Cabaret: A Risque Allegory

This review is written as a part of Hennepin Theatre Trust’s student reviewer program, Critical Review, by first year student, Linnea Thompson Peterson. 

How much skin do you really want to see?

That’s basically the question that will decide whether you like Theater Latté Da’s racy, well-executed Broadway Re-imagined version of “Cabaret.” The musical was one of the first “concept musicals” ever written—its allegorical and symbolic meanings are more important than its literal plot, which can make watching it more of a challenge than a theatergoer might expect. In the case of “Cabaret,” the allegory is about the way people are bystanders and ignore the evil going on around them. Unfortunately for the uptight members of the audience, this theme manifests itself in breaks from the plot to return to the Kit Kat Klub, a nightclub with only minor significance to the actual story, for many of the musical’s songs. The disruption is significant and essential to the allegory, but it still grates, especially for those uninterested in watching the club performers’ half-naked acrobatics.

Even those who blush easily will find it hard to criticize the aforementioned acrobatics, however. Michael Matthew Ferrell’s choreography is extremely physically demanding, and the actors manage not only to contort themselves into all sorts of unlikely shapes, but to do it with rhythm and synchronization, too. In the role of the emcee, Tyler Michaels mounts a trapeze and does Olympics-style stunts while hanging above the stage—and this as he sings “I Don’t Care Much,” the emcee’s final solo of the show.

Michaels certainly shines in the role of the emcee, both as an actor, because of his vocal talent and flexibility, and as an object, because he rarely takes off his sparkly, tight-fitting, never-buttoned jacket. And Michaels is not the only great actor in the cast: Kira Lace Hawkins has an excellent voice and truly embodies the character of Sally Bowles in all her carelessness, flightiness, and desperation. Likewise, Sally Wingert brings Fräulein Schneider to life with strength, sass, and a thoroughly jaded attitude.

In fact, there is only one truly inadequate performance in the bunch: Sean Dooley makes a very unconvincing Cliff Bradshaw. Cliff is a living contradiction, both circumspect and daring, pragmatic and fun loving. Dooley’s version is defined by his caution, and that makes many of Cliff’s actions implausible at best. Since Cliff is an important character—only Sally and the emcee bow after he does—Cliff’s improbability threatens to bring down the entire production.

Of course, as a concept musical, “Cabaret” is more important for the thoughts it provokes than for its acting or singing or anything else that literally happens onstage. The show is set in early-1930s-era Berlin, and it does not begin with Hitler; it begins by showing the progressive Berlin that Hitler so quickly dismantled, because—before Jews and gays and Gypsies were sent off to concentration camps—Berlin was the gay capital of the world. “Cabaret” explores how quickly and with how little resistance Berlin became unsafe for its queer community, including many of the performers and guests at the Kit Kat Klub, and for its Jews, including the awkwardly charming Herr Schultz. The near-symmetry between the show’s beginning and ending shows how easily and tragically the Berliners’ world changed: if you always leave your troubles at the door, you may someday find that they’ve let themselves in, and suddenly nothing is beautiful.

You’ll see some excellent musical theater if you come to “Cabaret.” You’ll also see naked rear ends, men in skimpy dresses, and women in imaginative underclothing. If you want to come, by all means buy yourself a ticket—but leave the kids at home and be prepared to think.

Cabaret runs though February 9, 2014. To learn more and buy tickets visit HERE.

The Critical Review program gives Metro-area high school students the opportunity to attend and review touring Broadway productions, SpotLight Musical Theatre Program events, workshops to develop writing skills, and other opportunities depending on availability. Critical Review teaches communication skills and enhances critical thinking and creative response. As part of Critical Review, students receive study guides and press kits before the show, learn from experts including local theatre critics, playwrights and actors who teach workshops in lighting design to choreography, and in some cases, have expanded access to the Broadway touring cast and crew. *Special thanks to Fred and Ann Moore for their ongoing support of the Critical Review Student Reviewer Program.

To read additional Critical Review postings visit HERE.

