I headed back to one of my favorite theatre spaces, Gremlin Theatre for BAKERSFIELD MIST. Based on a true story this production is funny, thought-provoking, and incredibly engaging.
We meet Maude (Jen Maren), an unemployed bartender who lives in a trailer park and recently purchased a painting for a few bucks from a thrift store as a joke gift for her neighbor. When trying to sell it at a garage sale, the local art teacher mentioned it may be worth something. Maude is now convinced that is is a lost masterpiece by Jackson Pollock, and could be worth millions. Enter, Lionel Percy (John Middleton) an art expert who has come from New York to authenticate the painting, but what he discovers next is more than he expected.
Maren and Middleton are perfectly matched in this fast moving two-handed comedic-drama directed by Angela Timberman. Their characters are polar opposites at first glance, but upon further inspection, they may have more in common than even they want to admit. Much like the piece of art they are debating, sometimes you have to dig deeper to really understand what you are looking at, first glances don’t tell the whole story. In the wrong hands these characters could have come off as over the top or one-dimensional, but with this team they are grounded and relatable, a joy to watch. The dynamic between creates an energy in the theatre keeping you on your toes until the final moments.
The intimate theatre space makes you feel like you are always right in the action, I can early to settle in and enjoy the incredible detailed set that you could move right into. (Set Design by Carl Schoenborn and Prop Design by Sarah Bauer).
Running through April 2nd, BAKERSFIELD MIST by Stephen Sachs is a 75 minute rollercoaster filled with laugh out loud moments and has you leaving questions about art and the authenticity of others. Located next to Lake Monster Brewery I recommend coming early to grab some food at their rotating food truck and grabbing a drink before heading over to the show! Tickets and information: https://gremlintheatre.org
Oh my, I don’t even know where to start! BORN WITH TEETH by Liz Duffy Adams is a bloody brilliant. Set in a back room of a London tavern in the 1590’s we watch the meetings of Kit Marlowe and William Shakespeare. A battle of wits and wordplay unfold as we explore their relationship with the passion of force of these two men as they flirt with losing everything.
Matthew Amendt (Kit) and Dylan Godwin (Will) are the perfect pair for this quick-witted sparing match. The keep us on our toes trying to figure out the nature of this relationship, are they enemies trying to figure out each others motives, colleagues forced together to write a new history play, or something more. They are so grounded in who their characters are, Kit a poet with a flair for the dramatics and passion for living his life to the fullest and Will, the upcoming poet with a family to support and a few secrets of his own. There is nothing I love more than a 90 minute, no intermission, production but I could have watched Amendt and Godwin all day!
The post-play discussion following our production was an audience Q&A with Matthew Amendt and Dylan Godwin. I always love sticking around and being part of these conversations, make me excited to go home and continue the research on the production. They both had some incredible insight on the script and their process to researching their roles and the time period. I was fairly unfamiliar with Marlowe, but after BORN WITH TEETH and Amendt’s commentary, this will be changing soon! This type of Q&A helps expand upon the experience so much and something to look out for if attending a performance of BORN WITH TEETH, or anything else coming up around town! Plan it into your day, stay for the talkbacks 🙂
Running through April 2nd, BORN WITH TEETH is one you MUST add to you plans! Bonus it’s 90 minutes long! Tickets and information: https://www.guthrietheater.org
Trademark Theater and Jungle Theater have teamed up to co-produce 5, a new intimate apocalyptic tale by JuCoby Johnson. It’s an incredible collaboration and intriguing story of friendship and rippling effect of every choice we make.
Like their fathers before them, Jay and Evan are best friends and run the local convenience store. When a real estate developer stops by with an offer to buy the store, their friendship is tested. Their lives and community are ripped apart as Evan makes a difficult decision. Eric Hagen (Evan) and JuCoby Johnson (Jay) establish the quick banter and blunt honesty only possible in a long standing friendship like Jay and Evan, from the moment you meet these characters you understand there is a long history between them, making the decisions to follow hit that much harder.
