Sea Cabinet, Theatre Elision’s latest production currently playing at the Southern theater is the US premiere of Gwyneth Herbert’s song cycle with book by Heidi James is a beautiful and meditative tribute to the sea. Without reading the program I wasn’t quite sure what the show was about other than a woman or women who live by the sea, collecting what can be found on the beach and recording them in a log book. This plot, or the lack of one is not important however. The show’s strength is in it’s beautiful entrancing music. Theatre Elision has a knack of picking shows that I have never heard of before but have been frantically searching for a soundtrack afterwards to re live the experience of the show in some way again afterwards (I am still upset that there was is no soundtrack for Melancholy Play), and Sea Cabinet is no exception.
As you enter the Southern theater, below the beautiful antique arch the stage seems to be almost littered with instruments and random objects. All of the instruments are used throughout the show, played by the four performers, Emily Dussault, Vanessa Gamble, Bex Gaunt and Christine Wade, along with the musicians Harrison Wade (also Music Director), Spencer Becker, Erik Schee and Lars Johnson, to create a rich folky sound that intermingles with the harmonies beautifully. Although at many times I was wishing that I could hear the voices better over the instrumental music. The show is 75 minutes long without an intermission and plays straight through without an intermission or applause. This approach was perfect for the show, not only because of it's length but the lack of applause allowed me to complete escape into the show and its haunting harmonies.
Dear Evan Hansen, currently on tour in Minneapolis, is a show that illuminates what the future of the theater will look like. A future where our digital lives are not only integrated into plot but where the technology of our world of screens and projectors makes it possible to transform and stage and a story. Not only transporting us in space but emotionally as well. Making the world of the story feel as big to the viewer as it feels to the characters that inhabit the story. And I personally can not wait to see where this evolution in theater goes.
The story in this case, without revealing too much, takes place between two families from different sides of the socio-economic spectrum with children in High School. The titular Evan Hansen struggles with social anxiety and the feeling of fitting in. After a loss we see how the high school students respond in this digital age along with the fall out among the families.
I will say the show is deeply emotional. The characters within the show are dealing with anxiety and grief. This comes through not only in the acted scenes but the musical numbers as well. The result are songs that although not always musical perfect or clearly heard, ring true emotionally. There are two actors playing Evan Hansen, on Wednesday night I was lucky enough to see Stephen Christopher Anthony who wonderfully captured the emotional arc that Evan goes through.
An incredible design team immersively brings this contemporary world to life. At times making the one character on stage seem alone in a large void, and at other times make the cast of eight feel double that size. All of the design elements worked together seamlessly from Scenic design by David Korins to Project Design by Peter Nigrini, Lighting Design by Japhy Weideman and Sound Design by Nevin Steinberg.
Dear Evan Hansen is a show filled with wonderful performances and a production design and makes me excited to see where the future of theater will bring us. It is a story that teaches us that teaches us to see each other. And reminds me how glad I am that High School is in my past.
I love having the chance to experience new theatrical work, I also love science and math so when I heard about Market Garden Theater’s new work called Another Revolution written by playwright Jacqueline Bircher I knew I had to go. I was also very intrigued by the play’s summary which I will steal from their press release, “Kat and Henry, two graduate students from opposing scientific disciplines, are forced to share a lab at Columbia University in 1968. Amid interpersonal differences, a campus devolving into political chaos, and the uncertainty and turmoil of the outside world, the each discover what it is like to be thrown into some else’s orbit.”
Having read this before seeing the play I was most interested in finding out what two opposing scientific disciplines they might be from. I did not know what two scientific disciplines opposed or disproved each other. What I found is that play is not so much about a fight between two disciplines (spoiler alert: theoretical physics and botany, which I do not consider to be opposing) but instead is about the second half of the play’s summary. It is about the world that they live in in 1968 and about how their different backgrounds that go so much deeper than their field of study affects the way they interact with this world. This play, the play that I saw was exponentially more interesting than the play I was expecting walking into the theater.
The two scientists played by Stanzi D Schalter and Luke Harger are portrayed with all the passion and commitment that I know PdD candidates have. But they were also wonderfully fleshed out individuals with cares or lack of cares outside the lab. It seems that there is no better petri dish to put these two characters in than 1968, the year in which Bircher’s play takes place. The mix of how the politics from the outside world affected not only the scientists but also the science happening in the labs was fascinating.
