Monday, December 19, 2016

Public Exposure by Market Garden Theatre



A bracing antidote to the holiday season's surfeit of sweetness, Public Exposure is a play that starts strong and maintains that drive all the way to the end.

The play is written by Keith Hovis, who also wrote the brilliant musical Teenage Misery. This piece is very different from that tongue-in-cheek horror-musical mashup, but provides ample evidence that Hovis is a playwright to watch.

Produced by Market Garden Theater, the Public Exposure experience starts with a rather adventurous trek to the performance space. In a neighborhood that seems to house mostly artists' spaces, you'll finally find the virtually unmarked but correct building. You'll follow a long series of stairways and hallways to get to the room called Maker Space Northeast. The unconventional space looks like a mess as you take a seat in an assortment of chairs hugging the walls of the space. Seating is truly limited, so definitely reserve tickets and arrive early if you attend.

But then the play begins, and it's all worth it. God bless small theater in unconventional spaces! The play opens and we are in the place where Ford (Nick Wolf) has been living (and partying) since losing his job. His friend and coworker Jen (Marci Lucht) comes to see him and gradually the story unfolds as she tries to interest him in a new business enterprise--basically, the opposite of online reputation defenders. When Hannah, another coworker, (Marika Proctor) drops by, things get increasingly complicated.

More than anything, the beauty in this play is in the tight, acerbic and witty script by Keith Hovis, who is SO on my ones to watch list. Considering this is the first time that this play has been performed, it's amazingly polished. The dialogue feels natural, even as the characters discuss the online ruination of others. And the other wonderful thing about this show is the ability to see such terrific talent up close and in-depth. All three actors do a kick-ass job.

Yay new plays! Yay fresh new talent!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Miss Richfield 1981 Answers Our Burning Questions!

Gorgeous photo from Miss Richfield 1981's
Facebook page
After seeing the hilarious Miss Richfield 1981 in Trailer House to the State House - Santa-Style! at the Illusion Theater (read our glowing review here), we had a few burning questions for highly acclaimed pageant title holder.

Despite the grueling schedule of her super-hot holiday show, Miss Richfield 1981 graciously agreed to answer a few of our questions with her customary style and verve.

Don't forget! If you missed Miss Richfield 1981 this holiday season, she will be back at the Illusion Theater in February for a sneak preview of her new show: Miss Richfield 1981's 2017 Prog-rum.

On to the Q&A!

Chatting about Fun Home on tour at the Orpheum Theatre

Fun Home national touring company. Photo by Joan Marcus.
I had the opportunity to see the touring production of Fun Home at the Orpheum Theatre this week. Even though it would be my third viewing, I was interested to see how the show would hold up on tour. Fellow theater bloggers Jill of Cherry and Spoon and Laura of Twin Cities Stages had also seen the show in New York, so we thought we'd try something different and chat about our experiences with the show this time around. (Carly didn't see the show this time, but saw it in NY and did some research on the shows.) The slightly edited transcript follows. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 - Theater Latte Da at Pantages Theatre

2015 Production photo by George Byron Griffiths
Friends, there is a plethora of holiday shows for your theatergoing enjoyment this year, but I promise you:

No show will touch your heart more than All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 by Theater Latte Da at the Pantages Theater. Nor will you hear more exquisite music and singing.

The curtain rises on a dark stage, and gradually the cast of twelve men take shape through the fog, singing "Will Ye Go to Flanders?"

In seventy breathtaking minutes, we hear the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914, where British and German soldiers met in No Man's Land and played football, took photographs, exchanged addresses and buried their dead. And they sang.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

White Christmas at the Ordway

Nature cooperated with the Ordway this week, providing a suitable snowy setting for its new staging of Irving Berlin's White Christmas. Based on the 1954 holiday film, the stage version is relatively new, having first played at the Ordway in 2006, in a memorable production that landed on Broadway two years later.

The Ordway's new production resembles that production, right down to costume and set designs. The musical introduces Bob Wallace (Dieter Bierbrauer) and Phil Davis (Brian Sostek) serving in WWII under General Waverly (James Detmar). Skip ahead ten years, and now it's 1954, where Wallace and Davis have turned their Christmas variety show into an act that is often featured on the Ed Sullivan show, where another of their Army buddies, Ralph Sheldrake (the always-delightful Randy Schmeling), is a producer.
Jenny Piersol as Judy Haynes and Ann Michels as Betty Haynes.
(Photos by Rich Ryan Photography)

As a favor to yet another army buddy, the guys check out his sisters in their act (it's always about who you know!). They're impressed with the Haynes sisters, and Phil conspires with Judy Haynes (Jenny Piersol) to throw Bob and Betty (Ann Michels) together. Soon they're all on a train headed to Vermont, where the sisters are booked for the holidays.

