Sunday, April 23, 2023

Othello: The Remix at Minneapolis Musical Theatre

Minneapolis Musical Theatre's mission is to present rarely seen musicals, which has brought more than 40 area premieres to the Twin Cities. Their newest show is a gem of a musical, Othello: The Remix (playing April 21-May 7 at the Phoenix Theater).

Shakespeare's stories are always ripe for retelling, but the tragedy of Othello hasn't been explored as much as, say, Romeo and Juliet. This version, written by Q Brothers (GQ and JQ) and developed by Rick Boynton, was commissioned by Shakespeare's Globe and Chicago Shakespeare Theater and premiered in 2013. 

Alex Church, Miles Scroggins, Umar Malik, Alaster Xan-Elias (Unser Imagery)

In Othello: The Remix, Othello is a rapper who used his rhymes to rise out of poverty. At the top of his game, he's put together a crew that includes his oldest friend Iago and up-and-comer Cassio. As the story begins, Othello hears a voice that inspires him--that of the diva Desdemona--and proceeds to collaborate with her personally as well as professionally. His rap crew is threatened by this new partnership, especially Iago, who is also jealous of Othello's favoring of Cassio, and tragedy ensues. 

Although Othello is a tragedy, it's also a comedy. The show is almost entirely sung/rapped through, accompanied by Glorius L. Martin, a.k.a DJ Huh? What?? (amazing name, btw!) The classic tale unfolds in hip-hop verse that moves incredibly quickly but not too fast to catch the hilarious rhymes and references. Just four talented performers play all of the characters and provide narration to guide you through the story, with hilarious asides to the audience. 

Othello is played by Umar Malik, who provides a confident, grounding presence, believable as both a rap superstar and the leader of his crew. Miles Scroggins plays both Cassio, here the up-and-coming rapper resented by Iago, and Iago's love-starved wife, Emilia. Alex Church has an early comedic turn as Desdemona's father Brabantio before digging fully into the conniving Iago. 

Alex Church, Umar Malik (Unser Imagery)

Alaster Xan-Elias creates four characters including nerdy romantic foil Roderigo, Cassio's clingy girlfriend Bianca, and record label exec Loco Vito. Each character is specific and distinct, and all have lots of laughs, but the tennis-crazed Loco Vito, with his far-out references to Boris Becker and John McEnroe, provides the most unexpected giggles. 

Considering we saw the show on its second night, the chemistry between these engaging performers already felt authentic and lived-in. And holy cats, is it hilarious! Director Denzel Belin makes the most of the script and the timing is lightning quick. Maia Maiden's music direction and choreography serves the story, and is especially entertaining when Emilia gets her moment in the spotlight. The show runs only 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission, and you can see why the performers need the break. If the show paused at all for laughter, it would be a lot longer. But you've got to keep up. And see it twice!

Performed on a spare stage with simple sets (which they use every bit of) and minimal costume changes as the performers shift between characters, it reminded us of Ten Thousand Things, another local theater company that makes Shakespeare accessible by focusing on performance and text. (How amazing would it be for this show to travel to underserved audiences as TTT does?) Special shoutout to Scenic Designer/TD Vicky Erickson for the ingenious depiction of the never-seen but heard Desdemona, to Lighting Designer Grant E. Merges for inventive lighting choices, and to Audio Designer/Technician Abe Gabor for helping us hear all of those amazing rhymes. 

We've long loved Minneapolis Musical Theatre for taking chances on shows that are rarely performed here. This entire season (Striking 12, Analog and Vinyl) has featured retellings of classic tales and with Othello: The Remix, they are really raising their own bar. It's an amazing end to their season and we can't wait to see what they have in store next season!

Othello: The Remix plays at the Phoenix Theater from April 21 - May 7. 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

nimbus Presents A Count Up to Christmas

Over on the Hallmark channel, they've been counting down to Christmas with their holiday movies since, oh I don't know, JANUARY. We've been leaning hard into the comfort of these cheesy tales of love and redemption and fake snow and public domain Christmas carols, so we were super excited to check out nimbus theatre's holiday show.  

But wait, you say. nimbus?

Annick Dall, Derek Dirlam, and Tara Lucchino. Photo by Emily Barrera.

The same nimbus theatre whose collaborative, experimental, and devised work tends towards the spooky and serious around the holidays? It's true! In 2022, they have decided to embrace the holiday, and they have gone all out with A Count Up to Christmas, a funny, romantic show that pays a loving homage to the holiday tv movie genre while simultaneously sending it up. 

