It was such a pleasure to kick off the 2022-23 Theater season with a few musicals, SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN at Lakeshore Players and LUMBERJACKS IN LOVE at Lyric Arts.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN at Lakeshore Players
I have seen the movie SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN a few times but never a staged production so it was awesome to be able to bring my theatre going buddy Christine to Lakeshore Players for the first time and to witness it literally rain on stage together! This movie musical comes to life onstage in White Bear Lake with the classic songs, even I recognized, like “Good Mornin'” and “Make ‘Em Laugh” and of course “Singin’ in the Rain”.
The physical comedy and clowny moments by Brendan Veerman as Cosmo Brown were some of my favorites. The duo of Tommy McCarthy as leading man Don Lockwood and Julia Ennen as Kathy Selden, the talented young actress looking for their big break, were a joy to watch as the turn from fighting strangers to the romantic leads. Overall an enjoyable evening that will have you dancing in your seat.
LUMBERJACKS IN LOVE is a silly romantic comedy musical full of slap-stick jokes and ending with heart-felt moments. The Lives of 5 Lumberjacks are turned upside down when a mail order bride arrives and they have to figure out what it means to love another and themselves. With hilarious moments of hidden identity and songs that made me chuckle like “Buncha Naked Lumberjacks” it’s a quick moving romp and light hearted way to start the season of theater .
The cast includes Minnesota Slim (Ryan Lee), Muskrat (Mark Palmer), Dirty Bob (Steve Ramirez), Moonlight (Mark Deel), The Kid (Siri Hammond), and Rose (Caitlin Burns). They elevate a rather simple story line with wonderful comedic timing and over the top moments that you just can’t help but laugh.
WONDERLAND with Collide Theatrical is performing at Artistry now through Oct 2nd in the Black Box Theater. Go down the rabbit hole in this incredibly clever telling and modern examination of the characters of Alice in Wonderland. Through dance set to popular music including songs like “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah, Yeah Yeahs and “Overwhelmed” by Royal & The Serpent, WONDERLAND digs deeper into each character asking the question what is “normal”.
Collide Theatrical is a non-profit arts organization who’s mission is to be “dedicated to telling theatrical stories through music and dance. Their ground-breaking productions bring dance, music, and theater to a modern audience”. Collide was founded by Regina Peluso who created and choreographed WONDERLAND.
The cast features Jarod Boltjes, Michaela Borowski, Heather Brockman, Renee Guittar, Javan Mngrezzo, Michael Mossucco, and Elly Stahlke. Each performer fully embodies these familiar characters and takes us on an compelling and engaging journey through their mental health challenges.
I was immediately drawn into the world of Wonderland. The Doctor (Boltjes) accompanied by a voice over by Ryan Colbert introduces each character (Alice, The Caterpillar, The Madhatter, The White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat, and The Red Queen) and their respective diagnoses. The songs chosen for each character and what they were going through were absolutely perfect. The dances to each one conveyed their stories so beautifully, it was a pleasure to watch it unfold.
