High fives: The A+E highlights of 2009: TOP MUSICALS OR COMEDIES

December 27, 2009.By Graydon Royce, Star Tribune.

  • “The Fully Monty.” Theatre Latte Da’s most ambitious effort to date.
  • “Flower Drum Song.” Ditto for Theatre Mu. Terrifically sweet and moving.
  • “Sister Stories.” The Baldwin sisters gave life to these new short musicals for Nautilus Music Theater.
  • Patsy.” Monica Heuser channeled Patsy Cline in a phenomenal performance at Chanhassen.
  • “How to Make Love Like a Minnesotan.” Brave New Workshop put a poignant spin on comedy.

10,000 Things’ ‘Othello” tops theater faves of 2009

December 24, 2009.By Ed Huyck, MinnPost.

I'm not big into awards, or even issuing a numbered "best of" list. Art really shouldn't be a competition, or graded on a curve where some are guaranteed of failure. I go into every show with the hope that what I'll see will entertain, enthrall or even transform me. Sometimes it doesn't come close, while most of the time it succeeds at some level. Below are the shows, performances and moments where I felt that lovely chill that says "this is great."

Favorite show: "Othello," Ten Thousand Things Theater. Tight and direct, but revealing layers upon further thought, Ten Thousand Things' take on an outsider's downfall not only connected with the company's nontraditional audience, but also with anyone who has ever felt the sting, or allure, of jealousy (i.e., everyone). The limitations put on the production by its touring schedule — no lights, minimal set, small cast — all became strengths here, as the show moved with the speed and power of a freight train.

Other favorite productions: "Romeo and Juliet," Children's Theatre Company. An amazing take on such a familiar tale that was fueled by an inspired promenade production that brought the audience right into the midst of the battle between the Montigues and Capulets, and the fast love between the leads. Director Greg Banks showed a deft hand with the form and what could be a theatrical trick became an essential element to the staging.

"The Seafarer," The Jungle Theater. Now this is a holiday show I can get behind. A group of middle-aged friends and family gather in lower-class Dublin for a night of drinking and cards on Christmas Eve, except that one is playing not for cash but for his soul. Conor McPherson has quickly become a favorite playwright, and the Jungle has a great knack in bringing the shows to the stage.

"The Full Monty," Theatre Latté Da. By stripping away much of the glitz of the Broadway production, Latté Da found a surprisingly touching tale about the toil of unemployment and the value of self worth, even if that self worth is tied up in going all the way in the male-strip show.

"Caroline, or Change," Guthrie Theater. The highlight of the Tony Kushner celebration for me was this memory play/musical that looks at the complex nature of race relations in the south in the early 1960s. Terrific performances from top to bottom — led by an amazing Greta Oglesby in the title role — only help to bring out Kushner's terrific script and a grand score by Jeanine Tesori.

"Ruined," Mixed Blood Theater. If there's a theme for 2009, it's survival in the face of every horror that life can bring. In Lynn Nottage's "Ruined," we meet Mama Nadi, the ultimate survivor amid war-torn Congo. The show digs deep into not just the ever-shifting political conflict, but the personal ones that drive wedges between people whose main goal is to survive.

"Skin of Our Teeth," Girl Friday Productions. Even for Thornton Wilder, "Skin of Our Teeth" is a difficult proposition to stage, but director Benjamin McGovern and a game cast bring all of the wild and stray thoughts — from the origins of civilization to a war-ravaged landscape to a Biblical flood — into focus, making for a beautiful, heading stew.

Favorite touring show: "In the Heights." A perfect example of how a show could not just overcome a weak book, but transcend it. Terrific music and performances bring an Upper West Side Manhattan neighborhood to life. And the finale, which underscored the show's theme of finding and making your own home,¬ moved this cynical critic to tears.

Favorite Fringe Show: "Like a Virgin," Jimmy Hogg. Apologies to all of the fine local artists who packed the Fringe this year, but the best time I had was with this Brit, who brought his latest trip down memory lane to the Twin Cities this summer. Hogg doesn't pull any punches — especially about his own failings in love — which makes for not just a funny night at the theater, but a piece that hits on the truths about young love better than any 100 romantic comedies.

Favorite performance: Taous Khazem, "Palace of the End," Frank Theatre.Each of these three one-act monologues packed a tremendous punch, but it was Khazem's performance as Nehrjas al Saffrarh, an Iraqi woman tortured during the reign of Saddam Hussein and then killed in a U.S. air strike that moved me the most in the past year. Her matter-of-fact delivery only made the abject horror of what the character experienced only that much more harrowing.