The show description should sound rather familiar to Hallmark Holiday Movie fans: 

When an Overworked City Person finds herself dumped and unemployed right before Christmas, she heads to a Quaint Small Town in the Heartland to regroup. But things in the Heartland aren’t all jolly and bright as the beloved town Christmas Fair is in danger. Can the town be saved? Can an Overworked City Person find love again? Will there be a vintage truck and a gazebo?

WHAT WILL HAPPEN??? You'll have to go see the show at the Crane Theater through December 18 to find out if there will be a happy ending. No spoilers here!

In all seriousness, nimbus has definitely embraced the holidays with their new show. From the moment we walked into the Crane, we knew we were in for some serious Christmas cheer. There is some serious holiday decorating going on--I think I counted fifteen Christmas trees! Plus, we were encouraged to grab a holiday bingo card on our way in (see pic).

Author's photo

Josh Cragun's script perfectly sends up the Christmas movie genre, and the cast is wonderfully committed to the concept under Liz Neerland's direction.  

Tara Lucchino balances out the weirdness of the townspeople with her "Big City" sensibilities until she too is drawn in by the Christmas Spirit. Derek Dirlam as Deputy Buck Sterling perfectly embodies the aw-shucks small-town lawman and potential romantic lead who has a few rather unusual crimes to deal with. His eager helper is eight-year old Reggie, hilariously played by the adult Alex Stokes. He's EIGHT and has some of the best throwaway lines in the show. 

Christy Johnson, Annick Dall, and Jane Hammill play a variety of delightfully unique townspeople, and Jeffery Goodson is a hoot as the quirky Christmas-enforcing mayor. In addition to the main story, we're also treated to commercials for other holiday movies, which are little gems of holiday weirdness. Three words: Yule Log Lady.

The lavish scenic design by Gaea Dill-D'Ascoli encompasses indoor and outdoor Christmas scenes, and some inventive surprises. Kudos to property designer Ursula K. Bowden for rounding up a perfectly excessive amount of holiday decor. Everything else contributed to the atmosphere, from costumes by Rubble&Ash, lighting by Jon Kirchhofer and sound by Jacob M. Davis. And a shout out to stage manager Alyssa Thompson and assistant stage manager Kelley Yount for keeping the production moving at an impressively brisk pace.

We could share more details, but it's much better--and funnier--if you see it for yourself. So go to the Crane Theater by December 18 to see this festive and charming comedy!

Monday, December 5, 2022

Striking 12 at Minneapolis Musical Theatre

Let's be honest: We LOVE Minneapolis Musical Theatre and their mission of producing "high quality yet affordable works of musical theatre never before – or very rarely – seen by Twin Cities audiences."

Thanks to MMT, we've seen a variety of delightfully quirky and challenging musicals, and in recent years, such outstanding productions such as High Fidelity (at the Electric Fetus!), Daddy Long Legs (at the James J. Hill House!), and Hands on a Hard Body (at a car dealership!)

Minneapolis Musical Theatre kicks off their 2022-2023 season with Striking 12 (at the Gremlin Theatre from December 2-18). It's a fascinating entry into the Twin Cities holiday theater scene. 

Based on Hans Christian Andersen's Little Match Girl (sort of), this musical is about "a grumpy, overworked New Yorker who resolves to spend New Year’s Eve alone in his apartment when an unexpected visitor brings some much-needed cheer." Well okay, then! 

Striking 12 plays out on a bare stage, with minimal props and costume changes. The presence of strings of twinkle lights in the intimate Gremlin Theatre space is one of the only physical nods to the holiday setting. The cast play multiple roles (and sometimes instruments) and view and comment on the on-stage activity. There's a meta, self-referential feel to this musical from the very first songs, which incorporate the traditional "turn your cell phone off" messages and point out musical motifs that will reappear. 

The ensemble of Striking 12. Photo by Unser Imagery.

The synopsis of the show refers to the "eclectic score that combines pop, rock, jazz, showtunes, and more." It's a quite unusual musical and sent us online to learn more. Thanks, Internet! Written by Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda (of the band Groovelily) and Rachel Sheinkin, whose theater credits include The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Striking 12 was produced off-Broadway in 2006. (It was a NYT Critic's Pick!) 

Clocking in at just 80 minutes, this quirky but heartfelt musical benefits from an extraordinarily charming cast. At the center of Striking 12 is the heartfelt telling of The Little Match Girl. The story is being read on New Year's Eve by the aforementioned cranky guy. His attention to and interest in the story is touching, and the interjections from the ensemble provide commentary on the narrative. 