The Play that Goes Wrong, currently in tour at the Orpheum Theater through Sunday, is a hilarious mess. The classic theatrical trope of a play within a play is taken to 11/10 when the play being performed starts literally falling apart around them. The script and set area all build around this well-choreographed disaster. The set designed by Nigel Hook is a gorgeously simple interior of a Victorian house, but is full of tricks that made me both gasp and laugh. The script by playwrights Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayar and Henry Shields of Mischief Theatre Company is full of laughs but at times it feels like it is dragging and trying to milk the jokes a bit too much. At 2 hours and 10 minutes it is a bit long for a play, and could definitely benefit from some editing.
The real star of this show is the physical comedy, performed very well by the 8 member cast. Physical comedy is not something that I usually enjoy but at many points during the Play that Goes Wrong I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
The Play That Goes Wrong is not an original show, the idea of a play within a play has existed countless times. The concept of a play that turns out worse than expected is behind the classic play Noises Off. Where The Play that Goes Wrong makes their mark is by taking all of these often-performed themes and taking it up a couple of notches, that makes it a sure hit for anyone who is a fan of physical comedy. The Play That Goes Wrong is playing at Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Orpheum Theater through Sunday May 12th. Click here for more information about the show and how to get tickets.
The Children's Theatre has a reputation of putting on fantastic shows for children, many of which draw their inspiration from children's books. This being known it is not a big surprise that their production of Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly's adaptation of Roald Dahl's Matilda is a top notch, but these high expectations don't stop the show from being an absolute pleasure to watch.
This version of the story of a gifted girl, not appreciated by her parents, with a penchant for revenge who finds strength and support from her school teach and friends in the face of the evil Miss Tunchbull is not a newcomer to stages. It has been playing in London's West End since 2010, had a healthy run on Broadway and has had a National Tour in 2017 (see my review here).
The Children's Theatre's production seems to escalate the childlike fun and awe that the show can provide with it's over the top costumes by Helen Q Huang, whimsy filled set by Scott Davis, and transporting lighting and sound design by Philip S Rosenberg and Sten Severson respectively.
The cast as well both young and old brought deliciously over the top performances that transported us into Roald Dahl's tale. The role of Matilda is shared by Lillian Hochman, Audrey Mojica and Sofia Salmela. I had the pleasure of seeing Sofia Salmela, who is also pictures in the images, who was able to hold and demand the stage just as well as any adult professional. Dean Hold and Autumn Ness as Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood or Matilda's parents were comic highlight's of the show and serve as a perfect foil to our hero Matilda. China Brickey as Miss Honey embodies the teacher that everyone wishes they had and you will find yourself rooting for just as much as you are for Matilda. Emily Gunyou Halaas as Miss Trunchbull was the highlight of the show, the kind of villian that you just love to hate, and want to see more of on stage.
Matilda is the perfect show for anyone who has ever felt trapped by their life circumstances, or loves to see a lot of talented children and adults perform in a musical, or someone who is just a bookwork. Matilda is running at the Children's Theatre until June 23rd. Click here for more information on the show and how to get tickets. And click here in order to get tickets for Children Theatre's young professionals nostalgia night.
"You have the most punchable face" is not how most Opera's start, but in Skylark Opera's Cosi fan tutte it is a fantastic introduction to their take on Mozart's comic classic. Doing what Skylark Opera does best they give a modern spin to the 18th century opera, translating the Italian Opera into English and moving the story into present day and instilling it with modern jokes and a sense of humor.
The story is admittedly dated. It revolves around a bet between three friends, two of who are engaged to sisters and the single Don Alfonso, that their fiancees will be eternally faithful. The ever doubting Don Alfonso and instigator of the bet plays this theory out by orchestrating a plan in which the two fiancees will pretend to go off to protect their country, or in Skylark Opera's version of the comedy, build the wall, and then come back in disguises and try to woo their recently left lovers. Along the way Don Alfonso tricks the maid of the two sisters into helping him in this plan. The whole story is based off of men having fun playing tricks on women, but Skylark Opera tells the story in such a way that the entire 2 hour Opera is extremely engaging.
