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 Reviews: The Guthrie Theater's Grand Production of THE CRUCIBLE is a Compelling, Well-Executed Classic
April 23, 2015

Arthur Miller's 1953 play THE CRUCIBLE is a classic of the American theater, and dramatizes one of the greatest failings of the American, or rather pre-American, judicial system. During the infamous Salem witch trials of the late 17th Century, twenty people were put to death for the crime of witchcraft, following a long history of the execution of 'witches' in Europe. Arthur Miller explores the larger themes of this horrible incident through a very personal story of one affected family, making the play at once intimate and epic. Despite being over 60 years old, the themes of religious fanaticism, mob mentality, and persecution of people who are different are sadly as current as they were during the McCarthy era when the play was written. The Guthrie's grand production of this classic with a cast chock-full of talent is truly something to behold.

BWW Reviews: Park Square Theatre is Currently Presenting Two Small Gems on its Two Stages - SHOOTING STAR and THE OTHER PLACE
April 13, 2015

I don't know if you've noticed, but there's something exciting going on in downtown St. Paul. In what's usually regarded as the sleepier of the Twin Cities, Park Square Theatre has recently opened a second stage in the Historic Hamm Building on lovely 7th Place. This extra space has allowed them to do some great things in the last few months, including producing regional premieres, partnering with local theater companies (look for shows by Sandbox Theatre, Theatre Pro Rata, and Girl Friday Productions this spring and summer), an increased focus on diversity, and continuing their commitment to students. They currently have three fantastic shows playing on the two stages, including student matinees of an effectively condensed ROMEO AND JULIET. But for us grown-ups, the two stages offer two very different but both excellent choices: the bittersweet comedy SHOOTING STAR on the Proscenium Stage, and the emotional drama THE OTHER PLACE on the new Boss Stage. Read on to make your choice, but hurry, both shows close on April 19.

BWW Reviews: The Original Auto-Biographical Musical FRUIT FLY: THE MUSICAL is a Hilarious and Endearing Ode to Friendship
March 30, 2015

Have you ever imagined your life as a musical? Lifelong BFFs Max and Sheena have done more than imagine it - they've written it! And since in addition to being best friends, Max Wojtanowicz and Sheena Janson are both super talented music-theater artists* (you may know Max from the Children's Theatre and Sheena from numerous production with Mu Performing Arts), the result is a musical that's not only fun and entertaining, but also brutally honest and from the heart. FRUIT FLY: THE MUSICAL began as a hit Fringe show in 2012 and has had several workshops and readings since, and is now a full-fledged show at Illusion Theater. Each time I see it, it has a bit more depth, but always retains the beautiful, poignant, hilarious, endearing heart that is this real life friendship.

BWW Reviews: Theatre Forever's New Original Creation NATURE CROWN is a Lovely, Amusing, Poignant Look at the Idea of Home
March 25, 2015

I went to see Theatre Forever's newest creation NATURE CROWN in the Guthrie's Dowling Studio Theater not knowing what it was about. I left the theater still not knowing exactly what it was about, except that it's lovely, delightful, innovative, poignant, creative, and incredibly moving. The original fairy tale deals with the ideas of home, place, and change, but I'll let creator and director Jon Ferguson explain it: 'It's about returning to a source or place of origin, honoring that place and letting it go, all at the same time. It's about love and change and re-connection. And that's what I hope for everyone. Through the experience of this play I hope that this story and this place becomes yours. I hope that we find parallels between us, to better understand each other, and ourselves, in order to live better together.'

BWW Reviews: The Hilarious '60s Romantic Farce BOEING BOEING is Perfectly Executed by Torch Theater
March 20, 2015

BOEING BOEING is the perfect screwball comedy. Though this tale of an American playboy in Paris with three 'air hostess' fiances was a hit in France, the English translation flopped on Broadway in 1965. But the revival over 40 years later was a hit and spurred a flood of regional productions around the country. Fortunately for Twin Cities theater-goers, Torch Theater chose it as one of it's 2015 shows at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage. With a stellar cast, spot on direction, and a swinging '60s vibe created by set, costumes, and music, it's practically perfect in every way (to quote that other big show). I can't remember the last time I laughed so much at the theater!

BWW Reviews: Theater Latte Da's Production of Sondheim's INTO THE WOODS is Sparse, Inventive, and Gorgeous
March 11, 2015

I first saw the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical fairy tale mash up INTO THE WOODS four years ago, and have seen it several times since then, including the recent star-studded movie. Every time I see it I like it more. I think Sondheim is like Shakespeare in that it has a very specific rhythm and cadence to it that takes a minute to get used to, but the more time you spend with it, the richer and deeper it becomes. Such has been my experience with INTO THE WOODS, so I was primed to love my favorite theater company Theater Latte Da's production of it. But it has exceeded my expectations, and even Sondheim newbies will be enthralled by this brilliant staging of a brilliantly written musical. Latte Da has pared down this big Broadway musical to something that feels intimate and innovative, using a small cast and orchestra, and inventive and thoughtful choices in every detail of the production. This, my friends, is Broadway re-imagined, or at least how I would like to see Broadway re-imagined. Simply put, it's sublime.