The surrounding story is not nearly as strong as the Little Match Girl part, but the energetic and talented cast are a joy to watch even when the material is a little undefined. Each ensemble member has a unique individual presence, but easily step in and out of their multiple characters in the show. Madeline Kadlec winsomely portrays the match seller and plays the bass, which seems like it wouldn't work, but it does, beautifully. Charlie Morgan, Abigail Chagolia, and Antonia Perez alternate as narrators who have definite opinions about what happens in the story, as well as playing other roles. Nick Manthe plays the grumpy guy with relish, and Rachael Furgiuele is sweet as a modern-day analog to the Match Girl. Kyle Camay, Umar Malik and Paul Stanko (also on drums) and Laura Potratz (violin) round out the ensemble, with musical support from Josh Shaffer (guitar) and music director Jean Orbison Van Heel (keyboards). 

Striking 12 is a refreshing alternative to the usual holiday shows and well worth seeing for its excellent ensemble (who we'll be definitely keeping an eye out for). 

Pro tip: If you liked this show, MMT has a rare opportunity to credit your ticket purchase toward a Season Subscription. (Email them at to find out how!) The other two shows are also contemporary takes on classic literature (Faust and Othello) and sure to be must-sees. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

It's the Spookiest Time of the Theater Year! Twin Cities Horror Festival Season XI

Updated 10/23/22

You've heard us sing the spooky praises of Twin Cities Horror Fest for years. Won't you join us this year for the most delightful, spooky, chilling, hilarious, gory theater you'll see all year? We've been expecting you...

The Twin Cities Horror Fest Season XI (TCHF) runs from October 20 through 30 at the Crane Theater. Tickets are $15 and every bit of the ticket price goes to the artists. Support our post-pandemic artists!

This year, TCHF has eleven shows for your horror holiday fun. You can easily see them all (and you should).

Here's a quick take on the line-up of shows. (Note: We'll update this post as we see each show.)

Stabby Stab Stab presented by Special When Lit & The Winding Sheet Outfit
Two pre-teens are compelled to serve a modern monster; an eyeless watcher whose price for loyalty is blood. In the age of electronic loneliness, how far would you go for friendship? Stabby Stab Stab examines recent true-life happenings in nearby Waukesha, Wisconsin. 

Our thoughts: Nissa Nordland Morgan (who also wrote the play) and Kayla Dvorak Feld are unnervingly believable as pre-teen girls who become obsessed with Slenderman and plan a murder to appease him. Based on a true story, this show covers a lot of story and character in just one hour. Director Amber Bjork makes the most of the intimate Crane studio space and the show design is spare but effective. Perfectly timed projections depict the girls' online conversation and music by Derek Lee Miller and Sam Landman create a chilling atmosphere. (Pro tip: Sit near the front for a better view.)

Learn more: If you want to learn more about the true story behind the Slenderman killings, check out Living with Slenderman by Kathleen Hale, or the HBO documentary Beyond the Slenderman. If you're not yet sufficiently freaked out, check out more spooky stories at Creepypasta.

The Shrieking Harpies by the Shrieking Harpies
The Shrieking Harpies are a musical improv trio featuring Lizzie Gardner, Taj Ruler, Hannah Wydeven, and with Justin Nellis on the keys. Our show blends musical genres into an improvised story, with a focus on feminism and friendship. No musical styling or genre is untouchable! Known for their incredible improv, this is one horror experience no one will see coming.

Our thoughts: The Shrieking Harpies don't need props, just a pair of folding chairs, to tell a great story. This show is all about the interplay between the three talented singers/improv artists and their accompanist. Starting with a horror-related subject selected at random by an audience member (pulled out of a plastic pumpkin, of course) and an audience-suggested name, the trio creates a story that constantly surprises even the performers (to our delight). At our show, the Harpies skillfully wove a story of two unhappy teens, a single dad, a horny vice principal, and a deal with the devil. It's great fun to see how they bring all the threads together by the end of the show. With songs! 

Learn more: Keep up on the Shrieking Harpies on their website and look for the amazing Lizzie Gardner, Taj Ruler, and Hannah Wydeven on stage around town. Interested in exploring more stories about the devil? Check out WatchMojo's list of the Top 20 Greatest Movie Devils. 

Gillman Genesis presented by Monster Science Productions
Reverend Matt’s Monster Science returns to the Twin Cities Horror Festival with two biographies (on alternating days) of the greatest creators of horror amphibians. Learn the exciting, tragic story of Milicent Patrick, the forgotten designer of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and about the monsters of Guillermo del Toro, the greatest living monster creator. Plus jokes!