You just have to see it for yourself to find out, a fabulous introduction to Collide! Wonderland is performed in 90 minutes without intermission. Learn more and purchase tickets: https://artistrymn.org/wonderland
Happy Fringemas Everyone! Check back for more coverage as the festival goes! Aug 4-14th! Hope you are out there seeing some shows 🙂
EROTICA FOR HOUSEPLANTS by Tom Reed
EROTICA FOR HOUSEPLANTS was an incredible way to start my 2022 Fringe! A series of stories about the sexier side of plants. From pistons to pollination, you will never look at your house plants the same way again. Tom speaks candidly to the audience in between the silly and humorous stories. Highlight is the improv “crowd work” with the houseplants brought by audience members (only at the Fringe is there designated plant seating for a show!) Bonus was running into fellow bloggers Cherry and Spoon and The Stages of MN. This is a MUST SEE this year! Location: Mixed Blood
ON A STICK: A Minnesota State Fair Musical by Literally Entertainment
ON A STICK follows the story of a band trying to make it big, but playing to an empty bar. After striking a deal with the bar owner they head to the state fair to find an audience. They must work through their differences to save their band and the entire Great Minnesota Get Together! Full of MN Fair references, this show is entertaining and a fun way to get in the mood for the fair! Location: Rarig Center
FINGER LICKIN’ GOOD with Special When Lit
FINGER LICKIN’ GOOD is the hilarious “true” story behind everyone’s favorite bucket of chicken, KFC. We follow the life of Colonel Harland David Sanders as he recounts how the business began, how it grew, and how greed and chicken go hand in hand. It’s funny, clever, punny as heck, over the top energy and fun, original, and at times sexy. Shanan Custer as the flustered fact checker matched by the enthusiastic and perfectly cast Colonel Sanders, Sam Landman was a JOY to watch in action. Another MUST SEE this year! Location: Rarig Center
COWBOY & WIDOW, A HONKYTONK MUSICAL with Belville Productions
COWBOY & WIDOW, A HONKYTONK MUSICAL is a love story with a few unexpected twists. From rags to riches a cowboy leaves his world behind when he falls in love with a well off widow. This “fairy tale” cinderella story quickly changes as money becomes a larger part of their relationship. I was prepared for more music all the way through in the musical, but the songs included were catchy and charmingly country. Eloquent narration by Lynn Lohr carries us through the story all the way to a surprising ending! Location: Theatre in the Round
STRANGER VS THE MALEVOLENT MALIGNANCY with The Feral Theatre Company
STRANGER VS THE MALEVOLENT MALIGNANCY is full of superheroes, super flashbacks, and super Cancer (literally). Themes of mortality and knowing when you need to ask for help resonate through a script that is comical, silly, serious, and absurd at times. Hidden identities and arch enemies will keep you guessing on how this hero will survive. Location: Theatre in the Round
WHO’S AFRAID OF WINNIE THE POOH? with Clevername Theatre
WHO’S AFRAID OF WINNIE THE POOH? was brilliant! Years of living together has tested the friendship of lovable characters Piglet and Pooh. When Piglet invites new people over for a night cap the darker side of the Hundred Acre Wood comes to light. This script was clever and crisp with an execution that makes it a 100 % must see this year! The entire cast is phenomenal but Thomas Baun as Winnie brought the bitter and dramatic side to our favorite silly old bear to life in the darkest and most unexpected way. Location: Theatre in the Round
THE SHRIEKING HARPIES
Finally got to see THE SHRIEKING HARPIES in action! They are a musical improv group that performs a brand new musical every night based on prompts from the audience. This team is so in tune with each other to take improv to a new level. It was a pleasure to watch them create and play off each others energy! Our prompt was YA romance and the apocalypse… and one of the funniest musicals I’ve seen in a while. Check them out to see what musical journey your audience will go on! Location: Rarig Center
SWORDS & SORCERY: The Improvised Fantasy Campaign with Bearded Company
SWORDS & SORCERY: The Improvised Fantasy Campaign is a fully improvised campaign with the fate of our heroes placed on the roll of a 20-sided dice. It was a BLAST watching this group play off each other and work together to fully create this fantasy world. Guided by a dungeon master and accompanied by music, by the end of the 45 minutes I realized I could have watched them for all full 2 hours. Nerdy, quick, funny, adventurous, and impressive! Location: Theatre in the Round
A DAY WITH THE NEWHARTS with Melancholics Anonymous
