Anniversary season filled with high notes
By Ruth Nerhaugen, contributor
In celebration of 25 years as a performing arts center, the Sheldon Theatre has lined up a season filled with humor and drama, music and dance to entertain all ages.
The Sheldon reopened in 1988 after being restored to its 1904 "jewel box" elegance. Originally designed for live theater, it operated as a movie house during the heyday of the silver screen.
The past 25 seasons have offered the community a variety of the best in local, regional, national and international entertainment, according to Executive Director Sean Dowse, who has led the Sheldon for 24 of those seasons.
"Each year we get better at it," he said, stressing that the Sheldon also plays an important role in in nurturing local talent to do their best work on the community stage.
The entertainment scene has evolved in the quarter-century.
"When I came there wasn't as much activity," he said. Today there are many more artists "out on the road," and many more resources that help the Sheldon bring them to Red Wing.
The State Arts Board and the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund offer grants and support, plus the community has major resources in local foundations, banks, industries and the city, plus the Friends of the Sheldon organization that was created to support the theater.
The 25th anniversary season was chosen with the community in mind, Dowse said. "I think it has great variety and accessibility."
The first shows will be an old favorite, the John Philip Sousa Memorial band (Sept. 21) and a community open house (Sept. 28), followed by a new comedy production.
"Trick Boxing" (Oct. 3 and 5) a wild comedy show, will be performed by Sossy Mechanics.
"It's a very odd combination of boxing and ballroom dance," Dowse said. "But it works. The combination is hilarious — and it's a love story."
Entertainment value was a factor in inviting several of Red Wing's favorite acts to return in 2013-14.
Among them will be crowd favorites the Wailin' Jennys (Oct. 11), comedian Paula Poundstone (Nov. 2), Colleen Raye and the Girl Singers' Christmas Experience (Dec. 23), and guitarist Leo Kottke (Feb. 8).
Three always popular dance troupes also are back on the schedule: James Sewell Ballet, which will perform "Lover" (Nov. 23); Continental Ballet, which presents "The Nutcracker" (Dec. 21) every year; and Tu Dance (March 1), which offers diverse styles of dance.
The season would not be complete without a comedy stage show or two. Dowse said the Improvised Shakespeare Company (Jan. 18) out of Chicago will come and create short plays based on characters and situations suggested by the audience. Also, the Church Basement Ladies return in "A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement" (Feb. 6).
Local entertainers are always near the top of the list for audiences.
The new season includes an intriguing combination of professionals and amateurs performing "Best of Minnesota Opera" (Oct. 25-26). The Minnesota Opera Company is working with the Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra and vocalists from the Red Wing Singers and the Red Wing High School Choir for the opera performance, Dowse noted.
The Red Wing Singers also will put on their own show, "Jazz Club" (April 5), in the spring.
Phoenix Theatre will stage two shows, "The Little Prince" (Dec. 12-15) and a spring play in March, plus the yet-to-be-chosen Red Wing High School musical is set for May 8-12. The Sheldon Theatre Brass Band will perform in November and April.
Youngsters will appear in Missoula Children's Theatre shows in January and in Arts Alive in February, plus there will be day shows for grade school students in November and December.
Audiences also can sample local talent in a couple of shows that are new to the Sheldon schedule: Winger Whirl (Nov. 9), a talent show, and "Earth Tones" (April 12), a musical performance led by Lauren Pelon and Gary Holthaus.
New acts are on the horizon as well, Dowse said — particularly entertainment that will appeal to a younger crowd as well as Sheldon regulars.
One of those acts is the New Standards (Oct. 19), a vocal trio that performs "appealing and accessible jazz and pop" music, Dowse said. He's also confident about the appeal of Caravan du Nord (Nov. 16), which is making its third appearance, courtesy of the Minnesota Music Coalition. Two Twin Cities band and one local group will perform popular music.
Another young voice from the Twin Cities will make his Red Wing debut: John Mark Nelson (March 8), a 19-year-old singer-songwriter. "He's catching a lot of attention," Dowse said of the emerging new talent.
Bluegrass fans will have two opportunities. The Goodhue County Humane Society plans a Bluegrass Benefit (Feb. 22), and the Sheldon will present the gospel sounds of Dailey & Vincent (April 19).
Folks who plan on spending Halloween at the Sheldon will be invited to try something new this year. The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra will play for a Zombie Prom (Oct. 31) — a night of dancing and socializing for young adults and grownup zombies.
"We're taking a year off from 'Phantom of the Opera'," Dowse said.
New entertainment also is scheduled for a couple of other holidays people typically go out on the town to enjoy. Vocalist Prudence Johnson and pianist Dan Chouinard will "Tip Toe Through the '60s" on New Year's Eve. A Valentine's Day Comedy Special for Lovers (Feb. 15) will feature a pair of standup comics from Los Angeles.
Film is on the schedule, too. The modern classic "Lawrence of Arabia" (Jan. 4) will be shown on the big screen, and there'll be a Bill Murray-A-Thon leading to — naturally — Groundhog Day (Feb. 1).
Tickets to all shows are on sale now. Call 651-388-8700 or 800-899-5759, or go online to www.sheldontheatre.org. Reduced prices are available to people buying four or more shows by Sept. 29, plus there are senior and group discounts.
Sheldon Season 2013-14
21 — John Philip Sousa Memorial Band
28 — 25th Anniversary "Explore Your Sheldon"
3 and 5 — Sossy Mechanics present "Trick Boxing"
11 — The Wailin' Jennys
19 — The New Standards
25 and 26 — "Best of Minnesota Opera"
31 — Zombie Prom
2 — Paula Poundstone
9 — Winger Whirl fundraiser
12 — "Peter Pan" school day show
16 — Third Annual Caravan du Nord
23 — James Sewell Ballet presents "Lover"
29 and 30 — Sheldon Theatre Brass Band Holiday Concert
12 to 15 — Phoenix Theatre presents "The Little Prince"
19 — "The Nutcracker" school day show
21 — Continental Ballet presents "The Nutcracker"
23 — Girl Singers Christmas Show Experience
31 — "Tip Toe Through the '60s" with Prudence Johnson
4 — "Lawrence of Arabia" on film
11 — Missoula Children's Theatre presents "Blackbeard the Pirate"
18 — The Improvised Shakespeare Company
25 — Missoula Children's Theatre presents "Betty Lou and the Country Beast"
1 — Groundhog Day Bill Murray-A-Thon
6 — Church Basement Ladies present "A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement"
8 — Leo Kottke
15 — Valentine's Day Comedy Special for Lovers
21 — Arts Alive stage show
22 — Bluegrass Benefit for Humane Society
1 — Tu Dance
8 — John Mark Nelson with Zoo Animal
20 to 23 — Phoenix Theatre spring play
29 — Southeast Tech presents "Strings, Winds and Brass"
5 — Red Wing Singers present "Jazz Club"
12 — Lauren Pelon and Gary Holthaus present "Earth Tones"
19 — Dailey & Vincent
29 — Sheldon Theatre Brass Band spring concert
8-12 — Red Wing High School musical