Directed by H. Adam Harris, the entire ensemble is strong in their roles and bringing the nuances in each of the characters to life and present fully formed and well-rounded characters. The incredible cast also features Aaron Todd Douglas (Walter), Isabella Dawis (June), and Dana Lee Thompson (Stacy).
The creative team includes Chelsea M. Warren (Scenic Designer), Sarah Bahr (Costume Designer), Bill Healey (Lighting Designer), Dan Dukich (Sound Designer), John Novak (Stage Manager/Properties Designer), Annie Enneking (Fight Consultant), Spencer Arevalo (Assistant Lighting Designer), and Sophina Saggau (Assistant Director).
I am a HUGE fan of TC theatre collaborations and co-productions and 5 is no exception! Running through April 16th at the Jungle Theater, this is one not to miss! For more information and tickets: https://www.jungletheater.org/
A wonderful mother daughter night out at Calendar Girls at Lakeshore Players Theatre for this funny and heart warming play about the power of friendship. Running through March 26th add this to your schedule for a fun girls night that will have you smiling and remembering to find the people who feel like sunshine and hold them close.
Based on a true story and the Miramax motion picture, Calander Girls is the story of a women’s group who band together and literally bear it all to help a friend. After the death of Annie’s husband to cancer, along with her best friend Chris, they come up with a wild new idea for their annual calendar fundraiser. The will take “nude” photos staring the women in their club, after some hesitation the women decide together it would be just the perfect way to honor his passing and reclaim the confidence each one needed in their lives. Though the “risqué” calendar initially gets some pushback from the local group leaders, news spreads and they begin to sell out and are able to make an incredible donation with the proceeds.
The ensemble had us laughing out loud with.a chemistry that matched the many years of friendship between them all. Each women with their own story to tell and something to gain from the calendar making experience. On our way out we were all handed a packet of sunflower seeds with a quote from Annie’s late husband “Sow these seeds and you’ll see that wherever light is, these flowers will find it. Which is such an admirable thing. A such a lesson in life.” CALENDAR GIRLS is an hilarious and heart felt journey that reminds us of the importance of friendship and the importance of finding the sunlight.
Running through March 26th at the Hanifl Performing Arts Center in White Bear Lake. CALENDAR GIRLS is written by Tim Firth and Directed by Megan K. Pence. Information and tickets: https://www.lakeshoreplayers.org
THE SORCERER was my first experience with The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company and an absolutely wonderful introduction. This production kept me engaged and smiling through mismatched love and magic spells. Directed by Gary Briggle the entire ensemble brought this world to life and made for a thoroughly entertaining evening.
We meet Alexis and Aline, the son and daughter of the community’s two aristocratic families who are head over heels in love. Alexis wishes that everyone in the town could be as happily in love as they are and turns to John Wellington Wells of J. W. Wells & Co., Family Sorcerers to create a love potion. The potion is unknowing consumed by everyone and it causes the entire village to fall in love with the first person they see. As you can imagine, this results in some pretty comical mismatching. All is well until Aline drinks the potion as well and falls love with another man. Alexis must find a way to break this spell.
The cast features Sif Oberon as The Sorcerer John Wellington Wells the mystical newcomer who charms and delights us even when dealign with the darker side of magic , Maggie Benham and Anna Maher share the role of lucky in love Aline and Seth Tychon Steidl with a gorgeous voice and fantastic characterization of the lovestruck Alexis. The rest of the cast of townspeople are wonderful in filling out the world of this village and acting hilariously in love under the spell of the potion.
This was my first experience with The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company and am looking forward to seeing what they do next. Performances are at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center, at Plymouth Congregational Church, located at 1900 Nicollet Avenue South, in Minneapolis. Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm & Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 pm. Tickets: https://gsvloc.org
The taste of FEAST, kept me hungry for more! As one of the best theatrical experiences so far this year, get your tickets to FEAST now. It was JUST extended through April 1st but with limited seating in the hall you won’t want to miss your chance to see it.
