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Patrick Scully poses as poet Walt Whitman. Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler.
POST BY CAROLINE PALMER, SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
Sometimes the best way to learn about an artist is through the perspective of another artist. With “Leaves of Grass – Uncut” Patrick Scully summons the radical spirit of 19th-century poet Walt Whitman. Over the course of the show, which had its first performance Thursday night as part of the Fresh Ink Series at the Illusion Theater, we learn that the two men have much in common when it comes to defying rules and embracing life.
Scully assumes the role of Whitman, talking through his life story, railing against the puritan morals of his day, lauding the love of other men, extolling his contemporaries (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oscar Wilde) and reading excerpts from his works. Whitman, as portrayed by Scully, is a confident man who explains how he would code his language to escape the wrath of a rabidly homophobic society. Despite these efforts, Whitman’s works were banned and critics were quick to denounce him with their harshest words, which is hard to imagine today given the significant influence and great beauty of his writing.
But Whitman was undeterred by these obstacles, which explains why he is such a hero to Scully, a proud rabble-rouser himself. With “Leaves of Grass – Uncut” Scully creates an onstage world that Whitman would have appreciated. Seventeen men dance together in tender, sensual and playful moments. In the opening scene they strip down entirely to bathe, setting the tone for an evening about relationships between men and how society has sought to deny them.
The movement itself is based in contact improvisation, which emphasizes the intuitive give and take of dancing with another person. Scully’s company members take great care to support and inspire one another. Kevin Kortan makes an appearance as Whitman’s lover Peter Doyle and in one of the work’s more poignant moments they discuss the poet’s refusal to use the pronoun “he” (instead using “she”) in his writing to describe their passionate relationship. Scully shows us that Whitman wasn’t always so bold.
The Fresh Ink series provides opportunities for artists to try out new ideas. Scully still has some work to do with tightening up the production – there are a couple of false endings – but it is a heartfelt salute to Whitman. Without this daring poet’s soaring words and his willingness to take risks in a hostile era, we may never know what it means to “sing the body electric.” Scully is the perfect caretaker for Whitman’s legacy.
“Leaves of Grass – Uncut” continues through Sunday, July 13 (8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m. Sun). Illusion Theatre, Cowles Center, eighth floor, 528 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. $14-$19, 612-339-4944 or illusiontheater.org.
"Once," the celebrated musical based on John Carney's 2007 Academy Award-winning film, is coming back to the Twin Cities.
Director John Tiffany's Broadway tour, which played the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in the spring, will return to the State Theatre June 23-28, 2015.
The show won eight Tonys. It’s about a flower Czech flower girl and an Irish musician who collaborate even as their mutual attraction grows. The actors also play instruments in the production.
Tickets are on sale to subscribers, groups and donors to Hennepin Theatre Trust, which administers the Broadway houses in Minneapolis. Single tickets will be available at a later date. 1-800-859-7469 or online.
Theater Latte Da brings familiar faces to the stage in some unfamiliar places -- which is kind of neat.
Photo by Tom Wallace/Sally Wingert, who played Fraulein Schneider in "Cabaret," returns in the singular role of Maria Callas in "Master Class." The play, which you will recall features a spare amount of actual music, shows Callas reflecting on her life and career as she coaches opera students at Juilliard. Artistic director Peter Rothstein directed this Terrence McNally play at Park Square, way back in 2001. Andrew Bourgoin plays Callas's accompanist and music director. "Master Class" opens the season, Oct. 8-Nov. 2, with performances at the MacPhail Center for Music -- a venue Latte Da has never used.
Photo by Mark Van Cleave For the third straight year, Latte Da will partner on Hennepin Theatre Trust to reimagine a familiar musical. Bradley Greenwald (pictured) will portray Fagin in "OLIVER!" Feb. 4-March 1, at the Pantages Theatre. The partners launched the effort in 2013 with "Aida" and "Cabaret" followed last January. Rothstein said he hopes to illuminate "the story's rich exploration of class, family and social responsibility." Greenwald was in last season's "Steerage Song" and recently has been seen in Frank Theatre's "The ThreePenny Opera." Rothstein's "OLIVER!" will feature 30 members of the Minnesota Boychoir.
Photo by Michal Daniels/ Greta Oglesby will make her Latte Da debut as the Witch in "Into the Woods," the fairy tale mash-up by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. Oglesby is best known for her performance in "Caroline or Change" (pictured) at the Guthrie Theater. She's worked at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Goodman in Chicago and recently played the family matriarch in "Raisin in the Sun" at Chicago's TimeLine Theatre. David Darrow, who played George Gibbs in Latte Da's "Our Town," has also been signed for "Into the Woods," which will run March 4-29 at the Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis, another new venue for Latte Da.
In addition, Rothstein will stage "All is Calm" with Cantus Dec. 17-21 at the Pantages. And the season will conclude with "NEXT: New Musicals in the Making" April 30-May 17 at the Ritz.
Information at latteda.org or 612-339-3003.
It’s official. The 400 Bar has announced that Denny Laine will perform with a band on Aug. 1 at the new Mall of America site.
Laine used to play with the Moody Blues (in their early “Go Now” days) and Wings, Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles band. He's also recorded several solo records.
And, of course, the big question is will McCartney, who performs Aug. 2 at Target Field, show up a day early? He doesn’t have a show booked for Aug. 1.
Laine tickets, priced at $30, are on sale at ticketfly.com. The concert begins at 10 p.m.
The 400 Bar is part of a new entertainment complex at the Mall of America that also includes the just-opened Midwest Music Museum, which is featuring the exhibit “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Beatles.”
Management of the new 400 Bar includes brothers Bill and Tom Sullivan, who ran the scruffy but beloved old 400 on the West Bank until it closed in November 2012. But this new venue – at 400 East Broadway in MOA -- is bigger, with a capacity of perhaps 1,000 people.
The Sullivans have said there will be other shows at the 400 before the Laine date but no specifics have been announced.
Looking for a blue-ribbon winner for its grandstand lineup, the State Fair has landed one of the biggest music names of all time – Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul will make her grandstand debut on August 22.
The fair also announced the lineup for the third annual MN Music on a Stick on Aug. 30: Brother Ali, Doomtree, Bob Mould, Cloud Cult, Har Mar Superstar and the Cactus Blossoms.
Aretha, 72, is known for having a fear of flying. She has only six other performances listed on her summer itinerary, including state fairs in Wisconsin and Ohio and the Blue Note Jazz Festival in New York City.
The Rock Hall of Famer last performed in the Twin Cities in 2011 at Mystic Lake Casino. She last released an album in 2011 but is reportedly working on a project interpreting songs made famous by other divas. Babyface, Danger Mouse and Clive Davis are producing.
Aretha tickets, priced at $45, will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday. MN Music on a Stick tickets, priced at $30, will go on sale at noon Saturday. The outlets are mnstatefair.org, etix.com, 1-800-514-3849 and the State Fair box office from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. Saturday.
The fair still has not announced its grandstand act for opening night, August 21.
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