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