Unseasonable heat is ruining business at the inn, which happens to be owned by General Waverly. Wallace and Davis decide to move their holiday show rehearsals to the inn to help out their old commanding officer. Rehearsal scenes allow plenty of opportunity for the cast to perform many of Irving Berlin's loveliest tunes.
Valerie Wick as Susan Waverly, Dieter Bierbrauer as
Bob Wallace, and Thomasina Petrus as Martha Watson.
And when Thomasina Petrus takes the stage as Martha Watson, the General's second-in-command at the inn, the show kicks into high gear, Thomasina Petrus is a joy to behold. In addition to running the inn, Watson has a history in show business. Her show-stopping rendition of "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy" makes me wish for the days when characters would reprise a show-stopping song.

The "let's put on a show" part of the story means that most of the songs can stand alone rather than being shoehorned into the plot, which is a relief after seeing some other jukebox musicals. A highlight at the top of the second act is "I Love a Piano," danced beautifully and athletically by Phil and Judy with the ensemble. Brian Sostek is a local treasure for his ability to combine dance and comedy, and it's great to see him really master this very traditional musical theater role. Jenny Piersol matches him step for step in the dances.
Brian Sostek as Phil Davis and Jenny Piersol as Judy Haynes.

Songs are sung, misunderstandings cause rifts that will later mend, and there are some corny jokes. It's a very traditional, family-friendly musical comedy with all the pretty costumes and tap dancing that a show can handle. The small ensemble does a good job of not making the stage feel too empty, but I did wish for more men to round out the scenes where the audience is meant to be made up of the soldiers from Waverly's unit.

The cast of White Christmas
The nineteen-piece orchestra does a wonderful job with the jazzy arrangements of the seventeen or so songs, from the well-known title tune, "Blue Skies," and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" to the less-familiar but very charming "Snow" and "Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun." All of the songs are good; Berlin was no slouch as a songwriter. I've been listening to the 2006 cast recording for years and enjoy the whole thing.

White Christmas is a crowd-pleaser, and if it didn't quite live up to my personal memories of that first Ordway production, it's still an uplifting and entertaining evening of beautiful music and dance.




Musical Theater Rabbit Hole:

Thinking about the first White Christmas at the Ordway reminded me of these videos that the cast made while they were in St. Paul. It helps if you remember when the Saturday Night Live video "Lazy Sunday" was a big deal. Jeffry Denman played Phil Davis in that production and headed up this project.



There are even follow-up videos from 2007 in Boston and the 2008 New York production, if you're into theater people being weird. Also, Denman wrote a good book about a year in the life of a working Broadway actor called A Year With The Producers: One Actor's Exhausting (But Worth It) Journey from Cats to Mel Brooks' Mega-Hit. 

When I looked to see what he was up to these days, I found this nifty video of "Cool" from West Side Story, danced all over Central Park. Glad to see he's still out there making beautiful things.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Why I Love In the Heights (and you should too)

With the news Lin-Manuel Miranda's 2008 Tony-winning musical In the Heights is part of the 2017-2018 Ordway season, it just reminded me of how completely obsessed I was with this show when I first saw it on Broadway in July 2008.

The Ordway is presenting In the Heights in collaboration with Teatro del Pueblo from September 12-24, 2017. Don't miss it!

Okay, back to me. I mean, OBSESSED.  So obsessed that I avidly followed an In the Heights message board. So obsessed that we went back to New York in February 2009 just to see Lin-Manuel Miranda's last performance as Usnavi.

And so obsessed that I watched every single video about the show. Even back then, Lin-Manuel Miranda knew how to work social media. He posted fabulous, hilarious, insider videos and his genuine love for his work, the show and the theater came through in every one.

Here's a few must-watch videos to get you psyched for In the Heights at the Ordway:

'In the Heights' - 2008 Tony Awards Performance - 96,000
Where it all started. "96,000" from In the Heights, performed on the 2008 Tony Awards.


