This month is all about gender when it comes to the theatre I’ve seen. The first was Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Theater Latte Da which really flips gender upside down. The second now is a beautiful production of Victor/Victoria at Artistry in Bloomington. Victor/Victoria is a truly unique story that also has some deep roots within the state of Minnesota.
When the production originally had it’s out-of-town tryout, it premiered at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis with the now legendary Julie Andrews in the title role. In 1996, she received the lone Tony nomination but declined with a statement saying that she’d “stand instead with the egregiously overlooked cast and crew.” The show and role has never been produced in the Twin Cities since then, until Artistry took up the challenge.
Victor/Victoria tells the story of Victoria Grant, a British soprano who is struggling to find work despite her beautiful voice. After a failed audition at a local nightclub in Paris, Victoria meets Toddy, a cabaret performer. Toddy takes Victoria in and they work together to come up with a plan that will take the performing scene by storm. With Toddy acting as her manager, Victoria pretends to be Victor, a male female impersonator. Despite making it big, the plan gets risky when a Chicago mobster takes them on to prove that Victor is indeed not who he says he is and he begins falling in love with Victoria.
Let’s just get it out in the open. This year has been a strong start to many theatres in the area and Artistry is no exception. This was by far the best thing I’ve ever seen on their stage. All elements of performance and technical elements were executed to the finest precision. The show calls for numerous dance numbers for which Michael Matthew Ferrell’s choreography shines.
While the technical elements elevate this show to new heights, the cast is superb. Highlights include Shad Olsen who plays King Marchan and evokes a dreamy charming quality to him. Rich Hamson plays Toddy and is very exciting to watch as he skillfully navigates the entertainment industry in Paris. Leslie Vincent plays the owner of a local nightclub named Henrietta LaBisse and is a spitfire of a character. She gave an uproarious performance earning plenty of laughs from the audience.
Emily Scinto, who plays the ditzy Norma Cassidy, is a new comer for me but just about steals the show. While I’ve never seen her in a larger role such as this, her commitment to Norma in creating a ditzy, funny and yet strong women was fantastic. Her performance was a high point in the show for me and I’m looking forward to keeping an eye out for her next role.
This is my second time seeing Ann Michels on stage after seeing her last year in Mamma Mia at the Ordway. Her ability to essentially create two characters, being the soprano Victoria and the performer Victor, is beyond thrilling to watch. Michels voice is so effortless and brings a warm and agile feature to her character. I can’t imagine anyone in the Twin Cities being a better choice to take on this iconic role.
Victor/Victoria has made a triumphant return to the Twin Cities through Artistry’s masterfully crafted production.This is a great chance to a see a musical that isn’t often produced. Ann Michels leads this show with grace that even Julie Andrews would be proud of.
Victor/Victoria plays at Artistry now through May 5.