Three Comedies and One Drama Open Soon

As we move into the last part of summer and the final offerings of local theater companies, four different options are available for us to pick and choose from or to choose all three which is the way we are heading. A long time favorite musical opens next week at the PBP. “Gypsy” is based upon the biography of Gypsy Rose Lee and details her life from early childhood when her mother took her and her sister June on the road as vaudeville entertainers to her start as one of the most famous strippers of that era and beyond. Each leading lady (the main character being stage mama Rose) gives a different interpretation to the role. Ethel Merman was big and brassy and one could easily believe that she could lead this group of youngsters from one vaudeville house to another and keep the act afloat and the children fed. Bernadette Peters, in the last revival of the play on Broadway, was more fragile in her characterization of mama and it didn’t have the believability of the bigger than life Merman. I’ll make a prediction right now that Karen Wiese Thompson and Paul Reyburn will have the house cheering for them as they portray Mama Rose and her “manager” Herbie in this upcoming production. We already have our tickets for opening night!

There are still a few more performances of “The Boys Next Door” at the PBP. It is a moving theatrical experience. See below for more comments on this play.

Well what can one say about “The Producers” which is opening next week in Grand Forks except that it is politically incorrect–what else would one expect from a Mel Brooks comedy—and absurdly funny. A Broadway producer, Max Bialystock (Grand Forks native Paul Vonasek) and his accountant Leo Bloom (Matt Berdahl) are involved in a scheme to swindle investors out of their money by producing a flop of a play. At first the audience is aghast at the songs and portrayal of Hitler and then “gets it” as they understand that it is a parody on that era. Sure, it is a bit offensive as it pokes fun at the overtly homosexual and flamboyant director (Daniel Walstad), the former Nazi script writer (Daniel Dutot)and the sexy but not very bright secretary (Haley Boyd) but once you get past being uncomfortable (just like the audience in the play), it’s outrageous and very, very funny. The winner of 12 Tony Awards; Nathan Lane shared his best actor in a musical Tony Award with Matthew Broderick because he couldn’t have won it without his co-star—an amazing gesture never before seen at the awards. If you want to try it out first, get the Brooks’ 1968 film, “The Producers” which very closely follows the play. In fact, Brooks was the technical advisor for the play while it was in production. The show opens this coming week, August 3 to the 14 at the Burtness Theater on the campus of University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. We are going to see it and then drive back to Bemidji the same night but one can easily stay in Grand Forks and enjoy some different scenery. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. The box office number is 701-777-4090. There are a few outstanding venues to visit while in Grand Forks: “The Ralph” (hockey arena), the Alerus and the Chester Fritz Theater and the charming Saturday Farmer’s Market at the forks (downtown).Yes, we did see it on Broadway for those who are wondering.
Last but certainly not the least of the three comedies is “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) by Long, Singer and Winfield. It is a very fast, very funny romp through all 37 plays by three actors dressed in tights and other paraphernalia. Sprinkled between famous Shakespearean quotes is the banter of the actors as they goad each other on stage and bring the script to a whole. Local actor Andy Browers is one of the cast and is hoping that his fans will make their way down to the Long Lake Theater. It is a charming theater, much like summer stock houses in New England. There isn’t a bad seat in the house because it is a small theater and there is a café on premises for intermission coffee, tea or libation located in a screened-in porch. Long Lake Theater has a faithful following of audience members so I would suggest making a reservation 201-732-0099. It takes about an hour to get there and on the way, the food at the Y Steak House as one enters Park Rapids is simple fare but very well prepared. Go south on U.S. Hwy. 71 for four miles past Park Rapids, turn left onto State Hwy. 87 and travel four miles east to Hubbard, turn right onto County 6 and the theater is located about four blocks south on the left.

A very sobering and thoughtful production opens this week at the Wild Rose Theater and then it moves into the tent on the shore of Lake Bemidji for Saturday and Sunday. Tomorrow, I will be going to the theater and interview some of the participants for a preview story. The production is the final event of a weeklong workshop based upon the essays of Eve Ensler and her new book, “I Am an Emotional Being-The Secret Lives of Girls Around the World.” More to come on this subject.

