Coming soon to a theater near you

There will be a "Psycho Beach Party" and a "Zombie Prom," productions of "Annie" and "Big River," a little Shakespeare, some wacky nuns and "The Full Monty" on stage for area theater fans this summer in playhouses from New Rockford, N.D., to Bemidji.


There will be a "Psycho Beach Party" and a "Zombie Prom," productions of "Annie" and "Big River," a little Shakespeare, some wacky nuns and "The Full Monty" on stage for area theater fans this summer in playhouses from New Rockford, N.D., to Bemidji.

With at least 10 theater groups, from well-regarded high school programs such as Summer Performing Arts in Grand Forks to a professional troupe at Paul Bunyan Playhouse in Bemijdi, you won't have to travel far to see a show. Good news with the price of gas these days.

Crimson Creek, part of the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre, known for its edgier productions, is staging "Psycho Beach Party" and "Rent." Fort Totten Little Theatre is doing "Annie," and "Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," is returning to Frost Fire Theater at Walhalla, N.D., for the third time.

David Paukert, who with his wife, Amy Jo Paukert, is directing "Big River," said it has been one of the most requested shows at Frost Fire. It's based on the 1884 classic Mark Twain novel, the one that made headlines earlier this year when a publishing company re-issued the book after removing all the N-words in it and replacing them with "slave."

One of "Big River's" two main characters is a black slave named Jim, and how the show will handle the use of the N-word is still under discussion by the Paukerts and the show's producers.


Summer Performing Arts program

Then there's Summer Performing Arts in Grand Forks, which has chosen "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" as one of its musicals. Can high school juniors and seniors pull off a show about a razor-wielding, throat-slitting madman whose victims end up baked into meat pies? Is it even appropriate?

Dean Opp, executive director of SPA, said he considered that when SPA show directors Brad Sherwood, Connie Sherwood and Mike Weber pitched it. They have an outstanding group of kids this year, Opp said, and wanted to do the Stephen Sondheim musical as a challenge.

The young people themselves are excited about the show because they've seen the 2007 "Sweeney Todd" movie, starring actor Johnny Depp, one of their heroes. Opp noted that SPA will do a school edition of the show, and the grisly scenes will be bloodless and done in pantomime.

Fort Totten Little Theatre will have to move its show this season from the Fort Totten Historic Site into the city of Devils Lake because of the rising waters of Devils Lake. They had to take into consideration road conditions and detours and the young cast of the show, "Annie."

Here's more about this area's summer performances.

Crimson Creek

The comedy "Psycho Beach Party" has been described as what would happen if a '50s psychodrama, a '60s beach flick and a '70s slasher film had a baby. Chicklet Forrest, a teenage tomboy (played by Chris Berg), wants to be part of the 1962 surf crowd, but her unfortunate tendency toward split personalities gets in the way.


The show will be at 7:30 p.m. June 14-18 and June 21-25 at Fire Hall Theatre, Grand Forks, directed by Ben Klipfel.

"Rent," the critically acclaimed modern-day rock opera by Jonathan Larson, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2-6 and Aug. 9-13 at Empire Arts Center, directed by Chris Berg.

Klipfel said the group had been "tossing around" the idea of "Psycho Beach Party" for some time. "Rent" is another musical that appealed to the Crimson Creek players, who generally are of post-high school age through 30-somethings. "Rent" is a musical that defined that generation, Klipfel said. Its themes include race, sexuality and AIDs.

"We're interested in providing an option for adult- only entertainment, things that aren't necessarily family- friendly," he said. "The majority of our (community theater) programming is family friendly, but there is a demand among younger, especially college age, audiences for shows that are edgier."

Tyler Rood has the lead in "Rent," and the cast includes Steven Douglas, Marcus Hamley, Daniel Dutot, Joanna Dittus and Candice Morgan. Info: .

Frost Fire

"Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" has been a popular show with audiences at Frost Fire's outdoor amphitheatre, David Paukert said.

"It previously was done in 1992 and 2001, so this year, it will become the first show we're doing three times," he said. "It's a great Americana story, and it's got great music."


The Tony-award winning musical was written by Roger Miller (1936-1992) based on the classic 1884 Mark Twain novel, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," and features bluegrass and country styles of music. It's the story of a vagabond boy named Huck, who comes into a fortune, and a slave named Jim.

So, how will Frost Fire handle the use of the N-word in "Big River"? That's still under discussion among people from the show and the show's producers, Richard and Judith Johnson, Paukert said.

"Being it is so much a part of the historical aspect of those people and those times, we want to make sure we handle it in the best way possible," Paukert said, then added: "You can be so politically correct that you lose the story."

"Big River" will star Jarred Kinney as Huck and Wayne Moore, who played Jim at Frost Fire in 2001, will return to reprise the role.

The show will open July 9 with 2 and 6 p.m. shows. Other shows: 2 p.m. July 10, 2 p.m. July 13; 2 and 6 p.m. July 16; 2 p.m. July 17; 2 p.m. July 20; 2 and 6 p.m. July 23; 2 p.m. July 24; 2 p.m. July 27; 2 and 6 p.m. July 30; and 2 p.m. July 31. Dinner is available before the show. Info/reservations: (701) 549-3600; .

Fort Totten

Mary Lizakowski, who directed "Annie" in 2010 for Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre, will direct it again this summer for Fort Totten Little Theatre. This year's shows have been moved (because of rising Devils Lake waters) to the Robert Fawcett Auditorium at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake.

