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See ‘Little Women’ while you can; Print & Drawing Fair at Mia

Little Women
Photo by Rich Ryan
Isabella Star LaBlanc as Beth, C. Michael Menge as Jo, Megan Burns as Amy, Christine Weber as Meg, and Christina Baldwin as Marmee in the Jungle’s “Little Women.”

Penumbra has extended “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.” Latté Da has extended “Once.” But the Jungle’s “Little Women,” based on the book by Louisa May Alcott, must end Oct. 21, and ticket pickings are slim.

Some shows have already sold out. For others, single tickets remain – literally, one single ticket. Because the Jungle is small and intimate from front to back, it doesn’t really matter where you sit. Best availability at the moment: Sunday the 14th at 2 p.m., and Sunday the 21st at 7 p.m. (the final performance).

Why go? Because it’s a Jungle-commissioned world premiere, the first in the theater’s history. Because it’s OK if you haven’t read the book. Because the cast: gloriously diverse, including a Jo who wears pants and is played by C. Michael Menge, an actor whose pronouns are they/them.

The actors are white, black, Latinx and Native American. The Jungle’s artistic director, Sarah Rasmussen, has made it clear from her first play as AD in early 2016 – Shakespeare’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” with an all-female, mixed-race cast – that monochromatic casting is not her thing.

“Little Women” was written by Kate Hamill, whose adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” launched the Guthrie’s 2016-17 season (and was directed by Rasmussen). Hamill can make a literary classic seem contemporary without snapping your suspension of disbelief. Set during the American Civil War, her “Little Women” feels timeless. When evil Aunt March (hilariously played by Wendy Lehr) declares, “We ought to make the Union great again!” we recognize the sly reference, but it isn’t false or forced.

Directed by Rasmussen in a production that makes excellent use of the Jungle’s new turntable, “Little Women” swirls with energy and emotion. It’s a play about important things: family, love, forgiveness, being true to oneself. There are moments of aching beauty, sweetness and sadness. It’s a joy to be there, sharing the experience with a rapt and appreciative audience. People are loving this play.

We loved the set, the warm lighting, Menge as headstrong Jo, Christina Baldwin as wise Marmee, Isabella Star LaBlanc as fragile Beth (the “conscience of the family”), Christine Weber as big sister Meg (her second-act mommy meltdown is brilliant), Megan Burns as selfish Amy, Michael Hanna as Laurie (who pushes back, like Jo, against assigned gender roles), Jim Lichtsheidl as both Mr. Laurence and Mr. Dashwood, Lehr (playing three parts) and James Rodríguez as John Brooks. Rodríguez has become a regular at the Jungle. He’ll return for “The Wickhams,” the holiday show, as Mr. Darcy, reprising his role in last year’s “Christmas at Pemberley.”

Several previous shows at the Jungle have sold out. Some have been extended. If the Jungle keeps this up, it’s going to need a bigger room. Meanwhile, its production of “The Wolves,” which sold out last year, will have another run, this time at the Southern. Same cast (including Isabella Star LaBlanc and Megan Burns), same crew. Tickets go on sale Oct. 12. If you missed that the first time around, sometimes life gives you a second chance.

Act fast if you want to catch “Little Women” before it’s gone. FMI and tickets ($35-50).

The picks

Friday through Sunday: Bach Society of Minnesota: “Bach and the Forbidden City.” BSM’s performances use Bach as a starting point, then move outward. Last season’s opening concert included music from the Andean Baroque Route of Peru. This season begins with a program that also includes traditional Chinese music and works by Venetian composers Vivaldi and Monteverdi. Pipa virtuoso Gao Hong will perform one of the most famous classical pipa works, “King Chu doffs his armour.” Other guest artists are soprano Carrie Shaw, violinist Margaret Humphrey, cellist Cassidy Miller, Gail Olszewski on harpsichord and Ziya Tabassian on percussion. Artistic director Matthias Maute will lead. 7:30 Friday at Hamline’s Sundin Music Hall, 7 p.m. Saturday at Brau Performing Arts Center in Willmar, 3 p.m. Sunday at Calvin Presbyterian Church in Long Lake. FMI and tickets (prices vary).

Gao Hong
The Bach Society will pair music by Bach with traditional Chinese classical music in a crossover program that features pipa master Gao Hong.
Saturday and Sunday at Mia: 25th Annual Minneapolis Print & Drawing Fair. A big deal for collectors, this annual event is also a draw for those who just want to look. Twelve dealers from the U.S. and Europe will offer hundreds of original works on paper, from old masters to modern artists and Japanese printmakers. We hear that 3-5 dealers will bring prints and drawings by African-American artists. Prices start around $250. The event will also include artist talks, curator-led tours and activities. If you’re new to collecting, don’t miss Saturday’s noontime talk by Tom Rassieur, Mia’s curator of prints and drawings, who will give an introduction to art buying and lead a tour. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Free admission. Want a first look? There’s a preview party Friday from 5:30-9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($125).

Sunday at the Ordway Concert Hall: VocalEssence 50th Anniversary Concert. Philip Brunelle wanted this to be a five-hour concert. He pared it down to two hours, which must have been a series of painful cuts. The founder and artistic director of VocalEssence (originally the Plymouth Music Series) looked back over 49 years of concerts, commissions and premieres to shape a program made of music and memories. It starts (and ends) with Aaron Copland, who conducted the first VocalEssence concert. In between: music by ABBA’s Benny Andersson, Peter Schickele (aka P.D.Q. Bach), Dominic Argento, Libby Larsen, Stephen Paulus, John Rutter, Jesús López, Benjamin Britten, Handel, John Phillip Sousa and more. Guest artists and speakers include Clara Osowski, Janis Hardy, Don Shelby, Bradley Greenwald, Maria Jette and Dessa. This once-in-a-lifetime concert will be a blast. Concert conversation at 3:10 p.m., concert at 4. FMI and tickets ($20-40). P.S. Although tickets are sold by the Minnesota Orchestra, the concert really, truly takes place at the Ordway.

Monday and Tuesday at the Nautilus Music-Theater Studio in Lowertown: Rough Cuts. For 25 years, Nautilus’ monthly Rough Cuts series has been the place to see music-theater in the making and full productions of new works, guided by founder and artistic director Ben Krywosz. The new season opens with a two-parter: excerpts from “Heroine” by Benjamin Emory Larson, a song cycle about Sojourner Truth, Hypatia, Emily Dickenson, Ada Lovelace and Florence Nightingale, and excerpts from Impossible Salt’s revival of “Heartless,” based on the folk tale of the giant who has no heart. 7:30 both nights. On the first floor of the Northern Warehouse, 308 Prince St. Tickets $5 or pay-as-able. Seating is limited. Free cookies and milk.

Hot ticket: Harrison David Rivers and the SPCO

Harrison David Rivers
Harrison David Rivers
Minnesota-based playwright Harrison David Rivers has written a story for the SPCO’s first free family concerts of the new season, to be held Saturday, Oct. 13. Rivers had more plays and readings produced here last season than anyone except maybe Shakespeare: “Crack in the Sky” at the History Theatre, “the bandaged place” at the Playwrights’ Center, “This Bitter Earth” at Penumbra and “Five Points” at Theater Latté Da. His “Nighttime Story,” performed by H. Adam Harris, weaves through music by composer Jessie Montgomery. 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at the Ordway Concert Hall. FMI and tickets. Free, but reservations are required.

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