From the heart of a woman flows her song

Thomasina Petrus as Billie Holiday

Anyone who’s read my blog from the beginning knows that the voice of Thomasina Petrus leaves me breathless, and that I admire her talent and her work ethic as both an actor and a producer. (This view is not at all influenced by the drunken pleasure I derive from her butter-laden home-made cashew brittle.) But of the myriad characters and concerts I’ve seen Thomasina perform, none has touched me more than her title role in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, an end-of-life vignette of jazz singer Billie Holiday, at Park Square Theatre.

I had anticipated a special performance, not because of the profusion of public relations material sent my way, but because I heard Thomasina “try out” this character last year in a show at The Capri Theater. She introduced a Billie Holiday song by saying it was her goal to someday “channel” the troubled and transcendent jazz legend on stage. I recall hearing a distinctly different voice from Thomasina that evening, but it still felt like emulation. In Lady Day, the actor/singer becomes Billie Holiday as she might have appeared at a Philadelphia nightclub four months before her death.  read more »

  • Half-price tix for Blues in the Night @ Ordway

    Thursday, April 17, 2008 to Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    Ordway Center's McKnight Theatre, 345 Washington St, St Paul

  • 4/4: INSTALLATION 4 opens @ Rogue Buddha

    Friday, April 4, 2008

    7:00pm to 11:00pm

    Rogue Buddha Gallery, 357 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis

  • Hosting a party? Choose an art space!

    People often ask me for suggestions as to party venues. Not that I host many parties…but I’m pretty good at finding them! And some of my very favorite soirées tend to happen at spaces normally dedicated to the arts, including museums, art and photography galleries, theaters, sculpture gardens, pottery studios, college art department classrooms, and places like The Loft Literary Center, where you can rent space for so little, you might feel like donating extra.

    Topping my list for the year so far is Karl Reichert’s birthday party Saturday night at the Capri Theater in North Minnepolis. Transformed into Studio 44 by Karl’s partner Reynaldo Diaz, an artist and DJ, and friend Edgar Nieto, the place thundered with ’70s music and shimmered with disco balls and sequin-attired dancers.  read more »

    Vivo "Il Divo"!

    If it’s Saturday, and several hundred women are screaming “I love you” in the dark, it must be Il Divo at Northrop Auditorium. My friends and I attended their “world tour” concert tonight, and although we weren’t as vocal as some of the women (whose shrieks are still reverberating in my eardrums), we did enjoy the beltings and croonings of four very handsome men tonight.

    Il Divo is a “popera” (pop-meets-opera) quartet straight from the pages of GQ: American tenor David Miller, Swiss tenor Urs Buhler, French pop singer Sebastien Izambard, and Spanish baritone Carlos Marin. They are the project of American Idol slam-judge Simon Cowell, who conducted an international search for guys who could carry a tune and make women swoon.  read more »

    I (Heart) Hennepin & Lake

    What a magical night, for a Tuesday!

    If you heard the show on Saturday, you know that I was planning to indulge in some live music tonight (Valentine’s Day), date or no date. When listener Terry came through with an offer to escort me, I decided to take him up on it. The show started at 7:00. Thanks to Google and to studio producer Ann Cole for the screening techniques to ensure that I wouldn’t be ditching a wacko at 7:15.

    Terry was, in fact, delightful company and the perfect gentleman. Of course, one couldn’t help behaving respectfully in the soulful presence of Thomasina Petrus, T. Mychael Rambo and Ray Covington, not to mention Thomasina’s mother-in-law’s dangerously delicious chocolate cake, served as we were seated.  read more »

    Wherefore ART?

    Everywhere I go around the world, I seek out art and never fail to find some that I love. But like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I always seem to find that “there’s no place like home.” In other words, the Twin Cities is an awesome place for art.

