THIS JUST IN: Review from Cherry and Spoon for "Wait Until Dark"

THIS JUST IN: Review from Cherry and Spoon for "Wait Until Dark"

REVIEW: Cherry and Spoon - Wait Until Dark

We are excited to share Cherry and Spoon's review of "Wait Until Dark," which opened on September 9th and runs until September 25.

If you think you aren't afraid of the dark, you haven't seen this show!

 

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Audience Review: The Explorers Club by Roxy Orcutt

Roxy Orcutt "The Halloween Honey"

Roxy Orcutt
"The Halloween Honey"

It's such a treat to go into a show knowing very little to nothing about it, and walk out delighted, entertained, and eager to recommend it to your friends!  That's exactly how I felt after watching The Explorers Club at Lyric Arts on Friday night. 

The show is set in a very stuffy 1870's London, but the play is anything but that.  The energy of the show starts off high and doesn't come down for a second.  The Explorers Club is made up of six men with tales of adventures and creatures from around the globe. They cheer “to science!” and happily brag amongst themselves about what they've done and seen and are about to be thrown for a loop when a member of the club, Lucius Fretway, wants to admit a woman.  Not only is the woman in question, Phyllida Spotte-Hume, a scientist in her own right having recently discovered an entire lost civilization, Lucius also has a not-so-secret crush on Phyllida, even going so far as to name a plant he recently discovered after her. 

Harry Percy (Peter Ooley, left), Phyllida Spotte-Hume/Countess Glamorgan (Jessica Scott, Center), and Lucius Fretway (Brandon Osero, Right) star in "The Explorers Club"

Harry Percy (Peter Ooley, left), Phyllida Spotte-Hume/Countess Glamorgan (Jessica Scott, Center), and Lucius Fretway (Brandon Osero, Right) star in "The Explorers Club"

When Phyllida comes onto the scene, played by the always delightful Jessica Scott, she brings along a “savage,” a member of the lost civilization she discovered and names him Luigi.  Luigi, all blue skin and curious movements, is the absolute highlight of the show, played by Brendan Veerman, who I last saw contort and transform into Igor in Lyric Arts' production of Young Frankenstein.  Veerman's portrayal of Luigi could have gone a million different ways in the hands of a less skilled actor, but his Luigi was an absolute riot.  Luigi isn't portrayed as some foolish brute that must be taught in the ways of Victorian society, but a fully formed character who is comfortable with his own customs, but does his best to learn new ones, including learning the art of bartending and how to properly bow to royalty. 

Aside from the dynamic cast, the world this show inhabits was executed beautifully with the set design.  It is with such (seeming) ease that the talented crew at Lyric Arts' is able to use this little space in Anoka and take the audience all around the world with each show they produce.  The club in this show is exactly what you would imagine, and then some, when conjuring up the idea of a 19th century adventure tale.

This show was a brilliant choice to kick of Lyric Arts' latest season.  It had endless laugh-out-loud moments, non-stop energy and a fantastic cast!

Oh, and the refreshed lobby looks great!    

Roxy Orcutt, The Halloween Honey, is a local author and theater enthusiast. Her book, “History and Hauntings of the Halloween Capital,” explores Anoka, MN, its spooky tales, colorful characters, and why it is named the “Halloween Capital of the World.” It is available for sale online at www.HalloweenHoney.com.

"Into the Woods" Audience Review-Kylie Schultz

by Kylie Schultz

In a production full of “too-good-to-be-true” happily-ever-afters, I’m happy to announce that Lyric Arts has put on a show good enough to leave you feeling happily ever after. In the way that Lyric Arts continuously and flawlessly seems to do, they have put on a show that is both refreshingly classic with a twist.

Equal parts twisted fairy tale and morality play, Into the Woods is a fun Sondheim romp through the forest. Following a large cast of characters recognizable from childhood, the interwoven storylines follow each character’s “happily-ever-after” beyond its seemingly happy ending. Audiences follow Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack, Cinderella, the Witch, and a Baker and his wife as they journey through the woods to get their wishes. As Act 2 begins, the characters realize that you don’t always get what you want. At times dark, the story is still a delightful play on classic fairy tales that will leave you smiling, learning, and feeling alongside the characters.