A DAY WITH THE NEWHARTS is a clever mix of a 1950’s sitcom family and the darker side the Minnesota Nice. The Newharts are the picture perfect MN family welcoming their new neighbors with an old fashioned summer BBQ. But behind those permanent grins holds a dark reality. It’s clever, full of MN references, dark, and keeps you on your toes. Location: Mixed Blood
NEWTON JR is the son on Sir Isaac Newton and working on finding their own scientific discovery. When they keep coming up short the enlist the help of the audience for more ideas and encouragement. Follow “Newt” as he discovers exactly what he needs to make his father proud. It’s silly, fun, very audience interactive, and in the end very sweet. Location: Augsburg
SHE’S ALREADY GONE by Dierke Productions
SHE’S ALREADY GONE has been the biggest surprise of the festival so far. I went in with no idea what to expect and left inspired, moved, and with tears in my eyes. Erika Dierke (16) is the playwright and I can tell, she has a bright future ahead of her. We follow Maria in 1940’s Belgium awaiting her boyfriend coming home from war when her surroundings slowly become unfamiliar. A thoughtful examination of memory, companionship, and the heart breaking reality of aging. Go see it, bring some tissues, and see for yourself the newest generation of Fringe artists. Location: Augsburg
SHOE NIGHT with Encompass Theatre
SHOE NIGHT is a slice of life as ex’s run into each other at a shoe store 4 years after he abruptly ended it. In an attempt at closure they share memories, good and bad, laughs, and hardest parts of their time apart. The awkwardness and forced small talk was incredibly relatable and real to witness paired with an unspoken chemistry between these ex’s. See how it plays out for yourself…. Location: Theatre in the Round
ARSGANG: WHAT YOU FOLLOW FOLLOWS YOU with The Winding Sheet Outfit
ARSGANG: WHAT YOU FOLLOW FOLLOWS YOU was a haunting beautiful walk through the woods exploring what we would sacrifice for the ones we love. WSO is known to for their ability to transport the audience to other places focused on the atmosphere and storytelling before us. It was visually interesting, eerie yet somehow calming, wonderful writing, and a solid performance by the whole ensemble Location: Theatre in the Round
DEVELOPERS was worth staying out for a 10pm show! My knowledge of video games ends with OG Nintendo and Frogger but found so much to relate to in this show. When three video game developers venture out from their big brand company to make their own game, the studio lead reflects on his own career and when the passion for creating turned into cranking out what investors wanted. At the end of the day the developers left to create something they believed in and as artists we can all understand that need. A great performance by the whole ensemble, great writing, and creative staging. Check it out! Location: Center for the Performing Arts
ENDOMETRIOSIS: The Musical
Run don’t walk to the final performance of ENDOMETRIOSIS: The Musical Aug 14 at 1pm!! Wish I would have been able to see it earlier in the festival but so glad I finally witnessed this clever, funny, relatable, and amazing musical about this important topic. We follow the story of Jane as she goes to an infuriating numbers of doctors who won’t validate her pain, she’s just trying to get through the day and it feels like none wants to listen (or even talk about) such a “inappropriate” topic of a menstrual cycle. So many relatable moments that our corner of the theatre begin snapping in agreement and audibly gasping at other parts. Top notch production and music numbers.. I will be watching to see where this show goes next! p.s. Can you record a cast album?? Location: Theatre in the Round
Oh what a joy for a musical nerd like me to see SOMETHING ROTTEN! Full of musical references all scrambled up into a few hours of fun, this was a perfect introduction to this show. I have been listening to the soundtrack on repeat ever since and keep finding musical jokes and references every time. SOMETHING ROTTEN is something you have to add to your list this summer!!
We follow the story of the Bottom Brothers who are on a mission to write the next big show of the Renaissance, but one big thing is standing in their way, theatre rockstar William Shakespeare. In an effort to compete with the bard Nick Bottom hires a soothsayer to look into the future to discover how to outshine his arch-nemesis Will, his answer is to write the first musical. From this point on hilarity ensues as Nick and his brother Nigel get to work and the visions of this musical start to get scrambled. Through musical jokes, tap dance battles, and hidden identities they learn more about themselves and learn to thine-selves they must be true.
