Jill Schafer

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 cherryandspoon.com.



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

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

BWW Review: Park Square Theatre's Regional Premiere of MARIE AND ROSETTA Brings Two Gospel Legends to Vivid LifeBWW Review: Park Square Theatre's Regional Premiere of MARIE AND ROSETTA Brings Two Gospel Legends to Vivid Life
Posted: Dec. 8, 2018

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 CompanyBWW 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
Posted: May. 1, 2018

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 InspirationBWW 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
Posted: Aug. 25, 2018

BWW Review: Theater Mu and Mixed Blood's Successful First Collaboration on the Hilarious New Play TWO MILE HOLLOW Provides Smart Commentary on Race and Class in AmericaBWW Review: Theater Mu and Mixed Blood's Successful First Collaboration on the Hilarious New Play TWO MILE HOLLOW Provides Smart Commentary on Race and Class in America
Posted: Feb. 22, 2018

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

BWW Review: Hennepin Theatre Trust Brings the Charming and Funny Off-Broadway Hit BUYER AND CELLAR to Minneapolis with a Fantastic Local Creative Team and Cast of One
April 8, 2016

Imagine being so wealthy and successful that you need to build a mall in your basement just to hold all of your excess stuff. Such is the situation that living legend of stage and screen Barbra Streisand has found herself in, as described in her 2010 book MY PASSION FOR DESIGN. Playwright Jonathan Tolins has taken his fascination with this idea, and Barbra herself, and turned it into a successful Off-Broadway play BUYER AND CELLAR. Hennepin Theatre Trust has brought this delightfully amusing one-man show to Minneapolis, starring the uber-talented local theater artist Sasha Andreev and directed by acclaimed director Wendy Knox of Frank Theatre. The one-person cast and many-person creative team have come together to create a wonderfully entertaining evening of theater that is funny, fantastical, chock full of pop culture references, and surprisingly touching. Playing through April 24, you would be wise to pencil this one into your theater schedule.

BWW Review: New Epic Theater Continues the Story begun with the Strikingly Beautiful THE NORMAL HEART in a Bloody Good CORIONALUS
April 5, 2016

The weekend before last,New Epic Theater opened a strikingly beautiful and devastating production of the 1985 Off-Broadway play THE NORMAL HEARTabout the early days of the AIDS crisis. Lastweekend they opened part two of their ambitious spring repertory production, Shakespeare's CORIOLANUS. The two plays share the same terrific eight-person cast, innovative and distinctive director Joseph Stodola,performance space, set, and overall look. Separated in time by about 400 years, THE NORMAL HEART and CORIOLANUSare in some ways similar and in other ways very different. Both continue the trajectory that this new company has set right out of the gate with visually and emotionally impactful work. The two plays will be performed in rep for the next two weekends, culminating in both shows being performed back-to-back on Saturday April 16. Friends, New Epic Theater is an exciting new addition to our bountiful theater community and I urge you to see one or both of these plays to experience their unique vision.

BWW Review: New Epic Theater Wows with the Strikingly Beautiful THE NORMAL HEART, to be Continued with Shakespeare's CORIOLANUS
March 30, 2016

In just their second season as a theater company, New Epic Theater is tackling not one but two challenging and not often performed political plays with THE NORMAL HEART and CORIOLANUS, performed in rep (something that's also not often done). It's an ambitious undertaking for any theater company, much less a young one. But in this short time New Epic has already established themselves as a company that does striking work, both visually and emotionally. The first half of this pair of plays opened last weekend, a strikingly beautiful and devastating production of the 1985 Off-Broadway play THE NORMAL HEARTabout the early days of the AIDS crisis. Friends, this is a piece of theater not to be missed. The Normal Heart returns on April 7, but in the meantime you can see the other piece of the puzzle, Shakespeare's CORIOLANUS, this weekend, as I will be. Director Joseph Stodola and New Epic Theater have a unique vision, one that deserves to be seen.

