I am, by nature, a maker of lists.
Each year, over July 4 week (which we always spend up at the lake), I update my lists.
Below is a chronological listing of theater performances Andrew and I attended over the past year.
Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off”, at Jungle Theater, Minneapolis
The John Kander-Fred Ebb-Bob Fosse musical, “Chicago”, in The National Touring Company version of the 1996 Broadway production, at The Ordway Center, Saint Paul
The Harry Warren-Al Dubin-Michael Stewart-Mark Bramble musical, “42nd Street”, at Bloomington Civic Theatre, Bloomington
Terence Rattigan’s “French Without Tears”, at The Shaw Festival, Niagara-On-The-Lake
Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter”, at The Shaw Festival, Niagara-On-The-Lake
George Bernard Shaw’s “The Millionairess”, at The Shaw Festival, Niagara-On-The-Lake
Githa Sowerby’s “A Man And Some Women”, at The Shaw Festival, Niagara-On-The-Lake
Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler”, at The Shaw Festival, Niagara-On-The-Lake
The Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens-Terrence McNally musical, “Ragtime”, at The Shaw Festival, Niagara-On-The-Lake
John Guare’s “His Girl Friday”, a stage adaptation of the 1928 Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur play, “The Front Page”, as well as the Hecht-MacArthur-Charles Lederer screenplay for the 1940 Howard Hawks film, “His Girl Friday”, at The Shaw Festival, Niagara-On-The-Lake
George Bernard Shaw’s “Misalliance”, at The Shaw Festival, Niagara-On-The-Lake
William Inge’s “Come Back, Little Sheba”, at The Shaw Festival, Niagara-On-The-Lake
Aaron Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men”, at Bloomington Civic Theatre, Bloomington
John Logan’s “Red”, at Park Square Theatre, Saint Paul
Christopher Hampton’s “Tales From Hollywood”, at The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
Tennessee Williams’s “Summer And Smoke”, at Theatre In The Round, Minneapolis
The Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical, “Company”, a presentation of Theater Latte Da, at the McKnight Theatre, Saint Paul
The Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical, “Sunday In The Park With George”, at Bloomington Civic Theatre, Bloomington
James Roose-Evans’s “84 Charing Cross Road”, a stage adaptation of Helene Hanff’s bibliophile memoir, at Theatre In The Round, Minneapolis
Carlo Goldoni’s “The Servant Of Two Masters”, in a Yale Repertory Theatre production, at The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
The John Kander-Fred Ebb-Joe Masteroff musical, “Cabaret”, at Bloomington Civic Theatre, Bloomington
Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”, at The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
Ron Hutchinson’s “Moonlight And Magnolias”, at Bloomington Civic Theatre, Bloomington
William Shakespeare’s “The Taming Of The Shrew”, in a production by a British theater company known as Propeller, at The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
Alan Ayckbourn’s “Life And Beth”, at Theatre In The Round, Minneapolis
Ira Levin’s “Deathtrap”, at Jungle Theater, Minneapolis
The Cole Porter-Guy Bolton-P. G. Wodehouse musical, “Anything Goes”, in The National Touring Company version of the 2011 Broadway production, at The Ordway Center, Saint Paul
The Leonard Bernstein-Betty Comden-Adolph Green musical, “On The Town”, at Bloomington Civic Theatre, Bloomington
Crispin Whittell’s “The Primrose Path”, a stage adaptation of Ivan Turgenev’s novel, “Home Of The Gentry”, at The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
Nick Stafford’s “War Horse”, a stage adaptation of the Michael Morpurgo children’s novel, in The National Touring Company version of the 2011 Broadway presentation of The National Theatre Of Great Britain production, at the Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis
By my calculation, Andrew and I attended thirty theater performances over the past year, exactly the same number we had attended the previous year. Nine of the thirty performances occurred during a five-day stretch when we visited Canada’s Shaw Festival.
By my calculation, Andrew and I have attended 151 theater performances over the past seven years.
I last updated this list on June 29, 2012.
Five of the presentations we were seeing for a second time: “Noises Off”, which we had seen in Hamburg in 2006; “Present Laughter”, which we had seen on Broadway in 2010; “Sunday In The Park With George”, which we had seen at The Shaw Festival in 2009; “Cabaret”, which we had seen at New Repertory Theater in Watertown in 2009; and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”, which we had seen at Theatre In The Round in 2008.
Eight of the presentations we attended were musicals, a very unusual state of affairs for us—and surely a record. As a general rule, we avoid musicals.
For the second year in a row, we did not go to New York within the past year. (We had a New York trip planned for October, but Andrew came down with influenza, and we stayed home.)
Our visit to the McKnight Theatre in Saint Paul was my first—and last—visit to the theater. The McKnight Theatre is currently being demolished to make way for a new concert hall for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
We attended only one performance at Park Square Theatre. Apparently the company’s 2012-2013 repertory did not much interest us.
Park Square Theatre is in a major growth phase, and is greatly expanding its already-excellent facilities. The company’s intention is to emulate The Guthrie, and offer two productions simultaneously on two stages (The Guthrie, like London’s National Theatre, offers three productions simultaneously on three stages).
The best thing we saw, by far, was The Shaw Festival’s production of “The Millionaress”.
“The Millionaress” is a great play, thought-provoking and entertaining in equal measure, and I am surprised the play is so little-known. The Shaw production was exceptional, beautifully and boldly designed, well-cast and well-directed—and the actress who portrayed the title character was sensational.
There were two other productions I enjoyed without reservation.
Bloomington Civic Theatre’s production of “Cabaret” was dazzling. It was, perhaps, the finest staging of a musical I have ever seen (only the Sally Bowles and a couple of small character parts disappointed). The company had staged the original 1966 version, now mostly ignored, and I found the 1966 version sweeter and more subtle than the cynical and acidic revision that has taken precedence in recent years.
Theatre In The Round’s production of “Life And Beth” I found captivating. The play is very small-scale, on the surface nothing more than an intimate, domestic comedy-drama, but “Life And Beth” has meat on its bones and may be a minor masterpiece. The company did justice to the material.
I think it is fortunate that Andrew and I live in a theater town.
Nonetheless, it must be stated that theater companies in the Twin Cities rigorously ignore challenging material. Only easily-digestible fare is offered here.
One learns not to expect Gerhart Hauptmann plays, or any of the French classics, in Minnesota. Only works considered “commercially viable” ever see the light of day in the Land Of 10,000 Lakes.