Sweet Land West Coast premiere at Taproot Theatre, Seattle, WA!!


BWW Review: SWEET LAND at Taproot Theatre

by Kelly Rogers Flynt Jul. 15, 2018



Molli Corcoran (Inge Altenberg) and Tyler Todd Kimmel (Olaf Torvik) lead the cast ofSweet Land at Taproot Theatre.  Taproot cast.jpgPhoto Credit: Erik Stuhaug

Sweet Land at Taproot Theatre is a sweet treat of a show. Full of humor, wit, challenges, and struggles, the story of Inge Altenberg and Olaf Torvik becomes an everyman’s story. The path to the American dream is paved with suspicion and hardship for immigrants both past and present. Their trials and travails parallel the stories of so many others. In the end, we find that their differences are much smaller than our commonalities. Communities can unite or divide. It is up to each person to decide where and with whom they will stand.

Sweet Land is a quiet, little story that simply tells the truth. What is it like to leave everything you’ve known and start over? What is like to be an outsider, to be called different? What is it like when you don’t understand the language and traditions of your new home? What is it like when people who don’t know you fear you? What is it like to constantly live with uncertainty? What is it like to work hard day after day for a life you might not even be allowed to have? These are the things that face Inge in her new homeland.

While tackling these heavy subject, Sweet Land also serves up a healthy portion of humor. Between Inge learning to speak English and Inge and Olaf learning about each other, there are plenty of reasons to laugh. Olaf’s friend admits that he was worried about Olaf agreeing to marry someone without even seeing a photo. But upon meeting Inge at the train station, he pronounces her “Ducky” and proceeds to sing about it. Perhaps even funnier is Inge’s insistence that Olaf shouldn’t worry that she took a bath at his house since only the farm animals were there to witness it. She takes to music to tell the animals all about it.

Molli Corcoran (Inge Altenberg) has you in her corner from the first moment. Her bright eyes fill with sadness, dance with delight, and implore you for understanding. Her voice is bright and powerful and terribly missed in songs in which she does not sing. Tyler Todd Kimmel (Olaf Torvik) has a wonderful transformation on stage. He is quiet, almost brooding, a person full of worries without a lot of outward affection. Kimmel manages to portray this in such a way that reminds you that people are complicated and worthy of much more than your initial reaction. April Poland (Marta “Brownie” Frandsen) is simply delightful. She combines ease with fortitude letting you know at once that Minnesota farm wives are a plucky bunch. Hugh Hastings (Pastor Sorenson) has the unenviable task of playing the pastor who repeatedly blocks the marriage of Inge and Olaf. He provides a constant reminder of how little thoughts and prayers really help those who are in dire situations.

A small ensemble of four (piano, reeds, violin, and bass) provides the music in the show. Quite often they sound bigger than their size, but mostly the music of the show is understated. Songs often begin or end a capella. However, one song Barn Dance is a full-on, heel-tapping good time elevated even more by the choreography of Katy Tabb. Despite the small stage, the couples whirl about in patterns that remind us how much of the Old World has grown roots in the New World.

The beauty of the show is revealed in Inge’s openness in the face of closed minds. Her nervousness about marrying a man she has never met turns out to be the least of her problems. Her unwavering spirit threads its way throughout the show. Her hard work and perseverance win not only Olaf’s love but the respect of the community. Through sheer force of will, she makes her new homeland into the sweet land of her dreams.

Sweet Land is playing at the Taproot Theatre through August 18th. For tickets or information, http://www.taproottheatre.org

11 Best Things To Do in Seattle in July 2018

Our hand-picked list of best bets for entertainment this month

Mickalene Thomas’ 2008 chromogenic print, “La Lecon d’amour” at the Henry Art Gallery

This article appears in print in the July 2018 issue. Click here to subscribe.

Mickalene Thomas
Fresh from Seattle Art Museum’s excellent Figuring History group exhibit, which challenged ideas of black representation in western art, New York City–based Thomas heads to the Henry for a solo show in which she functions as photographer, designer (staging a reconstruction of her studio) and curator. Photographs and tête-à-tête is a collage of her own photographs along with images by others that have inspired her. Times and prices vary. Henry Art Gallery, University District, 4100 15th Ave. NE; 206.543.2280.

Sweet Land
In the lyrical 2005 film Sweet Land, a Norwegian farmer in Minnesota takes a German bride—but since World War I has just ended, the normally warm and welcoming Norwegians (that’s sarcasm, BTW) make her assimilation a challenge. Now, Perrin Post and Laurie Flanigan Hegge (book and lyrics) and Dina Maccabee (music) have transformed it into a musical; it’s receiving its West Coast premiere at Taproot. Times and prices vary. Taproot Theatre Company, Jewell Mainstage Theatre, Greenwood, 204 N 85th St.; 206.781.9707.

