Friday, December 29, 2023

"Art" at Guthrie Theater

What inspires someone to spend $200,000 (or francs) on a piece of art, especially one that to others looks like a plain white canvas with some marks in a slightly different shade of white? This question is at the crux of the play 'Art' by French playwright Yasmina Reza, most famous for the play God of Carnage (which played at the Guthrie 12 years ago, and a few other theaters since). Both plays won the Tony, and both plays are of the talky variety (my favorite kind). Not much happens and the play is pretty much just people sitting around a room talking. But that talking is some pretty deep and intense conversation and confrontation, in this case ostensibly about the nature of art, but in reality more about the nature of friendship.* The Guthrie's new production features a fantastic trio of actors (two of them local favorites), crisp and clear direction, and a stunning "modern" design. This is often a quiet time in #TCTheater, after the holiday show rush and before things get moving again in mid to late January, but thankfully we have some great 'Art' to fill in that gap. See it in the Guthrie's proscenium theater now through January 28.

Monday, December 25, 2023

"Some Enchanted Evening" at Artistry

From Oklahoma! to The Sound of Musiccomposer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II collaborated on nine musicals written for the stage, plus one for TV and one for film. A few of them were forgettable flops, but among them are some of the most enduring musicals of the 20th Century. In their less than 20 years of writing musicals together, they reinvented the form. This holiday* season, Artistry is paying tribute to their work with the lovely musical revue show Some Enchanted Evening. With no spoken dialogue, five talented performers tell the story of a group of people stranded at a cozy bar during a snowstorm, entertaining each other (and us) by singing songs. It is, indeed, an enchanting 70 minutes or so, and a great way to close out 2023, with five final performances this Thursday through Sunday.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

"All I Want for Christmas is You... to Elf Off!" by Brave New Workshop at the Dudley Riggs Theatre

Brave New Workshop's holiday* comedy sketch show is a favorite. And not just of mine; there were tons of groups, families, and people decked out in their best (or worst) holiday sweaters in the audience last night. The cast began the show by saying that this is the 65th holiday show (give or take) for one of the longest running comedy troupes in the nation. But despite the joke of that first sketch that every idea (even the most absurd) has been done before, they still managed to come up with some new, fresh sketches, along with some tried and true favorites. As you may guess from the title, All I Want for Christmas is You... to Elf Off, the show is an irreverent look at holidays and traditions, poking loving fun at the sometimes ridiculousness of this time of the year. But it stays true to the real meaning of the season - togetherness, community, and laughter. The show plays through January 27 so you have plenty of time to go celebrate with some holiday humor, by yourself or with a group of your favorite people (but I would not recommend bringing the children - spring for a babysitter or leave them with the grandparents, whom you also may not want to bring, depending on their sense of humor).

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

"Happy Holi-Dane" at the History Theatre

In addition to fully staged (and usually original) plays and musicals, and readings of new works (that eventually become the former), the History Theatre is presenting a series of concerts this season. I attended the first of four last night, an old-fashioned holiday* variety show called Happy Holi-Dane. Amiable host Dane Stauffer (star of History Theatre's smash hit original musical Glensheen) has been doing this show for several years. I hadn't seen it since 2019, and this year's show was similar but different, with a slightly different cast of special guests. A great time was had by all, but if you missed it, don't worry. You still have an opportunity to see concerts headlined by Thomasina Petrus, Lori Dokken, and the History Theatre's own Buddy Holly - Nicholas Freeman (click here for details, dates, and tickets). And get ready for readings of five new works in Raw Stages 2024 in January.

