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Category : Arts & Entertainment

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Disney Aladdin Broadway Musical

Disney Aladdin Orpheum Theatre Review

Disney Aladdin Broadway Musical

Disney Aladdin Orpheum Theatre Review: It was a colorful and magical delight, that’s if you can make it to the end of the first act. So, the hit Broadway musical Aladdin is currently at the historic Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis and it has its fair mix of boredom and awesomeness.

Aladdin Orpheum

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It starts off slow and takes a while to get up to pace, but once Genie (Anthony Murphy) is formally introduced by that accidental rub, things crank-up more than a few notches. Actually, this show really gets to its feet the moment Aladdin (Adam Jacobs) enters the Cave of Wonders when the set transforms into an all gold spectacular display, filled with comedy and jaw dropping stage magic. This is when you realize that Genie is the star of the show, as he pretty much owned the audience after this fifteen minute genie-us performance of “Friend Like Me.”

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The show dips back in a slumber for a bit before it jubilates into an emotional performance with the stunning Jasmine (Isabelle McCalla) and Aladdin as they perform “A Whole New World” while taking flight on a magic carpet that didn’t seem to have any wires what-so-ever. The set was mesmerizing, with a dazzling display of astrochemistry. With scenic designs by seven-time Tony Award winner Bob Crowley, you know you are going to get a visual orgasm.

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My favorite character from Aladdin has always been Lago, and Reggie De Leon did not disappoint.  This loveable-huggable sidekick of the evil Jafar (Jonathan Weir), was just a joy to watch every time that he took stage.  From the wisecracks to his penguin like waddle, you will appreciate that he isn’t a scarlet macaw for this Broadway performance.

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The comedy is there, the choreography is there, the costumes, bedazzled and sequenced, were there, and the magic…was definitely there! Thus, accounting for 51% of the show, making this a must see. Just know that the other 49% is somewhat lackluster in the two hour ten minute seating (not including the intermission). I probably wouldn’t go see Aladdin for a second time, but I am very appreciative that I did get to experience it.

Showing until October 8th, 2017. You can purchase your tickets here.

Photo Credit: Deen van Meer

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Motown the Musical Orpheum Theatre Review

Motown the Musical

Motown the Musical Orpheum Theatre Review: It was like taking a time machine back to see every live performance on the Motown roster that most of us could only dream about. It was also somewhat like the longest live commercial for; TIME LIFE’s Motown 25 – 6 DVD Deluxe Collector’s Set. Either way, it was a night of nostalgia that had everyone clapping along to the rhythm and grooving in his or her seats on opening night at the historic Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Even though this legendary tale of an empire dated back as far as 1957 to when Barry Gordy first wrote hit songs for Jackie Wilson, this Broadway medley of Motown’s chart busters (over 60) revolves around, and leads up to the 1983 25th televised anniversary special at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

Motown

Along with discovering the most iconic talent and amazing music, Motown the Musical also touches the hardship the label and the rest of America endured; the Vietnam war, segregation, and the assassination of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s almost hard to fathom that all of this was accomplished in two-hours, but they managed to do so seamlessly with obvious vocal talent.  Chester Gregory (Berry Gordy) belted out some ear-gasm worthy notes throughout the night, while Allison Semmes (Diana Ross) had the same tiny voice that packed a lot of punch on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, and as she performed “Reach Out and Touch”, Semmes interacted with the audience just as the real Diana did live at the 1980 concert in California, and brought the audience to handy matrimony (pun intended). Coincidently, Diana Ross was just down the street performing live while this musical was taking place.

Motown

With over sixty songs performed in this fast-paced concert of Motown’s finest, two other performers of the evening really stood out as dead ringers; Jarran Muse (Marvin Gaye) and Raymond Davis Jr. (young Michael Jackson). Both not only had the similarities with their stage presence, but the likeness of their vocals led theater-goers to believe they weren’t only seeing, but also hearing the real icons being portrayed.  Chills definitely will give way the first moment you see the Jackson 5 take the stage. Oh, and when Elijah Ahmad Lewis (Stevie Wonder) takes piano.

