Those who have attended the shows in Medora, North Dakota, understand the “magic of Medora.” For the last few years, that magic has been brought on the road in the form of A Magical Medora Christmas, a traveling Christmas show that performs in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.
“Three years ago we had 13 shows, then we had 22,” said Bill Sorensen, who has been part of the Medora scene for more than 40 years and is creator and producer of A Magical Medora Christmas. “Last year we had 28 shows, and this year we will have 31 shows, including performances all the way over in Bloomington.”
Included in that 31 shows are a handful in west central Minnesota or within a short drive of west central Minnesota.
“This year’s show features some outstanding artists, including the amazing Emily Walter, the multi-talented former Broadway star Jared Mason, the talented pianist and musical, Chad Willow, and the wonderful Broadway soloist Job Christenson,” said Sorensen, who adds some light-hearted comedy and a little magic throughout the night.
This is the fourth year the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF) has brought A Magical Medora Christmas to smaller, intimate venues.
“The first year we did this, in 2015, it was our 50th anniversary of doing our shows in Medora. It was a way for us to come out and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and thank them for all the wonderful years supporting Medora,” said Sorensen.
The plan was to just have the show in North Dakota, but then, something happened.
“The show went berzerko!” he said. “So we decided to expand the show and add more cities on our tour the next year. And we added more last year and this year. We had a lot of fun last year and are really looking forward to this year’s shows.”
With a variety of Christmas classics, the show has a way of stirring up old memories of days gone by.
“Every year there are moments where I get teary eyed and the show reminds me of Christmas’ past. People get really moved by the music, including me,” he said.
The biggest reason why A Magical Medora Christmas has been successful the past two years has been the talented performers, said Sorensen, and that holds true for this year’s show.
“The show has some extremely talented people in it,” said Sorensen. “Extremely talented.”
Jared Mason has performed as a Burning Hills Singer and featured vocalist in the Medora Musical. Since his time in Medora, Jared has become an award-winning recording artist, composer and actor, and recently starred on Broadway as Jerry Lee Lewis in the Tony Award-winning musical Million Dollar Quartet. He also stars in his own show in Medora called, Jared Mason: Live!
“Jared Mason is a big time star, “ said Sorensen. “When I went out to see him on Broadway, he was a Tony Award-winning performer on Broadway. He told me, ‘I don’t like this. I’m a small town guy.’ I asked him if he wanted to come back to Medora, and he was happy to do it. Just to tell you how talented Jared Mason is, he has tried out for two shows on Broadway and got the lead in both of them.”
And he has a hidden talent as well.
“Believe it or not, Jared is also one of the world’s best yodelers. He travels around the world and yodels at different events. So we will probably let him do some yodeling as well.”
Emily Walter, also known as the “Queen of the West” is a veteran of the United States Air Force and was the lead vocalist with the Strategic Air Command Band. She also served in the “Desert Band” during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
Walter has performed 10 years as a guest entertainer with select cruise lines. She has worked with such stars as Bob Hope, Lee Greenwood and John Denver.
“Emily has traveled and performed all over the world,” said Sorensen. “She is an amazing talent.”
Walter returned to Medora to host the musical in 2010. She continued in that role through 2015 and made North Dakota her home. She currently hosts the Medora Gospel Brunch, which will be back for its fourth season in 2019. This fall she will be the lead in a Patsy Cline tribute show at Paluski Theatre in Virginia. She will also play Karen Carpenter for a week in February in the Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, areas for Showtune Productions.
Actor, singer, and dancer Job Christenson, a native of Grand Forks, N.D., has co-hosted the Medora Musical and starred on Broadway.
Sorensen said Christenson has quite a life story to tell. When he was just 34, he suffered a stroke that affected his body and his speech. After rehabilitation, Christenson’s voice is now back to 100 percent, said Sorensen.