Monday, December 18, 2023

"The Gift of the Magi" by Skylark Opera Theatre at the Lowry Lab Theater

Last weekend, Skylark Opera Theatre presented an opera based on the classic O. Henry story The Gift of the Magi. It's a simple story of love and sacrifice, but one that's stood the test of time and receives a beautiful musical treatment in this opera adaptation by David Conte (music) and Nicholas Giardini (libretto). Unfortunately it was a short run that has now concluded, but with any luck they'll bring it back next holiday* season. And mark your calendars for next June when Skylark will be presenting the Sondheim revue show Marry Me a Little, featuring songs cut from some of his musicals

Sunday, December 17, 2023

"Holiday Office Party" at Strike Theater

There's a new long-form holiday* improv show in town, and much like Family Dinner (playing at HUGE Theater in Uptown through December 30), Holiday Office Party at Strike Theater in Northeast Minneapolis spoofs a familiar event in many people's lives - the office party. That semi-mandatory party with people who are sort of your friends but not really. I'm going into the office this week (for the first time in six months) to experience the real thing (planned funtivities: trivia and a cookie exchange), but I'm certain that it won't be nearly as fun as the Strike Office Party. A large cast pulled from a troupe of talented improvisers makes awkward small talk, drinks too much, and sings inappropriate karaoke. What's not to love?! There are three more shows this weekend, for the very reasonable price of $12, so check out the fun at your Northeast home for sketch comedy, improv, and storytelling.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

"Peter Pan" at the Ordway Center

A brand new production of the classic musical Peter Pan is touring across the country, and it flies into St. Paul first! This charming musical about childhood, telling stories, family, and the necessary pain of growing up has gotten new life with an updated book by Indigenous playwright Larissa FastHorse, who also co-wrote the world premiere new comedy For the People at the Guthrie earlier this fall. Gone are the uncomfortable stereotypes and gender biases, but what's still there are the beloved songs, fantastic acrobatic dancing, and a prevailing sense of magic. The Ordway Center is decked out for the holidays to be the first host for this new touring production, for a night of all-around magic, wonder, and joy. Peter Pan plays once (or twice) every day (except Mondays) through New Year's Eve - click here for info and tickets.

Friday, December 15, 2023

"Every Christmas Story Ever Told" at Yellow Tree Theatre

Yellow Tree Theatre has a long tradition of doing silly holiday* comedies, beginning with their first season. When the rights to the show they were planning to do were pulled, co-founder Jessica Lind Peterson wrote a play about a theater whose rights to the show they were planning to do were pulled. Miracle on Christmas Lake was born, spawning a sequel and other holiday comedies in the silly but heart-warming vein. Now in their 16th season and under new leadership, the tradition continues with Every Christmas Story Ever Told, a madcap ride through, if not every, then most Christmas stories ever told. It's a clever conceit and a super fun mash-up for those of us who grew up with these stories. In the hands of three talented and very funny performers, it's an enjoyable evening for all. If you don't have time to see every Christmas show, head up to charming downtown Osseo before the end of the year to see all of them at once.

Monday, December 11, 2023

"Dinner for One" at Jungle Theater

Jungle Theater's original piece Dinner for One, based on a 12-minute comedy sketch written in the '20s, is sheer delight. Artistic Director Christina Baldwin came up with the idea for the show, and co-created it with Sun Mee Chomet and Jim Lichtsheidl, with the former directing and the latter two performing. Featuring an odd ritual of a dinner party for Miss Sophie's 90th birthday and her imaginary guests, personified by her loyal servant, it's the perfect vehicle to show off the strength of the creators. And although I would like to say it's the rare show I wish were longer (it's a scant 60 minutes), it's perfection and I wouldn't change a thing. Somehow those 60 minutes are fuller and more satisfying than many shows two and three times its length. Dinner for One plays Tuesdays through Sundays until New Years Eve; I recommend you get your tickets to this one sooner rather than later.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

"Family Dinner" and "The Mess" at HUGE Theater

Have you heard the news? HUGE Theater has moved into a new space, and not only that - they own it! For more about the significance of an artist-led organization owning their own performance space, listen to Episode 2.7 of the Twin Cities Theater Chat podcast, in which we interview Executive Director Butch Roy. For a virtual tour of the new space, including classrooms and behind the scenes, watch this YouTube video in which John Gebretatose, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, shows bloggers Kendra from Artfully Engaging and Rob from The Stages of MN around the space. Or better yet - go visit HUGE in person! They've moved just a few blocks north on Lyndale and across the street (tip: plenty of free street parking on Aldrich, one block west of Lyndale). The new HUGE feels more spacious - from the lobby to the performance space, with more improvements coming soon, including a bar and risers to improve sightlines in the audience. HUGE currently has shows Wednesdays through Saturdays, with three-show line-ups on Fridays and Saturdays. I made my first visit to the new HUGE last night to see my all-time favorite improv show Family Dinner, which continues every Saturday through the end of the year. See the full schedule here and make your plans to see some improv this holiday* season.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