Motown CHESTER GREGORY (Berry Gordy) Chester is thrilled and honored to return in the role of Berry Gordy, after portraying him last summer on Broadway in Motown The Musical! Broadway credits include Hairspray, Tarzan, Cry-Baby and Sister Act. He has toured nationally with several shows including Dreamgirls and his one-man show The Eve of Jackie Wilson. Chester has received many awards including the NAACP Theatre Award, and has been presented the key to the city of his hometown of Gary, Indiana and East Chicago. READ MORE ∨ ALLISON SEMMES (Diana Ross) Thrilled to be traveling the nation with this show! Chicago Native. B.M. Opera at UIUC, M.M. from NYU-Steinhardt. Broadway credits: Motown The Musical (Florence Ballard) and The Book of Mormon (Nabalungi u/s, Swing). Other credits include The Color Purple National Tour, Dreamgirls, Bubbling Brown Sugar, The Wiz, Candide. Allison is a recipient of the BroadwayWorld Chicago award for Best Female Lead, and an NAACP Theatre Award nomination for READ MORE ∨ JARRAN MUSE (Marvin Gaye) A native Jersey boy couldn’t be happier living his dream. God is good y’all. Broadway/N.Y.C.: Motown The Musical, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Dreamgirls. Tours: American Idiot, Dreamgirls, Hairspray, 42nd Street. Check jarranmuse.com for the complete resume. “Thank you to Mr. Gordy, Charles and Telsey for this new opportunity to bring Marvin to stage every night; to the Motown legends that lived the story we are telling; to KMR for representing me and to my family and friends for being there. I LOVE READ MORE ∨ DAVID KAVERMAN (Smokey Robinson) is honored to make his Equity and National Tour debuts with Motown! Native of Ohio. Favorite credits (Regional): Sister Act, Dreamgirls, Carousel, Chicago, Godspell, & Disney Cruise Line. Proud graduate of Otterbein University (BM) & the Manhattan School of Music (MM). Eternal thanks to Mr. Gordy & Wojcik|Seay Casting. Shout out to The Mine, his superMama, Manda, and invaluable f

Gordy’s story does fall a bit flat and the dialogue dangles right behind it, and even with the sing-a-long hits being rushed at times and many of them being packed into medleys, it still ends up being a concert of a lifetime to attend, once in a lifetime.

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You can see Motown the Musical at The Orpheum Theatre now through July 16th. Click here to purchase your tickets.

Matilda the Musical FB

Matilda The Musical Orpheum Theatre Review

Matilda the Musical. Roald Dahl, Orpheum Theatre

Matilda The Musical Orpheum Theatre Review – I want to give this production the biggest hug in the world!  Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical was brilliant and just a whole lot of fun; I was thoroughly amazed from beginning to end.  With just enough mature content to keep the attention of the adult theatergoers, but unobtrusive to the kids, this is definitely a musical for the entire family.

Matilda, Orpheum Theatre

All of the children involved in this production were absolutely adorable.  The evening I attended, Matilda was played by Gabrielle Gutierrez; she was breathtaking, and I look forward to seeing her in many more musicals and blockbuster hits to come.  She took that stage so effortlessly and did so with grace, plan on her stealing your heart as well.  By the way, Matilda is the smallest leading lady on Broadway, and Gabrielle reprises her role, which she originated in the First National Tour.

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The set design was fascinating, it was always moving from front to back or side to side with amazing depth and dimension. Rob Howell did a stellar job and should probably win another Tony Award as he did in 2013.  Oh…the swings, you’ll love the swings! Along with the set designs, Paul Kieve added unbelievable illusions that will have you highly impressed and guessing how they accomplished such magic on stage.  The chalkboard still has me scratching my head. Peter Darling was in charge of Choreography, and once the cast performed “School Song” in the first act, it was perceptible they had gotten an expert on board.

