Posted at 9:13 AM on April 27, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: News and reviews
Saint Paul Art Crawl takes over the town this weekend
Over 325 artists are participating in this self-guided event, which includes Lowertown and downtown neighborhoods, studios located around University and Raymond Avenues, Grand Avenue, and Harriet Island.
- Coco Mault, City Pages
'SOLO 1x2' follows six McKnight Fellowship dancers
This Thursday SOLO 1x2, a documentary that follows six recipients of the 2006 and 2007 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Dancers, along with their choreographers, will have its world premiere at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. The work takes a closer look at the dance artists; their hopes, fears, and their part in Minnesota dance community.
- Sheila Regan, City Pages
Southern Theater cancels five shows, holds benefit party
Things are looking dire for the Southern Theater, an institution 101 years in the making.
- Jessica Armbruster, City Pages
Things falling apart: Local graphic novel 'Death-Day'; Michael Scott leaves 'Office'
- Max Sparber, MinnPost.com
Jonathon Coulton at Guthrie Theater, 4/25/11
There were no frills, there was no posturing by audience members, and a complete lack of pretense for the entire hour and a half show. It was just a good-natured nerd with his acoustic guitar and it was surprising what a breath of fresh air it had been when it was all said and done.
- Pat O'Brien, City Pages
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and Twin Shadow at the Triple Rock, 4/25/11
Two hotly tipped young bands both made their Minneapolis debuts at the sold-out Triple Rock on Monday night, as the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and Twin Shadow delivered rousing, uplifting sets that made it clear why there's a buzz building about them in the first place.
- Erik Thompson, City Pages
Phoebe Snow dies at 58
Singer-songwriter and guitarist Phoebe Snow, who came to prominence in 1975 for her hit "Poetry Man," has died at the age of 58.
- Andrea Swensson, City Pages
RIP Poly Styrene, Oh Cancer Up Yours!
The world of punk rock lost a feminist icon yesterday with the passing of Poly Styrene, frontwoman for X-Ray Spex, best known for the song, "Oh Bondage Up Yours!"
- Kevin Hoffman, City Pages
Ben Cook-Feltz discusses his upcoming release and daring to do what bands only joke about
On the latest episode of Radio Noir, I sat down with local artist Ben Cook-Feltz to rehash the past, crack a few jokes, and discuss his latest LP, Ben Cook-Feltz and You. Here are a few snippets from that conversation.
- Pat Dougherty
Penumbra's I Wish You Love: Telling the story of Nat King Cole
The production is as smooth as Cole's voice, with 20 expertly performed musical numbers and a drama that ends with an indelible image of three battle-worn performers playing their music before the curtain falls on a pioneering TV show.
- Ed Huyck, City Pages
Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies in rehearsal
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies have announced a new alliance in which they are going to remain independent organizations, while sharing resources and infrastructure.
It's the sort of collaboration that today's economy will probably continue to inspire in other non-profits, in order to remain financially viable.
While the two organizations will remain separate 501 (c) (3) entities, but the GTCYS administrative office will move from its current location in the Hennepin Center for the Arts to a shared space in the SPCO Center in downtown St. Paul, According to a release, this will allow the organizations to share resources such as information technology.
The two organizations already collaborate, with SPCO musicians coaching GTCYS chamber ensembles, and SPCO artistic partners conducting the youth symphonies. With the GTCYS moving to the same building as the SPCO, both organizations say there will be further opportunities for staff collaboration, and they believe the alliance will help them to grow their audiences.
The move is scheduled for the summer of 2011.
Riverside Plaza, Minneapolis
Riverside Plaza is about to get a $65 million facelift.
When architect Ralph Rapson designed the Riverside Plaza apartments in the early 1970s, he envisioned a chic living space reflective of modernist design. At first the apartments seemed fitting with the time and were even pictured as where Mary Richards lived on "The Mary Tyler Moore" show.
But over the years the colored panels on the buildings have faded, and the apartments have aged. Now it serves as a symbol of Minneapolis' immigrant population, offering affordable housing in a neighborhood often referred to as "Little Mogadishu." It is the largest affordable housing development in the state, serving approximately 4,440 residents.
A shot of Riverside Plaza's modernist interior, circa 1973
Today formally marks the start of a project that will renovate 1,303 units as well as common areas, and expand the neighboring Cedar Riverside Community School. Improvements will include work on energy efficiency and public safety. It will even restore the exterior panels to their original colors.
Work actually began in February; 65 units are being renovated each month through October 2012. Meanwhile, affected residents are temporarily relocating to "hotel" units while their unit is under construction.
The renovation and refinancing of the Riverside Plaza is, according to the city of Minneapolis, one of the largest HUD-supported projects in the country, totalling $132 million. The project will create 200 construction jobs, of which 90 are reserved for Minneapolis residents, with an emphasis on employing residents of the neighborhood.
Riverside Plaza was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 2010. Architect Ralph Rapson is best known for designing the original Guthrie Theater, which was torn down in 2006
A design rendering of the Riverside Plaza by Ralph Rapson
Nat King Cole
Penumbra Theatre is presenting the world premiere of a play about Nat King Cole and his groundbreaking television show. It's called "I Wish You Love" and stars Dennis Spears as the velvet-throated legend, who's trying to renew his TV show amidst growing racial tensions.
Check out the following excerpts of reviews to get a sense of the show, and click on the link below to hear Tom Crann interview Spears along with playwright Dominic Taylor and director Lou Bellamy.
