Minneapolis gets its Fillmore
Concert behemoth Live Nation is bringing its booking muscle and nightclub franchise to Minnesota with the new 1,800-capacity Fillmore Minneapolis. Named for the 1969s San Francisco rock haven, the venue will open right next to Target Field Transit Station with a Feb. 12-14 stand by Brandi Carlile, followed by the hometown return of Motion City Soundtrack (Feb. 15-17). The deep-pocketed company, which also owns Ticketmaster, isn’t cutting corners on sound quality and scenery, including giant chandeliers, ample VIP boxes and a wrap-around balcony. But the amenities come at a cost, judging from the price of tickets for these and the other confirmed shows, including Buddy Guy (Feb. 27), Rüfüs Du Sol (Feb. 28-29), Bob Weir & Wolf Bros. (March 10) and Evanescence (May 14).
‘La Bohème’ at Latté Da
Yes, I was an idiot. I somehow missed “La Bohème” the last time Theater Latté Da did the opera that inspired “Rent,” reorchestrated so its soaring music is played in the style of French street musicians. But this time, with a revival scheduled March 11-April 26 at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis, I will definitely find out how innovative director Peter Rothstein tackles the Puccini masterpiece about poverty and art, in which it’s not over until the dying lady sings.
Beethoven birthday party
The year will be packed with events marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Top pick for Twin Cities audiences is the complete cycle of the composer’s string quartets, which the Danish String Quartet is playing for the Schubert Club. Spread over six recitals May 6-17 at various venues, these 16 quartets are history-making masterpieces where Beethoven entered regions of the human spirit few other composers have charted. The DSQ are extraordinarily insightful performers, making this an unmissable occasion.
The streaming war wages on
Figuring out which TV services to pony up for will get a lot more daunting — and tantalizing — when HBO Max premieres in May. Its vast library will feature everything from “The Big Bang Theory” repeats to Studio Ghibli’s anime archives. But it’s the original programming that has us drooling the most. The promising lineup includes Mindy Kaling’s take on college life, a spooky sci-fi adventure from Ridley Scott, Ellen DeGeneres’ version of a dating show, Macalester grad Danai Gurira’s drama about a Nigerian immigrant in America and a modern-day version of “Grease.” But will that be enough to make us hopelessly devoted?
Danez and the Homies
Our own Danez Smith, not known for holding back or being shy (check out their Instagram account), will be on stage at the Walker Art Center for two nights, May 15-16, in celebration of their new poetry collection, “Homie,” to be published in January by Graywolf Press. A National Book Award finalist for “Don’t Call Us Dead,” Smith’s new collection deals with friendship, death, xenophobia and love. They will be joined on stage by singer Jamila Woods, poet Fatimah Asghar and others yet to be announced. Says the Walker, “contains mature content.” Forewarned is forearmed.
First Avenue celebrates 50
The folks at First Avenue have always had a flair for surprises, whether it was an unannounced Prince concert back in the day, or resurrecting the Palace Theatre in St. Paul more recently. They’ll do something special April 3-4 to commemorate their 50th anniversary; they’re just not telling us yet. In fact, First Ave plans special events throughout 2020. Meanwhile, the wonderful retrospective exhibit on the Greyhound Bus Depot-turned-landmark music venue remains on display at the Minnesota History Center until May 3.
‘The Bacchae’ at the Guthrie.
Artists often use the past to talk about the present. Legendary director Anne Bogart staged a new version of Euripides’ “The Bacchae” in 2018 at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, the same show that comes to the Twin Cities Feb. 29-April 5. The classic tragedy is about hubris, faith and frenzied spells as Dionysus, the aggrieved god of wine and theater, returns home to wreck the lives of those who doubt his divinity. The lot of the doomed includes the deity’s cousin, King Pentheus, whose head is paraded on a pike. What can a play from 405 B.C. Greece tell us about 21st-century America? We will find out in auteur Bogart’s provocative 90-minute production.
Gems from ‘Poverty Row’
I’m fascinated by the pulpy brilliance that emerged from Poverty Row, the cluster of rinky-dink Hollywood studios that eked out movies in the 1930s and 1940s on shoestring budgets. The Heights Theater and the Trylon are co-presenting six of the era’s rare noirs this winter, starting Jan. 30 with “Detour.” In this 1945 film, a nightclub piano player’s luck goes from bad to worse as he hitchhikes from New York to Los Angeles, picking up a hitchhiker of his own along the way, the conniving, electric Vera, played by Ann Savage. “Strange Illusion” on Feb. 13 and “Hollow Triumph” on Feb. 20 are two others considered best-of-the-low-budgets. See heightstheater.com for more info.
‘Sweat’ on the stage
Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Sweat” holds a special fascination for me, a Rust Belt native from a former steel town. The drama examines how deindustrialization cripples a Reading, Pa., community and the immigration, socioeconomic and racial fault lines that further fracture in the aftermath of labor strife at the local factory. Although set in 2000 and 2008, this play speaks to our times. It gets its Twin Cities premiere July 25-Aug. 29 at the Guthrie.
Power women at the Walker
Walker Art Center’s new executive director Mary Ceruti will kick off January with a freshly appointed right-hand woman: chief curator Henriette Huldisch. Earlier this month, Ceruti said she’s interested in identifying emerging artists, as well as talents from South America, Africa and the Middle East. Huldisch has a background in both contemporary art and moving image, coming to the Walker from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s List Visual Arts Center after stints in Germany, Britain, and New York City. I’m curious to see how these two power women will curate the Walker, which also is partnering with the Feminist Art Coalition on an exhibition — “Don’t Let This Be Easy,” opening July 16 — focused on women artists from the museum’s collection.
Ananya Dance Theatre
The heightened stakes of an election year get me excited about work coming from local provocateurs who will undoubtedly be raising their voices even louder than usual. For instance, Ananya Dance Theatre typically envelops a call to action within its coalescence of dance and narrative, and I’m excited to see what choreographer Ananya Chatterjea has in store in September. I’m also looking forward to inciting new works by Pedro Pablo Lander in June and April Sellers in November.
Somethingfest at Orchestra Hall
It’s probably not going to be called Sommerfest anymore. That’s all we know about the Minnesota Orchestra’s, um, summer festival, which is being reinvented with a new host, internationally known pianist Jon Kimura Parker. He prefers to be called Jackie, actually, and that informality bodes well for an event that should be anything but stuffy. The finale of last summer’s Latin America showed how magical these nights can be, as a buzzing post-concert crowd lounged with cocktails and tapas under the twinkling lights of newly reopened Peavey Plaza.