Category Archives: Theatre

My Fair Lady: Guthrie Theater

Loverly QuartetAaaaaaaand I’m back!

It has been far too long since I’ve written a review, but such is life.

Well, I am back and with BIG NEWS, my blogging partner in crime Karyn has moved back to Minneapolis! With her back, Pumps and Playbills will be unstoppable.

Onto the review.

Last night, July 4th, My Fair Lady opened at the Guthrie. I caught a preview of it on Tuesday night and I can only assume that this will be a popular summer production. This show is running through August 31, helping to finish off the 2013-2014 Guthrie season.

In summary, this production was precisely what you would expect from a classic story produced at the Guthrie. It was not particularly inventive, but it was performed with absolute precision and the set and costuming were spot on. Considering it was a preview, there were a few areas that needed to be tightened up a bit, however, it was never a major distraction from the story. My favorites moments were by the chorus. Particularly, the men who were part of the ‘Loverly quartet’. Their voices blended perfectly and their harmonies were absolutely gorgeous. While the performers were fantastically talented, I was most impressed by the costuming in this production. I was drooling over all the beautiful colors and sparkle. Although the set and costuming were rather traditional, it was a very visually appealing show.

I had the pleasant surprise of opening the program to see my favorite Minneapolis actor, Tyler Michaels, was cast as the lovable Freddy. It’s official, I will now be stalking him and pay any amount of money to see him in a show. That might be mildly creepy, but if you’ve seen him perform, you’ll get it.

AscotThere did seem to be a underlying feminist message, but I wasn’t entirely able to interpret. If you’re familiar with the plot of Pygmalion or My Fair Lady, you know how absolutely terrible Eliza is treated by Professor Higgins. In the end, however, they move past their differences and end up together. This production seemed to subtly reference Higgins’ misogynistic tendencies, but he never seems to clearly redeem himself. Then, at the end when Eliza shows back up at Higgins’ home, it’s hard to tell if she was supposed to be a figment of his imagination or if she actually goes back to him. It was confusingly subtle and a little unsatisfying.

All this to say, if you’re looking for a show to bring Grandma to or a show to introduce the kids to theater, I 100% recommend this show. It is a fun, light-hearted summer show.

I’m sure this one will sell fast, so be sure to catch it while you can!

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Peter and the StarCatcher: Orpheum Theatre

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Written by: Chrissi

Night number two of my theater double-feature brought me to the Orpheum Theatre for the touring production of Peter and the StarCatcher. I didn’t know much about this show going into it aside from the knowledge that it is a prequel to Peter Pan and that, you know, it won like 5 Tony’s. Having seen Othello the night before, I was pretty excited for something a little bit lighter. (Not hard to accomplish when Othello strangles his wife. ON STAGE! I digress.)

Although this show is kid-friendly, it was not in any way dumbed-down. I will stand on my soap-box for a moment to say this- just because a show is kid-friendly does not mean you should sacrifice quality! (*cough cough* Beauty & the Beast touring production which robbed me of like $75 *cough*) Instead, this show provided a night full of wonderful, fast-paced theater thanks to an energetic and entertaining cast.

psc1The story began as a play within a play. One of my favorite parts of theater is that as an audience member, you are asked to accept a certain level of reality in order to get anything from the story being portrayed. If you choose to invest your imagination into this particular play, you will reap massive rewards. The show was inventive and, while it was by no means a musical, flowed smoothly from scene to scene with added music and the occasional musical number. The set was relatively simple, and, in fact, employed much of the cast to serve as pieces of the set at varying points within the show. The cast was tight. They worked wonderfully together and never missed a cue. Their comedic timing and ability to read the audience was spot on. Although the cast as a whole was strong, the obvious stand-out character was Black Stache, played by John Sanders. He was brilliant and hilarious.

All this to say, I laughed. A lot. This play is a lot of fun, well acted, wonderfully produced, and top notch. You have until March 16th to catch this gem, so give the box office a call ASAP to get your tickets!

Until next time!

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Othello: Guthrie Theater

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Written by: Chrissi

There were many reasons to love life this week. First off, we Minnesotans got our first taste of Spring with some gloriously warm days putting a dent in the mountains of snow. Hallelujah! Secondly, it was the Bachelor finale on Monday. (Judge awayyyyy.) And finally, I had a theater double feature this week with Othello on Tuesday and Peter and the Star Catcher on Wednesday (see next post). Life is good 🙂

If you know anything about the Guthrie you know that Shakespeare and the Guthrie are like peanut butter and chocolate- while great on their own, together they’re unstoppable. Honestly, I probably don’t even need to write this post because it goes without saying that this production of Othello is a home-run. Still, I’ll put together a thought or two in case you needed to be convinced.

