Alison Moffat Posts

“Wishes Come True, Not Free”: Review of Into the Woods

Into the WoodsSondheim’s Into the Woods, with its incorporation of fractured fairy tales, may seem like kid’s stuff at first glance. In reality, it’s anything but.

The first act weaves together a number of familiar fairy tales through a quest narrative that involves a Baker and his wife securing a number of objects (a cape as red as blood, a slipper as pure as gold, etc.) to undo a curse, courtesy of the witch next door, which has left them childless.

The first act closes with the fulfillment of wishes for the heroes, and deserved comeuppance for the villains. However, the distinction between heroes and villains is blurred as things devolve quickly in the dark second act, when our heroes (still wishing for more) must reckon with the consequences of securing their wishes. A number of weighty themes are explored: moral relativism, isolation, loss, and parent/child relationships.

Into the Woods paints this last issue as especially bleak: whether overprotective, indifferent, or absent, parents can’t seem to avoid inflicting lasting damage on their children. Ultimately, it remains up to the individual to decide what’s morally right, though, as one of the final songs affirms, “no one is alone.”

Despite such heavy themes, Into the Woods remains a very fulfilling show; to their credit, the Playhouse cast conveys the emotional highs and lows with equal gusto. Though the performances in the first act were a bit uneven (perhaps just some bad juju?) things definitely picked up in the second half, and the cast delivered when it counted. The orchestra (under the assured baton of Blake Peterson) and singers ably tackled a notoriously difficult Sondheim score in this ambitious production.

Review of The 39 Steps at the Duluth Playhouse

The 39 Steps

I won’t go into a lot of detail about the intricately convoluted plot of The 39 Steps, largely because the plot resists description, but also because part of the delight of this cinematic play is to see how it all unfolds. Needless to say, it involves the usual trappings you’d expect of Hitchcockian suspense and film noir: a femme fatale, foreign espionage, and false murder accusations. With a cast of four playing innumerable characters, The 39 Steps lovingly lampoons the genres of noir (and even, at times, screwball comedy), with many winking references to Hitchcock’s oeuvre.

Review of 13 at the Duluth Playhouse

13 Poster

This review is not targeted at the (justifiably) proud parents of the cast of 13, nor anyone else who has tickets to the show in hand. Rather, this review is targeted at those of you who, like me, peruse the schedule of Duluth’s many arts events and consider a Children’s Theatre productionas something to skip. Which would be a shame, because to miss this show is to miss one of the true delights of this year’s theatre season.

“Heaven Nowadays”: Review of the Duluth Playhouse Production of Chicago

The gin may not be cold (or available), but the dancing is certainly hot in the Duluth Playhouse’s production of Chicago. Set in a Prohibition-era Windy City, Chicago is inhabited by irredeemable (yet likable) hucksters and hustlers, all dancing for their lives. The bondage-lite costumes and the spare, gritty set only rarely hint at the Jazz Age, but that’s just as well: the story at the heart of Chicago, about crime, corruption, sensational journalism, the cult of celebrity and all that jazz, feels contemporary and relatable.

Review of Duluth Playhouse’s Production of Picnic

The Duluth Playhouse kicked off 2011 with William Inge’s Picnic, a drama that reflects on beauty and its uses, restrictive gender roles, and identity. Though Inge’s play grapples with such profound philosophical themes, it does so with plenty of sultriness and a surprising amount of fun. Through its strong performances and an absorbing plot, Picnic transports the audience to the lazy, fleeting days of summer.

Merry and Bright: A Review of the Duluth Playhouse’s Production of White Christmas

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I suffer from almost pathological nostalgia, a condition that only becomes more acute during the holiday season. Out come boxes of familiar, musty Christmas ornaments that probably should be replaced and mountains of Scandinavian desserts from a tradition now many generations removed from my own.  And the annual viewing (okay, multiple viewings) of favorite holiday films: Holiday Inn, It’s a Wonderful Life, Christmas in Connecticut, and, of course, White Christmas.

Given the inviolability of established holiday traditions, it was with a bit of trepidation that I attended a preview show of White Christmas at the Duluth Playhouse. Happily, the production did not disappoint, sailing along with plenty of glitz and good cheer. The set, framed like a vintage Christmas card, the familiar Irving Berlin tunes, vibrant mid-century costumes all invoked an amber-tinted yesteryear.

“Tradition”: Fiddler on the Roof, Jr. at the Duluth Playhouse

I had the opportunity to attend a performance of this charming production on opening night.  A talented group of young actors and a kid-friendly run time (just over an hour) truly make this an event for the entire family (not to mention a great way to introduce a younger generation to a well-loved musical!).

Hail of bullets:

  • What: Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.
  • Where: The Duluth Playhouse
  • When: October 22-31 (Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 1 and 4 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m).

“Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!” Rocky Horror Picture Show at Duluth Playhouse

The Duluth Playhouse will be presenting The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Oct. 29 and 30 at 9:30.  The event will include:

  • Audience participation and costumes (but of course!)
  • “Scarioke” (Halloween-themed karaoke)
  • Prop bags (request a prop bag when reserving tickets, as supplies are limited). The bag o’ tricks will include glow sticks, newspaper, water gun, noisemakers, etc.
  • Players re-enacting the film in front of the screen
  • Costume contest, including prizes for “Sweetest Transvestite”, “Best Transylvanian”, and “Best Team/Group”
  • A chance to learn the choreography for “The Time Warp”



This “Floor Show” is rated R, so leave the kiddies at home. The seats in the Playhouse will be covered, to maximize mayhem.

So … who’s planning on kicking off their Halloween weekend in style with The Rocky Horror Picture Show? What transsexual Transylvanian costumes are you considering?

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