Wednesday, March 21, 2018

As One - Skylark Opera Theatre at North Garden Theater

One of the beautiful things about having this blog is having the opportunity to share when a show is truly outstanding and needs to be seen. The blog works much better than standing on the street corner shouting at passersby. (I think. I haven't really tried that yet.)

Friends, go see As One at Skylark Opera. Now at North Garden Theater (St. Paul! Represent!) only through Sunday, March 25.

This new opera, with music and concept by Laura Kaminsky, libretto by Mark Campbell (The Shining, and much more) and Kimberly Reed, and film by Kimberly Reed, has only two characters: Hannah before (Luke Williams) and Hannah after (Bergen Baker).

I can't possibly evoke the experience of sitting in the intimate North Garden Theater, and hearing the lovely music (music directed by Jeffrey Stirling, featuring Leslie Shank and David Leung on violin, Matt Williams on viola, and Laura Sewell on cello) and the utterly beautiful voices of Luke Williams and Bergen Baker as they tell the story of Hannah, who is undergoing a a journey to discover herself.

The story starts with Hannah before (Williams) on her paper route, follows her experiences in school and the classroom, a trip to the library, a trip to Norway and all of the stops along the way. (Side note: As a librarian, I loved Hannah's trip to the library. It made me glad that we have bookmarks in the teen area that have all of the Dewey numbers of issues that a teen might be worried about asking a librarian about.)

Hannah before and after: Luke Williams and Bergen Baker
The story is told on a stark, simple stage, with only chairs and minimal props, and Kimberly Reed's evocative film in the background, but every moment we see of Hannah's journey feels fully realized. As the two singers portray one character, the music and Robert Neu's direction illustrate the disconnect Hannah feels when she can only show part of herself to the world. When she struggles to keep her femininity hidden, we see it as the fight she has with herself.

Spoiler warning: There is a scene of violence against Hannah, in which her terror is conveyed by Baker's anguished singing. At the same time, Williams is walking the perimeter of the stage, reading the names of transgender people who have been murdered. It is unbelievably well done, and wildly heart-rending.

Skylark Opera has been one of our most beloved local theaters for years. They have always done beautiful work, whether it was traditional musicals, operettas, or light operas. But what they are doing now is SO amazing. Their site-specific work (last year's Don Giovanni at the Woman's Club) is gorgeously done, and I'm so excited for them to be presenting this important and beautiful new work.

Did I mention the music is beautiful? I'm not always a fan of new opera--too often it is practically atonal and includes far too much recitative. But As One has beautiful, melodic music, gorgeously sung by Williams and Baker. And their diction is AMAZING, which is not always the case with opera sung in English.

Another issue we have with new opera is whether or not a show NEEDS to be an opera (or musical, for that matter.) For us, the point of musicals is that when the emotion is too overwhelming, that's when you have to sing. As One is a perfect example of this feeling.

Seriously, go see it. It's absolutely marvelous. And each performance is followed by a post-show discussion with the artists and members of the community. At our performance, Rebecca Waggoner represented Quorum, Minnesota's LGBT and Allied Chamber of Commerce, and offered some insight into issues a person like Hannah will face in life and at work.

Skylark's production is the area premiere of As One, and the nineteenth production in the last two years, making it one of the most frequently produced operas in the country. It's hard to imagine that any other production could hold a candle to this one.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Two Mile Hollow - Theater Mu and Mixed Blood Theatre

Dear theatergoing friends,

We here at Minnesota Theater Love owe you an apology. Due to a number of contributing factors, including a trip to the Big City, we didn't see Two Mile Hollow until its final weekend. 

We did not use our voice and our platform to broadcast the news of this play and production far and wide, and for that, we are truly sorry. 

Ten minutes into Two Mile Hollow, written by Leah Nanako Winkler and directed by Randy Reyes, we were already longing to see it again. I'm not even kidding. If Mixed Blood was a movie theater, and ran shows back to back, I'd have bought more Twizzlers and Diet Coke, and happily settled back into my seat for as long as possible. 

