May Arts and Entertainment Picks

May 2017’s top cultural events in the Twin Cities

Through 10.28

Danny and Sandy from Chanhassen Dinner Theatre's production of Grease.Grease

When I was growing up in the ’70s, the 1950s were close at hand. The improbable social dominance of Arthur Fonzarelli on Happy Days; the doo-wop weirdoes Sha Na Na; and the cultural phenomenon that was American Graffiti. Nearer and dearer was my beloved uncle, who restored ’57 Chevys into cherry-red steel Leviathans and proudly proclaimed himself “stuck in the fifties.” It’s always been an idealized vision, but the film and stage iterations of Grease have tended to hit the bull’s-eye in evoking young love, cool cars, goofball rock ’n’ roll, and harmless good times—it’s a catchy musical that the Chan turns into world-class diversion.

photo by dan norman photography

5.3Aimee Mann performing with guitar in hand.

Aimee Mann

Aimee Mann has been stringing lyrical barbed wire with a honey-dripping voice since her days fronting the 1980s MTV mainstay ’Til Tuesday and singing its catchy and emotionally terrifying hit “Voices Carry.” She’s since launched a critically lauded solo career oscillating between acoustic-tinged acerbic songwriting and pop craft, notably in 2000’s Bachelor No. 2 album, which featured tunes heard in the film Magnolia (its intelligence and spiritual bent were a perfect vehicle for Mann’s songwriting). She arrives at the Fitz right after the release of a new album called Mental Illness, an appropriate title for an artist who embraces a cheerfully sardonic worldview (along with a genuine and sweet grace as a singer and performer).

photo by Lwarrenwiki – wikimediacommones

Chance the Rapper performing on stage.5.12

Chance the Rapper

The 24-year-old Chicagoan Chancellor Johnathan Bennett, appearing under his stage name Chance the Rapper, was a revelation at last year’s Rock the Garden. The charismatic newcomer had just released the streaming-only Coloring Book, the first digital exclusive to appear on the Billboard charts and a heady mix of socially aware lyrics, gospel influences, and an overall feel of smart positivity. It’s been a rapid rise for the young man who just hit the scene a few years ago. Chance now owns three Grammys (including Best New Artist) and should have mountains of staying power.

photo by andrea ellen reed

5.13 – 6.11


The Moving Company is coming to the Guthrie and Refugia’s world premiere combines text with music, movement, and video in an elliptical series of interconnected narratives depicting the universal experience of refugees through history. That sounds ambitious, messy, and compassionate—in other words, a job for visionary director Dominique Serrand and his core of risk-taking creative comrades. Of course it feels plucked from the headlines during our moment of global displacement and controversy over populations crossing national borders. But it also makes the case that things have, to some degree, always been this way—and that these stories, interwoven into the human experience, require attention, empathy, and the need for a future better than our past (or present).

A portrait of Steve Martin and Martin Short side-by-side.5.18 – 19

Steve Martin & Martin Short

I scratched my head reading an interview with Steve Martin and Martin Short about this tour, in which they declared they would be staying away from political material. From comedian Samantha Bee this would be shocking, but these two have long trafficked in a kind of surrealist comedy that lives outside the boundaries of outrage and elections (I wouldn’t go looking for incisive social commentary from these two, and I mean that in a good way). Their shared Orpheum stage will incorporate standup, film, conversations, a bluegrass band and, presumably, an abundance of silliness.

photo courtesy of hennepin theater trust