THEATER | Mixed Precipitation’s “Tales of Hoffman” makes a fine picnic operetta


Last weekend I had the most pleasant afternoon ever, attending Mixed Precipitation’s Tales of Hoffman. Everything about the show was delightful, from the picturesque garden atmosphere where the show took place to the wonderful little samples of fresh gourmet food that were passed around during the show, to the gorgeous music of Offenbach performed admirably by a mostly young and talented cast, I just had such a great time. I wish all theater could be so enjoyable. 

When I arrived at Lyndale Community Gardens, I was given a napkin, which I was told counted as my ticket, and soon after all the audience had gathered, a little comic pre-show occurred. After passing out cups of kambucha, the actor-singers led us into the garden, where I fortunately nabbed a good seat in the shade. What followed was a show that was one part opera, one part goofy theatrics, one part 80s send-up, and one part appetizer tasting.

tales of hoffman, presented through september 26 at community gardens across the twin cities. for reservations and information, see

The star of the show, actually, wasn’t any of the performers, but the chef who masterminded the delicious roasted beats, artisan bread with yummy fresh cheese, tomato kisses and more. There was never a lot of food—so you shouldn’t go to the show hungry—but it was just enough to add to the general luxuriousness of the event.

The singers were, for the most part, fantastic. Meredith Cain-Nielsen in particular has a lovely alto voice. Her performance of Guilette’s solos were divine and when she sang the famous duet “Belle Nuit, o Nuit D’amour” with Tracey Zavadil, chills went down my spine. Carmelita Guse performed very well as Antonia, the afflicted artist, and Lauren Drasler, dressed in a yellow petticoat with red circles on her cheeks, was charming as Olympia, the austere automaton. Drasler’s performance of “Les oiseaux dans la charmille” (“The Doll Song”) had me smiling the whole time. She is both very quirky and very skilled in singing.

All of the songs performed by John Zeiler, who played the title role, were 80s pop songs (including a very funny rendition of Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls”), but I’m afraid he was upstaged by his lady counterparts and by the wonderful ensemble including Walter Gies, who played the violin and also played a convincing villain.

I am friends with the producer of the show, Scotty Reynolds, but even if I had never met Scotty I would tell you that you simply must go see Tales of Hoffman. I’m very impressed with the whole concept, and I also will say that the show has tightened up greatly from when he ventured upon the first Picnic Operetta last year. So go. Bring a lawn chair. And prepare yourself to be swept away.