Q&A with Ryan McCartan, SpotLight Triple Threat and Disney Channel Star

ryanIn the nearly 10 years since the SpotLight Musical Theatre Program was started, thousands of talented high school students have had the opportunity to learn and expand their talents and skills. Some have gone on to pursue performance as a career, and we love to celebrate their professional successes. Ryan McCartan, winner of the SpotLight Triple Threat Best Actor Award in 2011, recently found major success in landing the role of Diggie on Disney Channel’s new show “Liv and Maddie.” A graduate of Minnetonka High School, Ryan tells us about what it’s like to work in television and shares his insights on launching a career in the performing arts.

Q. You are currently on a Disney Channel show “Liv and Maddie,” tell us about the show.

A. “Liv and Maddie” is a show about two twin girls. Liv is an ex-Hollywood sensation returning to a normal life in her hometown in Wisconsin, and Maddie is a smart, tom-boyish basketball player with all-star potential. The show follows the twins, along with their two brothers, parents and friends as they navigate their quirky lives at home, school, work and in any other crazy Disney Channel circumstance you could possibly imagine!

Q. What do you and your character on the show have in common?

A. Diggie is your all-American boy next door type. He’s the captain of the basketball team at Ridgewood High. Though my athletic skills are, to put it generously, sub-par, Diggie and I really have a lot in common. He is funny and undeniably quirky, and thus possesses an infectious charm and charisma. He is very caring and always puts his friends first.

Q. How did you get the part on “Liv and Maddie?”

A. Nothing is just because of one audition. I have been in and out of Disney doors since I came out here for my first audition two years ago. Finally this one seemed to fit. I auditioned for the casting directors who knew me from my previous auditions, then met with the producers and did a chemistry read with Dove and Joey, the stars of the show. After a long and grueling wait, I was finally selected to play the part!

Q. What has been the most challenging about the transition from stage to television acting?

A. The biggest challenge about Hollywood is that out here, the first thing that casting is searching for is a specific look. If you don’t have that look, it doesn’t matter how good you are, you aren’t going to book the part. I auditioned for about 125 projects before I booked my first gig, and after a while, you start to play head games with yourself, “am I good enough,” “can I really do this?” Having predominantly done stage work, it was hard to adjust to the realities of this side of the business.

Q. How has your musical theatre background helped you in the role?

A. You learn a whole different level of discipline, respect, stamina, control and variety when you work on the stage. Disney Channel is big and broad in the sense that it is children and preteen programming, so some of the bits we play are hysterical and often bigger than the norms of life. Playing in musical theater helps me to be able to tap into a broad sense of reality without completely sacrificing the integrity of my performance.

Q. If you could give one piece of advice to SpotLight students pursuing performance careers, what would it be?

A. The best, truest acting you can do is the stuff that comes from your gut. I’m talking about pure, unadulterated impulse here. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to take risks and just go with what you feel, whatever you feel. Acting is not scientific, it is not a perfect craft. You must allow yourself to be wrong and to be stupid and to be fearless. The best way to practice? Live your life that way. You’ll notice the most beautiful results if you do, both on and off stage.

You can see Ryan on “Liv and Maddie” on Disney Channel, Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. Central Time.

Also, be sure to check out the 2014 SpotLight Showcase! This year, the program includes a record number 67 schools and will have two showcase events June 8 and 9, 2014.

The 2013 Triple Threats Take on NYC

Emilee Hassanzadeh from Bloomington Jefferson and Karl Amundson from Minnetonka High School were this year’s award-winning SpotLight Musical Theatre Program students selected as Triple Threat honorees for excellence in not only singing, dancing and acting, but also for being leaders within their community and role models for their peers. They were chosen following a portfolio submission, live audition and SpotLight Showcase performance with their fellow Top 12 finalists. Courtesy of the Trust, Emilee and Karl traveled to New York to receive acting and vocal coaching, take dance classes, meet with industry professionals and see Broadway shows. Check out what they had to say about their experiences!


Emilee and Karl with one of the stars of GLEE, Darren Criss

Emilee about Cinderella and the post-show meet & greets: (Darren Criss) gave us some really good advice. He was awesome! And then we met Prince Charming-Santino Fontana. We freaked out when we were told that we were going to be meeting with him!

It was really special to talk to them—we were standing right on the Cinderella stage where we were watching all the magic just minutes before. It was so cool. I did my first show with Laura and I was in awe of her then and was in awe of her tonight. It was a really great first night!


