REVIEW: Shrek, the Musical, Junior; A Pungently Perfect Production!

Who knew that a show at our elegant Washington Pavilion would include a farting contest? Well, I should have; it was Shrek the Musical, Jr. after all.  It’s playing in the Belbas Theater and runs through this weekend. The show is a culmination of the efforts of directors Bob Wendland and Molly Wilson, who wrangled more than sixty students ranging in age from 8-18.   The production is sponsored by the Dakota Academy of Performing Arts, which works exclusively with young people in the Sioux Empire.

The efforts of the directors has paid off in an impressive show that fills the Belbas stage with music and laughter.  It was truly a joy to see the array of young talent from our city in action.  Not only was there dialogue, delivered with great comic timing, but there was singing, choreography and, wait for it,…….tap dancing RATS!  Rather than a big budget show, the production is an immersive educational experience for the students.  You won’t see pyrotechnics or fancy equipment, but the costumes and simple props do their job, transporting the audience to the fairy tale kingdom of Duloc.

Our hero is Shrek, a grumpy, green ogre who lives in a swamp and likes his solitude. One day he comes home to find his muddy abode overrun with dozens of fairy tale characters including Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, and the Big Bad Wolf.  Shrek is none too happy with this development and sets off to Duloc Castle to reclaim his property from Lord Farquaad.

To his dismay, Shrek gains a travel partner, a talking donkey who will not shut up.  Arriving at the castle he is informed by Lord Farquaad that his swamp will be returned if he completes a “simple task”.  He must rescue the Princess Fiona from her dragon-guarded tower, and bring her to Duloc to be Farquaad’s bride.   Our Shrek,  fearless and always on task, sets off, with Donkey in tow.

Along the way we meet, as the Old Woman in The Shoe would say, “So many characters we don’t know what to do”.  Each one has its own personality and is accented by colorful costumes.  

Coleman Peterson, as Shrek, shows significant talent as a vocalist, and delivers his lines with solid timing and facial expression.  He plays Shrek without a heavy Irish brogue, and that’s okay.  He has just enough of the blarney, and his voice successfully presents the character’s anger, laughter, and, at times, tenderness.

Maddie Lumkoski, as the adult Fiona, was stellar.  Her lines were clean and her songs emotive and lovely.  As a musical theater performer, her body movement and facial expressions were spot on for the character.  We could tell what Fiona had in mind.

All of these young actors were terrific, but I have to say that my favorite character was Donkey, played by Chris Larson.  His costume was perfect, as was his comic timing.  I dare say that I preferred his delivery to that of the Donkey that came with the traveling Broadway show a couple of years ago.  Larson’s face and voice, along with his dopey gait, were enough to keep me cracking up throughout the show.

Other stand-outs included the Young Fiona, adorably played by Sophia Santos, Pinocchio and his nose, portrayed by Cody Novotny, and the Big Bad Wolf in a granny dress and pearls, played by Josh Sauer, with hilarious mannerisms. (Disclaimer:  Ok, so the Big Bad Wolf is my kid, I have to name him, but he was good!)

The Gingerbread Man was brought to life by Hannah Sayler as she expertly coordinated her voice and puppeteering skills.  A great performance by Adam Greenfield brought us the obnoxious Lord Farquaad,  and the ethereal, yet menacing Dragon was played by Malia Lukomski, with assistance from Manon Miller, Kyla Smith and Irelynn White.

Behind the scenes were Student Director, Abby Neff and Assistant Stage Manager, Charley Larson.  They handled their jobs well.  I saw no missed cues; only a twisted backdrop mishap, which was handled quickly.

Again, ALL of the characters were wonderful in their own right.  Parents will enjoy the show, but it is strong enough to present to the general public.   It moves quickly and runs just over 90 minutes with an intermission.  The Belbas is a comfy, casual venue where every seat is a good one.  Unfortunately, a check on the Pavilion website shows that all performances have now sold out!

I can guarantee that these kids learned more than lines and choreography while working on this project.   This was a full on immersive lesson in respect, teamwork, listening and follow through.  And that’s the thing about theater, it’s more than just putting on a show.  It’s a building ground for social skills, confidence and self esteem.

Coming up this summer, “Guys & Dolls, Jr.”,  a camp for kids ages 10-14, and Shakespeare Camp, created for older students ages 14-18.

Check out the website   for an array of youth opportunities!