About Two Mile Hollow:
A parody coupled with moments of disorienting sincerity, Two Mile Hollow explores the dysfunctional family with brutality, awe and compassion. When the Donnellys gather for a weekend in the country to hash out belongings from their recently sold estate, an emotional storm breaks inside while a literal storm brews outside. As this family of famous, longing-to-be-famous, and kind-of-a-mess-but-totally-Caucasian characters come together with their personal assistant, Charlotte, some really really complicated and totally unique secrets are revealed (over white wine). (Theater Mu website)
Does this sound vaguely familiar? Do you think maybe you've seen this show before? Perhaps at the Big G? Maybe starring Sally Wingert and Bill McCallum? YES, you have. But you've never seen it like this before.

Two Mile Hollow works on  a number of levels. First of all, it is incredibly hilarious and made us laugh until we could barely breathe. And the element of an incredibly talented Asian American cast playing the characters in this "white people by the water" genre (as Randy Reyes calls it in his Director's Notes) gave a greater depth not only to this play, but to so many similar plays. Again, Reyes also asks, "How does an actor of color embody this extreme level of privilege when they spent their whole lives oppressed by it?"

Two Mile Hollow has a staggeringly talented cast: Kathryn Fumie as Mary, the "white plainly lovely daughter," Sherwin Resurreccion as Joshua, the "white manic depressive son," Eric Sharp as Christopher as "the white movie star son," Meghan Kreidler as Charlotte, the "not white personal assistant to Christopher," and Sun Mee Chomet as Blythe, the "white widowed matriarch." (Character descriptions are from the program.)

From the on-point costumes by Joanne Jongsma (Blythe's gold lame pants! Joshua's shorts! Christopher's ascot!) to the simple but representational set designed by Joseph Stanley, every element of this production is perfect. It even features a hilarious song ("Extraordinary") written by Keith Hovis and sung by Meghan Kreidler.

ARGH! I wish I could have told you all about it earlier. Dang it! However, we can say that you can't go wrong keeping your eyes out for anything coming up from either of these terrific companies. Here's what you should be planning to see.

Theater Mu:
The Princess' Nightingale in May (coproduction with Steppingstone Theatre)
The Sex Show in June - created by the amazing Sun Mee Chomet! (at Penumbra Theatre)
The Korean Drama Addict's Guide to Losing Your Virginity in July/August (at Park Square Theatre)

Mixed Blood:
Mermaid Hour: Remixed in April, plus the special event On Our Own Terms:Voices at the Intersection of Transgender Experience and Mixed Blood Theatre on April 28 and 29

Thursday, March 8, 2018

School of Rock National Tour at the Orpheum Theatre

The touring production of School of Rock starts with a recorded announcement from the show's composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, answering the obvious question about this show: Are the kids on stage really playing their instruments? The answer is an emphatic "Yes"! It's easy to see why this is spelled out in the beginning. Once these young performers get to rocking out, it would be easy to believe that the sound is actually being made by adult professionals in the orchestra pit. These kids can play!
Theo Mitchell-Penner (Lawrence).
© Matthew Murphy.

The show plays at the Orpheum Theatre through March 11, and it is a high-energy adaptation of the 2003 movie that starred Jack Black. Stepping into Black's larger-than life shoes is Rob Colletti as Dewey Finn, the wannabe rock star who pretends to be his roommate to take a substitute teaching job at a fancy prep school. Colletti is delightful in the demanding role, bouncing all over the stage, talking a mile a minute, and charming the audience's socks off. Colletti makes this sloppy, self-centered man-child lovable even before he starts to show his students the power of self-expression through rock music.

Phoenix Schuman (Zack), Rob Colletti
(Dewey), and the cast 
of the School
of Rock
 tour. © Matthew Murphy
The script is by Julian Fellowes, and though the creator of Downton Abbey seems like an odd fit the musical seemed to follow the movie quite closely, while giving the students a little more back story. The new songs, with music by Webber and lyrics by Glenn Slater, fit the classic-rock vibe of the tunes created for the film, though the ballads slow down the show a bit. There are subplots about the starchy school principal and Dewey's issues with his roommate Ned and Ned's girlfriend Patty, but the focus is the band.

