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Excitement over Replacements gigs; legislative auditor reports on Orchestra, public funds

ALSO: A spellbinding “War Horse” at the Orpheum; Shakespeare in many parks (and in Winona); HazelFest in Center City; and more.

The Replacements in their heyday. Left to right: The late Bob Stinson, Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars.
Photo by Daniel Corrigan

It’s official: the Replacements will play again. Has it really been 22 years since their last live show? Will they give a reunion concert here? What will the actual line-up be? And is Mats worship all Jim Walsh’s fault? Here’s what we’ve picked up from Pitchfork, the Strib and the Current: The last time the Replacements performed live was July 4, 1991,  in Chicago. So far they’re booked for three Riot Fests: Toronto (Aug. 24-25), Chicago (Sept. 13-15) and Denver (Sept. 21-22). Singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson will play, but there’s no news yet on who will join them. (Guitarist Slim Dunlap is recovering from a stroke; drummer Chris Mars isn’t interested.) And at least one commenter at the Current’s website blames Walsh for everything Mats.

The Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) has concluded its special review of how the Minnesota Orchestra spent state money in fiscal years 2010-2013, including grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and bond proceeds for costs related to Orchestra Hall’s renovation. Back in October, the locked-out musicians called for a joint independent financial review, but the two sides could not agree on terms. In March, 100 Minnesota legislators requested a legislative audit of the orchestra’s finances. Legislative auditor James Noble agreed to the audit but limited it to a review of the Orchestra’s use of public funds. We didn’t expect surprises, and we didn’t find any in the legislative summary, released yesterday. Key phrases: “The Minnesota Orchestra complied with applicable legal requirements related to the grant money it received  … We did not identify any payments for costs [related to the OH renovation] that did not comply with applicable legal requirements … While there are indications that the president [Michael Henson] and some board members had significant concerns about the association’s financial condition [during their 2010 testimony to legislative committees], it is not clear that a presentation of those concerns … would have affected the Legislature’s decision to support the Orchestra Hall renovation project.”

On second thought, that last part is rather surprising. The full report says: “More information about the association’s financial challenges might have caused some legislators to be more cautious toward the project, but it might also have persuaded others to be more supportive.” What does that even mean?

The orchestra’s management issued a press release saying, “the Auditor has determined that the Orchestra has been a good steward of public monies.” The musicians issued a press release headlined, “Henson’s Legislative Testimony Contradicted Board Minutes.” The latter includes a statement by Tim Zavadil, chair of the Musicians’ Negotiating Committee: “The Auditors investigation concludes that Mr. Henson and management have not been forthcoming about their alleged financial situation with the public, just as they have not been honest with the Musicians.”

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So much of what we see in movies these days isn’t real. Must all entertainment be computer-generated? Puppetry is one of the most ancient art forms, and it still has the power to kick our behinds, nowhere more than in “War Horse,” the spellbinding epic play that opened last night at the Orpheum. The star is a puppet – a horse named Joey, 8 feet tall, weighing 120 pounds, brought to life by three puppeteers, two inside its massive frame. Made of mesh, metal, Tyvek and bamboo, Joey walks, runs, rears, eats, even breathes. Actors ride him. When the full-grown Joey steps on stage for the first time, your heart may stop.

war horse photo
Albert and Joey. Andrew Veenstra (Albert) with Christopher Mai, Derek Stratton, Rob Laqui (Joey)

Based on the book of the same name by Michael Morpurgo, set during World War I, “War Horse” is an unabashedly sentimental play about friendship, devotion, courage, carnage, grief and love. The stage is simple: bare and black, with what looks like a long strip of torn paper on the back wall. Onto that strip are projected black-and-white images and animations: dates, maps, landscapes, towns, and battle scenes that tell you when and where you are. Spectacular lighting and stage smoke blur the edges of reality, but there’s no attempt to hide the puppeteers or the mechanics of the puppets, which include more horses, birds flying overhead, carrion crows and a goose that provides moments of comic relief. The large cast – which features St. Olaf graduate Alex Morf as Albert, the teenager who raises and trains Joey, and Edina native Rob Laqui as Joey’s hind – seems utterly committed and passionate about every moment of the play. Said a man seated behind us during intermission, “I’m enjoying this more than I enjoyed the movie.” Through June 23. FMI and tickets.

romeo and juliet
Courtesy of Cromulent Shakespeare Company/Mark Vancleave
Audrey Anderson and Ryan Levin of Cromulent Shakespeare Company

