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!

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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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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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Summer in the Cities

Written by: Chrissi

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but that is not for a lack of interaction with art! Summer in the Twin Cities has me suffering from a major case of FoMO (fear of missing out). It’s like everyone spent the winter thinking of all the outrageously awesome things you could do outside and squished it into these few months. From plays to festivals to live music, my weeknights and weekends have been jam-packed with fun, unique experiences and I know I’m still missing out on a ton of events.

Here are just a few of the ways I’ve been taking advantage of the summer art scene!

Park Square Theater: Sherlock Holmes & the Suicide Club

Minnesota Opera, Opera Under the Stars: la Boheme

Guthrie: 50th Anniversary Gala

Public Theater of Minnesota: As You Like It

Mill City Opera: the Barber of Seville

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Meeting Nicholas Mrozinski

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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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