The adaptation by Ruth and Thomas Martin cleverly move the comic relief of the story into the present, with modern and timely jokes that kept the entire audience laughing. The beautiful music by Mozart is beautifully sung by the entire cast; Tess Altiveros, KrisAnne Weiss, Laurent Kuhnl, Justin Spenner, Siena Forest and Luke Williams, their interpretation of the score is sure to please any Opera lover. The typical orchestra behind an opera is replaced by a single piano player, Music director Nathan Cicero, who deftly plays Mozarts quick score and did not leave be wanting for any more accompaniment.
Lastly the production design by Director Robert Neu, Lighting designer Mike Grogan and Costume Designer Samantha Fromm Haddow presented this Opera front and center with a creative stage layout that make the performance even more intimate and highlighted the wide range of emotions portrayed.
Skylark Opera's production of Cosi fan tutte is playing at the Historic Mounds Theater through this weekend only. They only do one performance a year so make sure to enjoy their take on the art form known as Opera while you can. Click here for more information about the show and where to get tickets.
Park Square has a fantastic show currently playing downstairs on its Andy Boss Thrust stage. It is the ancient story of Antigone, it is a story that has been told for hundreds of years, but this specific telling had its first showing in the fall of 2016 when Theatre Coup D'Etat mounted the show at the Springhouse Ministry Centre. Some changes have been made since that show, it is now told with an all female cast, but much of the team, and the energy and intention behind the show has remained the same.
For those who are less familiar with the story of Antigone, what I wrote about the show in 2016 still holds true and is a good background. The story of Antigone, the final chapter in the Oedipus trilogy, is one that most people are probably familiar with. Oedipus unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother. With her he has four children: Eteocles, Polyneices, Ismene and Antigone. After the truth about the relation between Oedipus and his wife/mother Jocasta comes out, Jocasta kills herself and Oedipus rips out his own eyes and curses his two sons to die at each-other's hands. Antigone begins with the struggle for the throne between the two brothers. In the end they battle, and kill each other. One brother, Eteocles, is given burial rights, while the other, Polyneices, is declared a traitor. The new King Creon declares an edict, that Polyneices' body shall rot at the gates of the city, and threatens death to anyone who might attempt to bury him.
It is here that the conflict starts, as the titular character Antigone decides to defy this edict; declaring the laws of the gods more important than the laws of man. Antigone's motivations come from her love for her brother whose soul is doomed to roam the earth unless he is buried. It could be hard to understand this bond since Polyneices dies at the beginning of the play but flashbacks throughout make the loss of Polyneices and Eteocles be felt by not only the characters but the audience as well.
Antigone at its heart is an exploration about what happens when the laws of man do not line up with the laws of morality that we find to be true within ourselves. When I first saw this show in October 2016 the world was a different place but we had a sense of what was coming. Only a month later the way that we saw our country and the laws of man changed greatly, and that challenge has only continued over the past two years. It is for this reason that I am thrilled to be able to revisit this story now, and why it feels so powerful to be able to see this story played out with an entirely female cast.
The cast is fantastic, giving a deep and honest performance that is broken up with moments of levity in the flashbacks and also moments of humor.
Please go and see this show. Take 100 minutes to disappear into the story, and take time after the show to reflect. The show is playing at Park Square Theater until March 3rd.
Click here for more information on the show and how to get tickets.
The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe, a massive hit at the Jungle last year is back for another run and I couldn't be more thrilled. While the cast and director have remained the same the stage has changed. While still put on by the Jungle the show can be seen at the Southern theater, whose stage has been transformed with no arch in sight, into a soccer field. The Southern seems like a perfect venue, the high sloped seats give the feel of sitting in a stadium, and looking into the fish bowl of the practices of the indoor girls Y17 soccer team "The Wolves".
This production of the Wolves works for all the same reason that the show was a hit last year. On its face it is a show about soccer, it revolves around an indoor soccer team's practices and warm ups. But at its heart it is about what it is like to be a high school girl on the cusp of adulthood, and the community that this team creates. What I was most impressed with was how natural the dialogue felt. During the practice conversations about the Khmer Rouge and feminine products overlapped in a way that was very funny but also felt very true to anyone who has ever been in a large social situation before. All of the teammates, who create the majority of the cast, are identified only by their numbers, it wasn’t until the end of the play that we heard the characters names at all. But these nameless characters were all so real, fleshed out wonderfully in the organic conversations that Sarah DeLappe was able to write and Sarah Rasmussen, artistic director of the Jungle and also director of The Wolves, was able to portray on stage.
