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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.
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.
La La Land opens with an improbability: A ramp that connects two major highways in Los Angeles was shut down to film singer-dancers performing “Another Day of Sun.” The colorfully clad characters leap over barriers, tap dance on hoods, spin on roofs while seemingly stalled in traffic.
“It’s fantastic. It’s filmed in one take,” said Topaz Cooks, a stage manager at the Duluth Playhouse who worked on a recent production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. “It was so impressive — that’s what blew me away.”
After that, not so much, she said.
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.”
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)
Cult Classics and Rock’n’Roll at Duluth Playhouse Through Halloween (Good Morning Northland – WDIO)
Duluth Playhouse opens new season with fast, physical comedy (Good Morning Northland – WDIO)