“Littler Women” isn’t so little at the 2014 Fringe Festival

Littler Women from The Buoyant Group doesn’t portray Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel to a T. The bones of the story are still there: four sisters (Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy) struggle with life in the absence of their war-bound father. Jo’s the tomboy who’s trying to get published and Beth’s death is a major turn of event, in fact he play starts and ends with her death. The play ostensibly takes place in the 1900s, but there are plenty of modernized scenes strewed throughout, like one where the girls get tipsy on Malibu at a super sweet 16 party (it’s delightful).  Continue Reading

“The Frat Party: A Comic Opera in One Act” is just that at the 2014 Fringe Festival

The Frat Party: A Comic Opera in One Act from The Really Spicy Opera Company is exactly that: a bunch of opera-singing frat kids musing about their life problems in a series of arias. The frat boys of Beta Epsilon Epsilon Rho (BEER) overcome three obstacles in order to throw their rager: permission from their RA (all they had to do was invite her), finding someone to do their homework (get their friend to do it), and scrounge up money for booze (parent’s credit card, duh). Continue Reading

Believe in “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” at the 2014 Fringe Festival

A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant is what so many shows claim to be: Fun for the entire family! I was a little leary of going into a show that advertised a “jubilant cast of children,” but The Catalysts, comprised of Michael Gruber (composer), Jason Hansen (musical director), Nikki Swoboda (director and choreographer), and Max Wojtanowicz (playwright and lyricist), find that sweet spot where both children and adults can actually enjoy the same thing, even if it is probably for different reasons. Continue Reading

“The Lake Street Cabaret” captures heart of diverse corridor at Patrick’s Cabaret

Patrick’s Cabaret is taking a night (Saturday, June 7) to stop and smell the metaphorical roses in The Lake Street Cabaret. Scott Artley, performing arts curator for Patrick’s Cabaret (PC), got the idea for the concept cabaret on his rides to and from work (located on Minnehaha and Lake). “Watching those cultures change was really interesting especially if you go over longer distance, seeing those incremental changes at each stoplight,” Artley said.The Lake Street Cabaret encapsulates the diversity of the corridor, showcasing the Burlesque-O-Rama at Bryant-Lake Bowl in Uptown, Loren Niemi from In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, MIGIZI Communications (a media organization for American-Indian youth) farther toward the east end of Lake Street, and everyone in between.Wing Young Huie’s photography from his 2000 Lake Street, U.S.A. project that turned Lake Street into a gallery, was an inspiration for The Lake Street Cabaret and will be shown during/after the show and during intermission. The photos are about 15 years old now and show a shift in culture. For example, Artley noted an increase in the Somali population, especially at Lake and Pleasant. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Mason Jennings feels like home at the State Theatre

Mason Jennings declared himself a Northerner on Saturday, April 5 at the State Theatre. Jennings, who stopped in Minneapolis as part of his cross-country tour to promote his new album Always Been, calls this frozen land that is Minnesota home (he’s even got an album called Minnesota). Just as we’re on the verge of moving past the coldest winter in recent memory, Mason Jennings is still able to defend his homebase to all the Southerners who ask him why he lives here while he’s on tour. He seemed relaxed—maybe even relieved—onstage Saturday night, and his concert felt like home. I know how obnoxiously corny that sounds, but Mason Jennings is Minnesota to me and a good reminder of why we live here.Jennings elected to employ producer Bo Ramsey for Always Been instead of locking himself up in his cabin until he’d written and recorded an entire album (as was his MO for earlier albums). Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “Once” hits highs and lows at the Orpheum Theatre

My grandpa always says, “If you’re ten minutes early, you’re late.” I’m more of the school of thought that if you’re exactly on time, you’re using your time efficiently. In the case of Once, do as my grandpa does and be earlier than early—so early that you have to wait for the house doors to open. Because when the doors do open, you’ll find that you’re invited to mosey around onstage for a beer at the cash bar and a pre-show concert from the cast members. One of my favorite nights in Ireland when I went last October was the live music at The Celt pub in Dublin. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “The Phantom of the Opera” enchants at the Orpheum Theatre

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh’s The Phantom of the Opera is yet another production to add to the list of 80s musical makeovers (Carrie The Musical and Les Misérables, both presented by Hennepin Theatre Trust this year). As I wrote in my review of the “re-imagined” production of Les Misérables, I was concerned about the changes, which turned out to be only partly unfounded. I didn’t feel that way on Wednesday, December 18 about the new production of The Phantom of the Opera at the Orpheum Theatre. Theatergoers (i.e. me) fell in love all over again (or for the first time) with the magic of the show—the chandelier that hangs over the audience through the intermission, the masquerade at the beginning of Act II, and the entrancing music. The 1986 version of The Phantom of the Opera, derived from the French novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, is about an “opera ghost” who lives in the Opera Populaire (he signs his many micro-managey correspondences to the owners “O.G.”). The Phantom is actually not a ghost, but a musical genius that teaches Christine Daaé—a dancer—how to sing, and she eventually becomes the star of the company. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “A Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie Theater: Comfortable and joyful

The official opening night of The Guthrie’s A Christmas Carol on Wednesday, November 20—eight days before Thanksgiving—was an ideal time and way to launch into the holiday season. The house was full, which means this is a holiday tradition for Minnesotans that starts a month and a half before Christmas. A Christmas Carol isn’t premature like that Kmart holiday commercial that aired in September, though; in fact, I crave a little cheer right around this time of the year. Ebenezer Scrooge (J.C. Cutler), the miserly man who resents Christmas, is the central character of A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens’ portrayal of him was so resonant that you can literally look Scrooge up in the dictionary and find a picture of him. A Christmas Carol is one of the most parodied stories in our culture (A Muppets Christmas Carol, anyone?) that it would surprise me if I met someone who was unfamiliar with the tale. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Minneapolis Musical Theatre resurrects “Carrie The Musical” at the New Century Theatre

The thing that people talk about when they talk about Carrie The Musical is its epic 1988 flop. Minneapolis Musical Theatre seeks to change people’s minds by resurrecting the musical at the New Century Theatre this October in its revised form.Based on Stephen King’s novel, Carrie The Musical follows the tragic title character as she endures horrendous bullying at school and psychological abuse at home from her religious mother who lives vicariously through her (in that she doesn’t want her to live). Because of her hardships, Carrie discovers that she has telekinetic power. She hones her skills and finds she can finally take control. But as we all (assumingly) know, it doesn’t end well for Carrie. Continue Reading