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REVIEW: Miss Richfield 1981’s Latest Installment Leaps (Illusion Theater)

Miss Richfield 1981’s annual holiday show at the Illusion Theater turns 18 this year. This comedy variety show, an annual pilgrimage for many theatergoers and drag queen fans, returns with new energy and an invigorating injection of updated material.

If you’re not familiar with Miss Richfield 1981, the character was created by Russ King in 1996 and has become an iconic presence on the local and national comedy circuits. If the Mall of America has put Bloomington, MN on the national map, so, too, has Miss Richfield put the little city of Richfield, MN on a national stage – albeit for fabulously different reasons. You can find Miss Richfield packing houses in Provincetown, MN every summer, crashing a variety of theater parties across the Twin Cities, and highlighting cruise ship entertainments – to name just a few. Wander around San Francisco’s Castro district, for example, and you’re sure to run into a whole slew of people who know and love the character.

This year’s show is propelled by a renewed sense of energy compared to last year’s, which came in a general climate of post-election exhaustion. There’s a certain spring to Miss Richfield’s platform-heeled step in the installment entitled 2020 Vision: A Holiday Survival Guide for the New World.

Regulars will not be surprised by the basic arc of the show, which hits all the familiar bases. There is much making fun of different parts of Minnesota, a long-running ribbing of Richfield, a hilarious video segment, lots of audience participation, a little musical saw-playing, and some mixed-up Christmas song-singing. The VR and gameshow segments featuring participants plucked from the audience were a particular highlight on opening night, with contrasting terror and glee the source of much amusement. The first two songs in the mixed-up caroling, featuring custom new lyrics, were also especially humorous.

If you want a picture with Miss Richfield 1981 after the show, you better head to the lobby quickly – the line always grows fast.

Miss Richfield 1981 in 2020 Vision: A Holiday Survival Guide plays through December 23 at the Illusion Theater in Minneapolis, MN.

Basil Considine