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Matilda the Musical, orpheum theatre, Minnesota arts

All of the supporting characters were memorable and had very strong roles.  Miss Trunchbull (Dan Chameroy) was evil and hilarious and could belt out a few good notes.  Who cannot forget the chubby little cake-eater Bruce? Soren Thayne Miller did a marvelous job (for his first National Tour Debut) eating the entire cake and finishing it off, as well as the first act with the rest children for “Bruce.”   He comes out and does another number as if he was a superstar.  There was an incomparable sweetness between the characters that you will get throughout the show and in a way; it kind of overshadowed how awful the parents were to Matilda.

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The brilliance is apparent when Matilda is narrating her tragic story in every other scene throughout the musical, with every line in perfect sync to the actors in the story she discloses to Mrs. Phelps (Keisha T. Fraser).  As Matilda takes front stage, the story was the far back of the stage, portrayed perfectly as a backdrop; as if in a movie or in your imagination while reading a book.  There are so many attributes to mention, and they are so well done in this production, that it would be a spoiler to tell you them all.  There are many must-sees in life, this is one of them, and you only have a short time to do so.

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You still have a chance to see Matilda The Musical at the Orpheum Theatre until April 2nd. Purchase tickets here.

CDT Grease

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Grease Review

Phatphood Grease

The 1950s hip-thrusting, hand-jiving, Rock ‘n’ Roll pop culture is back, and it isn’t going anywhere for at least the next several months.  Grease has finally returned to the main stage at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres after a 10-year hiatus. This time around, resident Artistic Director Michael Brindisi, who played Kenickie in the second national tour of Grease in 1978 (the same year the film version was released), gives you a more emphasized version of social commentary during this era of teen rebels and coolness. What he did was brilliant, with less attention on only two characters and more focus of high school cliques and the dawn of sexual connotation.  Brindisi has this production made in the shade.

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All the classic hits made popular from the 1978 film were all included along with a few other addicting additions from the original Broadway production like “Those Magic Changes” which is the quirky play on musical notes sung to an up-tempo tune of “Stand By Me.”  Another instant favorite was the comical “Mooning” performed by Evan Tyler Wilson (Roger) and Therese Walth (Jan), who were the perfect duo for this doo-wop inspired song of the human posterior. Now in the second act when Kasano Mwanza took spotlight in the crowd as Teen Angel for “Beauty School Dropout” I got chills, and they were definitely multiplying!  Kasano literally had the voice of an angel and had the entire theatre under his wings.  I could watch this scene over and over, it was that captivating.

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This production felt a bit fast paced, almost rushed into each musical number to fit them all in.  Enjoyable, but I wouldn’t have minded sitting longer to have it spread out.  The entire first act scene changes were the build up to the dance competition in the second act with the voice of Vince Fontaine (Keith Rice) coming across as a radio broadcaster, making for groovy transitions. Goosebumps gave way as Sandy (Caroline Innebichler) twirled an umbrella forefront to the house band as she performed “Hopelessly Devoted To You” ending the scene prior to the productions longest scene of the evening as the dance competition took place at the school gym.  The set decorations were minimal, with the coolest prop being an actual mini-mobile convertible, but it made room for the large dance numbers and the simplicity didn’t take anything away from the heart of the show, it’s characters.

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Keep in mind this is a PG-13 type of production with a few flips of the bird, a couple of SOB’s and other sexual references.  However, it is an experience I believe we all should be entertained by, and lucky for us it has performances every night of the week excluding Mondays with matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays all the way thru October 28th, 2017.  Oh, and to satisfy your cravings as well as mine, our favorite Teen Angel flies back on stage to join the entire cast to perform “Grease Is The Word” for the finale that will be sure to bring you to your feet.

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Purchase your ‘Grease’ tickets here.

Photo Credit: Dan Norman, 2017

FB The King and I Orpheum

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I

The King and I Orpheum

If you can guess how many times “et cetera” is said during the 2.5 hour seating of Rodgers & Hammerstien’s The King and I at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, you win…well, nothing.  I have nothing to offer, what you will win is a marvelously witty and charming stage performance that you will want to share with everyone you know.  Kind of like I am doing now, this is definitely a must see and not to make you rush out to go get your tickets or anything, but you only have until March 5th before this ship sets sail out of town.