"A Very Good Christmas Carol" by Jeffrey Nolan and Hawken Paul at the Black Forest Inn

Another Christmas Carol, you ask? Yes, but this one's different from the Guthrie's 49th annual production, or even the bawdy English Music Hall version at Open Eye Theatre. Just a few blocks away from the latter, a two-man version of the holiday* classic that relies heavily on audience participation can be seen in the charming event hall at The Black Forest Inn for three more nights, with a few other shows happening around the state. Independently produced by two #TCTheater artists (originally produced and developed by the Northern Light Opera Company in Park Rapids) who wrote, directed, and star in the show, A Very Good Christmas Carol is a fun and interactive retelling of Charles Dickens' familiar story that mostly brings out the comedy and silliness, but not without a bit of the lovely message of community and redemption filtering in. As they say in the beginning of the show, it's not stodgy traditional theater, with a looser and more casual tone to the evening (which is not to say it's unprofessional). The audience (decidedly younger than those at traditional theaters) was having a great time, and it really felt like we were all participating in the storytelling in a convivial way that, despite the seemingly unconventional nature, really is in the spirit of the holiday. You can get your tickets to the remaining Black Forest dates here (and yes, you can get a Bier and bring it into the show), and follow them on Instagram at @verygoodchristmascarol for information on other performances.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Broadway tour of "Aladdin" at the Orpheum Theatre

The 1992 animated Disney movie Aladdin was adapted into a stage musical and opened on Broadway in 2014, where it's still running. The second national tour has made it to Minneapolis this week, and since I skipped it the first time around, I decided to check it out this time. It is, in the tradition of Disney musicals, a funny, sweet, entertaining spectacle of a show. Fabulous dancing, recognizable music, and some great performances (the real star of this show - Genie - does not disappoint) make for a fun and not too long show (under two and a half hours including intermission). I have some concerns about the casting choices, which you can read about at the end of this post. But first I'll share a few things I enjoyed about the show. Aladdin is in town through Sunday only - remember to only buy your tickets from the official site here, NOT from any of the third-party vendors that pop up first in a Google search.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

"A Very Electric Christmas" by nimbus theatre at The Crane Theater

nimbus theatre's first holiday* show last year, A Count Up to Christmas - a spoof of the Hallmark holiday movie, was such a success that they're doing another one this year. Last year, the show featured commercials for other "movies" in the network's line-up, and they took one of those and turned it into this year's show. While I didn't enjoy it as much as last year's show, it's still full of fun cliches, bad puns, and double entendres, with a festive design and entertaining performances. See A Very Electric Christmas at The Crane Theater in Northeast Minneapolis through December 17.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

"She Loves Me" at Lakeshore Players Theatre

The 1963 Bock and Harnick creation She Loves Me is a delicious musical that stands the test of time. Based on a 1937 Hungarian play, the basic story has been told in multiple iterations, including the 1940 Jimmy Stewart movie The Shop Around the Corner, and the 1998 Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan remake You've Got Mail.* The 2016 Broadway revival featured a starry cast including Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Gavin Creel, and Jane Krakowski and was broadcast live on Broadway HD (and is still available to watch). After its success, there were three #TCTheater productions within a year. But the last one was almost four years ago, so I'm definitely ready to revisit this gem. Lakeshore Players Theatre's new production is well done, with charming performances and beautiful design, and reminded me once again how much I love this musical. See it now through December 20 in lovely lakeside White Bear Lake.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

"All About Jane: The Eras of Austen" by Buzz Music Theater at The Hive Collaborative

