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Jill Schafer - Page 2

Jill Schafer

A native Minnesotan, Jill is an enthusiastic theater-goer in the Twin Cities area and an advocate for local theater companies small and large. After becoming a Guthrie season subscriber in 2003, she found herself attending more and more theater, so decided to start an independent theater blog called Cherry and Spoon in 2010. With no background or training in theater (other than a few stints in the pit orchestra in high school), Jill writes from an audience perspective. Read more of Jill’s writing on



BWW Review: Chronofon Productions and Open Eye's DEAR LENNY: BERNSTEIN'S LIFE IN SONGS AND LETTERS is a Delightful 90 Minutes of Music, History, and Inspiration
August 25, 2018

Leonard Bernstein. I know him mostly as the composer of one of my all-time favorite musical theater scores, WEST SIDE STORY (closing this weekend at the Guthrie), as well as other works ranging from classical to popular. But I never really knew much about the man behind the music or what his life was like. Thanks to Open Eye Figure Theatre and the team from Chronofon Productions (Bradley Greenwald, Dan Chouinard, Diana Grasselli, and Prudence Johnson), I now feel like I have an even greater appreciation for the music as well as the person who created it. DEAR LENNY: BERNSTEIN'S LIFE IN SONGS AND LETTERS is a well constructed and entertaining deep dive into the life and work of one of the best American composers of the 20th Century.

BWW Review: The Solo Play WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW is a Remarkable True Story, Beautifully Told by Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company
August 24, 2018

NYC-based theater artist Alice Eve Cohen had a surprise late-in-life pregnancy filled with traumatic experiences and decisions. So she wrote a play about it, because that's what artists do. The result is a frank, funny, and almost unbelievable story that touches on many common and relatable issues. For their production of WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW, Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company enlisted Kim Kivens to perform the solo piece, a wise choice indeed. As much as anything else, the play is about storytelling. About our need to tell stories, our need to listen to each other's stories. Alice's story is a remarkable one, and listening to it, as told by the team at MJTC, is a joyful, heart-breaking, moving experience.

BWW Review: Dark and Stormy's 'NIGHT, MOTHER is a Difficult Ride, but Beautiful, Heart-Breaking, Thought-Provoking, Conversation-Starting Theater
August 22, 2018

Friends, this is a tough one to watch. And I don't necessarily recommend it for everyone, especially people who might be triggered by the events of the play. Proceed with caution, because Marsha Norman's Pulitzer Prize-winning play 'NIGHT, MOTHER is 90 minutes of the most frank discussion of suicide I've ever seen. Dark and Stormy's production, featuring the two-person dream team of Artistic Director Sara Marsh and #TCTheater favorite Sally Wingert, is beautifully done and powerfully affecting, almost painfully so. And they're doing all the right things - partnering with the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) - so that hopefully this play brings more awareness of and discussion about suicide. And it's also some really intense, intimate, engaging theater. I expect nothing less from Dark and Stormy.

BWW Review: Theater Mu's Sweet, Funny, Fantastical New Play THE KOREAN DRAMA ADDICT'S GUIDE TO LOSING YOUR VIRGINITY is about Love, Friendship, and the Melodrama of Life
August 15, 2018

A romantic comedy about a rich Asian man and a hard-working Asian American woman featuring an all Asian cast. No, I'm not talking about the soon-to-be smash hit movie CRAZY RICH ASIANS, I'm talking about a world premiere new play written by a local Hmong playwright and featuring a charming 10-person local cast. Theater Mu's THE KOREAN DRAMA ADDICT'S GUIDE TO LOSING YOUR VIRGINITY, written by May Lee-Yang, is a sweet, funny, fantastical story about love, friendship, and the melodrama of life.

BWW Review: Guthrie Theater's THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE is a Sweet and Fun Story of Love, Friendship, Community, and Finding Oneself
August 1, 2018

Reminiscent of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and KINKY BOOTS, but with a spirit and humor all its own, THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE is a drag show with a beautiful message of finding one's identity and embracing those you love as they discover their identity. What it doesn't resemble so much is playwright Matthew Lopez's other work seen recently on #TCTheater stages, the intense Civil War drama THE WHIPPING MAN, a beautiful and heart-breaking play done by Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company last year. Which just goes to show the range of the playwright, although I think it's safe to say that GEORGIA MCBRIDE is the more personal work. Similar to the protagonist Casey, he found himself in a drag club in Florida, although the details of the story are different. GEORGIA MCBRIDE is a really fun show, and you also may learn a bit about drag performance, and rethink some stereotypes about the real people behind all the glitz and glamour of the show.