“Job is one of the finest singers North Dakota has ever produced; he has an incredible, soaring tenor voice,” said Curt Wollan, long-time producer of the Medora Musical.
“Chad Willow played piano for us last year, and he was very popular. Against our better judgement, we brought him back again this year,” Sorensen laughed. “I’m just joking. He is a very talented guy – plays some very fun banjo – and it’s great to have him part of the show.”
As for Sorensen, he has produced and appeared in The 4M Review variety show in Medora for 30 years. As a magician, juggler and public speaker, Sorensen has performed in over 5,000 shows nationwide.
“I’m the magician,” Sorensen said, “but what’s really magical is bringing Emily, Job, Jared and Chad’s holiday entertainment — and a taste of Medora — to folks across the state. I can’t wait.”
This year’s show is completely different than last year’s show, with two exceptions.
“We are going to include two songs from last year that are favorites,” he said.
The team is currently fine tuning the show and will be ready when the first show opens on Nov. 24 in Steele, North Dakota.
“Last year more than half the shows sold out, so I would recommend buying the tickets early to reserve a spot,” he said. “We can’t wait to get back on the road.”
At print time of this article, tickets at some of the shows were selling quickly (so don’t wait to purchase). For a full list of shows, visit www.medora.com. Nearby area shows return in December. They include:
• Fargo, N.D. Fargo South High School, Dec. 8 and 9, 7:30 p.m. Tickets available online at medora.com and at Hornbachers.
• Wahpeton, N.D., NDSCS Harry & Ella Stern Cultural Center, Bremer Bank Theater, Monday, Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m. Tickets available online at medora.com and Econofoods in Wahpeton.
• Detroit Lakes, Minn., Detroit Lakes Middle School Auditorium, Friday, Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available online at medora.com and at the Historic Holmes Theatre.
• Park Rapids, Minn, Park Rapids High School, Thursday, Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m., Tickets available online at medora.com and at the Park Rapids Chamber of Commerce.
• Alexandria, Minn., Lake Geneva Christian Center, Saturday, Dec. 15, Tickets available online at medora.com and at Elden’s Food Fair.
• Henning, Minn., Henning High School Gym, Sunday, Dec. 16, at 4 p.m. Tickets available online at medora.com and at the Henning Landmark Center and local First National Banks.
• Fergus Falls, Minn., Center for the Arts, Friday, Dec. 21, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets available at the Center for the Arts.
“We love all our shows, but Henning has a special place in our hearts,” said Sorensen. “It is definitely one of our favorite spots. When we were doing a show over in Wapheton a few years ago, we were approached by Terry Oscarson of Henning. She and two other couples came over from Henning to Wapheton. She asked, ‘How would we get a show to Henning?’ It was our first year doing this, so I told her that I didn’t know if we would do this again. She said, “Let’s assume you are doing it again, how would we get a show to Henning? I didn’t even know how to get to Henning. I told her to stay in touch, but they have such a small town, I wasn’t optimistic. When we pick cities, we look at the size of the city, the size and quality of the auditorium, all those things, and Henning didn’t fit into that checklist. A day after the tour ended, we got a message from Terry saying she had a committee together for next year’s show. On the way back from a set up, I dropped by Henning to talk to Terry. I was going to tell her that I didn’t think it would work. I think they have 800 people in Henning. I asked her how many people she thought she could get to a show. She said, ‘How many do you need? We will get 100 more than that.’”
In the end, Henning was added to the tour ,and they have had good crowds each year. “I think there were more than 700 people there the first year,” said Sorensen. “They treat us so well. We love Henning.”
Sorensen is looking forward to the performances and getting a chance to meet some of the people in attendance.
“We hope that people can come out to our shows so we can say thank you for supporting Medora and also a heartfelt Merry Christmas,” said Sorensen, “Hopefully this will be a good opportunity for those who have not been out to Medora to get a taste of what we are all about.”
For more information about the show, or to order tickets, go to www.medora.com.
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