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Some shows entertain, while some don’t even come close to it

By Staff | Nov 3, 2008

My mother always used to say, ‘You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

Books are not the only forms of entertainment this adage can pertain to.

Last weekend I had the chance to catch two live performances. They were both a little hard to judge by the title.

On Friday night, a group of us attended the play ‘Lysystrada’ at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

The advance information on the play called it a sexual comedy, with adult content.

‘Lysystrada’ is actually a Greek play, penned by Aristophanes, in 400 B.C. It was a little hard to follow.

The plot deals with the women of two warring Greek cities withholding sex from their husbands unless the men made peace and the war ended.

There were too many crude references, and not enough clever humor to make the play very entertaining.

An attempt to modernize the play, with the chorus members dressed as residents of a nursing home, just didn’t work. It was, however, the only real humor in the play.

The next evening I had given myself the assignment to cover the show ‘Old Minnesota – Song of the North Star.’

It was billed as the history of Minnesota in songs and photos. For many people, anything to do with history sounds like it could be a snoozer.

With this show, nothing could be further from the truth. Saturday night’s performance was truly entertaining.

Warren Nelson wrote a lot of the songs, and the nine piece band on the stage were obviously all accomplished musicians.

The pictures played on a large screen behind the band, while the music was performed.

There was never a dull moment.

Nelson and the Big Top Chautauqua Orchestra and Singers even opened the second half of the show with two songs dedicated to Blue Earth and Faribault County.

Next came a reading about Paul Bunyan, famous in Minnesota. But as Tom Mitchell read the story of Paul Bunyan, written on a shingle from Paul’s daughter’s dollhouse, the plot took an interesting twist.

This story was all about Paul Bunyan traveling south to Blue Earth, and meeting up with the Green Giant.

The show featured songs about the mills of Minneapolis, the fur trade, and the Iron Range.

The Mississippi River and Lake Superior were also featured in song and story.

The performance’s final two songs dealt with a race horse, Dan Patch, and one about the great Minnesota State Fair.

Nelson and his orchestra usually perform at Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua in Bayfield, Wisc. They have a giant blue and white striped tent which seats 900 people. They perform there all summer long.

In honor of Minnesota’s Sesquicentennial, Nelson created the songs for this traveling show, and has been touring the state for two years.

He says he wanted to create an intimate connection to history through a compelling combination of music, drama and poetry woven together to show the past.

He did just that.

But what he doesn’t say, is that he did this in a very entertaining way.

The audience on Saturday night at the Performing Arts Center at the Blue Earth Area High School gave the show a standing ovation at the end, showing they felt they enjoyed the evening very much.

I was one of those people. Old Minnesota was far better than I had anticipated, from reading the cover.

This week I have tickets for ‘The Producers’ at Chanhassen Dinner Theater.

The ‘cover’ on this show says it is about two Broadway producers who need to create a flop, for some reason.

They come up with a musical about Hitler and the Nazis, expecting it to close the first night. Instead it becomes a huge hit.

Doesn’t sound that great, does it? Yet, I have been assured it is the funniest show that has been on Broadway in years.

If true, it will help prove that you cannot judge a book – or a play – by its cover.