Our thoughts: You can't even go wrong with Reverend Matt and his hilarious analysis of monsters and pop culture. He's doing two alternating shows this year and we saw his show on Milicent Patrick, "the forgotten designer of the Creature from the Black Lagoon." As usual, his blend of monster facts and hilarious commentary, delivered in deadpan, professorial tones had the audience in the palm of his hand. He definitely made us want to learn more about Milicent Patrick and re-watch The Creature from the Black Lagoon. See below!

Learn more: Read Mallory O'Meara's (2019) biography of Milicent Patrick: The Lady from the Black Lagoon. For more info on the legendary Universal Monsters, check out Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror, a massive coffee-table book filled with pictures and stories. Also, definitely see The Creature from the Black Lagoon, available for free at Tubi. (PS: Tubi has SO MANY good horror films FOR FREE. Check it out.)

Spooky & Gay Cabaret presented by BC Theatricals
Who says Halloween comes once a year? SPOOKY & GAY is a queer horror storytelling cabaret featuring original songs, stories and standup - like Goosebumps, only gayer! Written and performed by award-winning Florida playwright-performer, Bruce Ryan Costella.

Our thoughts: Orlando-based storyteller Bruce Ryan Costella has been traveling the country since the spring with his Spooky & Gay Cabaret and it's excellent timing to have him here at the TCHF. Using only a few lights and special effects, Costella tells spooky stories with a gay twist interspersed with songs (on his ukelele!) and short comedic takes on subjects like the worst Halloween candy. Although often comic in tone, his stories have real heart behind them such as his poignant tales about gay bars. Plus a little Cher on the uke! I was hoping for maybe some Donna Summer as well. Very endearing and engaging and a welcome addition to the TCHF! 

Learn more: Definitely check out the merch table for the adorable Spooky & Gay poster, specially created program, and sparkly sticker. Speaking of spooky and gay, Shudder has an excellent new docuseries called Queer for Fear, about the history of the LGBTQ+ community in the horror and thriller genres.

Writer's Room Presented By The Vincent Hovis Experience

A group of creators set to work on an undisclosed project in a remote office. As they try to figure out their combined purpose, they begin revealing their backgrounds...and other information. Writer's Room explores how people manipulate the truth in today's modern world and what that means about the grey areas between good and evil. Written & performed by Emily Dussault, Keith Hovis, Sam Landman & Leslie Vincent. 

Our thoughts:​ Three people enter a room, strangers to one another, only knowing they have been offered the chance at a high-paying writing gig by a mysterious person or group. Could it be Netflix? Oddly, the instructions they receive come via cassette tapes and an old-school tape player. The snarky and not very likeable characters are supposed to work together to create scenarios using the prompts on the tapes, which get more and more personal. The story takes a turn for the meta, which is always fun, but it gets a little confusing and quite dark. These talented performers are always fun to watch, but this one didn't quite hit home for us. 

Learn more: Just a note to follow artists Emily Dussault, Keith Hovis, Sam Landman and Leslie Vincent, as they do wonderfully creative and unique work.

Dead Mountain presented by Third Floor Studio
Based on the tragic events of the Dyatlov Pass Incident where nine university students perished during a ski trip in 1959. Fast forward to 2022 where a driven researcher, obsessed with finally proving her theory for what caused the hikers' demise, takes her team to the same treacherous wilderness in search of answers. Will they meet the same fate? Or survive the place known as "Dead Mountain."

Our thoughts: The Dyatlov Pass incident is an enduring mystery that still puzzles researchers. The many theories about how the nine hikers died in the Ural Mountains have filled books, documentaries, and TV shows. Third Floor Studio sets their version, written and produced by Cara White, in two time periods. In 2022, a female researcher (the program doesn't list character names) is setting out for an expedition to confirm her theory about the deaths. In 1959, we learn about the hiking party through diary entries of Luda, a young woman in the group. The diary entries are read as voiceover in what sounded like a good Russian accent (props to CJ Mantel for dialect coaching). Once the researcher arrives at the site, the past and present overlap. Could the folk tales of a mountain spirit that the scientists dismiss be real? Although this is a fascinating story, there wasn't quite enough setup of the mystery for those who didn't know it, and the script could use some tightening. The atmosphere was creepy, and it did make us want to learn more about the real mystery. 