But this year the show seems even stronger. The Southern feels like a better venue and with the entire cast ( Chloe Armoa, Megan Burns, Meredith Casey, Michelle De Joya, McKenna Kelly-Eiding, Becca Hart, Isabella Star LaBlanc, Rosey Lowe and Shelby Rose Richardson), back together as a team, the team camaraderie which is essential for the show's success is even stronger than ever.
The Wolves is playing at the Southern Theater until February 17th. It is a great show for any human to see.
Click herefor more information about the show and how to get tickets.
She Loves Me is currently playing at Artistry in The Bloomington Centre for the Arts. The lovely tale based on the play Parfumerie, tells the tale of girl meets boy, boy meets girl, both detest each other while not knowing that they are each other's correspondence sweethearts. It is a story which has been told time and again, in multiple stage and film adaptation (including one of the best rom coms of the 90s You've Got Mail). Artistry's take on this Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock musical is heartwarming, perfect for this cold and snowy Minnesota winter. It is filled with wonderful songs performed by beautiful voices, fantastic comedic performances and choreography and is so much fun to watch.
She Loves Me has an extremely talented cast! Ryan London Levin plays Georg Nowack, his performance is filled with energy and he brings a huge amount of comedy to the show. I am confident that his will be one of my favorite comedic performances of the year. Sarah DeYong plays Amalia Balash and has a voice that I could listen to all day long. T Michael Rambo plays Mr Maraczek, he makes the show worth seeing for his performance alone. Gracie Anderson and Benjamin Dutcher play Ilona Ritter and Steven Kodaly respectively and are fantastic foils for Georg and Amalia. Michael Conroy fills the role as Arpad Laszlo with so much eagerness you can't help but root for him.
No classic musical is complete without the full sound provided by a large orchestra, which this show definitely has, lead incredibly well by Anita Ruth.
She Loves Me is a show that will make your soul smile and leave you wanting to skip out of the theater, just be careful of the ice. It is the perfect show for anyone who likes classic musicals or is a fan of the movie The Shop Around the Corner or You've Got Mail. It is playing at Artistry until February 17th. Click here for more information about the show and how to get tickets.
January has properly arrived in Minnesota with frigid temperatures, but luckily for us we also live in a city filled with local and touring theatrical productions to transport us someplace warmer. One such show is the touring production of On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, currently playing at the Orpheum Theater through Sunday January 27th. It is a show filled with toe tapping music (that has been stuck in my head for days now), that will transport you to warm locations such as Miami and Cuba.
The show starts with one of Gloria Estefan's greatest hits "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" at a big concert well into the Miami Sound Machine's international fame. It puts the show's band front and center leaving no doubt in your mind of the roll that music will play in this show. The band is large, producing a rich latin sound that is too rare on the musical theater stage.
Soon the backdrop falls, transporting us from a Gloria Estefan concert in 1990 to Miami in 1967 and the start of Gloria Estefan's story. She sings to her neighbors and friends, clearly a star from a young age. The story moves on to her teenage years when she meets Emilio Estefan and the Miami Latin Boys become the Miami Sound Machine. The musical covers not only the band's rise to fame, often times through grit and hard work alone, but it also Gloria and Emilio's relationship. It also cover's their own families stories, as they both left Cuba as children. This is a lot of ground to cover, and the story is a great one, but it felt as though it only skimmed the surface. I'm sure the story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan would not only make a great musical but also a great mini series, to go deeper into the stories.
The cast of the show is fantastic and full of energy. Christine Prades plays Gloria Estefan, she has a great voice and portrays the conflict that Gloria felt between her music career and familial expectations extremely well. She also had great chemistry with Eddie Noel who played Emilio, who did a fantastic job portraying Emilio's belief in Gloria and his drive for success. Nancy Ticotin as Gloria's mother, Gloria Fajardo, was another stand out for me in possibly my favorite number Mi Tierro. Alma Cuervo as Gloria's abuela was also a joy to watch and you could feel the whole audience smiling when she was on stage.
I couldn't finish my review of On Your Feet! without mentioning the absolutely amazing choreography by Sergio Trujillo. It spanned different latin styles, Cha cha, Salsa, and a sort of tap dancing that was fascinating to watch that I had never seen before.
On Your Feet is playing at the Orpheum Theater until this Sunday, January 27th. It is a great show to see if you are a fan of Gloria Estefan's music or are looking for a way to warm up in this frigid weather. Click here for more information about the show and how to get tickets.