July 2017 Arts and Entertainment Picks

The Twin Cities’ top cultural events for July 2017

7.6 – 10.22


Country music has, as much as any pop genre, been defined in no small part by its strong women—Dolly Parton and Tanya Tucker, for instance, spring right to the front of my musical memories of growing up in the Midwest in the 1970s. Heartsongs at Plymouth Playhouse is a local creation featuring Dorian Chalmers (from the indestructible Church Basement Ladies) and a live band in a show that tells the story of women’s lives through country tunes—there’s heartbreak, but also the wisdom of experience and the perspective of the next generation completing the circle. Tunes such as “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” after all, definitely encompass an understanding of the ups and downs of this world. plymouthplayhouse.com

7.11 – 16

Motown the MusicalMotown the Musical

The concept of a pop music hit factory wasn’t entirely revolutionary by the time Berry Gordy launched Motown in Detroit, but his determination, vision, and acumen resulted in an astonishing run of hits and hall-of-fame careers. The man must have been doing something very much right to attract the likes of Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Smokey Robinson to his stable. This musical at the Orpheum isn’t exactly hard-hitting Pulitzer journalism, but the downside of fame and the ultimate tragedy of the King of Pop can be left outside the theater for a night that embraces Gordy’s triumphs, cranks one hit after another, and reminds us of a time when an ethic of joyous creation ruled the pop world and countless summertime transistor radios. hennepintheatretrust.org

photo by joan marcus


Graham Parker & Brinsley Schwarz

You’d be forgiven for experiencing momentary confusion when rocker Graham Parker appeared in Judd Apatow’s midlife homage, This is 40, before piecing together some fragmentary memory of late ’70s, early ’80s albums such as the energetic, intelligent Squeezing Out Sparks and Another Grey Area (that is, if you’re 40 or older). In his numerous incarnations (with the Rumour, collaborating with guitarist Schwarz), Parker’s through-line has been a down-to-earth, acerbic wit and grown-up musicianship—sort of like Elvis Costello without the high-rent collaborations. Parker has shown up at the Dakota numerous times over the years, and it’s a perfect room for his intimate punch. dakotacooks.com

Through 8.20

Sunday In The Park With GeorgePortrait of Eric Mackey

Living as an artist ain’t an easy choice. The financial hardships are well known, but there’s also the cost of the obsessive focus and drive it takes to even become reasonably good at something like music and painting. The great ones have never been known for their sense of personal balance. This musical at the Guthrie by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine explores these tensions through the vehicles of a famous painting by pioneering pointillist Georges Seurat (no slouch in the obsession department) and its creation, as well as, in act two, the painter’s great-grandson working as an artist in New York a century later. guthrietheater.org

photo courtesy of the guthrie


Shirley Manson of Garbage performing.Blondie and Garbage

This show could conceptually have been included in the summer dinosaur rundown above, but it’s not quite the concept. Let’s face it, the multi-decade stadium-spectacle phenomenon is almost entirely a male one (with apologies to Madonna and, eventually, Beyoncé), and these two bands share the distinction of being led by two of the most distinctive front women in music history (and, yes, they’re not quite as long in the tooth). Shirley Manson’s Garbage has proven more durable than one would have thought a decade-plus ago, and Debbie Harry’s Blondie is simply one of the greatest bands to have ever existed, embracing their to-the-core weirdness while glossing it with a coat of pop sheen. mysticlake.com

photo by pitpony photography