BWW Review: The Jungle Theater's Regional Premiere of the Broadway Hit HAND TO GOD is Hilarious, Shocking, and Not a Little Sad
July 28, 2018

HAND TO GOD is a little like AVENUE Q, but with less singing, more frequent cursing, and more graphic simulated puppet sex. The 2015 Tony nominee for best play is having its regional premiere in a fantastic production at Jungle Theater, and if you don't mind being a little uncomfortable at the theater (you shouldn't, it's good for you), it's well worth braving the construction, traffic, and parking headaches that come with a trip to Uptown to see this funny, irreverent, and sad little play.

BWW Review: Gremlin Theatre's Regional Premiere of IDEATION is a Taut, Thrilling, Engrossing, and Funny 90 Minutes
July 21, 2018

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. The characters in the play IDEATION are definitely paranoid, entertainingly so, but whether or not someone is out to get them is still a question mark at the end of the play. The regional premiere of IDEATION by Gremlin Theatre is a taut, thrilling, engrossing, and funny 90 minutes of work colleagues going down a paranoid rabbit hole, and it'll make your head spin, in the best way. Rarely has my logical math left brain side been so engaged and excited at the theater as I tried to follow these characters through their hypotheses and arguments and conclusions. Theories and algebraic equations are written on the white board, only to be erased and written over by a new theory. By the end you don't know what to believe, and neither do the characters in the play, but it sure is fun to watch their wheels spin.

BWW Review: Park Square Theatre Reinvents a Classic Tale in the Endlessly Delightful BASKERVILLE: A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY
July 6, 2018

Staging a mystery play during the summer is a longstanding tradition at Park Square Theatre, and I've come to look forward to it every year. It's always fun to immerse yourself in the light yet brain-teasing summer blockbuster fare. But their production of KEN LUDWIG'S BASKERVILLE: A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY is anything but traditional. This new play tells one of the most well known Sherlock stories in a fresh, fun, and imaginative way, with just five actors and a whirlwind, almost slapstick style. Director Theo Langason brings all the innovation and physical storytelling experience from Sandbox Theatre, of which he is an ensemble member, to bear on this wonderfully playful and endlessly delightful production. And the fantastic five-person cast is so playful and fun to watch, including a female Holmes and Watson, because why not?! At a time when so many of us need it, BASKERVILLE provides pure escapist summer fun.

BWW Review: Enjoy the Comedy&Tragedy of ROMEO&JULIET whilst Sitting Outside on a Minnesota Midsummer Night in Classical Actors Ensemble's Free Shakespeare in the Park
June 30, 2018

The best thing about summer in Minnesota is outdoor theater. And the lakes, of course. But I love nothing more on a lovely summer evening than to sit outside in a park or a garden somewhere while someone tells me a story. Classical Actors Ensemble continues their tradition of bringing Shakespeare to metro area parks (for free!) with ROMEO AND JULIET, playing at Lake of the Isles and many other parks through mid July. Previously I've seen CAE do Shakespeare's comedies, and found them to be so fun, playful, and almost interactive, the way Shakespeare was meant to be. This is the first time I've seen them do a tragedy for their fun summer outdoor play. But Romeo and Juliet is pretty much a rom-com, until somebody dies, so it's still fun and playful in the beginning. And while maybe the tragedy doesn't have quite the same effect when the sun is softly setting, the birds are chirping, and the wind is blowing through the leaves on the trees, it's still the best way to see Shakespeare.

BWW Review: Shoot the Glass Theater's Minimalist Production of Sondheim Favorite INTO THE WOODS is a Delight
June 22, 2018

I've seen INTO THE WOODS twice in the last six weeks, and six times in the last seven years (not counting the recent movie adaptation). And while I would love #TCTheater to diversify its choice of shows (there are quite a few duplicates and triplicates this season), I'm not going to complain about this one. Every time I see Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's exceedingly clever fairy tale mash-up that explores what happens after the 'happily ever after,' I love it even more. It's instantly familiar due to the fairy tale characters we grew up with, but then it lures you into a darker story. And it's a versatile piece that works just as well set in the forests of Asia as in a German beer garden. For their production, newish theater company Shoot the Glass Theater has gone with a stripped down, bare bones, unmiked approach that works beautifully. With minimal (but charming) set pieces and simple costumes, they're able to focus on the storytelling and the music, which is what it's all about.