Favorite theatrical conceit: Multiple Hydes, "Jekyll and Hyde," Park Square Theatre. In Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation, Hyde is presented by a quartet of performers, who also play multiple other roles through the show. Not only does it bring home the character's multiplicity, but it adds a sense of danger — you never know if the actor is playing someone sane or absolutely unhinged.

Just most awesome moment: Re-creating the Mary Tyler Moore opening credits, Torch Theater's "Mary Tyler Moore." For those of us who grew up with "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," Torch's production already was a fun trip down memory lane. Along with "Chuckles the Clown" and vintage commercials, the cast unleashed one more surprise: a live-action replay of the show's iconic opening credits, from Mary washing her car and shopping to the final toss of the hat in the air.

Theater Latte Da Opens Their 12th Season With THE FULL MONTY 10/15-11/8.

November 8, 2009.By Broadway World News Desk.

Theater Latté Da opens their 12th season October 15 with THE FULL MONTY at the Ordway Center McKnight Theatre. The show will run through November 8, 2009.

Based on the hit film, THE FULL MONTY is about a group of unemployed steelworkers who take drastic measures to earn some fast cash, and discover that human connection is one of the few things in life we can count on.

"Given the state of the economy, the piece is even more relevant today than when it premiered a decade ago," said Peter Rothstein, artistic director for Theater Latte Da. "I find the journey of this unlikely group of men quite profound. They are united only through unemployment and desperation, but find renewed self-esteem and strength through honest friendship."

The production will star Joshua James Campbell, Zach Curtis, Wendy Lehr, Reggie Phoenix and Randy Schmeling. Joshua James Campbell recently appeared in the Ordway's production of GREY GARDENS and has performed in the national tours of LEGALLY BLONDE and MAMMA MIA! Zach Curtis has appeared on nearly every Twin Cities stage including HIS GIRL FRIDAY and NIGHT OF THE IGUANA at the Guthrie Theater. Wendy Lehr is a Twin Cities icon having spent 32 years at the Children's Theater Company. She recently was awarded the 2008 Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Commitment. Reggie Phoenix appeared on Broadway in DREAMGIRLS and A CHORUS LINE, and the national tours of SHOW BOAT and GRAND HOTEL. Randy Schmeling most recently appeared in the summer hit POWER BALLADZ and Theater Latté Da's world premiere of PASSAGE OF DREAMS.

Tickets for THE FULL MONTY are available for $19-$34 and are on sale now at www.ordway.org or by calling 651.224.4222. Group discounts are also available.

Theater Latté Da is a Twin Cities theater company recognized for its ability to connect artists, audiences and communities through diverse stories that are both entertaining and enlightening. The company seeks to create new connections between story, music, artists and audience by exploring and expanding the art of musical theater. The 12th season also includes the return of the new holiday classic, ALL IS CALM: THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914 at the Pantages, December 17-20, 2009 and Jeanine Tesori's VIOLET at the Guthrie Theater Dowling Studio, February 26-March 21, 2010. For more information, please visit our Web site at www.latteda.org.

The Full Monty at the Ordway bares the naked truth: Men’s insecurities uncovered with warm humor

October 28, 2009.By Quinton Skinner, City Pages.

The musical based on the British film The Full Monty masquerades as a lighthearted show about some unemployed men who find a bit of redemption through a wacky scheme to strip for money. And while its happy surfaces and ample charm make for a vigorously diverting night out, its undertones plunge into the recesses of male pride and ego, not to mention the desperate squeeze felt by those who have skills but no opportunity.

Not that the thing requires a doctoral dissertation to illuminate its depths—this Theater Latté Da production amply delivers warm humor and plenty of reasons to tap your toe. But by the time we've finished, we've run through an exhaustive list of male horrors: uselessness, ugliness, impotence, even the inability to hold on to one's children.

The plot centers on Jerry Lukowski (Joshua James Campbell), a steelworker left at loose ends when the plant where he worked shuts down (the action is transported from England to Buffalo, which has its own brand of rusty ennui). He's split from his wife, Pam (Stacey Lindell), and has visitation rights with his son, Nathan (Jake Ingbar), who seems to have mixed feelings about time spent with dear old Dad.

When a crew of Chippendale dancers descends on their little world like a band of marauders intent on throwing the local women over their shoulders and having their way with them, Jerry and his buddy Dave (Zach Curtis) decide to intervene. Instead of prevailing, the two find themselves hiding in a restroom stall while Pam and Dave's wife, Georgie (Catherine Battocletti), talk about their men. Jerry, in their view, doesn't seem capable of doing much with his life. Dave hasn't laid a hand on Georgie in recent memory.

