Waitress at Hennepin Theatre Trust

/ 4:07 PM

When I first heard that 5-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles was writing the music and lyrics to a new musical, based off the 2007 film of the same name starring Keri Russell, I knew I had to see it. I often don't spend time following a musical from rumor to workshop to Broadway but this one I did. I was ecstatic to hear that it would be touring and all my expectations were blown out of the water last night. Not only was it a stellar production but it really wasn't just a night out to see a show. It was a complete and full circle experience from the minute I walked into the historic Orpheum .

Waitress made headlines when it first opened on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in April 2016. Not only did Sara Bareilles write the music and lyrics, but it also included an all-female creative team. Direction, writing, choreography, costume design, musical direction - all by women. While it did not win any of the four Tony Awards it was nominated for (Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Leading Actress and Featured Actor in a musical) it is still running on Broadway. One thing I get sad about after the Tony Awards is hearing about all the productions that will close after not winning, however, Waitress beat those odds. It is still going strong and included many popular stars in leading roles. Recently Bareilles even played the leading role for a limited engagement.

Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a waitress at a local dinner in a small town. She is known for making countless of pies, fresh, each day for the diner. Her two best friends Becky and Dawn work at the diner with her and are some of her biggest supporters. While Jenna dreams of getting out of her loveless and abusive marriage, she discovers she is pregnant. A pie baking contest with a large prize and the town's new doctor give her a shed of light and may offer her a chance at a fresh start. She slowly starts an affair with the doctor. Soon Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life and finally put herself, and her soon to be child, first.

The book, written by Jessie Nelson, is beautiful. It's empowering, delightfully funny, charming and, honestly, perfect. All the characters are so down to earth and real. Many times we see musicals with out of this world personalities and scenarios that audiences would only see in a musical, however, Waitress gives a fresh new take on what a plot can be. Each character is struggling with their own problems that many audience members can relate to. It really does resonate with audiences and I think that's so important and noteworthy.

Bareilles writes a commanding and captivating score for this story. There is a nice variety of styles of music from quirky fun songs like "When He Sees Me" which is about Dawn feeling anxious and uncomfortable about going out on a date and "The Negative" which takes place in a bathroom with Jenna, Dawn and Becky as they wait for Jenna's pregnancy test. The music also features powerful songs like "She Used To Be Mine" which is sung by Jenna towards the end of the show. The scene in which she performs this easily tops my favorite performances I've ever seen. Yes, that's right. Ever. This leads me into how utterly remarkable Desi Oakley is as Jenna.

Oakley embodies what exactly what Jenna is. She is sarcastic but caring. She struggles but also is strong and courageous. She emotes on stage and commands the entire audience, even the back row, to feel what she is feeling. At times I completely related to her on a personal level. Am I in an abusive relationship and pregnant? No, but the way she connects with the audience you feel exactly what she felt. Her voice is a showstopper. She has the ability to effortlessly change from upbeat songs like "Bad Idea" to powerful ballads like "She Used To Be Mine." The longest and biggest note of the show is at the end of this ballad and for a moment I thought the audience was going to stand mid-show. The applaud certainly was longer than most and well deserved. I had goosebumps through this entire song.

The rest of the cast is completely on their A game as well. I really appreciated the role of Dr. Jim Pomatter, played by Bryan Fenkart. He's the definition of a-dork-able. It's refreshing to see a production where the male love interest isn't the brooding, muscular, strong, handsome man. But instead we get a dorky, bumbling doctor...who is also handsome. Nick Bailey plays Jenna's husband, Earl and is great at making the entire audience hate his guts. Becky, played by Charity Angel Dawson, has amazing comedic timing and plays well off of Oakley and Dawn, played by Lenne Klingaman. A fun fact was that Dawson actually played the hilarious role of Nurse Norma in the original Broadway Cast. A true full circle moment.