Learn more: After years of speculation about what befell the hikers of Dyatlov Pass, the mystery may have finally been solved (as the researcher in Dead Mountain hypothesized.) Check out Caitlin Doughty's wonderful Ask a Mortician video called Wait, FROZEN solved the Dyatlov Pass Mystery? Donnie Eichar's nonfiction book about the mystery called Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident is a few years old, but very well-researched and fascinating. The horror film Devil's Pass (2013) has a really fun semi-bananas take on the story.

Victor Invictus presented by Phantom Chorus Theatre
Witness Victor Frankenstein’s Creature brought to life onstage in the form of a terrifying, life-sized bunraku puppet! Can the Creature find the deceased Doctor’s lost journals to cure his growing madness, or will he succumb to the bloodthirsty voices in his fractured mind?​

Our thoughts: How can you go wrong when your horror show features live organ accompaniment and sound effects? The spooky vibe is immediately set with music (composed and performed by Steven Zubich) played on a candlelit organ. As this retelling of Frankenstein starts, we were immediately struck by how much the live Foley sound effects (designed and performed by Andrew Rosdail) add to the action on stage. We begin with the 'birth' of Frankenstein's Creature, which doesn't shy away from a little gore (a few organs, intestines.) The Creature (ingeniously designed and built by Marc Berg and beautifully acted and voiced by Keegan Robinson) enlists a young Scholar (a compelling Kristina Jansons) to help him locate the Doctor's journals and help quell his growing madness. The acting in this show is excellent, including Josh Vogen as Victor, Thomas Buan as the Investigator, and Cheryl Yakacki, Taylor Leone, Thalia Kostman, and Braden Joseph in a variety of roles. Writer/directors Marc Berg and Thalia Kostman create an absorbing narrative, a spine-chilling atmosphere, and a tight, swiftly moving production. We definitely look forward to seeing more from Phantom Chorus Theatre. (Note: This show was understudied by Aaron Fiskradatz and Lindsey Oetken. As far as we know, we didn't see the understudies, but we appreciate the preparedness.)

Learn more: Read more about the art of Bunraku at Invitation to Bunraku. If you've never read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, do. It's quite good! For more about Mary Shelley and other early women sf authors, check out the delightful Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson.

Bad Egg by ​Denzel Belin Presents
She was a bag egg...or was she? When yet again deemed rotten and sent down the trash chute, V finds her trip to The Factory is more than pure imagination - it's a living hell. Fighting against assumptions, a crazed candy fueled hellscape, and the vicious threat of the Orange Ones lead by The Kook, this is the story of a girl not afraid to be loud and get what she wants.

Review to come ...

All Your White Darlings presented by Dangerous Productions
On Nile Island, corporate home of, Theo, a Black man, is a welcome “diversity hire”. Nile Island is soon blindsided by the murder of a white islander in response to the police killing of an unarmed Black man on the mainland. Theo finds himself forced to face the pale quality of his relationships with his co-workers, his neighbors, as they distance themselves from him and make their fear of his Blackness apparent.

Review to come ...

Edgar Perry presented by The Coldharts
17-year-old Edgar Allan's life is over. Expelled from University, abandoned by his fiancé, and estranged from his foster family, he has but one option left: to reinvent himself 'Edgar Perry' and dominate the ranks of the United States Military. A world premiere minimalist-musical from the creators of 'Edgar Allan' & 'Eddie Poe.'

Review to come ...

Ted's Talk presented by Haunted Basement (Catacomb Collective)

Welcome to this year's Annual Expose in Hell: Dawn of a New Day! This year Ted will delight you with the year's most diabolical, ingenious, and innovative tortures! Come see which creamy curds rose to the top and revel in their achievements of blood worth spreading! "There is no escape, not really...Enjoy the show!" - Tammy, the SM

Review to come ...

Happy Horror Fest to all and to all a Spooky Night!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Oh HEY, Minnesota Fringe Festival!

Fringe logo
Dear Minnesota Fringe Festival,

It's been three years since we attended and wrote about you. And those three years have been ABSOLUTELY BANANAS. But it's your 29th birthday and you look fabulous.

So y'all, let's see some dang theater. Let's BE THE FRINGE we want to see in the world. 

What: 29th Annual Minnesota Fringe Festival
When: August 4 through 14, 2022
Where: Eleven Minneapolis venues, centered in Cedar-Riverside and Uptown
What: Over 112 shows and well over 500+ performances

Buttons, Tickets, and More - In short, Button + Ticket + Proof of Vaccination = Fringe Fun!
MN Fringe COVID Policy - Subject to change. But definitely bring your Proof of Vax. Masks may be required depending on community level reporting. But, seriously, mask up. Those lines and venues get crowded!