Laura Michelle Kelly, Baylen Thomas and Graham Montgomery in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

On opening night, as a huge ship on center stage glides towards the audience, Laura Michelle Kelly (Anna Leonowens) steps to the bow as the audience erupts in cheer.  After all, she is a big deal.  She is praised for her work starring on Broadway in Mary Poppins and most recently Finding Neverland.  She is opposite of Jose Llana (King of Siam), who is also no stranger to the stage or the big screen, I actually remember him from a little role in the movie Hitch.

Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna and the Royal Children of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

The first act had the whimsical comedy and playful nature as the teacher and the King culturally clashed during the late 1800s of Bangkok as Anna, a British widowed schoolteacher, arrives to shed the knowledge of Western Civilization and the English language to the King’s children.  Laughter will give way as puns intended towards the modern day political madness. The King jokingly mentioned how he wanted to build a fence around Siam to keep the other countries from entering and taking power.

Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

An unforgettable scene during the first act was with the introduction of the many wives and children of the polygamist King.  This is where charm came into play.  Each of the kids had their own unique stature and playfulness, where as the wives were more subtle.  Except for the elder wife, Lady Thiang (Joan Almedilla), who captivated the audience with “Something Wonderful”, conveying a powerful voice of nothing less than perfection.

Laura Michelle Kelly and Jose Llana in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

The second act comprised of more serious nature and sadness along with a grasp at love between the King and Anna, giving way to more heartfelt duets such as “Shall We Dance” and also  “I Have Dreamed” performed by Manna Nichols (Tuptim) and Kavin Panmeechao (Lun Tha), whose love affair was hidden in fear of the King.

Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Also in the second act, a performance within a performance was conducted as the character, Tuptim, narrates a book known as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for the King and his guest, Sir Edward Ramsey, whom was there to be convinced that the King was not a barbarian.  This scene had dancing, singing and simple props that captivated the audience’s attention.

Jose Llana as The King in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Opening night had its minor mishaps, as the spotlight tech had trouble keeping up with the quick movements of the performers.  Also, for a show of this caliber, the choreography could have been a little more precise.

You can purchase tickets for ‘The King and I’ through March 5th at the Orpheum Theatre.

The Bodyguard Review

Review ‘The Bodyguard’ Orpheum Theatre

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If you can get past all the gasps and pacemaker alarms after the opening scene, you will be sure to enjoy Deborah Cox performing, as well as delivering hit after hit made famous by Whitney Houston in this musical adaption of The Bodyguard.  This tale of a bodyguard hired to protect a superstar and eventually fall in love is easily stage worthy and leaves you with a full experience of a story and a concert.

Judson Mills (whom you may have seen in a variety of TV shows) plays Frank Farmer- the calm, and at times, somewhat robotic, protector of a pop mega star.  When he spoke, it just didn’t feel natural.  During a karaoke scene, you cannot help from breaking into laughter as he attempts to sing, or actually talk his way through “I Will Always Love You.”

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Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron is nothing short of spectacular.  From the rebellious attitude, to filling the shoes of the late Houston, with each scene featuring one of her famous jams, it is easy to say that the right choice was made for the role. However, she was nearly upstaged vocally by Jasmin Richardson, who plays Rachel’s sister Nicki Marron.  Jasmin had everyone’s undivided attention as they adjusted in their seats in amazement while she sang “Saving All My Love” with ease and grace.

Another head nod with an eyebrow raise notable mention goes to the future star, Douglas Baldeo, who plays Rachel’s son, Fletcher.  He wasn’t just an adorable stand in, this kid could really sing and dance.  Speaking of dancing, this cast had some wonderful choreography and wardrobe that will bring you back to the 90’s.

