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‘Wizard of Oz’ rules with lion and munchkins and dog (oh my!)
- The Wizard of Oz is hardwired into our psyches. When we hear “Yellow Brick Road,” half of us are thinking, “OK, Dorothy, walk to the painted backdrop, turn, wave, and then fade to the second commercial break.” So think how high the bar was set when the stage version of The Wizard of Oz opened Thursday night (Dec. 5) at the NorShor Theatre.
‘Dracula’ is back to horror basics at the Underground
- The Underground Theatre entered the October country as Dracula crept out of his crypt to creep out Thursday’s opening night audience. Steven Dietz’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel avoids the weirdness afflicting most recent versions of the Count (Dracula is really Judas. What?!), to get back to the basics and remind us why Dracula is the classic Gothic horror story.
‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ musical revue creates a concert-like atmosphere
- Smokey Joe’s Cafe, which opened Thursday night (9/19) at the NorShor Theatre, is a musical revue, which is like a jukebox musical only without a plot. Or characters. Just talented musicians, singers, and dancers making for an enjoyable evening of song. Director-choreographer Michael Matthew Ferrell certainly makes the most of the opportunities afforded by a musical revue. He cuts songs, moves songs and uses “Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown” to end intermission with the audience shouting out the refrains.
Neil Simon classic comedy recalls the fellowship of the zing
The main reason to go see Neil Simon’s hysterical Laughter on the 23rd Floor at the Underground is that in the first act, here is what I can only call a comedy shaggy-dog hydra of epic proportions. Jody Kujawa’s Max Prince, star of “The Max Prince Show,” is in the writers’ room with his comedy writers trying to make a meandering point that gives no indication of ever getting anywhere. Every time he pauses, somebody else in the room lets loose with a joke.
‘Grease’ at the NorShor electrifies summer nights
- Opening night of the Duluth Playhouse’s musical Grease had lots of women screaming, hooting and whooping, both onstage and in the audience. And that included Amber Burns, the show’s masterful director/choreographer, who was clearly enjoying this joyful celebration of the ’50s as much as everyone else. With Burns’ sure-handed direction and featuring her creative choreography, Danny, Sandy, the Pink Ladies, the Burger Palace Boys and the class of 1959 at good ol’ Rydell High tore the place up on a particularly beautiful Duluth summer night.
A river of truly tragic twists in ‘Eurydice’ in the Underground
- Sarah Ruhl’s modern spin on the classic Greek tale of Orpheus in the Underworld appropriately opened at the Underground Theatre on Thursday night. The original myth tells how Eurydice dies on their wedding day and Orpheus goes to bring his bride back from the dead. His music charms even Hades himself, who tells Orpheus he can lead his bride back to the land of the living, but only if he does not turn around until they are both above ground.
‘Winnie the Pooh’ is as sweet as ‘hunny’
The littlest audience members were happily dancing, clapping, shouting, bouncing and giggling their way through the antics of the colorful animal characters for the opening matinee of Winnie the Pooh, presented by the Duluth Playhouse’s Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA). By contrast, 2-year-old Arthur, sitting next to me on his grandmother’s lap, was perfectly still, spell-bound and mesmerized, never making a peep throughout the entire show.
‘Government Inspector’ a funny Russian farce full of big, bold moments
The Duluth Playhouse is putting on The Government Inspector. It is a farce. A Russian farce. About politicians. (No, not that one.) This version of The Government Inspector has been adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, who strips Nikolai Gogol’s script down to the skeleton and rebuilds it with jokes guaranteed to hit an American audience’s funny bone.
Lovers Shine Brightest in Underground’s ‘The Fantasticks’
The original 1960 off-Broadway production of The Fantasticks ran for 42 years, (17,162 performances), making it the world’s longest-running musical. Its winning charm is in the universality of the love story, the bare bones set and props and its timeless musical score. The simple plot features a boy (Ben Peter) and a girl (Rachel Williams) who fall hopelessly in love, and their parents, Hucklebee (Cathy Berggren) and Bellomy (Kirby Wood), who hatch up an elaborate plot, ostensibly to break them up, but really to bring them together.
