Musical theater at the 2014 Minnesota Fringe Festival: Ten shows not to miss

by Jay Gabler, Minnesota Public Radio
July 30, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — Among the 169 shows being featured in this year's Minnesota Fringe Festival — which begins tomorrow and runs through August 10 — are dozens of musicals. Here are ten to put at the top of your list.

The "Boy" Boy Friend: A Gay Romp

The Boy Friend, a 1953 musical by Sandy Wilson, was the vehicle for Julie Andrews's American stage debut. Now, Joel Swearingen and Kyle Orf reimagine the show in the vein of "what a musical may have looked like in the 1950s had being gay been more of a cultural norm that it is today." The story follows "that age old tale of a white, privileged, upper-class English boy and his quest to find a boy friend, so long as he is white, privileged and upper-class too." Joe Trucano, an assistant producer of our national classical programming, is the pianist for this satirical romp.

Fireflower

Here's one for fans of Top Score: an original musical comedy set in an 80s video game — complete with an original eight-bit score.

Hi! Hello! Namaste?

Advertised as "the first ever Bollywood dance drama being produced for Minnesota Fringe," this show has a video trailer so infectious, you have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Into the Unreal City

With the help of a glowing Star Tribune feature, this itinerant musical looks set to be one of the Fringe's toughest tickets. "Zeke" walks the audience through the West Bank, encountering visions of himself and his wife. If the music alone doesn't bring you to tears, the defunct Viking Bar just might.

The Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling's 1894 story collection is potentially fraught source material, but if anyone can do this right, it's the seasoned storytellers of Top Hat Theatre. A special highlight promises to be the charismatic Khary Jackson as Shere Khan.

Native Man the Musical

The local Native theater scene, year in and year out, takes local stages to speak truth about the complicated realities of life for Minnesota's first people yesterday and today. In this show helmed by acclaimed Navajo playwright Rhiana Yazzie, "real Indian men open up about being warriors, fathers, lovers, politicians and more."

The Ohman Stone

This musical revisits one of the most giggle-worthy episodes in Minnesota history: the discovery of the Kensington Runestone, an artifact that was believed (and is still believed, by some very credulous souls) to be evidence of ancient incursions by Viking warriors onto Minnesota soil. "It's farmers vs. academia" in this musical that has ghosts trying to help a reporter discover the true story about the origins of the "runestone."

REACH

Part of the fun of the Fringe is taking chances on new artists, but in this case, the festival landed a ringer: Ivey-winning Nautilus Music-Theater. REACH features several experienced performers making forays deeper into the creative process, "making pieces built around the theme of 'aspiration.'" There are five such pieces in about 50 minutes, so worst-case scenario, if there's a piece you don't like, just wait ten minutes.

A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant

"Praise Xenu!" This kids' show gets edgy: "The actual teachings of The Church of Scientology, as well as the life of the Church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, are explained and dissected against the candy-colored backdrop of a traditional nativity play." A good choice for parents who are ready to have some deep talks with their kids on the way home.

The Whole World is Here: Pandora Retold

This show is worth special note for the presence of top local poet/spoken-word artist Sierra DeMulder — and her sister Rya, who plays the title role in this show created and directed by Sierra. A live orchestra accompanies this show that "follows a naive teenager's first taste of independence and her struggle to reconcile her own nature as she is haunted by the dark faces of human emotion."


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