This production was well-stocked with Guthrie favorites including the amazingly talented Stephen Yoakam as the evil antagonist, Iago. Yoakam is a phenomenal actor. I can with confidence say that he is one of the finest actors I will see in all of my theater-loving life. The title character was played by Peter Macon. Physically, Macon is a presence. He is a solid man with a booming, deep and captivating voice. His performance was astounding. He believably wore the hat of giddy newlywed, proud soldier, and jealous, murderous husband. Truly, there was no weak player in the cast. I caught one of the first performances of this production and I anticipate it only getting better as the run progresses.

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Aside from the cast, the costuming and set were not my particular favorite. When the acting is strong, I can appreciate a simplistic set that allows the story to take center stage. However, in this case I don’t think that was the intention of the set design or costuming and they just weren’t on the same level as the on-stage talent. There were some cool lighting features, particularly the clouds in the sky. Ultimately, while these elements did not take away from the production, they didn’t exactly add much either.

You have until April 20 to catch this production of Othello at the Guthrie and I highly suggest that you take advantage of the chance to see this ridiculously talented cast. Be sure to take a nap beforehand because if you get as invested in the show as I did, you will leave exhausted! Give the box office a call and order your tickets!

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Cabaret: Theater Latte Da

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Written by: Chrissi

To simply describe Theater Latte Da’s production of Cabaret performed at the Pantages Theatre in a word, it’d be ‘committed.’ When a show begins with a scantily clad Emcee appearing from the second level of the theater only to descend into the lap of one lucky audience member- it’s clear that the show has a definite willingness to ‘go there.’ Cabaret is a perfect example of an important lesson in the world of theatre: have some understanding of what you are getting yourself into or leave all expectations at the door and dive into it. If you have any aversion to slap you in the face sexuality, do not see Cabaret. You will see a lot of exposed skin, thrusting, and you’ll probably be offended and want to leave. All this to say, once you adjust to the level of sexuality and interpret the show within that context, the reward is tremendous (so try to adjust quickly).

Ok, on with the show-

This entire production was a clear example of the idea that working with talented people makes the individuals involved step up their game. There was not a weak link in the entire bunch. Every actor was completely committed to their role, making it easy to transition your mindset as the plot moved from one extreme to the next.Cabaret 3

I cannot properly express to you how completely outstanding Tyler Michaels was as the Emcee. He was dynamic, engaging, and an excessively talented singer, actor, and acrobat. (Who knew such a skinny dude was so strong!) Michaels is without a doubt going places fast and I am excited to see where he goes.

Minneapolis favorite Sally Wingert also did not disappoint in her heart-warming and heart-breaking performance of Fraulein Schneider. She offers subtlety and  grace to every role she plays. It’s always a joy to see her on the cast list. Another familiar face was Aeysha Kinnunen who played the saucy and desperate Fraulein Kost.

Cabaret 2Honestly, I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed this production, but I’m going to cut myself off. Each element was purposeful, meaningful, and exceptionally executed. I highly suggest seeing it while you still can.

Cabaret closes on February 9th, so change your plans to make this fit into your schedule.

Order tickets online

or

Call the box office: 1-800-982-2787

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The Last Five Years: Flip Theatre Co.

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Written by: Chrissi

As a bit of a theatre enthusiast, I am always looking for a new theaters and companies to check out. When it comes to theater seats per capita, the Twin Cities are outranked only by NYC, so it’s safe to say that a theater or two will fall through the cracks. Fortunately, there are sites like Goldstar which not only provide exposure to great new theaters, but also offer deals on tickets! Win. Win.

I was pleased to open my email recently to see a deal on The Last Five Years by Flip Theatre Co. being performed at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage. This summer I caught a show at the space during the Fringe Festival so I knew the location would be intimate and full of character. Combine this with my appreciation for Last Five Years and being able to snatch up a ticket for just $13.00 processing fees and all. Win. Win. Win.

A bit of a background into the Last Five Years– It is written and composed by the brilliant Jason Robert Brown. The story is closely inspired by Brown’s failed marriage. While this is definitely a bummer for the real-life couple, it makes for a beautiful and painfully truthful story. The cast includes just two characters, a young couple, Jamie & Cathy. Cathy tells the story beginning at the end of a five-year relationship with Jamie, while Jamie tells the story in chronological order. The two meet in the middle of the show at their wedding.

