Welcome to Artcetera. Arts-and-entertainment writers and critics post movie news, concert updates, people items, video, photos and more. Share your views. Check it daily. Remain in the know. Contributors: Mary Abbe, Jon Bream, Tim Campbell, Colin Covert, Laurie Hertzel, Tom Horgen, Neal Justin, Claude Peck, Rohan Preston, Chris Riemenschneider, Graydon Royce, Randy Salas and Kristin Tillotson.

Tim McGraw, Garrison Keillor to return to State Fair grandstand

Posted by: Jon Bream under Music, Concert news, Local TV and radio, Minnesota authors, Tickets Updated: April 7, 2014 - 1:00 PM

He’s back! After a two-year absence from the State Fair, Garrison Keillor will bring “A Prairie Home

Companion” back to the grandstand on Aug. 29.

Before his hiatus (to undertake “Prairie Home” cruises), Keillor had performed eight consecutive years at the Great Minnesota Get Together. Tickets, priced at $25 and $32, will go on sale at noon Saturday.

Country superstar Tim McGraw (right, Star Tribune photo by Renee Jones Schneider) will be returning to the grandstand for the second consecutive year, with an Aug. 27 concert.  Tickets, priced at $56 and $71, will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday. It will be his fifth appearance at the state fair.

The fair also announced DigiFest Minnesota, starring the vocal group Fifth Harmony of “X Factor” fame and YouTube favorite Cimorelli, on Aug. 24 at the grandstand. Tickets, priced at $20 and $30, will go on sale at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Tickets can be purchased at mnstatefair.org, etix.com and -1-800-514-3849. The state fair box office will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

These three concerts join the previously announced shows: Kid Rock on Aug. 23, Linkin Park on Aug. 26 and the Happy Together Tour starring the Turtles on Aug. 25.

Lalah Hathaway & Ruben Studdard turn Dakota into R&B heaven

Posted by: Jon Bream under Music Updated: April 7, 2014 - 4:10 AM

The pairing of Lalah Hathaway and Ruben Studdard is a marriage made in R&B heaven.

Both have special voices, she a rich milkshake-like contralto with quite a bit of range, he a robust tenor with power to make heaven and earth move. When you hear him live, there’s no doubt that America got it right (sorry Clay Aiken) when voting him “American Idol” in 2003. And, live, Hathaway is clearly her father’s daughter, a genre blender who oozes intimacy and soul.

But what was apparent Sunday at the Hathaway/Studdard joint performance at the Dakota Jazz Club is that these two great singers are, like many other great singers, in search of great songs. The 85-minute second set was filled with mostly covers of famous tunes.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t a special evening – because it was. They opened with the old Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway hit, “Where Is the Love,” and closed with a joyous version of Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You” that eventually evolved into a medley of Michael hits, complete with Lalah singing some of the introductions of the band members and a pitch for CD and autographs after the show.

During the seamless program, each of the stars had solo segments as well as collaborations.  Lalah sparkled on “Summertime” and Luther Vandross’ “Forever, For Always, For Love,” which had women swooning to Lalah’s sexy cooing and Adam Hawley’s bluesy/jazzy guitar solo.  (Lalah had scored R&B hits with versions of both of those classics.) And her scat singing was the perfect exclamation point for the groovy, Grammy-winning "Something."

Lalah Hathaway/ MCT

Lalah Hathaway/ MCT

Studdard did his biggest hits, “Flying without Wings” and “Sorry 2004,” and stood out on a killer medley of Vandross nuggets, peaking with the deliciously dramatic “Superstar,” as Ruben was killing the audience softly with his song.

To close the main set, the strikingly thinner Studdard, 35, who is tall and bald, and Hathaway, 45, who is short with long braids, teamed up for a reading of the Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell hit “If This World Were Mine,” with both singers dragging out their phrasing to add extra layers of emotion.

The affable stars were quick on their feet, with quips often coming In mid-song such as Studdard asking how many people voted for him on “Idol” or, after one man declaring to Hathaway that “I done fell in love now,” she shifted into a deep whisper and shouted playfully: “Security.”

Hathaway and Studdard will perform again at 7 and 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at the Dakota.


Photo of Ruben STuddard by LeAnn Mueller.

Large-scale dance work ponders big questions

Posted by: Claude Peck under Theater, Culture, Dance, Minnesota artists, People Updated: April 4, 2014 - 11:09 AM
Photo by Grant Halvorson.


Vanessa Voskuil’s “The Student” premiered Thursday night at The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University. The evening-length work makes an impression, not only for its cast of over 150 dancers and singers but also for its strong conceptual vision, albeit one that is only partly realized. The thematic connections are both brilliant and tenuous. There are spellbinding moments of visual and kinetic harmony. And while ultimately “The Student” loses its way over the course of two hours, it still shows a fascinating journey through its creator’s mind.

This ritual-like work is built around the massing of groups of people engaged in repetitive movement and idiosyncratic breaks. As the performers enter the auditorium walking backwards they move with a sense of gravitas, slowly and purposefully, determined to maintain a respectful order. Their neutral-colored costumes and spare environment suggest a stark futuristic society, one in which emotions are stripped down and repurposed.

