Quote of the Day: Enter into my imagination…(as the hero) lays down the melancholy burden of sanity…and sallies forth into the world to right all wrongs. Don Miguel de Cervantes, aka Don Quixote de La Mancha
That is the most memorable line from all 50+ shows I saw in 2017, and I think it sums up what happens to me when I am swept away by a performance. It comes from the outstanding musical Man of La Mancha at the Theater Latte’ Da in Minneapolis, MN. This was the most wonderful and moving musical I saw last year on the stages of Minneapolis/St. Paul. And, I bought my own ticket to see it. I read the reviews from other Twin Cities Theater Bloggers, noted that Laura from Twin Cities Stages liked it so much that she bought another ticket so she could see it again, and I quickly put it on my must-see list. Meghan Kreidler and Martin Sola in the leading roles were fantastic. I wept at the end. (I do not normally weep at shows.) It was truly an exquisite production.
Other top performances from the Twin Cities Theater scene:
Three shows at the History Theatre: The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin, an immigrant story that is much different
from my own Scandinavian heritage. The United States of America might be a melting pot, but is tries very hard to separate the ingredients. I sat next to a woman who shared a little of her own story of what happened to her and her family when they immigrated from China. This is a powerful story, and I’m so glad I was able to be in the audience and listen to the post-play discussion.
Glensheen written by Jeffrey Hatcher, music and lyrics by Chan Poling. This is a chilling musical about the murders that happened at the Glensheen mansion in Duluth, MN, in 1977. Although, it is a grim tale, and I’m sure the families involved are still hurting from it, it is part of our MN history, and one of the main reasons people visit the mansion. In fact, my friend and I brought her 10-year-old twin daughters there this past August for a tour. Hatcher and Poling did a great job of creating this story for the stage, and the actors who portrayed the characters were excellent.
Sweetland, the Musical is the story of my Scandinavian heritage. I felt like I was watching my own history unfold. Not exactly the same, and with more drama, still it has the heart of the struggle of immigrants from Norway and Germany, and trying to make a living off the land. It also showed the prejudices of the times. The musical adaptation by Perrin Post and Laurie Flanigan Hegge, music and lyrics by Laurie Flanigan Hegge and Dina Maccabee, is based on the short story, A Gravestone Made of Wheat by Will Weaver and the feature film by Ali Selim. I bought the instrumental recording, music filled with strings and harmonies that are so lovely.
I noticed more varied voices and faces on the stages of the Twin Cities this year and enjoyed getting some new perspectives. Park Square Theater and Mu Performing Company joined forces to present Flower Drum Song. The Ordway and Teatro del Pueblo worked together to produce the magnificent West Side Story and Lin Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway hit In the Heights. In fact, many casts of even traditional shows showed diversity in casting that was refreshing.
The creepiest show I saw this year was The Nether at the Jungle Theater. I still think about it, and like I said in my review, I’d like to see it again because I’m sure I only caught the first layer and it goes so much deeper.
I was sadly lacking in attending comedies this year. I resolve to get more laughs in 2018! But, the ones I saw were delightful. The Four Humors did The Importance of Being Earnest, and I loved the addition of Anna Weggel-Reed and Mandi Verstegen creating live music during the performance. The Jungle produced the new and darling play Miss Bennet, Christmas at Pemberley, and I’m thrilled to see that nearly all the performances sold out and they plan to bring it back next year! And, I would have said that was the best show I saw during the holidays, but then Sally Wingert appeared as Madame Arcati in the Guthrie’s Blithe Spirit, and I was swept away by the story, the acting, the staging, the mystical lighting, just everything. What a gift!
The dramas that haunt me the most are the Guthrie’s A Christmas Carol, which had some deeper elements this year, a female director, a female in the role of Scrooge for select performance, and the continued tradition and memory making experience for me and my boys. The other was Watch on the Rhine, also at the Guthrie, a play by Lillian Hellman. I will be studying Hellman and her work this year. She was a woman who was not afraid to use her voice, or her art, to stir up action. Caitlin O’Connell played Fanny Farrelly, the strong matriarch, with depth and passion.
I saw two shows twice this year. One was Grease at the Chanhassen. First, because it was great, and I love Grease. And, second, because I wanted my boys to see it and share the experience with them. My oldest son (age 23) said, “That was the best show you brought us to, mom. And, the actors seemed to be really enjoying themselves on stage.” (We sat at the table closest to the stage.) The other show I saw twice was our local production of Little Shop of Horrors, presented by Stage North. Director Gary Hirsch drew out some amazing local talent (all volunteers who do regular jobs during the day) and his choice in casting was outstanding. My dear friend Laura Oldham directed the music and also performed, and I was introduced to some wonderful new people and their talents.
I was able to make it to seven touring shows, also in the metro, this year. It’s harder for me to make press night for shows at the Orpheum in Minneapolis because they’re often on a Tuesday, and I live about two hours away. But, I made it to some of the best. My favorite being The Phantom of the Opera. They had press in the first few rows. What a treat. I was absolutely swept away. I bought extra tickets for this show so I could bring my boys and another guest. Derrick Davis, who played the Phantom, was spine-tingling good.
The icing on the theatrical cake this year was a trip to New York City. I was determined that on the day I turned 50, I would be in the audience for the award-winning, kindness-inspiring, musical Come From Away. I bought the cast recording and listen to it at least once a week. I can’t stop thinking about the story, of what happened in Gander, Newfoundland, after the terrorist attacks on 9-11-01, in the USA shut down the airways and stranded nearly 7000 passengers on this island. The way the the community wrapped these people, and animals, in warmth and love during those chaotic days still makes me weep. I will see this show every chance I get and promote it with all my heart.
I also saw Bandstand which is a gorgeous musical about regrouping and healing after World War II, and the power of music to heal and connect. Plus, I was able to see the glorious Laura Osness who once played Sandy in Grease at our own Chanhassen Theater in Minnesota.
I feel blessed to have landed this gig as a theater reviewer. It is a great way for me to get out, connect, and invite others into the story, to have shared experiences with my boys, family, and friends. I believe 2018 will have even more grand adventures, theatrically and otherwise.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: What are some memorable experiences you had in 2017? What are you looking forward to in 2018?