Thursday, July 6, 2023

Update: We Left the House! aka Some Shows We've Seen (Summer 2023)

Hello friends!

Our friends over at Cherry and Spoon and The Stages of MN have persuaded us to finally get out and see some theater. So we have! And dang it, we're going to tell you about it.

The Pajama Game at Artistry

A very fun summer show. The Twin Cities Theater Bloggers did an event wherein people wore their jimjams. And we had a talkback with director Ben Bakken and some of the cast. Great chat about what it's like doing one of the great musical theater classics in 2023 and an interesting look at the role intimacy direction plays in a show like this.

The Defeat of Jesse James at History Theatre

We could not not go see this new musical with a book by Jeffrey Hatcher and music by Chan Poling because the cast was outstanding. Sasha Andreev, Jen Burleigh-Bentz, Hope Nordquist, Jordan Leggett, James Ramlet, Dane Stauffer, and Angie Timberman. Adam Qualls was a fantastic Jesse James. I would not have been heartbroken to also see his understudy Randy Schmeling in the role. Everyone was fabulous, music was great, and the way they depicted gun play was just right for a shell-shocked 2023 audience. Hope this has as long a life as Glensheen!

Don Giovanni at Minnesota Opera

Love MN Opera, love Mozart, love a big summer opera, but this was a misstep. You can't start an opera with a sexual assault by the main character and then pretend like he is just a delightful cad. The combination of Don Giovanni and Leporello was like the worst of toxic masculinity depicted onstage. Despite some amazing performances, particularly by Symone Harcum as Donna Anna and Sara Gartland as Donna Elvira, we left at intermission. If you are going to do Don Giovanni for a contemporary audience, you need to get the tone right. A rare misstep for MN Opera, who has given us amazing opera this season in Rinaldo and The Song Poet.

Three Decembers - Skylark Opera Theatre

We've loved Skylark Opera since it was Northstar Opera and performed a summer operetta festival every year at E.M. Pearson theater in St. Paul. They've continued to do amazing work for years and have performed some amazing new works. Three Decembers was a treat. This chamber opera opens with the memorial of Madeline Mitchell, the late, great actress (Norah Long in a role she was born to play), attended by her two slightly estranged children (Siena Forest and Anthony Potts). Accompanied by two pianos and featuring outstanding vocal performances, this production was an utter pleasure. Beautifully done by all.

The Prom - Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

We missed the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers Date to the Prom event, but managed to get there in the last days. So glad we did! We saw The Prom on Broadway and loved it. The less said about the tv version, the better. I mean, casting Meryl Streep in Beth Leavel's role? James Corden? No. Chanhassen's production was absolutely wonderful. Tod Peterson gave a new sweetness to Barry Glickman, Jodi Carmeli was a delightful Dee Dee Allen, and we had the pleasure of catching Michael Gruber as Trent Oliver. And Monty Hays as Emma Nolan was a revelation. Loved Maya Richardson as Alyssa and JoeNathan Thomas as Principal Hawkins as well. So glad that the Chan took on this show! And the pride cake was wonderful. Want to learn more about The Prom at Chanhassen? Check out this extra post-show discussion on the Twin Cities Theater Chat podcast.

The Courtroom: A Reenactment of One Woman's Deportation Proceedings - Jungle Theatre

We were able to see this show when it was performed in a courtroom at Hamline University. Beautifully arranged by Arian Moayed from actual transcripts and directed by James Rodriguez, this was a fascinating look at how challenging our legal system is to negotiate for new residents. Original and powerful with an outstanding performance by Stephanie Anne Bertumen as an immigrant from the Philippines who is caught up in this legal dilemma.

Red Speedo - Walking Shadow Theatre Company

We returned to Hamline University, this time to the pool (!!) for Walking Shadow's production of Red Speedo. This show featured an amazing performance by the wearer of the titular red Speedo: Logan Lang. John Winston Stephens as his coach, Paul LaNave as his brother/manager, and Amanda Forstrom as his trainer/ex-girlfriend were all also wonderful as was Natalie Novacek's engaging direction. Seeing a play at poolside was unusual and compelling. 

YAY! THEATER! Also, check out the Twin Cities Theater Blogger's new podcast: 

Twin Cities Theater Chat!