July Arts & Entertainment Picks

Senior editor Quinton Skinner picks this month’s top cultural events

Booker T. Jones (July 3-4)

His Hammond organ was arguably one of the most distinctive sounds in the soul music revolution of the previous century—from his massive “Green Onions” with the MGs to singles by greats such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Wilson Pickett. He hasn’t grown cobwebs in recent years, either, recording collaborations with younger acts the Drive-By Truckers and the Roots. By all accounts this one-time prodigy (he was a teenager when he enjoyed his first flush of success in the 1960s) still brings that deep, satisfying sound that changed American music, but with a sense of immediacy and timeliness that makes him no mere nostalgia act. dakotacooks.com

 

Celebrate Cuba! (July 5)

The Minnesota Orchestra made history two months ago with its trip to Cuba, an act of normalization and cultural exchange that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. It’s a heartening development, and hopefully emblematic of a move toward a richer and more fully formed relationship with the island a mere 90 miles from U.S. shores. For the moment we’ll satisfy ourselves with this concert featuring the orchestra and Coro Entrevoces, a 23-voice Cuban choir that will bring the feel of Havana to a program of works including Gershwin, Bernstein, and Cuban composers. minnesotaorchestra.org

 

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (July 7-August 23)

This one seems like an outrageously good idea to anyone who has ever wandered through the labyrinthine halls of the Children’s Theatre Company: the classic Jules Verne novel as springboard for a crazy kids’ adventure spanning the inside of the building itself. The audience embarks on a secret adventure to break into a submarine and capture a deadly enemy, led by a mission chief with a flair for the dramatic. Wedding immersive, site-specific theater to the CTC aesthetic feels like such an electric and innovative notion—just the thing to introduce young people to the idea that theater isn’t always about sitting down and being quiet, especially in this case, with a twist ending and a choice that the adventurers will have to make in the moment, on the spot, and with thumping hearts. childrenstheatre.org

 

The Matchmaker (July 10-26)

Girl Friday Productions returns with it trademark: another large-scale production of an American play, its third by Thornton Wilder since 2007. The company reconvenes every couple of years for a single show, and the results have been consistently rewarding and provocative (not least via 2009’s weird and wooly The Skin of Our Teeth). Those who know Wilder only from Our Town (which GFP delivered nearly a decade ago with uncommon grace) will be tickled by this stew of class and money, the story of a rich merchant who hires a renowned pro to find him a match and make things right in his world. Guess what? Things don’t go as planned. parksquaretheatre.org

PHOTO ©2015 RICHARD FLEISCHMAN

Kinky Boots (July 28-August 2)Kinky Boots

Cyndi Lauper probably never got quite enough credit for her musical inventiveness during her 1980s She’s So Unusual heyday, but she surely made up for the omission after the 2013 premiere of Kinky Boots, which earned her a Tony Award for Best Score (making her the first solo woman composer to take the category). It’s the musical story, told in an array of pop styles, of a man who inherits a shoe factory and subsequently throws in his lot with a drag queen to produce a line of market-cornering (and yeah, kinky) footwear. It’s got a sense of real fun and boundary-trampling abandon that should seem familiar to fans of the liberated sensibility of Lauper’s heyday. hennepintheatretrust.org

PHOTO BY MATTHEW MURPHy

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