In the early going, it's an open question whether director Lou Bellamy's cast will be able to steer the ship above the middling range of the jukebox musical. This is no knock on Spears, who tackles the task of approximating one of the greatest vocalists of the previous century with soul and delicacy. In the first act, he delivers a wry "I Was a Little Too Lonely" and a precise "I Know That You Know" with a precision that duplicates Cole's making-it-look-easy virtuosity, if not quite his boundless mastery of tone.
...Spears wins us over in the early going; the question is whether the show will demonstrate the heft toward which it aspires...
It does, with a ratcheting sense of intensity. At the end of the first act the trio plays Alabama, where their reception dovetails with Civil Rights backlash and the ever-poised Cole is heckled from the stage (and his guitarist is assaulted by the police). The second act, which plays out in the TV studio, entails Cole receiving edicts from advertisers to segregate his band. Spears' performance begins to smolder, and we learn to question some of the more ambiguous looks Cole fired at those cameras more than a half century ago.
Along the way, mind you, Spears gathers even more steam and uncorks a series of brilliant performances: a transcendent, aching "Morning Star" and a wrenchingly beautiful "Mona Lisa." But it's the end that raises the stakes for the evening. While Spears delivers the title tune, a series of images play out on the screens above him -- while maintaining unflinching historical consciousness, the show leaves us with a reminder that truth, and memory, can contain profound notes of optimism and progress. It's nothing short of beautiful, and a fitting tribute to a complex man who left a difficult-to-summarize, yet undeniably powerful, legacy.
Dennis W. Spears (Nat Cole) in the Penumbra Theatre production of I Wish You love by Dominic Taylor, at Penumbra Theatre April 21 - May 22, 2011.
Photo by Michal Daniel
...I'm pleased to report that Spears, under Lou Bellamy's sharp direction, does Cole beautifully, and if you require a reason to see this show, Spears herewith provides it. He sings the Cole classics with restrained power and ease, smiling for the camera, finding the perfect vocal approach; this man can sing. Granted, yes, there is some tension in the air. We feel Spears yearning to break free of the role's severe restrictions. But this only adds spice.
...A story develops: Cole, the first African-American with his own TV show, struggles to keep it going in the face of building hostility from advertisers. ("Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark," as Cole famously said.) He takes on an ill-advised tour, playing Birmingham Alabama at a time when the Jim Crow system, beginning (we now know) its violent death throes, was virulent and vicious. The Alabama performance ends badly, with several assaults, one serious.
Powerful stuff. But it doesn't, for me, as the play currently stands, quite land. I was never fully convinced that Spears's Cole really wanted the TV show to go on. There is a reserve, a lack of passion, a vagueness, exacerbated by a somewhat fitful dramatic structure. Taylor and Spears might consider eliminating a song or two and spending more time with this story. It's work well worth doing, as Spears is giving a masterful performance and the play could easily evolve into [a] revealing and affecting look at a major American artist, one who left us far too young (Cole died in 1965, of cancer, age 45). I Wish You Love comes tantalizingly close to fulfilling its considerable promise.
Kevin D. West (Oliver Moore) and Dennis W. Spears (Nat Cole) in the Penumbra Theatre production of I Wish You Love.
Photo by Michal Daniel
Throughout Dominic Taylor's new play I Wish You Love, in its premiere at Penumbra Theatre, we sense the conflicts within Cole, who, above everything else, wants to make music, and money. That means paying out of his own pocket to reach his TV audience when sponsors were hesitant to sign on to his show, and it means making a trip into the deep South--and near Cole's hometown--to appease the network.
Before we get to the drama, there's a lot of table-setting to be done, which threatens to drag down Taylor's play before it gets started. At the beginning, we are treated to what seems like a full episode of Cole's show, loaded with his standards. Then the music slips away for long stretches as Taylor works to deepen the characters and the situations. At first the show feels like a standard, if extremely well-produced and -performed, jukebox musical. Then it appears to start all over again, bringing in the layers of conflict that Cole and the members of his core band faced.
However, as the overlong first act nears its end and Cole and his band find themselves before a hostile crowd in Alabama, the piece finally comes into focus and doesn't lose it through a terrific, dramatic, and powerful second half.
....The production is as smooth as Cole's voice, with 20 expertly performed musical numbers and a drama that ends with an indelible image of three battle-worn performers playing their music before the curtain falls on a pioneering TV show.
Dennis W. Spears as Nat King Cole
Photo by Michal Daniel
...The Penumbra production, which takes place on Lance Brockman's sophisticated turntable set, is a smooth, multimedia affair, with Spears being filmed and projected live on five screens in black-and-white while we see him in color. Manifesting duality, both in content and in style, is one of the strengths of "Love."
Spears handles the quicksilver shifts masterfully. What is happening offstage may be hurtful, and you can see the weariness in his eyes, if not feel it in his soul. But once the camera comes on, he is not so much a performer as a seducer, radiating romance and a chaste desire.
The normal challenge with stage biographies of musical figures, especially a pioneering one such as Cole, is that they get bogged down in the behind-the-scenes mess; there is always plenty of that to mine. Taylor's play veers too much in the other direction, showing Cole only in relation to the civil-rights fight. It would be nice to have more layering of his life in the first act, which could be condensed. Some of the songs, as beautiful as they are, could be cut and saved for the curtain call, where Spears gets his deserved and sustained standing ovation.
"I Wish You Love" runs through May 22 at Penumbra Theatre. Have you seen it? If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.