The horror. The duo's humiliation is compounded by an encounter with ripped stripper Buddy (Tom Danford), in which Jerry's repellent homophobia is trumped by the first inkling of his plan to strip for dollars. Campbell's Jerry is a working-class rooster with a chip on his shoulder; Curtis's Dave, by contrast, has a sheepish streak of self-loathing that makes it hard to envision a reality in which anyone would pay money to see him drop trou.

Oh, but we're not in the real world here, not anymore. The closest thing to a recognizable scenario is found in Pam's new beau, Teddy (Danford again), who has a swell job and clearly intends to steal Jerry's son as well as his ex-wife. Jerry is reduced to standing on their doorstep, hatching limp protests and howling up at his son's window for some tiny affirmation of his fatherhood (one that never arrives).

Throwing more cold water onto this plethora of phallic shrinkage are such tunes as "The Goods," in which our heroes have assembled their dance team, only to be regaled by female voices delineating their physical shortcomings. And by the time our boys are about to go onstage, even the guy called Horse (Reggie Phoenix) makes a last-second confession that his endowment is merely average.

So a show about unemployed, disempowered males saving the day by waving their junk at the world turns out to be a fantasy powered by insecurities that would have sent Dr. Freud scrambling to his snuffbox. Who knew? In a show in which two characters sing a gleeful tune about how they will save a friend from suicide by cheerfully murdering him ("Big-Ass Rock"), we probably should have gleaned that there were dark things moving beneath our line of sight.

One needn't dig too deeply into The Full Monty. It's a tuneful, silly thing. Or it's a prophetic glimpse of the forces at play when millions of men find themselves idle and out of work. Take your pick, I suppose.

What we’ve seen so far: Two critics scan two months’ worth of Twin Cities theater.

October 25, 2009.By Rohan Preston and Graydon Royce, Star Tribune.

Rohan Preston: So, Graydon, I’ve seen a beatific Ashley Brown float over the awed audience at the Orpheum Theatre as Mary Poppins. And a knockout performance by Rachel York as Cruella De Vil in the new musical “101 Dalmatians.” Randy Reyes brought poignant heartbreak to the stage as a Filipino farmworker hero in Mu Performing Arts’ The Romance of Magno Rubio.” And Penumbra Theatre honored August Wilson with a beautiful production of “Radio Golf,” the final work in the playwright’s magisterial oeuvre. We’re halfway through the fall, but ain’t theater in the Twin Cities grand?

Graydon Royce: Well, nothing makes an argument like two critics. I’ve been a little underwhelmed, myself. I loved Emily Gunyou Halaas in the small “My Name is Rachel Corrie” and thought that “Mary Poppins” had great production values (though my favorite musical has been “The Full Monty”). “Becky’s New Car” was frothy at Park Square. But I wonder if the season’s best straight drama is yet to come, as we write this. I’m talking about Park Square’s “Othello” with James A. Williams and Steve Hendrickson.

RP:  I hope director Richard Cook brings out the power of those two acting dynamos. I swooned for the fetching design of “The Importance of Being Earnest.” And Children’s Theatre pulled the curtains back on a ducky production of “Bert & Ernie, Goodnight!” starring Reed Sigmund and Bradley Greenwald. But the two best productions so far this fall are Lynn Nottage’s “Ruined,” which is gut-wrenching and engrossingly tragic, and the Jon Ferguson-led “Super Monkey,” which was understates, smart and witty.

GR: I didn’t see it, but from what I heard, Ferguson is back to what he does best: good, gritty physical stuff. As for “Ernie” and “Earnest,” why does the term “safe seat-fillers” come to mind? “Earnest” wallpapered that set with dollar bills, and Park Square’s “Othello” has 21 actors, so it’s not all about doing it cheap. As “name products,” though, these are shrewd choices. And I can’t believe we’re almost halfway through this article and haven’t mentioned Joe Dowling appearing in “Faith Healer,” which opened Friday – past our press deadline.

RP: Yes, I’m interested to see the Guthrie’s artistic director onstage for the first time in the Twin Cities. You are right though. The economy has been crimping some styles. I was shocked to see that “Bert & Ernie,” a two-hander(I), did not have a live band. On the other hand, while the economy best blamed for safe choices, I do wonder if we were already in a malaise. Can you blame these companies for being risk-averse?