There's a new theater space in town, and it's hosting its first theatrical event this weekend. But The Hive Collaborative (in the space formerly known as Dreamland Arts in St. Paul's Hamline-Midway neighborhood) has plans to be more than just a theater space. New owners Laura Rudolph Morris and Eric Morris want it to be a community hub, a place for theater as well as classes, celebrations, game nights, and even sound baths. I interviewed the couple on episode 2.10 of "Twin Cities Theater Chat" (listen here or wherever you get your podcasts, and get a discount code for the show), and their excitement for and passion about this project is contagious. They also have a theater company called Buzz Music Theater, which is producing All About Jane: The Eras of Austen, a concept album by local singer-songwriter Monica Livorsi. She's planning to release the album next spring, but this weekend only you can hear her perform it live in the new Hive space, that's been transformed into a cozy Regency Era sitting room. It's a fantastic collection of songs in various modern pop styles, each of which features a heroine from Austen's work - a must see for Jane Austen fans. But quick - only three performances remain!

Friday, December 1, 2023

"Scrooge in Rouge" at Open Eye Theatre

Leave it to Open Eye Theatre to bring us a holiday* show that's a little off-kilter, in the best possible way. The three-person musical Scrooge in Rouge reimagines the classic A Christmas Carol in the style of English Music Hall entertainment, meaning "witty lyrics, bad puns, and naughty double-entendres." The fabulous three-person cast portrays all of the characters in this story that hews fairly closely to Dickens' original, even including many of the famous lines you'll hear across town at the Guthrie. But there are a few ridiculous diversions too, resulting in a very entertaining and fun little show. You can see this alternative (or addition) to A Christmas Carol at Open Eye in South Minneapolis through December 30.

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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Ticket Giveaway for the Broadway Tour of COMPANY at the Orpheum Theatre!

The five-time Tony-winning revival of the late, great Stephen Sondheim's 1970 musical Company is coming to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis for one week only. The musical features Bobbie (originally a male character and now female) as she celebrates her 35th birthday, and explores love, life, and relationships through vignettes with her married friends (read my review of the Broadway production here). It opens the day after my 16th 35th birthday*, so to celebrate, I'm offering one lucky reader two free tickets to the show on November 14! Simply fill out this form by November 3, and that lucky reader could be you!

Company has 8 performances at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis, November 14-19. Click here for more info on the show and to purchase tickets.

*Let me do the math for you: it's 50. I'm turning 50! And how many times do you get to celebrate turning 50?!

"Mariology" by Critical Mass Performance Group at Mixed Blood Theatre

For their first full production since the retirement of founding Artistic Director Jack Reuler a year and a half ago, Mixed Blood Theatre, now under the leadership of Mark Valdez, is bringing us the work of the L.A.-based theater company Critical Mass Performance Group. Mariology is a surreal, absurdist, high concept exploration of the idea of the Virgin Mary in religion and culture. To be honest, it's a little too weird for me; I need at least a little bit of realism to connect to a play (which I didn't get until the final scene). But it is an interesting concept, with thoughtful design and consistent performances in this surreal style. You can see it for yourself at Mixed Blood now through November 12 (all tickets pay-what-you-can, beginning at $0).

Sunday, October 29, 2023

"Fetal" at Frank Theatre

For their first show back from the pandemic, Frank Theatre is bringing us a world premiere new play written in reaction to the Supreme Court's 2022 decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. Fetal puts a personal face (four personal faces, actually) on this issue that has long been used as a political cudgel, with little regard to how decisions and laws affect actual humans. In just 80 minutes, we go through this journey with four fictional women who represent countless real women whose choices have been taken away from them in the last year and a half. And it's a smart, thoughtful, engaging, and inspiring play, just what I've come to expect from Frank Theatre. They're performing it in their intimate (read: tiny) studio space which means seating is very limited, so make your plans and get your tickets soon. Performances continue Thursdays through Sundays until November 19, and if you attend the Sunday matinee you also get to attend one of the best post-show discussions in town, in which experts on the topics discuss how the issues of the play affect us in real life.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

"Life Sucks" by Girl Friday Productions and Open Eye Theatre

Girl Friday Productions holds a unique niche in #TCTheater. Specializing in large-cast classics, they typically do just one production every other year. They skipped their 2021 production due to the pandemic (although they did create a really lovely virtual winter cabaret show - still available to watch here), and now they're finally back - four years after their last production. They're also stepping out of this niche, co-producing a play with Open Eye Theatre that was written in this millennium with just a seven-person cast. But Life Sucks by Aaron Posner is loosely based on Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, so I guess it counts in the classics department. And a seven-person cast is quite large for Open Eye's stage, which is the smallest and sweetest stage in town, so the cast to square footage ratio is still quite high. Maybe it's not such a leap for them after all, and it's consistent with their past work in that it's perfectly cast, thoughtfully constructed, and epic in themes if not in size. They've just extended their run through November 12, and you would be wise not to miss this funny and profound rare offering from Girl Friday and Open Eye (click here for info and tickets).