BWW Review: In History Theatre's WATERMELON HILL, the Stories of Unwed Pregnant Women in 1960s St. Paul are Told with Humor, Intelligence, and Compassion.
March 23, 2016

The History Theatre in St. Paul is committed to bringing new plays and musicals to the stage, usually inspired by true events in Minnesota history. Their yearly Raw Stages festival, a series of workshops and readings of new works, often results in full productions in the following season or two. But I often wonder, what happens next? After a new play or musical is developed, produced, and well-received, where does it go? In the case of 2001's WATERMELON HILL, it comes back again 15 years later. As much as I love seeing new works of theater on History Theatre's stage, I'm thrilled that they brought this wonderful old new work back to the stage, giving it a fresh new production. Inspired by historical events, WATERMELON HILL tells the stories of three young women in the mid '60s, pregnant and unmarried, sent in shame to St. Paul's Catholic Infant Home to wait out their pregnancies, deliver their babies, give them up for adoption, and then leave and never look back. Surprisingly light and funny for such a somber topic, the play brings light to the all too familiar tale of the challenges and lack of education and choices facing women in the past, and perhaps to a lesser extant, even today. Along with THE HOW AND THE WHYand NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN, it's another fantastic choice of theater to present during Women's History Month.

BWW Review: Park Square Theatre's New Play NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN is a Powerful and Important Play about a Powerful and Important Woman
March 20, 2016

I know next to nothing about jazz singer and Civil Rights activist Nina Simone. But I do know Regina Marie Williams, Aimee K. Bryant, Thomasina Petrus, and Traci Allen Shannon, the four women starring in the new play based on Nina's song 'Four Women.' So I knew I was in for a treat and an education with Park Square Theatre's world premiere of NINASIMONE: FOURWOMEN. I was not wrong on either count. Proving once again that everything I know I learned from theater, I now have a greater understanding of the remarkable and talented woman that was Nina Simone, as well as the importance of her music and her voice in the Civil Rights movement. And watching these particular four women, some of the best voices and actors we have here in the Twin Cities, bring full and complicated life to the Peaches, Auntie, Saffronia, and Sweet Thing of Nina's song, is a treat of the highest order.

BWW Review: Collide Theatrical Dance Company Delivers a Deliciously Dark New Take on DRACULA through a Collision of Dance, Music, and Theater
March 14, 2016

Collide Theatrical Dance Company is now in their fourth season of creating 'original Broadway-style jazz dance musicals.' As a theater geek who doesn't know much about dance but loves to watch it, Collide provides an accessible and theatrical way to get into dance. I've seen all of their productions over the last four seasons, and their newest creation DRACULA may just be my favorite of them all. Collide is at their best when they let the dancing do the talking, as they do here, telling this modernized story of the iconic Dracula strictly through movement and music. A live band accompanies this fantastic troupe of dancers as they perform innovative and evocative choreography to a wide variety of popular songs reinvented to fit the story. Created by Artistic Director and choreographer Regina Peluso and director Joshua Campbell, this DRACULAtruly is a perfect collision of dance, music, and theater to create a new and exciting form of storytelling.

BWW Review: Penumbra Theatre Presents Two Powerful One-Act Plays from the Black Arts Movement, THE DUTCHMAN and THE OWL ANSWERS
March 9, 2016

In one of those strange theater-going coincidences, the night after I saw two one-act plays at the Guthrie, I attended opening night ofPenumbra's presentation of two one-act plays. Both paired plays by different playwrights linked by a common theme. But unlike the theater comediesTHE CRITICandTHE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND,THE DUTCHMANandTHE OWL ANSWERSare dense and meaty dramas dealing with heavy issues. They might not make you laugh (except, occasionally, uncomfortably), but they will definitely make you think. Written in the '60s as part of theBlack Arts Movement, these plays take an unforgiving look at the racism, sexism, and classism of the day, that still have implications in today's world. A stellar ensemble cast and top-notch production design tie the two very different plays together and highlight the playwrights' messages. Though they are not easy to watch and I can't say I understood everything that was going on, I certainly came away with much to chew on, and a greater understanding of our shared history. Which is pretty much a given at Penumbra Theatre.

