Best Bets: The Big Wu, DSSO’s ‘Beethoven Project,’ and ‘Mamma Mia!’

By Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune

Marquee lit, ‘Mamma Mia!’ opens

The NorShor Theatre opens with a big, bright, splashy musical set to an ABBA soundtrack. “Mamma Mia!” — the story of a bride-to-be who wants to invite her father to her wedding, but she has to determine which of her mother’s former boyfriends is the one — opens today at the historic theater on Superior Street. This is the regional premiere of the musical, and it stars Jen Burleigh Bentz, Vicki Fingalson, Tanya Moore, Shad Olsen, Jason Scorich and Justin Peck.

The old venue, which has already had about nine lives, has been updated and upgraded — in addition to polishing up some old favorite features.

It’s safe to assume there is no longer a strategically placed dancers’ pole in the mezzanine.

Today’s black tie gala includes entertainment from local arts organizations, food, live music, tours and more.

Duluth Playhouse’s production of “Mamma Mia!” opens at 7:30 p.m. today and plays at 7:30 p.m. Thur.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sat.-Sun. The run is sold out, but standby tickets could be available at the door. More information at duluthplayhouse.org or (218) 733-7555.

Shad Olsen (left) is Sam Carmichael, and Courtney Groves is Sophie Sheridan during a dress rehearsal for the Duluth Playhouse production of Mamma Mia at the Norshor Theater in Duluth. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com

Wise Fool’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ opens at Harbor City

Wise Fool Theater’s “Of Mice and Men” is a show about two farm workers during tough times in Central California. George and Lennie work together. The former is a sort of leader and caretaker of the latter, a strong worker without as much savvy.

The dream: George wants to have his own land that he and Lennie can cultivate.

This show, based on the classic novel by John Steinbeck, stars Jody Kujawa, Eric Freseman, Jack Setterlund, John Schmidt, Mark Venhuizen, Jennie Ross, Desmond Scott, Robert Sidenberg, Jake LaJeunesse and Tony Barrett.

Wise Fool Theater’s production of “Of Mice and Men” opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday and plays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sundays at Harbor City School Theater, 332 W. Michigan St. Tickets: $20 adults, $15 students and seniors, $10 children 12 and younger. Matinees are pay what you can. Call (218) 269-4953 or go to www.wisefooltheater.com.

Wise Fool Facebook photo

DSSO continues ‘Beethoven Project’

The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra continues its “Beethoven Project” — which is performing and recording all nine symphonies over the next few years alongside Minnesota Public Radio — with the “Revelations” concert on Saturday at Symphony Hall.

This concert features Symphony No. 6, his Pastoral Symphony (with pianist Spencer Myer), the first to include a poetic program behind the music.

According to the DSSO, this season will look at the influence Beethoven had on the composers who followed.

Also on the program: Bartok’s Rumanian Folk Dances, de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain.

DSSO’s “Revelations” concert is at 7 p.m. Feb. 3 at Symphony Hall. Tickets: Start at $20. Available at (218) 623-3776 or at www.ticketmaster.com or the DECC box office.

DSSO music director Dirk Meyer leads a rehearsal. News Tribune photo

Wu-Wu!

The Big Wu, a longtime jam band with Minneapolis roots and a Duluth connection, returns for a show Friday at The Red Herring Lounge.

Better yet, pun-wise, they play Saturday at Lutsen — a show billed as Wutsen. Snort.

The Wu is self-described as “free-flowing improv and vocal harmonies,” as well as having fans who are “famously friendly.”

The Big Wu plays at 9 p.m. Friday at The Red Herring Lounge, 208 E. First St. Tickets: $10 at Ticketfly.com; The Big Wu plays at Papa Charlie’s at Lutsen at 9:30 p.m. Feb. 3. Tickets: $10 advance at www.lutsen.com, $15 at the door.

‘Eleemosynary’ opens at CSS

“Eleemosynary,” a play by Lee Blessing, is the story of a complicated relationship between three generations of women: Echo, 16, is a spelling enthusiast; Artie is her super-smart and estranged mother, and Dorothea is an eccentric grandmother. When Dorothea has a stroke, Echo cares for her. Family dynamics shift.

Blessing, best known for “A Walk in the Woods,” will be on hand during the Feb. 8 performance for a Q&A.

This production also features guest actor Sarah Jane Hale, a 1985 University of Wisconsin-Superior graduate who recently returned after 30 years in Hollywood, working on “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Two Broke Girls.”

College of St. Scholastica’s performance of “Eleemosynary” opens at 7:20 p.m. Friday and also plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Feb. 8-10, 2 p.m. Sunday and Feb. 11 at the St. Scholastica Theatre. Tickets: $15 adults, $10 seniors, students at (218) 723-7000 or www.spotlight.css.edu.

Luke Harger (left) and Lauren Hugh. Photo by Brett Groehler

‘Charlotte’s Web’ plays at UMD

Wilber wasn’t supposed to make it — but the pig gets a second chance at life when young Fern takes a shine to him in the theatrical adaptation of E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web,” which opens today at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Meanwhile, a special, super-literate spider moves into the barn and helps his cause — and becomes his best friend.

University of Minnesota Duluth’s production of “Charlotte’s Web” opens at 6:30 p.m. today. Shows are 6:30 p.m. today-Saturday, and Feb. 8-10; and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and Feb. 10 at Marshall Performing Arts Center. Tickets: $21 adults, $16 senior, UMD faculty, staff, veteran; $10 student, $8 UMD students at www.z.umn.edu/1718CharlottesWeb or call (218) 726-8561.

Parmalee plays Grandma’s

North Carolina-based country quartet Parmalee returns to Duluth for a show. The band of Matt and Scott Thomas, Barry Knox and Josh McSwain are self-described as having “blue collar persistence.”

The released the album “27861” this past summer — postal nerds might recognize that as the zipcode for their titular town. This stop is part of the Hotdamalama Tour. Whiskey Trail opens.

Parmalee plays at 8 p.m. Friday at Grandma’s Sports Garden, 423 S. Lake Ave. Tickets: Available at Beaner’s Central, Electric Fetus, Grandma’s Sports Garden and at www.TwinPortsNightlife.com.

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