Adorable dogs sporting Fringe hoodies
They also have sweet merch!
"Artists and audiences are encouraged to take risks at Fringe. We keep ticket prices low so patrons can afford to gamble on something they've never heard of or stumble upon a hidden gem. We believe in the creative process of every producer, regardless of where they fall on the artistic spectrum. We aim to shatter the barriers to theatrical entry by ensuring all artists are provided the opportunity to stage a show. Regardless of pedigree, each festival producer is given an equitable performance schedule in a reputable theater with professional technicians and front-of-house staff."

BTW, if you are new to Fringe, you must check out our friend Cherry and Spoon's Guide to Successful Fringing. She is a Fringing all-star and she gets her game ON.


If You Love Spooky Theater and Can't Wait for Twin Cities Horror Festival ...

Årsgång: What You Follow Follows You by The Winding Sheet Outfit (Theatre in the Round)
On the dark night of the solstice, a brave soul seeking visions of the coming year must undertake a dangerous, quiet, supernatural pilgrimage through the still and snowy forest...although not truly alone....
Why: Winding Sheet Outfit always brings the thoughtful and uncanny to the Fringe.

Slender Vale by Oncoming Productions (Mixed Blood Theater)
Each performance is a spontaneous tale of terror from the haunted, cursed, infested little Northern MN town of Slender Vale. You've seen improv comedy, now come explore the darker corners of what improv can do.
Why: Oncoming Productions creates atmospheric, memorable horror theater. They also have an excellent podcast: Dead North

Silver Hammer by The Coldharts (CFPA Black Box)
An autobiographical horror-fiction concerning disinformation, non-linear warfare, arson, troll-farms, Russian oligarchs, psychic attacks, tik tok, and our ever-eroding sense of what is true and what is false.
Why: We LOVE The Coldharts and their musical horror stylings. Also, that song is super creepy.

Stages: A Horror Play by Maximum Verbosity (Huge)
A bickering brother and sister repeatedly awaken in strange scenarios to witness terrible things happening to each other. An expressionistic nightmare about anxiety, loss, madness, love, grief, and table salt.
Why: The description is incredibly intriguing. We're in!

Fight the Patriarchy - See These Women's Stories

Endometriosis: The Musical

Endometriosis: the Musical by Ripped Nylons Productions (Theatre in the Round)
Endometriosis: the Musical is a humorous and playful look at the deeply flawed world of women's healthcare and the complex, and often infuriating, realities of navigating a system built for anyone but you.
Why: Great cast and extra points for their awesome promo image! Can you judge a Fringe by its cover? With 112 shows, you have to do SOMETHING.

Bonny & Read: A Swashbuckling Musical by Haute Dish Productions (Rarig Center Thrust)
The duo who brought you Chisago: The Musical is back to tell the tale of Anne Bonny & Mary Read. Based on a true story, these women defy odds & gender norms to become two of the most famous pirates in history.
Why: Their previous Fringe show, Chisago: The Musicalwas a delight. Plus, lady pirates! 

The Dog Show

The Dog Show by Mairzie Dotes Productions
In this funny and touching memoir, Mary Jo Pehl chronicles life after her husband’s death and becoming a single parent to Seymour The Dog - and his obsession with her.
Why: Look at the puppy!!!! Also, Mary Jo Pehl is a Minnesota treasure.

The Hysterical Woman by Fortune's Fool Theatre (Rarig Center Xperimental)
The misdiagnosis and ridicule of women in history from Cassandra to Britney Spears, told in poetry, testimony, historical documents, and noir. “Calm down, honey, you’re being hysterical.”
Why: Because Cassandra feels like a legit presence in 2022. And nothing is more infuriating than being told to calm down.

One-Woman Beaches by Alisa Rosenthal (HUGE)
This is the movie “Beaches” told by one woman. And that woman is Alisa Rosenthal. And she will get you to question – who is the wind beneath YOUR wings?
Why: Did you ever know that you're my hero? You're everything I wish I could be? That's why.

We Live in a SOCIETY - Culture and Social Norms Interrogated, Plus Apocalypse

A Day with the Newhearts by Melancholics Anonymous (Mixed Blood Theatre)
The Newhearts, the happiest 1950s Minnesotan family you’ve ever met, have come together to host the perfect barbecue for their new neighbors. What ensues is a fatal sitcom of Midwest manners.
Why: An idyllic setting with a hell of a content warning: "This production contains physical violence, adult language, blood, and historical misogyny."