In The Heights - Recording Session, 2008 Grammy Award Winner (Best Cast Album)
Gorgeous backstage look at the recording session for the cast album. See and hear the cast sing the heck out of this fabulous show.




Dreams Come True ... In the Heights 
For every musical theater nerd who sang the hell out of a cast recording in their bedroom, here's a holiday gift from the cast of In The Heights in December 2008.

I'm not crying, you're crying.


Okay, we're both crying.

Legally Brown: The Next Search for the Next Piragua Guy (link goes to the whole series playlist)
Lin-Manuel Miranda's faux reality series about the search for the next piragua guy is freaking hilarious, and features so many fabulous (and self-mocking) Broadway cameos and references. Including the "ubiquitous Seth Rudetsky"!



Seth Rudetsky Deconstructs Andrea Burns from In the Heights
The ubiquitous Seth tells us all about how fantastic Andrea Burns is. It's also a fabulous look at the complexity of the gorgeous music of In the Heights.



To Life; Vanessa's Wedding Surprise
So, Lin-Manuel Miranda married his Vanessa in 2010, and put together this fabulous wedding surprise. So stinking cute.


Super crazy deep musical theater cut of Seth, Joshua Henry (who you'll see in Hamilton in Chicago), and Andrea Burns showing off Joshua Henry's fabulous musical theater improvisation that he does backstage during "Home" at In The Heights.




Happy watching! And listening!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Christmas Carole Petersen at Theater Latte Da

After an absence of eight years from Twin Cities stages, Theater Latte Da reprises a favorite from the theater's early days.

I admit a nostalgic fondness for the scrappy little startup theater's shows produced in the tiny, inaccessible, but charming, Loring Playhouse. We first caught A Christmas Carole Petersen there in the mid-2000s, and were so charmed by it that we returned with our own mom and dad.

This year, Latte Da brings us an early holiday present at the theater's new home, the Ritz Theater.

A Christmas Carole Petersen is back, and it's a joy to see Tod and all the Petersens back onstage. Tod Petersen takes us back to his childhood in Mankato, where he is part of a boisterous family led by the wonderfully warm and sweet Carole Petersen. Tod takes on the persona of his mother, reading from her annual Christmas letters and providing calm and thoughtful support to her husband and four children.

We learn about Tod's first brush with the theater (and his first crushing disappointment) and laugh at his re-creations of childhood memories, from his first audition to family celebrations. By way of illustration, Tod and the Carolettes sing a variety of holiday songs, from traditional carols, through the dreidel song, to new numbers written by Tod Petersen himself, director Peter Rothstein, and music director Denise Prosek.

Tod Petersen, Sara Ochs, Ryan Lee, and Dominique Wooten.
Photo by Emilee Elofson.
Sara Ochs, Ryan Lee, and Dominique Wooten are all impressive performers in their own rights, and, as the Carolettes, they provide able support to the show, filling in as family members and revelers, playing a variety of instruments, and each taking a solo turn or two.

Though the Ritz is larger than the Loring, Michael Hoover's set for the show wisely keeps the performers close to the audience and feels quite cozy. As in previous years, music director Denise Prosek accompanies the production on piano from the stage, and is clearly a part of the show. An impressive number of additional instruments appear, from guitar and drums to ukelele and flute, played well by Prosek and the ensemble.

Tod Petersen, a well-known local performer, has a long history with Latte Da and an even longer history with director Peter Rothstein, who saw Tod playing his younger self and his mom at a party and thought there might be a show in it. The rest, as they say, is history.

The stories are funny and sad and heartwarming, and the music beautiful and cheery. The joy radiating from the stage is contagious; I can't recall being in an audience so ready to join in the fun! By the end of the show, you'll feel like you've spent a lovely time getting to know Carole Petersen and her very special and oh-so-relatable family.

The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical - Minneapolis Musical Theatre at Camp Bar

Jodi Tripp, Betti Battocletti and Holli Richgels.
All photos courtesy of Unser Imagery.
Minneapolis Musical Theatre's tagline is "Rare Musicals. Well Done." Truer words were never spoken.

Watching MMT's The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical (now at Camp Bar through December 23), I was reminded of what I love best about MMT: No matter what they do, they always give 120%. They commit.