BWW Review: Theatre Novi Most's THE SEAGULL is an Odd and Enchanting Dream of a Production
March 7, 2016

Chekhov's THE SEAGULL is a classic of the theater, but I had never seen it. That's not exactly true, it was actually the first play I ever saw at the Guthrie, but being almost 25 years ago, I have no recollection of it. So it was as if I'd never seen it when I sat down to yesterday's matinee production of THE SEAGULLby Theatre Novi Most, a company that specializes in Eastern European theater, as part of the Southern Theater's ARTShare program. It took me a few minutes to get into this story of many inter-related characters with strange sounding names, but by intermission I was completely under its spell. This is one of those shows that is so completely captivating that it's hard to shake when you leave the theater. Funny, tragic, odd, and completely enchanting.

BWW Review: Mu Performing Arts Presents the Regional Premiere of YOU FOR YOU FOR ME, a Peek Inside North Korea through the Lens of a Very Human Story
February 25, 2016

YOU FOR ME FOR YOU. Judging by the title I wondered if this was a play about former American Idol judge Randy Jackson. But of course it's not, rather this regional premiere by Mu Performing Arts is about North Korea, a subject I (and most Americans) know less about than American Idol. I was fortunate enough to attend the play when there was a post-show discussion with the playwright Mia Chung and director Randy Reyes, facilitated by the Star Tribune's Rohan Preston (read his review here). Hearing from the playwright, the director, and the cast about their experiences creating this piece gave me greater insight into the story. Mia shared that because there is so little known about what North Korea is actually like, she felt freedom in creating this world through 'magic realism' and really tried to focus on the human aspect of the story. She succeeds beautifully, as I was completely engrossed in the lives of these characters as brought to life by Mu's strong cast. This specific story of North Korean refugees is also universal in its themes of family, love, and sacrifice, themes that will feel familiar to any audience.

BWW Review: Theater Latte Da and Hennpin Theatre Trust Deliver an Authentic and Moving Reimagined Production of the Classic Musical GYPSY
February 22, 2016

2016 is the fourth year of Broadway Reimagined, the partnership that combines the resources of Hennepin Theatre Trust with the innovation of Theater Latte Da to create a new interpretation of a familiar Broadway musical. This year's selection is a beloved classic of the American musical theater canon, the 1959 Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim/Arthur Laurents creation GYPSY, based on the memoir of burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee. Theater Latte Da did this musical almost ten years ago in their old home The Loring Playhouse. Even though two actors reprise their roles, as do the director, music director, and choreographer, this is a different show in a bigger venue. And I'm convinced there is no better venue for this show in the Twin Cities than the beautifully restored Vaudeville theater that is the Pantages, where the historical characters in the play very likely performed nearly 100 years ago. There's a sense of history in this show which, along with Theater Latte Da's usual attention to detail in every aspect of the production, creates a beautiful, realistic, moving look into the world of show business and the quintessential stage mother/daughter relationship. As the song says, let Theater Latte Da entertain you, you will have a real good time, yes sir!

BWW Review: The Ordway's Faithful Production of the Classic Musical A CHORUS LINE is a Thrilling Sensation!
February 19, 2016

The 1975 smash hit Broadway musical A CHORUS LINE truly is a singular sensation. After winning nine Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize (one of only eight musicals to do so), it ran for 15 years, making it the longest running musical on Broadway at the time (it still ranks as number six). I've been waiting almost seven years for a local production of A CHORUS LINE, since seeing the Broadway revival tour in 2009. The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts has finally fulfilled my wish, and it's well worth the wait. Featuring a fabulously talented cast of over two dozen legit triple threats, about half of whom are local, co-directed and co-choreographed by A CHORUS LINE expert Kerry Casserly and Artistic Director James Rocco, this show hews very close to the original. There's no re-imagining here, this is a beautifully faithful production of the singular sensation that is A CHORUS LINE. If you call yourself a musical theater fan, it's a must-see.

