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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.
REVIEW: Surprise! The Toxic Avenger is goofy (not gory) musical fun
REVIEW: Playhouse’s Music Man charms audiences
- The Music Man, the as American as apple pie musical, opened Thursday night (7/12) at the NorShor Theatre, a production totally committed to charming the audience from start to finish.
REVIEW: TYA’s Pinocchio follows un-Disney path
- You are pretty much guaranteed to see puppets of some type in any Theatre for Young Audiences production. So it is not surprising that this summer, TYA has gotten around to providing their own take on the most famous puppet of all.
REVIEW: Our Town a treasure trove of American moments
- The Playhouse last staged Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in 2010. Thursday night (May 24), a new production of the classic American play opened at the NorShor Theatre, and I think American society must have advanced at least a quarter-century in those eight years.
REVIEW: The Cat in the Hat delights one and all
You have read The Cat in the Hat. The Dr. Seuss classic is not very long and uses only 236 words. So when you and your kids see everything that happens in the Playhouse Family Theatre’s production of The Cat in the Hat that opened Saturday afternoon on the Depot Theatre stage, you will be impressed by the Theatre for Young Audiences’ most engaging production to date.
REVIEW: Sweet Charity dances her way into your heart
Sweet Charity is about a dance hall hostess with a heart of gold who just wants to be loved. The production that opened Thursday night (April 19) at the Underground has a leading lady who wins your heart plus a whole bunch of crowd-pleasing dance numbers. As Charity Hope Valentine, Hayley Rosenthal doubles down on the cuteness, starting with her soliloquy and hitting her stride in “If My Friends Could See Me Now.” Exceeding the adorability quotient for her character, Rosenthal’s Charity becomes the first I have seen to truly deserve being called “sweet.”
REVIEW: Comic misunderstandings reach operatic levels in Playhouse farce
Lend Me a Tenor, which opened Thursday night (April 5) at the NorShor Theatre, is a door-slamming farce that hits the bulls-eye by setting up all of the requisite comic pieces before we fade to black at the end of Act 1, and then in Act 2 lets the dominoes fall like a house of cards. Checkmate.
REVIEW: ‘Salesman’ affirms its place as the great American drama
The set design for Death of a Salesman presents the Loman house stripped down to the studs, a rather haunting metaphor for the life of the central character in Arthur Miller’s classic American play, which opened Thursday night at the Underground. Willy Loman is mentally unstuck in time, taking refuge in his past and in his imagination as his present closes in on him. Director Robert Lee has those scenes bathed in yellow light, an appropriate choice because in retrospect, Willy sees each road not taken as inevitably being paved with gold. But Miller goes beyond Willy’s gilded memories and lays bare unbearable truths.
REVIEW: Mamma Mia! heralds NorShor’s Rebirth
From the moment the opening night audience for Mamma Mia! walked into the restored NorShor Theatre, I was overwhelmed by the inescapable conclusion that the Duluth Playhouse is not just another “community theater.” Long before the doors even opened, the entire run of the popular jukebox musical was sold out. Through those doors on Thursday night, there was food and drink to consume, stairways to explore, songs and speeches to hear, and to top it off, a toe-tapping show to enjoy.
REVIEW: Jungle Book a memorable first-theater experience
Giant shadows on the blue-lit backdrop of actors moving into place drew a lot of attention from the small fry in attendance on Saturday afternoon for the opening performance of the Theatre for Young Audiences’ production of The Jungle Book on the Depot’s main stage. When it comes to an audience buzzing with anticipation, kids absolutely rule. Then director Lacy Habdas came on stage to rev the kiddies up even more and lay down the house rules before the show started.
REVIEW: Original script adds new life to classic A Christmas Carol
For its last production on the Depot’s main stage, the Duluth Playhouse not only selected a timeless holiday classic, they also came up with the first original script to grace that stage in almost 20 years. A Christmas Carol opened Thursday night to an audience eager to applaud. A Christmas Carol is a well-known tale and everybody has their personal favorite version (“Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” for me). With this original script, first drafted by director Jeffrey Madison, revised by Shad Olsen, and then rewritten in tandem, I was looking for what “new” things could they come up with.
REVIEW: 1984 makes its case for renewed relevance
WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
In the first class in Media & Society each semester we consider which dystopian novel successfully predicted the world in which we now live: George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The academic consensus favors Huxley, that the truth has not been replaced by lies but rather buried under a barrage of irrelevance. However, the striking production of 1984 directed by Robert Lee that opened at the Underground on Thursday night (October 5) makes a compelling case for reconsidering that verdict. Orwell’s book again became a best-seller in the wake of the inauguration, and contemporary parallels are easy to find.
REVIEW: Comedy warning: Rumors has it
- Lately being a weatherman does not help you know which way the wind blows. Hurricane Harvey was a 3 that became a 4. Irma kept bouncing back between a 4 and a 5. Rumors, the side-splitting Neil Simon farce directed by Julie Ahasay that opened at the Duluth Playhouse on Thursday night (September 21), follows a similar pattern. It starts off as a tropical depression, gathers strength, hits you with a powerful stream of comedy, and just when you think you are safely in the eye of the hurricane the audience is devastated by a category 5 comic monologue.
THE PLAYHOUSE IN THE NEWS (PRINT)
Quick Trips: Duluth female playwrights fest; Railroad Days, Fargo rodeo (3-15-2019)
- Enjoy a celebration of female playwrights during the third annual What She Said: Short Play Festival Thursday-Saturday downtown at the Duluth Playhouse’s Underground Theatre.
The Right Formula (3-8-2019)
- The edict “seize the day” filtered through the mind of a biochemistry major looks something like this: taking all the known factors– class schedule, time in labs, anticipated homework load– and deciding whether seizing one’s day is a logical choice. “Any major that takes a lot of math can plan a day,” explains freshman Lane Greer.
Cabaret Dark: The Soundtrack to Minnesota-made Musical ‘Glensheen’ Out Friday (1-17-2019)
- Glensheen opens whodunnit-y and Halloween-ish. The 18-second overture is a buildup of piano and whispery percussion, and it sets the tone for the Minnesota-made musical’s soundtrack — which will be available as a CD, for streaming and download on Friday (January 18).
Best of A&E: Local movers and shakers like pop-up Parr, the new NorShor, and more (12-20-2018)
- Some “best of the best” moments in the A&E scene this past year: a pop-up Parr show, a newly remodeled historic theater, an art exhibition worth getting lost in. The News Tribune asked local movers and shakers to talk about the memorable music, theater, visual arts and events from the past year.
5 Amazing Reasons to Make Duluth Your Vacation Getaway (10-16-2018)
Sometimes you just need to get away from it all, take some time to recharge your batteries and explore something completely new. While you may think such a getaway is cost and time prohibitive, it doesn’t have to be. The city of Duluth, Minnesota, is just a short road trip away and perhaps a destination you have yet to explore.
Final details come together for NorShor’s re-opening (1-7-2018)
With less than a month until opening night, paintbrushes and canisters full of yellow paint were strewn on paint-speckled paper taped to the floor in the NorShor Theatre’s offices Sunday. The final touches of the renovated downtown Duluth theater, which first opened as the Orpheum Theater in 1910, are starting to come together. The electricity is on, the theater seats are installed, the skywalk connection is nearly complete, painting is wrapping up and rehearsals for the upcoming musical Mamma Mia! are set to begin on the stage next week.
TV INTERVIEWS / VIDEO