Last Five Years PhotoDirector John Lynn and Producer Ben Bakken put together a great production of this story. Each member of the cast and crew excelled in pulling off this emotionally charged musical. Jason Hansen as conductor and keyboardist kept the story moving from scene to scene, truly serving as the heartbeat of the show. Britta Ollmann was a very believable Cathy and is an extremely talented vocalist. She showcased vocal and emotional control where she could have very easily gotten distracted by big notes or emotions. Bobby Gardner as Jamie had some emotionally pure and beautiful moments, particularly as the marriage slowly disintegrated. I often found his portrayal to be a bit too theatrical and lacking authenticity. His performance was particularly shining in ‘The Schmuel Song’ and ‘Nobody Needs to Know.’

The production was a 90 minute emotional roller coaster full of beautiful music and painful heartbreak. Unfortunately, I caught one of the last performances and the show is closing on Sunday, November 10th. I would definitely suggest adding Flip Theater Co. to your ‘Theaters to check out’ list. The show was well-produced and beautifully performed which bodes well for whatever is to come next!

Don’t fret too much that you missed this show. It’s being made into a movie starring Anna Kendrick & Jeremy Jordan!

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Wicked (Tour): Orpheum Theater

Written by: Chrissi

It is utterly unbelievable that in my entire theater-loving life I had not seen Wicked. I’ve had the soundtrack memorized for years, but never was able to secure a seat to see it. That is, of course, until last Friday night when a friend offered me a spare ticket. (WOOT!!!!!)

If I am being entirely transparent, I knew it would be well-produced, but I also knew that no one would compare to the original cast of Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, and one of my Broadway favorites, Norbert Leo Butz. I thought that no one would be capable of taking on those iconic roles. Well, to my pleasant surprise, the performers were wonderful and played the characters well and with just as much musical ability.

Although they did not take away from any enjoyment of the show, I did have a few critiques. Whether it was an artistic choice or some kind of logistical difficulties at the venue, the timing seemed off throughout different songs. Also, the vocalists tended to lean toward pop vocal styling. Fiyero was particularly guilty of this, although it did fit his character.

I walked out of the theater a satisfied and entertained patron. The show was full of plenty of whimsical costuming and set design accompanied by out of this world singing. I am so happy to have crossed that off of my theater bucket list. Be sure to catch it the next time it’s touring in your neighborhood!

Until next time.

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Steerage Song: Theater Latte Da

Written by: Chrissi

Welcome to fall in Minnesota. You know what this means, Pumpkin Spiced beverages, scarves, boots, and new theater seasons! Recently, I was able to catch Steerage Song, a phenomenal new work written by Peter Rothstein and Dan Chouinard. The production was performed by Theater Latte Da at the Lab Theater in the North Loop warehouse district. It’s hard to know what to expect when it comes to new works, but this production blew my expectations out of the water.

The play took you through the journey of emigrating to America around the turn of the century. Described as a docu-musical, you were brought on the journey from home country to America through a series of songs sung in their native language. It was ridiculously well done. The story was emotionally charged by the reality that, as an American, our ancestors went through this process at some point. The cast was small at nine actors accompanied by four musicians. Each performer was absolutely exceptional. I have little else to say except that this production was one of the most engaging, impactful plays I’ve seen in quite some time. Fortunate for Theater Latte Da, but unfortunately for you, it closes this weekend and they are close to selling out from what I can tell. Definitely give the theater a call though and try to secure tickets if you can! The show is beautiful. I am excited for what is to come for the rest of the Theater Latte Da season.

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Newsies: Nederlander Theatre (NYC)

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Written by: Chrissi

Recently, I traveled to New York City for a work conference and was able to fly out a few days early to visit friends, wander the city, and catch a show!

If I had all the time and money in the world I would go to NYC and sit in theaters watching shows. Alas, this was not the lot I was dealt, so I was tasked with the selection of one show for this trip. The group I was with gave a communal ‘yes’ to Newsies, so Newsies it was. Our first go at tickets involved a trip to the TKTS booth in Times Square. Before we went to the booth we had decided on a price we were willing to pay, and unfortunately we walked up to the booth to find that the ticket price was beyond what we had wanted to pay. This put us in a tough place. I was in NYC, I couldn’t leave without seeing a show! The guy behind the glass window at the TKTS booth suggested we give the theater itself a try, so to the theater we went. As we walked up to the theater the skies parted and a single light shone down onto a table containing slips of paper and a lottery cage. (That’s how I remember it anyway…) We asked the man behind the table what the deal was and he explained that they have a lottery before shows for $30 tickets. (!!) Typically they have around 200 people who have a try at the lottery, but that night there were ten of us. That meant we were all guaranteed tickets. (!!!) So that night I saw Newsies. On Broadway. For $30.