GR: A company needs to keep its eye on the mission even in tough times (the “Ella” tour at the Guthrie? Come on). I wasn’t crazy about the Jungle’s “Mary’s Wedding,” but I tip my fedora to Joel Sass for bringing in a new script from an unfamiliar writer and approaching the piece with a dynamic sense of dance theater. “The Full Monty” is a perfect expression of Theater Latté Da’s mission, and it’s such great fun. It should sell like hotcakes.

RP: If “King of Shadows” was mixed, Pillsbury House Theatre is to be commended for showcasing relative newcomers Taj Ruler and Qadir Khan. When I look at the menu of shows and the range of topics that they deal with – Illusion’s “Bill W. and Dr. Bob” on the founders of AA, Red Eye’s “The Thugs,” on crazy office politics, even Ananya Dance Theatre on environmental damage in “Ashesh Barsha” – I must say I am constantly stimulated. Sure, I would like to be astonished every evening, but I am happy to be moved every week or so.

GR: Hmmm. My age and the fear that I don’t have two- to three-hour blocks to give away several times a week make me less forgiving. This community is big and mature enough to withstand those requirements.

The Full Monty (The SOB Review)

October 23, 2009.By Steve On Broadway, Steve On Broadway.

The Full Monty (The SOB Review) - McKnight Theatre, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, St. Paul, Minnesota

**** (out of ****)

If you live in the Twin Cities, I have just two words for you:

"Drop everything."

Sure, go ahead and drop trou and all, but do what you must to see The Full Monty now playing at St. Paul's Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. In one of those rarest of rarities, Theater Latté­ Da's excellent and thoroughly enjoyable production is actually much better than the Broadway original.

Sure there was a relatively mild recession going on when I first saw The Full Monty on Broadway nine years ago. With the ravages much more isolated to hard-hit rust-belt cities like Buffalo, the show lacked a certain relevance. It didn't help that Jack O'Brien's direction lacked a desperately needed edge, exacerbated by the incongruity in Howell Binkley's full-tilt, lit-up "Full Monty" sign at the close of the show.

Fast forward nearly nine years and the economic pain is all around us (with the possible exception of Broadway itself). The truth is, we all now know people like those depicted in The Full Monty. How depressing, right?

As the worst recession since the Great Depression has too many of us worrying about whether we're next, you wouldn't think a show about desperately unemployed factory workers daring to take it all off just to earn a quick $50,000 would resonate or thrill. Yet under Peter Rothstein's exceptional, confident direction, Terrence McNally's book and David Yazbek's underrated score become even more salient, all the more gripping and certainly more entertaining today.

Rothstein's direction is a marvel unto itself. In what is his best production yet, he strips The Full Monty down to its grittiest, barest essentials and dresses it up with one of the best ensembles I've seen anywhere this year. Led by Joshua James Campbell, who's perfect as the down-and-out father Jerry Lukowski, the stellar cast shines just fine on its own, thank you, without any fancy, unnecessary lighting.

Veteran Twin Cities actress Wendy Lehr is a veritable laugh machine unto herself as the wisecracking Jeanette Burmeister, who assists the unlikely stripping quintet find its legs. Clearly having the time of her life, Lehr practically steals every scene she's in.

Additionally, Reggie Phoenix scores big as Noah "Horse" Simmons, Zach Curtis is a big ol' fat delight as Dave Bukatinsky, and as Malcolm MacGregor, Randy Schmeling once again delivers a virtuoso performance you'd expect to see on a Broadway stage (in fact, this entire production is worthy of the Great White Way). Schmeling's heartfelt, nuanced turn will leave a lump in your throat and tear in your eye.

So again, if you're in Minneapolis, St. Paul or environs, shake your money-maker over the Ordway and catch this sexy, fun and uplifting Full Monty before it takes off for good on November 8.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

‘The Full Monty’ showcases musical’s gritty joy

October 20, 2009.By Ed Huyck, MinnPost.

When I saw the stage version of "The Full Monty" a few years ago on tour I found the piece to be fun, but eventually shallow. ­ I missed the gritty details that grounded the fantasy of the delightful, original film.

Those details were still there; it just took a more intimate look ­ — in this case provided by Theatre Latté Da —­ to bring that life out. The company's interpretation, now playing at the McKnight Theatre at the Ordway Center, gives just enough grit to give us the essential connection to the characters you need to make the overall story ­ — about a bunch of unemployed mill workers forming a strip show to make some scratch and maybe retain some kind of dignity and meaning to their lives ­ — connect with us all.