And that is an important point – Voskuil actually delves into an array of human states in “The Student” and yet they are not dramatic. The work, set to sternum stirring compositions from Janika Vandervelde and sound designer Jesse Whitney, is about the process of learning and, consequently, the process of becoming through learning. This evolution is deliberate, marked by visual and textual tableaux. We see hints of pioneering avant-garde theater director Robert Wilson’s influence here. Voskuil’s peeling back of layer upon layer of meaning from subtle sources reflects a shared approach.

“The Student” stands out for its intelligence and questioning spirit. Both Paul Herwig and Chris Conry ponder the existential quandaries Voskuil poses, but they also add wit and wordplay to the mix. There’s black humor in the recurring appearance of a hanging noose, complete with a cardboard cutout of Voskuil. The performers sit and scribble in the air around them, rote learners eventually overwhelmed by the task. A gorgeous sense of flow unfolds as movement ripples through the crowds onstage, especially as the performers roll from the back of the stage and fall into the orchestra pit, as if controlled by a force far bigger than them. And they are – Voskuil, despite her slight frame, is a powerful presence with a command of how to move large groups of people for her creative ends.

But the work has diminishing returns, despite an injection of impressive voice work from members of the Perpich Center for Arts Education Chorale Ensemble, Hamline University Women’s Chorale and St. Catherine’s University Women’s Choir. The questioning grows weary in its circularity and the work struggles to find an ending. The themes become repetitive and less interesting, too self-involved. In some respects one could argue this is the moment of mastery, when everyone in the piece (and watching it, too) finds an answer. But Voskuil’s intentions are not that pat. The process of learning often reveals nothing more than the need to continue searching.

“The Student” will be performed again Friday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. For information go to http://oshag.stkate.edu.

Thoughts on David Letterman retirement

Posted by: Neal Justin under Television Updated: April 4, 2014 - 10:53 AM



It took all of seven minutes on social media for fans to pay their respects to David Letterman before speculating who will take his place.

Fair enough. There will be plenty of time to pay tribute to the most influential comedian of the last 30 years over the next year. Dave could stay in his seat until August 2015 (although I'm predicting a May exit).

But let's pay tribute to the way he made the announcement Thursday night. He told a touching story about how spending time with his son, Harry, meant more to him then thinking about the show, another indication that Letterman has pulled himself out of day-to-day operations over the past few years and basically shows up and does what the writers have prepared for him.

The audience's stunned silence when he said he was retiring was the most memorable moment of the night. If viewers hadn't been signaled ahead of time, I'm sure we would have been equally speechless. But it's clear it's time for Letterman to pass the baton to a new generation, just as Carson walked out at just the right time.

I'm sure it was pure coincidence, but the melancholy performance of Lou Reed's "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" perfectly reflected Letterman's reign: A PG-rated renegade

I'll get into the replacement game later today, but for now, I'm just grateful that Letterman kept me entertained for more than 30 years - and that I get at least one more to enjoy his company.

"Mr. Burns" will play the Guthrie, not Park Square

Posted by: Graydon Royce under Theater, Behind the scenes Updated: April 3, 2014 - 2:52 PM

The cast of "Mr. Burns, a post-electric Play" at Playwrights Horizons last year./Photo from Playwrights Horizons.

All’s Well that Ends Well, Shakespeare reminded us. And it appears that a potential loss for Park Square Theatre’s 2014-15 season has a reasonably happy ending, thanks to cooperation from the Guthrie.

Park Square had announced an ambitious line-up of 19 projects for what will be the company’s first season with two stages. “Mr. Burns, a post-electric play,” by Anne Washburn, was slated for the new 200-seat thrust stage and it felt like a real coup to snare this buzzy play to christen the new space.

Show business, though, can be a weird deal. Park Square had a deal with Samuel French to produce the play but in a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing, another agent and the playwright had been negotiating with the Guthrie and ACT in San Francisco for an agreement that would guarantee the play’s Twin Cities premiere at the big blue house.

“We had received a contract for the show, it was a done deal,” said Richard Cook, Park Square’s artistic director. “He [the Sam French agent] was commanded to officially yank the license.”

Guthrie Director Joe Dowling said it was one of those "bizarre situations. Inevitably, because the Guthrie is larger, the playwright wants it here because the royalties will be bigger."

The Guthrie and Park Square had a similar situation two years ago when Cook signaled an early interest in the play “Stick Fly,” which had Broadway all tingly. In that case, Cook thought he had exclusive talking rights with the playwright and her agent, while the publishing house was involved with another potential deal that would have involved the Guthrie and Penumbra. When the dust settled, Park Square produced “Stick Fly” last fall.

This time, it was obvious the Guthrie was going to get “Mr. Burns” and that might have been the end of the story. However, in conversations over the rights, Cook told Dowling that Park Square had once wanted the rights to “4,000 Miles,” a dramatic comedy by Amy Herzog. Again, the Guthrie had the rights and, Dowling said, the play was "definitely being considered for production."

But Dowling called Cook and offered to work together to transfer the rights to Park Square. So the St. Paul theater gets the Herzog play, which had been a Pulitzer finalist in 2013. On Monday, Cook signed Gary Gisselman to direct.

“Joe was wonderfully gracious,” Cook said.

 Dowling said the co-production with ACT-San Francisco will be part of the Guthrie season, expected to be announced next week. The plan is to put "Mr. Burns” on the proscenium stage.



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