    Last night I visited three galleries and it has left my mind awhirl in a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, materials and meaningful messages. First stop: Rogue Buddha Gallery on 13th Street just off of University, where I picked up the Craig Bell painting I purchased when the show opened a month ago. Now a new show is up (artist Jon Langford) and I like it—in particular, the digital image of Hank Williams, gussied up through techiques that make his smile fairly jump off the plywood to which it is applied and I can almost hear the “Howdy, Ma’am” that would tumble from the country singer’s lips. Better put a sticker on that one. He’s mine.

    Next, a short walk down the block to Gallery 13, and I’m sorry, did we just enter Wonderland? My friend Jill and I agreed that “Tin Man” sculptor Lester Hoikka has created a fabulous pop-up book for grown-ups that you can actually walk around in. Inspired by tin toys of the ’40s and ’50s, and influenced by themes you’d see during Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico and Carnival (Mardi Gras) in New Orleans and points south of the equator, Lester’s sheet metal imagery makes you feel as if you’ve been dropped onto a stage on which a colorful play about life and death is in progress. The motion, the drama, the humor, the fun—it’s all there! I hope you see it, but hurry. Lester’s work is in demand, and so the show runs one week only.  read more »

    Notes on the fly...

    Just finished this week’s show and am planning tonight’s ultra-casual wardrobe for the Theatre Unbound 24-Hour Play Project at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, followed by Minneapolis City Council member Lisa Goodman’s birthday party, a fly-by at Jitters Cafe and Martini Bar, where friends-of-friends are gathering, and finally the Funky Beat party at sculptor and eventioneer Brant Kingman’s northeast Minneapolis studio, featuring live music by Chill 7 and, at midnight, aerialist Risa Cohen, whom I saw on New Year’s Eve and can’t wait to see again.

    I want to thank everyone who called the show today, especially those of you who called from the St. Paul Winter Carnival after the Grande Day Parade. We heard from the Royalty, the Klondike Kates, the Ice Sculpture event, the Snow Sculpture event, and the Vulcan Krewe. We did not hear from Mayor Chris Coleman, however, and I am a bit disappointed about that. I figure he must be a bit overwhelmed with the sheer fun of it all, given that this is his first Winter Carnival in elected office.  read more »

    A rare OX-OPportunity...and man, is this a great music town!

    Okay, so I had a bad hair day, but that didn’t keep me from sidling up to world-famous painter, TV/movie producer, illustrator (Cranium board game, The New Yorker), humorist, and my friend Michael’s hero Gary Baseman for a photo op at Ox-Op Gallery. After standing behind him (not a bad view, by the way) in a line that seemed unending only because he so generously adds illustrations to the books he signs, I was pleasantly surprised to see, when he turned around, that the artist is as cute as the characters he paints—and that he has no visible wounds. For some reason, I received custodianship of flexi-mascot Toby, whose little leather tummy nestled into my palm with the pleasant heft and squishiness of an orange. Part of the fun in meeting Gary (yes, we’re on a first-name basis now) was watching him display equal charm in addressing do-ragged bikers from Grumpy’s as he did in squatting down to chat with children.  read more »

    An Artful New Year's Eve

    Friday night, and I’m feeling guilty. I should be at the Dakota right now for The New Standards with Chan Poling and to greet his lovely bride Eleanor Mondale, whom I met in Bikram yoga class. Instead I am resting up for New Year’s Eve. My friend Karl and I will be doing our traditional party-hop, and this year we’ll spend most of the evening on stage at the Southern Theater, basking in the glow of mood-enhancing stage lighting as we nosh and sip and socialize. You can come, too!

    The party is organized by Artists Unlimited and features appetizers, beverages, a dance DJ, and a sexy cabaret! Starts at 8:00 p.m. and goes ‘til 2:00 a.m. $25 off for Night & Day fans! Tickets are normally $75 but you pay only $50 when you tell ‘em Anne Nicolai sent you! Just call 612-341-2023 and leave your name and credit card number. Be sure to mention my name and the number of tickets you want. Happy New Year!  read more »

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