet. One can only hope they'll complete the trilogy next year with Georgiana and Kitty, but for now, head up to charming downtown Anoka for the best Jane Austen fan fic, that "perfectly marries Jane Austen's legacy of female-centered stories in a man's world of property, marriage, and inheritance with modern feminist sensibilities." You can visit Pemberley-in-Anoka Thursdays through Sundays until December 22.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

"A Christmas Carol" at the Guthrie Theater

Despite the freakishly warm late fall weather we're having in mid-November, the #TCTheater holiday* season is in full swing! The Twin Cities Theater Bloggers recently previewed all of the shows in our podcast Twin Cities Theater Chat, in which I said that for me, it just isn't Christmas without the Guthrie's A Christmas Carol. This is my 20th season as a Guthrie season subscriber and my 17th time seeing A Christmas Carol (it's not part of the subscription, so I skipped a few years, but not many). For me, it's as warm, comforting, and familiar as your favorite holiday food that you only have once a year, that immediately puts you in that mood of community, festivity, and fellowship. In their 49th annual production, the Guthrie is using the adaptation by Lavina Jadhwani and new design that debuted in 2021, with a few slight tweaks. Compared to previous adaptations they've used, it's more streamlined, hitting all of the highlights as it moves briskly through this familiar story in under two hours (including intermission). Every element of design and production is stunning and efficient in telling the story, for a gorgeous spectacle that's also brimming with heart and good humor. As I've written about A Christmas Carol in the past, "I never tire of seeing it, because Charles Dickens' story of redemption, community, family, and human kindness never gets old. It's a beautiful and necessary thing to be reminded that 'what brings us together is greater than what drives us apart.' That it's never too late to change, to grow, to become a kinder and more generous person." Continue the tradition, or start a new one, at Guthrie Theater now through December 30.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Broadway tour of "Company" at the Orpheum Theatre

On my first trip back to NYC after Broadway reopened in late 2021 after an unprecedented 18-month intermission, one of my must-sees was Company. Director Marianne Elliott's reimagining of the 1970 Sondheim musical played West End in 2018-2019 to great success, but had only a handful of previews on Broadway in March 2020 before everything went dark. It finally opened in December of 2021, and this genius production of a brilliant Sondheim creation was worth the wait. Flipping the gender of the main character (which I've been calling for practically since I first saw the show), as well as other slight tweaks, brought this 50-year-old musical into the 21st century with a whole new exploration of relationships and gender roles. I loved everything about it. And now, this brilliant revival is finally here in Minneapolis, but only for one week! Sondheim fans, fans of classic musicals, fans of forward-thinking music-theater - get yourself to the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis now! Click here for info (including info about student/educator rush tickets) and to purchase tickets.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

"The Hairy Ape" by Combustible Company at Center for Performing Arts

Combustible Company's newest show not only feels like it was written today, it feels like a devised work created by the company. But The Hairy Ape was written over a hundred years ago. They've taken Eugene O'Neill's story of a blue collar worker who suffers an existential crisis and turned it into a reflection on today's world, how some people feel forgotten by our leader and politicians, and become susceptible to political rhetoric. It's quite disturbing in the end, the kind of theater that holds up a mirror and makes you uncomfortable. But it's beautifully told with movement, stylized performances, and images. It's playing for seven performances only at Center for Performing Arts.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

"The Thin Place" at Gremlin Theatre

Halloween may be over, but if you're still looking for a spooky theatrical thrill, look no further than Gremlin Theatre's production of Lucas Hnath's The Thin Place. Those of us who were lucky enough to see this play last year as part of Daleko Arts' final season know what a twisty psychological thriller it is, full of jump scares and real human emotion as the characters try to connect with loved ones they've lost. But even knowing what was coming, this production still got me! And if you haven't seen the play before, you're in for an even bigger treat as the story unfolds. Featuring a fantastic four-person cast, well staged in Gremlin's intimate thrust space, it's a delightfully chilling 90 minutes of theater. Pair it with a pre-show beverage at Lake Monster Brewing and/or dinner at King Coil, both next door in Vandalia Towers, and you have a perfect dinner-and-a-show evening. See it Thursdays (except Thanksgiving) through Sundays until December 3, plus a pay what-you-can-want performance on Monday November 20.