This production boasts a very large and extremely talented cast. Regular attendees of Lyric Arts productions will recognize many of the performers, but new or returning, all of the performers in this show are outstanding.  The Witch, portrayed phenomenally by Lara Trujillo, is easily the connective tissue that guides the story and is by far one of the most difficult and comical roles. Trujillo is spot on and doesn’t disappoint. I was also stunned by the Baker (Joseph Pyfferoen) and his Wife (Kelly Matthews) who had marvelous chemistry together, matched perfectly with amazing vocals, and drove the story emotionally with their performances. There really are too many characters, and while each should be highlighted, there wouldn’t be enough time to praise Director Matt McNabb on his artistic and charming portrayal of a Sondheim classic.

McNabb chose to employ the use of puppetry in this show which gave the timeless character of the Wolf (of Little Red Riding Hood fame) an interesting, fun, but sinister new twist. In addition to using puppets, the show is heavily reliant on its use of sound and limited staging to portray a complicated, wider world beyond the woods where the story takes place. McNabb nails it and this show feels bigger than the stage space to which it’s confined.

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This show is wonderful. If you’ve seen it, be prepared to see and hear all your favorite moments sprinkled in with some new fun ones. If you haven’t seen it, buckle in. It’s a long show, but it’s rewarding and you’ll see all your favorite childhood fairy tales transformed before your eyes. It’s always an experience to go to a Lyric Arts production and I say Bravo! Into the Woods can be added to the list of not-to-miss performances by one of the greatest theaters in the Twin Cities Metro.

Kylie Schultz

Kylie Schultz is a Minneapolis local and an Arts Ambassador with Theoroi, a young professionals group of the Schubert Club in St. Paul, MN.

"Into the Woods" Audience Review–Joan Wingert

By Joan Wingert

I attended the Feb. 20 performance, and it is with great enthusiasm that I give the entire cast and crew of Into the Woods a hearty thumbs-up.

I have been a complete fan of this musical/morality play since I first viewed (and since memorized) the PBS version starring Bernadette Peters et al, and I have taught the songs to my voice students over the years. So I knew what I was about to see, and had no less than Broadway as my measuring stick.

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I was captivated from start to finish–in a story, not a theater, for a terrific two and a half hours.

Since others in previous Into the Woods reviews have given a brief synopsis, I’ll not do so here. As to the specifics:

  • The set was a marvel, deceptively simple and minimal, allowing for all the multilevel action that’s demanded by the storylines without overwhelming the space.
  • The actors’ character portrayals in speech and song were comic yet profound in Act I, and very moving in Act II–even in the moments of comic relief (I especially loved the blind sister who unwittingly was singing to the tree in the last scene). I rarely saw actors, only well-defined characters in whom I recognized my own gullibility and failings. I thought I had my favorites among the cast, yet every time I tried to specify a name/character here, I find myself wanting to name everyone. Kudos to all the cast for achieving such a strong and interdependent ensemble.
  • The pacing, the movement, the spinning out of this interweaving of fairy tales was superb.
  • The orchestra was yet another, though invisible character, creating mood, and sound effects. The fact that I was mostly unaware of their skills during the songs and between is a testament to the balance they struck with those onstage.
  • The puppetry won me over. When I first saw the cow and its “handler,” I didn’t know if I could make friends with the concept, but it became a source of delight in the story and appreciation of the skill it took to make it seamless.
  • Finally a word about the choice of narrator. A young narrator who shapes each tale as it progresses sets a completely different, and very interesting, tone. It also gives a new and unsettling edge to the narrator’s fate. Thanks for giving me some new things to chew on.

Again, please forgive my refraining from naming names. Each of you are richly deserving. It will have to suffice that I told you so in the receiving line.