Steve Martin & Martin Short
Steve Martin’s career has expanded far beyond what you might have expected 40 years ago, from the “Excuuuuse meeee!” guy to author, playwright, art collector and bluegrass aficionado (that banjo was always more than just a prop). Protean, elfin Second City TV alumnus Martin Short joins him for a show billed as “An Evening You’ll Forget for the Rest of Your Life.” Times and prices vary. Paramount Theatre, downtown, 911 Pine St.; 206.682.1414.

Photo courtesy Jini Dellaccio (Sonics)

Jini Dellaccio
Through 7/11
Few artists made more of lucky happenstance than Dellaccio (1917–2014), who took up photography on a whim in California, followed her husband to Tacoma and ended up the preeminent portraitist of Northwest rockers (the Wailers, the Sonics). Into her 70s, she shot musicians performing in concert—locals and touring acts, from the Stones to the Beach Boys. Fantagraphics shows off a collection of her evocative black-and-white work. Times vary. Free. Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery, Georgetown, 1201 S Vale St.; 206.557.4910.

48 Hour Film Project
Making a movie in (exactly) two days from scratch is tricky enough, but the organizers of the 48 Hour Film Project also assign you a required line of dialogue, a character, a prop—and a randomly chosen genre. Now, get shootin’! Or you could take the easy way and just watch the screening of the results, about 12 to 14 short films. Times and prices vary. SIFF Cinema Uptown, Lower Queen Anne, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N; 206.464.5830.

Chris Stapleton
Don’t assume that just because he has long hair and a chest-length beard and sells belt-buckle flasks on his website that he’s only about outlaw country. Stapleton also recently contributed, alongside Dolly Parton, Rosanne Cash and Miley Cyrus, to Restoration, a disc of country covers of Elton John and Bernie Taupin songs. 7 p.m. Prices vary. White River Amphitheatre, Auburn, 40601 Auburn Enumclaw Road; 360.825.6200.

Seattle Symphony
6/28, 6/30 & 7/1
Camille saint-saëns’ Symphony No. 3 (1886), in which he piled an organ at full throttle atop a large Romantic orchestra, runs the gamut from typical French elegance to violet-scented piety (the composer was a church organist) to one of the more rousing climaxes in the repertory. It’ll make a great finale to the Seattle Symphony’s season. Times and prices vary. Benaroya Hall, downtown, 200 University St.; 206.215.4747.

Desus Nice & The Kid Mero
Some of their more arcane hip-hop and basketball references might as well be ancient Sanskrit to some of us, but the nightly half-hour show on the Viceland network from these two Bronx guys is the sharpest, fastest and funniest talk on TV. Caution: Everyone politically to the right of Congressman Keith Ellison is guaranteed to be offended at some point. 8 p.m. $37. The Moore Theatre, downtown, 1932 Second Ave.; 206.467.5510.

Until the Flood
Pulitzer prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith’s one-act, one-woman show examines the deluge of civil unrest following the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Drawn from a series of personal interviews with St. Louisans, Orlandersmith presents eight composite characters grappling with the issues. Times and prices vary. ACT – A Contemporary Theatre, downtown, 700 Union St.; 206.292.7676.

See performances at the Seattle Butoh Festival like “Stone Silence by the Kogut Butch which was part of last year’s festival. Photo by Bruce Clayton Tom

Seattle Butoh Festival
The art of postwar Japanese dance/theater gets its own festival each summer, organized by Seattle’s Diapanbutoh Collective and aimed at both the practitioner and the audience. If you’re the latter, July 6‒8 is the central performance weekend, with shows at Shoreline Community College and the Taoist Studies Institute. See the website for the complete lineup of workshops, art walks, outdoor performances and more. Times, prices and venues vary.

Seattle Symphony Plays Star Wars
John Williams’ testoster-ific score will be performed live by the SSO to a screening of Star Wars: A New Hope (aka “the first one” to non-geeks)—the 1977 film that changed Hollywood, launching the comic book blockbuster hegemony, as much as any one film ever has. Times and prices vary. Benaroya Hall, downtown, 200 University St.; 206.215.4747; seattlesymphony.org.

