July Arts and Entertainment Picks

July 2016’s top cultural events in the Twin Cities

Beauty and the Beast

Jean Cocteau’s exquisite 1946 cinematic evocation of the 18th-century fairytale Beauty and the Beast was a shadowy, haunting feast of vivid imagination that informed the most uncanny notes of the considerably more mainstream Disney animated feature of the same name in 1991. Director Michael Brindisi’s staging at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre nods to both in a musical containing gargoyles, spilling saucers, candles flickering to (literal) life, and the ear-worm “Be Our Guest.” If possible, check out the Cocteau version before heading out to the Chan—my considerable fondness for more recent iterations of this weird story of arrogance overcome by genuine love is rooted in the soulful suffering of the French director’s titular Beast. chanhassendt.com

calendar girls, things to do, arts and entertainmentCalendar Girls

The 2003 British film Calendar Girls had a winning combination of plucky triumph and the mildest of salaciousness. Its story of a group of women who create a (semi-) nude calendar (their modesty is preserved through strategically arranged flowers, cake, and other homespun items) to raise money for leukemia research after one of their husbands dies is the sort of narrative you find hard not to root for. This Park Square production of the play based on the film features a fine local cast, and its lighthearted themes of friendship, understanding, and self-acceptance are similarly easy to get behind. parksquaretheatre.org (Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

boy george, culture club, stepping out, arts and entertainmentCulture Club

It’s easy to forget that, at their zenith, Boy George and his henchmen sold more than 10 million albums, when there was such a thing as albums and when people bought them. It’s also easy to overlook how wildly subversive they were, with visions of fluid sensuality and a sound that borrowed elements of reggae, soul, and gospel for a two-year run in which nearly every ridiculously catchy single they released hit the American Top 10, including “Karma Chameleon” and “Time (Clock of the Heart).” It was also a shock to my 1980s’ teen generation when George veered into drugs and incomprehensibility, and a happy surprise to see him settle into a mildly scandalous middle age amid eclectic projects and sporadic reunions with his old bandmates, such as this one settling into Myth Live. mythlive.com (Photo courtesy of Culture Club)

tower of power, stepping out, arts and entertainmentTower of Power

I’ve always felt a certain affinity for Tower of Power. Maybe it’s because we’ve both been in continuous operation since the late 1960s. Or maybe it’s our shared fondness for bass-heavy funk-soul workouts. It’s been several decades since they bothered the Top 40, but T of P is a legitimately ongoing concern pretty much perfect for a summer night under the stars at the Minnesota Zoo. The band’s legendary, epic horn section famously drives the sound, having appeared on recordings by everyone from John Lee Hooker to the Monkees (probably the first and last time I will type those two names in the same sentence). mnzoo.org (Photo by Chelsea Lauren)

WonderlandCircus Juventas

The Circus Juventas summer show tackles the psychedelic phantasms of Lewis Carroll’s enduringly weird pair of books depicting Alice and her sojourn through impressionistic impossibility. It seems like a great fit for this youth circus school of trained acrobats and aerialists (the largest of its kind in North America), promising to render the mad tea party, murderous queen, and turned-invisible cat via sets, music, costumes, and flying young people. The Circus’ shows evoke a legitimate sense of wonder and remarkable professionalism—perhaps even enough to rival recent memories of Johnny Depp’s oddly dignified Mad Hatter. circusjuventas.org