The Primrose Path: Guthrie Theater

image_4Written by: Chrissi

This past Friday I had an awesome opportunity to attend opening night of the world premiere of the Primrose Path at the Guthrie. The play was based on 19th century Russian author, Ivan Turgenev’s novel, Home of the Gentry, adapted by Crispin Whittell. Before I delve in too far, let me say that this is a great new work and you should give the Guthrie a call and snatch up some tickets ASAP.

Alright, here we go.

The Primrose Path reminded me of a mixture of Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Anna Karenina (mostly because it took place in Russia). In other words, prepare yourself for a period love story that takes place in Russia with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Also before you bring your teenage daughter, please strongly consider the ‘brief nudity’ warning. (It was not so brief…)

The cast was absolutely wonderful. They say you’re only as strong as your weakest player, and in this case there really were no weak players. While the actors can certainly take credit for their abilities, I do think that much of the credit can be attributed to the direction of Roger Rees.  The additional layer of music within the play served as a tasteful and purposeful garnish- all executed with skill. In regard to the acting, it was great to see the control the actors had over their characters. The story had some very contrasting elements in that it was a love story between two rather serious characters, Laveretsky and Elizaveta, and yet just about every other character was primarily comedic. One of the greatest examples of this control was by Hugh Kennedy who played the role of Panshin. (If we compare this story to Pride & Prejudice, consider him Mr. Collins.) It is in this character’s nature to be utterly ridiculous, yet Kennedy was able to control this character enough to make him believably ridiculous. Thus, while we were able to laugh, we were also able to take the love story and the conflict within it seriously.

Truthfully, my only complaint is in regard to the ending. (No spoilers here.) Perhaps the contrast of comedic moments were too strong, making it difficult for me to completely invest in the more serious aspect of the story. I would love to hear any response in the comments.

I 100% suggest that you check out this new work- the Primrose Path. You have from now until June 15 to catch it at the Guthrie. Call the box office to get your tickets while you can!image

Side note: I was fortunate to meet many of the cast members after the show thanks to my friend who is also in the cast, Zach Garcia. In my brief interaction I could understand why this cast meshed so well together. Simply put- the people behind the characters are great people.

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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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Turandot: Minnesota Opera

Written by: Chrissi

You need to see Minnesota Opera’s production of Turandot. Go order your tickets right now and then come back to read this post.

It’s no secret that I hold a special place in my heart for the Minnesota Opera. The first opera I ever saw was their production of Carmen from the 2004-2005 season when I was visiting the area as a freshman in high school. Now that I am fortunate enough to live in the Twin Cities, I love being able to soak up all the great things this organization has to offer.

Turandot is everything great about opera. I was blown away by the beautiful costuming, scenery, lighting, and overall theatricality of this production. After the opening scene, a man sitting near us said something along the lines of, “Now THAT is the way to start an opera.” While I am not an advocate of fellow audience members speaking loud enough for me to hear, I couldn’t blame him for needing to say something at that point.

With beautiful singing, quality acting, and top-notch, everything, I have only positive things to say about Minnesota Opera’s Turandot. This was the perfect end of the 50th Anniversary Season. It is easy to see why this company has been such a success for these past 50 years and I look forward to many high-quality, innovative years to come.

Need something to hold you over? Check out Nessun Dorma performed by Adam Laurence Herskowitz.

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Performance Dates:
Tuesday, April 16, 7:30pm
Wednesday, April 17, 7:30pm
Thursday, April 18, 7:30pm
Friday, April 19, 7:30pm
Saturday, April 20, 7:30pm
Sunday, April 21, 2pm

Where: Ordway, 345 Washington Street, Saint Paul, MN 55102

Tickets: $20 – $200. Call the Minnesota Opera Ticket Office at 612.333.6669, Monday–Friday, 9am–6pm, or purchase online at mnopera.org.

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To Kill a Mockingbird: Park Square Theatre

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Chrissi:

We had a great opportunity to catch To Kill a Mockingbird performed at Park Square Theatre during one of the few public performances. Unfortunately, the only way to see it now is during one of the student matinees, which are performed through May 17. The play was based on Harper Lee’s classic novel, and translated well as a stage production. If you are able to make it, expect a great performance of the story you know well.

While this was not the most innovative production, it was well done and definitely a great supplement to the classroom and exposure to live theatre for students. I was impressed by Fred Wagner’s performance as Atticus, not to mention the great performances by the younger members of the cast, Olivia Coon (Scout), Noah Coon (Jem), & Ben Atmore (Dill). A Park Square favorite, Thomasina Petrus also left us all wishing that this was a musical adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird in which her character, Calpurnia, had a much larger role. (In other words, Thomasina is a very talented singer.) There was also a great twist of some intermission entertainment in the form of quality gospel songs performed by members of the cast.

If you missed To Kill a Mockingbird this time around, Park Square tends to cycle this one every few seasons, so definitely check back!

Karyn:

Even a snowstorm in April couldn’t stop us from seeing Park Square Theatre’s production of Christopher Sergel’s play, To Kill A Mockingbird. Most people have seen and/or read this classic book/movie/play so I won’t bore you with the plot details (feel free to Wikipedia it). Overall, the production was good but missed the tiny details that make a production great. The play is set in the 1930s during the Great Depression, yet the overalls worn by the cast were brand new. Shouldn’t clothes worn by farmers in the Great Depression be dirty and worn in the knees?!?! Luckily, this detail didn’t hinder me from enjoying some great acting.