Emilee and Karl with the 2 stars of Cinderella, Eagan native Laura Osnes and Guthrie B.F.A graduate Santino Fontana

Karl about working with Santino Fontana: Not only is he an amazing performer and really nice guy, he also gave us some really great insight about being an artist.


Emilee and Karl with musical theatre composers Jonathan Reid Gealt and Daniel Green at Pearl Studios

Karl on getting coached by Jonathan Reid Gealt: We dissected songs and went over how we could capture the attitude and emotions in a song. He also helped us get rid of our annoying habits. It was super constructive!


Backstage at Wicked with Music Director and Conductor Bryan Perri

Emilee on working with Bryan Perri: This was definitely one of the highlights of our week. We worked on a lot of technique and afterwards he gave us a backstage tour!

Telsey + CO, founded in 1988, is an award-winning organization of casting professionals in New York City with local, regional, national and international clientele. They are responsible for the casting of award winning musicals, movies, commercials and events.

Karl about auditioning at Telsey: We met with one of their representatives and he talked to us about the business, watched us audition and gave us advice. We met with such a great variety of people.

Current star of Broadway? Meet the future stars! Seen here at the Music Box Stage Door with Tony Award winning actress and star of Pippin, Patina Miller

Current star of Broadway? Meet the future stars! Seen here at the Music Box Stage Door with Tony Award winning actress and star of Pippin, Patina Miller

On seeing Pippin:

Karl: I could say Pippin was the best show I’ve ever seen!

Emilee: Ditto. There’s about a hundred things to watch—you don’t even know where to look!

Karl: And then we got to meet members of the cast afterwards and take pictures with them…

Emilee: Patina Miller! She was so fierce!

Emilee about taking a class at Broadway Dance Center: They were super fun! We did a musical number to Under the Sea from Little Mermaid. There were such talented dancers there and it was really cool to be amongst them.

The Wrap Up

Emilee: Unforgettable. This was definitely the trip of a lifetime. I’m so grateful to everyone that brought us here. We learned so much. One really important thing that everyone kept telling us is that you have to find joy in this throughout the entire process of theatre.

Karl: The trip was amazing! We got lots of great coaching, got to be in one of the greatest cities in the world, got to see amazing shows and have a blast! One of the best trips of my life!

The SpotLight Musical Theatre Program honors and supports Minnesota high school musical theatre students, programs and their communities. Registration for the 2013-2014 year will be open September 1-October 1. To find out more about how you can become involved please visit us online.

Q & A with Sarah Gibson, Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard

As talkies took over in the 1930’s, silent films and their glamorous stars faded SUNSET_BLVD_MMT01_RGBinto the past. Many Hollywood actors had to make the not so easy transition from the silent films to “talkies.” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, presented by Minneapolis Musical Theatre and Hennepin Theatre Trust at the New Century Theatre through June 23, tells the story of silent actress Norma Desmond’s attempts to return to the big screen. We sat down with Sarah Gibson, the actress who plays Norma Desmond, to discuss life in the Twin Cities, the intimacy of the New Century Theatre and what it was like to play a fun, over the top character like Norma.

Q.  When did you move to the Twin Cities and what prompted you to pursue theatre in Minneapolis?

A.  I moved here about 10 years ago from Nebraska for graduate school and found a vibrant and thriving theater community. Since then I have been privileged to work with numerous companies around the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota. I love it here because there is really something for every taste. You can perform new works or classics, in church basements or at the Ordway — and you always have an audience! People in Minneapolis are very adventurous in their theatregoing.

Q.  Sunset Boulevard is playing at the New Century Theatre. What are some of the benefits and challenges of working on a smaller stage?

A.  I love a smaller space because it makes the action accessible to the audience and is so much more intimate, it really pulls people in and immerses them in the piece. I had an acting teacher who would say “A thought can move a chair across a room” by which she meant thoughts and emotions give off a certain energy. In a smaller space I think the audiences are close enough to be impacted by that energy. On the other hand, if I clear my throat everyone knows it!