The story is mainly the same as the film, ­ though the action has moved from Sheffield, England, to Buffalo, N.Y., ­ just with more singing and dancing. Director Peter Rothstein has assembled a top-flight cast of great actors and singers who, importantly, look the part. Led by Joshua James Campbell as ringleader Jerry, the cast also features great turns by Zach Curtis, Reggie Phoenix and Wendy Lehr. Really, this is an ensemble piece, which shows up in some of the best musical moments ­ from the funny ("Big-Ass Rock") to the heartfelt (two sides of "You Rule My World") and the purely joyous (the epic finale "Let It Go").

Oh, and they do go the "full monty" in that above-mentioned finale (albeit with a well-placed flash of lights), but by then it's not about a few actors showing their all on stage, but about everyone, cast and audience alike, sharing in a moment of pure joy.

"The Full Monty" runs through Nov. 8 at the McKnight Theatre in the Ordway Center, St. Paul. Tickets are $19-$34. For more information and tickets, call 651-224-4222 or visit online.

The Full Monty

October 19, 2009.By Kate Iverson, The651.

Runs through November 8th

Excerpted from my daily column at www.secretsofthecity.com

The clever crew of Theater Latte Da always impresses with their festive forays into musical theater, and their most recent production, now playing at the Ordway, is no exception. Based on the hit film, The Full Monty, this production is filled with hilarity, original music, and a lot of skin! A comedic romp portraying a group of unemployed steelworkers who use their personal, um, resources to make ends meet, The Fully Monty is a feisty tale of friendship and unconventional methods in tough times.

“Full Monty” offers hope, laughter and resiliency

October 18, 2009.By Graydon Royce, Star Tribune.

It no longer feels right to consider Theater Latté Da a small theater. The little gang that formed around Peter Rothestein and Denise Prosek 12 years ago is not doing musical theater on par with any organization – large or small – in the Twin Cities.

Latté Da’s production of “The Full Monty,” which opened Friday, fills the Ordway’s McKnight Theatre with a spirit of hope It is by turns raucous, sweet, ribald and charming; and as good art does, the mundane acts of common folk are elevated to heroism. Played out on Rick Polenek’s warehouse set design, the musical testifies to human reilience. Playwright Terrence McNally and composer David Yazbek create a subtext on the value of human bodies – with their inadequacies and our fear of exposure – in this economy. When the men take it all off in the show’s climax, there’s a freedom as if they have cast off society’s requirements for worth.

This Masculine, lunch-pail musical has a blunt style – coarse, profane, earthy. There isn’t anything pretty in Buffalo, NY, particularly the bruised machismo of men who are dispatched from the local factory. McNally parlays those wounded psyches into dramatic set pieces: divorced tahter trying to keep it together with his son; plus-size buddy so down on his image that he can’t make the beast with two backs with his wife; middle manager whose sense of worth goes no further than his paycheck.

All it takes is the spark of a nakedly bold idea (stripping for dollars at a local bar) to turn this chaff of male ego into a conflagaration.

Rothstein also musters as much blue-collar ethic as a refined theater will allow. His singers are gritty, sometimes a little nasally. Michael Matthew Ferrell’s choreography reflects the heavy boots of industrial workers. Joshua James Campbell’s Jerry has the look of a 35-year-old man with a white knuckle grip on his fading high school fame. Zach Curtis has a sweet curiosity about him as Dave, the self-conscious tub who rises to the occasion. Randy Schmeling is the perfect dweeb in his windbreaker and stocking hat (thank you, costumer Kathy Kohl) and Paul Coate gives the middle-management functionary Harold Nichols a patina of self-importance over his insecurity.

Odball characters pop up along the way to freshen the humor. Wendy Lehr blends the whiskey-throated weariness of the world with an indomitable spirit as the pianist who accompanies the men. Reggie Phoenix electrifies the stage with “Big Black Men” – one of the show’s riotous moments – and Joey Clark revives us as Ethan, the man with great qualifications for stripping.

“Full Monty” is Latté Da’s most ambitious effort to date and in every way the ambition is fulfilled.

Best entertainment bets for Oct 18-24

October 16, 2009.By Dominic P. Paptola, Pioneer Press.


Through Of the local performing companies that specialize in musical theater, Theatre Latte Da tends to take the high road: original, modern work by New York composers; uplifting historical dramas; reworked operas. Stuff like that. But Latte Da can go populist, too, as is the case with this year’s season opener, a musical based on the 1997 movie about a group of unemployed guys who decide to make a little money by stripping. Director Peter Rotherstein says staging the show is a commentary on our troubled economic times. Uh…sure, Peter. McKnight Theatre, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul; $34-$19; 651-224-4222 or ordway.org.