Fort Totten also moved its shows into Devils Lake in 1997, 1998 and 1999, said Carol Leevers, president of the Fort Totten Little Theatre board of directors. Flooded roads were the reason, she said.


The lead role of spunky orphan girl Annie has been double cast and will be played by Mary Belzer of Cando, N.D., and by Mikaili Prince of Devils Lake. Shows will be at 7:30 p.m. July 6-7, 9, 13-14, 16, 20-21, 23, 27-28 and 30; and at 2 p.m. July 10, 17, 24 and 31. The box office will open June 22 at the Liquid Bean in downtown Devils Lake; call (701) 662-8888. A gourmet dinner will be available before the show.

Summer Peforming Arts

SPA paired the slice and dice action of "Sweeney Todd" with "Suessical the Musical" and "All Together Now: A SPA Revue," Opp said.

Opp said he talked to the young people who would be doing "Sweeney Todd" when the decision was made to do the show.

"Just because of Johnny Depp, that musical is very exciting to the kids," he said. "To them, it's their kind of musical."

He knows some people are scratching their heads about choosing "Sweeney Todd" for SPA. He's already talked to many of them, he said.

"One other caveat is we are doing the school version which is edited for the high school performer," he said. "There's no blood in the show, it's all pantomime. So, the focus is really going to be the music."

"Seussical the Musical" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. July 9 and 11-12 and 2 p.m. July 10, with "Sweeney Todd" on stage July 17-21 at 7:30 p.m., both at Red River High School theatre, Grand Forks. "All Together Now: A SPA Revue" will be at 7:30 p.m. July 14-15 at Empire Arts Center.


Dakota Prairie

Dakota Prairie Regional Center for the Arts will present 36 shows of the musical "All Shook Up" from July 1 to Aug. 14 at the Opera House in New Rockford, N.D. Info: .

Thief River Falls

The Thief River Falls Community Arts Council summer theater will open June 1-3 with "Blame it on the Walleye," a musical journey through the neurotic mind of a Norwegian blonde. All performances of the three TRFCAC shows will begin at 7 p.m. at Northland College Theatre. Other shows will be:

- "The Producers," June 22-25, June 27-29. A musical about two men determined to bring to stage the worst musical ever.

- "The Foreigner," July 26-29. A comedy about a man so shy he pretends not to understand English, and what he subsequently overhears.

The children's theater production will be Summer Arts Safari "The Jungle Book" with a performance at 7 p.m. July 29 at Thief River Falls High School Lincoln Auditorium. Info: www.trfcac . Tickets: Kezar Music, Thief River Falls; (218) 681-2148.

Paul Bunyan


The summer season for Paul Bunyan Playhouse, a professional theater located in the historic Chief Theatre, 314 Beltrami Ave. NW, Bemidji, will open June 8.

- "Forever Plaid," June 8-12, June 15-18. An affectionate musical homage to the close-harmony 'guy groups' that reached the height of their popularity during the 1950s.

- "A Midsummer Night's Dream," June 22-26, June 29-July 2. William Shakespeare's comic fantasy about the fairy kingdom, a quartet of ardent lovers and a bumbling group of amateur "actors" in a play within a play.

- "Lend Me A Tenor," July 6-10, July 13-16: A 1934 Opera Company invites a world-renowned Italian tenor to perform Verdi's Otello, then has to replace him at the last minute.

- "21A," July 20-24, July 27-30: The 21A bus travels down Lake Street from Minneapolis to St. Paul, carrying an odd assortment of characters all played by Zach Curtis in a one-man show written by Minnesota favorite and Playhouse alum Kevin Kling.

- "The Full Monty," Aug. 3-7, Aug. 10-13: Six unemployed steel workers are willing to make some rather desperate moves to earn some quick cash. Will they go The Full Monty?

Wednesday through Saturday shows start at 8 p.m.; Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online at, at the theater box office, or by calling (218) 751-7270.


The Straw Hat Players, based at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, will open their season June 7 with the musical "Nunsensations" followed by three more musicals and a comedy. Here's the schedule.

- "Nunsensations," 7:30 p.m. June 7-10, June 14-17, Gaede Stage. The Sisters of Hoboken are back and taking their show to Las Vegas.

- "The 70s Show," 7:30 p.m. June 21-24, Hansen Theatre. A musical celebration of the decade that brought us flared trousers, platform shoes and more glitter than Liberace.

- "Zombie Prom," 7:30 p.m. June 28-July 1, Gaede Stage. A musical (with '50s style hits) about what happens when Jonny rides his motorcycle to the nuclear waste dump before hitting the prom.

- "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," 7:30 p.m. July 12-15, Gaede Stage. A comedy about all 37 Shakespeare plays in 97 minutes.

- "The Sound of Music," 7:30 pm. July 21-22, July 26-29, Hansen Theatre. A high-spirited postulant is dispatched to be governess to seven children of a widowed naval captain.Info: . Box office: (218) 477-2271.

Trollwood Performing Arts School, a summer theater program for high-school age students in Fargo/Moorhead, will present "The Music Man."

Public performances will be at 8:15 p.m. July 14-16, July 20-23 and July 27-30 at Imagine Amphitheater at Bluestem Center for the Arts, Moorhead. The box office will open June 15; call (218) 477-6502 or go to .

Warroad Summer Theatre

- "Wait Until Dark," June 16.19, June 22-25; "Let's Murder Marsha!," July 7-10, July 14-17; "Bye, Bye Birdie," Aug. 3-7, Aug. 10-14; all at Warroad (Minn.) High School Mini-Theatre. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. except for Sunday matinees, which are at 2 p.m. Info/tickets: .

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