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Armory opens its doors

Rod Nordberg, left, as Louis Lippman, and Brandon Haller, as Francis Gilhooley, rehearse "Of Thee I Sing," Thursday night at the Armory.(Anna Erickson / Enterprise)1 / 5
The cast of George and Ira Gershwin's "Of Thee I Sing" works on the opening number of the play Thursday night at the Armory in downtown Park Rapids. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 5
Laurie Moe rehearses her lines as narrator during Thursday night's rehearsal. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)3 / 5
A chandelier and fabric from past NLOC performances help create an intimate atmosphere. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)4 / 5
Tom Ellingson, left, plays news editor Matthew Fulton. He has a discussion with David Overly, who plays presidential candidate John P. Wintergreen. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)5 / 5

The Armory is buzzing with activity in anticipation of the first performance at the historic Park Rapids building in more than 20 years.

Northern Light Opera Company is performing a concert version of George and Ira Gershwin's parody of the 1930s presidential elections, "Of Thee I Sing," at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Saturday) at Armory Square, Highway 71 and 2nd Street, Park Rapids.

Crews have been working all week to make the Armory presentable to the public. Props and materials from past NLOC performances have been repurposed to provide an intimate setting for tonight's performance.

The stage that was used for 2nd Street Stage performances throughout the summer is being used for the performance.

Platforms used during the production of "Godspell" two summers ago will be used for seating. A chandelier used in the production of "Ruddigore" has been placed in the center of the room for ambiance. Fabric from this past summer's "The Sound of Music" performance has been draped around the room to absorb sound.

"Tuesday night it was hard to hear anything," said production manager Pat Dove. "It sounds much different tonight."

Alan Zemek, owner of Armory Square, said the show will be a demonstration of how the space can be used.

"This is the best way to see how it work as far as sound and getting people in and out of the building, all sorts of things," he said.

The audience will be asked for input after the show to determine what needs to be improved for future performances or events.

"It's a trial run and we will be doing a lot of work after-the-fact," Dove said.

The story line of the satirical musical, set on American politics in the 1930s, has John P. Wintergreen, running for President of the United States on the "love" platform.

However, when he falls in love with sensible Mary Turner instead of Diana Devereaux, the beautiful pageant winner selected for him, he finds himself in political hot water.

"Of Thee I Sing" was the first American musical with a consistently satirical tone to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in 1932.

NLOC presents the concert version - main characters and a chorus to provide the entertainment. Although there will be no sets or costumes, the audience will be surprised at how eerily some of the productions jokes seem to take precise aim, from decades back, at current affairs.

"The jokes fit in just like they did back in the 30s," Zemek said.

Tickets are available at Beagle Books. Seating is limited.

Check for additional information on the NLOC website, www.northernlight

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561