Theatre Latte Da ready to go all the way with ‘The Full Monty’

October 15, 2009.By Ed Huyck, MinnPost.

At, ahem, first blush you wouldn’t connect the iconoclastic Theatre Latte Da with the glitzy Broadway confection “The Full Monty.”

Yet, the story of a bunch of laid-off steelworkers from Buffalo trying to reclaim meaning for their lives by becoming male strippers has real resonance these days.

“By now, everybody knows someone who has lost their job,” says Peter Rothstein, Latte Da’s artistic director and the show’s director.

Producing the show, which opens this week at the McKnight Theatre in St. Paul’s Ordway Center, offered plenty of challenges (“Where do we hide their stage mikes in the last scene?” Rothstein asks), but also a number of rewards via a heartfelt book by Terrance McNally and a ton of chances for an exciting and engaging show, Rothstein says.

Rothstein saw the show — adapted from the 1990s British film — at a Broadway preview. He loved the energy on stage and the excitement it produced in the crowd, but when he turned his eye to producing it in Minnesota, Rothstein knew that he wanted a more down-to-earth version of the show.

So the big light screen with “The Full Monty” written on it for the end was gone. Other set pieces needed a bit more thought. The show includes scenes in a car and for Broadway, a full-sized car was built. “We realized we just needed a car door to make the scene work, so that’s all we have,” Rothstein says. “It’s a real car door that we found at a junkyard.”

Part of the challenge for choreographer Michael Ferrell was to make the dancing and movement look as though it was being done by blue-collar workers from Buffalo who had never thought before of taking it all off on stage.

“Sometimes, I gave them several steps and asked them to just choose from them,” Ferrell says. With that, he was able to work with the performers to create an organic look for the action, one where you can believe the action you are seeing is natural and real.

And there’s the stripping. Like the movie, the play ends as the characters go “the full monty” — stripping all the way down — and that has been approached carefully in rehearsals to let the actors get comfortable with the situations, Rothstein says. “There’s been a real spirit of play and a sense of humor about it, but we’ve also had to be respectful.”

“The Full Monty” runs Friday through Nov. 8 at the McKnight Theatre in the Ordway Center, St. Paul. Tickets are $19-$34. For more information and tickets, call 651-224-4222 or visit online.

What you could see this weekend…

October 15, 2009.By Marianne Combs, Minnesota Public Radio.

Theater Latte Da presents a stripped-down version of “The Full Monty” (sorry, I couldn’t resist). The story, which you remember from the movie, is about a bunch of guys who, when faced with an economic recession, decide to bare it all in hopes of making some cash. The show opens tonight at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts.

The Full Monty

October 14, 2009.By Quinton Skinner, City Pages.

The 1997 film The Full Monty tracked a group of unemployed British men who hatched a zany scheme to rid themselves of their garments onstage in an effort to cobble together a bit of cash; it was a warm surprise, full of angst, sympathy, and hard-earned rays of hope. The musical version transports the action to Buffalo, but the spirit remains intact. It also turns out that themes of frustrated ambition, narrowed opportunity, and economic anxiety are not alien to our present moment. Yay for historical irony (if not for our job prospects). Theater Latté Da stages this incarnation, which means we'll be in assured aesthetic hands (while we mull over our own employment prospects in the realm of public nudity). Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Oct. 15. Continues through Nov. 8, 2009

Artist profile: Randy Schmeling, performer.

October 14, 2009.By Zach Curtis, Examiner.

How long have you been working in the Twin Cities? I grew up in West Saint Paul, went to school at Gustavus Adolphus College and have been performing in the Twin Cities since 2001. My first shows were at Theater in the RoundTen November and She Loves Me.

What might we have just seen you in? I started the year doing The Miracle Worker withTorch Theater, then Passage of Dreams with Theater Latte Da. To date, Passage is my favorite show. Then I did Power Balladz at The Lab, a show I wish everyone could have seen. Most recently I did a weekend run of Chicago in St. Cloud at The Paramount Theatre.

Tell us a bit about your current show and the role you play: The Full Monty is based on the 1997 film. The location has moved from Yorkshire, England to Buffalo, New York. The story is the same, a group of unemployed factory workers decide to strip for some quick cash, promising to go 'the full monty.' The show explores the insecurities of these men as they struggle with unemployment, relationships, family, expenses and the horror of exposing their less than perfect bodies to the public. I play Malcolm MacGregor, a thirty year old ex-factory worker with no friends who still lives with his invalid mother. Early on, we see Malcolm trying to commit suicide, only to be saved by Dave and Jerry (to great comic effect). As the show progresses, Malcolm begins to see he has a place in the world. He now has friends, he's got something to work toward, he discovers a new love interest, and he finds the freedom he so desperately longs for in the beginning of the play. He learns to let go of his insecurities and enjoy the ride.