Friday, November 10, 2023

"Anon(ymous)" by Full Circle Theater at Park Square Theatre

A play that was commissioned by and premiered at Children's Theatre Company in the early aughts is receiving a lyrical and haunting new production by Full Circle Theater at Park Square Theatre, a building that has been largely empty this year as Park Square works through some financial difficulties. But Anon(ymous) brings life and theater back into the space. Playwright Naomi Iizuka uses inspiration from The Odyssey to tell the story of a refugee, which is incredibly relevant right now with the growing numbers of people fleeing their homes due to war and violence. We follow one such person, an unnamed young man from an unnamed country, on his long journey home, in a story both grounded in reality and fantastical. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Musical Mondays at LUSH, November 2023

Happy 11th Anniversary to Musical Mondays! This monthly cabaret that showcases the abundance of talent in our community, started by BFFs Max Wojtanwicz and Sheena Janson Kelly, just held their 90th show. Can you believe that?! It was my 19th time attending Musical Mondays (previously held at Hell's Kitchen), and just my second since its post-pandemic return to LUSH last December. Every time I go I think - why don't I go to this every month?! (The answer: too many shows, too little time.) It's always a great time filled with fabulous performances, great people watching, beloved songs as well as new ones, and a fun and festive community atmosphere. I've said it before and I'll say it again - if you are casting musicals in the Twin Cities, you need to go to Musical Mondays to scout out new talent, or talent you may think you know but who show a whole new side of themselves in this format. And if you love musicals and our #TCTheater talent, you need to be attending this show too. So mark your calendar for the next show on December 6, and follow them on Facebook or Instagram for updates.

Monday, November 6, 2023

"Cold Planet Warm Heart" by Fortune's Fool Theatre at Crane Theater

Fortune's Fool Theatre's new original musical Cold Planet Warm Heart is billed as "a warm-hearted, family-friendly science fiction tale that explores themes of immigration, inclusion, and the need to both discover and follow our heart's desire." I found it to be really cute and sweet, and definitely appropriate for kids (although I didn't see any in the audience on opening night). It's a feel-good piece for adults too, about community, and finding love in unexpected places, and creating a peace-filled world. Teaming up again after 2017's lovely The Lady with a Lap Dog, Daniel Pinkerton (book and lyrics) and Robert Elhai (music) have created a fun musical with great songs that are both comic and poignant. The six-person all-female cast, some of whom play multiple characters, give earnest, heart-felt, and funny performances and sing the at times intricate score well. Check it out, with or without kids, at the Crane Theater in Northeast Minneapolis now through November 19.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

"Twelfth Night" by Ten Thousand Things at Capri Theater

No one does Shakespeare like Ten Thousand Things. And though they also perform other classic plays, musicals, and new work, they often return to Shakespeare because "the stories allow for deep investigations of humanity in ways that speak to all audiences" (from a note in the program by Director Marcella Lorca and Assistant Director Peter Vitale). In the way only they can, TTT is able to distill Shakespeare's (and other) plays down to the emotional truth of the story, building it back up into something that's accessible and relatable for everyone - from experienced theater audiences to those in their performances out in the community. Twelfth Night, one of his most popular comedies, contains many of Shakespeare's favorite elements - twins, a shipwreck, mistaken identities, and fools. This incredible cast of eight plays all of the characters in the story and tells it with much playfulness, joy, and humanity. You can catch it at Capri Theater next weekend and next, or at Calvary Church November 17-19.

"Say All the Truth" at the Jungle Theater, a co-production with The Moving Company

In the last couple of years, the Jungle has brought us several successful co-productions, combining their resources, audiences, and artistry with other theaters around town (including Theater Mu, Trademark Theater, and WeAreMarried). Their latest successful co-pro is Say All the Truth, an adaptation of Moliere's The Misanthrope created by The Moving Company. MoCo was birthed out of Theatre de la Jeune Lune, the Tony Award-winning company that ended in 2008. Between the two companies, they've done all of Moliere's plays, except this one. The story of a man who doesn't like people and wants to live away from society resonates particularly well right now, when that's sort of what we were all forced to do during the pandemic, and maybe some of us discovered we liked it, because people can be exhausting and infuriating. But still, the play quietly illustrates the power of and need for human connection. And like all of MoCo's work, it's mesmerizing, thoughtful, elemental, creative, and quite lovely. Say All the Truth continues through November 26, but tickets are selling well with the combined popularity of these two companies, so don't wait too long to grab yours.