BWW Review: Illusion Theater's New Original Musical ONLY ONE SOPHIE is a Beautiful Homage to a Spirited, Strong, Loving Woman That's Also a Quintessential American Story
February 15, 2016

?They say that the more specific something is, the more universal it is. That's certainly the case with thenew original musicalONLY ONE SOPHIEby Illusion Theater's Artistic Director Michael Robins. Based on the life of his grandmother, the musical tells a very specific story about an American family centered around a strong, independent, loving Russian Jewish immigrant woman. But this tale of love, grief, family, and memories is a universal one that brings to mind one's own family history and memories. The specifics may be different, but we all have family traditions and memories and, if we're lucky, a loving grandmother that will never be forgotten.ONLY ONE SOPHIE isa beautiful, funny, poignant, inspiring story brought to life through lovely original music (by Roberta Carlson) and a terrific eight-person cast. If you're interested in sweet, simple, heartfelt stories told musically, head down (or rather, up) toIllusion Theater's 8th floor stage in the Hennepin Center for the Arts between now and March 5.

BWW Review: Theater Latte Da's LULLABY is a Beautiful, Poignant, Funny New Play with Music
January 18, 2016

2015 was my 5th full year as aTwin Cities Theater Blogger, andI saw a record high 200+ shows. When I look at those numbers, or at my busy schedule, I sometimes think, why do I do this? Why do I devote all of my free time to this part-time job for which I don't get paid? And then I see a show that reminds me why I do this. That reminds me why I started going to theater, why I started writing about theater, why I think theater (and specifically music-theater) is the most beautiful and powerful art form we have.LULLABY is one such show. This new original play-with-music is everything I want music-theater to be: funny, smart, relevant, relatable, moving, poignant, with awesome songs and a brilliant cast and creative team pouring their heart and souls into the work. This is the first of 20 new works of 'theater musically' that Theater Latte Da has committed to developing by 2020 in a project they're calling 'Next 20/20.*' It's an exciting thing to create the future of music-theater, andLULLABY has set the bar high for this project.

BWW Review: THE BEST BROTHERS is Another Smart, Funny, Bittersweet, and Well-Acted Gem by Loudmouth Collective
January 18, 2016

?Consider this my annual plug forLoudmouth Collective, one of my favorite new theater companies, if you can still call them 'new' after four seasons of smart, intense, funny, beautifully executed theater. They only do two shows a year, and typically only run for two weekends, so you need to be quick to catch them. And trust me, you will be rewarded. I'vebeen with them since the beginningand they never disappoint. Firstly, their choice of plays is interesting and excellent, small-cast (often one or two actors), smartly written, bitingly funny or darkly absurd or heart-breakingly beautiful or some combination thereof. Secondly, the production always brings out the best in the play thanks to the great artists involved. Daniel MacIvor's two-person drama about brothers coming together after the death of their mother seems tailor made for Loudmouth. It would behoove you toget your tickets nowto see this funny, bittersweet, and well-acted gem before it's gone!

BWW Review: Theatre Latte Da's ALL IS CALM Simply, Effectively, and Beautifully Tells the True Story of Peace in the Midst of War
December 17, 2015

?This is my fourth time seeing and writing about Theater Latte Da's annual holiday showALL IS CALM, presented with Hennepin Theatre Trust at the Pantages Theatre.This true story about peace in the midst of war is so beautifully told by creator/director Peter Rothstein, using period music and authentic writing from the time, that I could easily see it every year. It is the 11th holiday show I've seen this yearand my favorite because it best represents the true spirit of the season - connection, community, forgiveness, peace. This is a piece of music-theater that's just about as perfect as one could be - a story told simply, effectively, and beautifully in a way that perhaps comes close to the beauty of the real experience of theChristmas Truce of 1914.

