HJ/EDHerald Journal, Feb. 6, 2006

Twin Cities musical has local connections

By Lynda Jensen

The fingerprints of Howard Lake are all over Magnolia Musical Theatre’s production of “Cupid & Psyche,” which opens Friday, Feb. 10 at the Mounds Theatre in St. Paul.

Mike Kelley is directing the play, which was written by Caroline Newsom, both of whom are formerly from Howard Lake. Newsom also wrote the music for it.

Kelley and Newsom teamed up with Heidi Hansen of Cokato in 2004 to form Magnolia.

All three performed together in high school and have now come together again to take on this new venture.

“We are working hard to make a name for ourselves in the Twin Cities area,” Hansen said.

Magnolia is known for showcasing original work, which carries more risk than other well known musical fare.

“In theater, risks are taken,” Kelley commented. “It is a challenge to work with original work, but it is worth seeing the end product.”

The production company also wants to involve everyone in the creative process.

“We desire for every individual, from the costume and lighting designers to the stage managers and actors, to partake in the original piece because they are all equally important to a production,” Newsom said.

Magnolia also pursues family productions that are suitable for all ages, which adhere to a higher moral standard.

This is also reflected in part of its mission statement “Our work does not seek to merely entertain, but to encourage, strengthen and challenge.”

Jakub Barberg of Cokato is also involved and will be acting in “Cupid.”

Kelley is familiar to many in the area, since he first discovered his passion for theater at the high school in Howard Lake. As an actor, Kelley has performed with Shakespeare and Company, Pig’s Eye Theatre and Nautilus Musical Theater to name a few. He has also done scenic and lighting designs for more than 10 productions.

This spring and summer Kelley will be co-writing, directing and acting in a production based on the song cycle “The Songs of Love and War,” by Richard Peaslee which will be performed in Minneapolis and in St. Cloud.

Musical productions aren’t new for Newsom, either, who first started writing musicals at 18.

Knowing that musical theatre writing was the only field she could see herself in, she majored in musical playwriting at the University of Minnesota.

All who are involved are excited about the musical.

For tickets to “Cupid,” call (320) 286-2410. For more info: www.mmtheatre.org.

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