Category Archives: Twin Cities Arts

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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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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Arabella: Minnesota Opera


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Written by: Chrissi

The second production of Minnesota Opera’s 2013-2014 season is the vibrant comedy, Arabella, by Richard Strauss. Reflective of  Strauss’ writing style, this production focused on the story and the music, as portrayed with the relative simplicity of the stage contrasted with the complexity of the plot and music. If it is any indication of the entertainment level of this opera, while watching it, I found myself reconsidering the relationship between opera and soap operas. The packed orchestra featuring 62 players was beautifully and artistically corralled by Music Director and Conductor, Michael Christie. While the orchestra was full, the set, designed by Tobias Hoheisel, was wonderfully simplistic and elegant. Arabella appeared in gorgeous gowns, plush furs, and show-stopping hats.

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Plenty of MN Opera favorites make up the talented cast. There is a great sample of Resident Artist talent within the cast, including a wonderful performance by Victoria Vargas as Adelaide, Arabella’s mother. The male and female leads were lovely and believable. Jacquelyn Wagner portrayed Arabella with grace and ease, complimenting the frantic and youthful Zdenka played by Elizabeth Futral. Opposite Arabella was Mandryka, played by Craig Irvin. Irvin’s warm, masculine baritone combined with Wagner’s full, feminine soprano resulted in emotional and convincing duets. Certainly not to be overlooked was the portrayal of Matteo by tenor, Brian Jagde.

I highly suggest catching up on the plot before you see the show. It has many marvelous twists, turns, and misunderstandings, but is a highly approachable, and entertaining opera. I would recommend this opera to both seasoned and new opera-fans.

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If you like beards, bears, and a TON of sexual tension, you will LOVE Arabella.

Order you tickets online OR call the friendly folks at the box office today!

Performance dates include:

November 9, 12, 14, 16, 17

Read a review by guest-blogger H.M.S Pen-afore here!

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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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Manon Lescaut: Minnesota Opera

Dust off your bow-ties and stilettos, the Minnesota Opera Season has officially begun!

Manon Lescaut

Written by: Chrissi

The 2013-2014 season kicked off this past Saturday, September 21st with Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. Minnesota Opera favorite, Kelly Kaduce, starred in the role of Manon. Dinyar Vania played opposite Kaduce in the role of The Chevalier des Grieux. The wealthy antagonist, Geronte de Ravoir was played by Andrew Wilkowske. Also, not to be missed, MN Opera Resident Artist Matthew Opitz played the role of Lescaut, Manon’s brother. As I have come to expect from the MN Opera, the talent of the cast was exceptional. Certainly, not to be overlooked was the massive chorus involved in this production, not to mention the talented orchestra that consistently supports the opera so well.

While I could speak at length to the talent of the musicians, it was the work of the artistic staff that took my breath away. The set, lighting, and costumes were gorgeous. Within the story, the multiple settings were  often starkly contrasting, whether it were the beautiful home of Geronte or the barren desert of  Louisiana. The set design maintained a common theme while beautifully expressing each location. A lovely touch was the subtle use of mirrors in Geronte’s home as a representation of Manon’s vanity. The use of projection was also a notable feature. Text was projected onto, essentially, a giant piece of parchment, allowing for the story to continue between set changes.   Visually, this production was beautiful and engaging, serving as a continuation of the story being told on stage.

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Manon Lescaut was a perfect way to begin the 2013-2014 season. It was a slap in the face reminder of my love for opera. Cheers to a great season to come!

Don’t miss Manon Lescaut!

Dates: September 24, 26, 28, 29

Location: Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

345 Washington Street

St. Paul, MN 55102

Order tickets now!

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