Ancestors Rising by Goddard's Gardens (Mixed Blood Theatre)
It’s post-apocalyptic America...or what's left of it. After using music-powered experiments to time travel in search of a way to save a dying humanity, "afrophysicist" JahDavis returns home to join his fellow freedom fighters in rebuilding a new world out of the ashes of the old. Interweaving music, poetry, and storytelling, Ancestors Rising is an intimate and immersive portrayal of joy and resilience.
Why: Post-apocalyptic America PLUS joy and resilience? Yes, pls.

Jesus Qhrist

Jesus Qhrist by Christopher Kehoe (Rarig Center Xperimental)
Is this solo performance about the ridiculous incongruities between Christianity and Trumpism? I don't know; I'm just asking questions. Don't "stand back and stand by" for this insurrection of a good time!
Why: Christopher Kehoe is a dang riot. Plus, his beard game is on point.

What's Your Day Job? Or, How Capitalism Destroys Us All! by Fearless Comedy Productions (Augsburg Mainstage)
From the industrial revolution to the apocalypse of tomorrow, follow workers through a series of absurd, comedic vignettes to try and break the constraining capitalist hoops that try and keep workers powerless.
Why: Capitalism is destroying us all. Please make me laugh.

Every Day a Little Fringey Death - Love at the Fringe:

Finger Lickin' Good by Special When Lit

Finger Lickin' Good by Special When Lit (Rarig Center Thrust)
A sex-fueled horror/comedy/edutainment show about fast-food giant Colonel Sanders. There will be blood (with 11 herbs & spices).
Why: Did you look at the promo image? Need we say more? NEED. WE. SAY. MORE.

5 First Dates by Danna Sheridan
Danna Sheridan has been working on herself ... kind of. Ready to get back into the dating scene, Danna will select an eligible audience member at each show to go on a real, live first date with her on stage!
Why: Mmmm, improv first dates. Where's my popcorn?

Erotica for Houseplants by Tom Reed
A comedic collage of erotica by, for and about plants (read aloud by a human). Steamy succulents. Lonely redwoods. Corn-ographic tales of crop pollination. A silly botanical f*ckfest. Houseplants get in free!
Why: Because WHAT NOW? Also, Tom Reed.

Ten More Shows We're Looking Forward To:

The Best Jester by Neuro-Disgusted (CFPA Black Box)
It is a Choose-Your-Own Adventure Drag Juke Box Musical. Come pick out the playlist as Hawai navigates her college experience. Each show is one of a kind, don't miss it!

‘WHOOSH! The Civil War Mythology of Michael Hickey and His Perilous Precipitation Over St. Anthony Falls.’ by Wheeler In The Sky
An ‘Homerical Poem’ of memory, art and healing as Minnesota veterans of the Civil War return home.

Pop Sensationz by Babe Train (HUGE)
Enjoy the drama, singing, and comedy in this improvised musical biopic offering a peek into today’s hottest pop group’s rise to fame - except you’ve never heard of them and it’s all made up on the spot!

Rewrites by Lessismore Productions (Augsburg Mainstage)
A desperate Writer struggling to progress in her work, haunted by a successful former colleague, invites characters she can't pin down into her home. Stakes rise, pages shred, egos and identities deconstruct.

PEOPLE R READY-The Musical by James Gutzman/Melody Bay Productions (Rarig Center Thrust)
Original American musical with an emphasis on dancing, singing and having fun. College students return to campus, renew friendships, audition for upcoming school musical and say adieu to Tator Tot casserole.

Michael Bay's Bridgerton VII: Revenge of the Forlorn by Snikt! Bamf! Thwip! (Theatre in the Round)
Follows the exploits of Penelope Featherington and Eloise Bridgerton through the dark underbelly of London society balls. A comedic romp through toxic masculinity in Regency England!

It's Going Down In Uptown by Legends Improv Theater (Bryant Lake Bowl)
Welcome to the House of Humility. L.I.T. is here to serve you bowls of random acts of dopeness! Let's get L.I.T. with the pure language of the present tense!

He-Man is the Devil and Other Satanic Panic Tales

He-Man Is The Devil & Other Satanic Panic Tales by Kyle B. Dekker (Rarig Center Arena)
Evangelical Christians and the general public were afraid of and went to war with a ton of things in the 1980s. What happens if you are a kid and some of those things are the books, games, and movies you love?

On a Stick: A Minnesota State Fair Musical by Literally Entertainment (Rarig Center Thrust)
Follow a story with more turns than any ride on the Midway as an upstart band tries to save the State Fairgrounds from falling into the clutches of an East Coast real estate mogul.

