‘The Rink’ packs a lot of beauty into a small show

October 3, 2001.By Graydon Royce, Star Tribune.

Playwright Terrence McNally and the musical team of John Kander and Fred Ebb would probably consider “The Rink” a lesser project in their illustrious careers. And it is, compared with the work they have done together, or individually – “Chicago,” “Cabaret,” “Kiss of the Spiderwoman” and “The Visit,” which had its premiere this week at Chicago’s leading theater, the Goodman.

“The Rink,” on the other hand, is playing in a Theatre Latté Da production at the 100-seat Loring Playhouse in Minneapolis.

SO is this slight piece worth your while? Absolutely. Director Peter Rothstein brings his glorious eye for small spectacle to the Loring stage in a charming, brisk production that finds its heart in the murky and complex feelings between parent and child. A fine cast – particularly the two leads – and musical director Denise Prosek’s evocative orchestra complement Rothstein’s vision.

“The Rink” is about Angel, a 1960s flower child who by 1978 has sown her wild oats and yearns to return to her family roller rink on the East Coast. But her estranged mother, Anna, has sold the rink, and when the daughter returns, the two of them wrestle through their relationship in a series of flashbacks.

Years of bitterness bubble to the surface, proving again that the longer emotion is repressed, the more pain it elicits when finally expressed. The conflict resolves, perhaps predictably, but nor before a surprising and heart-rending twist.

Erin Schwab’s Angel is a wistful bundle of confused melancholy who nonetheless finds strength and resolve when she learns that her childhood touchstone is threatened by the wrecking ball. Schwab and Denise Tabet, who plays Anna, bring an ease and comfort to their portrayals. Either they love working with each other, or they are even better actors than they seem to be. The acidic tension crackles, and the affection feels genuine. Both have good, not great voices, but that’s almost immaterial because each sells her work with empathy and passion. They are a joy to watch.

A men’s chorus handles the role of wrecking crew, bit parts, and in particular Angel’s father,. Which raises the only nit – David Anderson looks awfully Swedish to play the Italian stallion that Anna fell in love with in her youth.

Regardless, Rothstein and choreographer Michael Matthew Ferrell use the Loring’s stage to great effect in several small but effective dances. “Round the Rink” is a raucous, rolling batch of fun, a throw-back to big productions numbers, performed on roller skates. Samuel Kivi stands out among the dancers.

This is a beautiful little production of a beautiful little show that deserves to be seen over and over. Rothstein, Prosek and their cohorts are commended for bringing it to life.

‘Rink’ glides over its former rough spots

October 2, 2001.By Jaime Meyer, Pioneer Press.

Remember the first time you strapped on roller skates? You wobbled, then lurched, then jerked and then quivered some more. But that moment came when a sudden glorious balance overtook you, and you were gliding serenely along – until the next cycle of jerks and lurches. That experience is exactly like sitting through Theater Latté Da’s splendid production of the 1984 musical “The Rink,” which opened at the Loring Playhouse last weekend.

Director Peter Rothstein has assembled a brilliant cast of singers, musicians and designers for his ambitious resurrection of a deeply flawed but entertaining musical originally written for Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera. The action takes place of the course of a few hours when 30-year-old Angel returns to her family’s roller-skating rink after a seven-year absence and finds that Anna, her mother, has sold it, and it’s about to be demolished. Through a series of flashbacks, a history of heartbreak swirls around the rink – all traced back to Angel’s father abandoning the family – Forcing mother and daughter to confront the bitterness and the love ever present between them.

“The Rink” originally played for only 204 performances on Broadway after opening to mostly negative reviews. It enjoyed a brief reincarnation in London and then vanished into theatrical history. The songs are always pleasant and sometimes gorgeous. However, the book, writeten by Terrence McNally (who would later gain much deserved fame for “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Ragtime”), flounders and flails from one forced dramatic moment to the next. In the final moments, the skates fly out from beneath the show, and it crashes gracelessly rint on its sentiment.

The triumph of Theater Latté Da’s production has everything to do with local phenom-director Peter Rothstein. Along with music director Denise Prosek and choreographer Michael Matthew Ferrell, Rothstein has breathed a mysterious, revivifying lightheartedness into this problematic musical, fashioning an evening overflowing with charm. Each of the dozen charismatic singers finds superb moments individually and as a group. Erin Schwab (Angel) is irresistible when she sings or giggles. Denise Tabot (Anna) commands the stage with caustic earthiness, David A. Anderson (Angel’s father) offers a hounting portrait of a man who feels something is missing and abandons the family to find it.

If you are able to keep your balance during the frequent lurches in the script, you’ll have a great evening at “The Rink.”

Also Recommended.

September 28, 2001.By Star Tribune.

Theater Latte Da brings Terrence McNally’s “The Rink” to town for it’s area premiere. Peter Rothstein directs the musical comedy that starred Chita Rivera and Liza Minelli on Broadway in 1984, Rothstein has local thrushes Erin Schwab and Denise Tabet take on the roles of a daughter and mother rummaging through their relationship against the backdrop of the impending demolition of the family roller rink. Music director Denise Prosek and choreographer Michael Ferrell skate along.

New seasons serve classics, music, Minnesota hot dish

September 2, 2001.By Graydon Royce, Star Tribune.

The past year has been very good to Minneapolis Musical Theatre, the plucky little troupe that produces rarely seen musicals. Charged by sellout crowds for Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide,” MMT played to 88 percent capacity of its home base, the 100-seat Bryant Lake Bowl. The company’s revival of “Pageant” was the Fringe Festival’s biggest seller, with more than 1,500 people attending.

MMT opens its new season Oct. 5 with the musical revue “When Pigs Fly,” which is what a high-school guidance counselor told Howard Crabtree when he had aspirations of being a successful performer. The season continues in February with a Valentine’s show, “Weird Romance,” featuring music by Alan Menken (“Little Shop of Horrors,” “Beauty and the Beast”). The season concludes in May with “Lucky Stiff,” a tongue-in-cheek whodunit revolving around a dead body and $6 million in diamonds, written by the creators of “Ragtime” and “Seussical.” Call 612-825-8949 for information.

Here are a few other season announcements:

Theater Latté Da is rehearsing Terrence McNally’s “The Rink,” which opens Sept. 29. Director Peter Rothstein and music director Denise Prosek have a cast that includes Erin Schwab, Joe Leary and former Vikings defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo. McNally, known for “Master Class” and “Love! Valour! Compassion!” among other hits, premiered “The Rink” on Broadway in 1984 with Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli.

For the holidays, Latté Da will reprise “A Christmas Carole Petersen,” Tod Petersen’s charming homage to the quirky and satire-rich holiday traditions practiced by Minnesota families. Petersen weaves dozens of stories that have universal appeal and wit. The play, which opens Dec. 1, sold out last year. Call 612-343-3390.