The cast includes Jim Ahrens, Justin Betancourt as the comical soothsayer Nostradamus, Elizabeth Cassidy, Kyler Chase as the stubborn and goal seeking Nick Bottom, Cody Dahlson, Laini Devin, Andy Elefenbein, Becca Hart as Nick’s wife and hilarious right hand Bea who will do anything to help them achieve their goal, Grant Hooyer as the romantic poet Nigel Bottom on his own journey to find his own voice and love, Morgan Kempton, Eric Knutson, Kiko Laureano, Ryan Ledman, Joshua Meltzer, Lars Nisswandy, Brandon Osero, Steven Ramirez, Marley Ritchie, Alex Stokes, Jack Strub, Carol Swanson as the bard himself William Shakespeare, Courtney Vonvett as Portia a local puritan with a passion for sonnets and Nigel, and Tori Wheeler.
You will be cheering them on and wanting to jump on stage to join their chorus line or tap dancing battles in this upbeat, silly, clever, and fully entertaining musical. Running through Aug 14: https://www.lyricarts.org/something-rotten
Three movie to musical adaptations are happening around the Twin Cities to entertain the whole family this summer!
School of Rock- The Zephyr Theatre in Stillwater
“Stick it to the MAN” with this ROCKING adaptation with music from Andrew Lloyd Webber. SCHOOL OF ROCK! The Musical follows the same story of Dewey, a musician who was recently kicked out of his band, pretending to be a teacher at a prestigious prep school. After learning of their musical talents, he assembles a band from this group of kids to compete in Battle of the Bands. Reed Sigmund plays Dewey and hilariously embodies the character we know and love while adding his own fun ad-libs. They are performing on the banks of the St. Criox River which makes for an AWESOME second act as they perform at the Battle of the Bands and epic stage lighting takes over. The cast assembled is incredible including the youth rocking out on their own instruments and adding an awesome energy to the story.
Let your “FREAK FLAG FLY” with SHREK the Musical at Artistry. We follow the journey of Shrek, an ogre who will do anything to get the fairytale creatures who were banished from their kingdom by Lord Farquaad out of his swamp. Shrek agrees to a deal to rescue Princess Fiona so Farquaad can make her his bride in exchange for getting everyone out of his home. Along the way this solitary ogre finds friendship and love to his own happily-ever-after. “I Know It’s Today” is one of my favorite songs and the trio of Anja Arora as young Fiona, Tyra Lee Ramsey as teen Fiona and Diedre Cochran as Adult Fiona were superb and gave me chills. The entire cast was strong with incredible energy that made me wish I was on stage dancing along with them. Running through Aug 14: https://artistrymn.org
The Little Mermaid, JR– Stages Theatre Companyin Hopkins
A 60 minute adaptation of the Disney story you know and love, THE LITTLE MERMAID, JR at Stages Theatre Company was so fun and had me dancing in my seat. A few favorite moments of the show are “Part of Your World” which leave a huge smile on my face, the entire ensemble taking us “Under the Sea”, Chef Louis hilariously chasing Sebastion in “Les Poissons”, and a song that was new to me “She’s in Love” sung by Flounder and the Mer-sisters. The whole show is delighly nostalgic with a few new and exciting additions! I have had the joy of knowing many of the performers for many years in my role there and I was so impressed and proud of their performance. Running until Aug 7: https://www.stagestheatre.org/disneys-little-mermaid/
We had so much fun at opening night of HOLMES AND WATSON at Park Square Theatre trying to guess what would come at the end of this engaging mystery. As fan of the famous Holmes and Watson stories it was so fun to see a new adventure unfold on-stage with all the wit and wonderful mis-directs we have come to love and expect.
Sherlock Holmes is dead… or is he? Years after Holmes famously fell to his death with arch-nemesis Moriarty, John Watson gets a telegram from an asylum with 3 men claiming to be him, but which one is the real Holmes? Something is a foot as Watson interviews each man to discover their true identities. Though we had our solid theories neither one was correct, the clever twists kept me guessing and engaged the whole time.