In The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical (let's call it TGATPCM), we travel to Armadillo Acres--North Florida's premier mobile-living community--to join the characters introduced in The Great American Trailer Park Musical. (Didn't see the first one? No worries, you can still follow the action.) There's some plot business about winning a decorating contest and amnesia, but the delight in this show is in the fabulous and endearing cast and the clever, hilarious songs.

Look at that gorgeous mullet.
Matthew Englund and Alex Kotlarek.
I looked at the cast photos in the program and was a little baffled. Who are these attractive, contemporary-appearing men and women? It's amazing what a very bad mullet wig (and a whole lot of commitment) can do. Betti Battocletti (Betty) plays the grande dame of Armadillo Acres with a will of iron and perfect accessories. Her two partners in crime, Jodi Tripp (Lin, short for Linoleum) and Holli Richgels (Pickles) are just as funny and winning, and the three sing beautifully--especially when they sing together.

I'm thinking of suggesting a new category to the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers for their annual local theater awards (coming soon--watch for them!): Most committed to a wig and facial hair.

Matthew Englund (Rufus) wears the hell out of his beautiful, blond mullet and acts with every inch of his body. Alex Kotlarek (Darlene) switches between being the wicked witch of the trailer park and a sweeter, amnesiac version of herself with ease and charm. She also gets the award for most amazing decolletage, which explains why Adam Rice (Jackie) is so devoted to her, what with his thriving 'breasteraunt' Stacks (it's a pancake place). Having just seen Rice in the fabulous Teenage Misery, it's lovely to have his fabulous voice added to this wacky mix.

Oh, cripes. Those OUTFITS!
Jodi Tripp, Alex Kotlarek and Holli Richgels
This cast works together beautifully. You can feel the genuine affection behind the tough talking Betty, Lin and Pickles, and when (amnesiac) Darlene starts to soften towards Rufus, they sell the chemistry perfectly.

Directed by Ryan McGuire Grimes, TGATPCM is set on a spare and appropriately tacky set, and the spareness allows the hilarity of the show, the wonderful performances, and the great music (music direction by Anthony J. Sofie) to come through clearly. And the costumes, by Kecia Rehkamp, are pitch perfect, down to the sheen of the leggings and the sag of Rufus's jeans.

TGATPCM is a delightful show for your holiday season. Not for the easily offended--there's a lot of creative swearing--although the characters transcend their stereotypical origins. The cabaret at Camp Bar is the perfect setting for this story about down-to-earth folks celebrating Christmas in their own way. If you haven't been to Camp, don't be intimidated by the presence of fabulous gays, Camp feels more like Cheers than any place I can think of. It's warm and friendly, and the bar is open for you to enjoy some adult-beverage holiday cheer with your entertainment. Support the fabulous Minneapolis Musical Theatre so they can keep bringing us these rare musicals, very well done.

So here's the thing: Listening to this show, both my sister and I were reminded of a song from one of our favorite Carols for a Cure collections. BTW, if you don't know, every year, the casts of Broadway shows record a show-themed holiday CD. These collections are wonderful and benefit the fabulous Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Carols for a Cure. Highly, highly recommended!

Anyhoo, my sister did a little research and discovered a connection between TGATPCM and Carols for a Cure. Here she is, going down a musical theater nerd rabbit hole.

MMT didn't include the show credits on their program, so this is from the official show website.
With Music and Lyrics by David Nehls and Book by Betsy Kelso, The Great American Trailer Park Musical began its journey as a series of staged readings and workshops, followed by a sold-out run at The New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) in 2004, which led to the 2005 Off Broadway run. In 2013, the Christmas-themed sequel opened in Houston, Texas - The Great American Trailer Park CHRISTMAS Musical, also by Nehls and Kelso.
Buy this cd. It is AMAZING.
And we were right, the music did sound familiar. David Nehls wrote the music and lyrics to the gorgeous "Christmastime on Highway 13" (on Carols for a Cure: Volume 5). "Christmas in my Mobile Home" is on Carols for a Cure: Volume 7. It says it's from The Great American Trailer Park Musical, so I think it predates the Christmas show. "The Coming of Christmastime" (also performed in TGATPCM) was done by the Thoroughly Modern Millie cast on Volume 5.

Nehls wrote and arranged a lot of other songs as well as acting as the Musical Director/ Composer/ Arranger/ Musical Supervisor for Carols for a Cure for the years 1998-2005. If we'd known that, we probably would have known we'd like the show!