Joan Wingert is a central Minnesota choral music director and liturgist. She offers private music lessons from her home and has directed several community theater productions in rural central Minnesota.

Joan_Wingert

 

"Into the Woods" Audience Review–Roxy Orcutt

by Roxy Orcutt

Into the Woods, the beloved musical from Stephen Sondheim, made its debut at Lyric Arts Main Street Stage over the weekend and I was able to catch a showing on Preview Night, the big warm-up to opening night, on Thursday.

For those unfamiliar, Into The Woods follows a group of fairytale characters that we all know and love, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Baker, his wife and Jack (as in And the Beanstalk) among others, on separate missions that bring them together in the titular woods.  Lyric Arts, keeping in the spirit of their production of A Christmas Carol in 2014, takes a few of the more well-known elements of the show and turn them on their head, creating a more untraditional interpretation.

My favorite part of the show was the puppetry.  The character of Milky White, a cow who only communicated in moos, was an absolute joy to watch.  She became a fully formed character in the skillful hands of Gabriel Gomez.  The Wolf, also operated by Gabriel Gomez and Kyler Chase, was equal parts hilarious and sinister.

Nykeigh Larson, who I adored in Young Frankenstein, was an absolute treasure as Little Red Riding Hood.  She was adorable as the innocent little girl who has a not-so-innocent run in with a Big Bad Wolf, and also laugh-out-loud funny, delivering Little Red’s lines with brilliant comedic timing.

Nykeigh Larson stars as Little Red Ridinghood
Nykeigh Larson stars as Little Red Ridinghood

The character of the Witch, portrayed by Lara Trujillo, the connective tissue among all our characters, was outstanding.  From her first appearance on the stage looking like a voodoo priestess emerging from the forest, to her transformation to a younger, more beautiful, but just as vicious version of herself, she was no less than magical.

With all of Lyric Arts musicals, the addition of live musicians only enhances the show.  Even though you cannot see the collection of talented musicians, hearing them is an exhilarating experience, especially when they are accompanying such a talented group of singers that we encounter in this entire cast.

This was my first time seeing any production of Into the Woods, and I now understand why this show is so popular among audiences it warranted a big screen version.  While nothing will compare to the experience of live theater, I am now eager to see the film version, if only to see if Meryl Streep compares to Lara Trujillo (I may be partial to witches).

However, since this was my first time seeing Into the Woods, I occasionally found myself in the woods when it came to certain parts of the show.  I would suggest if you are also a first-timer to Into the Woods, maybe read up a bit on the plot.  The show moves quickly, and you want to be sure you are keeping up.

While Into the Woods can be dark in some places, I feel this particular production is safe (and fun) for the entire family, even though you may find yourself explaining a few things to the kids after the show.

Lyric Arts continues to be one of the best, if not the best, community theater in the Twin Cities, and I am so proud to have them right here in Anoka.

Roxy Orcutt
Roxy Orcutt

Roxy Orcutt, The Halloween Honey, is a local author and theater enthusiast. Her book, “History and Hauntings of the Halloween Capital,” explores Anoka, MN, its spooky tales, colorful characters, and why it is named the “Halloween Capital of the World.” It is available for sale online at www.HalloweenHoney.com.

"Into the Woods" Audience Review - Gary Davis

by Gary Davis

First things first. Should you see Into the Woods at Lyric Arts Main Stage?  Yes, but remember, they sell out frequently, so get your game in gear and get tickets.

Second, a confession:  I have not seen the movie version currently in theaters because I don’t want to compare the two.  That would be like comparing apples and, say, kumquats.  Just not appropriate.

Now, to the show.  Entering the theater, I was reminded that one of the best things about Lyric Arts is their sets.  This one is no different.  Scenic Designer Ben Olsen has constructed a multi-level, multi-entrance wooded set that beautifully supports the action of the show, with its interweaving fairy tales.

