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MN Orchestra Homecoming Concerts set; a dazzling ‘Cabaret’ at Pantages

ALSO: Creative City Challenge finalists chosen; ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar …’ at Children’s Theatre; first-ever comic at the Dakota; and more.

Orchestra Hall's renovated concert auditorium
Photo by George Heinrich

The newly renovated Orchestra Hall was supposed to have its grand re-opening in summer 2013. Events intervened, so to speak, but now that the lockout is over, those of us who weren’t at the Symphony Ball in September or one of the rental events since then will finally get a look at the new digs. (Black seats. Big lobby. Yes, the sound cubes are still there.) Two weekends of homecoming concerts were announced Friday, and the public is invited to a free open house before each concert, starting at 4 p.m. No tickets or reservations are required to see the hall; just show up on Feb. 7 or 8, or Feb. 14 or 15.

Those are the dates the Minnesota Orchestra will give its first performances in its new home. On Feb. 7 and 8, Conductor Laureate Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who stood staunchly by the musicians during the lockout, will lead Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony, his own arrangement of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and Strauss’ “Don Juan.” (We last heard Skrowaczewski lead his Bach at the Season Finale concerts in 2012, just before renovations began.) On Feb. 14 and 15, French conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier will conduct Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with guest Steven Isserlis on cello, and Holst’s “The Planets,” with the women of the Minnesota Chorale. (What’s with Isserlis and end-of-lockout shows? Last May, he played the SPCO’s first official concert after its contract was settled. Perhaps he possesses the secret healing sauce. His performance with the SPCO of the Schumann cello concerto was gorgeous.) All Minnesota Orchestra concerts start at 8 p.m. Tickets go on sale to the general public online this Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 5 p.m. Bonus: All concertgoers will receive a copy of the Orchestra’s Grammy-nominated recording of the Sibelius Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4. (By then, we hope, it will be a Grammy winner. We’ll find out Jan. 26.)

The 2014 season will be unveiled Jan. 24. Will it include any or all of the concerts the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra planned to produce on their own and announced in December? Will we see Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell and Judd Greenstein? According to the musicians’ website (which we hope they will continue to update on their own), “Efforts are currently underway at the Minnesota Orchestral Association to fold these concerts and artists into the offerings for a series of concerts that will be announced soon. We apologize that we cannot offer further details at this time.” Tickets had not yet been sold for the future concerts, so ticketholders are not affected. What about the “Echoes of History” concerts with the musicians and Osmo Vänskä that were scheduled as part of Northrop’s grand re-opening in May? Northrop’s director, Christine Tschida, told MinnPost on Monday, “We have confirmation from both the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestral Association that the programs will indeed go forward.” FMI here and here.

The Minnesota Chorale, the principal chorus of the Minnesota Orchestra since 2004 (but a regular performer with the orchestra for nearly four decades), must be very relieved that the lockout has ended. But it has learned some valuable lessons along the way. “In addition to resuming our appearances with the Minnesota Orchestra,” board president Elizabeth Balay wrote in an email last week, “we’re determined to expand on the artistic gains of the past year, during which our independently-produced concerts have made us new friends and audiences in new places.” Glad to hear it. This Sunday at the Landmark Center, you can join the Chorale and the St. Paul Civic Symphony for a Mozart Requiem sing-along. The Chorale is nicely warmed up, having performed the Requiem with the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra less than two weeks ago at the Ted Mann. 3 p.m. Free-will offering; no tickets or reservations required.

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Three teams of finalists have been selected for the next Creative City Challenge. They will now prepare final proposals for a commission to produce an installation on the Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza. (The first Creative City Challenge winner, in case you’ve forgotten, was MIMMI, a giant cloud-like sculpture that changed color depending on the city’s mood.) This year’s proposed projects include “Balancing Ground,” an interactive space with teeter-totters; “Chrysalis,” with a tower pavilion and light show; and “SPark,” for Sentient Park, with human-sized flower components that respond to visitors with movement and light. Read more about them here. Which sounds most fun and interesting to you? Think about that. We’ll all get to vote for our favorites starting Feb. 3.

The Jerome Foundation has authorized more than $1 million in grants to arts organizations in Minnesota and New York. Minnesota winners are Northern Clay Center, Franconia Sculpture Park, Springboard for the Arts, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, the Playwrights’ Center, the Loft Literary Center, Milkweed Editions, Open Eye Figure Theatre, Pillsbury United Communities on behalf of Pillsbury House + Theatre, and Highpoint Center for Printmaking. Most of the grants support new work by emerging artists. Complete details here.

sandra bernhard
Courtesy of the Dakota
Sandra Bernhard will be the Dakota’s first-ever comic.

Once a jazz club and restaurant, now a music club and restaurant, the Dakota will be a comedy club and restaurant for two nights later this month. On Jan. 26 and 27, Sandra Bernhard will become the Dakota’s first-ever comic. Bernhard is on tour with her latest one-woman show, “I Love Being Me, Don’t You?” which the critics really like. (The L.A. Times: “like hanging out with a hip and funny friend who never fails to lift you up with her outrageous freedom.”) FMI and tickets ($40-$60). There’s still good jazz at the Dakota, including a parade of big-name singers starting in February. On Feb. 13: Kurt Elling. Feb. 16: Gregory Porter. March 8: Cécile McLorin Salvant. (Both Porter and Salvant are Grammy nominees.) Between Porter and Salvant, the great trumpeter Terence Blanchard (also a Grammy nominee) returns. April 28: Joe Lovano & Us Five. Check the website FMI.