Q.  How do you get into the character of someone like Norma Desmond?

A.  I start with situations that I have in common with her, which wasn’t hard because the basics of what Norma is dealing with are universal: death of a loved one, career ambition, falling in love, etc. Then I take the sensation of the familiar experience and explode it to Norma size- for example- I’ve spent way too much on makeup and hair products that promise to make me more attractive. Norma hires an astrologer, a psychotherapist, a masseuse and gets injections of fetal lamb tissue in her pursuit of eternal youth and beauty. Whew! Norma’s reactions are much larger than mine would be- she takes everything to extremes, but it isn’t so hard to imagine what I would do if I weren’t bound by societal convention and propriety. I would love to be able to let loose like she does every once in a while!

Sarah Gibson and the Sunset Boulevard cast are re-imagining a tale chock full of Hollywood glamour and drama at the New Century through next Sunday. Visit our website for more information and special ticket prices for students and educators. Don’t miss your chance to see this rarely performed hit right here in Minneapolis’s own theatre district!

Q&A with Elizabeth Ann Berg, Mary Poppins Cast Member and St. Paul Native

No matter where you grew up, chances are you were familiar with Mary Poppins as a child. The classic 1964 Walt Disney movie has been beloved from madeline_trumble_as_mary._photo_by_jeremy_danielgeneration to generation, and the stage production is creating a new legacy for the Mary Poppins name. Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins features familiar songs such as, “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” With 44 major theatre honors and seven productions on three continents, Mary Poppins is one of the biggest stage musical successes in recent years. In preparation for the show’s visit to the Orpheum Theatre, April 23-28 we present a Q&A with St. Paul native Elizabeth Ann Berg, who explains what it was like to grow up as a theatre student in Minnesota and how she came to be part of the ensemble of Mary Poppins.

Q. I hear you are from Minnesota, where did you grow up and where did you go to school?

Elizabeth Ann Berg

Elizabeth Ann Berg

A. Yes, I was born in St. Paul and grew up in St. Paul and the surrounding area. I attended Saint Paul Academy and graduated in 2007.

Q. Did you participate in musical theatre – or high school musicals while you were here? 

A. I participated in many, many theater productions, starting with the Egyptian Cinderella in 5th grade.

Q. What are some of the other artistic groups you have performed with (theater, choirs, etc.)?

A. I performed in the Prelude program at MacPhail Center for the Performing Arts, The Children’s Theater Company, Hillcrest Community Theater, Steppingstone Theater, as well as local summer camps. In middle school I performed in Into the Woods, Bye Bye Birdie and Grease in theaters around Saint Paul. In high school, I performed in Fiddler on the Roof, The Music Man, Company, and A Class Act at regional theaters. At my high school, I performed in Peer Gynt, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Into the Woods, Tartuffe and Evita.

Q. When and why did you leave Minnesota? Where did you go?

A. I left after I graduated from Saint Paul Academy to attend the Boston Conservatory pursuing a BFA in musical theater.

Q. What are your favorite things to do when you return to the Twin Cities?

A. I love walking around and browsing the shops and restaurants on Grand Avenue. I ALWAYS eat at Café Latte and get a piece of cheesecake at a two person table overlooking the street. I also love walking around the lakes in Minneapolis, such as Lake of the Isles or Lake Calhoun. I always visit the Children’s Theater Company and MacPhail when I’m in town to say hello to old teachers. I also love going to 50th and France in Edina for shopping, food, and to attend the independent movie theater there. Another favorite area is Uptown and downtown Saint Paul especially in the winter when all the beautiful Christmas lights are up.

Q. Do members of your family still live here?

A. Yes. My Mom, Dad, brother, sister, and brother in law still live in and around the Twin Cities.

Elizabeth and the rest of the Mary Poppins cast will be returning to spread more joy to Minnesota at our Orpheum Theatre, April 23-28 – visit our site for more information and tickets. We also invite you and your children to join us in building your own kite and flying it at Hennepin Avenue’s first ever “Mary Poppins Pop-up Park,” where David Herzig of the Minnesota Kite Society will guide children in building their own kite.

 Check out the Magic of Mary with this Behind-the-Scenes video!