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The Bodyguard recently wrapped up production in the U.K. with 16 months of sell-out shows; now add Deborah Cox, a talented ensemble and a U.S. launch, and what you have is a breathtaking show an audience will enjoy whether they watched the movie or not.

The Bodyguard runs January 10-15 at the Orpheum Theatre, in person is the best option with no service fee at the State Theatre Box Office, or you can call 800-982-2787.  Also online at Hennepintheatretrust.org

6/10 – Cliche characters/acting with a beautiful soundtrack.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Camelot

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Camelot – A simple, yet efficient set with very little change of elements was the backdrop to this deeply moving, whimsical at times, timeless classic. That’s right; Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot is back on the main stage at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres for the season. From an arranged marriage, to chivalry, to a borderline adulterous scandal, this is still one of the best romantic tales of all time.

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The performances were stellar!   My most favorable moment of the evening would have to be during the first act when Guenevere, played by Helen Anker (a first at Chanhassen) along with ensemble gave way to ever-so-popular “The Lusty Month of May” which they did so, effortlessly.  Another honorable mention was the lovely ballad performed by Aleks Knezevich, playing the part of Lancelot in the second act with “If I Ever Would Leave You.”   If you recently frequented CDT this past season you may remember him as the bronzy, corny, yet confident Gaston in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  

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Main character, Keith Rice as King Arthur and his mythic mentor David Anthony Brinkley as Merlyn were phenomenal together and brought complexity and humor to the stage. Arthur had moments of a confused expression at times that were laughable, but perhaps not intentional. More than once during the performance, Guenevere and Arthur broke character and gave way to small giggles during the evening, this for me was surreal and life-affirming.  

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Overall, it was a splendid theatre classic that you should definitely see during this Fall/Winter season in Minnesota while taking in a dinner while you are at it, the CDT never disappoints in either category. Run of engagement is until February 25th, 2017. You can purchase your tickets here.

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We highly recommend spending an evening at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. Take a look at the 2016-2017 CDT calendar here.

Photo Credit: Heidi Bohnenkamp

Orpheum Lion King

Disney’s The Lion King Orpheum Theatre Review

9 Aaron Nelson (Simba) and Nia Holloway (Nala). ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy_

Disney’s The Lion King Orpheum Theatre Review: Imagine only seeing in black and white your entire life, and then suddenly you can see in color for the first time. This was that first time! The Orpheum Theater has brought the pride land of Africa to the city of Minneapolis with Disney’s The Lion King, along with its vibrant living art and beautiful music on stage. There is no argument that this is indeed the World’s best musical. I admit however, I did at first have my doubts with the actors not being in full costumes playing the roles of animals of the wild. It was the costume designs that brought this master of puppetries to life on stage, and it worked marvelously. It is to no surprise that Julie Taymor (director, costumer designer and mask co-designer) won a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical.

7 Mukelisiwe Goba (Rafiki) 3 ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy_

The entire show lasted a little over 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission between acts, the first act being longer than the two. There was a musician on each side of the stage beating on drums, congas, chimes and other various instruments bringing the soundtrack to life. There were a few South African inspired songs added that were not taken from the movie to help during the growth of Simba. The cast took to the isles and balcony more than once throughout the performance adding a wow factor to the element of surprise. Humorous dialogs were also added to the stage that played off of some of the other Disney favorites that will give way to laughter. The on stage set is just simply captivating, there is no other way to describe it; just something you have to witness for yourself. It is pure seamless magic happening right before your eyes.

8 Gareth Saxe (Scar) and Gerald Ramsey (Mufasa). ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy_

If I were to pick out a single character or actor that mesmerized me throughout the performance, I cannot. The entire cast and crew brought this to life, as a whole, they all deserve as much credit as anyone involved on or off the stage. Truly a unified team that works unparallel together.

5 Gerald Ramsey (Mufasa) ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy_

The only disappoint is within myself, for waiting so long to see and hear this beautiful magic take place right in front of me on stage. This is the fifth time this touring show has been to Minneapolis now in its 19 years of existence. Hopefully you haven’t passed up as many opportunities as myself, but if you have, do yourself a favor and go see this show while it is in your city…you still have time!

