Friday, June 3, 2022

"HAIR BALL! A Bigfoot Musical Adventure" by Open Eye Theatre at the Bakken Museum

"Friends, this is the sweetest, cutest, funniest, silliest, naturiest, heart-warmiest 80 minutes of music-theater you could see! Don't miss it!!" Such was my Instagram post last night after coming home from seeing Open Eye Theatre's new original music-theater-puppetry creation HAIR BALL! A Bigfoot Musical Adventure. This new tradition of outdoor summer musicals at the Bakken Museum's lovely green rooftop lawn was birthed out of the pandemic last year, and I hope it never ends. There's just nothing better than witnessing the creative talent of artists in the great outdoors next to one of Minnesota's beautiful lakes. HAIR BALL! is a fairy tale for kids with plenty for adults to enjoy too - great music, much humor, and fantastic performances by the cast. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets (continuing through June 19).

Here's the delightfully weird and whimsical plot summary of this big foot story from the website:

The resort town of Discovery Island descends into chaos, with trash cans looted and hairballs fouling the streets, and local conspiracy nut Jerry Loudermilk (Maren Ward) convincing the locals that a supernatural forest beast called the "Megapaw" is to blame. When aspiring teen detective Winnifred Highsmith (Abilene Olson) goes missing after discovering a baby Megapaw (Rick Miller), the alarm is sounded and Montgomery Ward (Luke Aaron Davidson), Canada's elite forest ranger, arrives to save the day! Suddenly everyone is lost in the woods, seeking the hidden heart of the forest. Will they find it before the shifty resort owner, Fobelius Dort (Tom Reed), burns down the trees to make a bigger golf course?  

Little Toe (Rick Miller, with Lux Mortenson, photo by Brian Silcox)
This story is told with a great sense of playful sincerity, heart, and humor. Like last year's LOG JAM!, Josef Evans wrote the music, book, and lyrics, and it's chockablock with clever, amusing, nonsensical lyrics and dialogue. The score (played by a three-piece band led by music director Spencer Chandler on keyboard) is full of great songs, including a surprisingly sweet and poignant love song. And this cast has some powerhouse voices, ringing out clearly without mics in the open air. Under director Joel Sass, the talented cast (also including Georgia Doolittle as Winnie's high society mother, France Roberts as the mayor, and Lux Mortenson as the town resident who speaks to a little alligator puppet) bring out all of the charm and humor of the story, mildly interacting with the up-close-and-personal audience seated on camp chairs and blankets.

the cast of HAIR BALL! (photo by Brian Silcox)
The costumes (designed by Rubble&Ash) are cute, colorful, and almost cartoonish, perfectly
appropriate for this whimsical world. When some of the characters eat some magical mushrooms, they begin to turn into animals, adding a tail or antlers or extra hair. But most spectacular of all are the Megapaws, great hairy creatures with voices like wookies (designed by Anne Sawyer). The small one, affectionately called "Little Toe," looks like a big fluffy stuffed animal, with shaggy moss-colored fur and a round black speaker thing for a face. And when their parent arrives, it's a wonderfully stunning moment. The oversized cartoonish props, with a bit of audience participation to create the fire effect, complete the look of Discovery Island. A duck flying overhead, or bugs buzzing around, only add to the island woods experience. 

Like all good fairy tales, HAIR BALL! delivers a few messages in a light-hearted way - themes of friendship, love beyond borders of species or societal expectations, finding one's passion or identity, and respect for nature are peppered throughout. But mostly, HAIR BALL! A Bigfoot Musical Adventure is 80 minutes of joy, wonder, and delight for all ages.