Wednesday, February 21, 2024

C.L.U.E. by Collide Theatrical Dance

The ensemble of C.L.U.E.
Collide Theatrical Dance's new production C.L.U.E. (playing at the Southern Theater February 16-March 10) is a takeoff on the popular board game, as you might have guessed. 

However, instead of Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard, we meet a different set of characters, introduced by Mr. Bottie (Nathan Huberty), who is being threatened by one of them. Each character has their own dance that tells their story and their relationship to the others. As with most Collide productions, the majority of the story is told through dance but Huberty does double duty as dancer and narrator, showing impressive breath control when he speaks right after an energetic dance!

The simple set is augmented by projections (designed by Peter Morrow) that introduce the characters and show the different rooms. And of course, weapons are introduced. At intermission, the audience is asked to vote on the murderer, the weapon, and the murder location via a QR code in the program or by writing down choices on a paper form at the box office. The votes are tallied, and the most selected answers are acted out by the company. 

The choreography (to mostly pop music) by company founder Regina Peluso is very fun to watch, and there are some nice touches that remind the audience of the show's board game origins, as each suspect character has a default pose and are moved by Mr. Bottie in a particular way when they are brought to the forefront of the stage. The dancers are very talented and have their own styles and specialties. 

It's an enjoyable evening of dance and humor, with a satisfying ending (or endings) that brings everything together, more or less. If you enjoy dance that tells a story, Collide is a wonderful company to follow, and C.L.U.E. is another stellar example of their work. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Ashland at Chameleon Theatre Circle

Chameleon Theatre Circle is presenting the world premiere of Ashland by Minnesota- and Oregon-based writer Isabel Estelle. The play was the winner of Chameleon's 2022 New Play Contest and had a staged reading in February 2023 at Theatre in the Round as well as an October 2023 reading at the Ashland New Plays Festival in Oregon.

It's clear to see why this play is attracting attention. In a tight 90 minutes, it tells a difficult story with great humor and humanity.

From the Chameleon website: A young woman is unexpectedly diagnosed with a terminal illness and chooses to pursue Death with Dignity. She and her new partner must navigate the beginning and end of their relationship simultaneously. As her health rapidly declines, her partner and two siblings grapple with the absurdity and hilarity of death, family, and what it takes to let go.

Performed in a black box theater at Inver Hills Community College, the simple set is just a few pieces of furniture, enough to suggest a living space. Lisa Diesslin's costumes suggest the characters without being overly showy, and Mark Steffer's props range from appropriate to hilarious. Kudos for using real food. Andi Billig's lights and sound work to create scenes in and out of the living space and keep the action from slowing down.

There isn't anything to detract from the performances or the relationships they build in a short time. Courtney Matula, Marlo Teal, and Phillip Zawieruszynski play siblings whose reactions to terminal illness are conveyed in a very natural, believable way. As Wes, Jessica Lynn Frederikson builds a relationship with the family and runs through the gamut of emotions, some so raw that it's hard to watch, but never overplaying. Nissa Frederikson as Susan is a calm, thoughtful presence throughout the events. Matula, as Vim, who chooses to end her own suffering, creates a delightful character and does a wonderful wordless scene showing the progression of her condition.

It's difficult to tell whether the truth of the relationships on stage comes from the naturalistic writing or from the work of the cast, under Bradley Donaldson's direction. The two elements work hand in hand to create a difficult, but ultimately heartening evening of theater.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Crazy for You at Artistry

The cast and orchestra of Crazy for You
Photo by Sam Lavine
The production of Crazy for You at Artistry is a rare treat. There's only one weekend left, so hurry to get your tickets before it closes on February 11.

Crazy for You premiered on Broadway in 1992 as a "new" Gershwin musical. Creators Ken Ludwig and Mike Ockrent used the 1930 musical Girl Crazy as a rough outline and loaded the score with classic songs by George and Ira Gershwin like "Shall We Dance," "Embraceable You," "I Got Rhythm," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "But Not for Me," and "Nice Work If You Can Get It," and many others. The plot is slight, involving a derelict theater in Nevada that needs saving, but it's just an excuse to get from one song to the next. 

Saturday, December 2, 2023

All About Jane: The Eras of Austen at The Hive Collaborative

Austenite Alert! You have just one weekend (plus Monday) to experience the delightful concept-album-in-concert All About Jane: The Eras of Austen produced by Buzz Music Theater at their new home, The Hive Collaborative (formerly the home of Dreamland Arts). 

This theatrical concert showcases twelve songs by singer-songwriter Monica Livorsi, all based on heroines from Jane Austen's six published novels. Each song has its own style and feeling which captures the essence of the character given voice. The audience was enchanted by the performance, and the Austen fans we attended with loved it. 

Livorsi sings and plays keyboard for all of the songs with simple costume pieces (by Sarah Christenson) and brief introductions to each novel and character. Her excellent band at the performance we saw included Jenessa Iverson on bass and vocals, Matt McIntyre on guitar, and Matt Nielsen on drums. 

Director and co-production designer Eric Morris and co-production designer and builder Abbee Warmboe transformed the Hive's space into a cozy sitting room with hangings and furnishings evoking the Regency era. 

While listening to the show, I knew I'd want to hear these songs again (and again), so it's wonderful to know that an actual album release is planned for spring 2024. Check out Monica Livorsi's website for more information.  

To learn more about the plans for The Hive Collaborative, check out Twin Cities Theater Bloggers'  conversation with founders Eric Morris and Laura Rudolph Morris on the Twin Cities Theater Chat podcast

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Company National Tour at the Orpheum Theatre

Company is a Tony-award winning 1970 musical by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth. It's a concept musical that features a series of vignettes about Bobby, a single man, and his married friends.

Britney Coleman as Bobbie in the National Tour of Company.
Photo by Matthew Murphy for Murphy.Made.
The production now playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis is the first national tour of the 2021 revival that changes the main character to Bobbie, a single woman celebrating her 35th birthday and examining the relationships around her.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Twin Cities Theater Chat Addendum - Holidays 2023 Edition!

Haul out the holly, cause we need a little holiday fun. Luckily, our Twin Cities Theater community is ready to share some wonderful shows with you and your loved ones. Tip! Buy tickets for a show for gifts! 

Find out about all the holiday theater fun on the latest holiday-centric episode of Twin Cities Theater Chat!

BTW, our podcast host site has limited space for show notes, so here's the full list of holiday recommendations from the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Ghost Quartet at Theatre Elision

Our good friend Cherry and Spoon calls Theatre Elision's Ghost Quartet "Musically gorgeous and truly haunting." Okay! We're in!

This spooky season has been absolutely jam-packed with theater goodness, but we couldn't let another year go by without seeing Ghost Quartet (this is Theatre Elision's fifth production of this show.) which runs through October 28.