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Latté Da plans ambitious season; 'Music Man' to open at the Guthrie

Tyler Michaels
(C) 2013 Tom Sandelands
Tyler Michaels, shown in "Cabaret," will join Sally Wingert in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” at Theater Latté Da.

Theater Latté Da just had the most successful season in its 17-year history: a thrilling “Master Class” with Sally Wingert as Maria Callas (smartly staged like a real master class at MacPhail), a steampunk “Oliver!” with Bradley Greenwald as Fagin, and a magical “Into the Woods” with Greta Oglesby as the Witch, plus the final “All Is Calm” with Cantus and the third year of “NEXT: New Musicals in the Making,” a peek at what’s coming down the pike.

Announced last night at the Ritz, the 2015-16 season is bigger and potentially even better. With five full shows including two world premieres, Latté Da is growing its core season, launching a massive initiative to create new American musicals, and continuing its relationship with Hennepin Theatre Trust.

First, that initiative: It’s called NEXT 20/20, and it’s a five-year plan to develop 20 new musicals or plays-with-music and put many of them into full production. Twenty is a lot, but artistic director Peter Rothstein is ready. “I believe it is the responsibility of the regional theater to not only speak to audiences today, but to contribute to the dramatic canon of tomorrow,” he said in a statement.

The first two are the world premieres in the 2015-16 season. “Lullaby,” a play-with-music from writer Michael Elyanow and singer-songwriter, recording artist and playwright Jonatha Brooke (“My Mother Has Four Noses”) opens Jan. 13, 2016, at the Ritz. “C” is Bradley Greenwald and Bob Elhai’s musical adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” with Greenwald as Cyrano. Performances begin March 30 at the Ritz. Both new works came out of Latté Da’s “NEXT: New Musicals in the Making” series.

The season opens with “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” with Sally Wingert as pie shop proprietress Mrs. Lovett and Tyler Michaels as Toby, her unwitting accomplice. We loved Wingert in “Master Class” and Michaels in “Cabaret,” part of Latté Da’s 2012-13 season. Michaels’ turn as the Emcee was his breakout role; after that came Freddy in “My Fair Lady” and Puck in “Midsummer,” both at the Guthrie, and “Peter Pan” (as Peter) at the Children’s Theatre.

In March, the Bloomington native told KARE 11, “I’ve made the decision to stay here for a while … the community I have here is super-supportive, and I love it, and Minnesota is my home.” He’ll be here at least through Oct. 25 of this year. “Sweeney Todd” opens Sept. 23 at the Ritz.

For its fourth offering in the Broadway Re-Imagined series with Hennepin Theatre Trust (which earlier brought us Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida,” “Cabaret” and “Oliver!”), Rothstein will direct real-life mother and daughter Michelle Barber and Cat Brindisi in his new interpretation of “Gypsy.” It opens Feb. 13 at the Pantages.

After eight years, Cantus has sung its final “All Is Calm,” so this year’s version will be a new production. Cantus’ founding artistic director Erick Lichte and former Cantus member Timothy C. Takach were the original arrangers of the songs. Lichte will return to serve as music director, so maybe it won’t change that much. We’ll see starting Dec. 16 at the Pantages.

The fourth year of “NEXT: New Musicals in the Making” begins May 22, closes out the season and gives us a hint of what Rothstein and Latté Da might do next. Details TBA.

Last season’s “Into the Woods” was Latté Da’s first production at the Ritz, the refurbished theater in northeast Minneapolis that was once home to Ballet of the Dolls and faced an uncertain future when that company went on hiatus in 2014. Along with presenting three shows there in 2015-16, Latte Da now has its offices in the building.

Season subscriptions are on sale now.

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MacPhail Center for Music has received the largest gift in its history: a $6.7 million donation from a former piano student.

James E. Ericksen, who died in January at age 68, began studying piano with MacPhail faculty member Victoria Ebel Sabo in the early 1990s and continued with Janet Holdorf when Sabo moved out of state. In a statement, Holdorf remembered Ericksen as “quiet and reserved … an extremely polite and punctual individual who was always mindful of the faculty’s time and other students’ time.”

MacPhail CEO Kyle Carpenter said, “To this point in our history, MacPhail has never had a significant endowment. With his gift, James has given MacPhail the opportunity to create a sizeable endowment to use towards our future.”