The high-energy cast of the School of Rock tour. © Matthew Murphy. 
Each of the young actors is amazing at playing the transformation of their character while showing off their mad musical skills. Phoenix Schuman is the guitarist Zack, Theo Mitchell-Penner is the classical pianist-turned keyboardist Lawrence, and Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton is Freddy, who uses his drumsticks on anything that's around, not just his drum kit. Theodora Silverman has an awesome "rock face" as bass player Katie, and Gianna Harris is the quiet Tomika, who turns out to be a powerful singer. The other students sing backup or take on backstage roles, led by Ava Briglia as Summer, the know-it-all band manager. Each member of the class has a personality and a moment in the spotlight, and they all deserve a mention: Olivia Bucknor, Tommy Ragen, Chloe Ann Garcia, Carson Hodges, John Michael Pitera, and Gabriella Uhl.

Overall, it's a thoroughly enjoyable evening that shows young people rising to the occasion and coming together to create something empowering that also entertains. See it!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Letter from New York - February 2018

TKTS. 78 degrees on February 21.
After an absence of WAY too long (although we did some great theater last time--Hamil-something springs to mind), we returned to NYC to see as much theater as we could in five days.

Let's GO!

We arrived on Wednesday and lugged our baggage to the TKTS booth in search of cheap(er) tickets. We settled on partial view for The Band's Visit, a new musical at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Based on an acclaimed film, the story is about "a mix-up that sends a group of Egyptian musicians to a remote Israeli town. When the locals take them in for the night, their lives intertwine in the most unexpected ways."

Starring Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk, The Band's Visit features music and lyrics by David Yazbek. You know, the guy who did The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels? You would never guess. The music feels so authentic and is beautifully performed by the on-stage band/cast and features instruments like an Oud, Darbouka, Riq and Arabic Percussion. OMG, the drumming alone is worth the price of admission.

It's an odd little story, and super refreshing to have no idea where the plot will go. The music is organic and beautiful, and the performances are universally wonderful, including a mesmerizing Katrina Lenk. I leave you with this Playbill bio from actor George Abud:
"I hope young Arabic kids, like I was, see this show, or hear it, or read about it, and know that there is starting to be a place for their expression, their stories and their faces. The Arab voice, rich in history and beautiful music, is vital in American theatre."

Hey, did you know there's now a Hamilton store in the theater district now? True.

So much Hamil-merch!
The back side of their Hours sign.

That evening's show was Hello Dolly! at the Shubert Theatre, where we have vowed, as God is our witness, never to sit in the Siberia-like balcony again. We had lovely seats on the main floor. Previously starring Bette Midler and Donna Murphy, Dolly now features a charming newcomer named Bernadette Peters.

Victor Garber played Horace Vandergelder, and although Gavin Creel was out as Cornelius Hackl, we were not remotely disappointed since his understudy was Christian Dante White, whose career we've followed since he was in Minneapolis in The Scottsboro Boys. And he was marvelous, as was the new Barnaby Tucker--Charlie Stemp. Jennifer Simard had a small role, in which she was hilarious.

The whole cast was amazing, the costumes were beyond gorgeous, and the dancing was so freaking precise. Before the "Hello Dolly" number in the second act, the house managers rushed down the side aisles. Although they were probably there to keep people from taking pictures, it seems a very real possibility that their intention was to keep people from rushing the stage. It was an amazing, old-school, completely gorgeous production. Sigh!

Non-theater sidebar:

Went to Astoria to the Museum of the Moving Image to see the Jim Henson exhibit. V. cool. Highly recommend, particularly if you are a fan of any of the following: Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. The Museum itself has a ton of cool memorabilia including set models, masks of actors, costumes, special effects info (the exhibits on ADR and editing live sports were fun and informative), old-time movie equipment, and even movie tie-in merchandise through the years.

Self-portrait, Carly and Jules (l-r).
LOVE Rowlf.
LOVE. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

There was also a fascinating installation by artist Angela Washko called The Game: The Game. From the museum's website: 
The Game: The Game takes the form of a dating simulator, pitting you against six men who are aggressively vying for your attention at a bar. These characters are based on real-life “seduction coaches” who offer tips and techniques—ranging from confidence building to psychological manipulation—that teach men how to interact with women for the primary purpose of quickly engaging in sexual encounters.
LOVE. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.
The Game: The Game installation. 
The slightly otherworldly cafe.
Crazy fascinating.