One should rather die than be betrayed,


     There seems to be a passion for horror stories that has existed for generations of story tellers and writers. Just why we are fascinated by them is still a mystery to me—having read one Anne Rice novel and no Stephen King. Local author Roy Booth continues to rack up awards, book deals and enjoys productions of his plays. We had already decided that “Dracula” would not be one of the plays we would see at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse this season but I wanted to give good coverage and information about the play for those who read the weekly arts column and those who expect more in depth analysis on this blog. So, on Monday afternoon, I went to a rehearsal of Dracula in the black box theater at Bangsberg and WOW! If this is a rehearsal, we are in for one of the most gripping theatrical productions to ever hit the stage in Bemidji.
     The cast is solid, there are no weak players or dead moments when one’s imagination can drift off. Matt Sciple (Renfield) begins the play, sets the stage and transforms from a gentleman to raving lunatic seamlessly (and that takes a lot of effort!). He sustains his energy in delivering rants, philosophical insights and tortuous physical interpretation of the role while verbally dueling with Dr. Seward, the director of the asylum. Matt Goinz plays the young doctor and spurned lover of Lucy, as played by Katherine Tieben a graduate of the BSU theater program. Goinz hasn’t done a dramatic role since BSU’s “Glass Menagerie” and it’s been a long wait for those of us who appreciate his serious side. Ensemble player Aric Furfaro is always a pleasure to see on stage, even as a bit player.
     Emma Grochberg is a new comer to the PBP and she is superb as the fiancé of a young lawyer Harker (Ryan Parker Knox) and childhood friend of Lucy. Both women are adept at changing from proper young Victorian women to sensuous vamps trying to seduce and overcome their innocent male victims. Did I say both—Jessie Ladig and Danielle Stadick as ensemble players command the stage when they also become temptresses, gyrating and crawling snakelike toward their intended victims.
     Jim Pounds returns to PBP as Professor Van Helsing who is called by Dr. Seward to come and solve the mystery of why his “friend” Lucy is failing in health. Dracula as played by Joseph Papke is sufficiently creepy and believable as the Transylvania count who desires to travel to London and the abundance of “fresh blood.” I am anxious to see the magic that Crist Ballas, as the make-up artist will perform on these players. Ballas was part of last year’s Academy Award winning make-up team for Star Trek. The set, well, the set is incredible, and that’s all I’ll say for the moment. Michael Hoover designed sets for the PBP when it was still at Ruttgers in 1986 and 1987 and is now the Resident Scenic Charge Artist for the Guthrie Theater. With the lighting effects designed by Barry Nelson with over 150 light cues, we are treated to visuals that succeed in suspending reality to that on stage. Jake Endres has composed background music which heightens the suspense and gives those “chills up your spine” moments power.
     The dialogue, beautifully written Victorian prose, is a pleasure to listen to and enjoy—especially those moments of sardonic humor which break the tension. Kudos to Zach Curtis for assembling this fine group of actors and adroitly directing this production which I cannot wait to see again! It is not for the fainthearted and the sexuality is explicit and clearly drawn but essential to the nature of the play hence the PG-13.  Get your tickets early for it should be a sell-out show.

Crimson Creek opened its show, a comedy “Spelling Bee” set in a fictional school with a fictional spelling bee and fictional quirky adolescents and equally quirky adults. It’s a one act musical comedy. This production is directed by Chris Berg who directed last year’s musical HAIR (outstanding) and musical direction is by Amanda Hill (this past winter’s “Annie”). We have always enjoyed this theater company and supported its shows by attending and contributing to it. Grand Forks is only two hours away, and if you don’t mind driving back at night, it’s very doable. If not, then stay over at one of the many motels and hotels available. The Canad Inn has an in-door water park if that is of interest. “Spelling Bee” will run July 7 to 17 at the Fire Hall Stage and tickets are available through the Chester Fritz Box Office -701-777-4090.


