The dramatic photo above – the lighting, the spangled gold costumes, the energy of the moment – doesn’t capture the thrill of being in the room when this scene actually happens. No photo could. In real life, the seats are full. (They were Wednesday night.) There’s a nine-piece band on the catwalk at the rear of the stage. The 15 dancers are furiously tapping in trays full of coins that are flying in all directions. Their costumes sparkle and flash. Gold confetti falls from the ceiling. The band is playing and the cast is singing “We’re in the Money.” It’s joyous and thundering and over-the-top, one of those moments we go to musicals hoping to see.
The Ordway has gone all-out in its Ordway Original production of “42nd Street.” The classic Tony-winning Broadway musical was recently reimagined by director Michael Heitzman for the Drury Lane Theatre in Chicago, where critics and audiences loved it. Both the choreography and the musical arrangements were updated. The setting is still Depression-era New York, and the story is the same: A young showgirl gets her chance at stardom when the leading lady breaks her ankle. But the moves and the sounds are more 2000s than 1930s.
The Ordway tapped Heitzman to direct in St. Paul and worked with Mark Bramble, one of the show’s original writers, on new ideas and lines. So even if you’ve seen “42nd Street” before – and even if you saw it in Chicago – you haven’t seen the one that’s at the Ordway. As Producing Artistic Director Rod Kaats said Wednesday in his welcoming comments, “We’re the only audience in the world getting to see this version.”
The dancing is spectacular and the production numbers are big. The cast is a mix of national and local talent. Tony winner Jarrod Emick is impresario Julian Marsh, TV star Tamara Tunie (“Black Earth Rising,” “Dietland,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”) is fading star Dorothy Brock (yes, Tunie can sing) and Kimberly Immanuel is young hopeful Peggy Sawyer (she played the role at Drury Lane). The Twin Cities’ own Jamecia Bennett brings power and presence to the character of Maggie Jones. Tyler Michaels King kicks his heels impossibly high as Bert Barry, and T. Mychael Rambo is slightly menacing as moneybags Abner Dillon. Without him, the show can’t go on, and he wants everyone to know that.
The story can be confusing. There are times when the music overpowers the lyrics and dialogue. But the dancing, the singing, the sets and the energy more than make up for moments when you’re scratching your head or straining to hear the words. There’s a lot of love and talent in this show, and as much commitment as Julian Marsh demands from his cast. Every dance number feels make-or-break.
“42nd Street” continues through Aug. 11. FMI and tickets ($61-111; $34 standing, $48 partial view).
London hit ‘Six’ to replace ‘Ever After’
There’s been a change in the Ordway’s previously announced 2019-20 Broadway series. Instead of “Ever After,” the new musical based on the movie starring Drew Barrymore and Anjelica Huston originally scheduled for the holidays, we’ll see the global hit musical “Six” by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss.
The “six” of the one-word title are the wives of King Henry VIII. You know: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Except this play turns 500 years of history into a celebration of 21st-century girl power. The all-female cast is backed by an all-female band. Songs from the studio album are streamed hundreds of thousands of times each day.
“Six” is very new. What began in the minds of two Cambridge University students in early 2017 is now a hit on London’s West End, where it earned five Laurence Olivier Award nods this year, including Best New Musical. A UK tour opens in October.
Meanwhile, “Six” made its North American premiere in May at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where its record-breaking run ends this Sunday. Next, it will play Cambridge, Massachusetts, and then Edmonton in Canada before opening at the Ordway Nov. 29. After our run ends on Dec. 22, the next stop for “Six” will be Broadway.
Producing Artistic Director Rod Kaats has been tracking “Six” since its London premiere. Now he can make the claim that “for the first time in the history of our theater, a major production is headed from the Ordway directly to Broadway.”
“Ever After” will be the Ordway’s 2020-21 holiday show. Subscriptions are available now.
Opera roundup update
If you enjoyed last week’s column about opera in the Twin Cities, here’s more.
We heard from reader Michael Steffes, who took us to task (gently) for omitting Duluth’s Lyric Opera of the North, now in its 15th year. He described LOON as “a highly accomplished and original opera company [that draws] from the wonderful accomplished people in Duluth and environs and from the Cities. Christina Baldwin was the director of ‘Don Giovanni’ and Bradley Greenwald for ‘Elixir of Love,’ both of which were beautifully staged and performed. Venture up.” We might do that.