Thursday's show was Come From Away at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. A new musical, Come From Away is about what happened when the American air space is closed on 9/11 and planes were diverted to a small town in Newfoundland. 38 planes with 7,000 passengers landed in Gander, almost doubling the size of the town. The townspeople welcomed the passengers and it's just a beautiful, hopeful story, with gorgeous music. A cast of 12 plays the townspeople and the passengers, slipping from character to character seamlessly. We were lucky to see most of the original cast including Jenn Colella as the pilot (and a librarian who is loving the influx of men in her town--hee), Chad Kimball (who has such star quality without stealing focus), Q. Smith, Astrid Van Wieren and Sharon Wheatley.

It's a beautiful show, and has a great cast recording that tells the story perfectly, even if you haven't yet seen the show. It's moving and heart-rending. And I've NEVER seen an audience rise to their feet so quickly and so as one at the end of the show. (Did I mention I saw Hamilton? Pre-Tonys?) NEVER. The audience was clapping vociferously and wiping tears, and the band (who were wonderful) came out and did a final song, with the entire audience still standing and clapping, even as the lights were turned up. Just gorgeous. Then we met Horton Foote's daughter-in-law outside the theater and had a lovely conversation with her and her friends. It's the kind of show that just brings people together. LOVED.

Non-theater Sidebar:

We didn't see a show the next night because we went to the American Museum of Natural History for HOURS. A few things:

1) The gift shop(s)? AMAZING. I wanted to buy all the things.

2) That building is crazy confusing and huge.

3) Dinosaur bones are boring.

4) Dioramas are EVERYTHING.

5) The food court is INSANE. I've never been anywhere so incredibly sensorily overloading. Plus, they weirdly didn't have enough chairs for the tables in the seating area. It's like a social experiment.

Saturday was a two-show day which started with the reason why we went to NYC in the first place: Mark Rylance starring in Farinelli and the King at the Belasco Theatre. This is a Shakespeare's Globe production about "the true story of Philippe V (Rylance), a Spanish monarch on the brink of madness. He finds unexpected solace in the voice of world-renowned castrato Farinelli."

The theater was gorgeously done up, with red velvet cloths draping the balconies, lighting almost purely from candlelight on stage, including old-fashioned candle footlights, and a rich, warmly decorated stage, which featured a ceiling and ornate on-stage boxes. They'd also removed the first few rows of seating and replaced them with banquettes, pew-like seating with small cushions. Of course we bought seats there and loved them. SO close to the stage we could touch it.

It's a lovely play, and Rylance, as usual, was wonderful. Farinelli was played by Sam Crane, in a touching performance, but sung by James Hall, which was cleverly staged. The music was beautiful, and the performances marvelous. I will always see Rylance, no matter what he does and where.

Ah, now we come to Angels in America at the Neil Simon Theatre. Oh boy. Since it was in previews, we were only able to see Part One: Millenium Approaches during our trip. It turns out that was enough. We've seen the two plays, a few years ago at the State Theatre in Minneapolis and loved them. Love Kushner. Etc. This? Left us cold.
Angels in America transferred from The National Theatre in London to Broadway. It features an impressive cast: Nathan Lane, Andrew Garfield, Lee Pace (who replaced Russell Tovey) and is directed by Marianne Elliott (War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time). All very promising, yes? And yet.

The American accents by the mostly British cast had a flat affect, which was probably not noticeable to London audiences, but grated to us, particularly Denise Gough. The performances were sadly lacking, especially Andrew Garfield who had all of the camp of Prior, but none of the sweetness that makes him so endearing.

The set was so excruciatingly ugly that it was actually distracting as we tried to figure out what on earth was being represented and why are the three turntables turning again? The lighting was dim and muddy, and the sound was weak. Even gorgeous twelve-foot tall Lee Pace, so good in The Normal Heart a few years ago, was a disappointment. And the ending had a false blackout that had the audience thinking it was over, so when the lights went up and a sad angel unfurled her wings, it felt anti-climactic.

More than anything, though, this production left us wondering if this play is still relevant and if it doesn't need a serious trimming. Four hours, y'all. And that's just part one. Oy.