Newest entires always in bold italics- event posting can be sent to

July 2010

July 4 at 7 p.m. Bemidji Community Band concert at Baker Park or Bangsberg depending up weather.

July 7 – 17.—–“Dracula,” a play written by Stephen Dietz based upon Bram Stoker original story about the eternal struggle between good and evil.J

July 6-17 Crimson Creek Players–"Spelling Bee" musical comedy at the Fire Hall Theater, Grand Forks,ND. Tickets at 701-777-4090.

July 7 at 12 noon- BACM Dr. Beverly Everett on the organ, St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, 1800 Irving Ave.NW.

July 7,14,21, 28 at 3 p.m. "The Kitchen Witches" by Caroline Smith, Long Lake Theater, 218-732-0099 for ticket information and reservations. (change of play)

July 8-10, 15-17, 22-24, 29-31 at 7:30 p.m."The Kitchen Witches" by Caroline Smith Long Lake Theater, 218-732-0099 for ticket information and reservations. (change of play)

July 14 at 12 noon-BACM Lois Simonson on piano, Evangelical Covenant Church, 5405 Hwy. 2 W.


July 18–7 p.m. Bemidji Community Band concert at Baker Park or Bangsberg depending up weather.

July 21-31—-“Boys Next Door,” by Tom Griffin is a dramatic comedy about four developmentally disabled men who live together in a group home,

July 21 at 12 noon–BACM Glenn Seibel on euphonium and Wayne Hoff on piano, United Methodist Church, 9th and Beltrami Ave.

July 28 at 12 noon–BACM Calvary Musicians, Calvary Lutheran Church 2508 Washington Ave.

August 2010

August 1 — 7 p.m.,Bemidji Community Band concert at Baker Park or Bangsberg depending up weather.

August 3-14, Mel Brooks comedy, "The Producers" by Crimson Creek players, Burtness Theater on the campus of University of North Dakota, tickets $18/15. 701-777-4090.

August 4 -14—–“Gypsy,” by Stephen Sondheim tells the story of Gypsy Rose Lee and how she became a burlesque star.

August 4 at 12 noon–BACM Wayne Hoff on the organ, Aardahl Lutheran Church, Co. Rd. 403 (East on Roosevelt Rd. to Van Buren, turn right.)

August 6, 7,8 Family Music Festival at lake Itasca–see

August 6, 7,13, 24 at 7 p.m., "Fools Gold,"summer melodrama at the state park by Bemidji Community Theater.

August 11 at 12 noon –BACM Joe Henry on piano and organ, Church of St. Philip, 702 Beltrami Ave.

August 18 at 12 noon–BACM Muff Magelssen,organ; Don MacKinnon, piano and The Other Mountain Remnant Band at First Presbyterian Church, 501 Minnensota Ave. NW.

August 4,11,18,25 at 3 p.m. "The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged" Long Lake Theater, 218-732-0099 for ticket information and reservations.

August 5-7, 12-14, 19-21,26-28 at 7:30 p.m. "The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged" Long Lake Theater, 218-732-0099 for ticket information and reservations.

August 25 at 12 noon–BACM Kenneth J. Wold,organ; Mike Fiske, Violin; Leah Kelm, flute; Tracy parthun andLeah Kelm bell trees at Evangelical Free Church, 115 Carr lake Rd. SW.

September 2010

Sept. 17—Oompah for the Arts, the major fundraiser for Bemidj Area Arts Endowment at the Town and Country Club.

Sept. 24–7 p.m. Desserts by Design, a fundraiser for the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra sponsored by the Orchestra Guild.

Sept. 25–Billy Collins, former Poet Laurete of the U.S., evening lecure, Bemidji High School. More information to follow.

October 2010

Oct. 22-24– Bemidji-First City of the Arts Studio Cruise

Posted by: artsnews on 11/24/2009 at 2:34 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink | Edit

Tags: artsnews bemidji, bemidji concert series, bsu theater productions, calendar, fundraisers, greater grand forks symphony orchestra, paul bunyan playhouse summer season, summer stock, theater, Bemidji Symphony Orchestra,