Flashdance 30 Years Later: The three most memorable aspects of Flashdance like you’ve never experienced before

A lot has changed since the ‘80s. Styles have come and gone, come back again and fallen out of favor for a second time. In the 1980s we saw people wear legwarmers, cut up sweatshirts and bangs that were two stories high. While today we may look back at some of these crazy trends and ask “What was I thinking?,” a little piece of us yearns for what the ‘80s meant—loud colors and loud music that were all part of a spirit and desire so loud you’d think the dial was turned up to 11. That is what Flashdance the Musical, making its Minnesota debut at our Orpheum Theatre April 2-7, is all about—a young woman’s desire to achieve her dream of becoming a professional dancer. You probably remember the 1983 movie starring Jennifer Beals, but now that Flashdance is back as a live stage production it made us wonder: how has it changed over the past 30 years? Here are the three most memorable aspects of Flashdance and how they have been updated for the stage:

1. Music and Dancing: Perhaps the most memorable part of the movie Flashdance is the music. With hits that captured the ‘80s like “Maniac,” “Gloria,” “I Love Rock and Roll,” and the Academy Award-winning “Flashdance… What a Feeling,” music was the backbone of the story and translates beautifully to the stage. While you will see many of the classics from the movie performed, you will also enjoy 16 new musical numbers written for the stage production. Music and DancingDirector Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys, Memphis) said Robbie Roth (music and lyrics) found a way to “meld the [new] songs and the familiar songs into a cohesive score.” The music and costumes work together to immerse you in the energy of the ‘80s, but the dance choreography makes the audience acknowledge that what they are seeing is happening right now, right in front of their eyes. With styles like modern dance and break dancing, you will see Flashdance in a whole new light. The style, fashion, hair, music and dance all work together to keep the stage version authentic.

Emily Padgett

Emily Padgett as Alex Owens

2. Jennifer Beals as Alex Owens: Finding a new actress to play Alex Owens must have been no easy challenge—Jennifer Beals was so identified with the role that, to use a cliché, every guy wanted her and every girl wanted to be her. Flashdance the Musical features Alex being played by Emily Padgett, whose Broadway credits include Rock of Ages, Legally Blonde and Grease. Padgett has also appeared on TV shows including “Louie,” “America’s Got Talent” and “Shall We Dance on Ice.” She says, “I never in a million years thought I would be playing this role in Flashdance.” Padgett has her work cut out for her, performing 14 musical numbers with different styles of dance and she’s also the main focus of the story between songs. Luckily for Flashdance fans she is an experienced actress and “thrilled to bring this iconic character to the stage.” Matthew Hydzik, who plays Alex’s love interest Nick, said of Padgett, “she does eight back-breaking shows while singing her face off,” and continued to say, “it’s an amazing thing to watch these extremely talented people work at such a high level.” Padgett will give old and new fans a chance to fall in love with Alex all over again.

Emily Padgett as Alex Owens, Photo by Kyle Froman

Emily Padgett as Alex Owens, Photo by Kyle Froman

3. The Water Scene: Trujillo’s goal for Flashdance the Musical was to keep the same story without doing a re-telling of the movie. However, he felt there were scenes that were “iconic” and had to be included such as the famous water scene. Fans of the movie can expect to see this scene re-created in a more elaborate way than they might have imagined. We all remember Alex pulling a chain and having a bucket of water poured on her, but on stage there is no bucket at all. In fact, when Alex pulls the chain on stage it is just for show, the water is triggered by a special effects team off stage who controls the water that is poured along with water that comes out of stage as a part of a larger, more intricate musical number that has to be seen to be believed.

Flashdance the Musical will debut in Minnesota at our Orpheum Theatre April 2-7 as a part of a national tour before going on Broadway. For a chance to relive the ‘80s or to experience them for the first time, visit our website for ticket information.

A Love Letter to Hennepin Theatre Trust

Three Generations of Theatre Love

From the Big Apple to the Mini-Apple, Hennepin Theatre Trust donor Denine Taylor shares her love affair with live theatre. She tells the story of how her relationship with the theatre blossomed and how she is sharing her passion as a theatre enthusiast with her son.