METRO: ONCE upon an Irish Pub; Pair a Pavilion Show with Bogtrotters

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By Le Bender – Follow @LeBenderJr – Image: Bogtrotters, downtown Sioux Falls

An aspiring Irish singer/songwriter known simply as “Guy” pours out a forlorn love song in a Dublin bar. With a seemingly broken heart, he prepares to abandon his dream of being a musician and resign himself to repairing vacuum cleaners alongside his father.

But before he can leave the bar, a young Czech woman who has been listening approaches. A gifted pianist, “Girl” offers to compensate “Guy” with a song if he will agree to repair her broken down Hoover. A mesmerizing chemistry between “Girl” and “Guy” begins to blossom as they start making music together.

Adapted from the 2007 film of the same name, ONCE debuted on Broadway in 2012 and won 8 Tony Awards® including Best Musical. Now on its second North American Tour, the Washington Pavilion welcomes the musically gifted ensemble cast to Mary V. Sommervold Hall for three performances this weekend: Saturday Feb 27 at 2 p.m. & 7 p.m, and Sunday Feb 28 at 2 p.m.

You can read a review of the current tour here.

In a gesture uncharacteristic of traditional theatre, ONCE boldly breaks the fourth wall, drawing you ever closer to the performance by inviting the audience onstage to order a drink from the bar that serves as the backdrop for this tale.

After the show you might want to find your own little Irish pub for a post-show drink. Or maybe you need of a pre-show bite. Whichever it may be, Bogtrotters Irish Pub, Grub & Tap is a worthwhile downtown destination.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 9.39.19 AMNo matter if you’re in a party of two or twelve, there are plenty of seating arrangements available. The interior of the pub is quite spacious, but the dark stained wood bar, tables, and high backed booths, along with copper colored ceiling tiles and turmeric-hued accent wall, create an inviting and cozy pub atmosphere.


Behind the bar is a nice selection of draught beer. Of the sixteen taps, only two were from macro breweries. Does that scare you? Ask for some suggestions and your server is likely to offer you a sample. That’s so nice of them, right? The atmosphere at Bogtrotters is definitely relaxed.

Most of the draught beers are either from craft breweries or across the pond. I mean, what Irish bar doesn’t have the St. James’s Gate trio of Guinness, Harp and Smithwick’s? They even have an Irish pear cider listed on tap.

If you want your beer bottled, the list is long. They’ve got all the styles you’d see lining the shelves of a specialty beer store: lagers, pilsners, stouts, porters, pale ales, cream ales, brown ales, red ales, scotch ales, IPAs, ESBs, wheat beers, bocks, and Belgian styles. They even have farmhouse ales, lambics and sours.

If you’re want some grub, the menu contains pub classics like fish ‘n’ chips, shepherd’s pie (beef & lamb), and a Rueben sandwich. We went with the fish ‘n’ chips and a couple of appetizers. The two pieces of cod were sizeable enough to share, dipped in tempura batter and fried to a golden brown deliciousness. The chips/fries were uninspired. I’m not sure if we got the end of the bag (our fries were stubby short and a tad under seasoned), but serving them on some newspaper along with a bottle of malt vinegar would have helped.

The highlight of our food was most definitely the appetizers, which seem to fit the pub ‘n’ grub mentality of Bogtrotters just fine. You’re there to kick back with your mates and mind your Pints and Quarts after all. Did I mention the relaxed atmosphere?

The Rueben egg rolls were a piping hot mix of chopped corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese in a crispy wonton wrapper, served with a thousand island dip that was a nice blend of sweet and tangy. Being a guy of Czech heritage myself, I think understand why “Girl” was hanging around that Dublin pub. It’s all about the sauerkraut.

We also had the bourbon molasses “fairy” wings. They were crispy and sticky and sweet (but not too sweet). I could have easily finished a second order. Next time I’ll try the shepherd’s pie, as it came highly recommended by the wait staff.

I can’t wrap this up without getting back to the music. A blend of classic alt rock from the 70s – 90s played overhead, the likes of the Stones to The Velvet Underground to The Cranberries. The music was just loud enough to be enjoyed, without being too loud that shouting was necessary to carry on a conversation. Bogtrottors has the occasional live act, but I suggest checking their Facebook page for who’s playing and when.

Whether you’re headed out this weekend to catch ONCE at the Pavilion, or just looking for a good Irish pub in downtown Sioux Falls for an upcoming St. Patrick’s Day celebration, drop by Bogtrotters for drinks and some decent pub grub.