Overall, Waitress is a beautiful story. It has a variety of themes including friendship, being courageous, taking a risk and believing in yourself. The music is amazing, catchy and will have you rushing to download it. Each actor sticks out in their own way but when they come together as an ensemble they knock it out of the park. This production is literally wrapped up and baked in a beautiful pie and I highly recommend everyone see it. Opening night was in fact sold out, so be sure to get your tickets as soon as possible!

Waitress runs at the Orpheum Theatre through Sunday, Nov. 26. Performance times are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.

When I first heard that 5-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles was writing the music and lyrics to a new musical, based off the 2007 film of the same name starring Keri Russell, I knew I had to see it. I often don't spend time following a musical from rumor to workshop to Broadway but this one I did. I was ecstatic to hear that it would be touring and all my expectations were blown out of the water last night. Not only was it a stellar production but it really wasn't just a night out to see a show. It was a complete and full circle experience from the minute I walked into the historic Orpheum .

Waitress made headlines when it first opened on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in April 2016. Not only did Sara Bareilles write the music and lyrics, but it also included an all-female creative team. Direction, writing, choreography, costume design, musical direction - all by women. While it did not win any of the four Tony Awards it was nominated for (Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Leading Actress and Featured Actor in a musical) it is still running on Broadway. One thing I get sad about after the Tony Awards is hearing about all the productions that will close after not winning, however, Waitress beat those odds. It is still going strong and included many popular stars in leading roles. Recently Bareilles even played the leading role for a limited engagement.

Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a waitress at a local dinner in a small town. She is known for making countless of pies, fresh, each day for the diner. Her two best friends Becky and Dawn work at the diner with her and are some of her biggest supporters. While Jenna dreams of getting out of her loveless and abusive marriage, she discovers she is pregnant. A pie baking contest with a large prize and the town's new doctor give her a shed of light and may offer her a chance at a fresh start. She slowly starts an affair with the doctor. Soon Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life and finally put herself, and her soon to be child, first.

The book, written by Jessie Nelson, is beautiful. It's empowering, delightfully funny, charming and, honestly, perfect. All the characters are so down to earth and real. Many times we see musicals with out of this world personalities and scenarios that audiences would only see in a musical, however, Waitress gives a fresh new take on what a plot can be. Each character is struggling with their own problems that many audience members can relate to. It really does resonate with audiences and I think that's so important and noteworthy.

Bareilles writes a commanding and captivating score for this story. There is a nice variety of styles of music from quirky fun songs like "When He Sees Me" which is about Dawn feeling anxious and uncomfortable about going out on a date and "The Negative" which takes place in a bathroom with Jenna, Dawn and Becky as they wait for Jenna's pregnancy test. The music also features powerful songs like "She Used To Be Mine" which is sung by Jenna towards the end of the show. The scene in which she performs this easily tops my favorite performances I've ever seen. Yes, that's right. Ever. This leads me into how utterly remarkable Desi Oakley is as Jenna.

Oakley embodies what exactly what Jenna is. She is sarcastic but caring. She struggles but also is strong and courageous. She emotes on stage and commands the entire audience, even the back row, to feel what she is feeling. At times I completely related to her on a personal level. Am I in an abusive relationship and pregnant? No, but the way she connects with the audience you feel exactly what she felt. Her voice is a showstopper. She has the ability to effortlessly change from upbeat songs like "Bad Idea" to powerful ballads like "She Used To Be Mine." The longest and biggest note of the show is at the end of this ballad and for a moment I thought the audience was going to stand mid-show. The applaud certainly was longer than most and well deserved. I had goosebumps through this entire song.

The rest of the cast is completely on their A game as well. I really appreciated the role of Dr. Jim Pomatter, played by Bryan Fenkart. He's the definition of a-dork-able. It's refreshing to see a production where the male love interest isn't the brooding, muscular, strong, handsome man. But instead we get a dorky, bumbling doctor...who is also handsome. Nick Bailey plays Jenna's husband, Earl and is great at making the entire audience hate his guts. Becky, played by Charity Angel Dawson, has amazing comedic timing and plays well off of Oakley and Dawn, played by Lenne Klingaman. A fun fact was that Dawson actually played the hilarious role of Nurse Norma in the original Broadway Cast. A true full circle moment.