The January 1, 2011 performance of Billy Elliot at the Orpheum Theatre signified more than just an opportunity to see a great performance at the start of a new year. It was a fresh start and a hopeful wave goodbye to the breast cancer I had fought in 2010 and a way to welcome in a new life that would once again include great theatre. And just as I was making my own reconnection with theatre as a new Trust donor, I was passing along a generations old love of the performing arts to my son, Sam, by bringing him along for the ride.

My love of theatre began in 1963. My parents drove my older brother and me to New York City to see Oliver! on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre. Even at eight years old, I had come to love everything about New York City: the people, the energy, the cost of lunch that made my Dad wince and especially the way he and my Mom seemed to stand up straighter as we entered the theatre. Even though I was just a kid, I knew: this was a big deal.

I remember going inside the beautifully ornate theatre and nestling into the velour-covered seat. The combination of my red velvet dress on the velour seat made it impossible to move, but I didn’t want to. I was transfixed. The pure energy of live theatre came at me as if I was the only one in the audience. I wanted to scream this funny word I heard people saying: “Bravo!”

Many, many years later, my career in the newspaper business landed me in Times Square- just steps away from Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway. As a young professional working in the city and living on a budget, I made the most of my opportunities to see Broadway shows as often as I could. As many times as I attended Broadway plays during my almost twenty years in photoNew York, there was something wonderful about knowing that whether you went to a show or not, it was still happening. Right down the street and ready to welcome you in the afternoon or evening for the experience of a lifetime.

By 1996, I was married, living in Minneapolis and the mother of an energetic six-year-old who had been diagnosed with autism. During this time, the call of motherly duty was too intense for me to reserve any live theatre. Sam went through a rough patch after our move that lasted several years. I rarely took a curtain call during this period and longed for things to settle down so I could arrange some me time for the thriving Minneapolis theatre district I had heard so much about.

These memories came flooding back to me during that New Year’s Day performance of Billy Elliot, Sam’s first live theatre performance at the Orpheum Theatre. Sitting next to him, hoping that my newly grown-in buzz cut after the last round of chemo looked chic, I was so proud that I had recommitted myself to theatre by becoming a Hennepin Theatre Trust donor. Even at my level of support, I get terrific seats and lots of invitations to backstage events. When I call or email for tickets, Helen, the Donor Relations Coordinator, treats me like I donate thousands of dollars a year. I get such a great feeling knowing that I am supporting the arts and making a difference in the quality of theatre here in Minneapolis.

As I saw Sam’s face light up during that first performance and heard him yell, “Bravo” just like a seasoned theatre-veteran, I felt this great rush of parental satisfaction. I knew I was bequeathing a great love to him. Something that will be with him forever!

If you want to be a part of inspiring lives through the arts right here in the Twin Cities, please visit our site  at or contact Helen to access the many benefits of being a donor at or 612.455.9513.

Denine Severino Taylor is a business development writer at a large health care photo-01 (2)company in Minneapolis. In her spare time, she shares her many random thoughts in her blog, She and Sam look forward to many more years of great theatre in Minneapolis as Hennepin Theatre Trust donors. 

Exclusive Q&A with Jared Oxborough and Ben Bakken, Radames and Zoser in Elton John & Tim Rice’s Aida

Based on the Giuseppe Verdi opera of the same name, Theater Latté Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust’s production of Elton John & Tim Rice’s Aida will have its final performance this Sunday, January 27, at the Pantages Theatre. Aida has been a beautiful way to launch our new collaborative series, Broadway Re-Imagined, which intends to breath fresh life and a new perspective into local productions of Broadway shows. Local actors Jared Oxborough and Ben Bakken play the father-son team of Radames and Zoser and share with us during an exclusive Q&A why they were attracted to the show, how hard they rock to the killer Elton John score and the contemporary flavor in this production of Aida.

Jared Oxborough (Radames) and Austene Van (Aida)

Jared Oxborough (Radames) and Austene Van (Aida)

Q. A lot of people are familiar with the Disney production of Aida (the National Broadway tour kicked off at the Orpheum Theatre once upon a time). What are the differences between the original Broadway production and this Broadway Re-Imagined production?

