Person: Elf Esteem

Peter Rothstein's theatrical career began amid gingerbread and fake frosting in the Grand Rapids Elementary production of Hansel and Gretel. Rothstein, then a first-grader, didn't have much of a part, but he knew he was destined for life in the limelight. "I was just one of the cookie children," Rothstein, now 32, remembers. "It was one of those roles they made up to add more kids to the show. But in my mind, I was understudying Gretel."

Gretel never caught cold, but Rothstein has long since wrangled himself a spot in the Twin Cities show-biz spotlight. He's directed a sold-out run of Falsettos at the Bryant Lake Bowl, cornered all the drama-queen lines as Buzz in Park Square Theater's gay romp Love! Valour! Compassion!, founded his own theater company (as well as a "for hire" cabaret troupe), and sung and directed with the Minnesota Opera. Rothstein's currently warming up for a front-and-center role in Eye of the Storm's SantaLand Diaries, and his creative musical collaboration with actor Tod Petersen, Oh...I'm Turning Into My Mother, just finished a month-long stint at BLB.

Rothstein admits he's got a soft spot for musical theater--particularly cabaret. "One of my mentors once told me that cabaret is the hardest form of theater to succeed at, because there's no narrative to tie it all together," he says. "So I guess that planted a seed."

Rising to the challenge, the singer-director has helped cobble together several memorable musical-theater medleys. Check the program from Illusion Theater's lineup of male-male love songs, Hey Boy!, and you'll find Rothstein's name. Earlier this year, he and collaborator Denise Prosek produced Lost in Boston, a collection of songs that were left on the cutting-room floor before their Broadway debuts. Oh...I'm Turning Into My Mother, featured musical styles reminiscent of Everything But the Girl, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Reba McIntyre--again, Rothstein's doing.

Don't expect this creative queer to do any crooning in SantaLand Diaries, however. Set for Dec. 4-27 at the Loring Playhouse (see Q calendar, p. 20, for details), this darkly comic take on author David Sedaris' own experiences working as an elf at Macy's during the pre-holiday shopping rush doesn't feature any song and dance. But EOTS artistic director Casey Stangl says Rothstein was the first person she considered for the role when she decided to stage the show for the second year in a row. (Last year's production starred hot-wired actor Stephen Cartmell as the acerbic homosexual elf, Crumpet.) Rothstein, Stangl says, will bring an altogether different sensibility to the show: "Peter has that dry wit, but he's still a commanding presence. He's got a wicked, yet soulful sense of humor."

Skewering the season, of course, is a time-honored holiday tradition among performers, but Rothstein admits that, like Sedaris, he's also got a soft spot for spiced cookies, blinking lights, and rooftop crèches. "Sedaris is cynical about the holidays," Rothstein says. "But underlying it, he does really love Christmas."

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