What drew you to this current production? I'm eager to work on any production with Latte Da. I find their process beneficial to my own growth as a performer. Peter [Rothstein, artistic director] communicates well with the actors. He lays out his vision for the play as a whole, but he isn't rigid. He respects the actors' input and craft. Denise [Prosek, music director] is one of the best, not just musically, but also at keeping the character's intentions at the forefront of the music rehearsals. She and Peter work well as a team and the rehearsals are always fun and inviting. It's a great atmosphere for creativity. As far as the show itself, I think the insecurities of the characters mirror many of my own insecurities. I often deal with unemployment, the fear that no work will come my way, the fear that bills will not be met. Also family issues, trying to be a good loving son/brother/uncle, hoping I am doing enough and constantly feeling like I should be doing more. And, of course, the nudity. Now, I've done nudity once before, in Hair. That was a different experience since the characters were showing their naked bodies to the audience, telling THEM to let go of their hang ups. Those characters were comfortable with their bodies and their sexuality. This is the opposite situation. These characters are humiliated, by their lack of work, their body types, their struggle to find a place in the world. To explore these very real insecurities then to strip fully nude poses a greater challenge, but ultimately a more rewarding one. Here we are, fully exposed emotionally, now it's time to take our clothes off and really let go. I look forward to tackling those challenges each night on stage, perhaps learn something about my own insecurities. I just hope I remember all the dance steps!

What has been your favorite rehearsal moment so far? Well, the funniest moment has to be the day the men stood in the green room and practiced taking off our velcro g-strings in one motion (not as easy as it looks). But my favorite moment was teching the final number, "Let It Go". We rehearsed at The Directors Studios in Minneapolis for three weeks and I never felt comfortable with the routine. They thrust us into it. We were stripping the day after we learned the dance number. I'm insecure about my dancing as it is, to add my insecurity about my body on top of that was horrifying. And it was humiliating, to screw up your dance steps and have the rest of the cast watch you, and you're naked. We rehearsed the dance nearly every day after that. Finally, two weeks later, we're on stage, fourth day of tech, and we're all stripping and dancing and having a hell of a time. It was the first time we wore our g-strings without boxers underneath and it was the first time we did all the choreography more-or-less correctly. So there we are, smiling from ear to ear, and I knew exactly how much fun we were going to have performing this show. I need to give credit to Michael Ferrell for the choreography. He's absolutely one of the best in the Cities.

Do you have any sort of pre-show routine? My routine seems to change with every show. I fall into habits based on the show's demands. But in general for any musical I warm up my voice, warm up my body, and focus on my first moment of the play. Then it's just a matter of staying limber and focusing on the next moment on stage. Not much of a routine, but I like the pliability of it. Though on Sundays it's trying not to focus too much on the Vikings game.

What's the weirdest/funniest/most awful thing that's happened to you on stage? Every show has its funny stage moments. I really can't think of anything too awful. Though, if my g-string pops off before we finish the final dance number, I'll get back to you.

What excites you about Twin Cities Theater? What's exciting to me is that there are still so many theaters I haven't worked for that I'd love to be a part of; The Jungle, Mixed Blood, The Guthrie, Ten Thousand Things, Children's Theater, Frank Theater, Pillsbury House and so many more. Just knowing that I've had eight years full of shows to be proud of and that there is so much more to strive for, that's what keeps me excited.

What's up next for you after this show? I just got cast in Corleone with Gremlin Theater, which runs late November into December. Then in February/March I'll be playing Monty, a young soldier, in Violet with Theatre Latte Da at the Guthrie Dowling Studio. I hope my career lasts long enough to someday be playing 'the old soldier.'

The Full Monty opens October 16 and runs through November 8 at the McKnight Theater at the Ordway in downtown Saint Paul.  Order tickets online or call 651.224.4222

Jobless rate reinforces show choice: Musical takes a poignant, funny look at the desperation of unemployment.

October 11, 2009.By Graydon Royce, Star Tribune.

With news in the past year that unemployment among Minnesota men is twice that of women, Peter Rothstein decided it was time. Time to remind people of the lengths some men will go to in order to put meat on the table. Rothstein’s production of “The Full Monty” opens Theatre Latté Da’s 12th season this Friday.

