St. Croix Theatre Festival Features Kim Braun ’11 & Ethan Bjelland ’12

Posted on August 2nd, 2013 by

"Crazy for You" cast featuring Kim Braun '11 & Ethan Bjelland '12 (seated on bench far left)

“Crazy for You” cast featuring Kim Braun ’11 & Ethan Bjelland ’12 (seated on bench far left)

The annual St. Croix Theatre Festival in St. Croix Falls, Wisc., has opened for another season and, again this year, includes some familiar names from the Gustavus Department of Theatre & Dance and the Department of Music. The festival, based in a 1917 vaudeville playhouse overlooking the St. Croix River, has a full schedule planned for its 24th season, which opened June 20 with the award-winning musical Crazy for You. The summer series includes performances of The Foreigner, Ichabod Crane & the Headless Horseman, A Christmas Story and the debut of the new play This Untoward Generation! The “new” Gershwin musical, Crazy for You, runs through August 18 with performances by Kim Braun ’11, Ethan Bjelland ’12 and Cameron Blair ’15. Bjelland will appear again with a role in the Festival’s production of Larry Shue’s The Foreigner which runs through August 25. And finally in August, Braun and Bjelland will help premiere a new play, This Untoward Generation!, which opens August 10 and runs through September 8.

Although the shows, Crazy for You and This Untoward Generation!, are set in different circumstances, are different theatre genres — one is set as a musical comedy and the other as a serious coming-of-age introspective — and are separated by 8 decades, their themes are basically the same: the struggle from childhood into adulthood. Like death and taxes, this particular rite of passage is universal.

Crazy for You is the classic story of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, everything runs smoothly until girl discovers who boy really is and disaster follows.  Based on the 1930s musical of Girl Crazy by the Gershwin team of George and Ira, the musical, with book by Ken Ludwig, includes some of the most memorable songs written by the Gershwin brothers: “Someone to Watch Over Me,”  “Embraceable You,” “I Got Rhythym,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and many others. For its fresh look at Girl Crazy, Ludwig‘s Crazy for You won a Tony Award for Best Music and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival.

Neil Powell as Bobby Child and Kim Braun '11 as Polly Baker

Neil Powell as Bobby Child and Kim Braun ’11 as Polly Baker

In the story, Bobby Child has everything a well-to-do 1930’s New Yorker needs — a lovely fiancée, a rich mother, and a secure job waiting for him — everything standing in the way of his life’s dream to dance.  On a business errand on behalf of his mother’s bank, Bobby heads to Deadrock, Nevada, and meets Polly (Kim Braun), whose father owns the run-down theatre he was sent to foreclose.  It’s love at first sight for Bobby.  The theatre means more to Polly and her father than anything, and Polly is willing to fight to keep the bank from forcing them out.  Thanks to Bobby’s friends, the Follies, who happen to be on vacation, he develops a plan to save the theatre, rejuvenate the town, and hopefully win Polly’s heart!

Crazy for You is a high energy comedy complete with mistaken identity, plot twists, fabulous song and dance — everything you’d expect in a musical.  It is certain to sweep audiences up in this artfully constructed tale of boy meeting girl in the Wild West where they spread a love of performance and dance and ultimately fall in love.

The Foreigner, winner of two Obie Awards and renewed critical acclaim and an American comedy classic by playwright Larry Shue, has been charming audiences since its premier nearly thirty years ago.  Taking place in a lodge in Georgia, several unique and hilariously diverse guests convene to pass the time, escape their stresses, and pursue their own personal objectives, all while exploring the challenges and the many forms of communication.

In this quiet fishing lodge in rural Georgia, a regular guest and British demolition expert, “Froggy” LeSeuer, returns to run another training session at a nearby army base.  And this time, he has brought a friend: a pathologically shy young man named Charlie who is literally overcome with fear at the thought of making conversation with strangers.  Desperate to help his friend enjoy some much needed R&R, “Froggy,” tells the lodge guests that Charlie is from an exotic foreign country and speaks no English.  Despite the communication miscommunication, Charlie soon finds himself more comfortable with these strangers than he ever expected and vise-versa.

This well loved American classic fueled by nonstop hilarity, lovable characters, and a whole lot of language barriers, is certain to delight audiences of all ages.  Don’t miss this comic gem as it comes to life on Festival’s stage.

Seth Kaltwasser’s new play, This Untoward Generation, premieres at this year’s St. Croix Festival on August 10 and runs through September 8. The piece, which centers around the daily triumphs and tragedies of America’s twenty-somethings, examining the current status quo for the millennial generation through the eyes of its still coming-of-age heroes. It is a journey of introspection and self-discovery for the current generation entering “the real world.” In four absorbing vignettes, the play conveys the particulars of “emerging adulthood”, a new phase of life proposed by sociologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett to describe today’s modus operandi for young adults between the ages of 18 and 29.

In a recent post after a day of rehearsal which included “tackling the money market,” Ethan Bjelland ’12 wrote, “my topic for you has to do with the crazy, irrational and lamentable choices that we have to make because of money. What are some of the self-sacrifices or relationship sacrifices that you’ve made because you either don’t have enough money, or you have to work, instead?” If this sounds somewhat familiar, Seth Kaltwasser’s This Untoward Generation! may have some answers for you.

While often perceived as being plagued by unemployment, social disconnection, and ambivalence toward personal and professional commitments, the familiar characters of the play reveal their struggles to be personal, necessary and universal. Never lacking for grace and humor, This Untoward Generation! offers a fresh perspective on the current labors of tomorrow’s leaders.

Crazy for You runs through August 18, This Untoward Generation! opens August 10 and runs through September 8 and The Foreigner runs through August 25. Tickets can be purchased by email at boxoffice@festivaltheatre.org or by calling 715-483-3387. Additional information on the festival is available by linking to the festival’s website: St. Croix Festival Theatre.

The St. Croix Festival Theatre is located at 210 N. Washington Street in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.

 

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