Another fun fact:

Impressive folks in the original off-Broadway cast of the first show. The original Off Broadway cast featured Marya Grandy (Linoleum), Linda Hart (Betty), Shuler Hensley (Norbert), Kaitlin Hopkins (Jeannie), Leslie Kritzer (Drama Desk Award Nomination for her role as Pickles), Orfeh (Pippi) and Wayne Wilcox (Duke).

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Twelve Shows of Christmas!

You can't throw a snowball in the Twin Cities and Minnesota without hitting a holiday show.

In order to help you sort through the massively rich choices, here is our list of the shows we are most looking forward to and enjoying this holiday season!

A Very Asian Xmas 2016: The Holiday Party
Where: A-Mill Artist Lofts
When: Dec 12, 2016
Why We're In: Because last year's show left my cheeks hurting from smiling, and it made me want to go home and sing. I love that in a show.  Read last year's review here!

Where: Illusion Theater
When: Dec 2 - 17, 2016
Why We're In: Because this year, more than any other year, I need to remember that there is utter hilarity in the world. Read our review here!


The Unscripted Minnesota Holiday
Where: Danger Boat Productions at Bryant Lake Bowl
When: Dec 1, 3, 8, 10, 17, 2016
Why We're In: Improv plus holiday plus musical theater. PLUS, this cast/creative: Lorna Landvik, Dane Stauffer, Max Beyer, Heather Meyer, and Lizzie Gardner. Music by Dennis Curley. Directed by Tane Danger.

Snowed Inn
Where: DalekoArts
When: Nov 25 - Dec 18, 2016
Why We're In: Even though the show is probably sold out completely by now, I want to give it a little love because of the fabulous premise: "After failed screenwriter Archie Je┼żek leaves the glitz and glamour of 1930s Hollywood to return to the small, Minnesota town where he grew up to run the family hotel, his dreams of a quiet, steady Midwestern life quickly devolve to madcap holiday hijinks and mayhem." Yes, please.

Where: James Sewell Ballet at The Cowles Center
When: Dec 2 – 18, 2016
Why We're In: Because how fun does this sound? "Johnson’s highly inventive and irreverent production is set in the 60’s, beginning on the Upper-East-Side and careening into a beatnik downtown vibe with a life-size Barbie doll. The production is full of colorful characters all accompanied by a musical mash-up of hip-hop, R&B, contemporary tracks, and Christmas carols."

Black Nativity
Where: Penumbra Theatre
When: Dec 1 - 23, 2016
Why We're In: This IS our holiday tradition. We've been with Black Nativity from the many happy years at the Fitzgerald Theater to the current run at Penumbra, and no matter what else changed, this is always a show of love and gorgeous music. Read last year's review here!


Where: Theater Latte Da at the Ritz Theater
When: Nov 30 – Dec 23, 2016
Why We're In:
Because this sweet, affectionate show about Tod Petersen's real life Christmas memories is hilarious and poignant by turns. Also, sugar cookies! Read our review here!


Where: Open Eye Figure Theater
When: Dec 8 - 23, 2016
Why We're In: From our good friend Cherry and Spoon: "Part science lesson (complete with visual aids), part history, part mystical spirituality, The Longest Night is the loveliest of celebrations of the season."
Where: Minneapolis Musical Theatre at Camp Bar
When: Dec 2 - 23
Why We're In: Because Minneapolis Musical Theatre is having an amazing run of amazing shows. Plus, Camp is a super fun place to see a show AND is in St. Paul. Read our review here!

Where: Wurtele Thrust at Guthrie Theater
When: Nov 16 - Dec 30, 2016
Why We're In: It's never been a tradition for us, but with the fabulous racially diverse casting and all of the wonderful Guthrie resources on display AND only two hours with intermission, how can you go wrong? Read our review here!

The Norwegians
Where: Dark & Stormy Productions at Grain Belt Warehouse
When: Dec 8 - 30, 2016
Why We're In: Dark & Stormy always ends up on our holiday theater list. Sometimes, there's only so much sugar plums and 'bless us, every one' that you can take, and D & S always has the cure. Plus, a show about really nice hit men? Yes, please.
Where: Ordway Center
When: Dec 8 - Dec 31, 2016
Why We're In: Look at the adorable Dieter Bierbrauer and Brian Sostek. How could we possibly not be in?

