Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


‘Book of Mormon’ is wildly entertaining (plus rude, crude …)

ALSO: ‘Wicked,’ ‘Once’ among coming B-way shows; Valentine’s Day ideas for you; new ‘Treasures’ show at the Weisman; ‘Painter, Painter’ at the Walker; and more

'The Book of Mormon' was bound to be outrageous, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Courtesy of the Hennepin Theatre Trust

Nothing is sacred in “The Book of Mormon” – not blonde-haired Jesus, the act of baptism, or the private parts of either sex. Not God himself, who is given the finger and then some. Sitting in Wednesday’s sold-out, opening-night crowd at the Orpheum, we pondered how this musical became such a huge hit, earning nine Tonys and $19 million a month. It’s hilarious, wildly entertaining, wonderfully sung and danced, and even a bit sentimental about things like love, friendship, faith and family. It’s also rude, crude, and lewd. Coming from “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who think that excrement makes a good holiday mascot (see “Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo”), it was bound to be outrageous, and it doesn’t disappoint. As awkward, inept Elder Cunningham, Christopher John O’Neill steals the show. “The Book of Mormon” is the hottest ticket in town; you can try the State Theatre box office. Or take your chances at the daily $25 ticket lottery. Arrive at the Orpheum box office two-and-a-half hours early, print your name and the number of tickets you want (1 or 2) on a card, and cross your fingers. Through Feb. 17.

Article continues after advertisement

Shortly before opening its doors to “The Book of Mormon,” Hennepin Theatre Trust announced its 2013-14 Broadway season. The 11 shows include old friends and new hits – something for everyone who loves musicals. In July: “Les Misérables.” September: “Wicked.” November: “We Will Rock You,” the West End winner featuring 24 of Queen’s biggest songs (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” anyone?). December: the new 25th-anniversary production of “The Phantom of the Opera.” January 2014: “Evita” (at the Orpheum, the series’ main stage) and “Cabaret” (at the Pantages). February: “Mamma Mia!” March: “Peter and the Starcatcher,” based on the Peter Pan story. April: “Once,” Broadway’s 2012 Tony-winning best musical. May: “Sister Act.” June: “Ghost: The Musical.” Subscriptions on sale now, singles later. Season preview video here.

St. Paulites must be reading more. The 2012 America’s Most Literate Cities rankings were issued yesterday, and St. Paul is #6, a big jump up from #12 last year. Minneapolis is holding steady at #3. Washington, DC is #1, Seattle is #2, Pittsburgh is #4, and Denver is #5. Complete rankings and other fun stuff here.

Now at the Weisman: “Our Treasures: Highlights from the Minnesota Museum of American Art.” Works by Thomas Hart Benton, Alexander Calder, Christo, Edward S. Curtis, Wing Young Huie, Warren MacKenzie, Paul Manship, Louise Nevelson, Grant Wood and others, curated by MMAA executive director Kristin Makholm. Through May 12. FMI.

Wing Young Huie, Death Valley , Nevada, 2001-02, C- Print. Collection of the Min
Courtesy of the Weisman Art Museum
Wing Young Huie, Death Valley, Nevada, 2001-02, C- Print. Collection of the Minnesota Museum of American Art.

Now at the Walker: “Painter Painter.” Is abstract art passé? What does it mean to be a painter today? Is a painting ever finished? Is a collection of tools mounted on a wall, a jumble of canvas and objects on a floor, or a rolled-up paper tube printed with a Pantone color a painting? If you enjoy your art with a side of questions, see “Painter Painter.” None of the pieces has ever been displayed in public before now, and some were created especially for this show, so recently the air in the gallery smells like paint. Art doesn’t get much newer. With works by Sarah Crowner, Dianne Molzan, Scott Olson, Dominik Sittig, Lesley Vance, and Minneapolis’ Jay Heikes. Through Oct. 27. FMI.