Ben: With this one we’re trying to put a contemporary spin on it. We’re bring more modern day elements into it. There is a rock concert vibe which is really cool with the fog effects and several songs where actors are using mics on stands to give it that rocker feel. There is also modern influence in the costumes. The original Broadway production took place in Egypt. They still used the museum in the beginning and the end, but it was all in ancient Egypt.

Q. Tell us about Aida and your characters in the show.

Jared: Aida is a grand love story. I play the role of Captain Radames.

Ben: I play his father, the evil chief minister of their country’s arm, and I’m poisoning the Pharaoh to make way for Radames to take over as the leader of Egypt.

Q. You both have resumes with very extensive work in the Twin Cities. What attracted you to Aida?

Ben Bakken (Zoser)

Ben Bakken (Zoser)

Jared: Theater Latté Da speaks for itself – Peter Rothstein, Michael Ferrell, the whole team and the work that they’ve done. I was part of [Theater Latté Da’s] Evita which was an amazing experience and saw them do Spring Awakening, which was critically acclaimed.

Ben: I’ve always loved Aida and I choreographed it at a local high school once. Also being a director now at Hill-Murray High School, I wanted to work with Peter and see how he does things so I can learn – seeing what other directors and choreographers and designers are doing because someday I’d love to have my own theater company. I love performing, I love the music and I love the story, but I also want to learn.

Q. What drew you to the roles of Radames and Zoser?

Ben: The rock songs. I don’t have the prettiest voice – it has an edgier sound to it that wouldn’t fit with a show like The Sound of Music. No one would ever hire me to play Curly in Oklahoma but both of Zoser’s songs fit my voice well. I did not expect to get the job at all because I play an old man and I haven’t played an old man or a ‘character’ role in my career yet. When they called and offered me the job I actually laughed at them and asked if they were sure that they wanted to hire me.

Jared: I was drawn first and foremost to the music. Elton John’s music for the show won a Grammy. I got to learn the show from the script and understand the transformation that Radames goes through from the beginning to the end of the show and its pretty incredible. I’ve liked tackling that challenge and finding new places to go with the character.

Q. The show is technically top-notch (costumes, set, lighting, etc.) When those elements were added during tech how did that change, enhance or alter your performance?

Jared: I think the tech process can always be challenging – especially since this show is very technical and there is a lot of stuff going on backstage. For tech week, stuff kind of slowed down because it has to…you have to make sure everything is in place.  As soon as it comes together, it adds this element that creates the world of the play.

Ben: As an actor, you always know during tech that you get more attention on helping develop your character and running the show from beginning to end so you can get a feel for the character through the whole show. We totally understand what it takes to make it look ‘pretty’ but sometimes you wish you could snap your fingers and make it done. My costume – wearing the kilt, the tie, the little Russian beret and the whip – totally helped me play a mean old man. It helped me ‘go there’ and realize that I’m in a completely different world.

Q. Is there a moment in the show where you rock the hardest?

Jared Oxborough (Radames) and Nathan Barlow (Mereb)

Jared Oxborough (Radames) and Nathan Barlow (Mereb)

Jared: Our duet, man! “Like Father, Like Son” is a moment in the show where I stand up to him for the first time and say, ‘Listen, this is how it’s gonna be.’ The music really helps that feeling. And Ben gets to rock out in that song too.

Ben: Having Radames make this transformation where he stands up to his dad helps me bring my character to another level where he’s almost losing it. I LOVE singing the last note of that song! That is what every singer longs for- to have the freedom to have everything stop and really go for it.

Q. You also have the most stand-out dance moment in the show. Did Michael Matthew Ferrell’s choreography impact the physicality of your character?

Ben: I think the choreography is awesome. I love doing it, but at first it totally felt out of character. The more I worked on it and realized that’s the moment where Zoser is losing it – he would amp it up. It harkens a little bit to Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation.

Q. Radames is the lover of our story. What personal experiences did you draw upon to breathe life into the desire and love that you’re portraying on stage?

Jared: I’ve been in love before…a couple times. I’ve had my heart broken. I don’t want to get too specific because the world doesn’t need to know my drama, but I think anyone who has ever been in love knows what that feeling is and what it does to you – mind and soul. I’ve tried to incorporate those things.

Want to see our ‘story of love in a time of hate’? Performances run through this Sunday, January 27, at the Pantages Theatre. Visit our site for performance times and ticket information.

