From Alan Cumming to Laura Osnes: Minnesota Orchestra adds to ’15-16 season

Courtesy of the Minnesota Orchestra
On March 26, “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs” shows another side of the entertainer most of us know from “The Good Wife” and those “Masterpiece Mystery!” intros.

Seven more concerts have been added to the Minnesota Orchestra’s 2015-16 season, an already jam-packed year of classical concerts where the orchestra performs and events where they don’t – holiday programs, the Peking Acrobats, Jazz in the Atrium and Lily Tomlin are a few examples. All keep Orchestra Hall lit and lively.

Has it really been six years since composer-pianist George Winston played Orchestra Hall? He’s back Dec. 17 for a solo performance of holiday faves, music by the Doors, pieces from the “Peanuts” TV specials and selections from his many recordings. On Jan. 23, 2016, composer-pianist Jeremy Walker brings his evening-length original work “7 Psalms” to the big stage, with soloist Jason Harms, a jazz quartet and American Public Media’s new Radio Choir, directed by Tesfa Wondemagegnehu.

Ben Folds, the singer-songwriter-pianist who sold out Orchestra Hall in 2009 and 2011, returns for another evening of rock, jazz and spontaneity with the Minnesota Orchestra, led by Sarah Hicks, on March 5. Later that month, on March 26, “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs” shows another side of the entertainer most of us know from “The Good Wife” and those “Masterpiece Mystery!” intros. (Just hearing him say “Poirot” gives us goosebumps.) On May 14, the Minnesota Orchestra presents “A Broadway Romance,” a Broadway-based tribute to love starring Minnesota’s two-time Tony nominee Laura Osnes.

On July 2, the New Standards – Chan Poling on piano, Steve Roehm on vibes, John Munson on bass – bring their smart, eclectic, humorous show to Orchestra Hall with the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. That should be a trip. And on July 29, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III makes his first-ever appearance at the Hall.

Photo by Travis Anderson
The New Standards

Tickets are on sale now to season subscribers. July 31 is the on-sale date for the general public.

The acclaimed chamber ensemble Accordo has trimmed its 2015-16 season from four concerts to three. Presented by the Schubert Club and Kate Nordstrum Projects, now in its seventh year, the group features principal string players from the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO, both of which have demanding seasons coming up.

Two concerts – on Oct. 26, 2015 and May 9, 2016 – will be held at Accordo’s usual venue, the national historic landmark Christ Church Lutheran, with music by Milhaud, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Dvorak and Brahms. The third, on January 19, is a fascinating variation: an evening of music for silent film at the new Ordway Concert Hall. Guest pianist/composer Stephen Prutsman will join Accordo for films including “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” to be shown on a screen set up for the performance.

Packages are now on sale, and you can pick your seats ($45-$75). Call 651-292-3268. Single tickets start at $20 and go on sale Aug. 3.

Founded in 1998, still going strong under founder and artistic director Doug Snapp, JazzMN Orchestra announced its 18th season of big-band music and big-name guest artists. On Oct. 3, L.A.-based trumpeter Wayne Bergeron will join JazzMN for a night of music by artists who influenced his playing, including Maynard Ferguson and Doc Severinson. On Nov. 3, the musicians of JazzMN will follow “Jazz Through the Decades” with early jazz, swing, bebop, cool jazz, fusion and contemporary jazz. March 13, 2016 brings jazz vocalist and six-time Grammy nominee Tierney Sutton to town. We usually see her at the Dakota; we’ve never seen her with a big band, so we’re pretty excited about this. The 2015-16 season ends on April 23 with trombone greats Andy Martin and Bob McChesney, because you can’t have too many trombones.

Season passes are on sale now at early-bird prices. Single tickets are available later this summer.

Last Friday we previewed Wonderlust Productions’ Adoption Play Project, and on Sunday afternoon we went to a staged reading. Come February 2016, when the company plans to have a full production ready, we’ll revisit this, because it looks very promising. Alan Berks and Leah Cooper have fused vast amounts of information and emotion gleaned from hundreds (thousands?) of first-person stories by adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, siblings and social workers into a coherent work of theater that informs, entertains, challenges assumptions and has the big-bell-like ring of authenticity. A mix of seriousness and humor, reality and fantasy (stitched together by references to “Alice in Wonderland”), it’s deeply touching.