Sunday, we headed uptown where we discovered you can only get into the amazing MOMA Store by paying admission. BOO. Our matinee was Subways Are For Sleeping at the York Theater Company in the Musicals in Mufti series. As we learned, mufti (MUFF' tee) means in street clothes; without the trappings of a full production. From the York website:
Subways Are for Sleeping tells the tale of Angie, a reporter sent to get the scoop on a segment of NYC society -- a group of well-dressed homeless people sleeping in the New York subway system -- that lives by their own rules. Going undercover, Angie learns how the carefree other half lives and begins to see there might be another way to experience the world. 
It's a lovely little show, with some amazing belty numbers, performed in an intimate theater by a fabulous cast including David Josefsberg, Eric William Morris and Alyse Alan Louis. Subways was on Broadway in 1961 and is best known for producer David Merrick's publicity stunt where he published raves from members of the public with the same names as the major drama critics of the time.

There was a talkback after the show, with questions and comments from the incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated audience members including a ton of theater folk like William Hauptmann, the author of Big River.

Talkback, y'all!
After the show, finding ourselves on the same corner as David Josefsberg and David Engel, I fanned out a bit and we chatted with David Josefsberg--one of my new favorite performers--about how amazing he was in the sadly short-term Honeymoon in Vegas. Shockingly, it all went well and I didn't say anything insulting, as I inadvertently do to most actors and theater artists. SO charming, so adorable.

Sunday night brought us the enchanting Once On This Island at Circle in the Square. We were running a bit late, so we missed a lot of the pre-show excitement involving the storytellers, goats and chickens. The Circle in the Square looked amazing--truly looked like a hurricane had come through the theater. The show begins with the cast on stage, which is covered with sand, cleaning up after the storm. The cast gradually transform into storytellers who tell the tale of Ti Moune, a little girl stranded by the storm, adopted by a loving couple, who longs for a light-skinned man from the other side of the island. With an amazing cast including Lea Salonga, Norm Lewis, Alex Newell and Tamyra Gray as the gods, and Hailey Kilgore as a lovely Ti Moune, this is a beautiful, heartfelt, gorgeously sung and performed production of a beautiful show.

They had a lake!
After the show, there was a post-show discussion with Lea Salonga (and briefly, Norm Lewis) for the Broadway Barkata group, which "aims to nurture and support Filipino artists who believe in the importance of cultural awareness. Through art and education we aim to bring the Filipino experience to a diverse audience and to give them a deeper understanding of our culture and our artists." (We got snuck in, thanks to a friend.) It was a great discussion, but the fact that CitS didn't clear the theater for the discussion was really frustrating. They even vacuumed during the event! Really, CitS?

Who would have ever thought we could see two shows on Monday? And yet, the magic of NYC came through for us. We headed up to the 92nd Street Y, where I've been longing to go for years, for a fantastic program called Lenny's Lyricists in the Lyrics and Lyricists series. You have to love a Monday matinee. Usually we bring the audience age curve down a few years--this time it was decades! I heard some old dears behind me at intermission discussing whether one of them could move from behind me. Yo, I am 5' 7". Adorable.

Lenny's Lyricists was hosted by Amanda Green, who is Adolph Green's daughter and a lyricist/composer in her own right (Bring It On, Hands on a Hardbody). Green provided narration, featured some film clips and introduced the performances by Mikaela Bennett, Andréa Burns, Darius de Haas, Howard McGillin, and Tony Yazbeck, who were all amazing. Poor Andréa Burns was ill, although she still sounded good--just a bit deeper than usual--and music director Rob Fisher explained that they had sent her home at intermission. This meant that Amanda Green stepped in on a few songs, and they added Bennett and Yazbeck singing "Tonight" from West Side Story, with literally no rehearsal. The show provided insight and appreciation of Bernstein's amazing talent, and that of his collaborators, through the top-notch performances. Green even convinced Sondheim to share the lyrics from the prologue to West Side Story. Yazbeck, de Haas, and McGillan sang the beginning of the song, which was all about going to the moon and inspired by Sputnik. The lyrics were really dumb, and the creators made the right decision in dropping them from the show.

