Thursday, July 18, 2024

Broadway Tour of "SIX" at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

The smash hit musical SIX returns to the Ordway Center for the third time. It actually played here in 2019 before it even went to Broadway, where it was nominated for eight Tony Awards and won two. It's still playing on Broadway and has since become a worldwide phenomenon (I saw it in Toronto earlier this year). I've seen it five times now, and will never pass up a chance to see it. Why? It truly is a practically perfect 70ish minutes of music-theater, telling the story of the six wives of King Henry VIII as a pop concert, with an all female cast and band. It's a delightful mash-up of history and pop culture and music and theater. You can read my full review of the 2019 production here (which is largely unchanged, except for the cast), and read on for six reasons to see SIX (again) before these queens leave town on July 28.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

"Kinky Boots" at Lyric Arts

To close out the 2023-2024 season, Lyric Arts is bringing us their second regional premiere of the season (the first was 9 to 5) - the super fun and feel good musical Kinky Boots. Last seen in the Twin Cities in 2015 (the Broadway tour), the 2013 Tony-winning musical celebrates the love of shoes and self-identity in a glorious, fun, warm-hearted way. But of course it's about more than just shoes (even if they are "the most beautiful thing in the world"). As with most musicals there's a love story at its core, but this time the love story is a friendship between two very different men who grow to admire and respect each other, encouraging each other to live up to their full potential. With this great story (based on a 2005 movie that was based on a true story) adapted to the stage by Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein with score by music legend Cyndi Lauper (the first woman to win a solo Tony for best score), it's a surefire hit!* Lyric Arts has assembled a fantastic cast to ensure the most fun and heart-warming time. 

Sunday, July 14, 2024

"Rope" at Gremlin Theatre

The 1929 play Rope, which was adapted into a 1948 film by Alfred Hitchcock, is now receiving fine treatment on the Gremlin Theatre stage. Written by English playwright Patrick Hamilton (who also wrote Gas Light, which was also adapted into a film, and later become a term for psychological manipulation), it was inspired by the real life case of two college students who murdered a child in 1920s Chicago as an intellectual pursuit. In this version of the story, two university students murder a fellow student, put his body in a chest, and then hold a dinner party with food served on top of the chest, just to prove they could get away with murder. It's sickening really, but also makes for a riveting and suspenseful tale, because - spoiler alert - they don't get away with it. Watching their carefully plotted plan unravel like so much frayed rope is a thrill. A fantastic cast and spot on design chillingly bring this story to life. See it at Gremlin Theatre in Vandalia Tower in St. Paul's Midway neighborhood now through August 4.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

"Penelope" at Theatre Elision

Next up in Theatre Elision's tradition of bringing us rarely done (often regional premiere) one-act musicals with a largely female cast and/or creative team is Penelope, about the long-waiting wife of Odysseus. What started as a pandemic project by singer-songwriter Alex Bechtel turned into a concept album, and then a one-woman musical with help from director Eva Steinmetz and book writer Grace McLean (who also wrote Elision's winter show In the Green, and is currently starring in Suffs on Broadway as a hilariously buffoonish President Woodrow Wilson). Penelope premiered in 2023 in New York, and here it is on the Elision Playhouse stage less than a year later. Thanks once again to Theatre Elision for finding this music-theater gem, and no one better to perform it than the luminous Christine Wade, who has been in every Elision show (and often serves as Vocal Director). She's joined on stage by a five-piece orchestra on this gorgeous score that sounds modern yet classical, telling a story of longing, waiting, loyalty, and identity. It's playing for about a month, so you have plenty of time to get to Elision Playhouse to see this new original piece of music-theater that you can't see anywhere else (unless you're planning a trip to NYC this month). 

Friday, July 12, 2024

"The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)" by Jackdonkey Productions at Phoenix Theater

William Shakespeare wrote 37(ish) plays, an astounding feat for any playwright, but especially when you consider that they're still being performed 400 years later. I'm not even the biggest Shakespeare fan, I don't seek out Shakespeare, but being after being a Twin Cities Theater Blogger for 14 years and a Guthrie season subscriber for 20, I've seen about two-thirds of his plays, and some of them multiple times (over a dozen Romeo and Juliets alone!). That's a lot of hours of Shakespeare. But if you don't have time to see 37 plays (who does?), now you can see them all in under two hours! In Jackdonkey Productions' version of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), three talented actors take you through them all, well sort of. Each play at least gets a mention or a line, with a couple of them getting a bit longer treatment. The script (by Reduced Shakespeare Company) is really just a framework upon which the cast and creative team build a silly, fun, fourth-wall-breaking romp of a show. And you don't need to have seen any of Shakespeare's 37 plays to enjoy it (although if you have, you'll get a few more of the references). See it now through July 21 at Phoenix Theater in Uptown (still open despite the construction on Hennepin). Or you can catch it in Lanesboro or Stillwater the following week.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

2024 Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona

Last weekend was my favorite Minnesota theater vacay of the year - the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona. I first attended the festival in 2018 with some of my Twin Cities Theater Blogger friends, and have been back every year since (not counting 2020 - the year that doesn't count), with those same friends, or different friends, or sometimes by myself. This is a smallest festival since I've been attending - only two shows with a company of nine actors, compared to twice that size pre-pan, but what's not smaller is the quality of the theater, the thought and care put into it by the entire team, and the community feeling of being at the festival. Two shows is better than none, and it makes it even easier to see everything in a short weekend trip. Or extend the trip by a few days and enjoy the lovely city of Winona, about a two-hour drive from the Twin Cities, with its ample opportunities for hiking, water sports, museums, shopping, restaurants, and other activities. The festival continues through July 28, so make your plans now for a quintessential Minnesota theater vacation!