Starts tonight (Friday, Feb. 8): the Nordic Lights Film Festival. Thirteen films from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Given our state’s Scandinavian heritage, this should draw a crowd of tall blondes. Films include “10 Timer til Paradis (Teddy Bear),” about a Danish bodybuilder who moves to Thailand; “Suomi, koulun ihmemaa (The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System),” a documentary about the world’s best secondary education system (for real); “Få meg på, for faen (Turn Me On, Dammit),” about teenage girls growing up in Norway; and a collection of LGBT Nordic shorts. At the St. Anthony Main Theater in Minneapolis. FMI and tickets. Through Feb. 14.

Starts tonight: James Sewell Ballet’s Ballet Works Project. View dance in the making as choreographers develop new works in the Cowles Center’s TEK BOX theater. This year’s choreographers are Sewell company dancer Cory Goei, Chris Schlichting, and Karen L. Charles. FMI and tickets.

Each year, Oscars are awarded for short films that hardly anyone sees. Here’s your chance to see them. The Uptown is screening both the animated and live-action shorts through Feb. 14, after which they may move to either the Lagoon or the Edina. FMI. The Riverview has the documentary shorts through Feb. 14. FMI.

On Friday and Saturday: pianist-composer Bryan Nichols returns to the Artists’ Quarter jazz club with his trio. The brothers Bates – bassist Chris, drummer JT – are freshly back from playing in France and will probably have even more attitude than usual. Nichols promises all-new music – new compositions by himself and Chris Bates plus “a bunch of songs that seem like songs I would play but I haven’t played in public before; a Henry Threadgill tune, music by Andrew Hill and Keith Jarrett.” 9 p.m., $10 at the door. 

Cantus fans, you’ll want to tune into this week’s live broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor. The theme is “The Heart Is a Tender Thing,” and other guests include Buddhist-inspired folk musician Ellis and guitarist Dean Magraw. 5 p.m. CST on MPR. Last Monday, NPR aired a Tiny Desk Concert by Cantus recorded in December and featuring the songs “Wanting Memories,” “Zikr” and “Ave Maria.” Listen here. NPR’s Tom Huizenga asked, “Is there some kind of weird vocal vortex in Minnesota? The state turns out so many excellent choral groups … that it can arguably be dubbed the choral center of the U.S.” Wow, thanks!

Ben Frost
Photos by Bjarni Grimsson
Ben Frost is worth standing for.

The Ben Frost show at the Amsterdam on Saturday has sold out, but standing room tickets are available at the door. It’s worth standing for. We’ve been listening to some of Frost’s recordings (“By the Throat,” “Solaris,” “Steel Wound”) and some of his mixing/producing work for Björk and Bon Iver saxophonist Colin Stetson. This is richly textured, deeply emotional, spaciously ambient and surreal electronic music, the kind that takes you to another place entirely. Twin Cities appearances by the Australia-born, Iceland-based Frost are very rare; this will be only his second visit. Kate Nordstrum first brought him here when she was programming music for the Southern. He returns as part of her new Liquid Music series for the SPCO, which began with Laurie Anderson and continues later this month with Sarah Kirkland Snider, Shara Worden and yMusic. Here’s Euan Kerr’s interview with Frost for MPR. Here’s a video that may give you some idea of what to expect, or not. 

James Valenti
James Valenti

Also on Saturday: if you sighed over tenor James Valenti as Rodolfo, Romeo and/or Werther at the Minnesota Opera, you’ll love him in recital on the Ordway’s stage. In performance for the Schubert Club’s International Artist Series (the first tenor in the series since 1972), Valenti will sing songs and arias by Massenet, Verdi, Puccini, and more, including “La Fleur” from Bizet’s “Carmen.” FMI and tickets. So, what’s up with the Schubert Club and tenors?

With both major city orchestras locked out, it’s the perfect time to explore other classical music organizations. Like the Dakota Valley Symphony, which plays a “Grieg Meets Verdi” program this Sunday at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center. Grieg’s Piano Concerto in a minor, Op. 16 will feature award-winning pianist Robert Plano. For Verdi’s “Requiem,” the DVS will be joined by the Dakota Valley Symphony Chorus, CORO! and Hymnus. Except for its conductor, DVS is an all-volunteer orchestra; CORO! Is a semiprofessional ensemble of vocal soloists based in the Twin Cities; Hymnus is a community choir from New Prague. 2 p.m., Burnsville PAC, 12600 Nicollet Ave. FMI and tickets (also available at the box office).