For the uninitiated, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine have weaved together several fairy tales and imagined them all meeting in the magical woods near where they live.  Like all fairy tales, everyone lives happily ever after, that is, if the show ended when Act 1 does.  Act 2 is much darker as the fairy tales un-weave, only to be followed by a ‘kinda happily ever’ after ending.

With the exception of the Narrator (more on that later), director Matt McNabb has cast the rest of the show to type….with an ensemble of excellent actor/singers.  And that ensemble is the essence of this production.

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What I like most here is that Mr. McNabb avoided caricature, with the characters being believable, even though they are fairy tale characters.  This show can lead to “over the top” caricatures and director McNabb has given us true characters who let the circumstances of the play drive the humor and emotion.

Another strength is that all of the cast carries their vocals well, essential in that this show is almost all music, with 25 songs.  The 10-person pit orchestra (seated behind the set), led by Louis Berg-Arnold, is excellent and, thankfully, does not overpower the vocals.

As expected at Lyric Arts, other technical elements are professional and support the action on stage seamlessly.  Of special note are the sound effects for the giants.  The theater literally was shaking when the giants came to the woods.  Caution to parents of young children, you may want to hold their hands here.

Another item of appreciation I took away from this show was, while none of the dance scenes were spectacular, they fit the mood and pace of the show perfectly.  There is more to choreography than dance numbers.  The almost continual movement in this show was really one long dance number and I have to think choreographer Penelope Freeh had a lot to do with that.  The show is relatively long, over 2-1/2 hours including intermission, but does not feel long because of the pace and the numerous plot lines.

You may have noticed I haven’t discussed any individual performances, and with apologies to individual cast members, there will be none, as I would feel compelled to discuss all of them.  This cast is excellent across the board, with the major distinguishing factor the size of the role.

                                                    Gary Davis

                                                    Gary Davis

As promised, a note on the narrator role.  Director McNabb has cast a middle school age boy in this role.  At first, I was not sure how that would work, but it turns out it works very well.  This young man is obviously “of the show” but not in it, so his constant presence on stage adds to the story as he supplies props and sound effects.  Kudos for an innovative casting choice.

Gary Davis is a local actor/director who is a big fan of theater.

"A Christmas Carol" Review - Kylie Schultz

'Tis the season. It's Christmas (almost), the time for eggnog, Christmas music, and much beloved traditions. We all know the story behind a Christmas Carol. We've heard it read or read it ourselves; we've seen the movies and parodies; somehow or another, even if you aren't a fan, we all know the story.

I, personally, like Dickens' A Christmas Carol. But, many stagings are the same retelling of the same story. It's hard to take such a time-honored Christmas tradition and remake it into something fresh without changing all that makes it classic.

I feel like I don't need to tell you that Lyric Arts has done just that, and done it with flying colors.

Director Daniel Ellis weaves a marvelous and fantastical retelling of such a wonderfully classic story. Without modernizing the Victorian setting and language, Ellis has transformed the setting with a Steampunk twist. The story is at times funny, alarming, and always heartwarming. The costumes are beyond outstanding, transfixing me to the Ghost of Christmas Past, and causing me to audibly gasp at the Ghost of Christmas Future. Ellis has created a wonderfully believable setting without causing the audience to feel out of place or time with the story.

And please, can we talk about Ebenezer Scrooge? What a performance by lead actor Richard Brandt. Again, it must be said that it is hard to stage a show that is not only being staged simultaneously by other theaters, but that has been staged thousands of times by theaters across the world. Brandt successfully and freshly portrays the character of Scrooge and maintains your ire and affection from Act 1 to Finale.

There are many ways to get your A Christmas Carol fix this holiday season. I highly recommend that you add to your repertoire of more conventional retellings and delve into the world that Ellis and the spectacular cast and crew of Lyric Arts Anoka's A Christmas Carol so eloquently enact.

Kylie Schultz

Kylie Schultz

Kylie Schultz is a Minneapolis local and an Arts Ambassador with Theoroi, a young professionals group of the Schubert Club in St. Paul, MN.