And now for a wee rant: No more Milk Carton Races? Bah, humbug! Wait – humbug is for Holidazzle, another signature public event the Minneapolis Downtown Council took the ax to last year, replacing it with a marketplace you have to pay to get into before you can pay to buy stuff. The Minneapolis Aquatennial, a summer staple for 75 years, has been reduced from 10 days to four (July 22-25). We’re in Minnesota, people. There should be more “Best Days of Summer,” not fewer. Here’s this year’s truncated schedule.

The picks

Tonight (Thursday, June 4) through Sunday at Mixed Blood: Mu Performing Arts: “Twelfth Night.” Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy, performed by an all-Asian American cast, set in Vietnam, directed by and starring Randy Reyes. Mu’s first Shakespeare since “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (2005) uses cross-gender casting (Duke Orsino, Sebastian and Antonio are played by female actors), costume design inspired by Vietnamese formal wear, and live music (an original score by Jason Hanson, influenced by traditional Asian female choral singing) to turn a play we think we know on its head. At just over 90 minutes, it’s also a lot shorter than the usual 2½ hours, something many of us will appreciate. FMI and tickets ($25/$10). Ends June 14. 

Photo by Keri Pickett
Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy, set in Vietnam.
The weekend

Opens Friday at the Bloomington Theatre and Art Center (BTAC): Steve Sack’s “Cartoonival.” We know Steve Sack as the Star Tribune’s Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist. Meet Steve Sack, playful sculptor. Using papier-mâché, wire and seeds, he creates cats, mermaids, aliens, jesters, rhinos and muscle men with tattoos, lighthearted and nonpolitical. Who knew? In the Inez Greenberg Gallery. Opening reception 6-8 p.m. Free. Also free: an artist talk on Tuesday, June 23, at 7 p.m.

Courtesy of the Bloomington Theatre and Art Center
Meet Steve Sack, playful sculptor.

Starts Friday at the St. Anthony Main Theatre: “Love & Mercy.” The Brian Wilson biopic directed by Oscar nominee Bill Pohlad was the sold-out closer for this year’s MSPIFF. It’s back through Thursday, June 11, for four showings each day. Reviewers and fans have loved this portrayal of the Beach Boys’ troubled genius. FMI, times and tickets ($6/$8.50).

Both the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO are wrapping up their 2014-15 seasons with grand finales.

•  At Orchestra Hall, Osmo Vänskä leads the Minnesota Orchestra in Sibelius’ two final symphonies, Nos. 6 and 7, music they just recorded for the BIS label (finishing up the Sibelius cycle once interrupted by the lockout), and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, “Titan,” bookending a season that began with his Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection.” 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. FMI and tickets ($34-$96).

•  At the Ordway Concert Hall, SPCO artistic partner Christian Zacharias conducts and performs Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor. The program also includes music by Dvorak (selections from “Legends”) and Frank Martin’s “Petite symphony concertante,” with Sivan Magen, harp; Ilya Poletaev, harpsichord; and Pedja Muzijevic, piano. 10:30 a.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. All three concerts are sold out, but turnbacks happen. FMI.

Friday and Saturday at the Cowles: “Cantus Covers: A Pop Concert.” There’s no need for Autotune when these nine fine singers take on music from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s in their popular “Covers” summer show. This year’s program includes songs by Paul Simon (“American Tune”), George Michael of Wham! (“Careless Whisper” – it’s been a very long while since we’ve heard that one), Stevie Wonder (“Superstition”) and Queen (“Don’t Stop Me Now”). Cantus performs with a live band including Jake Amerding on fiddle/mandolin, Lee Blaske on keys/woodwinds/ Jeremy Boettcher on bass, David Hagedorn on percussion and David Schmalenberg on drums. Good times. FMI and tickets ($10-$35). Also Thursday-Saturday, June 11-13.

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