My first visit to the Elision Playhouse was a mixed bag, I didn’t enjoy the show, but I was impressed with the Performers. So I was excited to see what they did next. The current production is a series of 6 short musicals complemented by a flight of beverages. It’s a fun idea and the cast executes it well. You sign up when you buy tickets whether you want wine, cocktails, or Non-Alcoholic drinks. Based on what you chose, you get a different wristband or no wristband. As you enter the theater you get your first beverage. I chose the Non-Alcoholic version, and I enjoyed all three of my drinks, the first was a warm caramel apple cider and it really helped to take the chill off the MN winter evening. The second was a mocktail with Palm Juice, Ginger Beer and Lemon I believe, it was served by the cast after the first two musicals. The Third was my favorite, a virgin Mai Tai served between the second two and final two musicals. Logistically this sounds crazy, but the serving of the drinks works pretty efficiently. The Musicals are not fully staged productions. If you’ve ever been to Musical Mondays, the first Monday of every month at Lush in NE Minneapolis, you’ll be able to picture what it like. The performers basically stand behind music stand and perform their parts. Usually one cast member is off to the side reading the stage directions. That might sound disappointing but if you accept it and move on, you’re in for a very enjoyable evening. The entire program ran about 1 hr and 45 minutes, including the drink serving. Because each piece is so short to describe much of the plot would be to give everything away. So I’ll be brief and light on the synopsis.
The Manifesto a musical about the writing of the Communist Manifesto by Germaine Shames and Nadav Amir-Himmel. This was my least favorite, which is to say it was still very enjoyable. A good one to start out the evening, it’s maybe the driest and a bit political, but I really enjoyed the ironic touches and the reactions of the other characters when one would be singing, just because they are standing behind music stands doesn’t mean they didn’t interact. This one seemed a little operatic musically and tonally.
Five Minutes – written by local playwrights/composers, Ben Larson and Eric “Pogi” Sumangil. this one edges out 2 others as my favorite. I don’t want to give anything away about this one, but I will say it got a little dusty in the theater. It deals with someone who is going to be meeting her birth mother in 5 minutes. This was probably the shortest of the musicals and it above all the others, I could see being turned into an entire full length musical. There is basically one song in this one and that song could be at the beginning, the middle or the end of a larger story. I really responded to this one.
Der Strunkenwhitenlieder written by Scott Guy. it’s like a elongated Schoolhouse Rock segment titled “Apostrophe”. This was one of those in the running for best in show. It’s also the one I wish I had a video of, as it’s very useful for keeping apostrophe usage straight. And when I say elongated I mean it, this is a 8 act musical, which was very amusing.
Missing Karma is by Timothy Huang. This is one that starts out as one thing and seems to turn into another altogether. But really, both the beginning and the ending are about saying goodbye. It starts with a couple in a park burying their dog, named Karma. This contained the best acting performances in the show. I was really surprised how real it got at times, kudos to Anna Hickey and Justin Michael Cooke. Unfortunately, Cooke was clearly struggling with a head cold or sore throat and his vocals were not very strong or on key, but an A for acting and for embodying the show must go on credo.
Jenny by Flight of the Conchords. Christine Wade and Harrison Wade who are the Vocal Director and Music Director/Pianist of the show perform this piece. Which is basically a girl running into a guy that she has met before, he doesn’t remember it at all and keeps trying to save face and fake his way through it. Apparently the Wades are recently married in real life and performed this at their wedding reception. It went over so well that they decided to include it here and we are lucky they did, it is really delightfully awkward and absurd.
“My Boyfriend is an Alien, and I’m OK with that”. Written by Christine Toy Johnson and Bobby Cronin. This was the final musical of the evening and deals with exactly what the title implies. This has a sort of early 60’s feel to it, complete with three of the women in the cast singing backup. It’s the weirdest and silliest of the three, and a fun note to end the evening on.
The entire cast of this production are good singers and even though it’s basically staged as a reading they all know how to perform the parts just enough to add humor and emotion when required. What was fun about this evening was that if you didn’t care for one of the pieces it’s no big deal it will be over shortly and you’ll have another musical to connect with. The strength of the evening is that you never feel that way about any of the shows, they are all enjoyable, fun well written and catchy. I wish this was playing for at least one more weekend. The show closes Saturday Jan. 25th. I think most fans of musical comedies would get a real kick out of these shows, and I can only hope that Theatre Elision repeats this show again, or mounts another flight. For more information and to snatch up the last few seats for Saturday’s performance go to https://www.elisionproductions.com/short-musicals
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