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Jubilee Theater entertains audiences

Feeling in need of the exhilaration that comes from hearing uplifting music, watching tricky dance steps, wondering about the illusion of magic tricks and chuckling over silly humor?...

Feeling in need of the exhilaration that comes from hearing uplifting music, watching tricky dance steps, wondering about the illusion of magic tricks and chuckling over silly humor?

Then head out to Jasper's Jubilee Theater on Highway 34, one mile east of Park Rapids.

Four generations of one family and several of their musical and magical friends are ready to entertain you for two hours.

This year's theme is Great American Songbook - Now That's Entertainment. The musicians take us through the years beginning with 1910 and feature songs from each decade following.

Taking turns amazing the audience with their vocal, instrumental and comedic talents are Darlene Hilde Rolle, who claims she is at the top of the food chain in the family; Lynette Johnson Guida and her children, Travis and Sarahdee Miller, and her grandchildren, Kristina (Cash) and Jasmine (Imani) Guida; Kathie Johnson Brekke and her husband, Shawn, and their son, Daniel, all descendants of Silas and Katie Hilde, who started it all.

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Add to the above mix, the musicians Biff and Jacki Karch, Jim Knudson, Jeff Menten and Harley Sommerfeld and you are enthralled by the extravaganza of showmanship.

This is probably one of the most sophisticated theaters in the area. The lighting, sound system, costuming, choreography, backdrop photography and props are top notch.

Speaking of the choreography, I turned to good friend Jean Beck, who accompanied me to the theater Thursday afternoon, July 17, and said, "Doesn't this look like Denise Gulbranson's work?" She agreed. Jean and I know the Denise Gulbranson "look." Each one of the entertainers was light on their feet, totally in control of their bodies and smiling all the while. They were a real tribute to you, Denise.

One of my goals in attending the show Thursday was to catch a glimpse of Jack Sand again. Well, I had better luck than that. He was outside greeting people as they arrived so I was able to tell him how we used to watch him as the magician/weatherman when we lived in Warren.

When you go to the Jubilee Theater, get to your seat at least 15 minutes before show time so you can see Jack's magic act. He is deft, clever and humorous. What I didn't know was that he was also going to be the host of the show and slip his captivating illusions here and there in the show during the quick costume changes. He is an affable host and still has the smiley approach to life that he had when we watched him as the weatherman of the hour.

Here's a little hint about what to watch for: see if you can figure out what's up, doc, when he comes out with the huge rabbit!

When a show enlists the help of a family to produce it, there is always the danger of one or more of them not living up to the rest. Not so at this show. I tell you...this family has a wealth of talent that just does not quit. They sing, they dance, they play instruments, they tell jokes, they yodel, they smile and they love what they are doing.

What is especially fun to watch is the pride visible on the faces of Shawn and Kathie Brekke when their 12-year-old son Daniel does his stuff... and you must see what he does. He sings, he plays the fiddle, he plays the violin, he plays the drums, he dances.

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Did I forget something? Yes, I did. He dresses in white and says, "Thank you, thank you very much."

Travis Guida has two of his children in the show. They are 13-year-old Kristina and 10-year-old Jasmine. Travis' engaging smile broadens even more when they are on stage. They are charming girls and are right at home stage center. You will thoroughly enjoy Jasmine's engaging rendition of "Precious Lord."

Sarahdee Guida Miller and Travis Guida are so much fun to watch. Brother and sister they are and they are tuned well for show business. They move easily on stage and have voices that fill the theater. They are both such beautiful people from the inside and out as they sing and dance. Their mother, Lynette, appears now and then and always shines when she does. Oh, her yodeling, folks. My, my...what a gift.

And then there is Kathie Johnson Brekke. My heavens. What a woman. She is the mastermind behind the show (the director) and musician extraordinaire.

She has a glorious voice and the perfect look as she points to the person soloing and adds her voice in duets. As a soloist she is mighty fine, also. Her main gift that she shares, though, is her dexterity on the keyboard. She works effortlessly and always stays with the soloist or group singing. She is the consummate musician and makes everything she does look easy.

Shawn Brekke is the trumpet player in the Jasper Band and has that mellow, laid back sound reminiscent of Al Hirt and the now popular Chris Botti. His solos are fresh and see-sawie, if that is an actual term. To me, it is the best way to describe a trumpet player who knows how to pull back the sound while delivering a crisp line.

The rest of the band is made up of musicians equally as good as the Johnson family. Jim Knudson leans over his drums with an almost indifferent pose. But his ability to keep the beat going is right on. Everyone knows the constancy of a band depends on the drummer and his or her inner beat that keeps the music moving. Knudson does just that. He shares his spot with Travis Guida, Daniel Brekke and sweet Kristina Guida. But there is no doubt he is calling the shots and the band plays well because of his attention to detail.

Biff Karch on the bass is delightful to watch. His curly hair matches his bouncy personality and he twists that bass to his demands. He has a clear and precise baritone voice, which he willingly shares with the audience. Watch him closely in "Zoot Suit Riot." Don't nod off for even a second or you will miss how well he depicts the 1940s music. He is so fine!

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Jacki Karch, who manages the concession area, steps in at the keyboard when Kathie is away from it and does really well. She keeps the band moving and never misses a beat.

Harley Sommerfield comes into the band carrying his flute, clarinet and sax. My word. Let's see. Which one does he play the best? Ya got me.

Pay attention to him and note when he plays the flute as a background instrument when you least expect it. Oh, yes, he sings the tenor part in a quartet with a bit of help from the others. Stay tuned to that for some great harmony mixed with high jinks.

And now, friends, Jeff Menten. What should I say about such a master fiddler? I really find my vocabulary quite limited in describing his virtuosity. Just wait until you hear him in "Orange Blossom Special." Both he and Daniel Brekke brought the house down.

Jeff is well known around Park Rapids for his prowess as a stringed instrument instructor. He has played for the Classic Chorale when I have sung in it and his sound is always so rich. Could he bring that same sound to Great American Songbook, to gospel, to country, to the songs through the years? Yes, he could and did.

Likewise, I saw no blips on the part of Tim Ellingson as sound technician and Bryce Klasen as the lighting technician. Here, there and everywhere. They were on top of all the moves and mike amplifications. I saw them after the show for just a moment and they are young. Just as well...it means their reflexes are quick.

The whole show is spectacular and I recommend in this day of high gas prices that you travel just a short ways to a reasonably priced matinee on a Thursday or a Saturday evening show for an experience that will give you a natural high. Everything is of the highest quality.

That all said, I want to expound on two parts of the show I found quite rewarding. At the end, the entire company saluted the branches of the armed forces, which brought tears to my eyes. Regardless of how you feel about the Iraqi war, we all have much respect and concern for our men and women who serve our country.

The second event could go unnoticed if you don't pay attention. Auntie Kreamsaugen arrives onstage at the end in a bright blue sweater and white pants for the patriotic salute. Prior to that, she was dressed in a rather frumpy outfit and acted like a bumpkin, quite well, I might add. When she was on stage for the final number, we saw her as the beautiful woman she really is and that was so sweet. Stay awake for that or you will miss her as she really is.

The show continues to run through Aug. 23 with matinees at 3 p.m. Thursdays and Saturday evenings at 7:30. Two additional matinees will be available Friday, Aug. 15 and Friday, Aug. 22. You can call 218-237-4333 for reservations.

You will "leave with a smile on your face and a song in your heart."

Rita Dalzell is a retired English and vocal music teacher, who also played the saxophone, enjoys being at the keyboard to accompany musicians and has directed musicals and school orchestra rehearsals.

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