Overall, Waitress is a beautiful story. It has a variety of themes including friendship, being courageous, taking a risk and believing in yourself. The music is amazing, catchy and will have you rushing to download it. Each actor sticks out in their own way but when they come together as an ensemble they knock it out of the park. This production is literally wrapped up and baked in a beautiful pie and I highly recommend everyone see it. Opening night was in fact sold out, so be sure to get your tickets as soon as possible!

Waitress runs at the Orpheum Theatre through Sunday, Nov. 26. Performance times are Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.
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One of my favorite things about the holiday season isn't just the holiday music, the presents, spending time with your friends and family and the holiday cheer. Oh no. It is the plethora of holiday shows that open across theater's in the Twin Cities. Last week I saw my first one of the season and it was How the Grinch Stole Christmas at Children's Theatre Company. This production is for families and people of all ages. Whether you're taking you're a grandparent taking your grandchildren or a mother bringing her whole family, this is a perfect thing to do this holiday season. I'm 24 and I took my sister who is 27 and we both loved it!

For those who don't know, the story of the Grinch has been told in many different ways. It was originally a children's book by Dr. Seuss. Then turned animated movie and again into a real one featuring Jim Carrey. It's the story of a mean old Grinch who wants to keep Christmas from coming to the wonderful town of Whoville. He hatches a plan with his beloved dog, Max, to steal Christmas.

The Grinch is played by Children's Theatre Company member Reed Sigmund and CTC couldn't have found a better actor to portray this iconic character. He is a perfect balance of menacing and hilarious. Sigmund completely embodies the Grinch through his physicality, voice, and interactions with the rest of the cast. He was born to play the Grinch.

What makes this production special is the music as well. While it includes everyone's favorite "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" it also includes original music with lyrics by Timothy Mason and music by Mel Marvin. These songs really made this production feel fresh and new. Everyone knows the story of the Grinch, so I was wondering what CTC would do to make this production new to people who've seen this story done many times. The music is what made it different. I absolutely loved it. Sigmund and Young Max (played by Natalie Tran) sang a song about how the Grinch was "One of a Kind" and it was by far my favorite song.

This production is visually stunning. It's everything you'd expect from a production based off of Dr. Seuss. Tom Butsch, the scenic designer for the show, really outdid himself. Everything in this production screams SEUSS. It's colorful, bright, fun and absolutely a joy to watch. This also includes the costumes by David Kay Mickelson. I think the costumes were quite possibly my favorite things, creatively, about this show. The set has a few other tricks and surprises that I don't want to give away but it certainly is spectacular.

Many families share a tradition in which they go to a movie theater and see the newest holiday-themed movies. I want to challenge that tradition. I want to challenge any family that does this and take the chance to see this musical instead. It's nostalgic and refreshingly new all at the same time. This production is perfect for any family who may just be dipping their toes into the theater, and it's appropriate for children of all ages.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is running through January 7, 2018 at the Children's Theatre Company. Tickets can be bought here. All photos are by Kaitlin Randolph









Last week I had my first full-blown Chanhassen Dinner Theatre and I think I'm in love. The entire evening was perfect from the minute I walked in the door. Chanhassen is known for their long-running productions, extremely talented casts, and their delicious dinner. I had an amazing time and I'd do it all over in a heart-beat. I'd even pay money to see this fabulous production again! Chanhassen Dinner Theatre is bringing back it's 2015 regional premiere production of Sister Act - A Divine Musical Comedy.

Sister Act is a hilarious musical comedy about Deloris Van Cartier, a wannabe diva whose life takes a surprising and frightful turn when she witnesses a crime. After seeing someone, from her boyfriend's group of thugs, murder someone. After running to the police for help, they hide her away in the last place anyone would expect - convent! Deloris helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she also rediscovers her own in a sparkling tribute to the universal power of friendship.

