'Happy Crazy New Year' is part performance, part party (and you're part of the show)

Spend New Year's Eve partying with these guys.

Spend New Year's Eve partying with these guys.

Tyler Olsen and his gang from Dangerous Productions is back for their sixth edition of Happy Crazy New Year this weekend at the Southern Theater. It’ll be the first time the show will have wandered to Minneapolis, spreading a little Happy love to the folks on the West Side of the river.

Happy Crazy New Year

The Southern Theater
$10-$20; pay-as-able preview Thursday

Early on, Happy Crazy New Year’s Eve took place at the Gremlin Theater, then moved to more cabaret-style venues at Golden’s Deli and then at Bedlam Lowertown. Heading back to a more traditional theater space, the Happy cast will set the tone right away by breaking the performer-audience barrier.

This year’s play involves the daughter of a wealthy miser whose mother doesn’t want her to get married to the person the daughter is in love with. Along the way, the characters discover a magic remote control button that can switch dimensions, and hilarity ensues. Meanwhile, there are lots of games, dancing, and karaoke.

Olsen’s Happy empire goes back to 2011, when he was commissioned to write and direct a play for Four Humors Theater, which was called Happy Cafe. Eventually, Olsen set out to make other Happy-themed shows along the central corridor in St. Paul. While this year’s New Year’s Eve shindig takes place in Minneapolis, Olsen wanted to keep it accessible by the green line, so the Southern Theater fit the bill.

Olsen attributes his Happy series to his training in commedia dell’arte, which, like Olsen’s work, includes over-the-top crazy characters. He went to school at the Dell’Arte International in California, where he later taught and worked as an administrator. “Basically their motto is, ‘If you are not a little crazy, we don’t want you,’” he says.

Commedia dell’arte fits Olsen’s personal aesthetic, which favors a kind of populist viewpoint. It has been one of the most successful forms of theater for over 600 years. “It’s theater of the people, for the people, by the people,” says Olsen.

When he began creating his Happy universe, he “wanted to create characters that were accessible and fun.” Like in commedia, Olsen’s shows often feature a wealthy old miserly person who is trying to control other people’s lives, or not giving resources to things that really need them.

At the same time, none of the characters are purely good or purely evil. “Everybody has a real spectrum,” Olsen says.