In the Broadway musical, unemployed steelworkers in Buffalo, NY, set their egos – and their britches – aside to scare up a few bucks at a local club. It was based on a 1997 British film that became a surprise smash hit. A national tour stopped at the Ordway Center in 2003. Coincidentally, the Latté Da production is in the McKnight Theatre at the Ordway.

“I had wanted to do it since I saw it on Broadway [in 1999],” Rothstein said. “Then last winter I was looking at the unemployment statistics for men, and I felt like this strikes a deeper chord than it did 10 years ago.”

Even though “The Full Monty” has become a slang equivalent for naked openness, neither the film nor the musical made its mark with beefcake. The story’s strength lies in the bond among six buddies down on their luck, and in the sometimes contentious relationships they have with bosses, parents, children and neighbors.

“It’s a rich canvas for the way people respond to economic crisis,” Rothstein said.

This is Latté Da’s biggest solo production to date (“Parade” was co-produced with Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company in 2008). Rothstein has cast Joshua James Campbell played Joe Kennedy in the Ordway/Park Square production of “Grey Gardens” last spring. He also has done national tours of “Mamma Mia” and “Legally Blonde.” Curtis has worked at nearly every theater in the Twin Cities. The venerable Wendy Lehr plays the pianist who accompanies the lads. Randy Schmeling, a Latté Da regular, and Reggie Phoenix, a Twin Cities newcomer who sang in the original “Dream Girls” on Broadway and did the first national tour of “A Chorus Line,” are also featured.

Twin Cities acting troupe offers jobless discount

October 7, 2009.By Associated Press, Pioneer Press.

A Twin Cities theater company is offering the unemployed a break on tickets to an upcoming performance of the musical, "The Full Monty."

Theater Latte Da plans a "pink slip performance" of "The Full Monty" on Oct. 18 at the Ordway Center McKnight Theatre in St. Paul.

People who don't have a job can get two tickets to the 2 p.m. matinee for $10 each, plus Ordway ticketing fees.

"The Full Monty" is based on the 1997 British film about unemployed steelworkers who turn to stripping for cash. It runs at the Ordway from Oct. 15-Nov. 8.

To request the discounted tickets, call the Ordway box office at (651) 224-4222 and request the "pink slip discount," or go to ordway.org and insert the promo code "pink" for the 2 p.m. Oct. 18 performance.

The Full Monty

October 2009.By Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.

The film and Broadway productions of The Full Monty were entertaining and funny, but now Theater Latte Da brings the musical to the stage in different times. It’s a hard-luck story, after all, about laid-off men struggling to maintain their dignity and self-worth, going to extremes to make ends meet, and finding that human connection is one of the few things we can count on.


September 23, 2009.By Arts Czar, StPaulCulture.

Soon the geese will migrate south and we’ll head inside to catch arts and cultural events.

There’s a great promotion going on very soon that will make this easy and very affordable.

The Twin Cities Free Night of Theatre happens next month. This is a national event put on by the Theatre Communications Group and quite a few Twin Cities dance and theater groups. In the Twin Cities, more than 2700 free tickets to 118 performances will be available.

These tickets can be reserved starting at noon October 1 – and are available only online at twincitiesfreenight.com or freenightoftheater.net. Performances will be held from October 13 through November 2, 2009, and in Saint Paul include the following:

Deer Camp at the Lowry. Little House on the Prairie at the Ordway. Yasmin Levin in Concert at they Ordway. Rasta Thoomas’ Bad Boys of Dance at the Ordway. Othello at Park Square Theatre. Hanuman and the Girl Prince at Steppingstone Theatre. Theater Latté Da’s  The Full Monty at the Ordway.

I suggest you take advantage of these fall offerings. Then, in Decemer, the Arts & Culture Partnershipp will join with a number of organizations to present Raise the Curtain – with even more specials.

Stay tuned and enjoy!

10 shows to help you get with the program

September 13, 2009.By Dominic P. Papatola, Pioneer Press.

The Full Monty Oct. 15-Nov. 8: Of the local performing companies that specialize in musical theater, Theatre Latte Da tends to take the high road: original, modern work by New York composers; uplifting historical dramas; reworked operas. Stuff like that. But Latte Da can go populist, too, as is the case with this year’s season opener, a musical based on the 1997 movie about a group of unemployed guys who decide to make a little money by stripping. Director Peter Rotherstein says staging the show is a commentary on our troubled economic times. Sure, Peter. Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul; $34-$19; 651-224-4222 or ordway.org.