Presented as a co-production at the Black Forest Inn in Minneapolis, FEAST begins with just that… a feast. As one of my favorite restaurants in town the food accompanying the show did not disappoint, included with your price of admission is a dinner you get to choose from a special menu. I got the Chicken Paprikash (on the bone) and spätzel and *chef’s kiss* it was delicious. Seated at tables of 6 we chatted with the fellow dinner guests and enjoyed some dinner time entertainment by Guitarist Scott Keever until our “host” was ready for us.
From the moment Isabel Nelson enters as the host I was hooked and suddenly unsure of what was about to come next. The host introduces herself as “the nemesis of our forefathers, the sea-hag, the bog-witch, and mother of Grendel, who has taken the form of a middle-aged lady… thirsting for revenge”. For the following 75 minutes she recounts the day her son was killed by Beowulf and the rage she has felt since losing him. The love of a mother is powerful and all consuming, there is no-one as protective as a mother and her story mirrors just that.
In this role Nelson has the whole space to use as her stage as she walks around speaking to each of us as if she has personally invited us there to hear her story. Her energy radiated through the room and had me hanging on each word she said. The script is other worldly, yet incredibly relatable. Dramatic and pointed, while making us laugh and feel for the pain she has experienced. It’s a brilliant script executed perfectly by the team. Bravo to all involved, I am eager to see more of what you are currently serving.
FEAST by Megan Gogerty is directed by Allison Vincent and performed by Isabel Nelson. Running through April 1, get your tickets: https://www.walkingshadow.org
Sorry for the food puns, I just couldn’t help it 🙂
Aniya Hollie (Ti Moune) is excited to be back for her fourth STC production after appearing in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr., Tuck Everlasting TYA, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. She is currently a junior at Osseo Senior High as well as a PSEO student at North Hennepin Community College. In middle school she did a project on the show with costume design and everything. Now she’s playing the lead role of Ti Moune.
“Ti Moune is the first character I had an instant connection with as I am also on the brink of adulthood. Ti Moune wants to travel alone but her parents are protective, next year I’ll be going to college and facing the adult world. She is VERY brave, maybe braver than me, but both go after our goals and achieve them. I love that she stands for the love she wants and overcomes challenges”
One of the more popular songs from the production, “Why We Tell the Story” is a beautiful moment at the end of the show. Aniya says “It’s a celebration, Ti Moune breaks the societal norm of what love looks like in life so the island is celebrating! It’s a wonderful moment watching how her story continues to be told.
Aniya shared that she had also reached out to Hailey Kilgore, who played Ti Moune in the Broadway revival of the production, and she got a response on Instagram! Her message when playing this role was to “Be yourself, and tell her story by being you!” Such wonderful advice and a cool memory to take with her into the run.
In addition to preparing for the role Aniya has been running the Ti Moune Takeover on the Stages Instagram, ” It’s been fun to post when I can and do some Q&A’s, send me more questions and the cast will answer them!”
Jordan Kueng (Daniel) is super excited to be back for his fourth production at Stages. STC Credits: Disney’s The Little Mermaid, JR., Tuck Everlasting, and Elf the Musical. He auditioned because he loves the story, “It’s a retelling of the Little Mermaid with a deeper telling, Jordan mentioned. “It’s a beautiful story and choreograph with a richness that feels of home.” He is also in the First Job in the Arts program and was the Student Director for the production of MAYBE. “Stages has made me want to keep pursuing theater!”
“The show is about classism and is the major issue it confronts. Ti Moune’s story about being more than she is given and knowing the gods must have saved her for something special. The she meets Daniel she thinks ‘This boy must be my way out- he’s special.’ Daniel finds her to be his own way out. It’s a love story, but the gods want to test this love. Love does win in the end, but there is a price. We can love and love, but there may always be something in the way.”
Jordan is playing this love interest and male protagonist, Daniel. “I love Daniel, he is a complicated character. He’s the prince, but he is not a prince charming and he has many layers, so it’s an interesting role to play”, said Jordan. “He has never been allowed to be a kid so he wants to rebel against the world he lived in and Ti Moune helps him realize this.”
