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MUSIC REVIEW | Stevie Wonder a marvel at the Target Center

Photos By: 
Patrick Dunn

The very moment that Stevie Wonder was lead out to the stage by India Arie, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand.

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MUSIC REVIEW | Gregg Allman timeless at the Pantages Theatre

Photo courtesy Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman and his eight piece traveling band, in the midst of a spring tour, played to a sold-out house at Hennepin Theatre Trust's Pantages Theatre on March 27. The storied bluesy-rock icon still wears his hair long and his tattoos proudly. He looks great and his signature voice still resonates with a tender clarity that welcomes you while his rasp makes you ache. As a founding member of the legendary "The Allman Brothers" band, he's been writing and performing for 50 years—give or take a few-but his talent, and contribution to music history, is timeless.

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THEATER REVIEW | Blue Water Theatre Company's "This Is Our Youth" very youthful

This Is Our Youth - the troubled trio of Warren (Kevin Dye), Jessica (Kasey Carpenter), and Dennis (Adam Hebeisen); photo courtesy of Blue Water Theatre Company

I’m not sure I should be reviewing Blue Water Theatre Company’s production of Kenneth Lonergan’s play This Is Our Youth. On the one hand, it is part of Southern Theater’s ARTshare offerings, and Blue Water is one of the resident companies this year. On the other hand, this could only charitably be called a full production, and I don’t think it helps anybody if I start grading on a curve. If reviewing Defying Gravity felt like kicking a puppy, I’m not sure where to take that metaphor if I start evaluating This Is Our Youth.

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THEATER REVIEW | Gadfly Theatre Productions' "Vile Affections": God only knows

Sister Bart (Emily Weiss), Sister Caterina (Sarah Parker) and Sister Fiora (Dana Lee Thompson) - the three holy sisters who are Sister Benedetta's undoing in Gadfly Theatre Productions' Vile Affections; photo courtesy of Gadfly Theatre Productions

I’m fully behind Gadfly Theatre Productions’ mission of creating queer and feminist theater and art. (Heck, I even took part in their original shorts festival last summer.) But Vanda’s Vile Affections isn’t doing them any favors. The script has so many unreliable narrators for this supposedly true but sparsely documented story of nuns under investigation in 17th century Italy that I not only lost the thread of the story, at a certain point I wasn’t even sure what the story was anymore. The case of Sister Benedetta Carlini (Amanda Kay Thomm Bahr) is notable for being one of the earliest documented cases of a lesbian affair. But Benedetta’s sexual relations with Sister Bartolomea Crivelli (Bart, for short) (Emily Weiss) don’t take place until well into the second act. And it’s not as if there’s a slow burn leading up to the event throughout the first act. In that sense, Vile Affections would appear to be about something else. What that is (you’ll pardon the expression) God only knows. 

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THEATER REVIEW | "The Manchurian Candidate" infiltrates, conquers at Minnesota Opera

Eleanor Iselin (soprano Brenda Harris) and Senator Johnny Iselin (Daniel Sumegi) plot the downfall of the free world over breakfast. Photo by Michal Daniel.

There is much that is not well in the opera world at large, but The Manchurian Candidate is not part of the problem. This new opera by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell is thrilling, fast-paced, varied, and moving, with a story that excites and music that pulls the audience into a shifting world of paranoia, subterfuge, and love. In an industry where “saving” opera has too often meant protracted labor disputes and aesthetically confusing attempts to shock audiences, Minnesota Opera’s production of The Manchurian Candidate offers a third way forward. It presents a story that resonates with contemporary themes and concerns, populated with interesting and nuanced characters, told through fast-moving music in a presentation enhanced (rather than distracted) by technology. The formula works tremendously well.

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THEATER REVIEW | "Disney’s Beauty and the Beast" enchants the Orpheum Theatre

Photo credit Matthew Murphy.

The crowd that filled the seats on Tuesday, Mar. 10 for the opening night of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast consisted heavily of children, but that doesn’t mean their parents weren’t humming along during intermission (and in the bathroom). The age range indicates throwback Disney movies aren’t going anywhere (as if there was any question), and reincarnated forms like the musical production of Beauty and the Beast only prolong Disney's success. Among being a master at creating ear worms, Disney productions strike a chord with generations across the board, even despite the criticism the movies have received on social issues like gender and racial stereotypes.

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MUSIC REVIEW | Mary Bue: A new freedom in Holy Bones

Photo by Jason Kokal

I was thinking about how to describe Mary Bue and her music on my walk today. She's cute and the music is light. Some songs are introspective and she seems to have a sense of humor. Then I visited her website and there were the words I needed: Pop Rock Candy. It's perfect for someone with a sweet voice and rainbow Clydesdale-like boots.

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THEATER REVIEW | Illusion Theater's "Thurgood" a civil rights' reminder

Photo credit Lauren B. Photography.

A hundred years after the end of legal slavery, Thurgood Marshall became the first African-American to sit on the United States Supreme Court. George Stevens, Jr.’s play Thurgood, about the life of Justice Marshall brings to light many little known facts about Marshall’s early years and some of the significant accomplishments he made as an attorney before he was elevated to the high court. Michael Robins directs James Craven in a one-man show about Marshall at Illusion Theater.

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Interview with Kevin Newbury of the Minnesota Opera's "The Manchurian Candidate": Paranoia, spying and politics

Leonardo Capalbo as Captain Ben Marco and Company in the Minnesota Opera production of The Manchurian Candidate, directed by Kevin Newbury. Photo by Michal Daniel.

The world premiere performance of the opera The Manchurian Candidate takes place this Saturday at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts’s Music Theater. This new opera by Mark Campbell and Kevin Puts was commissioned by Minnesota Opera as part of the company’s New Works Initiative, and adapts the bestselling 1959 thriller novel by Richard Condon. The Daily Planet sat down with The Manchurian Candidate’s stage director Kevin Newbury to discuss the opera.

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THEATER REVIEW | Mixed Blood Theatre's "Hir" an extremely queer play

Isaac (Dustin Bronson) finds his family - mother Paige (Sally Wingert), father Arnold (John Paul Gamoke), and brother Max (Jay Eisenberg) - very different than how left them when he went to war, in Mixed Blood Theater's production of Hir; photo by Rich Ryan

You should go see Mixed Blood’s current production of Taylor Mac’s comedy Hir, under the direction of Niegel Smith. It’s a chameleon of a play that can look different to everyone who watches it. Regardless of whether it ends up bewitching you or just weirding you out, it’s still a heck of a lot of fun to watch in action.

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