Friday, October 27, 2023

"For the People" at the Guthrie Theater

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to sit in on a rehearsal for a world premiere new comedy at the Guthrie. To watch the creation process at one of my favorite theaters, where I have been a subscriber for twenty years, is an opportunity I would jump at no matter what! But as I learned more about this piece, and finally had the chance to see it last night, I realized just how special this opportunity was. For the People is a special kind of play, one like I've never seen before. It was written by Native playwrights, stars an almost all-Native cast, and features stories of our own Native community, which sadly is a rare thing. Too long Native voices have been stifled, even though they've been around on this land for the longest. But happily, there seems to be a renewed focus on telling Native stories lately, from TV shows like Reservation Dogs and Rutherford Falls, to plays like For the People. Much like those series, this play shows modern Native people in all their complex humanity, just going about the business of living their lives. It's a wonderful opportunity to support Native artists and our local Native community, and it's also a really funny and engaging play featuring some great performances and thrilling technical effects. See it in the Guthrie's proscenium theater now through November 12.

"Sisters in Law" at Six Points Theater

Things look pretty bleak in the Supreme Court these days, with recent decisions walking back the rights of women and people of color that we've had for decades. But the new play Sisters in Law, based on the 2015 book of the same name, harkens back to a time of hope, although not without struggle, with the appointment of the first woman to the court, and then the second. Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were very different women – in their politics and in their personalities – but they became allies as the only two women in a position long held exclusively by men. The play explores their work and their friendship, and ends with a reminder that their work is not done. The excellent production of this two-hander at Six Points Theater is close to selling out, but select tickets remain through November 5 to see this incredibly relevant, inspiring, and moving play.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" at Artistry

Artistry produced the 2005 two-time Tony winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee back in 2014, when they were still known as Bloomington Civic Theatre. But this hilarious, irreverent, and surprisingly sweet musical is worth revisiting. Directed by #TCTheater favorite Tyler Michaels King and featuring a fantastic cast, it's so playful and fun, and also gives you the warm fuzzies about this group of loveably oddball kids just trying their best to spell and be happy. There's only one weekend left to attend the Bee - don't miss it!

Monday, October 23, 2023

"Re-memori" at Penumbra Theatre

Inspired by her own life and family history, playwright Nambi E. Kelley has written this solo play about a woman dealing with generations of trauma and resilience. In a tight 75 minutes, we travel with Memori through time as she pieces together her history. It's a powerful, affecting, and engaging piece that's very fitting for Penumbra, which is not just a theater but also a Center for Racial Healing. See it at the St. Paul theater now through November 5.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

"The Boy Wonder" at History Theatre

I had never heard of Minnesota's youngest governor, Harold Stassen, before seeing a virtual reading of the musical The Boy Wonder as part of History Theatre's Raw Stages new works festival a few years ago, when I declared it to be "Minnesota's Hamilton." A progressive Republican elected at the age of 31 in 1938 who resigned during his third term to enlist in the Navy and serve in WWII, and later ran for president a record nine times, Stassen is a perfect candidate for a History Theatre original. Recently retired Artistic Director Ron Peluso wisely asked Keith Hovis, whom one might call the "boy wonder" of #TCTheater musical theater creators, to write his story as a musical. It's finally receiving its world premiere at the downtown St. Paul theater, and it's a wonder indeed. A historical piece that feels timely and relevant, at a time when there's such divisiveness, corruption, and turmoil in our government and political process, it makes one long for a government and elected officials that work for the people instead of for themselves. But this is no staid period piece or preachy sermon, it's a dynamic, modern, exciting musical for today. Well-written, well-acted by a dream cast, with smart and sleek design, it's another in a long line of hit original musicals from History Theatre. You only have one weekend left to catch this fantastic new locally created musical - don't miss it!

