Our five faves of the moment: 'Ginger & Rosa,' 'Spunk,' Macy's Flower Show, more

  • Updated: March 29, 2013 - 2:29 PM

Jevetta Steele in “Spunk” at the Penumbra Theatre.

Photo: KYNDELL HARKNESS • kyndell.harkness@startribune.com ,

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1 The captivating English coming-of-age drama “Ginger & Rosa,” which mostly takes place in the spring of 1962, feels remarkably vital and immediate. It’s exact about details — girls ironing their hair and the R&B and cool jazz that dominated London jukeboxes — but it’s no yesteryear scrapbook. Sally Potter’s near-flawless film is a poignant story of girls (the electrifying Elle Fanning and the keen Alice Englert) growing up too fast, their intimate joys and family crises playing out against the Cold War. At the Edina Theater

2 “These are tales of survival, told in the key of blues,” sings narrator Jevetta Steele as she introduces “Spunk” at Penumbra Theatre. Patdro Harris’ stylish and sure-footed staging of three stories by Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston keeps six talented actors buoyant in earthy, spirited depictions. This show is a heartening return for St. Paul’s important African-American theater, which was on the brink of financial collapse last year. www.penumbratheatre.org.

3 After this lingering winter, we really need the downtown Minneapolis Macy’s Flower Show. The theme this year is “The Painted Garden,” which means, in part, trees painted white, orange and pink by Bachman’s staff. While that doesn’t appeal to our green thumb, seeing the welcoming floral elephant (there’s an India vibe), the hanging colorful umbrellas and the early explosion of orange flowers (Clivia, Gibraltor Azaleas, Monal Daffodil, etc.) make us pine for spring.

4 Trying to reimagine Ray Charles’ landmark 1962 album “Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music” was a smart idea for jazzy pop singer Madeleine Peyroux. Like her inspiration, Peyroux resides in the intersection of blues, jazz and southern soul on “The Blue Room.” “Born to Lose” is a perfect marriage of her late-night minimalism and orchestrated Nashville, and “You Don’t Know Me” is the right mixture of confidence and regret. Peyroux truly sparkles on the more modern songs, especially Randy Newman’s “Guilty,” on which she sounds like a boozy Patsy Cline.

5 It would be hard to surpass Nancy Milford’s wonderful 1970 biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, and, wisely, Therese Anne Fowler doesn’t try. Instead, her new novel, “Z,” fictionalizes Fitzgerald’s life, trying to get inside that beautiful and unhappy head. Zelda is both brash and insecure, but far more insightful and level-headed than most thought. Zelda and F. Scott’s happiest times might have been in “exceptionally, ridiculously, unendingly frigid” St. Paul, when their daughter Scottie was a baby and the parents rode out in horse-drawn sleighs and rewarded themselves with hot toddies. Ah, Minnesota, you always come through.

  • related content

  • A floral elephant greets visitors to the Macy’s Flower Show.

  • Elle Fanning, right, and Alice Englert are “Ginger & Rosa.”

  • “A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald” by Therese Anne Fowler.

  • Madeleine Peyroux's "Blue Room."

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