Category Archives: Things to do in the Twin Cities

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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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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Macbeth: Minnesota Opera

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Written by: Chrissi

It’s about that time of year when I doubt that we’ll ever see green again. Sigh.

I’ve been cooped up inside pining for an activity to interrupt my ongoing Project Runway marathon when along came the latest production of the Minnesota Opera season — Verdi’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth! Hallelujah, a bit of beauty to get us through the winter.

1145 Minnesota Opera ChorusMinnesota Opera’s production of Macbeth opened this  past Saturday, January 25 and plays through Sunday, February 2 at the Ordway in St. Paul. It stars the incomparable duo of Brenda Harris as Lady Mabeth and Greer Grimsley as Macbeth. Harris and Grimsley offered powerful vocals throughout the performance with little time off stage. Not to be overlooked was the rich bass-baritone, Alfred Walker playing the role of Banquo. In addition to the powerhouse lead roles, the production featured a full orchestra and a massive chorus under the direction of Michael Christie. At varying points in the production it was almost as if you could feel the sound as it made it’s way off the stage.

The story of Macbeth translates well into an opera. My favorite fun note about this opera is that it was essentially written as a game of Shakespearean telephone. In other words, Verdi was relying on an interpreter translating the play from English to Italian when writing the opera. This resulted in the omission of varying elements of Shakespeare’s original work, though you still receive a complete story.

0501 WalkerMacbeth is a great addition to the 2013-2014 season and offers all of the production quality, innovation, and professionalism you’d expect from a MN Opera production.

Order your tickets online or give the box office a call and let me know how you liked it!

 

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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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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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Art-a-Whirl 2013: NE Minneapolis

Written by: Chrissi

This past weekend (May 17-19th) NEMAA hosted the 18th annual Art -a-Whirl in Northeast Minneapolis. While I can’t claim this much longer, I consider myself relatively new to the Twin Cities and thus this was my first time checking out Art-a-Whirl. It’s safe to say that this will not be my last. If you’ve ever been to NE Minneapolis you know that it is lovingly known as the Art District, full of old warehouses, great bars & breweries, and plenty of artists. Art-a-Whirl takes place throughout every nook & cranny of Northeast. Whether you’re the trendiest night spot or the creepiest underside of a bridge- you’ll find people united by one cause: Art-a-Whirl and a unified appreciation for art.

So, here is what to expect if you plan to make it next year:

Decide if you want to sacrifice comfort for fashion and dress accordingly. You will be outside walking from location to location, so although you don’t want to wear a jacket out in the middle of may, if it’s cold outside, you’ll get cold. (Not that I’m speaking from experience here.) Be willing to take your time and take a step or two outside of your comfort zone. Turns out that ‘Minnesota nice’ extends to Minnesotan artists! Each artist was uniquely talented and those that I spoke with were humble, gracious, and fun to chat with. Also, after all that walking you might get a little hungry or thirsty- never fear! Plenty of food truck favorites were parked throughout the area for your tasting pleasure. Not to mention, there are plenty of awesome NE food spots and watering holes.

If I haven’t sold you at this point, you probably don’t like art and should probably get back to finding your inspiration from the most recent Nicholas Sparks novel. (Don’t get me wrong, the Notebook makes me cry like anyone with a pulse, but I literally called out that one of the characters from his most recent book to movie adaptation was a ghost. A GHOST!?!?! Come on.)

I digress.

Well friends, until the next adventure!

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Art in Bloom: Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Written by: Chrissi

One of my favorite events each year is Art in Bloom at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Here is the premise: Florists select pieces of art as inspiration for floral designs. Some of the floral artists take a more literal approach while others are more conceptual. The best part? As always, it is free! (There is a suggested donation.) Also, the MIA smells SO GOOD!

I snapped some photos of my favorites!

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Clearly the Twin Cities can boast of some awesome floral artists. Art in Bloom 2013 was such a success that I went twice! If you missed it this year, no worries, there is always next year.

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