Student Rush Policy for Aida: Rush tickets are $20 cash only, limit 1 ticket per valid student/educator ID and will go on-sale two hours prior to each performance. Rush tickets are subject to availability and re-sale is strictly prohibited.

Behind-the-Scenes Video:

Behind-the-scenes at the Orpheum: The secret of sparkle

Cleaning the Orpheum chandelier is a delicate and lengthy process. Over eight days in November, the extremely skilled and experienced Orpheum operations staff, led by third generation stagehand and Orpheum Operations Coordinator Dave Marietta, conducted the labor intensive process of lowering and hand cleaning the Orpheum chandelier.

Weighing two tons and measuring 15 feet high, this sculpted brass behemoth has 187 light bulbs, 84 main candles and 12 candelabras with seven candlesticks on each one. It has greeted theatre patrons since the Orpheum Theatre re-opened in December 1993 following a $10 million renovation. The chandelier, manufactured in Chicago and designed from similar fixtures in Austria, cost approximately $250,000 at the time. It is not, however, original to the building because a chandelier before the renovation would have gotten in the way of the projector when the nearly century old theatre was used as a movie house. The cleaning process, done every five years, requires five staff members to individually clean the 88 glass beads on each of the approximately 180 strands with a mixture of glass cleaner and regular soap and water.

During the Orpheum renovation, a special lunch was held in the dome for local stakeholders including elected officials and architects. Wall-to-wall scaffolding had been assembled in the theatre which created a small space under the dome to allow guests to see the actual size of the decorative plaster moldings and silver leaf which still covers the dome. Attendees were allowed a once-in-a-lifetime experience to “dine in the dome.

View our time lapse video of the Orpheum chandelier cleaning from local photographer and videographer Bill Hickey. Thanks again to Dave Marietta and his staff for allowing us this rare look to discover the secret of the sparkle. Don’t forget to look up the next time you are at the Orpheum!

For us, 2013 will be a year of new partnerships

Partnership: an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests.

Simple, huh? Working together for the good of all involved.  Partnerships can be either personal or business in nature, but at their core, the best partnerships involve partners who complement each other’s strengths and strive to make both better off.

Stage Door Extra: Check out director Peter Rothstein’s vision for Aida in this video interview.

Hennepin Theatre Trust has a long history of entering into local partnerships with such prestigious organizations as The Jungle Theater, The Loft Literary Center, Theater Latté Da, Cantus, The History Theatre, Actors Theater of Minnesota, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, The Guthrie Theater, National Geographic and others.  Let me introduce you to two of our newest partnerships: Broadway Re-Imagined with Theater Latté Da and Minneapolis Musical Theatre at the New Century.

 Broadway Re-Imagined is the highly anticipated new collaboration between Theater Latté Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust. Promising a fresh look at Broadway productions, it kicks off the new year  in January 2013 with Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida at the Pantages Theatre, imaginatively directed by Theater Latté Da’s award-winning artistic director Peter Rothstein. Aida will feature an all Minnesota cast including Jared Oxborough as Ramades, Austene Van as Aida and Cat Brindisi as Amneris. We anticipate co-producing at least one show with Theater Latté Da at the Pantages annually so stay tuned!

The New Century Theatre has become the new showhouse for Minneapolis MN_ReeferMadness_CityCenterKioskMusical Theatre, whose inventive 2013 Season will include Reefer Madness (Feb 1-24) and Sunset Boulevard (May 31-June 23).  Acclaimed artistic director Steven Meerdink will continue to build on Minneapolis Musical Theatre’s well-established success in presenting new or rarely-seen musical works, a priority Hennepin Theatre Trust enthusiastically supports.

Both of these new partnerships fully live up to the definition.  Theater Latte’ Da and Minneapolis Musical Theatre will be able to tap into the Trust’s marketing and logistical support, enabling them to reach new and larger audiences, while Hennepin Theatre Trust will greatly benefit from TLD and MMT’s years of artistic success as highly respected local Twin Cities theatre organizations.  Sounds like a couple of “win-win” situations to me.

Join us and “buy local” in 2013 by attending one of these new productions!