Okay, so that's twelve and I still have SO MANY SHOWS to tell you about! I'm turning things over to a few of our Twin Cities Theater Bloggers friends for a lightning round of recommendations.

The Room Where It Happens on A Very Die Hard Christmas
"If you need a pick-me-up this holiday season and want to see a wildly funny take on a classic 80s film, this show’s for you."
(at Bryant Lake Bowl through Dec 17)

Cherry and Spoon on A Gone Fishin' Christmas
"There's a reason that Yellow Tree's original Christmas plays are so popular and sell out virtually every performance - they are a perfect mix of heart and humor wrapped up in local jokes that we love so well, with a talented cast that makes these characters and the sweet and silly story sing (literally and figuratively)."(Yellow Tree Theater through Dec 11)

One Girl, Two Cities on The Averagers -  Christmas War
"I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t take much to make me laugh. But it’s not often that I cry from laughing so hard..."(Comedy Suitcase at Bryant Lake Bowl through Dec 11)

Compendium on What the Elf?
"I mean come on, we all love The Christmas Carol and A Christmas Story, but every single year? Sometimes you need to mix it up a little."(Brave New Workshop through January 28)

Miss Richfield 1981 in Trailer House to the State House – Santa Style! at Illusion Theater

What can you say about Miss Richfield 1981 that hasn't already been said? She's a Minnesota institution, and her holiday show is one of the hottest tickets in the Twin Cities.

Her newest holiday offering, Miss Richfield 1981 in Trailer House to the State House, runs December 2 through 23 at the Illusion Theater.

According to my (legit bad) math, this is Miss Richfield 1981's seventeenth annual holiday show and let me tell you, the audience is devoted. As we waited for the show to begin (with our $9.00 drinks--what is this, Broadway?), the audience was lit up with cell phones as groups and friends and family and couples all got their selfies on. I don't know if I've ever seen so many pre-show selfies.

Photo courtesy of Miss Richfield 1981
Michael Robins (Executive Producing Director at the Illusion, and director of this show) hopped on stage and welcomed the audience. He gave one instruction that was, frankly, a bit perplexing: Don't turn off your phones. WHAT. It's true, and as the show started and several people began to record the show, all of my theater instincts rebelled. I had to actively resist the urge to glare and sniff disapprovingly. But I managed to control myself. Also, the show was ON.

The show started with a hilarious video that talked about Miss Richfield 1981's failed attempts to run for President. It turns out, Miss Richfield 1981 is planning on running for president of Minnesota instead and is letting us behind closed doors on her upcoming campaign.

Photo courtesy of Miss Richfield 1981
As always, the former beauty queen cracks wise about current events, cheerfully loading her act with casually biased remarks about all demographics. Somehow, she manages to say shockingly un-PC things without it ever feeling mean-spirited, managing to insult and entertain her victims at the same time. She also has a gift for tackling divisive issues in a hilarious way, poking fun at all sides of an argument but sneaking in her own opinions without insulting those who may disagree.

In the second half of the show, Miss Richfield's costumes change from the red, white, and blue of the politically-tinged first act to the red and white of Christmas, which is obviously a favorite. The traditional Christmas song sing-along is always a hit, with a few new twists that nod to events in the news. Above all, her show allows the whole audience to laugh with her, even if it's at themselves, creating a communal joy that is a lovely start to the holiday season.

The beauty of Miss Richfield 1981 for me is what an amazing show woman she is. From the first moment that she clomps (sorry, Miss R: struts) across the stage, the audience is in the palm of her hand. She makes it look so easy (much like Grant MacDermott in Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man) that it's easy to underestimate her amazing skill at working the audience.

And work the audience she does. From the very beginning, asking the audience where they're from (with a great running joke about Chanhassen) to the actual folks that she chats with in the audience about gay marriage, she finds the humor in every possible interaction. When reminding herself of an audience member's name ("Was it Mariah?" "MARA." "I don't need the tone.") or referring to two longtime married lesbians as Trisha and Dennis, her skill at working the crowd is amazing. And always affectionate, even when shutting down some loud schmucks in the back ("I really need to raise ticket prices.").

After the presidential election and so much vitriol in the world, I'm cheered by the fact that there is Miss Richfield 1981 in the world. In the worst of times, sometimes we are treated to the best entertainment. Go see Miss Richfield 1981 and find the joy in the season.