Bogtrotters Irish Pub, Grub & Tap

201 E 11th St
Mon-Fri 3pm-2am
Sat-Sun 1pm-2am
Patio Seating: Yes
Vegetarian/Vegan: No
Entrée Range: Appetizers $5-$10, Entrees $10-$13
Parking: Street

REVIEW: “I Pee In the Shower” Post Secret Delivers Laughs & Tears!


By Julie Sauer @JulieLSauer – Image courtesy of

“I pee in the shower.”

Image courtesy of

That’s the most frequently received comment by the Post Secret project.  And it was only a small part of the package delivered last night at the Belbas Theater in the Washington Pavilion.  The rest was a program of humor and poignancy that left me emotionally drained, but satisfied as I drove home, unable to get some of the content out of my head.

Post Secret is the brainchild of Frank Warren of Germantown, Maryland.  He began with the idea of a community art project for his city.  The premise was that local people would write a secret on one side of a postcard, then mail it to him anonymously.  Frank would curate the cards and create an exhibit for display.  Sounds simple, right?  But the project snowballed.  Soon hundreds of cards were coming in, then thousands, as word spread across the nation.

Image courtesy of

Some of these secrets were funny, some awe-inspiring, and others absolutely heartbreaking.  People would even send cards replying to others whose secrets had been posted to the website, offering support.  Overall, the contributors were finding a sense of release and freedom by sharing their secrets with the world.

Frank began writing books including images of some of the most poignant secrets.  Often the cards included personal drawings or cut-out letters.  The books sold like hotcakes.  One might think that the reason they became so popular is because we all have a bit of voyeur in our psyche.  Isn’t that why we watch so many reality shows? But this is about so much more.  It’s about freeing yourself from pain that has weighed you down for years.  It’s about giving others the joy of laughter without outing yourself.  It’s about knowing that there are others out there just like you.  It brings hope, relief, and a bonding across time and space that might never have occurred otherwise.  It’s about that one person who would have swallowed a handful of pills if he hadn’t seen the cards from so many others who had been there before him.  

Here is a secret that is haunting me yet today: “I save voicemails from my family so that, when they die, I can still listen to their voice.  I listen to my grandmother sing me Happy Birthday every year, just like she did when she was alive.”  

One of the funniest secrets: “I like to secretly drop feminine hygiene products into strange men’s carts at the grocery store.”  That one is truly inspired!  Game on!

The most shocking of all: “Everyone that knew me before 9-11 believes I’m dead.”  Let that one sink in.  There are literally thousands of these in the books and on the website.

I am so thankful that I got to see the live presentation.  It consisted of three actors who delivered secrets from memory, as the cards were displayed on the jumbo screen behind them.  They didn’t just read, they truly portrayed the emotions found in the words.  Linking it all together was a narration of the Post Secret story and a musical backdrop provided by a live guitarist.  The resulting presentation was an emotional masterpiece; simple, yet powerful.  One moment the crowd was silent, the next it was erupting with laughter.  Then the mood would shift and scattered sobs could be heard throughout the house.

During intermission we were invited to submit our own secrets, some of which were read aloud on stage.  Yes, I submitted a hum-dinger. I guess it wasn’t good enough as it wasn’t used.  Here’s the one that brought the actress who read it to tears:  “I gave my son my mental illness.  He committed suicide three years ago.”

I want to take a moment to talk about the venue, the Belbas Theater.  I hear lots of people say, “I don’t know where that is.”  Well, find it!  Just go down the hall between the science store and the staircase and keep walking.  You will run right into it!  So many worthwhile projects take place in the Belbas.  It was perfect for a show like Post Secret. With just 300 seats, it has a much different vibe than the huge, grand Sommervold Hall.  Not only do you not have to monkey-climb over twenty people to get to your seat, but you can comfortably view the production from any seat in the house.  The seats themselves are cozy, with a gold upholstery that contrasts beautifully with the wine colored curtains.  Also available for private rental, it is lovely enough for a formal event, while neutral enough to allow the stage elements to shine through.  I could envision a breathtaking renaissance style wedding taking place there.  

Overall, the feeling last night was that of a comfortable group therapy session, where everyone lets their guard down.  That setting was the perfect foundation for the show’s theme: “We are all part of something bigger and we are all part of it together.”

You can catch Post Secret, The Show again in Milwaukee on February 25 & 26

Coming up at the Washington Pavilion:

Friday, 2/26:  Peter Gros from Animal Planet brings his animals to Sommervold Hall

Sat./Sun, 2/27-28:  Broadway’s ONCE!

Friday, 3/4:  The Price is Right, Live!