As we move into the last part of summer and the final offerings of local theater companies, four different options are available for us to pick and choose from or to choose all three which is the way we are heading. A long time favorite musical opens next week at the PBP. “Gypsy” is based upon the biography of Gypsy Rose Lee and details her life from early childhood when her mother took her and her sister June on the road as vaudeville entertainers to her start as one of the most famous strippers of that era and beyond. Each leading lady (the main character being stage mama Rose) gives a different interpretation to the role. Ethel Merman was big and brassy and one could easily believe that she could lead this group of youngsters from one vaudeville house to another and keep the act afloat and the children fed. Bernadette Peters, in the last revival of the play on Broadway, was more fragile in her characterization of mama and it didn’t have the believability of the bigger than life Merman. I’ll make a prediction right now that Karen Wiese Thompson and Paul Reyburn will have the house cheering for them as they portray Mama Rose and her “manager” Herbie in this upcoming production. We already have our tickets for opening night!
There are still a few more performances of “The Boys Next Door” at the PBP. It is a moving theatrical experience. See below for more comments on this play.
Well what can one say about “The Producers” which is opening next week in Grand Forks except that it is politically incorrect–what else would one expect from a Mel Brooks comedy—and absurdly funny. A Broadway producer, Max Bialystock (Grand Forks native Paul Vonasek) and his accountant Leo Bloom (Matt Berdahl) are involved in a scheme to swindle investors out of their money by producing a flop of a play. At first the audience is aghast at the songs and portrayal of Hitler and then “gets it” as they understand that it is a parody on that era. Sure, it is a bit offensive as it pokes fun at the overtly homosexual and flamboyant director (Daniel Walstad), the former Nazi script writer (Daniel Dutot)and the sexy but not very bright secretary (Haley Boyd) but once you get past being uncomfortable (just like the audience in the play), it’s outrageous and very, very funny. The winner of 12 Tony Awards; Nathan Lane shared his best actor in a musical Tony Award with Matthew Broderick because he couldn’t have won it without his co-star—an amazing gesture never before seen at the awards. If you want to try it out first, get the Brooks’ 1968 film, “The Producers” which very closely follows the play. In fact, Brooks was the technical advisor for the play while it was in production. The show opens this coming week, August 3 to the 14 at the Burtness Theater on the campus of University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. We are going to see it and then drive back to Bemidji the same night but one can easily stay in Grand Forks and enjoy some different scenery. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. The box office number is 701-777-4090. There are a few outstanding venues to visit while in Grand Forks: “The Ralph” (hockey arena), the Alerus and the Chester Fritz Theater and the charming Saturday Farmer’s Market at the forks (downtown).Yes, we did see it on Broadway for those who are wondering.
Last but certainly not the least of the three comedies is “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) by Long, Singer and Winfield. It is a very fast, very funny romp through all 37 plays by three actors dressed in tights and other paraphernalia. Sprinkled between famous Shakespearean quotes is the banter of the actors as they goad each other on stage and bring the script to a whole. Local actor Andy Browers is one of the cast and is hoping that his fans will make their way down to the Long Lake Theater. It is a charming theater, much like summer stock houses in New England. There isn’t a bad seat in the house because it is a small theater and there is a café on premises for intermission coffee, tea or libation located in a screened-in porch. Long Lake Theater has a faithful following of audience members so I would suggest making a reservation 201-732-0099. It takes about an hour to get there and on the way, the food at the Y Steak House as one enters Park Rapids is simple fare but very well prepared. Go south on U.S. Hwy. 71 for four miles past Park Rapids, turn left onto State Hwy. 87 and travel four miles east to Hubbard, turn right onto County 6 and the theater is located about four blocks south on the left.
A very sobering and thoughtful production opens this week at the Wild Rose Theater and then it moves into the tent on the shore of Lake Bemidji for Saturday and Sunday. Tomorrow, I will be going to the theater and interview some of the participants for a preview story. The production is the final event of a weeklong workshop based upon the essays of Eve Ensler and her new book, “I Am an Emotional Being-The Secret Lives of Girls Around the World.” More to come on this subject.