Top 7 musicals in Twin Cities 2017

Monday, January 1, 2018

My 2017 #TCTheater Favorites

Well here we are again friends, the end of another excellent year of #TCTheater. 2017 marks the first year that I didn’t increase my theater intake from the previous year (perhaps I’ve reached the saturation point of how much theater one mortal can see in a year). I saw the same number of shows this year as last year – about 200 plus about 50 Fringe shows (you can read my favorites of those here), not counting my two Chicago theater trips (to see Hamilton twice) and my fabulous week in NYC (Hello Dolly! Dear Evan HansonCome From Away!). My 200 #TCTheater shows were distributed in approximately a 1:2 ratio of 70-ish musicals to 130-ish plays, so I thought I’d share my top 10% of each in each category, along with a few other noteworthy trends of the year. Know that I could easily have added another 20 shows that I loved to these lists, because there is so much brilliant theater being made in St. Paul and Minneapolis. But these are the shows I loved so much I wanted to see them again (and in a few cases I did). They’re listed in alphabetical order, with a quote from my original review that explains why it made the list (click on the title to read the original post).

Top 7 Favorite Musicals

  • Fiddler on the Roof, Ten Thousand Things: “The world of Anatevka [feels] palpably real and somehow modern, despite still being anchored in time and space. Because 50 years after it was written, this story about a family of refugees fleeing persecution and violence in their beloved homeland to find safety in America is as timely as ever.”
  • Fly By Night, Jungle Theater: “A new original folk-rock musical? …Charming and funny yet poignant, with a fantastic score played by greats from the local music scene, and a cast that couldn’t be better – what’s not to love?” (Loved it so much I saw it twice.)
  • Girl Shakes Loose, Penumbra Theatre: “Girl Shakes Loose is the musical we need right now… It shouldn’t be revolutionary in 2017 to see a musical created by black women about a contemporary black woman in America, but it is.”
  • In the Heights, Ordway Center: “Lin-Manuel Miranda reminds us that the common people who never get rich or famous or written about in history books still live noble lives with stories worth telling and worth listening to. And also, by the way, super fun and entertaining and moving and engrossing.” (It was a great year for Ordway Originals, I could have put all of them on this list, but this was the peak.)
  • Man of La Mancha, Theater Latte Da: “It’s about clinging to and fighting for ideals of chivalry, decency, and honor in the face of evil and corruption. In other words, it may be exactly the story that this world needs right now… An incredibly talented and beautifully diverse cast about half the usual size for this musical, a small but powerful four-piece orchestra, and a modern twist to the play-within-a-play structure make this Man of La Mancha an inspiring, moving, and engaging piece of theater musically.”
  • Sunday in the Park with George, Guthrie Theater: “Stunning production of what is perhaps the musical theater master’s greatest masterpiece… The Guthrie has assembled a sparkling cast and created a gorgeous design that brings this work of art about art itself to brilliant life.” (This was perhaps my most special theater experience this year. Not only did I attend the opening night soirée, which featured a pre-show performance by the great Bernadette Peters, but I also returned for the closing performance that was so moving, both the cast and audience were in tears.)
  • Sweet Land, the Musical, History Theatre: “Like the film but in a different way, Sweet Land, the Musical tells a beautiful story of love, community, and connection to the land, one that, as a descendant of German immigrant farmers, feels like my story.” (I’ve followed the development of this locally created new musical for several years, so of course when it finally came to fruition I had to see it twice.)

Sweet Land the musical tours Minnesota in October!

For ticket information go to Historytheatre.com!


Photo: Rick Spaulding

Saturday, October 7 

Historic Holmes Theatre

806 Summit Ave, Detroit Lakes, MN  | 218-844-7469



Monday, October 9

Myles Reif Center

720 NW Conifer Drive, Grand Rapids, MN | 218-327-5780



Thursday, October 12

Shattuck St. Mary’s

1000 Shumway Ave, Faribault, MN | 507-333-1620 | feslerlampert@s-sm.org


Saturday, October 14

Sheldon Theatre

443 West 3rd St., Red Wing, MN | 651-388-8700

Buy Tickets


Sunday, October 15

Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center

714 13th St, Worthington | 507-376-9101



Sweet Land the musical tours Minnesota!

Seven new cast members include Kendall Anne Thompson (Inge), Peter Middlecamp (Pastor), Jay Albright (Nelson), Janet Hanson (Esther/Gail), Eric Solberg, Dan Piering and Sarah Burk,  Returning cast:  Robert Berdahl, Jon Hegge, Tinia Moulder, Jim Ramlet, Matt Riehle, Dylan Baker.

Dawson, MN – June 18th / Alexandria, MN – June 20th – 25th (Theater La Homme Dieu)Kendall Inge pic

Photo:  Rick Spaulding