After renovations, Northside’s Capri Theater reopens with a bang

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Jazz enthusiasts will love this lineup: Charmin Michelle, Dennis Spears, and Debbie Duncan on one bill, paying tribute to Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, and Big Joe Williams. For good measure, the evening takes place this Saturday, June 20 at the grand reopening of North Minneapolis community fixture the Capri Theater, which has been extensively renovated.

Charmin Michelle continues to sail full speed ahead, one of the Twin Cities’ busiest ladies of song, working just about weekly in the metropolitan area and beyond. She hits the Capri stage fresh off a tour of Spain that saw stops at Auditorio y Palacio de Congresos in Castellon de la Plana, La Bilbaína Jazz Club in Bilbao, and Jamboree in Barcelona. “I enjoyed all the venues,” says Michelle fondly. “I have been well-received at concerts I’ve performed throughout the years, which is why I love coming back [to Spain].” It’s easy to understand her success. A velvet-voiced chanteuse, Charmin Michelle is the epitome of class, phrasing immaculate, her tone bell-like in clarity.

Michelle’s co-headliners have, of course, staked their own claims to prominence as vocalists. Debbie Duncan, in addition to playing such celebrated venues as the Dakota and the Artists’ Quarter, has opened for the likes of Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and Lou Rawls. Dennis Spears is well known for his work as a member of Moore By Four, solo stints, and for theatrical turns with Illusion Theater and Penumbra Theatre Company. He’s also an artistic associate at the Capri.

This tribute to immortal singers is the final presentation in the Legends series, which launched at the Capri in 2007 with an evening of homage to Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Nat “King” Cole. In addition to a fine night out, the series strongly sustains culture and community. The Capri Theater is a venerable Northside institution. As Michelle says enthusiastically, “That is the main reason I wanted this gig! The community is trying to make a change and bring people and businesses in. To be a part of that is rewarding.”

Next up for Michelle? “Thanks to [a] Minnesota State Arts Board grant, I’m working on a production with the Capri Theater called Hot Jazz, Harlem Night! The show is a collaboration with Plymouth Christian Youth Center and will feature music, dance, and poetry from the Harlem Renaissance period.”

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.

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