Jordan and Aniya both beamed when I asked about working with Director and Choreographer, Kelli Foster Warder, and the rest of the cast. Aniya said, “This is my first time working with Kelli, SHE’S AMAZING, and often choreographs sections on the spot which makes it a fun process. The cast is wonderful, different ages and ethnicities, working with all kinds of people in a room with people with different stories and experiences is great.” says Aniya. “The show addresses the class system and the rehearsal room has been open and allowed for lots of conversations on a deeper level.” Jordan echoed this sentiment by saying “The cast is diverse with people from everywhere. I love to work with everyone here and love that I can share so much with these talented group of young actors. Kelli is great at adding in what each person is able to bring to the table, she wants to showcase what we can do and our art.”
Final messages from this two wonderful young actors:
Jordan: “I want everyone to come see this show because not many people know about it, and it’s a treasure. I know I am biased but this is one to come see.”
Aniya: “[Once on this Island] is different perspective of how challenges can be overcome. You will see the impact of the generations beyond Ti Moune. We are working hard on this piece of art so come be on the island with us”
ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, JR tells the story of Ti Moune, a young girl with a big heart. A Calypso-flavored score weaves through this heart filled tale that tests the strength of love. A 60-minute, young-audience adaption of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical packed with catchy songs and non-stop dance. Once on this Island, JR runs at Stages Theatre Company in Hopkins March 3-19, 2023. Recommended ages 7+. Tickets and information: https://www.stagestheatre.org/once-on-this-island/
I am still laughing and singing the entertaining and nostalgic tunes from THE WEDDING SINGER. Running through March 26th at Lyric Arts in Anoka, this light-hearted, hilariously fun, 80’s musical based on the film starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore is the ROCKING ray of sunshine you need to get through this cold snap!
I am a sucker for a rom com, I am sucker for an Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore collab, and I am sucker for a musical.. in a nutshell the film this production is based on is a classic and so enjoyable to see come to the stage. It takes all the fun of the movie and amplifies it with full ensemble musical numbers and new music that just makes you want to join in.
THE WEDDING SINGER is about Robbie Hart, who is just that… A Wedding Singer. He is the life of the wedding party circuit and a hopeless romantic about to marry the girl of his dreams. Well he was, until his fiancée leaves him at the altar. Scorned, he bitterly begins to make every wedding a disaster until a new waitress, Julia steps in to help. Julia has always dreamed of getting married and after dragging his feet is finally engaged to Glen, an obnoxious and power hungry Wall Street shark who may not be as committed to marriage as Julia thinks. As Julia and Robbie’s friendship blooms into something more, Robbie must stop her from marrying Glen get the perfect rom com ending they deserve!
Chris Paulson is a strong and hilarious Robbie Hart paired with the quickly lovable Haley Methner is Julia. Audrey Johnson is Holly, Julia’s sassy best friend with a musical number to end act one that had me begging for more! Justin Michael and Cris Sanchez play the rest of Robbie’s band and are the loyal best friends though slightly misguided. Joey Brueske plays Glen, Julia’s obnoxious and power hungry fiancé. An absolute crowd favorite is Sher U-F as Rosie, Robbie’s feisty and lovable grandmother who had us laughing out loud.
The ensemble includes Jaclyn McDonald, Hannah Bakke, Latanya Boone, Ann Brummer, Cody Dahlson, Megan Engelhard, Caitlin Featherstone, Carter Hoffer, Madeline Kadlec, Morgan Kempton, Max Kile, Doni Marinos, Tommy McCarthy, Abilene Olson, Brandon Osero, France A. Roberts, Alex Stokes, Luis Ventura, and Courtney VonVett.
Directed by Jake Sung-Guk Sullivan this large cast brings this love story to life in a in funny, heart-felt, and totally rocking way. The band features Joanna Bachmann on Bass, Kyle Baker on Guitar, Jarod Bendele on Drums, Wesley Frye on Keyboard and Vocals, Jeff A. Miller on Guitar and Vocals, and Laurie Sherman on Bass.
BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY is an incredible drama set in Harlem in the 1930s about a group of friends doing their best to keep their dreams alive. When a newcomer from Alabama arrives these friends are faced with challenging decisions about what their futures hold and the sacrifices they are willing to make. An incredible ride with joyous highs full of success and the bonds of friendship to the real and heart breaking lows about the sacrifices made in desperate moments. An incredible piece of bold theatre that is NOT TO BE MISSED this month.
We meet Angel, a recently unemployed blues singer played brilliantly by Kimberly Marable and her roommate Guy Jacobs, a costume designer with his eyes set on Paris played by Lamar Jefferson as the selfless best friend supporting Angel. They live across the hall from Delia Patterson, a by the book social worker working to get clinics in Harlem played by Brittany Bellizeare. Rounding out their group is Sam Thomas, a work-hard/play-hard doctor played by Stephen Conrad Moore who forms a connection with Delia.
The first act we are introduced to each character and grow the exposition of who they are and the dreams they are chasing. The deep dive into each character is intriguing and we are exposed to each character’s successes and short-comings, creating a much more fully formed understanding of who each one of them are, where they came from, and why we want to root for them moving forward. I found things in each character that I could relate with or could compare to people in my lives.
Their dynamic is flipped on its head when Angel meets Leland Cuningham, a gentleman from Alabama who sees the face of a lost love in Angel’s and who’s traditional southern upbringing is a jarring opposite from the rest of this group. Leland is played by Darius Jordan Lee. Leland falls for Angel fast and hard, Angel is faced with a decision to explore an exciting life with Guy or to learn to overcome their difference in opinions and choose the stability of life with Leland.
But it’s the second act that builds upon our understanding of these characters and the dramatic elements and conflict of opinions are heightened. From topics of gay rights, abortion and birth control, and a continued fight for black equality though set in the 1930’s there resonate and are relevant still today. This reality makes their conversations and fights more personal and a reflection on where we are today in society. A continued conversation that has kept this production on my mind for the last week and will continue to stay with me.
Her decision between the family she built and a future with Leland leads to devastating outcomes and impacts all of their futures. In the final moments we see the “New Gentleman” played by Kevis Hillocks, leaving us to believe there hadn’t been change in Angel and she would continue to put herself first to survive. The riveting conclusion had me hanging on every last word in this captivating play.
Who knew a teddy bear chasing a missing button could be so fun?!? This wacky and incredibly enjoyable adaptation of the book, Corduroy, is one that’s perfect for all ages.
Corduroy is a teddy bear in a department store who is on a mission to find his missing button. As he ventures through the department store at night chaos and hilarity ensues as a nighttime security guard tries to apprehend him. We also meet Lisa, a young girl who noticed Corduroy on her way of the store and is determined to do whatever it takes to earn some extra money to go back and bring the little bear home with her. Seems like a simple enough plot right? Well, add in physical comedy and over the top props for a show unlike any I’ve seen lately.
The Cast of Corduroy features longtime CTC Company Members Autumn Ness as the Nighttime Security Guard and Dean Holt as Corduroy who had me laughing outloud as they chased each other around the set. Alya Porter as Lisa, the young girl innocently making mistakes in her quest to make a friends, Alexcia Thompson as Lisa’s grounded Mother trying to keep her cool through the chaos. Rounding out the cast are Luciana Mayer and Hugo Mullaney as the Mannequins. The Mannequins move the story along and quickly became my favorite part of the production with their perfectly choreographed scene changes and quirky interactions with the audience and other characters onstage. The duo of Mullaney and Mayer were so in sync and fun to watch.
The scenic design by Torry Bend and large set pieces were wonderful and used quite literally as the actors playground. With tall structures to climb on, boxes to jump in and out of, and escalators that I could have watched Ness and Holt attempt to climb all day. When you work in theatre, or see a lot of it, I often catch myself trying to figure out the logistics behind props and special effect moments. With Corduroy I was able to sit back and experience the theatre magic through the eyes of the kids around me, a truly special thing to experience.
Based on the books entitled Corduroy and A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman. Adapted for the stage by Barry Kornhauser. Directed by Peter C. Brosius. Running through April 2, 2023.