The cast includes Kirby Bennett, Pearce Bunting, Paul de Cordova, Peter Simmons, Bruce Roach, Peter Christian Hansen, and Daniel Petzold. The three actors who all played “Holmes” were intriguing and convincing in the well known roles in different ways, as each new one was introduced I was immediately convinced they were the real Holmes, which just confused my theory more. Truly great casting with three very different Holmes who all still had the essence, wit and obscurity that is Holmes. I don’t want to give it away so you will just have to see it for yourself to see how this one plays out.
After years of hearing all about GLENSHEEN at the History Theatre am I am so excited to have finally seen it, and wow did it live up to my expectations! The dark comedy musical moves along quickly and keeps you on the ride from humorous moments to the dramatic revelations each character goes through while following the true story of a murder in the Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, well we follow A version of the story.
On June 27, 1977 an intruder entered the Glensheen mansion located in Duluth and murdered two women Elisabeth Congdon (83) and Velma Pietila (63) origionally assumed to be a robbery gone wrong. As police investigated more they became suspicious of Elisabeth’s daughter Marjorie and husband Roger Caldwell and for over 10 years arrests, headlines, acquittals, confessions, and arson unfolded. There are always many sides to a story and this musical makes you think about the motives and view points each person had.
The cast includes: Jen Maren as Marjorie, Dane Stauffer as Roger Caldwell, Gary Briggle, Suzie Juul, Wendy Lehr, Randy Schmeling, and Sandra Struthers. I was fully engrossed in watching this gripping story unfold before my eyes, the incredible cast assembled were fantastic as they ran around and hilariously presented this whodunit musical.For us, Wendy Lehr stole she show as she went from the slow moving Elisabeth Caldwell to literally jumping on theatre seats and “flossing” during the act 2 opening number then adding back in the humanity of the script with the story behind the nurse who was caught in the crossfire of the family drama.
During intermission we spoke with a woman who has now seen the production 12 times over the years and said it just gets better every time. A Glensheen tradition may just be starting for my Mom and I. Running just until July 24th, don’t miss your chance to see this dark park of the Glensheen Mansions history come to live on stage!
Originally scheduled earlier in the season and postponed due to the pandemic, I am so incredibly glad Yellow Tree was able to reschedule it to close out the 14th Season. In The Next Room, or the vibrator play runs through June 26th and a perfect break from the heat coming this weekend. It’s a dramatic comedy that will make you laugh-out loud while taking in this entertainingly fresh take on relationships, science and the history of electricity.
Inside the quintessential Victorian home, the energetic Mrs. Catherine Givings is overwhelmed with caring for her newborn and curious about what happens within the walls of her husband’s laboratory in the next room over. Dr. Givings has invented an extraordinary new device designed for treating “hysteria” in women. When a new “hysterical woman” comes for treatment this curiosity grows until she can’t take it anymore. This examination of love, marriage, science, and electricity is funny, incredibly smart and witty, and captured by attention from the very beginning.
The cast is electric onstage (pun intended) and includes Paul de Cordova (Dr. Givings), Laura Esping (Annie), Erin Nicole Farste (Elizabeth), Emily Gunyou Halaas (Catherine Givings), Joel Liestman (Mr. Daldry), Adeline Phelps (Sabrina Daldry), Jamees Rodriguez, and Sophina Saggau directed by Austene Van. They executed this delicate, humorous, and intriguing script so beautifully.
Closing this weekend, make plans to see if there is a “happy ending” in their future. We always have a BLAST ushering and supporting Yellow Tree, it’s a great way to see theater when you are on a budget AND help them out at the same time! 10/10 recommend! For more information or to purchase tickets: https://yellowtreetheatre.com/next-room
Ahead this summer for Yellow Tree is the Free Summer Concert Series:
Thursday June 23, 2022 7:00 PM Julius Collins III
Thursday July 7, 2022 7:00 PM Jennifer Grimm
Thursday July 21, 2022 7:00 PM Lisa Pallen & Jeff Fawbush
Thursday August 4, 2022 7:00 PM Mississippi
Thursday August 18, 2022 7:00 PM Thomasina Petrus
All performances take place at 7:00 – 8:00 pm in the bandshell at Boerboom Park, at Central Avenue and 4th Street in Osseo.
