Singer Cecilia Lopez

THEATER REVIEW: La Rondine

Color-blind casting continues to be an issue in American theater.  In opera, one might argue, without it how are artists of color to work?  After all, there isn’t exactly an over-abundance of roles written with characters of color.  And how many opportunities are there to be cast in a revival of, say, Porgy and Bess or Madame Butterfly?  Members of Skylark Opera’s production of Puccini La Rondine – two performers, who are of color, and the director, who is not, commented on the matter by email. Cecelia Violetta Lopez sings the role of Magda, who leaves her setup in the lap of luxury as a banker’s mistress, to go looking for love. Lopez’s solo concert credits include Mahler’s Symphony 4 and selections from Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne with the Henderson Symphony Orchestra, Rutter’s Mass of the Children with the Southern Nevada Musical Arts Society, Bach’s Magnificat with the University of Nevada – Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra and Rachmaninov’s Vocalise with the UNLV Chamber Orchestra. “I’ve never experienced a color and/or race issue in my growing career”, she reflects.  “I have been discriminated against in my lifetime, but those instances have been for being Mexican-American and/or female.  Sad, but true.”

Lopez then states, “I think race and opera are completely unrelated to each other. Continue Reading

The Cast of Violet

Violet at North Hennepin Community College

Over the years, I have found theater productions by local colleges to be hit and miss. As an adjunct instruction at North Hennepin Community College (NHCC) in Brooklyn Park, I have been attending the college’ productions over the past 18 years and similarly found the quality to be uneven. But NHCC’s Theatre Arts Ensemble has undergone a tremendous growth in the quality of its student productions over the last couple of years meriting some attention by the theater community as a whole. The growth of the program was evident in last year’s production of Dames at Sea which was such a splendid production that it compared to musicals I have seen performed on Broadway. The Ensemble’s most recent production of Violet, takes on a more edgy musical. Continue Reading

Kathryn Fumie as the title character in Theatre Unbound's all-female production of Hamlet. Image by Richard Fleischman Photography.

THEATER REVIEW | Theatre Unbound serves up an all-female “Hamlet”

Let’s get this out of the way right up front. You should go see Theatre Unbound’s production of Hamlet because you should see Kathryn Fumie in the title role. Not because it’s a woman playing Hamlet. Because it’s a great actor playing Hamlet. Just like every Hamlet I’ve seen over the years, in good productions and bad, the problem with Hamlet is never the actor playing Hamlet. Continue Reading

Photo credit Richard Fleischman Photography

THEATER REVIEW | Sandbox Theatre’s “War With The Newts”: A darkly funny cautionary lizard tale

I had the pleasure of seeing the original War With The Newts back in 2007 when Sandbox Theatre first tackled the Karel Capek science fiction novel, so I knew this reimagined revival was also bound to be a lot of fun. In a way, Capek’s tale is not your standard sci fi cautionary tale. Normally, you’d use the race of newts as a stand-in for human behavior and the audience would have just enough distance from themselves to be able to see the pitfalls of the newts’ way of dealing with one another. Here though, the newts are addressing us in the audience as fellow newts, using human beings themselves as the cautionary tale, putting on masks in order to imitate human beings and just making the whole thing a lot harder to ignore as a straightforward indictment of human folly. “No sensible man has any business going to Devil Bay.”

Sandbox Theatre as a company has also been evolving over the eight years since this story last hit the stage, and it shows in this new improved version of War With The Newts. Continue Reading

(foreground) Rimbaud (Austen Fisher) in the arms of Verlaine (Alex Brightwell) with Verlaine's wife Mathilde (Felicity Stiverson) just over their shoulder in Black Label Movement's The Illumination.

THEATER REVIEW | “The Illumination” at the Southern Theater: A visual and aural feast

One of the reasons I was looking forward to the first year of ARTshare programming at the Southern Theater was the inclusion of dance companies in the mix of resident artists. After all, the Southern is a great venue in which to see dance, and I don’t see enough dance outside of the Minnesota Fringe Festival each year. I figured having access to regular programming by dance companies already slotted into my schedule would get me out of my habit of only managing to see dance for one week in August. I knew of Black Label Movement, but I hadn’t actually seen one of their shows. Their latest presentation, The Illumination, made me take a closer look at their name. Continue Reading

FemmeCabaret

THEATER REVIEW | 20% Theatre Company’s “Q-Stage: Set C”: A perfect evening of red-nose clowns and angry dancers

 

 

20% Theatre Company has saved the best for last in this year’s Q-Stage. The red-nose clowns of Femme Cabaret: A Clown Burlesque and the angry dancers of Gifts of Set C couldn’t be more different in style or tone but together they make for a perfect evening of theater. Of course, you should see all the Q-Stage offerings this year, but if you can only fit one into your schedule, it should be Set C. Absolutely delightful from start to finish (and that includes the part where one of the performers attacks the audience – no, I’m not kidding.)