Ok, here are my thoughts.

Honestly, it blew my expectations out of the water. Knowing this was a Disney production, I anticipated that it would be well done, but was hesitant whether or not it would have any substance. It was a kid-friendly show, and it had the occasional cheesy moment, but it was believable. Corey Cott as Jack Kelly effortlessly sang, danced, and acted while running up and down three sets of stairs. Also, this is his Broadway debut! Say whaaaat?! He has an amazing future ahead of him. Really, the entire cast was outrageously talented. It’s no wonder the show won the 2012 Tony for best choreography. If you have the opportunity to catch it when visiting NYC, I highly suggest it!

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Some friends, Alyssa & Andrea gambling, Broadway style.

Side note: I don’t know ifI ever mentioned this, but my Pumps & Playbills counterpart, Karyn, moved to Denver in June. Sad, I know. 😦 Well, she happened to be in NYC at the same time (crazy, I know) so we had a long-awaited reunion which included catching Newsies!

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Pride and Prejudice: Guthrie Theater

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of  a great fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen

I am not sure how much truth there is in this statement, but on the chance that there is some merit to it,  I just want to put it out there that I am single. 😉

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Written by: Chrissi

Pride and Prejudice at the Guthrie has been on my must-see list since I knew of it’s existence. When the run started back in the beginning of July I anticipated having more than ample opportunity to see it. I should have realized that with a story as popular at Pride and Prejudice and a top-notch cast featuring Mad Men star, Vincent Kartheiser, this show was going to sell out. But, alas, the reality did not sink in until I was ten days out from the final curtain and I realized that I needed to act fast and snatch up a seat to one of the final performances. I decided to fly solo this time around, so I was able to get an awesome seat.

In a sentence, Pride and Prejudice was the cherry on top of a wonderfully art-filled summer. It was light, beautifully executed, and unexpectedly hilarious. The set was beautiful and featured a turntable that allowed each scene to seamlessly flow into the next. Serious kudos go out to the crew for creating that and to the cast for gracefully functioning with the ground moving below their feet.

The show itself was fast-paced and all-in-all a romantic comedy. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite stories, and I was not expecting this lighter interpretation. Perhaps it was the pace, but I really wanted to be more invested in the conflict between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. It almost felt like they were not the main characters in the story, but that there were other stories happening around them. There is a lot of plot to squish in (the BBC film version is something like 5 hours long after all) but I still was longing for more of the conflict. Nevertheless, as a romantic comedy, this interpretation was top-notch. Mr. Collins as played by Kris Nelson, was perfect. If I recall, I audibly cringed at multiple points throughout his performance. Aeysha Kinnunen as Lydia Bennet was as obnoxious a flirt as you could hope for and provided a wonderfully shallow-depth to her character. Suzanne Warmanen as Mrs. Bennet was absolutely fantastic and I am pretty certain I had a few audible responses during her performance as well. (Sorry to the gentleman sitting next to me for all the times I said, “Oh my gosh.”)

I am so happy I was able to catch this show.  It was well done as always and a great end to the 50th Anniversary season at the Guthrie. I’ve been so fortunate to have seen so many great performances this season and I am very much looking forward to the season ahead.

Until next time!

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War Horse: Orpheum Theatre

Written by: Chrissi

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It is a long running joke amongst those who knowme that I do not cry. If I were in a boy band, my persona would not be ‘the emotional one.’ So, when I tell you that when I saw War Horse at the Orpheum and I not only teared up, but cried, it’s pretty significant.

Somehow I have not read the book this play is based off of, nor have I seen the hit film version. I’m not much of a ‘war story’ person, so although I was exposed to the play on the Tony’s as well as when I was in NYC last summer, I didn’t have a strong desire to see it. Thankfully my Pumps & Playbills counterpart Karyn was interested in checking it out.

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First off, the story is beautiful. The story followsJoey (a horse) and his owner, Albert. There was a brilliant balance of reality and imagination. As an audience member, you have to accept that the three people on stage handling the horse puppet are a single character. Not just that, but this character will not speak to get their message across. If you are willing to invest in that, the return is a masterpiece.

Really, it is theatre at its finest. A musical element beautifully accompanied the story and seamlessly took you from scene to scene. The staging was marvelous. Simple and powerful. The set was simple and purposeful, continuing to walk the line between reality and imagination. It was engaging, beautifully produced, and wonderfully performed. I could not get out of my seat soon enough for a standing ovation.

War Horse is playing at the Orpheum through June 23.

Get your tickets ASAP!

*Note there is a student/educator rush- see website for details.

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