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Selected from over 200 submissions, the seven one-act plays that comprise the first annual What She Said festival at the Underground offer stories that are — in order — cute, touching, intense, insane, unbelievably absurd, the opposite of boring, and an absolute comic gem.
In Time Stands Still, the timely drama that opened Thursday at the Playhouse, photojournalist Sarah Goodwin (Cheryl Skafte) and writer James Dodd (John Pokrzywinski) have come home after Sarah is severely injured by a car bomb in Iraq Dealing with a near-death experience requires physical and psychological rehabilitation, but Sarah bears the burden of extra baggage because James feels immense guilt over having already gone home before she was injured.
For years I’ve wanted somebody to put on Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. With the production that opens May 18 at the Underground, we finally get to see the wittiest play in the English language in Duluth. John Worthing (Jason Scorich) has come to town to propose to Gwendolen Fairfax (Louisa Scorich), cousin of his best friend, Algernon Moncrieff (Mike Pederson). Worthing leads a double life, as the steadfast Jack caring for his young ward, Cecily Cardew (Kitara Peterson) in the country — but as his wastrel younger brother “Ernest” when in the city.
The Theatre for Young Audiences’ production of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, which opened Saturday afternoon at the Underground, does indeed take familiar fairy tales and turn them into fairly stupid tales. The result is actually a children’s show where the adults will probably end up laughing more than the kiddies.
Musicals are often about falling in love but rarely about being in love. La Cage aux Folles, which opens April 20 at the Playhouse, is about the latter. There is something wonderful about seeing two people so deeply in love, and even with all the hysterical drag queens running around on stage, ultimately La Cage aux Folles is all about heart.
For the next two weekends, the Underground has been transformed into an actual Clown Bar, which makes perfect sense since the clown noir comedy Clown Bar opened there Thursday night (March 30). Patrons can purchase “insult beers” from the caustic bartender, Shotgun McGhee (Nathan Payne), and assorted drinks that you can apparently order “extra funny,” delivered by Petunia (Cheryl Skafte), a tart-tongued, bubble-blowing waitress.
Ruddigore combines that witch’s curse with a triple-reverse love triangle, with an abbreviated half-twist, that helps put the comic in comic operetta. Director Jeffrey Madison forgoes the overture, moving the explanation of the witches’ curse up to be the show’s prologue. This allows Christa Schulz’s Dame Hannah to delightfully go all expository all over the place.
Tolstoy once wrote: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” However, he never said anything about what crazy families are like, an omission that playwrights George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart explore in the charming You Can’t Take It With You, which opened Thursday (February 9, 2017) night at the Duluth Playhouse. Today these characters are quirky but quaint, and their eccentric behavior is more endearing than embarrassing, at least until you get all of them in one room at the same time. Above all, they are just so kindhearted, which may well be what dates the play more than anything else.
When Green Day played “American Idiot” at the MTV Europe Music Awards last November, Billie Joe Armstrong changed the last line of the opening verse to “subliminal mind-Trump America.” If you get the point of that change and endorse the sentiment, then you are going to love the stage musical version of “American Idiot” that opened Thursday night at the Underground. If you are insulted by that line, then you should probably avoid this punk rock diatribe.
The play adapted from Roald Dahl’s book was on the Playhouse stage, but it was also underground because when you looked straight up from your seat all you could see was brown butcher paper. That is because we were in the burrow where this family of foxes lives, which meant wide-eyed kids were walking into about the biggest set design the Playhouse can possibly pull off.
This dream will do. As advertised, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, directed and choreographed by Michael Matthew Ferrell, is far and away the most original vision of a musical to grace the Duluth Playhouse stage in the 10 years I have been paid to pontificate on local theatrical productions.
Horvath leaves Duluth Playhouse staff (6-8-2017)
The Duluth Playhouse’s longtime children’s theatre and education program director has left her position for a job she likened to a different kind of casting than she has done on the local stage.
A familiar face is leaving the Duluth Playhouse after 10 years. Kate Horvath has led the Children’s Theatre and Education Program at the Playhouse for the last decade and is leaving to explore another career opportunity.
When play is work and work is play (4-14-2017)
This March the Duluth Playhouse Children’s Theater ran Disney’s The Lion King Jr! The 16 performances sold out before the show even opened. “That may have to do more with the reputation of The Lion King,” humbly admitted Kate Horvath, the play’s director, “than the fact that we are awesome.”