The last show of our trip was a disappointment, but you can't win them all. We bought tickets to Broadway By The Year 1930 & 1964 via TDF. (If you don't live in NYC, you should check out Theater Development Fund (TDF) membership. It's available for government employees and a bunch of other people, and is only $12.00 a year and you can buy cheap, cheap tickets in advance. Pro tip.) We were interested because it was 1) cheap, 2) on a Monday night, and 3) starred Emily Skinner, and 4) is one of those one-night-only shows that looks so appealing from MN.

Alas, Emily Skinner, Kerry O'Malley and Chuck Cooper were all out due to conflicts and illness, so we had Christine Andreas and Christiane Noll, in addition to Tonya Pinkins (yay), as well as some cheesy loungey/cabaret singers (boo). We didn't find this out until the show started, which is AFTER we were wanded with metal detectors down at the entrance and had to engage the poor overworked ushers to get people out of our seats.

Town Hall is kind of a dump. It's shabby, it's the only theater that actually wanded its clientele, who were literally in their 80s for this show, the seats are super uncomfortable and it is way understaffed  with ushers. The poor ushers that were there did great--there just weren't enough of them.

Image from This is New York by Miroslav Sasek
Anyhoo, the show was cheesier (lots of slow rolls on the drums) than we had expected, and we bailed at intermission to walk around Times Square for a while before we packed up to go home.

Another note: At all of the Broadway theaters we went to, the security process was a smooth operation. At the door, everyone opens their bags, the guards shine a flashlight in, and you're through. The only theater that used metal detector wands was Town Hall (which just confused the octogenarian attendees). Take note, Hennepin Theatre Trust. The whole thing was more streamlined and far less annoying than the extensive searches at the Minneapolis theaters.

But to sum it all up: We heart you, NYC.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Indecent at Guthrie Theater

Indecent plays through March 24 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater. Recently on Broadway and written by Paula Vogel, here's the story from the Big G's website:
Inspired by the 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s The God of Vengeance – a play that follows a Jewish brothel owner and the lesbian romance between his daughter and a prostitute – Indecent charts the journey of a drama upheld as a groundbreaking piece of Jewish literature by some, and an act of obscenity by others. An ensemble of seven actors and three musicians portrays more than 40 roles to shed light on one of the most fascinating scandals in theater history.
Indecent tells a really interesting story and the production has some really lovely elements. I wish I liked the play more. Running one hour and fifty minutes, it's one of the few times I wished a play was longer. Despite some great performances from Ben Cherry and Gisela Chipe, as well as a bunch of Guthrie regulars, and a lovely musical accompaniment by Spencer Chandler, Lisa Gutkin and Pat O'Keefe, the play ultimately left me cold.

The play covers a large span of history and many countries but could have used a bit more depth in its character development, particularly in the character of Sholem Asch. Also, the play whips back and forth in time incredibly quickly, which is fine and clearly denoted, but the "break in time" vignettes are a bit puzzling.

Indecent got rave reviews on Broadway--although Jesse Green at Vulture had a few issues with the play that I completely agree with--and from our fellow theater bloggers. Check out their reviews on the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers blog!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Frederick Douglass Now at Penumbra Theatre

This weekend only: Roger Guenveur Smith performs Frederick Douglass Now, which he also wrote, with an intensity sustained through the full eighty-some minutes of the piece. It's hard to describe a work of art that leaves one speechless, so let's start with the Penumbra website's description of the show:
Two hundred years ago Frederick Douglass was born into slavery. Likely the son of his slavemaster, Douglass liberated himself at twenty years old and began a new life using his exceptional skills as an orator, writer, journalist, and politician to fight for the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and an end to racial discrimination. He died arguably the most recognized abolitionist in the world. In this poetic remix, acclaimed artist Roger Guenveur Smith lifts up the legacy of this great man, weaving his story through a modern constellation of American power, politics, and promise.
On a simple set with a huge American flag dangling down to the stage, Smith appears, microphone in hand, and begins speaking. In long, poetic phrases, Smith speaks as Douglass, mixing the words of the famed abolitionist with contemporary references to illuminate some of the history of African Americans in this country. Rather than narrative, the style is more stream-of-consciousness, with a fluid approach to time and featuring quirky asides, like a phone call from Harriet Tubman. Just go with the flow and let this compelling performer take you along on his wave of words.

