In Review: “The Shining

THE SHINING

Music by Paul Moravec
Libretto by Mark Campbell
Based on the novel The Shining (and the novela Before The Play) by Stephen King
Conducted by Michael Christie
Directed by Eric Simonson
Featuring Brian Mulligan, Kelly Kaduce, Arthur Woodley, and Alejandro Vega

Presented by Minnesota Opera

Kelly Kaduce, Brian Mulligan, and Alejandro Vega (center) with the cast of Minnesota Opera's production of The Shining.

Kelly Kaduce, Brian Mulligan, and Alejandro Vega (center) with the cast of Minnesota Opera’s production of The Shining.

Ever since it began in 1963 as Center Opera, Minnesota Opera has been on the forefront in developing and championing new modern operatic works. Thanks to its New Works Initiative, it has worked tirelessly to commission and perform new works to add to the operatic repertoire; a stellar list that has included Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell’s The Manchurian Candidate and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Silent Night, Douglas J. Cuomo and John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, the co-commissioning with Santa Fe Opera the premiere of Jennifer Higdon and Gene Scheer’s Cold Mountain, and more; including next season’s world premiere production of Dinner at Eight. But the Initiative might have scored its biggest triumph yet with the world premiere of Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell’s The Shining. While at first blush Stephen King’s iconic modern-day horror novel might seem an odd choice for an opera, Moravec and Campbell have created a thrilling addition to the modern opera repertoire aided and abetted by one of the strongest productions Minnesota Opera has created in its fifty-three year history.

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RuPaul’s Drag Race 08:06

Well, after last week’s fiasco that was Snatch Game 2016, we have a surprisingly good episode. And I say surprising because it’s the dreaded makeover challenge, and they have a tendency of going south real quick (*cough* Justice for Pandora Boxx! *cough*). But it helped by having a great theme, which led to a fantastic runway and some surprising results.

RPDR0806-01

But no time to chat as we have company, in the form of Entertainment Weekly contributor Marc Snetiker has come by to serve as a special guest judge. And why? Because “in the great tradition of RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Mr. Charles once again appropriates a famous bit of gay culture and gets it somewhat wrong. I mean, “in the great tradition of Paris Is Burning,” it’s the annual reading challenge. And “in the great tradition of Todd’s recaps for l’étoile,” I am going to turn the floor over to the legendary Dorian Corey and Venus Xtravaganza explain the fine art of (and differences between!) shade and reading (which Ru has mixed up on more than one occasion)…

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In Review: “The Normal Heart” and “Coriolanus” at New Epic Theater

THE NORMAL HEART
by Larry Kramer

CORIOLANUS
by William Shakespeare

Featuring Zach Curtis, Antonio Duke, JuCoby Johnson, Torsten Johnson, Michelle O’Neill, Adam Qualls, Grant Sorenson, and Michael Wieser
Directed by Joseph Stodola
Presented by New Epic Theater

This is going to be a slightly unusual review for a number of reasons. When I had heard that New Epic Theater was planning on performing William Shakespeare’s political tragedy Coriolanus and Larry Kramer’s agitprop drama The Normal Heart in repertoire, I was surprised by the decision. At first blush, the pairing didn’t make sense. But now, having seen both plays (which will play in repertory at The Lab Theater in Minneapolis through April 16), I was stunned by what director Joseph Stodola and his brilliant company of actors (a powerhouse ensemble consisting of Zach Curtis, Antonio Duke, JuCoby Johnson, Torsten Johnson, Michelle O’Neill, Adam Qualls, Grant Sorenson, and Michael Wieser) have accomplished with these two pieces.

To explain what they managed to pull off, I will have to get very specific with this review, which will lead into major spoilers regarding how the plays are presented and staged. And I beg of you, do not read the rest of this review until you have seen both plays for this will only make sense if you see them both and see them cold. By all means, do know the plots going in if that’s your ilk, but the real power of what is going on here is if you the audience do not know what surprises lay in store with these productions. And if you can, see The Normal Heart first, and then Coriolanus.

But since this is supposed to be a review and I’m supposed to have an opinion on this matter, I’ll make this brief: Go! This is one of the most audacious theatrical experiments I’ve seen in town in a long time delivered by a top-flight ensemble that manages to take some serious risks that work.

So get over to the Lab and see both of these shows! When you’re done, come back and then we’ll talk…

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RuPaul’s Drag Race 08:03

Well, last night’s episode was certainly… something. Don’t get me wrong; it was a cute episode that, despite some racial characteristic undertones, was salvaged by one good, and two great performances.

But first, let’s talk about the returning queen…

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In Review: “Tosca” at Minnesota Opera

TOSCA

Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Adapted from the play La Tosca by Richard Condon
Conducted by Anne Manson
Directed by Andrea Cigni
Featuring Kelly Kaduce, Leonardo Capalbo, and Stephen Powell

Presented by Minnesota Opera

Kelly Kaduce in Minnesota Opera's production of Tosca.

Kelly Kaduce in Minnesota Opera’s production of Tosca.

Given its status in the international scene as one of the biggest developers of new opera, and specializing in presenting the world and American premieres of new works, it pays to remember that Minnesota Opera can deliver fantastic productions of the standard repertoire when it chooses to. And there are few operas that embody the standard repertoire more than Giacomo Puccini’s masterpiece Tosca, which is getting a thrilling production from our local opera company in spite of a few dissonant staging decisions, and a casting choice that could have doomed the production but actually redeems it.

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RuPaul’s Drag Race 08:02

Well now! This was a surprisingly good episode that was full of the things that we like; lip syncing, dancing, producer manipulation, shameless Ru self promotion, and more. Even better, it had one of the best performances we’ve seen in the show, and a surprising (?) ending.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

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In Review: “Aging Magician” at the Walker

Aging Magician at Mass MoCA

In an exciting bit of news, I was asked by the Walker Arts Center to share my thoughts on Paola Prestini, Rinde Eckert, and Julian Crouch’s new opera / music-theatre work Aging Magician, which played at the Walker on March 5 & 6.

For my review / reaction to the piece, head over to the Walker’s performing arts blog.

Photo Credit: Jill Steinberg