The secret of the Rendezvous Region is the outdoor amphitheatre and Broadway caliber shows that take place every summer at the Frost Fire Theatre. Many in North Dakota know of the famous counterpart in the western part of the state that transports you back to the late 1800s, but not many know of the place located in the heart of the Rendezvous Region that takes you back even further in time. Surrounded by a setting of forestry not seen anywhere else in the state, the Frost Fire Amphitheatre is a place where Life Could Be a Dream.
By Melissa Anderson
Life in musical theatre has been a dream for long-time Frost Fire summer theatre co-directors, David and Amy Jo Paukert. The husband-wife duo have been involved with the summer theatre program for nearly 30 years. The Paukerts began co-directing the shows together in 1992.
“We are honored to carry on the tradition of musical theatre that Dick and Judith Johnson began 35 years ago. It’s been our pleasure to be involved over the past 28 years. We’ve met a lot of wonderful performers and audience members over the years,” Dave Paukert said.
For this summer’s production, two auditions and call backs were in Grand Forks during the month of March. The Paukerts covered every avenue of theatre talent by contacting area high schools and colleges as well as putting announcements in the Grand Forks Herald and on Facebook prior to the auditions being held.
“There are always challenges in doing a production, including putting together a cast and crew,” Paukert explained. “Since we rehearse in Grand Forks, we have the challenge of mounting it on the Frost Fire stage the week before we open, therefore, we have to adjust the actors’ movements to the space. Outdoor theatre has its challenges in that you are dealing with the elements, and you can’t rely on lighting for special effects.”
Luckily, Paukert can depend on local hands to assist in the production having a smooth and flawless show for every performance. Charity Stegman of Cavalier is an experienced stage manager, not only in the theatre world in general but specifically at Frost Fire Summer Theatre where she is once again handling the behind the scenes direction this year. She has had that role for three other Frost Fire productions and “does a terrific job of making sure the stage, props and costumes are ready for each show”. Having local support, not only in attending but in the actual production and music, gives added pride in the program.
“Two of our pit members happen to be from the area. Anita Mathison is from Walhalla and Josh Rau is from Cavalier. We are fortunate to have a larger pit orchestra this year. It is composed of Emily Bibow (keyboard 1), Anita Mathison (keyboard 2), Spencer Black (guitar/tenor saxophone), Josh Rau (bass guitar) and Alex Stroth (percussion),” Paukert said.
Having a great cast, crew, and musicians to bring the story to life is very important but also having a great set for a foundation to build the story is vital. Builders Pete and Pat Danielson of Walhalla and scenic artist Carol Cark, also of Walhalla, were tasked with creating the set for the magic of musical theatre to take place. Paukert shared that the talented trio did not fail and once again did a remarkable job on the set.
“It truly has the feel of a basement rec-room of the late 50’s early 60’s. This was a challenging set because the last five minutes of the show, the basement rec-room has to transform into a concert stage,” Paukert said.
The 34th Annual Frost Fire Summer Theatre will present Life Could Be a Dream, the story of a doo-wop group with big dreams and problems featuring classic hits of the doo-wop era. The jukebox musical written by Roger Bean, creator of The Marvelous Wonderettes, premiered at the Hudson Theater in Hollywood on August of 2009. The show takes place in the basement of Denny’s parent’s house. Denny wants to form a singing group and enter the “Dream of a Lifetime Talent Search”. He talks two of his geeky friends into joining the group, but they need one more singer to be a doo-wop quartet. Trouble comes in the form of “Lois” who arrives to put some polish on the would be doo-wop group. Denny falls in love, Wally falls in line, Eugene falls apart, and along comes handsome, heartthrob Skip to send the whole situation spinning.
“It has a very humorous story line with fun, memorable characters. If you were around in the late 50’s or early 60’s you will know all of the songs. But even if you aren’t familiar with the songs, you’ll get caught up in the catchy tunes and the great doo-wop music,” Paukert said.
Much like the sitcoms of the eras the show takes its music from, Life Could Be a Dream is perfect for the entire family. The timeless dream of stardom and fame has the audience rooting for them. The production held its opening night on Sunday, June 30. With nearly every seat filled, the audience enjoying the story line and music from the 50’s and 60’s; it was the start to a another great summer. Paukert explained that it was fun to have an audience to perform to and hear all the laughter and applause and knew this show would have a lot of audience appeal.
“We saw this show about six years ago and fell in love with it. We are excited to be able to bring it to the Frost Fire stage. It’s a feel good show that leaves you smiling, laughing and humming the tunes,” Paukert shared.
Frost Fire Park also hosts a delicious buffet served before each performance in the comfort of the Frost Fire Lodge. Come early and dine before the show while enjoying the scenic beauty of the Pembina Gorge. The buffet service begins at 11:30 a.m. up to matinee show time and at 4:00 p.m. until the 6:00 p.m. performance. Cost of the buffet is $13.
“We’ve gotten great reviews on the buffet of beef tips, mashed potatos, gravy, vegetables, roles and salad bar. We encourage those attending the show to check it out,” Paukert stated.
Hattie’s Closet, the Frost Fire gift shop, is stocked full of wonderful items. Paukert shared that there are a number of new vendors this year who have really provided a unique variety of gift and food items. The one-of-a-kind gift shop is also featuring a number of Pride of Dakota members.
“Frost Fire is a unique outdoor theatre experience. It’s performed in the beautiful setting of the Pembina River Gorge. Come early and check out Hattie’s Closet and enjoy the buffet. Free ice cream floats will be served after the performance,” Paukert said.
The cast and band continue to bring the hilarity and doo-wop classics to the Pembina Gorge area for the month July, with performances taking place on Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. along with Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. Three matinees will be held on the following Saturdays in July: 13, 20, and 27.Be sure to call today to reserve your tickets for the Frost Fire Summer Theatre’s Life Could Be a Dream at 701-549-3602.