There are only six performances of the show (including Saturday and Sunday matinees), which closes on January 28, so don't hesitate to get your tickets for this rare and incomparable performance. To delve further into Smith's work, check out the film Rodney King on Netflix, based on the one man show seen at Penumbra in 2015 and directed by Spike Lee.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

ALL the Theater Love - Can't Wait for These Winter 2018 Shows!

Friends, February 2018 is rich in amazing theater. Once you've recovered from that big sports game that is allegedly here sometime soon, go support one of our fantastic theaters! YEAH! Um, skol?

Here are a few of the over 31 (!) shows that are opening around February for which we are the most excited. Here's why you should put them on your list as well.

The Wiz - Children's Theatre Company and Penumbra Theatre Company
January 23 - March 18, 2018
What: Aka The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical "Wonderful Wizard of Oz", first performed on Broadway in 1975. You know, "ease on down, ease on down the ro-oad."
Why We're Excited: Oh, you know: Greta Oglesby, Dennis Spears, Aimee Bryant, T. Mychael Rambo, China Brickey, John Jamison, Gregory Parks, and both Paris and Jamecia Bennett. Also, we've heard Paris Bennett sing "Home" (at Musical Mondays at Lush) and it was STAGGERING and transcendent.

The Toxic Avenger - Minneapolis Musical Theatre (Phoenix Theater)
February 2 - 25, 2018
What: A musical based on Lloyd Kaufman's cult movie. Cause why not?
Why We're Excited: Because MMT has a history of doing a fantastic job with horror musicals (see Eating Raoul, Zombie Prom and the legendary Silence! The Musical)

make believe neighborhood - In the Heart of the Beast 
February 2 - 25, 2018
What: "Make Believe Neighborhood celebrates Mr. Rogers and the neighborhood helpers he told us to look for – the ordinary people who do extra-ordinary work to make our own South Minneapolis neighborhood a brighter, healthier, friendlier place. Join us as we explore Fred Rogers' amazing life as an advocate for children, an artist, a friend, a peace activist, and everyday person. At the same time, we’ll shine a spotlight on some of the neighbors who have made our community what it is today."
Why We're Excited: Because AW. Also, Mr. Rogers was about the best human ever. Also, adoring the art by Tim Cronin-Hnilicka.

Assassins - Theater Latte Da (Ritz Theater)
February 7 – March 18, 2018
What: Sondheim's rarely produced and controversial musical that explores the stories of Presidential assassins through history.
Why We're Excited: Because I freaking love this show and the cast is amazing. Also, check out their pre-show game: "We invite you to arrive early to Assassins and enter into an immersive experience with an hour-long pre-show carnival on stage. Once you’ve arrived, you can interact with the cast, enjoy food and drink, play vintage carnival games, and win prizes." 

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Steppingstone Theatre
February 7 - March 3, 2018
What: "Based on the Newbery-Award winning novel by Mildred D. Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry tells the story of a young girl growing up in 1933 Mississippi, and discovering that the world was not what she expected."
Why We're Excited: This production of this incredibly important story is directed by Kory LaQuess Pullam, one of our favorite local theater artists. It's also Steppingstone's 30th anniversary season--yay! Also, check out the amazing and thoughtful study guide to the play.

Dancing with Giants - Illusion Theater
February 8 – February 24, 2018
What: "Just before World War II, three very different men – New York wheeler-dealer boxing manager Joe “Yussel the Muscle” Jacobs, German boxing champion Max Schmeling and American World Champion Boxing Great Joe Louis – form an astonishing bond. For this friendship to survive, they must battle the ruthless manipulation of the truth by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minster of Propaganda and Enlightenment."
Why We're Excited: Cause it stars the amazing Tovah Feldshuh. Need anything else? Just check out her rendition of the ultimate Jewish mother song from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

A Crack in the Sky - History Theatre
February 10 - March 4, 2018
What: "A young shepherd boy stands in front of his mother to tell her of the decision he has made in the night. He has had enough of the nomadic life, of herding goats and sheep, and is leaving to seek out a better life. With that, he sets off on an adventure that takes him on the road less traveled from Somalia to Minnesota."
Why We're Excited: Written by Harrison David Rivers and Ahmed Ismail Yusuf, and directed by Faye Price, this tells Yusuf's true story of his immigration to Minnesota and is sure to be a fascinating story, which needs to be told and shared.

