This week in Saint Paul: Monday, December 22–Sunday, December 28, 2014

We are halfway through Chanukah, on the verge of Christmas, and peaking at Kwanzaa around the next calendar corner, not to mention the other thirty-odd holidays that my friend Mooks tells us fall in December. If you have been looking at the Almanac arts calendar, you know how busy this world has been.

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'The Whole Gritty City' promotes dialogue on youth engagement

(Photo courtesy of http://thewholegrittycity.com) Scene from Whole Gritty City

Young people still need encouragement, especially during turbulent times. This was the impetus behind last week’s free screening of a documentary about New Orleans at Oak Park Youth and Family Center.

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THEATER REVIEW | "Jonah and the Whale" wows at the Guthrie Theater

Photo credit Heidi Bohnenkamp

Jonah and the Whale: A New Musical, now playing in the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie Theater, is the fourth production by local company 7th House Theater. I saw the words “bluegrass musical” and the lovely image of Jonah in the water on the Guthrie’s website and knew I had to see it. Those few things I knew about it were all such bold statements it was bound to be either a train wreck or amazing and just had to know which it was. I won’t draw this out for dramatic effect: It’s on the amazing end of the scale and the show runs through December 28th so don’t wait to get your tickets.

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MUSIC PHOTOS | Steel Panther at Myth

Photos by Patrick Dunn

Heavy Metal fans packed Myth Friday night, December 19th for a hard rocking and entertaining set by Steel Panther. Supporting act "Like A Storm" from New Zealand started out the evening with a blistering set. The show was sponsored by 93X who held their X Girl contest finale and crowned the winner for next year.

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THEATER REVIEW | "Motown the Musical" strikes a chord at the Orpheum Theatre

Photo credit Joan Marcus

Motown the Musical is playing, joyously, at Hennepin Theatre Trust's Orpheum Theatre through December 28th, 2014. Get yourself a holiday gift and go get a ticket. Based on Motown founder, Berry Gordy Jr.'s (sic), book "To Be Loved," the musical celebrates Gordy's talents as a writer, producer, entrepreneur, also his legacy and character while telling the story about the music and stars created at "Hitsville U.S.A." 

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MUSIC REVIEW | Young Suave performs live at Fallout in Minneapolis

Photos By: 
Gino Terrell

Coolife Entertainment hip-hop artist Young Suave accompanied by Casso (left) performing their song Medicinal at Fallout in Minneapolis on December 6.

Coolife Entertainment’s hip-hop artist Young Suave, along with fellow rapper Casso, performed live at Fallout Arts Initiative in Minneapolis to round off a night with live performances on Dec. 6. They will perform again at the Winter Wonderland Showcase on Dec. 21 at Arneilla’s in St. Paul.

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MUSIC REVIEW | Real Phonic Radio Hour with Kenny Vaughan, Gospel Machine, Ben Percy and Erik Koskinen

Who doesn't want to celebrate Christmas in the most majestic, rockingest library in town? That's what we did Thursday night at the James J Hill. Everyone was so friendly and warm (that may have been the free samples of Two Gingers whiskey floating around) but it felt as much like a party as a show even though we aren't musicians and this event was clearly a night of musicians for musicians.

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THEATER REVIEW | "2 Pianos, 4 Hands" two Hours of laughs and music at Park Square Theatre

Friends and sometime rival pianists Richard (Peter Vitale, left) and Ted (Michael Pearce Donley, right) relax between notes. Photo courtesy of Park Square Theatre

The story of 2 Pianos, 4 Hands, if you wanted to analyze it, is about chasing dreams, obstinance, frustration, and the quest for identity. Alternately, you could say that it is a string of theatrical vignettes that are alternately funny and poignant. A little myopia might focus on moments recalling Victor Borgia’s musical humor or perhaps what it might look like if Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck had to play a piano duet together (Daffy Duck vs. Donald Duck at the piano isn’t quite the same thing, although Bugs has a solo turn or two at the piano himself). The larger point is not that this play with music is one of these things, but that these are just some of the types of things interwoven into this piano-filled show. 2 Pianos, 4 Hands is much more than the sum of its parts, as excellent as they are individually.

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'Motown: The Musical' actress-singer delights in her multiple legendary roles

(Photo by Joan Marcus) Patrice Covington as Martha Reeves (center) with other members of the touring cast in Motown: The Musical.

Motown: The Musical, the hit Broadway musical now touring the country, arrives next week for a 13-day run at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis.

Grammy-nominated artist Ashley Támar Davis plays several roles, including Gladys Knight and Motown founder Berry Gordy’s sister Esther. She talked about her parts in a MSR phone interview.

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MUSIC REVIEW | Understated timeless cool of Jeremy Messersmith at the Turf Club

(Photos by Ann Treacy)

Man, woman, child, I don’t care who you are – everyone has a little crush on Jeremy Messersmith. He could fit into almost any era with pompadour, dark glasses and cardigan. He could play with Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly or the Bing Crosby, banter with Mr. Rogers, give him a pipe he could hang with Beaver Cleaver’s dad. The themes of his song – mostly love lost – are just as universal. And that adds to the crushability!

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