Saturday, October 21, 2023

"The Pavilion" at Lyric Arts

After opening their 2023-2024 season with the smash hit sell-out quintessential musical about musicals A Chorus Line, Lyric Arts is bringing us something quieter and more intimate, but no less meaningful, and no less deserving of sell-out crowds. Written by Minnesota screenwriter and playwright Craig Wright, The Pavilion is a lovely, funny, and bittersweet play that's filled with beautiful, poetic, profound, airy language, interspersed with very real and grounded scenes of average humans at their 20-year high school reunion. The story itself is not very original (in life or literature) - high school girl gets pregnant, boy leaves her to deal with it alone, forever changing both of their lives. The original thing about this Pulitzer Prize nominated play is that this very common idea is used as the seed to explore themes of time, regret, happiness, letting go of the past, and second chances. It's funny and earthy at the same time that it's deep and philosophical.* The talented three-person (plus one musician) cast and creative team do a beautiful job of bringing this story to life on Lyric's stage. They're already halfway through their short three-week run, so don't miss out on seeing this lovely show before it fades into the past.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

"The Rats & The Wasp's Nest" at Yellow Tree Theatre

About halfway through the first of a pair of one-act Agatha Christie mystery plays at Yellow Tree Theatre, it started to seem familiar. At intermission I checked (which is much more reliable than my memory) and found that I had indeed seen these two plays before. They were part of a triptych of plays at Park Square Theatre in 2019 called Agatha Christie: Rule of Thumb. The director of that piece, Austene Van, has brought two of these plays to Yellow Tree Theatre, of which she is now the Artistic Director, to begin their 16th season in their warm and cozy space in a strip mall in Osseo. Each one of these plays is under 45 minutes long, and both are wonderful examples of tight and concise mystery storytelling. It's like a mini Agatha Christie repertoire festival, but it only takes you less than 90 minutes on one night to see the shows. You will be rewarded by great performances in these murder stories that are more light and funny than dark and scary. A perfect way to ease into October (continuing through October 29).

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

"The Great Gatsby" by Collide Theatrical Dance Company at Luminary Arts Center

To begin their 10th anniversary season, Collide Theatrical Dance Company is not simply remounting their 2018 jazz dance musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby, they're bringing us a new updated version of this familiar story. The narrative structure is different from the previous version, and it's a little longer (about two hours including intermission). But what's the same is the incredible dancing, accompanied by a live band and singers performing well-chosen pop songs. As the name implies, Collide brings us a collision of dance, music, and theater, and conveys story, character, and emotion simply through movement. It's a beautiful thing to witness. You can see it at the gorgeous Luminary Arts Center (formerly the Lab Theater) in Minneapolis' North Loop neighborhood for the next two weekends only.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

"The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord" by Bucket Brigade at Art House North

My favorite kind of play is a two-hander - just two people sitting in a room talking. The awkwardly titled The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord one-ups that model - it's just three people sitting in a room talking. Specifically, three historical figures, great writers and thinkers, who are discussing deeply philosophical issues. But despite the deep issues discussed, it's actually a very funny and light-hearted play. Deep thoughts, humor, great performances, 95 minutes no intermission, a cozy and intimate space, and free cookies and coffee before the show - what more could you ask for? See Bucket Brigade's production of this smart, funny, thought-provoking, and engaging play now through October 14 at Art House North in St. Paul's West 7th neighborhood.

"Berhardt/Hamlet" by Theatre Pro Rata at the Crane Theater

These days, it's pretty common to see women playing traditionally male roles, especially in Shakespeare, in which most of the good roles, and roles in general, are male. This is partly due to the fact that women weren't allowed on stage in Shakespeare's time, and they are now (hooray!). But even though it's common, but people still sometimes put up a stink about it. French actor Sarah Bernhardt was doing it over a hundred years ago, so one can imagine the controversy and drama surrounding that. In the new play Bernhardt/Hamlet, currently receiving it's regional premiere by Theatre Pro Rata, playwright Theresa Rebeck imagines just that, telling the story of Bernhardt rehearsing to play Hamlet, and how her friends and colleagues reacted to it. As I said in this week's episode of the Twin Cities Theater Chat podcast, Theatre Pro Rata always brings us interesting choices of plays that we probably wouldn't otherwise see, and this is a prime example. Also as always, it's well-cast and well done, for an entertaining and thought-provoking evening of theater. This funny, dramatic, historical, romantic, and relevant play continues at the Crane Theater through October 13 only.