"Young Frankenstein" Review- Emily Picardi

emily picardi

emily picardi

First things first (I'm the realest- sorry, couldn't resist): My review of Young Frankenstein cannot possibly be unbiased. I'm a fan of the show and made some memories watching it on Broadway, plus I'm a huge fan of Lyric Arts, and I know almost everyone involved in the production. That said, I'll try to be as objective a critic as I can be.

Disclaimer over. Let's get on with the review!

I saw Young Frankenstein at Lyric Arts this past Thursday, October 16th. The house was almost full, and the audience was responsive and supportive of what was happening onstage. They clearly enjoyed the show, and gave a standing ovation at curtain call.

What was there for the audience to like? Plenty. Young Frankenstein itself (based on the Mel Brooks film of the same name, and adapted for the stage by him) is a brilliantly funny piece of theatre. Brooks parodies the horror monster movie genre joyously, pulling out all the stops and taking huge risks.

Much has been said about the "big" and "risky" aspects of this show. Young Frankenstein was written specifically for a Broadway stage. The original production cost over 16 million dollars. It was designed from the beginning as a spectacle show, calling for all kinds of special effects, a big, talented cast and pit orchestra, and technical perfection. Lyric Arts has taken risks with dramatic content before, and has taken on some moderately flashy shows in the past, but never have they attempted this big a production. Under the direction of Matt McNabb, a Resident Director at Lyric Arts who closed out the last season with his production of RENT, the risk is well managed, and the production- while not as fancy as a $16 million production- is quite impressive, especially when you remember that Lyric Arts is a community theatre.

The shows I've seen at other community theatres in the area (Colorado as well, but that's a totally different story) get blown out of the water by Young Frankenstein. Thank Matt McNabb and the rest of the production staff for working so hard to make this show a reality. McNabb's blocking skillfully navigates the relatively tiny performance space (the set is super big, and takes up a great deal of playing room), taking full advantage of the set to stage complicated location transitions and big dance numbers. Music director Louis Berg-Arnold leads a pit that suffered from intonation issues on the night I attended the production, but was otherwise well practiced. Choreographer Anne Marie Omeish stages the songs with choreography that is a bit too simplistic at times, but is executed happily and well by the cast. Stage Manager Pat Campbell keeps the whole thing running smoothly with very few minute mistakes.

The designers of this production definitely leave their mark. Brian Proball's set design is gigantic, but not overwhelming in the slightest. He makes great use of special effect apparatuses, which include an empty painting and a table with a rig that brings it up into the catwalks. The rig is ultimately very slow, but McNabb handles it well, simply adding a joke into the script about how slow it is. Lighting designer Jim Eischen seems to have programmed a million specials into the production, but if they ever pulled focus it was because they were doing really cool things. Particularly impressive is his integration of lights into the set. Windows are backlit and glowing, candles are well placed, and the big set pieces in the laboratory scenes have all kinds of winking, flickering bulbs that bring the set pieces to the next level. Sound designer Jeff Giesler might have mixed the production so that the orchestra was too loud, but he never shies away from more specific sound effects, including claps of thunder, the rickety metallic sound of Inspector Kemp moving his fake arm, and, of course, the famous horse whinnying that accompanies the name of one of the characters. Costume designer Samantha Fromm Haddow never disappoints. She created costumes that are well fitted, well suited to the production, and add to the characters' personalities. Samantha From Haddow came up with a great makeup design for the Creature's face and it was executed during most performances by Megan Weisenberger.  Heather McLaughlin, Nate Otto, and Lea Chapaton built some killer special props, including the infamous Abby Normal brain.