Every year over the Memorial Day weekend my friend Sarah and I take a road trip to a random city. This year we explored Omaha Nebraska and had the pleasure of checking out KINKY BOOTS at the Omaha Community Playhouse and MAN did we have fun! A great cast brought this show to life and had us dancing in our seats through the whole show.
KINKY BOOTS is a Broadway musical that won six Tony Awards full of dazzling choreography and the entertaining music of Cyndi Lauper. It’s flashy, full of sass, heartwarming, and inspirational. Following the death of his father, Charlie Price reluctantly agrees to return to his small hometown to take over his dad’s failing shoe factory. When he meets Lola, an outspoken and unapologetic drag queen in need of a sturdy pair of exotic boots, he gets a crazy idea that just might be enough to save his fathers legacy. An unlikely friendship forms as they work to dazzle the shoe industry and find out more about themselves along the way.
Omaha Community Playhouse’s mission is to enhance quality of life through live theatre, professional touring, and arts education. Coming to the end of their 97th Season they are one the oldest arts organizations in the area. Founded in 1924, OCP was created as part of the nation’s Little Theatre movement and has multiple homes in the Omaha area but has been in its current location since the mid 80’s. It’s a spacious and easily accessible theatre space with a brilliant wall of photos from all their previous productions. We had so much fun diving into their history during intermission and after the show.
Neither one of us was familiar with the show and added the soundtrack to the rotation during the remainder of the road trip. I have a feeling belting out “The Sex is in the Heel” will continue to be a tradition on our future road trips.
Part rock concert, part history lesson, completely brilliant. Lauren Yee’s CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND is engaging from the first note. A live band playing the contemporary Dengue Fever hits and classic Cambodian oldies is intertwined with a thrilling story of a Khmer Rouge Survivor. A co-production with Theater Mu and The Jungle Theater, this is one NOT TO MISS!
The performance seamlessly moves from hilarious moments between a daughter and her embarrassing father to a haunting drama about the history he was trying to leave behind. We jump back and forth in time learning more about his past with the Khmer Rouge and this dark part of history to discover how his resilience got him to where he is today. Facing the music together in this examination of intergenerational trauma as she prepares to prosecute one of Cambodia’s most infamous war criminals is a story of love, loss, and tragedy, music, and joy.
I was in absolute awe of this stunning cast featuring Mayde Miller, Shawn Mouacheupao, Christopher Thomas Pow, Eric Sharp, Danielle Troiano, Greg Watanabe, and Deryck Hak directed by Lily Tung Crystal. I caught myself hanging on every line and so enthralled by each performer that intermission felt like it came after just 15 minutes. I was fully engaged in this story and have to applaud each cast member for the raw honesty they brought to their roles.
The program includes dramaturgy and an interview with the Artistic Directors Christina Baldwin (Jungle) and Lily Tung Crystal (Mu) about this co-production. Lily writes “It discusses a very tragic moment in history, but the beautiful thing about this play is that Lauren has taken the tragedy of the Cambodian genoicde and paired it with the beauty of art and music.” I went in wondering how the pairing of rock music with this heart-wrenching story was going to work and absolutely loved how this was achieved. Masterfully interwoven into the script, the music performed enhances the storytelling while uplifting the vibrant music showing us a rich culture and resilient spirit that leaves us hopeful at the end of this compelling drama.
You have until July 31st to see this innovative, engaging, thrilling, and raw piece of music theater. Cambodian Rock Band is recommended for ages 16 and older due to depictions of and references to war, violence, torture, strong language, and other adult content. Running June 8-July 31. For more information and tickets: https://www.theatermu.org/cambodian-rock-band