Playhouse season includes NorShor premiere (4-13-2017)
The Duluth Playhouse will introduce its new mainstage with a popular who’s-your-daddy ABBA-rific musical, according to the theater’s 2017-18 season announcement.
Minnesota is a hotbed for live theater. Rumored to have more theater seats per capita than other metro areas in the U.S., the Twin Cities is at the center of the action. Three Minneapolis companies have won regional Tony Awards, Disney’s The Lion King premiered here, and August Wilson completed some of his most important works after receiving a fellowship from the Playwright’s Center in Minneapolis, premiering many of his plays with a local St. Paul company. These are some of the North Star State’s best stages.
A pride unites for The Lion King JR! (3-16-2017)
Among the costume suggestions that came along with the scripts for The Lion King Jr. was a tip about using a paper plate to make the face of a lion. Um. That’s not quite the vision director Kate Horvath had for the Duluth Playhouse’s Children’s Theatre production of Disney’s popular coming-of-animal-age musical. She had a bigger idea — something that more closely matched the long-running Broadway show.
I could start this off with the usual critic-speak about Pulitzers, Tonys, Oscars, Broadway, Jimmy Stewart-this, Lionel Barrymore-that. Instead, I’m going to cut to the chase: You Can’t Take It With You, opening this weekend at The Duluth Playhouse, provides a more palatable alternative to the daily news and will boost your faith in humanity, if only for too short an evening.
American Idiot hits the Underground (2-2-2017)
It’s been about a decade since Michael Hasenmueller, his father and his brother took a road trip from Eau Claire, Wis., to Chicago so his brother could audition for “The Voice.” Hasenmueller claimed space in the backseat of a Pontiac Vibe. The driver’s side window didn’t roll down, so he was on toll booth duty, he recently recalled. Otherwise, he settled in with an old-school CD player and queued up his brother’s copy of Green Day’s “American Idiot.”
Duluth Playhouse Presents One Act Festival (Fox 21 News)
Drama Invades the Playhouse with Time Stands Still (Good Morning Northland – WDIO)
Classic Children’s Books Retold, Stinky Cheese Man comes to Duluth Playhouse (Good Morning Northland – WDIO)
The Duluth Playhouse Presents Tony Award-Winning Musical (Fox 21 Local News)
High Stuttin’ Musical Comedy will Tickle Audiences (Good Morning Northland – WDIO)
Young Actors Prepare for Disney Classic (Fox 21 Local News)
Disney’s The Lion King Jr comes to Life on Playhouse Children’s Theatre Stage (Good Morning Northland – WDIO)
Playhouse Brings Popular Comedy You Can’t Take It With You to Main Stage (Good Morning Northland – WDIO)
Playhouse Kicks Off 2017 with Road Dahl’s ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ (Good Morning Northland – WDIO)
Playhouse to Reveal New Vision of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ (Good Morning Northland – WDIO)
The many tradespeople working on downtown Duluth’s NorShor Theatre have recognized numerous signs of the past since they began restoring the 107-year-old facility in June 2016. They haven’t, however, identified a dusty, 8 x 10-foot mural they recently found that had been hidden since at least 1941. When the 1910 Orpheum was renovated to become the NorShor Theatre, which opened in 1941, the mural remained hanging above a newly-constructed ceiling.
NorShor on track, on budget; mystery mural discovered (Duluth News Tribune)
After nearly a year of work, the renovation of downtown Duluth’s NorShor Theatre is about 60 percent complete, and the project remains on track to be finished by December.
That was the gist of an update Christine Gradl Seitz provided during a Wednesday morning news conference in the historic theater’s lobby. As the executive and artistic director of the Duluth Playhouse, she expressed confidence the NorShor will be completely ready for the troupe’s opening night performance of the musical Mamma Mia! come Feb. 1, 2018.
Progress MN: Sherman Associates (Finance & Commerce)
Duluth’s Brewers Row Establishes New Brand for Historic Downtown District (The Duluth Experience)
Views on Downtown Tourism: NorShor to spur housing, tourism in downtown Duluth (Duluth News Tribune)
Blacklist Brewery aims for mid-November opening (Perfect Duluth Day)
NorShor Fundraising Begins with a Splash (Business North)
Minneapolis Developer Begins Long-Delayed Revamp of Duluth Theater (Business Journal)