21 Extremely Bad Breakups - Walking Shadow (Red Eye Theater)
February 16 - March 3, 2018
What: "Imagine the worst breakup ever. No: even worse than that. Revel in the absurd fears, tender hopes, and unrealized fantasies that make us act like idiots. This charming new show about love and its many catastrophes is probably appropriate for a date. Or not. It depends on the date."
Why We're Excited: Did you read that description? SO IN. Also, because it's almost Valentine's Day and we need SOMETHING to counteract the schmaltz and saccharine, syrupy sweetness of the holiday.

Park and Lake - Ten Thousand Things Theater Company
February 16 - March 4, 2018
What: "In this delightful romp, a group of eight motley employees at a failing small-town car wash decides to take their destinies into their own hands. Devised by veteran TTT actors Luverne Seifert, Stephen Cartmell, Sun Mee Chomet, Joy Dolo, H. Adam Harris, George Keller, Kurt Kwan, Thomasina Petrus, Randy Reyes, Kimberly Richardson, Eric "Pogi" Sumangil, director Michelle Hensley and playwright Kira Obolensky."
Why We're Excited: Because we heart TTT. Also, look at that CAST.

Two Mile Hollow - Mixed Blood/Theatre Mu
February 16 – March 4, 2018
What: "When the Donnellys gather for a weekend in the country to hash out belongings from their recently sold estate, an emotional storm breaks inside while a literal storm brews outside. As this family of famous, longing-to-be-famous, and kind-of-a-mess-but-totally-Caucasian characters come together with their personal assistant, some really complicated and totally unique secrets are revealed (over white wine)."
Why We're Excited: We love Mu, we love Mixed Blood and it's a world premiere new play. See also amazing cast: Sun Mee Chomet, Meghan Kreidler, Eric Sharp, Sherwin Resurreccion, Kathryn Fumie.

Middletown - Daleko Arts
Feb 23 - March 11, 2018
What: "Mary Swanson just moved to Middletown, eager to start a family and enjoy the neighborly bonds a small town promises. But when Mary befriends resident John Dodge, she is quick to discover that below Middletown's flinchingly honest exterior lies something much more complex. Middletown is a wry, human portrait of a town with two lives, one ordinary and visible, the other epic and mysterious."
Why We're Excited: This play by Will Eno has an intriguing premise. Also, you can see this small-town drama--in an actual small town!

ALSO, a few cool other theater goings-on you should catch:

The Coldharts Present The Unrepentant Necrophile - Strike Theater
February 1 - 3, 2018
Why: "A mortician falls in love with a man as she prepares his corpse for burial. She has three days until the funeral... but three days isn't enough." The Coldharts (frequent contributors to Twin Cities Horror Fest) are amazing.

January 31 - The Hired Man by Heather Meyer
February 28 - Cat Called Figment by Rachel Teagle
March 28 - All of the Everything by Alayna Jacqueline
Why: Because "The Cabal is an ambitious group of female-identified professional playwrights who promote the development of new scripted plays in the Twin Cities and one another’s success." Yay!

Saturday, February 17 – Kaiju Origins and Fightin’ Skeletons
Saturday, March 17 – The Ecology of Sasquatch
Why: "A multimedia series of informational talks, and simultaneously comedy routines, on the grand and wondrous subject of monsters." Aka, monsters AND funny.

Blackout Improv - Mixed Blood Theatre
Monthly - maybe the third Monday night? 
Why: "Blackout Improv is a mix of comedy, social justice, and arts access. We seek to put more Black performers on more stages, to create comedic dialogue around serious truths, and to provide improv access for Black students." Also, funny AF. As the kids say.

The Minnesota Drinking Game - Phoenix Theater
Monthly - at Phoenix Theater
Why: "Bring a friend, get a drink, and enjoy your favorite films performed by Twin Cities talent." Crazy fun.

OKAY! GO SEE SOME DANG THEATER. Show these theaters some LOVE.

Thank you, that is all.