The Twin Cities Opera Renaissance – Summer Edition

On June 21, 1985, the Metropolitan Opera announced that it was ending more than a century of national tours. Not quite one year later, on May 31, 1986, the very last tour closed its doors with a farewell performance in Minneapolis’s Northrop Auditorium. Many commentators opined that this was a severe blow to the Twin Cities opera scene, from which it would be hard-pressed to recover – an especially topical comment, given that the final curtain dropped on Violetta’s death scene in La Traviata. Three decades later, a very different scene unfolds on both banks of the Mississippi. Minnesota Opera, then focused on experimental new works, seized opportunity by the (Viking helmet) horns and broadened its programming to encompass more of the classics that the Met had formerly imported. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Gypsies invade Mankato for “Kiss Me, Kate”

Minnesota Opera’s Carmen may have closed, but its gypsy cast – the titular zingara included – appeared to be alive and well on Sunday, when four of the principles appeared in the Mankato Symphony Orchestra’s concert performance of the musical Kiss Me, Kate. Unlike their last onstage appearances, there were no stabbings involved and hippie chic was nowhere to be seen. The general mood of Sunday’s concert was pleasant and amiable: an afternoon idle to enjoy some excellent music with a full orchestra. Kenneth Freed led the orchestra with from the podium, while the spotlight fell alternately on Bergen Baker (Mercédès in the previously mentioned production), Brad Benoit (Le Remendado), Rodolfo Nieto (technically not present at said production, but who’s to quibble about an extra barihunk?), and Victoria Vargas (one of the Carmens). Technically, each member of this quartet sang a character in this abbreviated version of Kiss Me, Kate, but none of those details matter nearly so much as the basic recipe of classically trained singer + live orchestra + fun musical theater songs. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Joyce DiDonato dazzles, entrances at Ordway

The Schubert Club closed out the 2014-2015 run of of its International Artist Series with some good news and a bang. The good news was that, despite reports to the contrary, classical music is alive and well in some quarters: ticket sales for this five-concert series hit a new record for the Schubert Club. The bang was a sterling performance by mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. DiDonato is one of classical music’s preeminent stars, an opera singer who fills houses and attracts a dynamic fan base that cuts across age groups. Her performances are renown not just for her vocal beauty and skill, but also for her acting and character portrayal. Where, then, to begin with describing Tuesday’s recital? Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “Camelot” tour spins classic musical “Game of Thrones”-style

Take a walk over to Rice Park at night, peer through the glass at the Ordway, and you might notice that the Music Theater has been occupied by a squadron of marauding knights. This armored band bears the crest of a Camelot tour, but the production that they present and represent is not your grandfather’s Camelot. The first thing that stands out about this revamped production is that it bears a very strong visual resemblance to a certain Game of Thrones. The second thing that stands out is Mary McNulty (Guenevere), a riveting stage presence with a beautiful voice. Sometime after McNulty flits off the stage for the first time, it becomes increasingly obvious that most of the musical numbers have been cut down. Continue Reading

“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”


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

©2015 Basil Considine Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Minnesota Opera’s “Carmen” heats up the Ordway

The opera Carmen needs little introduction, but much can be said about how Minnesota Opera’s current production does things well. This classic femme fatale story is presented in Spain in the 1970s, when the Sexual Revolution first began to erode the edges of a conservative Catholicism previously enforced – sometimes brutally – by the repressive fascist regime of Generalissimo Franco. (The modern stereotype of sleazy Spanish men comes from just after this period.) This decision by director Michael Cavanagh heightens many tensions within the source material, and is a splendid excuse for a retrofabulous costume excursion. The music may be the same as normal, but the updated setting makes the characters much more relatable and heightens the already elevated emotional stakes. Note: This review discusses the Vargas cast of MN Opera’s Carmen, performing May 8 and 9; Check back later for our review of the Sourouzian cast, performing May 7 and 10. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “Fruit Fly The Musical”: Fringe show buzzes back at Illusion Theater

This is the season of Minnesota Fringe Festival show planning. Lottery numbers were drawn in late February, venue assignments and showtimes went out to producers last week, and Minnesota Playlist is sprouting Fringe-related casting notices and other classifieds. For some teams, now is the time when the writers first begin to frantically craft material; for others, the scripts and scores were set in stone well before their applications went in. The clock is ticking: in less than four months’ time, the country’s largest unjuried theatre festival will have come and gone, bringing about 50,000 attendees – 10,000 more than Target Field’s maximum, and about 91% of the capacity of the old Metrodome – to Minneapolis stages.So what happens to a Fringe show once the festival has come and gone? For most shows, a quiet repose and a few playbill credits await. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | The Chameleon Theatre Circle’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” powerful, frightening

Passion Sunday has come and gone, but the passion and drama live on in Burnsville in The Chameleon Theatre Circle’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar. This staging of the classic musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber is recast by co-directors Jim Vogel and Bradley Donaldson as a pot of mob violence on the verge of boiling over. The result is striking, arresting, and often frightening in its power.When the music of Jesus Christ Superstar was first released 45 years ago, the BBC banned its broadcast on the grounds that its content was sacrilegious. This ban proved much more temporary than the musical’s success, which was enormous. As stagings proliferated around the world, however, many of the once-controversial elements in the story—the sympathetic treatment of Judas, erotic overtones in Mary Magdalene’s relationship with Jesus, and Jesus’s struggles with his impending crucifixion—have been toned down.“Toned down” scarcely describes CTC’s production. Continue Reading

Circus Juventas hits the international high wire

Weather in Minnesota may be flirting with winter and spring at the same time, but across the Atlantic some Twin Cities ambassadors are heating things up. The occasion? The Waldoni Circus Festival in Darmstadt, Germany. The ambassadors? Charlotte Richardson-Deppe, Jenna Ober, Rabiya Sehgal-LaRocque, and Shayna Rutledge ­– four area high school students who are also members of Circus Juventas.The Waldoni Circus Festival is an international venue for amateur circus performers to train, perform, compete, and mingle; participants come from as far away as Asia and the Americas, often to see acts and routines that they’ve only heard of by word of mouth – and, often, to model some of them firsthand. Continue Reading

Sarah Rasmussen new Jungle Theater artistic director, Children’s Theatre Company receives grant

The last two years have seen several high-profile personnel changes at Twin Cities-area theater companies as a series of founding leaders have stepped aside to usher in a new generation of leaders. Mu Performing Arts and Penumbra Theatre announced succession plans last year; this year, the Guthrie Theater’s search reached fruition with the announcement that a second Joe, Joseph Haj, would take the helm after Joe Dowling steps down. On Tuesday, the Jungle Theater joined these ranks with the announcement that Ivey Award-winning director Sarah Rasmussen will succeed Jungle founder Bain Boehlke when he retires this summer. Continue Reading