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‘Lion King,’ ‘Gypsy’ among Hennepin shows; ‘Symphony, Suds & Cider’ coming up

Plus: SPCO playing Beethoven’s 9th; “The Habsburgs” opening Sunday at MIA; “Every Time I Feel the Spirit” at History Center; and more.

Jelani Remy as “Simba” and the ensemble in “He Lives in You” from The Lion King National Tour.
© Disney/Photo by Joan Marcus

“The Lion King” is roaring back to the Orpheum. “The Book of Mormon” will return and settle in for three weeks. Peter Rothstein’s next collaboration with Hennepin Theatre Trust (after this year’s raved-about “Oliver” and last year’s smash hit “Cabaret”) is “Gypsy.” There’s a new Carole King musical on the way, and “The Bridges of Madison County.” Announced this week, the Trust’s 2015-16 Broadway on Hennepin Season should please longtime subscribers and lure new ones. It’s loaded with recent Tony winners, Minnesota premieres and a few tried-and-trues.

First out of the gate: “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” the 2013 Tony winner and family crowd-pleaser from the creators of “The Sound of Music” and “South Pacific” (Sept. 8-13). Next up: “Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” based on the animated film and recently revised for “a bit more bite” (Oct. 8-18). Anyone with a well-worn copy of “Tapestry” will want to see the Tony-winning, biographical “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical,” with all the great songs: “Natural Woman,” “So Far Away,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” (Nov. 18-29).

December brings the return of the popular “Blue Man Group,” the wordless, percussive “modern vaudeville” show that stays fresh and surprising, despite being an international juggernaut (Dec. 18-20). The New Year begins with the “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” the 2014 Tony-winning Best Musical that turns “murder most foul into entertainment most merry” (Jan. 5-10, 2016). Two-time 2012 Tony winner (Best Choreography, Original Score) “Disney’s Newsies” is based on a true story of child newspaper sellers in 1899 who go on strike. “Like ‘Gangs of New York’ but with dancing” (Feb. 9-14).

Broadway Reimagined, the fruitful partnership between Hennepin Theatre Trust and Theatre Latté Da that began in 2013 with Tim Rice and Elton John’s “Aida,” is now part of the Broadway on Hennepin subscription series, and we can’t wait to learn who Rothstein casts as Mama Rose in “Gypsy.” Anyone want to speculate? (Feb. 17-March 13). From the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning creators of “Next to Normal,” “If/Then” is a contemporary Broadway musical about living in New York today (March 8-13). On its heels, the unstoppable “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (March 29-April 3).

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The season ends with the double whammy of “The Book of Mormon” (May 10-29) and “Disney’s The Lion King” (July 5-Aug. 7), bookending the 2014 Tony winner “The Bridges of Madison County,” based on Robert James Waller’s bestselling novel. The “Bridges” score “brilliantly goes from torch song to blues and honky-tonk to virtual opera.” (June 21-26). And let’s not forget that “The Lion King,” the highest-grossing Broadway musical of all time, made its debut here at the Orpheum in July 1997.

All but two shows are at the Orpheum; the exceptions are “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the State and “Gypsy” at the Pantages, home of all Broadway Reimagined productions to date. Season packages are on sale now. Single tickets go on sale at a later date TBD. Buy from the State Theatre box office or online.


Say you’re a major orchestra that has locked out its own musicians in a labor dispute. Two citizens’ groups form in response: smart, engaged, influential music lovers who hold high-profile public meetings, stage demonstrations and work to keep the lockout and the musicians in the public eye. When the lockout ends, what do you do about them? You can hope they disband and go about their lives while continuing to write checks and attend concerts. Or you can invite them to the table, hear their ideas and pick their brains.

Ken Huber, a member of Orchestrate Excellence (one of the citizens’ groups born during the Minnesota Orchestra lockout), thought there should be more 20- and 30-somethings in the audience during orchestra concerts. And he knew where to find some: at the Sociable Cider Werks microbrewery in Northeast, co-founded by two Carleton grads, including his former student Jim Watkins. (Huber, a concert pianist, taught piano at Carleton for several years.)

Huber brought the orchestra and the Cider Werks together, and “Symphony, Suds & Cider” was born. A brass quintet from the orchestra will play at Sociable’s taproom on Thursday, Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, Feb. 26 at 8:30 p.m. Befitting the Sociable name, the musicians will hang out and chat. Concert discounts and extras (like opportunities for a backstage tour) will be available, but you’ll have to be at the taproom to get them. It’s hoped that people who stop in to Sociable will show up at Orchestra Hall, where they’ll find some of the Cider Werks’ creations on tap. More events are being planned for spring. FMI, and cheers. 

The picks

Today (Thursday, Feb. 12) at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Reedy Gallery: Opening reception for “Weird, Wild & Wonderful: The Second Triennial New York Botanical Garden Exhibition.” Forty-seven works by members of the American Society of Botanical Artists celebrate bizarre yet beautiful flora: the violet hedgehog mushroom, Medusa’s head cactus, a lumpy heirloom tomato. Artists include Minnesotans Nancy Gehrig, Linda Powers and Denise Walser-Kolar. ASBA’s Director of Exhibitions Carol Wooden will give a talk on “Today’s Botanical Artists and Plants at Risks.” 2 p.m. FMI. Free with admission to the arboretum; Thursdays are free through March. Through May 17.

Tonight at the Stillwater Public Library: Club Book with Peter Heller. A former contributor to and editor for National Geographic Adventure and Outside magazines, Heller is now writing literary fiction with great success. His first novel, “The Dog Stars,” was a New York Times bestseller. He’s touring behind his second, “The Painter.” 7 p.m. Free.

The weekend

Tonight through Sunday at the Ordway Music Theater: The SPCO performs Beethoven’s Ninth. No quiet farewells for the SPCO. Before moving out of the Music Theater and into the Concert Hall that was built especially for them, the SPCO makes the grandest of gestures: three performances of Beethoven’s Ninth, with Dale Warland directing the SPCO Chorale and soloists. The program also includes Lieberson’s “Neruda Songs.” 7:30 tonight, 8 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($50/$30/$12; very few remain).

Saturday and Sunday at Plymouth Congregational Church: Youth Performance Company presents “Home on the Mornin’ Train.” Young actors from the metro area perform two intertwining plays: one about a Jewish girl in Nazi Germany, the other about a young runaway slave, both hoping that an Underground Railroad will help them reach freedom. For ages 8 and up. 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($15/$12). Through Sunday, Feb. 22.

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Opens Sunday (Feb. 15) at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts: “The Habsburgs.” Do you have your tickets? If not, you might want to think about that. There’s a preview party Saturday from 8-11 p.m. to which tickets are still available: $20 members, $25 nonmembers. (BTW, membership is free.) Through May 10.

Save the date

Saturday, Feb. 28 at the History Center: “Every Time I Feel the Spirit … A Celebration of African American History.” Using music, poetry and “Black Pearls” of wisdom, T. Mychael Rambo and friends invite families to learn about the contributions of African-Americans and why February is Black History Month. FMI and registration ($20/$15, $5 member discount).