BWW Review: Banned in Burnsville, Brilliant in Bloomington! CAUCASIAN-AGGRESSIVE PANDAS AND OTHER MULATTO TALES is Smart, Funny, Thoughtful Commentary on Race in America
June 13, 2018

Duck Washington's funny, engaging, personal, and very honest sketch comedy show about being biracial in America has traveled a long road to its current home in Bloomington. CAUCASIAN-AGGRESSIVE PANDAS AND OTHER MULATTO TALES began as a Fearless Comedy show at Bryant Lake Bowl, and then had a successful run a the 2016 Minnesota Fringe Festival. Chameleon Theatre Circle originally planned to include the show as part of their 2016-2017 season, but the Ames Center in Burnsville, their then home, refused to allow the show to be produced there for fear that some might find the word mulatto offensive. To make a long story short, Chameleon left the Ames Center because they objected to artistic censorship, and CAUCASIAN-AGGRESSIVE PANDAS is currently being presented at the Bloomington Center for the Arts as the final show in their nomadic 2017-2018 season. That's a whole lot of preamble for what is a very funny, insightful, and necessary show about race relations in America, which can only be improved by acknowledging it and talking about it, and maybe laughing about it too in a safe space like this. Oh, the irony!

BWW Review: Theatre Elision's Original Musical AIN'T IT A GRAND AND GLORIOUS FEELING Reimagines Music of Jerome Kern as Modern Day Rom-Com, Performed in a Coffee Shop!
June 5, 2018

Just over a year after their debut with the original musical RAGTIME WOMEN, featuring little known Ragtime gems by female composers, Theatre Elision closes their first fill season with another original musical. In AIN'T IT A GRAND AND GLORIOUS FEELING: CELEBRATING THE PRINCESS MUSICALS, book writer and Theatre Elision founder Cindy Polich weaves a modern rom-com around the songs of Jerome Kern from a handful of musicals written for NYC's Princess Theatre in the early 20th Century. We get to re-discover these lovely and clever songs from one of the most important musical theater composers of the last century, while enjoying a charming modern story set in a coffee shop, that takes place in an actual coffee shop! For less than $40, you can get a delicious meal, dessert, coffee, and see the show. It's a wonderful way to end their successful season of a repertoire of shows that fill a niche I didn't even realize was missing until Elision appeared on the #TCTheater scene: small cast, intimate, original or rarely done musicals with a focus on female cast and creative team.

BWW Review: Ten Thousand Things' Magical THE GOOD PERSON OF SZECHWAN is a Fitting Swan Song for Artistic Director Michelle Hensley
May 29, 2018

Michelle Hensley, retiring Artistic Director and Founder of Ten Thousand Things, is a gift. A gift to theater, a gift to Minnesota, a gift to the world. She taught us a new way to do theater, a new way to experience theater, one that considers who the audience can and should be, which is everyone. Read her book ALL THE LIGHTS ON if you want to know more about it, or go see her beautiful swan song THE GOOD PERSON OF SZECHWAN, which is also the first play that TTT ever did nearly 30 years ago when Michelle started it in California. We've been lucky enough to have TTT as a vital part of the #TCTheater community for 25 years, a tradition that will continue after Michelle's retirement under the leadership of new Artistic Director Marcela Lorca. One can only hope that all of the artists and audience members she's worked with and influenced in those years will continue on this tradition of inclusive, accessible, imaginative theater that is unlike anything else.

BWW Review: Yellow Tree Theatre's World Premiere New Play STILL DANCE THE STARS is a Heart-Wrenching and Heart-Warming Story of Grief, Love, and Family
May 1, 2018

Last week in the cozy intimate space of Yellow Tree Theatre, in a strip mall in Osseo, I saw a world premiere new play that's unlike anything I've seen before. As someone who sees a lot of theater (and I mean a lot), that's a rare occurrence. While playwright Jayme McGhan's STILL DANCE THE STARS reminds me a little of the Pulitzer Prize winning musical NEXT TO NORMAL, in that it deals with parents grieving the loss of a child in different (and sometimes hallucinatory) ways, the storytelling is completely unique, combining very real and natural dialogue, fantastical dream sequences in which stuffed animals come to life, dance, and music to tell a heart-wrenching and heart-warming story of grief, love, and family. It's a great choice of play for Yellow Tree, my favorite theater in the 'burbs, and the cast and creative team do a beautiful job of bringing the play to life with all of its humor, grace, silliness, and beauty.

BWW Review: The Old Vic's Charming, Magical, Fun, and Poignant New Musical DR. SEUSS'S THE LORAX Receives its Triumphant U.S. Premiere at Children's Theatre Company
May 1, 2018

Unless. What a powerful word. So many scary things might happen. Unless. Unless what, you ask? 'Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.' The best thing to happen lately in this dark and scary world is people caring a whole awful lot about things, and taking to the streets and the polls to make them better. That's the heart of Dr. Seuss's story THE LORAX, which specifically is talking about the environment, nature, the wilderness around us. The Old Vic Theatre in London has turned this beautiful story into a charming, playful, and poignantly relevant musical that is now receiving its US premiere at Minneapolis' Children's Theatre Company (in conjunction with San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, where it will play this summer). It gave me all the feels, and had me walking down the street on this first truly spring-like day in wonder. Such is the power of theater, of stories, of people who care a whole awful lot.

