The story goes that Cole Porter’s 1928 Ambassador Revue played for a year in Paris and then the score was lost. Almost 90 years later it was found and after 2 years or archival work the show was reconstructed in it’s entirety. That show opened last night at the Minnsky Theatre in NE Minneapolis in what is proclaimed a world premiere. This was my first visit to the Minnsky Theater. It is not a theatre that one goes to gain a better understanding of the human condition or to wrestle with a woman’s place in the universe. This is a place you go to with friends to have a good time. If that is your goal, and I can’t think of a better one on a Friday or Saturday night, you will not leave disappointed. I hear that some of their shows are a bit risque, this was as well, but in a PG-13 way. This is a show you can take Grandma to, assuming she’s been around the block a few times. The theatre is small and as such there is not really a bad seat in the house.
The show itself has no story or plot other than frequent banter by the Emcees played by Tiffany Parks Roberts and Brandon Rumfelt with the perfect amount of big vaudevillian hamminess. They essentially tell us a little bit of the history of the play (see opening paragraph) and then make silly and sometimes naughty comments about what just happened or what is happening next. It’s safe to say these bits were not part of Porter’s original revue. The rest of the show is all singing and dancing. You will recognize some of the songs “Let’s Misbehave” and a personal favorite of mine “Looking at You” but many were I suspect lost to time. Most are enjoyable if not instantly recognizable. The music was beautifully performed, and the Musicians were spot on .
For the most part the singing was good, there were a few vocalists that were not quite up to the task of projecting to the back rows. There were a couple of standouts Tom Berg for one, reminded me of the performer in a music hall from an old movie. He handled the sillier songs and the more serious with equal aplomb. The Standout vocalist though was Adam Lowe, easily the best voice on stage, though oddly, for a couple of songs not off book during the performance. Those songs were not ones that required dancing so he got away with it, and actually did a nice job of acting like he was meant to have a folder of music with him on stage. Other standouts vocally were Hannah Bakke and Ruby Carlson who had a particularly fun number as the Madame in a Bordello.
The biggest surprise of the evening was the dancing. There were some numbers that felt like Busby Berkeley stagings on a scaled down budget. That isn’t a slight, as those numbers were quite effective. I may have misspoken earlier when I said there wasn’t a bad seat in the house, I take that back for this show. I was centered but in the back row and I’d take that seat over the VIP seats at the front. I have a feeling they missed some of the effect of the choreography not having the distance to see the bigger picture. Each song had it’s own style and mood like watching Gold Diggers of 1935 on TCM. There were dances of amazing athletic ability, I’m guessing those were the performers listed under The ExperTeasers in the program. One complaint would be the program, which lists everyone under headings, but has no indication of who sang which songs or danced which dances and no actor bios. It’s hard to know whom to credit with what. One dancer who must be singled out is Miranda Shaughnessy (I had to track someone down after the show to get her name). Shaughnessy caught my attention from the first song, she was clearly the best dancer in the cast and as such was featured in many songs. She had the smile and ability to project in every moment the joy she was feeling. No one’s face shone as a performer the way hers did during every second on stage, this is a great gift for a dancer and an actress. Ms. Shaughnessy at times impressively tapping at others performing exquisite ballet, all of it beautifully executed. I’m going to do a long boring list of the Choreographers listed in the program now because they deserve to be recognized for their contributions; Jac Fatale (also the shows director and Founder of the Minnsky Theatre) Alison Pink Maanum, Stephanie Myers, Thomas Noman, Miranda Shaughnessy, Libby Ulm, Bette Darryl.
The show runs Oct 3-5 with performances at 7:30 PM and a matinee on Oct 5th @ 1:30 PM. Tickets prices range from $30 -$50 and can be purchased at https://www.minnsky.com/cole-porter-s-the-ambassador-revue.html