BWW Review: Park Square Theatre's THE SNOW QUEEN is Magical, Musical, Innovative Storytelling at its Best
December 8, 2015

InsidePark Square Theatreon 7th Place in lovely downtown St. Paul, magic is happening. It's the magic of storytelling, something that has been happening for ages on this planet. Friends sitting around a campfire, telling stories of good and evil, trials, and friendship, with words, music, dance, puppets, tears, and laughter. This musical adaptation of theHans Christian AndersonstoryTHE SNOW QUEENis something truly unique and special. It's so charming, whimsical, funny, creative, and yes, magical. But with a creative team that includesDoug Scholz-Carlson(director),Denise Prosek(music director), andJim Lichtsheidl(choreographer), I would expect nothing less. They have assembled a terrific eight-person cast of actor/singer/ musicians to bring this charming fairy tale to life in an innovative and inspired way.

BWW Review: Penumbra Theatre's 28th Annual Production of BLACK NATIVITY is a Truly Joyful Noise!
December 7, 2015

Friends, it's been a rough week. With devastating news here at home (the Children's Theatre lawsuit) and around the country (yet another senseless and horrific mass shooting, this time in San Bernadino, CA), on top of all the other painful things we've been dealing with lately, it's almost more than anyone can take. It was under this cloud that I saw Penumbra Theatre's annual production of BLACK NATIVITY for the first time. Yes, even though this is their 28th year, I've never seen BLACK NATIVITY before. I'm not sure how that happened, but this was the perfect time to first experience this truly joyful celebration. The story, the music, the dancing, the feeling of joy and faith and togetherness in that room, was a balm to my soul and did much to restore my faith in humanity. Maybe in times like this, the first and best response is to 'be the light,' and let that light lead us into appropriate action to heal the wounds of society and prevent things like what happened this week from happening again (and again and again) in the future.

BWW Review: Casting Spells Productions' FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE is a Funny, Sexy, Awkward, Bittersweet Dance
November 23, 2015

A short order cook who is an ex-con and reads Shakespeare. A waitress who's given up her dream of being an actress and is afraid to hope for anything more in life. It may seem inevitable that these two NYC diner coworkers get together, but how it happens is a funny, sexy, awkward, bittersweet little dance in the two-person play FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE. From the company that brought us the delightfully disgruntled princesses of Disenchanted comes a very different play, but maybe not so different as it at first seems. In just their second outing, Casting Spells Productions once again delivers a funny, risky, well-cast, and entertaining show. I look forward to seeing what spells they cast in the future.

BWW Review: New Epic Theater's DOUBT Brings the Themes of the Modern Classic into Almost Painfully Sharp Focus
November 13, 2015

Friends, I know that there are a lot of theater companies in the Twin Cities, so many that it's hard to keep track of them all and impossible to see them all. But you would be wise to take note of New Epic Theater. With just their second production outside of the Fringe Festival and their first full season of programming, they've already established themselves as one to watch with smart, intense, risk-taking, aesthetically beautiful productions. Their new production of John Patrick Stanley's 2005 Tony-winner DOUBT re-imagines the new classic with inventive staging that brings the themes of doubt vs. certainty, racial and gender inequality, and the power hierarchy of the Catholic Church into almost painfully sharp focus.

BWW Review: Children's Theatre Company's THE JUNGLE BOOK is Sheer Delight from Start to Finish!
November 12, 2015

Confession: I've never read THE JUNGLE BOOK (the collection of stories written by Rudyard Kipling in 1894) or seen the 1967 Disney movie (that I can remember). So I was on the fence about seeing Children's Theatre Company's new adaptation, until I saw the cast list. They're about a month into their two and a half month run, and I'm so glad I decided to see the show. This coming of age story that just happens to take place in a jungle is a wonderful tale of friendship, family, community, interdependence with nature, and finally having the courage to strike out on your own. With a sparse adaptation featuring just five actors playing all of the characters (most of them animals), whimsical musical accompaniment and sound effects, and a set that's like the best playground imaginable, THE JUNGLE BOOK is sheer delight from start to finish.