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Minneapolis Scene
by Steven LaVigne
December 2008
A motley assortment of theatrical choices greeted GLBT audiences in the Twin Cities this fall.

Miscast

LaVie Theatre, presented the delectable musical revue, “Miscast” for three performances at Bryant Lake Bowl in October. The talented cast of ten performed songs they would ordinarily never be allowed to sing in a feature production. A heavyset young man performed “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now” from “Hairspray,” and a female Tevye wished she were “A Rich Man” from “Fiddler on the Roof.” Two women with cell phones bemoaned the activities of “Guys and Dolls,” while an older man offered a hauntingly beautiful “Send in the Clowns.” Production numbers from “Oliver” and “Annie” were delightful. An all-male “Dreamgirls” medley was the highlight of the show.

Full houses indicated that the show, directed by Jason Schommer and Rebecca Jo Malmstrom, will be expanded and revived after the holidays.

Love! Valour! Compassion!

Minneapolis Community and Technical College, whose Artistic Director, Michael Robertson has been a leader in presenting gay plays, staged Terence McNally’s “Love! Valour! Compassion!” on the single Halloween weekend, which was a woeful choice, because, in spite of a talented, multiracial cast and nudity, audiences were sparse.

The first act was awfully slow, while, in the second act, set pieces moved down stage center distracted the action upstage. In his staging, Robertson used both mimed and real props, which was somewhat distracting. The actors playing Ramon and Bobby gave the best performances, but still, this was a rather disappointing treatment of McNally’s marvelous drama.

Wicked

Gay novelist Gregory Maguire has made a fortune from the musical version of his terrific novel, “Wicked, the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” His book has spawned two sequels as well. A negative review of Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman’s adaptation will hardly put a dent in what has become a worldwide phenomenon, but I hope that, when “Wicked” is adapted for the screen, it becomes an expanded miniseries, because huge chunks of plot have been edited from the book to make a palatable libretto.

The first act follows the book fairly well, but, to accommodate those audiences who don’t read, the second act morphs into a repetition of the familiar material from L. Frank Baum’s first book and the MGM movie, and given a happy ending. While the performances of Melissa Bohon as Glinda, Donna Vivino as Elphaba, Myra Lucretia Taylor as Madame Morrible, and Paul Slade Smith as Fiyero are outstanding under gay director Joe Mantello’s staging, I thought it was overproduced. Wicked was a wicked disappointment to me.

Souvenir

There’s not question about it! The Jungle Theatre has the show of the year! Its star, Claudia Wilkens, is a trouper, too! Concluding their 2008 season, the Jungle is presenting the area premiere of gay playwright Stephen Temperley’s “Souvenir.”

Subtitled “A Comic Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins,” this two-hander is told from the point of Cosme McMoon (Peter Vitale), Jenkins’ gay accompanist. Set between 1932 and 1964, a single set represents everything from a nightclub to Madame Jenkins’ music room to the stage at Carnegie Hall.

Director and designer Joel Sass uses his familiar red throughout the design, which is dominated by a Christmas tree and a piano. Vitale seldom leaves the bench as he narrates the story, while Wilkens is all over the stage. Based on the life of the celebrated woman who was tone deaf, and lacked both pitch and rhythm, yet fancied herself one of the world’s greatest sopranos, Wilkens actually gives us a character who sings better than Ms Jenkins ever did!

On the opening weekend, Wilkens tripped onstage over one of Rich Hamson’s beautiful costumes (presumably the Spanish one) and broke her arm, requiring surgery on her elbow. Now in what is clearly an uncomfortable cast, Wilkens delivers a tour de force performance that should earn her an Ivey Award!

Souvenir has been extended, due to the injury, and hopefully it will be back again, because this show is a gay opera fan’s delight!


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