The Minneapolis cast of "All Is Calm" is performing the musical play in New York. /Dan Norman
All is not so calm in the world of “All is Calm,” the Theater Latte Da show that is currently popping all over the world.
The Latte Da production, which played here in early November, has earned raves in a 53-performance New York run that concludes Dec. 30 at the Sheen Center. The New York Times called the show “tremendous” and the New Yorker dubbed it “heartbreaking.” For Peter Rothstein, who wrote and directed the show, the coolest thing is that the production was entirely designed by Minnesotans and features a cast of ten, eight of whom are Minnesotans and the other two of whom have close Minnesota ties (both David Darrow and Mike McGowan used to live here and worked often at Latte Da).
“We had long conversations about that. The producer asked, ‘Do we cast it out of New York?’ And certainly it would be a lot cheaper to do that than housing ten actors in New York City, but I really advocated for these guys, many of whom have done it four years in a row,” says Rothstein, who adds that the advocacy was not just about loyalty but about the quality of the show, in which the performers sing and act the roles of dozens of people who were involved in WWI’s Christmas truce of 1914. “Artistically, you don’t sound like they do, you don’t sing like that, a capella, after just three weeks of rehearsal. It’s incredibly challenging. Most audience members don’t how difficult it is.”
In addition to the Latte Da version, Rothstein says there are generally about ten licensed productions each year, including a San Diego Opera one that he checked in on to give some notes, prior to a Dec. 7 live broadcast of one performance on the public television station, KPBS. A St. Louis company has produced “All Is Calm” several times, and it’s on stage this year in San Antonio and Australia.
Along the way, what began its life as a radio play has blossomed into a fully-staged musical play, one that seems to work everywhere it appears.
“I was very cognizant in writing it to make sure it wasn’t divisive, when the idea behind it really is, ‘How do we become less divisive?’ So I was curious to see how that would work with a New York audience that might be used to work that is sharper, more cynical,” says Rothstein, who says it’s been heartening to see New York audiences embrace it (and his nieces and nephews pose with “All Is Calm” posters in the subway). “I love that it’s all of these Minnesota artists being praised for the work in a highly critical theater environment.”