Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome….to the Ordway

The Twin Cities has been known for its theatre scene, rivaling larger cities for mere number of venues, and beating most of them for theatres per capita. The Minne-Apple, Broadway of the Midwest, the True Great White Way (get it? White Snow? right….), basically we have lots of theaters. And we get big shows. Touring shows from Broadway, that play at various theaters in our fair metropolises. Unfortunately, some of those big boisterous Broadway shows feel a little cramped once we wedge them into the theaters we have here. I saw Wicked when it came to town, and unless you have seats directly down the middle, you’re not seeing a good portion of the stage.

We do have a theater, however, that deserves these big shows, with its vast stage. I love the Ordway. I’ve seen so many great shows there, from Les Miserables to the Drowsy Chaperone, to its currently running spectacle, Cabaret. And I’ve never been disappointed with a show that I’ve seen there. No, not even Big (which only ran for 193 performances on Broadway). There’s so much more room for the staging, that at the very least, the spectacle of the show generally blows you away. The current show, Cabaret, has the excellent staging, in a brand new co-production of this classic musical. Cabaret is co-produced by the Ordway, San Jose’s American Musical Theatre, and Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater. Each city brought its own talent and expertise to the production, with actors coming from all three cities, and Seattle providing the director, Bill Berry. It premiered in San Jose in March, continued on to Seattle, and then landed here last week, with performances continuing on until the 18th, prior to it touring elsewhere.

The show itself was so much fun to watch. I’d never seen Cabaret before, not even the movie, and was stunned by this performance. The creative team did a lot of research into 1920s Berlin of the final days of the Weimar republic, when many liberation movements were in full flower, using the book Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy, by Univ. of Minnesota professor, Eric D. Weitz. The freedom exhibited in the story, counter-pointed by the tragic ending foreshadowing the growing horror of Nazi Germany moved me greatly. Particularly well performed were the parts of the MC, played by Nick Garrison, and Frau Schneider, played by Suzy Hunt. I’m also enjoying the Ordway’s habit of putting the orchestra on-stage in costume, as they did in Chicago (this may be traditional for these shows, I’m not sure). They certainly looked like they were having fun, dragging it up on stage, while playing their instruments. Smiles all around. And that would explain the monitors facing the stage with the conductor’s hands displayed. I wondered about this the whole show, and it hit me just now why it was there.

There are still performances and still great seats for the show, and if you’ve never been to the Ordway, go over to St. Paul and check it out. It truly is my favourite theater in the Twin Cities.

3 Comments so far

  1. David (jacc) on May 14th, 2008 @ 12:08 pm

    I love the Ordway. My company has some great seats and occasionally I’ll get my hands on them. Unfortunately, I won’t be making it to Cabaret.


  2. Erica M (ericam) on May 14th, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

    Awesome write up, Jason.

    Unfortunately, some of those big boisterous Broadway shows feel a little cramped once we wedge them into the theaters we have here. I saw Wicked when it came to town, and unless you have seats directly down the middle, you’re not seeing a good portion of the stage.

    We just snagged tickets for Wicked’s return in November. Not sure where they are, though. Guess I’ll find out the hard way.

    My experience with Broadway shows is that a lot of them are actually in smaller theaters. So maybe it’s a problem with the way they’re staged here in larger theaters like the Ordway, since we’re trying to accommodate more people at once.


  3. Art (artallen) on May 14th, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

    I’ve seen a few shows and operas at the Ordway, and I can fully endorse the idea that it’s a fantastic performance space. To qualify my saying so, I should add that I’ve been in many, many performance spaces in my day.

    Also: well done on keeping the Blazing Saddles subject line trend going, Jason!



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