Photo by Michal Daniel
“Cabaret” opened at the Pantages on Friday.

What can we say about “Cabaret,” which opened at the Pantages on Friday? Simply that “Cab” is fab. From the moment emcee Tyler Michaels drops down on a rope into an audience member’s lap to Kira Lace Hawkins’ final appearance as Sally Bowles, Peter Rothstein’s production is a (mostly) nonstop whirl of song, dance, glam, torn stockings, flesh, and mounting, sickening dread as the Nazis rise to power in Weimar Germany. Part of the Broadway Re-Imagined series, a collaboration between Rothstein’s Theater Latté Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust (previous projects: “All Is Calm” and “Aida”), this all-local show is dazzling. We’d seen the 1972 Oscar-winning film by Bob Fosse and were a bit concerned going in that we wouldn’t be able to get past the indelible performances by Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli. But the extravagantly talented Michaels, who is destined to be a big star, and Hawkins, whose performance grew in power and conviction, took care of all that, along with their co-stars Sally Wingert as brittle, who-cares Fraulein Schneider, James Michael Detmar as her tender and patient Jewish suitor, Herr Schultz, and Sean Dooley as American writer Clifford Bradshaw, alter-ego for Christopher Isherwood, on whose “Berlin Stories” the musical is based. New York’s Roundabout Theatre is preparing its own Broadway revival of “Cabaret,” which opens in April. They should save themselves the trouble and borrow ours. FMI; through Feb. 9.

Our picks for the week

Tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 21): Omnifest at the Science Museum. This year’s version of the museum’s annual giant-screen film fest features “Great White Shark” (new to the Omnitheater), “Blue Planet” (with footage from five different space shuttle missions), “Ring of Fire” (volcanoes!), “Stomp’s World Beat” (about the globe-trotting stage show), and “To the Limit” (with endoscopic footage of athletes’ muscles, respiratory and circulatory systems). Films show in rotation daily (except Mondays, when the museum is closed). Through Feb. 28. FMI and tickets.

Wednesday, Jan. 22: Andy Sturdevant (MinnPost’s “The Stroll”) reads from his book of essays, “Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow,” at the Hamline-Midway Library in St. Paul. Sturdevant isn’t a native Minnesotan – he moved here in 2005, which means he’s still on probation – but he already knows more about the Twin Cities than most of us ever will. 7 p.m., free.

Wednesday, Jan. 22: Words with Wolves at Subtext. Here’s a themed evening you won’t see every day. Three Minnesota-based novelists will read from new and recent novels, and all of the novels have wolves in them. Why not? With Benjamin Percy (“Red Moon”), Thomas Maltman (“Little Wolves”), and Peter Geye (“The Lighthouse Road”). 7 p.m., free.

Wednesday, Jan. 22: Goran Ivanovic Trio at Icehouse. If you love the guitar, do not miss this. Born in Croatia to a Bosnian Croat mother and Serbian father, Goran was a child prodigy who left home to study in Salzburg just before the outbreak of the civil war. Expelled from Croatia, his parents joined him in Salzburg as refugees and were later granted political asylum in the U.S. Now based in Chicago, Goran has recorded with Andreas Kapsalis and Fareed Haque. Playing classical nylon-string guitar, he blends fiery Balkan folk melodies with Spanish and Latin American music, jazz and blues rhythms. Acoustic Guitar magazine named “Blackmail,” his 2013 recording with Kapsalis, one of the year’s best. Here’s a video. 10 p.m., 21+. FMI and tickets ($10).

Courtesy of Children’s Theatre Company
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites” at the Children’s Theatre.

Thursday, Jan. 23: “The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites” at the Children’s Theatre. If you don’t have a preschooler of your own, rent one for this enchanting hour of black-light puppetry pulled from the pages of Carle’s “Little Cloud,” “The Mixed-Up Chameleon,” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” The members of Nova Scotia’s Mermaid Theatre Company, dressed all in black (as “theater ninjas”) so they can manipulate the puppets without being seen, come out afterward to take questions and share secrets about the plays. The show takes its time, like turning the pages of a book, but it has an essential sweetness, laugh-out-loud moments, and real magic. 7 p.m. (lasts about an hour). Through Feb. 23. FMI and tickets ($24-$47). Note the dates of these special performances: Jan. 31 (ASL/AD), Feb. 8 (Sensory-Friendly, for children and families with sensory, learning, and social disabilities; developed in partnership with the Autism Society of Minnesota); Feb. 20 and 21 (Spanish).

Thursday, Jan. 23: Michael Janisch’s Purpose Built Quintet at Studio Z. An award-winning bassist, bandleader, producer, and native of Ellsworth, Wisconsin, Janisch has spent the past 15 years in New York and Europe and now lives in London, where he teaches at the Royal Academy of Music and the Trinity Conservatoire. For his first local concert as a leader, he’s bringing his all-star quintet of New York musicians: Matthew Stevens on guitar, Patrick Cornelius on alto saxophone, Philip Dizack on trumpet and Clarence Penn on drums. Visit Janisch’s website to hear music and watch videos. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets. Free workshop at 6 p.m.