Guthrie to move, turn building into condos

In a stunning press conference this morning, the Guthrie Theater announced that it is returning to Minneapolis’s Lowry Hill neighborhood and converting part of its iconic building on the banks of the Mississippi River into condos. These twin measures, some of the most far-reaching in the company’s 52-year history, sent shockwaves through the Twin Cities theatre and Downtown East communities. Editor’s note: This feature is part of the Daily Planet’s April Fools’ Day Arts Coverage. The first part of the plan, constructing a new theatre complex near the Walker Art Museum, is a return to the Guthrie’s founding roots and location for decades. (The Walker’s parking garage sits on the site of the old theatre.) This new complex, tentatively named Guthrie 2.0, will sit above the I-94/Hennepin Ave/Lyndale Ave interchange, long an area eyesore and transit bottleneck. Continue Reading

Zombies and Disney spectacular “Frozen” coming to Ordway, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

The greater Twin Cities theater scene is getting a whole lot more zombies and ice castles in the 2015-2016 season. The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts and Chanhassen Dinner Theatres both announced major screen-to-stage adaptations in the coming year: a musical version of the hit cable television series The Walking Dead at the Ordway and a much-anticipated adaptation of the Disney megahit movie Frozen at CDT. Both new musicals will have their world premieres in Minnesota as part of pre-Broadway trials.Editor’s note: This feature is part of the Daily Planet’s April Fools’ Day Arts Coverage.Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, the world’s largest dinner theater organization under one roof, will present Frozen: The Musical as part of its 2015-2016 season. This coup follows up on two tremendously successful years of alternating Broadway classics in the fall and winter with stage versions of Disney musical films in the spring and summer. CDT’s Midwest premiere of The Little Mermaid attracted the attention of Disney executives, who after extensive negotiations selected the company to host the show’s pre-Broadway development. Continue Reading

What’s ticking in Twin Cities Opera

The last few weeks have been filled with great news for American opera lovers. On the national front, San Diego Opera announced its new General Manager on Wednesday, marking an important milestone in the turnaround of a storied company with a surprising near-closure last spring. David Bennett, currently the executive director of NYC’s Gotham Chamber Opera, will move across the country to take the reins. Notably, Bennett will draw a base salary of $200,000, 40% of his predecessor who led the drive to shut down the financially healthy San Diego Opera. This salary, according to the latest Form 990-C filings available, is roughly the same as earned by the President of Minnesota Opera; Minnesota Opera and San Diego Opera are predicted to have comparable budgets, if not sunshine, for 2015.Closer to home, the summer opera is shaping up with a slew of different announcements. Continue Reading

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

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.The story of this opera is adapted from the 1959 novel of the same name by Richard Condon. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Brilliant “Mary Poppins” ascends at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

Sunday, March 15, 2015 marks the five-year anniversary of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ current ownership. Half a decade ago, a consortium of investors led by Michael Brindisi, Tamara Kangas Erickson, and Steve Peters teamed up to buy one of the nation’s largest and most prominent Equity dinner theatres. Area residents and patrons were not exactly disinterested observers: not only was CDT a storied local and national theatre icon, but also a cornerstone of the local economy with almost three hundred people on staff. The new ownership also faced steep financial pressures from the beginning, taking the reins at an institution that had financially stumbled in recent years as theatre attendance in general and dinner theatre attendance in particular tumbled during the economic recession. Brindisi and Kangas-Erickson’s artistic credentials went without question, but did their team bring the business acumen necessary to revive the storied theater?Five years later, the answer to this question is a resounding yes. Continue Reading

Interview with Kevin Newbury of the Minnesota Opera’s “The Manchurian Candidate”: Paranoia, spying and politics

