Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul

Stone Baby
Kiss the Tiger / Trademark Theater
Review by Arthur Dorman | Season Schedule

Also see Arty's reviews of Waitress, The Tempest, Something Happened in Our Town and Once Upon a Winter Night


Meghan Kreidler
Photo by Juliet Farmer
Stone Baby will knock the wind out of you and leave you begging for more. In about fifty minutes, it lets loose more heat than the Prairie Island nuclear power plant. The show is embedded in a club performance by rock band Kiss the Tiger, and the nucleus unleashing all that heat is named Meghan Kreidler.

Quite likely, if you read these pages often, you are familiar with Ms. Kreidler–a wonderfully talented actor, adept at both drama and comedy, with a voice well suited for her roles in musicals ranging from A Little Night Music (Countess Charlotte), to Flower Drum Song (Linda Low) to Man of La Mancha (Aldonza) to Bernarda Alba (Martirio). Here, on the postage stamp sized stage of Icehouse MPLS, she is rocking a totally different voice, a voice that roars with hunger and anger, while reaching out to befriend all who will listen.

Her gig as lead singer with Kiss the Tiger has been Kreidler's alter ego since the band launched in 2016, and she has maintained a balancing act between sought-after stage actress–receiving the Ivey Breakthrough Artist Award in 2017–and a regular fixture in the music club scene. Stone Baby is the first time the two sides of her performance persona have been officially been brought together and the result is a smash.

Along with Kiss the Tiger bandmates Michael Anderson (guitar and vocals), Jay DeHut (drums and vocals), Paul DeLong (bass), and Bridge Fruth (lead guitar and vocals), the crew took a short story written by Anderson and interpolated songs from their catalogue into a telling of the tale. Often such jukebox formulas feel forced, and rely on fans' affection for the songs to overlook their ill fit within a musical. Not so in Stone Baby. Here, the songs and the story seem organically linked, as if the tunes had never had a life of their own, though most of them are off the band's record albums. One new piece, "Carry Me to Bed," is included, and new spoken text was written to accompany previously written music for "My Body Is an Army." Most of the underscoring uses melodies from past work, though the first two scenes feature music composed especially for Stone Baby. Whatever the origins of its parts, their sum flies–true synergy at work.

Stone Baby is a collaboration between Kiss the Tiger and Trademark Theater, a fairly new company that has its hooks on a wide range of projects, including some like this that reimagine the form. Trademark co-founders Tyler Michael King and Tyler Mills both worked with the musicians to fashion the show.

Stone Baby begins with the birth of its unnamed and ungendered protagonist and narrator, given voice by Kreidler with a wise-guy snarl borrowed from the Bronx. Cursed from birth, our hero cultivates a rebellious spirit while raised by an obsessively protective mother. Breaking away from their cocoon, the child first discovers record albums, then rock and roll, and, in a burst of revelation, learns that this music the sound of liberation is the spawn of groups called "bands." From then on, living life means being in a band. At the same time, breaking away from their sheltered existence means succumbing to the tyranny of the curse. Can this possible end well? However the tides may turn, they are accompanied by music in an array of styles, all of it rocking, all of it wonderfully performed by the band and sung by Kreidler with outrageous passion.

The story has the sensibility of rock legend mythology, but with sly humor that maintains levity. The description of "hipsters" browsing the bins in a record shop is a hoot, and when they describe the band's desperation to perform as "we would have played inside a rotten tomato" we sense a winking eye along with the angst. Movement is also crucial to the show, with Kreidler expressing the story's dark ironies in postures that are sinuous one moment, explosive the next, climaxing in the show's final shattering image.

Tiffany Clem's lighting design creates scenes and moods without any other scenery showing up. There are no costume credits, but Kreidler, in the guise of the title character, sports a tank top that seems designed to seize the day. The show is loud–you're in a rock club after all–but sound engineer Cody Bourdot provides clear passage from the stage to your ears.

More about the venue. Icehouse MPLS is comfortable, with good sight lines toward the stage from all corners, and an appealing menu. That said, because eating and drinking is taking place, most of the audience members are unmasked, so be advised if this affects your comfort level before choosing to attend. Also, because it is a club "gig," there is a warmup act before each performance of Stone Baby. The acts are different each week, but all are matched in musical sensibility to fit well as a prelude to the show that follows. Information on the warmup acts can be found on the Icehouse MPLS website.

Stone Baby is not a traditional musical, and arguable not a musical at all, although it is saturated with music. It is something new, an amalgamation of club set and Moth Radio that breaks walls in the way theater innovators have always broken walls. Aside from Children's Theatre Company, it may be the youngest crowd I have seen attending a theater event in years. What a great thing to get a taste of theater's future, featuring, in Kreidler, an artist who excels in its past and present forms.

Stone Baby, a co-production of Kiss the Tiger with Trademark Theater, plays Wednesdays only through March 30, 2022, at Icehouse MPLS, 2528 Nicolette Avenue S., Minneapolis MN. Tickets in advance $35.00, at the door $40.00. For tickets, please visit IcehouseMPLS.com

Playwright: Kiss the Tiger, based on a short story by Michael Anderson; Artistic Collaborators: Tyler Michael King and Tyler Mills; Production Manager: Tyler Mills; Lighting Design: Tiffany Clem; Sound Engineer: Cody Bourdot.

Cast: Michael Anderson (guitar and vocals), Jay DeHut (drums and vocals), Paul DeLong (bass), Bridge Fruth (lead guitar, vocals), Meghan Kreidler (lead vocals).


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