BWW Review: Mixed Blood Theatre Adds Music to a Rolling World Premiere Play to Create a Funny, Sweet, Relatable, and Poignant New Original Musical MERMAID HOUR: REMIXED
April 13, 2018

On a snowy Sunday afternoon, several of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers gathered in an old firehouse in Minneapolis to witness the rolling world premiere of a new play called MERMAID HOUR, which means that the premiere is happening in several theaters around the country. In this story of a 12-year-old transgender girl, her parents, and her friends, playwright David Valdes Greenwood set out to 'write a real portrait of a family life, not just an 'issue' play with a message of 'do this' or 'do that.' From where I was sitting, he succeeded. But what makes Mixed Blood Theatre's production of Mermaid Hour special is that it's the only one of the world premieres to feature music; the Mixed Blood team worked with the playwright to turn his play into a musical. As a musical theater nerd who thinks every play is better with music, I couldn't be happier with this turn of events. MERMAID HOUR: REMIXED is not only a real and relatable family story that features transgender characters, too often under- or mis-represented onstage, but it's also done in song!

BWW Review: Illusion Theater's THE PINK UNICORN is a Funny, Poignant, Relatable Story of a Small Town Woman Turned Activist in Support of Her Gender Queer Child
April 10, 2018

When you need to dig in your purse for a tissue to blow your nose after seeing a play, you know it was a good one. I don't cry, but @IllusionTheater #pinkunicorn made me cry with its beautiful message of love, hope, & acceptance. #tctheater #bringtissues #openheart #walkwithme Thus reads my 280-character immediately post-show Twitter review of Illusion Theater's production of the one-woman show THE PINK UNICORN. Kate Guentzel plays the widowed mother of a teenage girl who one day says she doesn't identify as a girl, she's gender queer. In Elise Forier Edie's beautifully written play, we witness this small town woman's journey to reluctant activist, all for the love of her child. With this very personal script in Kate's deft hands, it's a incredibly moving experience. THE PINK UNICORN plays for three weekends only, so waste no time in making your way to Illusion's inviting space on the 8th floor of the Hennepin Center for the Arts in downtown Minneapolis.

BWW Review: The History Theatre and COLLIDE Theatrical Dance Company Join Forces on the Wonderful Original Dance Musical DANCE 'TIL YOU DROP
April 6, 2018

What do you get when you combine COLLIDE Theatrical Dance Company, known for creating original dance musicals, with the History Theatre, dedicated to creating new work based on or inspired by true events in Minnesota history? You get DANCE 'TIL YOU DROP, a dance musical about a Minnesota dance team who competed and set a record in a dance marathon in the 1930s. Let's call it an original historical dance musical! Like all COLLIDE productions, it features exquisite storytelling through dance, and like all History Theatre shows, it's an informative and compelling look at history and how it relates to today. It's fun, inspirational, nostalgic, and over in a quick two hours that will leave you wanting more.

BWW Review: Only One Weekend Left to See Skylark Opera Theatre's Beautifully Moving Contemporary Opera AS ONE
March 22, 2018

The new incarnation of Skylark Opera Theatre, under new Artistic Director Robert Neu, is presenting their third work of accessible, intimate opera. As someone who usually stays on the musical theater side of the music-theater spectrum, this approach seems like a good one for me, sort of bridging that gap between opera and music theater. After last year's stripped down adaptation of CARMEN and an immersive DON GIOVANNI, they're now presenting a contemporary opera about a very timely subject. AS ONE is a two-person 90-minute English language opera about Hannah, a transgender woman becoming herself. She is played by both a man and a woman, pre- and post-transition. It's a beautiful, heart-breaking, inspirational, ultimately hopeful story gorgeously told through music. The intimate new space that is North Garden Theater, in St. Paul's West 7th neighborhood, is the perfect location to experience this sparse-in-spectacle but rich-in-substance opera. But act fast - only three more performances remain this weekend.

BWW Review: Chanhassen Dinner Theatre's Summer Blockbuster NEWSIES is a Big, Bold, Energetic, Rousing Regional Premiere
March 20, 2018

The Children's Crusade: kids walk out of their jobs or schools to take to the streets and stand up for what they believe in, for a fairer and safer world. Does this describe recent current events, a historical event, or the plot of a Disney musical? Trick question - the answer is all of the above! At the same time that the children of Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of latest tragic school shooting, are leading children across the country in making their voices heard, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is presenting the regional premiere of NEWSIES, a new musical adaptation of the 1992 Disney movie based on the historical newsboy strike of 1899. As is happening today in real life, the kids involved the historical strike and the characters in the musical demand that the people in power listen to them in their call for justice. But the latter group does it with music and fabulous dancing. Children truly are our hope for the future, and NEWSIES celebrates that idea while providing a fun, entertaining, and inspirational show.

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