The Lion King is now playing through August 7 at the Orpheum Theatre. Get your tickets here.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

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Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Disney Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast Chanhassen

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Disney Beauty and the Beast: It’s been over a decade since the tale as old as time has hit the stage at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, but now through Fall of 2016 you can catch this enchanted full-length musical production of Disney Beauty and the Beast take stage as you sit in a moment of nostalgia.

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Performing to a sold out crowd on opening night the cast gave brilliant big production numbers with mesmerizing choreography, beautiful ballads and seamless set changes.

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The story moved along quite perfectly from beginning to end leaving you entertained throughout, especially with eye catching costume designs along with subtle scenic designs.

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Ruthanne Heyward did an amazing job as Belle, with solo performances such as “Is This Home?” and “A Change in Me” with her crisp and captivating voice.

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One of my favorite performances was a sing-and-dance number done creatively in a saloon-like environment of clinking mugs together that was put on by a large amount of the cast and focused on the ultra sexy ego of “Gaston” which of course the musical number was titled the same. Aleks Knezevich had the look to go with his character and was comically entertaining with his overzealous Derek Zoolander facial expressions.

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Keeping it elegant and seamless, Gargoyle stone figures would come to life and perfectly execute set changes in a soft ballet dance.

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Costume and wardrobe designs were true to the story and brought objects to life in a very unique and fun way. Mark King (Lumière) was a delight to watch as sound effects went in unison every time he lit up.

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Even though Robert O. Berdahl (Beast) didn’t have the brawn I would’ve like to have seen, he had the swagger that carried this newly defined character in his own unique way.

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For me, there was nothing better and more heartfelt then when Susan Hofflander (Mrs. Potts) owned everyone in the audience as she sang the self-titled number “Beauty and the Beast” and it was clearly a breath taking moment.

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Beauty and the Beast will be at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres through September 24th. You can buy your tickets here.

Photo Credit: Heidi Bohnenkamp, 2016

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Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Sister Act

Sister Act 4

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Sister Act – Hallelujah! Director Michael Brindisi found some of the best in the Twin Cities and brought them together for a disco turned gospel musical production on stage at the nation’s largest professional dinner theatre company, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.

Sister Act

It was a 4-hour evening of good laughs with the best of company over dinner, followed by an amazing adaption of this blockbuster hit made into a Broadway sensation. If you have never eaten at CDT, do not skip dessert. That is all.

Sister Act 1

Regina Marie Williams did an outstanding performance as Deloris Van Cartier, a hopeful diva in witness protection at a convent under the alias Sister Mary Clarence hiding from her beau Curtis and his trio of thugs. Regina hits you with not only disco style musical ballads and clap-a-long gospel choir inspirations, but also whimsical comedy with short text lines like “These are my FM boots.” The likeness of the movie tribute did not stop there. Three nuns did an indistinguishable performance as Sister Mary Patrick (Therese Walth), Sister Mary Lazrus (Seri Johnson) and Sister Mary Robert (Britta Ollmann). These three ladies had me to believe I was front row to the movie itself. Superb job!

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Although the entire cast was amazing and entertaining, there was one that stood out above the rest for me. Sweaty Eddie. That’s right Lieutenant Eddie Souther played by Reginald D. Haney. A somewhat goofy looking character with an oversized mustache that had a surprising voice that had all of them women in attendance swooning for him by shows end. Reginald is a member of Sounds of Blackness making his debut to the stage here at CDT, and I’m hoping he will be back for many more performances.

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The storyline was quick and to the point without skipping a beat, literally. It was also obviously filled with contagious musical performances created originally by Alan Menken that are different from what you may remember from the big screen performance.   I actually preferred the stage story to the movie version in whole; it shared a little more background to the nun on the run. Perfectly done!

Sister Act will be at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre until February 27, 2016. Buy your tickets here.

Photo Credit: Heidi Bohnenkamp, 2015