Like yesterday, I remember the very first show we saw at Frost Fire Theater nestled on a wooded hill overlooking the beautiful Pembina River Gorge near Walhalla, N.D. The year was 1987 and the show in the outdoor amphitheatre was, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.”
It began to rain that summer day so a bunch of us cut holes in garbage bags, slipped them over our heads for make shift raincoats and continued to watch the show until it had to be called because of all the electrical equipment on stage.
It’s been a long time since rain stopped the show. In 1988, Judith and Richard Johnson, Frost Fire founders, put a roof and side curtains on the theater they opened in 1985.
It’s tradition to go to Frost Fire with our good friends and neighbors, Richard and LoAnn. We four were there again this past Saturday to see “Buddy — the Buddy Holly Story.” As we looked at the show bill and the list of musicals presented over the last 26 years, we’re thinking we maybe have missed one or two. That’s all.
If you’ve never been to Frost Fire, let me assure you, you are missing out. It’s just heavenly up there.
The view of the Pembina River Gorge is breathtaking. The ski lodge and the dining room the Johnson’s have built are very impressive and the flowers of many varieties and colors are amazing to behold. During the winter months there’s beauty of another kind and its become a popular spot for snow skiers.
I don’t know of anybody who doesn’t like Buddy Holly music. If you’re my age, you grew up with “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Everyday,” “Oh Boy,” and “Raining in My Heart.”
Buddy Holly was only 22 and in the third year of his fantastic career when he and Richie Valens and The Big Bopper, were killed in a plane crash on their way to do a show in Moorhead, Minn., in February of 1959. It’s been pegged, “the day the music died,” and believe me, you get chills and you feel a few tears when the stage darkens, the actors turn their backs on the audience and the music and the action suddenly stops.
Everybody in the cast is just fantastic. Craig Peterson, originally from Larimore, N.D., took time off from his nursing job in Des Moines, Iowa, to come to be Buddy Holly. Boy is he good!
Dylan Croeker, who has been living in the Twin Cities, is an absolutely perfect “Big Bopper.” And Steven Douglas, who is studying musical theater at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, is picture perfect as Richie Valens. It’s a joy to watch the other dozen or more cast members and musicians as well.
I also must mention Amy Jo and David Paukert who have been Frost Fire’s directors for 20 years. These two met there when they were members of the cast of “Annie Get Your Gun,” in 1989.
I talked to Richard Johnson today. He and Judith have been pretty busy and haven’t taken the time to do a head count, so I got out my calculator. Frost Fire Theater has 450 seats and all the shows so far have been sell outs. I figure when the final curtain goes down on Sunday (Aug. 1), about 6,700 people will have done what I did: be-bopped to the beat, sung along, gotten the chills and felt a few tears because of “Buddy.”
There are four presentations left: 2 p.m. Wednesday (July 28), 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday (July 31) and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1. Call (701) 549-3600 for tickets.
Now I can hardly wait to see what next year’s show will be.