Lawrance Bernabo, for the News Tribune
The common musical denominator for Saturday night's "Revelations: Beethoven Project" concert by the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall was that of "program music," intended to create an impression of the natural world. Opening the evening at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center were Bela Bartok's six Romanian Folk Dances, which helped to establish folk music as serious music.
Echo Westbook is a National Spelling Bee champion. "Eleemosynary" is her favorite word and the title of the play that opened Friday night at the College of St. Scholastica Theater. Echo will define the word, and by the play's end, we will understand its significance for the story of three generations of exceptional Westbook women.
From the moment the opening night audience for "Mamma Mia!" walked into the restored NorShor Theatre, we were overwhelmed by the inescapable conclusion that the Duluth Playhouse is not just another "community theater."
Giant shadows on the blue-lit backdrop of actors moving into place drew a lot of attention from the small fry in attendance on Saturday afternoon for the opening performance of the Theatre for Young Audiences' production of "The Jungle Book" on the Depot's main stage. When it comes to an audience buzzing with anticipation, kids absolutely rule. Then director Lacy Habdas came on stage to rev the kiddies up even more and lay down the house rules before the show started.
The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra's "Sagas" concert at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center's Symphony Hall on Saturday night offered a double dose of works by Jean Sibelius and Richard Strauss. But on an evening that ended with a merry prankster meeting his maker, it was the singing of guest soprano Christine Brewer that stood out.
"Calendar Girls" is based on the 2003 film inspired by the true story of a group of middle-age, respectable Yorkshire women who posed nude for their Women's Institute calendar. At the end of the first act of this play, which opened Thursday night at the Underground, six women strike their provocative poses for pictorial posterity.
"Mr. Showmanship" appears in a red and gold outfit, with rings on his fingers and bells on his cape, holding an adorable dog. At the Thursday night Underground opening of "A Liberace & Liza Christmas," the totally smitten audience was in the hip pocket of this Liberace before he ever played a note.
For once the snowflakes were bigger and falling faster outside the DECC's Symphony Hall than they were during the enchanting Central Park scene in the Minnesota Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" on Friday night. Otherwise the festive crowd eagerly checked off all of the elements that make Tchaikovsky's masterpiece a great Northland holiday tradition.
It might not be as high on the list of annual holiday traditions as "A Christmas Carol," "White Christmas," or "The Nutcracker," but David Sedaris' "The Santaland Diaries" has been carving out its own strange, little seasonal niche. Thursday night at the sold-out Underground, Luke Moravec brought the one-elf, one-act version of the humorist's holiday tale to the Northland. After three weeks in New York City, Dave, an unemployed 33-year-old man who dreams of being Victoria Buchanan's best bud on "One Life to Live," sinks so low that he applies for a job as a full-time elf.
At one point during the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra's "White Christmas" pop concert on Saturday afternoon, conductor Dirk Meyer checked in with the audience to see how high our holiday spirits were on a scale of 1 to 10. Meyer promised to work on getting the few 5s up with those at 7, 8 and beyond. Musically the program was essentially divided into sacred and secular halves, beginning "Around the World at Christmas Time," a medley of traditional songs beginning with "O Tannebaum" and ending with a particularly stirring "Go Tell It On the Mountain."