5 Great Productions From New Guthrie Complex

June 23, 2011 3:13 PM

(credit: Michal Daniel/Guthrie Theater)

Reporting Eric Henderson

Come Saturday, the Guthrie Theater’s swank Mississippi River digs will celebrate five years in operation.

The theater was founded in 1963 by Sir Tyrone Guthrie. The original Ralph Rapson-designed theater building existed next to the Walker Art Center for decades before moving to the other side of downtown Minneapolis.

The new, strikingly blue $125 million structure was designed by Jean Nouvel, and its three stages have already housed dozens of memorable productions to add to the Twin Cities’ rich theatrical legacy.

I talked with communications manager Lee Henderson about some of the new building’s most memorable theatrical highlights, some of which are represented in the top-five list below. (For a full list of the Guthrie shows from the last five years, check this link.)

Here’s to the next five, fifteen and fifty years of great theater.

Eric Henderson is a web producer and movie blogger for WCCO.COM.

the great gatsby 5 Great Productions From New Guthrie Complex

(credit: Guthrie Theater)

The Great Gatsby

(2006-2007 Season; Dir: David Esbjornson)

It was a fitting way to open up shop at the new Guthrie, staging an adaptation of one of Minnesota’s most esteemed author’s most esteemed work. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby may deal with the folly of hubris, but this opulent, handsome production of Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age “Great American Novel” assured audiences that the Guthrie’s new home would live up to its lofty goals … and then some.

little house on the prairie 5 Great Productions From New Guthrie Complex

(credit: Guthrie Theater)

Little House on the Prairie

(2008-2009 Season; Dir: Francesca Zambello)

Those new facilities were pushed to their seams to allow the sell-out crowds in to see Melissa Gilbert return to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Great Plains pastoral. (This time, she played Ma.) The popular musical adaptation was, in fact, oversold, becoming one of the hottest tickets in town and reportedly breaking Guthrie audience records. Never underestimate Minnesotans’ love for artistic representations of their territory.

caroline or change1 5 Great Productions From New Guthrie Complex

(credit: Guthrie Theater)

Tony Kushner Fest

(2008-2009 Season; Dir: Marcela Lorca/Michael Greif/Tony Taccone)

One of the most impressive “gets” of the new Guthrie’s young existence thus far was this multi-production festival in honor of Pulitzer- and Tony-winning playwright Tony Kushner, who chose the Guthrie to stage the first production of his new work The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. The fest included an anthology performance of Kushner’s short works and a galvanizing enactment of Kushner’s musical collaboration with Jeanine Tesori, Caroline, Or Change.

brief encounter 5 Great Productions From New Guthrie Complex

(credit: Guthrie Theater)

Brief Encounter

(2009-2010 Season; Dir: Emma Rice)

The Guthrie also continues to serve as a fantastic showcase for outside productions, such as their longstanding relationship with the Penumbra Theatre (recently bringing Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom to their stage), or their presentation of the Tricycle Theatre’s production of The Great Game: Afghanistan. One of the Guthrie’s most memorable outside productions was this one from the Kneehigh Theatre, a ravishing and humorous multimedia presentation of Noël Coward’s stiff-upper-lipped romantic weepie.

scottsboro boys 5 Great Productions From New Guthrie Complex

(credit: Paul Kolnik)

The Scottsboro Boys

(2009-2010 Season; Dir: Susan Stroman)

Another example of the Guthrie’s unique cachet and prominence is The Scottsboro Boys, a dark Kander and Ebb musical about the unjust trial and imprisonment of nine black teenagers falsely accused of rape. Director Susan Stroman worked the show out here to rave reviews and passionate, often polarizing audience response before it headed to its Broadway debut. The production later earned a dozen Tony nominations.

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