GEMINI: A Magic Show by Noah Sonie (Augsburg Studio)
GEMINI is an experimental one man show from the Mind of Minneapolis based Magician and Creative, Noah Sonie. Noah blends numerous passions including magic, comedy, storytelling, and his love for modern culture

Happy Fringing, Y'all!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Hands on a Hardbody at Minneapolis Musical Theatre

Hello! It's us! Returning from hiatus to bring you a very special message about THEATER.

It's back, baby! May is rich with theater goodness to see and love, but we're starting off with an old favorite: Minneapolis Musical Theatre and their upcoming production of Hands on a Hardbody performed at Luther Cadillac Roseville (April 22 - May 8).

A little backstory: Although they’ve been around since 1992, Minneapolis Musical Theatre (MMT) first came on our radar with La Cage Aux Folles in 2006. Starring founders Kevin Hansen and Stephen Meerdink as Albin and Georges and performed during the Minneapolis Pride celebration, this production was pure joy.

We’ve followed MMT ever since. Their mission is ‘rare musicals, well done’ and truer words were never spoken. We’ve seen a number of fun, quirky, and heartfelt productions of musicals we haven’t seen anywhere else including Chess, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Zombie Prom, Zanna, Don't!, Mame, The Story of My Life, Reefer Madness, Sunset Boulevard, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Eating Raoul, and YES, Carrie, the legendary flop based on the Stephen King novel. 

Oh, and their 2016 production of Silence! The Musical, "an unauthorized parody of The Silence of the Lambs" was LEGENDARY (read our rave here). Featuring songs like "Are You About a Size 14?" and featuring a Fosse-inspired chorus of lambs, this show was so hilarious and spot-on, we saw it three times.

And it's not even our favorite MMT show (so far)! That honor belongs to 2018's High Fidelity, which was performed at Minneapolis beloved record store Electric Fetus. A close runner-up is the sweet two-person musical Daddy Long Legs, delightfully performed at the James H. Hill House, and one of the last shows we saw before COVID.

But enough about the past! Let's talk about a show you can actually go see!

Hands on a Hardbody is based on a 1997 documentary of the same name which depicts a yearly endurance competition in Texas that pits contestants against each other to see who can keep their hand on a pickup truck for the longest amount of time. The last contestant standing wins the brand-new truck. These competitions can last for days and takes place outside, under the Texas sun and in pouring rain.

The musical was commissioned by the La Jolla Playhouse and features a book by Doug Wright, lyrics by Amanda Green, and music by Trey Anastasio (of Phish fame) and Amanda Green. The show opened on Broadway in 2013 and closed after only 28 previews and 28 performances. Despite closing so quickly, the show was nominated for three Tony awards (including Best Score) and several Drama Desk awards.

Charles Isherwood in the New York Times described the La Jolla production as it "sings sincerely and with a rough-edged humor of the dusty margins of American life, where people live paycheck to paycheck if they are lucky enough to have a job, and chase a chancy illusion of sudden salvation if they are not." Sounds familiar, no?

We've all been through incredibly hard times the last few years, which why this show spoke to MMT Artistic Director Joe Hendren. “They’re all hoping for a better life - whatever that means to them. The characters, the music - it’s a wonderful slice of Americana that explores our shared humanity. In a word - it’s about hope.”

Thankfully, Minneapolis Musical Theater is not staging this show outside (you can't count on Minnesota weather), but at at the Luther Cadillac showroom in Roseville. In case you're worried about standing for an entire show, there are a variety of seating (and pricing) options available. You can also find content warnings and COVID policies at the website. 

MMT puts on quirky, funny, and heartfelt musicals and in non-traditional venues. They provide truly unique theatrical experiences. Hands on a Hardbody runs from April 22 through May 8 and will likely sell out quickly. Get your tickets soon!

See Also:

There are a ton of fascinating articles at the HOAH Broadway website about how a truck contest became a Broadway musical written by the guy from Phish.

Check out the "Something for Nothing" episode of  This American Life, which features audio from the documentary. 

For another look at an endurance contest in hard times, see the film They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" which features a Depression-era dance marathon.

Monday, March 8, 2021

How Do You Measure a Year (Without Theater). Also, Assassins.

Tonight I'm watching the original cast of Assassins reunite on YouTube and for the first time in nearly a year, I feel like writing about theater. 

On January 26, 2020, we published our most recent post, declaring that we were on hiatus due to unforeseen circumstances.