Then there's the cast. Kyler Chase plays a charming Dr. Frankenstein. His portrayal makes full use of his voice, presenting a clear tenor singing voice one minute and maniacal shouting the next. His crazed expressions and clear physical presence made him one of the funniest people onstage. Katharine Strom as Elizabeth is loud and proud, with a belt and mix voice to make anyone jealous. She was the actor who most made the character her own, with very few vestiges of the original production or movie Elizabeth's in her performance. Nick Menzhuber is delightful as both Inspector Kemp, with the perfect accent, and movements that are appropriately jerky and artificial, and as the deceased Dr. Frankenstein, where he makes use of a big voice and a big physical presence. Brendan Veerman presents an Igor that is almost too adorable, and wonderfully sassy, with strong comedic physicality. Kate Beahen is far too young to play Frau Blücher, but is funny enough to make you forget all about that. Her voice is strong, and her eyebrow game is even stronger. Tom Goerger is physically the perfect Monster, and his darling facial expressions make you love the character a lot earlier than you're supposed to. Brad Bone has a cameo as an old, infirm man (which he certainly is not), and returns later in the show to play a lonely hermit with a Brooklyn accent. His accent and manner of speaking as the hermit are perfect, and both roles are played so gleefully that you can't help but love him. An ensemble standout is Ben Schrade, who managed to take a tiny cameo as a shoeshine who hates suede and turn it into the funniest and most delightfully unexpected moment of the night.

And then, to top it all off, there is Nykeigh Larson as Inga. The show I attended started out on a dour, low energy note, but as soon as she came onstage with her big voice and big smile the energy picked up and everything got brighter. Having seen Nykeigh in many prior shows, I can say that she has grown a great deal in this role. She carries herself with more sexy confidence than I've seen from her in the past, and one wonders how she can be so big onstage when in reality she's such a tiny person. McNabb couldn't have cast a better Inga, as Nykeigh nails the comedy, vocals, and energy.

All these people give their hearts and talents fully to the production, and it shows. Lyric Arts' Young Frankenstein is charming, joyful, and impressive. The theatre has proved, once again, that a little stage fog and a lot of enthusiasm can lead to great things. You won't want to miss this ambitious production.

"Young Frankenstein" Review - Kylie Schultz

Kylie Schultz
Kylie Schultz

As a Mel Brooks devotee and avid musical theater fan, I can say that I whole heartedly relished the day I saw Young Frankenstein when it opened on Broadway. I grew up annually quoting Young Frankenstein with my parents and can recall any moment from the movie at any time in any place. When I saw the musical, you can bet that I had the soundtrack that same night and listened to it on repeat for weeks. All that being said, Lyric Arts Anoka had a very fanatic fan of Young Frankenstein to impress this opening weekend.

And they did it.

Without a doubt, the show is excellent. Mel Brooks proved with The Producers that he writes a fantastic musical from an already brilliant movie, which can be tricky. For all who love to quote along with the movie, know every innuendo and schwanzstucker joke, Young Frankenstein the musical absolutely doesn’t lose its hilarity. In addition, you add catchy musical motifs and dance numbers which enhance the charm and keep a goofy smile plastered on your face the whole show.

I can’t say that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing any show at Lyric Arts in the past, and that made seeing Young Frankenstein so much more impressive. When you’ve seen the show you’ll understand how much of a feat it is to put on. The music is difficult (cheers to Kyler Chase for perfecting “There Is Nothing Like the Brain), the set is intricate, and the choreography involves a lot of people tap dancing simultaneously. All of this is challenging, but expected, on Broadway, and is made all the more impressive when you consider that not one of the actors or crew of this show is paid. The cast of Young Frankenstein put on a show to rival that of a Broadway production, with a set design and technical crew as good as any theater production in the cities. Young Frankenstein has everything:  fantastic actors in leading roles, a dedicated and talented ensemble, an amazing crew, and all the innuendo you can handle with great music to sing it to.

I can’t say enough glowing things about this show and the hard work, dedication, and professionalism that were so clearly and eloquently put into it. I laughed, I cried from laughing, and I left wanting more. I will not only be attending this show twice, but look forward to seeing future shows as Lyric Arts Anoka has earned a special place in my heart.

Kylie Schultz is a Minneapolis local and an Arts Ambassador with Theoroi, a young professionals group of the Schubert Club in St. Paul, MN.