“I’m the ME in Femme.”

Creator/performer Shannon Forney calls Femme Cabaret “a playful romp on queer femme identity from the awkward center of a Red Nose Clown” and I can’t come up with a better summary statement than that. Shannon’s clown alter ego is Naughty Dottie, and with the help of her red-nosed partners in crime Charming (Emma Buechs) and Swish (Jacob Miller), she guides us through a whole quirky catalog of embarrassments and near misses as she attempts to understand the femme identity’s place in a queer culture. As an audience member, I was so charmed and bemused by Dottie’s misadventures that I didn’t realize until it was over that I’d actually been thinking quite a lot about the notion of identity, gender roles, and the sneaky enemy of conformity (a trap we all fall into, even as we try to set ourselves apart). Continue Reading

AndSheWould

THEATER REVIEW I 20% Theatre Company’s “Q-Stage: Set B”: Greek tragedy in drag and more

You know you’re a theater geek when you don’t really read the program before watching the show and then suddenly realize, “Oh, wait a minute, this is a drag version of Euripides’ Greek tragedy The Trojan Women” – and this revelation makes you fall in love with the play almost immediately. That was part of the fun of watching And She Would Stand Like This, a play in drag as part of Set B in 20% Theatre Company’s latest iteration of their Q-Stage new works program playing at Intermedia Arts. Even if you read the program more carefully than I did and were clued into the source material ahead of time, it’s also fun to see how they take that source and update it. Oh, the names remain the same, that’s the giveaway, but the context for the different relationships have shifted. Rather than the aftermath of the Trojan War, we’re in a modern day time of plague – though the plague is unnamed, you can fill in the blank for yourself fairly quickly. Continue Reading

Trans artist and activist Andrea Jenkins whose Body Parts: Intersectionality is part of Set A in 20% Theatre Company's Q-Stage.

THEATER REVIEW | 20% Theatre Company’s “Q-Stage: Set A”: Mixed bag and mixed responses

 

When a theater company puts together a new works festival like 20% Theater Company is doing with their second year of the Q-Stage program, the results can be a mixed bag. In its inaugural year last year, Q-Stage had some really polished powerful work on display. It also had some things that were sweet alongside some things that were riotously funny. And it had some things that felt more like works in progress that sometimes made me smile and other times had me scratching my head in confusion. It’s great to have an incubator for local artists and new work with a queer sensibility like Q-Stage. Continue Reading

Some of the vintage costumes and wigs from Jersey Boys. Foreground: Marlana Dunn, Leslie Rochette, and Jaycie Dotin; Background: Keith White, Tommaso Antico, and John Rochette. Photo by Joan Marcus

“Jersey Boys” by the numbers

Jersey Boys has 33 songs in its score, drawing off a song catalog that sold 175 million records worldwide and several cover songs from the Four Seasons’s early years. Many of the show’s other numbers are quite impressive. Number of People in the Company: 52

Actors: 19
Musicians: 10
Crew: 14

Largest Number of Roles Played by an Actor: 18 (Leslie Rochette)
Number of Distinct Costumes and Looks: 196

Pairs of Shoes Worn per Performance: 87
Most costume changes for a lead character: 15 (for Frankie Valli)

Valli’s quick changes: 12
Valli’s shortest quick change: 15 seconds

Fastest costume change overall: 9 seconds (“My Eyes Adored You”

Lighting

609 lighting cues
401 fixed lights + 96 PAR lamps for concert lighting
77 moving lights

©2015 Basil Considine Continue Reading

The Four Seasons performing their hit 'Walk Like a Man' in Jersey Boys. From left to right: Frankie Valli (Hayden Milanes), Bob Gaudio (Drew Seeley), Tommy DeVito (Matthew Dailey) and Nick Massi (Keith Hines).

THEATER REVIEW | “Jersey Boys” shines at the Orpheum Theatre

November 6 of this year will mark the 10th anniversary of Jersey Boys’ opening on Broadway. For a show that starts with “Oh, what a night!” this means an awful lot of nights of rocking the charts 60s-style. So what does it mean when this show tour – still running after nine years on the road – touches down on Hennepin Ave? Is the magic still there? The answer to the second question is, “Yes.” The answer to the first is, “If you haven’t seen it already, buy your tickets for a ride on an amazing musical rollercoaster.” The show production is a tightly paced, comedic yet affectingly serious journey through a profoundly varied song catalog of hits. Continue Reading