BWW Reviews: Mixed Blood Theatre's HIR is a Challenging and Rewarding Look at Changing Family Dynamics and Gender Roles and Identities
March 1, 2015

The English language is in need of a gender-neutral pronoun. Firstly to eliminate the awkward 'he or she' and 'his or her,' but also to refer to people who don't identify with either, or in cases where gender really doesn't matter (which is most cases). The title of the new play HIR (pronounced here) is playwright Taylor Mac's suggestion for an alternative to her and him, with ze replacing he and she. But to say that HIR is about transgender and gender issues is to simplify it too much. In fact, it's difficult to put into words just what it's about, but I'll do my best. It's epic and brutal and funny and heart-breaking as it explores ideas of not just gender, but also class, domestic violence, the changing order of things, and the effects of war on soldiers and those left behind. It's one of those plays that will rip you open, lay your emotions bare, and perhaps leave you with a bit of a queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach. But this beautifully done, perfectly cast production at Mixed Blood Theatre, known for its challenging and rewarding work, is well worth it.

BWW Reviews: POP UP MUSICAL at the Plymouth Playhouse is a Delightfully Irreverent Ode to the Love of Musical Theater
February 27, 2015

Musical theater is just the best thing, isn't it? If you agree, head west to the Plymouth Playhouse for the latest incarnation of the delightfully irreverent tribute to the love of all things musical theater, aka POP UP MUSICAL. Four friends, who just happen to be super talented local music-theater artists, created this show for the Fringe Festival a few years ago. It was so successful that they've expanded it and continue to bring it to various venues in the area (including the Jerome Hill Theater, where I saw it in 2013). While belting out showtunes, the cast also shares fun bits of trivia in the VH1 Pop Up Video style, using signs and video projections. It's truly a must see for anyone for whom the great American musical theater cannon holds a special place in their heart (and their iTunes).

BWW Reviews: The Guthrie Theater's Magical, Mystical, Mischievous MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Is A Midwinter Delight
February 17, 2015

Yesterday I sat on the famous thrust stage of the Guthrie Theater and watched a bunch of soldiers, lovers, and fairies dance, sing, fly, converse, love, hate, and generally cavort around in a bare circular space. Or was it all a dream? Such is the Guthrie's latest production of perhaps Shakespeare's best loved romantic comedy, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, that after three hours of spellbinding theater, you're not quite sure if what you saw just happened, or perhaps, as Puck suggests in his epilogue, it was all just a dream. Artistic Director Joe Dowling has returned to an old favorite in his final season at the Guthrie, assembling a gorgeous and talented cast of local favorites with a few national talents thrown in. It's no wonder that he returned to this show; this MIDSUMMER is a dream of a production, with plenty of spectacle in the form of dancing, flying, singing fairies, humor in the form of typical Shakesperean hijinks, and heart in this sweet romance that ends with a neat happily ever after. Everything about it is truly a delight.

BWW Reviews: Ten Thousand Things' Sparsely Lovely THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN Gets Right to the Heart of the Sweet and Inspiring Story
February 16, 2015

No one does musicals like Ten Thousand Things does musicals. And even though it defies everything we know about musical theater, after seeing a TTT musical I think that maybe that's the way musicals should always be done. The music, like everything else about the show, is stripped down to the very basics, extraneous layers removed to reveal the very heart of the matter. A one-man orchestra provides the minimal accompaniment, and the small cast imperceptibly transitions from speaking to singing, so that you can't even tell where songs end and begin, it's just all one seamless story. And above all else, Artistic Director Michelle Hensley and all of the artists at Ten Thousand Things are storytellers. Whether it's Shakespeare or a classic American musical, they share the story in a pure and unadorned way so that all of their audiences, whether prisoners or seasoned theater-goers, can hear it and see themselves in it. One such masterpiece is their latest musical venture, THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, a reprise of their very first musical venture 15 years ago. It's lovely, spirited, sweet, funny, moving, heart-warming, and real.

