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THEATER REVIEW | "Nice Work If You Can Get It" at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts: Old dog, new tricks

Jimmy Winter (Alex Enterline) has lots of problems, and being loved by the female ensemble of Nice Work If You Can Get It is most of them. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but by golly the team behind Nice Work If You Can Get It has given it the old gangster try. This Gershwin jukebox musical passes the time pleasantly, forgoing musical innovations for tried and true melodies and a farce of a plot that steadily amps up the ridiculous complications.

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"Dirty Dancing" at the Orpheum Theatre: Just a bit off the beat

Some movies cannot translate well to the stage. Dirty Dancing, at the Orpheum Theater until October 19, is one of them. The scenes were overly cheesy, and the transitions were choppy. While the dancing definitely was the focal point of the show, the singing and acting was subpar. When a movie is loved and touted by millions, the bar is set even higher. Unfortunately, this show did disappoint.

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THEATER REVIEW | "The Marriage of Bette and Boo" a catch at Theatre in the Round

Photo credit Calabay Productions.

Christopher Durang is fast becoming one of my favorite living playwrights and the appeal of his morbid comedy is amply demonstrated by Theatre in the Round’s current production of Durang’s play The Marriage of Bette and Boo. Director Randy Reyes and a very effective ensemble tackle this complex comedy/tragedy emphasizing the family angst told through a lifetime of family gatherings. 

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THEATER REVIEW | Mixed Blood Theatre's "Colossal": Football, dance and broken hearts

(Photo by Rich Ryan) Young Mike (Torsten Johnson) takes flight on the football field with a little help from his friends (Mathias Becker, Ryan Colbert, Ian Zahren, Casey Hoeksta) in Mixed Blood's production of Colossal.

Playwright Andrew Hinderaker’s mentor challenged him to write an unproducible play. So Hinderaker created a story that required a football team, a drum line, a modern dance company, and an actor in a wheelchair who is quadriplegic (21 performers in all). The play was structured to take place just like a football game—four quarters of 15 minutes each, plus a halftime show, and a pre-show warm-up. That play became Colossal, and instead of being unproducible, it’s getting a rolling world premiere at five different theaters across the United States as part of the National New Play Network. One those theaters is Minneapolis’ own Mixed BloodColossal lives up to its name and then some, in both physical size and emotional scope. It’s a powerful meditation on the seductive power of America’s most popular contact sport (some would argue its most popular form of entertainment, period).  It’s also a haunting rumination on the way young men punish their bodies for a shot at glory, and punish their hearts in the elusive pursuit of love—a love of people and a sport that may not love them back.

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THEATER REVIEW | Ten Thousand Things' "Romeo and Juliet": Streamlined, focused and powerful

(Photo by Peter Vitale) Anna Sundberg and Namir Smallwood as the title characters in Ten Thousand Things' production of Romeo and Juliet.

Right after A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet, if there’s a Shakespeare play I probably don’t need to see another production of, it’s Romeo and Juliet. So why go? Michelle Hensley’s Ten Thousand Things theater company is presenting Romeo and Juliet right now, under the direction of Peter Rothstein—that’s why you go. And the cast, oh the cast: David Darrow, Bob Davis, Kurt Kwan, Namir Smallwood, Dennis Spears, Anna Sundberg, Karen-Wiese Thompson, and Regina Marie Williams—that’s why you go. 

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"Dirty Dancing" at the Orpheum Theatre: Translations are tricky

Dirty Dancing is a great movie. Its purpose is for sleepovers on Saturday nights with a couple of teenage friends who just want to zone out for a couple of hours and watch a cutesy story. And that purpose is served well. However, the musical version is a different story.

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"Dirty Dancing" at the Orpheum Theatre: Better left on screen

Dirty Dancing just recently opened at the Orpheum and I am sure you are all remembering giggly movie nights staring at Patrick Swayze and dreaming of dancing with him. I had not seen the movie going in and was excited to be presented with the story for the first time on the stage. I am sad to say that I was quite disappointed. The show was lacking in the acting department and the story only vaguely came across- a girl named Baby learning to dance while she is on vacation and, despite all their differences, falling in love with her instructor, Johnny. I got none of the depth, none of the touching moments, none of the emotion roller coaster I lovingly expect from cheesy stories such as this.

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"Dirty Dancing" at the Orpheum Theatre: Maybe some movies should just remain movies

Once, The Lion King, Sister Act, Bring it On, Shrek…what do these movies have in common? All of them were turned into musicals. Some are fantastic adaptations that appeal to both the general musical theatre crowd and fans of the movie, but some only appeal to one of the two. Speaking as a dedicated musical theatre fan, I have to say that turning Dirty Dancing into a musical was a great idea, but the adaptation didn’t translate very well onto the stage.

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Class of '85: Pass me the Cheez Balls

Collide Theatrical’s “Class of ‘85” is midway through its two week spot at the Southern Theater. We scooped up tickets because, as self-appointed Gen X media monitors, we have a duty to support all plays, movies, and TV shows about the 1980s. There was another draw for our visit to the historic theater on Minneapolis’s West Bank as a high school buddy of mine is the lead female vocalist. There is a surreal sort of comfort watching your high school friend from the 80s perform in a play about high school in the 80s thirty years after the original spectacle.

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THEATER REVIEW | "Dirty Dancing" doesn't miss a beat at the Orpheum Theatre

Photo credit Matthew Murphy

If you're going to adapt a classic to the theater, you've got to deliver and they did. Eleanor Bergstein's Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage, doesn't miss a beat at Orpheum Theatre as the cast delivers the performance of their life.

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