Along with the $6.7 million, Ericksen left MacPhail an 1800s-era symphonium (mechanical music player) that had belonged to his mother, and a 1914 Steinway he used for practice.

An Augsburg graduate and U.S. Army veteran, Ericksen, who lived in Edina, was a recreational piano player who loved learning new pieces. He worked for the state of Minnesota for 31 years as an auditor. 

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After nearly 13 years as executive director of the Soap Factory, Ben Heywood is leaving the Twin Cities to join Vulcan, the private company of art collector, entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul Allen.

Heywood graduated from Oxford University and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He began working with the Soap Factory as a volunteer, when it was an organization without a building called No Name Exhibitions. After the building was donated – a cavernous former soap factory on SE Second St. across the Mississippi from the Guthrie – he worked as gallery sitter.

He was hired in late 2002 to work with No Name’s board to turn the building into an arts incubator. Today the Soap Factory draws thousands of visitors annually, is often listed among the best art galleries in the metro area and is widely recognized as one of the most exciting venues for contemporary art and performance in the Twin Cities.

Heywood’s last day at the Soap Factory is June 30. A search committee has been formed to conduct an international search, and an interim director will be named. The Soap Factory will host a Bon Voyage to Ben Heywood event tonight from 4 to 6 p.m.

*** 

If you read yesterday’s news about this year’s Fair Foods, you’re either intrigued or alarmed. Many Minnesotans are used to countless variations of the deep-fried, frozen and on-a-stick variety, but deep-fried kale? BBQ Pickle ice cream? Tikka On-a-Stikka? And do they have to put Sriracha sauce on every gosh-darned thing? If you’re not quite ready for Kimchi ’n’ Curry Poutine, there’s always the Hamline Church Dining Hall. The oldest food concession at the Fair opened in 1897, and its menu hasn’t changed much over the years. Ham loaf. Meatballs. Chicken and mashed potatoes. Ketchup and mustard. 

The picks

Tonight through Sunday at the St. Anthony Main Theatre: Czech That Film. Five nights of new Czech films include “Clownwise.” A superstar clown trio split up over a heartbreaking fight. Thirty years later, is there one more show left in them? All films are in Czech with English subtitles. FMI and tickets. For Thursday’s film, “To See the Sea,” the director will be present for a Q&A.

Friday at the new SubText Books: Grand Opening. SubText has moved from its basement spot in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood to the St. Paul Building at the corner of 5th and Wabasha – above ground. It will be the first full-line, full-service independent bookstore in downtown St. Paul in at least 20 years. Woo-hoo! The official ribbon cutting happens at 11 a.m. Friday, with Mayor Chris Coleman and other dignitaries giving the welcome. St. Paul poet laureate Carol Connolly will read a poem. Days of readings and other events follow.

Opens Friday at the Guthrie: “The Music Man.” Big Blue’s final summer musical of the Joe Dowling era is a big, splashy, family-friendly Tony winner making its first-ever appearance on a Guthrie stage. John Miller-Stephany directs; out-of-towners Danny Binstock and Stacie Bono are the fast-talking salesman and Marian the Librarian. Familiar faces include J.C. Cutler as Charlie Cowell, Molly Sue McDonald as Alma Hix, and T. Mychael Rambo as Oliver Hix. Plus there are more than a dozen kids in the cast. FMI and tickets ($34-$86).

Stacie Bono and Danny Binstock
Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Stacie Bono and Danny Binstock in the Guthrie Theater's production of "The Music Man."

If vintage is your thing, this is the weekend to spend at the fairgrounds.

Friday-Saturday at the State Fairgrounds: 25th Annual Antiquarian and Rare Book Fair. Why do you think Mick Jagger spent an hour at James & Mary Laurie Booksellers in Minneapolis when the Stones were in town? Because rare old books are boring? More than 60 exhibitors will bring their best. In the Progress Center. Friday 3-8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission $7 on Friday (which also includes Saturday) or $5 Saturday.

Friday-Sunday at the State Fairgrounds: Star of the North Antique Show. We haven’t been to this show in a while, but we used to never miss it. Good stuff, lots of it, definitely not a flea market. Furniture, glassware, jewelry, silver, toys, whole sets of china – almost anything you can imagine, as long as it’s old and collectible. This show is a time machine, and who knows? You might discover a passion for Vaseline glass. In the Education Building. Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. $6 at the door, good for all three days.

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