Photo Credit: Heidi Bohnenkamp
This production was brought back by popular demand and for good reason. Everything about it is perfectly and expertly done. From the innovative and unique set design to the hilarious acting and to the outstanding vocals. The cast in this production is nearly all of the original cast from their 2015 production. Even Regina Marie Williams returns as the one of a kind Deloris Van Cartier and let me tell you...she's brilliant.

I've never seen Williams in a production before but she certainly won over a new fan that night. I spoke with another blogger who told me that she is pretty Twin Cities famous. Her portrayal of Deloris should be award-winning. She has impeccable comedic timing that would even make Whoopi Goldberg laugh her ass off (the one who originated the role in the movie). Her vocals were nothing short of stunning as well. Anytime she was on stage my mouth was either dropped in pure awe of her or smiling from ear to ear as to how hilarious she is. She is the definition of a powerhouse.

The rest of the cast is energetic and unforgettable. They each have their moments of shining whether it's a quick witty comment or a solo here and there. Sister Mary Robert, played by Britta Ollmann, has a voice that I'm surprised didn't legitimately blow the roof off. Norah Long, who plays Mother Superior, is strict, firm but kind and has a beautiful voice. I can't speak highly enough of this cast as they were one of the best group of singing nuns that I've ever seen.

Photo Credit: Heidi Bohnenkamp
Not only was the performance heavenly but the dinner was sinfully delicious. It really does make the experience unforgettable. Our waiter was superb. He anticipated each and every one of our needs, was just amazing. Both of our dinners were cooked to perfection and I'd drive all the way to Chanhassen just for the tiramisu again as well!

Chanhassen Dinner theatre is not just a theatre. It is not just a stage. It's a destination and an experience. Anyone who loves theatre should treat themselves to a night out and see this production. It's one of the best things I think I've ever seen or at least is easily in my top three favorite productions.

Sister Act runs through February 24, 2018. For reservations, call Chanhassen Dinner Theatre's box office at 952-934-1525 or visit their website here.
I'll be the first to admit that sometimes I don't like to go out of my comfort zone. Whether that's in life, at work or with theater. In this case, I was ready to jump outside of it and see something I wasn't used to seeing or reviewing and it paid off. I saw Dracula at the Ritz Theater. It was performed by COLLIDE, a performing arts company that focuses primarily on dance. According to their website, they are rooted in classical musical theater jazz dance and are inspired by the influence of Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse (who doesn't like Bob Fosse!?).

Many of you know the story of Dracula and this story follows the same idea but in modern time. The story takes place in New York City. After Dracula catches a glimpse of Mina Murray, he obsesses over her in hopes to make her fall in love with him. The story is unique because this production was done through song and dance. There were no scenes with dialogue however the music pushed the plot along. The songs were also modern songs that you knew including "Heads Will Roll," "Bad Girls," "Somebody to Love," and "Every Breath You Take" which was by far the highlight of the production.

The set and lighting were pretty spooky upon walking in. It definitely had "Halloween/Warehouse" vibes and I was living for it. A small band consisting of a keyboard, bass, drums, trumpet, and a guitar. The band was lead by the impressively talented Katie Gearly who sang a large majority of the songs. At times, the cast would sing along including a few solos by Michael Hanna, who played Dracula. When he sing "Every Breath You Take" I legitimately had goosebumps. His cover of the iconic song was absolutely amazing. His deep rich tone and longing looks towards his love were one of the best parts of the production.

As an ensemble they were all completely in sync with each other. You can really tell as an ensemble that they worked hard and have bonded. They are completely and always in check with each other even in some of the less choreographed scenes. The variety of styles of dancing kept the production high energy and interesting. It kept my complete and undivided attention through the entire production.

 Overall, COLLIDE offered an unexpected and amazing evening. I absolutely loved taking a risk and seeing a completely new form of performance that I often wouldn't get a chance to see. COLLIDE clearly knows what they are doing and I can't wait to see many more productions from them.