Monday, July 1, 2024

"Little Shop of Horrors" at the Guthrie Theater

For their summer musical this year, the Guthrie has chosen the cult favorite Little Shop of Horrors. The 1960 B-movie filmed in just two days (per a great article in the program) - turned successful Off-Broadway musical - turned 1986 film starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene (from the original Off-Broadway cast), and Steve Martin - finally landed on Broadway in 2003. And 20 years later it's on the Guthrie stage, the first regional theater to produce a Broadway musical in 1983 (per another great article in the program). It's a bit of a departure from the more classic musical fare usually seen at the Guthrie, and it's a risk that has paid off greatly. This production leans heavily into the story's B-movie roots, features a super talented (and mostly local) cast, and is loads of fun while not ignoring the tragic aspects of the story. Visit the Guthrie through August 18 to see this fantastic production of this brilliant little musical, but please, don't feed the plant.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

"Glensheen" at the History Theatre

Last night I saw History Theatre's smash hit original musical Glensheen for the 5th time, and loved it as much as I did when I saw the Raw Stages reading over ten years ago. It's unheard of for a local theater's wholly original musical to be this successful, coming back year after year (after year) and continuing to sell tickets. While History Theatre has created many fantastic original musicals that I hope to see again (including I Am Betty, which returns this fall), for some reason (or many reasons) they struck gold with Glensheen. Specifically, dark musical-comedy gold. When you take Minnesota's most famous and strange murder mystery* (the brainchild of retired Artistic Director Ron Peluso), add a script by one of Minnesota's most prolific and talented playwrights Jeffrey Hatcher, and a score by beloved local musical Chan Poling, how can you go wrong?! At this point it's pretty easy for History Theatre to mount this show - pull the gorgeous set and costumes out of storage, plop the original cast on stage, and press go. But the great thing is, the show still feels fresh and exciting, with this dreamy cast still (and probably even more) fully embodying these characters that they know so well. You can read my full review of the original production here (which has remained largely unchanged), or scroll down for ten reasons to see Glensheen (again), continuing through July 14.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

"A Wrinkle in Time" at Theatre in the Round

Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 novel A Wrinkle in Time won many awards, as well as many hearts. It's been adapted several times, including a 2018 film. I remember loving the book as a kid, but no details about it, so I went in almost blind to Theatre in the Round's production of the 2010 stage adaptation. I found it to be a sweet story about the triumph of good over evil, of love over fear. A timely message indeed. TRP's production features an ensemble cast playing many roles, led by a trio of talented young actors, and a charming design utilizing low-tech theater tricks. It's a magical story and production that can be enjoyed by the grown-ups as much as the many youngsters in the audience (continuing through July 14).

Monday, June 24, 2024

"Only Ugly Guys" at Open Eye Theatre

After adapting/directing/producing a play last fall that was "unlike anything I've ever seen before" (an adaptation of the Norwegian novel Naive. Super, with a different actor performing the solo play each night), Kurt Engh returns with an original play that once again inventively uses sound, video, and technology to tell a story. In this case, it's the story of four young gay men in a modern rom com that's very funny and engaging, and well performed by this cast of new-to-me young actors. Only Ugly Guys is presented as part of Open Eye Theatre's Guest Artists Series, which has already brought us Madeleine Rowe's charmingly odd solo piece Honey, I'm Home. It's great to see this established theater host the next generation of theater makers on their sweet little stage, and the group of artists behind Only Ugly Guys makes the future of #TCTheater look bright. The short run concludes on June 30.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

"Romeo and Juliet: Love in a Time of Hate" by Teatre del Pueblo at Luminary Arts Center

The cancellation of one show (see you in August, Skylark Opera Theatre's Marry Me a Little) allowed me the opportunity to attend opening night of Teatro del Pueblo's new adaptation of the classic tragic love story Romeo and Juliet, which they call Love in a Time of Hate. They've reimagined the Capulets and the Montagues in a border town with Latin American characters, the Capulets a powerful and wealthy political family, the Montaguez revolutionaries fighting for the people. The general story is the same, with some differences in details and characters (Romeo's a street artist, the friar is now a lawyer), and more agency given to Juliet (although not enough to refuse her parents' choice of husband). The result is a powerful and engaging retelling of this familiar story, infused with Latin American culture. I'm glad my schedule opened up so I could see it. The short run continues through June 30 only at Luminary Arts Center in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis (use code TEATRO for 35% off).

Friday, June 21, 2024

Blackout Presents: Juneteenth at the Ordway

This week I attended my first celebration of Juneteenth National Independance Day, a holiday long celebrated but only recently made a federal holiday, commemorating the end of slavery in the US. And I can think of no better way to celebrate than with Blackout Improv. Blackout has been performing at various venues around town since 2015, and was the first Black improv troupe in Minneapolis. There are more now, many of which perform at the annual Black and Funny Improv Festival which they started, bringing in BIPOC improv performers from all over the country (and Canada!) to perform at HUGE Theater. I've seen Blackout perform a number of times over the years, and they're always "funny, smart, relevant, and topical" (as I wrote one of the first times I saw them). This was the biggest venue in which I've ever seen them perform, the Ordway's gorgeous Concert Hall, and it was a thrill to see them in front of a large and supportive audience in what felt like a usual Blackout show, but also elevated and special.