See Shakespeare all summer – outdoors. Cromulent Shakespeare Company is presenting free performances of “Romeo & Juliet” in Minneapolis and St. Paul parks. Cromulent’s goal is to “embiggen the Bard.” Well said! The sets are bare-bones (basically, six ladders) and the music is live (guitar duets by the Poppen Bros.). Wherefore art Romeo? Tonight (Friday, June 14) at Powderhorn Park, tomorrow at Newell Park in St. Paul, and Sunday at the Lake Harriet Rose Gardens. Or catch another performance between now and June 30. Shows at 7 p.m. (Sundays at 2 p.m.), free. Complete schedule here. Now in its tenth year, the Great River Shakespeare Festival takes place in Winona June 26-Aug. 4. This year’s plays: “Twelfth Night,” “King Henry VI,” and “Macbeth.” Here’s a brief and enticing video about the company that decided early on not to be a “pumpkin-pants, leather-jerkin, hey-nonny-nonny” venture but a contemporary Shakespeare festival. The many free events include concerts, previews, discussions, and a sonnet contest. FMI and tickets. The 38th season of Shakespeare & Company, Minnesota’s longest-running outdoor classical repertory theater, begins June 29 at Century College in White Bear Lake with “The Taming of the Shrew” and continues with “Macbeth” and George Farquhar’s “The Beaux’ Strategem.” All performances are held at Century’s outdoor theater complex on the west campus. Through Aug. 4. $15/$13. FMI. On Sunday, June 30, at Caponi Art Park in Eagan, the Actors Theater of Minnesota will present all 37 Shakespeare plays in 97 minutes. The whole canon performed by three men in tights. Sounds like a lot of fun. 6:30 p.m., 4545 Pilot Knob Rd., $5 suggested donation. FMI. Starting in July, the Actors Theater gallops through the Bard on the roof at Brit’s Pub. Four Sundays: July 14 (3 p.m.), July 21 and 28 (6 p.m.), Aug. 4 (6 p.m.). No cover. FMI.

A music festival with no beer? A sobering thought. It’s called “HazelFest” and it happens this Saturday at Hazelden in Center City, with music by singer/guitarist Brian Leighton, indie rockers Communist Daughter and “The Voice” finalist Nicholas David, all with recovery experience. Also on the schedule: a drum circle, author signings, an appearance by actress Kristen Johnson (“3rd Rock from the Sun”), and 12 Step meetings. 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. in Center City. $20 at the door. FMI.

the chalice
Courtesy of Franconia Sculpture Park
The Chalice are performing at Franconia Sculpture Park on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, Franconia Sculpture Park launches its new Music@Franconia Festival Series with a day of girl power. The Women’s Indie Music event features the all-female hip-hop collective The Chalice (who recently closed out the Voltage fashion show at First Ave), post-apocalyptic vixen rockers L’Assassins, Korean-American pop artist Mayda, and Sleeper and the Sleepless (Heidi Brink and Jess Nelson, though we’re not sure which is which). 12 p.m. – 6 p.m., 29836 St. Croix Trail, Franconia. Free.

Our picks for the weekend

Tonight (June 14) and tomorrow at the Artists’ QuarterAtlantis Quartet. If you follow local jazz at all, you’ve seen one or more of these musicians: Brandon Wozniak on saxophone, Zacc Harris on guitar, Chris Bates on bass, Pete Hennig on drums. Each is a skilled improviser with a strong sense of melody, so their original compositions (which is pretty much all they play, except for occasional forays into Coltrane and Led Zeppelin) are tuneful and exciting and also very likable. They want you to have a good time, and you will. 9 p.m. in the basement of the Hamm Building, $10 at the door.

Tonight and tomorrow at the Lab TheaterDestination Twin Cities. An impressionistic, time-traveling exploration of our neighborhoods, landmarks, people and places, with images of St. Paul’s Swede Hollow and landmarks like the Stone Arch Bridge. A collaboration among choreographer Sarah LaRose-Holland and Grammy-winning jazz pianist Butch Thompson, with the 12-member dance company Kinetic Evolutions and a cameo by singer Maud Hixson. Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. 700 N. First St., Minneapolis. FMI and tickets ($30-$15).

Tonight through Sunday: Opera Under the Stars. As encores to its 50th anniversary season, and in thanks for decades of community support, the Minnesota Opera is giving us three free concert performances of Puccini’s “La bohème.” Tenor Harold Meers makes his company debut as the poet Rodolfo opposite soprano Karin Wolverton (“Silent Night,” 2011) as Mimì. Leonardo Vordoni (“Lucia di Lammermoor,” 2012) conducts the Minnesota Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Bring a picnic, family, friends and the DEET. Friday at Harriet Island (7 p.m.), Saturday at Lake Harriet Bandshell (7:30 p.m.), Sunday at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault (7 p.m.). FMI.

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Saturday at the American Swedish InstituteMidsommar. The Swedish Institute is becoming Party Central. The day-long outdoor festival includes a parade, the raising of the Midsommar pole, singing, dancing, live music, demonstrations by Minnesota artists, festival food (pickled herring!), a flea market and  the opening of a new exhibit, “Pull, Twist, Blow – Transforming the Kingdom of Crystal.” Master glass blower Ingalena Klenell (her glass forest, “Homeland,” is part of the exhibit) will be on hand for conversations. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Included with museum admission ($7/$6/$4).

Saturday at the Stone Arch Bridge: Global Water Dance. We’ll see just part of an event happening around the world, beginning in the Pacific Rim and rolling westward through the time zones. In 60 cities on six continents, more than 2,000 dancers will bring awareness to the global water crisis. According to the World Health Organization, unsafe water causes 1.5 million deaths each year, and most who die are children under 5. Marylee Hardenbergh, artistic director of the global effort, lives in Minneapolis. 7 p.m. Free and open to the public.

Saturday and Sunday: Stone Arch Bridge Festival. A weekend of juried art and local music on the Minneapolis Riverfront. With 250 artists, three performance stages, a Father’s Day car show, a family art park and more. Saturday: Booths and live music 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., concert at Water Power Park 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday: Booths and live music 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. FMI.

Sunday at the Lake Harriet Band Shell: Cantus. The annual Father’s Day concert by the men’s vocal ensemble has special poignancy this year: it’s bassist Tim Takach’s final performance with the group he co-founded as a St. Olaf student. 2 p.m., 4135 W. Lake Harriet Parkway. Free.