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Ordway’s 2019-20 Broadway season all new to Minnesota

ALSO: “My Ántonia” at the Illusion Theater; opening reception for “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter” at the U of M; and more.

Once on This Island
Left to right: Mia Williamson, Alex Newell, Hailey Kilgore and the cast of "Once on This Island."
Courtesy of the Ordway

The six productions in the Ordway’s 2019-2020 Broadway season have something in common: None has been seen in Minnesota before. Two are direct from Broadway, one is touring locally for the first time and a record three are Ordway originals.

The series will open in September with the Ordway’s own production of Broadway’s longest-running musical review: “Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Lieber & Stoller.” The Grammy-winning, Tony-nominated hit will be directed and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse, an Emmy winner for NBC’s “Smash” whose credits also include Broadway’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “On the Town.” The Ordway will be the only theater in the U.S. to have Bergasse’s production on its stage this season.

October will bring comedian and indie film director Mike Birbiglia and his autobiographical solo show “The New One.” Following “Sleepwalk with Me,” “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend,” “Thank God for Jokes” and a season on “Orange Is the New Black,” this one is about parenting.

For the holidays, the Ordway will put its own spin on “Ever After,” the new musical based on the 1998 Drew Barrymore film about a young woman with a wicked stepmother and two mean-girl stepsisters. This modern take on the Cinderella story will feature a strong heroine (and, if it follows earlier productions, no glass slippers).

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If next February is as cold and snowy as this one, “Once on This Island” will be a tonic. The radically restaged Caribbean tale – based on Rosa Guy’s novel “My Love, My Love,” inspired by “The Little Mermaid” (Hans Christian Anderson’s, not Disney’s) and Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” it earned nine Tony nods in 2018 and won for Best Revival of a Musical. The touring production is choreographed by Camille A. Brown.

Adrianna Hicks as Celie in “The Color Purple.”
Photo by Matthew Murphy
Adrianna Hicks as Celie in “The Color Purple.”
The Tony-winning revival of “The Color Purple” will come to the Ordway at the end of March.  Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and the Oscar-nominated film starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, it features a Grammy-winning score of jazz, gospel, ragtime and blues.

Starting in July, the original Ordway production of “Groundhog Day” will close the season with a feel-good story of redemption. It’s based on the 1993 film starring Bill Murray, and since summer is St. Paul Saints time and Murray is the team psychologist, maybe he’ll show up.

Season subscriptions are available now; 651-224-4222.

The picks

Blame last week’s snow for tonight’s pile-up of events.

Tonight (Wednesday, Feb. 27): Two things that were supposed to happen last Wednesday were snowed out and moved to tonight. The book launch for Melvin Carter Jr.’s “Diesel Heart” will happen at the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center starting at 6:30 p.m., with Roxanne Battle as host. (Carter is the father of St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter.) And A Conversation with Women Leaders in Twin Cities Theater will take place at the History Theatre starting at 7 p.m., with Marcela Lorca (Ten Thousand Things), Faye Price (Pillsbury House) and Sarah Rasmussen (the Jungle) and moderator Marianne Combs of MPR. Both events are free and open to the public.

Tonight at the U’s Elmer L. Andersen Library: Opening reception for “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter.” It’s a book, it’s an exhibit, it’s an all-out celebration of children’s literature. Published by the U of M Press, the book by Leonard S. Marcus has been ecstatically reviewed. Marcus will be there to talk about it with Lisa Von Drasek, curator of the U’s Children’s Literature Research Collections, which include the storied Kerlan Collection. The exhibit, spread out over three floors, features original artwork, correspondence and books, an 18-foot replica of the “Goodnight Moon” bedroom, a life-size Poky Little Puppy and the door to the Secret Garden, so bring your camera. For tonight’s event, the doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the program starts at 6, to be followed by a signing. Free, but please register. The exhibit closes May 31.

Thursday at Finnegans: Pint of Music. Violinists Cece Belcher and Jean De Vere, violist Gareth Zehngut and cellist Minji Choi, who all play for a little band called the Minnesota Orchestra, will give a free taproom micro-concert (30-45 minutes), then hang around after to share a beer. 817 5th Ave. S., Minneapolis. 7:30 p.m. Free.

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Thursday at the Basilica of Saint Mary: Liszt’s Spiritual Journey. MacPhail’s Spotlight Series, curated and led by Mischa Santora, will move from the comparatively tiny Antonello Hall to the vast and soaring Basilica for an evening of music by the 19th-century Hungarian composer and superstar pianist. Did you know that Liszt once took minor holy orders in the Catholic Church? Neither did we. Pianist Richard Tostenson will perform a program of spiritual and secular works. This should be glorious. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($12); 612-767-5250.

A scene from the Cuban film "Los buenos demonios," aka “The Good Demons.”
ICAIC/Wanda Visión S.A./Ibermedia
A scene from the Cuban film "Los buenos demonios," aka “The Good Demons.”
Thursday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: 10th Minnesota Cuban Film Festival. This is the second week of a six-week parade of Cuban films, all Minnesota premieres, all shown on Thursdays in Spanish with English subtitles. This week’s offering, “The Good Demons,” follows a taxi driver with the face of an angel and a history of terrible deeds. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($8/6). Coming up: the documentary “Cuban Revolution in Revolution” (March 7); “Sergio and Sergei,” about an amateur radio operator who stumbles on a channel that communicates directly with a stranded Russian cosmonaut (March 14); “The Return”  (March 28), with director (and Cuban TV star) Blanca Rose Blanco attending; and “Ghost Town to Havana” (March 28), about an Africa-American youth baseball team from Oakland, California, that travels to meet and play baseball with a Cuban team.

Friday at the Illusion Theater: “My Ántonia.” Following a tour of Nebraska, Willa Cather’s home state, Illusion’s acclaimed Ivey Award-winning adaptation of Cather’s classic novel will return to the Illusion’s stage for most of March. The story of 1880s European immigrants who settled on the Nebraska prairies is told through the memories of narrator Jim Burden, whose understanding of life was shaped by a Czech girl named Ántonia. Allison Moore wrote the play; Michael Robins directs a cast that includes Annie Schiferl and Dan Hopman. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25-45). Closes March 23.