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.When were you first engaged to direct The Manchurian Candidate?I know Mark Campbell and Kevin Puts fairly well, so as soon as I heard about it I started angling for the job. I have a long relationship with Minnesota Opera, so I read the first draft of the libretto and called Dale [Johnson] and said, “I really would love to do this,” and everything worked out. I was involved very early on – I could attend all the workshops, be part of the writing process, and really be involved from the beginning.Is getting hooked up with productions that you hear about through the grapevine a normal process for you?It happens in many ways – sometimes companies call me up and you’re involved at the genesis of it, sometimes I come in after the piece is already written…which is not what I prefer to do. Continue Reading

Beautiful, aurally sumptuous Concert Hall opens at the Ordway

The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts formally inaugurated its new concert hall on Saturday with an elaborate gala celebration. The evening began with a cocktail hour and a formal dinner in the Music Theater, followed by a sumptuous concert in the new space and an afterparty that continued into the wee hours.The star of the evening was the new performing art space, the succinctly named Concert Hall. (John and Ruth Huss, whose $10 million gift underwrote a quarter of the $40 million construction costs, humbly declined naming rights.) This 1,100-seat space sits on the northeast corner of the Ordway complex, filling in the southeast corner of 5th and Washington and the old footprint of the McKnight Theatre. The Concert Hall was dressed for the occasion with 14.7 linear miles of mahogany-stained oak, a coat of 1,100 or so acoustic panels, and a cloak of glass curtain walls overlooking Rice Park. More than a thousand friends showed up for its society debut and greeted it with cheers and applause.Perhaps the biggest concern on attendees’ minds was whether or not the space’s new acoustics measured up to their advertising. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor plays a mixed bag at the Ordway

There comes a moment in the career of every child prodigy in music when their early promise is held up against a light of adult scrutiny. Technical virtuosity from an early age is a laudable thing, but with increased years comes a demand for artistic refinement – demands that for non-prodigies may otherwise not be expected until a much older age. There is often a rush for judgment as listeners wonder whether a young musician will remain a flash in the pan or mature into a long and continuously fruitful career. Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor’s concert on Tuesday at the Ordway offered no clear answers to this question, but tossed more fuel on the fire.Grosvenor, who won the 2004 BBC Young Musician Competition’s Keyboard Final at 11 years of age, is now all of 22 years’ old. For most professional pianists, this is around the age to graduate from a conservatory (Grosvenor did so two and a half years ago); Grosvenor was not only playing in the Schubert Club’s International Artist Series, but has many years of international soloist engagements under his belt already. Continue Reading

Mobsters, pirates, plagues, and Mongol hordes in Ordway’s 2015-16 season

The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts announced its 2015-2016 season on Monday evening with a festive event at the Ordway’s Target Atrium. Highlights of the upcoming season include three self-produced musicals; dance performances such as Hip Hop Nutcracker, DanceBrazil, and Lulu Washington Dance Theatre; world music sensations Dengue Fever and Hanggai; and a return engagement by Pilobulus Dance Theatre.One of the highlights of the current season is the Ordway’s homebrewed production of A Christmas Story, a December hit featuring a mostly local cast, sets by Penumbra Theatre Company, and direction and choreography by the Ordway’s own James Rocco. The Ordway is following up on this success with its own native productions of The Pirates of Penzance, The Sound of Music, and A Chorus Line. The Sound of Music – one of the most-requested shows each year by Ordway season ticket holders – will occupy a similar slot as A Christmas Story, with a 3-week December 10-January 2 holiday run. The Pirates of Penzance and A Chorus Line will each run for about two weeks in August and February, respectively. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Pippin dazzles under the circus tent at the Orpheum Theatre

Not many shows bristle with the same visual joy and spark as the Broadway tour of Pippin, now playing at the Orpheum Theatre. Of course, not many shows are set under a circus tent bristling with acrobatics, tumbling, knife throwing, hula-hoops, trapezes, and yoga balls. Yes, you read that right—yoga balls; 6 of them, as a matter of fact, and 15 hula-hoops as well. Want something more like Vegas? How about 7 giant feather fans being sensually waved, or flaming torches if that’s more your thing?The original Pippin made quite a spark when it premiered in New York City back in 1972, with a pile of awards and an exceptional 5-year run. Continue Reading