Olivia Coon (Scout) and Noah Coon (Jem) acted with the innocence of a child but the experience of an adult. Expect great things from these two kids in the future! Fred Wagner (Atticus) is no stranger to the Park Square stage and he did a phenomenal job. Joel Raney (Bob Ewell), Warren C. Bowles (Reverend Sykes), and Thomasina Petrus (Calpurnia) all gave strong performances. I especially enjoyed the church choir singing. It provided a break from the heavy topics of the show, while adding to the story.

Come see the great acting at Park Square! And make sure to wear your pumps!

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The Taming of the Shrew: Guthrie Theater

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Vince Leigh & Dan Wheeler in the Taming of the Shrew

Written by: Chrissi

Unfortunately, we hit the end of the run on this great show, so you only have util April 6th to catch it. This production was hosted by the Guthrie and performed by Propeller, an all-male Shakespeare company out of the UK. It was a great take on Shakespeare as it was performed with an all- male cast (as it would have been when it was written), but it was as modern as a photo of Anderson Cooper with grumpy cat.

If you don’t know the story, think 10 Things I Hate About You. However in the original, Julia Stiles & Heath Ledger don’t really make nice at the end. Had ’10 Things’ stuck to Shakespeare’s script, Heath would’ve humiliated Julia at the prom and then said something like ‘kiss me Kat.’ I digress.

As a company, Propeller made me remember just how awful of a story this is. They did not at all shy away from the fact that Petruchio is kind of a horrible human being that treats his wife like a piece of property. Even as I write this today, I feel like a raging feminist. I do find solace in the fact that Petruchio will forever be an ass in my memory of this show. (Literally, you see some major British booty.)

Ultimately, this is a wonderful production. I didn’t spend my time dwelling on the costumes, sets, or even the acting because I was so consumed with the story that was being told. The fact that  I am still thinking about what this story means for my life brings me back to why I love theater. While this was a highly entertaining show, the story didn’t end with a final bow. So, if you have a free night in these next few days, get your tickets while you can!

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Coming up next:

The next few weeks of Twin Cities theatre are just lovely. In the depressing limbo between winter and spring, here are the shows that I’m planning to help carry me through!

Guthrie.OtherDesertCities_bannerNow- March 24

To be honest, I can’t believe I haven’t seen this yet. Karyn & I are planning to make it though. I’m looking forward to a good laugh and another gem in the Guthrie’s 50th Anniversary season. Other Desert Cities is playing now at the Guthrie. Get your tickets here.

Have you already seen it? Comment below or tweet to let us know how you liked it.

Follow us! @chrissijean & @karyneliza

 

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March 14- April 7

If you have heard the music from this show then it will be obvious as to why I am excited about this. The story is set in 1950’s Italy (sigh) and is a wonderful love story between the handsome, young Fabrizzio and an American tourist, Clara. This production is hosted at the Ordway and performed through Theatre Latte Da. Get your tickets, but watch out, you’ll be in the mood for love after this!

twelfth night & taming of the shrew

Now – April 6

Ah, Shakespeare at the Guthrie. I’ve never been disappointed and I don’t anticipate either of these being any different. The Taming of the Shrew & Twelfth Night are playing at the Guthrie, performed by Propeller.

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April 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

While I am VERY excited for this, I am also a little bummed that this will mark the end of MN Opera’s 50th Anniversary season. Having said that, I trust that this will be MARVELOUS. If you have not made it to the opera this season, or ever for that matter, trust that you will not want to miss this. Turandot will be performed by the Minnesota Opera at the Ordway starting April 13. Check out more information about Turandot or buy tickets here.

Art in Bloom April 25-28 MIA

This is not a performance, but it is an event I that lives on my calendar every year. For me, nothing says spring in the Twin Cities like Art in Bloom at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. If you’ve never been, let me give you some insight. Art in Bloom is a yearly event in which florists recreate or are inspired by pieces of art at the MIA. The best and most unbelievable part- it is free! Mark your calendars and plan a trip to the MIA in April. Want more info? Check out the Art in Bloom page on ArtsMIA.org.

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My favorite sculpture and the arrangement it inspired.

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Hamlet: Minnesota Opera

MN Opera Hamlet

Karyn

Here we go – our first blog post! We chose an opera to begin “Pumps and Playbills” (go big or go home). A good opera has subtitles, a girl-gone-crazy from love and dramatic deaths. Minnesota Opera’s product of Thomas’ Hamlet had me picking my jaw off the floor and wishing for more.

The opera is sung in French with English captions. I don’t speak French (honestly, I don’t really like singing in French), but this cast makes you feel the music and understand the story without the captions. And any cast that makes your forget you are in a theater for almost three hours is good in my book. Brian Mulligan’s powerful baritone voice commands the stage as he sings the leading role of Hamlet. You feel the love, anger and revenge that Hamlet experiences through his voice.

Now, my favorite part of the show – love-struck girl gone crazy! Marie-Eve Munger sang the part of Ophelia effortlessly stealing the show from Hamlet. She hits every high note known to man as she slowly sinks into madness onstage.  SPOILER ALERT: After Ophelia dies, she appears back onstage suspended in a cloud!!! She sings in the air like it is a natural process. I had to pick my jaw off the floor! Bravo to Munger!

After Ophelia dies, I lost track of the number of deaths in the show. The deaths were disappointing because every person that walked on the stage had a beautiful voice. Rarely do you find a cast of this caliber. Wayne Tigges and Katharine Goelner give stunning performances as Claudis (the new King of Denmark) and Queen Gertrude. Although everyone dies in the end, it was a treat to spend 2 hours and 45 minutes with them and this fantastic show. To go or not to go that is the question….not really, go see this show!

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