Friday, September 29, 2023

"Dark Sisters" by Journey North Opera Company at the Southern Theater

I don't go to opera very often; I just don't have time with all of the plays and musicals happening in town that usually take priority. But when my fellow Twin Cities Theater Blogger Carol from Minnesota Theater Love talked on our podcast about how excited she was to see Dark Sisters by Journey North Opera, and then I was invited to a dress rehearsal, I couldn't resist. Written in 2011 by Nick Muhly with libretto by playwright Stephen Karam (The Humans and Sons of the Prophet), Dark Sisters is about women in a polygamous FLDS sect. I prefer my opera modern, in English, and on the shorter side, so this show (running about 90 or so minutes with an intermission) definitely fit the bill. It doesn't hurt that I'm a little obsessed with cults, including Jon Krakauer's book Under the Banner of Heaven about the history of Mormonism (recently turned into a mini-series on Hulu). Dark Sisters is indeed a fascinating story, a unique one for opera, and it's also a beautiful modern score that's gorgeously played by a 13-piece on-stage orchestra and sung by a seven-person cast, six of them women (Journey North is committed to having at least 50% of their casts be women or non-binary, a rarity in traditional opera). It plays for one short weekend only, so head to the Southern Theater (a gorgeous place for opera both aesthetically and acoustically) to take a journey with these Dark Sisters.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

"The (Almost) Complete and (Mostly) Accurate History of Alcohol" at Bryant Lake Bowl

Favorite local funny man Josh Carson and friends have put together a sketch comedy show about that great elixir and social lubricant - alcohol. Ironically, I saw the show about four weeks into a six-week break from alcohol (and caffeine), which I started as part of my marathon training. And even though an injury got me off of the marathon track, I stuck with the alcohol break just to see if I could do it (and I am still in training, if only for the much less physically demanding half marathon). It's an interesting experiment and has made me more aware of how prevalent alcohol is in our society and our social lives. It hasn't really been that hard for me, but there have certainly been days where I wanted a drink to smooth out the edges of a rough day, or just to taste a delicious concoction on a night out. This group of very funny writers and performers have taken all of these ideas, as well as stories of alcohol throughout history, and created about a dozen silly, funny, relatable sketches. You can see it at Bryant Lake Bowl (with dinner and yes, drink service before and during the show) through September 30 only (click here for info and tickets).

Sunday, September 24, 2023

"Falsettos" by Theater Latte Da at the Ritz Theater

I fell in love with the musical Falsettos, which premiered on Broadway in 1992, when I saw a filmed version of the 2016 revival at a movie theater. The gorgeous and complex score, along with this love story about a messy and complex family, really appealed to me. The national tour came to the Ordway in 2019, and I loved it even more live (natch). At the time I wrote, "I'm hoping that the success of this revival leads to a local production or two in the coming years; I'd love to see some of my #TCTheater faves tackle these rich roles, perhaps with a staging of this intimate story that's more intimate." I didn't have to wait too long for my wish to come true, and there's no theater I'd rather see take on this gem of a musical than Theater Latte Da (although the NE Minneapolis community theater Morris Park Players beat them to it with a lovely and heartfelt production a year and a half ago). This is the first Latte Da show since the departure of founding Artistic Director Peter Rothstein (who likely had a hand in planning the season before beginning his new job at Asolo Rep*), and the first under the reign of new Artistic Director Justin Lucero. I'm happy to report that this production of Falsettos is every bit the Theater Latte Da we know and love - beautiful and relevant storytelling wrapped up in gorgeous music, a brilliant and mostly local cast, with impeccable attention to detail in every facet of design and creation. Falsettos runs through November 5, but don't snooze on getting tickets.