Colleen Meier let us know about Journey North Opera, which began in 2014 as Twin Cities Fringe Opera and relaunched/rebranded earlier this year as JNOC. They are currently in rehearsals for a production of Britten’s “The Rape of Lucretia,” to be performed in September at Minnsky Theatre. Their OperaTease series – opera improv cabaret – also takes place at the Minnsky.
Opera on Tap (OOT), a national network of operative performing artists with a Twin Cities chapter. OOT members perform “anywhere people will let us. But not really so much in concert halls and opera houses.” Honey is the home of OOT-Twin Cities. On the second Sunday of the month, they get together for dinner and a show. The next event will take place Sunday, Aug. 11.
The University Opera Theatre at the University of Minnesota presents a fully-staged operatic production each semester at the Ted Mann Concert Hall. It has a long and impressive history.
Finally, there was a time when the Metropolitan Opera came to Northrop every summer. People dressed up to see them. Those days are gone, but you can still see the Met live – at the movies. Wearing sweatpants, if you want. “The Met: Live in HD” series will return for its 14th year with 11 operas, beginning Oct. 12 with Puccini’s “Turandot” and ending May 9 with Donizetti’s “Maria Stuarda.” Ten will be live transmissions, all with encores a few days later. To find the theater nearest you (and buy tickets, now or later), go here and enter your ZIP.
Starts today (Friday, Aug. 2) at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre 3: “The Mountain.” Jeff Goldblum has always seemed like such a nice guy. Even as the Fly, he evoked sympathy as much as revulsion. In director Rick Alverson’s latest, which had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, Goldblum is Dr. Wallace Fiennes, an itinerant lobotomist, and Tye Sheridan is Wally, a young man who travels with him, photographing his subjects. Set in the 1950s, the “golden age” of American male supremacy, this film has been called “a hallucinatory nightmare,” “a singular portrait of America’s fractured identity,” “weirdly beautiful” and “shimmeringly surreal.” FMI including trailer, times and tickets.
Saturday at Hazelden Betty Ford in Center City: Hazelfest 2019. The clean and sober event, held on a nonsmoking campus, features entertainment on two stages, with headliners including Jeremy Messersmith, Chris Kroeze, Kat Perkins, Jesse Larson and Nicholas David (“The Voice”). Plus food trucks, comedy, speakers, exhibitors, a kids’ dance party and more. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20 advance, $30 door, 12 and under free). Note: no ATMs on site.
Saturday and Sunday in Hamline Park: Little Africa Festival 2019. In its sixth year, the St. Paul festival will expand to two days instead of one. It will start late Saturday afternoon with an African Day Parade along Snelling. Sunday will be a day of food, music, dancing, poetry, arts and crafts, kids’ activities, culture, traditions and community. Saturday 4:30 p.m.-9, Sunday noon-9 p.m. FMI.
Sunday at the Dakota: Lila Ammons: “Genealogy: A Celebration of Jazz Tradition and Legacy” CD release. Her grandfather was boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons, her uncle, Gene “Jug” Ammons, was a tenor sax titan who played with Billy Eckstine, Woody Herman and Sonny Stitt. Ammons studied classical music and opera before the pull of jazz and blues became too strong. Her new album, “Genealogy,” includes tunes recorded by Gene and Albert, songs by some of her favorite artists, and styles ranging from blues to Bach. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20/15).
Monday at Westminster Hall: Source Song Festival: “Open Source: Six Decades of Minnesota Song.” It’s a good week for classical music, with two different festivals running concurrently. Both are in their sixth year, and each has its own focus. The Twin Cities Early Music Festival is under way in St. Paul. The Source Song Festival starts tonight with the perfect opening concert: a 60-year retrospective of songs by Minnesota composers including Dominick Argento, Mary Ellen Childs, Libby Larson, David Evan Thomas, Chan Poling, Bob Dylan and Prince, plus premieres by Justin Rubin and J. David Moore. Performers will include Clara Osowski, Bergen Baker, Mark Bilyeu and Timothy Lovelace. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30/25/15).