BWW Reviews: Theater Latte Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust Collaborate on a Spectacular and Poignant Re-Imagined OLIVER!
February 11, 2015

Theater Latte Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust have formed a beautiful partnership called 'Broadway Re-Imagined,' in which they combine the resources of the Trust with the creativity and innovation of Latte Da to produce a Broadway-sized musical with all local talent and that special Latte Da twist. After the powerful rock musical Aida and the brilliant Ivey Award-winning Cabaret, they return this year with Oliver!, the 1960 musical based on Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist. But don't let all those adorable moppets dancing around the stage and singing upbeat tunes fool you. Oliver! is not a light and fluffy happy musical, well, not solely anyway. It's also a dark and somber look at such serious issues as child abuse and neglect, the desperation of poverty, and violence. But fortunately, after all the death and darkness, the curtain call ends with a reprise of a happy number, so we can all leave the theater with that happy musical feeling. But perhaps we also leave with a deeper thought about the relevance and seriousness of what we just saw, wrapped up in a gorgeous musical theater package, to ponder further at a later date.

BWW Reviews: Penumbra Theatre's BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK - A Timely (and Very Funny) Look at Black Actors in Hollywood
February 8, 2015

In BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK, now playing at Penumbra Theatre as part of their 'Womansong' season, the title character is a black actress in 1930s Hollywood who gets her big break playing a loyal slave in an antebellum Southern melodrama. She imbues the stereotypical role with as much humanity and depth as possible, and so begins a long and successful career, until she mysteriously disappears from the spotlight. Vera is a controversial figure because on the one hand her characters perpetuate the stereotypes seen in movies, but on the other hand she makes her characters as real as possible and has built a successful career for herself and opened doors for black actors in Hollywood. The play examines these issues in a funny, entertaining, innovative way, jumping across time and using video of Vera's first movie.

BWW Reviews: The Monthly Cabaret Series MUSICAL MONDAYS Features the Twin Cities' Top Talent in a Fun and Informal Evening of Musical Theater
February 4, 2015

Musical theater loving friends, if you're not at Hell's Kitchen on the first Monday of the month, you are missing out. This is when Sheena Jansen and Max Wojtanowicz gather a few of their friends, who just happen to be among the most talented musical theater artists in town, for a little cabaret show. They've been doing it for over two years now, and it just keeps getting better and better. Each month has a theme, and this being February, the theme for this month's show was love. It was a fabulously entertaining night of musical theater, and it also served as a preview for shows to come this spring and summer. Read on for highlights and to find out where you can see the cast on stages around town.

BWW Reviews: Transatlantic Love Affair Brings Their Trademark Inventive Physical Theater Style to the Exquisitely Lovely THESE OLD SHOES
January 30, 2015

I'll never forget the first time I saw Transatlantic Love Affair. It was the 'Audience Pick' show at the end of a long and exhausting 2012 Fringe Festival. I was tired and crabby and fringed out, but from the moment the lights went down on ASH LAND, TLA transported me to another world, a world so specifically and beautifully created on a bare stage by a group of performers using nothing but their bodies, voices, and souls to communicate the story. I've seen them a number of times since then, both at the Fringe and as part of Illusion Theater's 'Lights Up' series, and they continue to move me beyond what just 'ordinary' theater is able to do. TLA returned to Illusion Theater last night with a remount of their 2013 Fringe hit THESE OLD SHOES, a touching story of time, memory, regret, second chances, and long lost love rediscovered. In everything they do, TLA is nothing less than exquisite. But disappointingly, the theater last night was not as full as it should have been. My goal in writing this piece is to get as many people as possible to go see THESE OLD SHOES. You cannot call yourself a true Twin Cities theater fan if you've never seen Transatlantic Love Affair, and there's no better place to start than with this achingly lovely show.

BWW Reviews: Variations on a Theme - Three Musicals, THE COLOR PURPLE, CALVIN BERGER, and LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, All Speak to Beauty and Self-Worth
January 27, 2015

At first glance, the musicals THE COLOR PURPLE, CALVIN BERGER, and LA CAGE AUX FOLLES may not seem to have much in common. The settings couldn't be more different - the rural South in the early 20th century, a modern day high school, and a drag club in 1970s France. But since I happened to see them all on the same weekend, I couldn't help but draw parallels between them. All three musicals all speak to themes of beauty, identity, self-worth, and having the courage to be who you really are, despite what the world is telling you. In THE COLOR PURPLE, a young, poor, black woman is told that she's ugly and worthless, but after a lifelong journey she arrives at a place of strength and self-love. CALVIN BERGER sets the classic play Cyrano de Bergerac in a modern high school, where a young man feels that his large nose prevents him from getting what he wants in life and chooses to hide behind the handsome popular guy, both of whom eventually learn it's better to be loved for who you are. Finally, in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, a middle aged man who feels more comfortable dressed as a woman is asked by his own son to hide who he is, but confidently declares 'I am who I am!' Another thing these three musicals have in common is that they can all currently be seen on Twin Cities stages featuring talented local casts. Read on for more details on each, pick one that suits your fancy, and go see a local musical that just may inspire you to love you you really are!