Visit their facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/collide.theatrical/
Peter Pan is the one character who easily has an entire empire of spin offs, prequels, sequels, books, merchandise and plenty of Broadway plays and musicals about him. With all of these things, you'd think people would get sick of the story of Peter Pan, however that is not the case with this. Fairy dust and magic has been discovered in the Orpheum Theater's newest touring production, Finding Neverland.

Finding Neverland is a semi-original musical based off of the the 1998 play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee and then turned movie in the 2004 adaptation Finding Neverland with Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, The original Broadway production starred Matthew Morrison (Glee) and Kelsey Grammer (Cheers, Frasier) and ran for about 17 months before going on tour in October 2016.

The story itself is a beautiful story not only about Peter Pan but the man who created him, Playwright J.M. Barrie. J.M. is in search for inspiration for his newest play and he is under a tight deadline. While writing in the park one day, he meets four young boys and their widowed mother, Sylvia. Completely enchanted by the boys make-believe adventures, he is inspired to write a new play about a make believe place called Neverland where mermaids exist, people never grow up, and fairies help you fly.
Billy Harrigan Tighe as J.M. Barrie and
John Davidson as Captain Hook

I had absolutely no expectations going into this musical. I'm always blown away by just about anything and everything that is brought to Hennepin Theater however when it came to the story I didn't know how it would hold up. I can confidently say that my expectations were not only blown away, but they were shoved in a cannon on Captain Hooks ship and blown miles away. It was an absolutely charming, surprisingly touching, nostalgic musical.

This musical is victim to one of my least favorite things about touring productions, sadly, and that is the changing soundtrack. One of my favorite things about seeing a touring show is then going and listening to the soundtrack and reliving it while I write. However this musical has a few (minor) changes about the soundtrack from the original Broadway production to the touring cast. I was immediately drawn in to the musical with one of the opening songs "Welcome to London" and was disappointed that it was not in the original recording. However when you look at it, that is almost a compliment in saying that this touring production was better than the original!

The cast of Finding Neverland
The cast is absolutely divine and stands out in their own way. In a production of this magnitude there are usually one or two actors that rise to the top and are the clear stars of the production, even if they aren't the leads. Not the case with this musical. Everyone from the oldest to the youngest are all special and stood out to me. Billy Harrigan Tighe plays the lead J.M. and is magnificent. He had the rare ability of being able to switch his personality on a dime. From playing make believe and being full of a child like energy at times and then turning into a completely charming gentleman for Sylvia. Not to mention his voice made everyone melt in their seat! John Davidson plays Charles Frohman who is the owner of a theater that J.M. writes for. His role was surprisingly humorous at times. He took it to another level when he turned into Captain James Hook. Hook was and funny through out his limited scenes.

Christine Dwyer as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies
Lael Van Keuren plays Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and made me legitimately cry multiple times through out the production. She is new to the role but performs it as if she has been doing it for years.She was able to do what all actors strive to do and that was to take me on a journey. She made me completely forget I was in a theater on a cold day in Minneapolis but like I was sitting right there with her and going through these experiences. That is one of the highest compliments an actor can receive and she did it wonderfully. Her rendition of "All That Matters" made me want to stand mid show for a standing ovation. The power she had in her voice while also emoting to the song was incredible and it filled the space in a tender and beautiful way.

Finding Neverland is a cleverly written as well. While it is more so about the creation of Peter Pan, there are plenty of little subtle Easter eggs through out the production that often made me smile from ear to ear. If you're a big Peter Pan fan you'll certainly see them. Everything from a thimble being mistaken for a kiss to one little boy running around in a top hat and an umbrella. It's unbelievably nostalgic and made me feel like a kid again, which is one of the biggest themes of the show.



Finding Neverland is a show that is perfect for not only people of all ages but families who are veterans or new to theater. It's full of magic, thrilling adventure, catchy tunes and a beautiful lesson to never take life too seriously. Sometimes it is ok to let loose, let your imagination run wild and have fun especially in this crazy and dark world we live in now. The show is nothing short of magical.

This production is only here for a limited run through Nov. 5 so be sure to get your tickets as soon as possible before they sell out!