Will Sunday’s Grammys make us proud? In the running: Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra for “Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5.” The Okee Dokee Brothers for “Can You Canoe?” U of M School of Music alum Ryan Truesdell for “Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans.” And “Life and Breath,” a recording by the Kansas City Chorale of music by Concordia Choir conductor and composer René Clausen. Some of us heard the Sibelius symphonies live at the Convention Center last Friday. You can catch the Okee Dokees (and congratulate them either way) at the Mall of America on Tuesday (Feb. 12) as part of their Toddler Tuesdays series. Shows at 10 and 11 a.m. in the Rotunda.

The New York Times came to Friday’s Grammy Celebration concert by the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, enjoyed the music (“blazing performances”), and wondered, like the rest of us, “Will the orchestra be around to open the renovated hall in the fall? Will it travel to Carnegie Hall next season for its recently announced four concerts of Sibelius, including all the symphonies? In short, will it survive?” Then the Times declared “It must … for the sake of the world orchestral scene.”

We know you don’t want to blow Valentine’s Day. You can make the usual dinner reservation (bor-ing) or shake things up with something new. Suggestions:

•  Wednesday, Feb. 13: Literary Love Fest. Local literati will regale you with tales of love, lust, libations, and romantic lunacy. Hosted by the Loft, with Heid Erdrich, Lorna Landvik, Courtney McLean & the Dirty Curls and more, plus roses and “Hot Buttery Love” (warm gingers and whiskey). 6 p.m. in the Titanic Lounge at Kieran’s Irish Pub, 601 North 1st Ave., Minneaolis. $5 suggested donation. Call 612-339-4499 if you want dinner reservations.

•  Thursday, Feb. 14: The Minneapolis Institute of Hearts. Visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and receive a paper heart to place in front of your favorite masterpiece. If you want, you can write a love letter on the heart and tweet it to the world (#MIAhearts). Arrive by 1 p.m. and take the “Love and Scandal” tour (February’s Tour of the Month). Or come at night; the museum is open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. 

•  Thursday, Feb. 14: “The All-Time Greatest Valentine’s Day Mix.” Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles join Big Trouble (deVon Gray, David Campbell, Matt Latterell and Brian Just) to re-invigorate old love songs, plus there’s a mixtape swap. 7:30 p.m. at the Cedar. FMI and tickets.

•  Thursday, Feb. 14: “Hearts and Sparks: A reading of love poems.” If you’re not a poet and you know it, let someone else do the sweet-talking for you. Ethna McKiernan, Tim Nolan, Margaret Hasse and Michael Dennis Browne will read from their books and other poems they love. At SubText: A Bookstore, 165 Western Ave. N., St. Paul. Free.

•  Thursday, Feb. 14: “I Dig You!” Reserve the diorama of your choice at the Bell Museum, then enjoy a picnic dinner from Barbette on a blanket spread out before it (with the lights nicely dimmed). Go early and tour the current exhibit, “Dig It! The Secrets of Soil.” An idea so creative, so unusual, and so smart that no wonder the night is already sold out. The Bell is taking names for a waiting list. 6 p.m. FMI.

Hot Iron Pour
Courtesy of Franconia Sculpture Park
Heat things up for your Valentine at Franconia Sculpture Park’s Hot Iron Pour.

•  Saturday, Feb. 16: Hot Iron Pour at Franconia Sculpture Park. Add some heat to your V-Day weekend as 15 sculptors create iron castings from recycled iron (mostly broken-up old radiators). Noon until 5 p.m. FMI.

•  Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16-17: “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons.” A concert tribute to Nat King Cole starring Dennis Spears with the Wolverines Jazz Trio. Spears won the Ivey in 2011 for his powerful portrayal of Cole in “I Wish You Love” at the Penumbra. He knows Cole; he can sound like Cole. FMI and tickets.