Hidden downtown, a new theatre experience has opened in Mankato. It’s called the Mankato Playhouse and it hosts a theatre company called Davori Productions. Davori Productions just opened their first season with Andrew Lloyd Weber’s monstrous musical spectacular, Jesus Christ Superstar. I was lucky enough to attend the beginning of this new company. 

The Mankato Playhouse is within the Mankato Civic Center and it was formerly the Mankato Event Center. It is a small place with a bar and plenty of room to host comedy nights and concerts. When I walked into the space, I almost didn’t recognize it. The stage was bigger, there were curtains, lighting, and other things necessary to a performance. David Holmes, the Artistic Director of Davori Productions, really turned the space around to be a new theatre space, and it is a much needed theater.

I was able to talk with Holmes and his wife, Lori Holmes, before the show started. We discussed what made them want to start this theatre company in Mankato. They recalled their time in California where there were theaters galore! There was always some show going on and places for people to hone their stagecraft. When they came to Mankato, however, there seemed to be a gap in what was being offered. Yes, there is theatre in schools and colleges, but nothing really of quality seemed to be open to the public. They wanted to fix that. So, with a lot of hard work, they developed their own dinner theatre company and the rest is history. They chose dinner theatre because it is the best combination of feeding the stomach and feeding the soul. 

I was very excited to support new theatre in Mankato. Mankato is a booming visual art hub that seems to be relatively untouched. With the Twin Cities looming an hour and a half away, it seemed like you would have to make the drive to enjoy theatre. The fact that more theatre opportunities is happening closer to home is a wonderful thing!

I sat at an empty table and waited for the show to start. Already, I was hearing compliments about the food. I looked around and was amazed at the variety of people who were there. Usually, the theatre-going crowd is older in Mankato, but this show seemed to bring out people of all ages. I guess you could credit the recent live special on television about the show--people were hungry to see the real thing.

Then the show started. And up on the stage, I saw many community members who were doing what they loved: performing. And there were a few who were quite impressive. If you do not know Jesus Christ Superstar, it tells the story of Jesus of Nazareth with a rocking score by Andrew Lloyd Weber. Jesus, the son of the Christian God, foretells his death by being hung on a cross, despite being innocent. It’s a fun and heart-filled story. 

Matthew Atwood, who played the title role of Jesus, was the most impressive. He performed with his emotions on his sleeve and his voice was wonderful. Speaking of pretty voices, Anastacia Wells Steinberg, who played Mary, was another highlight. When she sung, I could feel the room soften and adore her. What was the best, though, was the passion from the whole cast. You could tell they really loved what they were doing. Even though some blocking seemed odd and the design seemed too simple at times, the cast is what brought the show together.

I left the Mankato Playhouse with pride for my community. I loved that we are bringing more art into Mankato. Davori Productions has three more “mainstage” shows left this season and I suggest you check them out. You can get tickets to Jesus Christ Superstar, running until Oct 13th, here.