Local Current Blog

Crooners to remember Rondo as Fridley supper club branches into musical revues

In the words of Lauryn Hill and Aretha Franklin, a rose is still a rose. This one was photographed by Helen Teague at Crooners in 2019.

After adapting to welcome Covid-era audiences with drive-in concerts and other innovations, Crooners Supper Club is expanding its live music programming to include musical revues.

A venerable tradition, revues incorporate songs into story-oriented frameworks that draw on performers’ acting skills as well as their musical chops. With that in mind, Crooners could hardly have a more promising cast for its debut revue, Rondo ’56. T. Mychael Rambo, Thomasina Petrus, Charmin Michelle, and show creator Dan Chouinard will be the featured performers for a “substantially updated” version of the 2010 revue, running at Crooners from Sept. 17-19.

“Anyone who is interested in history or loves great music of the late ’50s needs to come to this show,” singer Maria Jette told MPR News regarding a 2011 production of Rondo ’56, noting that the vibrant neighborhood, a hub of the Twin Cities’ Black community, was largely obliterated by the construction of Interstate 94.

“Dan Chouinard put this show together in collaboration with the Minnesota Historical Society, so he was able to utilize a lot of their photographic evidence from the late ’50s about that great neighborhood. He will mix these photographs with tidbits of history to imagine what this neighborhood was like in St. Paul before we all started to drive through it.”

Next month, Crooners will present a version of the show Marie and Rosetta, a powerful play about the legendary Sister Rosetta Tharpe and her protégé Marie Knight. “To thrilling effect,” I wrote about a 2018 production of George Brant’s play at Park Square Theatre, Marie and Rosetta informs audiences “not just who this African American icon was, but where she fits into rock history. By the end of this rousing show, you’ll understand exactly how this sister’s holy fire helped to ignite a million and more burning guitar licks.”

“We’re very excited to have these two very powerful shows start off a new initiative staging musical revues at Crooners,” Crooners music director Andrew Walesch said in a press release. “When we remodeled the MainStage during the fall last year, and added wing space and new sound and lights, we had in mind doing shows with bigger orchestrations.  But we also knew we wanted to do shows that dovetailed with theatre in new ways, with fresh staging and that told stories.”

Crooners also promises, in coming weeks, to announce details of a holiday show. If the two Crooners revues sound appealing, you should also check out the lineup at the Capri Theater in early October. Well-known to Prince fans as the site of the artist’s debut solo shows in 1979, the Capri is celebrating its reopening after a major expansion and renovation.