BWW Reviews: Loudmouth Collective Closes their Third Season with A BRIGHT NEW BOISE, Another Smart, Intense, Funny, Beautifully Acted and Directed Play
January 19, 2015

Loudmouth Collective is closing their third season with another show that is firmly in their wheelhouse of smart, deep, intense, often funny, always thought-provoking, small cast, beautifully directed and acted plays. I've been with them since the beginning, when the surprisingly sweet and touching GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES landed on my favorites list that year. Since then they've done a couple of stellar one-man shows, an absurd comedy, and a Fringe show about talking cats. A BRIGHT NEW BOISE fits in well with that group of plays and helps to further define Loudmouth's point of view, one that's definitely worth paying attention to. It's a beautifully complex play, at times funny, at times utterly devastating, and completely engrossing. I know it's only mid-January, but this is by far the best thing I've seen so far this year.

BWW Reviews: 2 SUGARS, ROOM FOR CREAM is a Hilarious, Poignant, and Relatable Look at Life, Friendship, and Coffee
January 12, 2015

Next Sunday, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, two of the funniest women in America, will host the Golden Globes. Until then, we have Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool, two of the funniest women in the Twin Cities, presiding over a delightful evening of comedy, friendship, and coffee. Their 2008 Fringe hit 2 SUGARS, ROOM FOR CREAM has gone through many incarnations, won an Ivey Award, and has now landed on Park Square Theatre's new Andy Boss thrust stage. Even though this is the third time I've seen it and many of the scenes and characters are familiar to me, it still makes me laugh until I cry, and marvel at the universality of life experiences, and the thing that binds us all together - coffee. From bad church basement coffee to the gourmet stuff at fancy coffee shops, it's a running theme in many of our lives and helps us get through the day, and the long cold winter. This show is a celebration of that, but more so a celebration of friendship and laughter.

BWW Reviews: 7th House Theater has Created a Quietly Stunning New Original Musical in JONAH AND THE WHALE
December 23, 2014

Friends, the future of Minnesota theater, and perhaps American theater, is here. It can currently be seen in the Guthrie Theater's 9th floor Dowling Studio, where a group of smart, talented, ambitious, dedicated, hard-working young music-theater artists have created a beautiful new original musical, based on the biblical story of Jonah. It's everything I want theater to be - fresh, innovative, delightful, heart-breaking, inspiring, genuine, and epic. This is 7th House Theater's fourth production in less than two years, and they continue to explore new ideas and push the boundaries of what theater can be. They've proven themselves with three low-budget but high-quality productions, and now have the resources of the Guthrie behind them to expand even further in this production. The result is beautiful and breath-taking. If 7th House is the future of theater, we're in good hands.

BWW Reviews: The Ordway's Local Production of the New Musical A CHRISTMAS STORY is a Charming, Funny, Nostalgic Look at Holiday Memories
December 4, 2014

St. Paul's Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is returning to its tradition of an original and (mostly) locally cast production during holidays, rather than the touring productions that often come through. In fact, the last Ordway Original holiday production was 2011's CINDERELLA. This year's production of the new musical based on the cult holiday movie A CHRISTMAS STORY is worth the wait. I am usually skeptical of movies turned into musicals, because often it doesn't work or it just simply isn't necessary. But I saw a preview of A Christmas Story (which officially opens on Friday and runs through December 28) last night and was pleasantly surprised; I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. In fact I loved pretty much every minute of it. The creators did a wonderful job of retaining the movie's unique tone of humor, silliness, and nostalgia while creating something new that stands on its own merits, whether you're a fan of the movie or not. And best of all, director James Rocco and his team have created a wonderful production that showcases some of the Twin Cities' finest talent, as well as giving a chance for talented local youngsters to play and shine on stage. The Ordway's A CHRISTMAS STORY is a wonderful, fun, extravagant, poignant, top-notch production of a new musical based on a beloved classic.

BWW Reviews: Children's Theatre Company's HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS is a Silly, Sweet, and Heart-warming Tale of Redemption and Love
December 1, 2014

'Tis the season for stories of sad, lonely, grumpy people who experience a change of heart and learn to love their fellow citizens, whether of London or Whoville. After a double bill of CHRISTMAS CAROLs last week, I saw a similar story this week in Dr. Seuss' classic fable HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS. Like Scrooge, the Grinch hates Christmas, people, and dogs. Also like Scrooge, the Grinch learns how wrong he was, not from ghosts but from one sweet open-hearted little girl. Where A CHRISTMAS CAROL is the perfect image of a Victorian Christmas, THE GRINCH takes place in the fantastical rhyming world familiar to anyone who's read Dr. Seuss, or had it read to them, as the case may be with much of Children's Theatre Company's audience. It's a bright and colorful, silly and funny, sweet and heart-warming tale of redemption and love.