Razor-Sharp ‘Sweeney Todd’ at NorShor
Tales of murder, the macabre and midnight’s bloodiest deeds have long held the power to capture our darkest imaginations and haunt our dreams. Composer/Lyricist Stephen Sondheim mixes the style of the Victorian “penny-dreadfuls” and the Grand-Guignol in Paris, with their naturalistic and amoral horror stories, to create his classic Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Playhouse cooks up a winner with ‘Don’t Dress For Dinner’
In Don’t Dress for Dinner, the French farce that returned to the NorShor stage Thursday night (1/31), Katy Helbacka makes two bold decisions as the director that could have thrown the production off the rails. Fortunately, she booked a really good cook.
‘Puss In Boots’ scores having characters and kids interact
- When a swashbuckling Puss in Boots, voiced by Antonio Banderas, showed up in Shrek 2 and stole the show with his sultry Spanish accent and really big eyes, a star was born. However, the Puss in Boots animated film that followed had absolutely nothing to do with the original European fairy tale. The original adaptation of Puss in Boots, written and developed by the Duluth Playhouse’s Theatre for Young Audiences ensemble that opened Saturday afternoon (1/19) at the Depot Theatre is faithful to that original tale (or should that be “tail”?).
A Musical Delight at The Underground
- While searching for something to do at the last minute this past Friday evening, my wife learned of a play being presented that night at the Underground Theatre in the Duluth Playhouse by the name of Ruthless. It had opened the night before on a three-week run so we agreed to check it out. What a delightful experience it turned out to be! Due to misreading the show time, we arrived an hour prior to the performance and after navigating the icy sidewalks found our way to the aptly named Underground Theatre.
Campy Musical Mixes Dark Humor and Murderous Deeds
- Paying homage to such classic musicals as Gypsy and Mame and theatrical soap operas All About Eve, and even Valley of the Dolls, the Underground Theatre’s production of the musical comedy Ruthless drew lots of laughs from the opening night audience.
Tale as Old as Time Still Enchants at NorShor
- Dancing forks, showgirls as plates, a feather duster cavorting with a candlestick, a talking teacup, the obligatory plucky heroine, and a brooding hero. The Duluth Playhouse’s enchanting Beauty and the Beast had all the bells and whistles to win the hearts of the opening night audience Thursday (11/29)!
‘Rocky Horror’ Rains and Shines at The Underground
- Before actors took their marks and film hit the screen at the Duluth Playhouse Underground Halloween night, Zenith City Horror mastermind Alec Schroeder had half the audience on stage performing different sex positions. Outrageous? Of course! This is how audience “virgins” are introduced to their first live performance of the sexy, irreverent, B-movie send-up called The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Underground takes a hysterical twist on Sherlock Holmes
- While staying generally true to the plot of Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterpiece, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” the Underground Theater’s zany production of Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery takes a decidedly Monty Pythonesque turn in playwright Ken Ludwig’s uproarious spoof. The sold-out opening night crowd got on board this roller coaster ride of a comedy and held on for dear life until the final bows.
‘Full Monty’ brings big voices, wicked fun to the season opener
If you saw The Full Monty the first time the Duluth Playhouse put it on, then I should tell you: There is a little bit more to see, this time around. The musical version of the 1997 hit film opened Thursday night at the NorShor Theatre and showed again how entertaining a musical about unemployment, depression, suicide, divorce, impotence, and brief nudity can be.
THE PLAYHOUSE IN THE NEWS (PRINT)
Duluth Playhouse adds new artistic director (1-20-2020)
- The Duluth Playhouse’s new hire has been an artist in residence at the oldest arts organization in Arizona, is a member of the Lincoln Center Theatre’s Directors Lab and was once described by a Tony Award nominee as “detail-oriented” and “self-motivated,” according to a news release.
Playhouse storybook tour presents The Mousehole Cat (9-10-2019)
- Hear the story before seeing the show. The Playhouse Family Theatre is taking its show to a public library-museum-bookstore near you. The storybook tour presents The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber, the story of a fisherman trying to save his village from famine, told from the perspective of his cat.
TV INTERVIEWS / VIDEO